Home Sweet Home

*******

"Winry! Finish up with the fingers and that’s it for tonight! It’s not a rush job so there’s no sense in you staying up until morning working on it." Pinako’s distracted voice shook Al from his book-induced reverie, made him realize that he was seated at the kitchen table with a thick book in hand, still on the page he’d last read – a quick glance at the clock – over fifteen minutes ago.

As he tried to figure out where the time had gone, Pinako entered the kitchen, in her hands a small cloth that she used to wipe her fingers clean of any traces of oil. "That goes for you as well, Alphonse. Take a break from all that reading before you need glasses thicker than your brother’s skull."

"Yes, ma’am," he replied with a smile, thoughts of his brother warming him and bringing forth a fresh wave of worry and guilt. He was still so far away from finding a solution, from keeping his end of their promise – but he was too tired to continue reading right now. There was no sense in continuing when he was too addled from exhaustion to realize he’d just stumbled across a solution. Sometimes it was so difficult to know when to stop thanks to several years spent without a proper body. As happy as he was to be returned to normal, there had been some advantages to not being constrained by human limitations. When his body had been a suit of armor, he’d forgotten all about exhaustion and eye-strain and all the other things that went along with flesh. How Ed managed to spend all those years reading long into the night and sometimes into the next day as well, he’d never know. Most likely, it was just Ed’s stubbornness that had kept him going.

Winry eventually entered the kitchen, her fingers covered with grease and an exasperated expression on her face. "I just don’t think that alloy is going to work on this commission," she grumbled as she headed for the sink. Pinako, already there filling up the tea kettle, turned on the hot water and stepped out of the way. "I mean, what is Mrs. Huffman thinking? Doesn’t she realize that such a high chrome content means this hand is going to require a lot more maintenance? Is it really worth it for something ‘with a fashionable sheen to it’?" she asked, her voiced pitched higher than normal as she imitated her latest client. "I can make her something that’ll last so much longer if she’d just let me increase the amount of steel in the alloy."

Placing the kettle on the stove, Pinako chuckled softly as she removed the teapot and the tin of chamomile tea from one of the cupboards. "Just think about how much we’ll charge her each time she wants a scratch buffed out or a dent fixed." She then turned to face them, a very satisfied grin on her lips as her right hand reached into her pocket for her pipe. "Should easily make enough money for a nice trip to Rush Valley for a few days, perhaps to visit that one shop that sells those auto-adjusting ratchets we’ve heard so much about." She shared the grin with Al as Winry’s eyes grew huge and star-filled.

"Oh, that would be *wonderful*," Winry enthused, her hands clutched before her as if she was about to fervently burst into prayer. "I’ve been wanting one of those ever since I read about them. Just think about how much time I could-"

Den, who was curled up in a very happy pile near the stove, cut her off as he suddenly began to bark, his old body scrambled to stand. There was a soft knock at the door, faint enough that it was almost drowned out by the wind blowing outside. The three of them shared a confused, slightly wary look before Al rose to his feet and went to investigate with Winry right behind him. There was always a chance that it was someone in need of the Rockbells’ help, or maybe a request for his medical skills. Whatever the need, it had to be pretty bad to drag a visitor all the way out here on such a cold, windy night.

Body tense with adrenalin, Al carefully approached the door and then glanced out its window into the night’s darkness. There was just enough light from the moon outside for him to see a familiar figure, shoulders hunched and head hanging down, dressed in long, dark coat.

"Brother!" He quickly jerked the door open as he cried out, surprised yet very happy to find Ed here for a visit. For a moment the joy outweighed all other concerns and he wrapped his arms around his brother, then he noticed how quiet Ed was, how he flinched at the embrace. "Brother?" he asked, voice quieter and now thick with concern.

"Hey, Al," Ed replied, sounding as weary as he appeared. He lifted his head to try to smile at Al, eyes surrounded by dark circles and left cheek marred by a large bruise. "Think you can spare a bed?" Then, in a dramatic manner that he’d vehemently deny ever doing, he went limp in Al’s arms, eyes rolling back as thin lids fluttered closed over them.

Al was very grateful for the long hours he spent exercising and for his taller size as he struggled to keep his brother from sliding to the floor. Grunting softly, he managed to get both arms around Ed firmly enough to keep him mostly upright and dragged him into the house. "What have you gotten yourself into now, Brother?" he asked quietly as he tried to figure out how he was going to get a very limp, heavy person into the Rockbells’ clinic.

"I certainly don’t know, but if he’s here because he’s damaged his automail, I’m going to introduce his head to my biggest wrench," Winry snapped as she closed the door and then tried to help Al with his armful. Her words were harsh but her expression was worried and more than a little fearful. "There’s… there’s blood on his coat," she said as if reluctant to point it out.

Al was aware of that fact – there was quite a lot of blood, along with what felt to be thick, soft padding wrapped around his brother’s chest. They needed to get Ed into the clinic as quickly as possible. While it was not a proper hospital, it was pretty close and well stocked. They’d get Ed there and take care of his wounds, would send for a doctor if the injuries were something he or Pinako couldn’t handle but he didn’t think it would come to that. Somehow, Ed had managed to get here, seemingly appearing from nowhere.

Al knew that his brother’s last letter hinted that they might see each other soon, but he didn’t have any clue what brought Ed here, especially so badly wounded. He recognized the battered and blood-smeared backpack his brother wore, it was Ed’s usual choice of luggage while he was working for the State, and surmised that it had something to do with a mission. Which meant that once they got his brother patched up, there was a certain Brigadier General he was going to call for some answers. Roy better have a very good explanation for why his brother had shown up half dead on the Rockbells’ porch – or he could very well find himself in a similar condition as soon as Al managed a train ride to Central. Judging from the grim looks on Winry and Pinako’s faces as they laid Ed on the bed and began to peel his coat off, Al wouldn’t be going there alone.

"No wonder he passed out – look at how soaked those bandages are with blood. What was he thinking to be out of bed when he’s hurt this badly?" Winry moaned, her face pale with concern and hands shaking slightly as she helped her grandmother cut off Ed’s ruined shirt. "And look at what he did to all my hard work!" She tried for an angry tone but couldn’t pull it off, the familiar complaint falling flat in face of her fear.

Seeing the blood-soaked bandages that almost completely covered his brother’s chest, Al forced all thoughts of retribution out of his head and concentrated on what he learned this past year. He’d need to clean the wounds first before he could heal them, but as long as they were mostly limited to bone and muscle damage, Ed should be fine. There was a flicker of guilt when he glanced at his brother’s dented and scraped metal arm, but now wasn’t the time to reflect on that. He took a deep breath and clapped his hands together.

*******

Awareness crept upon Ed, shook him from darkness into a reality tinged with pain. As he slowly drifted awake, he realized that he wasn’t at home. This wasn’t his comfortable, plush bed, the birds happily chirping outside also wasn’t a sound he was used to hearing from his bedroom and there wasn’t a warm presence stretched out beside him. Pain was a familiar enough sensation that it didn’t bother him too much, but waking up in a strange bed did.

With a soft groan he forced his eyes open, blinking several times as they adjusted to the light. He was greeted with the sight of a plain white ceiling that possessed only a few cracks to make it remotely interesting; his whole body was one dull ache. Then, more things registered on his muffled senses, such as the fact that he wasn’t alone in the room and – when he struggled to bring his hands together – that his right arm was missing. "Wha-" he more or less managed to croak in surprise and dread.

"It’s all right, Brother." Al’s voice soothed him first, followed by a kind touch to his forehead. Ed managed to force his muscles to turn enough so he could see his brother, who was sitting in a chair beside the bed. "Guess what?" Al teased with a beautiful smile on his face. "You’re alive."

"You say that as if it were a surprise," he answered, his voice raspy and throat dry. As he spoke he tried to sit up in bed but had trouble since his right arm was missing and his left arm refused to support his weight.

"Here, let me help." Al rose from the chair and gently wrapped an arm around his shoulders to slowly lift him into a sitting position. His body didn’t seem at all happy with the movement but the pain was nothing like it had been on his way here. Loose bandages were wrapped over most of his upper body, but he felt surprising well, considering how deep some of the wounds had been.

"Thanks," he told his brother once he was sitting up in bed, pillows propped behind his sore back. Once he was upright, he gingerly tried moving his arm and was pleased when the limb obeyed. "You did a great job."

"I didn’t need the practice, you know." Al sounded amused but there was a worried gleam to his eyes. "I mean, I get enough of it helping Winry and Pinako with their patients that you didn’t have to come all the way here just to give me a victim to try my skills on." The amused tone left his voice as he gently touched the bandages on Ed’s chest. "I can’t believe you came all that way in such terrible condition, Brother. Even an idiot would have gotten wounds that deep stitched up as soon as possible."

His throat dry from remembered pain, Ed tried to smile. "Yeah, well, I didn’t trust the quacks in Martinsburg, and since I was only a couple of stations away, I figured why not stop and see how much you’ve learned since my last visit!"

"Your wounds – they were so bad that you could have bled to death on your way here," Al replied after a moment, rare anger plain on his face as he frowned. "As it is, you’ve spent the past two days asleep as your body tried to recuperate." When Ed’s jaw dropped at that fact, Al nodded and folded his arms over his chest. "Yes, *two* days. I managed to get the wounds to close and took care of your cracked ribs, but the cuts could easily reopen if you’re not careful and your body has to replace the blood you lost naturally." His anger seemed to crumble as he chewed on his lip. "I… haven’t figured out how to reproduce it. I know there has to be a way to do it, I just haven’t found the correct formula yet. Maybe if I adjust the ratio of copper to water and use an Hueppeler array-"

"That’s fine, Al." Ed managed a smile and reached out to pat his brother’s arm. "You did good – better than I expected, really." He was amazed at how much his brother had learned these last few months. All he’d been sure of after destroying Garda’s chimera was that he’d wanted nothing more than to go home. Central had been too far away but Al was close enough that he’d barely done more than get his wounds wrapped before leaving. "I… I can’t believe you’ve figured out this much already." Even knowing that his brother was driven to restore his missing limbs, he hadn’t thought that Al would be able to do much more than stitch him up.

Al’s smile was shy but pleased. "As I said, I’ve been helping Winry and Pinako with their patients. I’m learning more and more each day. Your wounds are closed but the skin is rather delicate, so it’s best to keep it covered for a couple of days so you don’t put a strain on it or your ribs." He fussed with the bandages as he spoke. "You had a fever as well, and between that, the blood loss and the stress of the healing is why you were out so long." Al’s frown made a comeback. "Do you have any idea how worried we’ve been about you these last two days? I mean, first you show up on our doorstep all bloody and then pass out, then we couldn’t wake you up." Despite his concerned and agitated tone of voice, his hands were gentle on Ed’s body as he checked the newly healed wounds. "Winry kept saying that she wanted you conscious so she could bash your head in for putting us through that, you had her so scared. She’d never seen you that bad before and really thought that we’d… that we’d lose you." When Al finally looked up, his golden eyes were filled with concern and sorrow. "You should’ve let me know you were so close. I could’ve come out to help you. I know I decided not to become a State Alchemist like you, but I would come if you asked."

"I thought I could handle it on my own," Ed lied, putting all his effort into making the words sound believable. He’d known that Garda had been up to something nasty even before he got to Martinsburg but there was no way he’d place Al in danger, not after all the sacrifices made to restore his brother’s body. Izumi’s ghost would haunt him forever should anything happen to Al, and he’d never forgive himself. After all they’d suffered, his brother deserved a quiet, happy life.

In an effort to distract Al, he tried to smoothly change the subject onto something that had bothered him ever since he found out he’d been unconscious for two days. "Ah, Al, would you mind if I made a phone call? I think it might be a good idea if I reported in and let someone know that things are fine now. In Martinsburg, I mean." Not that he was eager to hear Roy yell at him, not after leaving a message a couple of nights ago that what was left of Garda was in custody and that he was headed to Riesenburg. He’d meant to call after he got here to make a more in-depth report that would tide Roy over while he stayed here for a few days, but….

Al went still in the chair, his eyes darkened to a deep brown with anger. "I already called him."

"Huh?" Still a little muddled from all the sleep, Ed scratched his head and stared at his brother. "What was that?" he asked, hoping that he’d heard things wrong. Al hadn’t called Roy, right? He’d probably just let Hawkeye know that he was here safe and sound. More or less.

His brother folded his arms over his chest in a gesture that reminded Ed of their teacher and awakened a sharp pain in his chest. "I called the Brigadier General the first morning you were here." Both Al’s frosty tone and the fact that he referred to Roy by his rank made Ed wince and wonder if it was too late to pretend he was still unconscious.

"Ah, well, guess he knows that I got here all right. Er, sort of…." Ed chuckled nervously and slouched down on the bed. "Boy, would you believe how tired I am right now? Guess I didn’t sleep long enough." He pretended to yawn as he pulled up the blankets.

Only to have them yanked down by a rather upset Al. "Don’t even try to get out of this, Brother. Imagine my surprise when I started yelling at the Brigadier General for sending you on such a dangerous mission by yourself to find out that not only did you tell him you were fine and everything was all wrapped up, but that you were only sent to Martinsburg to assess the situation! You were *not* supposed to do anything until you reported back and someone was sent to help you with the chimera!" Some of Al’s anger faded when he brushed his hand along Ed’s bandaged chest. "I was right here, Brother. I know you don’t want me to become tied up with the military, but I could have helped you. Why do you have to do everything by yourself, now? If you didn’t want my assistance, couldn’t you have waited for Armstrong or someone else?"

The hurt in his brother’s voice made Ed sigh and close his eyes in remorse. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Al’s help, he just wasn’t ever going to put him in danger again. First off, Al was no longer a suit of armor that couldn’t feel pain, secondly he didn’t want to think of the sacrifice that would be required to put his brother back together this time if something happened. "I really thought I could handle it, Al. Besides, you had to see-" He closed his eyes again and swallowed as visions of what had happened to Nina and Alexander tormented him yet again. "I couldn’t wait any longer. Things were so bad already, I didn’t want to know what that bastard would’ve done with a little more time." He forced his eyes open and silently pleaded for his brother to understand him.

The last of Al’s anger melted away as he sighed and shook his head. "You are the most stubborn person I’ve ever known. I’m not always going to be nearby to save you from your bullheadedness, you do know that, don’t you?" When Ed nodded his head as quickly as possible, Al chuckled and graced him with a warm smile. "I doubt you really heard a word I just said then, but I’ve a couple of days to try and force some sense into that thick head of yours."

A few days? Ed thought with some nervousness. As much as he loved his brother and the Rockbells, as much as he enjoyed any time he could spend in Riesenburg, what he wanted the most right now was to go back home. There were so many things he needed to do and there was no telling what new plots Roy would cook up without him there to watch over the Machiavellian-wannabe. "No need for that, Al, I heard you the first time. I’ll be more careful from now on and won’t try to take on three chimera and a mad alchemist by myself again." He smiled widely and began to swing his legs off the bed so he could stand up. His smile turned into a frown when his limbs decided not to listen to him and remained in the bed.

Al seemed to have noticed his failed attempt at escape and smiled so smugly it made Ed feel heartsick for a certain Flame Alchemist. "As I said, I have a few days to make you see sense. Didn’t you hear me when I said that your body needed to restore all the blood you lost? And then such a large healing on top of that – I’ll be surprised if you’re able to walk in the next day or two, let alone leave. You’re not going anywhere, Brother."

Ed looked pleadingly at his younger brother. "Can’t you do something, Al? I really need to get back to Central as soon as possible. There are reports to be filed and I was in the middle of a huge research project, not to mention I don’t trust Mustang not to try to stage a coup of some sort without me there to keep an eye on him." He tried using the expression that usually made Al cave in and do as he asked, and was a bit taken back to see his brother merely smile at him.

"I tell you what, you can leave when you can get out of bed by yourself, go down to Winry’s workshop to ask about your arm. The arm she just rebuilt for you this past summer, the one she considered to be her best work ever." The smile took on a definitely satisfied edge. "I promise I won’t stop you then."

Ed stared in shock at his younger, normally sweet brother. "Traitor," he managed to choke out as he slumped back onto the bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. "My own baby brother, a traitor." He couldn’t believe that Al was doing this to him!

Al just continued to smile and helped to tuck the blankets around him. "I imagine you must be hungry, so I’ll go fetch something for you to eat. You’ve got a lot of energy you need to rebuild, so just stay here in bed and get some rest." Al rose from the chair and stretched, his hands fisted into the small of his back. "There are some interesting arrays I’ve found in the past few months and I’d like your opinion on them. So just stay right here and I’ll be back."

"As if I’m about to go anywhere when there’s a wrench-wielding madwoman out for my blood," Ed muttered as he stared up at the ceiling. He *definitely* couldn’t wait to get back home.

*******

"Now approaching Central Station."

Ed groaned and rubbed the small of his back with his left hand as he listened to the announcement; he wanted nothing more at that point but to get home, take a hot shower and curl up in bed. Even with the private compartment to stretch out in so he could get some rest, he was exhausted and sore and just… just wanted to go home. Even if he had to answer to a grouchy bastard over what he did on this assignment, it would be worth it to be able to sleep in his own bed. And, sooner or later, Roy would get over his pissy mood and lay down with him.

Gathering his journal and finished mission report (carefully doctored to hide as much of the truth as he could), he quickly stuffed the documents into his backpack and settled back in the seat as the train slowed down. Still a bit tired from his injuries and all the traveling, he decided he’d sit here for a few minutes to give the other passengers some time to get out of his way. That way it would be easier to find his ride home rather than while surrounded by the mass confusion that was disembarking from a train here in Central.

When things had quieted down, he rose to his feet. He was pretty certain that someone, most likely Breda, would be waiting for him. Considering how Roy had reserved a private compartment for his trip home, the man would continue to see things through, especially so Ed could get home sooner rather than later so he could get chewed out. Taking in a deep breath and letting it out in a slow sigh as he stepped off the train, he looked around for his ride. He just hoped that Breda didn’t have orders to take him to Roy’s office for a debriefing before going home. Oh well, the sooner he got things over with, the sooner he could go to bed.

But it wasn’t Breda awaiting him, it was Hawkeye, her face perfectly impassive as she stood there on the platform. Ed felt his heart sink into his boots. Hell, Roy must be serious about chewing him out over the mission if he sent Hawkeye to fetch him. He walked up to the woman, a nervous smile on his face that was quickly covered by a huge yawn. "Hey, Major. Boy, am I tired. Any chance that you’re here to give me a ride home?" he asked hopefully, fully ready to play exhausted and injured if he saw the slightest opening for a reprieve. He *really* didn’t want to have Roy bitch at him right now, not when he was so close to home.

If he believed in thanking God, he would have done just that when Hawkeye smiled slightly and nodded. "This is your lucky day, ‘Fullmetal’. I’ve orders to make sure that you go straight home." The fact that she called him Fullmetal and the glint in her eyes suggested that she wasn’t entirely happy with him at the moment, but he could live with that if she was taking him home and not to Roy’s office.

They were both quiet as they left the station, not speaking until they were in the car and on the road. Resisting the urge to stretch out along the back seat, Ed moaned softly as he thought about how good it would feel to take a nice, hot shower. And nothing could beat the extravagant bed awaiting him in the house he shared with Roy. A bed he’d soon be curled up in for the rest of the night, he hoped. Tomorrow he’d get back to work and deal with the consequences of his latest mission.

"So, how have things been around here?" he asked in an attempt to fish for some information. Right now, all he knew was that several people weren’t happy with him – which really wasn’t anything unusual.

Hawkeye waited until she merged onto one of Central’s main roads before she answered. "Things have, for the most part, been rather quiet. The Brigadier General himself was heard to have remarked about how nothing has exploded or collapsed in the last few weeks." Her voice was perfectly smooth, but her eyes that were reflected in the rear-view mirror were slightly amused.

"In other words, you were bored stiff." He chuckled for a moment and scratched his left shoulder where the healing skin continued to itch.

"Not so. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot of work since things have been relatively quiet. Although there was some excitement about a week ago." Hawkeye’s gaze met his in the mirror. "A clean-up crew had to be sent to Martinsburg to handle a few things there, and there was a small fire in a certain Brigadier General’s office one morning. The telephone, of all things, spontaneously combusted after he received a phone call from Riesenburg."

He grimaced and hunched down in his seat. "Sounds like a lot of fun. I’m sorry I missed all the excitement." In other words, Roy had been mad as hell over Al’s phone call, which meant that he was more than likely furious. "There doesn’t happen to be another assignment that needs handled right away, is there? Or a new report about the Philosopher’s stone?" Not that he’d get his hopes up – he was clearly meant to be escorted home to meet his fate.

"I’m sorry, Edward, but my understanding is that since you were wounded, you have been released from active duty until your superior officer is assured of your return to good health." He thought he detected a note of amusement in Hawkeye’s voice but her expression was strictly professional.

"Guess that means I’ll have lots of time for research," he said with a resigned sigh. There were a few things he wanted to check out for Al, and he still had his project of cataloging all references to the Philosopher’s stone that he could find. There were lots of excuses to hide out in the library if Roy was going to be in a snit for an extended period of time.

Pulling to a stop in front of his and Roy’s house, Hawkeye shook her head as she got out of the car. She barely beat Ed to open the back door and gave him an understanding look. "If you don’t need any assistance here then I will return to the office. There are a few matters that need to be supervised while the Brigadier General is occupied in a meeting." She paused for a moment as if she were considering a few things, her lips pursed together to prevent a smile or a frown. "May I just remind you that the fire department has been very busy lately due to improper heating methods because of the cold weather and that there is currently a housing shortage? Just something to keep in mind for later, when, say a certain military officer returns home."

"Hey, all I’m gonna do is take a shower and go to bed," he told her as he slowly climbed out of the car. "Maybe you should give your boss that little speech since he’s the one who starts everything."

A look of long suffering crossed Hawkeye’s face as she closed the car door. "I don’t know if I’m a referee or a babysitter when it comes to you two," she muttered, the words barely audible. She closed her eyes for a moment and then opened them, her expression once more unreadable. "I’m happy you’re back, Edward. Please be more careful next time. The office budget really can’t handle too many more exploding telephones."

He gave her a quick salute as he slung his backpack over his shoulder. "No promises, Major, but I’ll do my best." There was another sigh from Hawkeye as she climbed back into the car. She waited for him to enter the house before she drove away. He waved before closing the door and then let out a slow breath. It felt so good to be home.

Having eaten on the train, he wasn’t so much hungry as he was tired. A quick stop in the kitchen revealed what looked to be a delicious stew in the fridge and fresh-baked cookies in the jar on the counter. Unable to resist even though he wasn’t that hungry, he grabbed several cookies before he made his way up the steps. A quick stop in the bedroom to drop his bag and grab a robe – Roy’s, since it was the first one he could find – and he finally reached the bathroom.

Even with the private compartment, he felt grimy from traveling non-stop from Riesenburg. Quickly shedding his clothes and unbraiding his hair, he turned the water on as hot as he could bear it and then stepped into the shower. His newly healed skin tingled unpleasantly for a moment but soon grew used to the heat. Gingerly scrubbing himself clean, he then spent several minutes letting the hot water rain down on him, the tension slowly ebbing from his body.

The shower seemed to have sapped all of his energy. Drying off and then pulling on the robe, he made his way back to the bedroom, suddenly exhausted. The house felt nice and warm after all that time spent in a drafty carriage, the bed looked so inviting that it was all he could do to climb up onto it to stretch out on top of the covers. He buried his face in Roy’s pillow and breathed in deeply, the last thing he remembered doing before his exhaustion won out.

*******

Sleep faded away slowly, and Ed didn’t fight the return to consciousness, not when he was in his own, comfy bed, the familiar soft hum of cars driving past on the road outside the house and the crackle of a nearby fire more proof that he was actually home. Besides, he doubted that his stomach would allow him to get any more rest, considering how it rumbled with hunger. If there wasn’t any hot food ready downstairs, there was always the café down the block that had the best fried fish…. He groaned in happiness and stretched a little on the bed – then he noticed that he was covered with the thick quilt that was usually folded at the bottom of it. The last he could recall, he’d been uncovered when he’d basically passed out. Sitting up slowly, his body protesting more from the amount of traveling he’d done in the last day than his healed wounds, he glanced over at the chair beside the fire.

Roy looked up from the book he was reading and frowned. "I thought you were going to sleep all night from the way you were snoring. I think I’m deaf in at least one ear now."

"Nice to see you, too," Ed drawled as he brushed his hair back – which had been braided during his sleep. "Sure it’s not just old age on your part?" When all Roy did was sniff disdainfully and turned another page in the book, he barely resisted the urge to stick his tongue out and give his lover any ammunition to call him ‘immature’. "I probably would have slept all night if my stomach didn’t have other ideas." He almost made a comment about how Al’s healing had drained him but caught himself just in time. Roy didn’t seem too happy with him and reminding his lover of how the recent assignment had turned out probably wasn’t a good idea. He just hoped that the fight was either a short one or better yet delayed until tomorrow, when he was back to full fighting strength and could give as good as he got.

"Hmmm." Roy gave him a cool look as he sat in the chair, dressed in casual clothes but with his gloves still on. "I’m reminded of the old saying that an army marches on its stomach. Imagine, one of Amestris’ finest alchemists unable to engage in battle because of low blood sugar." There was a bright glow of anticipation in Roy’s dark eyes, but he remained in the chair and flipped another page. "We’d best hope that any future battles occur within easy distance of a food stand or three if you’re to be of any use. If you bother to obey orders and show up at all, that is."

Ed felt a grim smile tug at the corners of his mouth as he prepared to do battle. Guess it wouldn’t wait until tomorrow, but then again, he’d have been disappointed if it did. "Yeah, well I think you forget what it’s like to be young, General. I hear the appetite starts to slow down along with the metabolism when one grows old." Maybe he could distract Roy with some more jabs at his age – at least get him off the topic of disobeying orders until he could get out of bed and get something to eat.

But his boyfriend just arched an eyebrow and flipped another page of the very familiar looking book; he appeared to be completely unruffled at being referred to as ‘old’. "Was it the impetuousness of youth that had you disobey a direct order and take Garda on all by yourself? You were sent there only to ascertain if he was involved in making chimera and how many, then to report back. Not to single-handedly attempt to destroy them by yourself. " He didn’t give Ed any time to reply. "I imagine that you must have worked up quite an appetite fighting them. The snake/tortoise blend with the transmuted metal shell and the ability to spout fire sounded particularly feisty. No wonder you’ve done little but sleep and eat the last few days."

Ed liked to think that he hadn’t been very observant because he was tired from traveling and healing, but he was shocked at how long it took him to recognize the book in his lover’s hands. "You bastard!" Roy was reading his personal journal. Angered at the lack of privacy and for being found out, Ed tossed the quilt aside and jumped off the bed, his metal foot clanging loudly on the room’s wooden floor. "I don’t go rifling through your journals when you’re sleeping!" he yelled as he launched himself onto the chair, his legs straddling Roy’s as he frantically grabbed for the incriminating book. Any faint chance he had of covering up what had really happened on the mission to get out of trouble for blatantly disobeying orders was gone now – since the meddlesome bastard seemed to know *everything*.

"Because you haven’t cracked my code yet," Roy rubbed in, his voice smug and containing a hint of laughter as he held the book just out of reach. "Hmmm, I see Alphonse’s healing ability didn’t include stimulating growth. There goes the hope that one day you might grow tall enough not to be mistaken as a child – until you open your mouth, that is."

"Who are you calling so short that they have to be careful where they walk or they’ll fall into the cracks in the pavement, you arrogant, nosy bastard!" To think that he’d actually wanted to come home, to see his lover, to have to put up with this treatment? "I must have suffered a blow to the head," Ed growled as he continued to snatch in vain at the book, a careful eye on Roy’s hands to make sure his lover didn’t snap his fingers.

The book was suddenly tossed aside just as his fingers brushed against its leather binding. Crying out in protest at its rough handling, a strong grip closed on his chin and forced him to turn his head. Right into a passionate kiss. At first stunned by the sudden change in attack, he could do little but sit perfectly still in Roy’s lap. His just-healed wounds twinged with a little pain at the tightness of Roy’s arms around his upper body, but he easily ignored them. Right now he was trying to decide if this was some sort of trick to make him lower his guard or if Roy was in one of his ‘dominating’ moods. Then, lust won out over anger and confusion so he kissed his lover back, his left hand burying itself in thick, short hair as his right grabbed on to the high back of the chair. There was a better chance of the house remaining in livable condition if they fought with passion instead of physically or with alchemy.

They continued their latest battle with their lips and tongues, seeking pleasure and dominance with strokes and nibbles and suction. After a particularly brilliant tactic involving Roy’s bottom lip, Ed’s teeth and some sucking, Roy broke off the kiss with a haggard gasp. Ed trailed kisses along his lover’s jaw to his right ear, which he spared a lick before speaking. "You’re still in trouble for being so nosy. I’ll just wait until tomorrow to beat some manners into you."

Roy’s hands stroked along his shoulders, made his robe fall open a little more from the slight tugging. "If you can even get out of bed tomorrow, that is." As soon as his robe fell from his shoulders, Roy’s magical hands were there, gloves rough yet warm against his skin.

"You think you’ll actually be that good?" was his sharp retort, voice shaking as Roy kissed him on the side of the neck, just above his right shoulder. "Someone certainly has a high opinion of himself tonight." He couldn’t quite say the words without stuttering but really didn’t care when he heard the rasp of rough fabric being pulled from skin, followed by the feel of warm hands as they slid beneath his robe. Almost three weeks away from home, away from Roy and what the man could do to him at times like this….

"It’s not pride speaking, Ed, but confidence and experience." Roy’s voice purred in his ear, as smug as one of the man’s annoying smiles. "I’m perfectly up to the challenge." Roy’s hand teased along his thigh and made him shiver then gasp as it gently grasped his hard cock. "Seems you are, too. Nice to see that this didn’t get damaged in all the fighting."

He gave a strangled cry as that tormenting grip tightened slightly before it moved along his flesh, pulled down his foreskin so the tip of a calloused finger could brush much too lightly against exposed, oh so sensitive skin. Part of his brain yelled at him to answer back, to not let Roy get the last word in but then Roy’s tongue trailed along the flesh of his right shoulder just as Roy’s hand pumped his cock, and any desire to continue the fight utterly left him. There was always tomorrow, right now his entire being craved pleasure, a sweet balm after the past few days of pain and exhaustion.

Tugging on Roy’s hair, he initiated another kiss, this one not as fierce as the last but no less passionate. As he savored his lover’s skilled mouth and the shivers of pleasure the kiss evoked, his right hand began to fumble with the buttons of Roy’s shirt. Too befuddled with lust and need, his fine motor skills were completely shot, all it took was a teasing touch along his balls and cotton material ripped and enamel buttons shot across the room. Judging from his lover’s deep moan, Roy could care less about the assault on his wardrobe as his shirt was pushed down his shoulders.

"I did *not* spend all day on a train so we could do it in a chair," Ed growled in frustration as he tried to pull Roy’s shirt out of his pants with only one hand. "I’ve been *dreaming* of our bed for the last two weeks." Of lying in it with Roy next to him, a very warm, solid presence to curl up against when he was cold or lean against as he read late into the night – but he wasn’t about to tell that to the smug asshole.

Roy’s teasing hands became still and he pulled away as much as the chair allowed with a frown on his face. "Maybe next time you’ll obey orders, then. *If* you ever leave Central for another assignment." The look on his face was deadly serious with no sign at all of recent passion. Right now, it was Brigadier General Mustang talking, not Ed’s lover. "You’re very good at what you do, Fullmetal, but there’s no point in me putting your skills to use if I can’t trust you to follow my orders."

Okay, maybe Roy wasn’t as willing to forget the fight as Ed had thought. Ed scowled at his lover as he tugged the robe up onto his left shoulder, goose bumps all over his body as he lost Roy’s wonderful warmth. "Don’t give me that crap, *General*." He put all the disdain he could into the title. "I didn’t go to Martinsburg with the intention of fighting Garda and his pets, but once I got there…." His voice drifted off as he shook his head. There really wasn’t an easy way to put into words what he’d found there, and he’d been too worried about that sick bastard of an alchemist harming anyone else as he tried to incorporate human elements into his chimera. "There wasn’t time for back-up," he finished quietly. He hadn’t been willing to wait for Al or someone else to arrive and let there be another Nina. With Al so close, he hadn’t even been worried about getting hurt, he just thought of stopping Garda. "I wasn’t going to just sit there and wait for help while he made Tucker’s experiments look harmless in comparison." Especially not after several of the town’s children had gone missing.

Roy continued to stare coldly at him for several minutes, the room silent save for the crackling of the fire. Then gentle fingers combed through the hair falling onto Ed’s face, tucked the strands behind his ears and skimmed down his back in a teasing caress. "You should have at least used some local assistance and not faced Garda on your own." Roy’s expression changed to one of annoyance tinged with concern. "I could have done without a phone call from Alphonse so he could oh so politely verbally flay me alive and call me a dozen different types of an idiot without actually saying the word, you know. Then, there was the long litany of each and every bruise and laceration you’d received during the fight and your brother’s serious doubts that he’d left you ‘in dependable hands’. I’ve never been fond of being dressed down like that, let alone by someone so young." He tugged on Ed’s hair before he began to undo the tie that held it neatly braided.

Recognizing what amounted to be an explanation from Roy, Ed knew that the matter was now pretty much closed. Roy had stated his concerns, albeit in a rather roundabout way but what else could he expect from a man who thought that plotting was an even more integral part of life than breathing? A warning had been issued, one that would hurt Ed if he forced it to be carried out. There were sure to be a few more snipes about his track record of disobeying orders, and both the issue and the threat would be alluded to the next time he was assigned a mission, but neither of them seemed to be in the mood to properly fight about it any longer. Living together this past year (and numerous visits by an increasingly disgruntled fire department) had taught them the importance of ceasefires and to recognize when one was being offered.

"I didn’t mean to get you into trouble with Al." Nor to worry his lover, but that was left unsaid, just as Roy’s concern was. They knew what the other really meant, and that was all that mattered. "And he did that ‘polite’ number on me too for not asking him for help, so we both got talked down to by my brother."

"Just think next time, Ed." Roy sighed and rested his forehead against Ed’s. "You caused a lot of people to worry about you, who in return bitched at me as if I was responsible for your impulsive behavior. You’re given orders for a reason and it would be helpful if you remembered that for once."

Stung by the last comment but deciding not to say anything else in case his big mouth started another fight and they never had sex tonight, Ed just leaned forward so he could trail kisses down Roy’s jaw and neck. He’d get even with his lover at some other time, when he wasn’t distracted by hunger and lust. His hands slid into the open shirt, careful of the rough patch of skin on Roy’s left side since tickling wasn’t on the agenda right now. Roy always felt so deliciously warm that he couldn’t help but press his body against his lover’s to drink in that lovely heat.

"Why do I get the impression that you’ve just ignored everything I’ve said?" Roy sighed in annoyance, and for a moment it felt as if he was going to pull away from Ed again. But before he could complain, Roy sighed a second time and slid his arms around Ed. "I’ll just have to repeat it all tomorrow."

"Hold on," was all the warning he was given, and his arms tightened around his lover’s chest as Roy grunted and stood up. His legs quickly wrapped around Roy’s hips as the man more or less stumbled toward the bed and the next thing he knew, they were falling down. A short bark of laughter escaped him as he hit the comfortable bed and he smiled at the way Roy’s face was a little flushed from carrying him like that.

"Old man," he teased in a soft voice.

"You should have more respect for your elders, Fullmetal," Roy teased back as he pulled away and quickly shed his clothes. "Someday, someone is going to give a brat like you the spanking you deserve."

Ed reached out and dragged his now naked lover down onto him. "Save the spanking for later, I’m not in the mood for slow and kinky tonight." The devilish gleam in dark eyes informed him that Roy had basically taken that comment as an assent and that there would be some quality time spent with the leather-padded paddle in the near future. He’d have to make sure that it was Roy’s ass that got spanked, which would serve the bastard right.

"So, does that mean you want it fast and simple tonight, hmmm?" Roy asked as he snapped his hips down and created the most wonderful friction. "Should I really be concerned with what *you* want right now? I’m thinking this might be a great time for me to finish up all the paperwork your most recent ‘impulsiveness’ created for me." Roy made as if to pull away.

"Stop being a tease, General." Ed spat out each word as his legs slid wider apart, as his ankles hooked over Roy’s calves. There was no way the man was leaving now.

Roy rocked his hips forward, the resulting friction making Ed moan and toss his head back from the pleasure that sizzled through his body. His left hand shifted from his lover’s shoulder as he thought about reversing their positions, of feeling Roy stretched out beneath him. But Roy chose just then to kiss him, mouth ardent on his until he found himself gasping for air, body shivering with pleasure and aching with need.

As he tried to remember to breath, Roy shifted back to sit on top of his hips, expression much too cool and collected at a time like this. "Yes, I think paperwork right now would be a wonderful idea. There’s food downstairs, Fullmetal. Feel free to help yourself."

But before he could get off of the bed, Ed practically roared in frustration and tackled his lover flat onto his back. "You’re not going anywhere." At Roy’s perfectly calm expression, just a curious arch of an eyebrow at his behavior, he straddled his lover’s waist and fought to get rid of the robe. "You are *such* a bastard." Why he had to fall in love with someone so incredibly irritating, so maddening, he had no clue. What the hell had he done to deserve this, he wondered as he tossed the offending garment aside.

Roy just shrugged and lay still. "Some day I’ll have to show you my parents’ marriage certificate. I assure you, they were legally wed before I was conceived." He leaned up on one arm as his hand reached for Ed and tangled in his hair to use it to pull him in close. "You more than deserve a little bit of grief tonight and you know it."

"I did what I had to in order to save those kids," he answered, his mouth only a few millimeters from his lover’s. "They didn’t have time to wait for Armstrong and his men to show up."

A slight frown marred Roy’s forehead but he gazed back calmly. "That doesn’t explain why you left the hospital and risked nearly bleeding to death just to go see your brother."

Ed swallowed and draped his arms over his lover’s shoulders. "I… all right, I didn’t think the wounds were that bad," he confessed. "I honestly thought they could wait until I got to the Rockbells’ and could get Al to take care of them. It’s just…." He shook his head and pressed his face against the crook of Roy’s neck. "What Garda did… what he was going to do… I just… needed to go home. And Central was too far away so I went to the next best place." He’d wanted the painful memories gone, to be able to tell somebody he loved and respected that this time he’d managed to save someone.

Roy was quiet for a moment and then pulled Ed closer. "I understand that things were worse than we suspected. But the next time you decide to completely divorce any common sense you might possess and then *lie* to me about it, you’ll be assigned to report to Armstrong for three months. Have I made myself perfectly clear?"

Well, in the throes of passion wasn’t exactly the best time to be threatened with Armstrong, but Ed merely nodded. It helped that Roy wasn’t yelling at him so much for disobeying orders as he was for doing something that he realized, in hindsight, had been pretty stupid. But he hadn’t exactly been thinking very clearly back in Martinsburg, and Al being so close by had been too much temptation to resist. "Yeah, you are. But don’t you think you’re taking a bit of a risk there?" he couldn’t help but add. "Armstrong can be scary at times but I might like working for someone who isn’t as sneaky or manipulative as you."

All he got for his goading was a very smug smile. "The pink sparkles would drive you mad within a week," was all his lover said, and then he was kissed again.

They were on the bed, had pretty much reached a détente of sorts and their clothes were long gone. Ed decided that he could live with how things had turned out and focused on more important matters than fighting. He squirmed on top of Roy, their cocks rubbing together in the most wonderful way as he was kissed senseless. The feel of his lover’s calloused hands stroking down his body, Roy’s tongue swiping along his teeth and the roof of his mouth, the heat seeping into his body from delicious friction and Roy’s smooth skin…. He moaned in satisfaction.

"Fast and simple, right?" Roy murmured against his mouth as hands rubbed against the small of his back.

"Oh, hell yes," he moaned again, body trembling in anticipation. But he managed to pull away just enough to work up a glare for his lover. "And no comments on lack of stamina or you’ll be kicked out of bed, you hear?" They could take their time later.

"What good would that do you?" Roy asked, smug smile on his lips. Before Ed could argue some more, he found himself on his back. Roy leaned over him for something on the nightstand as he grumbled about being manhandled like this after being injured, even if the wounds were now healed. Maybe it was a good thing that Al had kept him from home for a few more days than he had liked….

He gasped in delight as Roy kissed his way down Ed’s chest, hands brushing lightly along Ed’s body, pausing here and there to stroke a particularly sensitive spot. He closed his eyes in anticipation as his lover’s warm hands slid along his back and cupped his ass, as Roy’s wonderful mouth trailed down his stomach, teased his navel and then continued on… down onto his left thigh for a moment, the quickest of licks against his hard cock before it moved on. He couldn’t help but whine in frustration and thrust his hips upward.

"Now, now, you agreed to ‘fast and simple’." Roy smirked as slick fingers rubbed against his opening. "But we don’t want things to be too quick, now do we? Hardly worth the effort if your… youthful ‘enthusiasm’ puts a stop to things too soon."

Some day he’d manage a glare that actually seemed to intimidate his lover. "I’m not a child, Mustang. You act as if I’m fifteen years old." He was nineteen, and it had been months since he’d embarrassed himself like that.

"If you were that young, we wouldn’t be doing this," was Roy’s smooth answer. His fingers slid inside of Ed and made him suck in his breath at their presence. Too long… funny how those three weeks seemed like a small eternity now, his entire body craved and demanded pleasure. His head tossed back and forth as he was stretched, his left hand clutched at Roy’s shoulder, his right hand carefully clenched around the bedspread beneath him.

"I said fast and simple, not talkative and analytical," he grumbled as his hips rocked backward, desperate to take his lover’s fingers in even deeper. Part of him was so wound tight with need that it was probably good that Roy just stretched him for now. But still, he wanted the pleasure so very much, wanted the release it would bring. Trust him to get addicted to Roy Mustang, to the man’s body and what he could do with it. "Roy…." He ground out, eyes opened just enough so he could scowl at his lover and voice rough but pleading.

"Ed." Roy’s expression was still calm but there was a sheen of sweat to his skin, a hint of roughness in his voice as well. "As the Major orders." He pulled his fingers out and shifted forward, pushed up Ed’s right leg until it rested on his shoulder.

"About damn time you realized tha-" Ed gasped at being slowly filled, his body adjusting after a moment. When he arched his back in pleasure, Roy let out a deep breath and pushed in all the way, hot and hard and so very good, the simple motion short-circuiting Ed’s thoughts. All that mattered was the ecstasy that slowly built inside of him, how, if he moved his hips back at a certain angle, if he hooked his left arm around his lover’s waist and pulled him closer, sparks of pleasure would burst through his body to leave him trembling.

His back arched, his mouth open as he panted for air, his eyes closed as he lost himself in the ecstasy and felt a sense of peace inside that escaped him too many times, that proved so elusive and taunting. But here, in his new home, in his wonderful bed with his lover thrusting inside him, caressing his body and kissing his neck and left shoulder… here, it was so strong that he never wanted to leave. All he could do was enjoy the moment, the feel of Roy’s cock sliding in and out, Roy gasping out his name as the ecstasy burned through him, potent and searing. He was engulfed by the emotion, by that and the rare sense of peace as the orgasm washed through him and stopped time for a few precious seconds. But the heartbreaking sensation never lasted for long.

He sucked in fast, shallow breaths as his body still trembled from the bliss, left arm clinging weakly to his lover while Roy thrust a few more frantic times. Only a few more moments until Roy’s body shuddered against his, back rigid and eyes closed, a strangled moan caught in Roy’s throat as he came. Ed held on tightly to Roy as his lover hovered over him, dazed and breathless.

Then Roy slowly collapsed on top of him. They became a tangle of limbs and sweaty skin and damp hair. Ed allowed his right hand to release the sheets and slowly skimmed it down his lover’s back. Roy shuddered again, this time at the feel of cold metal against over-heated flesh and grunted in gratitude.

They were quiet for several minutes, an uncommon moment of stillness and calm shared in each other’s company. Which only lasted until Ed’s stomach decided to loudly remind him of why he woke up in the first place. Roy gave him a bemused look and slowly shifted to lie on the bed beside him.

Ed poked him in the ribs. "Go get me some of that stew you were talking about earlier."

Roy just closed his eyes and shoved a pillow underneath his head. "You seem to have recovered rather remarkably, so get it yourself."

But right now he wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere other than the bathroom to rinse off, and then come straight back here to relax in bed. And - as much as it galled him to admit it - Roy seemed to be in better shape. "But *you’re* the Flame Alchemist. You can go get the food and heat it up much quicker than I could." Though he was hungry enough now to eat it cold.

That suggestion earned him an extremely venomous glare. "You must have injured your brain during this last mission. I am not going to act like a stove just so a bottomless pit like you can have a hot meal. You’re supposed to be so young and strong, go feed yourself."

Ed scowled at his lover and worked up the energy to win this fight. All he had to do was keep it up long enough to annoy his lover and Roy would cave in. And unlike the previous fight tonight, he wasn’t about to let this one drop. Back home, in his comfortable bed with Roy beside him, he started in earnest his second favorite thing to do with his lover.

*******

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