Shadow Conversations

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Fire and Hughes  

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The tinny sound of the alarm clock dragged Roy back to consciousness, and his body reacted automatically as he pulled away from the warm bundle in his arms, rolled a little onto his back and smacked the damn thing silent with his left hand.  Rather unhappy at being awake, he decided to spend a few more minutes in bed before he faced the day.  He curled back behind his mate, who possessed an uncanny ability to sleep through any and all alarm clocks.  Usually that trait annoyed him to no end, but there was something very nice about being able to cuddle against a sleeping Ed, to enjoy his warmth and the way he shifted back slightly against him.  He nuzzled aside a thick lock of hair and placed a kiss on his lover’s shoulder.  

Well, at least his bad mood seemed to have been vanquished, for the time being at least.  He hoped that it didn’t make a comeback but knew that work would have a say in that matter.  At least today was the last time he’d have to report for duty this week, and then he’d have two days off to rest and provoke Ed….  

His lover’s shoulder was kissed again as he purred in memory of last night.  Terrific sex and then some quiet time in bed with Ed as his mate had read a good bit of one of the most boring books he’d ever seen seemed to be just what he’d needed to restore his good mood.  If he thought he could get away with it, he’d ignore work and just stay in bed all day.  But he was sure a few people would have something to say about that, including Ed, who had a shift scheduled later today at the Royal Library.  Oh well, they would have lots of free time this weekend.  

One more kiss and he reluctantly pulled away and left the bed.  Ed whimpered faintly as he walked away, and by the time he’d slipped on his robe and gathered a few necessary items he’d need after his bath, had managed to roll over and curl up in the side of the bed he’d just vacated.  Hands itching to comb through the thick, golden hair that fell onto Ed’s face, Roy forced himself to leave the room before he ended back in bed and on Hawkeye’s ‘to be shot’ list.  

There was a hint of coffee in the air as he walked to the bathing room, and the thought of the hot, freshly brewed drink gave him the energy to wash off quickly.  Once clean, he slipped into some clothes and left the robe in the bathing room.  

The coffee was ready for him by the time he reached the kitchen, a full pot of it resting on the stove, and he greatly enjoyed a mug of it as he leaned against the kitchen counter.  He utterly adored Alphonse, he decided, especially after he woke up enough to realize that the kitchen was once more stocked with food, including a fresh loaf of bread and several hardboiled eggs.  He had a couple of those as he used his power to toast two slices of bread, which he then slathered with fresh butter and raspberry preserves.  The food was washed down with a few more cups of coffee, and he now felt ready to face the day.  

Ed was still curled up in bed when he returned to the bedroom, his face buried in Roy’s pillow.  Roy had to smile at his sleeping lover as he pulled on his jacket and finished getting dressed.  Another stop at the bathing room and he was ready for work.  

He found Alphonse sitting on the couch, nose buried in a book.  “Good morning,” he wished the teenager.  “And thank you for the coffee and doing the shopping.”


Alphonse’s cheeks appeared a little pink when he peeked over the top of the book.  “You’re welcome, Roy.”  When he was smiled at, Alphonse lowered the book to his lap and smiled in return.  “When we get back from work tonight, Ed and I will make some chicken curry.  Do you think you’ll be late?”  

“Not if there will be dinner waiting for me,” he replied as he stepped into his boots.  “Now I have some incentive to deal with the mound of paperwork awaiting me.”  He knew a peace offering when he heard one, and even if he had to face Hawkeye’s wrath at leaving his work undone, he’d be here for dinner.  Alphonse deserved a pleasant night spent with his ‘family’ and not deal with more fighting from him and Ed, so he’d do his best to make sure his foster son didn’t have to go running to Maes’ house yet again this week.  “I should see Hughes today, so I’ll pay him for the groceries then.”  He gave Alphonse another smile and headed for the door.  

“Uhm, Roy,” the boy called out to him as he opened the door.  He looked back to find Alphonse on his feet and what could be seen of his face as he hung his head down a bright red.  “I… well, Pinako and Winry have plans to head to Arandale in two weeks’ time.  They’ll be gone over a week while they restock some supplies, and they asked me if I’d like to go with them.”  He peered at Roy through his bangs, for a moment resembled his brother so strongly that Roy took a deep, sudden breath.  

Roy let out that breath and nodded.  “I don’t see why that would be a problem.”  He knew that the Rockbells would look after Alphonse.  “Tell them you can go, and let me know if you need any money for expenses.”  A warm spark of desire danced inside of him at the thought about having Ed all to himself.  

While his intentions weren’t entirely altruistic, the bright smile Alphonse gave him made him feel proud of his decision.  “Thank you!  If you don’t mind, I could use a little money for the inn and food.”  The boy bounced on the tips of his toes a couple of times.  “I think I can ask them to stop in Kita-ki on the way there and visit a few of the bookstores!”  

“That sounds great, Alphonse.  We’ll talk more about this at dinner.  Just be prepared for your brother to give you a very long list of books he wants,” he said with a wink as he opened the door all the way.  Alphonse gave a rueful laugh at his comment and wished him a good day at work.  

The thought of several days spent alone with his mate seemed to destroy whatever chance his bad mood had of making a comeback.  He had some owed leave that he never seemed to have the time to take, but he would now put to use even if he to burn down his office the night before Alphonse left.  He and Ed needed to spend some time together, to figure out their bond without having to worry about embarrassing or shutting out Alphonse as they did so.  While there would most likely be some spectacular fights while the calmest member of their ‘family’ was gone, they’d survive it somehow.  They had to – Alphonse couldn’t be with them forever, not when he was already drawn to the Rockbell girl and had ambitions for a quiet life, his and Ed’s quest for revenge aside.   

The trip from his isolated cottage to the administration area of the Army compound was not a short one, which gave him plenty of time to make up plans for that precious week off.  When he finally stepped into his office, his staff stopped whatever it was they were doing and looked expectantly at them.  He swore he heard a collective smile of relief when he smiled, wished them ‘good morning’ and made his way to his office.  His good mood faltered a little when he saw the large stack of papers awaiting his signature, but they would be the price he paid to have some time off.  Once he got them out of the way and a few other tasks seen to, no one could complain about him taking his much overdue leave-time.  

He’d already perused and signed several of the documents when there was a soft knock on his door.  Looking up, he gave a slight nod of approval when Hawkeye cracked open the door but hovered outside.  She then stepped into the office and set a steaming cup of coffee down on his desk, a safe distance away from the paperwork.  

She made even better coffee than Alphonse but not as good as Ed’s, and allowed him several deeply enjoyed swallows of the drink before she spoke.  “May I enquire if Edward is still alive, sir?” she asked, the humor in her voice so dry that few would recognize it for what it was.  

“Yes, alive and well.”  The grin he gave her was one of his most salacious, and of course it didn’t phase her in the least.  “And, before you ask, the house is still in one piece, Alphonse isn’t emotionally damaged any more than usual and a certain General hasn’t been burned to cinders just yet.”  

“Well, that last bit gives us something to look forward to, sir.”  Liza Hawkeye was quiet for a moment, merely stood there just shy of full ‘attention’ beside his desk before a slight frown crept over her face.  “Pardon my curiosity, sir, but did Edward strike a particularly strong blow to your head lately?”  She stared pointedly at the growing pile of paperwork that had been completed.  

He took a break to shake his sore hand.  “No, he hasn’t.  If you wouldn’t mind, Lieutenant, I’m going to need a copy of ‘requested leave’ paperwork.  I’d like to turn it in tomorrow, as soon as I’m sure of the dates.”  A small grin tugged at the corners of his mouth as he thought about a week spent away from here.  No paperwork, no General Haruko, no stuffy uniform or countless regulations that seemed to have been created just to annoy him.  While he’d done well in Kritiker’s Army these last few years, he was only here to achieve a certain goal.  Once that was in his grasp….  

“Time off, sir?  I’ll believe it when I see it,” Hawkeye remarked as she gathered up the finished documents.  “But if you are serious, that means a lot of work will have to be completed in a short amount of time.  I’ll be back in a minute,” she said with a curt nod before she headed for the door.  

Watching her leave as he imagined the huge stack of documents she would shortly dump on his desk, Roy thought that Edward better make his week off worth all of this aggravation.  

*******  

To his shame, Roy barely stifled a whimper when there was a knock on his door.  If Hawkeye was about to drop off another immense stack of paper, he’d have no choice but to incinerate her on the spot, loyal subordinate or not.  Of course, there was a good chance she’d remove all the oxygen in the room first and leave him to suffocate, but he was desperate enough to give it a try right now.  

Instead, it was Maes Hughes who slipped into his office, a huge grin on his face as he pushed his glasses up his nose.  “Are you building a fort there or what, Roy?”  

He sighed as he carefully pushed aside the huge piles of paper stacked all around him.  “Have I mentioned my suspicion that Hawkeye is secretly a double agent working for Esset and that she’s trying to drive me to suicide just to escape from the never-ending paperwork?  Either that or have me killed by blood loss from paper cuts?”  

“Nah, she’s not a spy – we just bribed her because we so enjoy your suffering,” Maes joked as he draped his lanky body into the chair stationed in front of Roy’s desk.  “But if you’re looking for a brief reprieve from the mindless horror of Army documents, you could always take a look at this,” he said as he reached inside his dark green jacket.  

“Maes, I’m warning you right now, if I see another slip of paper I’m going to turn it to ash, be it your daughter’s portrait or not,” he warned as sparks burst into life around him.  He meant it too; it was bad enough to be drowning in paperwork that the last thing he needed was to hear Maes prattle on about how adorable Alicia was.  

“You’re no fun,” Maes complained as he pulled his empty hand out of his jacket.  “And Alicia would be just the thing to cheer you up.”  

No, a naked picture of Edward would do that, or a letter announcing the death of his ‘beloved’ brother, but not some smiling child.  “The only thing that will cheer me up right now is if a raging inferno suddenly engulfed this entire building,” he grumbled as he gave some serious thought to wish fulfillment.  Then he sighed when he realised that Hawkeye would just put the damn fire out and then hand him even more paperwork to deal with whatever damage he managed to get away with.  Maybe she really was an agent for Esset….  

“So is there a reason for this visit, other than to show off some new portrait of your daughter’s?” he asked.  He had paperwork to get done and he could chat with Maes after work, so if there was no cause for his friend’s visit, he wanted Maes gone.  A small part of him was afraid that Maes was here to deliver another bit of depressing news.  

Maes sniffed melodramatically and clutched his hands right over his heart.  “Oh, I get the feeling I’m not wanted.  And here I spent all the precious money I’ve been saving so poor little Alicia could get the expensive healing potion and live to see her upcoming birthday on a bunch of starving ingrates.”  

Roy needed a moment to get through the nonsense, his mind dulled by the paperwork, but things slowly made sense.  “Money?  Ah, right, the groceries.”  He snorted in amusement as he pulled his coin purse out of the pouch on his belt.  “And Alicia’s perfectly fine or you’d be a sobbing mess right now.  How much do I owe you?”  

“Let me tell you, that little shopping trip with Alphonse put a serious dent in the money Gracia and I are saving for Alicia’s birthday celebration.”  Maes sat up in the chair and leaned forward, his arms folded on top of Roy’s desk.  

“How much?” Roy asked again, a little disquieted by the suddenly much too amused grin on his friend’s face.  Things never went well when Maes looked like that….  

“Ten silver and forty three coppers,” Maes said with evident glee.  Which sounded about right and didn’t explain why Maes looked so happy right now.  “That’s an awful lot of food, you know.  Alphonse did a pretty good job at bargaining for it and had so much he needed help carrying it into the house.”


Busy counting out the coins, it took a moment for the implication of that statement to sink in.  “Hmmm, yes.  Edward usually assists Alphonse with the….”  Roy fell quiet when he tried to remember just when Alphonse had returned last night.  He’d heard the boy stop in one time right when he and Ed….   

“You naughty, naughty pervert,” Maes chided him with abundant glee.  “I mean, I know Ed’s a teenager, but from what I heard, he could barely keep up with you!”  Maes laughed as he sank back into the chair, the forefinger of his right hand waggling back and forth.  “You’re what, three times his age?  Shouldn’t you be ashamed of yourself?  The floor was shaking from-“  

“Maes.”  Roy growled out his friend’s name and had to press his hands flat onto the desk to prevent snapping his fingers and creating a fireball large enough to incinerate the laughing bastard.   

Of course his friend didn’t seem cowed in the slightest.  “It took us over ten minutes to get everything inside and stored away, you know.  How do you do it, old man?”  There was evident pride in Maes’ voice.  “I mean, I’ve heard the rumors from the secretarial pool but Ed didn’t stop screaming your name the entire time we were there.  I thought the kid would be the one with all the energy but he sounded as if-“  

“MAES.”  This time he backed up the warning with a ball of fire that almost singed the bastard’s goatee off.  He trembled as he fought to control his talent.  “That’s my *mate* you’re talking about,” he snarled, lips pulled away from his sharp teeth and nails digging into the top of his desk.  

Maes blinked a few times, his face pale and sweaty, but otherwise showed no fear.  “You’re right.  I’m sorry.”  He laughed shakily and combed his fingers through his hair.  “You know, I’m so used to teasing you about stuff like this that I forget it’s Ed we’re talking about half the time.”  He tried to smile at Roy but the expression seemed more like a nervous tic.  “Uhm, do you think it’s a good idea to show off your power like that?”  

Everyone in Roy’s office knew what he was, and Hawkeye made sure that no one overheard them or managed to catch sight of anything through the windows.  But the none-so-gentle reminder helped him regain control.  He let out a slow breath and vanished the fireball, then sat back into his chair.  “I fail to see how an idiot like you ever advanced so far in Intelligence,” he said moments later, voice smooth once more.  

Maes snorted and wiped a hand over his face.  “They prefer idiots to perverts over there,” he mumbled.  

“You really do believe in pushing your luck today, don’t you?” he asked his friend as he ran his right hand over the top of his desk, radiating just enough heat to melt the varnish and restore its smooth surface.  

“Let’s see, Roy Mustang, the most infamous playboy in the Army’s entire history, is involved with a teenager.”  Maes gave him a sheepish grin.  “All right, I went over the line in trying to tease you, but you have to admit the situation is funny as hell.”  

“No, I don’t.”  But he could tolerate the humor a little better now that he and Edward were mates.  “I wonder if Gracia would share my opinion when I tell her about this little discussion,” he said, in a sudden mood to be vicious.  

Maes became even paler than he had before.  “You wouldn’t dare.”  At Roy’s evil smile, he began to slightly tremble.  “You wouldn’t be that mean to a dear old friend, would you?”  

“I don’t know, us old perverts aren’t very nice.”  He enjoyed seeing Maes squirm, especially after finding out the bastard had been in his house last night.  Maes had probably pressed his ear up against the bedroom door in an attempt to gain as much blackmail material as possible.  “And just wait until Edward finds out what you had to say about last night.”  

“All right, I give up,” Maes conceded as he slumped back into his chair.  He looked the picture of abject defeat, but Roy wasn’t fooled.  No, Maes would snap back quickly enough and try to win some sort of concession, such as a night of babysitting, from him once he had the proper ammunition.  “But seriously, it’s a good thing you don’t have any close neighbors or everyone would know that you don’t consider Ed much of a foster son any more.”  

He winced at that thought.  The time would come when his relationship with Edward would have to be made public, but he hoped that Edward would be a few more years older by then.  At least most people considered him to only be in his late twenties and not his real age of almost fifty.  “We’ll put that off for as long as possible.”  

Maes chuckled softly and removed his glasses to clean them with a white cloth.  “Now don’t you dare repeat this to Ed, but you’re helped out by the fact that he’s still so short.  Everyone assumes you’ve ‘calmed’ down because of having two kids to raise, not that you’re secretly involved with one of them.  As for Ed, I’ve heard a few comments on how attractive he’s become, but as long as he still *looks* like a kid and seems more interested in books than sex, he should be left alone.  So don’t go on any jealous rampages just yet.”  

Roy really didn’t need to hear something like that, especially not when he still felt so defensive of Edward.  Anyone interested in his young lover wouldn’t stand a chance, now that he and Edward were mates, but he still intensely hated the thought of anyone trying anything.  “Maes, if your goal today was to come here and make me very upset, you’ve done a stellar job.”  

“Actually, I came here to get the money you owed me and to call you a pervert a few times, not to burned alive.”  Maes shrugged and slipped his glasses back on.  “Funny how things turn out, na?  I tell you what, I’ll make it up to you by inviting you over for dinner tomorrow night.  Gracia had me pick up a couple of bushels of apples and I think she plans to spend a good part of tomorrow baking her famous apple pies.”  

There would more than likely be numerous portrait albums inflicted upon him and the Elric brothers, not to mention Maes carrying on like a lovesick fool over his daughter, but Gracia’s baking wasn’t anything to be turned down.  “We’ll be there.  But if I hear the word ‘pervert’ from you at any point during the next month, Gracia’s going to be a widow.”  Short of divine intervention or death, there was no way to get Maes to shut up about his and Edward’s age difference, but that way he shouldn’t be given any grief once Maes found out about Alphonse’s trip and his little vacation.  Oh, how he couldn’t *wait* until Alicia was old enough to date so he could torment Maes as much as his friend enjoyed to do just that to him now.  Payback was going to be *such* a bitch.  

“Uhm, Roy, have I ever mentioned how evil you look when you smile like that?” Maes asked with a nervous chuckle.  When all he did was smile even more, his friend groaned in horror and slumped down into the chair even more.  “You’re a true bastard, Roy.  I hope you know that.”

”And that’s why we’re such good friends,” he pointed out as he resumed counting the coins he owed Maes.

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