Ever – Chapter Eleven

Ed and Roy continue on their way to a partnership. Drama, I-3

Long experience kept the pain behind Roy’s eyes from showing as anything more than a small tenseness in hands and mouth. He was grateful that Edward seemed to have his own reasons for staying quiet as they made their way back from the office block Marsh worked in.

He’d been willing enough to leave the man in place, to start with. Few people knew better than Roy the futility of reproducing Tucker’s results without using his means, which both Marsh and Worthing fortunately knew better than to contemplate. It kept Marsh out of the way without any appearance of a grudge against an officer of the former head of Research. He was starting to get out of hand, though, making the first steps toward a power-network of his own among some of the civilian State Alchemists, and Roy couldn’t afford the interference.

He would have to move Marsh out of the way somehow.

Particularly since he seemed to have decided that Edward must hold a grudge after all and that preemptive action was called for. Roy sighed soundlessly as they returned to his office and deposited the various paperwork and notes they had collected over the day.

“Shousho? Are you all right?”

Roy raised a brow at his protege. “Of course.”

Edward looked less than convinced and… concerned?

“You look considerably worse for the wear, Edward-kun, I should be asking you that question,” Roy added to distract him.

It was certainly true that Ed showed his tiredness and tension more clearly. While he dissembled very well, he was less skilled at flat concealment like that. At Roy’s remark, however, he straightened.

“I’m fine.”

It was possible that neither of them was fooling the other, though Roy hadn’t thought that Edward could read him that well. As far as he knew, only Hughes and Hawkeye could.

Though that thought suggested something. Edward was fast approaching a point where he might, if he chose, become a partner rather than a student. If Roy wished to keep Ed’s abilities in his service, which he very much did, then it was time to start expanding their working relationship into the social. With a little luck, Edward would be prepared to accept that new context when the old wore out.

“Perhaps,” Roy mused, “it would be a good time to follow Hawkeye-shousa’s example. I could certainly use a drink, Edward-kun. You?”

“I notice you waited until I was legal to ask that, Shousho,” Edward observed, a smile tugging at his mouth.

“Of course,” Roy answered, loftily, “I would never dream of encouraging any of my command to do anything illegal.”

Ed snorted.


Roy was not particularly surprised that Hughes found them. He and Edward were both surprised, though, that Hughes had Alphonse in tow.

“Al?” Edward blinked.

“Nii-san. I met Hughes-taisa at the city library, and he said you might be home late today. Winry is having dinner with one of her clients, so I thought I would just join you here.”

The look Ed directed at his brother was so warm that Roy felt impelled to look away so as not to invade their privacy. Hughes caught his eye and laid a hand on his shoulder under the pretext of drawing out a chair.

“Mustang-shousho,” Alphonse greeted Roy rather coolly as he also sat.

Ed’s brother still regarded Roy as a threat that Edward should be guarded against, Roy noted. He smiled at Alphonse with approval. That was just the way it should be.

“No more trouble with your clients, I hope, Alphonse-kun?” he inquired.

Alphonse’s mouth tightened. “No, fortunately it just seems to have happened the once.”

Roy nodded, satisfied. Hughes glanced at Alphonse’s expression and eyed Roy, his own look rather sharp. “Yes,” he drawled, leaning back, “that’s only to be expected, surely, when word has it that the Flame Alchemist is looking out for you.”

Roy met Maas’ gaze with a mixture of warmth and exasperation. He didn’t need Alphonse to know that. “I rather expect the more effective point is the surety that the Fullmetal Alchemist will take exception to anyone approaching his brother like that,” Roy pointed out, parrying the compliment aside.

Edward’s eyes widened slightly as the onus fell on him, which told Roy that, while Edward might have informed him of the two such approaches he had fended off, he had not told his brother. Ed flicked a faintly betrayed look at Roy.

“Yes. I know,” Alphonse replied.

Edward looked as though he were trying to work out just how much Alphonse might know.

Alphonse laid a hand on Ed’s left wrist. “Nii-san. It’s all right.”

The two fell silent in another moment of the unspoken communication that was so characteristic of them. Since Edward relaxed, Roy assumed that Alphonse must have conveyed his acceptance of his brother’s campaign to protect their household by whatever means necessary.

The conversation went more easily after that.

Two hours later, however, Roy was debating the wisdom of the outing, as Hughes had taken it into his head to challenge Alphonse to a game of darts. Why, Roy couldn’t imagine. Alphonse was not, after all, the competitive one.

“Come on, Alphonse-kun, I know you have wonderful hand-eye coordination! And I promise to go easy on you,” Hughes added expansively.

Alphonse paused and turned to look at Edward. One side of Ed’s mouth curled up, and he nodded. Alphonse’s eye took on a sparkle that Roy recognized as a lighter version of the gleam that lit Edward’s when he had some mischief in mind.

Maas might just have taken on more of a challenge than he expected.

Roy glanced across at his friend and tilted an eyebrow. The quirk at the corners of Maas’ smile said that he had caught it too. Roy flashed him a grin.

“This should be entertaining,” he remarked, as the contenders headed for the dartboard.

“Al has very good aim,” was all Edward replied, but he was smirking into his drink.

“I’m very sure he does.” Roy looked after their companions. “You have an excellent friend and defender in your brother, Edward-kun.”

Edward looked up, eyes serious and direct. “Yes,” he agreed softly.

And perhaps Roy had had too much to drink, because he spoke his next thought aloud. “I’ve often thought it would be… pleasant to have a brother.”

Edward began to say something, bit his lip, and then answered slowly. “But you do.”

Roy blinked at him. “Not to the best of my knowledge, Edward-kun,” he said, a bit startled.

Ed shook his head. “What else is Hughes-san, then?”

Roy sat back and simply looked at Edward for several long moments. He really must have drunk too much, his head was spinning. “I must congratulate you, Edward-kun. I do believe you have graduated,” he said at last.

It was Edward’s turn to blink.

“You’ve surely learned everything I can teach you if you can see a truth I hadn’t considered.”

Edward lowered his head; Roy rather thought he was blushing. When Ed looked up again the young man’s eyes were bright. “Thank you very much, Sensei,” he said, half joking and half serious.

“Ah, not that any longer if you’re graduating,” Roy returned.

“O deeply respected very much Senior?” Edward suggested with a wicked grin.

Roy narrowed his eyes. “You never were particularly respectful, Edward-kun, and lately you’ve gotten even more insolent, which I hadn’t thought would be possible.”

“Never while we’re at work,” Ed pointed out, completely unrepentant.

“I suppose I’ll have to be grateful for that much,” Roy sighed.

They finished their drinks in comfortable silence.

TBC

Since this was written before I had enough hints to twig to Amestris as alter-Germany, I decided to go with the English drinking age, which is eighteen.