Fiat Roomate

Ed has to deal with a housemate. Drama, I-3.

Ed found out later that it had been his habit of retreating to a library whenever he needed distraction that started the whole thing. After the third time Hughes found him asleep on a pile of books, rather than the bed in his room at headquarters, he mentioned it to Gracia-san, and Gracia-san spoke to Mustang, and Mustang decided to take steps, and Hughes had thought he’d known just the person to help…

The first Ed knew of this, though, was when he returned to his room to find Captain Maria Ross directing a small horde of soldiers in packing up Ed’s belongings.

“Ah, Edward-san, good timing,” Ross smiled. “I can take care of the packing and moving, but I thought you’d like to unpack your things yourself.”

“Moving?” Ed asked, faintly. “What moving?” Ross blinked.

“To the house, Edward-san. Didn’t you know it would be today? My own things are already moved,” she continued with a tolerant look, “but I made sure to leave plenty of room for you.”

Ed turned this incomprehensible scene over in his mind a few times. It appeared he was in the process of being moved out of headquarters and into a house somewhere. With Maria Ross. If it weren’t Ross standing here, he might think it was a practical joke and go pin Havoc to the wall until he admitted it had been Hughes’ idea. But Ross was even more straightlaced than Hawkeye, and he didn’t believe she would be party to anything improper. Or anything she thought might harm him. And Ross could be as insanely protective as Hawkeye got over…

Oh, he wouldn’t have.

Yes, he would, Ed reminded himself, that man would damn well do anything he thought was necessary. The real question was why he might have thought this necessary.

A practical joke was suddenly not entirely ruled out.

“Excuse me, Ross-taii,” Ed said brightly, “I need to go check on something. I’ll catch right up with you.”

Two buildings later Ed kicked open the door of the Fuehrer’s office, not particularly caring if it started out locked. He did note in passing that it hadn’t been, which probably meant he was expected. Indeed, Mustang didn’t even twitch at the bang as the door opened.

“Good afternoon, Elric-kun,” he said dryly.

“What the hell is this all about?” Ed asked without preamble.

Mustang raised a brow. He was wearing that infuriating little half-smile that said he had put one over somewhere, and no one would know where until far too late. Ed ground his teeth and dug mental fingernails into his composure. Fortunately, Mustang didn’t pretend ignorance of what Ed was talking about.

“Why, Elric-kun, I would have thought more living space would appeal to you. You’ve been keeping up with your field, after all. Won’t it be useful to have room for your books and notes when you’re in the city?”

This beguiling thought distracted Ed for several seconds, before he recalled himself to the matter at hand. “The house part isn’t the problem. The babysitter is the problem,” he said, flatly.

“More than one observer has noted that you don’t take sufficient care of yourself when you live alone,” Mustang returned. There was even less give in his tone than in Ed’s, and it rocked Ed back a bit. This wasn’t a joke, then, his commander was serious. Ed paused a moment, weighing whether it would be worth the effort to fight on this one. Mustang’s eyes narrowed lazily, and his smile widened a notch. Familiar with the danger signs, Ed braced himself.

“So, you can either share a house with Ross-taii, you can stay with Hughes and Gracia, in which case you will undoubtedly be the babysitter, or you can use the guest room in my house. Your choice, Elric-kun.”

It took Ed several tries to re-hinge his jaw. He barely managed to bite back the words You’re joking, because that would not be a wise thing to say right now. Mustang seemed to hear it anyway.

“You think I’m bluffing?” he asked, lightly.

“No,” Ed gritted out, spun on his heel and stalked out. He had known right from the start, he reminded himself strenuously, that Roy Mustang fought dirty. Strangling the man for it now would be pointless. Besides, he’d be damned if he’d give Mustang the satisfaction.

It could be a lot worse, he tried to convince himself. Ross shouldn’t be that difficult to live with.

A week later he was back in the Fuehrer’s’ office.

“Are you sure there’s nowhere you need to send me?” Ed refused to actually beg for an assignment, but he was getting close.

“Nowhere urgent enough to call you away from settling into your new house,” Mustang told him, watching Ed over folded hands. Ed bared his teeth. Time to get down to cases, then.

“If you don’t get me out of this city,” he growled, “I swear I’m going to kill that woman before the weekend gets here.”

Mustang looked politely inquiring. Ed couldn’t contain himself any longer, and started pacing.

“All right. I can deal with her fixation on healthy food, Sensei was the same way. It’s probably a female thing.” Ed paused to glance suspiciously at Mustang. He could have sworn the man who terrorized hard-bitten generals every day and twice on Sundays had just squeaked.

“Do continue,” Mustang invited, blandly.

“I can deal with the food thing, and it’s only reasonable that we divide the housework, and I can live with the color-coded chart on the wall. Even if the colors are completely unintuitive. Ross-taii has obviously been in the military too long, and the military has a thing for cross-wired symbolism.”

“Does it?” Mustang murmured. Ed rounded on him.

“But when she starts in on my clothing, that’s where I draw the line! It’s none of her interfering business how long it’s been since I last went shopping! What gives her the right…” Ed cut himself off before he said more than he should, and stood, breathing a bit hard. Mustang regarded him calmly. Possibly a little too calmly.

“If you’ve drawn the line, then where’s the problem?”

Horribly torn between the urge to ask whether he could still choose to take Mustang’s guest room, and the urge to transmute the man’s desk into a manure pile (he’d have enough nitrates if he used Mustang, himself, too), Ed stomped out. It was the only thing he could do, and keep his dignity.

Detente was reached almost by default. When Ed was agitated he resorted to his books, and that was the one place Ross never disturbed him. Left his meals inside the door, complete with small notes reminding him when it was his turn to do the dishes, yes, but she did so quietly.

Two weeks of lying low appeared to convince his sadistic commander that Ed was resigned to his housemate, and Mustang finally asked Ed to to go see why the mayor’s office in Allege seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth. Ed refrained from bouncing or whistling until he was out the front doors, just in case he jinxed his freedom.

He was, however, humming when Ross found him folding clothes into his suitcase.

“It sounds like you’re looking forward to your work, Edward-san.” Ed looked over his shoulder to see her leaning in the door of his room.

“I am,” he replied, and bit his tongue on the extra reasons he had to be pleased with his job this trip. She sighed.

“I had hoped you and your brother would be able to have quieter lives, after everything was over,” she said softly.

“Al does,” Ed pointed out. Ross hesitated before she spoke again.

“Were you really not happy with that life?”

Ed was silent for a long moment, gazing into his half full suitcase. On the one hand, it was none of Ross’ business and he rather wanted to tell her so. On the other, maybe if she understood she would stop hovering quite so much. Expedience won over privacy, in the end.

“I love my brother,” he told her evenly, “and being with him without having to worry about… everything was wonderful. But I need something to do with my life.” He turned to look at Ross seriously. “I missed a lot of being a kid because we had things to do. It would have been nice to let someone else worry about how to make life work out, but it’s too late to go back and live like that now.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to take on more than your share of life’s trouble just because it’s what you’re used to,” Ross maintained stoutly.

“It isn’t like that,” Ed insisted. And then looked aside. “It isn’t just that I’m used to it.” He mulled over how to put it so that this practical, steady woman would understand.

“It’s like alchemy itself,” he said at last. “Knowing that something changed because of your action, that you have the skill and ability to alter the world… it’s… it’s not something I can just leave.”

“And alchemy itself wasn’t enough?” Ross asked. Ed thought about that. What if he had just returned as a State Alchemist, and never volunteered for Mustang’s political crusade? The thought rang hollow.

“They aren’t separate, for me,” he finally answered. For one thing, he reflected, he would never use half as much of his alchemical knowledge tucked away in a study somewhere. Ross’ laughter startled him a bit.

“No wonder you came back to Dai-Soutou Mustang,” she shook her head. “You think alike.” And then she laughed some more, probably at Ed’s expression. “Well, what I came for was to ask whether this would be helpful while you’re traveling.” She held out a small, fat, green notebook.

Taking it, the sleek feel of the leather told Ed it was waterproofed. When he opened it, only about half the volume turned out to be taken up by loose-leaf paper. The rest was pockets. Pockets that unfolded, pockets that snapped, pockets inside of pockets; he spent several minutes just hunting them all out, and wasn’t entirely sure he had found every one. He blinked at Ross, who blushed faintly.

“You seem to make notes on any paper at hand, including matchbooks. I saw this while I was getting my bootheel repaired earlier this week, and thought it might be useful for you.”

Ed turned the notebook over in his hands. She had noticed that about him, and considered what it meant when he didn’t have two or three rooms worth of books and desks to tuck his notes into. And she had come up with a solution for him.

“Ross… taii… You didn’t… I…” Ed took a deep breath. “Thank you. Maria-san. This will help.”

“Good,” she smiled at him. “Don’t forget to eat well while you’re busy.” Ed gave her a long-suffering look. She sounded just like Winry used to, lecturing him about taking care of the automail.

“I won’t, Maria-san. You don’t have to worry so much.”

She didn’t dignify that with a response, just patted his shoulder and left him to his packing.

He would not, Ed promised himself as he stowed away another shirt, ever admit to Mustang that this had been a decent idea after all.