In Silence

Hughes is called on to intervene in a fight between Roy and Ed. Drama, I-4.

Maas Hughes paced down the corridors of Central City headquarters grumbling to himself.

Maria Ross had come to him with a message from Hawkeye that Edward-kun and His Excellency were arguing, and could General Hughes please come calm them down before the idiots destroyed anything? Ross clearly wasn’t comfortable calling her supreme commander an idiot, but her verbatim delivery made it equally clear that she agreed with the assessment.

Maas had always known she was an intelligent woman.

He had sent her back with assurances that he was on his way, and taken the time to arm himself appropriately before heading upstairs. He seemed to be in time; there were raised voices, but no crashes or explosions. Judging by the attitudes of Roy’s staff, though, he probably shouldn’t dawdle. Havoc was as far from the door as he could get, chewing on the end of his cigarette rather than smoking it. Hawkeye was giving the door a tight-lipped look and drumming her fingers on her desk.

“So, what got them going like this?” Maas asked. Hawkeye didn’t take her eyes off the door, but Havoc cast him a look of relief that brightened further when he noted Maas’ armament.

“Oh, good thinking, sir! Er, it isn’t yours is it?”

“Of course not. This,” Maas wiggled the carafe in his left hand, “is Gracia’s special blend, which she presciently gave me a stash of in case I ever really needed to get Roy’s attention at work. My wife is brilliant. Now,” he repeated, “what got them going?”

“I think it was Edward-kun’s report on the organization of the State Alchemists,” Hawkeye supplied.

“Wonderful,” Maas sighed. Something they both had a stake in and knowledge about. No wonder.

“Are you ready, sir?” Hawkeye asked, laying a hand on the doorknob.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Maas shrugged. Roy was going to owe him vacation time for this. He breezed through the door into Roy’s office, as insouciantly as though he wasn’t stepping into the next best thing to a free-fire zone.

Neither Roy nor Ed noticed. They were too busy leaning over their respective sides of Roy’s desk until they were nose to nose, arguing at the top of their lungs.

“Millay has the morals of a thief, and you want to give him the keys to the damn bank!” Ed yelled. “I can’t believe you’re thinking of putting him in charge!”

“You said yourself they won’t accept anyone who isn’t an alchemist!” Roy shouted back. “Who the hell else is there?”

Maas’ brows lifted. Ed was more coherent and Roy more vehement than either usually got, even in a fight. This really was serious. Time to get their attention, before things ran any further downhill.

“Coffee break, gentlemen?” he suggested, setting down his carafe and three mugs on the desk with a thunk.

They both started.

“Any particular reason the two of you decided to alarm all the staff officers in the building today?” Maas continued, pouring. Ed blinked. Roy inhaled and set his jaw.

“We are having,” he said through his teeth, “a difference of opinion on who should oversee the State Alchemists.”

“I’d never have guessed if you hadn’t told me,” Maas murmured. Both combatants glanced at the clearly-too-thin door and refrained from saying anything. It was a start. Ed flung himself away from the desk and stalked a few paces off. Even better.

“What did you send me for if you never planned to listen to me?” he snarled. Roy’s eyes glinted, and Maas stifled a wince. Then again, not so good.

“If you find it so distasteful to work for me, Elric-kun, the door is right behind you,” Roy purred.

Ed’s chin came up, mouth and shoulders both tightening. A spark lit his eye, in turn.

“You two bring out the worst in each other,” Maas groaned, rubbing his forehead. “Can you possibly keep from kicking each other in the insecurities for five minutes at a time? I already have a small child, you know, I don’t really need two more.” He took his mug and slumped onto the couch.

“What?” Roy snapped at him. Maas glared right back. Vacation time and a raise, he vowed to himself.

“You,” he pointed a finger at Roy, “stop trying to test Ed’s loyalty to destruction. A self-fulfilling prophecy won’t help anyone. And you,” the finger swung around to spear Ed, “quit trying to get a rise out of Roy just to prove you can. It’s counterproductive.”

Roy and Ed glanced at each other, and then away at opposite corners of the room. Maas cast his eyes up. God save him from stubborn idiots; and he’d thought just one was bad. Further distraction was clearly in order.

“Save the revenge for after work, Ed,” Maas advised. “It’s much more fun when he’s a bit tipsy, anyway.” A faint choke emerged from Ed, though he didn’t look back around. Roy, on the other hand, bared his teeth at Maas in something that was decidedly not a smile. Well, at least they weren’t at each other’s throats any more. And Roy had never toasted him yet, Maas reflected philosophically. He met his friend’s eyes seriously, and tilted his head in Ed’s direction, raising a brow. Roy’s gaze flickered. Maas gave him a narrow look. Yes, in fact, Roy should be able to keep his temper better than Ed, after fourteen more years practice even if his fuse wasn’t actually any longer than Ed’s by nature, he thought at Roy as loudly as possible, exasperated. Judging by the slightly shamefaced look that flitted over Roy’s face, Maas’ expression must have conveyed the thought pretty well.

Roy heaved a silent sigh, picked up both remaining mugs, walked over to Ed and offered him one.

Maas saw Ed freeze as he registered whose hand was holding out the mug, and when he looked up, for one second, those sharp, gold eyes were wide and unguarded. Faint contrition softened Roy’s face in answer to that flash of uncertainty. After a moment Ed took the mug, and bowed his head over it. They stood for another moment, while Roy regarded the bent head, before he touched Ed’s shoulder, lightly. Maas wasn’t sure Roy had seen Ed biting his lip, but he was sure that his friend noticed Ed let his breath out at that touch.

Maas shook his head. When these two wanted to insult each other you could hear them in the next city, but apology and reconciliation? Those were silent.

They came back to the desk in still-unspoken accord, and took chairs this time. Maas let out a relieved breath of his own. Destruction and mayhem appeared to have been averted.

“Is there anyone else who could do this job?” Roy asked Ed, evenly. Ed consulted the depths of his coffee, which seemed perfectly reasonable to Maas. He had no doubt Gracia’s coffee could aid memory and tell the future; it was Gracia’s, after all.

“There’s no one else with his breadth of knowledge,” Ed answered, slowly, “but I think Sitten would be less likely to deliberately overlook dangerous paths of research.”

“Leaving only the question of whether he has the acumen to recognize them.” Roy sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. Maas noted that Ed was chewing on his lip again, as if he very much wanted to say something more but was wary of starting another argument. Maas, for one, wasn’t surprised by that restraint in the least, though he was getting the impression that Roy might be.

“All right,” Roy said at last, “ask Hawkeye-shousa to get Sitten’s file for me, if you please.”

When the door closed behind Ed, Roy took a long drink of coffee and slanted a look at Maas. “Thank Gracia for me,” he said. Maas chuckled.

“You know, Ed has always snapped at you,” he prodded after a few seconds. “And winding him up has always been a hobby of yours. But you used to grin about it. What’s different now?” He waited while Roy examined the grain of his desk. Maas was pretty sure he knew the answer, but he wasn’t the one who needed to know it.

“It used to be a way to distract him, make him think about something besides his obsession,” Roy answered at last. “Now…” Roy leaned back with a sigh. “Why is he here, Maas? Why does he stay, when his family, the family he did everything for, is so far away?”

“Why does Hawkeye stay, despite the fact she doesn’t like fighting and killing?” Maas asked back. “Why does Havoc stay, when following you drags him into all kinds of insane danger?”

“That’s different.” Roy waved a dismissive hand. “They chose to follow me for personal loyalty.”

Maas let his head thump back against the couch. “Roy, for such a superb manipulator, you have the strangest blind spots,” he declared, wearily. After an extended silence he turned his head to see Roy staring open-mouthed.

“Are you trying to tell me,” his friend managed at last, “that Edward Elric is… is…”

“Loyal to you, personally?” Maas filled in. “Yes, you idiot, that’s exactly what I’m saying! You spent four years being the closest thing he had to family, besides the Rockbells, who he rarely saw, and Al, who he always felt guilty over. You took an orphan into your care, and offered him a future, and threw him in the way of anything that might make him strong enough to achieve it, and sheltered him when you could. What did you expect?”

Roy looked absolutely stunned.

“The only thing more irritating than watching you wind someone around your finger on purpose,” Maas concluded, in disgust, “is watching you do it on accident.”

Hawkeye tapped on the door. “The file you wanted, sir.”

Faced with paperwork, Roy managed to pull himself together.

Maas collected mugs and carafe, and prepared to withdraw before Roy decided to put more work on his plate while Maas was handy.

“Hughes,” Roy’s voice caught him at the door.

“Yes?”

“Why do you stay?” Maas looked over his shoulder to see a touch of wistfulness in Roy’s face.

“What, you think I would leave you to make a hash of everything on your own?” What kind of family would I be if I did? he added, silently.

To judge by the way Roy’s smile warmed before he turned back to his latest problem, he’d caught that one, too.

End