Title: Conversion Chapter 8
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist (Animeverse)
Pairings: Roy/Ed, Alter!Roy/Ed
Words: 5,222 (37,780 total)
Warnings: Slash, swearing.
Rating: PG-13 (possibly R in later chapters)
Status: In Progress
Spoilers: Yes, up till the end of the series.
Notes: I'm back to my once a week updates! New chapters should be out every Sunday. I meant to post this yesterday, but I got distracted and forgot. Forgive me? ;_;
Also, I got my first piece of fanart! It's lovely. ;_; You can see it here.
Previous chapter can be found here: Chapters 1-2 Chapters 3-4 Chapters 5-6 Chapter 7::Chapter 8::
::Loss::December 29th, 1926
I thought I’d take a moment to stop and write, though I’ve really been doing nothing but the last few days.
I’m watching Edward and Kara playing outside as I write this. He’s helping her build a snowman. Or rather, he would be, if he didn’t keep pushing her over in the snow every few minutes. We were supposed to go up to the workroom and try a few new arrays, but wonder of wonders, I think he actually forgot. I’m certainly not going to remind him. The work isn’t going anywhere, and Ed doesn’t spend nearly enough time having fun. He’s dedicated and driven and utterly devoted to going home to his brother, but these things often leave little room for him to enjoy life. There is such a thing as working too hard, but that is part of what makes Edward Edward, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Still, I wish there were more moments like this. I love seeing him smile.
“I remember that day,” came a drowsy voice near his shoulder.
Roy started and snapped the journal shut, a rush of guilt making him feel like he had been caught doing something he shouldn’t have. Ed gave him a strange look and straightened up, stretching. Roy pushed the irrational feeling away and leaned back, looking up at the blond. “I didn’t expect you up so early. How are you feeling?”
The question earned him a faint smile. “Almost human. Passing through the gate the first time didn’t kick my ass like this though,” he added with a grumble.
“Well, you went about it a different way this time,” Roy pointed out reasonably, reluctantly setting the journal on the table. He had hoped to have more time to read. It was fascinating, really, and once he had gotten past his trepidation, Roy had found himself genuinely curious. Ah well. There would always be time for it later.
Ed’s only response was a wide yawn as he came around the chair and flopped onto the couch. He reached out and snatched Roy’s coffee cup from the table. Roy blinked in surprise and was about to snatch it back when the look on Edward’s face stopped him. The cup had frozen halfway to his lips, and Ed was giving it the strangest look. Golden eyes moved from the cup to Roy’s face, and he was struck by how sad they were. Before he could ask what was wrong, the look was gone and Ed slowly put the cup back onto the table. “Sorry,” he mumbled, getting to his feet and vanishing back upstairs.
Roy looked from the stairs, to his coffee cup, and back again. What was that all about? It wasn’t first time he had caught Edward doing something that gave him pause, though he wasn’t sure why seemingly innocent actions were bothering the other alchemist. Though, Edward had been through quite the ordeal these past years, and Roy suspected that he hadn’t been told the whole story. Not by a long shot.
Picking up his cup and getting to his feet, Roy went into the kitchen. Ed the cat was snoozing happily on one of the stools and Roy gave her a quick scratch on the head as he passed. He drained his cup and dumped it in the sink along with the dishes from the day before. Maybe he’d have Ed wash them, he thought absently, pulling out the leftover takeout they’d had for dinner the night before. Make him earn his keep now that he was feeling better.
He opened the takeout box and stared at the contents for a moment before thinking better of it and exchanging the box for eggs. Chicken wasn’t really for breakfast, anyway. He’d already eaten, but he figured Ed was probably hungry. Roy fished out a pan and cracked an egg into it, leaving it to cook while he put two slices of bread on to toast. He really needed to go out and do some food shopping today. Ed might not eat quite as much now as he used to, but he still consumed enough for a small army, and Roy would go broke on takeout at that rate.
How did Ed like his eggs fried, anyway? Better to err on the side of caution, Roy decided and popped the yolk, flipping the egg and letting it cook through. Most likely drawn by the smell of food, Edward reappeared, this time showered and dressed. He seemed oddly subdued, nodding at Roy as he settled down on one of the stools. The cat perked up at his arrival, transferring from the empty stool to his lap, purring when he began to stoke her absently. Roy shook his head in amusement as he made a sandwich of the egg and toast. She had certainly taken quickly enough to her namesake.
Roy poured a cup of coffee, passing it and the plate over to Ed, who took them with a quiet “thank you” and put another egg on. One probably wouldn’t be enough for the other alchemist. He stared down at the egg sizzling in the pan and listened to the sounds of Edward eating. It was strange how normal it all seemed. Well, perhaps normal wasn’t quite right. Edward appearing out of thin air after five years and being chained to him by some sort of invisible force was hardly normal
. Then again, the unusual and bizarre was often the norm where Edward Elric was concerned.
No. Normal wasn’t the word for it. Still, Edward had only been back for two days, and already it seemed as though he had never left in some ways. Roy finished the second sandwich and passed it over to Edward just as the blond finished the first one, receiving a small smile in thanks. Roy settled down across from Ed, watching him eat. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad. The blond had gone through more mood swings than a pregnant woman the last few days, like he couldn’t quite decide how he really felt. Roy wondered what Ed had left behind in that world that he was so torn over. He did his best to hide it, but the short alchemist had never been very good at hiding his emotions. He wore his heart on his sleeve for the world to see.
“Sorry about the eggs again,” he said after a moment. “We can go out and pick up some food later.”
Edward finished his second sandwich. “It’s okay. I’m surprised you can cook at all, actually.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth he flinched, dropping his gaze guiltily.
Roy blinked. What was that look for? “I’m no chef, but I can throw together a thing or two without giving anyone food poisoning,” he said easily. “Why are you surprised?”
Ed sighed heavily. “Sorry. I just...well, he
couldn’t cook.” Roy didn’t have to ask who “he” was. Edward seemed reluctant to talk about the other Roy at all, and when he did, he tried to avoid calling him by name. “At all. In fact, him just standing in a kitchen could make all sorts of unfortunate things happen.” Ed smiled slightly. “Liam finally banned him from the kitchen entirely after he nearly burned the house down.”
That explained the guilty look. Ed was trying very hard not to compare him to the other Roy, and he appreciated that. “Yes, well, at some point I decided I was tired of my own bad cooking and figured it was time to learn.”
“Liam taught me more about cooking than I ever wanted to learn.” Ed let out a gusty sigh. “I miss Liam,” he said wistfully. “He fed me.”
It seemed Edward’s aversion to talking about the other Roy did not extend to others he had met there. Interesting, that. “Well,” Roy said, picking up the plate and adding it to the growing pile of dishes. “Since he taught you so much, you
can do the cooking once I pick up some supplies.”
He had expected a protest, and was surprised when he received none. Ed just cocked his head thoughtfully for a moment before he nodded. “Fair enough.” He must have noticed Roy’s surprised look, because he added, “Equivalent exchange, right? I’m sleeping in your house and messing up your routine, the least I can do is cook.”
Roy was pleasantly surprised by the easy compliance, and no little curious as to just how well Ed could cook. “If I can just get you to clean, you’ll have the housewife routine down pat.” Roy grinned at the outraged roar the comment earned him. He had certainly missed baiting the other alchemist, even if it wasn’t quite as easy as it had once been.
Today was shaping up to be a good day.* * * * * * * * * * * *
“You want me to be your what?
” Ed squawked, certain he could not have possibly heard correctly.
Roy let out a long-suffering sigh, rolling his eye heavenward. “Bodyguard,” he repeated patiently. “And no,” he said, before Ed could interrupt, “I don’t mean it literally. That’s just what we're going to tell parliament you are so they won’t flip me shit about me taking my leave right now.”
“And why, exactly, should I let you use me so you can get a vacation?” Ed demanded. Stupid bastard. The last thing he wanted to do was announce to the government that he was back. He wanted peace and quiet, not a string of questions he couldn’t answer. Those bureaucratic bastards could go right on thinking he was dead for all he cared.
Roy shrugged, manner deceptively mild. “If you’d rather be stuck following me to work every day, by all means. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Edward scowled. He hadn’t thought of that. Researching a way to fix his problem wouldn’t be easy if he had to trail after Mustang like a dog on a leash while the man went about his duties. “Fine,” he growled, annoyed at the universe in general at that moment. “You can tell parliament whatever you want. Wait,” he frowned, realizing something wasn’t quite right. “What do they have to do with military leave?”
The general looked momentarily baffled. “The military no longer runs things, Ed. Parliament does that now. The position of Fuhrer was abolished.”
Ed blinked. Well. He certainly hadn’t expected that, though he highly approved. A military government was just a stupid no matter how you sliced it. “At least they finally did something right,” he muttered. “Fine then, I don’t care.”
Mustang looked pleased, which made Ed kind of want to hit him. Smug bastard. “I was hoping you could help me come up with an official explanation for your absence. I don’t think anyone needs to know about this other world of yours.”
He was right about that, now that Ed thought about it. The fewer people who knew, the better. Though, how he was supposed to explain vanishing completely for five years, he wasn’t sure. “Tell ‘em I met a nice girl from Xing, but things didn’t work out so I came home.”
That earned him a chuckle. “You know, I just might,” he said with a grin. “State Alchemists are completely separate from the military these days, so it isn’t as though you could get in trouble for deserting. Besides, it’s just so...simple, they’d have to believe it.”
Ed rolled his eyes, about to whine about not wanting to go, then paused and shut his mouth. If Roy had to go, so did he. Damn, but this was going to get annoying real quick. “When is Hawkeye coming?” he asked instead.
“She should be here in a half hour or so.”
Ed grumbled. He really, really just wanted to go back to Rizembool and forget everything that had happened to him. He sighed. Forgetting would be so much easier. Part of him thought Al was lucky to be spared his memories. “Tell me about Al,” he said suddenly. He hadn’t really had the chance to ask about him yet, aside from discovering that he was alive and whole, and listening to his brother’s voice when the general had called him.
Mustang put a gloved finger to his lips, considering. He was in full uniform for the meeting at parliament today. “I already told you that he forgot everything after you and he attempted to transmute your mother. He went to train with your old teacher for a while if I recall, and then he did a considerable amount of traveling. I remember the day he turned up in my office,” Roy smiled slightly. “Nervous as anything, but determined to talk to me regardless. He was dressed like you, you know. The clothes were yours, I think he wore them to feel a little closer to his missing brother.”
Guilt assaulted him, and Ed sighed. He knew that Al wouldn’t blame him for anything, it wasn’t in his nature, but Edward felt terrible that he had left him alone for so long. Waiting the few days it would take Al to arrive in Central would be torture. “What did you tell him?”
“Anything he wanted to know,” Roy said. “How could I not? I glossed over the worst of it of course, but I told him most everything I knew. He was determined to find you, Ed. Still is. He spends the winters in Rizembool, but the rest of the year he is everywhere else, looking for some sign, some clue as to what happened to you.”
Edward sighed. He had given his brother his life back, and Al somehow still managed to spend it living out of a train. Hold on. Edward frowned, furrowing his brows slightly. Something wasn’t adding up. “Where does he get the money for it?” he asked, glaring at Roy in suspicion. If that bastard had let Al become a State Alchemist, Ed would rip his liver out.
“Private funding,” Roy said, a ghost of a smile on his lips, eye dancing.
It took Edward a moment to realize what he meant. “You?” he asked, jaw dropping slightly.
Roy shrugged, obviously enjoying his surprise. “Being a general brings in a big paycheck. I only use what I need, the rest goes to Al.”
Ed was completely floored. He had a sudden and disturbing urge to hug the bastard, but managed to refrain. “Thanks,” he said after a moment. “For looking after him.”
“I wish I could do more,” Roy said, absently smoothing his uniform. “Though I suppose it doesn’t matter now that you’re back, does it?”
“It matters,” Ed said forcefully. It mattered that Roy had taken it upon himself to look after Al the best he could when Ed wasn’t there to do it himself. Roy shot him a grateful smile.
They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Roy stood to answer it, Ed trailing after. Hawkeye snapped a sharp salute when Roy pulled the door open, her eyes drifting to Ed over his shoulder. “I’m glad to see everything fits,” she said with a smile.
He grinned at her. “It does. I appreciate you picking stuff up for me. I’ll pay you back for it as soon as I can.”
She waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. If nothing else, consider them a welcome home present. Are you gentlemen ready?”
Roy stepped aside, waving Ed through the door, and Ed complied, trudging down the walk after Hawkeye and resigning himself to a boring day.* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ed stared out the window in disinterest, watching the scenery fly by with a bored stare. The meeting at parliament had been exceedingly dull, the general fielding any awkward questions with practiced ease, and Ed was looking forward to a nice nap when they got back to Mustang’s. He blinked, sitting up a little straighter and peering out the window with a frown. This wasn’t the way back, and come to think of it, the drive hadn’t taken that long before, either. “Where are we going?”
Roy looked at him in the rearview mirror and Ed made a face. He didn’t know why he had to sit in the back both ways. He wasn’t a kid for crying out loud, and he was fairly certain Mustang would appreciate being chauffeured around. In fact, he was pretty sure he had seen just that before. The bastard was just being contrary. “I’ve got one more stop to make, then we’ll go home.”
Edward just sighed and turned his attention back outside. It wasn’t much longer before the car came to a stop in front of a...pub? Ed stared. Oh, for fuck’s sake. Mustang better not expect him to sit around and wait while he got trashed and flirted with cocktail waitresses. He growled. He’d sooner sit out in the snow all night. “Mustang...” he ground out, about to tear the man a new one.
It was Hawkeye who spoke, however. “Don’t worry, Edward,” she said, offering a reassuring smile. “It isn’t what you think.”
He sighed and got out of the car, breath puffing in the cold air. He supposed she was right. Getting drunk and picking up women wasn’t likely to be on the agenda with Hawkeye there. Somehow he doubted she made a good wingman. The thought made him grin as he followed the two of them inside.
It was a nice little place, Ed had to admit. Most everything was made of polished wood, giving the pub a warm sort of feel. It was fairly crowded though, the babble of several different conversations washing over them the moment the door opened. Ed sighed. It might be a nice place, but he really didn’t like crowds. Hopefully whatever business they had here would over quickly.
Roy and Hawkeye made their way easily through the press of people and Edward followed behind, still not sure what they were doing in a pub if it wasn’t to drink. A familiar voice called out, “General!” and Edward stiffened.
He peered cautiously around Hawkeye, the sight that met him hitting him like a physical blow. There were two tables pushed together, and sitting at that table was...everyone. Havoc, Breda, Fuery, Falman. They hadn’t seen him yet, and he took a moment to stare. So many faces he despaired of ever seeing again, all clustered in one place. Edward’s feet felt rooted the spot, something in his chest aching terribly. It came crashing down on him all at once then. It was real. This was all real.
A choked sound left his lips and there was a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to find Mustang looking at him, gaze soft. “If you aren’t ready...”
An offer of escape. Ed appreciated the gesture, but shook his head. “I’m okay. It just...it’s been so long.” Hawkeye stepped aside then, settling down in one of the chairs, and he realized she had hidden him behind her in case he wasn’t ready yet.
Fuery was the first to see him. Eyes growing round behind his glasses, he reached out and took a fistful of Havoc’s shirt, tugging urgently, never taking his eyes off Ed. Havoc frowned over at him, then followed his gaze to Edward. His jaw dropped, cigarette falling from his lips. “Holy fuck
,” he swore. He seemed about to say more, but about that time he realized that there was a lit cigarette burning a hole in his thigh and he leaped up with a startled shout, catching the end of the table with his knee and upending it on Falman, drinks and all.
There was a moment of stunned silence, and then Breda howled.
His laughter broke the spell, and Hawkeye helped Falman to his feet and asked Havoc to help her upright the table, but he didn’t seem to hear her. He was staring at Ed. Neither Breda or Falman had noticed him yet, the former too busy laughing his ass off and the latter too absorbed in staring mournfully and his booze-soaked uniform.
Havoc’s jaw worked soundlessly for a moment, and finally he managed a strangled, “Boss?”
Ed laughed. He couldn’t help it. The situation was just too ridiculous, and twin looks of shock Fuery and Havoc wore were priceless. The knot of tension in his belly dissipated as he grinned and said, “Hey.”
The greeting seemed to snap Fuery out of his state of dazed shock and he leaped over the table with a shout. “ED!” He barreled into the blond, wrapping his arms around him in a delighted hug, nearly strangling him in the process. His cheeks were suspiciously red, and Ed suspected he’d had a few too many already, but he grinned and hugged him back, warmed by the excited welcome.
Fuery’s shout finally alerted Breda and Falman to just what was happening, and suddenly Ed was swarmed, voices babbling questions at him and enduring friendly thumps on the back, being passed around like a rag doll while they hugged him and shook him and demanded to know if this was some sort of joke. Ed took it all with a good-humored grin, though he was relieved when they finally allowed him to slump into one of the chairs around the righted table.
Havoc vanished for a moment and returned with another round of drinks, depositing one of these in front of Edward. He wasn’t entirely sure what the amber liquid was, and took a cautious sip, nearly choking as it burned down his throat like liquid fire. Was Havoc trying
to kill him?
He spent the next several hours trading questions with the group. Where had he been? Long story. Was he back to stay? Yes. Had he gotten laid yet? Havoc! He had to admit, he was enjoying himself immensely, and it felt good to be so welcomed. They had genuinely missed him. After a while the conversation drifted off to other things, and Ed welcomed the respite.
He sat back, watching the light filter through the amber liquid in his half-empty glass. It was his third so far, and while Ed still wasn’t sure what it was, it seemed to taste better the more he drank. He looked up, catching Mustang in the middle of a drinking contest with Breda and smiled slightly. Roy caught him looking and winked, the gesture causing his chest to tighten painfully.
Ed dropped his eyes back to his glass with a sigh, taking another drink. When would the smallest, most innocent gestures stop making him think of the Roy he had left behind? When would he stop looking at the general and wishing he was someone else? How many more times would he slip and call him Roy, or ask him to braid his hair or steal his coffee? It wasn’t fair to treat the general that way. This Roy Mustang wasn’t the one he wanted, but he found that so easy to forget sometimes that it frightened him.
The one he wanted.
Ed had avoided thinking about it. Avoided thinking about what had happened before he left, about what Roy had said. It was easier to pretend it hadn’t happened, but suddenly the thoughts were clamoring in his mind, demanding to be heard. He stared sourly at the cup in his hand and took another drink. He blamed it on the alcohol.
Ed missed him. He felt terribly, painfully hollow, and guilty because of it. He wanted Roy back, the need so strong is was a nearly physical ache, and Edward snarled inwardly. How selfish could he be? After everything that Roy had done to help him get home, now he was whining that it wasn’t good enough, even if it was just in his own head. Can’t have everything, he reminded himself. His brother or Roy. It really was a no-brainer, no matter how he felt about the man.
Something twisted in his gut. What exactly did
he feel? Ed glared at his glass and downed the rest. The stuff was making him crazy. He didn’t really feel like...that. He didn’t. It was the alcohol making him feel all floopy and confused. Ed sighed.
He blinked and looked up to find Hawkeye standing over him. Why couldn’t you want someone like her? a pissy part of his mind demanded. Ed told it to shut the hell up. “Yeah?”
“Would you come with me for a second?” she asked, nodding towards to bar.
Probably wanted help getting the next round. Ed got to his feet, weaving slightly as he followed her. He never did have much of a head for alcohol. Not quite drunk, but he was certainly well on his way. Ed reminded himself to kick Havoc in the shin later for making him drink that crap. Hawkeye took a seat at the end of the bar and motioned Ed to take the one beside her. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Edward blinked at her and then ducked his head, staring at the polished wood grain of the bar top. He knew what she meant. Ed didn’t think it was so obvious that he was brooding, but well, she was a sharp woman. He was saved an immediate answer when the bartender came over. She ordered juice for herself and coffee for Ed. The bartender returned shortly with the drinks and Ed wrapped gloved hands around the warm mug. Hawkeye looked at him expectantly. “Nothing I can do anything about,” he said at length.
“Maybe it would help to talk about it?”
Edward looked at her then, into concerned eyes, and suddenly he did want to talk about it. Very badly. “Did he tell you,” Ed asked hesitantly, “what happened?”
Ed nodded, taking a deep breath. He expected as much. Mustang had asked Ed’s permission, and he hadn’t seen any reason to say no. Hawkeye could keep a secret, he knew that. “Will you promise not to tell anyone about it? It’s kinda personal.”
“Whatever you say stays between you and me,” she told him firmly.
Edward gathered his courage and told her, all of his confusion and doubts spilling from his lips in a cathartic rush, leaving him drained, heartsore, and better than he had felt in days. “Then I came back,” he finished quietly. He let out a shaky sigh and closed his eyes, surprised to feel a tear slide down his cheek. His vision blurred and he ducked his head, willing the tears to go away.
A warm hand touched his back and Hawkeye eased him off the stool and led him towards the door. Edward kept his head down, not wanting anyone to see him in the state he was in, taking deep, unsteady breaths and trying to get a hold of himself. He silently swore never to drink again as the door creaked and he was hit by a blast of cold air. Hawkeye took him around the side of the building and gently wrapped her arms around his shoulders, drawing him close. “It’s okay,” she told him. “Let go.”
Those words crumbled the last of his defenses and Edward buried his face in her shoulder and cried. Everything he had been holding at bay since he had returned came spilling out of him. She stroked his back, murmuring comforting nonsense against his hair, and Edward was distantly grateful that if he had to break down in front of anyone like this, that it was Hawkeye. She wouldn’t judge him over a moment of weakness.
It wasn’t long until the tears began to slow and stop, and he stopped shaking. She held him for a moment longer and then pushed back a little, offering him a handkerchief that he took gratefully. “I’m sorry about that,” he mumbled, embarrassed.
“Don’t be,” she told him. “We all need to cry sometimes, it isn’t anything to be ashamed of. When is Alphonse supposed to arrive?”
Edward returned the handkerchief and took a shuddering breath, trying to stabilize his rampant emotions. “Two days.” It seemed like forever.
Hawkeye caught his chin, forcing him to meet her eyes. “I think you should talk to him about this,” she said firmly. “I want you to promise me that you will.”
He was surprised by her insistence, but nodded. He doubted he’d be able to keep something like this from Al anyway. He had a truly uncanny ability to know when something was bothering his older brother, even when Edward did his best to hide it. “I will,” he promised.
She nodded. “Good. Do you think you’re ready to go back inside? We can stay out here a little longer if you’d like.”
Edward felt tired, drained, and more than a little embarrassed. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much choice but to stay until Roy was ready to leave. “I’m fine now,” he assured her, wiping at his eyes with his sleeve. He knew they were probably red, but hopefully that could be explained away by the alcohol.
He followed her back inside and managed to survive the remainder of the night by refusing further offers of drinks and not thinking too much.* * * * * * * * * * * *
Riza watched as Ed helped the thoroughly inebriated General up the walk. She had offered to assist him, but he had waved it off with a quick smile before grumbling about a certain someone drinking too much. They reached the door easily enough, but there they stopped. After a moment Edward propped Roy up against the door and began rifling through the general’s pockets and Riza frowned, wondering what he was doing. A moment later Edward produced a set of keys with a flourish, turning and waving at her. She returned the wave and watched until Ed managed to maneuver the bigger man inside, the door closing behind them.
Riza turned the key in the ignition, the car rumbling to life beneath her, but she didn’t drive off, instead leaning against the steering wheel and staring out into the darkened street. Edward shouldn’t be staying with the general, not considering the shambles of his emotional state. Not considering the reason. Perhaps earlier was nothing to be concerned over, perhaps it was just the result of too much to drink and being overwhelmed by seeing everyone again, but she didn’t think so. Riza knew love when she saw it, even if Edward wasn’t completely aware of it himself.
No, staying with the general was not a good idea. It was too soon, Edward was still too raw, and being forced to see the double of the man you had loved and lost every day couldn’t be good for anyone. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much she could do about it until a way was found to reverse the strange circumstances the two found themselves in.
Maybe...Riza tapped her thumb against the wheel thoughtfully. She was no alchemist, but she had grown up around it; she understood the principles well enough. Another hand researching a fix certainly couldn’t hurt. Edward needed the freedom to go home, needed some space to come to terms with everything that had happened. Riza would do what she could to help him.
That decided, she pulled out into the darkness. Tomorrow was her day off, but she had a great deal to do regardless.