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The Wayward Muse
Life, writing, and general stupidity
Fanfiction: Conversion - Chapters 3-4 (FMA) 
10.29.06
Piandao eyebrow
Chapters 3-4, the first two can be found in the previous post.

Title: Conversion
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist (Animeverse)
Pairings: Roy/Ed, Alter!Roy/Ed
Words: 9,437 (Chapters 3-4)
Warnings: Slash
Rating: PG-13 (possibly R in later chapters)
Status: In Progress
Spoilers: Yes, up till the end of the series.

Summary: Five years after his arrival on an alternate world, a chance meeting with someone from his past gives Edward Elric the hope that maybe, just maybe, he might have found his ticket home.

Note: This story diverges from from the anime at the end of the series, the events of the movie never happened as far as this fic is concerned, though I might swipe certain elements here and there as they pertain to this story.

::Chapter 3::

::Turning Point::


Edward carefully connected the last line, absently scratching his nose with his free hand, adding more to the collection of chalk dust on his face and in his hair. Finished. Edward sat back on his heels and surveyed his handiwork with a critical eye. It was perfect he decided after a long moment. Granted, that was no guarantee it would actually do anything, but he wanted to make sure any failures were due to reasons other than a mistake on the array.

He looked up at Mustang, who was perched on the desk in the storage room-turned-alchemy lab. Mustang wasn’t looking at him, instead studying the array curiously. Edward stood up, wincing as his muscles protested the sudden movement after being crouched in one position for so long.  He wiped his hands on his pants and set the chalk aside, stretching.

Mustang had been remarkably accommodating in the weeks following his agreement to help Ed get home. Anything he asked for he got without question, not that he really needed much. Winter had moved in suddenly with a full-blown blizzard in early November, effectively snowing them in. Mustang had converted the storage room that weekend so that Ed would have somewhere to work, a place to store his growing mountain of notes, and somewhere to actually test things when they were ready.

Maybe it was just because it was Mustang, but the easy compliance made him a bit suspicious. Ed wasn’t exactly one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the whole thing just seemed a little off to him, and it was something he needed to ask about before they started experimenting in earnest. “Hey Mustang?”

“Roy,” he corrected immediately, looking up from his study of the array. “How many times am I going to have to tell you to call me Roy before you actually do?”

Ed made a face. “Roy,” he said slowly, the name feeling foreign on his tongue. He was never going to get used to it. Ever. “Gah, that’s weird.”

“Don’t care,” Roy said mildly. “If you call me Mustang one more time, I’ll strangle you. Consider it self-preservation.”

Edward rolled his eyes. “Right. Anyway, I wanted to ask you something. What’s the deal with all this?” he asked, gesturing vaguely to the room. “I mean, you’ve been awfully...accommodating about things, considering how crazy it should seem to you. Not that I’m not grateful, it’s just odd that you’ve been so willing to help me from the start.” Edward paused, then sighed and shrugged. “I guess I just wanna know why.”

“Fair enough,” Roy said, chewing his lip absently. He was silent for a long moment before he said, “It’s strange, really. From the moment I saw you on the train, something just...clicked in my head. It never even really occurred to me that you might be lying, or that you might not be someone I should trust.” He frowned, kicking the leg of the desk gently. “I’m not really sure how to explain it. I just know. I know that I can trust you, I know that you’re someone worth helping. I knew it from the moment I met you. It must sound strange, but,” he shook his head. “that’s the way it is. Hell if I know why, but there you have it.”

Edward flushed slightly, shifting his weight awkwardly. He hadn’t really expected anything like that. Something more along the lines of, “I’m rich and eccentric, why not?” maybe. “Oh. Um, well I guess that would do it, wouldn’t it?”

Roy smiled at him, dark eyes dancing with amusement at his discomfort. “Guess so.” He blinked, expression changing abruptly. “You don’t suppose it has something to do with that colonel of yours, do you?”

“He’s not my colonel,” Ed snapped, then paused as the words sunk in. The colonel? He hadn’t thought of that. “I dunno. I mean, I guess it could, but that doesn’t really sound like something he would say about me,” Ed smiled wryly, “He drove me nuts, and I don’t think he trusted me as far as he could throw me, honestly.”

“Well,” Roy said, tapping his lips thoughtfully. “Considering how tiny you are, I imagine he could probably throw you pretty far if he put his mind to it.”

“Who are you calling so short that he’d have to stand on his toes to look a speck of dust in the eye?!” Ed roared, throwing the nearest thing at hand --which turned out to be the chalk stub-- at the other man.

Roy ducked easily under the projectile, grinning. “Did I say all that?” he asked innocently.

Ed glared at him, which seemed to only increase his amusement. “I take it back,” he snarled, “You are channeling that bastard. Bastard.”

“I’m sorry,” Roy said, the grin on his face proof that he wasn’t sorry in the slightest. “Though, if you didn’t make it so fun to tease you, it probably wouldn’t happen as much.”

“Shut up,” Ed grumbled. Why did he have to be such a bastard about it? It wasn’t his fault he was so short. He glared at Roy, who winked back. Bastard, bastard, bastard! “Anyway,” he snapped. “Are you--”

He was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Ed? You forgot didn’t you?” came the muffled question from the other side.

Liam. Edward blinked and looked out the window, the darkening sky confirming that it was later than he realized. Hell. “Shit, I’m sorry Liam. I’ll be down in a minute.” This was met with a muted chuckle and footsteps leading away. Ed began sweeping up his scattered notes, careful not to touch the array. “I promised Liam I’d help him with dinner tonight,” he explained at Roy’s questioning look. “Everything’s ready though, we can give it a shot later tonight.”

“Mm.” Roy hopped down from his perch, circling the array slowly, careful not to touch the edges. Edward had threatened grievous bodily harm should he do so, and it seemed Mustang wasn’t about to tempt fate. He stopped next to Ed, looking down at the short blond. “Nervous?” he asked.

Ed just grinned and shook his head, bouncing on his toes slightly. He was excited, not nervous. “Hell no. I’m finally doing something, even if it doesn’t work the first time,” he looked up at Roy. “What about you?”

“Terrified,” Roy said, smiling slightly. “This may all be old hat to you, but my experience with all this hocus pocus is...limited. I’m worried it is going to work.”

Edward stared at him for a moment, surprised. Mustang had been so, well...relaxed about the whole thing, he hadn’t realized the man had any concerns at all. “If you don’t want to...” he said slowly.

There was a sharp clang as Roy kicked his automail leg with a snort. “Don’t be stupid. I said I was nervous, I didn’t say I was backing out on you. Besides,” he said, tugging gently on Edward’s braid, “What kind of man would say no to seeing magic in action?”

Ed growled and took his braid back. Why the man had such a fixation on pulling his hair, he’d never know. “It isn’t magic,” he snapped.

“Alchemy is science, I know, I know,” Roy said, taking hold of Ed’s shoulders and steering the shorter man to the door. “Go help Liam. I’ll finish picking up in here. And afterward...you can show me your science in action.”

*        *        *

Edward pushed open the door to the kitchen to see Liam’s back to him. The short cook was wrangling a pot that was nearly as big as he was, trying to get it on the stove without spilling the contents everywhere. “Sorry I’m late,” he said sheepishly, slipping inside and closing the door behind him.

Liam won the battle with the pot, getting it up on the stove with a minimum of sloshing. “Don’t worry about it Ed,” he said, turning and wiping his hands on his apron. “I know you and Roy tend to lose track of time when you’re working up there on whatever it is you do.” He raised an eyebrow suddenly. “Good lord Ed, you’re a bloody mess.” He reached over and started brushing chalk dust from the blond hair. “You’d better go wash up first.”

Ed just grinned and complied, quickly washing away the evidence of his earlier work and returning to find two large onions and a knife waiting for him. He grimaced as he flopped down in the chair. Ed hated cutting onions. The smell stuck to his flesh hand for days. “Just the onions?” he asked, rolling up his sleeves and starting to peel off the outer layers.

“Those, and I have some potatoes, carrots and celery waiting on the back counter there if you don’t mind,” Liam said, gesturing with his own knife as he settled down and began attacking a large slab of red meat.

“No problem,” Edward said, squinting as the onion fumes began to sting his eyes. He had taken to helping Liam as often as possible, since he was the only one in the house who happily accepted his offer of help and Edward had to do something to repay what they were doing for him. Equivalent exchange and all that. Granted, playing kitchen helper wasn’t exactly up to par with what Roy was doing for him, but there really wasn’t anything else he could get away with. Even suggesting help to Evan seemed to be a grave insult to the man, and Emily always cheerfully turned down any offers of assistance.

Not that he minded spending time with Liam. Edward liked the man a great deal, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he was only a bare inch taller than Ed was. Really. Though he had to admit it was nice being in a room with someone and not feeling like a midget for once. That aside, Liam had a bright, friendly personality that was hard not to like. “What’re we having, anyway?”

“Beef stew,” Liam said, scooping up the meat chunks and dumping them into the pot. “I’ll get the rolls started while the meat cooks.” Edward finished with his onions and relinquished them to the other man, getting up and retrieving the potatoes from the counter.

They worked in companionable silence for a long time, the only sounds that of Ed’s knife and the water boiling in the pot. Liam finished the rolls and set them in the oven to cook, then came over and sat down opposite Edward, taking half of the carrots he was cutting and starting on them himself. “You know, I really should thank you,” he said.

Ed grinned at him. “Hey, it’s no problem. I like to help when I can.”

Liam smiled and shook his head, “Not that. Though I do appreciate it. I meant about Roy.”

Roy? Edward frowned and looked up at the other man. “Huh?”

Sighing, Liam scratched his moustache. “Well,” he said, setting aside the carrots and starting on the celery, “Roy hasn’t been the same since Michael died. That’s his brother, Kara’s father,” he clarified, seeing Ed’s confusion. “Those two were as close as anyone could be. When he died, Roy was devastated. Honestly, I think the fact that he had Kara to look after was the only thing that kept him from withdrawing completely.  And even then...” he shook his head sadly.

“How did they die?” Ed asked. He had been wondering about that since Roy had mentioned it when they first met, but he hadn’t wanted to pry.

“Fire,” Liam said. “Started in the middle of the night. Michael and Caroline burned to death, but Roy was looking after Kara that week. A lucky thing, that.” Liam got up, collecting the vegetables and dumping them into the pot, giving it a stir. “The reason I brought it up though is that he’s been better since you got here. Roy, I mean. I haven’t seen him in such good spirits in a long time,” he leaned against the counter, crossing his arms and giving Ed a long look. “He doesn’t deserve to suffer, and I wanted to thank you for helping him.”

Edward stared. He hadn’t realized. Sometimes Roy got that sad, faraway look, but it wasn’t often, and most of the time he seemed like the same cheerful bastard Ed had gotten used to. He shifted slightly. He certainly didn’t think he’d had anything to do with it. “I uh...haven’t really done anything.”

Liam chuckled. “Sometimes just having a friend works wonders. Roy isolates himself too much, I think. Anyway,” he waved his spoon around dramatically. “Enough of this serious talk. I’ve got things in hand here, go set up the dining room would you? After that, you’re free till dinner.”

*          *        *

Roy hid a smile behind his napkin, purposely avoiding looking at Ed. He leaned over, listening to Emily talk about her day, and felt another traitorous smile creeping onto his face. It was hard not to feel Edward’s eyes on him, the short blond shredding a roll in frustration and glaring daggers.

Edward was impatient to get started, that much was obvious. They had sat down to dinner, and Ed had inhaled his food at an incredible rate, finished before everyone was even served. He had spent the fifteen minutes since alternately fidgeting and scowling death. Not one to resist the opportunity to tease the volatile blond, Roy had taken his time, eating slowly and stopping often to chat with the others. Though, if he were honest, it wasn’t just to tease, though it was certainly entertaining watching Edward’s reaction. His stomach was turning circles, and Roy had to admit he was a little more nervous about things than he had let on earlier.

Watching as Ed plucked a third roll from the basket and began to mutilate it, Roy grinned and decided to was time to take pity on the boy. “Alright Edwa-” He was interrupted by a sudden crash to his left, and he looked over to see that Kara had knocked her water glass onto the floor. She was sitting perfectly still, staring at the spill in shock. After a quick check to make sure she hadn’t cut herself, he looked over at Emily. “Would you go get the broom, please? Don’t want anyone stepping on that.”

Emily just nodded and was up and gone. Roy got up and walked around the side, surveying the damage. It looked like mostly large pieces. He grabbed his napkin and began sopping up the water while he waited for Emily to return with the broom. “I’m sorry!” He looked up, finding Kara staring at him with stricken eyes. “I didn’t mean to!”

“It’s all right,” he assured her with a smile. “Accidents happen.”

“Is my arm going to fall off?” She asked, looking quite terrified at the thought.

Roy blinked. Where on earth had she gotten a notion like that? “Of course not! Why would you think that?”

“Ed said that when you do something bad, your arm falls off,” Kara told him in a quiet voice.

“Is that so?” Roy said, turning to look at Edward, who was doing his best to sink beneath the table. He froze when Roy looked at him, flushing at the questioning look and raised eyebrow he received. This ought to be interesting, Roy thought, keeping his expression carefully neutral. “Why would he say something like that, I wonder?”

“I didn’t!” Ed protested weakly. “She just asked about my automail, and I told her I did something bad and my arm fell off.” Roy raised both eyebrows at this, and Ed made a face. “I didn’t say it would happen to her!” He scowled and folded his arms over his chest defensively.

Unable to keep the smile off his face, Roy gave in with a laugh and a shake of his head. Edward was really something else. “You should watch what you say to Kara, she has quite the imagination. And you,” he turned back to the little girl. “Don’t have anything to worry about. I won’t let your arm fall off.”

Kara looked slightly mollified by this offer of protection. “Promise?”

“Promise,” Roy assured her, planting a kiss on top of her head.

A moment later, Emily returned with the broom, and Roy stood up, stretching. He looked at Ed, who was still sulking, glaring at nothing in particular and smiled. “Well Ed. I believe you and I have something to finish.”

Edward looked up at him, foul mood vanishing as though it had never been, though he made a valiant attempt to hold onto it. “’Bout time,” he grumbled, getting to his feet.

Roy cocked his head curiously. “What was that? You’d rather wait until tomorrow? Well, if you-”

He was silenced by a sharp poke to the chest. “Don’t push your luck, Mustang,” Ed growled.

“Roy,” he corrected. Edward muttered something that sounded suspiciously like a profanity before turning and stalking out the door. Roy just shook his head with a smile. Edward was certainly rough around the edges, but there was a charm about him that was hard not to like. He thanked Liam for dinner and followed after the alchemist.

Edward was already pacing impatiently when he got there. His head snapped up when Roy walked in, bouncing on his toes as the other man shut and locked the door. Golden eyes met his, and Roy felt his stomach flop around in a most unpleasant fashion. Maybe eating first hadn’t been such a great idea. “Are you ready?” Edward asked.

While his first impulse was to say, “No, not really.” Roy suspected that might not go over well. Instead he simply nodded and came to stand beside Ed. They had already been over this a thousand times before, but Roy suddenly felt the need to hear it again. “Tell me what to do.”

Grabbing his sleeve, Edward pulled him around the array. Once he was where Ed wanted him, the boy got down on his knees, careful not to touch the chalk lines, and Roy followed suit, taken a deep breath that did little to settle his nerves. “Alright,” Ed said, suddenly all business. “When I tell you to, I want you to lay your hands on the array here,” he pointed, and Roy nodded to show he understood. “Then I want you to close your eyes and focus on the colonel as best you can. Leave the rest to me.”

“Right.” Roy went over what Edward had told him. Colonel Roy Mustang, officer of the Amestris military. Same height, same face, same eyes, short hair. Wore a blue uniform with white gloves with transmutation circles stitched onto the back. Something of a ladies’ man, and smug bastard extraordinaire. The last bit was Ed’s opinion more than anything, he suspected.

“Are you ready?” Ed asked.

Roy took another deep breath and said, “As I’ll ever be.” He offered Ed a wan smile, and received a thankful one in return.

Suddenly Ed shifted closer to him, pressing their shoulders together. “The physical contact might help,” Edward offered, noticing his confusion. “Or it might not, but it couldn’t hurt.” He grinned. “On three. One, two, three!”

Roy leaned forward and placed his hands on the array, feeling Edward  doing the same beside him. He closed his eyes and tried to push his nerves aside, summoning the image Ed had built for him of the colonel in his mind. Whispering thoughts kept poking into his mind, but Roy ignored them as best he could, focusing only on the man they were trying to contact. He felt a strange tug deep in his gut, but other than that, nothing happened. He frowned in concentration.

They remained that way for several minutes, before he heard Edward sigh and felt him pull away, sitting back. “You can stop,” he said, sounding a little dejected. “If it was going to work it would have by now.”

Roy opened his eyes and sat back. Edward was staring at the array miserably, and he felt a flood of guilt at being unable to get it to work. “I’m sorry,” he offered.

Ed smiled at him sadly. “It’s all right. I didn’t really expect anything to happen, but I hoped...” he sighed and got to his feet. “Did anything happen at all?”

“Not really, no.” Roy said. “at first I felt a...tug sort of, in my gut, but that was it.”

Edward’s head snapped up at that, gold eyes wide. “Right here?” he said, pointing at his own stomach. “A sort of tight pull?” At Roy’s confused nod, he laughed a little. “You’re sure?”

“I’m sure,” Roy said, a little baffled at his reaction. Edward hadn’t mentioned anything about it before. “Is that good?”

“Fuck yes!” Ed crowed, startling Roy by gathering him into a brief, fierce hug. It was over almost immediately, but Roy felt a little warmer for it, and smiled. “It means it worked!” Edward whooped, dashing over to the desk and dug a piece of chalk  and a cloth from the drawer, practically dancing as he returned to the array, dropping to his knees and making changes.

Ed paused, sitting back on his heels and grinning up at Roy like a madman, eyes almost glowing. “That gut feeling happens when an alchemist activates a circle,” he explained, “You get so used to it after a while that I didn’t even think about it.”

Roy grinned, pleased beyond words by the blond’s sudden burst of happiness. “Well, I’m glad we managed something. But it still didn’t work right?”

Edward snorted, leaning back over the array and working furiously. “Doesn’t matter. That tug means that you can work alchemy. It means that for the first time since I got here, it worked. Which means that if we can just find the right way to do it, we can contact the colonel.”

“You’re sure?” Roy asked, crouching down and grinning like a fool. “I mean, even though nothing happened, you’re sure we can get it to work?”

“Only a matter of time before I find out how, now that I know it works.” Ed hopped up to his feet suddenly, setting the chalk aside. “There, that should do it I think. Ready for another go?”

All of his earlier nervousness replaced by Edward’s infectious excitement, Roy nodded. “Let’s do it.”

The next few hours was spent testing different array variations. The reactions Roy had to them were varied, but each time, Edward seemed able to tweak and adjust it to get the effect he was looking for. It was hard work, considering he wasn’t doing much of anything at all, and by the  fifth round, he was exhausted.

Edward finished his most recent round of modifications and looked at Roy, eyes softening a bit when he saw how tired he was. “This’ll be the last go, okay? I forgot how tiring alchemy can be when you first start, and you’re the one doing all the work, I’m just guiding it.”

Roy was reluctant to stop, but he was dead tired. He probably wasn’t going to have much success when he was about to fall asleep on his feet, so he nodded. “We can pick it up again in the morning,” he promised.

So began the procedure that was becoming familiar to Roy. The sudden wash of energy, the strange pull in his gut. This time however, something was different. He felt a wave of dizziness and suddenly he was sitting in a room he didn’t recognize, being spoken to by a woman he didn’t know. She didn’t seem to notice anything out of place.

“It’s late sir, you really should go home.”

“I’m almost finished here,” he heard himself say, though he hadn’t meant to speak. “Another half hour at the most. Go home Major. I’ll close things up here when I’m done.”

The woman sighed. “You really shouldn’t-”

Roy gasped, a sudden surge of pain shocking him. His vision went strangely double for a moment, before the strange room and woman faded and he found himself looking up at Edward, who was leaning over him, concern written on his face. “Oh shit, oh fuck,” he muttered, looking stricken. “I killed him. I fucking killed-” he cut off abruptly when he realized Roy was looking at him. “Are you okay?” he asked, taking his face in his hands and leaning down until they were nearly nose-to-nose.

Blinking a few times to focus his eyes, Roy swallowed and offered a weak smile. The pain was fading, and he stared, realizing that Ed was practically sitting on him, and that his face was very, very close. “I do believe I’m being taken advantage of,” he teased, voice rougher than it should have been. God damn, but he felt like a building had fallen on him.

Edward stared for a moment, before turning a rather amusing shade of red and shifting off to the side. “I was just checking to see if you were okay, bastard.” He seemed to forget his annoyance in favor of worry. “Are you okay?”

“I think so,” Roy said, trying to move and regretting it when the pain swiftly returned, if not as intense as before. “Though I think I’ll just lay here for a minute of you don’t mind.”

Ed shifted closer, leaning over him. “What happened?”

Roy closed his eyes, summoning the image of what he had seen. “It was strange. At first, it was just the same as before, and then suddenly I’m in a room I’ve never seen, and there was a woman talking to me. She had blonde hair and wore a blue uniform. She told me to go home, but when I answered, it wasn’t me speaking...” he shook his head and opened his eyes. “It was strange.”

“Hawkeye.” Edward said, a slow grin growing on his face. “I’d bet my left arm that was Hawkeye!”

“Who?” Roy asked, feeling a little bewildered as he sat up, noting the pain seemed much less now.

“One of the Colonel’s subordinates,” Ed said quickly, “You did it! You made contact, if only for a second!”

Ed was right, he realized suddenly. What else could it have been? He flopped back down onto the floor, ignoring the sudden spike of pain and grinned. “Does that mean what I think it does?”

“Damn straight it does,” Ed laughed suddenly, the sound like music. “It means I’m going home.”


::Chapter 4::

::Winter Wonder::


Edward pulled his coat tighter around himself, glowering at nothing in particular. He took back anything nice he had ever said about winter. Ed was cold, wet and miserable. Worse, he had been trudging through this mess for two hours, and hadn’t found a single gift. He stopped as a storefront caught his eye and peered through the window for a moment before sighing and moving on. He hated Christmas. What kind of moronic holiday would force a man to buy presents for everyone he knows on the same day? Finding something suitable for one person on their birthday was bad enough, but this was just plain stupid. Edward swore loudly as a large lump of snow slipped inside his shoe. His outburst earned him a few curious and offended stares, but honestly, right then, Ed just did not give a fuck. Stupid Christmas.

It didn’t help that his experiments with Roy were being constantly thwarted one way or another. First, the man had taken with the flu for nearly two weeks. Then there was some sort of business emergency that forced him to leave town for several days. When they did actually get a chance to work, Roy tired so quickly that they only had a handful of tries before he was too exhausted to do more. It was frustrating, but they were making progress, even if it was painfully slow. Every time they made contact, they were able to hold it longer than the time before, and Ed was able to channel off most of the feedback that had knocked Roy flat the first time.

They couldn’t actually speak with the colonel or communicate with him in any way, and Edward was trying to find a way past that. He knew if they could just get the colonel to activate the proper array from his end, Ed could probably ride the connection between the two home. Probably. There was always the chance that it wouldn’t work at all, or that they’d lose it halfway and Edward would be trapped in the Gate between. He shuddered at the thought. Not an appealing fate, that.

Then, to top it all off, he had to deal with this stupid holiday crap.

He only had a week left, and Ed still didn’t have a single thing to show for it. Kara should have been easy, right? She was only a kid after all. Kids were easy to please. Problem was, he couldn’t find anything the girl didn’t already have. Spoiled didn’t even begin to describe it. He had a sneaking suspicion Roy would buy her the moon if she asked for it.

Emily was a mystery. In spite of the fact that the plump woman had taken to mothering him almost as much as she did Kara, he hadn’t the faintest idea what she would like. Liam was a bit easier. Ed had learned that the short cook had quite the sweet tooth, it was just a matter of finding a store that sold what he was looking for. He suddenly wished he had spent less time cooped up in the house and more time learning his way around the city.

Evan was a lost cause. They barely spoke to each other, and Ed had no idea what the old man’s interests were. That left Roy. Ed blew out a frustrated sigh. That was the one that was troubling him the most. The least he could do after all the man had done for him was get him a good present. What the hell did you get for a man who could buy whatever he wanted?

He paused, a toy store catching his eye. Probably wouldn’t be much there that he hadn’t already seen, but at least it would get him out of the cursed cold for a few minutes. He pushed open the door, the bells at the top jingling merrily as he did so. Kicking the snow from his shoes, he closed the door behind him just as a thin man with spectacles perched on his nose materialized from the back. “Good afternoon sir!” he chirped, “Is there anything I can help you with today?”

Ed told the man he was just taking a look around. He poked around halfheartedly for a few minutes, but nothing jumped out at him. He was pretty sure that he had seen Kara carting around every item in the store at some point. Maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one. He briefly entertained the merits of kicking Roy in the shins for making shopping for the girl so hard.

With a sigh, he decided there was nothing there he hadn’t already seen at least once that morning. Edward thanked the man for his time and opened the door and stepped back out into the cold.

“Edward!”

He started, looking up at the sound of his name. Roy’s black car was parked in front of the toy store, Evan leaning out the driver side window, waving to get his attention. He walked over to the car, surprised. What was Evan doing there? “What’s up?” he asked, leaning against the side of the car and poking his head in the window.

The old man looked relieved. “I thought I’d never find you,” he said. “When Liam told me where you’d gotten to, I couldn’t leave you to trudge through this mess. Get in, I’ll take you where you need to go. I’ve some errands to run myself anyway.”

Rather taken aback by the sudden generosity, Ed nodded and went around to the passenger side and got in, relieved to be out of the elements. “Thanks,” he said, and he meant it.

Evan simply nodded. “How much do you have left to do?” he asked, pulling out into traffic.

Ed grimaced. “Everything. I’ll figure something out though. Mostly, I’m worried about Roy. I mean, what do you get for a man who can buy whatever he wants?”

“It’s true that finding something that he wants that he doesn’t already have would be a challenge. However,” Evan looked over at Edward for a moment before turning his eyes back to the road. “Roy is rather sentimental, though you’ll never hear him admit to it. He’s also very fond of you. What you get doesn’t matter so much, as long as there’s a personal touch to it. He’ll appreciate that more than anything.”

Edward considered this. A personal touch, hm? They rode in silence for a while, Ed mulling over the possibilities. After a while, the car rumbled to a stop and he looked up. “There was something I wanted to talk to you about Edward,” Evan said.

He stared at the other man warily. This was the most Evan had ever spoken to him since they met. “Sure, what’s up?”

“I...wanted to apologize to you,” it was clearly hard for the man to say, and Edward tried not to gape like a moron. He nodded for Evan to continue, wondering what on earth had brought that up. “I treated you unfairly when you first came to stay with us, and I wanted to apologize for my behavior.” He sighed, scratching his chin. “I thought Roy was being impulsive inviting a stranger into his home, particularly with Kara to worry about. I did not think you were trustworthy, and I was rather cold to you as a result. I just wanted to ask you to forgive this stubborn old man. You’ve truly become a part of our family these past few months.”

A part of our family. Edward was completely floored. He had no idea they thought of him like that. The words left him feeling warm and embarrassed, and he flushed slightly. “I...don’t worry about it. No hard feelings.”

Evan gifted him with a faint smile and a nod, content to leave it at that.

*        *        *

Ed yawned, dragging his brush through still-damp hair as he wandered downstairs and made his way to the dining room. Roy was already there, chronic early riser that he was, and Ed nodded in sleepy greeting. Flopping down bonelessly across from the other man, Ed started trying to wrangle his damp hair into a braid, shooting a grateful look at Roy as the dark haired man pushed his coffee cup over to Ed with a smile. “Your noble sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Edward said solemnly, abandoning his hair in favor of taking a long drink.

That earned him a chuckle as Edward drained the cup and set it back on the table with a contented sigh. Picking up his brush he gave it a quick run through his hair to re-tame it, and began to braid it again. After a moment the awkward reach started to cramp his arm, and he dropped his hair with an irritated grumble, the braid unraveling. It was getting too long to braid himself anymore, unless he wanted to pull it over his shoulder, but that always left it looking crooked. “Stupid hair. I should just chop it all off,” he muttered. 

“Don’t you dare,” Roy said severely, picking up the brush from where Ed had abandoned it. He turned sideways in his chair and pointed with the brush. “Sit.”

It took Ed’s tired mind a few moments to realize what the man was talking about. “I can do it myself you know,” he said. Roy just gave him a look that brooked no argument and Edward complied with a sigh. No point fighting with the man about something when he got like that. Especially this early.

Ed felt Roy run the brush through his hair, and it was an odd feeling. He hadn’t had anyone brush his hair in ages, and he’d actually forgotten how nice it felt. Relaxing slightly under the soothing motion of the brush, he decided that maybe he didn’t mind Roy being so pushy about it. Much. After a moment the brushing stopped and he heard the faint thunk of it being set on the table. Nimble fingers separated his hair into sections and began to braid, barely brushing the back of his neck as they worked. Ed shivered at the unexpected touch, a pleasant tingle racing down his spine. “Tie.”

“Huh?”

“Hair tie,” Roy repeated, and he could hear the amusement in the other man’s voice.

“Oh,” Edward felt suddenly stupid, and passed his hair tie back to Mustang.

“There,” Roy said, giving his braid a gentle tug and then letting go. “All done.” He leaned forward suddenly, poking his head over Ed’s shoulder. “I think you were dozing off on me,” he said with a grin.

Edward snorted, slipping away and standing up. “Was not,” he said, making a face, feeling slightly embarrassed and not sure why. “What’s the deal with you and my hair anyway?” he asked, changing the subject.

“I like it,” Roy said with a smile and a shrug. “It’d be a shame to cut it. Besides,” he added, “It’s just so handy when I need to get your attention.”

“You know, something like ‘Hey, Ed!’ would work. You don’t need to yank my hair out,” Ed pointed out irritably.

“I don’t yank, and it wouldn’t be as much fun,” Roy said with a wink. Bastard. The man was a first class bastard, and Edward told him so. Roy nodded amiably. “So you’ve told me,” he said. His expression changed abruptly. “Oh! I forgot. Liam wanted me to send you to the kitchen when you woke up.”

Ed frowned. What was Liam doing there? Emily was already gone with her children for the holidays, and Liam should have been as well. “It’s Christmas Eve, shouldn’t he be with his daughter?”

“He got kicked out,” Roy told him with a chuckle. “Apparently the ladies didn’t want the men getting underfoot while they were working. So he came back here for a bit. You’d better go see what he wants before he gets cranky.”

Deciding this was good advice, Ed nodded and made for the kitchen, pausing on his way out. “Um. Thanks. For braiding my hair, I mean,” he said awkwardly, feeling his face heat up. He ducked out before Roy could reply. What the hell was with him today, anyway? Sighing, Edward pushed open the door to the kitchen, surprised when he was met with a pleasant smell and the sight of Liam in full swing. “You wanted to see me?”

“Ah!” Liam said brightly, half-turning and waving him in. “Ed! Just the man I wanted to see.”

Edward slipped inside, closing the door behind him. “What’re you up to?” he asked, taking in the sight that met him with surprise. It looked like a tornado had struck, pots and pans and food of all kinds scattered everywhere.

“Well,” Liam said, wiping his hands on his apron. “I decided I couldn’t leave you all to your own devices on Christmas Eve. Knowing you and Roy, you’d probably just throw together a sandwich for Christmas dinner.” Liam gave him a disapproving look, and Ed decided not to tell him that he wasn’t far off the mark. “So, I thought I’d get things started, and make sure you know what to do so you can finish things up tonight.”

“Me?” Ed said doubtfully, looking around the kitchen. There was enough food to feed an army. He’d picked up a thing or two from helping Liam, but he seriously doubted he had the skills to make a feast on the scale the man seemed to be suggesting, and said as much.

“Oh nonsense,” Liam said, waving a hand dismissively. “You have Evan to help, and I’ll leave you instructions. You’ll be fine,” he thrust a wooden spoon at the blond and Edward took it with a sigh. “Give that a stir would you?” Liam said, pointing to something on the stove as he picked up a knife and a bowl of apples.

Edward complied, giving up the battle as lost. Liam could certainly be a pushy bastard sometimes. Ed peered at what he was supposed to be stirring, unsure what he was looking at. It smelled fantastic, whatever it was. “You’re mad, you know,” he told Liam, turning around suddenly and pointing the spoon at the other man. “I’ll never be able to get all of this done on time.”

“Of course you will,” Liam said, quickly slicing the apples and setting them aside. “We’ll get all of the prep work done for you now, so you don’t have to worry about it later. Once we’re done with the pies, I’ll write down the instructions you need. Have you ever cooked a whole duck before?”

Edward stopped listening at the mention of pie, peering down into the pot and giving the brown goop an experimental stir. “What is this stuff, anyway?”

“Filling for my chocolate pie. It’s my own recipe,” Liam told him proudly.

Oh really? Ed pulled the spoon from the thick mass and took a taste. He forgot to give it a moment to cool and it burned his tongue, but he grinned. “This tastes fantastic!”

“It’s even better once you let it set,” Liam said with a smile.

They both looked up at the sound of footsteps and the door creaked open, a familiar dark head poking in cautiously. “Are you sure there isn’t anything I could help with?” Roy asked.

“Out, you bloody jinx!” Liam roared, half-standing and waving his knife in a menacing fashion. “Out!”

Edward lobbed his spoon at the unfortunate man and Roy quickly ducked back out, the spoon clattering harmlessly against the door, leaving a chocolate splatter. “I’m beginning to think temper is directly related to height,” he grumbled from behind the safety of the door.

“You wanna get in here and say that to my face, you bastard?” Ed snapped.

“Not particularly, no,” Roy said quickly, and Edward and Liam shared a grin as they heard Roy beating a hasty retreat.

Liam cleared his throat and tried to wipe the smile from his face with little success. “Right. So, about that duck.”

*        *        *

“Are you sure?” Edward asked anxiously, trailing behind Roy. “I mean, I think I might have left it in too long, and Liam said the meat would dry out if-”

“Ed,” Roy interrupted, turning so suddenly that Ed nearly collided with him. He had the strangest look on his face, and Edward realized he was trying not to laugh. “Dinner was fantastic. Everything was perfect. Stop agonizing over it.” The last was said with pointed tug on his braid.

Ed scowled. It had been a disaster. He and Evan had been running every which way, trying to follow Liam’s instructions and get everything finished on time. Which they had. Barely. Ed felt like he had just finished running a marathon, and was it his fault he wanted to make sure everything had turned out okay?

Something of his thoughts must have shown on his face, because Roy did laugh then. He slipped an arm around the short blond’s shoulders and steered him towards the family room where Evan and Kara were already waiting. “I appreciate it, Ed. And dinner really was good. You performed admirably considering Liam just dumped the whole thing on you with no warning. Besides,” he added, “It beats sandwiches any day.”

Slightly mollified, Ed felt compelled to stick his tongue out at the older man regardless. Roy just laughed and let his arm drop as they were met with a bellow of, “Uncle Roooooy! Eeeeeed! Hurry!”

“Oh dear,” Roy said with an amused grin. “I think we’ve kept the little princess waiting too long.”

Ed rolled his eyes. “Heaven forbid,” he said as entered the family room. He was met by a wordless squeal of delight as Kara launched herself at him. He caught her easily and swung her up onto his shoulders. She latched onto his hair tightly, and Ed winced.

“Don’t pull, sweetheart,” Roy said, reaching over and removing small hands from their death grip on his scalp. Ed shot him a thankful look. He didn’t particularly mind that Kara seemed to think of him as a personal mode of transportation, but when she got excited, she tended to try and rip his hair out by the roots.

“Sorry Ed,” she said, wrapping her arms around his face and hugging his head. Peeling her hands away from his face, he spun around quickly and dumped her on the chair near the fire. She giggled helplessly, and he grinned. Roy spoiled her terribly, but she was a good kid.

Evan straightened from where he was feeding the fire and took a seat on one of the chairs near the tree. Edward had been surprised to learn the stately old man was staying with them for the holiday, until he learned that Evan had no family left to visit. He felt bad for the man, but Evan seemed to be in unusually good spirits, even with the crazy kitchen mess they’d had to deal with.

Edward flopped onto the couch and Roy settled down beside him with a little more dignity. He blinked slowly, feeling suddenly sleepy. Ed was warm and full, and the hectic day seemed to catch up with him all at once. He yawned and earned an amused look from Roy. “Oh no you don’t. No falling asleep before presents.”

“Can we open them?” Kara asked excitedly before Ed could reply, and Roy pretended to think deeply on it. Kara wriggled impatiently, and Ed grinned inwardly.

“I suppose,” Roy said at length, getting to his feet and kneeling beside the tree, pulling out a gift and handing it to the little girl, watching as she tore the paper to shreds. By unspoken agreement, they allowed Kara to open her gifts first, a mound of toys and clothing growing beside her.

Roy passed her Edward’s gift last, and he watched a bit anxiously as she opened it. He’d had no idea what to get the little girl, but he had caught sight of the stuffed dog in passing, and something told him to get it. It came from a small shop that made everything they sold by hand, but the small stuffed toy was remarkably well crafted and incredibly soft.

Large green eyes widened as she pulled the dog from its box, stroking the soft fur with a delighted little sound. She got up and threw her arms around Ed’s neck. “Thank you!”

Relieved, Edward gave her a quick squeeze. “No problem kiddo. You like it?”

Kara nodded vigorously, stroking the stuffed dog again. “He’s so soft.” She wandered back over to her pile of gifts and sat down, happily sorting through her new treasures.

Roy pulled out the next present, not bothering to look at the tag as he tossed the small package to Edward with a small grin. “That’s from me to you,” he said.

Edward quickly unwrapped the gift to reveal a small box. Curious, he pulled off the lid, something small and silver nestled inside. For a brief, startled moment Ed thought it was a ring, but when he pulled it out, he realized it was too thick for that, and the shape was a bit odd. Turning it over in his hands, he marvelled at the fine, delicate gold inlay tracing a complicated pattern through the silver. When he looked on the inside, he discovered tiny, artfully hidden hinges and some sort of strange mechanism, both nearly invisible on the outside. Whatever it was, it was clearly a remarkable work of craftsmanship. Problem was, he had no idea what it was.  “Um,” he said intelligently.

Roy seemed vastly amused by his confusion. “It’s a hair clip,” he supplied. “I have a friend who’s a remarkable jeweler, and he came up with that clever design when I told him what I was looking for. Here,” he walked over to where Ed was sitting as held out a hand. Still a little baffled, Edward passed the clip over.

“See here,” Roy said, leaning over and showing Edward a small catch he hadn’t noticed. “You press this to open it.” He did so, and the metal band slid open on the tiny hinges. Now that it was open, he could see small metal spikes on the inside running in different directions. “To use it, just clip it around the end of your braid, and this part here,” he pointed, “fits inside the other and clicks shut. The spikes are to keep it from slipping.” Roy passed it back.

Now that he understood what he was looking at, he shook his head slowly, tracing a finger over the gold inlay. It was very, very nice, not at all gaudy or flashy. Ed had a sneaking suspicion that having something like it made had probably cost a small fortune. Pulling his braid over his shoulder, he pulled the tie off and carefully replaced it with the silver clip. It fit snugly, and Ed gave it an experimental tug to see if he had to worry about it slipping. It didn’t move a bit, he noted in approval. Once clipped and closed, it looked for all the world like a smooth band of metal.  Letting his braid fall back into place, Ed was surprised and pleased to note that he could barely feel the weight of it at all.

He looked up at Roy, who was watching him with a faint smile. “Its amazing,” he said honestly. Roy had obviously put a lot of care into choosing the gift, and the thought made him smile. “I’m not even going to ask how much it cost, because if I did I don’t think I’d feel right keeping it.”

Roy snorted. “I wouldn’t tell you even if you asked.”

Edward grinned suddenly, remembering their morning conversation. “And here I was grumbling about cutting my hair off this morning. No wonder you were giving me such a dirty look!”

“I would have throttled you,” Roy agreed calmly, “So it’s probably best that you didn’t.”

“Thank you,” Edward said and was rewarded with a bright smile as Roy returned to present duty.

He pulled another gift out from the dwindling pile and glanced at the tag. “Ah, this one’s for me,” he said. It was too small to be Edward’s gift, so it much have been Evan’s. The old man shot him a significant look and a half smile over Roy’s head as the man unwrapped the gift, and Edward blinked. He watched as the gift was revealed to be a very nice fountain pen, and Ed had to stifle a laugh. There was no way that wasn’t intentional, considering Edward’s own gift to the man.

Roy thanked the old man, and pulled out another gift, this one for Evan. It turned out to be a set of artists pencils, Ed noted in surprise. He’d had no idea the man could draw. It was a rather strange thought, imagining Evan doing something artistic.

That left only two gifts beneath the tree, as gifts with Liam and Emily had been exchanged before they left. Roy pulled one out, frowned at it, and looked back and forth between Edward and Evan. “This one’s mine. Did you two already exchange gifts?”

Ed met Evan’s eyes for a moment, then shifted awkwardly. “Uh, we decided not to get each other anything, since neither of us could come up with any ideas,” he explained.

Roy rolled his eyes at this. “Figures,” he said, but left it at that, and began unwrapping Edward’s gift to him.

Edward found himself holding his breath as he waited, and it let it out in a gust, feeling faintly annoyed with himself. He watched Roy’s face carefully as the man pulled out the simple, leather bound journal. As he turned it over in his hands, Ed suddenly felt the need to explain. “I made it myself,” he said, and felt himself flush when Roy looked up in surprise. “Evan helped me. I uh, bound all the pages together and made the cover. I figured since there was nothing I could buy you that you wouldn’t already have, that it might mean more if I made it myself,” Edward suddenly realized he was babbling, and shut his mouth with an audible click.

Roy chuckled, opening the journal to the first page. Ed had scrawled a note there, a thank you for all of his help, and Roy smiled as he read it. Ed shifted uncomfortably when he didn’t say anything. “I know it isn’t much.”

“It’s wonderful,” Roy said sincerely, closing the journal and tapping Edward on the knee with it. “In fact, I think I know exactly what I’m going to use it for. Thank you.”

Ed flushed and mumbled something incoherent. This sort of thing always left him feeling so awkward, and he hated it. Roy reached beneath the tree and retrieved the last present. Ed blinked in surprise when the other man handed it to him. “This isn’t technically for you, but you should be the one to open it.” Edward gave him a puzzled look, but Roy did not explain further, he merely nodded at the package.

Curious, Ed pulled away the wrapping to reveal a box similar to the one his hair clip had been in, but slightly larger. He opened the box to find an ornate silver pocket watch, and he gently lifted it from the bed of tissue it was cradled in. It was clear the watch had been made by the same craftsman who made the clip Roy had given him. The delicate gold inlay was nearly identical to the pattern on the clip, almost as if it was meant to match. “Who’s it for?” Ed asked.

“Open it.”

He did so, breath catching in his throat at what he saw. On the inside of the watch, in the same gold inlay that graced the front, was the name Alphonse Elric in elegant script. Stunned, Edward traced the letters with his finger, murmuring his brother’s name as he did so. He talked about Al to Roy, sometimes, but he never expected the man to do something like this. Edward felt a little dizzy as he carefully snapped the watch closed, raising his eyes to meet serious dark ones. “I...” he coughed, suddenly unable to speak around the tightness in his throat. Ed swallowed and tried again. “I can’t believe...this is...” he trailed off, unable to find the words.

Roy smiled at him, not his usual amused smirk, but a genuine, affectionate smile, and Edward suddenly wanted to hug the man. The watch may have been for Al, but the real gift was for him. It was a promise. A promise that he would one day be able to deliver it to his brother. Ed was touched beyond words at the gesture, and he looked helplessly at the other man. “I don’t even know what to say,” he said quietly, voice cracking a bit on the last word.

“I believe ‘thank you’ will suffice,” Roy said, and Edward laughed a little unsteadily.

Suddenly realizing that Evan and Kara were gone, Edward wondered when they left. He silently thanked the old man for giving them privacy. He wasn’t exactly prone to emotional outbursts, and the less witnesses, the better. Roy was still sitting on the floor at his feet, watching the blond with a faint smile on his lips. He fiddled with the watch for a moment, considering. Oh hell, why not? Feeling a little like laughing and a lot like crying, Ed carefully set the watch aside and slid off the couch and on to the floor, throwing his arms around Roy before the other man realized what he was doing. 

Roy murmured something Ed didn’t catch, returning the embrace. “Thank you,” Edward whispered, resting his head on Roy’s shoulder and wishing there was a better way to express how grateful he was. For everything. “Thank you.”


Comments 
08.21.07 (UTC)
Beautiful. The last part had me sniffling back tears. I am so glad you re-posted these chapters and that you are continuing the series.
Your writing pulls me into the story and makes me see and hear the action. I'm hooked and spellbound by your creativity!
09.08.07 (UTC)
Something of a ladies’ man, and smug bastard extraordinaire. The last bit was Ed’s opinion more than anything, he suspected.

haha, what was his first guess? loved it, the christmas party was lovely.
10.29.08 (UTC)
I'm loving this story so far. The pocket watch is so sweet.
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