The Icon Alchemist (sky_dark) wrote,
The Icon Alchemist
sky_dark

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Hereafter - Part 6

Title: Hereafter - Part 6 (Candor, Part 10, 5 Years Later)
Pairing: Roy/Ed
Rating: PG-13, Ed's potty mouth
Spoilers: None
Notes: Spell checked, unbeta'd. I signed up for the Sweet Charity Auction and was won by the lovely and charming brinylon. brinylon requested that I write a 5 year later follow up to my fic: Candor. Briny, here is Part Six of your fic. I'm starting to feel RickRolled. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert...this fic. =/



[Hereafter Part 1] [Hereafter - Part 2] [Hereafter Part 3] [Hereafter - Part 4] [Hereafter - Part 5] [Hereafter - Part 7]

"I know that look," Lambchop said as Ed came into the office. "You have to tell me everything, and I mean everything, don't skip a single thing."

"What is to tell? He showed up at my door last night, Miranda was there and who the fuck does he think he is? He came to tell me he got dumped," Ed snorted with disgust. "He came to tell me that he got dumped and you know what that means? The fucker wants me to be the rebound. That is all he thinks of me, he wants me to be the safety net until the next woman who can't wait to suck his cock comes along." Ed shrugged his jacket off and threw it at his chair. The chair swiveled when the jacket hit it and the jacket slid off into the floor. They both looked at it. Lambchop folded his arms.

"Well, it's obvious how you feel about it at the moment," Lambchop said. "Do you really, honestly think that's what he thinks of you? I beg to differ. Maybe he was coming to you because he was in pain and he was looking for a prop. He's always been there for you, or at least, that's what you tell me."

"No, fuck," Ed rubbed at his face. "Fuck, don't do this shit, what is this, I thought you were on my side," Ed snarled.

"LOOK what I got," Skeeter interrupted loudly, strolling into the office. " You remember that banana in the break room no one would eat? Well I froze it in the ice box. I put it in there overnight and this morning it was still there. Since no one is bitching about missing a banana it's fair game. And behold, my morning cup of coffee. I have come up with an ingenious invention. It took some chewing but I eventually got the banana peeled, see?" Skeeter waved the frozen, chewed and slightly brown banana at them. "Now...watch," Skeeter proceeded to stir his coffee with the frozen banana. At the end of the demonstration he bit the end off the banana and chewed it and then laboriously swallowed it.

"It's an all natural snack AND it cools your coffee to the perfect drinking temperature. The problem is do I call it 'Banana Coffee' or 'Coffee Banana'?"

Skeeter looked between Ed and Lambchop, standing there at Ed's desk. He took a moment to notice Ed's scowl and Lambchop's crossed arms.

"You're having a crisis!" Skeeter said with glee. "I get to be in on this crisis, you promised! Lamby remind him he promised. This crisis is my turn, my banana coffee and I are going to sit right here at the table," and he came over and sat down, sitting the coffee mug on table and putting the banana inside it. "I'll sit right here with my coffee banana and dispense all sorts of sage advice. I'm switching up the names to see which rolls better off the tongue, ok I'm ready! Let's do this crisis solving thing. I need the practice at solving crisis, so let's go!" Skeeter sat up straight and clasped his hands before him on the table.

"He's so cute," Lambchop muttered.

Ed rubbed the back of his neck under his ponytail and looked at Lambchop. Lambchop rubbed his chin and glanced at Skeeter and sighed. Skeeter looked back and forth between them, doing his best to project a aura of calm and positive reassurance and crisis solving capacities. Really he looked like a grade schooler trying to earn a gold star.

"You did promise," Lambchop said, watching Skeeter and being overwhelmed.

"He has you right here," Ed said holding up a metal pinky. "I don't know, I don't want to upset him or shake his foundations."

"No, I can take it!" Skeeter said, unclasping his hands and balling them into fists of determination. "I'm here for you, Boss! I'm a big boy now," he gritted his teeth and leaned over the table. "I can deal with crisis, I have the stuff! I'll prove it! Give it to me! I can help! Let me help! Make him let me help, Lamby!"

"Oh, let him help," Lambchop said, putting his hand over his throat. "You have to let him help. How can you say no to that face?"

Ed sucked on his bottom lip a bit. He sighed heavily and nodded and Skeeter grinned ear to ear.

"Let's get you up to speed," Lambchop said, coming over and putting his hands on Skeeter's shoulders, standing behind him. "Ok, the boss likes someone. He didn't realize he liked them in the way he liked them until they got attached to someone else."

"Oooo, that sucks," Skeeter said in sympathy, "that really sucks." He gave Ed his best sympathetic face.

"Yes, well, it's partially my fault, too," Ed murmured, still uncertain about Skeeter being privy to his emotional baggage.

"So, is this someone we know? I mean, have we met them?" Skeeter asked practically. "Is it a girl from the bar?"

"Well, we've met them before," Lambchop said, "but not at the bar. You met them here, when they came for the inspection. It's someone from the boss' past."

"You mean that girl General with all the...," and Skeeter gestured out in front of him, mimicking a woman's anatomy, "...that one?! You have good taste. I approve. So what's the plan? Find her boyfriend and give him a good once over?! I can be on board with t hat, except if he were to start crying, I can't deal with crying. I mean even if a guy is crying, I can't deal," Skeeter said waving his hands.

"Nice guess, but no, it wasn't the female military officer," Lambchop said, starting to knead Skeeter's shoulders.

"Maybe this isn't a good idea," Ed suggested. "I mean, you know, Skeeter isn't as...um, worldly as the rest of us and maybe we should just forget about this for now. I mean, we're on a deadline here. We should be working instead of standing around talking about things we don't need to talk about...really."

"You think I'm insensitive and not good at helping," Skeeter said and hunched up his shoulders and Lambchop gave Ed a look and kneaded on Skeeter's shoulders harder.

"No, it's not that!" Ed said. "It's just well, it's not a subject I think you are well versed in...some help here Lambchop?"

"How is he ever going to learn if we keep babying him?" Lambchop said. "He said he wanted to help, and I think that you should take his offer at face value and let him help."

Ed folded his arms and looked between them. He'd really come to rely on these two, count on them as friends, the people he could turn to in the absence of his family. In fact, he felt it so strongly that the thought of Skeeter being unable to accept this...situation quite frankly frightened him. He found, despite himself, he wanted to be liked and he wanted to have friends. He wanted to keep these two as his friends because he was use to them. He didn't want to have the hassle of finding new friends. It had been convenient they were assigned to him at work and had no choice but to make friends. Yeah, it was like that, because still the thought of people actually liking him that hadn't known him for all his life? That still didn't sit well; even if he promised Roy that he'd broken the unlovable rule ages ago.

"Ok, no babying. He's an adult, He can take it," Ed said and Skeeter sat bolt upright with a huge grin. "Here goes. Skeeter, the person I'm referring to is General Roy Mustang. You met him on the inspection, he's the one who injured his back on our project. I have had, at varying points in my life a full blown crush on the man, and he's always been there for me, he took care of a lot of shit and he took care of me when I was at a real low point in my life. Now I thought that this guy crush was all due to the immense gratitude I felt for him and so I didn't act on it. I was young, the young go through phases. But as it turns out, the moment that Roy found someone else to be in his life besides me, well...I suddenly realized that that crush wasn't just a crush after all. I know, it sounds really pat that I waited until he was attached, but that is how it worked out. Not everything in life is unique and different, sometimes we do all fall right into the same old categories. Last night, while I was with Miranda he showed up at my door to tell me that he'd been dumped by the women he was seeing. Mind you, this was after I had made a confession, vicariously through my brother who survived the experience, that I liked him more than crushing on him. So he shows up to tell me he'd been dumped and I get the damnedest impression that he thought that was an automatic ticket into my life, and I dunno, I don't think it should be because you know, I asked him before, I did. I asked him to be with me and he said no, he claims it was because I was fucked up and maybe I was, but I haven't been fucked up for a while. Sure, I want to be with him, but I don't want to be his rebound boy, you know the one he cries on then chases the next skirt down the hall. When I do the serious things I do them for real and I think, really think he could be a serious thing, but I don't know. I don't know what to do or to think. You don't know him that well but he's a great guy, he's really good with people, he really cares and you know, that's a fucking rare commodity these days. So part of me says jump this chance, part of me says he's going to tear me to bits, part of my just doesn't want to fuck up our previous good relationship."

Ed took a deep breath then. "So, what do you think I should do? Lambchop has already made me feel an inch high suggesting that I should have been more sympathetic because fuck, I think he was right, but let's have another opinion."

"I don't wanna be in this crisis," Skeeter suddenly whined, "can I wait for the next one that doesn't involve you liking other guys?"

"Seymour Keetering!" Lambchop snapped.

Ed jumped and whipped around, looking for this person who had wandered into the room while he was spilling his guts. First, he's have to see how much they heard, second he'd have to see how well they could be threatened and third he'd have to think of a place to hide the body. But no one had entered, in fact the door was still firmly shut.

"I can't believe you would be so...so...shallow as to want to pick and choose which crisis you want to be supportive on," Lambchop said, hands on hips now, moving around Skeeter to give him a withering glare. "I have taught you better than that! I can't believe all my good works of making you an accepting and somewhat sensitive human being have turned into this," and he waved a hand up and down at Skeeter. "I'm ashamed, I'm truly ashamed."

"OOooooo," Skeeter moaned, hanging his head back. "Don't look at me like that, you know I hate it when you look at me like that! It's not that I don't wanna be supportive, I do, but the though of the boss liking other guys makes me feel all funny and creaky inside because I don't want him to!" Skeeter stamped his feet a little on the floor. "He's a man! He's like the manniest man ever and you know he was famous for kicking ass when he was a little kid and now you know I find out that he is...well he liked you know, other things besides girls and there isn't anything wrong with that! I know that you know it's all live and let live but dammit, he's suppose to be the guy that I want to grow up to be and I don't wanna grow up and like boys!"

"Your name is Seymour?" Ed asked. "I didn't know your name was Seymour. I wonder why I never knew that, well I guess it's not like I asked or anything. Wow, Seymour, I would have never guess Seymour."

"Boss," Lambchop said, pining the gaze on Ed now, "don't let him get away with that. Enabling! You're enabling this selfish behavior. I'll wash my hands of the both of you, I will, just wait. One day it will be all..." Lambchop made a motion of rubbing his hands together as if sudsing them up under running water, "and then, you'll be on your own. I will at least know, in my heart of hearts that I tried and that will be enough for me and whoever is judging me when I'm no longer on this planet doing my part for the very soul of humanity."

Skeeter had the good graces to look guilty and Ed reached up to rub the bridge of his nose.

"It's an awkward situation, I don't blame Skeeter for being uncomfortable," Ed finally said, making a patting motion in the air to placate Lambchop. "But I guess the real point of the matter is... do I want to take a chance? I've taken chances my whole life, so why should I be hesitating over this one?"

"It's important to you," Lambchop said, "not that the others weren't, but they are the past, this one is your future."

"I'll go with Lamby here," Skeeter said, folding his arms and jamming his hands into his armpits. "I mean I'm still not on board with the liking a guy thing, but it is you know, or it could be the rest of your life. Do you think I could have Miranda's number?"

It was then the door of the lab swung open and John Collins, the boss of them all, stood there, clipboard under his arm and set to his jaw.

"Ladies, you've been in here all morning while I got a car in the bay waiting for a nice, new shiny coating of amour. We got a presentation by the end of next week so I suggest you GET A MOVE ON," he snarled. Ah, John Collins, you could take the man out of the military but never the military out of the man. Ed and Skeeter and Lambchop all jumped and ran into each other running for their gear.

"That's what I like to see, SOME HUSTLE," Collins roared, then stood back to let them all thunder out the door and sauntered after them down to the bay.

**

He really didn't know why he had expected it to be any different.

Although Ed and logic were steadfast partners in all things scientific, in the world of actual human social interaction they rarely spoke.

He was never one to buy into pat endings. He was never one to grace all the fairy tale romantic gobbdly gook with more than a pacing glance. He had been, and had to be, a realist. Without the facts he couldn't make clear observations, without clear observations he could never make predictions and without predictions he could never stay one step ahead.

And here he'd danced his dance in the most erratic of fashions and without any clear knowledge of just what was really going on inside Edward's head, only his own faulty predictions it seemed. By what logic did he think that Edward, who'd made it his life's mission these last five years to move ahead, would simply wait for him to wise up? Edward had clearly been the more insightful of the two, as odd as that seemed, as impossible as it would have seemed not so very long ago. He tried to rebuild one of his crumbling barriers by telling himself that Edward was overplaying his bid at adulthood and rushing into things. That is was Edward on the rebound here with the first pretty face that gave him a smile and some passing interest. After all, it was precisely how he'd handle relationships before. But that flawed logic kept the foundations crumbling and the barrier stayed very firmly unresurected and just where did that leave him?

It left him in a the very unfamiliar territory of not being in control of a situation. A situation that involved him in more ways than either friendship or professional had ever involved him. And to what end? Where exactly was he getting by all this mind boggling speculation and self incrimination? Nowhere. Because now, he was alone, just as alone as he had pictured Edward, only Edward hadn't followed him into this sink hole, he'd gone there all on his own.

This was a fine mess. It was a fine mess that Edward had handed him, granted via his own short sightedness, but Edward was the messenger all the same. He didn't rank this as experience for a later date, he didn't see this as a blunder to chalk up in the annals of misfortune.

He had missed the fucking boat.

Of all the things that had happened in his life, of all the trials and triumphs, tribulations and downfalls, he'd never once, not once, been unable to jump on the deck before the boat left the dock. He always knew the ports of call, he always knew the destination. He was always right where he needed to be as he traveled upstream. There was nothing beyond his ability to spin.

Well, that wasn't quite true anymore, was it?

But wait a moment, back up to the point where he watched his boat sail off into the bedroom with some unidentified girl in a walk up apartment. Just what made him think that Edward Elric was a boat worth sailing in the first place? Maybe all this torment was for nothing; maybe he was raking himself over the coals for all the wrong reasons. After all, he had a reputation, he wasn't use to being turned down. Was this all some sort of twisted way his self conscious dealt with a bruised ego?

If it could be that, well hell, he could come to terms with that fairly easily. He could slap himself around a little and chide himself for being internal arrogant rather than outwardly arrogant. It was just like him to be so embroiled in the hype as to get momentarily distracted by himself. He had to believe his own billing, if he didn't, how could he convince anyone else to? So all of this was actually just a chaffing of his pride in being the man everyone wanted. That was it. It really wasn't about Edward at all. Who would have thought it? He should feel ashamed, really. Here he was having some strange relationship issues and looking to blame Edward's past. No matter, he could fix this right up. He could watch the dingy that was the good ship Elric fade away into the sunset and catch the next luxury liner that happened past. He could stop with the damn boat metaphors already, because they were starting to get less and less witty.

So starting tomorrow he was over this. This would be the last night that Edward would be able to keep him fixated without his physical presence. It was time to move on, (ironically Edward being a good example of that), and put all of this behind him.

In the morning he would start fresh.

The only problem with that, was that in the morning, while he stood in the shower he wondered about the girl Ed was seeing. He wondered if she knew all the little details, not the obvious ones, such as Ed's distaste for milk or sensitivity about his height or ability to read himself into a coma; but all the other things that made up Ed as a whole.

Like, how he could derail any train of thought and had to often be steered back on course. He could be extraordinarily scattered for someone so amazingly intelligent. The way he stilled needed subtle reassurance that humanity as a whole more or less accepted him and he was not something extraneous. Could she appreciate the way he absorbed knowledge like a sponge and turned it instantly into a usable commodity for himself and everyone around him? Could she appreciate the way he would hold things inside himself and did she know what to say to coax him to talk? Was she jealous of the overwhelming affection he had for his younger brother, putting Al in all things first, including any relationship Ed himself might have? Did she realize that the intensity of his feelings might be both a burden and a blessing? And if she did get close to his heart, did she realize just how easy it was to shatter?

Did she know he liked his ham sandwiches without cheese?

"We have to stop meeting like this," he mumbled to himself, reaching up to turn off the water. "I'm not sure what you would ever get out of it, but I'm getting both gray hair and an ulcer." He stepped out of the tub and leaned against the vanity, raising his hand to wipe the steam from the mirror. The man in the mirror looked as exasperated and as bewildered as he felt himself and offered no answers at all.

"I don't know what I'm getting at," he told his reflection. "I don't know what I'm suppose to feel. This isn't my ego, is it? If that's the case there is only one other thing it could be, and I'm not ready to admit that yet. Not to you, not to me and not to Edward most certainly," and Roy rubbed his chest. "It wasn't suppose to be like this, it just wasn't."

When rationality and logic failed, emotions rushed to fill the void. He was not a man use to having to deal with his emotions. For a long time, he'd had others to carry that burden for him. He has his dignity in the form of a woman with a gun, he had his pride in the from of a man who never gave up, he had his logic and humor and wonder all neatly pinned on the people he surrounded himself with. He never had to wear his emotions on his own sleeve, he had the sleeves of others. And then of course, he had to meet the one person who depended on him for the same things. Who watched him with golden eyes, who needed him to rise to the challenge.

"I didn't do a very good job, did I?" he asked the man in the mirror. He was too busy knowing what was best for everyone else. He was too busy being right.

"I never had to deal with risk in this fashion," he whispered. "Before it was all cut and dry. Risk was only the means to an end and if you didn't win you died, so you'd never be around to have to deal with the consequences."

This wasn't fair. It shouldn't feel like this. It couldn't feel like this because he had no one to pin this too, well he did, but it was only himself. What a colossal coward.

"I don't want him to be with someone else," he told himself. "I want him to be with me."

But there was no help for that, was there? It was a done deal. All these very first times for everything. Stella for showing him he wasn't all he thought he was by merely being himself...and Edward for showing him his very first broken heart.

**

They sat around on the floor and planned out the presentation.

"If you're going to play a Drachman, the first thing you have to remember is that all the words don't end in 'ski'," Lambchop said patiently. "I know you have a lot of fun with that, but it we're going to present a plausible scenario we have to just pretend that this particular Drachman can speak fluent Amesterian."

"You take all the fun out of everything," Skeeter snorted. "I on the other hand like to lighten up the occasion. I mean what's wrong with: 'I want your handski's in the airski?!' What's wrong with that? I think it's an excellent ice breaker, you know, lighten the mood, be all chummy with the war mongers."

"I have to go with Lambchop on this one," Ed said, giving Skeeter his best regretful expression. "Being a former war monger I can tell you that they are all hung up on protocol. I'm sorry, I think you would be a first class stand up comedian myself. I think you're wasted here."

Skeeter wrinkled his nose and folded his arms.

"You still get to wear the uniform," Ed consoled him.

"I know," he said, not looking at either of them.

"You still get to fire the gun at the car," Lambchop said and patted his knee.

"I know," Skeeter parroted, still staring at the floor.

"How about I make sure the next time we're going to act out a scenario for the benefit of a client you do get to do in a funny and vaguely insulting accent, deal?" Ed offered.

"Ok," Skeeter sighed. "But not Cretain, they're hard to do."

"Ok so we're all on board with the plan. We pull this presentation off without a hitch, we make loads of money, John stops riding our asses and we get fame, glory, blah blah blah," Ed said.

"It's a plan!" Lambchop said, then sobered a moment. "Are you going to try and see him while we are there?"

"I don't know," Ed said. "I hadn't thought about it."

"Of course he'll see him," Skeeter said. "He came to the inspection, he'll be at the presentation."

"That's not what I mean," Lambchop said. "I mean really see him, go and meet with him, talk to him, are you going to do that?"

"I guess I should you know, maybe even if it's just to tell him I'm sorry he got dumped," Ed said differentially. "He might be busy, he might not have time to see me."

"Have you called him?" Skeeter asked. "Maybe he thinks you're mad at him or something. You're not are you?"

"No, I'm not mad at him, don't be stupid," Ed said, frowning. "Why would I be mad at him? I don't have any reason to be mad at him."

"You should call him," Lambchop said, leaning back on his hands. "You don't plan on avoiding him forever do you? I'm sure that won't make either of you happy."

"So why hasn't he called me?" Ed grumbled. "Why is it I got to call him? He hasn't made any effort to call me either you know."

"I think you started that dreadful trend yourself," Lambchop said and Skeeter nodded. "I know he use to try and call you, I saw the notes on your desk. I know it hasn't been recent, but maybe he thinks he is giving you your space. After all, you weren't very welcoming the last time."

"I was in bed with Miranda when he showed up," Ed growled and waved his arms. "What was I suppose to do, kick her out?"

"Oh god no," Skeeter said. "Lambchop, cut him some slack, you're seen Miranda." Skeeter turned to Ed. "I don't want to seem like a vulture, but really I am. I still haven't gotten her number."

"All right, I concede that point," Lambchop said with a wave of his hand, "but you didn't call him afterwards and that had to be an embarrassing situation for him. All you're doing is running circles, both of you, so one of you has to be the better man, and I volunteer you, to get his mess straightened out. No matter what comes of it, you should make the effort because he does mean something to you and you don't' want to lose him."

"I really wish I had gotten lab assistants that I couldn't stand," Ed groaned. "How the fuck do you make me feel even shorter than I already am? No one will ever believe you if you tell them that I referred to myself as short, so don't try it," he warned afterwards.

"Well then, let's go sell arrays to the military and retire to the islands," Lambchop grinned.

"Can I have all the numbers of all the girls you've ever dated?" Skeeter asked, then yelped and crawled away when Ed made a swat at him.

**

"Aren't you going to the presentation this afternoon? It's over on the parade grounds, were you not informed?" Hawkeye stood in the doorway of his office, several files under her arm. She'd obviously been anticipating the office to be empty so she'd have a place to read and plot.

"I'm sure that General Tenhouse and the others can handle it," Roy said, glancing up from his own file.

"I thought Edward would be there," she continued, walking in and heading for the empty table. "I was sure you'd want to see him, you haven't seen him in a while."

"Edward is past the hand holding stage," Roy said, looking down at his file again. "I'm sure I was aggravation enough in his youth that he doesn't need me there now when he's being an adult."

"I know you're not going to volunteer any information about what has happened to keep you from rushing eagerly to see your favorite protege" Riza said, settling and opening a folder. "And I'm sure it's not any of my business. But no matter what it is, Edward will be very disappointed you aren't there."

"I don't know about that," Roy murmured, still not looking up.

"You can think what you like, but I know you prided yourself on the relationship you built with both him and Alphonse after they left the shelter of your wing. I'm sure, even if it's some fight between you, that he will be looking for you amongst the crowd."

Roy looked up at her then, but she was looking down at the papers before her. He tapped the desk under his fingers and worked his jaw back and forth. Their last meeting had parted under strained circumstance and he wasn't sure what his reception would be. But Edward was old enough to be professional about it; he was here to do a job, something he'd always been exceedingly good at...doing a job.

So, was it selfish to sit in his office and hide from the ache in his chest? Was he not man enough to admit to himself that he did want to see Edward, presentation not withstanding. He had to get over it sometimes, what was he suppose to do? Avoid Edward forever? That wasn't an option.

"I'm not sure what I'd say to him," he finally volunteered. "I'm not sure he'd be happy to see me. I want to see him, but I don't want to interfere with his work. I don't want to make him uncomfortable to be here, after all, I'm not the only reason he comes here anymore."

"Maybe you should let Edward decide that for himself," Riza said, turning a page. "In a crowd situation it would be easy for either of you to excuse yourself from speaking with no one thinking anything the wiser. It's probably the best confrontational situation for either of you, pardon my saying so, sir."

"I'm glad you're all my logic," he said, standing and turning to get his coat.

"Sir?" she said, glancing up now, looking a bit confused.

"It would take to long to explain," he said with a small smile. "As you were Colonel, I'd better be leaving now if I'm to make it on time."

"Yes sir," she said, and watched him go.

**

On the parade grounds sat a standard military escort car. Several yards away was a half wall barrier and behind that several uniformed people milled. Roy slipped into the crowd, blended in with the other blue clad people around him. There were several minutes of aimless shuffling and murmuring and whose back was straighter contests before 4 men were escorted onto the field and came to a stop before the half barrier wall. Two of them, in uniform, were carrying a large crate between them.

At first glance, Roy thought two of the men with John Collins and Edward were military personnel, but upon closer inspection, (and the fact one of them was wearing a hodge podge uniform that looked vaguely Drachman), he realize it was the two men Ed worked with. Lambchop and...and..., (he could never remember the other ones name...Skellator? Squeaker? What was it?), the other one. He started to muse on just why they were in uniform with John Collins started to speak.

"Gentlemen, thank you for meeting with us today. As you know, we of Magnus Enterprises, research and development division, have long been interested in the application of alchemy for every day use. To this end, we have developed a line of arrays accessible to the common man. Years of research and study are no longer required to deploy, with assured success, a wide variety of arrays in the service of commercial and industrial construction. We were approached by the military to formulate and design an array capable of turning a light issues vehicle into armored protection with such an application. We are here today to present to you our findings. I now turn this demonstration over to our project leader, Mr. Edward Elric."

There was polite applause of which Roy participated.

Ed scanned the assembled crowd, his eyes lighted on Roy and hovered there a moment before moving on. He took a deep breath before he began to speak.

"Actually, I don't have a lot of verbal presentation to go over. My colleagues and I decided that seeing was believing and so we arranged this more practical demonstration. Please stay behind the barrier at all times. We'll be using live rounds, so everyone stay over there, ok? Ok." He turned his back on them and a few of the assembled started to chatter amongst themselves. Ed whipped around an delivered a narrowed eyed look that would have silenced volcanoes and the chatter subsided. He nodded, as if to himself and turned again to the two men with him. The crate was relieved of it's lid and the one in the vaguely drachman uniform pulled a standard issue rifle from it and slung it over his shoulder. Then he and the other man, in amestarian uniform, jogged over to the car and took up positions.

"Any time you're ready!" Ed called over to them.

The two faced each other, squared their shoulders and cleared their throats.

"Ah, You fascist dog of the amestarian military," the sorta Drachman one yelled, "prepare to meet your inferior maker! A touring car is no match for my rifle!" He waved the rifle around and made threatening gestures with his fist. He looked over his shoulder at Ed. Ed turned to look at the assembled.

"Fascist wasn't in the original script," he said. "Mr. Keetering has the tendency to ad lib in stressful situations. I think the line was suppose to be fabulous." But of course, Ed didn't sound like he was apologizing. Then he turned back to the two of them and made a signal with his hand for them to continue.

"Oh no! I'm caught unawares and totally unprepared in hostile territory," Lambchop lamented in a falsetto voice. "What will I do?"

Lambchop stuck his hand in the air with his finger pointed up, it was supposedly to symbolize he had an idea. "Wait, the LES array shall save me!" He sang out in triumph.

He then dug into the pocket of his uniform jacket and pulled out a neatly folded square of paper. Roy pondered that Skidmarks could have shot him twenty times over by now, but he should be more charitable, after all, these men were researchers, not actors. Lambchop then unfolded the paper and slapped it against the car, it fluttered to the ground, he bent over to pick it up. The man with the rifle seemed to be running in place in excitement. Lambchop then pressed the paper to the car again, and this time it stuck. Ed turned back to the audience.

"We're still having a few adhesive issues, but they'll be sorted out," he assured, then he turned back to the drama in action and nodded them on.

Lambchop placed his hand on the array and it immediately activated. It flashed brilliantly in a pale yellow and the whole car was quickly enveloped. Once the glow faded, the car seemed to have a bit of a metallic sheen and Lambchop whipped the door open dramatically and dove him. Then he took a moment to scrabble back around and pull the door closed.

"Now?!" Skooter asked loudly, still jogging in place.

"Now!" Ed told him and pointed at the car as if to remind the man at what he was suppose to be shooting at.

Skeeve managed to pop off a few shots that rang off the car's hood and windshield. There was a bit of muttering among the crowd. Ed called out to the man, and he stopped firing and trotted obediently to Ed's side. Ed turned to the crowd.

"I'm aware that the lot of you aren't going to be very impressed with a mere standard issue rifle, so I took the liberty of bringing something a bit heavier." Ed bent over to the crate then and hefted out of it the largest assault rifle Roy had ever seen. In fact, it seemed to be a custom model and there was no doubt in Roy's mind it was a custom Elric style model. Ed balanced the gun for a moment on his automail arm. "We wanted to show you the true strength of the LES armor system, Skeeter stand back," he finished as he turned toward the car.

Ah! Skeeter! Why could Roy never remember that?

The first barrage nearly deafened him. They all threw them hands up to cover their ears as Ed cheerfully chewed the scenery and the car before them with rapid fire heavy assault rounds. The car rattled and pinged, rocked and swayed and Ed emptied what had to be an entire clip in a deafening roar that shook the very foundations of the parade grounds stadium seating. Finally, the echoes died away and they slowly removed their hands from their ears. There was a strange calm to the whole scene for several long moments, then the car door burst open and Lambchop leaped from the interior and threw his hands in the air.

The applause this time was quite a bit louder and Ed and his two companions all bowed to the assembled. But when Ed raised from the bow he was looking directly at Roy.

Touche.

**

There was a lot of back thumping and hand shaking in the auditorium where a little post demonstration sortie had been planned. There were catered snacky things and an open bar and all sorts of reasons for the brass to hod nod and cavort and drink. John Collins seemed to be the center of the hand shaking stampede, but Ed took a few himself. Lambchop and Skeeter even rubbed a few military palms. Roy waited for most of the congratulations to subside and everyone to at least have one drink before he started his approach. Lambchop saw him coming. He did the most amazing thing. He took Skeeter's elbow and he pulled him away, and then together, he and Skeeter, they made their way to the very far side of the room leaving Ed standing there, looking after them.

It was if they were inviting him to make a move.

It was like they knew something.

Ed turned then, saw him there, seemed to look for an escape then seemed to steady himself. Roy decided to adopt the casual, non-confrontational saunter buffered by a playfully structured greeting to put Ed at ease.

"Quite a demonstration, Fullmetal," he said, stopping a couple of feet away, "but perhaps you should invest in getting your subordinates some acting lessons if this is the be your modus operandi for demonstrations. I wasn't sure whether to be impressed or amused."

But instead of rising to the bait, as would be his norm, Edward gave him a half smile.

"You..., uh, you could be both," he said and shifted and stared at the drink in his hand.

"Well, I am both," Roy said and he too suddenly found some far off point in the room fascinating to stare at. They stood like that for a few minutes, being close, but neither speaking. Ed gave in first.

"I'm sorry to hear about Stella, she was nice, Al and I, we liked her," he offered.

"I liked her, too," Roy said, "and she liked me. But we decided that the liking was more appropriate to friendship then anything else really."

"That's good, I mean it's not good, I mean that you're still friends," Ed said, flustered. "I mean it's good that you're still friends. I'm sorry about that night you came over. You've done a lot for me and I feel like I let you down. I kind of feel like I wasn't there for you like all the times you've been there for me," and Ed looked at him then, the half smile turning almost sad.

"You were fine," Roy said softly. "I'm the one who breached protocol. It was rather impulsive of me, and if anything, I should apologize." He took a deep breath. "Because of recent events between us I assumed that you would want to hear the news, and that was presumptuous, maybe even arrogant. I've been having a discussion with myself on that topic."

Ed turned toward him then. The sad smile slipping more to a true smile.

"You know what? You get really formal about things that make you nervous. It's an observation I've made over the years. It's your way of making other people still feel comfortable and like everything is in control. I think I'm old enough to appreciate it now, so thanks."

"You're welcome," Roy said, not knowing what else to say.

"We gotta figure this out," Ed said suddenly. "We gotta figure out what is going on here. I know I don't really like being like this around you, not knowing what to say. You're Roy for fuck's sake, I know what to say to Roy only lately Roy has been sort of confusing to me. I have all these feelings running around and I'm not so good at sorting them out. Wouldn't you know that's the only thing I'm slow on? I don't want to not know what to say to you. I've always been able to say anything to you. I don't want to lose that."

Roy took a few steps closer and Ed watched him come, didn't retreat.

"Do you know, I feel the same way?" he said and the corners of Ed's mouth picked up a bit more. "I've missed you. And I would very dearly love to figure this out so we can go on from here. I really want to talk to you, but I don't think this is the place."

"I, um, I'm the presumptuous one now because I took a couple of days off and can stay through the weekend," Ed said. "I was kind of hoping I could stay at your place on the off chance you'd want to talk."

"Your presumptions are always better than mine," Roy said. "You know you are welcome any time, more so now than ever. We'll talk, we'll figure this out. I'm glad to have you back."

"Glad to be back," Ed murmured.

"Let's enjoy the party for a bit, no need to pull you away from your celebration, I'll get myself a drink," Roy said. He sounded more like Roy in those few words than he'd sounded like Roy for the last couple of months and Ed felt himself relax. Roy moved away then to get himself said drink and Ed glanced across the room to where Skeeter and Lambchop had retreated. Skeeter had his forehead pressed to Lambchops shoulder and Lambchop was patting his back, but when Lambchop saw him looking he gave him a huge grin and a thumbs up sign.

"Your friends seem to think you've scored," Roy said behind him and Ed turned quickly to see him standing there with drink in hand, grinning. "Should I feel lucky?"

"Depends, I can either bore you to death with alchemical equations or make rude comments about other people's hair cuts, your choice. That's my typical date line up. I'm not very good with small talk," Ed shrugged. "Lambchop usually sets me up. He'll be proud I collared you all on my own."

"My how you've grown," Roy said and gave Lambchop a small wave across the room. "What's wrong with the other one?"

"He's traumatized that I am thinking about liking a guy," Ed sighed. "He's a handful. In an odd way, I'm paying for my raising," and he grinned that lovely grin at Roy. This time, Roy could bask in it and appreciate it.

"Kids these days," Roy commiserated, and took a drink. He studied the contents of his glass.

"I think you know that it's not going to be easy," he offered more seriously.

"Nothing worth having is," Ed returned with out hesitation.

"With that in mind, let's let ourselves off the hook for the rest of the evening. There are some fine taxpayer dollars going to waste on the buffet table, I feel a civic duty to eat as much as I can," Roy intoned grimly.

"You know, that's what I like about you, always thinking of others," Ed replied, then followed Roy as he turned to lead the way.

Amazing fanart of Ed with his gun by feriowind can be found Here it is a thing of beauty.

Tags: fic
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