Title: Reverti Ad Praeteritum
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood/manga
Pairings: Edward Elric/Roy Mustang, May Chang/Alphonse Elric, Gracia Hughes/Maes Hughes, post-Edward Elric/Winry Rockbell
Warnings: Spoilers like whoa, Ed's potty mouth, canon-typical violence, pile 'o OCs, mute!Ed, original character death, angst, fluff, past dub-con, past adultery, Ed has all the guilt
Summary: Unwillingly forced to serve as a human trial for a crazy alchemist experimenting with time travel, Edward Elric finds himself standing across from Truth in the moment it takes his leg from him. Armed with the knowledge of what's to come and burdened with guilt for the choices he'd made as an adult, Ed sets out to fix every mistake he ever made and save every life they ever lost, no matter what it takes.
Key: "Speech" | 'Mouthing words'
"In another language" | 'In another language'
A/N: Final chapter! :D
PhilosophicNature did another sketch, this time of Nina playing with Ed's hair! (So freaking cute. :3)
(FFN readers, please find the sketch on their deviantArt, or the direct link on another copy of this chapter.)
May was still sleeping when Ed and Roy made their way down in the morning, but Ling and Lan Fan were both up, and had left plenty of coffee for them, which Ed knew Roy certainly appreciated. Ed, on the other hand, while he was grateful for the hot drink, didn't actually need it; very likely another benefit of the Stone within him.
"Edward," Ling called as Roy finished pouring his second mug of coffee and went to hunt down the breakfast pastries that Ed was fairly certain the bastard would be perfectly happy to live off of.
He glanced over toward the table, where Ling and Lan Fan were both watching them. There was some vague amusement in their qi – likely from watching Roy's morning routine, which they weren't usually up early enough to do – a whisper of concern – from the wakeup call last night, or Fu, Ed couldn't quite tell for certain – and a well of gratitude that had Ed cocking his head to one side in silent query.
Ling stood and stepped around the end of the table to bow, way too fucking deep. "Thank you," he said, while Ed fumbled to set his mug on the worktop before he dropped it, and Lan Fan joined him in bowing.
Roy cleared his throat. "Clarification?" he requested, likely as much for himself as for Ed, as he set one of his pastries down next to Ed's mug on the worktop.
Ling and Lan Fan both straightened, Ling's expression completely serious and his eyes properly open. "I have heard of the events of your parade grounds, that Fu was losing ground and you sent May to see to him while you took his place." His mouth turned up slightly, and his voice took on a slightly ironic tone as he added, "I promised you Fu to protect you and May, but it was you two who protected him."
"Fu did plenty of protecting on his own," Roy commented, understanding in his qi. "Perhaps not Edward and Princess May, but our casualties would have been far worse if he hadn't shown up and taken Bradley's attention right before our alchemy cut out."
"Still," Ling insisted, bowing his head again.
Ed swallowed and tapped Roy's shoulder until he looked over, then signed, :Tell him, I made myself a promise when I came back that, this time, if it was within my power, Fu would survive.:
Roy smiled in understanding as he translated that, because he already knew of two lives that Ed had been determined to save, as well as those – like Grand and other State Alchemists that Scar had once killed – whom Ed had never expected would be within his influence.
Ling jerked and looked up, meeting Ed's eyes, a whisper of grief curling through his qi. Ed offered him a smile and a short bow.
And Ling, because he was an idiot, strode forward and caught Ed in a hug that he huffed and returned, resigned to his oddities.
When Ling pulled back, he turned to Roy and gave him the bow meant for use to someone who was slightly more important than you. "With your blessing, Führer Roy Mustang, I and my guardians would remain in your country for a time, so as to form a contract of friendship between Xing and Amestris. So that, when my sister and I have returned to our land and have such power to do so, it will be simple to formalise on our end."
"I would be a fool to refuse," Roy murmured, inclining his head, then holding out a hand, which Ling took to shake with a wide grin. "Once you two have control of the throne, we'll have to start talking trade and rebuilding that railroad I've been told used to go through the Great Desert."
"I think," Ling agreed, his grin, impossibly, widening, "that would be a most excellent plan."
Ed was fairly certain that the only thing that kept the two idiots from sitting down to start hashing everything out right that moment, was the fact that he and Roy needed to be at Command in just over twenty minutes, and Hawkeye knew where they lived. Small favours.
Roy made them stop on their way up to his new office to collect new shoulder markings for Ed. When the sergeant major brought back the markings, he gave the bottom of Ed's sash an uncertain look, but politely didn't say anything.
:I'm not giving up my sash,: Ed signed once he'd finished putting his new markings on, as they turned toward Roy's new office.
"No one said you needed to," Roy returned soothingly.
Ed shot him a flat look.
Roy sighed. "I'm willing to let it slide in Central, especially since I know it's an adaptation made, in part, in favour of your alchemic preferences. If there comes a point when one of you two needs to be deployed somewhere, we can revisit the matter then. Acceptable?"
Ed sighed himself and nodded. He hated the idea of being deployed, mostly because that usually entailed a warzone, but it could also be some sort of diplomatic meeting, or being leant out to another Command to assist with an issue; given his wide area of alchemic study – especially his wealth of knowledge about human transmutation – there may well come a point when he was the only military State Alchemist with the know-how to handle a particular problem, and damn his disability.
Hughes, Al, and the rest of Roy's team were all up in his office when they got up there, and Ed blinked in surprise at Al's shoulder markings – he'd only been bumped one rank, to lieutenant colonel – while everyone saluted.
"At ease," Roy ordered drily as he saluted them back, and they all relaxed, a sense of victory and good humour filling all their qi. "Hughes, Edward found the homunculi's pet alchemist for you to question, and there should be a debriefing from some human-chimeras on your desk by lunch, if it isn't there already," he said as he made his way through the crowd and to his desk.
Hughes sighed. "Fantastic."
Ed shrugged when he looked over at him. :There's also a room that needs to be photographed and destroyed, but I can do that sometime today, if you can't spare anyone.:
"One of us could do that, right?" Havoc asked.
Hughes and Ed both shook their head, and Hughes said, "No offence, Major, but I'd rather have an Investigations member handle it." He glanced back at Ed while Havoc shrugged, unbothered. "Let me see where we are by lunch, and I'll let you know. Where are you likely to be?"
"Edward and Alphonse will be tackling the Dwarf in the Flask's sanctuary," Roy offered for Ed, "and then lab four. If you send someone by my office with whatever equipment he'll need, Edward should be able to take the photos once they're done underground, then drop them past your building before moving on to lab four." He raised an eyebrow at Ed, who nodded; that sounded doable.
Hughes hummed and nodded. "There should be a camera in the requisitions office here that you can run off with, if you want to get me photos of the sanctuary, too."
Ed snorted, unsurprised, and nodded.
"Excellent," Roy said. "Do you have any updates on the investigation for me?"
Hughes did, as two more of their traitors had given themselves up after a night in the cells, in hopes of leniency. (There wouldn't be any.) He also commented, shooting Ed a smirk, "It seems that threatening to have the Silent Alchemist drop by is working wonders."
Ed rolled his eyes, while Havoc and Breda both snickered. :What lies have you been feeding them?:
"None," Hughes promised, his qi a bright spot of amusement. "Apparently, they were watching you fight Bradley."
Havoc coughed. "Yeah, sorry, Boss. After that, I'd be pissing my pants at the thought of you dropping by, too."
"I heard you ran straight up a wall and it exploded when Bradley tried to come after," Fuery offered.
"Not far off," Havoc agreed, while Ed sighed.
"I heard you broke one of his swords with water," Breda said.
"Nah, he stopped a sword with water, broke it with his leg," Havoc corrected cheerfully.
:I'm leaving,: he signed to Roy, who was very obviously hiding a smile behind his hands.
Roy inclined his head in understanding, and Ed grabbed Al's arm and dragged him out of the office, while Hughes started telling them one of the horror stories he'd heard from one of the traitors.
"Oh, come on, Brother!" Al said cheerfully as he slipped Ed's grasp and settled in to walk next to him. "It was just getting good."
Ed rolled his eyes. :Please. You've seen me fight plenty of times.:
"Against me, or one of the Changs," Al agreed, "but I know you're holding back, a bit, because of your leg. And you don't usually use alkahestry while you're fighting."
That was true, mostly because he'd been trying to keep anyone from realising exactly how good he was (and he hadn't done any serious fighting since leaving Xing and the assassination attempts behind, until recently), but also because he hardly needed alchemy or alkahestry when he was fighting, other than transmuting the occasional spear, unless he was facing another alchemist or a homunculus. Which, well, he hadn't had much occasion to seriously fight any alchemists – or alkahestrists – and Al had been a bit busy the only time he'd been there while Ed fought a homunculus. (And that had been a bit of a cheat, anyway, because they'd had Marcoh's array.)
Still. :You'll have plenty of chances to get a full description from Havoc later. When I don't have to listen to him make shit up.:
Al laughed at him.
They stopped to pick up a camera and some film, which was handed over immediately and without complaint. Al joked it was because the stories of Ed's fighting skills had spread, but Ed was fairly certain the ease had more to do with the broad stripe on his shoulders, than how skilled a fighter he was.
Still, as they made their way down to the room with the white dolls, Ed took a deep breath and signed, :You took the promotion?:
Al's wide smile dimmed a bit and went slightly crooked. "Yeah. The Führer suggested I could act as a sort of ambassador while I'm in Xing, stay a part of the military, so I have something to come back to." He sighed, then added, "I know you'd rather I leave the military and settle down as a farmer or whatever, but I like working with the Führer's team and walking the labs." Then he shot Ed a narrow look. "You think the same, or you'd never have let him make you a general."
Ed glanced at his shoulder pieces and grimaced. :I can't just up and leave Roy,: he signed a bit helplessly, :but you–:
"I can't just leave you," Al shot back irritably. "If you're sticking it out, I'm sticking it out. Stop arguing with me."
Ed threw his hands up in the air, showing he was giving up, then signed, :I raised you wrong,: before clapping and opening the way for them into the room with the white dolls.
Al didn't follow him right away, and when Ed looked back, very obviously rolled his eyes.
Ed snorted and shook his head, resigning himself to the fact that he was never going to win against Al about the military. :You're definitely returning to Xing, though?: he asked, before turning to start taking pictures.
"Yeah," Al agreed, his qi seesawing between excitement and uncertainty. "I figure I'll play host and guide for Dad, introduce him around our clan, play Amestrisan ambassador for a little bit with whoever takes the throne, then come back, probably with their ambassador. Did you hear about the diplomat house?"
Ed snickered and nodded, gently letting the camera hang against his chest again, before turning from his photography of the room to sign, :I think he wants the house back.:
Al laughed. "Seems like. Ling mentioned something about staying a few more months, until winter, since you said we have time before the emperor dies, and I kind of want to be here, at least until we have confirmation that Sloth's dead."
Ed grimaced and nodded. Ling had, of course, mentioned staying longer that morning, and Roy had brought up during dinner the night before that he wanted Armstrong heading back up to Briggs by the end of the month, so she was there to deal with Sloth bursting through into their underground. (Someone had apparently filled her in about Ed's time travel, because she hadn't seemed surprised at the certainty that Sloth would dig his way into Briggs.) Assuming the homunculus didn't just fall asleep because no one was checking on him, or whatever, in which case, they'd have to send a couple parties down whatever access points they could find and take him out down there. Ed hadn't been exactly certain on when Sloth had broken through, before, but he'd been able to give a rough estimate, so they knew when they should stop bothering with waiting.
Once Ed felt he'd sufficiently photographed everything they might have a use for and written down his documentation (in case he ended up stuck in the labs for a week, no one would have to hunt him down to explain everything), they deconstructed all the dolls, then continued down to the Dwarf in the Flask's sanctuary. There, he took more photos and documented everything, while Al went through the books he found buried under some rubble, as well as the papers and figurines scattered around what was left of the fucker's throne.
The place certainly looked like it had been the site of a battle, the floor in all sorts of disrepair, and the tubes and chains that had been part of the room's...charm? They were twisted into various shapes, or had pieces thrown about willy-nilly. It looked rather a lot like it had both times Ed remembered fighting down there, before, and he couldn't help a shudder as he set the camera safely out of the way with the papers and books Al had unearthed and declared potentially interesting, then walked over to where his brother was examining the remains of the throne.
"He was sitting here when we came in," he explained to Ed, who nodded in understanding, "and he had these tubes, sort of, coming out of his back. They popped loose when he stood up, and since we're assuming the Stones underground are from him, I wondered if it wasn't all connected, but I think we destroyed those pipes." He grimaced.
Ed shrugged and knelt to press his hand against the ground, then closed his eyes and reached out with his senses, seeking that disturbingly familiar sensation of Philosopher's Stones.
The souls inside of him stirred, and then the whole fucking room lit up to his senses, and when he opened his eyes to look, he found it had actually been lit by bright red light, marking tubes running up the walls and across the ground and ceiling.
"What did you do?" Al breathed, awed and horrified in equal measures.
Ed shook his head, because he was pretty sure that had been the Stone inside him, and he didn't really feel like getting into that right then, since he'd managed to avoid the topic so far. :Who knows. Let's get started.:
"Ah, give me a moment?" Al requested, something almost...secretive unfurling in his qi.
Ed frowned, but Al flashed him a reassuring smile, that secretiveness vanishing behind the more expected nerves, and Ed shrugged, standing and looking toward the nearest broken tubing, which was glowing very faintly, like most of the Stones inside had drained out, or been accidentally used in a transmutation.
Alchemy sparked through the air, the energy glowing red-purple, and Ed spun back to look at his brother, only to discover that Al had pulled out a piece of paper with a human transmutation array drawn on it. 'What are you doing?!' he mouthed, reaching down toward his brother, not sure what he intended to do, only that Al should know better, and he needed to fucking stop him!
And then the world went white and still, and he found himself staring at his personal Gate, Al standing at his back. Truth was sitting in front of Ed's Gate, one leg filled in with flesh, and he flashed Ed a wide, cruel smile. "Welcome back, Alchemists," it said in Ed's voice, nearly in sync with another voice from behind him; Al's Truth.
Ed swallowed and reached back, grabbing Al's wrist, only to find his hand fisted tight around something.
"I came for my brother's voice," Al called, his voice steady, but his qi a mess of terror and desperation.
"And what will you pay for it, Alchemist?" Ed's Truth asked, its smile almost seeming to widen.
Al turned, stepping up to Ed's side, and slipped his fist from Ed's grasp, holding it forward to reveal a small red orb. "This."
"Oh?" both Truths said in tandem, before Al's asked, "You want nothing for yourself?"
"This is all I want," Al insisted, glaring at Ed's Truth.
"You don't want your memories of the future?" Al's Truth said.
Al stiffened, his breath catching, and Ed could sense his internal battle, even as his own breath caught at the suggestion that his brother had got caught in that array, Truth had just withheld the knowledge from him, because Ed had only brought enough of a toll for him as he'd been at that moment in their lives.
And then Al swallowed, very obviously straightened, and said, "No. I don't need to know what could be. I'm going to live my life as I am, not as I was." He took a step forward, and Ed reached out and grabbed his shoulder, squeezing as hard as he could, so Al couldn't just shrug him off. "Give Ed back his voice," he demanded, his own voice cracking at the end.
Ed's Truth raised one white hand – the right, Ed couldn't help but notice – and the Philosopher's Stone in Al's hand disintegrated. "Done," it said, before reality reasserted itself.
Fire raced through Ed's throat, and he bent forward, coughing his first real cough in four and a half years. His eyes burned with the strain, his body struggling to remember how to function with his vocal cords back where they were supposed to be.
"Brother!" Al cried, grabbing for his shoulders.
Ed shoved him away and looked up to glare. "You idiot," he rasped, before having to cough again. :What the fuck were you THINKING?!: he signed instead.
"It's not like you haven't done the exact same thing, Edward!" Al shouted, anger and victory swirling in his qi. "I asked them first, same as you!"
:Not the POINT!: Ed signed. :I never asked you–:
Al smacked his hands, "You never asked me, either!"
"You weren't there!" Ed shouted, and then had to bow forward again, his body reminding him he needed to not abuse his vocal chords, especially since they'd spent the last four and a half years atrophying, and he knew how much it sucked to strengthen a body part that had atrophied. Assuming vocal chords worked that way.
(He was in no way a medical doctor.)
Al was silent as Ed got his coughing and breathing under control again, but once Ed looked back up at him, Al quietly said, "I miss hearing your voice, Brother. I miss you being able to speak. And maybe that's selfish," he continued, smacking at Ed's hands when he raised them to reply, his voice picking up volume, "but I hate knowing that the Führer and May and the Hugheses – that Gracia and Nina and Elicia – that they have no idea what you sound like, too! Don't they deserve that right? Doesn't the man you love deserve to hear you say his name?"
Al had no way of knowing how much that last ached. He hadn't been there, last night, when Roy had had his hopes crushed so thoroughly.
Al had done the one thing Ed never would have done for himself, not even for Roy, and he got it, he did, but he hated that his brother had followed his lead down this dark path, that he'd decided to use Stones to barter with Truth, that one thing that they'd agreed, before, to never do. He hated it, was furious that there was a huge part of himself that was so fucking grateful, and anger had always translated into yelling, for him, even when he hadn't been able to. And Al was just the ready target.
Ed closed his eyes and forced himself to take a careful breath, then whispered, "Thank you, Al."
Al slammed, full-bodied, into him, wrapping his arms tight around Ed and letting out a laugh that sounded a little like a sob. "Stupid!" he complained.
Ed caught himself smiling as he hugged his brother back.
And then Al pulled back, mischief beginning to curl through his qi, and said, "I bet the Führer's reaction'll be amazing."
Ed huffed and rolled his eyes. :You won't see it,: he promised.
Al narrowed his eyes. "You can't just lock me out, Brother."
:Can,: Ed returned. :Consider it your punishment for meddling.:
The look Al sent him said he wasn't about the let Ed get away with that.
Ed smiled at him, then signed, :Let's handle the Stones.:
"Fine," Al muttered, and they separated to find spaces along the wall.
Ed pressed his hands together, envisioning the Stone destruction array, then pressed them against the nearest pipe. Almost immediately, the Stone inside him reacted, sparking red energy up the pipe. There was a brief silence as it reached the top and died, and then the room exploded with the red energy, pipes splitting and spewing out red water and stones, like arteries cut.
All of it gathered in the centre of the room in a massive tornado, sparking red around the edges as it whirled, blowing Ed's hair back from his face as he watched.
"Brother!" Al shouted, impossible to see through the maelstrom.
Ed grimaced and called back, "Fine!" (And it was kind of an amazing thing, being able to reassure his brother without being able to see him.)
And then, wholly without his permission, his body started moving forward, hands raising in front of him and reaching for the storm of Stones in front of him. He managed to shake his head, turned an angry mental eye on the souls still within him, and then he'd made contact and the Stone destroying array flashed across his mind, activating, and the energy just sort of...imploded.
The storm disintegrated, and a voice whispered, "Thank you for our freedom. We entrust their future to your care."
Ed was confused for a moment, blinking across the suddenly-empty space at his wide-eyed brother, before sensing the quiet murmur of souls that weren't in agony, were more calm than anything else. He looked down at his outstretched hands and found them cupped together. Between them, he found a thin red Stone, inexplicably in the shape of a bird with its wings outstretched, a naturally formed hole at the top just the right size for a string to be threaded through it.
"Brother?" Al called, stepping forward.
"It's a Stone," he rasped, closing his fingers over the red bird. "They said...they were entrusting it to me?"
Al frowned. "To use if you come across any other Stones in need of destroying?" he guessed.
Ed shrugged and shook his head, opening his hand so Al could see the Stone.
"It feels...different. More at peace."
Ed nodded. "Like Hohenheim."
Al startled at that, then let out a huff. "You're right." He shook his head. "What're you going to do with it?"
Ed closed his hand around the Stone again, deciding, "Keep it safe. Hidden." Because he knew all-too-well how hungry people were to use the Stones, and the fewer people who knew he had one, the better for all of them.
Al frowned, but he didn't try to stop him as Ed slipped the Stone into his pocket. "Are you going to tell the Führer, at least?"
Ed snorted and raised an eyebrow at his brother, because he shared a bed with the man; there was no way Roy wouldn't figure him out eventually.
Al grimaced, clearly realising that himself. "Fine."
Ed smiled and clapped a hand against his brother's shoulder, reminded of another thing he needed to tell his bastard of a lover, preferably without Al. And the best way to manage that, would be to cheerfully shove Al back, catching a foot behind his and yanking, unbalancing him.
"Brother!" Al shouted as fell backward with a thud, the desperate wind milling of his arms doing more to hinder him than to help.
Ed clapped as he crouched, then touched the ground, directing it to wrap around his brother just the right way that he'd have to strain a bit to get out, then signed, :Don't forget the camera, or you're coming back down for it,: and ran like hell for the lift up to Command, while Al snarled curses in both Xingan and Amestrisan.
As he stepped out onto the ground floor of Command, Ed put on his best furious expression and stalked his way up to Roy's new office. Mostly to keep people from stopping him, but also because it sort of amused him to watch people scurry out of his way, their qi vaguely freaked out.
The Führer's outer office wasn't quite empty when he stormed in, but neither Havoc nor Hawkeye moved to stop him from making straight for the closed door to Roy's inner office. Instead, Havoc blandly said, "I think I might need to take an early lunch."
Hawkeye just sighed and went back to her paperwork, leaving Ed to push into Roy's office with a little more decorum than he would have done as a teenager.
Roy glanced up from his own paperwork, expression startled for a moment, before smoothing out into something far calmer, even as his qi twisted with trepidation and resignation. "Edward. What seems to be the problem?"
:I'm going to kill my brother,: Ed signed as he came to a stop in front of Roy's desk.
Roy sighed and set down his pen. "What foolish thing has he done this time?"
"He traded a Stone for my voice," Ed rasped.
Roy's eyes went wide, his calm mask completely ruined. "You–" he whispered, before stopping and swallowing.
Ed offered him a smile. "Hi, Roy," he said.
And it felt like a stupid thing to say, but then Roy was out of his seat and rushing around the desk with a laugh, his qi expanding with so much happiness and love, and Ed didn't resist when the bastard caught his face and kissed him, even though they were hardly in private. Instead, he kissed his bastard back, grabbing fistfuls of the back of his jacket and pressing as close as he could get.
A throat cleared from the doorway to the outer office, and Ed wasn't the only one feeling a little like a guilty child caught red-handed as he looked back to find Hawkeye standing there with one eyebrow raised, while Havoc wore such an exaggerated shocked expression, it was obvious it was fake. "Not in the office, sirs," Hawkeye said flatly.
Roy cleared his throat and very obviously removed his hand from Ed's cheek. "Noted, Lieutenant Colonel," he replied.
Ed huffed and let go of the bastard himself, taking a very pointed step back.
"Boss," Havoc called and, when Ed glanced back at him, stuck his unlit cigarette in his mouth and signed, :I thought you promised you WOULDN'T fall for his charms.:
Roy let out an amused cough.
Ed rolled his eyes, then rasped, "I lied."
Hawkeye stiffened, her eyes going wide, while Havoc's mouth fell open, the cigarette falling to the floor.
"Oh, is Brother talking?" Al called from the outer office.
"Wha–? How–?" Havoc stammered, leaning back slightly and looking between Ed and the outer office with so much confusion.
Ed shrugged. "Al's fault."
Hawkeye cleared her throat. "Perhaps some water, sir?"
Ed blinked, surprised for a moment, before offering her a slightly helpless smile and a nod. :Please,: he signed, though he wasn't certain how much it would help.
Hawkeye inclined her head and stepped out of the doorway, back out to the outer office.
Al took his chance and slipped into the office with a smile. He was wearing the camera around his neck, and his arms were full of the documents and books they'd recovered. "Would you happen to have somewhere safe to store these, sir?" he asked Roy.
Roy blinked. "My car?" he suggested.
Ed snorted and nodded, while Al agreed, "That should work fine." Then he raised an eyebrow at Ed.
:I have a copy of the key,: Ed signed, rolling his eyes. May had left his keys on his desk in their room, so it hadn't really been an issue that she hadn't been awake when he and Roy had left.
Hawkeye returned with water for Ed, saying to Havoc, as she passed him, "I believe you have paperwork, Major."
"Yes, sir," Havoc muttered, before ducking to pick up his fallen cigarette and stepping fully out of the office.
"Sirs," Hawkeye offered once she handed the water over to Ed, who smiled in thanks, then turned and left the office, pulling the door closed behind her.
"I assume things went as planned?" Roy asked, and the whisper of concern in his qi told Ed he was really asking if the Stone that had found its way into him was gone.
Ed did a check to make certain – as he'd already noticed, it wasn't hard to miss the souls' presence, but they were definitely gone – while Al agreed, "It went to someone's plan, I guess. We found some interesting research, Brother got his photos, we destroyed some things that needed destroying, and Brother got his voice back."
Ed snorted and caught Roy's eyes before nodding, offering a quick smile.
Roy relaxed back against the front of his desk, relief brushing away the concern in his qi.
Al's qi took on a questioning note and got one brief prod at Ed, before Roy drily commented, "How little do I want to know about your actions, Alphonse?"
Al coughed, his qi taking on a slightly guilty tint, which had Ed snickering into his water. "Ah, probably best you just...don't ask, sir," Al replied.
Roy sighed, looking rather like he'd expected that. "I expect any research you might have done is already securely locked away?"
"Always, sir," Al agreed firmly, because they were all alchemists, and keeping your research – especially when that research was illegal – coded and locked securely away from prying eyes was practically the first rule they learnt. Which wasn't to say that Ed wasn't going to try to get a look at his brother's research, because he was. If only because human transmutation was one of his specialities, and he needed to make sure Al hadn't made any mistakes that would eventually come back to haunt them.
"Good. Go drop that camera off with Hughes, then get some lunch before you lock yourselves into lab four."
"Yes, sir," Al agreed for both of them, while Ed gave a bow of acknowledgement.
Roy quirked a smile and added, "I expect to get a call from Brigadier General Hughes by the end of lunch."
Al laughed outright, while Ed snickered into his water, then took the lead out of the office and down to the garage, holding doors open for his brother. They alchemised a hiding place for everything from the Dwarf in the Flask's room in the back bench of Roy's car, then started for Investigations.
"He was worried," Al commented quietly.
Ed shrugged. :It was nothing.:
"It was not," Al returned, shooting him a frown.
:It's nothing NOW,: Ed clarified.
"Brother," Al intoned, a warning note to his voice.
Ed raised an eyebrow in response, unmoved. Because he'd survived the experience fine, and telling Al, now, would only freak him out. That said, he suspected Al would keep after him – or get smart and question May – until he supplied some excuse, so he sighed after a few more of Al's intermittent glares, as they stepped into the Investigations building, and signed, :Do we need to have the sex–:
"NO!" Al shouted, flushing and hiding his face with one hand. "Just stop. Forget I asked."
Ed snickered, because Al made it a little too easy, sometimes, then caught his elbow and led him safely through the halls, nodding and smiling in response to any greetings from people they passed.
Al had recovered by the time they made it up to Hughes' office, regretfully.
"Hey, Ed, Ed's brother," now-Warrant Officer Filbert Lamson, the lowest ranked member of Hughes' team, called upon seeing them. He was using Marcus Fokker's desk and had two different books opened in front of him, apparently comparing facts, by the way he was holding his fingers in each book.
Al snorted at that greeting, while Ed grinned, then nodded toward the closed door to Hughes' office and signed, :Hughes in?: He knew Lamson knew the 'in' sign, because he used it regularly enough to ask after Hughes or another member of his team, and he and Hughes had ensured fairly early on that the whole team knew his sign-names for everyone else, so Ed could easily ask if he was looking for one of them.
"Nah. He's down in interrogation one, trying to scare the piss out of one of the arseholes. Clemin, I think."
Al sighed, while Ed felt a nasty smile break across his face. "Now you've done it," Al complained, even though his qi said he was completely okay with Ed going in and furthering Hughes' piss-scaring.
"Nah, just helping Hughes," Lamson returned brightly, while Ed turned and started toward the interrogation rooms.
Al snorted at that, then hurried to follow Ed, muttering, "Don't do anything illegal, Brigadier General."
Ed shot his brother a hurt look, which just made Al roll his eyes.
Interrogation one was very obviously in use, with two MPs – Millen and Stryker, if Ed wasn't mistaken – standing at rest outside the door. Stryker saw him first and came to attention, calling, "Brigadier General, sir!" which was echoed half a beat later by Millen.
Ed quirked a smile and inclined his head in response, then motioned between himself and the door as the two men relaxed. "Brother was hoping," Al translated, "that he might poke his head in and put some fear into the former Brigadier General?"
Both of the MPs flashed mean smiles at that, and Millen stepped out of the way, motioning towards the door. "By all means, sir."
Ed smirked in response, then pushed his way into the room. Hughes, now-Captain Blackburn, and Clemin all looked up, confused for a moment, before Hughes and Blackburn's qi took on decidedly pleased notes and they turned back to Clemin, who was sweating and staring at Ed with wide eyes.
Ed very purposefully pressed his hands together and activated the argon array – they never kept the interrogation rooms very bright, as opposed to the hallways of the building – to write, 'How'd you like that tight ship of Mustang's, little rat?'
Clemin shrank back in his chair, gaze switching rapidly between Ed, the fading text, and Hughes.
Hughes sat back in his chair. "Don't look at me, Clemin; Brigadier General Elric-Chang officially answers to Führer Mustang, now."
(Huh, damn. He supposed that meant he was Roy's subordinate again after all. Well, he didn't suppose it really mattered, any more; there wasn't anyone above Roy to come down on him for sleeping with one of his subordinates. And, besides, by the time Ed was old enough for them to actually come out, he'd have had ample opportunity to prove he and Roy weren't playing favourites with each other, especially now that he could talk again.)
Clemin's gaze focussed on Ed's shoulder markings, then shifted down to the kunai he'd idly pulled out to play with, before looking back up at Ed's smirk.
"Brother," Al called, poking his head in, "please don't take too much longer; you know you get irritable if you miss lunch."
(Ed fucking adored his brother.)
After they'd got a full confession out of him, as well as some details Hughes was clearly looking for verification on, Ed waved the MPs in to take Clemin back to his cell.
"You know, I almost want to make you stick around for the rest of my interrogations," Hughes commented as Al stepped properly into the room, now it was a little emptier.
"Labs are too important, sorry," Ed rasped, then leant back against the wall to watch both Hughes and Blackburn's eyes go wide, shock arcing through their qi.
"Did you just–?" Hughes started.
"Speak?" Ed suggested, smirking, before signing, :My brother does stupid things.:
"Hey!" Al complained, before being interrupted by Hughes starting to laugh.
:He may need a holiday,: Ed signed to his brother, and Al snorted and nodded. Ed patted Hughes' shoulder until he calmed down a bit, then suggested, "Lunch at home?"
Hughes immediately started nodding. "Yes. I have got to be there when you tell Gracia. But you need to make sure I have my camera, too."
Blackburn snorted and shook her head. "Congratulations, Ed," she said to him. "I don't pretend to know how or why, but I'm certain it'll prove far more useful to be able to speak."
Ed nodded, because it really would, even if it would probably be a few months until he'd got used to being able to speak again, and for whatever lingering trauma his vocal chords had suffered from being unused for over four years to heal.
They all filed out, stopping past Hughes' office long enough to drop off his paperwork and the camera, then made for the Hugheses' house.
"So," Hughes said, "should I ask?"
"Better if you don't," Al decided with a shrug.
Hughes snorted and shoved his hands into his pockets. "Fair enough. I'll just enjoy the benefits."
Ed snorted at that, reaching over to shove the man, mostly because he could.
Hughes let out an insulted huff and shoved him back, then asked, "Does Roy know?"
Ed raised an eyebrow, while Al sighed and said, "Brother trapped me with alchemy so he could run up and tell the Führer without me."
Hughes shot Al a look. "Think we should warn the Xingans they're better off staying over in the diplomat house, tonight?"
Al's face contorted and he flushed. "I don't want those mental images!" he practically squeaked.
Hughes raised an eyebrow at Ed, and when he responded with his best innocent smile, Hughes started laughing, which made him laugh, too, the sound more than a little rusty, while Al just groaned and swatted at Ed's arm.
Gracia, Nina, and Elicia were, unsurprisingly, quite happy to have them home for lunch, Gracia hurrying off to make some extra sandwiches, while the girls chattered excitedly about their adventure out at the cabin with one of Madam Christmas' women, which they'd only been brought home from a couple hours ago, apparently.
As they all finally settled down around the table to eat, it quickly became obvious that Hughes – who had his camera next to him and was positioned for the perfect shot of Gracia and the girls' shocked expressions – and Al were both practically vibrating with anticipation.
Gracia looked flatly between her husband and Al, then raised an eyebrow at Ed, who smiled and shrugged, just for the sheer amusement of sensing Al and Hughes' tension go up slightly. Gracia cleared her throat, then said, "Congratulations on your promotion, by the way. Maes was practically cackling when he told me about it; I guess he assumed you'd refuse?"
Ed sighed and grimaced, before quietly admitting, "I tried to refuse."
Gracia's cup slipped out of her hand, one edge cracking against the top of the table, before it fell over and spilled everywhere, while Nina and Elicia both turned wide, delighted eyes on Ed.
Ed clapped his hands and cleaned up the spilled liquid, but not before Hughes managed two photos of the minor chaos, and then another of the liquid crawling back into the cup and righting it.
"Again!" Elicia called, purposefully knocking over her own cup.
Ed snorted and cleaned that up with alkahestry, then Al moved the cup out of her reach and told her, "Your papa's going to be real mad if you get juice on his camera."
"Yes, he will," Hughes agreed in his best unimpressed voice, which Ed knew would last approximately as long as it took for Elicia to turn her pathetic eyes on him.
"You can talk," Gracia whispered, catching Ed's nearer hand and squeezing it.
Ed smiled and nodded, quietly explaining, "Al surprised me with one of my own bad habits. Again."
Gracia stood and stepped around the corner of the table to pull him into a hug, which he readily returned.
"Big Brother Ed can talk?" Nina asked hopefully.
Ed smiled at her and nodded, pulling away from Gracia. "Not a lot at a time, yet," he cautioned, because he knew her.
Nina slumped a little, before perking right back up again and saying, "But when you can, you can read us stories, 'stead of me reading to you!"
They all laughed at that, and Ed nodded, promising, "I'd like that."
"I bet Brother has lots of stories that aren't in any books, too," Al offered. "He's had a lot of adventures."
" 'Ventures!" Elicia called, delighted.
"You hafta tell them all," Nina informed him.
There were plenty of adventures that he had no interest in sharing with Nina or Elicia – some things he was happy to leave in the before, far away from this happy family that had welcomed him so willingly – but he smiled all the same and promised, "I will."
Ed spent the rest of the week surprising people with his ability to speak, and the shocked expressions, followed by honest happiness on his behalf, never got old.
That first night he had his voice back, it really was for the best that the Xingans took Al's suggestion and cleared out, because Roy was apparently determined to make up for months of Ed's silence by seeing how loud he could make him. (The bastard.)
Those first couple months, Ed and Roy pulled more late nights than not, and didn't even bother suggesting weekends should be spent relaxing at home, but it paid off when there was no rioting, and any talk in the media of the country going to hell had petered out by the new year.
As soon as things were calm enough in Central for them to do so, Ed had grabbed Al for a long weekend down in Dublith, where they hunted down Greed and his group to talk. After proving they weren't going to be kept out, but had no intention in actually killing anyone, they sat down with the homunculus and worked out something of a cease fire between him and the military, which doubled as a pardon for whatever part in the Dwarf in the Flask's plans Greed had once played. With Grand, Armstrong, and Hughes being the only other members of the brass who were actually aware of Greed and his relationship to the Dwarf in the Flask, it wasn't hard for Ed to push the document through for approval, and Roy had agreed to sign it before he'd even gone down. So long as Greed obeyed the law henceforth, he and the chimeras he housed would be free to continue living in Dublith (or wherever else inside Amestris' borders they decided to move to), free from persecution.
(This Greed wasn't the same as the one who had become Ed's friend, but he still felt like he'd finally got the chance to pay him back for everything he'd done for them on the Promised Day. And unofficially marking the Devil's Nest as a safe haven for human chimeras was the least he could do for whoever might be out there and in need of a family who understood; there weren't any ways to undo the alchemy that had made them what they were, but at least they'd have somewhere to go.)
Teacher and Sig had ended up going up to Briggs with Armstrong, on Ed's suggestion, and the two of them, Armstrong, and the Briggs troops managed to take out Sloth together with only moderate injuries to Briggs soldiers. As soon as the news made it back to Central, Al, Hohenheim, and the Xingans all said their goodbyes, then made their way back to Xing with the rough draft of the peace treaty, which had been signed by May, Ling, and Roy.
A letter was brought back by Mr Han almost two months later, telling of Ling's ascension to the throne, May and Hohenheim's dual promotions to Head Court Alkahestrists, and Al's new position as official ambassador between Xing and Amestris. Al had promised, in the letter, that he was already in talks about both opening trade lines and building the cross-desert railroad, and he'd be sending back monthly updates until he could return to Amestris with whomever would serve as Ling's voice in the Diplomat House.
The handful of brass who'd been found innocent of the conspiracy and really didn't seem to care for Roy, at least appeared willing to let him have his way. And, while Hughes occasionally joked it was because they were pissing their pants at the mere thought of going up against the Flame Alchemist (especially since he had so many other skilled State Alchemists supporting him), Ed and Roy both privately hoped it was more because public opinion seemed to be in favour of Roy, his personable smile and Gracia's quiet praises over the radio having done a lot to win people over to his side.
Whichever reason it was, they knew who their potential future problems were in the military, and – between Madam Christmas, the Armstrong family's connections, and Hughes' own snooping – had plenty to set in the path of any potential moves against Roy, before they even needed to start considering picking up any weapons.
On Ed's sixteenth birthday, he went into work, same as he did every weekday – and way too many weekends; one of the dangers of living with the Führer and being a member of the brass, apparently – and handled his daily pile of paperwork with distracted smiles and nods in response to any birthday wishes.
About an hour before lunch, deviating from his usual schedule, Ed got up from his desk, quietly informed his secretary – a rather tired-eyed warrant officer named Taylor Bartel, who had experience with crazy automail mechanics, and a hidden sense of humour that Ed probably enjoyed prodding to life a little too much – "I'm taking the rest of the day off," then made his way up to Roy's office without waiting for Taylor to remind him about the meeting with Hughes at three, which Ed already knew was an attempt at a surprise party, and he fully intended to 'forget', just to fuck with the idiot. (To be fair, it was actually something of a game, in Investigations, to plan a surprise party for other members, who tried to find out about it in advance and either counter it, or refuse to go. And Ed may not be a member of Investigations any more, technically, but he'd never expected that to stop Hughes, so had kept his ears attuned for any hints of a plot.)
Roy had his own secretary now, too: a pretty, dark-skinned second lieutenant, named Jessica Days (who Ed was about ninety-eight percent certain was in Madam Christmas' employ, mostly because any attempts to do any proper digging on her, found him coming bang-up against one of the women he knew worked for Roy's aunt) who inclined her head when she saw him and murmured a respectful, "Brigadier General. I'm afraid the Führer's in a meeting right now. You can leave a message, if it's important, and I'll have him–"
"Jessica," Havoc interrupted, his qi rolling with amusement, "pretty sure the boss knows the chief's in a meeting."
Ed shrugged and nodded. "Might have heard something about it," he agreed, far more soft-spoken after years of muteness and the following months of trying not to strain his vocal chords. (Also, the shocked looks he got when he actually raised his voice and went off on someone, actually made him feel better than the physical act of yelling, which was probably a little weird, but he had to get his kicks out of being able to sense people's every emotion somehow.)
Days shot him an uncertain look. "Then...?"
Ed offered her a faint smile. "I'll just be a moment, promise. No one'll even notice I'm there."
Havoc's muffled snickers and Hawkeye's resigned sigh said they'd both cottoned on to the fact that he was lying – all of Roy's team probably would have caught him, actually, if they weren't currently in the middle of helping Hughes plan his surprise party – but Days' qi showed no hint of her having realised anything as she sighed and agreed, "So long as you're quick, sir."
"Thank you," Ed replied, before stepping past her desk and quietly pushing open the door to Roy's inner office.
The room hadn't changed much since that first night after their coup, save Roy's old couches finally finding their way up there, and one of Colourway's splatter arrays – of Roy's own flame array, Ed knew, and coloured in the same shade of red as Roy had used to sew it onto the backs of his gloves – on the wall behind his desk, which was the only spot of colour in the otherwise monochromatic office. (That had been purposeful, Ed knew, and he absolutely approved, had even done something similar in his own office, when Colourway had finally talked him into sharing his water whip array and then splatter-painted it in a gleaming, pale blue colour that almost seemed to shift as the sun moved through the sky outside his windows.)
Roy, Grand, and Major General Harold Colt all looked up at the interruption, eyebrows raising almost in sync.
(Ed resisted a laugh. Barely.)
"Sorry, sirs," he apologised, ducking his head, while Days' qi drooped with resignation in the outer office. "It's something quick, I promise."
Roy sighed and motioned for him to come over, while the two major generals turned their raised eyebrows on each other, both clearly in the dark about Ed's intentions.
Ed walked around Roy's desk, leaning down like he was going to whisper in his ear, then caught his bastard's chin and firmly turned his head to plant a kiss against his mouth.
Roy's qi flared with surprise, as did the qi of the two major generals, though Grand's seemed a lot less surprised than Colt's. (Ed'd had a feeling Grand had figured them out a while ago, in all honestly.)
He pulled back and licked his lips, then sang, "Happy birthday to me!" as he turned to leave.
He'd just about reached the door of the inner office, when Grand drily said, amusement bright in his qi, "You might as well go after him, sir."
Colt cleared his throat and added, his amusement actually showing in his voice, "We covered everything important, anyway."
"Gentlemen," Roy said as his chair creaked, then hurried out and caught Ed before he could reach the door of his outer office, grabbing his wrist to stop him. "I don't think I heard you clearly enough, Brigadier General," he said, his eyes bright with amusement.
Ed smiled at him. "Let me repeat myself," he offered, before stepping into Roy's waiting arms and kissing him again – privately way too pleased that they were nearly the same height, now – relaxing into his stupid bastard's hold when he kissed back, his qi wrapping warmly around them both.
"Happy birthday, my sunshine," Roy murmured against his mouth.
Ed hit him (lightly) and muttered, "Sappy bastard," before kissing him again.
Incidentally, they both left early, missed the surprise party that Hughes had been planning for almost two months, and the entirety of Central Command knew, by the end of the day, that the Führer and the Silent Alchemist were either each other's one night stands, or madly, desperately in love and finally consummating it, depending on who they heard it from.
The truth was, of course, far more beautiful and terrible than any of them could have ever hoped to imagine.
A/N: So, little bit sorry about that 'telling, not showing' bit, but it was sort of filling in some blanks for the sheer purpose of time-jumping a bit so I could write that last scene. My original idea for this fic's end actually involved Ed and Al finding that time travel alchemist and putting a stop to his research properly, but that was a bit much for a time jump (10+ years), so you get this ending, instead. (Do assume, however, that they eventually hunt down that alchemist to keep anyone else from getting sent back in time.)
Related, added the bit about Greed at the end thanks to N7 Jam reminding me I really needed to tie up that loose end. I'd completely forgotten that something would end up having to be sorted about him, as many people in the military know about him.
I can tell you all now, as well, that I spent a long while – like, over half the fic – trying to decide whether or not to have Al regain his memories. In the original timeline, he did get caught up in the tail-end of the array, but in the fic timeline, between the shock of being stuck in front of the Gate and Truth's awareness that there was another array in play mucking with things, Truth was able to keep those memories, like with Ed's leg and vocal cords. As for Al refusing them at the end, that was intended to sort of mirror the way, in canon, Ed gave up his alchemy, because he didn't need it to live as the sort of person he was. (Also, I'm really attached to MayAl, if you couldn't tell, and that would have made it 22 years between them, mentally. ^^; )
So, thanks for sticking it out throughout this lovely leap into insanity I took, and I hope you enjoyed the ride. XD It was an adventure, and, wow, I swear I never expected that passing bunny that got tangled up in StillNotGinger10's original time travel plot to turn into this...monster. (And, before anyone asks, I have no intention in continuing this story, especially since I've got the Our Sinner's Redemption series to work on, still. As far as I'm concerned, this world is complete.)