Fullmetal Alchemist does not belong to me. I wish it did. All of the sane people in the world are overjoyed that it doesn't.

***

Equivalent Trade

Edward Elric had faced more than his fair share of psychotic murderers, raving terrorists, and slavering beasts. When one was an active National Alchemist, such was considered par for the course. Nevertheless, when faced with a smugly grinning Colonel Roy Mustang standing not five feet away from him, one hand tapping on a large, oak desk as the Colonel contemplated his next move, Ed, supposed genius transmuter felt himself growing... slightly worried was the most dignified way he could describe the gnawing feeling in his chest. It wasn't that he and the Colonel didn't often share witty banter or thinly edged retorts. It was merely that when Ed me with the Colonel in this office, HE was used to having the upper hand. In his five years as a National Alchemist searching for the Philosopher's Stone, Edward Elric had always been owed the favor. He knew for a fact that he quite definitely did not like it the other way around. ESPECIALLY when the superior officer said favor was owed to was smirking. just. like. that.

Gritting his teeth in what he hoped resembled a relaxed, unconcerned smile, Ed stopped thinking how best to make the floor suddenly gape open into a pit to entomb his doomed body in the nearest hell. Instead, he prepared to face a worse prospect; whatever Colonel Mustang had decided was fair repayment.

"I believe," the man began, "I would like you as my..." a slight pause, "personal aide. For, oh, a week should suffice."

Ed gave up any pretense of remaining calm. This was going to be worse than any hell he could have imagined.

"What do you MEAN, a WEEK?!?"

Mustang just LEERED at him.

***

Being Colonel Roy Mustang's personal aide was, Ed discovered, a less than thrilling appointment. It involved a lot of taking dictations about movements of people whose names he couldn't even begin to pronounce and a lot of following Mustang around, saluting higher-ups, and fetching the occasional cup of coffee. Ed escorted guests around headquarters, filed papers, and generally was at the Colonel's beck and call. After bringing the Colonel the fifth croissant of the day (no butter), he found himself wishing for a good, normal serial killer to pop out of the woodwork and leave bloody footprints all over the immaculate, ever so polite Colonel's head.

That was the first two days.

Wednesday morning dawned cold and snowy, with wet flakes that congealed on the pavement into a runny slush. The Colonel, Ed learned, had decided to keep his aide in the office. Al, poking his head in occasionally to make sure his older brother hadn't attacked his superior officer, found each time that Mustang was busy on the phone while Ed was completely engrossed in a book on what appeared to be the transmutation of straw into gold. The final time he looked in for the day, Ed was within the last quarter of the book's pages and Mustang was resting his elbow on his desk, hand supporting his chin, watching Ed with a gaze that was only used when one wanted to be as irritating as possible. Al, the smart boy that he was, quickly fled before the explosion came

Even as he was walking out the door of headquarters, located half a building from Colonel Mustang's office, Al heard the shriek.

"You want me to WHAAAAAT!?!"

He hoped his brother wouldn't get into too much trouble.

***

On Saturday evening, Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist, was ready to give up the silver watch in his pocket and the chance to regain his lost limbs if only to STRANGLE the Flame Alchemist who was currently sitting at his desk and STARING. AT. HIM.

It wouldn't have been so bad if the Colonel hadn't been doing this for the past hour, or if, as the week went by, his idea of the duties of a personal aide hadn't gone from "professional assistant" to "valet; includes help with dressing, alchemy experiments, and bathing."

Between having the Colonel accidentally trip him into the shower, and then being gentlemanly enough to insist on supply Ed with too-large but at least dry clothes after the resulting tirade, and then having to help the Colonel choose what clothes to wear on his DATE (for which Ed had been dragged along to "ensure the lady's comfort" and had then been told by the woman whose figure wouldn't quite let anyone in polite company call her a lady that he was "positively darling") Ed was ready to scream. At that point, he still had Thursday to look forward to.

Following orders relayed to him by Lieutenant Colonel Hawkeye, Ed had reported to the experimental station at 4:00 AM Thursday morning to assist in matters "vital to the military's security." The vital matters had turned out to be keeping the Colonel amused while Major Hughes fiddled with a new, more secure telephone line for military use. Amused, Ed had learned, involved allowing Mustang to have a close examination of his auto-mail arm and leg while keeping a conversation about the weather at East Headquarters.

Friday involved allowing the Colonel to examine Ed's method of alchemy without a transmutation circle. Mustang had insisted on standing behind him the entire time, close enough to breathe on his ears. After hours of warmth tingling on the nape of his neck, along with carefully gentle hands on his shoulder and gingers brushing through the ends of his hair (a position which Mustang assured him was "necessary for proper study" each time he was questioned, often with Ed's hands wrapped around his throat), Ed found himself understandably jumpy.

So it was on Saturday night that no matter how he tried, Ed couldn't force himself to concentrate on the book Mustang had asked him to research. Not with that STARE on his back. Each time he snuck a glance behind him, Mustang hadn't moved except to look more and more amused as the hour went by. Just as Ed slammed his book shut and leapt to his feet to demand to know what the HELL he thought he was doing, Mustang gestured him over.

"Sadly, it seems our time together is drawing to a close, Elric-kun."

Ed paused mid-step at the Look that Mustang had turned his way. It was the look of a cat poised to leap onto an unsuspecting bird that also knew that the dog was far, far away and occupied at the kennel. It was not a nice look. If anything, it could only be called "predatory."

"As such, I thought that perhaps tonight we could do something a bit more... intimate, as I am sure you will be leaving East City soon in your search for the Philosopher's Stone."

Ed interrupted anything further he might have said by leaning over the desk and slamming a hand down onto the stack of forms, neatly filled out in Lieutenant Colonel Hawkeye's handwriting, very near Mustang's crossed arms.

"IF YOU WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH ME JUST SAY SO!"

Mustang smirked and reached up to run one long, gloved finger down the side of Ed's face.

"I wasn't thinking of THAT, Edward-KUN. But if you're truly so inclined..."

He trailed off and watched with interest as Ed proceeded through emotions starting at shock and ending at full out spazz attack. When he had calmed down somewhat, Roy stood up and ushered Ed out of his office.

"I'll just have Hawkeye call a car for us, then, Edward." Mustang let the vowels in the name be drawled into a sound that had some Very Interesting Implications.

It didn't occur to Ed to protest until they were at Mustang's house, alone together in a comfortably furnished room with the lights already dimmed.