When Lieutenant Colonel Hughes sidled up to him, Colonel Roy Mustang pondered finding something urgent and immediate to do.
However, Hughes had the combination of mad, love-struck grin and serious walk that implied that Roy might get some useful information after the obligatory photos of wife and child.
"And here, she's swimming. With water-wings."
Roy made noncommittal noises until Hughes stopped for a breath. Fortunately, Hughes wasn't shoving photos in his face today... though that was likely just because he was too busy peering at and kissing them to force them on anyone else. Before Hughes could start up again, Roy interjected, "I'll have to visit her soon. Did you have anything else to talk about?"
The change was subtle, Hughes tucking the photographs away in his uniform with a soft exhalation, leaning forward to set his elbows on the table. Roy had noticed that in Hughes - he'd lean back when he was dealing with personal things, and forward when professional. It was something he still had to bring up with the man - nobody in a security department could afford to be predictable about when to be listened in on. Still, now wasn't the time or the place.
"It's not so much anything definite," Hughes admitted. "It may not be an issue at all, but then again, it might be. It's about Ed."
Roy leaned his cheek on his hand and twitched one corner of his lips up in a smirk. "Ah. Why am I not surprised? Go on."
Hughes dipped his head, a faint nod. "Well, he's fifteen, and youngest in the military."
Wryly, Hughes looked at Roy, shrugging. "Do you remember being fifteen? Because I do, and I remember what was first on my mind pretty much all the time, then."
"Now, of course, I've only got eyes for my beautiful Gracia. Oh! Have I shown you the photograph of her latest haircut? It's-"
Hughes coughed. "Yes. Well..."
While he'd trailed off, Roy could fill in the blanks easily enough. "Everyone develops differently, of course."
"Of course," Hughes agreed. "But his latest physical shows that - well, I'll spare you the details, but he's certainly undergone puberty. If nothing else, we've all heard his voice change in the last few years - he might be holding out for a growth spurt, but most of the development's over and done with by this age. A boy his age should at least be noticing girls, even if he's not acting on it, but my intelligence hasn't found anything." Hughes gestured vaguely to punctuate the point. "It's not as much an issue with older soldiers, of course, but at that age... well, he's malleable. There've been studies..."
"Studies," Roy echoed.
Hughes adjusted his glasses, doubtless not as uncomfortable as he looked. "Yes, studies. Driven people who ignore their sexual impulses in order to channel the energy into other things - violence, for example, or obsessions, or vengeance... well. They end up very strong weapons, yes, but often have difficulty interacting with people, or ...mm, being people themselves. Now, Ed... he makes a good weapon, absolutely, but that's not all he is."
Roy sighed. "No."
"So! I think we should set him up with a nice girl!" Hughes beamed. "Ahhh, it'd be so nice if we found one for him - wouldn't you like to be best man at Ed's wedding?"
Caught up somewhat helplessly in the mental image, Roy lowered his brows to glare at Hughes. "If you want to play matchmaker, leave me out of it."
"Ahhhhh," Hughes said, waving his hands to prevent Roy's leaving, "don't be like that! You have to admit that Ed's enough like you that you have to be surprised he's not breaking hearts every which way!"
The man had a point.
"Still," Roy countered, running a fingertip over the countertop, "it might simply be a response to trauma. It happens sometimes."
"It does, but you want to take the chance that it's trauma? I mean, if you want to risk him channeling it all into something that'll destroy him later, I suppose it's your choice, but I know I'd prefer to see him happy. Ah, but then, a married man may be the only one who can understand-"
Roy rolled his eyes, rubbed his thumb over the spot between his brows, and gave up. "Fine, it's in your capable hands. Feel free to report back to me, and I'll avoid interfering with your escort service."
"You're not going to help?" Hughes asked, then went on the offense. "Ah, but you know how Ed always-"
"Please," Roy said, and laughed. "I have some dignity left."
And that, he would have thought, would be the end of that.
Some days later, Roy was thinking rude thoughts about chance and luck. The current folder he had in front of him should have been quite easy - Travis Smythe, who had been ferrying vital information between cities and handing it off to the nearest bidder. He'd been caught, resisted, and died without much of a fuss, but there was one complication.
He'd been ferrying the information inside his automail arm, which had apparently broken after too much use and too little willingness to take it in to a mechanic in case they saw something they shouldn't. Not being able to use it had outweighed his concerns, and he'd taken it into the nearest mechanic - then fled, leaving it behind, when the radio had reported that he was being searched for. If Roy found whoever had let THAT slip, there would be a reckoning.
And so they had a body with one workable arm and no information. Fortunately, the area he had been in implied that it must have been left with...
His attention was drawn away and to the fact that Hughes was standing there, and he wasn't sure for how long. "Yes?" he asked, hiding his disorientation behind a stern look.
"Regarding the thing with Ed," Hughes said. "You asked me to report. Well, he and his brother have a close female friend, Winry, whom I think has a good chance of... preventing misfortunes."
"Winry," Roy repeated. He looked down at his report, then up at Hughes again. "Winry Rockbell?"
"That's the one."
"Just as well she's going to be in town, then, bringing her family's latest commission in on our order." Roy looked blandly at Hughes. "I'll let you take care of that." He handed the file over, smiling faintly at his growing look of consternation.
"Was there anything else?" Roy inquired.
Hughes looked at Roy, the folder held between two fingers. "Ah - no."
"Good." Roy looked at his desk, smiled, and wondered what he might do with his surprise afternoon off.
Winry Rockbell stayed visiting her friends for a week, at which point Hughes returned to give his report. Roy took it in a bar, anticipating correctly from his expression that Hughes needed a drink to go along with it.
"Nothing," Hughes said, and sighed.
"Nothing?" Roy asked, amused more at Hughes' total disappointment than at the situation itself.
"Zip. Zero. Zilch. Etcetera." Hughes plopped his head down on the counter, then raised it enough for a drink.
Roy bit back a chuckle. "You hardly need to take it personally. You can't really determine who Edward is attracted to."
"But I had such hope," Hughes groaned. "They've known each other since they were babies, and she gave him his arm and leg. It was so romantic..."
"Ah," Roy said, keeping his amusement from his voice. "Romantic."
Hughes nodded enthusiastically, gently hitting his head on the counter each time. "But nothing! She might have been interested, though it's hard to say - she spent about the same amount of time with both of them. And Ed just sort of treated her like a kid sister. I mean, it's clear he loved her, but it's like he wasn't even thinking of her like a girl!"
Roy watched Hughes' forehead grow redder and redder, morbidly fascinated. "Was Alphonse?"
"Al? Why do you-" Hughes froze. "...I suppose, if you map his body language onto a normal, fourteen-year-old boy's body language, it wouldn't be unlike that of a boy with a crush..."
"Ah," Roy said.
"So, clearly," Hughes said, determination renewed, "I was just looking from the wrong angle. I mean, if there's a chance that that's so, and Ed knew, of course he wouldn't - ahhh... Well! I'll have to arrange something else!"
"Feel free," Roy said, bemused, and sipped his drink.
The next two were both local girls, with quite varied temperaments, who'd heard of and were quite impressed by Full Metal's reputation.
Despite the growing lack of success Hughes had to report, it only seemed to make him more determined, and Roy had to admit that Hughes was indeed moderately terrifying when matchmaking.
"I must be going about this wrong," Hughes muttered fervently. "Maybe he doesn't like girls his own age. That could be it."
"If they're very much younger," Roy said dryly, "I'll have to write you up."
Hughes gave him a look. "No, I was thinking older women. Mature women."
Roy considered. "I'm not sure. Take Psiren. By all your accounts, he didn't respond to her body at all, other than some embarrassment. The transmutation circle on her chest interested him far more than her breasts, I recall you wrote, and he missed all innuendo."
"He was somewhat younger then," Hughes said. "But, oh, about Psiren - that reminds me." He dug around in his bag, then produced a report.
Roy felt his face go flat and professional. "Oh, go on."
"She's appeared again, and quite nearby."
Glancing over the report, Roy pursed his lips slightly. Quite indeed - nearly on their doorstep.
"Normally," Hughes said, "this would be a case for the police, except that one of her latest thefts was a pocket watch - from a National Alchemist. Considering that her capture last time was due to the power imbalance between her alchemy and Ed's - and Ed's nontraditional thinking, naturally - I've strong suspicions that it was partly for the challenge and to delight her fans, and partly to amplify her powers such that she may elude escape better."
"And," Roy said, "of course, you want me to drop a hint to Full Metal that she's in town, and has stolen a watch."
"Well," Hughes said, tone cajoling, "you must admit that he did a such a good job last time."
As Edward didn't seem to think he'd been sent, even unofficially, he hadn't bothered to report to Roy about the results, but Hughes made up for it with full information and growing despair. Roy made a note to mention the results offhandedly to irritate Edward, and listened.
"I don't know," Hughes said. "Maybe you're right, maybe he's just affected by his trauma in a weird way - maybe he's just not as sexual as you'd think he is. I mean, he has the type of spastic sexual energy that one expects in a boy his age, but... I'm about ready to give up," he admitted, glasses slipping down his nose.
Roy watched Hughes sigh, run a hand through his hair, kiss a picture of Alicia and Gracia for comfort. He turned things over in his mind - and Hughes was right, Edward had shown no sign of noticing those girls in any sexual manner... and then he chuckled, covering his face with one gloved hand.
"What?" Hughes asked, suspiciously. "What?"
"Oh no," Roy chuckled. "You're not supposed to ask, and I'm not supposed to tell."
Hughes stared at Roy, mouth open a touch. "Don't ask, d- I didn't think of that," Hughes admitted in a rush, embarrassed both because of the situation and, Roy suspected, professionally. "I really didn't think of that angle. I didn't - do you think he-?"
"I imagine you won't let it happen again," Roy said seriously, then chuckled again, shaking his head. "And I think it's possible. I can't say I looked for it, any more than I looked for his interest in girls."
Hughes' eyes narrowed. "But you did look for his interest in girls."
"Only to tease him," Roy said, and gave a small smirking smile that should have told Hughes to back right off.
"Uh-huh," Hughes said, but his eyes were still narrow and thoughtful.
"You'd better get right on that, then," Roy suggested, leaning over his desk and pulling out a file at random.
"I guess I'd better." Hughes said, and left.
"I should have known better," Roy muttered at the closed door, "than to have offered any advice."
Hughes' next report was almost entirely about professional things, and lasted long enough that Roy had almost managed to get his hopes up that Mission Matchmaking wouldn't be brought up at all.
"Oh," Hughes added, casually, "I talked to Ed today."
"You were right," Hughes said. "Only after I asked, it seemed he didn't quite get the 'don't tell' part of things. He talks a lot when he's confused and shouting."
"Oh, yes, that too."
Hughes examined his fingernails. "Why, I think I've even managed to figure out his type."
"I wouldn't expect any less from the investigations department. Is that all, then?"
Hughes looked disappointed. "Don't you want to know?"
After Hughes left, the next person through the door was, naturally, Edward Elric. Roy's day just seemed to be going like that. He pondered having something terribly urgent come up.
Edward stared at him - glared might be a better word, really - for a long moment, arms crossed, not moving.
"Can I help you?" Roy asked, smirking faintly and keeping his tone carefully amused.
The moment passed and Edward thumped down onto the couch, sprawled as always, then pointed at Roy with a gloved automail finger. "How do you know these things?!" he demanded.
Roy let his smirk widen. "I'm omniscient, Edward. Hadn't you been told?"
"Okay, so you know everywhere I've been. Fine, I've come to terms with that, yeah, your spy network is fantastic, but this? When Major Hughes told me that you'd mentioned this to him-!"
His fingers were starting to drum against the desk without him really paying much conscious thought to them. Oh, he said that, did he?
Edward was pointing at him. "My brother doesn't even know! Who else have you told?!"
Edward's eyes were wide and a little bit wild, his fists balled, entire body trembling with violence barely held in check. "What else do you know, you bastard?!"
Roy looked at him, looked at his thin body trembling like an electric wire, buzzing and ready to attack, as if that was the only option. He closed his eyes, briefly, thought of what it would be like to get written up. Thought of what it would be like to stop that constant forward movement, to get demoted, a stain on his record - likely he'd never be here again, and he'd spent so long going up and forward.
He opened his eyes and Edward was still there, glaring and promising violence, so much violence, hands twitching as if pure force of will was all that was keeping him from clapping them together.
Roy sighed. "I know enough," he said.
Edward's jaw was so tight he could see the muscle jumping in his cheek.
"I know," Roy said, and pondered a spot on his desk, "that you like older men. Strong men. Men who aren't at risk of dying when you don't expect it. Men who aren't likely to be used and hurt by others, killed because of an inability to defend themselves. Men who know where you got your second name from. Men who you can fight with. Men who you can insult, and be insulted by. Men who like you enough to tease you. Men who neither underestimate you, nor are awed by you. Men who know who your brother is. Men who know what your brother is. Men who know what you've done. Men who know why you're fighting. Men who've seen what you did to your mother."
Roy let his voice go soft, kept one hand under the desk, preparing to snap his fingers if Edward made any move to transmute anything. Very quietly, he murmured, "There aren't many people who fit all of those, are there, Edward?"
He'd expected a scream of rage first, at least, and was taken by surprise at Edward's silence as the youth leaped onto Roy's desk and grabbed his shoulders. Startled, his hands came up to Edward's arms, an automatic reaction, but Edward was making no further motion, kneeling there, fingers bruisingly tight on Roy's shoulders, glaring at him.
Edward's eyes were feverishly bright, and Roy saw fire in their depths, recognized it, burning beneath their surface. He knew it, knew what it was, and wondered how long it had been burning where nobody could see; how much damage a fire unchecked could do.
Damn you, Hughes, he thought. Damn you.
And Edward still wasn't moving. Roy came to the sudden disturbing realization that it was in his choice. Edward staring at him, eyes wide and familiar, hands on his shoulders, threatening him again, and the choice was his again, he could let Edward burn up or - he didn't know, he'd never known the alternative, but it was in his hands again - Why? he demanded silently, fervent. Why is it always in my hands?!
He became aware that Edward's breathing was labored, angry, choked, and he closed his eyes, thought of a past and a future and a now, and forced himself to relax, put his hand on Ed's face. "I know," he said, and his voice was quiet. "I know, Edward."
And Edward's mouth was on his, burning, demanding - needy, amazing how needy it was, a starved man at a banquet, not waiting for permission as he plastered lips and tongue against Roy's mouth and took what he could get, kissing inexpertly.
Roy kept his mouth resolutely shut for a long moment, and Edward started to withdraw. No, he thought suddenly, No. This isn't what I want. Edward's mouth left his and he leaned forward, pushed Ed against the desk, and kissed as if the fire, the anger, the need was a lifeline.
He'd planned to be gentle with Edward when he'd let himself think about this. He'd planned a slow, careful, gentle seduction.
Because Edward demanded it, then, now - he was rough, and Edward was rough, and after, shaken and wet with sweat - it was only sweat on his face, it could only be sweat on his face - he let himself be gentle and Edward responded to that, too, gave it back, gentle.
It was amazing how easily things became routine, how easily he could smirk and snark and play little games, order men to do the things he'd always ordered them to do, and when the day was done, he could go and fall into a tangle of arms and legs.
What was one more secret to conceal, regarding the Elric Brothers?
Roy pondered his desk and his files, thoughtful.
Ed had told him last night that he'd be telling Al today, gave him a grin and a challenge that he'd better accept it, because it was happening whether he liked it or not.
He wouldn't have it any other way, really, though he might have to be careful around Alphonse for a while.
There was a knock on the door, and Hughes entered.
Roy raised an eyebrow at him, gave him a faint smirk, listened to his report as to what was going on in this sector, who was in whose pocket, and-
"Oh," Hughes said, casually. "I don't think we need to worry about the whole Ed problem anymore."
Roy narrowed his eyes. "Oh?"
"No, it seems to have resolved itself okay."
Roy gave Hughes a look. "I'm glad to hear it," he said dryly.
"Oh, well, all part of my job," Hughes said, modestly. He pondered Roy for a minute, then grinned. "Now, don't get me wrong, I do still think that you should get married some day, because the bliss of that is absolutely-"
Crossing his arms, Roy leaned forward across the desk confidentially. "Hughes?"
"Get out of my office."
"Done and done." Hughes exited with a casual walk, just radiating smugness.
Carefully, Roy checked his schedule. He saw that he was, as he remembered, clear of appointments for the next fifteen minutes.
And Roy put his head down on his desk and laughed.