Merry Christmas, Colonel Bastard - Proof That Revenge Is A Kind Of Wild Justice

Epilogue - The Art of Happy Endings

AN-I amend my earlier statement to a lowered 25KB. This story's last chapter was about 48KB, which is way too long for it's worth as utter crap. ::shrugs, listens to Do As Infinity's "Under the Moon":: I would like to add to this pointless ramble that the music I'm listening to at the time of writing a fanfic greatly influences the mood of the whole thing, so if it seems like something is gut-busting hilarious then fluffy for no reason at all, well...that's the reason. ::gets shot:: And here I was recovering from those previous gunshot wounds...
-tiger-

Ed shifted uncomfortably on the hard wooden floor and 'accidentally' kicked one of Mustang's house plants into the fire. It was uncharacteristic of the man to have house plants, anyway - he wasn't the domestic type, for certain - surely he wouldn't care if one of them had clumsily been reduced to ash?

He was irritated mostly because the colonel had ignored his frequent comments about how he could fix their clothes with alchemy and had insisted upon dragging Edward all the way back to his house to be washed up.

So there Ed was, sitting on the floor in his undershorts with the strict instructions "not to touch anything, Fullmetal, you're a disgusting mess" when something rectangular and shiny hit him in the face. He thought stupidly at first that it was a solid gold bar, felt like an idiot for thinking that, then looked down to see the Christmas - no, early birthday - present he'd gotten from the taisa.

Mustang was leaning on the wall smirking, and HE was only wearing his undershorts to. Ed hastily averted his eyes and drew his knees up to his chest. Idiot, idiot.

"Can I open this now?"he asked, desperate to think about something else.

"By all means,"was the calm reply, DAMN the man for being perfectly at ease in such a scarce amount of clothing. Edward snorted.

"What's the big deal, anyway?"he asked."I mean, would it have mattered if I opened this at the office?"

"Of course. It's something of a terribly personal nature, you see..."

"It better not be ladies' underwear or something..."Ed warned ahead of time, ripping off the paper. Inside was a small, battered, nondescript book encased in brown leather."What, a library book?"He opened to the first page and read, at first boredly, then with growing interest.

Dad's making me start a journal. What an ass. He insists that it 'builds character', which means he's clearly never written a page in his life. He spends all his days attending those BORING military functions; I swear, I won't go to one of those things even if it KILLS me...

Ed looked up sharply. The smirk was gone from the taisa's face, and he was regarding the blonde warily."No good?"he asked blandly, almost not quite hesitating. Ed shook his head furiously.

"N-No, it's not that..."He sought to put it into words."I don't get it. What's your PURPOSE, what's your reason for showing this to me? How do you want me to react; in what direction am I supposed to go running THIS time?"

The older man shook his head in a manner that clearly described Edward as 'hopeless', then took a seat next to him."No direction, no hidden agenda. Don't you remember? You asked me what I was like when I was your age."

And Edward DID remember, though the situation during which that question had been asked made him blush."Oh, so that's it?"he asked haughtily, tossing his head."It should figure that you'd get me something useless like your journal, it just goes to show that you really DO think too much of yourself after..."

Mustang cast a level look his way, and Ed felt himself quailing under that dark gaze. He looked down at his gift; it was far more than just paper, binding and leather - it was a chance to see the man's soul, that intangible something that had to be hiding just underneath the mask. He swallowed."Thanks."

"Well, it seems you've grown up a bit after all,"the colonel mused, ruffling his fingers through Edward's hair, then grimacing when they came away sticky with jam."Only a bit, though,"he pointed out, looking down at his fingers with mock dismay. Ed noticed that his own fingers with covered with a similar sort of goo, for he'd neglected to bother with his gloves that morning, telling himself that they might get stained with some errant jam spray. How right he was.

"WHEN am I gonna be able to take a shower?"he asked for the third time that day.

"When the laundry's done,"Mustang answered coolly, also for the third time that day."Waiting won't kill you."

(No), Ed supposed, (it wouldn't.) In the meantime, he'd amuse himself by poring over every inch of the taisa's journal. When he flipped open to a random page, he felt Mustang shift behind and rest his chin on his shoulder, eyes already skimming over the words. Ed briefly considered elbowing the man in the face and telling him to move - had already jerked his elbow upward, for a fact - then paused. Grinned. Perhaps he'd practice tolerance today, just to prove that he too could act mature.

He was rewarded for his restraint with a lazy smile, which he ignored with some effort, and went back to reading.

-------------------------------------------------

Beverly came 'round today; I told her not to, that I had schoolwork to do. I really don't think she listens at all to what I have to say, but rather, does whatever she wants to without considering how I'll feel. It's annoying, to an extent, but she does let me kiss her, which most other girls won't even consider right about now.

Ed shook his head, clearly in a stupor."That's - Jeez, why'd you have to...? Did you REALLY think I'd want to read about stuff like THAT?"he asked finally, turning his head slowly, so as to avoid a collison with the colonel's forehead.

"No,"the older man replied honestly, not bothering to look his way."I don't even remember all this."

And it didn't seem like he had, he'd spent the past half hour engrossed with his own writing, murmuring occasional phrases like "I can't believe I used to DO that" and "this really WAS a long time ago". He'd seemed annoyed, amused, and pleased at himself all at once, a veritable spread of emotions running across his face at once, and in that instant Edward decided that he liked that better than the journal itself. It was true that the words written there were as elegant and composed as the man was now, but the feeling behind them was a lot simpler, much more vivid, and in Ed's opinion, much easier to understand.

I've discovered today that people are more complicated than alchemical arrays, after Beverly told me whole-heartedly in the courtyard today that she loves me. I've been mimicking Dad as best as I can, I've worked on smoothing over a variety of situations with evasion or finesse, yet even with all my practice, I still didn't know how to handle this.

I suppose that brushing off her confession as a joke was foolish, though I think it a trifle unnecessary for her to have slapped me so hard. My face still stings, dammit, and this happened around noon yesterday.

So from now on, I've decided, I'll treat interactions with people as a sort of game. If I can successfully manuever the situation in my favor, then I've won. If not, then I'll just need to practice harder. Today's situation with Beverly is no different. I won't let another declaration of love like this go unprepared for. I'll be ready, I'll always be ready.

Ed looked over at Mustang, trying to keep his expression serious but unable to stop the twitching of his mouth."Taisa,"he said solemnly, proud that his voice didn't tremble,"I love you."

Which earned him a smirk in return, and an equally as 'serious' reply."Though it's against my personal feelings, I really think we ought to keep our relationship on a professional level, Fullmetal,"he replied without a hitch."Dating your coworkers can lead to extremely stressful situations in the workplace,"he added for Edward's benefit, shaking a bit in silent laughter.

"Shame,"Ed replied with mock wistfulness, and went back to his book. The man really WAS prepared; it was a bit eerie.

Dad - no, correction, FATHER - insists that I join the army when I become of age. He said that it was a good idea for me, that a good decision like that would be lasting. I promptly told he and his decision-making skills where they could go, and it earned me the loss of supper for tonight. Though I suspect that's Mom at the door right now, sneaking something in...

Mom has came and left, leaving me the leftovers of tonight's supper and some words of wisdom.

"You'll thank your father for being so hard on you,"she said through the door while I was busy indulging myself on her heavenly bread."If you're in the military alongside him, he'll be able to protect you from the interference of others. If you get in trouble, you can always go running to him for protection. That's what he's thinking right now, even if it seems he's only trying to force you to do things his way."

She really is too soft on him, she always takes his side. Though the conversation didn't stop there.

"I wish you wouldn't be so hopelessly stubborn, Roy,"she continued, and I rolled my eyes at her though she couldn't see."You're smart, but once you think you're right, that's it. Nothing else matters to you. There's a bigger world outside of you and your desires."

What a bunch of utter nonsense. I'm reconsidering my refusal of Father's proposition, though. The military might hold some use for me; at the very least, I'll be freed of this boredom that seems to seep in whenever I'm at home. I've become quite effective at manipulating people, I think the military and Father will be no exception.

I'll use the old man 'til he's dead, and only I will be the wiser.

"So did you?"Ed asked then."Use your father, I mean?"He wasn't so sure he wanted to know the answer.

"I couldn't,"the colonel replied simply."He was much better at playing that game than I was."

"Hmmm,"said Ed noncommittally, and was about to flip the book closed when an entry at the far back caught his eye. It was written in much newer ink than the previous entries, as though it had been written recently, and as though someone had tried to conceal it.

"D-Damn!"cursed Mustang, and reached to snatch the page out, but Ed was quicker. He rolled behind the couch and popped his head over it, staring at the taisa, who seemed to be in an irrevocable fluster. And - Ed squinted his eyes against the glow of the fire - was he BLUSHING? No, it couldn't be. It was unfathomable. Utterly damn unfathomable.

"It's rude to try and reclaim a gift you gave to something, ne, taisa?"he asked innocently, even giving the older man 'the eyes', though it didn't seem to work. Even if he ended up cooked from the inside out for this, it would be worth it just because of that panicked look on the man's face. He, Edward Elric, had finally made Colonel Mustang lose his cool.

Ed decided to revel in this fact a moment more before looking at his unexpected gains. It was dated about a month ago, while he and Al had still been away in Lior.

It took me fourteen years to understand what my mother meant back then, about how my father only forced me to bend to his will out of a desire to keep me safe. I was away when he fell during battle, of course, and I can still remember how openly I complained when he assigned me the task of reporting back to Central instead of allowing me to fight. I can't forget - no matter how much I thought I disliked my father - that pained expression on his face the eve of his death, when I told him just how much I hated him and the exact degrees of torture that I hoped awaited him in hell.

And he bore it all, without his usual harsh words and promises of imminent violence, but rather with that fleeting expression of agony then a sad smile. Then he died that same evening, which was awful since I'd been so rude and it really looked bad on my reputation as a 'nice guy'.

But also... Well, I suppose it won't kill me to admit that I was wrong, and that he really did have my best interests at heart. It's a father's duty to protect his children, a commanding officer's duty to protect his men, a friend's duty to protect another friend... No, it's any human being's duty to protect someone they care about. Sometimes it requires cunning and secrecy, sometimes it requires a distance - pushing someone away whom you'd ordinarily wouldn't want to leave your side - sometimes it even requires the barest ghost of a lie or an omission of the truth.

Sometimes even I just have to smirk and bear it when someone I wish to defend calls me a bastard, or informs me whole-heartedly that there are sadists out there who have more humanity than I. Sometimes I just have to brush it off when my subordinates call me lazy and bully me into doing paperwork down the barrel of a gun. It's hard to bear, though, when the people I clearly care about enough to protect without reservation accuse me of thinking only about myself.

My mother told me that if I ever got into trouble in the military, I could always go running to my father for protection. That even if it seemed like he was only hiding things from me, he was doing it for my own good. And so I stubbornly pushed my way through the army without his help, determined to do everything on my own out of spite. Even accused him of trying to steal all of the military glory for himself that night he died, instead of realizing the exact opposite, that he was only trying to spare my life.

No matter how rude or hostile I was towards him, he still protected me. I'm starting to understand how his mind worked, now. I'm starting to understand - finally - what Mom meant when she came to my door that day.

I suppose I wouldn't have realized it at all if it hadn't been for a certain vertically-challenged blonde major with an even shorter temper.

There will probably come a time when he'll tell me - in that frank, boisterous tone of his - just how much he hates me, and exactly what sort of bastard I am. And I'll have to smile and play along - toss out a jab about his height, perhaps, or assign him to an unequivocally boring task - though I imagine I'll be feeling that same sort of pain my father felt.

I'll surpass him, though - I won't let it show on my face.

Ed stopped, blinked for a moment, as though adjusting to sudden sunlight after being caged in the dark. He didn't know what to think. There was no way in hell that bastard colonel was trying to protect he and Al - it was unfathomable. Utterly unfathomable. Better to tell him that with proper training, you could transmute a park bench into an elephant. He'd be more likely to believe it.

Feeling slightly as though he was going to be physically ill, Edward chanced a glance over at Mustang. He was lounging in front of the fire, purposefully facing the opposite direction, feigning sleep. The blonde took a seat next to him and frowned thoughtfully to himself for a few minutes before finally venturing to break the silence with a hesitant "...Taisa?".

A dark eye creaked open at him slowly."Yes...?"

"...Who's so 'vertically challenged' that you've gotta guard them from the cold virus?"

Both eyes open, and now a slow smile."Is that all?"

"And I'll never tell you that a special seat waits for you in hell. I don't believe in hell. And a firebug like you would probably enjoy it too much for my tastes, anyway."

Mustang got to his feet."How...magnanimous of you, Fullmetal,"he said sarcastically, then smirked like his old self again."Since you're feeling so generous, then you certainly won't mind if I use the shower first, no?"

He started for the hall, but Ed managed to get to his knees and grab the older man's arm."W-Wait, taisa!"

"Hmmm?"And the man wasn't SMIRKING anymore, he just looked patiently curious. Ed cast around in his head for words.

"This - This - "He waved the journal around."E-Equivalent trade. S-Something for..."The teen swallowed hard."I-I didn't get you anything for Christmas..."

"Oh? Was that it? I said it wasn't a Christmas gift, rather, an early birthday present..."The colonel smiled then, a real smile."Still, if you're going to be so insistent about the whole thing..."He rumaged around in a desk for a moment, then produced a bright red Christmas bow, which he jovially clapped on top of Edward's head."There, that should do it."

"H-Hunh?"The flabbergasted teen could only gape at him.

"That's my Christmas present,"Mustang said slowly, as though he were speaking to the mentally challenged."Didn't anyone ever tell you? That my dream gift always HAS been a nearly nude blonde beauty kneeling in front of me covered in jam."

Ed backed away hastily into a nearby chair."Damn!"he cursed, knowing that he was blushing but still hoping against hope he wasn't."Go take a shower, you pervy taisa. A COLD one."

The man smirked and waved flippantly over his shoulder as he left, but left he did. Edward supposed that asking anything else of him would have been too much. After all, he'd seen a bit too much of the man's soul already. He was still trying to cope with the fact that the colonel actually HAD a soul to begin with.

Still...

"Y-You know, uh..."

Mustang turned around, looking amused but faintly exasperated."What is it this time, Fullmetal?"

And at the man's familiar tone, Ed found himself slipping back into their old routine. There was a certain comfort in it."Nothing much, just..."

"Merry Christmas, Colonel Bastard."

"And the same to you, Fullmetal,"Mustang replied, then found he couldn't resist."Though next year, you'll want to try dipping yourself in chocolate before you offer yourself to me; I rather dislike strawberries..."

Ed howled and kicked another potted plant into the fire, which was a shame.

Mustang had had big plans for that mistletoe.

There still were a couple days left of Christmas, after all.

-Owari-(OMFG FINALLY)

AN-::sighs:: At last, THE END!(If anyone pesters me for another chapter, I will kill them. Seriously.) Now, I shall address some recent reviews! If I miss you, gomen! I'm doing the ones for chapter 6 only.
To Samurai Angel:I am sad that the epilogue was not as interesting as you anticipated.::kills self::
To Night-Owl123:Yes, I have updated. Obviously. ::laugh::
To Amy Yuy:OMFG, GET SEX OUT OF YOUR HEAD! I am never telling you about anything I am writing again. You sex fiend. Go marry Eleanor. ::growl:: And no, being covered in jam doesn't necessarily lead to sex. Just to prove that point, I'm gonna go downstairs and bury myself in Smuckers. And not have sex with anything.
To ArrowSphere:Thanks for letting me know that I have skill when it comes to writing about grown men getting into scuffles with little boys. ::giggle:: And I tried to pay Funimation to have something like that happen in FMA, but they called security as soon as I stepped in the door. They must've read my old (and now deleted due to their worth as utter crap) Yu-Gi-Oh! fics, LoL.
To Heika:I love you. Thank you for your awesome praise. Though to tell you the truth, a lot of this story ended up differently then when I originally wrote the plot layout for it. Who'da thunk it? You don't mind my slightly sappy ending? That's great to know. I was sort of worried about how readers were going to react to it. Hooray!
To Pickles:Yes, I also like feel-good stories. As long as the characters are in character. Which they probably aren't in this. ::sigh:: But still! Domo for your praise!
To Crimson-Vision:Uh, red bubbles goodyness is a GOOD thing, right? ::shakes you:: Are you all right? Don't die on me, please. I need all the dedicated readers I can get. And no, there was no need to point a gun at my head in order to get me to update. I'm not ROY, for God's sake. ::gets toasted:: Oww...
To Karin: ::dodges the uber-love beams:: Sorry, I don't like getting zapped with anything...no matter how pure your intentions were. Though I must confess, 'cute' wasn't the angle I was going for with this fic. I guess gut-busting hilarious was too much to ask for, hunh? Ha ha.
To Sakura Star:I know I spelled your name wrong, but I can't put that certain character in your penname in fanfiction because MWord is gay. Or is gay. Or their combined bisexuality makes them a gay unit. ::shrugs:: Wow, a lot of things to address with your review. First, thanks for the hug and the love. I love all of you guys, too. It's also nice to know that you like the humor of my ficcy, because I wasn't sure if it was funny or just plain obnoxious. These things concern me from time to time. Be careful not to laugh and sneeze at the same time, or you'll explode. (Or is that fart and sneeze? I dunno.) Um, as for where I get my inspiration? Ah...I dunno. Too much soda. Bad sleeping habits. I don't really recommend it. Still, if you're lacking in inspiration for a fic sometime, drop me a line and I'll see what I can do. ::smile:: It's okay if you're not a shounen-ai fan. I don't even count this story as real shounen-ai, so ha! Though I do recommend reading warnings. They can save you from potential brain death. Domo for putting me on your favs list! In return I give you...THE EPILOGUE! ::grin:: As previously asked for.
To hihirraag:OMFG, I updated! There! Ha ha, your name looks sorta like Hiliary Haag, the voice actress for Rosette from Chrono Crusade. ::giggles stupidly at this random fact::
To Kiharu-sama:You know, I really meant to put Al in here somewhere. He was gonna show up at the end or something...but I never got around to it. Instead, we'll entertain ourselves by imagining everyone in Roy's military branch horribly exaggerating Ed's escapades while Al was away... Yes, that's much better than me actually WRITING it, since I would fsck it up royally. And yes, Ed's luck is shitty. Which ties in with my GIANT FANFICTION PROJECT I'm working on right now.

Which I will talk about now. If anyone cares, I'll be coming out with a giant fanfiction project in a few weeks. (First I must finish HICB, my FF8 story, lest my fans from that fandom murder me with bedsheets and bubble-blowing guns.) It's a really dark story, not at all like this. But if that doesn't scare you, then feel free to check it out! I like it when fans read a whole bunch of my works. Makes me smile. ::smiles:: Still, at last this is done! ::cries with relief:: I hope you enjoyed this l'il fic-o. I sort of enjoyed writing 've done a better job. ::is shot for the last time:: Ja.
-tiger-