Henrika-Wow! Thanks for all those happy reviewers who actually wanted more of this! Also thanks to anyone who's been reading my proliferation of one shots, you guys are awesome! Thank you!
One hour later saw a tentative knock on Mustang's office door. Hawkeye walked over and opened it while Mustang observed the figure beyond. He noticed how the red cloak hung more than usual on the small frame, concealing the weight loss unless you knew how it originally fit. "Sit."
Ed dropped onto the couch as Hawkeye returned to Roy's side. "A mission up north you said?" Ed started casually.
"Yes. I assume you found your brother?"
"Yeah, out rescuing kittens again."
"Ah." Mustang shifted so he could better look at the boy, steepling his fingers as he leaned forward on his desk. "Now that that's out of the way, explain why you were at the firing range this afternoon when you had no reason to be. " Silence fell as Ed hemmed and hawed. "You should have been able to come up with a plausible explanation within an hour Full Metal."
"What do you expect? I was practicing my aim." Ed snapped.
"Why? You yourself said that you don't need a weapon."
"Winry's thinking of installing a gun in the auto-mail." He tried.
"That's not all of it, is it?" Mustang suggested softly. Ed shook his head, frustration crossing over his features. Roy could almost see the question 'how does he do that?' before Ed responded.
"I'm not invincible. Neither is Al. Or anyone for that matter." He sighed. "We're human. But I…I can't."
"Edward?" Hawkeye spoke for the first time.
"I can't afford to be human." He buried his face in his gloved auto-mail hand. "I can't afford to die because I don't know what would happen to Al. I can't be human because I have to be the military's weapon so I have a chance to save him. I…" He shuddered and fell silent. "I have to be the most efficient weapon so I can survive, even if it means at the expense of others." Mustang looked up and caught the slight mist in Hawkeye's eyes at the boy's absolute realization of what he was.
"Edward." He started when the boy had regained some of his composure. Mustang stopped for a moment, considering something. "Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Tea?" The boy looked up at him strangely and even Hawkeye seemed confused by the sudden shift in conversation.
"Uh." Ed's voice cracked slightly, but he hid it well. "Tea, if you have it."
"Would you mind Hawkeye? Coffee for me. And bring the sugar."
Riza nodded in surprise as she caught the ulterior motive in the Colonel's eyes and stepped out of the room. Mustang picked up a file from his desk and tossed it at the blonde. "Your next mission. You'll be investigating the mine resources at Koterim. They've hit a rather suspicious vein of silver and we need to see if it was created." Roy explained as Ed leafed through the file.
Roy was somewhat pleased with himself when the word came solidly out of the boy's mouth. Hawkeye thumped lightly on the door so she didn't startle them and carried in a tray with three mugs and two small bowls.
"Sugar Edward?" Hawkeye asked, though she was looking at Mustang. Ed gave an affirmative and the woman carefully mixed the white crystals into the steaming cup. "Here."
"Thank you." He took a sip, wincing at the taste. "What kind of tea is this?"
"Oh, sorry. It's a bitter blend." She took the mug back and added sugar, though this time it was from the other bowl. Mustang had started sipping at his mug, giving praise to the wonders of caffeine. Hawkeye took her own mug, already prepared, and sat on the couch opposite Ed. A companionable silence fell over the office, each person lost in their own thoughts, occasionally taking a sip of warm liquid.
Eventually, the mugs lay empty. Ed gathered together the pieces of his scattered file, setting his up on the table. "Thank you for the tea First Lieutenant." He rose, turning to Mustang. "I'll deliver my report when I finish the investigation."
"Alright. Have a good trip Edward." The boy started for the door and Mustang had to give him credit, he made it halfway to the exit before his knees failed, one landing more heavily than the other. Edward tried to push himself up, supporting his weight on the auto-mail, but this time his arms buckled up. Mustang got up and went to Ed's side, letting him fall back against his legs. Ed looked up at the man through bleary eyes, then around the blue cloth to the innocent-looking ceramic mug.
"You?" The golden eyes tried to level a glare at Mustang, who nodded, but the mix of gratefulness and the fact that the look was upside-down defeated the purpose.
"You needed it." Mustang said simply. Ed nodded, leaning back and closing his eyes. Mustang hefted the small frame onto the couch, setting the file back on the table. "How much did you give him?"
"A good night's sleep worth. That's why he noticed at first."
Mustang smiled. "That stuff is bitter." He made a face at the small bowl beside the sugar, remembering that he had often not placed the taste until it was too late. Maes, now Riza, would conspire against him occasionally to make him rest. Roy tucked Ed's cloak in around him, the boy's chest rising and falling smoothly, his face peacefully blank. Roy had been grateful more than once that the powder granted a dreamless sleep.
"Did you…?" Mustang started, but Riza cut him off.
"I sent Fury out to look for Alphonse. He should be back with him soon."
"Thank you." The Flame Alchemist sat down on the arm of the couch, idly running his hand over the blonde head. "Hard to believe this is the famed Full Metal Alchemist." Hawkeye stifled a snicker. "What?"
"I've thought the very same thing when you've started drooling after you've fallen asleep on your paperwork." She smiled.
"Hmmph." A quiet noise filtered into their ears.
"Sounds like Alphonse brought a stray along with him. Riza said, but a good amount of time passed and the bound soul didn't enter the room. The pair started looking for the source and Mustang finally traced it back to the body under his hand.
"He's…purring?" Mustang muttered incredulously.
Riza actually grinned. "I guess he's comfortable." Roy looked scandalized. "You know, Edward is a lot like a cat." She mused.
"How so?" The dark-haired man returned to his petting, fascinated by the contented sound coming from the boy's throat.
"Well for one, he's purring." Mustang gave her a look that clearly said 'Duh.' "He's wary of new people, but he'll fiercely protect those who earn his trust. He's quick to get annoyed, especially about his height. He doesn't like people to get too involved with his quest because they might get hurt. So he's a bit reclusive, a loner almost. He's got a case of wanderlust that keeps him going along with…" She paused, thinking about the boy's earlier admittance. "An overdeveloped drive to survive. He hates to accept help, yet he refuses to give up, no matter what." There was silence for a moment.
"Ah." Mustang said. "A dog of the military and he's a cat. He does love to be a contradiction." Riza nodded.
They both turned to the door when they heard a familiar clanking noise. "Colonel Mustang?" The young, tinny voice asked from outside the door.
"Come in Alphonse." Mustang quickly stood, noticing with surprise that the purring sputtered out when he removed his hand.
"Relax. He just fell asleep." He exchanged a look with Hawkeye With a little help. "We were wondering if you'd mind taking your brother back to your room. The train leaves tomorrow afternoon for his next mission and he obviously needs the rest."
The boy nodded. "Thank you for looking after him." Alphonse said, carefully putting the mission file in his brother's coat before he scooped him up. Ed gave a soft sigh as he settled down against the cool armor.
"Not a problem Alphonse. Have a good evening." Hawkeye walked him to the doors, opening the second one so Al could easily move through them.
"You too." Al said. "I'm sure Brother would say the same."
"Goodnight Al." Mustang said. The younger brother clanked of, his elder brother tucked safely against his chest.
"He seemed pretty human to me jus then." Roy commented after his first lieutenant shut the door. "Both of them."
Riza nodded. "He's not an innocent child anymore, yet I still feel like protecting him."
"I think we all do. Even Hughes…" Roy stopped, quickly changing track. "They'll survive and I'm sure Ed will succeed, no matter what we do to help or hinder him. He going to fight…eventually kill someone with his bare hands and he'll still be more human with half a body of metal than most people are in a lifetime."
Riza absorbed that and realized something, almost laughing at the simplicity. "I think I know why Ed was really in the firing range." She said. Roy looked at her askance. "His goal is to fix their bodies and if his aim is off by the slightest bit, he's afraid he'll fail his brother."
Roy muttered slightly in disbelief. "Trust Ed to rationalize his focus down to a shooting target."
"Is burning your way to the top any different?" Roy froze. Thought about it.
"No. Not a bit of difference. Humans are alike after all. And despite the past…" Ishbal passed through both their minds. "We're still human, so we keep moving forward." He started to move closer to the woman.
"We keep living." Riza said resolutely, also stepping closer, until there were only a few inches separating the two.
"And we'll reach our goals." Roy Mustang reached forward, claiming one of his goals with his lips. And we will succeed. All of us.
Henrika-Well? Was it what you thought, or hoped? Give me a review and I'll see you guys next fic!