Needless to say he'd been quite curious as to Full Metal's latest behavior streak of covering or hiding his face every time he gave reports. But he was shocked beyond all taunts when he was first approached by Hawkeye around mid day and then again with a sulking Edward escorted by said bird and promptly thrown on his couch. The only words to Edward's red face 'you will talk to him or else' before she and her scarily authoritative cloud of aura left the room, the thunder of the door signaling the end of the storm.
He blinked after her, pen still in his confused hand. Turning to the stump on his favorite piece of furniture, after his chair, that is, he spoke in a bewildered tone. "Full Metal, what was that all about? Or what is this?" His smile was bordering on tolerant.
The mumble that emerged from his turned and hair hidden face was indistinct, though Roy suspected it had very close familial ties to 'nothing'. "I think I'll have to disagree, Full Metal. Hawkeye isn't one to threaten over 'nothing'," he said smoothly.
Admittedly, he was waiting for the short-legged quick-tongued boy to throw it back at him; the boy present during many of the circumstances where this same argument had been used against his self. When still nothing came out, Roy called him on rubbing at his face with a sleeve covered hand. "Come to think of it, Full Metal, you've been hiding your face whenever you're near me. And now you're rubbing at it." The smile was quickly evolving into a smirk, taunt ripe in his mouth and ready to be birthed from experienced lips. "Don't tell me your-"
"I said it's nothing!" the annoyed yell came, the boy throwing a quick glare before completely turning his back and crossing his arms in a huff.
Okay, now Roy's patience was officially gone and he had work to get done. And if he didn't, Hawkeye would be on his back, and there was no way he was going to let the brat beat him twice today. "Then get out."
Ed jumped at the tone and turned, carefully scouting before completely looking over his shoulder. The colonel was back to signing papers, severe irritation knotting his brow. He moved to sit properly on the couch, guilty, knowing he was being difficult. His hands clutched in front of him, cheeks pink in embarrassment and covered by hair as he bowed his head. "I…it really isn't anything," he mumbled. "Just a…personal problem."
The colonel didn't look up, and Ed sunk his head back down, jerking it back to him as the low tone colored surprisingly with concern reached him from the downward position of the colonel's head. "It becomes something more than personal when it affects your duties and every day life, Edward." He scribbled some more, flipping to another page and scribbled again. The document was straightened out and moved aside to another stack before Roy had bestowed so much direct attention on him again, pen in its ink well and hands folded upon the desk. "Are you alright?"
Ed jerked away in reflexive defense, blushing brightly. "It…won't stop growing! No matter how many times I take care of it! Every few days it's the same thing!"
Roy's mind came to a crashing, ugly, dirty halt. Was Full Metal talking about what he thought he was talking about? He blinked at the boy facing away on his couch. No way in hell the boy was coming to him with those kinds of problems. And no way would he ever tell Hawkeye… As well as he knew Edward, that was the point really, he was certain the boy would lack the gall to talk to anyone about those matters, especially not a woman. That couldn't be it and he was genuinely stumped. He bequeathed a series of rapid blinks, hoping to squeeze out some inkling of what the boy was talking about.
Ed whipped around and brought up an angry finger to point at his chin, almost stabbing it in his frustration. "This!" Roy's eyebrows drew together in a 'what the fuck did you get into this morning and stay away from it in the future' look. Further exasperated by the colonel's dimwittedness, the other hand joined in, contributing a finger to join in at poking his face.
"Full Metal, I don't see anything but flushed cheeks and-" he was cut off as Edward stormed over to his desk, jamming his midsection into the edge and leaning over as far as he could, offering another emphatic shove of fingers towards his face.
Roy bent in closer, looking for whatever was the source of the boy's ire before a shift in the leaves outside let a branch of light sweep across Full Metal's face. And promptly fell back in his seat, arms landing on their elbows and still folded hands hanging in the air before him as he proceeded to bellow at the outstanding hilarity of it all. Edward was not amused and his perturbed face said it all, hands slowly falling away.
"Why, Full Metal," he laughed, struggling to breathe in his utter amusement, "you're this upset over fuzz?" Another deep and very loud laugh punctuated both his glee and Ed's complete humiliation. "Why I've seen more substance on one of Alphonse's rain-drowned strays!"
"I knew this wouldn't help," he mumbled in dire shame and turned away, Mustang's painful laughter already subsiding into small quieting bursts.
"Aaa!" he laughed-sighed, wiping at his eyes with a thumb and forefinger. "And here you had me worried." Another laughter laced sigh. Ed stopped at that comment, hesitantly facing that annoyance of a commanding officer. "Tell me," Roy began again, attempting to calm himself so as not to further incriminate the child, "what exactly have you done to 'take care' of it?"
"Um, well, you know," he stumbled, stuck in that mumble he had when uncertain. "Like…shaving it off."
Roy's smirk was actually warm, not at all mocking. "Then what's the problem? You're doing what thousands of men do everyday. For someone so concerned about being taken as a child, you're complaining about a characteristic of manhood?" Here that smirk turned to something more familiar.
"No!" He blew out, arms locking at his sides. "It's just that…it keeps coming back," the first finger of flesh came up to scratch characteristically at the corner of his lips.
Roy emitted another chuckle. "Well, yes, hair does do that."
Ed spun and fixed Roy's smiling face with a classic offensive stance. "I know that!" His stiff shoulders slowly eased, eyes flashing glances at Roy's. "I just didn't think it would do so that often."
Roy's smile slipped and a sigh escaped. "Given that your father is Hohenheim, Full Metal, I'm afraid it's only going to get worse from here."
Ed blinked large eyes at him, unsure of what he meant by that, if he should take it as a slight or a straight forward forewarning. "What-what do you mean?"
A head was cocked and the question put forth. "Have you ever seen your father's face? The beard he has?" At the quiet 'oh', Roy smiled in something not quite sympathy, not quiet envy. "You have many long days of shaving ahead of you, Edward."
"But I don't want them. It hurts too much."
Again Roy blinked, stunned. "Hurts? What are you doing?"
"Just running the blade over it. Scraping it all off," he said a tad defensively, mouth quirked downward. "How else am I supposed to keep it smooth?"
"That's the right method, but-"
"How do you do it?"
"How do you do it, Colonel?" his excited voice eager, yearning for even the smallest of knowledge as any alchemist, any true scientist would. "How do you keep your face so smooth without looking like it gets hacked to pieces like a transmutation gone wrong?"
"Well," he began, pulling his laced fingers a bit tighter and pushing back into the chair, giving himself some time. The suspicious envy-like feeling was gnawing at his stomach again. "First, I use the right tools." A nod from Edward here. "Second, I take my time at it. Rushing is a good way to reach that bad transmutation." A slight grimace from the boy there. "And thirdly, I don't have to do it all that often." One hell of a confused look here.
"What? How come? I thought all men had to shave everyday!" The fists landing on his desk close to a slam.
"Are you angry about that or is it something else?"
"Er, no. I guess I'm just confused." At least he had the grace to give an embarrassed laugh. Roy nodded. "How often do you shave, then?" he interrupted, his curiosity and child-like nature lending the atmosphere of his true years to him.
"Twice a week, if that."
"Genetics." There, he'd said it. As simple as that. Simple and as damned as that.
"Because you were born the son of someone with respectable facial hair and I was not."
Ed stared at Roy, detecting something in the man's tone and not knowing how to address it. When Roy could no longer hold the look he broke his pose, sitting up and shifting to gather the next several documents from the 'to review and sign' pile. He flipped through a few pages and arranged them, his right retrieving the pen from its well. Dabbing the excess from the tip, he dipped his nose and face into work. Ed pulled away, suddenly feeling unwanted and intruding. He anxiously pulled his hands away from getting any closer to each other and nervously made towards the door.
Roy spoke up as he felt Ed pass the couch and approach the door, again not looking up. "Stop by after work, Full Metal, and I'll show you what you need."
Ed smiled. The relief at not having upset the colonel and being pushed away going unnoticed as the colonel kept to his papers. He nodded and gave a nonverbal acknowledgement, swinging open and closing the door as he passed and waving at Hawkeye on his way out, the gentle smile from the woman serving to broaden his and further brighten his mood.
He would be back come early evening.
"Ah, Edward," Riza smiled as he came into the office. "Isn't it a bit late to be here?"
Ed's finger scratched at his mouth, cheeks coloring a bit at the knowing look in her features. "Uh, yeah, eheh. The colonel just wanted me to check back with him…"
"Oh, I see." And Ed knew she did. Her smile widened before disappearing, face stern as Roy came through his door. She pretended to finish signing some last minute documents, courtesy of a certain procrastinator, as he came to a stop beside her desk.
"Full Metal and I are going to make a run down town," he said, pulling on his overcoat and looking down at her. She put the newly signed paper in the proper pile and looked up into his eyes briefly before attending to the one under that. He lingered on her form longer before stepping away. Pausing in the doorway, Full Metal belatedly spinning around ahead of him, he turned to face Hawkeye again, hands playing with the coat collar. "And go home, Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir," she responded, ever expectantly and respectable. And it was only after she'd finished the current document and that the door closed behind him that she allowed the smile she'd been controlling to come out.
Ed was walking at a slower gait than the colonel, hands above his head in boredom as he trailed behind. "Hey, are we gonna walk around all day or what?" he complained, voice and breath released in an exasperated wheeze. "Seems like a scheme to get outta more work, to me. Don't you do anything besides put things off?"
Roy paid the boy little attention and instead removed his gaze from the sign above and faced the door. Pulling it open, he motioned for Ed to go through ahead of him. "Don't you ever shut up?"
Edward merely stuck out his tongue and glared in passing. Stepping into the shop had been somewhat of a shock to him, though not unpleasant. Truthfully, it was rather enjoyable. There were many shiny things, and a case of such objects currently held his attention and beckoned him to it. But besides all the pretty and new metals caging his sight, there was this most agreeable scent in the air. Not hunger-inducing or flowery or overpowering, just manly and it had the most interestingly soothing affect on his nerves and attitude. So much so that he felt no embarrassment at all with his hands and nose pressed to the glass as they were, even with the beckoning of the colonel over to him. He 'un-suctioned' himself from the case and walked over to the front counter, briefly meeting the colonel's eyes before both sets landed on the item hefted in a large gloved hand.
"First, we start with the right tools, hmm?" Ed could only nod, looking at the blade that seemed to gleam a little too happily. He was not liking the prospect of putting that arrogant piece of shrapnel to his precious face. Roy, on the other hand, had given a scrutinizing series of looks between his face and the blade in hand. Deciding something, he put the blade down among what Ed suddenly noticed to be a whole assembly of straight blades lining the countertop.
Roy looked away from Full Metal's face to the blade one last time before turning to the shop keeper. "Do you have anything…," here he gave a vague gesture, searching for words, "shorter?"
"What? Who's so small they have more pubic hair than facial?"
He let his eyes fall closed at the outburst, having completely forgotten about Full Metal's…problem. "I didn't say anything of the sort, nor did I mean to imply it," he spoke sideways at Full Metal, trying to prevent the boy from letting loose some of the steam clearly building up behind such red features. "I just thought that a blade more the size of your face would help you from chopping it to bits."
"Oh." Boy, had he simmered down quick. Paranoid brat.
He thanked the shop keeper then picked out a small round brush, a whipping dish, and a small towel. He paused and shifted only enough to address Edward. "Now, Full Metal," he began, emphasizing with a finger. "The most important thing is to choose a good cream. Got it?" At a wide-eyed attentive nod, he continued.
"You're looking for something that smells fresh. Anything that's heavily perfumed, stay away from. You don't know what they're trying to cover up with all that crap." Another nod, though it was obvious the boy's attention was wandering with how his eyes were half lidded. Roy slanted his eyes but let it go. "Color's not really an issue and it depends on what it's made with. You can use almost anything; those with moisturizers or not, just as long as you don't have any allergies to complicate your already frustratingly troublesome self."
"Hey," he growled out, "that last bit was unnecessary!"
Roy smirked, disagreeing. "Not at all. Now I know you were paying attention." Another growl and arms were crossed. "Now for the final step." He signaled for Full Metal to follow him with a finger. They crossed the short distance to the shelf to the left of the case where Ed's face had left an impression. Standing off to the side with his back to it, Roy watched as Ed stared at him, removing a hand from their clasped position to briefly sweep it in front of the cabinet behind him. "Aftershave."
Roy was never so severely disappointed than he was in Ed's ignorance of the grand finale to the ritual. "Cologne, Full Metal."
"What?" Ed gasped, a flash of rage bursting through him as the remembrance of his father's cologne in their house did through his mind and nostrils. "I don't need such a pointless thing as that!" He huffed, hunching over.
Roy sighed, immediately giving in. "You're right. It's completely ridiculous for a child with something that's not even fuzz to be dealing with." He moved past the boy and back to the cashier. "You can worry about it in a few years."
"Fine! Alright, alright!" He gazed at the cabinet as Roy did at his back from the counter. His hand was at his mouth in thought, confusion pushing his eyebrows together and pulling on his lips. "Which one," he mumbled to himself, totally lost. "Which one?" He asked louder.
"What?" Roy's voice carried from across the floor.
"Which one do you use?"
His eyebrow rose. That was certainly unexpected. "Just a moment," he said to the older man who nodded in understanding and walked back over to Ed. Glancing over the shelves' contents, he reached out a hand a lifted up a bottle. "This one," he said, showing it to Ed. "Though, you should probably pick something else." He really didn't think this one was for Ed, as warmed as he was at the boy asking.
"But I don't know what else to pick."
Roy's eyes snapped shut and a small smile graced his lips. He let the bottle fall back onto the shelf and straightened alongside Ed. "Well, just open each one and see if you like how they smell." He watched as the boy moved to do just that on the nearest container. "And make sure you rub a bit on your arm when testing."
Ed shot him a momentary glance before rubbing in a drop. Bringing the arm up to his nose, he looked up at Roy and asked, "Why?"
"So you know what it smells like on you," he smiled down at him.
"Oh," he responded a bit absently, already moving on to the next one. It was only a few more minutes until Ed had gone through them all, finally deciding on one. Brining it over to where Roy now stood back at the counter, he placed it with the other items and glanced up at the taller man, just observing before placing his attention on the man behind the counter who tallied everything and began wrapping them. But Ed could only look up at Roy again as he offered, demanded in colonel fashion, really, to pay, feeling so small and such a child. This time it was not a bad feeling at all, and while no smile pleaded to come forth as he thought, Ed realized that he was no longer embarrassed or upset at the situation at all, at such treatment in this circumstance. He couldn't identify exactly what it was he was feeling towards the older man, but he wasn't opposed to whatever it was, either.
He was so busy focusing on his thoughts and what was changing, or trying to pinpoint what already had, that he missed the tiny smile given down to him, only looking up at the voice to see the familiar mask. And once again, there was something different in the colonel's voice, something detectable in the almost normal tone, something that was not quite hidden. He responded with a wordless noise and followed the taller man out the door and down the sidewalk.
He stared up at the colonel from the corners of his eyes and out from under the arms that were once again crossed behind his head. His eyes darted to the small brown bag cradled in the colonel's left arm and back to the not-quite-mask expression on the other's face. The corner of his lips was lifted ever-so-slightly, tinting the ever-present smirk with something warmer. Ed was extremely confused.
He had let everything go, too tired to try thinking anymore and simply let autonomy take over as he followed the colonel. A greeting and sharp movement in the form of a salute woke him and his eyes fluttered, refocusing on the new surroundings in time to see the colonel nod at the lesser officer. Back to HQ already, eh?
"Would you step it up a bit, Full Metal?" The colonel's arrogant voice came back to him. "I'd like to get home before the sun sets completely, you know."
"Well, I don't know what you're waiting for!" he blew up. "It's not like had to walk me by the hand!" he snorted. "And I walk home a lot on my own. I don't need you to see me back to HQ… Why'd we come back here…exactly?"
"I have to show you how to use these tools properly, otherwise you'd have no face left and even less height to fret over." He merely smiled smugly at the desired reaction, the boy's heavy stomps telltale of his continued pursuit, thus ensuring a prolonging of this event. "C'mon, Full Metal," Roy summoned him into the men's bathroom.
Roy proceeded to remove everything they'd need from the bag and set them up along the sink, Ed watching. And the few glances Roy had thrown at him, with increasing apprehension. Roy only smiled. "Is it really that terrifying, Full Metal?"
Ed gulped. "Yeah."
Roy laughed in his throat, truly amused. "Let's get this going then." He removed his coats and told Full Metal it'd be safer if he removed any potentially distracting things, as well. Picking up the small ceramic bowl and cream and talking the boy closer, he showed him how to pour in the cream and whip it. Handing it and the round brush over to Ed, he told him to whip all of the bowl's contents while he ran back to his office for a minute.
He flew out of the bathroom and journeyed to his office at a light jog. Bursting through the outer office door brought him to a sudden skidding halt as he noticed Hawkeye still at her desk. His hand was still on the doorknob as the air blew against his shirt, pushing it back into its proper places as he met her wide startled eyes. His shoulders fell as he relaxed, offering lamely, "I, uh, just needed to grab something…" He nodded slowly to her and let his eyes trail from hers, heading into his office and quickly leaving once he'd retrieved his own blade.
"Like this," Roy said, using the white-coated brush and dabbing on the thick foam. "This is going to stimulate the skin and make the hairs stand on end, greatly reducing the chances of cutting," he explained, having started his chin and moving up the left side of the jaw line. "See?" And after Ed nodded, he handed it to the boy, watching on as Ed did the same.
Roy picked up his blade and flipped it open. "Now," he said, bringing the metal close to his face and giving Full Metal a warning look, "as you've noticed, these are very sharp. So handle them with extreme care." He looked away from Ed and into the mirror, setting the edge gently against his skin and scraping. "You want to follow the growth of the hair, Edward," he further instructed, looking down to wipe the blade off on a towel. "This is also to help reduce cuts and it prevents irritation." He did another scrape before turning back to the boy. "Got it?" A nod. "Then let me see you do it."
Ed set his face with firm determination, picking up his blade. He got as far as opening it and bringing it up, but the glint as it caught the bathroom light knocked away the dam retaining his nervousness. "There's no room for shaking hands, Edward. Remember that," came Roy's warning. And re-steadying his hand, Ed finally set the blade down, scooting it against his chin in a downward movement. He watched in fascination as a path was cleared through the cream, a slightly less pale swath framed by white.
Wiping the blade off on his little cloth, he smiled at the little hairs floating on foam and beamed up at Roy, overjoyed at having done it right. Roy gathered his things up and left some parting instructions and encouragement for the boy before swinging his coats over his shoulder and leaving.
He walked into his office area, somehow not surprised to see Hawkeye still where he'd left her two times now. Roy only smiled bemusedly and shook his head. He walked up close to her desk, setting his coats down on Breda's as he passed. "Lieutenant, lieutenant, lieutenant," he smiled in his smugly teasing way, it ending in a short laugh as she shot him a long-suffering expression. "I know I told you to go at least once."
"How did your little bonding experience go?" she ignored him, finishing the last of the stack and setting it aside at his choking noise.
"Uh, fine…but that's not what it was," he mumbled, slight color in his face.
"Hmm," she hummed knowingly. Standing, she leaned forward slightly. "And what was it, then, that required two State Alchemists to tackle and conveniently allow one to escape from duties already taxing enough to get him to attend to, anyway?" She fought the smile for only a second and instead tried to keep from laughing outright as he squirmed.
"I suppose it doesn't really matter," she said as a hand came up. "It's not like you wouldn't have found another excuse, anyway," she continued as her fingers slid along his cheek, hand cupping it. Her eyes moved over his face, noting the changes his features underwent; from uncomfortable, to surprise, to wary, to unreadable. "But I think in this case," her voice dropped, fingers curling around his jaw and drawing him forward, "it really is okay. And I've always loved…your…" she breathed between their lips before drawing him the rest of the way and pushing up against him.
It was only slightly awkward leaning over her desk like this, but no matter the initial shock, his instincts took over all too easily when dealing with females. He'd… He admitted it. There had been a number of times where he'd wanted to do this; to just kiss her, the stimuli random and the atmospheres so varied. His hand was still holding his razor and it rose uncertainly, eventually closing the distance to rest against her soft face. As their mouths continued to move on each other's, his free hand rose and wrapped around the back of her head, fingertips sinking into her hair.
"Ah, Colonel!" Ed poked his head around the frame embarrassedly, a finger at his mouth. "You didn't show me how to use the…after…shave," he trailed off, eyes going wide at that before him.
He blinked, mouth smacking shut. "Nevermind," he whispered to himself. And turning around, he headed back down the hall, deciding that if they were that absorbed as to not have heard him that he didn't need to risk detection and double execution. And besides, how hard could it be to apply cologne?
Not sure I like this ending… No updates are planned for this outside of omake, so…don't hold your breath.