Title: Tags

Author: Ren

Disclaimer: FMA doesn't belong to me. Duh.

Warnings: None, really. Corny-ness. Bad writing. The usual.

Author's Note: I apologize for the bad writing. In advance. See? It's up in the warnings and everything. If that's not an apology, I don't know what is.


When Roy was sent to fight in the Ishbal conflict, he was only given a few things: a sleeping roll and some advice as to how to keep in good health. A pretty rock. A wave. A set of dog tags. And maybe one or two other doodads along the way, but those were the things Roy remembered having received. With the exception of the wave and the tags, all of those things had come in handy at one point or another. Strangely, though, the only thing Roy kept with him after the Ishbal conflict were the dog tags -- the most useless of the things in the lot.

Not only had Roy kept the tags, but he still wore them occasionally, mostly to remind himself of the weight the tags bore and the history by which they were accompanied. It was appropriate, he thought; none of the other things he had received in the conflict would have been capable of possessing so much of a burden. He imagined that he walked with a heavier step when he wore the tags and that he was a little more somber when they hung around his neck, hidden under his uniform. Perhaps he did, too, -- it was difficult to tell -- but Roy put so much significance on those tags that he was certain they did something. They had survived the war at a price, just as he had, so of course they had to have some sort of significance aside from their rather questionable intrinsic value.

He had somehow, over the course of the day, forgotten that he was wearing them. That was certainly unusual, since he was in the habit of fingering the tags through his uniform when no one was keeping a close eye on him, and it bothered him. To have forgotten something he considered so significant... What did that mean? Roy started to put the tags back under his uniform jacket and frowned as he saw Edward's gaze settle on the tags. Roy tried to start their conversation up again, but it was too late. The talk had died; Edward's interest was peaked.

Edward reached over and fingered the tags with his flesh hand. The young alchemist had taken off his gloves for one reason or another about an hour before, and his fingers against the tags looked fragile and unscarred -- a great deal different from the rest of the alchemist's body.

"Ishbal?" Edward asked.

Roy hesitated a moment and then nodded. "Yes."

"Mmm." Edward gestured at the chain hanging around Roy's neck. "May I?"

Roy shrugged.

Edward took Roy's lack of a vocal response as permission and reached with both hands to take the chain from around Roy's neck so as to examine the tags more closely. Roy let him, even bowing his head so Edward could reach and take them away. Metal glinted in metal for a moment as Edward brought the tags down to his level.

Edward's fingers traced the numbers and letters on the tag, looking over the grooves and notches with a practiced and curious eye. Roy watched him and wondered if they felt as heavy in Edward's hands as they did around Roy's neck. He almost took them away -- letting Edward touch the dog tags and examine them brought the pain and history of the tags (and, really, Roy himself) far too close to the boy's inquiring eyes and face -- but he stopped himself from actually grabbing them back. It would be better if he simply let Edward explore the cruelty of the world as he would, even if it were as simple an act as analyzing a set of dog tags and making up a past for them. It wasn't his responsibility to protect the teenager from anything life could throw at him, after all, and the threat of another conflict like Ishbal loomed ever-present on the horizon. Edward had to understand what that meant, and, if he could somehow sense the weight of those tags, he would. He had to feel the weight, Roy reasoned. Edward, after all, was a prodigy. Roy had no business trying to hold him back.

After a long moment, Edward raised the tags to his mouth and bit one of the metallic rectangles thoughtfully. He made a face and took the tags from between his teeth. Roy wondered what had compelled Edward to taste the things. And what did they taste like? Roy chewed his lower lip. Metal, probably. And salty. Like blood. All tastes with which Edward, like it or not, would be already be familiar.

Maybe Edward didn't need any silly thing like dog tags to help him understand and recognize the trials of the world after all, Roy mused. He already had quite a weight on his shoulders -- literally -- as it was.

A few more minutes of critical analysis passed before Edward made a face and handed the tags back to Roy. "I hope you don't think those things make you some kind of martyr or anything," he said, and smiled a little.

Roy returned the smile despite himself. He put the tags back around his neck and hid them under his uniform once again.

"Of course not," he replied smoothly.

The weight was gone.