Edward bows. Alphonse bows.
Until the General kicks one of them into the other, the dance doesn't begin.
The music starts and they are nervous and tentative, each trying to learn the others' moves without stepping on toes. They both turn to look at the General over their shoulder as they move about the dance floor.
The General just clasps his hands behind his back and looks the other way; in this he is the wallflower.
The only thing that he can do is make sure the phonograph stays cranked until they learn to dance.
Pinako Rockbell would make a damn fine Fuhrer.
With her granddaughter at her right hand, she would have made an impressive bid for global domination.
Roy would have supported her and volunteered for duty, hell he even would have written her an anthem, and he couldn't write.
She had swept into the house like a small hurricane and moved all before her. Alphonse had arrived only a bit before the Rockbell women and he hadn't been motionless since. There were boxes to carry in (the beleaguered cab driver had given the General quite the evil eye), and not just carried in, carted as if they were either pure gold or contained the most unstable and volatile explosives available. Alphonse's appearance was immediately addressed as well, he was too thin, he wasn't eating, his hair was too long, it needed clipping and what was he doing carrying in boxes when Mr. Mustang was perfectly capable of doing it? Alphonse was to escort them, post haste, to his brother, the brother he should be hovering over at this very moment. Then Roy was pointed to the boxes and left there to ponder them alone as the troop of the Rockbell-Elric brigade marched down the hall to their hapless victim, trapped immobile in the master bedroom.
The first shouts Roy heard were tinged with joy. He could tell young Ms. Rockbell's voice, high in excitement and tears, Ed's startled yelp of surprise and some indulgent chuckling from the elder Mrs. Rockbell. But then there were questioning tones, words Roy couldn't quite make out as he staggered under the weight of one box to the room Alphonse had picked out to be the Rockbell's temporary home. He was sure it was this room; it must be the room next to it, no wait… where had Alphonse hidden the furniture?
Then there was another yelp from Ed, but this one wasn't surprise at all. Young Ms. Rockbell's voice was high and shrill, with some loud thumping sounds that sounded like the headboard striking the wall (he was going to have the move the bed out a bit. Even though in his memories, Roy associated headboard thumping with good things, it might keep others in the house awake), Roy headed down to investigate and stuck his head in curiously. Young Ms. Rockbell had Edward by the bangs and was screaming in his face while maintaining the handhold. She said things about recklessness, carelessness and automail in such a rapid fire manner, that those were the only three words Roy could pick out. Then, to illustrate a point or just to emphasis her argument, she would thump Ed's head against the headboard.
Ed, on his part, was trying to defend himself by flailing with his only available limbs. Roy might have dashed to his rescue, but the young lady was just too frightening, so he hovered in the doorway and contemplated fleeing on his own. Then Ed saw him and flailed in his direction, trying to shift some of the blame on Roy himself, and perhaps save his own life.
"I told him," Ed got out before another smash into the head board, "to save the ones he took off of me," thump, "but I don't know what," thump thump, "he did with them!"
Neither Alphonse nor the elder Mrs. Rockbell looked the least bit concerned with the proceedings, so the General tried to keep himself schooled as well, but he still jumped a bit when the young Ms. Rockbell turned to look at him.
That might have been for other reasons as well…
"They are in the hall closet," the General said hurriedly and took a half step back, just in case, "I can get them if you would like to see them," he hurried ahead, "Ed told me to throw them away, actually," he added to get back at his lover for trying to get him thumped as well, (he was aware that misery loved company, but he had enough of his own without Ed's visiting) "but I saved them." The General nodded and smiled, because women liked him when he smiled, they tended to want to be nice to him then, and later on they wanted to touch him, which had never been bad in the past.
Ms. Rockbell subsided a bit and released Edward. He immediately flailed in the direction of the elder Mrs. Rockbell who went over for a hug. The insanity left for a moment as the elder woman patted his back and Edward pressed his face into her shoulder. She said soft things to him and everyone shifted a bit, looking the other way, but once she released him, the welcome home fled as if he'd never been gone and it was business as usual.
"I can't believe you, Ed," Winry Rockbell said, "but at least your money is as good as anybody else's. You're damn lucky I've been developing prototypes."
"I think you'll like the new designs, kid," Pinako Rockbell said, "we've made some modifications and Winry picked up a trick or two in Rush Valley studying with the mechanics there."
"Oh I don't need anything fancy, just make them like last time," Ed said with a wave of his only hand, "they worked well enough for just being the plain type."
Roy noted that Ed's good friends 'tactlessness' and 'oblivion' had shown up to be at his side in his time of need. He then noticed that young Ms. Rockbell seemed to be groping all about her waist for something. She was a very attractive girl and had a lovely waist, but then out of the corner of his eye he saw Alphonse take a step back and that made Roy a bit alarmed.
"Wrench," Alphonse muttered, "she doesn't realize she's not wearing her tool belt," and Alphonse did look a little concerned for his brother.
Ed noticed the motion too and his eyes got very large. "What did I say?!" he yelled, but it didn't help him, nor did his attempt to climb the headboard. Ms. Rockbell tensed up and seemed to gather herself, Edward just flopped into the pillows, whimpering and closing his eyes. Young Ms. Rockbell landed on him and grabbed him by his bangs again, but this time, mercifully, she was beating him into pillows. Roy thought that had been a clever move on Ed's part, all the same.
"PLAIN?!" she screeched, "there was nothing plain about those absolute marvels of engineering perfection!" she howled, "I'll plain your head right up your stupid ass, you idiot! You want plain, I can get some sticks and string and we'll fix you right up, but that will be after I shove the sticks up your ass and put little wheels on them so you can just roll around! I'll plain you into the next century, you bean-sized ingrate and when I'm done with that, if I decide your lips are worthy to speak the name ROCKBELL, I'll take the string and loop it through your nostrils and tie it to the back of a bull! He can lead you around and occasionally leave you presents that will remind you just WHAT came out of your filthy mouth when you said the word PLAIN!"
Roy was quite impressed. In fact, he was impressed enough that he backed out of the room, down the hall and was busy carting boxes once again.
Lover or not, Ed was on his own.
When Roy was brave enough to venture back, things had gotten quite a bit calmer. Pinako Rockbell decided to check Ed over to see if he was physically fit enough to tolerate automail reattachment at this time. When he was stubborn about the bandage on his back, she simply grabbed him by the back of the neck and slammed his face between his thighs onto the mattress and had a look herself.
Roy was impressed both by Ed's limberness and that Winry Rockbell had obviously learned at the feet of a true master.
It was determined that the cuts on his back were closed enough to proceed and the matter of port cleaning and other such pre-attachment maintenance would commence the next morning. The elder Mrs. Rockbell then cheerfully volunteered to cook dinner with Alphonse's assistance and the pair of them left the room, chatting about the inadequacy of the General's pantry. Young Ms. Rockbell lingered only a moment or two more with a few glances in the General's direction, before she said she should help too and left the two of them, Roy and Ed, alone in the bedroom since the first time the previous evening.
"Hey," Ed said, drawing Roy's attention back from where he'd watched the young woman walk out the door, "I would hope you weren't checking out her ass. I know you, put that guilt shit away, that's over."
Roy sighed. His past with the young lady wasn't common knowledge, but it was among the people gathered there. It was one of those black spots on his soul that would never come clean, no matter whose words tried to erase them. He looked at Ed then, who smiled at him and made a 'come here' motion with his hand. Roy went over to the bedside and Edward grabbed his shirt, tugging on it and pulling him down for a very quick kiss, then shoving him away.
"Thanks for not going into the office today, for sticking around. But I also noticed you take off, you fucking coward, when she jumped me on the bed," and Ed snorted, "some boyfriend you are."
Roy grinned and sat on the edge of the bed, reaching up and rubbing Ed's thigh. Ed darted a glance toward the door, then relaxed and let him.
"You ok with this, I mean all of this so soon?" Roy asked, stroking the pad of his thumb back and forth.
"Yeah, I'm sick of this bed when you're not in it," Ed returned with a half smile, "I want to be able to follow you around the house instead of laying here waiting for you to come and jump me."
"That is one of the sweetest things that has ever come out of your mouth, and to think it only took a near death experience at the hands of a lovely young woman for you to realize just how much you should appreciate me," Roy grinned.
Ed snorted and shook his head, leaned back on the headboard and sighed.
"No, it will be good to be whole again, the sooner the better," he said.
Roy nodded and kept up his gentle stroking. He admitted to himself, with a bit of guilt, that he had enjoyed his time. It wasn't often Ed needed him as he had in the past few days. He wondered at this little perversion he'd taken a liking to, having Ed helpless and dependent, carrying him from room to room. He didn't know quite what to chalk it up to. He hoped it wasn't precedent of anything, because he was quite sure once Ed had his limbs back, he'd never stand for such pampering. Although, he didn't quite seem to mind it, but Edward had always been adaptable and he'd probably just accepted the current situation to be what it was without much thought. Then again, he was remarkably resilient and had been very set in his ways, his determination often offending sensibilities and bruising egos (and heads) along the way. Roy tapped his chin.
"You dirty pervert," Ed's voice leapt from behind the corner of his musings and mugged the hell out of them, "go ahead and tell me you aren't thinking you like me like this, all at your beck and call, having to carry me around everywhere. Go ahead tell me you aren't thinking it. You always put your hand all over my ass before you pick me up. Go on, tell me."
What was to tell? Roy just shrugged.
The office took up all of his morning, but he found a way to squirm out early in the afternoon, pleased at his own cleverness, but knowing really it was due to Havoc's distraction at a minor mishap elsewhere on base. Oh well, Havoc would forgive him probably, and if not, he still outranked him.
When he'd been shaken awake from his bed on the couch by Alphonse for breakfast that morning, he was informed that Ed had already been awakened (but not fed, no matter how bitterly he complained) and the Rockbells were already at work. Alphonse had helpfully brought out the General's uniform and other sundries, which were awaiting him in the den where he could dress, because Pinako Rockbell had said they'd rather not be disturbed. Roy thought he'd heard a couple of muffled shouts while he was dressing, but when he came out for a quick breakfast, it had been quiet. He regretted not being able to say goodbye to Ed that morning, but he thought it best not to intrude, so he left with just a goodbye to Alphonse who looked a little sad to see him go. It felt good, but not quite as good as Ed halfway lunging across the bed to try and physically stall his departure.
When he pushed open his front door that afternoon, something terrible and raw pushed back and he stood frozen in the threshold. It had been a primal noise, something that had rent the air and left it black in its wake. It didn't even sound human. His feet knew better than he did and they began to move, but Alphonse appeared from the den, looking wan and mussed, his shirttail untucked and his hair askew. He gaped at the General, grabbed his arm and tugged hard, managing to divert the General's feet.
"Why are you home so early," Al said, fingers digging tightly into the General's sleeve, trying vainly to get into his field of vision as the General had half turned to stare out the door, "we thought for sure you'd be out until evening!"
"What… what was that?" Roy asked, but he knew, he really knew.
"Ed wouldn't wait," Al said raggedly, "when Winry said the port was ready, he wanted the automail, so they worked it up and now they are attaching it," Al sighed, "I know you've heard that it's painful," Al sighed, "you have the damnedest timing. I promise it will be ok, just wait, Granny will come get us when we can see him."
The General resisted at the first few tugs from Alphonse, but eventually he let the boy drag him to the sofa where he sat and braced himself should the horrible sound come again.
He stood leaning in the doorway, just looking. The elder Mrs. Rockbell gathered things up and made bundles of dirty towels while the younger Ms. Rockbell was carefully cleaning tools and placing them in travel trays with hinged lids. Alphonse stood just behind him and to his side, leaning against him; he was comforted by the boy's presence. Even though he knew Alphonse didn't remember the first time he must have witnessed it, just knowing he had before, and knowing that everything had been okay then, was enough. The ladies didn't seem to be upset or perturbed, merely going about their business as they always did, immune now to even the cries of one as loved as the figure on the bed between them, it was just the nature of their profession.
But on the bed lay the FullMetal Alchemist, quite as he rarely was, looking pale even from the distance Roy was standing. He wasn't really the FullMetal Alchemist anymore, the state having freed him when they buried him, but it was Edward, shining in the overhead light of the bedroom, with two arms, two legs and whole again. Roy turned to Alphonse and looped his arm around the boy's shoulders, giving him a smile.
"So passes our time of manageability," he said, turning to move the boy down the hallway and leave the women to tend his lover, "because now we can't run from him anymore."
"There is going to be a time of adjustment," the younger Ms. Rockbell said later when the General returned to check up again, "he hasn't had the automail in six years and despite what he might think, it's not like riding a bike. There are some things his nerves will have to learn again."
"I can hear you," came a weak murmur from the bed. She turned and the General peered eagerly to see the flash of gold in the pale face. He wasn't disappointed, because Edward opened his eyes, "and you're just a fuckin' mother hen, what's gotten into you?" Roy wondered why Edward wished to risk death at the hands of this woman, time and again.
Winry turned back to the General as if Edward hadn't spoken. The General once again gave her his full attention, because that is how one treated ladies and he wasn't about to buck the system. Also because he owed it to her, he owed her his attention at any time she wished to speak to him for the rest of his natural days.
"So Granny and I think he should come back to Risembool with us," she continued, "until he's capable of managing it. It's not quite what he's used to and I'd rather not have to travel out here again when he's broken it or you or Al with it."
Roy's eyes briefly darted over her shoulder to meet Edward's, but Edward's turned away, offering no argument to the separation. The General sucked on the side of his cheek, looked again at Ms. Rockbell, and gave a short nod, "Whatever you think is best," the General said.
He was called into service as transportation one more time. He carried a fully dressed Edward from the bedroom to a waiting van a couple of days later. He'd spent another two fitful nights on the couch and his back was helpfully informing him that Edward was a hell of a lot heavier now than he had been. They hadn't had a moment alone since the reattachment, because Winry slept in the room with him and would periodically check him for fever or other signs of rejection. The elder Mrs. Rockbell was also underfoot the entire time, with her uncanny ability to know what had to be done before it needed being done (such as sending Alphonse to buy Edward clothes, which had never crossed Roy's mind. In fact, Roy has realized he'd just as soon Edward live in that pajama top and those boxers because he was so easy to get naked in mere seconds that way) and there had simply been no time for them to be alone.
Alphonse was helping load boxes into the back of the van they'd requested. Mrs. Rockbell was supervising while Ms. Rockbell had climbed in to prepare a place to secure Edward with pillows and blankets borrowed for the trip. So Roy stood in the driveway with his lover in his arms and wondered how much longer it would be for his life to begin again since it had begun again not more than a scant two weeks ago.
"I want to kiss you goodbye," the man in his arms said suddenly, "but… you know why I can't," he ended miserably, "I'll call you while I'm there, it won't take long, I promise."
The General smiled a bit and bowed his head.
"I'd forgotten to mention that Alphonse knows," Roy said softly, "not that it makes much difference now, but he does, he told me so. Has he said anything to you, I think he was scared of your reaction."
"You are a real bastard for telling me this right now," Edward growled lowly, "when you know I can't properly beat out of you just how it is he found out. When I get back, your ass is mine," he finished on a snarl.
"I have no doubt," Roy said, giving Edward a bounce, "but he really figured it out on his own, whether you believe that or not is up to you," Roy smiled a little sadly, "I just wished all your family were so perceptive, then I could have my kiss goodbye. I'm really going to miss you; I thought I was through with that."
Then Edward was kissing him, and Roy kissed back and it got very quiet around them but he didn't mind at all. When Edward released him, he carried him to the van where Ms. Rockbell stared at them a moment and fumbled around before directing the General on how to arrange Edward. He helped tuck blankets and fluff pillows and kissed metal fingers one last time before he withdrew, and then he stood back as Alphonse helped Granny into the front seat. Before he shut the door for her, she leaned out a little and regarded the General for a moment.
"Well, the train ride home isn't going to be dull at all," she said, "I guess I should thank you for that." Then she allowed Alphonse to close the door. Ms. Rockbell shut the side door and the van backed down the driveway. The General looked at Alphonse and Alphonse shrugged.
"It's not like they'll kill him," Al said, "much."
"I didn't ask for that," Roy said, "I didn't want to get him in trouble with your family."
"I wouldn't worry about it, General," Alphonse said kindly, "would you rather he be ashamed of you? I personally don't think he could do any better," Al grinned, "you're like the most eligible bachelor around. Brother should be proud I think, and you should win that damn pool after all these years."
The General laughed and gave Al's shoulder a friendly push.
"I should. If I do, I'll buy you some more paper. Besides, if they do kill him, he would have died for love and how noble a death can one get?" Roy turned up the walk, feeling a bit lost but not alone. He didn't mean it in a sense of being physically by himself or even companionship-wise, because he still had his office crew and he had Alphonse, who was just as important to him as his wayward brother.
With a kiss, unashamed, Edward had once again delivered him.
Life was a good place to be.
The General had been sincerely trying to work when all hell broke loose in the office. For the past three weeks, he'd been a very diligent man, he wanted the distraction. So when he glanced up, annoyed and ready to give these interlopers a piece of his mind, he wasn't prepared for the man standing in the doorway with a cocky grin and blonde ponytail that had made his subordinates lose their minds.
He leapt to his feet, and stood watching the hand shaking and back pounding. Edward endured it all, getting a bit excited himself. People started appearing from all over, those who remembered him and those who were curious, and the office was becoming a crush of people and noise. Edward looked toward him apologetically, but the General was grinning like a fool himself, because this was just another confirmation that Edward had finally come home.
It really made itself more than apparent that he'd been missed by not only the General when Colonel Hawkeye hugged the blonde man and let everyone see her do it.
"Your brother is a wonderful person," Roy said against Edward's temple as the young man panted and kneaded on the General's naked hips.
"Really weird time to be bringing him up," Edward gasped and shifted just a bit, but didn't let the General lift his weight off of him.
"He told me he would be so busy at headquarters this week that he didn't think he could make it out even once," the General dragged his lips from temple to jaw to throat and Edward moaned.
"My little brother is the best fuckin' brother in the world," the blonde husked and arched upwards.
Do you see that I've learned a lot?
Well don't think I'm trying not to learn
Life moved on as it always did. In the three months since his return, many things had changed for Edward Elric.
The first and foremost of course, was the reunion with his brother Alphonse, on whom his whole journey was based. He regretted not one moment of it and would live it again, if only to see his younger brother's smiles every day. He was glad the General had finally convinced Al to move into the room that had been his since the moment the house had been purchased. Right now, Al was in the den, speaking on the phone and it was a grand and wonderful thing that so many people often took for granted, just to hear their loved one in another room, speaking on the phone. Edward would never let anything, even these small trivial things, pass him by ever again.
The next best thing to Alphonse sat reading in the living room, sprawled in an oversized chair with his phonograph beside him, listening and reading. It must be a time honored Mustang routine that Edward never got to fully appreciate before.
Since this is the perfect spot to learn…
Oooo, teach me tonight!
The General really had good tastes in music, even though Edward would never admit it. It was her voice, as well as the General's comfortable sprawl, that drew him into the living room and over to the chair. He stood looking at the front page of the paper for a few moments as it was covering the General's face.
Let's start with the ABC of it…
Right down to the XYZ of it…
He turned around then, backed up, planted his butt between the sprawled legs, turned sideways and threw a leg up over the arm of the chair. He pushed his way under the paper and ground his back between the General's arm and side, until the General grunted, rearranged, finagled his paper and they both settled with a sigh.
Help me solve the mystery of it…
Teach me tonight!
Edward closed his hand over the side of the paper closest to him and the General obligingly dropped that hand to Edward's sweater-covered tummy where he began to draw lazy circles. It was amazing to Edward how in sync they could be, how they could turn the pages of the paper so easily in this fashion.
One thing isn't clear my love…
Life was as it should be, and to Edward, better than he hoped it would be. They had lost everything and left everything behind, and in their search for what had been theirs to begin with, they found everything again. He turned the page with the General again.
Should the teacher stand so near my love?
Edward heard the click of heels in the hallway which stopped in the arch of the living room doorway. He could almost hear Alphonse put his hands on his hips.
"You two are tangled up like drowning sailors again," he heard his younger brother say, "at this rate we'll all starve. I guess I'll make some dinner, you only wanted me to move in here to take care of the both of you."
"That's not true," the General said above Edward's head.
"You're really here to referee," Edward added.
"The both of you are impossible," Alphonse complained.
Edward and the General turned a page of the paper.
"Fine," Alphonse said. Edward heard his heel clicks leave and head toward the kitchen.
After his younger brother had gone, Edward turned his cheek against the General's shoulder and sighed.
"I've been meaning to ask you," he said, "we never got to finish our lessons, are all our recent activities just practice?"
"Well Edward, you are a prodigy," the General said, "I would say, especially after last night in particular, that you have graduated."
"Oh really," Edward said, pursing his lips and jiggling his foot over the arm of the chair, "that's good to know."
Together they turned another page.
"Any particular reason," the General murmured, dropping his lips to the top of a blonde head.
"No… yes, maybe," Edward said, giving the hand on his belly a little push to the right, "I was thinking now that I've graduated, I might take up a teaching degree," he tilted his face up, where a black eye actually left its printed lover and moved to his face.
"You remember when we were standing on the walk outside, waiting to get into the van?" Edward said.
"Very vividly," the General smiled, "it was your final test. You passed it with flying colors."
Ed grinned and snuggled harder against the General's side for a moment, then he continued. "But do you remember me telling you that your ass was mine when I got back?" he prodded.
"I do, but you've had that talk with Alphonse and I'm a vindicated man," the General said, his eye tracking back to the paper.
"You didn't think I meant that figuratively, I hope," Edward's voice had dropped to being husky and menacing at the same time. He shoved his free hand between the back of the leather chair and the General's rump and gave a squeeze.
The black eye shot back to his face and the eyebrow jumped in surprise at Ed's quickness.
"You see," Edward said, "while I was away, I learned a few things I'd like to teach you," he purred.
The General fumbled the next turn of the page.
Graduation's almost here my love…
Come on and teach me tonight.