Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Title: Adventures in Babysitting
Pairing: MaesxRoy, hints of future RoyxEd
Rating: PG13 (language, mild sexual references)
Timeline: AU
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Roy Mustang has his work cut out for him when he takes a job babysitting the well-known and much-feared local hellions, otherwise known as the Elric brothers.
AN: No Roys were physically harmed during the writing of this chapter. :-) Also, last night I finally started replying to the comments from the previous chapter. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to do that.


Adventures in Babysitting
Chapter 22

While Monday mornings were horrible, awful things in general, Ed dreaded today, this Monday, especially. Because after a three day suspension that was more like the best vacation ever, it was time to go back to the reality of lessons that he already knew, teachers who probably dreaded him, and classmates who very likely hated him. Plus there was the issue of an apology that he had absolutely no intention of giving.

Although his mother did not have much to say about the subject as she drove him and Al to school- a rarity due to the circumstances- Ed was convinced that he would be expected to face those jerkass twins that destroyed his and Russell's garden and express a remorse that he did not feel. And when she disappeared into the principal's office and left him in the waiting area under the worried and mistrustful eyes of the office secretary, he just knew that he was going to be faced with the difficult task of showing his displeasure by way of an earth-shattering tantrum the likes of which no human being had ever seen.

And honestly? Ed had no real desire to behave in such a way because tantrums were for babies and he was soon to be all of nine years old. But if that was what it took for him to make his point, then so be it. And if his refusal resulted in another suspension/vacation? Sweet!

For that reason, he was completely surprised when Trisha exited the office some twenty minutes later, smiled sweetly at him, and told him to run along to class.

"... Huh?" He gaped at his mother, stunned and confused and cautiously hopeful.

"Go on," she said reassuringly. "I'll see you when you get home."

Ed had been so prepared to rain down his fury that he had no idea what to make of this development. He slowly took his leave and walked out of the office, his brow creased in a contemplating frown as he tried to sort out what magic his mother used to absolve him...

xxXXxx

Trisha watched him leave, thoroughly amused by his confusion. She was willing to bet any money that he had his heart set on having a rip-roaring tantrum, knowing that boy of hers.

It was actually easier than she thought it would be, especially without Hohenheim's interference. After all, she was just a dutiful mother, doing the best she could to raise her two sons all by herself, one of whom had a rather unique physical disability that left him subject to ridicule and discrimination, by students and quite possibly staff as well. It was the D-word that did the trick, dropped with just the right amount of parental concern and a peculiar gleam of the eyes that sent the principal into a long and stuttering speech on how such a thing would never be allowed to befall any one student. After giving her all sorts of reassurances that Ed had always been and would always be treated just as fairly as the others, it was determined that his suspension was punishment enough, and that an apology was not necessary. Just like she thought.

It was all bullshit, of course. Trisha knew damn well that there were some teachers who did not care to deal with her child, and it hurt to think about the ways that Ed might have been negatively singled out while he was in school, ways that he would never tell her about (although God help them all if he did). She also knew that she would not be able to fight his battles forever. But she had fought this one. And she won. And once again, she felt like she was kicking ass at the mom game.

With that out of the way, Trisha slung her purse over her shoulder. After sparing a parting glance for the secretary, one that dared the woman to even think about giving Ed a disparaging look ever again, she left the office and headed for her car. She could not afford to waste any more time. There were things to do.

And birthday parties to plan.

xxXXxx

The day had gone surprisingly well for Ed. He was able to get caught up with the rest of the class in all subjects with frightening ease. He also discovered that his urge to lash out at Rose and Noa for what they did was diminished greatly by scratching his nose in their general direction. With a strategically placed middle finger. All day long. Their twin expressions of shock and horror were extremely satisfying.

Ed was in such a good mood by the end of the day that he did not even give Roy a hard time that evening. Well… not much of a hard time. Although he had not quite yet worked up the nerve to ask Roy what he wanted to ask him, he ate his dinner without incident and took his calcium supplements without complaint. And he even managed to keep himself occupied while Roy and Al worked on a "top secret project", which he assumed had something to do with his birthday. Afterwards, he bathed and brushed his teeth like a good little boy and went to bed at his scheduled bedtime without putting up a fight.

"Who are you and what have you done with Ed?" Roy cheekily asked as he tucked the child's blanket around him.

"What do you mean?" Ed asked with terribly feigned innocence. "I can't be nice?"

"Nope."

Roy playfully pinched Ed's cheek, earning him a chuckle and a scowl and an attempted bite. Ed smiled as the teen shut off the bedside lamp and turned to leave, feeling all kinds of warm and fuzzy and loving things… and then giggling when he spotted the sign that was still taped to Roy's back, a prank that was an oldie but goodie. This time, Roy did not eat his own boogers (as far as Ed knew). Instead…

xxXXxx

"I pick my butt."

Roy stared dumbly at the sign that had been taped to his back for the better part of who knew how long while Trisha sat beside him on the porch, grinning madly.

"Well, your secret is safe with me," the older woman said between chuckles.

Shaking his head, Roy shoved the paper into his pocket, where it would soon join a fast growing collection of Ed's "special" gifts. From the Gen 1 Optimus and the salvaged tulip to the booger-eating sign and a thumb tack from Ed and Russell's onslaught that had somehow managed to remain lodged in his pants, all of those things, whether accumulated out of an act of rare kindness or Ed's special brand of evil, were a reminder of the frustratingly endearing child that he had come to care deeply about.

"Thanks," Roy muttered with a reluctant smile of his own.

"I'm sorry," Trisha said, although her laughter hardly demonstrated her sincerity.

Roy snuck a peek at her, noting the way she tucked a lock of brown hair behind her ear with one hand as she flicked ash over the edge of the porch with the other. And for about the hundredth time since he met her, he found himself wishing that more adults were like her. He could not think of many other grown-ups who would be so accepting and understanding, with a sense of humor to top it off. And she had opened her home and entrusted the care of her sons to him, a weirdo that liked guys and fire, without giving it a second thought. Ed and Al were very lucky to have her.

"Oh, before I forget…" Trisha crushed the cigarette under her foot and pocketed the butt to discard properly when she went back inside the house. "I think that Edward plans on asking you to be there when he gets his automail replaced next week. Of course, if I had known he was going to be suspended, we would have done it then because he needs a couple of days to recover, but his new arm and leg weren't ready yet."

Roy was intrigued, although the part about needing days to recover did not sound promising. "Automail… replaced?"

"He gets new automail once a year," she explained. "More often if he happens to outgrow it before the year is over. Which is almost never the case. Yet Al seems to be growing an inch a day, go figure." Trisha shrugged before continuing. "Anyway, I'm not going to tell you that you can't do it. But… you should know… it's not an easy thing to watch. Not at all."

Trisha's ominous words confirmed what Roy had long suspected, that Ed's automail attachment was not a pleasant experience for the boy.

"He toughs it out, though," Trisha continued. "Pinako says he handles it better than anyone else she's ever seen. Better than grown men and women, even."

Roy nodded while she spoke, recalling the time that the old woman had said the very same thing to him.

"But still…" Trisha sighed harshly. "There are times when it hurts him so much that I want to punch her right in the goddamn face."

Roy snorted laughter at the unexpected statement. Trisha Elric was a total mama bear, and he absolutely loved it.

"Sorry, that wasn't nice," she said.

Roy thought back to one of the days when he considered laying waste to an entire elementary school because of the way that some of the children were treating Ed.

"I get it."

Trisha smiled warmly at him before turning her attention to the night sky. "If he does ask- and judging by some of the hints he dropped last night, I have no reason to believe he won't- I just wanted you to know what to expect. And that it's okay to say no."

"Except you already know that I won't," Roy pointed out.

"... Yeah, I know."

They fell silent, united in their devotion to a precocious youth with metal limbs. For Roy's part, sure, he was curious about Ed's automail and wanted to learn more about how it did what it did. But more than that, far more, he felt touched… and honored… that Ed would want him there while he was stripped of his appendages. For someone who went so far to show no weaknesses, that he would willingly allow Roy to see him in such a state… well, the significance was just… overwhelming.

"Here comes your fella."

Trisha's words (Fella? How utterly cute.) snapped Roy out of his rumination just as Maes pulled into the driveway. Roy wished her a goodnight and jogged over to the car.

"Why are you so happy?" Maes asked, noticing the teen's expression as he got in. "Did you get some hot cougar action?"

"Maes!"

"My bad. That's Jean's wet dream, not yours."

"Ew." Friend or not, Roy had zero desire to contemplate what Jean was wet dreaming about, or that he was doing it at all.

Maes backed out of the driveway and headed for home, regaling Roy with stories of the small impromptu gathering that had apparently started without him, one during which Jean could not score to save his life and Breda attempted to hook up with a very drunk and braless Sheska, only to end up with a lapful of chunky yark for his trouble.

And Riza apparently won twenty bucks for predicting it.

In other words, another typical party at the Hughes' house.

xxXXxx

The following evening, after helping Al put the finishing touches on Ed's birthday card- and repeatedly chasing Ed out of his bedroom for prying- Roy started on dinner for the boys. Chicken, potatoes, and something green- easy enough. And then apple pie for dessert- even better.

He had just set the timer on the oven and sat down at the kitchen table for a breather when Ed came wandering in, his golden eyes darting curiously around the room. Roy had no doubt that he was looking for possible hiding places for his birthday card, which was actually somewhere the nosy child would have never thought to look, only because it was a place that he would have never been able to reach: on top of the refrigerator.

"What are you doing?" the eight-year-old inquired, taking a seat at the table and not-so-discreetly feeling beneath it. Clever.

"Well, I'm not picking my butt," Roy replied, narrowing his gaze at the boy.

Ed cackled wickedly at the reference. "Butt picker."

"You know, that's not a very nice thing to say to someone who bought you the most awesome birthday gift ever," Roy reminded him.

All laughter came to an immediate halt. Roy bit his bottom lip to keep from openly smiling at Ed's sudden angelic transformation.

"So do you think that you can ease up on the torture for three more days?" he asked.

"That's a long time," Ed said regretfully.

This time, Roy did smile. Three days of good behavior was probably a lifetime for a kid like Ed.

"You'll live," he promised him, standing up from the table. He grabbed a couple of glasses from the cupboard and a bottle of apple juice from the fridge. "What's Al doing?" he asked as he poured them both a serving.

"Watching TV." Ed took a large gulp of the juice and let out a mighty belch. Being the teenager that he was, Roy was actually rather amazed that such an impressive sound came out of such a little body. But he supposed that was not the kind of thing that should be openly complimented, at least not on Trisha's dime.

"Ed-"

"Yeah, yeah, 'scuse me."

"Thank you," Roy muttered into his glass, taking a sip of the sweet liquid to mask his amusement.

And so they sat and talked for a bit, just a couple of guys, hanging out and drinking some juice and listening to the sound of Al's muffled laughter as SpongeBob Squarepants did… whatever the hell it was he did that the child found so damn funny. After a while, Roy got up and checked the oven, and thanks to his conversation with Trisha the night before, what Ed said next came as no surprise.

"I'm getting new automail next week."

Although Roy was done poking and prodding the chicken, he held his ground. He knew Ed well enough to suspect that the only reason he was bringing it up now was because he did not have to look Roy in the eye to say what he wanted to say.

"Oh?"

"Uh-huh. Next Friday."

"Is that so?"

"Mm-hm."

The heat was getting to Roy's face, so he closed the oven and busied himself at the stovetop, keeping his back turned so that Ed would feel comfortable going on.

"That doesn't sound like a lot of fun," he said.

"Used to it."

That did not sit right with Roy. He hated the idea of Ed having to be "used to" any amount of pain.

"Roy?"

"Hm?"

"... If… my mom says it's okay… and… if it's okay with you… will you… will… you..."

Upon hearing Ed's small, exasperated sigh, Roy finally turned around. What he saw was like a punch in the gut… which was almost fitting, considering the source. Ed was blushing, right to the tips of his ears. He looked everywhere except directly at Roy, and his tiny fingers clutched the now empty glass so hard that Roy thought it might shatter in his grip.

"Would you like me to go with you, Ed?" he asked quietly.

Ed nodded emphatically, his eyes wide and thankful.

"Okay."

Ed flashed him another one of those rare smiles full of gratitude and adoration, and that was more or less the exact moment when Roy accepted what he already knew to be true, that watching over Ed and Al was his "real job", and that he was not about to stop doing it anytime soon.

"Why don't you go keep Al company?" he suggested, trying to sound casual. "I'll call you guys when dinner's ready."

Ed hopped up from his seat and walked towards the kitchen door. As soon as he reached it, he stopped and turned around.

"You're still a butt picker," he concluded before sticking out his tongue and strolling out of the kitchen.

Roy could only laugh and shake his head.

So much for a tender moment.

xxXXxx

"How does it work?" Maes asked as he checked the marshmallow that he was presently attempting to roast over a fire. "With Ed's arm and leg, I mean."

Roy pulled his own burnt marshmallow from the flames. "Mrs. Elric says that they're attached to every single nerve and muscle, which I guess sounds about right since he can move his fingers and toes."

"But he's going to be asleep when the new ones are attached, right?"

"Nope. He has to be wide awake."

"Why?"

"I have no idea."

Maes stared at Roy, horrified. "Jesus. Poor fucking kid."

"Yeah."

Roy pulled the charred lump from the end of his stick and tossed it into the fire before grabbing a fresh marshmallow from the bag between him and Maes and trying again.

"Are you sure that you're going to be okay with watching him go through that?" Maes asked.

Actually, Roy strongly suspected that witnessing Ed's ordeal was going to break his heart into a thousand pieces. But he also knew that telling the young man such a thing would only prompt him to try and talk Roy out of it.

"I guess I'll find out," he replied.

The couple roasted away, until they had enough marshmallows to make a heaping pile of s'mores. Maes justified their terrible choice of nutriment by claiming that the treats contained some representation of the major food groups.

"Like the chocolate food group?" Roy challenged him.

"Hey, there's milk in there somewhere," Maes insisted as he crammed a whole s'more into his mouth.

"Right." Roy grinned and helped himself to a bite, chasing it with a sip of soda since there was very little alcohol left in the house after last night's debacle.

And speaking of last night's debacle...

"What's the word on Breda and Sheska?" Roy wanted to know.

"There is no word," Maes responded. "I suppose that throwing up all over someone is kind of a deal breaker."

"You think?" Roy smiled as he recalled Maes' tales. "I wish I could have seen that. Well… I mean… no, I don't because gross… but I bet it was hilarious."

"It really was." Maes reached for another s'more. "Oh, yeah. Dad called while you were gone. He said they'll be home tomorrow afternoon."

"For how long?" Roy asked.

Maes shrugged. "So I was thinking-"

"Did it hurt?"

A middle finger was presented for Roy's approval.

"As I was saying. I was thinking that we could sleep together tonight."

Roy raised a brow at his boyfriend.

"I mean in the same bed, you pervert," Maes clarified.

"I don't know, Maes…"

"We can lock the bedroom door in case they come back early," Maes offered. "I doubt they will, but just in case."

Roy gnawed on a s'more as he considered the suggestion. He thought that it really would be nice to wake up beside Maes for once.

"Just for tonight," he eventually agreed.

Maes leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, a little thing that made Roy incredibly happy.

They spent the next hour stuffing their faces and talking about movies and video games and all other things pertinent to sixteen-year-old boys. When the fire finally died down, they returned to the house and went straight to bed.

… And two hours after that, they finally fell asleep.

Together.

TBC

AN: Another chapter without a cliffhanger. What is this sorcery? -)