Disclaimer: We own nothing.
A/N: Co-written with the brilliant Tenchi Kai. Enjoy.
Written by Rachel L. M. and Tenchi Kai
The Central streets are welcoming, far more so than he remembered. Has it really been two years? Edward watched the orange, red, and brown leaves fall from the trees as he walked nonchalantly, eyes wondering where they may. If anyone would have looked closely enough (past the long blonde hair now in a ponytail, which was a difficult task), they would have noticed the smile that barely placed itself on his lips. It was a long time coming, but his mission was finally complete; his brother back in the flesh.
His air of indifference was broken with a small reminder of the plan he had made a day ago. Ed was just here to turn in the stupid watch, and that was it. Something about it bothered him, though. He hated the military, so why did he feel attachment? It was strange, Ed noticed, it's almost like he was a small child about to lose his security blanket.
What was stranger, he pondered, was the simple fact that the next thought to filter through his head was the name of his superior officer and, at times, his guardian. How he could even have kind thoughts about that bastard was beyond him yet often how his mind betrayed him. Many people, even Al, had suggested that maybe Ed wanted to keep his connection to the military simply because he didn't want to lose his only connection to Roy Mustang. Of course Ed would have none of that. It wasn't possible, was it?
The sight of the military headquarters building wiped the smile right of his face. Ed couldn't decide whether this was because it was quite possibly the last time he would ever walk into this building or if it was because of how much he already despised the place and the person he had come to see. The thoughts battled silently in his mind as he opened the door, flashing a brilliant smile at the receptionist, then proceeded down the hallway.
The hallway was, as it had always been, plain. Ed never forgot how much the look of the place bothered him. He kept walking, though, because he knew Roy wouldn't change his place of office. Before he even knew it, he was at the door of that bastard's office. Ed blinked, wondering for a brief moment why he was knocking, rather than running in there like a hurricane, the way he used to do.
"It's open. Come in." Oh, Ed knew that voice from anywhere. Even as he opened the door he regretted it, clutching tighter on the watch in his hand. Quietly closing the door behind him he glanced across the room at his Colonel who was, surprisingly, doing his paperwork. Ed knew that as soon as he spoke the other man would immediately realize who it was and jump headfirst into one of his rants, but he couldn't stop the jab from escaping his mouth.
"I see you're doing your work these days."
And here it goes. Roy glanced up, surprised to hear that voice and see those eyes. "I see you're still an immature shorty these days." He shot back on instinct.
Ed took a deep breath and again gripped the watch tighter. "I came here for a reason, can we skip the bullshit?" He asked calmly.
"At least you matured while you were gone." The Colonel sighed.
And like that the patience was ripped from Ed and they were back in to their old habit. "I was mature before you even knew me you bastard!"
Roy raised an eyebrow at this statement, questioning it without having to say a word. "Alright, let's hear it. What's your reason?"
This wouldn't be the first time Ed questioned himself, but it was the first time he wasn't sure why he was doing it. Ed held out his watch for a moment, silent. He looked very childish, but he finally spoke up. "I, um, quit."
Roy went from a skeptical expression, to one of near laughter. "You don't sound very sure of yourself."
"Yeah, well, Colonel bastard, Al's all better. So I quit." He tossed the watch to Roy, who smoothly raised his right hand and caught it. Bringing his arm back down, he ran his thumb over the numerous scratches on the metal.
"Okay, Fullmetal, three reasons. If I consider them valid, I'll give you the papers to sign and you'll be free to go." Ed could tell Roy was trying to smirk for old time's sake, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it.
"Well, uh, first off…Al is back in his body and I don't need the research fund anymore." Ed smiled brightly; glad he could come up with a reason at all. Why was this so hard?
Roy was flipping the watch over in his hand. "Fine. Valid. Number two?"
Ed sighed, trying to keep his cool as so Roy wouldn't know this was hard for him. He pondered for a moment, then an idea hit him. "Well, I certainty don't owe you anything."
Roy's attempt at a smirk faded. "Not valid, and I beg to differ."
"Really? How?" Ed was the one smirking now. The tides were turned.
Roy scoffed at Ed, who was in many ways still a small child. "You listen to me now, kid," Ed tried to stop him at that, but the Colonel continued "Maybe you could have gotten into the military on your own, without ever knowing me, but you would have had your secrets found out immediately. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep up with all your shit? If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have gotten into half the trouble I've been in. I lost my eye because of you, Fullmetal!"
Roy immediately regretted that little slip up. He never blamed the boy for what he'd done that night or the consequences of it. He took a deep breath. "So, I need a second reason."
Ed inwardly twitched, looking down to the floor. The guilt wasn't something visible, but Roy could see it. Ed blamed himself for a lot of things – what happened to Al, Nina's death, and Hughes's death. It was a burden, but he survived day to day because he was working to make it better.
And this was something he blamed himself for, too; Roy's eye, gone. It was sorta strange how Roy ended up with an eye patch just like Pride. "I'm sorry, you know. But you wouldn't have let me come with you anyway."
Ed glanced up at Roy, waiting for some sort of sign of forgiveness – because, this time, Roy was right.
Roy smiled lightly. "It wasn't your fault. And you're right; I would never have let you come with me. I couldn't put you in that kind of danger."
The boy smiled a little too. "Roy," the Colonel was surprised to hear his real name. "Shut up. Please, let me take the blame for this one. It was my fault…and now I just owe you more…"
Mustang couldn't take the pitiful look on the boy's face. "Fine. Now, do you have a second reason?"
"I do." Ed said, quite proud of this one. "I need to be able to take care of Al. If I'm running around on missions and getting hurt left and right, I can't do that."
"Alright, that's valid enough. How about a third?" Roy looked at Ed. This time, he knew he was calling the boy's bluff.
Ed bit his lower lip. He couldn't use Al as a reason again, and he knew he probably couldn't think of something. It was strange how his brain just wouldn't make something up. So, he just spit out the first thing he thought. "Have I mentioned that I hate you? Is that a good enough reason?"
Roy let out a smirk, knowing Ed had given up; the blonde boy now resorted to old lies. It was almost funny.
"That, little one, wouldn't be valid at all. After all, why would you even bother pleading your case if you hated me?" Roy spoke, nearly laughing.
"LITTLE ONE! Okay, Roy, seriously! That's a really old one." Ed's face was one of pretend anger, looking up at Roy.
"Sure, maybe. But you don't really hate me." Roy smirked at Ed.
Ed frowned, he hadn't thought of anything. He was so screwed. Why couldn't he think of one, single, teensy excuse? "Can I phone a friend?" He smiled a little, and didn't have a single clue why.
"Nice try. Why can't you just come to terms with the real reason you can't come up with an excuse to leave?" Roy asked.
"And what might that be?" Ed was seriously out of the loop here. Sure, Roy was right (again!) – he wanted to stay. But why? Man, that was a good question right about now. He wish he had the answer here. Ed did the math in his head, went through the might-be reasons, even bothered doing that all twice. And, this time, the teenager came up empty.
The elder of the two gazed at Ed – who was currently holding an expression of pure "I don't get this, WHY?". "Ed, maybe you'd like a hint?"
"Hey, Bastard, you act like you already know. This was my question, right?" Roy knew. Shit, Roy's known. It was fun to play with Ed's head a little, though. Roy also knew that Ed was too logical to figure this one out by himself.
Roy tossed back the watch he had been thumbing most of the conversation. "Ed, for now, let's just leave it at 'because you owe me'."
Ed caught the watch (only because he reflexes told him to), with a somewhat dumbfounded expression. "I 'owe you'?"
"Yep. Said so yourself, didn't you?" Roy was smirking again; this was his old signature one from years ago.
Ed pouted. "But you can't hold that against me!"
"Ed, I'm not. You should thank me. At least this way you don't have to confess that you actually want to stay." Roy was now pretending to be disinterested, signing a few documents that should have been signed and sent off hours ago.
"What about Al, Bastard?" Ed sighed.
"He's older now, and knows just as much about alchemy as you do, nearly."
Ed's eyes went wide. "You're not getting him in the military, too, you know."
Roy sighed. "Not what I had in mind; Al can travel with you, like the old days."
"That's a great idea and all, but way beyond the point. I'm quitting." Now Ed sighed, tired of this himself. "Haven't we covered this?"
"We have. And we decided that you want to stay." Roy said, tossing a few of the papers out of the way.
"When did we decide that's what I was doing exactly?" Ed asked, curios as to how the hell Roy clarified he deciding everything for Ed was them working together.
"Well, Fullmetal, I'm pretty sure it was when you couldn't give me three valid reasons. But if you aren't pleased with that, by all means, let me know and I'll see what I can do to fix this little situation to your liking." Roy answered, signing another paper and trying to figure out why the boy was still in his office. How can a kid who is so intelligent be so blind?
Edward scoffed. "Fine, I can play your little game. If you can give me three reasons to stay, I'll reconsider. And only if none of them are 'to help me get a promotion', you arrogant bastard."
Roy stared at him for a minute. When the hell had the tables turned?
"Okay, Colonel, shoot. What's number one?"
"Alright, fine, I'll play along." Roy smiled at himself, this was going to be fun. "Reason number one: you owe me."
"That counts, I guess." Ed was ready to fight this war until there was a clear-cut winner.
"Reason number two: money." Roy paused, he supposed he needed to explain this one. "Didn't you burn your house before you left for the military? You need a home to go to, right? Can't get one without money."
"As much as I hate to admit it, you're on a roll here. But do you have a third reason?" Ed's expression was one of wonder.
"I told you before. You want to stay." Roy paused again. "But I have another reason, but I really wish you would figure it out on your own."
"I can't read minds."
"With all the other shit you can do I wouldn't be surprised at all. Really."
"Oh, now you're just trying to change the subject. Number three?"
Ed smirked. "Seems like number three is proving too hard for 'Colonel I'm too full of ego for my own good'."
Roy sighed in resignation. "Fine, Edward, you want to know the real reason why you can't bring your pathetic, blind self to just get up and leave?"
"That would be nice, thank you." Ed said, crossing his arms as if nothing Roy could say would make him stay in this god forsaken military.
Roy remembered this. This was fun, actually. This was what he missed. But he wouldn't miss it. He wouldn't let that happen, he couldn't; not after waiting for Edward's sorry ass for a year in the snow-filled middle of nowhere. Roy took action, putting his papers to the side and walking over to Ed. In response, Ed questioningly looked on.
The way Roy was looking at him had Ed a little scared, but he stood his ground. He had to. "Alright, Fullmetal, look me in the eye and tell me you really want to leave me behind."
"I…uh…I…don't?" Ed sputtered, not believing the words were coming out of his mouth. When the hell had this happened and why had his heart not alerted him?
"We have a winner." Roy smiled, placing a hand on Ed's head. "Do you understand now?"
"So that's my number three? You are my number three?" Ed asked. How had he gotten into this mess?
"That's right, baby boy." Roy smiled warmly and Ed's cheeks turned a light shade of pink.
"Don't touch me you bastard." What the hell had he just done, and why couldn't he be angry about it? That's how things normally went, right?
"So," Roy was smiling in a way Ed had never seen before. It had to be some trick of the light. "Valid, or not?"
His insides would normally fight this feeling – whatever the hell it was. But it didn't want to this time. He blinked and said the words before he got a good idea of what they meant. "Sure."
Roy moved his hand down his subordinate's cheek, pulling him up for a kiss, but Ed pushed his hand against Roy's chest to stop him. "Roy…I, I can't. Please."
Roy stepped back smiling. "It's fine." Roy took the next moment to collect himself. Couldn't let his emotions control him now.
Ed face was at that jacket he used to wear, and his heart fought to run out of his chest. He never even had a clue this is how things would end up. But he couldn't bring himself to want to leave the military now – much less the office he was in at the moment – or even where he was standing at the moment.
"Roy, you knew, didn't you?" Ed was not fake-glaring at Roy.
"Maybe. But don't let me fool you, I wasn't completely sure. And I'm still not."
"Dammit," Ed said, pulling Roy in for a small hug. "I'll stay."
Roy smiled again, hugging Ed for a moment and then letting him go. "I'm glad."
"Why couldn't you make that reason number one though?" Ed asked as curiosity got the better of him.
"A little thing called saving the best for last." He smiled down at Edward. "Now, Fullmetal, I have work to do and it would get done much faster without you around."
"Back to the old you already?" Ed smiled back up at his superior.
"Get out Ed." Roy said, knowing Ed didn't think worse of him for it. A little added push from Roy hand to the small of Ed's back got Ed moving.
And Edward left, but knowing in his heart he would always be back, to stand in that office, (maybe even one day with his help, the office of 'Fuhrer Mustang'), to make conversation with that stubborn bastard.