Stray

Author – Cornerofmadness

Disclaimer – all rights belong to Ms. Arakawa not me

Pairing – none, Roy-centric

Time Line – way before the start of the series, however spoilers for all the chapters up to 90 in regards to Madame Christmas' real role.

Rating – PG-13

Summary – She brought him in out of the cold

Author's Note – Written for picfor1000 and not based on my assigned picture. The mods opened it up to use any of the prompts and I chose one with a red hotel/apt door with a crooked door number. Thank you to SJ Smith for the beta and uploading the pics for me since my dial up is really being a pain this week. This is one of those stories that clicked almost instantly and sprang out of my head almost too fast to type.

XXX

A few doors opened in the old hotel, eyes peering curiously out at him. The rose-patterned carpet seemed too new for the place. The dark-haired woman who held his dirty hand told him how they were turning the hotel into a home. Roy couldn't follow her words: hunger, weakness and most of all terror eating at his brain. How long had it been since someone spoke to him without yelling and chasing him?

Still, yelling had brought him here. He had been trying to find food in the trash outside of the Big Dick's Halfway Inn when the woman clinging to his hand caught him. He had fought hard but she was strong and the frigid wind had robbed his hands of any strength. Plopping him on a barstool, she had presented him with a huge sandwich and a bowl of soup. The fear had taken a backseat to the hunger and by the end, Miss Mustang had gotten him to talk. Her eyes got more and more serious as he told her about how his alchemy master had gone to sleep and never woke up.

It hurt when she asked about family. He could only remember his mother vaguely, thinking she might have traded him to his master for money. He told himself it was only Master Winesap that he missed, but he did think about his mother often. Still, his master had been very good to him. When Winesap died last year, his six year old apprentice had found himself with no one. Roy had run away from the scary older boys in the orphanage the very first night after they hurt him. No one seemed to notice and he had been running ever since.

"This is going to be your home." Mustang gestured to an ugly red-orange door. Roy stared at the crooked number twenty. Somehow it made him sad. She swung the door open.

A blond girl grinned up from where she was making the bed. "Is that the little guy? He's a cutie."

Roy flushed, hugging close to the older woman. She cupped the back of his head. "Silke, this is Roy. He'll be living with us, won't you, Roy?" Mustang said.

He nodded, keeping his 'for now' to himself. It was bitterly cold outside and even full-bellied, he didn't want back out in it. So long as no one messed with him, he'd stay a while.

"Silke is going to help clean you up."

"I can wash myself!"

"Even so." She pointed to the door. "It locks. You don't have to worry about anyone coming in other than me. I have a skeleton key."

"That's okay." And it was. She felt safe to him.

Roy let Silke lead him into the bathroom. It was small and Miss Mustang didn't follow. Pouting, he obeyed the command to strip, vaguely embarrassed by a girl seeing his skinny body. He slithered into the hot water, stiffly allowing Silke to lay him back, her fingers in his matted hair. She scowled down at him.

"You poor little guy. It's been awhile. Come on, sit on the edge of the tub."

Acutely ashamed, Roy shivered there as she drained the grey water before putting him under the shower head for several minutes. Silke refilled the tub. He was amazed the water was still hot. Dutifully Roy sat and Silke scrubbed his back.

"You still warm enough?" Silke peered at him. "I'm going to work on your hair."

"Okay." Roy thought she was going to wash it but instead Silke began cutting hunks of it. "Hey!"

"Sorry, sweetie, but this has to go. It's matted knots of vermin."

Tears stung his eyes at those words. The boy had been aware of it, felt the terrible itch, but it scared him just the same. Through blurry eyes, he watched chunks of hair fall to the floor.

"How's it going?" Mustang poked her head in.

"Good. We're almost done." Silke patted his shoulder. "Let's get you dried off."

Roy obeyed dully, beginning to feel even more embarrassed. He saw his clothes had disappeared when he was showering. He wrapped the towel over his hips and Mustang lifted him up, setting him on the small vanity. She took out barber shears and finished removing his hair. His bald head was pocked with red marks.

"We've got some ointments that'll kill anything still eating at you, Roy Boy," Mustang promised, handing them over to Silke before heading back out.

"Madame Christmas is really good to us." Silke slathered his skin, her fingers working into the crevices.

"I thought she said her name was Mustang."

"It is but in public we call her 'Christmas.' In private, a lot of us call her 'Mom'." She smiled. "She gives us a place to live and we have to do good in school and help her when she needs it."

"I'm real smart," Roy assured her. "I'm an alchemist."

"Really?" Silke didn't seem to be mocking him. "You tell Mom. I bet you'll be a real good helper."

"The best," he promised as she wiped off her hands.

Silke picked up some folded clothing. "These were Arlie's. They'll be big."

Roy didn't care. He pulled on the pajamas and followed Silke to the bedroom. Miss Mustang sat at the little table. A piece of cake rested in front of the empty chair. "Have it. Bet it's been awhile."

Roy didn't argue. He devoured the cake while Silke left. Miss Mustang took the plate away and he crawled into the bed. Soft and warm, he wept from the sheer gratitude of being in this place. He slipped into sleep but the scary dreams that so often found him, caught him once more.

Shrieking, Roy suddenly found himself pulled against a gently-giving bosom. Miss Mustang rocked him, making reassuring sounds. He melted against her body. "It'll be okay, little one. You're safe here, I promise. I won't let anyone hurt you."

Shaking, he finally went to sleep in her arms.

XXX

Author's Note – I didn't invent Big Dick's. It's a real place in MO. Google it and See for yourself (it was just too amusing not to use)