A.N. So it was one-thirty in the morning and this popped into my head. I swear I could hear Ed and Roy having this conversation (too much caffeine, maybe?). It's not Roy/Ed, but like my profile states, I don't care how you see it as long as you enjoy it. I'm still new at fanfiction, so I apologize if they aren't in character.

Respect

As soon as he heard those uneven footsteps, Colonel Roy Mustang heaved a deep sigh and mentally braced himself. It was pure habit now for him to keep an ear open for the alternating clink…thump…clink…thump so he would know when his door was about to be violently kicked in by a certain blonde, undersized subordinate.

So imagine how surprised he was when the door, while not opened gently, did not bounce open fast enough to ricochet off the wall. Roy kept his head tilted down toward his paperwork while his eyes flicked upward curiously. Edward closed the door and walked to his desk--not stomped, not marched, but walked. Roy could practically feel that burning gaze demanding his undivided attention.

Slightly unnerved now, Roy decided to skip the 'so-short-I-can't-see-you-over-the-paperwork' routine and set down his pencil to silently regard the young alchemist. Edward didn't look particularly angry or happy about anything, but underneath his solid determination he looked uncomfortable. Out of his element. And he was fighting hard to keep that uneasiness down so he appeared in total control.

He needs something, Roy concluded.

After a two-minute stare down, it became clear that Edward was stalling. Whatever he needed was something he didn't want to ask for, yet needed badly enough to attempt some semblance of politeness. What was it? More money? More time? More research? What?

Roy leaned back in his chair and interlaced his fingers. "Not that I don't appreciate a distraction from my paperwork, but if all we're going to do is have a staring contest--"

"We found it."

Before Roy could even ask, Edward reached into his pocket and set a palm-sized, blood-red gem on the desk. And for a full thirty seconds, Roy simply stared at the stone. The Stone. The actual, god-damned Philosopher's Stone.

Edward picked the Stone up and carefully slipped it back in his pocket. Roy blinked and brought his raised eyebrows back down to their normal level. "You're sure it's the real thing?"

Edward nodded.

"You're sure it's safe to use?"

A hesitant, but firm nod.

"And you're going to use it?"

"Yes."

Roy let out a breath he didn't know he was holding and nodded.

"Congratulations. Let me know how it turns out." There didn't seem to be anything else to say.

"I…" Edward hesitated and one of Roy's eyebrows went up again. And it occurred to him then that if Edward was truly one hundred percent sure, then he would have used the Stone by now and informed his superior of the results later when he handed in his silver pocket watch.

Edward shifted around, alternately meeting Roy's gaze and looking down at the floor. Finally, he took a deep breath.

"I need you to be there," Edward said quickly. "For the transmutation."

Roy's mouth actually dropped open a fraction of an inch before he schooled his face into an expression more befitting his rank. He hadn't seen that coming.

Though he probably should have. It was basic alchemy safety to have another alchemist nearby during a complicated reaction, whether to intervene or simply observe. And human transmutation was as complicated as it got. Edward's last attempt at the forbidden science had been…unsuccessful, to say the least. Disturbing and utterly tragic would be more appropriate terms.

But, there was one little question niggling in the back of the Flame Alchemist's head.

"Why me?" Roy asked blandly. "I understand that I'm a skilled alchemist who is aware of your secret, but so are one or two others I could name that I would assume you'd pick over me. Your teacher--"

"Teacher wouldn't do it, not even for me and Al," Edward stated. "She doesn't approve of any sort of human transmutation. And…I don't want to put this on her shoulders."

Roy sensed a story behind that, but let it go. "Your father?"

"No."

Running out of ideas, Roy paused. "Major Armstrong?" he suggested.

"I don't know him as well as I know you," Edward pointed out.

"True," Roy conceded wearily.

Edward scowled and his eyes flashed angrily. "You're just trying to get out of doing it, aren't you?"

"I'm just a little confused as to why you even want me there in the first place," Roy admitted. "We're not exactly friends. You barely tolerate being in the same room as me and most of our conversations contain yelling, cursing and insults. So, what's changed that you would willingly let me take part in the most important moment in your life and Al's?"

Edward was silent and then he let out a long, slow breath. He gripped the edge of the desk as if to steady himself, keeping his gaze leveled down.

"I respect you," Edward said evenly. "Both as an alchemist and as a person. I may not show it to your face, but that doesn't mean it's not there. As arrogant and self-serving as you are, you aren't the kind of man to leave your subordinates out in the dirt when they need help."

There was a brief silence while Roy absorbed this surprising, yet oddly flattering, development.

"I have to be honest, Fullmetal," Roy said slowly. "I never expected to hear that from you."

Edward looked up and Roy saw pride warring with necessity in those young eyes. This was costing Edward a great deal to admit, but he was forcing that dignity aside for the sake of his younger brother. It was a facet of Edward's personality that Roy rarely witnessed and one that always left him in awe. Edward was one of those people who held only a select few close to his heart--but those precious few were loved wholly, unconditionally and if any one of them needed Edward to sacrifice heart and soul for them, he would do so without a second thought.

Roy envied that selflessness that seemed to come naturally to the child prodigy.

"You shouldn't be surprised," Edward continued. "We've griped at each other, hated each other, basically done all we could to make each other miserable. But through it all, all you've ever done is help me and Al. You brought me to the military, you gave me the chance to right the wrong I committed. You put up with all the crap I gave you and still allowed me the freedom to search for the Stone. And I'm truly grateful for all of it. This will be the last thing I ask of you."

It was definitely a rehearsed speech, but Roy never doubted for a second that every single word was true. If there was one thing he had learned in his years as a soldier, it was how to tell the difference between genuine praise and mindless bullshit made up to gain something from him. And it was clear as the array on his ignition-cloth gloves that Edward was expressing how he truly felt about his superior. He was putting it all on the line, being completely open for the first time ever because he sincerely needed Roy's help.

And he's afraid I'll turn him down, Roy realized with a start.

Edward removed his hands from the desk and stood a little straighter. "Look, I'm not asking you to take part in the transmutation itself. I don't need guidance, I need security. I learned four years ago not to put too much faith in my own abilities, especially not where human transmutation is concerned. I…"

Edward shook his head and looked down at the floor. When he spoke, his voice was quiet, but honest. "I need someone there in case I mess up and one or both of us ends up hurt. If something goes wrong and it all goes to hell, there's no one else I'd rather have there to pick up the pieces. There's…no one else I'd trust more."

Edward fell silent, still staring at his feet. Roy closed his eyes, still reeling from that last sentence. He never knew Edward thought so much of him. Sure, the kid didn't think he was perfect, but Roy personally didn't care whether Edward idolized him or loathed him. Just hearing that he was trusted from a subordinate he genuinely cared about was enough. It was one of the few things in this world that made Roy believe his life wasn't quite so worthless after all.

Roy got to his feet and walked around the desk to stand beside Edward. He put a hand on the boy's shoulder and golden eyes looked up, filled with guarded hope.

"Tell me when and where," Roy said simply.