Warnings: Ed's language and light sexual situations.
Author's Notes: I could not let the festive season pass without posting something fluffy and light. I always dither over Christmas fic in Amestris since, technically, they probably do not celebrate it. However, snow is something I sincerely hope exists across the multiverse, and is synonymous with the holidays to me, so it just about works ;) Thank you to Kay for the beta, and to you for reading. Happy Holidays!
Roy Mustang gritted his teeth, pulling up the collar of his coat with a quick jerk and thrusting his hands deep in his pockets. It was a beautiful day, by most people's standards. Snow piled on the pavements and formed smooth pillows on the tree branches. Icicles hung like winter's teeth from every roof and ledge, and a gentle breeze scooped up white powder, sending it spinning upwards to settle anew.
His boots crunched steadily along the blanketed pavement as he squinted upwards. The sun was a distant coin in the glass-blue canvas of the sky: a eulogy to the long-gone summer days, and Roy wished with all his heart that the ice would melt and the air would stir with heat again.
He hated winter. It was cold, wet and inconvenient, and that was before the snow began to fall. On days like this, other people seemed to lose all common sense. They frolicked about in what, if it were a bit warmer, would have been rain, and were reduced to childish games.
Everyone in the office had been acting strangely for the past week. Everyone. Even Hawkeye. Admittedly, she was more restrained than the rest of his men, but yesterday he had caught her smiling out of the window in a distinctly wistful way. It seemed she was no more immune than anyone else under his command.
Snow changed people, reducing them to the common denominator of their childhood, and Roy was left feeling bitter and old because he did not share in their glee. He wished he could say he had some deep reason for his distaste, some scar from his younger days or trauma at the hands of winter, but there was no such excuse. When challenged, all he could do was mutter something about the indignity of frozen fingers and wet gloves and hope the subject was dropped.
A patch of ice caught Roy unawares, and he slithered gracelessly, arms pin-wheeling and every muscle twisting to snapping point as he tried to keep his balance. He managed, barely, but it was almost enough to make him turn around and head back to bed. He did not like winter, and it was clear that the feeling was mutual.
The only thing that made him keep walking was the knowledge that Fullmetal would be back from assignment today. He had been down in the snow-less South, and Roy needed his report. He had heard scraps of rumour and, more than anything, he wanted to be sure that Ed had not been using his normal, explosive brand of diplomacy.
That and, he admitted guiltily in the silence of his own head, he simply wanted to see Ed again. The feeling that seemed to buzz beneath Roy's skin whenever Ed stepped into his presence was addictive. Normally, he did his best to ignore it but, when Ed was gone for weeks at a time, his absence was ridiculously hard to bear.
Ed knew nothing about it. At least, Roy hoped that was the case. He had never received any indication of anything more tender than grudging respect from the younger man, and that was unlikely to change. He did not think that Fullmetal would react favourably if he knew that Roy looked at him, not with anger or professional respect, but an intense carnal attraction.
Scrubbing his hand through his hair, Roy grimaced. Ed probably had no idea, and that was how it would stay. He would hold his silence and continue to find pleasure in the smallest of things, like the way Ed smiled sometimes, bright like the sun and surprised by his own happiness, or how damn good he looked in firelight... .
A sudden image unfurled across Roy's mind: Ed curled up with him in a cocoon of blankets, skin-to-skin as the fire blazed in the hearth and the snow sifted down beyond the windows. He could almost feel the warmth of Ed's body, and Roy clenched his jaw as a pulse of desire throbbed through him. There were some things that could make even the coldest winter worth enduring, and Roy cleared his throat as he struggled manfully to keep his mind out of the gutter.
A robin landed in one of the branches overhead, dislodging a lump of snow that landed with perfect aim down Roy's collar. It was better than any cold shower, and he hissed in annoyance as he scrubbed at his nape with a gloved hand. How could anyone enjoy this weather? Was he really the only one who loathed it?
Roy wondered how Ed would react to the ice that blanketed the ground now. He knew that Ed's automail responded badly to low temperatures, but would Ed care? If he was not on assignment, if no lives hung in the balance and no responsibilities bore down upon him, would Ed stand on the side-lines and watch others frolic with something like Roy's bafflement, or would he be among the drifts himself, relishing the fading memories of a childhood he had barely had the opportunity to experience?
It was a bittersweet thought, and Roy scuffed his way onwards, lost in his own world until a voice made him look up.
'Lighten up, Roy. It's just a bit a of snow; there's no need to look like someone just died.' Hughes grinned from behind a scarf wrapped around his neck, clapping Roy's shoulder with a mittened hand and falling into step at his side. 'I'm surprised you didn't get Havoc to drive you in, since you hate the cold so much.'
'He almost wrapped the car around a lamppost yesterday,' Roy replied. 'One brush with death per week is enough for me. I decided I would be safer walking. What's that thing on your head?'
'This?' Hughes tapped the hat, grinning like a fool. It had flaps that could be tied under his chin, but he had left them hanging loose. Coupled with the scarf and mittens, he looked like an over-sized four year old. 'Gracia made it for me. Scoff all you want, but my head's nice and warm, unlike yours.'
'I would rather have frostbite than walk into Central Command wearing that.' A smile curved Roy's lips as his friend waved his hand, indifferent to his criticism. 'I assume Elysia is enjoying herself?' Even as the words left Roy's mouth, he realised his mistake, and he struggled to hold in a sigh as a fan of glossy photographs were waved under his nose.
'Look at her playing in the snow! My little angel! Look, we made snowmen, and a fort, and –'
Roy was used to tuning out Maes' euphoric narrative on Elysia by now, and he carried on walking, agreeing in all the right places until Maes' voice dropped into more normal tones.
'You know, maybe if you just tried enjoying yourself when the weather's like this, you would find out it's not so bad,' Hughes suggested as they turned into the parade ground.
Roy looked around at the crowded expanse, his eyebrow raised in an earnest expression of doubt as he took in the soldiers: grown men and women acting like kids let out of school early. There seemed to be some kind of good-natured war from behind opposing hillocks of snow, and someone had built a rather unflattering replica of the Fuhrer, giving it a military coat and a hat which leaned drunkenly on its frozen head.
'I doubt it,' he murmured. 'It's cold and wet and some idiot always thinks it's funny to throw a –'
A clot of white exploded against his shoulder, dousing him in icy stars that melted as soon as they touched his neck and caught like diamonds on the black of his coat.
'Snowball?' Maes' eyes were dancing with laughter, and he shook his head apologetically. 'Sorry, Roy, but the look on your face... .'
With a grunt of annoyance, Roy squinted across the parade ground, but the soldiers were too busy with their games to notice that an officer, and a General at that, had been hit. It was tempting, very tempting, to snap his fingers and melt the lot. So what if almost a hundred people were somewhat charcoaled in the process? His mood was so foul that it was a price he was almost willing to consider.
Instead, he frowned, trying to pick out any familiar faces. The snowball had not been an errant missile and he was not an innocent victim of the crossfire. The velocity had been exactly right, and the aim dead centre on his shoulder. 'When I find out who threw that, they'll hate winter as much as I do,' Roy vowed, brushing the snow from his coat and striding towards the doors to the Command building. 'Are you coming?'
'No, I think I'll leave you and your mood in peace for a while,' Maes replied. 'Besides, I want to see who wins.'
Roy followed his friend's gaze towards the playing soldiers, unable to see any form of order or allegiance within their chaos. With a shrug, he walked slowly up the icy steps, breathing out a sigh of relief when he finally stepped into the warm confines of Headquarters. His body moved on auto-pilot towards the office, leaving his mind free to fester and sulk.
Perhaps Hughes was right. Maybe if he tried to focus on the positive aspects rather than obsess over the negative, he could at least learn to tolerate the winter months with more grace. However, enough people had tried to get him to see the light in the past: friends throughout his childhood, then later Hughes and Gracia, even Havoc had tried to reason with him, but none had any success. No amount of positive thinking was going to change that.
With a sigh, he reached for the handle to the outer office, frowning when he found it locked. Was he really so early that he had beaten Hawkeye and Havoc in to work? Numb fingers fumbled in his pocket as he tugged the ring of keys free and let himself in to the familiar workspace.
Picking his way through the mess, Roy unlocked the door to his personal domain, dragging his mind reluctantly to the task of the files he knew awaited him. In one movement he stepped across the threshold and snapped his fingers, igniting the wood already lain in the grate. Instantly, the icy light was chased away by a sunny glow, and Roy felt himself truly relax for the first time since he had left his home this morning.
He was halfway across the rug before a tantalising aroma brought him up short. It was a rich, piquant scent, and Roy's gaze was drawn to the desk, where a big mug was placed on the blotter, steam rising from its lip and coiling in the air. Closer inspection told him it was full of coffee. Not the cheap, bitter stuff that filled the carafe in the office, but something far better.
Roy's mouth watered, and he tipped his head to the side as several questions rose to the surface of his mind. Firstly, who cared about his well-being and happiness enough to leave him a mug of coffee: the perfect treat on a morning like this one? Secondly, how had they got in? The doors had been locked, the windows were shut and unbroken, and Roy had not passed anyone he knew in the hallways. The coffee still steamed innocently, so it could not have been there long, but he had no clue how it had got onto his desk.
Finally, the paranoid part of his brain murmured, what if someone was trying to poison him? There were enough of his peers who would rather see him slip into obscurity than rise to become Fuhrer, and Roy would not put it past them to try and kill him off.
Yet it seemed a bit graceless. Poisonings were normally subtle and at crowded banquets, where picking out the perpetrator was almost impossible. Leaving something on his desk and hoping he would drink it was amateurish at best.
The sweet fragrance of cinnamon tickled his nose, a subtle undercurrent to the coffee's scent. It was enough to make Roy crack, and he reached out a hand to cradle the warm cup in his grasp before taking a cautious sip. If anything strange happened, he would drop it and run to the infirmary where, if he survived, he would have to put up with Hughes' lectures about his personal safety for the rest of his natural life.
Roy closed his eyes, relishing the taste for a moment before swallowing. No ill effects seized his body, and he smiled into the mug as he took another sip, feeling the heat pool in his stomach, warming him up from the inside out. Whoever had provided this knew him well; they had added a smidgeon of cream, not milk, to compliment the taste – just the way he liked it. He would suspect Maes, except that he had left him out on the parade ground and even Hughes could not move that fast. So who was it?
Walking around the back of his desk, Roy relaxed into the chair, leaning back and clasping both hands around the mug. His paperwork could wait. For now, he planned to give this unexpected gift his full attention. It almost made it worth getting out of bed this morning.
By the time he reached the bottom of the cup, Roy felt somewhat human again. Sometimes the smallest things could flip the coin of his mood, and he wondered who he had to thank for the reprieve. Someone had gone to the effort to leave the drink here for him to find and then melted away without leaving any sign of their presence. His papers were unruffled, and Hawkeye would have at least straightened up the mess. The air was untainted by cigarette smoke so it was not Havoc. No one else had a key to his office, so who...?
A thought drifted across his mind, and he paused before putting the mug down on his desk. Locks were meaningless to alchemists, and Roy could count on the fingers of one hand those who might go out of their way to improve his mood.
Getting to his feet, Roy went to the door, opening it and inspecting the outside surface. Not even a hint of chalk dust or curving line remained, so whoever it was probably had not drawn an array. That alone narrowed it down considerably: Alphonse and Edward.
Al should not have been able to get on base. Back in his body and, at his brother's insistence, very much not authorised personnel, he should not have been able to get past the sentries. So that left Ed... .
'But why?' Roy mused aloud, pulling a face as the most likely possibility sprang to mind. Ed had made a huge mess of his latest assignment and was trying to soften the inevitable blow of Roy's disappointment.
Except – since when did Ed care about that? He had stood on that rug while Roy lectured and sighed and he had never seemed swayed by Roy's reprimands. It was a dance they had done many times in the past. How catastrophic was the outcome of the mission to provoke this kind of attempt at pacification from Fullmetal?
A shudder worked its way down Roy's spine as he considered the possibilities, but he forced himself to be logical. He would have heard about anything huge. The grapevine of rumour was flourishing, and tales of Fullmetal's adventures always got home well before he did.
So if it was not professional then it had to be – personal?
Roy glanced at the clock, realising that. Ed should be reporting in about an hour. Add twenty minutes for his usual hit-and-miss attitude to punctuality, and Roy had plenty of time to pick apart this strange little riddle. If nothing else, it was far more interesting than his paperwork.
Gradually, the sounds of revelry outside diminished as the soldiers were reminded of their boring, adult duties. The noises of his command trudging into the office was enough to disturb his speculation, and the distinctive tapping of Lieutenant Hawkeye's sensible shoes was all the warning he needed to drag a nearby file in front of him and snatch up his pen.
No sooner had he assumed a pose of earnest diligence, the door opened. To Hawkeye's credit, her footsteps barely faltered, and there was a heavy edge of suspicion and doubt to the surprise that radiated from her body. 'Sir, are you feeling all right?' she asked quietly as she stopped at his side, depositing another stack of paperwork at his elbow.
'Yes, Lieutenant. Why do you ask?'
Roy expected her to mention his early arrival, but he really should have known that Hawkeye would always be one step ahead of him.
'You're reading that report upside down.' Her lips curved into the faintest of smiles, and she seemed to look right into his head as she said, 'I'll get you some coffee, sir, and those are due by the end of the day.'
'Thank you,' he murmured, rotating the paper in his grasp before settling down to read. It was warm and comfortable in his office, perfectly peaceful, and even the boring reports that littered his desk could not diminish his appreciation for being inside. Normally he was aching to leave this room and the responsibility that seemed to be engrained in its walls, but today he was happy to welcome the sanctuary it could offer.
It was easy to lose himself in the mind-numbing repetition of placing his signature on the dotted line. The reason he hated paperwork was because it required just enough concentration to make other thought impossible, but not enough to be mentally stimulating. By the time the clock's minute-hand had ticked steadily around its face, he felt heavy with boredom.
More than once his pen had strayed off into absent-minded doodles: sketches of arrays, half a shopping list and a small beach scene he was rather proud of. He had sharpened all his pencils, tidied his desk, cleared out a drawer and returned, once more, to the dull monotony.
Finally, the unmistakable sound of Ed's voice reached his ears, and Roy's head lifted like a dog hearing its master's call. His hand tightened around his pen as his stomach and heart both clenched with a traitorous mix of happiness and much-ignored want. It took all of Roy's abilities to school his expression into something calm and indifferent.
The door banged back on its hinges, and Ed strolled in as if he had never left. The South had been good to him. A golden hint of a tan still lingered on his skin, and there were one or two brighter streaks in his hair. He looked as if he carried the summer with him, sun-bright in his appearance, and Roy tried to ignore the urge to move closer to Ed's vivid warmth.
'About time you showed up, Fullmetal,' he murmured, raising an eyebrow as Ed shrugged, falling into his comfortable aggressive yet relaxed stance: weight on one hip, arms folded and head tipped ever-so-slightly to one side.
'Wouldn't have bothered to report at all if Al weren't such a fuckin' nag,' he replied. 'You already know what happened. It's not like you need me to tell you anything.'
Roy curved his hand over his mouth, more to hide his smile than anything else. 'I like to see whether your version of events tallies with what I have already heard. How is Alphonse, by the way?'
It never failed. At the mention of Al's name, all of Ed's resentment melted away, replaced instead with a mellow, centred balance that Roy never thought Ed would achieve. 'He's doing really well,' he said with certainty, as if he had never expected otherwise. 'He's signing up for college in January, not that he needs it, but it'll keep him busy – keep him safe.'
Roy struggled to keep his face neutral at those last words. He had always known that Ed could be protective of those he cared about, but when Al was armour he had been virtually indestructible. Now he was made of flesh once more, it was another matter entirely. Roy suspected that Ed had to force himself to let his brother grow up and make his own choices, and there had already been a few arguments between the Elrics on that score.
'I'm glad to hear it,' he said briskly. 'Now, tell me what happened on your assignment.'
Ed narrowed his eyes, and Roy was struck by how much more guarded he had become. There was a time, many years ago now, when Ed would have (grudgingly) reacted to Roy's authority and spilt the beans. At some point, he had begun to learn Roy's strategy. Worse, he had started to respond. The faint animosity between them had become something like a game, and, even now, Ed was looking at him as if he was trying to guess Roy's next move.
'Whatever you heard, it's bullshit,' he finally said, turning away and walking towards the fire before hunkering down in front of the flames, hands outstretched to catch the heat. 'There was nothing going on down there except some fucked up corruption. They were practically slaves because of the military. It's no wonder they almost ripped me apart when they realised I was from the State.'
Roy had heard about that, and he had to admit that he was impressed that Ed had not hurt a single person in his efforts to protect himself. He had learned the value of fast talking over a solid punch, at least some of the time. 'General Chase said that you incited an uprising, causing serious damage to his property.'
Ed made an angry, indignant noise. 'Fucker was living in a mansion while everyone in the town starved to death. There were kids with their ribs all sticking out while Chase couldn't see his feet over his gut.'
'So you knocked down his house?'
'Bet you can't prove it was me.' A wicked grin flashed on Ed's face, pure predator, and Roy knew he was right. If any of the town's people saw what Ed did, they would not tell the military, and there would be no evidence left for the police to find. Ed was too careful for that.
He really was not surprised by Ed's actions. When Fullmetal did lash out, he liked to hit people where it hurt, and General Chase had taken a blow to the finances. He had taken out a large loan to pay for the gargantuan building he called home, and now, with no house and no funds, the military tribunal for corruption was the least of Chase's problems. Ed would have gone out of his way to make sure it was only bricks and mortar that met their demise to a collapse. No living soul would have been hurt – just a lot of pride.
'General Chase was taken into custody on the strength of your accusations and will face trial,' Roy explained, glancing towards the relevant file. He had read it enough times to know the information by heart, and he wished he could believe that Chase would get the punishment he deserved. 'You won't need to testify.' He stared at Ed's profile, taking in the pensive frown thrown into relief by the dancing flames. 'You did a good job, Fullmetal.'
Ed looked up at the unexpected praise, and Roy's breath caught in his throat at the honest smile that tilted his lips. It was a brief thing, gone before it had a chance to flourish, and Ed shrugged as he retorted, 'I always do a good job. It's not my fault the military doesn't like how I get things done.'
Roy watched him straighten up. Noticing that he was favouring his right leg a touch, although whether that was through some injury or because the cold hurt his automail he was not sure. Before he could ask, Ed spoke again, cutting off his train of thought. 'You got anything else for me?'
Some selfish, embarrassing part of him wanted to lie, wanted to make up something for Ed to do as long as it kept Ed in his office, but Roy knew it would raise suspicion – not just from the military if they ever checked the paperwork, but from Ed, who was not as oblivious as he used to be.
Even now, he was returning Roy's gaze like for like, and it was hard not to squirm under that gold-eyed scrutiny. It was not about impatience; Ed was watching him and taking in every detail like he was hunting for clues. If Roy did not know better he would think that Ed was trying to gauge his mood before admitting some bad deed, but they had already discussed his assignment; what else could he have to confess?
Whatever it was, Ed swallowed it back, cocking his head and raising his eyebrows. 'Well? Do you have work for me, or can I go?'
His voice seemed more husky than it had a moment ago, and the exposed column of his throat was artlessly perfect. If it was anyone else, Roy would have thought he was being teased, but Ed's movements were too graceful and natural. Ed licked his lips to moisten them, and heat flared through Roy, clutching between his legs and making him very grateful for the big desk that hid his lap from view.
When he spoke, his words sounded a little choked to his ears. 'Dismissed, Fullmetal. You can carry on with your own projects for now. I'll let you know if anything comes up.' Roy tried to suppress a wince at the unintended double entendre, but if Ed noticed anything then he did not mention it. Instead that captivating smile lit his face again as he turned away, waving lazily over his shoulder as he banged his way out of the office with his usual flamboyant lack of care.
It was only when he was alone again that Roy felt able to take a normal breath, and a sharp blade of disappointment stabbed through him. Ed had not so much as glanced at the empty coffee cup the entire time. There had been nothing particularly unusual about the whole encounter, and Roy flicked a report aside in annoyance. He had been stupid to hope that, somehow, Ed had realised Roy's feelings and decided to respond favourably. He was back to square one, and his better mood rapidly darkened with the clouds of his own annoyance and confusion.
By the time it got to lunch, most of the staff in the office were avoiding him at all cost. On any other day, Roy would have felt guilty for letting his temper affect that comfort of his command but, right now, he could not give a damn. They had their snow and their happiness, and he had stupid paperwork and, since he had neglected to get groceries, no food. He would have to brave the canteen, and the very thought was enough to make him question his hunger.
The only thing that stopped him from skipping the meal all together was that, if Hawkeye found him fainted over his desk, she would have no sympathy for him, and was more likely to dole out some form of work-related punishment than cut him any slack. Even in a good mood, the lieutenant's displeasure was something to be avoided, and so Roy grabbed his coat and braced himself for the short walk across one of the courtyard to the dining area.
As soon as he set foot outside the door, the cold pounced like a wolf on a deer, and he sucked in a miserable breath. It was tainted with the stench of over-cooked meat, soggy vegetables and gravy made mostly of lard. His stomach rebelled at the thought, and Roy swivelled on his heel to head for the main exit of the Command building. The canteen food might be free, but that did not mean it was edible. There was a place he went at times like these, a little bistro that did the best hot sandwiches in the world and, right now, he felt completely validated in spending the money.
Moving through Headquarters towards the parade ground, Roy only slowed down when the ice on the steps threatened to send him plummeting to the unforgiving earth. When he reached the bottom, Roy turned towards the perimeter, hesitating when he saw Hughes standing in the lee of the building, waiting patiently as he tucked into a massive sandwich.
'About time you got here,' he said around a mouth-full. 'I wondered how long it would take you to realise you couldn't face the military fare.'
'I might have brought my own lunch,' Roy said coolly. 'You could have been standing there for hours. Don't you have anything better to do?'
'Not really,' Maes said with a grin. It rapidly turned into a scowl when he saw the way Roy was staring at his meal. 'Oh no, Gracia made this sandwich. You won't show it adequate appreciation.' He folded his half-eaten lunch in the grease paper it had been wrapped in and tucked it into his pocket, falling in at Roy's side. 'Thought I'd keep you company. If I let you sulk, you'll only get worse.'
'I don't sulk,' Roy muttered, frowning when Hughes laughed at him.
'Liar,' his friend said kindly. 'Come on. You're always happier after one of Loretta's lunches. I admit that they're good. Not Gracia good, but good none-the-less.'
The snow on the parade ground had been stamped down and churned up by the playful troops, and Roy concentrated on where he was putting his feet. The last thing he wanted was to end up flat on his face. Maes chattered away about the people in his office, filling the sullen silence with his usual cheerfulness until Roy was forced to speak, if only to break up Hughes' endless monologue.
'Why does snow make people behave like idiots?' he asked, taking a sharp right between two out-buildings: a short-cut to one of the side-gates. It led to a small, tree-lined path and a bit of parkland. It was designed to give the Fuhrer a decent view, and Roy glanced up at the empty, dark windows before scowling back at the ground in front of him. 'It happens every year, and I'm no closer to understanding it.'
Maes sighed, but quietly, like he did not want Roy to think he was being tiresome. 'Soldiers deal with the darker side of civilisation every day, whether it's the big things, like war, or the more subtle evils. Childhood's a distant memory for most of us, Roy, and not just because of the accumulating years. When the weather's like this, people remember how to find joy in the little things. It's a skill you could do to learn, you know.'
'I can take pleasure in simplicity, Maes, but I don't see the appeal of icy snow, numb fingers and slippery pathways. Everyone acts like it's a damn wonderland. It doesn't make any sense.'
Hughes rolled his eyes, grabbing Roy and dragging him to a halt beneath the arching boughs of the tree branches. With a hint of irritation, he waved a mittened hand along the avenue, glistening like a ton of icing sugar had exploded in the open air.
'Everyone has their reasons for liking snow. Sometimes it's about having fun, about running across unspoiled snow just to leave your mark or building snowmen or something. A lot of people think weather like this is romantic, and others just like to see their city made pristine. Why does it bother you so much that others enjoy it?'
'It's not like that,' Roy said quickly, tugging his sleeve free and ambling forward. 'I don't mind that other people are happy, but I hate that they feel compelled to make me share their enthusiasm.'
Above Roy's head, there was a soft, slippery sigh, and he had a brief moment to notice the subtle tang of alchemy in the winter air before several gallons of snow lost its fight with gravity and plummeted to the ground. Unfortunately, he was in its way, and there was not even time to snap his fingers and melt it before it hit.
Roy shut his eyes and gritted his teeth, bracing himself as the freezing clumps landed on his head and shoulders, finding every boundary of cloth and flesh and slipping inside to melt against his skin. With an irritable sigh, he shook his arms before brushing the little mountains of white powder off his shoulders and out of his hair, which then stuck up in strange, damp tufts.
He was painfully aware of Maes trying to stifle his laughter. He was not doing a very good job, and Roy shot him a glare before looking around the abandoned boulevard. There was no one there, no other soldiers, no secretaries and no short, blonde alchemists, yet he was certain he had caught the brief smell of a transmutation. What the hell was going on?
'Let me guess,' Maes choked, still trying to keep a straight face. 'You think someone deliberately made the snow fall off the branch?'
It sounded ridiculous when Hughes said it like that, and Roy grimaced before striding away, leaving his friend to hurry up or get left behind. 'I'm cold, tired and miserable. The sooner I get my lunch and get back to the office the better.'
Maes smiled, casting him a pitying look and nudging him gently around a patch of ice rather than letting him walk across it. 'You must really hate winter. In all the time I've known you, I don't think I've ever heard you sound enthusiastic to get back to the office. It must be serious.'
Roy grunted, stepping over the perimeter and turning along the street towards Loretta's. He could already smell the scent of hot meat and herbs, fresh bread and good coffee, and his stomach growled in enthusiasm.
As soon as he walked in the door, Roy felt some of the ice thaw from his blood. A large fireplace dominated one end of the room, and large mahogany chairs were arranged around the mismatched, well-scrubbed tables. At this time of day, the place was crowded, but Roy made his way to his usual spot by the fire, confident that it would be empty.
When he and Hughes sat down, a plump woman in her sixties looked up from behind the counter, a confused frown knitting her brow as she walked towards them. 'Major-General, I wasn't expecting to see you here today,' Loretta said cheerfully. 'We were just about to send your order over to the office. It's just come out of the oven.'
'Order?' Roy repeated stupidly. 'I didn't put one in this morning.'
'You sure?' Loretta asked, tugging a notepad free from an apron pocket and flicking back through the pages. 'Oh, well, it's your favourite, bought and paid for. I guess someone decided you needed taking care of. I'll be right back with your lunch.'
Roy watched her bustle away before glancing back at Hughes, wincing inwardly as he noticed the way his friend regarded him: too intelligent, too knowing and far too suspicious for Roy's liking. 'Is there something you should be telling me?' Maes asked. 'Some special person in your life that I should know about?'
'No,' Roy replied bluntly, shrugging out of his coat so he would feel the benefit of it when he got outside again and moving a little closer to the fire. It crossed his mind to leave it at that, but he knew Hughes. The man would sense that there was something left unsaid, and he would chip away at Roy's silence until he finally caved. Besides, perhaps Maes would have some insight into this that Roy had overlooked. 'At least, I don't think so.'
Hughes leaned back, his arms folded across his chest as he listened to the quiet explanation. Roy told him about the coffee waiting for him on his desk – still hot, still perfect – sealed behind a locked door and a load of closed windows.
Roy only stopped when Loretta returned, placing a plate loaded with a large sandwich: four different kinds of cooked meat between two halves of freshly baked bread. There was also some fresh salad and a tall, decent cup of coffee balanced on her tray and, as she put it down, Maes asked, 'Do you know who put in the order? A man, a woman?'
'No, sorry. Jarod took it this morning, and he's gone home for the day.' She grinned again, her dark eyes sparkling with mischief that made her look two decades younger as he glanced at Roy. 'Perhaps you have a secret admirer? That shouldn't be a rare thing for you, surely? Although I have to admit, a decent meal is better than flowers!'
Roy grinned his thanks as she turned away with a wave, leaving him to bear Hughes' silent, thoughtful regard as he tucked into his lunch. Loretta's sandwiches always tasted good, but one that had already been paid for had that extra soupçon of delight, spiced with the mystery of his benefactor.
He had been certain that it was Ed who had brought him the coffee earlier that day, but there had been nothing telling about Ed's body language when he had seen him. That lack was enough to make Roy think twice, and he ran through a list in his head as he ate.
'You have any idea who it might be?' Maes asked. 'Loretta's right, you know, they are looking after you. Food, drink and the associated warmth and comfort; they're not just trying to get your attention, they're meeting your most basic needs other than air.'
He gave a cheerful grin, glancing around before pulling out his own lunch and taking a bite. When he had swallowed, he added, 'I think I like them already. Now you just have to work out who it is. Someone new, or an old lover looking to start something again.'
'If it's the latter, then they're in for a disappointment,' Roy said firmly. 'If it ends, it's for a reason. I don't do on again, off again.'
'You don't do forgiveness,' Hughes pointed out grimly. 'For your friends, yes, but for your partners?' He shook his head woefully. 'That's all the proof you need that, in years of dating, you've never found the right person for you. If you had, you wouldn't be so fast to close the door on them.' He must have noticed Roy's scowl at the old, familiar lecture, because Maes waved a hand, casting the conversation away and settling down to the issue of the moment.
'So, you don't know who it might be?'
Roy paused with his sandwich halfway to his mouth, wondering exactly how much to tell Maes. It was not that he did not trust his friend, but the last thing he wanted was to lay his cards on the table only to find out he was way off the mark. It would leave him too open, and maybe Maes would never take advantage of that vulnerability, but it would always be between them: friendship's ammunition for the harder times. Hughes knew the best way to get Roy to fold was to embarrass him, and Roy was not eager to add to his friend's formidable arsenal.
'I have a few ideas, but they're guesses, mostly. There's not much to go on.' He carried on talking between mouthfuls, outlining his suspicions about an alchemist, and one who knew him well enough to know his likes and habits. It was only when his plate was almost empty and his coffee half-gone that he came upon the final, misshapen piece of the puzzle. 'Why start this now, on a day when someone's been throwing snowballs and when I'm generally in a foul mood?'
'Maybe it's the same person,' Maes suggested, crumpling up his sandwich wrapper and throwing it into the fire that roared in the grate. 'Although I have to say, I still think the snow thing is all your imagination.' He cocked his head to one side as if observing the situation from a new angle, and his eyes widened as if he had been struck by an idea.
'What?' Roy asked, draining his coffee mug and raising his eyebrow in question. 'I know that look. What is it?'
Hughes did not answer straight away, and when he spoke there was a definite edge of delight to his words. 'If you are right about the snow thing, if it is someone behaving deliberately, then they're timing it perfectly. You hate snow, and each of these treats has arrived after you have had your distaste of winter renewed. Coffee after the snowball, lunch after the mini-avalanche from the tree... . They're making sure you really appreciate what you're given.' Maes laughed gently. 'Remind you of anyone?'
Roy sighed, rubbing his hand over his face. Of course it did; it was exactly the kind of thing he had been known to do in the past. Perhaps nothing as obvious as snowballing a potential partner, but his subtle manipulations still had the same outcome.
The only difference was that his actions when getting a lover's attention were always choreographed and serious. What was happening to him did not feel like that. If he had to describe it, one word came to mind: playful. It could have easily come across as malicious, but now that he linked the snow-related incidents with the gifts awaiting him, he felt it was more about making sure he was paying attention than enhancing his feelings.
'If you don't know who it is,' Maes began, 'then I'm not going to spoil it for you, but I would bet an entire year's wage that I know who's doing this.' He was grinning like a fool, and Roy watched him stand up and shrug into his coat. 'Come on, let's get you back to Hawkeye. She's not in such a good mood that she won't make your life hell for taking a two hour lunch break.'
Roy nodded, tugging his coat off the chair and bundling himself up in its depths. He wrapped the scarf around his neck, hoping to defend himself from the biting air outside and did up every button at his disposal. Loretta waved them a cheerful goodbye as they weaved their way between the other patrons and stepped out onto the ice-slicked street.
'If it is the person you think it is, then do you approve?' Roy asked, the question slipping past his lips before his brain had the chance to censor it. Maes was not a stupid man, and if he was seeing the same clues as Roy, then he would have reached an identical conclusion. He did not know why it mattered to him what Hughes thought. Roy had dated several people over the years who Maes had disliked from day one, but there had never been so much in the way of those relationships.
If this was Ed trying to get his attention – Roy's heart floated at that thought – if it was the start of something, then it would never be easy. Knowing that Maes would be a help, rather than a constant, sniping hindrance would be a great relief.
'Yes,' Maes said firmly, his voice holding no trace of doubt. 'A lot of people won't, but I'm not one of them.' He patted Roy on the shoulder, his face suddenly serious as he explained. 'If they can make you smile when you would normally grouching around like a bear with a sore head, then they're worth a go, no matter what might try and get in your way. Also, I think they're the kind of person who is naturally attentive to people they care about. I think you could work very well together, if you're willing to fight for it?'
Hughes made that last part a question, and Roy barely needed to think about the answer. He had known for a while that he would never be satisfied with having Ed just for one night. If he was going to start something, then Roy wanted to try for something more permanent. The only thing that had barred his way was the certainty that a relationship was something Ed would never want. Now that was faltering, and it was only the lingering doubts that held him back.
'There has to be something there to fight for, first, and I'm still not certain that there is,' Roy muttered. 'If I'm wrong, then Ed will never trust me again.'
Too late he realised that he had either just confirmed Maes' suspicions or stunned him with an unexpected revelation. He had not meant to mention Ed's name at all, and a glance over at his best friend confirmed his first thought. If it weren't for his bulky mittens, Hughes would have been rubbing his hands together in glee. As it was, Roy could see that the width of his grin was threatening to make the top of his head fall off.
'Trust me, Roy, I don't think you're wrong. This has Ed written all over it, snowballs and all. All you have to do is let him know you're getting the message and move on from there.' Maes lowered his voice as they passed over the perimeter and back through the courtyard. They were both walking briskly, chased on by the cold clamp of the air all around them, but there was still a chance they could be overheard. 'I'm not saying it'll be easy. It won't, but I reckon it'll be worth it for both of you if you just have the balls to try.'
Roy sighed as they stepped back into the warm corridor, tapping clots of snow from his boots and feeling very aware of Hughes watching him, waiting for an answer he could not give. 'I'll think about it,' he said in the end, huffing as he felt the disapproval in Maes' glare.
'Then think about it fast, Roy, because I doubt he'll wait forever for you to make up your mind.' With a shake of his head, Maes waved farewell, heading back to Intelligence and leaving Roy to trudge the halls back to his office. Hawkeye did not give him more than a faintly disappointed look when he wandered back in, but she handed him another stack of files with instructions to finish them by the end of the day.
It was easy to ensconce himself in the warmth of his domain, seated comfortably behind his desk with the reports in front of him, but focussing his mind on the work was more of a challenge. His thoughts kept drifting back through the day, and every time he thought of Ed his heart jumped with a mixture of excitement and terror.
Maes had sounded so certain that he knew what he was talking about, and it was enough to make him wonder about how others saw his and Ed's interactions. Had everyone else in the office been struck by the obvious shift in their relationship while he and Ed had been oblivious?
Roy hated to think that he was so indiscreet. That, at least, would have to stop if he started a relationship with Ed. The military would never take it lightly, not just because they were both male or because of what some might see as a scandalous age difference. They would cite the fact that Roy was Ed's commanding officer as a reason to make their lives difficult. Switching Ed to another command was asking for trouble on a massive scale, and there was still another eight months until his contract expired.
They would have to be careful, that was all. Ed had spent most of his life keeping secrets and knew the true weight of consequences, and Roy had too much to lose to let himself be stupid about this. It would be difficult, but not impossible, and he was used to those odds. Once Ed was out of the military, the only issues remaining would be those of a rigid society, and Roy knew those would not be easy to overcome.
There would always be fools who could not see beyond the technicalities to what lay beneath. People would always seek to apply their own rules of normalcy and eradicate those that did not fit the norm, but, in the end, what they thought or said did not matter to Roy's personal life, and he was used to battling against the current in his professional advancement. The onus would be on him to ensure that his sexuality and choices were overlooked in favour of his accomplishments, and that was a challenge he was happy to accept.
Tipping his pen back and forth, Roy snorted in bitter laughter. He was getting way ahead of himself. It was so much easier to plan for the known issues and ignore the doubtful spectre that lingered in his mind. All of this plotting would be for nothing if both he and Hughes were wrong. If Ed did not feel the same way about him after all, then it would be a moot point. Perhaps it was someone else trying to get his attention, and Roy realised sadly that, if it was, he simply would not be interested.
The gestures were pleasant in themselves, but it was only the thought that Ed might be behind them that added the giddy thrill that was in full bloom beneath Roy's ribs. He could not remember the last time he had felt this way, and the power of his hope was rapidly beginning to subdue the hollow fear his doubts inspired.
By the time twilight had begun to draw its veils across the sky, Roy had barely made a dent in his paperwork. The clock's hands were hanging ponderously over five in the afternoon, and he could hear the chatter and cheerfulness emanating from the outer office as the end of the day approached.
Soon enough, even Lieutenant Hawkeye had made her way out of the door, urged away by Roy's gentle assurances that he would walk home when he had finished. He persevered with his work, and finally swirled his signature where it was needed. The reports could contain plans for attacking Drachma for all he knew; he had barely paid the words any attention as he skimmed through the documents. His head was too full, brimming with possibilities, weighed down by doubt and buoyed by hope.
Roy was not even sure what he planned to do. Part of him wanted to rush out into the wide, white world and find Edward. He felt like he was standing at a fork in the path of his life, and only answers from Ed would let him know which direction to turn. Yet he could not shake off his caution. Even as his body shivered with anxious excitement, his mind warned him off. Sleep on it. Give it time. Do not rush into anything. Sometimes it felt as if he lived his life by those rules, not professionally, but personally, and he longed to cast off the shackles of his unease.
Yet even if he decided to find Ed, Roy was not sure where he would be. The city was his playground, and Ed could literally be anywhere. Roy could spend most of the night hunting him down, or he could go home and bide his time until Ed came to him. If he really was behind all this, then it would not be long before Ed sought Roy out. After all, if there was one thing Ed lacked, it was patience.
Ignoring the whispered accusation in his head that he was simply putting things off and playing it safe, Roy pulled on his coat. He turned off the lamps, and snuffed out the fire with a quiet click of his fingers before he let himself out.
Central Command was pleasantly quiet at this time of night. It was the week's end, and the soldiers had no doubt gone out into the city in search of some fun. It would be a hellish raucous mess of cheer in the early hours of the morning, Roy suspected, but right now it was almost tranquil.
He poked his head out of the front door and looked around the parade ground, searching for any sign of an ambush. He was not stupid, and he could recognise the pattern that something bad and snow-related happened before he was rewarded with something pleasant. Nothing had happened since his unexpected lunch, and Roy felt somewhat on edge. However, there was nothing obvious lurking in the shadows waiting for him to emerge, and he finally braced himself and stepped out into the cold air.
It had been bitter during the day, but now it was like a vice. A quick glance upwards showed no sign of moon or stars, and he suspected that snow clouds had crowded the sky since the middle of the day. If he wanted to get home before a blizzard began, then he had to hurry.
Avoiding the ice, he picked his way across the parade ground, smiling despite himself at some of the snowmen. They were all clumsy, and some were downright obscene. It seemed when given a sculpting material of any kind, men the world over were hard put to resist constructing an interpretation of their manhood.
Roy smirked at the Fuhrer snowman, which was now sporting a very small stick in the vague area of its groin. It would no doubt be demolished before Hakuro returned but, for now, the troops were making their lack of respect known.
With a shake of his head, he hunched his shoulders and headed for the gate, bidding the sentries a quiet goodnight before turning out onto the street. There were hardly any cars at this time of night, and the road's surface was like an ice-rink. It was almost too dangerous to walk on, let alone drive, and Roy kept close to the walls of the buildings lining the street, concentrating hard on not losing his balance.
It was a miserable walk; the cold seeped through his clothes and took root in his bones. Normally, he took the long route to work and a short-cut on the way home, and now was no different. He slipped through the open gates to one of Central's parks and shuffled along the path, trying to control his shivers as he thought longingly of a hot fire and a warm brandy – anything to restore feeling to his fingers and toes, which were rapidly turning numb.
The trees and shrubs blocked out the quiet sounds from the city, and gas lamps painted golden circles through the darkness. Children had been out playing on the main lawns of the park, but Roy's way home led him past a sheltered clearing amidst the trees. Here the snow was pristine and untouched. Not even a rabbit had bounded across the surface, and Roy paused to admire the sight. Hughes was right in that, at least. Roy might not like being in the snow, but he could appreciate the beauty of it, sometimes.
A soft whisper of sound behind him made him whip around, and a snowball whisked past his cheek, barely missing him as it sailed out and pocked the perfect pillow of white. He did not pay it any attention, choosing instead to focus on the young man who had thrown it.
Ed looked suitably impressed that Roy had managed to dodge, and the grin on his face was pure wickedness as he watched curiously, waiting to see how Roy would react. He looked as stunning as ever, a vision of red and gold on a canvas-white world. His cheeks were bitten pink by the cold, and his eyes were bright with an unspoken challenge that Roy had no choice but to accept.
'Hughes thought I was being ridiculous, but it was you who threw that snowball this morning,' Roy said in a low, deadly voice, 'and then rigged that tree to drop all that snow on my head, wasn't it?'
'And what if it was?' Ed asked, shifting his weight onto the balls of his feet: a predator preparing to pounce. His words were soft and playful, a daring purr that sent a dart of pleasure down Roy's spine as he issue the challenge. 'What are you going to do about it, Mustang?'
Roy shifted his weight, suppressing the smile that wanted to curve his lips as he murmured, 'Well there's only one thing I can do, Ed. Equivalent exchange.'
As fast as he could, he scooped a handful of snow from the ground, compressing it with one pat of his hands and throwing it with perfect aim towards Ed. It exploded against his chest, the snowflakes glimmering like diamond dust in the light of the street lamps as the air swirled with Ed's disbelieving laughter.
'Fucker.' Ed snorted, his grin robbing the insult of any animosity as he scooped up another handful of white powder. 'You asked for it!'
Roy ducked behind a nearby tree, grinning as icy stars exploded against the bark and retaliating with a volley of his own. Ed moved almost too fast to hit, but Roy had years of strategy on his side, and it felt good to land a few good shots of his own. Within minutes his gloves were drenched and his fingers senseless with the chill, but he felt better than he had all day. His heart was thrumming and every pant clouded the air in front of him as he threw again, hearing Ed's yelp as the snow slithered down his back.
Revenge was sweet.
A quick curse escaped Roy's lips as a flash of alchemy sizzled in the air, and the branches above him trembled with the aftershock, veiling him in a curtain of falling stars. They waltzed down all around, him, kissing his skin with their frigid touch and catching in his hair. By the time they cleared, there was no sign of Ed, and Roy tossed the snowball in his hand up and down thoughtfully as he considered his options.
The sound of running footsteps reached his ears a split second before someone crashed into his side, knocking him down into the waiting bed of crystalline ice and landing gracelessly on top of him. With barely a grunt of effort, Roy rolled with his momentum, feeling the surprise in the taut pull of Ed's muscles as he was pinned beneath Roy's weight.
Laughter made Ed's chest jump to its tune, and Roy blinked down at him, almost nose-to-nose and stunned into motionlessness by the sight before his eyes. Ed's braid was coming loose, and the gold strands were beaded with snowflakes that shone in the lamplight.
He was cold, Roy could feel the chill weight of the automail wrist through his gloves, but his eyes were lit with daring and excitement, a million miles from the serious young man that Roy had grown so used to over the years. He looked like the only living thing in a dead world, and Roy was captivated.
'Shit,' Ed muttered, his gentle curse clouding the air as his voice took on the same, husky edge as earlier that day. Roy could feel the rise and fall of his chest in ragged, edgy pants beneath his body, and his heart was thumping hard against Roy's ribs. 'That didn't work out the way I thought it would. Come on, let me up, Mustang. You got your equivalent exchange, didn't you?'
Roy swallowed tightly as all the excitement and exhilaration, anticipation and uncertainty boiled in his stomach, filling his body with fizzing swathes of uncertain heat. Logic had nothing to do with his answer, and he shook his head a fraction as he murmured, 'Not quite.'
Before Ed could ask any questions, Roy closed the fractional distance between them, brushing his lips softly against Ed's mouth and shivering at Ed's gasp of surprise. For one moment, Roy wondered if he had read it all wrong, if this was not the game Ed had wanted to play, but in the next heartbeat his fears vanished, melted away by Ed's heat as he parted his lips in invitation.
Roy felt Ed's eyelashes flutter against his cheeks as he shut his eyes, and a groan rumbled in his chest as Ed's tongue flicked shyly against his own as if he was afraid of scaring Roy away. It was almost impossible to believe that this was happening. How many times had he thought about doing this? How many times had he imagined the way Ed would taste and the shift of that lithe, young body beneath him?
Yet he had never, in his wildest dreams, believed that it could be like this.
Ed tasted like some kind of forbidden promise, an addictive drug with an edge of sweetness that made Roy forget about the cold and the snow all around them. He tasted like life, and Roy could drown himself in it without a second thought. His fingers still manacled Ed's wrists, but they were no form of restraint. If Ed had wanted to, he could have pulled away with ease, but the slow writhe of his body told a different story.
Roy gasped as Ed's erection pressed against his own hardening length, sending sharp arrows of heat through his body. Strong muscles shifted as Roy moved his hands, fingers tangling in the cloth of Ed's coat as one hand slipped down to his hip and the other cupped Ed's neck, his thumb angled along Ed's jaw to rest against the thrumming pulse at the hollow of his throat.
Some small voice warned him that he was making out with a much younger subordinate in the middle of a park, but it was drowned out by the roar of want in Roy's ears. It was as if a dam that held back every one of his desires had burst beneath the strain. It almost did not feel real, but if this was a dream then Roy never wanted it to end.
With a quiet moan, Ed broke away, his hands bunched in the lapels of Roy's coat as if to hold him prisoner while he fought to get his breath back. Weakly, Roy rested his forehead against Ed's brow, trying to reach for some element of control, but it was too far away. He had exposed himself utterly by kissing Ed like that and, rather than suffering for it, all of his honesty had been answered in kind.
'Thank you,' he managed at last, smiling as Ed's body jerked in surprise against his own.
'For what?' he asked, his voice reduced to a sexy-as-hell hush that turned Roy's mouth dry.
'Coffee, lunch.' He swept his gloved thumb over Ed's bottom lip, suddenly hating the fabric for blocking his skin from Ed's swollen pout. 'Kissing me back.... '
Ed parted his lips, nipping the tip of Roy's thumb like an animal staking a claim as he murmured, 'Yeah, well. I spent the whole damn day trying to get your attention, Mustang. I was hardly going to push you away once I had you where I wanted you, was I?'
'You really want me?' Roy asked, wincing inwardly at the pathetic question, but it was asked from the heart. Even now this seemed surreal and impossible. Ed yelled at him, he ranted and raged, he did not kiss him like it was all that he needed in the world.
'Idiot,' Ed whispered, tugging meaningfully on Roy's coat and tilting his head up until their lips were only a hair's breadth apart. 'Can't make it much more obvious, can I? Want you so much it fuckin' hurts.'
He kissed Roy again like there was no alternative, dragging him under to lose himself all over again. Seconds, minutes, hours, it did not matter how long they lay there but, despite the heat washing through them both, there was no denying the deepening chill in the air. It was that, more than anything, that made Roy pull back. He stroked his hand down Ed's jaw before shifting back and getting to his feet, pulling Ed up after him and reaching out to tuck his hair back behind his ear.
If the kisses had been a mistake, then the spell would have been broken, but it lingered around them both like opium smoke. Ed's face was flushed and his eyes were burnished bronze in the lamplight. His pupils were flared, and his lips parted, but the happiness in his expression was edged with a hint of doubt.
Roy watched as Ed licked his lips, and need jolted through his body. He knew how that tasted now, how it felt, and he only wanted more. Yet he was not going to push Ed into anything. Roy had been the one to initiate this, and now he had to get some indication from Ed that it was really something he could have.
'Is this – Are we starting something here?' Ed asked, blushing furiously but lifting his chin all the same as if daring Roy to comment. He looked almost afraid of the response, but when had Ed ever backed down? It almost hurt Roy to think that he was the cause of that vulnerability, and he could only nod his head as he held out his hand, palm up for Ed to take.
'Yes,' he whispered, his heart in his throat, swollen with fear and excitement. 'I don't know what, exactly, but if you want to find out, then so do I.'
For a minute Ed watched him, and there was a hint of the old wariness back in his eyes, like he was waiting for the punchline to some cruel joke. Yet, when none came, he slipped his hand into Roy's, fingers curling in a promise as Roy urged him closer, back into his arms where he belonged.
'Deal,' Ed whispered, catching Roy's lip oh-so gently between his teeth, adding a rough edge to the softness of the kiss that followed. The trunk of a tree pressed against Roy's back, supporting his weight as his knees threatened to give out, but he barely felt its presence as he surrendered himself utterly.
It was almost impossible to tell who was claiming who, and Roy shivered in delight as Ed's flesh hand slid down his side, grasping his hip in a proprietary way. A low, needy growl escaped Ed's throat as he swept his tongue into Roy's mouth, stroking and teasing in a way that was enough to make Roy forget about everything but this.
Around them, the snow started to fall once more, twirling in a giddy waltz towards the waiting earth. Yet Roy felt nothing of the chill. Tonight, Ed had brought the sun out in Roy's chest, golden with eternal summer to warm him through and through. In the years to come, not even the bleakest of winters would rob him of that.
He had finally found his wonderland, and it was Ed who led him there.