A/N: Yay, my first FMA fanfic. Enjoy~ :D
As a side note, do you know how long it took me to think of a title for this fanfiction? I still think I could have given it a better name. xD

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist.


Friends to Lean On

"You know, Fullmetal, I would have thought that in three years, you would have at least figured out how to write a proper report." Roy Mustang glanced up from the papers in his hand and looked over to Edward, who was sitting slouched on the couch in his office, arms crossed.

"The hell are you talking about, you bastard?" muttered the young alchemist sourly, obviously in an unpleasant mood. "I think it's an excellent report."

The colonel raised a skeptical eyebrow and read off the report, "'The hotel bedding is less than satisfactory, but the food is okay. Nights here suck, though. Damnable drunkards shouting until dawn.' Fullmetal, does that sound like something one should include in an official report?"

"...yes."

"'Everyone gave Al and me a hard time, as usual. They also don't know a thing about the Stone (that or they won't tell me), and can only complain about their own problems ("Oh, there's been a chain of robberies, what if my store is targeted next... What should I do?"). Boo hoo to them. Next time, try showing some hospitality, and maybe I'll sympathize, ungrateful assholes,'" Roy continued. "'I caught the robber; just another faceless amateur. Townspeople apologized, "I didn't think you were actually a State Alchemist!" Yeah, that's what they all say. Maybe next time you'll actually give people the benefit of the doubt.' ...Need I go on?" There were, of course, good parts in the report as well, if you waded through all of the unnecessary opinions and rantings, but Roy felt no need to point that out, enjoying the opportunity to annoy his youngest subordinate.

"I know what's in my own report, thank you," Ed growled. "Can I go now?"

Roy regarded his subordinate thoughtfully. Edward was being unusually passive today—well, relatively passive, at least. He clearly wasn't in an agreeable mood, which was normal, but he also wasn't behaving as violently as he usually did. "Feeling okay, Shorty?" Roy asked cautiously, and watched for Ed's response.

The young alchemist stiffened and stood up, but he only replied, through clenched teeth, "Perfectly fine."

"Okay, now I know something's wrong. A 'perfectly fine' Fullmetal wouldn't hesitate to respond to my short jibe."

"Who are you calling a miniature half-pint midget shrimp?" Ed shouted half-heartedly. "There. Happy?"

Roy frowned. "You're really starting to worry me now. What's wrong?"

Ed jammed his hands into his pockets and stared at the ground. "Nothing's wrong, really. May I go now?" he asked quietly.

Something big must be troubling Edward for him to be acting like this, Roy decided, then wondered if perhaps he had been too harsh today. "Are you sure you're okay?" he pressed.

Ed looked up and a flash of irritated impatience crossed his face. "I'm just tired, that's all," he answered.

"Well...okay," Roy said slowly. "I guess you can go. Are you heading back to the dorms?"

Nodding absently as if his mind was on something else entirely, Ed turned and left. Roy waited for a few minutes, then followed his subordinate to the military dorms. He halted outside Ed's door, listening, but he couldn't hear any sounds from within the room. Roy turned the knob experimentally and was surprised to find it was unlocked. He pushed the door open gently and glanced around. There was only one faint lamp on in the corner of the room. In the middle of the room sat Edward, hunched on the sofa and wrapped up in a blanket, eyes staring blankly ahead. He looked up in surprise as the door opened.

"Al?" he asked hesitantly, unable to see clearly in the weak light cast by the small lamp.

"No, it's the Colonel," Roy replied. "Sorry to disappoint."

"Colonel?" repeated Ed, dumbfounded. "What are you doing here?"

"Making sure you're okay, of course. Because," Roy added with a tight smile before Ed could speak, "no matter what you say, it's very clear to me that you are not fine."

Ed sighed heavily and didn't answer.

Since he hadn't been told to leave, Roy entered the dimly lit room and sat beside Ed on the couch. "Feel like telling me what's the matter yet?" he asked.

Ed looked warily up at his superior officer, as if debating whether or not to confide in him, then mumbled, "Today is the day..."

What? What happened today? "The day...?" Roy prompted.

The response came as a hoarse whisper. "The day we transmuted Mom."

Oh. That explained a few things, alright. The day Edward was referring to was the day that he and Alphonse had attempted to perform human transmutation in order to resurrect their deceased mother. The failed transmutation had cost Ed his leg and Al his entire body. Then Ed had bound Al's soul to a suit of armor, sacrificing his right arm in the process. It had obviously been a frightening, traumatizing experience.

"I'm..." He trailed off lamely. You're what? he asked himself. Sorry? Is saying that supposed to make him feel better?

"Don't say it," Ed sighed. "I don't want anyone's pity, especially not from a jerk like you."

Roy wasn't sure how to appropriately respond to that, so he opted to instead change the subject. "Where's Alphonse?" He realized that he hadn't seen Ed's brother yet today and looked around, wondering where he was.

Ed shrugged. "Dunno. Out. He always leaves today...to think, I guess."

That struck Roy as odd. Why didn't the brothers stick together on their hardest day? Roy simply couldn't see either brother walk out on each other on a day like this. Neither Edward nor Alphonse seemed to be the type to just leave his brother to wallow in self-pity and grief all by himself. Feeling that Ed hadn't told him everything, the colonel ventured to ask, "Does he leave by himself, or do you make him leave?"

Edward, who had returned to staring at the wall as he had when Roy arrived, spun around to stare at him, eyes wide, and he knew he had hit a mark. "Did you make your brother leave so you two could be miserable alone?" he demanded, a little more harshly than he had intended.

Ed just cast his eyes downward and didn't respond.

"Just what did you hope to gain from that, Fullmetal?"

No answer.

"Why do you always push people away when you need them?"

Edward mumbled something under his breath and turned away.

"What was that?" Roy asked.

No answer.

His patience wearing thin, Roy snapped, "Answer me!"

Ed glared at him for a long moment. "...Didn't want to look weak," he muttered finally.

Roy considered the boy's words. It wasn't a completely nonsensical notion. Ed prided himself in being strong, and he detested having to rely on anyone. And he was always there for his brother. It was clear that he would have hated to appear weak before his brother, especially because Alphonse depended on him so much. So his reasoning, though a bit foolish, in Roy's opinion, did make sense.

The colonel sat there in silence, unsure of how to comfort Ed or respond to his statement. However, Ed misinterpreted his silence as a sign that his superior wasn't satisfied with his answer and spoke first.

"Besides, it's my fault he has that body. I can't...I can't bear to look at him today. Not like...that," the boy confided quietly.

...Wow. Al would be devastated to hear that. "I'm sure he knows you're not to blame," Roy offered tentatively.

"How could he know that when I obviously am at fault?"

"That's a lie and you know it," Roy retorted. "Alphonse would be dead if it weren't for you."

"None of this would have even happened if it weren't for me!"

"To attempt human transmutation was a choice both of you made," Roy responded. "Neither of you are entirely at fault."

Ed involuntarily touched his automail arm with his flesh hand, metal fingers curling in and out of a fist. "But...his body..."

"That's why you joined the military, isn't it?" Roy asked gently. "To find a way to return your bodies—specifically, Alphonse's body—back to normal?"

"Well, yeah..."

"You knew what it would mean to join the military, you knew what would happen if your past was revealed, and you knew all the dangers and risks that would inevitably come out of your journey. Yet you still joined, for the sake of your little brother."

"What are you getting at?"

"You know all this, and Al knows it, too. He knows how much you've given up for him, Ed. That's why he could never hate or blame you."

Ed bit his lip and swiped his arm across his face, wiping away the tears that were forming in the corners of his eyes.

"It's okay to cry sometimes, too, you know. You shouldn't keep everything bottled in all the time."

"Like hell I'd cry in front of a bastard like you," Ed sniffed stubbornly. "Geez. Who died and made you my father?"

Roy chose that moment to develop a case of selective hearing and wisely ignored Ed's question. Instead, he simply sighed and put his arm around Ed's shoulders, pulling the boy into a gentle embrace.

"What are you doing?" Ed demanded. "Let go!"

"And it's also okay," Roy said, selective hearing still in work as he conveniently didn't hear (read: ignored) Ed's protests, "to be weak sometimes, to ask others for help. And to lean on your friends when times are tough. You shouldn't have to suffer all alone."

Roy doubted Edward would actually listen to his words of wisdom (which he actually got from Hughes—he did give good advice when he wasn't busy doting over his darling Elysia—but Ed didn't need to know that), so he was surprised when Ed complied and leaned against him with a soft, contented sigh.

"Thanks...I guess," he muttered.

"You're welcome."

Roy gently cradled Ed, and the two sat together in companionable silence for several minutes. As Roy began to worry that Ed had fallen asleep on him, the boy in question shifted slightly and said, "You're never gonna let me live this down, are you?"

"Of course not," Roy replied cheerfully. "After all, this is prime blackmail material."

"...Bastard."