This first time, Edward smiles and carves his cold automail hand to caress the Colonel's skin.

. . .

Brigadier General Hughes; devoted to his country, faithful to his family and loyal to his friends.

"Colonel?" A quiet voice came from the barely lit hallway. Edward peered into the dim office to find his superior facing the large window gallowses. From this view, he could barely make out the Colonel's profile and the gloved hands folded over his chest.

"I suppose you've heard then." The sullen words seemed strange, coming from the man who usually taunted him with enthusiasm in this very office. It was flat—lifeless. Roy didn't even bother to turn around. The click meant that Fullmental was already walking towards his desk. "Who told you?"

"Does it matter?" He yelled loud enough to reach the corridor. He slammed both hands down to create a simultaneous echo, one slightly louder than the other. "We met you in the corridor minutes before we found out. Why is it that you didn't tell us?" He stopped, forcing the leather chair and making his superior face him. "Why didn't you tell us that Hughes was… was…"

"Dead?" Mustang finished the sentence for him with an arrogant chuckle near the end. There was a smile then, a heart-broken smile from the man with a normally composed façade—a look that Ed realized, he would never be able forget. "You wouldn't be able to handle it. You wouldn't be able to accept the fact that he is dead because of you."

It was monotonous yet it strung. Mustang's words flooded into his ears. It wasn't like he didn't realize this before. Gracia said that Hughes died because of his big mouth and far too many questions. Could it be that Hughes also began asking around about the Philosopher's stone? It couldn't be… it…

"You would not accept that he put himself on the line for you and your brother. That's how good of a man he was to you boys." In an instant Mustang loosened the grip Ed had on his collar enough to peer into the younger state alchemist then said in a very clear tone. "A child like you would not be able to understand. Now move; this is not a place for you to be."

Ed was paralyzed, paralyzed by Mustang's words. Harsh as they may be, they were the truth. He could do nothing about it, at least not right now—all he could do was lower his head, grip his hands and force the tears not to come. Except for one this, he recognized the pain and determination in Mustang's eyes. It was the same eyes he held when Al became a suit of armor. It was pain he understood well.

. . .

From the street below, Ed could see not visible sign of the Colonel. Windows were pitch black, no audible sound coming from inside the home. But he knew the dark-haired man was inside. Only the sound of rain falling on glass panes hummed. Heaven was merciful for the light drizzle. Before coming, he has contacted Hawkeye and asked for his superior's whereabouts. The answer led him here, before Mustang's very home.

It was nearing midnight, but time seemed to stand still for the Colonel as he stared at Hugh's picture. Twenty-three when this picture was taken, just right after they graduated from the academy. Staring at him were the faces of two gallant men on the verge to adulthood. He bit back a growl from the back of his throat. On the other hand was glass of brandy which he sipped almost mechanically every 10 minutes. He had forgotten how long since arriving home had he sat near the fire, simultaneously watching the embers and staring at his friend's still smiling face in the photograph.

He heard a firm knock on the door. Two taps, one click and three steady taps in slow succession—only the men and women of his unit knew of this code. Assuming it was Riza, he placed the photo in a nearby desk drawer and proceeded to answer the door. The sight which greeted him came as a surprise. The crimson red coat darkened further with the rain and golden blonde hair plastering onto tanned skin.

"What are you doing here, Fullmetal?" His voice was rigid and stiff, as if not to reveal his surprise in seeing the blonde alchemist on this front steps; the boy side-stepped into his home without further invitation. Droplets of water fell to the ground behind the young alchemist, leather boots thudded unevenly on the wooden floor. Mustang winced at the sudden barrage of noise.

"Move it bastard!" Ed cocked; voice filled which youthful determination as he entered the house. He went straight into the Roy's private library where sure enough a bottle of well-aged brandy was already half-empty. "Stupid old man, how much have you drunk?" Blunt disregard for authority—an Edward Elric trademark as he demanded an answer from his superior.

Roy didn't bother to acknowledge the lad; instead he took the bottle in hand and took one long gulp. The liquid burned through his throat but he didn't mind. The sting, he found, was refreshing. "It doesn't concern you, Fullmetal. Go home; your brother is probably waiting for you." Dropping his full weight, he collapsed on the leather sofa with dark eyes menacingly drifting to Ed. His subordinate made no more to leave.

The younger man could feel the Colonel's eyes on him, the intense gaze made his spine shiver. "Al isn't at the hotel. He went to Resembul with Winry." He had made it a point to send his brother away. After paying condolences to Gracia, Al accompanied Winry on the first train out of Central for the girl's safety. Slowly but steady, Ed made his way to the man across the room. "There is no one waiting for me."

"I…" He was hoping that the older man would understand. The man in front of him was a man very different from the Roy Mustang who came to him years ago. Sharp pitch black eyes once filled with determination were now lifeless and the arrogant smirk normally found on the colonel's face had faded. This Roy Mustang was broken, like he had been when he first lost his arm and leg. If it wasn't for his brother and him, Hughes may still be alive. Only one thought was heavier to carry;

Mustang blamed him for the death of Hughes—for the death of a dear friend.

"Didn't you hear me, Fullmetal?" The Colonel was annoyed now, anger lacing into his voice. He nearly broke the glass when he slammed it on the table beside him, knuckles turning white in an effort to restrain his temper. Narrowed black, almost cat-like eyes looked almost half-dead as he stared at the younger man. They didn't speak. The air around them grew tense, nearing chocking with tension.

"I'm… sorry." Ed whispered, head lowering in shame. His damp bangs forming a curtain to shade his features. A few tears, camouflaged by remnants of rain water clinging onto his skin. He couldn't face the grief-stricken eyes of his commander. At this very moment, he knew he couldn't cry and beg for forgiveness just like they had done with Gracia and Elisia. 'But maybe', the young alchemist thought, there would be another road to forgiveness. Perhaps he could share some of the pain he has caused—carry the same burden, on the road to atonement.

"Colonel…" He whispered, with a voice barely loud enough to hear. Stripping his damp crimson hood, his legs carried him across the room before he noticed. He merely blinked and suddenly he was standing right in front of the colonel, hands whitening into shaky fists on either side. Mustang merely raised an eyebrow. Thunder crashed outside but it wasn't loud enough to disrupt the intensity between them. "I'm sorry"

He lifted his eyes; gold met black. Ed lifted his arms; his automail glistening as lighting cracked through the heavily blinded windows, and unsteadily engulfed the colonel into his arms. At first he was uncertain but grew confident when he was not burned into ashes by the colonel's flames. Roy sat there motionless as the young blonde alchemist desperately whispered unending apologies in a quiet voice. He said nothing, only his heavy breathing echoed the room until he had enough.

Monotonously he questioned. "You are threading in very deep waters, Fullmetal. Do you realize what bridge you are about to take? If you decide to move forward, it will be very difficult to go back." Ed had no answer for him, but he understood what the other man meant. Arms gripped the colonel tighter. "I…" but he had not words to say. What happens next is a blur of saliva, sweat and tears. The bottle of brandy falls to the ground, thankfully without shattering. However the Roy's drinking glass was not as fortunate; it split into several large pieces near the table's legs.

Two shadows rose from the carpet. Roy was frantic, attack Ed with accuracy to match Riza's sharpshooting. He gripped every ounce of flesh he could, ripped every piece of fabric from Ed's body and sucked nearly all the breath from Fullmetal's lungss. The boy clung to him unconsciously, mildly paralyzed from shock of the incidents. Was this Mustang's pain? Did he need to channel even emotional pain through a physical one?

Shadows danced with the lightning. SEX SCENE HERE.

The first time it happened was on the floor of Mustang's library with the storm thundering as the backdrop. When it happened, neither one was aware that it spurred something in both alchemists were reluctant to admit. After it happened, Edward offered a knowing smile. In the sincerest way, he carved a cold automail hand and tenderly caressed the Colonel's skin.