Maes studied the list Roy had shown him earlier. He doubted Roy noticed the connection between Ed's choices and actions. Ed wasn't just more comfortable with the soldiers in his old unit; he had decided to live by them. He had given up the chance to stay with his flesh and blood brother to live in Central, to work there, and to stay in their lives even though college professors and soldiers were hardly common friends. There was something more to it, and Maes was certain it had something to do with Roy. He doubted Ed knew how any of his other coworkers liked their coffee, or where they used to live, or where they kept their key.
Al had opted to stay near his love in Risembool, had Ed done the same?
"The fall of the Fuhrer," Roy mumbled.
"And still you aren't Fuhrer in the future. How disappointing," Maes mumbled.
"Patience is a virtue," Roy said with a smirk. They were still in the living room digesting the new information Al had just given them before disappearing with his brother.
"I need to know what they know about Scar," Maes said while handing the list back to Roy.
"I need to know what the world needs saving from, and how Tucker's daughter fits into all of this, or how you do for that matter, or Lior. What the hell could be so special about a small town like Lior?" Roy threw the list down on the table, and leaned back on the couch. He let out a groan as he rubbed his eyes with his palms before sliding his hands up to run his fingers through his hair. Then he turned his head back towards Maes. "It's like we've been given half a puzzle. HA! Less than half!"
"We don't have enough to solve it yet," Maes decided, "So we'll have to learn more."
"You still think we can make them tell us?"
"Either they tell us or we keep paying attention, picking up clues as we go, noting anything that could potentially be useful. But we don't know what sort of time frame we're on. Does the world need saving in five years? Two day? Six months? We need to know as soon as possible, and the fastest way is to have them tell us."
"I would say that you're underestimating how long it will take to change a stubborn Fullmetal's mind, but perhaps I'm just underestimating our skill in persuading a teenager."
Maes studied Roy. "Not a teenager, a twenty two year old. Alphonse is right; we keep thinking of them as children, and they're not. They've been through a lot-Xing, Briggs, Creta-it sounds like they've traveled the world. They're not the enemy; they're our friends. Instead of manipulating them, let's try reasoning with them."
"Hmm." Roy stared into space for a moment, thinking, Maes knew. "Six years," Roy mumbled, glancing at his friend quickly before looking away again, dropping his head to study his hands. "Do you really think things have changed that much? No shift in the political mindset for ten years, but in the next six...?"
Maes sighed. It seemed unlikely, but it could happen. He'd watched Roy struggle with his sexuality as a teen, was there for him when he told Maes how he knew he would never have a wife after the war, had struggled with his own shock and realized that society's reaction would be ten times worse, had seen Roy realize the same thing, and then had been forced to watch his friend live a lonely life of denying himself, of lying to others, of accepting that he was going to be alone forever. And then here comes Ed saying that that isn't the only path, that Roy could find happiness. Of course Roy was skeptical, but Maes also knew that Roy felt the hope presented by the situation. And he knew that Roy was probably seeing it all wrong. Roy would never consider that maybe Ed was comfortable talking to the team about his love life not because societal views had changed, but because the team was already friends with Ed's boyfriend and knew his sexual orientation. Under Roy's mask of arrogant, charming bravado lay his deepest insecurity, and that would never let him believe he could be so lucky as to find love.
"I think it doesn't hurt to ask Ed. This isn't like saving the world, or anything dangerous. It's about social norm and his personal life, so he only has personal reasons for keeping it secret. You two are definitely closer in the future; he might confide in you."
Roy picked up the list again. "What do you think causes the Fuhrer to fall?"
Maes easily accepted the subject change; he'd given Roy enough to think about. "I suppose it's too much to hope for assassination that doesn't implicate any of us."
"That would explain why I'm not Fuhrer yet. I don't want to sit upon a bloody thrown, Maes."
"And that's why you deserve to be Fuhrer... There's not enough time for it to be old age making him quit. Though, now that I think about it, I hope someone old takes over after him. Then you won't have to wait too long. With both of us as high ranking officers, your path to the top can only be easier."
"Maybe that's why you got promoted." Roy sighed. "We know so much, and yet too little. We really can't plan anything, can we?"
"Only to talk to them, I suppose." Maes yawned and stood. "I'll go try to smooth things over with Al. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Roy called as Maes left he room.
Maes had walked in on many discussions he wasn't supposed to hear. If he was stealthy enough, he could usually gain valuable information before his presence was discovered; but he wasn't trying to be stealthy now. So when Maes walked into Roy's guest room, he was treated to the site of the Elric brothers frozen mid-conversation. Al was leaning forward, Ed's arms were spread wide, mouth open, and as Maes watched, both of their heads turned towards him.
Maes had left the uncomfortable staring match shortly after in favor of getting ready for bed. The second time he entered the guest bedroom, he found Al sitting, reading, on one side of the room, and Ed sleeping on the other.
Al stood. "I'll get out of your way, sir."
Maes waved Alphonse back down. "It's fine, Alphonse, stay. The thing about soldiers is that we learn to sleep no matter how much noise or light is around us."
Al sat back down, and hesitantly muttered, "If you're sure."
Maes walked over and sat on the ground next to Al. "Alphonse," he whispered, "I'm sorry about earlier." As he looked at Alphonse's helmet, he couldn't help but think that this would be much easier if he were talking to someone with a more expressive face. "We shouldn't have..." He trailed off as Alphonse turned toward the bed.
Ed was moving. Reaching out across the bed as if looking for someone or something. He gripped the sheets, and dragged them up before letting go and raking the nails of his curled hand down the empty bed. Finally, he shivered and tucked his hand against his chest. The rest of his limbs soon followed as he curled into a ball on the bed and became still again.
"He's never slept like that before," Al whispered, drawing Maes's attention back to him. "He usually lays on his back, sprawls out, and exposes his stomach, you know? Like he's trying to be as obnoxious in sleep as he is when awake." Maes could almost hear the affectionate smile in Alphonse's voice, and the helmet didn't seem so cold and unfeeling. "I've never seen him sleep like that before," Al continued, looking down, "Not before we came back here at least."
Maes studied Al, his down turned head and the way his fingers fidgeted along his knee. He placed his hand on Al's and asked, "And how are you doing?"
After a second, Al whispered, "It's late. You should go to sleep, sir."
Maes gave the metal hand in his a squeeze before he did just that.
Maes woke to find Ed gone and Al staring out the window from where he was still seated on the floor. Maes sat on the edge of his bed and watched Al. He was silent and still in a way that anyone flesh and blood couldn't be. These boys, no men, had been forced to grow and endure so much already. Maes sighed.
"Alphonse, we need to talk."
"I'm not going to tell you anything," Al said without moving.
"And I can't make you. I wish you would hear our side though." At that, Alphonse turned to face Maes. "You're adults, I see that now. It's your choice what to do with the information you have, but, Al, we have a right to know. It's our future too, our country, our loved ones, we have the right to act, and defend, and help. We have a duty as soldiers."
"I know," Al said softly. He tilted his head down before bringing his gaze back to Maes's and squaring his shoulders. "But you don't understand. The information we have, it's dangerous. A lot of people got hurt and even died just for coming close to finding out what we know. If we tell you anything-"
"If you don't, we'll look into it anyway." Maes paused to let that sink in. "We know something's up now, so we'll research, and dig, and ask questions-"
"We will," Maes said in his no nonsense, Lieutenant Colonel, I out rank you tone of voice. "You would, and you know that we will. And because you and your brother refuse to share information, we won't know who to avoid, or what subjects deserve the most discretion, and we may be in more danger than we would have been in originally."
Maes heard a rattling, clanking sound, and realized that the armor was shaking.
"We need talk to brother," Al said, rushing to his feet.
"Thank you," Maes said as he followed.
When Ed woke up, he continued his morning routine as usual. He went to the kitchen and made two cups of coffee, and by the time a sleep disheveled Roy stumbled into the room, he was halfway done with his cup and awake enough to appreciate how cute Roy looked when still sleep groggy.
Roy's hair was a mess, and Ed wondered when it was Roy would start combing his bed head into order before coming downstairs. Was it when he moved to Central? When Ed started staying with him? When they had started dating? Did he only sleep shirtless when he had Ed to cuddle with at night?
Roy took a long sip from his cup with his eyes closed. He took a deep breath of the steam from the mug before lowering it, opening his eyes, and gracing Ed with a real smile. It was the kind of smile that Ed thought he wouldn't get to see for a while, the kind that he hadn't seen before they became friends in his original timeline. He couldn't help the small gasp that slipped out as he stared at Roy, trying not to melt.
"No, um, no problem," he muttered, giving a small smile of his own. He looked around the kitchen before turning back to Roy. "You know, when you're Fuhrer you might need to be able to think without coffee."
Roy shrugged and smirked. "I mostly just want to pass a law requiring all the female military employees to wear miniskirts. As long as I get that law passed who cares if I'm thinking clearly."
Ed flinched, jerked his automail back, making it bang off the counter behind him, and almost spilling his coffee.
Roy jumped. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Ed said quickly. You just acted like you, young you. I wasn't ready for it. You can't just-
Roy grabbed Ed's shoulder. "Don't lie. What's wrong?"
Ed jerked his arm away, saying, "Can you just not?" He took a deep breath, and gave himself a shake, turning away from Roy. "Can you just not pretend? Not with me." Ed turned back to see Roy frozen, eyes a little wider. Is he even breathing, Ed wondered. Ed laughed, and muttered, "Don't lie." Louder, he continued, "Do you know why Al outted me to the whole office? Because everyone in there already knew. Everyone, Roy, including you. We're used to being open and honest, to talking about it with our friends. And that's what you and I are, Roy, friends. Do you really think you wouldn't say something to me if I came out to you? Your young, confused, teenaged friend? Of course we've talked, and of course I know about you. So can you just not?"
Roy blinked, but otherwise didn't move. Ed sighed again, ran a hand through his bangs, and turned to leave.
"Is it different?" Roy's quiet question made Ed stop. "In the future, is it different?" Ed turned back around. "For," Roy swallowed, "For people like us, is it different? Is it better?"
Ed stepped closer, and leaned on the counter next to Roy. "In two years from now? No. Two years after that? It's a little better. Two years after that? It's even better, and it was only going to keep improving."
Ed turned to face Roy. "You did." He smiled, and continued, "You started fighting for our rights, and it was working. You did so much for me." Ed shook his head. "I came to you, talking about girls or something, and I had no clue what was wrong with me."
"Wrong with you?" Roy asked, frowning.
Ed smiled wider. "You got all offended then, too. I know nothing's wrong with me. You helped me realize that. You helped me see that it was okay, and that I deserved to be happy just as much as anyone else, even if I think differently, or am part metal, or covered in scars." Roy moved to speak, but Ed cut him off. "It's because of you that I feel confident enough to have a boyfriend, and that I can see us having a future. I can believe that there will be a day when I can hold his hand in public because he'd like that sort of sappy thing. And one day we'll get to sit close to each other in a restaurant without bringing a group so big that we have no choice but to be squished together at the table, and maybe- just maybe, when Al and Winry get married, we'll be able to dance and kiss like the other couples."
Ed laughed. "No, but he wishes I did. He always looks for an excuse to teach me, but I'm always able to get out of it. I mean, where exactly would we go dancing?" Ed shook his head, and continued, "But I'd learn for Al's wedding. As long as I get to dance with him." He paused and looked down. "I should get used to using past tense, I guess."
After a pause, Roy asked in a soft voice, "Why don't you tell him?"
Ed snorted. "What am I supposed to tell him? Hey, I'm from the future, and we're meant to be together? Should I say that we have potential?" He looked back up and caught Roy's eyes as he continued, "That you don't know me very well, but I know which side of the bed you sleep on, and what your lucky underwear looks like, and that you could love me? Like really love me. Enough to see past everything, and make me hate my scars less because you think they're beautiful." It was suddenly too real. He was talking to Roy, admitting everything, as he slowly said, "I know your deepest dreams, and I would do anything to make them come true. And in return, you support me and help me when I feel lost. You make me never want to leave home now that I have one, but you push me to travel because you know I need to. You make it okay that I don't have alchemy because I can't imagine feeling anything other than complete when I'm with you." Ed's voice cracked, so he cut himself off and turned away from Roy. He leaned back against the counter, and leaned his head down so that his bangs slid around his face and he would have been staring the floor if his eyes weren't screwed shut. "And if that doesn't scare him away-" Ed stopped trying as his voice broke again.
He took deep breaths. Calm down, calm drown. He's going to think you're an idiot-
"I'd want to know."
Ed's head snapped back up, eyes open as he stared at Roy.
"If someone loved me that much, I'd want to know. If someone could give me hope that one day it would be okay, that I didn't have to be alone forever, that I could have love and support, and that I was capable of giving it in return, of making someone that happy, I hope that they'd tell me."
Ed blinked. You'd want to know? Even if it meant being in a relationship with a teenager, with someone who knows all about you? Maybe... "Roy, I-"
"Brother!" Al skid to a halt as soon as he entered the kitchen. "Oh..."
Hughes walked up behind Al, and looked between Roy and Ed. "Are we interrupting something?"
He doesn't know anything, Ed reminded himself. He must be just imagining the smug look on Hughes's face. Still, he took a step away from Roy, and then another towards Al.
"What's wrong, Al?" Ed asked, not daringly to risk a glance at Roy.
"I was talking to Lieutenant Col- I mean Maes, and I think we should tell them-"
"Al." Ed sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "We've been through this-"
"But we didn't settle it!" Ed froze, but before he could answer, Al continued, "I heard your side, and I was going along with it. But it's not safer! They're still in danger!"
"If we tell them-"
"If we don't then they'll be in more danger."
"No they won't, Al, they-"
"Yes, we will, Ed," Hughes interrupted. "If you don't tell us anything, then we won't know who or what to avoid. We'll research on our own."
"Can't you just trust us that-"
"Would you? Would you sit and-"
"Would you let me finish a damn sentence?" Ed screamed. "Fine! Fine, you don't want to let me explain? You don't want to trust that we know what we're doing? You want to know everything despite us saying that it's dangerous-"
All air left the room at Ed's words. Or maybe it just left his lungs. He couldn't breath, and no one was moving. He tried to continue, to explain, his voice solemn now, "You die, in the future. I don't want that to happen again. I can't see Elicia lose her father. I can't," I can't see Roy lose his best friend again. I won't watch him walk that dark path again, and I won't let you give him another reason to drink. Ed sad down at the table, his head in his hands, and focused on his breathing.
"Brother?" Al said softly, taking a seat as well, "The Brigadier General was killed because he found out something he wasn't supposed to. If we tell them everything now, then we can hide it from... them, and have Roy and Maes help without as much danger. We'll tell them what to pretend they don't know."
Ed would have smiled at the fact that Al wouldn't even say homunculus in front of the others without Ed agreeing to tell, but he was too stiff with to the tension rolling off of the soldiers still standing. "Would you two sit?" When they just kept staring off into space, Ed snapped, "Sit!"
Roy and Hughes exchanged a glance before joining the brothers at the table. As Roy sat down, he folded his hands together and turned to Ed with the same look he wore when Ed used to sit across his desk after a mission. "Explain. Everything."
Ed sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. "It's complicated. A lot happened, but I guess the best place to start is with Father." As he finished speaking, he glanced questioningly at Al.
"Your father?" Hughes asked, drawing Ed's attention.
"No, Father, he's-"
"Oh! I'll go get the map," Al said as he stood from the table.
"Great idea, Al," Ed said, and as if he had been waiting for Ed's permission to leave, Al nodded and left. The map really was a great idea. It would be much easier to explain with the visual aid.
"You need a map to explain this?" Roy was clearly getting frustrated. No wonder after Ed's revelation about his best friend.
"It's-okay," Ed said, gesturing with his hands in front of him, "Father is this bearded bastard that lives under Central-"
"Do you want to hear it or not? Stop interrupting." From then on, Ed explained without interruption. He told them about the homunculi and Father, not even pausing as Al placed the map under his constantly moving hands. He told them about Scar and Hohenhiem, Marcoh and their friends from Xing. He told them everything. Then he told them some of Al and his plans: to save Nina, and Hughes, and fix Lior. He told them about needing to get Scar and the Ishvallians to complete the transmutation circle.
His explanation left them pale and speechless. For a few moments at least.
"That's all you have planned so far?"
"It's only been two day," Ed answered Roy defensively.
"But you didn't mention plans for Father at all."
"Because obviously we're going to stop him."
"But how?" Roy asked, leaning forward. "Not the same way, surely."
Ed scratched the back of his neck. It was a miracle they'd beat Father the first time, how the hell would they do it now? "Father's dangerous. He'll take lots of planning."
"I think it's clear what you need to do." Of course the bastard would look so smug after hearing about an enemy living right under Central. He'd sputtered and protested during their explanations, but that wasn't obvious at all now.
"Yeah, and what's that?"
"You said Marco could destroy Envy's stone. Why not do the same thing to Father?"
"Because-" Ed cut off his instinctual protest to Roy's know it all tone. He turned to Al. "Would that work?"
Al shrugged, "Maybe? Yes? I- actually I don't see why it wouldn't."
"We just need to make a circle?"
"Well, we'll need Scar's circle first so that Father can't just turn ours off, and it'll have to be big, like really big, the size of the whole country big, but maybe? Yeah!" By the end Al looked more excited then skeptical.
"We have a plan?" Ed asked, feeling more hope than he had since finding out they were stuck.
"We have a plan!" Al answered, smiling back.
I am so sorry that this took so long! I had most of it done a few months after the last chapter was posted, but while I was struggling with the final conversation (how much do I show? how much do I skip? don't make it a boring recap, but don't brush over everything. etc. etc.), I got sucked into the FMA RP side of Tumblr (my username is majormetalandcolonelsparky if any of you are into it too and want to follow :D be sure to say hi!).When I did have free time to write (work and grad school stole all of my free time) I usually wrote on there, instead of for this story.
Now that the conversation that gave me major writer's block is done, I hope I'll do better with updates. I really do feel awful that I let this sit so long. Worse is that I refused to update Rewind in the hopes that it would encourage me to update here, and it just stalled both stories. I'll try to do better! Your words of encouragement really do help. Saia-chan in particular really kicked my butt into gear to finish this chapter. They reminded me that people liked this story and wanted to read it.
If you're still with me, then I thank you so much! You have no idea how much it means to me.
Sorry again, and I'll try to do better from now on. I hope you liked this chapter, and it wasn't disappointing.