Greetings humans/other educated earth specieses/extraterrestrials/other!

WELCOME TO DEATH, KOLKOLKOL… Just kidding. It's a story and I'm not Russia.

I'm really not.

So anyways, the first (and only, I think) person to guess the reference from last chapter (and get it right, obviously) was LordTicky! Congrats!

This time we have:

*Holding up shield* "So, what do you think?"

*Fires gun, only to have the bullets ricochet off the shield* "I think it works."

And a little bit extra because I'm scared no-one will get it…

ONWARDS AND UPWAAAAAAAAARDS! Into this pretty darn long chapter!

Still not Russia.


(Of Punishment and Prime Ministers)

Roy's eyes flickered open. Blearily, he looked left and right in a languid manner. Couldn't make anything out.

He let out a grunt and rubbed his eyes stiffly, clearing his throat. Something heavy trapped his other hand against the floor.

With a start, he realised it was Edward.

He cleared his throat again and blinked a few times to clear the morning fuzz that came with waking up. But nope, this was definitely real.

Edward was curled against his side, black hair tangled around his face and dark rings under his eyes. He shifted a little, his back pressed into Roy's chest.

"Mmph." Roy laid back down on the floor with a thump.

Edward stirred slightly against Roy's chest and opened one muzzy eye. "Huh…?"

"Uh… I…" Roy wriggled his arm a little to try and move away from the boy. "I don't know…how we ended up here… Sorry."

"No, don't…" Edward mumbled in a whiny tone. "Stay there…just five more minutes."

Roy let out a sigh. "Sure. Five minutes."

"Cold."

"There aren't any blankets. We just fell asleep against the wall."

Edward snuggled his face into his arms, pulling Roy's free arm back onto his shoulder for warmth. He took a deep breath, comforted by Roy's now familiar scent.

"Rough night, huh?" Roy mumbled.

"Don't know what you're talking about," Edward replied. "All I remember is that you got so knocked up I had to bonk you on the head to get you to shut up before you passed out."

Roy smirked in a defeated way. "Why do all your cover stories end up with me having done something stupid?"

"Seems more legit that way," Edward informed him. "Since you're always doing stupid stuff anyway."

Roy scowled. "Alright. Get off me, you lump. You've cut off the blood circulation in my arm."

Edward grunted and sat up.

"So nothing happened." Roy nodded decidedly. He stood up, stretched and started to unbutton his shirt.

Edward copied, yawning and fluffing out his hair. He clapped his hands and tapped his knee, sealing closed the tear in his trousers.

"This was because of Claudio, right?" he murmured. "He's on your mind all day and night, isn't he?"

Roy felt his jaw clench as his hands halted on the third button. He stayed silent, but his sparking eyes confirmed it all.

"I just can't figure him out."

Edward twitched as Hawkeye's words came back to him.

"The way he thinks, it all comes down to rationale and he often tries to sort things out in a straight, logical fashion. He doesn't seem to realise that some people act for reasons that don't benefit anyone and that they do it for their own pleasure."

"What does he want from me? What could he possibly gain from doing this? I don't get it!" Roy growled. "This has to benefit his country somehow… Maybe it's under orders… There has to be something… Something I missed…"

Edward hated seeing Roy flounder like this. He didn't seem able to grasp the fact that Claudio was just toying with him for fun. It looked like he couldn't work out how someone could be so blatantly cruel and enjoy it.

And the worst part of it all was that Claudio knew Roy would never be able to figure that out.

For a man so experienced in this field, Edwar thought. Roy is still pretty naïve.

"Roy…" Edward began. "Has it ever occurred to you…that Claudio is just trying to mess with you because he doesn't like you?"

Roy stopped fidgeting and looked at the boy. He shook his head.

Edward looked at him expectantly. "There's your motive."

Roy looked puzzled. "I don't…" He shook his head again. "No. There's got to be something else."

"In my opinion, you're just overthinking it all. Claudio wants you uncomfortable here. He knows how people like you think. He wants you on edge. He wants you to know that he's stronger than you."

Roy flared up. "He's not!"

"That's good." Edward told him, tossing his shirt across the room at his suitcase. It landed lightly on top. "Score."

Roy picked up the boy's shirt and started folding it techily. "Hmph."

"That's good," Edward repeated. "You're protesting against that. It means you're not under his control."

"Of course not!" Roy snapped. "He might know how to set me off, but I don't bend to the will of people who don't deserve it!"

"Still as feisty as ever, then," Edward commented.

"Resilience is a key virtue for an Amestrian soldier!" Roy informed the boy proudly. "If we always gave up and rolled over so others could walk on us, do you really think we'd be such a well-off country? We're one of the most politically stable places out there! Where others struggle for power within themselves, Amestris remains strong! We cooperate."

"Everything I've seen since joining the military contradicts every point you just made," Edward deadpanned. "In fact, you yourself are basically planning a coup as well."

Roy paused, took this into consideration, flicked his head concedingly and nodded. "Fair point."

Edward looked at Roy. "Think these trousers are good for another day?"

"No. That's gross. Change them." He looked at the ceiling with the slightest of tired smirks on his face. "It's true that Amestris might not have the best government out there…"

"We don't even have a 'government'," Edward pointed out. "We're a military state."

Roy flashed the boy a look. "But that's all going to change. One day. You watch. Our entire country will change, one way or another. Whether the Fuhrer is Bradley, Gramman, myself…even Hawkeye. Somehow I'll find a way to make a difference."

"You do that," Edward responded, not particularly listening to Roy's military banter. "Go change the future of our country. Meanwhile, I'm gonna change my pants."

Roy rolled his eyes. "Shrimp."

"WHAT WAS THAT?! WHAT DID YOU SAY?!"

"I," Roy repeated nonchalantly. "Called you shrimp."

Edward stomped his foot. "WHO ARE YOU CALLING A MIDGET SO TINY HE COULD BE MISTAKEN FOR A SMALL SEA CREATURE?! ARE YOU CHALLENGING ME?! BECAUSE BUDDY, IF YOU ARE, I WILL BEAT YOU DOWN SO HARD YOU'LL HURT IN PLACES YOU DIDN'T EVEN KNOW EXISTED!"

"Put some pants on," Roy said bluntly, throwing said item of clothing across the room at the Fullmetal Alchemist's head.

Edward whipped them off his face, bright red with anger and embarrassment. "I hate you."

"I hate you, too," Roy returned affectionately.

You'd think that for a pair who'd barely avoided a suicide attempt the night before, they'd be a little more shaken up. But this was their way.

Their way of reassuring each other.

Their way of proving their strength.

Their way of comforting each other.

Their way of expressing their concern, their affection, their empathy.

Their way of showing they cared, when everything else seemed so cold and distant and cruel and apathetic.

This was their way, and it worked for them.


"So, Colonel," the representative for Laverre began. "This is your son."

"Yes," Roy replied with a smile. "This is Edward."

"Good evening, sir," Edward said with a polite duck of his head.

Roy was impartial to hearing the news that the Emperor was throwing another ball that night. He didn't feel like going, but he didn't want to spend any more time back in the quarters he shared with Edward.

So, here he was. Speaking to Marc Gliano, the Prime Minister of a far East country called Laverre. Roy considered the middle-aged man rather unimportant, what with his greying hair and glasses and his uselessness to Amestris. He needn't have anything to do with the man.

Also, his stories were boring with a capital everything.

Roy nodded and smiled where he deemed appropriate, having learnt this technique in the first few months of knowing Maes Hughes. (However, he eventually learned that it was easier and more satisfying to lose his temper on the man and throw the phone around. Maybe flip a few tables. Hughes found this amusing. Hawkeye didn't.)

Roy ruffled Edward's hair and tapped him on the shoulder. "Alright, kiddo. You can go play with Tyrell now."

"Right," Edward ground out, burning with resentment about being referred to as 'kiddo'. He got his revenge by addressing Roy as 'old man' before walking off and leaving the man to smooth that out.

"You know how it is," Roy said, a little ruffled as he started to perspire slightly under his collar. "Teenagers; everyone older than them is ancient."

Gliano laughed and agreed, and inner Roy melted in relief. All it took was for Edward to address him as 'Mustang' or 'Colonel' and the whole act would be about as believable as Edward suddenly getting two feet taller overnight. Which was very unbelieveable, if you could believe it.

Roy slid a hand down to his abdomen, slipping it into his waistcoat pocket and running a thumb over the comforting coolness of slightly-worn silver.

This meeting had allowed each representative to dress in their own country's formal attire, an idea with which Roy had no quarrels.

He'd carefully selected a crisp white shirt and black bowtie, which matched his dark waistcoat and trousers. He had previously been wearing his long black coat, but the escorts had taken that from him upon entry.

The only irregularities in Roy's straight black and white outfit were the red circles on the backs of his gloves (which no-one recognised) and the silver chain dangling from his waistcoat that indicated a watch was attached. Which it indeed was.

It's lasted a lot longer this time, he reflected, fingering the round edge of his watch as Gliano excused himself to chase down a meal worthy of a prime minister.

Amongst the State Alchemist branch, Roy had gained quite a reputation. At least once a month, he'd have to phone the branch's base in Central because he'd broken his watch in some way or the other.

The first time was back in Ishbal, when a warrior he'd once known as a comrade fired at his heart and ended up hitting the watch instead. It was Hughes who had saved him that time, by putting a bullet in the skull of a man they'd both once called friend…

Roy shook his head. Now wasn't the time for that.

The watch had to be almost completely replaced, seeing as how it had a whopping great bullet hole in it. It had also been kind of hard to read the time on, which was pretty rubbish.

The next time was back in Amestris, when he'd accidentally broken the latch after seeing just how far the thing would bend before it snapped (it would appear the limit was 176 degrees).

He'd even managed to shatter the glass inside on the day that Scar had attacked Edward - Hawkeye's spectacular leg sweep had seen him land on the watch and the impact had smashed it.

The last time was when he'd been bored in his office and had severely over-estimated the strength of the chain, using it as a pulley mechanism in a small ink transporting device he'd crafted from pens, paper clips and other miscellaneous office equipment.

He dimly recalled a time when he'd tried to hypnotise Edward with it and the boy had smashed the watch across the room and into the next week.

Roy wondered how much of the silver pocket watch he now held was actually made from the original parts he'd received upon his State Alchemist certification, and decided that the answer was probably none of it.

Edward came wandering back over, a stick of dango in his hand. He wore simple navy trousers, a thick, white shirt to conceal his metal arm and a grey waistcoat. The amber-gold of his eyes was a strong contrast to the darker colours he wore, and Roy decided he actually preferred it when Edward wore bright, eye-stinging red.

"What's up?" Edward greeted before taking a contented bite out of his food. "That Laverre guy get sick of you?"

"No," replied Roy evenly. "He got hungry. Speaking of which, you have eaten more than just sweets, right?"

"'Course," Edward responded, his eyes lighting up. "It's hard to resist so many different foods in one spot… Had to try a few of them."

"Hope you used your manners, Ed."

"Yeah, yeah." Edward looked Roy up and down as the man slipped his watch away. "But you haven't eaten yet. Want me to get you something?"

"No thanks," Roy answered, watching some girls wander across the room to stand next to a group of strapping young men. "Not hungry."

"Really?"

"Really."

"But you haven't eaten anything all day," Edward pointed out. "Not even breakfast."

"That's because I'm not hungry," Roy replied pointedly. "What part of that don't you get?"

"Okay, okay, no need to bite my head off," Edward said. He hesitated before continuing to say, "Skipping one meal I could understand, but a whole day without food is a little weird."

"I do it just to confuse you," Roy muttered, leaning against the wall. He yawned. "Geez, I'm tired. Wonder how much longer this damn thing's gonna last…"

"Thought you liked stuff like this." Edward looked around, taking in the scene. There were people everywhere, talking and laughing, the smell of food and drink was heavy in the air and the atmosphere was happy and upbeat. A band was playing traditional Kambeian music in one corner.

"Yeah, when I don't have a thumping headache," Roy complained. "Gliano talks for ages on end about topics I don't even care about. I'm surprised I didn't start pulling my hair out halfway through!"

"Sure you'd feel better with some food in you," Edward informed him happily, chewing away at his own snack.

"Maybe later," said Roy, rubbing one eye drowsily. "I'm just gonna hang back here and pretend to be invisible for now."

"Suit yourself," Edward disappeared again, presumably for more food.

Roy kept his back pressed against the solid marble behind him, feeling his eyes slip closed. He listened to the music, and eavesdropped on conversations being held halfway across the room.

His sharp sense of hearing had always been a big plus. He heard lots of rumours to be used against his superiors mainly from such sources as Falman with his limitless memory and Hughes with his general knack for gossiping, but a little snooping of his own never hurt. Opening his eyes again, he decided to see what he could find.

He gave his confidence a little boost by reminding himself how many skills he had, finding out that one of the aristocratic men was cheating on his fiancée by going out with a common girl, and that one of the men in the room wasn't actually of a high class but had snuck in as a dare.

He went back to half-sleeping.

"Are you okay, sir?" The question came from a youngish waiter passing by Roy with a tray of refreshments.

The Colonel looked up to meet his gaze before realising the boy had been addressing him and responding, "Oh, yes. I'm fine. Just taking a breather."

"Very well." The boy nodded his head in a bow. "If you need any help, don't hesitate to call. Sake?"

Roy denied the raised tray with a firm shake of his head. "No thanks."

The waiter moved off and he went back to what he was doing.

Meanwhile, Edward had just ended a conversation with Tyrell as the prince had decided to try and speak to a few girls - something which Edward firmly insisted he would not take part in.

A part of him knew this was because Winry would likely beat him senseless if she ever found out (although he'd never figure out why), and the other part decided it was just because he was next to hopeless with girls. He had the looks for it, but was likely to offend any girl unlucky enough to be caught in his vicinity simply by opening his mouth.

He finished another dango and tossed the skewer into a nearby bin. He looked up to see Claudio wandering over to the snack table like some kind of apathetic ghost, one who saw himself as a creature far superior to all the measly humans that surrounded him. His face registered no emotion as he noticed Edward.

"Good evening," he greeted mildly, searching the table with a slight look of disdain.

"It might have been," Edward muttered under his breath, quiet so that the prince wouldn't hear.

"So, anything good throughout this stuff?" Claudio asked, stroking his chin thoughtfully.

"Dango's good," Edward responded, regarding the prince warily.

"Hm." Claudio reached across the table and selected a skewer with chicken on it, biting a bit off the end. Swallowing, he accepted some sake from a passing waiter.

He looked to Edward, smirking. "You don't want any, Edward?"

The boy gave him a look. "I don't know about Aerugo, but in Amestris, twelve counts as a minor. I can't drink."

Claudio shrugged. "If that's what you want."

Edward watched him down the sake in one gulp. He winced a little - from the smell, that stuff was pretty strong.

"Only twelve, huh?" the prince said, looking Edward up and down. "Well, you're not very tall, I suppose."

Edward bit his tongue to keep from shouting, remembering Roy's earlier threats involving his research and his underpants.

"Not tall at all. In fact, you're quite the opposite."

Edward felt rage start to build within him like steam in a kettle, and his breathing was reduced to shallow pants. His cheeks reddened. Oh, Roy would owe him big time for this…if he managed to keep his mouth shut.

"The opposite of tall. You know what that is, kid?"

Edward clenched his fists so his nails dug into his palms. His auto-mail made a horrible grating noise, almost loud enough to match his teeth.

"You're short."

One alchemist could only take so much pressure.

"AWLRIGHT, WHO ARE YOU CALLING A MINI-SIZED MICRO-BEAN WHO HAS A HEIGHT EQUIVALENT TO ONE HUNDREDTH OF THE TOTAL SIZE OF AN ANOREXIC GRAIN OF RICE LYING HORIZONTALLY, YOU RUDE, PUSHY, CHATTERBOX, POSH-TOSH, JERK OF AN EXCUSE FOR A FLUFF-FOR-BRAINS PRETTY BOY?!"

There was dead silence in the room as Edward stood glaring at Claudio, whose eyebrows had snuck further up his face with every word the boy had screeched.

"Someone's touchy," he commented.

Edward growled like a wild animal, his golden eyes flashing with murderous intent. He was going to wring Claudio's neck, tear him limb from limb and set him alight, use him as pin cushion and cut him to a billion pieces and experiment on him before he explode—

"Ouch!" Edward yelped as a firm hand grabbed his ear and towed him away. He flapped a hand in the direction of his assailant, only for the grip to tighten in a painful twist.

"Ow! Owowowow!" he protested, feeling himself being herded towards the door. He looked up and caught a glimpse of raven-black hair and an infuriated expression.

Roy.

"Hey! Leggo!" Edward protested as he was pulled into the corridor. He was pushed forward and he straightened up, rubbing his ear. "What gives?! Did you have to be so rough?" Edward's eyes widened as Roy's hand blurred in the corner of his vision.

SMACK!

"Idiot!" Roy barked, his eyes lit with anger as he slipped his glove back on. "I gave you two instructions for these events! Use your manners and don't shout about your height problem! And what do you do? Shout anyway! Is there something wrong with you?!"

Edward raised a shocked hand to his cheek, rubbing the reddening skin tenderly. He didn't speak, but gave an impressive impersonation of a stunned fish.

"Is there?!" Roy repeated, looking thunderous. "Do you have some inability to follow rules? Some problem with your brain that prevents you from being able to comprehend the most simple tasks? Or do you just ignore everything I say?!"

Edward continued his silence, feeling his cheek start to sting. Roy had lashed out at him. His subordinate. Roy. Lashed out. Subordinate. Roy. His subordinate. He'd slapped him.

Roy had lashed out at his subordinate.

"Speak up, Edward!" Roy snapped. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?!"

The teen shook his head slightly, lowering his hand. He looked at Roy and suddenly everything had changed. He had lashed out at his subordinate. Roy never hurt his subordinates…did he?

The Colonel sighed, pointing down the corridor. "Go on. Get out of here. Go back to the room. I'll speak to you later."

Edward obliged, trudging in the direction of the staircase.

Roy watched him go, his anger slowly simmering down. Suddenly he felt empty and cold. A weight of shame settled in his chest as he looked away in the direction Edward had left.

Guilt.

You hit him, Roy thought accusingly. Edward. You hit him.

Turning back to the door, he started walking towards it, defending his actions internally. It was for the good of the mission. If he does that, people are going to realise we're not related… No, it's for his own good. Gotta keep him out of the way before Claudio sinks his claws in.

Roy stopped as he put his hand on the door. No. It wasn't for either of those reasons. You did it for yourself. You're embarrassed. You lashed out and hurt Edward because you were angry at him.

Roy looked up at the door he was half-leaning on and shook his head. What's done is done. I have to go back in here and keep this act up.

With that in mind, he pushed the door open and went inside.


Edward opened the door of the room and went inside, closing it gently. He drifted across to his preferred couch and sprawled over it, his forehead buried in the crook of his flesh elbow.

His chest ached with offence and distrust after how Roy had treated him, but also with shame because he knew he deserved it.

It hurt.

He'd let Roy down, he'd done it wrong, Roy was ashamed of him, he was a disgrace, Roy was disappointed in him, he was sad, Roy was mad at him, it was his fault, Roy hit him, he was an idiot.

Ouch.

He hadn't felt this way in years, not since before his mother had passed away at least.

"In fact…" He looked up at the ceiling from behind his arm. "The last time I remember feeling like this was…"

Edward turned the page of his book, kicking his legs in the air. He read by the light of a low-burning lamp, his golden eyes taking in all the information the book had to offer.

Alphonse lay sleeping on the other side of the room, in a bed of his own. His tufty brown hair stuck out at all angles, ruffled by the positions in which he slept. Being a light sleeper, the boy rolled over and flopped about a lot in his slumber.

Edward looked back at his book, then at the clock ticking away in the corner. Ten forty-five.

He shouldn't be doing this right now. His mother had sent the boys to bed hours ago, telling them to go straight to sleep as tomorrow was a school day. She'd warned Edward in particular, having already caught him lying awake to read instead of sleeping several times.

Edward heard footsteps in the hallway and quickly slammed his book shut, tossing a blanket over the lamp. The light vanished. Was I fast enough? I think she saw!

The door creaked open and Trisha stepped in, frowning. "Hand over the book, Edward," she whispered, so as not to wake Alphonse.

Edward looked down at the bed as he reached under the pillow to extract the forbidden material. "Sorry, mom, I just thought I could study a little—"

"I'm very disappointed in you, Edward," Trisha scolded quietly, her brow creased. "I've warned you quite a few times, but you don't seem to understand. When I say lights out, it means lights out. Don't hide things from me and lie to me. I don't like it when you do. Do you understand, Ed?"

The boy nodded solemnly, feeling shame build in his chest. "Yeah. I'm sorry."

"Very disappointed," Trisha repeated before turning to leave. She moved the blanket and put out the lamp, saying, "Now get to sleep."

"Okay," Edward replied meekly. He laid down and wrapped his arms around his pillow burying his face in it. His mother was disappointed in him!

He was so stupid. Why didn't he just do what he was told? No, instead he just did the wrong thing and let everyone down. He let his mother down. And ouch…

It hurt.

Edward closed his eyes, letting out a sigh. Roy's angry words echoed in his ears and he let his body go limp. He was a failure, and he let people down.

He'd let Roy down.

He'd probably let Hawkeye down too.

Maybe he'd just let everyone down.

And worst of all, maybe he'd let Alphonse down.


Taking a deep breath, Roy strode across the room towards the Emperor and his entourage, now consisting of his son, two rich ladies and another representative. Putting on his most convincing fake smile, he prepared to do his act.

"I'm very sorry about that, sir," he said in an apologetic tone. "I think he's just tired. But I've sent him back to our room now to rest."

Ryuumaru flashed a smile. "Oh, not to worry. He's getting to that age, Colonel, you'd better watch out!"

"I think he's been 'that age' for the last three years," Roy muttered under his breath. More loudly, he continued, "I can't apologise enough for his outburst… I don't know where he gets it from. I don't ever recall doing anything like that at his age and Elizabeth was far too gentle." He shrugged slightly. "I suppose it must just be the difference in how we were raised."

"Maybe," Ryuumaru responded thoughtfully. He took some sake from a passing waiter. "Care for some sake, Colonel?"

"Oh, no thanks," Roy answered, shaking his head. Definitely not. "Not really in the mood."

"Alright then." Ryuumaru turned to his other companions, most of whom accepted.

They continued to talk, but Roy wasn't really into it. It was one of those 'I'm hearing you speak, but not listening to you' times. His somewhat fuzzy mind was on Edward the whole time, and how roughly he'd treated the boy.

Looking back, he'd probably overdone it. He'd lost his temper and taken it out on the boy, which really wasn't fair to him at all.

He looked around the room at all the people, all these insignificant people, and hated himself for being so cruel to the one person here he really cared about.

Dammit, he had to say sorry.

"Colonel?" Ryuumaru asked. "Is everything alright? You seem quite distracted tonight."

Roy shook his head a little. "I can't apologise enough, sir, but I think I'm going to have to excuse myself again tonight. I'm not feeling well, I think I just need a bit of a lie down. So if you'll allow it…"

"Certainly!" Ryuumaru answered with a nod. "I hope you feel better soon. Goodnight, Colonel Mustang."

"Goodnight," Roy said in return, dipping his head to the group. He moved across the room to the door, exiting as quickly as he could. What he'd said about not feeling well was not just and excuse to get out of there; he was genuinely feeling pretty ill.

He hadn't eaten all day and had only taken sips of water, and now it was catching up. His head was thumping. Again. Why did that always seem to happen to him? Was he just unnaturally prone to headaches?

He wandered down the corridor to the stairs, feeling a little light-headed. He kept his hand tight on the bannister as he went up, getting the feeling that he'd trip and fall if he let go.

He reached for his keys in his pocket upon reaching his destination, but found the door already open. He grabbed the handle and went in.

In the half-light, he could just see Edward lying on his side across one of the couches, his arms hanging off the edge and his gaze on a non-existent object somewhere between the coffee table and the floor.

He looked up slowly as Roy came in. "It over?" he asked quietly, golden eyes dull.

Roy shook his head, going over. He sat down opposite the boy, sighing. "Sorry."

Edward didn't reply. He didn't even look like he was listening.

Roy took a deep breath and tried again. "Look, Ed, I know you probably don't want to listen to me but please, hear me out. I'm really sorry about hitting you. I just… I didn't mean to…" He broke off, looking helplessly at the boy. "It's just that…I s'pose I didn't want for Claudio to get to you… For the mission to be compromised… Something stupid. Sorry."

"I forgive you."

Roy glanced up at Edward's glazed eyes. "Huh?"

"I forgive you," the boy repeated. He looked properly at Roy, then pushed himself up into a sitting position. He walked around to Roy's side of the table and sat down next to him. He reached out and put his hand on Roy's shoulder. "I understand. And I forgive you."

"I'm so sorry," Roy said again, startling Edward by turning to face the boy and drawing him in closer to hug him.

The man held Edward as tight as he dared, rubbing his hand up and down the boy's flesh arm. He put his chin on the boy's shoulder and murmured, "And I'm so glad. I thought you'd hate me."

Edward blinked in shock. What just happened? What's gotten into him?

"Roy? What are you…?" Then he just smiled, pressing his chin against Roy's shoulder, puzzled about the sudden contact but not really minding. "I do hate you. I can't tell if you're trying to help me or make fun of me. Stop being so goddamn confusing and give me a straight answer for once, old man."

"Only when you give me a straight question, kid," Roy replied, letting go of Edward. He closed his eyes, letting out a huffing breath as he leant back into the couch.

"Are you okay?" Edward asked, suddenly concerned. Upon closer inspection, Roy didn't look well - he was sweating and seemed pale.

"My straight answer?" Roy muttered. "No. I'm not. Not okay at all."

"Wh-what's wrong?" Edward asked, cocking his head. "Is it something I can fix?"

"Dunno," Roy answered. "Don't think so."

"Straight answer!" Edward cried, flailing his hands. "'Dunno' is not an option! Tell me what's wrong so I can see whether or not it's something I can help with!"

"Just a little under the weather, should be fine," Roy told him softly. "But some water would be good."

"Alright," Edward went outside and summoned a maid, asking for some water. He went back inside to wait. There was a knock on the door a moment later and suddenly Tyrell was there too.

"Hey," he greeted, handing the water to Edward. "Heard Roy wasn't feeling so hot so I came for a checkup. Better safe than sorry, right?"

"Right," Edward responded, taking the glass to Roy and wondering if Tyrell was secretly a magical spirit that knew when people were sick and could magically teleport to them so he could heal them with his magical powers.

The man drank gratefully, leaving nothing behind. "You didn't have to come," Roy told Tyrell as the boy started to analyse his vital functions. "I might not be a doctor, but I do know what a sick spell is. I just need a little rest. This kinda thing happened to me a lot as a kid - I'll be fine by tomorrow."

"Yeah, happened to you a lot as a kid," Tyrell repeated, taking Roy's pulse from his wrist. "But you're not a kid anymore. This could be something worse."

"Look, I'm touched that you care so much, but—"

"Roy," Edward interrupted. "Just let him look you over. Even if it is just like you said, I think all three of us would feel better if you just let him make sure."

Roy nodded finally, deciding that Edward's point was a rational one. "Okay."

Minutes later, Tyrell stepped back. "Alrighty then. Roy, it's not just a sick spell."

Edward managed to look half-triumphant and half-worried.

"The bad news is you're getting sick because of all the stress you've been going through," Tyrell continued. "The good news is, it won't take long to recover. A day at most. My advice? Stay as far away from Prince Claudio as you can. And if it's unavoidable, try to have others there with you, and not just Ed."

Roy nodded, his eyes half-closed. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve.

Tyrell turned to Edward, his face serious. "That goes for you too. The prince isn't just out for Roy, he's got his sights set on you as well. Like, hurt the family as well and stuff. Just a warning."

He then broke into a grin. "Now, get better soon, Colonel! Seeyas!"

With that, he left, whistling a jaunty tune as he walked.

"I have an idea," Roy murmured, eyes closed. "And it's the best I've got. You can't stop me from doing it."

"Oh, wonderful," Edward said drily. "Any idea that starts like that is bound to be stupid and dangerous." He almost looked like he thought he should try and persuade Roy not to do something idiotic before he said, "Let's hear it."

"The Emperor seems like a pretty hands-on, get to know each other in any way possible type of guy, right?" Roy said as Edward went to sit down. "So what if I were to suggest that on one of the rest days, probably not tomorrow… Maybe after the next meeting… Well, what if I were to suggest that we all have a group training day, where any of the representatives, and you, who are fighters, - which I know most are - were to show off their skills in sparring or something? I guarantee that we could intimidate Claudio into backing off a little."

Edward's brow furrowed. "That actually doesn't sound like a horrible idea."

"Look who you're talking to," Roy said, opening his eyes. "I'm one of Amestris' greatest strategists out there. My plans are the best."

Edward grinned. "Alright. Let's do it!"

Roy smirked, a hint of white teeth flashing. "Let's." He yawned loudly, rubbing his eyes. "But I gonna…get a liddle seep firzt…"

His eyes flickered closed and he slumped down on the sofa, snoring softly.

Edward rolled his eyes. "Typical."

And then he went to sleep too.


So, what do you think? As always, let me know!

Also, I meant to post this a few days ago, but then I thought, "Wait, who would be reading fanfiction on Christmas day? YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO CELEBRATE WITH A TREE AND CAKE AND TURKEY AND STUFF!"

But then I thought, "But what if they're REALLY HARDCORE fanfic readers and they read a fanfic every day? Or what if they don't celebrate Christmas? AAH!"

Then I had a debate with myself, which was confusing, and then I ate some Christmas food to try and work it out but I got distracted by the food and ended up not posting it after all.

-.-"

BUT IT'S HERE NOW SO IT'S OKAY AND EVERYONE'S HAPPY AND BELATED MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

And once again, thank you very much for all your reviews. They make me indescribably excited - my sister finds it amusing to watch me flip out, so review more to please us both!

Review responses:

LordTicky: I was going to say it's not out here yet, but in the time between updates, IT DID COME OUT AND I WATCHED IT AND IT WAS AWESOME! The dragon was scary but it was still AWESOME!

Dashita Tichou: I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL.

: Yeah, that was Roy. Sorry if that bit wasn't written well!

SapphireClaw: Thank you! I appreciate the compliments!

BlueBlizzard1795: No worries! There won't be Yaoi here, but that's because I don't know how to write it so I don't want to offend anyone! I find Parental!RoyEd much easier and it makes more sense to me.

xIcyChanx: Thanks for reading my stories! I'm glad you like them. And thanks for your review last chapter, I was (insert word synonymous with ASDFGHJKLTHANKYOOOOOOO) to read it.

ZAKURO AWAY! *KOLKOLKOL... I'm still not RUSSIAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!*