Sane Enough for Today

Maes/Roy. NC-17. ~6100 words. Polyamory. Pastfic.
Love and war, and everything that goes with it.

“I will show you!” Armstrong boomed, leaping to his feet with a thud that rocked the furniture and sent bottles and glasses dancing across the scarred tabletops. He thrust his chest out, turning so all could see the glass full of dark gold rum perched in the palm of his hand. “The artistic drinking method that has been passed-”

“Passed down for generations through the Armstrong family!” Hawkeye thrust her own glass in the air and jumped up beside him, a few drops sloshing over the rim to spatter on the polished hardwood floor. She planted a hand on her hip and mimicked Armstrong’s pose, bowing in response to the uproar of laughter and applause.

Armstrong gave her back a hearty slap, nearly sending her sprawling face-first into the couch. She righted herself to another burst of laughter, and they tossed back their drinks and clinked the empty glasses.

Chairs scraped and bottles clunked on heavy wood, ice cubes rattled and lively music played. Someone broke out into raucous song, singing about a lonely lad and a lonelier lass that happened to cross paths one bright day. Clapping hands quickly picked up the tempo, urging the man on.

“Have another, Major.” Hughes invited himself to sit as the bartender, Geary, set down two fresh steins and filled both to the brim with golden froth.

Roy turned an eye to the offering. “Since you’re buying,” he said with a smile, and picked the one nearest. He settled back against the bar, elbows resting on the warmly glowing wood, and casually browsed the gathering.

“Hawkeye’s giving Armstrong a run for his money,” Hughes said, noticing where Roy’s gaze drifted. “If she plans on drinking him under the table, I hope she plans on lugging him back to the barracks.”

“She’d probably manage it,” Roy replied, not entirely kidding. Hawkeye’s slim frame hid more than simply strength of character, and he’d counted on both more than a time or two.

Hughes slapped a bill on the counter and slid off his stool. “C’mon.”

He wrapped a comradely arm round Roy’s shoulders and steered him towards the deep-cushioned couches. The warmth was welcome even in the crowded room, firm muscle comfortingly familiar. He’d survived the trials of the combat training weekend, a credit more to his team than to himself.

“A toast!” Hughes addressed their group, glass held high as he waited for relative silence to descend.

They were a ragtag bunch, alchemists and intelligence and army regulars congregating at old Geary’s for much needed relaxation. Most Roy knew, others he knew only through Hughes, and still more he met only hours before through friends of friends that happened to wander by.

Havoc babbled on to the pretty serving girl until Hughes tapped the back of his head. The girl gave a full-throated laugh and pocketed the change on her tray while Havoc mumbled a sheepish apology around his cigarette.

“A toast!” Hughes repeated. A forest of glasses, from full to empty, rose into the air. “To Major Roy Mustang, Flame Alchemist!” he proclaimed, tightening his hold on Roy.

“Hear, hear!” Armstrong shouted, a chorus of voices filling his echoing wake and drowning out Roy’s weak protests.

Under the din, Havoc muttered to himself, “I don’t have a drink.” He shifted bottles and baskets of food around on the low table in a vain but hopeful search. A half-empty glass suddenly appeared under his nose, making him blink in dull-witted surprise. He’d had more than his fair share of Geary’s fine stock.

“You do now,” someone informed him.

“Thanks,” Havoc replied, taking the glass without looking up at his benefactor. “The Major should buy us a round!” he called.

Hughes, his arm still slung easily around Roy’s shoulders, gestured at the overloaded tray headed in their direction. “Already on the way, Jean.”

“Good man,” Farman put in, saluting the pair a bit lopsidedly.

Havoc nodded, lifting his own glass to his mouth. He registered the odd little sizzling sound it made seconds before it jumped in his hand and drink exploded onto his face. He stared in bewilderment at the now empty glass, a tiny tendril of smoke curling from the doused end of his cig.

“Smoking’s bad for you, anyway,” Kimberly said, plucking the wet ash from between Havoc’s lips and dropping it in the glass. He grinned the devil’s own grin, tucking an arm behind his head and treating himself to a taste of his own drink.

Another round of laughter and another round of clinking glasses met that declaration.

Roy shook his head and turned away, just catching Havoc’s good-natured grumble, “Next time, you sit by yourself.”

Hughes pushed another glass into his free hand, and Roy glanced down, looking from one to the next and back again. “Why is it I need two drinks?” he asked.

“The more, the merrier!” Hughes tried.

“The drunker, you mean.”

“And that, too.” Hughes slapped Breda on the knee, and the young sergeant scooted over just enough for them to sit. Or for Hughes to sit, and unceremoniously tug Roy down beside him. “The way I see it,” he explained, waving a glass-laden hand in the warm dimness, “is if you make it through one of those weekends and you’re still sane Monday morning, you’ve got something to celebrate.”

“And you’re sane?” Across the table, Kimberly smirked his usual smirk, one thin eyebrow winging up.

Muted lamplight caught the lenses of Hughes’s glasses, glinting brightly and momentarily obscuring his eyes. Elbows on his knees, he held the glass by his fingertips dangling between his legs, and said, “I’m celebrating.” He rubbed his chin with a thumb, mouth quirked up at the corner.

Kimberly remained silent for a moment before abruptly laughing. He tipped his glass in a salute, the dark ink on his palm blurred but visible through the clear vodka mix. “Sane enough for today.”

Roy pawned his second drink off on Havoc as the group dissolved into conversation. He heard Farman attempt to convince a fresh-faced private that a few rounds of poker with him would be a good way to pass the time. One game, and Roy had learned to never bet against him. Like the house, Farman always won.

Hughes slapped his thigh and jerked him out of his thoughts. “Don’t tell me you’re ready to pass out.”

Roy’s ego prickled. “Not likely,” he replied, and took a long swig just to prove it. Heat flared along his skin as the potent brew burned down his throat, and the room swam. He blinked it away, stubborn as always.

Hughes’s knowing grin stared back at him when his eyes finally refocused.

“Hawkeye,” Roy said, attempting to deflect Hughes attention. He raised his hand, signalling her.

She changed direction and weaved through the boisterous gathering to reach them, her steps only slightly out of sync.

“Major Armstrong seems to have had a bit too much to drink, sir,” she informed them, her eyes sparkling and an unusually mischievous twist to her lips.

They both leaned a little to the side, peering around her at the mountain of Armstrong currently heaped on an unfortunate chair. He cradled his coat in one arm, hand still wrapped snugly around his empty glass.

“One down,” Roy stated, turning to Hughes.

“You know what they say about the bigger they are,” Hughes added, his grin just managing to stay on the safe side of lecherous.

Hawkeye started to roll her eyes and caught herself, stepping over Havoc’s outflung legs on her way to the bar.

Roy slid Hughes a sideways glance. “She doesn’t appreciate your humour.”

“But at least she knows I care,” came Hughes’s rebuttal, his expression turning sly. Roy only had time to narrow his eyes suspiciously before Hughes’s head plopped on his shoulder. “You appreciate me, don’t you, Roy?” Dark gold eyes glittered like the whiskey-covered ice in his glass.

He knew Hughes’s games, good-natured fun between close friends. His usual response involved a twitch of the eyebrow and a well-aimed elbow. Drink, though, made Roy careless, and carelessness made him an easy mark.

“Maes,” he started, intent on dishing out a taste of Hughes’s own medicine. He suspected, but could never bring himself to really consider the similarities between Hughes’s teasing with him, and Hughes’s flirting with women. His own bias would inevitably do him in every time.

A discreet tap on his shoulder interrupted his train of thought, and he turned curious eyes to the cold-reddened face of a private. “Missive for Major Roy Mustang, sir,” he said, handing Roy a sealed envelope with a shaking hand.

The pleasant alcohol-induced haze in Roy’s brain tattered at the edges. The private moved on, and Hughes’s entire manner changed as he watched Roy slice the paper with his pocket-knife.

The din gradually faded, the music falling on deaf ears as Roy read. Though it was addressed to him personally, he handed the sheaf of papers to Hughes without prompting.

Sprawled on the couch, his own orders in one hand and glass in the other, Kimberly’s gaze met Roy’s. “Let loose the dogs,” he said, and brought the drink to his grinning lips.

*

The following weeks passed in a frantic blur. The alchemists had been called to Ishvar. There had been rumours, speculations, idle conversation in the halls as to when, and why. Roy had prepared for the eventuality he never expected to happen, and now that it had, he found himself sorely lacking.

In three days, along with Armstrong, Kimberly and the rest of Amestris’s serving alchemists, he would march east. East to kill or be killed. The thought made his stomach churn.

“You could have taken an office position,” Hughes murmured from where he perched on Roy’s bunk.

Roy merely shook his head and continued checking his gloves. He could have tried, but it wouldn’t have been permitted. Some excuse, any excuse, to keep Roy in active field service. Flame Alchemist, too valuable to be left behind to tend the home fires.

One glove would have to be replaced, the flint worn too smooth to be reliable, to trust with his life. They were expecting him to be ready to take someone else’s. A snap of his fingers, flame put to flesh for the first time. He couldn’t even imagine it.

Knuckles rapped on the doorframe, Breda’s round face appearing a moment later. “Major?”

“Here,” Roy said, his thin veneer of calm holding fast.

Breda noticed Hughes and acknowledged him with a nod. “Meeting in the first floor conference room, sir. At 1640.”

Roy flicked a glance at the beaten clock beside the bunk. He nodded his thanks, not trusting his voice against the fresh wave of dread that threatened to send him crashing to his knees.

Breda vanished from the doorway, and Hughes slid off the bed. “Shouldn’t take more than an hour or two,” he said, stretching lazily. “I’ll wander by later tonight, treat you to a few shots of bad bourbon.”

Roy didn’t turn around right away. “Don’t wait if it runs too long,” he said.

“Hey.”

Warm hands settled on his stiff shoulders. Roy’s breath left him in a quiet sigh, finally sagging under the weight of the army’s expectations. He glanced at Hughes, just catching sight of him in the corners of his eyes.

“I’ll wait,” Hughes said.

Finally, Roy nodded. Hughes hesitated a moment more before letting his hands slide away, and closed the door quietly behind him.

Roy tipped his head back and closed his eyes. The laughter of Geary’s echoed in his memory, brought the barest ghost of a smile to his lips. Hughes might tease him about having no warm, soft girl to come home to, but what he did have suited him just fine.

*

“Goodnight, sir,” Ross said, saluting smartly.

Roy returned the gesture, slightly disappointed. A brilliant woman, striking features but woefully short hair. He liked his women with hair long enough to curl around his fingers and tumble down over his hands. Not that a dalliance with Maria would be possible.

“Thank you again,” he called, watching her move down the hallway regardless.

He rapped his knuckles on the heavy wood, instantly feeling foolish for knocking at his own room. He turned the knob, the door swinging open seemingly on its own. Hughes met him at the threshold.

His discarded uniform coat hung from the bunk’s post, his thin dress shirt unbuttoned at the collar. The glint of metal dogtags circled his neck, just visible. Behind thin glasses, his dark gold eyes regarded Roy with startling gravity that quickly vanished beneath a wide grin.

Hughes clapped him on the back, hefting an open bottle in the other. “Started without you.”

“I can see that,” Roy replied, stepping into the room as Hughes backed up. He shut the door, shut out the entire army and its blasted war with it. He sagged against the solid oak for less than a heartbeat before pushing away and stripping off his jacket.

Hughes scratched the back of his neck and shrugged, arms spread wide. “I’m a man on the rebound, a good stiff drink is my only succour.”

The bottleneck clinked against a glass as Roy hung his coat on the closet doorknob. He crouched down to unlace his sturdy black boots. “Again? And you tell me I’m useless in relationships.” Familiar conversation helped, kept dark thoughts from circling like desert vultures.

“Hey, it’s not like it’s my fault,” Hughes insisted, hitching a hip on the scarred desk shoved tight under the single window. The light spilling in at his back from the compound cast his face in shadow. “A woman should really tell a man when she’s involved with another man on the side.” He held the half-full glass out to Roy. “I’m the injured party, where’s your brotherly sympathy?”

Roy settled a hand on his shoulder, all seriousness and compassionate eyes. “She’s not good enough for you. You’re better off without her. You’ll find someone who knows a good thing when it hangs all over her.” Roy lightly tapped Hughes’s arm with a fist and settled himself on the bed.

Hughes stared, glasses perched slightly askew on his nose. “You bastard,” he chuckled, dragging a hand through his short hair. “I owe you for that one.”

Lifting the glass in a toast, Roy found a smile on his lips. “Be my guest,” he said in all honesty, pleased to have switched their roles for one night. It wouldn’t last; Hughes knew too many ways to push Roy’s buttons. But he welcomed even that.

Time ticked on, unnoticed except for the steadily sinking line in the unlabeled bourbon bottle. Roy lifted his glass to find it once again empty, and when he reached for more, Hughes’s fingers caught his wrist.

“Maes,” Roy muttered disapprovingly. He shook his arm, glancing up with surprise stamped clearly across his features as Hughes’s hold tightened.

Hughes said nothing, but for once, Roy could read every thought in the set of his shoulders, the hard line of his jaw. His own thoughts, mirrored with startling intensity and staring him right in the face.

He waited for the flippant comment to banish Hughes’s sudden grimness, some sort of teasing remark to remind him that it’d be alright. Hughes remained silent.

Roy curled his hand into a fist to keep from punching him. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Hughes’s laughter kept him sane. Not some girl with an eye for his rank waited for him at night, but Hughes with cheap whiskey in hand and lewd jokes on his lips.

He jerked his arm out of Hughes’s grasp, suddenly and inexplicably furious. Doubts and fear, gut-wrenching terror at the thought of being shoved to the front lines of a damned war churned like a maelstrom, whipped into irrational anger that made him lash out at the one person he most wanted comfort from.

Hughes darted out of range, and somewhere, a small voice noted that he didn’t seem one bit surprised. Roy dimly heard the wooden chair clatter to the floor, the bottle overturned and smashed beside it, dark liquid spilled from the glass.

Roy pushed him back, Hughes dodging the clumsy, angry strikes until a fist grazed his jaw. He caught it, long fingers curled around Roy’s. Using his own momentum against him, Hughes jerked Roy around and slammed him against the wall.

Tensed and still ready to fight, Roy glared fiercely at his friend. His chest heaved, vision blurred by drink and fury. He waited for Hughes to finally say something, anything. Hughes merely stared back at him, eyes shuttered.

“You knew the order was coming,” Roy accused. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Hughes drew a breath, his hand coming to rest on the wall beside Roy’s head. Roy knew the answer. Hughes had known, and hadn’t told him because he didn’t need to know. Not really. If he’d had months to think about it, maybe it’d be better. It’d probably be worse. So much worse to lie awake a night, to dread the rising and setting of the sun with equal fervour for months instead of days.

Hughes kissed him.

No tentative brush of lips, uncertain breaths or fear of rejection, only the hard crush of Hughes’s mouth on his own. A hand fisted in his shirt, hauled him away from the wall only to be shoved abruptly back again by the hard press of Hughes’s body. Hughes kissed him again, rough and clumsy and full of frustrated want.

Fingers dragged over his stomach, tugged his rumpled shirt free to reach warm, bare skin. Roy sucked in a sharp breath when this kiss broke, not hesitating before lunging forward and catching Hughes in another, ignoring the sting of teeth striking his lip.

He didn’t stop to think, didn’t do anything except reach greedily for more. Anger and fear dissolved under the firm strokes of Hughes’s hands, stripping him naked and leaving him bare. He felt teeth scrape his collarbone, steady fingers wrap around his hip, hold him firmly against solid flesh.

Roy’s fingers combed through the soft hair at Hughes’s nape, brushing over and tangling in body-warmed metal. He heard the clink of the dogtags, felt them sway and bump into his chest. He fell against Hughes as they stumbled away from the wall, mouth seeking bare skin to taste. He kissed Hughes’s shoulder, salty sweat under his tongue and the lingering scent of clean soap.

Hughes pushed him down to the mattress, crawled over him and took his mouth again. Roy’s hands fumbled at his clothes, spurred on by the rough thrust of tongue against his own. Cool air swept over his skin, replaced by sudden heat as Hughes settled over him. A callused hand ran from his knee to his thigh, brought his breath shuddering into his throat, insistent fingers spiking pleasures along his nerves.

Roy felt breath ruffle his hair, whisper words hot and heavy in his ear. He watched Hughes move over him with dazed eyes, recognising the slick pressure between his legs for what it was and never once thought to say no. He searched for Hughes’s free hand, lacing their fingers together to tug him closer.

Urgency made them both clumsy, every touch rushed and each kiss a frantic demand for more. Roy clutched at the thin bedspread, twisting and crushing the cloth in his hand. An unfamiliar ache slowly spread, pressure and heat, the feeling of being filled, being taken. Unsteady fingers found the earpiece of Hughes’s glasses, lifted the lenses and dropped them to the flat pillow. Eyes clouded with need and desire met Roy’s, intense like he’d never seen them before.

Cradled between his thighs, finally seated deep inside him, Hughes stilled. His hair shivered against Roy’s flushed skin as he shook his head, either giving himself or Roy time. Time Roy didn’t want, or need. He slid an arm tight around Hughes, rocked into the strange sensation of having someone buried in him, and the hard muscles pressed against his erection. Ache became sudden pleasure, and he moved again, searching for it.

A low groan filled his ears, a shudder running through Hughes. Roy felt him give in, felt him move. The pressure eased, turning to the slow burn of withdrawal, hard flesh stroking over untouched skin. His body clenched against the emptiness, muscles resisting as Hughes forced himself deep again. Over and over, pressure and burn and shocks of pleasure, until one blended into the next and everything narrowed down to pure, perfect sensation.

Dimly, he heard the hard slap of flesh on flesh, short, hard gasps for breath mixed with rough groans. He felt the soft brush of cotton against sweat-soaked skin, hands in his hair, lips touching his in brief, hurried kisses. Desperate need forced him to move, blunt nails scraping his stomach and fingers wrapping firmly around his length. He jerked roughly, the tight coil of pleasure bursting white-hot along his nerves. Through it all, he could feel Hughes moving with him, in him.

Roy’s hand dropped to his stomach, palm sticky and warm against already overheated skin. He caught the wild look in darkened eyes a moment before Hughes jerked inside him, spilling startling warmth deep with sharp, erratic thrusts of his hips. Arms went around him as Hughes slumped against him, and they lay together, regaining their breath and their senses.

Headlights washed over them as an army truck rattled by. Somewhere, a gate slammed shut with a metal clang. Hughes shifted, settling beside him, and he felt the slick glide of flesh as Hughes slid out of him, the brush of lips and tongue on his shoulder, the solid warmth of being held. Soft breathing filled the air, the thought of speaking flittering almost unnoticed through Roy’s mind. The back of Hughes’s hand trailed lightly over his arm, soothing and possessive all at once. Roy slept with the steady rise and fall of Hughes’s chest against his back.

Sometime during the night, cold air creeping over his skin woke Roy. Sleepily, he rolled partly onto his back. His hand skimmed over the still-warm blankets.

Hughes, balanced on the balls of his feet, picked up the broken shards of glass. He turned at the sound of rustling sheets. Rising, gesturing at the gathered glass, he said, “Cleaning up.”

Roy settled onto his back. “You don’t need to,” he murmured, voice rough and heavy with sleep. He didn’t hear if Hughes replied, drifting into a doze and stirring when the mattress dipped under Hughes’s weight.

“Go back to sleep,” Hughes said, and already slipping under again, Roy barely heard the quiet, “I’ll be here.”

*

“Corporal Havoc, sir?” the field nurse asked.

“He arrived with last week’s reinforcements,” Roy supplied. His gaze wandered back to the rows of injured, hoping that if he found Havoc in medical, it would be here, and not with the dead and the dying.

“I’m sorry, sir, there appears to be no record of him. Are you certain he was brought in?” he set down his clipboard, the look in his eyes plainly saying he was glad not to have to tell another soldier a friend had fallen.

“No,” Roy said, refusing the relief that tried to rise. Havoc could be lost in the field, but at least there was room for hope. “No, I’m not,” he repeated, and nodding to the nurse in thanks, turned and left.

The smell of hot desert wind, tainted with gunpowder and ash hit him, whipping away the harshness of hospital cleaners. Both made his stomach recoil, both reminded him of the deaths at his hands.

Nothing remained here but death. The desert, the endless blank sands filled with scorching heat in the day and bitter frost at night. Their war brought even more waste to an already barren land. He brought fire to burn away what managed to survive.

Waves of nausea threatened his vision. He stumbled into the sparse room assigned to him, mercifully found lukewarm water sitting in the small basin. He splashed his face and sucked in deep, steadying breaths. Gripping the edge of the bowl, his knuckles turned bloodless white.

“Heat getting to you, Flame?” Kimberly chuckled.

Roy shook his head, droplets of water falling back into the pool. He snatched the rough towel to dry his face. Kimberly lounged on one of the bunks, wearing only a white tank and uniform slacks. The damned red stone sparkled on his chest like fresh blood.

The image made Roy’s stomach churn again. He’d seen too much blood, and worse things, thicker things that shrivelled and charred. He made it to an empty bunk before his legs gave way.

“Better get a grip on yourself soon, Major,” Kimberly said, lifting the chain round his neck and sending the pendant to twirling. “We’re in the night raid on the west pocket.”

The orders sat on his bunk, blatantly torn open. Hardly a surprise, given Kimberly’s disdain for social niceties and military protocol. Roy lifted the crisp sheet, and read it for himself.

“It isn’t necessary,” Roy said, too exhausted to be furious. “Another two days at the most and they’ll surrender.”

Kimberly gave a harsh, snorting laugh. He swung his legs over the side of the bunk, grinning. “Not ready to roast the innocents? Orders are orders, Flame. The only choice you have is between medium rare and well-done.”

“You’re disgusting.”

Kimberly had always been the type of alchemist that scared the people. Something about him, the look in his laughing jackal eyes or the smile that curved his wide mouth set them on edge. War made men crazy. Kimberly had started out that way.

“Maybe,” Kimberly said, shoving his face close. “But I’m not the one falling apart.”

Roy jerked back, thumb and finger pressed together, ready to strike a spark. Shock doused him in an ice water sweat when he realised. It hadn’t been hate, or revulsion that had adrenaline flowing through his veins. Kimberly had just moved too fast, too sudden, too close.

A soft curse fell from his lips, full of regret for what he’d become.

Kimberly started to laugh. “And you’re sad, and you’re sorry. Let it all out, Flame! Cry for the dead children if it’ll make you feel better.” Swift as a snake, he had Roy’s throat in his hand. His eyes glowed with conviction, and the dark ink pressed against Roy’s skin burned. “But when you’re done, they’ll still be dead.”

Fingers trembled with the effort it took to keep from setting him ablaze. He saw Kimberly recognise it, and smile.

“Would you cry for me?” Kimberly asked.

*

The earth shuddered under his feet. The sky erupted with noise, flying dust and debris obscuring his vision. Jagged stones crashed into the ground, smaller shards zipping through the air like shrapnel. Roy dived behind the crumbling remnants of a wall, tucking himself as closely to it as possible and covering his head and neck with his arms.

The racket faded. He braced a hand on a stone and got to his feet, trying to breathe the dirt-clogged air. Aftershocks made the ground tremble, and dampness on his face betrayed the small cuts he couldn’t feel.

Gunfire ricocheted off the ruined buildings. Roy whipped around, sparks already flying through the air. He caught sight of ragged desert clothes and dark skin before another hail of bullets spattered into the ground at his feet. The sparks burst into flame as he darted to the side.

Screams shattered the night, abruptly silenced by another explosion. Horrified, Roy watched his flames volcano into the sky, twisting and writhing like something alive, whipped into a firestorm by endless, building blasts. The ground bucked, the air seared his lungs. He fell flat, rolled for the meagre shelter of his broken wall.

By chance he looked up, squinting through the hellish carnage to see Kimberly standing on a mountain of rubble. Ruby red glinted at his neck, feeding the raging storm. His hair whipped out behind him, around him, a black snake licking the dark streaks of blood covering his skin and clothes.

The storm condensed, roiled in upon itself until Kimberly suddenly threw his arms wide like some vengeful god calling the faithful home. Everything exploded in a flash of blinding, scorching heat. Roy couldn’t breathe. Blackness ate at his vision. Just as consciousness began to slip from his grasp, the pressure evaporated. Roy drifted in a half-life, waiting for breath to return to battered lungs.

A bloodstained hand touched his arm, helped him to his feet. Kimberly shouldered his weight, grinning wildly beneath a gruesome mask. “That was fucking fantastic,” he said.

Roy sagged in his hold, shaking his head. A wave of dizziness passed over him. “What did you do?” he rasped when the world steadied again.

“We,” Kimberly corrected. “We could raze this city to the ground in a night, Mustang. You and me.”

Revulsion crashed over Roy like waves on the cliffs. He viciously shoved Kimberly away. “I’m not like you.”

Kimberly merely glanced at the scorched black crater their alchemy had created, nothing left but incinerated stone. “If that helps you sleep at night.” He stepped forward again, arm sliding around Roy’s waist.

Pain wracked Roy’s side, stealing his answer and his consciousness.

*

Roy woke, and didn’t know why. The curtains drawn tightly across the window plunged the room into perpetual twilight. He cast one disinterested look around, heard nothing but the steady tick-tock of the watch hung on his bedpost, and pulled the sheets tighter around his shoulders.

Just as sleep settled her warm, soft arms around him again, the creak of door hinges jolted him back awake.

“Roy?” Hughes called in a whisper.

“Here,” Roy answered, voice rough with sleep. He sat up slowly as Hughes let himself in, the sheets pooling in his lap and his arms slung across his bent knees. “I’m here.”

“Sleeping?” Hughes asked in a normal tone. “Alone?” He nabbed the desk chair, swung it around backwards and settled down beside the bed.

“Diana wasn’t the nicest girl I’ve ever met,” Roy said defensively, and braced for the obligatory lecture on life, love and happiness.

Instead, Hughes merely propped his chin up on his folded arms, and looked at him.

Roy stared back, and fought the urge to fidget.

“One week,” Hughes finally said. The backs of his fingers trailed over Roy’s arm, raising goosebumps in their wake. “Aren’t bachelors supposed to have one last hurrah before the deed is done?”

“She means more to you than that,” Roy said, but didn’t move his arm. He couldn’t.

“She means a lot to me,” he agreed. His fingers trailed down Roy’s thigh, curling around the thin sheet crumpled on the mattress. The chair scraped over the floor as he stood. Cooler air brushed Roy’s skin as he pulled the blanket slowly down, his eyes and voice softly intent. “But not everything.”

You should go, Roy tried to say. The words lodged in his throat. Familiar long-fingered hands touched his shoulder, skimmed down his side. He let Hughes push him back to the mattress because he wanted it. Underneath it all, all the endless justifications, he was selfish. He needed Hughes, to remember and to forget.

The gentle brush of Hughes’s lip across his cheek stirred up memories he thought he’d long forgotten. Times he’d buried himself in the warmth of a woman and thought of Hughes, had gone to him with her perfume still clinging to his skin; times when nights of sullen drinking turned to sex that left marks dark and damning on his skin for days afterward.

Hughes’s hand ran up his thighs, parted his legs and settled between them. Roy promised himself the day of Hughes’s engagement that he wouldn’t do this anymore. The slick, wet heat of Hughes’s tongue dragged over his stomach, skipped down to the sharp line of his hip. It’d been almost a year since then, a year of watching Hughes kiss Gracia goodbye, of Hughes not showing up after shift for drinks but going home. They both knew it had to stop between them.

Except, it didn’t.

*

“Thank you, Roy,” Gracia said, easing carefully back into her chair.

Roy smiled, deftly snatched Hughes’s plate out from under him and pretended not to notice the threat of a fork jabbing the air above his arm. “Since the Lieutenant-Colonel is currently preoccupied,” he said, and finished gathering the dishes.

“He’s making me look bad,” Hughes complained to his wife as Roy moved to the kitchen.

“Yes,” Gracia readily agreed. She absently stroked a hand over her swollen belly, a soft smile teasing her lips. “Go help him.”

A moment later, Roy felt Hughes poke him lightly with the fork. “You’re making me look bad.”

“I’m making myself look good,” Roy corrected. He glanced covertly over his shoulder, adding in a quieter voice, “I want another one of those pies. I’ll gladly wash every dish in the house for that.”

Hughes grinned and reached for the tap. “You bastard, planning to take advantage of my wife.” He slung an arm around Roy’s shoulders, turned to say something more, and his voice trailed off before finishing one word.

Roy looked up, confused and for a moment, alarmed; Gracia wasn’t due for weeks yet, but he knew babies were sometimes impatient to be born. He’d found Hughes nested in his apartment with an impressive stack of baby books and a look of pleading bewilderment as soon as they’d heard the news. But it wasn’t worry that darkened Hughes’s eyes.

“Maes?” Roy said. His heart skipped a beat, recognising the intention he’d seen countless times before. He froze, a million thoughts crowding into his head at once.

It’d been months since Hughes had touched him. Roy had pushed the need aside, the baby hanging darkly above his head, and Hughes had done the same. They both knew it was only a matter of time. It was always only a matter of time.

Roy saw Gracia first. She stood in the doorway, beautiful like only she could be, one hand on the frame and the other on her stomach. Guilt surged through him, strong enough to make him sick. And then he saw her smile.

Kindness, understanding, acceptance, a strange sort of pride; he saw it all there. He distantly felt Hughes’s arm fall away, heard him speak but didn’t catch the words. Gracia’s gaze didn’t waver. She knew. She probably always had.

She walked across the clean tiles, her progress slower than it would have been less than a year ago. Her hand touched Roy’s cheek, and she pressed her lips gently to the other. “If he helps with the dishes, I’d be happy to bake him as many pies as he wants,” she said.

It was a long time before he could make himself believe it. Gracia patiently reminded him almost every day, in a thousand little ways, and she was the one to ask him if he’d accept the honour of being Alicia’s godfather.

*

Roy cursed, stubbing his toe on a moss-covered gravestone. Riza – no doubt spurred on by Jean, because she’d never say so on her own – had said the eyepatch looked dashing. Dashing, of all things. A damned inconvenience, she meant.

Wind rippled the grass with a whisper. His steps slowed, his hand slipping into his pocket. Vibrant flowers, dark blue like the sky above, sat at the base of the tombstone. Roy sank down behind it, his back against the cool marble.

“She called it dashing,” he said, drawing his knees up, arms resting across them.

Leaves rustled, clouds scuttling across the sky. The air felt heavy and warm with rain.

“Alicia thought I’d become a pirate,” he said, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “She’s grown.”

Quiet again, and the creak of tree branches. Hughes would look at him, pointedly silent until Roy shared what was on his mind. Somehow, Hughes always knew.

“Fullmetal’s research provided the missing pieces,” he began. “I could do it now.”

Don’t even think about it, Hughes would say. I’ll knock you flat on your ass.

Long, silent moments passed, the only sound the wind in the trees as his memories surfaced, one bittersweet temptation after the other. His mind drifted as the sky darkened, threatening rain. Mischievous smiles and soft skin, loud laughter and the brush of lips. As long as he didn’t open his eyes, the feeling of strong arms holding him could almost be real.

Roy’s breath left him in a quiet sigh. “I’ve been missing you,” he whispered, tipping his damp face to the clouds.

End

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