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Ed stood at the window of his room, staring out across Central. It was late afternoon, and the shop-lined streets were buzzing with people making their way home from work. No doubt their thoughts were focussed on the family waiting for them or getting back to enjoy the last of the weak sunshine. The crowd was a drab sea of black and grey, monochrome and dull, but the occasional flash of blue served as a reminder of the constant military presence in the city. He tried to pick out the faces of the soldiers, but none of them were familiar.

Over to the west, the river snaked between its banks, reflecting the gold of the sinking sun. Trees lined the boulevards, and flashes of red and vermilion among their green leaves showed the first approach of autumn. Sadly, Ed wondered if he would still be here to see the first snowfall. Perhaps last winter had been his last, and he’d never even realised it.

Swallowing tightly, he scowled at the hollow fear that had made itself his companion. Hawkeye had delivered him to Mustang's home yesterday evening, and he was left with nothing to do but dwell on what was happening to him. The doctor thought he had a month, although the obscured x-rays would give no clue if that prognosis was still accurate. Perhaps he had more time.

Maybe he had less.

Other than the medical staff and himself, only four other people knew how ill he was: Hughes, Hawkeye, Mustang and Al. Everyone else thought it was something he would recover from, and he was grateful for that. Their ignorance gave him hope. His physical condition had become a taboo subject among those who knew the truth. It was as though refusing to acknowledge the fact that he was dying would somehow change reality. Perhaps if they pretended that there was nothing wrong then he would get better.

Their denial did not stop their fear, though. He could see it more clearly in Al. His brother's young, passive face had become ravaged with worry, and it was clear that he was not sleeping properly. It infuriated Ed to see him like that; it was not how things should be. He was the older brother and the head of their tiny family: he was the one who should be worrying about their future and handling their past, not Al.

He had left a short while ago to get Winry from the station, and Ed felt a spasm of guilt flicker through him. He hadn't even thought of the young automail mechanic over the past few days. She was their closest childhood friend, and her presence would be a comfort to Al at least. Perhaps she'd be able to reassure him where Ed had failed.

His reflection mimicked his grimace, and he ran his hand through his hair to push the blonde strands back from his face. There was no one to whom he could confess his fears. He wouldn't allow himself to show anything but confidence to Al. Not because he felt that telling the truth would make him weak in the eyes of his brother, but because he wouldn't be the one to acknowledge that Al's worries were founded. What good would that do?

Briefly, he had considered telling Winry, but he knew her reaction would be aggressively defensive. She would barely know how to react to the possibility of losing someone she'd known since she was a girl. Ed couldn't confide his concerns in her. She'd probably whack him for even acknowledging the possibility that he'd die before the last leaves were gone.

Hughes and Hawkeye would listen and do their best, but he didn't think they could help. It would only make them worry in turn, and no doubt whatever he said would find its way back to Mustang eventually. Hughes would give oblique hints, and Hawkeye would eventually tell him outright.

Ed scrubbed his hands over his face and shook his head. No. He couldn't tell them, and he definitely could not tell Roy. It did not matter that he had seen the man more vulnerable and afraid in the past two days than ever before, he was still his superior officer. That never changed.

So he was left with nothing other than his own poor comfort.

Anxiety gnawed at him: a dull emotion that stifled everything. He knew he could handle himself, whatever happened. He would get by no matter what the after-life held, but what about Al? He had no official source of income and no family to turn to. There was no one who could take Ed's place, and the thought of leaving his only sibling to fend for himself brought Ed out in a cold sweat. He couldn't work out what he was more afraid of: that Al would fall apart or that he wouldn't. It seemed selfish, but what if they didn't miss him? Would he be forgotten in a month as life simply went on?

A huff of laughter escaped his lips and he sighed in disbelief, realising just how morose he was becoming. The others had it right. Ignorance was bliss, and denial was the only way he could function. Moping wasn't going to do him any good. The truth was he had not coughed since returning from the hospital yesterday evening. There was no pain or sharp twinges in his chest. The only thing that plagued him was a heavy, steady tiredness.

Absently, he ran his flesh fingers over the array on his forehead before touching his chest, feeling the cotton of his t-shirt against his skin. There had been no more strange occurrences of voices or writing on the wall. In the end he had not told anyone what he had seen and heard. People were already worried. He couldn't add to that, not yet.

Ed's stomach growled fiercely, a loud gurgle that made him look down in surprise. He had spent most of the time since getting back from the hospital in bed, slipping in and out of oblivious sleep. More than once he had been vaguely aware of someone coming in and giving him drinks of water, but it was only an hour ago that he had felt able to get up and dressed. He had no idea when Al had gone to get their clothes, but almost everything he owned was put away neatly in the drawers.

It made him uncomfortable. Whatever “arrangements” Mustang had made, Ed wasn't planning on spending much time in his house. He did not like the thought of being dependent on anyone, and it irked him that Al had been so willing to accept the idea. It had been years since they had stayed at the house of Shou Tucker, and even longer since they had called anywhere home. He'd better make sure that Al knew this was only temporary. In a few days, once he'd proven that he didn't need to be looked after like a child, he'd go straight back to the dormitories.

Stiffly, Ed turned away from the window and made his way out of the bedroom. Mustang's house was impressive, but comfortable. Considering the amount of time Roy spent at the office Ed had almost expected it to be a shell of a place. Instead it was a calm haven in the centre of the city. The furniture was modern; a direct contrast to the heirlooms that he suspected littered the family manors of other high-ranking officers. There was no dark antiquity to this place. Large windows let in streams of light, and there was a sense that nothing could break the peace. Mustang probably worked hard to keep it that way, but the result was complete tranquillity.

That was another reason to leave as soon as he was able. It would be easy to get comfortable here: to get used to the idea of having a home again.

He padded down the stairs and across the wooden floor of the entrance hall, careful not to slip on the polished surface. His socked feet made no noise as Ed worked his way towards the smell of food, so hungry that he didn't spare the other rooms a second glance.

The kitchen was at the back of the house, and as he crossed the threshold he hesitated, raising his eyebrows in surprise at the oddly domestic scene within.

Mustang was stirring something slowly on the stove; his attention fixed on the document in his other hand. The man's shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, his collar was undone and his shirt was untucked. He must have only just got back from the office, and judging by the paperwork that littered the table he’d brought most of his work home with him.

His dishevelled appearance triggered a flash of memory, and Ed felt a wave of heat surge through him as he remembered the way Roy had looked in the hospital. That brief caress and the hint of roughness to Mustang's voice that day could be excused away, but there had been no denying the dark, hot passion in his gaze. It was typical, Ed realised. He felt too weak to do much more than get out of bed, but he still had strength enough for unrelenting desire. His own emotions he was used to. He had pushed them back time and again, but no matter what he told himself he couldn’t forget the sliver of hope that perhaps the attraction was mutual.

Ed's stomach growled again, unceremoniously announcing his presence and making him blush in embarrassment. Roy looked up with a smirk, his gaze raking up and down Ed’s figure for a moment. 'I thought I heard you moving around, Fullmetal. How do you feel?'

With a laconic shrug Ed moved further into the room and leant against one of the counters, trying to appear relaxed and comfortable. 'Just tired. I don't feel as bad as I did the other day.' Chairs were arranged neatly around a solid, functional table, and Ed fought against the urge to sit down. His body's cravings for rest were at odds with the alertness of his mind. Giving in seemed like defeat, so he stayed standing and ignored the leaden feeling in his limbs.

'Thank you for letting me and Al stay here. You didn’t have to,’ Ed mumbled awkwardly. He felt uncomfortable, almost as though he was invading Mustang’s privacy, and he knew that it put him in a difficult position. It would be hard to lie or deceive Roy while he was a guest in his house.

Dark blue eyes met his, and Roy tapped the wooden spoon on the side of the pan thoughtfully. Perhaps a simple expression of gratitude hadn't been what he was expecting, but he nodded and put the document in his right hand down on top of the pile on the table. 'You couldn't have stayed in the dormitories,’ he replied, ‘and if someone hadn't stepped in you would have just discharged yourself again.'

There was no missing the disapproval in his voice, and Ed hunched his shoulders and looked at the floor. He should probably apologise for being so stubborn about his demands to leave the hospital, but he'd be damned if he'd say he was sorry when he didn't mean it. If his surly silence bothered Mustang he didn't show it, instead doling out some thick stew into a bowl and passing it over. 'At least sit down while you eat. You're going to be staying here a while whether you like it or not, so you might as well make yourself at home.'

Carefully pushing some of the paperwork aside Ed did as he was told, knowing that this discussion was not over. When he had woken up in hospital the first time it had only been Mustang's gratitude over Hughes' return that had prevented him from launching into his usual diatribe of disappointment. Now Ed realised he had only been putting off the inevitable.

They ate in silence for a while, and Ed felt the warm food ebb away his exhaustion. It wasn't long before the bowl was empty and his stomach was full, leaving his mind free of its nagging demands. A quick glance at the clock showed that it wouldn't be long before Al and Winry would be back, and he couldn't stifle the wince that flickered across his face.

'You all right?' Roy asked quietly, his eyes narrowing as he tried to read Ed's features. His expression was guarded, cautious, and Ed could see the weary fear that had etched faint lines into Mustang’s face. Had they been there before all this began, or were those new signs of strain his fault?

'Yeah,' he said quietly, frowning as the tension in Roy's body did not fade. 'I was just thinking that Winry's probably going to throw at least one wrench at my head.'

Mustang smiled, well aware of the young woman's temper. 'You think she'll be angry at you?' he asked drily before taking another mouthful.

Ed’s expression easily conveyed what he thought: he would have to be stupid to think that Winry would be anything other than furious. 'She'll tell me how selfish and stupid I am,’ he grumbled, ticking things off on his fingers as he continued. ‘She’ll yell at me for scaring Al, ending up at the gate, not telling anyone that I wasn't well....' Trailing off he cursed silently, realising that he'd just given Mustang the perfect opening.

Roy sighed, dragging his hand across his face as he leant back in his chair. The subdued anger of the past couple of days was definitely rising to the surface. Ed could see it igniting in his eyes and noticed that his knuckles were whitening as he clenched his hands into fists. When Mustang spoke his voice was low and dangerous, the words loaded with every fraction of disappointment, fear and concern that he had suffered.

'You deserve whatever she does to you, because she’s right. It was stupid to keep this to yourself.' Mustang glared at Ed like a parent would at a reprobate child. 'Why didn't you tell anyone?'

'What good would it have done?' Ed asked hoarsely, shrugging as he turned away to stare unseeingly at the tiled floor. 'Even if I'd known how bad it was there would still have been no cure! Two years of knowing the price I paid would have torn Al apart. By now there'd be nothing left of him.'

Roy raked a hand through his hair and grimaced, acknowledging the point. 'That's not it though, is it? You could have told a doctor, or anyone, but instead you kept it quiet. If we had known back then we could have found something. We would have at least tried!' Roy's fist hit the table with a thump, making the bowls clatter and dislodging a few pages of paperwork.

Ed knew that the last of his superior officer's restraint was slipping. Mustang had faced many things with an impassive face and a cool head; why was this time different? Looking back at him through his lashes Ed could see how much older he looked. It was as though something were wearing him down day by day, and he felt a stab of guilt as he realised that he was probably to blame.

'What would you have done if you had known?’ Ed demanded, his back stiffening as he found sanctuary in his own anger, ‘taken me off of active duty - sent me back to Risembool? You'd have treated me like a child, just like you're doing now. I'd rather have two years of actually living.'

'I treat you like a child because you act like one,' Roy growled. 'Even after all these years and everything you've been through you're still making the same mistakes. You're still only thinking of the consequences to yourself, rather than anyone else.' Mustang hesitated, and Ed scowled as he waited for him to continue. When Roy spoke again it was cold and quiet, as though he were desperately restraining his temper. 'Al had a right to know what was happening to you, regardless of what you think. You've hurt him more than you know by doing this. You have a strange way of showing you care.'

Ed snarled as he rose to his feet, stepping back from the table as he tried to put as much space between himself and that accusation as possible. Fury made him shake, and he tried desperately to reign in the hot wave of rage that Mustang's words had invoked. He wanted to lash out at something. The satisfying blow and the answering pain in his fist might just be enough to drown out the first sickly stabs of guilt that were already sneaking into his being. 'You don't know what the hell you're talking about!'

Mustang's eyes were narrow and hard, as unforgiving as the expression on his face. It threw Ed off balance to see any emotion so close to the surface. Normally Roy kept his distance, refusing to be baited, but this time something had changed. His mask of arrogant indifference was slipping, and his professional restraint was long gone.

'Would it really be so difficult to ask someone for help once in a while,' he demanded, 'or tell them what's going on in your life?' Shaking his head he got to his feet. 'These past few days you've not just frightened Al; you've scared everyone. It makes people wonder what else you've got to hide.'

'Why don't you say what you mean?' Ed snapped. 'It makes you wonder what I'm not saying, and that's what bothers you.' He saw the flicker of surprise on Mustang's face and smirked, crossing his arms. 'You just can't stand to think that there's something in your life that you can't understand and manipulate!'

Roy turned away, putting his empty bowl in the sink with a clatter and bracing his palms on the counter. For a moment Ed thought he wouldn't reply at all, and when he did he realised that his last remark was simply being ignored. 'Don't be an idiot, Fullmetal. You can't keep going through life dealing with every problem on your own. One day you'll fail, and I don't want to see that happen.'

'I never knew you cared.' Ed couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice as he glared at Mustang's rigid back. 'What would it be to you anyway, other than one less dog to call to heel?'

Roy looked over his shoulder, his eyes flashing with anger as he turned back to face Ed fully. His posture was rigid and unforgiving, and the weak reigns on his temper seemed to be snapping. 'That's getting old, Edward, and I'm running out of patience! You need to start treating people around you with some respect, especially your superiors.'

'Superiors?' Ed choked out, his face twisting in disbelief. His teeth grated against each other, making his jaw ache. Trust the self-satisfied bastard to pull rank. It was tempting to swear and yell, and he could tell from the sardonic smirk on Mustang's face that it was just what the man was expecting.

Well he wouldn't give him the satisfaction. If a military dog was what he wanted then it was what he'd get.

With a massive effort Ed restrained himself, clenching his tongue between his teeth in an attempt to hold back a litany of spite. Instead he straightened his shoulders and gave a cocky salute before standing “at ease” and fixing his mocking gaze on the wall behind Mustang's head.

Roy glared, his face pale with anger as his lips thinned into a grim line. Ed had no doubt that if Mustang had been wearing his gloves he would probably have suffered a nasty scorching, but the man's hands were bare. Still, just because the Brigadier-General had no spark at his fingertips it didn't mean he was harmless. If anything the fire of his mood equalled the power of his alchemy.

'Don't mess about, Ed,' he hissed. 'This isn't a game or a joke. You really are dying, whether you believe it or not! You didn't even give me a chance to help you!'

'I don't need your help,' Ed retorted, shaking his head as he spun around, intent on seeking out the refuge of his room. This was getting out of hand. He and Mustang were notorious throughout Central Command for their fights. In the office it was casual insults and icy arrogance. This was hotter and more vicious. It wasn't about work; it was personal and, despite all his instincts screaming at him to stand and fight, Ed knew the best thing to do would be to walk away before he said something he could not apologise for.

The hot band of Mustang's fingers around his arm made him whirl back, a snarl already on his lips as he tried to snatch himself away. Roy was breathing heavily, his temper making his chest rise and fall in the same quick rhythm as Ed's own. There was no cool dignity. It had all been stripped away, and Ed barely choked off a growl when he realised that all the fire that Roy claimed to be in control of was right there for him to see: wild and hypnotising.

'Get off of me,' Ed spat defensively, his emotions making him dizzy as Mustang took one step closer to him. The grip on his arm was unrelenting, and now he could feel the heat radiating from Roy's body and smell the warm, spicy scent of him. His skin was tingling from the unexpected touch, and the heat of lust and fury were mingling together, driving back sense and reason. He could have broken away if he had tried, but it felt as though he were locked in some kind of paralysis, torn between two warring instincts: fight or fuck.

His body was twisting itself in knots, and his stomach fluttered with adrenaline and desire. Every muscle was pulled taut in an effort to fight back his impulses, and his heart was thudding too loud and fast in his chest as his pale skin flushed.

Fire blazed beneath the array on his chest, searing along the lines of the design and making him cry out. With one quick yank he pulled himself free, clutching at the burning point of pain as he hunched his shoulders against it, trying to separate himself from the agony. His stomach rolled, rebelling, and he gritted his teeth as he hunkered down. Everything else had faded away, torn asunder and over-ruled by this sudden torment.


The thought arrived in his mind, child-like and on edge. Swearing quietly he gritted his teeth. He had hoped that the strange words in his mind would not return, but now echoes of confusion raced through his system, alien and unreal. He felt stupidly threatened, like a small animal sensing a predator. He blinked back tears and choked, wishing it would just stop. He couldn’t make sense of his surroundings, and he flinched as Mustang put his arm around his shoulders, bracing him and holding him steady.

Ed’s hand was brushed away and replaced by a larger, warmer palm. This time the touch was gentle but firm, a reassuring gesture rather than a barely restrained attack. It tingled, and gradually the confusion ebbed away. The burning dwindled to a faint ember of contentment, leaving Ed free to open his eyes and look into Roy's face.

The flush of anger had gone from Mustang’s cheeks, leaving him pale and drained. His eyes were wide, and his brow was creased into an anxious, guilty frown. Ed gasped in a breath to reassure him, fighting to keep any trace of his uncertainty out of his voice. 'I'm all right. It just took me by surprise.'

'What is it?' Mustang asked quietly gently, his hand absently moving in soothing circles. Ed tried to be evasive and shrug it off as nothing, but Roy's grip on him tightened, warning him that he wasn’t going to believe it. 'Ed, I can feel that something is different. Here.' He brushed his hand across the array again, and Ed grimaced in acknowledgement. It didn't matter that there was a t-shirt between Roy's skin and his own. The heat there was unmissable. It had gone from being warm to almost scorching to the touch.

Ed didn't reply. It felt as though all his fight was gone. Trustingly he leant back more into Mustang's grip as he closed his eyes, trying to re-establish his confidence as his body shook. Sweat was cooling quickly on his brow, and he felt his strength dim like a dying candle flame. 'I don't know what it is,' he managed tiredly. 'It's been that way since I brought Hughes back.' It wasn't the whole truth, but it was close enough and he felt Roy’s sigh tickle his cheek.

He barely noticed as Mustang led him carefully through the house before pushing him onto one of the sofas in front of the hearth in the lounge. Soft cushions yielded to Ed’s weight, but the heat of the flames in the grate seemed distant, as though there was a blanket of ice water between him and their warmth. He watched the fire through half-closed eyes, barely awake. Every time he managed to convince himself that he was all right, that everything was back to normal, something happened to remind him that his days were numbered.

Mustang's warm palm touched his forehead, checking for fever, and Ed blearily wondered how they had gone from a bitter fight to this. It was as though their antagonism had been set completely aside in one sharp moment of fear and confusion.

Fingertips traced the line of the array in an idle caress, as though Mustang was trying to work out what was happening through touch alone. It was reassuring, and Ed could feel his knotted muscles beginning to relax as he let his eyes drift shut.

A sharp breath of surprise made him open them again, and he cursed weakly at the blue glow that ignited the air around him. Mustang's face was cast into its brumal shade, and turned icy by its light.

The array on Ed’s forehead pinched with pain, and his breath locked in his throat as one word echoed around his head.


The room spun sickeningly as warmth flooded his limbs. Desperately, he tried to pull away from Roy, but it was already too late. The brief contact with the array had sapped Mustang's strength, drawing it inwards like a vampire drawing the last blood from its prey. In a matter of seconds he was on the floor, unconscious, mercifully breaking the touch of flesh-on-flesh as the glow dissipated.

Ed managed a choked sound of horrified surprise. He felt normal. The strange tiredness that had returned to him again and again had finally fled, receding from his bones and muscles. The arrays on his body were still warm, but he ignored them as he knelt next to Mustang and reached his hand outwards.

A hair's breadth from Roy's pulse point he hesitated. What if the same thing happened again? It was obvious that the light within him had done something to draw on Mustang's energy, pulling it towards itself and returning Ed's strength in the process. The knowledge was a sure weight in his mind, but his chittering, anxious thoughts did not understand how it had happened or how to stop it occurring again.

He pressed his hands to the floor for balance and lowered his ear to Mustang's chest, listening intently to the unsteady flutter of his heart. His breathing was erratic and gasping, and Ed swore quietly as he heard it hitch and stumble.

Too much.

Ed gritted his teeth and pushed himself to his feet, pacing back and forth fretfully as he tunnelled his fingers through his hair. 'Too much of what?' he snapped, not caring that his words echoed in the quiet room. 'Too much for you to handle or too much for him to survive without. What did you do?'

There was no answering voice in his mind. The child-like feeling had fled, and all he could sense was icy terror mingling with his own, hotter fear. Stopping he put a hand to his forehead, staring at Mustang's prone form as he tried to think of something that would help. For fuck sake he was a prodigy. Everyone said so. There must be something he could do!

If he was right – if the light had drained Roy of his energy for itself then there must be some way to put it back. Everything he had learned so far showed him that the brilliance at his core had power, but that it wasn't entirely in control. It was weak, frightened, and didn't understand the body it had made into its hiding place. There must be some way for him to tap into its strength. If the gate knew everything then he must have access to some of that knowledge too! He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that it would make him into a puppet if it could. If it had the strength he would be nothing but a shell for it to occupy, just like Carmine.

Yet if it could use him, then there must be some way for him to turn the tables. It must be possible for him to use it.

A flash of light went off in front of his eyes, making him blink and wince. Again it came, and again. The intervals between each dazzling glow decreasing until it filled his vision from edge to edge with whiteness. Unconsciously his hands went to his temples in a protective gesture. He recognised this from the hospital, when the terrible pain had torn through his skull. Already the images were starting to flicker across his mind, and he expected the howling agony to begin shredding him to pieces.

Nothing came.

It was as though his mind was again fogged with laudanum, creating a barrier between his nerves and the frayed, tattered edges of his consciousness. The pictures were a random jumble of colour and shape, drowning out his thoughts, his emotions and his being. He could feel himself slipping away, losing himself in a tide of knowledge he could not begin to comprehend.

Slowly the stream became a trickle, as though something had hemmed back the bulk of them and was now moderating the flow. Grimly, he concentrated on what he wanted to know, shouting mute questions in the vault of his mind. He had to know how to get some of that energy back into Mustang!

It was incomprehensible and simple all at once. Most of the pictures he could not recognise, but in a jumble of thought and imagery, he began to form some idea of what he was being told. Energy could flow from one thing or the other. It could be generated and stored, but never be created or destroyed. He had to find a way to reverse the flow, to push it back in the right direction. The light had drawn the energy towards it, pulling the power towards one central point. If he could think of that as an array – if he could somehow picture that flow of energy – he would be able to push the strength back into Mustang's frame.


The images stopped, abruptly curtailed by the shrieking thought in his head. Ed reeled in confusion, stumbling slightly as he screwed up his eyes in pain. It was as if the presence in his body and mind was divided into opposing factions. Shakily he opened his eyes, carefully taking his hands away from his head as he staggered towards Roy. There wasn’t time to think about it now. He had to act. Already Mustang’s lips were turning blue, and his pallor was losing all trace of vitality.

Ruthlessly, he shoved all emotion away as he tried to think. In his mind he saw the array spring into being, a complete circle with stabilising triads that pointed towards one central point. Mentally he inverted the triangles so that they pointed outwards, towards the circumference of the circle.

Ignoring the shaking of his own hands he straddled Roy's hips and clapped his palms together, feeling the ripple of power tear through him with brutal ease.


As soon as he pressed his hands to the centre of Roy's chest, it began. It was a fast, furious drain, like dammed water breaching the wall and rushing back to the lowest point. It felt like nails were being hammered into his chest as sharp points of pain exploded around the array on his torso. Groaning in pain he watched as the familiar blue wash of his alchemy flared purple, then crimson, before turning a bright, dazzling white. Shutting his eyes against its intensity he felt Mustang's heartbeat stabilise and strengthen against his hand, and the rise and fall of his chest became more measured. The air smelled of sweat and burning alchemy as Ed’s own heart thundered desperately in his ears, blotting out all other sound with its rhythm until it was a frantic beat, measuring out his life with its pace.

All the while there was a feeling deep in his mind, a strange satisfaction, as though something observed him and was impressed with what it saw.

He had passed the first test.

Warm fingers encircled his wrists, jerking him back to reality. Before he even had time to open his eyes he was being rolled over until his back was pressed into the soft, thick carpet. Around him the alchemy fizzled away, taking the searing light with it. Spots dancing across his closed eyelids, dappling his vision until he blinked them away.

He had been so involved in pouring Mustang's energy back into him that he hadn't noticed the man awaken. Now their positions were reversed, with Roy straddling his hips easily and restraining Ed's wrists above his head. He considered struggling, or at least disentangling himself from his commanding officer's grip, but something in Roy's eyes told him that it would be a bad idea to make any sudden movements.

'What happened?' Roy asked fiercely, leaning forward to put more of his weight on Ed's wrists. His face was still wan, but the muscles in his arms were taut and certain. His eyes were bright with a mixture of confusion and surprise, as well as the faintest dark hint of distrust.

'I don't know,' Ed said quietly, twisting his wrists experimentally and scowling as he realised that Mustang was using his position to his advantage. Even though the tiredness had not returned, he knew he didn’t have the strength to push Roy off of him. He was at his mercy, and he loathed that fact.

'Let me up.'

'No. Not until you tell me what you did.’ His face was fixed in an expression of uncertainty, and Ed knew that Roy had been shaken by what had happened. To be rendered helpless so quickly was horrifying, and, even worse, Ed had no way of knowing that it wouldn’t happen again. Roy’s fingers were locked around the skin of his wrist and nothing was happening, but that didn’t mean that they were safe.

‘What happened after I passed out, Edward?’ The question was rough and desperate, as though Mustang was ordering him to give him an answer and reassure him that it was nothing to fear.

Ed bit his lip, trying to think of some excuse, but it was useless. Roy was too close, and the heat and weight of him was pushing all other thought from Ed's mind. He had to get out of here. Maybe standing up, at a distance, he would have been able to come up with a decent lie. Right here, right now, his intelligence was fogged by Mustang’s proximity to think of any words to say.

Finally he managed to speak, stammering slightly as he tried to explain. ‘I don’t know what happened. You were unconscious and not breathing very well. I was just putting back whatever the array took from you.’ It was a feeble evasion, and Roy knew it.

Shifting uncomfortably under his searching gaze Ed stifled a hoarse sound as his hips brushed against Roy’s, inadvertently making his situation worse. Above him Mustang went rigid, but didn’t pull back and Ed shut his eyes in a grimace of disbelief. He desperately hoped that Roy would not feel the growing bulge in Ed's trousers, but something told him he was out of luck.

Cautiously, Ed glanced up at the man over him, raising an curious eyebrow at what he saw. Mustang’s face was flushed, and his pupils had dilated, darkening his eyes to almost black. There was no sneer or smirk on his lips, only hot desire in his eyes and the rapidly hardening ridge of flesh in answer to Ed's own passion. Roy seemed to belatedly realise how compromising their position was and he swallowed hard, parting his lips wordlessly.

Ed grinned, realising that he wasn’t as helpless as he had first thought. His face suffused with heat as his gaze flickered down to Roy's mouth and back up again. Deliberately he arched his back, pressing himself fully against Mustang. A lance of heat carved through him, pooling low in his belly as a heartfelt groan rumbled in Roy's chest. There was no fight, no questions, no fear - only this closeness and a burning, agonising need that made him want to writhe with its urgency.

Roy’s hands had released his wrists and were braced either side of Ed’s head. It was as though he were fighting to hold himself back, and Ed could see his muscles trembling as Roy began to lose the battle with himself. Quickly Ed tangled his hand in Mustang's shirt and tugged him closer, this time unable to hide his growl of pleasure as he felt Roy relax against him, close enough to touch, to kiss… .

A red flash of light ignited the room and they paused, confused. Their breath mingled, their lips only a fraction apart as a second bolt of colour flickered over the walls. Within a second the air was filled with a rushing roar that made the glass rattle in the window frames.

Reality rushed back in, and for a moment they both froze, panting and desperate. Ed looked over at the window, seeing smoke and fire belching upwards into the evening sky. Above him Mustang shifted, getting to his feet and swearing quietly as he stared at the devastation only a few streets away.

Ed could see him withdrawing, closing himself off from what had just happened between them and pulling on the cool demeanour of command. Stifling a sigh he got up, carefully keeping his distance as he followed Roy’s gaze. A thick pall of black smoke was casting a column up into the sky. At its heart he could see the red stain of fire devouring everything that it could burn.

'Stay here,' Mustang ordered, his command unquestionable as he turned on his heel, grabbing his uniform jacket and disappearing out of the door before Ed had a chance to reply.

Outside sirens began to wail, and people had stopped in the street to gawk at the carnage. Taking in a deep breath Ed shook his head and pushed himself away from the wall, following quickly in Roy’s footsteps. If Mustang thought he was going to stay here then he was sorely mistaken. Ed knew Central well, and he couldn't stop the wave of sickness rolling in his belly when he realised which building lay in ruins.

The station.