It really shouldn’t matter. His written reports were always late. By minutes, sometimes an hour or two. He’d get a proverbial slap on the wrist and a passive reminder to try harder next time, to aim for the straight and narrow.
His perpetual tardiness was something that could easily be written off as a consequence of constant travel, or as an inevitability of his increasingly bizarre lifestyle, perhaps even as a one-and-done slip up that his commanding officer could be assured would never repeat itself. At the speed Ed could fire off excuses, they could’ve switched out FullMetal for Semi-Automatic. It didn’t matter if they were believable, just that they painted him as a victim of circumstance and not a repeat offender. It wasn’t like the written reports really mattered. He understood such filings to be largely a performative formality. There was no true point. It existed for the sake of itself. It wasn’t like these adults actually gave a shit about what he was up to. He’d learned that pretty damn quick. It was obvious from the way they rushed him out of rooms, tried to keep him from being underfoot while the actual employees got real work done. They’d probably be just as “satisfied” with his “performance” if he had spent a week staring at the wall blowing spit bubbles— anything to get him out of the way. If they actually cared, they’d probably have noticed by now that half the “research” he was throwing their way was just rambling guesswork and half-baked theories.
So it shouldn’t matter!
He was always late.
There was no reason to rush, no reason to worry about an already arbitrary deadline.
Edward licked his lips, a tic he was certain had nothing to do with nervousness. It had been dark for hours, even if East City itself hadn’t seemed to receive that message. The part of him that knew well the pitch blackness of a cloudy night in Resembool would always be surprised at how bright the streets of East City stayed even after the sun had set. Apartment windows were bathed in a cozy yellow glow, the dark asphalt roads below dotted with streetlamp-islands of light amongst a sea of shadows, the occasional passing car near-blinding him with its headlights.
He readjusted his grip on his suitcase, trying to pick up the pace. Streetside shops had long since flipped their Open signs to Closed— and most had their lights out entirely— while the pubs that dotted the corners were in full swing, attracting their usual noisy patrons and silent lurkers who all reeked of cigarettes and God knew what else. He’d already ducked one or two strangers who were hoping to swindle a few bucks out of a dumb-looking kid. He felt it was a sign of great maturity that such things were no longer frightening to him. A bit uncomfortable, maybe, but the acts hardly held the same shock-factor as they had when he’d first encountered them. He had fried much bigger fish since then! At thirteen years old, Ed assumed he could handle whatever East City threw at him from this point forward.
So returning to command shouldn’t scare him.
Really, saying it shouldn't even scare him was such an understatement.
He had nothing to worry about! No reason to be nervous, nothing to sweat about. All he had to do was toss a folder on a desk and book it back to the hotel. He had told Alphonse his big brother would be back before he even noticed he was gone, and Ed intended to keep his word. This would be quick! This would be easy.
But even as his rational superego was constantly reassuring him of only the best possible outcome, his id’s overcompensating survival instincts were putting his stomach in a tailspin. Because this time was different. This time, he had something to sweat about.
This time he’d been warned.
He refused to believe it was his own fault. He’d just caught Mustang on an off day. This was a chain reaction of senseless abuses, some higher-up must’ve given the colonel a hard time, and now he was just taking it out on Ed. Sure, Ed had missed a couple of call-in appointments, but that didn’t justify getting screamed at when he actually did remember to report in. He was busy! A part of him had been so close to just hanging up on the colonel entirely, letting the buzz of an empty line be the deafening final word of the argument, but with Al standing beside him at the station’s phone box, he had been far less likely to act up. He’d taken his tongue lashing like a good little pup, holding the receiver half a foot away from his ear for the sake of his hearing. No amount of yes sirs seemed to calm his CO’s rage or hold back the veritable onslaught of insults and empty threats. At least, Ed hoped they were empty. A few choice words were sticking out in his mind as being particularly unpleasant.
Try it, FullMetal. Try it one more goddamn time. See what happens.
Ed swallowed thickly. Two more blocks to Eastern Command. Maybe he should run? He doesn’t hold the question for very long, his body moving without him. He picked up the pace, both hands white-knuckling his suitcase.
Next time I’m really gonna smoke your tail for this.
The words had an impact, one that Ed had desperately tried to downplay. Even if he had never heard that particular threat, worded in that particular way, the implication of this phrasing was clear to him. He understood, even without first-hand experience, what the ultimatum being presented meant for him.
He had wanted to say something to ease the tension, something to let his commanding officer know this really wasn’t as big a deal as he was making it out to be, something to remind the colonel that their relationship was one of lighthearted back-and-forth, of playful disrespect on both sides, not one that ever so sincerely demanded properly upheld conduct or any modicum respect for authority.
So Ed had laughed. Not a genuine, delighted laugh, but a forced breathy chuckle, a prelude to whatever flimsy excuse he had hoped would break some of the tension. Mustang responded well to wit, appreciated a sharp tongue the way a cat appreciates the dazed stumbling of a battered mouse.
In retrospect, it had probably sounded more like a scoff over the phone.
Oh, do you think that’s funny? That give you a good laugh, Elric?
The breaking from the formality of codenames was never a good sign.
Well, we’ll see how funny it is when I beat your sorry ass right back to that shithole I pulled you from.
They had left euphemisms behind and had entered the realm of direct threats. Whatever the witty retort he’d had stockpiled had been, Ed had lost it in the verbal scuffling. Mustang had assured there was no room for misinterpretation in his words, and therefore no excuses of ignorance for failure to comply. Ed had shut his lips tightly, standing up straighter even though the colonel couldn’t see him doing it.
Damn right “yes, sir.”
With one more street corner turned, Eastern Command was officially in sight. Ed tried to settle his stomach with the kind of level-headed rationale one would expect of a gifted child prodigy.
Mustang had probably forgotten all about it! He was a busy guy! He had way more things to be thinking about than the random one-liners he spits at teenagers. That was days ago. There was no way he was keeping track of every threat he made to the men under his command— and even, in a hypothetical situation, he was keeping track and did remember that lecture he’d given Ed, it had been days! Ed probably just caught him on an off-day. Mustang probably got stood up on a date the night before, or didn’t have enough coffee that morning, or had to work through his lunch break or something like that. It was all a big wacky coincidence and they’d never speak of it again
He strode less-than-confidently up to the high concrete walls that surrounded the command building, noting just how deserted the place looked. Would anyone even be around this late? Maybe even tardiness had a way of wrapping all the way back to being the perfect time. It did make sense, somehow. If he was late to supper, he would expect someone to be angry with him for failing to keep track of time, but if he went missing for a day, they would be thrilled to see him safe and sound. Perhaps when turning something in late, the trick was to wait it out until there was simply no one left to scold you when you actually dropped it off.
With renewed hope, he made his way up to the front gates. They were shut tight. Was he… allowed in at this hour? He had to be! They wouldn’t keep a state alchemist out in the cold when he had official military business to attend to! Lights were on in there, so that meant someone was still working.
He spun on his heels and made for the gatehouse, rapping his knuckles on the shuttered window.
“Hey— Anybody in there? Hello? Wakey-wakey!!” Ed called out, trying to disguise any desperation in his voice with a false sense of authority. The last thing he wanted was to have to get his lecture— he was going to keep hoping for just a lecture— first thing in the morning when no one wanted to put up with his horseshit.
The metal shutter clattered open with such a force that Ed found himself instinctively recoiling. A gruff-looking older man stared down at him with a skeptical expression, closely examining the perfectly average-sized military official in front of him as if Ed’s intentions were not immediately obvious.
“...What do you want?”
“In. I want in.” Ed shifted his grip on his suitcase so he could reach for the chain at his waist, producing the only identification he felt like he ever needed. Papers were one thing, but Ed didn’t think shoving pure silver in someone’s face would ever lose its touch. Knowing this “stupid kid” was a state alchemist on official business was the good kick in the pants that seemed to get almost anyone going. “Duh.”
“...Where’d you get that?”
Ed sputtered indignantly, trying to summon a proper response to this blatant disrespect. “It’s mine! You’re talking to a State Alchemist, numbnuts, use your brain!”
He hadn’t had to deal with this sort of bureaucratic indifference in almost a year. The dayshift guards had long since gotten used to seeing him around and never questioned his identity, but this man was a stranger to him.
The man gave him another once-over. “You don’t look like much of an alchemist to me.”
“Oh, come on! How much more proof do you need!?”
With a heavy sigh, the man reached to pull the shutter down again. “This isn’t a place for children. You should go before you get yourself into some real trouble.”
I’m already in trouble! And I’m gonna be in a whole lot more if you don’t let me in!
“Hey— No— Don’t you dare—” Ed dropped his suitcase with a thud, throwing himself at the window and pounding a gloved hand on the chilled glass. His display didn’t seem to change the guard’s reaction in the slightest. “FullMetal! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?! Hey! Hey!! Try it, shithead, you’ll wind up with a full-metal foot up your fucking—”
“Let him in— He’s fine.”
They both turned towards the new voice in the conversation, Edward thrilled to find someone on his side for once.
“First Lieutenant.” The guard greeted, straightening up to attention at the sight of her. Riza smiled gently from the other side of the gate, as if this scene was entirely ordinary.
Ed inspected the empty air around her, craning his neck to peer around in search of imaginary dangers. Much to his relief, she had come alone. The Yin had seemingly not brought Yang with her tonight.
With a turn of his luck, Ed broke into a grin, turning back to his now-submissive aggressor. “Yeah, you heard the lady! Open up!”
If the comment had fazed her, Riza didn’t show it. The guard left the window and disappeared into the gatehouse. Moments later, the gates were pulled open to the sounds of mechanical clunks and whirring.
Ed tucked his watch back into his pocket and reached down to pick his discarded suitcase off the asphalt, taking it in both hands and quickly crossing the threshold into the command.
“Ah, uh… Thanks. I owe you one,” Ed offered his savior awkwardly. He never really knew how to talk to Riza. He knew she was kind, he knew he liked her, but considering their respective rankings, conversations were always a bit difficult to muscle through. He relied on her wisdom and experience despite being her superior and often felt like he was following her orders rather than the other way around.
“Don’t worry about it,” she replied simply, setting Ed’s nerves at ease, at least for the moment. “Are you here to see Colonel Mustang?”
Ed soured at the mention of the name. He was never one for small talk, but even he would’ve preferred a bit more sniff-and-wag before cutting straight into a point like that. Oh, headed home, Lieutenant? You must be working hard! Did you do something to your hair? You look different! God, he would’ve taken almost anything over this.
“Uh, I guess, but if he’s already gone I can just drop some things off and call him tomorrow…”
Riza’s expression subtly steeled in the way Ed thought only a woman’s could. The kind of look that made you feel guilty even if you hadn’t done anything. If she ever had children, Ed made a mental note to pray for them.
“No. He’s still here,” she explained flatly. “He was wondering if we’d ever see you again.”
The sigh Riza let out was heavy with disappointment, her usually rigid shoulders softening as if releasing the weight of an exhausting day. “...May I offer you some friendly advice?”
Ed nodded, unable to shake the feeling like he was already being scolded.
“Yeah, yeah, I got it…”
“He’s had a very stressful week.”
“Psh— I could tell…”
“None of that.” Despite her harsh tone, Ed could tell this statement was made with all the love she could possibly have for a boy who only made her job more difficult. “He’s not happy, and I don’t want you making it any worse for yourself. Do you understand?”
“I told you, I got it,” He grumbled, letting his gaze drop so he didn’t have to summon up the courage to stare her down. He could never tell if he appreciated the mother hen treatment or not. “I’ll be fine. I’m not staying.”
She did not look at all convinced by his declaration.
“...If you say so.”
It was Ed’s turn to sigh, defeated by the crushing force of his own guilty conscience. “...Thanks for the advice.”
“Just try to keep it in mind. I don’t want either of you staying longer than you have to,” Riza’s gentle smile returned with a look that said, what am I going to do with you? She passed the front gate, waving a hand to the guard to let him know it was time to leave Edward alone with his demons. The man nodded, disappearing from the window’s view to return to the gate controls. The sound of heavy machinery filled the night air as the gate began to slide back into place, and Riza needed to lift her voice to be heard over it. “Good night, FullMetal. You tell your brother it’s good to see you two back in town.”
“I will!” Ed called over the noise with an awkward wave. Was he supposed to wave? Did soldiers wave?
“Best behavior!” She reminded, returning his wave as she turned away. Ed wished desperately to follow her. He didn’t care where. Just not here.
The darkened silhouette of Eastern Command’s headquarters loomed over him the shadow of an eclipse, the yellow lights through its many windows like the hundred fiery eyes of a great towering demon. The oak trees that surrounded the high concrete walls of the compound felt like row upon row of long dark arms, each with a thousand fingers, reaching for him from all directions. He could imagine them snagging his coat, snatching up his hair, clinging to his ankles, stifling his screams, choking him with their tendrils. He kept strictly to the long cement path to the main building, savoring each small pool of light the lamp posts offered and dreading the returns to the pitch blackness between them. He had half a mind to turn back. Maybe it would be the smart thing to do. If the colonel spent all night at work, he would certainly be too tired to give him any real punishment if he came by in the morning…
Ah, but if he left now, he’d have to deal with that gatekeeper again… And if the colonel told Lieutenant Hawkeye about his continued absence, she’d probably mention their conversation... Then everyone would know he wussed out like a baby. He’d be hearing about that for months.
This damn philosopher’s stone could not be found quickly enough. Bodies first, then they get the hell out of this place.
Usually, he took the front steps of Eastern Command two at a time, bounding around the compound like a steam-powdered jackrabbit. Tonight, he dragged himself up them like a man headed to the gallows. The front doors of the command were thick and heavy, a little bit difficult to force open with only one free hand. Outside he could still hear honking, barking, talking, whatever, but inside, it was unnaturally quiet. There were still people working, but no one was coming in at this hour. Everyone was trying to figure out a way to get out. Even the worker at the front desk looked surprised to see him, her mousey head poking up from whatever papers she was looking over with a look of gentle confusion.
Each step echoed off the stark white tile and bounced around the largely empty vestibule. It felt less like a military headquarters and more like a museum. With usually small, insignificant sounds suddenly amplified in a barren, silent space, Ed always became oddly aware of how much heavier one foot fell. You could hear the tiny whirs and hums of mechanical joints and motors, the clunk of steel that couldn’t be softened by leather boot alone.
“FullMetal.” He announced to the woman at the desk with a false sense of confidence, fishing his watch out of his pocket again. This woman was pretty. Too pretty to be somewhere like this. “Here to see Colonel Mustang.”
Unlike the guard at the gate, she let him through with a pleasant smile and no further commentary. Now this was service.
In the headquarters proper, there were a few more signs of human life, albeit mostly faceless and vague. Distant conversations, footsteps overhead, a phone ringing in one of the offices he’d never been in. A secretary with her arms full of binders passed by but did not offer him more than a puzzled downward glance. Hadn’t these people ever seen a prodigy before?
It was three flights up to Mustang’s office.
With each floor conquered, Ed felt his footsteps grow heavier and his movements more sluggish.
Three stories up, two right turns, and one left. Second door out from the information desk, which at this hour was entirely abandoned. Behind that door was the small office space that the unit shared, which was… in a technical sense, his office as well. He had a desk there, anyway. Over the last year he had probably spent a collective… twenty minutes at it, pretending to understand how to navigate the perils of printed bureaucracy, but it was still his. Though last time he checked, they’d mostly been using it as a very large “To-File-Later” pile in his absence.
It was weird to see the office so empty. He knew it would be, no one would’ve been willing to stay longer than Hawkeye and Ed already knew she’d been sent home, but that didn’t make silent, empty desks any less eerie when you’re used to the hustle and bustle.
Only one more door stood between himself and the colonel’s office. If anything was going on behind it, he couldn’t suss it from the outside. It was deathly quiet. After the phone lecture, he was half expecting Mustang to kick the door down like some sort of crazed animal and devour him whole in a fit of insane rage, but the room stayed silent. He crossed it carefully, like any noise he made might make his situation worse.
Steeling his nerves, he knocked lightly with a gloved hand, the sound coming through uncharacteristically meek. Ed wished he still had the confidence to tell himself being late didn’t matter.
“It’s me,” was the only explanation he could think to offer.
There was a short pause before he heard the colonel’s voice.
Ed poked his head into the room with the same mannerisms of someone sticking their fingers into a tiger pen. He had expected to find the colonel in his usual slumped toil behind the heavy desk. Roy wasn’t scowling at paperwork or growling into the phone, in fact, far from it. His boots kicked up onto the low coffee table in the center of the room, his uniform jacket neatly folded and hanging over the arm of the leather sofa, and the colonel himself draped out across the leather like a king on a throne. An arm hooked across the high back, a dark-colored drink in hand, and his usually tidy appearance softened to account for the summer evening. Collar unbuttoned, sleeves rolled to his elbows, dark eyes fixed blankly on the air in front of him.
It almost startled Ed, the break from the ordinary, conjuring the image of a pinscher that had been let off its chain. A pinscher that was now free to gnaw his fucking balls off.
The colonel picked his head up, right hand idly swirling the half-full glass that hung from his fingertips. Ed was expecting rage, perhaps even exhaustion from the way the lieutenant had described him, but this expression was different. It wasn’t mean-spirited, it wasn’t calculating, it wasn’t the usual barely-contained groaning or near-suicidal levels of boredom, it was just… calm. A man off the clock.
“...Hey,” Ed replied flatly, his brain waves flatlining with an almost audible ring.
Roy broke from his comfortable sprawl, correcting his posture by removing his boots from the table and dropping his elbows onto his knees. He brought the glass to his lips and emptied it with a sigh of satisfaction before turning his eyes on Edward. His previously contented expression was traded in for a look laced with intensity and disappointment.
“Alright, FullMetal. What is it this time?”
“What’s what?” Edward asked innocently, watching his movements the way a snake eyes a hawk. Roy set his glass down, drawing Ed’s eyes to the dark decanter on the table before him. So, as soon as his men leave, he decides to start drinking alone. Stay classy, Colonel.
“Don’t play dumb,” he said in a low, scolding voice. “We both know that little brain of yours has been working overtime cooking up an excuse for me. So go ahead. Make my night.”
Ed swallowed thickly, stepping into the room fully and closing the door behind him. If he was getting yelled at tonight, he didn’t want anyone else to know. “...Train got delayed.”
Roy let out a small, unreadable hum, bringing his lips to rest against his patiently folded fingers. “‘That it?”
“...Yeah. You can ask Al if you want. He’ll tell you. We spent three hours at the station, it was such bullshit, really, something about a rock slide on the tracks, and… well...” Ed’s words began to fail him, his perfectly believable story crumbling under his commanding officer’s gaze. “...S-stop looking at me like that...”
“Like… that!” Ed whined in exasperation, gesturing at the older man with an open palm. He let his mismatched hands drop dramatically, blowing out an annoyed huff and rolling his eyes up to the ceiling. “You never make this easy…”
“Did you think you were assigned to me so I could make your job easier?” Roy chuckled, raising his brows in what Ed saw as sadistic amusement. He enjoyed making these meetings such a pain.
Ed resisted the urge to stomp as he crossed the room, dropping his suitcase flat onto the coffee table and crouching down to fumble with the latches. He was hyper-aware of Roy’s eyes on him, scrutinizing the time it took him to force a damn trunk open. It was temperamental for an inanimate object, though Al claimed it was only because Ed had dropped it one too many times and knocked the lock out of alignment. What did he know?
When it could finally be persuaded to open, Ed was quick to snatch the small stack of hastily-scribbled papers off the top and hold them out to the colonel at arm’s length.
Roy made no moves to take it from him.
Scowling deeper, Ed leaned in closer, steadying himself against the table with one hand and using the other to push the report under the colonel’s nose.
Still, Roy did not accept the offered olive branch. He kept his hands folded, dark eyes fixed on the boy in front of him. Ed had the colonel’s complete and undivided attention, and he did not like it. The disappointed frown and raised eyebrows were the same ones his teacher had used on him as a boy. That expression meant “give me a reason not to start yelling.”
The unimpressed look on his superior’s face was starting to get to Ed. A bubbling annoyance. Did the colonel not see him trying here? Was he just going to play deaf and ignore him entirely? The lieutenant told him to be good, but here he was, working his ass off and still not getting shit for it.
“Fine. Be that way,” Ed huffed, tossing the report to the table and slamming the lid of his trunk before rising to his full height. Roy gave the papers one sideways glance before returning his gaze to his subordinate. He could stay silent as long as he wanted to— he could drink himself to death in this godforsaken place if that was how he wanted to go out— but Ed had better things to do, and nothing was going to be accomplished by just standing around and waiting for Mustang to grow a pair. Ed snatched up the suitcase and turned for the door, coat whipping around his lithe figure. “Enjoy the rest of your stupid night.”
“And where do you think you’re going?”
Oh, now you’re gonna start talking?
“I’m leaving, dumbass,” Ed announced with a sense of finality, stomping to the door. “Tell your girlfriend I fucking tried.”
He reached for the doorknob but was stopped.
Edward flinched as if something had been thrown at him, freezing at the sound of an adult’s harsh, scolding tone. He was glad he had his back turned, so the colonel couldn’t see the flash of fear that he knew had reached his face. He let his hand close around empty air, clenching into a tight fist and dropping to his side.
“What?” Ed asked, fighting to keep his voice steady. “What else do you want from me?”
“I think you and I need to have a talk.”
Try it, FullMetal. Try it one more goddamn time. See what happens.
Ed felt his chest tighten, letting the constant skipping needle of memory catch the same groove over and over again, as it had for days.
Next time I’m really gonna smoke your tail for this.
“I’m not talking to your back, FullMetal,” Roy said, his voice flat and even. He wasn’t shouting—Teacher would’ve already been shouting— but something about that made Ed feel even more uncomfortable. He knew Mustang was not shy about screaming his head off, so the unusually level tone could only mean he was holding back something he felt shouldn’t be released. “Look at me when you speak.”
Swallowing his anxieties, Ed turned silently. Roy had dropped his hands from his face, letting them hang limply between his knees. It gave Ed a clear view of his resentful scowl.
“I gave you my report,” Ed answered bravely. He wasn’t going to let the colonel know exactly how nervous he was.
“...So what else do you want?”
“An apology would be a nice start.”
Ed wasn’t very used to apologizing on his own. It wasn’t intentional— he knew he was raised better than that. If his mother had wanted to leave him with anything, it was her constant reminders for proper pleases and thank yous. There was an untreatable guilt plaguing his heart, knowing that his mother must be rolling in her grave every time he forgot to excuse himself or apologize. He didn’t mean to, but it had never come as naturally to him as it did with Alphonse.
“Well, I, uh…” the words felt sticky and cumbersome on his tongue.
“Yeah. I didn’t think you’d make this easy,” Roy said with a shake of his head, reaching for the decanter and refilling his glass. He swirled it absentmindedly in his hand as he spoke. “Elric, do you remember what we spoke about over the phone?”
“I don’t remember me saying much.”
“Yeah, I think you should really keep that up,” Roy complimented with a pleased smirk, lifting the glass to his lips and drinking deeply. “That was great.”
Ed scoffed. “Look who’s talking…”
“Your commanding officer, that’s who. Usually, that title demands a little more respect,” The reminder felt dangerous. “You can dance around it all you want, Ed, but I’ve already made up my mind.”
Ed was afraid to ask.
Roy’s smirk and lighthearted tone did not sit well with him, but nothing he’d seen in this awful, awful place sent a chill down his spine faster than Roy’s breathy chuckle and the shake of his head like he was trying not to laugh at the suffering of a poor, wounded animal.
“About your disciplinary measures.”
The suitcase hit the ground with a heavy thunk, both of Ed’s hands flying to his hips in disgust.
“What—! I didn’t even do anything!” The defense was instantaneous. He had never in his life taken a punishment without argument, not from his mother, not from his father, not from his teachers, and he was certainly not going to start with Roy mother- fucking Mustang.
The colonel pushed himself up from the sofa with a soft groan. “That’s for me to decide, not you.”
“That’s not fair!!” Ed stomped hard against the tile floor, mechanizations rattling under leather. “You can’t just yell at me for no fucking reason! Not when I haven’t done anything!”
“Well, you’re gonna!!”
“Don’t call me that! ”
“—People are still working. Inside voice.”
Ed scoffed, sputtering through the first few syllables of every curse and insult he knew, hunting for a proper response. No witticisms came to him. All he could do was gesture desperately and echo the offending words. “I-Inside voice!”
“If you would, please,” Roy requested casually, turning his back on Ed and moving to his desk. Hating to be ignored, Ed followed, not letting Mustang think for one goddamn second that he was going to get away with underestimating him. Roy didn’t seem to mind being shadowed, busying himself pushing the few things on the desk to the far side, an action that Ed did not associate with a simple lecture. Once satisfied with his work, Roy turned back to him, leaning back against the edge of the desk with his arms folded over his chest.
“Inside voice!” Ed repeated with disgust, as if the words had burned him.
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“You’re talking to me like a child! ” Ed’s movements were large and exaggerated, attempting to make up for the space the rest of his body couldn’t fill. “I earned my right to be here just like you did, asshole! A-and I don’t take kindly to you—”
A hand reached out and snatched one of his frantically waving arms out of the air, stopping Ed dead in his tracks.
“You need to calm down.”
“Why should I?! ”
“Because I haven’t laid a finger on you and you look like you’re about to pass out, ” he explained simply. Ed’s face was beet red, half in shame, half in rage. He was shouting himself hoarse, voice creaking and cracking like a rope bridge over the dangerous waters of a complete emotional meltdown. “You don’t even know what you’re getting yet.”
“Y-yes I do!!”
“Oh? Do you really?” Roy asked, raising his eyebrows. “Tell me then.”
Ed flushed, suddenly overcome with embarrassment as the conversation circled the drain of its seemingly inevitable conclusion.
“W… well…” Ed muttered, gaze falling to the floor. “You said…” Roy waited patiently for him to finish his sentence, holding tight to the wrist in his possession. “You said you’d, uh… mn…” I'm really gonna smoke your tail for this. “W-well, you know what you said! Don’t make me say it!!”
“You’re worried I’m really going to spank you, aren’t you?” Roy asked gently. Ed’s eyes flicked briefly to his face, trying to read his calm expression but finding no luck. The word ‘really’ had piqued his interest. Was… was he actually not planning on following through with that threat? “Is that what this whole tantrum is about, FullMetal?”
“...It’s not a tantrum,” he grumbled, still not willing to give up the fight quite yet. “I’m allowed to be mad at you.”
“Funny thing about that. You’re really not.”
“That’s not —“
“Fair. I know. It’s not supposed to be,” Roy explained with flat exasperation. Seeing this was getting him nowhere, Roy tried a new approach. “FullMetal, do you know why you’re here?’
“To turn in a report to a self-centered colonel with a God complex.”
Roy wore his unamusement clearly on his face. “Let’s try that again. Do you know why you’re in trouble?”
Adults do not get in “trouble.”
First, it was “inside voice,” now it was “in trouble.”
He’s trying to strip you of every last scrap of dignity Truth left you with.
“Because you’re a twisted, sadistic warhead who gets off watching me suffer!”
Ed expected people to snap the way a branch did. To bend and bend and bend until they reached their limit, then crack and splinter with every ounce of built-up tension. To fire off like a musket, to cut through the air like the stomach-churning slice of a switch. A credit to Amestrian military training, Roy Mustang did all of that and none of it. His shoulders rose and fell in a deep, steady breath, the set of his jaw and his hold on Ed’s wrist both painfully tight. His body seemed to set into stone, while his dark eyes burned with an almost atomic fury.
“Fine. We’ll do it your way. I’ve had enough of this.”
That was the only warning Ed got as the hold on his arm turned into a forceful yank, doubling him over and almost throwing him to the floor. He squeezed his eyes shut in preparation for impact, but his face never hit the tile. Instead, he found himself suspended, a strong arm supporting him at his waist. He was close enough to the colonel to smell the aftershave buried under the scent of his cologne.
“I gave you a chance, FullMetal, I really did,” he scolded harshly, while Edward kicked and fought in his grasp. “But since you’re so dead-set on pissing me off—”
“Let me go—”
“—We can do this the hard way—”
“This isn’t funny anymore!”
“—And you can drop your pants and get over my knee,” Ed choked at that comment, wrestling fruitlessly with Roy’s arm. How did someone who spent every day sleeping at his damn desk stay so strong anyway?! “So are you going to do your belt by yourself, or am I gonna have to do it for you?”
“Over your dead body!” Ed heard his own voice crack, hitting an octave he wasn’t sure he could still reach at this age. “Y-you put your hands on me and I’ll tell someone!” He hated the words he chose. They sounded childish, like he was threatening to tattle on an older boy in the schoolyard for pushing him in the dirt. Ed corrected himself to something more adult. “This is sexual harassment! You wanna blow your promotions just to act like a dick tonight?!”
“You wanna go over my head, FullMetal? Be my guest,” He felt himself being forced back upright, his back to the colonel’s broad chest, both of the man’s hands holding him tight to his body while Ed kicked and punched at empty air. “Tell you what. After this, you can walk your little ass down to Human Resources and tell them that you got a spanking from Colonel Mustang for not listening. Those poor bastards don’t get enough entertainment, I’m sure they’d get a kick out of a complaint like that.”
It felt like his stomach had dropped out at the mere thought of it. Having to explain to some military official that he was angry about having been over another man’s knee. They’d want proof, wouldn’t they? He didn’t want to have to bare his ass and show them he’d been smacked so sore he couldn’t sit. That’d be a hundred times worse than any thrashing!
“B-but I’m not a little kid anymore—” Ed hated the way his voice creaked with desperation. “You can’t—”
“You want to be treated like an adult, Edward?” Roy asked, moving one hand to Ed’s chest to keep his wild swings contained and the other to Ed’s waist to fight him over control of his belt buckle. “Alright then. Next time you decide to start throwing tantrums, you can take my belt instead and we’ll call it a punitive flogging. Would that make you feel better?”
“No! It wouldn’t!”
“Then I wouldn’t start asking to be treated like an adult quite yet.”
Despite Ed’s thrashing, Roy’s fingers worked deftly over the steel and leather. Ed could feel himself losing the battle even as he kicked and bucked with all the strength his pubescent body could afford him. He twisted and writhed, teeth gnashing at the empty air in hopes of catching anything that happened to pass them by. If given the opportunity, he was certain he could bite off a finger right now.
Ed was not a stranger to beatings. Just because his mother had never had the heart to so much as slap the two of them did not mean no one else ever tried. The schoolteacher in Resembool knew how to keep that classroom in line, and Ed knew well the degradation of being kept in during yard time to get a proper licking while the rest of the kids had fun. Even more recently, the year he’d spent in the Curtis household had been one of many an earned stripe. He could tell someone was strict if even Alphonse managed to find a spot over their knee. He knew what it felt like to be beaten, and beaten well, but never once, in all thirteen years of his experience, had he taken a single one of those punishments without locking horns with whatever authority figure dared to challenge the firstborn son of the Elric family. Even at the expense of extra strokes, he had never once been willing to go down without a fight.
“You put me down!!” Ed barked, trying to force back the heat that rose to his face. This was disgusting, this was perverse, this felt like something they should be arresting sickos like Mustang for. He was not his father, not his teacher, and sure as hell not a family friend. He had no permission— no right— to manhandle him in this way. “Put me down right now, or I swear I’ll—”
“Or what? You’ll call me Colonel Cumstain again? Yeah, don’t think I don’t know about that one, dumbass.” Ed couldn’t see his face, but Roy’s tone was dripping with the sort of sarcasm that warranted an exaggerated eye roll. “Just hold still, Ed. Then we can get this over with a little quicker. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
With his belt loosened and his fly undone, Ed felt himself being wrestled into position. Roy kicked one heel back against the desk for support, raising a knee to prop Ed’s squirming hips against. He didn’t want to go down easy, but he had very little say in the matter. If Roy wanted him over his knee, that’s where he was going.
Roy held him in place with one strong arm secured around his waist. Ed felt like he’d grown plenty since the last time anyone had turned him over their knee, but apparently not quite enough. The position forced Ed up onto his toes, scrawny legs taking turns to kick uselessly at the air, automail humming as his panic pushed the pistons into overdrive. He felt the tail of his coat being lifted and pushed up against his lower back. Seemingly unbothered by the humiliation and suffering he was inflicting, Roy grabbed a fistful of leather from the seat of Ed’s pants and tugged it away from his hips. The tight material dragged its way down his legs, seemingly as loathe to part as he was, their absence exposing pale grey briefs and milky thighs. Ed’s degradation only deepened at the sound of a small chuckle, like this sight was somehow amusing to his sadistic advisor.
“Yeah? That do somethin’ for ya? You get your kicks stripping kids?” Ed struggled in the older man’s grip, twisting frantically from side to side, but the arm locked around his midsection kept him pinned to his superior’s thigh. His pants gathered in a tight binding around his knees, limiting his leg’s range of motion considerably and making his kicking even more useless than before. “‘Should’ve known you scummy military dogs would be all over a cute blonde… Save it for the secretaries, wouldja?!”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Elric,” Roy explained smoothly while the boy in his lap resorted to pounding his leg with his fists. He gave Ed’s clothed bottom an affectionate pat, as if this was a routine they’d been through a hundred times before. “You see, I never wanted to be the one to tell you this, but you really aren’t as cute as you seem to think you are.”
“Alright, well now you’re just insulting me!”
Roy chuckled again, idly tracing a small circle over Ed’s clenched cheeks. “I mean, what else would you expect from, oh, what was it? A sex-crazed warhead or something?”
“I said twisted! And sadistic! But I guess you can add sex-crazed to the list, now that I know you’re such a fucking creep!”
“I’ll make a note of it.”
“I’m too old for this!”
Another one of those amused hums. Ed was starting to hate that sound.
“Allow me to offer you some friendly advice, FullMetal,” Best. Behavior. “Something I would’ve assumed your father would’ve taught you long before you reached this point—”
“Oh, don’t you even start—”
“You’ll be old enough not to get it when you’re old enough not to need it.”
That was all the warning Ed got before Roy’s palm pulled away and snapped back against the crest of his cheeks with a heavy smack.
Ed squeaked in surprise, the hit leaving a sting even over his underwear.
“Ow—! You’re not my dad, jerkwad—”
“You’re damn lucky I’m not ,” Roy snapped, an unexpected rage suddenly overtaking the older man. “If you were my boy—” He punctuated his statement with the second slap. “—I swear to God you’d be getting my belt every day of the damn week with how you act around here.”
The threat of the belt sent a shiver down his spine. He was no stranger to beatings, sure, but a whipping seemed like something else entirely. It was something his father had only threatened him with, and only once. Ed didn’t have to feel it firsthand to know he didn’t want it.
The next two spanks came in quick succession, one across each cheek, and they both left a strong bite in their wake. Ed felt small in the colonel’s arms, easy to pin down, easy to spank. The man’s hands felt much larger when they were being used against him, a paddle perfectly sized to his scrawny ass, a palm equal to one cheek top to bottom.
“H-hey, wait— You didn’t say how many I’m getting!”
Roy paused, leaning over Ed like he was studying him. “...As many as you need.”
He was cut off by another spank, pulling an undignified gurgle from his unwilling lips.
“Fair. I know,” Roy said, raising his hand and bringing it down a sixth time. “It’s not supposed to be.”
Ed squirmed and wiggled the best he could in this position, but no matter where he tried to escape to, Roy’s hand found him. The man kept a steady rhythm while Ed kicked and cursed. He wasn’t saying a word, but Ed wondered if he was counting. The count was always even, his hand working quickly from left to right, sometimes two on one side and two on the other, but always even. Ed could feel his skin begin to grow warm and pink, and they’d barely started.
“S-Stop it!” Ed sputtered, hopping in place as one swat came low enough to catch the exposed skin of his thighs in its path. “This is stupid! You’re stupid!”
“Not your best material,” Roy evaluated simply, as if the creativity of an insult was what made it true. “You know, if you behave yourself, I’ll let you keep your shorts up.”
Another low swing to his other cheek ripped a pitiful squeak from his lips. “You wouldn’t dare!”
“Keep them up?” Roy laughed at his own joke, the bastard. “Now that’s unexpected. I assumed you country types would’ve preferred your modesty.”
“You know damn well what I meant!!”
“FullMetal, you never told me if you knew why you were being punished,” Roy reminded, not bothering to still his hand while he spoke. Ed bounced and whined through every word, but he could still hear his commanding officer’s stern voice over every complaint.
“That’s— Ah!— because I don’t need to be!”
Roy’s hand froze mid-swing, arching a brow at the boy in his lap. “Are you certain?”
“Yeah! Because I’m not crazy like you!”
He was fully expecting a hard smack for running his mouth. He’d braced for the impact as much as he could, but no hit was landing.
“Don’t call me that!”
“I want to know you understand why I’m punishing you.”
“I do know! It’s because you’re a creep who gets off hitting kids!”
Roy let out a heavy sigh, adjusting Ed in his arms as if he was nothing but a sandbag that Roy was tired of lugging around.
“This is for your benefit too, you know,” He explained, resting his palm across the seat of Ed’s briefs. His hand felt warm, even through the fabric, but Ed squirmed at the sustained touch. It felt all too familiar for just a workplace relationship.
“My benefit!” Ed spat in disgust. “What? Do you think I like this?”
“You’d like it more than the alternative.”
“What alternative! The alternative where I went home and didn’t get my ass groped by some creep in his thirties? ”
Ed got a small swat across the top of his thighs, but even he knew that was not a real hit.
“I’m twenty-seven, thanks,” Roy said, sounding actually a bit offended by the age comment. Ed filed that information away for later. “And I’m not groping you. If it was between this and being court-martialed, wouldn’t you prefer this?”
“I would prefer being treated like an actual State Alchemist and not some kid you’re all sick of.”
The arm around his waist loosened, and what should feel like a relief suddenly felt like a great threat to his well-being. Maybe this was the night when Roy Mustang finally lost control and strangled him to death like he’d always wanted to.
Instead of his neck, Roy’s hands found Ed’s shoulders, pushing him back upright and holding him at arm’s length with a grip like iron. Ed shrunk under the man’s gaze, wincing away from the intense glare. If not for his pants bunched securely around his knees, this could’ve been his chance. He could’ve booked it for the door and never ever looked back. As it stood, he was left in stunned silence, standing in front of his commanding officer with his pants down.
“Ed,” Roy’s voice was heavy with exhaustion. “Let me speak. Do you know what the words unauthorized absence mean?”
Great. More bureaucratic bullshit that was going to get in the way of him getting out of here and getting back to work.
“Some bullshit only pencil pushers like you give a shit about?”
“Absolutely not,” Roy scolded, shaking Ed’s shoulders. Ed rattled like a can full of tacks, feeling like an oversized ragdoll in this man’s hands. “I’m being serious here, FullMetal.”
Ed’s face felt hot. He didn’t feel like he could have this conversation standing in his briefs, but it didn’t look like he had much of a choice.
“I will ask you again. Do you know what unauthorized absence means?”
The nod Ed gave him was perhaps not the most confident one he’d ever given. “...Bad. It means… Bad.”
Roy hung his head, staring down at the floor as Ed’s words ran over him like icy water. Ed knew his answer was… Well. Not incorrect, per se...
After a few deep, steady breaths, Roy’s head came back up slowly. Whatever conversation he’d just had with God did not seem to entirely calm his soul.
“Yes. Bad. Let’s start there,” Roy began, looking like he’d aged six years in the last sixty seconds. “It’s bad. Do you know why?”
“...Cause…” Ed answered, wondering if correct answers would save his hide. “...Cause I’m not… supposed to…”
Roy nodded slowly, though he did not look any more at ease with this response.
“...Yes. I guess you could put it that way.”
Ed followed the colonel’s forlorn gaze to the table behind him and the decanter left abandoned atop it. So that’s the level of aggravation they’d hit, huh? The turn-to-drink kind of exasperation?
“...Uh, d-do you want to—”
“I want you to listen to me,” Roy said, squeezing his eyes shut like Ed was a headache he was trying to tank. “Do you know what it means when you fail to report?”
“You… yell at me about it…”
“Yes, fine, but do you know what it means?”
Ed paused, trying to order the information in his brain. “Un… unauthorized… leaving…?”
The look Roy gave him was one of deep, harrowing dread.
“...Yes. That,” he continued. “And that’s bad. Remember bad? We don’t want that. Because if I don’t know where you are and what you’re doing—”
“You don’t need to know everything I’m doing all the time!”
“Except I do! ” he barked, making Ed wince. He steadied himself again, trying to find a way to explain this in a way Ed might possibly understand. Ed felt like he did understand. He didn’t get why he had to be quizzed on it! “I need to know that! If I don’t know where you are, and I can’t get a hold of you, that’s dangerously close to desertion, Elric.”
Ed didn’t like where this was going. It was starting to sound like the colonel had a point, and Ed was never one to accept a loss easily.
“Yeah, so you’re just gonna beat my ass and be done with it?! I’m pretty sure there are better ways of dealing with this!”
“You don’t want the better way. ”
“You don’t know what I want!!”
The look on Roy’s face told him he was fighting the urge not to slap him across the face. Ed held firm, lips tight and nose scrunched in an unattractive pout. The colonel’s breath came out shaky, like it was taking every ounce of self-control he had not to reduce Edward to ash on the spot.
“I could have you court-martialed so fast it’d make your head spin. Get your file so covered in black marks you wouldn’t be able to read it. I could have your ass stuck at that desk until you’re thirty. No more active duty, no more field work, no more little detective games with your brother, none of it. If anyone outside this room knew the way you speak to me? The way you ignore everything I tell you? You could kiss this little jewel hunt of yours goodbye.” Ed opened his mouth to complain, but Roy kept going. “That’s what it looks like to do this by the books. That’s what it looks like when I don’t get a say in how I run my unit. Because that is what it means to be treated like an adult.”
Ed didn’t have any dignified responses. He tightened his jaw, teeth grinding together, and his hands curled into tight fists as he trembled his way through his lecture.
“Now, wouldn’t you prefer we keep all of this under the table? Just between the two of us?”
“Don’t pretend like you’re doing me some sort of favor.” Ed spat, feeling a growing prickliness in his face, like needles being pushed into his cheeks. “I’d prefer if it didn’t happen at all.”
“You and me both,” Roy said, dark eyes locked on gold ones. “But you see, I’ve got a bit of a problem. You’re starting to make me look bad.”
“Of course this is about you…”
“Because every time you go out and cause trouble for everyone, I’m the one who has to make up excuses for you. You’re my responsibility, FullMetal, so when you fuck up? That makes me look like I can’t even get one teenager under control. Get it?”
“Then I won’t fuck up!”
“You already did. Look. Like it or not, you were assigned to me. Whether that was a joke, or a shot in the foot, or just something to keep me busy every damn day, I don’t know, but I do know that if either of us want to make this relationship work? We’re going to have to put up with each other for a little while. That means, you want your body back? You play by my rules.”
“You’re holding my arms and legs hostage? That’s fucked up, Colonel.”
“No. I’m telling you that without my help, you’re not getting anywhere fast, and if you don’t help me out a little bit too, I’m going to lose the good faith they have in me to keep this place from burning down around us. The good faith that lets them trust me to take care of you without having to jump through their little hoops.”
“And why do you care what happens to me?”
“Because your brother shouldn’t have to suffer just because you can’t keep your damn mouth shut.”
That stung worse than any switch Teacher had ever used on him. Ed felt like his insides had been ripped out, like he was back on that damn operating table, like there were tools and fingers inside him, separating him bit by bit and laying him bare. It was that sick wave of nausea that hit him whenever they reconnected his nerves to his automail; his body pushed well-past its limits.
“Now, are you going to be good and take your punishment?”
Ed swallowed thickly.
“Yes…?” Roy prompted.
The smile Ed got for his first correct answer of the night was mixed of one part pity and two parts satisfaction.
“Alright. Back over.” Roy pulled him back in, even as Ed shrunk away. He’d said yes, but that definitely did not mean he liked what was happening. Roy eased him back down much more delicately than he had the first time. Each hand at Ed’s hips, guiding him into position. No sudden movements, nothing to startle him. Somewhere in the back of Ed’s mind, he could remember his father’s dry, cracked hands at his waist, his touch firm but never unkind. “Can you tell me why you’re being punished now?”
“Uh…” Ed started, his head feeling too heavy to parse out the terminology. What good was remembering all this shit now? “Un… unallowed leave.”
Roy shook his head, but it was clear he didn’t necessarily disagree with what Ed had said. “Anything else?”
“...Unauthorized absence and insubordination,” Roy corrected flatly. “We’ll work on it.”
Ed nodded, taking up two fistfuls of navy blue wool from Roy’s pant leg. Roy rested his hand against the undercurve of Ed’s upturned ass, palm rubbing small circles over the already sensitive skin. It pulled a small involuntary whine from Ed’s lips.
The rub turned to a small pat as Roy spoke again, “I shouldn’t have to tell you that just because you agreed to it doesn’t mean I’m not going to take this seriously. I’m not going to stop just because you start crying.”
Crying! Mustang thought he was gonna start crying! What the hell, he was thirteen, he was way too old to be crying over a spanking!
“Who said I was gonna cry?” Ed growled, the undying flame of teenage rebellion sparking in his belly.
Roy’s hand wound back and struck down with a vengeance. Ed’s whole body lurched, the wisps of golden hair that framed his face hopping along with him. The sting was lasting, a warmth blossoming on the skin as Ed’s body did all it could to defend itself.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Roy told him, sounding entirely too pleased with himself.
With their lines drawn clearly in the sand, Roy felt free to begin anew. His previous rhythm was replaced with something far less predictable. It was fast, erratic, determined to give his victim something to squeal over. Ed set his jaw, determined to take this one like a man. If he said he was too old for spankings— which he was— that meant he was too old to be bothered by one. He could handle this! He could handle this!
If Mustang noticed Ed’s sudden devotion to silence, he did not comment on it. He remained focused on the task at hand, working methodically to cover every inch of pale, unchastised skin. Ed thought he was doing a fairly good job of toughing through it like a good little soldier, teeth clenched and muscles tightened, but despite every attempt at composure, Roy still managed to get some pained grunts and strained squeaks out of him when he struck the sensitive line between ass and thigh. The swats were burning hot, his skin itching something fierce, his body beginning to ache from clenching so tightly.
He wondered if Roy was keeping track of the hits he was giving him, or if the effectiveness of this beating was being determined entirely by his reaction to it. Ed wasn’t sure how to make himself look more sorry without just bursting into tears. He wasn’t gonna do that. He was determined not to do that. He wasn’t a baby being turned over his daddy’s knee anymore. Even as Roy continued to beat him raw, Ed was trying to remind himself to stay strong.
Teacher’s put you through worse, Teacher’s put you through worse, Teacher’s put you through worse, Teacher’s put you through worse…
With each swat, that statement was becoming less and less true. Ten with a switch was a nightmare, there was no doubt, but what he’d accepted early on to be just a child’s hand spanking was quickly outpacing his memory of such punishments. Having spent his life in the company of the fairer sex, Ed found himself wondering if this was the type of beating boys whose daddies never left were getting all these years. Would his mother have allowed his father to hit him this way? He couldn’t imagine a woman so delicate to sit idly by and watch her boys be mindlessly beaten. Over and over and over and over again, each one worse than the last, the heat building on itself.
Ed didn’t know how many he’d gotten already, but this was beginning to push his limits. His face was red and scrunched tightly, eyes prickling with tears he absolutely refused to humor. It was becoming impossible to ignore, each new slap doing the damage that used to take three or four. He felt like he’d clamped his jaw as tightly as he could without chipping his teeth, but the guttural, gurgling noises that bubbled in his throat were still easing out through the cracks. Against his wishes, his body began to squirm and writhe, his legs kicking out reactively.
“Hold still,” Mustang chided simply, not pausing his onslaught even for a moment. “I told you what would happen if you didn’t behave yourself.”
Ed nodded, tightening his grip on Roy’s pant leg. He remembered. Teacher had rules about never punishing him over his clothes, so he was going to cherish whatever leniencies he was allowed now. He felt his saliva building up in his tongue’s bed but couldn’t even summon the energy to swallow as he held his body rigid.
“When I give an order, I expect a yes sir, FullMetal.”
“Y-yes, sir...” Ed gurgled, his jaw aching from being held so tightly.
“So when I say hold still, what do I expect to hear from you?”
“Then hold still. ”
Ed did his best to hold the position, allowing himself to be whipped mercilessly with as little wiggling as he could manage. His legs didn’t quite get the message, but he seemed to be able to contain himself enough for the colonel’s standards. The small hops and kicks seemed to be, at least for the moment, permitted.
The more pressing issue was his own emotional responses. As Roy continued to brand his handprint into Ed’s backside, Ed could already feel his walls beginning to crumble. No, he wasn’t a stranger to being forced over a knee for punishment, but he was discovering the hard way that on some ancient, primal level, it did indeed feel different to get it from another man. No man had laid a finger on him since whenever it was his own father had last pulled his shorts down and smacked him, and somehow, that made this a lot harder.
“O-okay! Ow!” Ed snapped, losing composure. He felt he’d taken an entirely proper punishment for an entirely proper length of time. Certainly, anything past this point was crossing into excess and cruelty. “Ow— Ow! Stop! Stop it!”
Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. Holy shit, i f you cry, you will never hear the end of it.
“You are not the one giving orders around here, FullMetal,” his commanding officer barked, raising his voice over the cracking of his palm. It was the sort of tone Ed had found seemed entirely unique to men of the military.
“But it hurts, damnit!” Ed shouted back. “Fuck, Mustang, stop! ”
For a moment, the spanking did stop. Ed didn’t think that was a good thing, his bucking returning in full force in an attempt to shake off some of the burn and potentially wiggle his way out of whatever trouble he’d put himself in. As if that had ever worked for him.
“You do not speak to me like that,” Roy snapped. Ed could feel the white waistband of his briefs being pulled away from his hips, the fabric dropping unceremoniously to meet his pants at his knees. Ed let out an unintentional sob at the action, a wet choking noise like he simply couldn’t believe this was happening to him.
The room filled with the sounds of loud cracking and Ed’s frantic whines, pleading for leniency. As long as he wasn’t actually crying, he thought he could probably live with being a wuss for crying uncle. There was still some sort of masculine pride to be found in knowing one’s limits, right? He was certain that even a grown man would be squealing. It felt like Roy was ripping the skin off his hide. It stung so much worse to take his spanks bare.
“Ow! Ow! Okay— fuck— jeez—” Ed yelped, voice tight with desperation. “I’m sorry! Is that what you wanna hear?! I’m sorry, lemme up!!”
Roy was not responding to any amount of begging Ed offered him. He felt like a beggar being put to death for the crime of looking at the king the wrong way, pleading for his life as he was hauled away to be hung. No amount of wiggling was doing any good at getting him out of harm’s way, and with his ass bared, it was becoming more obvious to the both of them that there had been some unintended side effects.
“Oh, don’t tell me that’s why you got yourself in trouble,” Roy groaned, not saying exactly what he was referring to, but the meaning wasn’t lost on Ed. Rutting against his superior’s thigh over and over again as each swing thrusted him forward was not the kind of sensation a pubescent boy’s body was willing to ignore.
“Th-that has nothing to do with you!!” Ed whined through a mouthful of spit and nose full of snot. There were no tears. That’s all that mattered.
“I really thought I’d found a way to keep you in line and then I find out you’re getting off on it,” Roy shook his head, clearly disgusted. Two more spanks pulled pained cries from Ed as he spoke. “This shit is why we can’t enlist teenagers…”
“It’s not my fault— I can’t help it!” His eyes were becoming dangerously glassy. “I told you, it has nothing to do with it!”
“Fine… But if you leak on these pants I’m not going to be happy,” God, Ed couldn’t even imagine the humiliation. At that point, he’d probably just climb inside Al’s belly and never ever come back out. “Let’s just get this over with so I can go home. What do you think? Ten more?”
“N-nooo,” His voice broke in two when Roy smacked him again, his request coming out whinier than intended. He sniffled his way through the first few tears that rolled down his red cheeks. He had been so close. “I-I’m done!”
“Are you really?”
“Y-Yeah—” Ed choked out in a broken sob.
“You know, I don't think you get to decide when you're done being punished. It really doesn't show me that you've learned anything. Do you really think you've learned your lesson?” Roy spoke simply, as if this conversation was a dry routine. He rested his palm against Ed’s scorched skin, humming quietly as if somehow intrigued that the raw skin was hot to the touch. Ed nodded frantically, feeling a small dribble of drool roll down his chin. “I see. Well, why don’t you give me a report on what you learned tonight.”
Ed picked up his head slowly, lips trembling and cheeks already streaked with fat tears. “H-huh…?”
“Why don’t you tell me what you aren’t going to do,” Roy repeated firmly, giving Ed’s already-abused ass a squeeze of encouragement, the tips of his calloused fingers digging into soft flesh. Ed whined at the touch. “Or would you like a few more seconds to drool all over yourself?”
“I-I…” Ed’s voice sounded high-pitched and broken. “...I-I’ll be good…”
“Not good enough. Would you like to try again?”
Ed nodded quickly, golden hair bobbing around his pink face. “I-I’m gunna r-re…” The words got caught up in sobs, the rest of the sentence coming out in wet gasps.
“Easy there kid. Take your time.”
“‘M gunna… r-report in when you te-tell me tooo…”
“Very good!” Roy’s praise sounded so genuine and yet so demeaning, like a schoolteacher complimenting him on his ability to add two numbers together with somehow hurting himself in the process. “And what else?”
“A-and ‘m gunna listen to wh-what you tell me to do…”
“Me, yes, and who else?”
Who else? Who else was there?
Ed turned the question over in his mind like it was some enigmatic puzzle-box he was trying to solve.
Roy chuckled and shook his head. “No, no, not her. Well. I suppose it’s not a bad idea to take her advice. But I wanted to hear something else this time.”
Ed flinched, expecting a wrong answer might earn him a smack, but Roy’s hand stayed put.
“What I wanted to hear was, ‘I’m going to be a very good boy, Mister Colonel Sir, and I’m gonna listen to everything my superiors say and follow it to the letter, sir!’ ” Roy chirped in a falsely-chipper tone. Ed seriously hoped that the lilt Roy had added to his voice was not meant to be some sort of impression of him. If it was, it sucked ass, because Ed definitely didn't sound like a girl.
Ed nodded with a pout and a sniffle. He didn’t appreciate the way he was being spoken to today.
“I’d like to hear you say it, Ed.”
“A… all of it...?”
Roy got a laugh out of that too. Why did Ed get the feeling like Roy was enjoying this too much? “Just give me your version then.”
Thank God for small mercies.
“I, uh… I’ll listen. To… whoever outranks me.”
“Now you’re getting it,” Roy sounded proud of him. That felt… nice? Sure. Whatever. “They may not have your best interest in mind, but it’s in your best interest to listen anyway, you got that?”
The squeak that left Ed’s lips when Roy struck him again was pathetic, like a wounded animal being prodded with a stick. Compared to everything that had come before, it wasn’t much to write home about, but on an already sore bottom, it was enough to pull out at least one more sob.
“Yessir!” Ed corrected instantly.
“Much better. Now, since you’ve clearly had your time to reflect,” Roy thought aloud, giving Ed’s cheeks around soft rub. It made them itch even worse, but it did relieve some of the stinging, and Ed definitely preferred it to getting smacked again. “I think we can dial back ten to two, don’t you? One for each offense.”
Even two more slaps sounded like murder, but Ed would accept almost any plea bargain at this point.
“R-really?” Ed said, watery eyes brimming with hope even as his heart was telling him not to trust a damn word this sociopath said.
“Yes,” Roy said, the rubbing turning into a friendly pat. “Two more, and you’ll be able to tell me what each of them is for, right?”
Ed nodded frantically, desperate to get this over with.
Roy raised his hand again, cracking down across Ed’s left cheek with more force than any previous strike. Ed let himself howl through it, leaving him gasping for breath.
“One. And what was that for, Ed?”
“Un… unauthorized… uh… leaving…” Ed panted, tears streaming freely down his face.
“Absence, but I’ll accept it,” Roy permitted, lifting his hand and striking it down on the other cheek with equal force. “That’s two. What’s it for?”
“Insu...” The word was caught in Ed’s throat. For some reason, it didn’t sound quite right on his lips. “I-insubordening...”
“Uh, well…” Roy looked pitifully down at the trembling creature in his lap. Ed waited patiently for his fate to be decided. “...I guess I said we could work on it. Let’s make those the last ones for tonight, alright?”
“Y-yes, sir, yes, please…”
He felt Roy’s hand take up the waistband of his briefs again, pulling them back into place on his hips. “Up you go.”
The instant Roy’s arm released him, Ed sprang back like he’d been released from a trap. He stumbled backward, trying to put some distance between him and his attacker before putting himself in the vulnerable position of needing to bend over to pull his pants up. The belt gave him more trouble than he expected, his hands still shaking from the emotional strain of what he’d just gone through.
“Breathe, FullMetal,” Roy instructed softly. “If you faint I’m locking you in here for the night and going home.”
“‘M not guh-gunna faint!” Ed said, furiously scrubbing his face with both sleeves. He knew he must look pathetic even while finally properly dressed again. His braid was barely holding on, long strands of golden hair tumbling over his shoulders and floating away from his face at odd angles. He sucked up as much of his dripping nose as he could, the rest being dragged up the sleeve of his coat in a long wet stroke.
When he finally pulled his arms away from his face, Roy looked sufficiently disgusted with the display.
“You’re the one who was drinking at work…” Ed muttered, trying to collect himself.
“I didn’t know how long you were gonna be.”
“And what if I didn’t show up?”
“You think this would’ve been the first time I’ve slept here?”
Somehow, despite everything that had just happened to him, that was the comment that most made him question the sanity of the man they’d assigned him to. He knew his uncertainty must’ve been written clearly on his face, but he really couldn’t be bothered to disguise the bizarre mixture of disbelief and disgust.
“Don’t give me that look, FullMetal,” Roy started, crossing his arms back over his chest with an all-too-satisfied smirk. “You’re not hurt. We’ll have a good laugh about this later.”
“Maybe you will,” Ed huffed, refusing to look his superior in the eye. “When you run on back to all your friends and tell them that you punished me.”
“Didn’t I say this stays between us?”
“...I don’t trust you.”
“Well. I promise you and I will be the only ones who get to laugh about this.”
“I won’t laugh.”
“Then I’ll be the only one.”
“Twisted sexy murderer, yes, yes, whatever you say,” Roy excused with a flippant wave of his hand. “I’ll give you a minute to get yourself together.”
Ed nodded, grateful for the time given to lick his wounds. He tried his best to stifle his choked wet sobs, hiccuping pathetically as he scrubbed his eyes with one of his sleeves. His ass itched and stung like it’d been attacked by hornets, and no amount of rubbing seemed to take off the edge. The tight pants were definitely not helping. He didn’t think this was the kind of thing that would fade into memory by the time he got back to the hotel. God, he’d never been so grateful for a layover. The idea of getting back on a train tomorrow morning with his ass beat raw was making him wince.
As he lifted his head to start trying to get his hair back in order, Ed watched Roy pull his watch from his pocket and check it, clearly unhappy with what he saw on its face. Good. So they were both suffering.
“I told Al I’d be back soon…” Ed muttered, letting his braid loose and shaking his hair out so he could try to make himself vaguely presentable again. A couple years of practice made braiding behind his head a breeze, a skill Winry had once claimed to be envious of.
“Do you wanna call him?” Roy asked, watching Ed slowly reclaim what parts of his dignity had been ripped away during the night’s unfoldings.
Ed didn’t want to admit he didn’t remember the hotel’s number off the top of his head. “No. I just don’t want him to ask why it took so long.”
“You don’t have to tell him if you don’t want to.”
Roy pushed himself away from the desk with a soft grunt and Ed nervously took several steps back, a hand sneaking to the seat of his pants protectively, but the colonel wasn’t looking at him. He had his eyes back on the decanter, forgoing the glass entirely to take a sip directly from the bottle. Ed didn’t get how men could stand the stuff. It stunk like death and based on the taste he’d gotten of his father’s whiskey as a child, the taste wasn’t much better. Why would you even want something that made you stupid? Adults had such pointless hobbies.
Roy gave a small sigh of satisfaction, taking the bottle with him to the sideboard that ran along the long wall of the office. Ed watched silently as he crouched down and set the bottle safely away in the cabinet. So, he kept booze in his office at work? Was that allowed? That didn’t feel allowed.
As if he’d heard his thoughts, Roy smirked over one shoulder. “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Ed nodded solemnly, wondering if the lieutenant knew about that or if this secret was just between the two of them.
“Do you need a ride back to your hotel?” Roy asked, rising from his crouch and busying himself around the room. Desktop reorganized, desk light off, jacket retrieved from the arm of the couch.
Ed made a noise of disbelief. “What? You’re going to drive?”
“...I usually do?”
“You’ve been drinking!”
Roy paused, a moment’s confusion clear on his face before he suddenly burst into a fit of laughter. Ed didn’t see what was so funny! He was being serious!
“Look, FullMetal,” Roy chuckled, shoulders shaking with mirth. “Two drinks does not a drunk make. Have a little faith in me, wouldn’t you?”
“Yeah, I’ll still walk, thanks…” Roy Mustang was a dangerous driver when he was sober, and Ed didn’t want to risk that sort of disastrously bumpy (or potentially deadly) experience while his ass was already burning like a stovetop. “Recently Beaten” was the last thing he needed scrawled across his autopsy report.
“Suit yourself,” Roy said, rolling down his sleeves and pulling his uniform jacket on. He straightened his collar before reaching for the black coat on the rack by the door, putting that on overtop. He reached into the coat pocket and fished out a ring of keys, searching through them while Ed watched quietly from the other side of the room. “Staying or going, FullMetal.”
Roy found the key was looking for and turned for the door, holding it open for the two of them. “Staying? Or going?”
“Oh, um, going,” Ed replied dumbly, feeling more and more like an idiot with each passing second. What was he supposed to say! He’d just gotten his ass beat to tears, and now it was just business as usual?
He hurried to the colonel’s side, not wanting to be the one who had to sleep on the couch tonight. Roy didn’t move the way he expected him to, standing still with one hand left on the door.
Ed stared blankly, not following the conversation. Roy gestured with the key to the long-forgotten trunk lying abandoned on the office floor.
“Ah, uh… Yes… Yes, sir…” Ed hastened to gather up his forgotten things— How stupid did he have to be to almost leave his only earthly possessions behind?— and pull the bag in close to his chest like makeshift armor. His words were failing him, thoughts tumbling out of his lips in broken syllables. “Th… mn…”
“...Yeah. You’re welcome.”
The light was clicked off behind him and Roy closed and locked the door. Ed had never really thought about what happened after he left for the day, but… this made sense. Of course, they’d lock up like any other office, and of course, the colonel would be the one to do it. It just felt like a very menial task for a supposed war hero. Ed let his hands drop into his lap, his trunk smacking softly against his thighs. His eyes wandered the room. Things felt different at night, somehow. Quieter. Lonelier. The only thing he could see in the pitch-black windows was the reflection of his own tear-stained face, like the rest of Amestris had simply vanished in the last hour, and they were the only two people left.
“One last thing,” Roy’s voice startled him from his thoughts. He turned around and found the colonel standing much closer than he had been expecting, jumping a second time. If Roy noticed his skittish behavior, he didn’t comment. His brow furrowed, one hand shoved into his jacket pocket and the other pointing the small metal key in Ed’s face like a knife. “And I want you to listen to this very closely, Ed.”
The colonel never called him by his first name, but Ed suddenly appreciated that he’d done it several times tonight. He hoped Roy wasn’t planning on making it a habit. It didn’t feel too out of place between the two of them considering what had happened, but the idea of being scolded with his first name, or worse, his full first name, in front of the rest of the unit sounded irreparably demeaning.
“Listening? Listening? Hello? Eastern Command requesting contact to FullMetal, I’d like to go home tonight.”
Ed shook his head clear. “Ah, uh, yes. I’m listening...” After a moment’s pause, he remembered and added quickly. “S-sir!”
Roy kept his stern expression, and Ed understood even without being told that this was not the last he would hear of this.
“I’m setting some expectations,” Ed did not like to see Mustang’s Lecture Voice back so soon. “You promised me you’d behave and I’m expecting you to follow through. If I find out you’re AWOL again, I’m coming out there to find you myself, and you’ll get another beating just like that, if not, worse. I don’t care if I have to do it in front of your brother, or your little girlfriend—” Not my girlfriend, Ed thought bitterly. “Or whoever else you pal around with. I’ll do it in the middle of Central if I have to. Am I making myself clear?”
“Good,” Roy’s scowl remained, but as a small improvement, the key he was still holding under Ed’s nose like a makeshift weapon was withdrawn back into the sheath of Roy’s closed fist. “Now come on. I’m sick of this place.”
Ed sheepishly followed his commanding officer to the door. Another lock, another key. The keyring Mustang had held maybe ten or twelve of the things, but the office only had the two doors. Ed wondered what the others could be for.
Again, the light behind them was clicked off, leaving the Mustang Unit’s office in the same void-like darkness Ed had seen from its windows. Ed noticed already that the hallways were a bit quieter than they had been when he’d first arrived. Maybe even more people had gone home for the night, leaving the ones pulling graveyard shifts to suffer in their silent offices. Ed wondered if anyone was still left on this floor. He wondered if they would’ve heard him crying.
“Keep it moving,” Roy said exhaustedly, wrapping an arm around Ed’s shoulders and wheeling him back towards the stairs. Ed forced his way out of the touch but followed obediently. Roy noted Ed’s avoidance with a snort. “So you’re never going to forgive me, huh?”
“Never,” Ed replied, struggling to keep up with the older man’s long strides. “Never ever.”
“Fair enough. Maybe when you’re older, you’ll understand.”
“I’m plenty old!”
“Weren’t you just calling me old? That hurt you know,” Roy pushed his hands into his coat pockets and starting his descent to the second floor.
Ed followed quickly, taking the stairs two at a time to hit the landing before Roy did. He stood obstinately in the older man’s path, refusing to be ignored. “You weren’t the one getting hit. ”
“I was spanking you, not hitting you, don’t be so dramatic,” Roy cleared the way with a gentle shove. Ed flushed at the way Roy’s voice echoed in the empty stairwell. He wasn’t even trying to be discreet! What if someone heard him?! “And I told you it wouldn’t be the last, so don’t go acting up so soon.”
“I’m not acting up...” Ed retorted in a small voice, feeling verbally bested.
“You know. If you’re just inn-hopping anyway,” Roy mused absentmindedly. “There’s always rooms in the barracks here. It’s not so bad, once you get used to it.”
“What? So you know where to find me the next time you need to take your anger out on someone?”
That earned him a swat, though it was too playful and light to be felt over his pants and coat. Nonetheless, he let Roy know how offended he was with a scrunched-face pout.
“Hey—” Ed hissed, scanning their surroundings. The stairwell was empty, but it still felt entirely too public to be making jokes like that in. “Not here.”
Roy found something about that amusing, laughing at what Ed felt was his expense.
“Maybe you’re right,” Roy said, reaching the bottom of the stairwell and beelining straight for the front door. He never once stopped to make sure Ed was still behind him, confident that a kid who could run his mouth that quickly could probably keep up. “Those guys would tear you apart.”
“Nu-uh!” Ed countered, switching the weight of his trunk into his left hand and clumsily mouthing the glove off his right. He held his steel hand out proudly, as if that proved Roy wrong somehow. “I punch harder than three of them combined!”
Roy laughed again.
“And what do you think you’d be getting if I got word you were starting fights, hm?”
Ed’s confident grin faded into awkwardness, like he was trying to convince the both of them that that comment didn’t bother him.
“Hmm? ” Roy prompted with a satisfied smirk, knowing he was going to get what he wanted.
Ed glanced around them for anyone who could be within earshot, but even upon finding the hallways empty, he dropped his voice to a quiet mutter. “I… I guess you’d probably spank me again…”
“I knew you’d catch on quick.”
They didn’t pass any secretaries in the hallways, nor did Ed hear any footsteps overhead. The casual chatter that drifted in from open doors was replaced by the clicking of typewriter keys and the scratching of pens. There was still the distant ringing of a phone, though this time it sounded much further away somehow. Roy didn’t seem as wowed by the strange energy of night work as Ed did, stepping out into the stark and barren vestibule with indifference.
“Good night, Mila,” He waved, not bothering to stop. It took Ed a moment to figure out who he was talking to, until he saw the polite woman behind the front desk poking her head up again.
“Oh! You have a good night, Colonel!” The woman replied, clearly dazzled by his presence. Why did Roy know her name anyway? Scratch that. Stupid question. He probably knew the name of every rack in East City. What a creep. Would she still like him if Ed told her what Roy had just done to him?
Ed gave her an awkward smile and waved as he passed, hoping that he didn’t look like some sort of pervert just standing next to a skirt-chaser like Mustang.
“Don’t let them work you too hard, ya hear?” Roy called back to her. “I hate to see a pretty thing being cooped up all night.”
Ed could hear her giggling as they pushed through those heavy front doors and back out into the night air. It was colder now than it had been when Ed arrived, the heat of the summer sun had finally died away and left them with nothing but cool darkness.
Roy stopped on the front step, turning to Ed with a knowing smirk.
“Cute, right? Yeah, Mila’s great fun. A shame they keep her on the graveyard shift. I miss waking up to a pretty face.”
Ed fought the urge to jump to immediate disgust. “You two… know each other?”
“Oh yes,” Roy sounded way too pleased with himself. He stretched his arms out in front of him, relishing in the feeling of getting out of the office. “She’s a fan.”
Ed was immediately skeptical. “You have… fans?”
“And one day, you might too, FullMetal,” Roy smirked. “If you grow a little taller and cut off that rat-tail.”
Ed didn’t know which of those comments to be offended by first, taking his precious braid in one hand like Roy might start making moves to hack it off any second.
“Who’re you calling—”
“Let’s not start that now. I was just giving you a little girl advice.”
Ed's attack was placated with only the Colonel's words. He didn't even need to think about it, he just shut his mouth and listened. Was this just going to be how it was from now on? Did this man somehow reprogram his mind?
“Hmmph... I don’t need girl advice...”
“Really? Well, I suppose I shouldn’t make assumptions,” Roy replied simply. Ed felt a wash of relief that his colonel had finally said something sensible. “I can try to give you some boy advice if you want, but I’ll have to admit I’m inexperienced.”
Ed immediately flushed, revoking his previous thoughts about Mustang saying something that came within even a hundred miles of sensible. This man was an absolute fucking nutcase who should never be allowed within spitting distance of a woman or a child. “I didn’t say anything like that, creep!”
“Alright alright, it was a joke, calm down,” Roy held his hands up in mock surrender, laughing brightly at Ed’s frustrations. “You get yourself all worked up for nothing.”
Roy started down the front steps, in an oddly cheerful mood for someone who’d just beaten the shit out of him. Ed tightened his grip on his suitcase, losing confidence in what he had to say.
“Hey, uh, Colonel?”
Roy stopped and turned his head, a gentle surprise written across his face. After everything that had happened, it was clear he did not expect Ed to be the one initiating any further conversations.
“Did… did you kiss her?” Ed asked curiously, attempting to overcome the awkwardness of the question. “Miss Mila, I mean. Did you kiss her?”
Roy smiled proudly.
“In ways you couldn’t even imagine.”
Edward blanched, determining all at once that the world of adults was a cruel, vile, and entirely uncouth place that he never wanted to reside in.
“You go get yourself some rest, FullMetal,” Roy chuckled, deciding without words that this was where they would part ways. He headed towards the car lot, raising one hand in farewell but never quite giving it the proper energy of a wave. “I expect you back here tomorrow morning bright and early, you got that?”
“Y… yes sir…” Ed said, left alone with his suitcase on the front step of Eastern Command, deciding at that moment that this was a night Al would never get to hear about.