[ed/riza; nc-17] A Kind of Pale Jewel (1/2) Title: A Kind of Pale Jewel Author:emilie_burns Fandom:Fullmetal Alchemist Pairing: Edward Elric/Riza Hawkeye Rating: NC-17 Word Count: 12,603 (wtf, plotbunny? You promised me it'd be a short little PWP when I started. Liar.) Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) is copyrighted by Hiromu Arakawa/Square Enix. This is a work of fanfiction for personal entertainment only. The premise of this story is inspired by some events in the doujinshi "Angelus" by the Fantasy Wind circle. (spoiler note: I'm disregarding the actual ending to the doujinshi at the demand of the plotbunnies, but I won't reveal what that is.) Warnings: OOCness for Mustang, working with the characterization provided by the doujinshi. Mentions of rape. Summary: With a restored Al, Ed returns to Central for a State Alchemist reevaluation, and while there, he chooses to seek absolution and make right something that went horribly wrong during another such visit years ago. Notes: This fic was originally supposed to be a simple little PWP from a bunny that bit me while reading Angelus. The characterization in that was centered around a rather cracktastic dream, so it shouldn't have been too hard, right? Ha. Tricksy little bunnieses. Excuse the references of Roy's characterization. That was kept constant with the doujinshi. The rest of it though? The bunnies demanded it be kept in-character. Very absurdly in-character and plot-intensive for what was supposed to be a simple, damned PWP. Bunnies lie, I tell you this now. In interest in keeping this from getting even more out of control than it already has, I'm not going to waste a long build-up explaining the last five or so years since the events in "Angelus" (which I'll recap sufficiently so actual reading of the doujinshi isn't necessary) We'll just say things went differently, Ed got Al restored at least, and did not end up across the Gate, and so far things are still status quo more or less in the military. Please remember, the setting and history I'm working off'a? Comes from a doujinshi. Which are usually just this side of the WTF line if not way the hell over with headlong abandon anyway.
I also blame Al. Al pwnz everybody. Al demanded fluffy gen screentime with his brother. When Al demands, Al gets.
Dedication: Thanks to yuuo for being an enabler who made this pairing grow on me and all the encouragement and listening to me bitch about the lying, tricksy plotbunny. And for bleedingsand for listening to me babble about it, and for a parting and birthday gift. Yes, it's for both of you, and since it turned into such a complicated and long PornWithPlot (tricksey little bunnieses) you two can share. XP ♥
Original LJ Post Date: June 05, 2006 @ Chaotic_Library
A Kind of Pale Jewel
There's such a fooled heart Beating so fast in search of new dreams. Though we're strangers till now, We're choosing the path between the stars.
"Brother? What is it?"
Edward Elric didn't respond immediately. When he did, he didn't look up from the letter from Central. "Just something from the jackass," he said, keeping his tone casual. He tossed it aside on the table and tilted back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling. "My reassessment exam's coming up again."
"Yeah?" Al sat down across from him at the table, biting into an apple. "What aren't you telling me, Brother?"
Ed closed his eyes and swallowed hard, then forced a cocky grin as he looked at his younger brother. "Nothin', Al. I'm just weighing the pros and cons here of bothering to take it."
"If you don't, you'll lose certification."
"Yeah, I know." He looked at the letter on the table. "On one hand, being a State Alchemist gets me in that library and a pretty steady income. On the other, the only reason I became a dog of the military was to get you back in your body, which I have."
"You still haven't restored yours," Al pointed out.
Ed waved his automail hand in dismissal. "I can live with that. Getting you out of that armor was more important anyway."
He scowled. "Don't get like that, Al."
"I promised you too, remember?"
"I know, but it's still human transmutation and it's not worth that kind of risk."
Al was quiet for a few moments, and Ed hoped he'd let it drop. His hopes were in vain. "If you won't look into it, I can still take the exam and I--"
"No!" That came out far sharper than Ed intended, and Al jerked back, wide-eyed and blinking. "No," he repeated, forcing a softer tone, ignoring the tight twisted knot of dread in his stomach. "No. I said it's not worth the risk. A lot of people live with automail. I can too. You're back, that's what's important. You're not going to take that exam."
Al looked at him, silently begging him to relent, and Ed looked away. While Al could normally make him back down on virtually anything and win nearly any argument, that was one thing Ed wouldn't give up. Not Al. Not to that.
"I'll stay and keep looking around though, just in case," he added, trying to get the notion of becoming a State Alchemist out of his brother's head. He wasn't about to let Al get subjected to the same indignities Ed did.
"If you're sure, Brother."
"I'm sure. Listen, it won't take me long, just a quick trip in and out and I'll be back before--"
"I'm going with you. Just like always."
Ed studied him for a moment, then sighed. There was no arguing, let alone winning against Al when he got that expression. "All right. I'm going to go get packed. The sooner I get this over with, the sooner I can forget about that jackass for another year."
"How 'bout it, Lieutenant? How 'bout we let Fullmetal in? If you do a good job getting him off, I'll scratch that itch between your thighs."
The growing pressure made Edward shift uncomfortably on the train seat as it slowed down on approach to Central, and tried to force the memories back into that dark, secret corner where he didn't have to look at them, didn't have to remember them...
"Are you sure you want to walk home like that? That leather's gotta chafe."
Ed bit the inside of his lip hard enough to draw blood, making certain his face was turned toward the window, well away from Al so his younger brother wouldn't see the dark flush heating up his cheeks. He'd have to remember to carry his luggage in front of him and do it inconspicuously until he could be sure his erection would no longer be noticeable.
It had been his second reassessment exam, held out east where his superior was stationed at the time. That bastard colonel -- a brigadier general now -- had pinned him, giving him no say in whether or not he wanted to participate while the lieutenant had unzipped his pants and...
Ed closed his eyes and rested his forehead on the window. The worst part of that day had been the fact he'd enjoyed it. He'd hated the circumstances, but he'd lost count of the number of times he'd woken up to sticky sheets after dreaming about the older woman's lips wrapped around the head of his cock. The mere thought made it twitch painfully against the tight leather.
He reminded himself of something else, something that never failed to pummel his libido down and kill his erection. Mustang had drugged her, given Hawkeye an aphrodisiac so potent that despite her discomfort, objections, and obvious anger before it took full effect, she'd readily and willingly debased herself for him.
Edward hadn't seen it like that at first, not with how she'd looked at him when she took her clothes off and mounted him, not the colonel like he'd thought she'd do. Of course, that hadn't stopped Mustang from taking the back route to the party, pinning her down on top of him, and he'd practically been smothered against her breasts.
Okay, bad line of thought. He shifted again, trying to be discreet about tugging his pants in an effort to make them a little less uncomfortable.
He hadn't seen anything of her for the next year, and for a while, he'd even entertained ridiculous pipe dreams that perhaps she wanted him, and such thoughts were usually accompanied by fantasies of showing up Mustang as an inferior jackass, and she'd fall for him instead, and he'd take her away from someone who clearly didn't appreciate her. That played a heavy role in the situation he'd found himself in for his next exam, facing off against that bastard on a mock battlefield in a display of combat alchemy.
But the lieutenant had been nowhere to be found, and he'd barely seen her a handful of times since that day Mustang drugged her. Hawkeye still worked under the man, despite the drugging, something that left him stymied for a bit longer.
When the epiphany struck, he wondered why he'd ever been so stupid as to entertain the notion she might have actually wanted him. She blamed him for that day, which Ed felt was well in her right. If he'd not asked Mustang about kissing after bombing out in his previous efforts to prove to Winry that just because she was taller than him, he was still decent boyfriend material, none of that would have happened.
The only reason Mustang drugged her and helped him rape her was because of that stupid question. It was his fault. He knew she'd been drugged. He should have done something, anything, anything but enjoy it more than he had any right to.
The train whistled sharply as the brakes were engaged, and the lights in the station were a sharp contrast to the dying twilight outside. The painful tightness in his pants was gone by the time he felt Al's hand on his shoulder.
"Brother? We're here."
"Yeah, Al. I know." He stretched a bit and stood, poking and prodding at the infected, oozing sore of guilt festering. Hell with it. He was eighteen now, a man, and it was time to stop being such a damned coward and do something he should have done a long time ago.
There were still lights on in the house, and Ed swallowed hard, trying to push away that knotted mess of guilt and fear, mustering up the nerve to cross the street and knock on the door.
After leaving Al at the inn, he'd told him he had some things he wanted to take care of alone, and that while he shouldn't be long, not to wait up. A stop by the headquarters and a bit of pestering of the skeleton crew keeping the government running through the late hours yielded Hawkeye's address. He'd noted the name written on the paper with some surprise; Ed didn't recall hearing when she'd finally gotten a well-deserved promotion to captain.
Ed looked at the paper one last time, then clenched it in his fist, shoving it deep in his pocket. As he climbed the steps, he focused on keeping his courage to knock mustered up and--
The door opened just as he lifted his fist, and he flushed scarlet staring up at the face of a woman who wasn't meeting his eyes.
"Wha- who, how'd y- you..." Ed tried to speak coherently but failed, caught thoroughly off-guard.
"Black Hayate, and I looked out the window..." She trailed off, looking past him with distant eyes, her expression as unreadable as ever. "What is it?"
His stomach knotted all over again, twisting with a sick feeling as he bit the inside of his lip and looked down. She didn't want him there. She hated him, and he deserved it and he swallowed hard, willing himself to not get sick. "I- I ju- just want- wanted to, um... I'm sorry, Lieuten- I mean, Captain, I'm sorry. I sh- should have apol- apologized a long time 'go, m'sorry, you don't h- have to f'rgive me, I don't deserve't f- for r- r- ra- I'm sorry, m's- sorry f'r th- that an- and--"
"Edward." Her tone was firm, businesslike, as Hawkeye-ish as ever. "Stop."
Stop. Right. Well, he'd apologized, and that was the important thing, wasn't it? Then why did he still feel sick? He started to apologize for intruding on her but bit his tongue, hesitated, and merely nodded as he took a step back.
Her hand touched his arm and he glanced at her, wide-eyed and startled. She was looking away, her expression tight and grave. "Stop." Her voice was softer now and she closed her eyes, withdrawing her hand as she stepped back from the doorway. "Come in, Edward."
What? He stared at her, trying to process what it sounded like she just said. She remained away from the doorframe, holding the door, waiting, and he almost tripped over the threshold as he shuffled in, looking down, around, anywhere but her as she shut the door. Black Hayate sniffed at his pantleg and pawed at him, demanding attention, but Edward couldn't bring himself to move even enough to stoop and reach the dog's head.
"Edward." Her tone was tired and flat, but as she continued speaking, it grew thicker, strained. "You have done nothing to apologize for."
"B- but I-"
"It wasn't. Your fault." Her voice was firmer again, and she turned away from the door, but still didn't look at him. "If... if anything, Edward, I should be apologizing to you."
"No! No, Lieu- Captain, you were drugged," Ed said, cutting her off.
"And you were just a child!" Briefly her eyes met his, pained and wet, then she looked away.
"Only in years. I hadn't been a child since the night I tried to bring Mom back."
She flinched visibly at that. "All the more reason..."
"I should have said something, done something, I sh- shouldn't have..." He faltered, clenching his fists as he stared at the ground, feeling sick. Her hand touched his cheek, moving down to his chin, making him tilt his head up. Ed closed his eyes, not able to look at her.
"You did nothing wrong, Edward. Listen to me."
"I shouldn't have enjoyed it!" he snapped, and pressed his lips together, squeezing his eyes shut, waiting for -- hoping she'd hit him for that, punish him, hate him like he deserved, not try to fucking apologize to him because he raped her!
The room was deathly silent and he felt her hand move away. Another few long heartbeats of silence.
"Well." Her voice was soft, flat, and her sigh was weary. There was another dreaded pause of silence. "I suppose there's always silver linings." Her voice became lighter, still wry and tired but the resigned fatigue was, while not fully pushed away, dulled. "I would think I'd perhaps be offended if you'd been revolted."
Ed stared at her then, disbelieving what he'd heard. "Th- this isn't f- funny!" he stuttered, unable to stop trembling. "I r- ra- r- If I hadn't asked that damned question none of this would have happened!"
Riza shook her head, indicating with a slight hand gesture not to worry about it. "If you hadn't asked that, it would have been something else. If not you, then someone else."
She did not just say what he thought she did, did she? This time, Ed did move, sidestepping to look her full in the face. "What? How many times has that bastard done this?"
"Edward, it's all right," she said, turning away, stepping away. "It doesn't--"
"No! No, it's not 'all right'!" Ed grabbed her wrist, refusing to let her retreat. "He's drugged you and raped you, and you're still with him why?"
"He..." She shook her head. "There's a lot of worse places I could be, and quite honestly, Edward, everything aside? He's the best hope Amestris has for getting out of this cycle of warfare. He has his faults, but he honestly does believe in protecting the people, unlike most of--"
"The people." Ed scowled. "What about you?"
Hawkeye blinked, frowning a bit as she looked at him. "What are you talking about? He's never hurt me."
He stared at her, incredulous. "He nev- Riza? He drugged and raped you! That's not hurting you how?"
"He doesn't..." She closed her eyes and shook her head. "Were I under anyone else, it could be a hundred times worse. All in all, I'm not in that bad of a spot."
"So leave." He tightened his grip on her wrist. "Leave, get out of the military, get away from here. You don't deserve that."
"And go where? Do what?" She shook her head. "My parents are dead, and the military has been my life plan since before I even went into the academy. I... I've thought about it, but it's not a good idea to leave without even an idea of where to go or what to do."
"It doesn't matter, just go." He stepped closer, into her personal space, making her look at him. "Come with us. I'm up for reassessment, I don't have to take it. Al's fixed now, it doesn't matter. We can go, the three of us, just get away from here. I'll take care of you now. I promise. I should have taken you away from this a long time ago, I'd planned on it once, that's why I did a combat reassessment, one of the reasons why."
He was rambling and he knew it, holding her wrist tightly, trying to get her to listen, to see reason. She didn't hate him, she didn't blame him, he could take care of her. He could and he would and he would do a better job of it than that jackass ever did. That bastard didn't know what he had, they never did. But he wouldn't hurt her, wouldn't leave her, he knew better than that, he'd seen what it did to people, she knew that, right? She had to know that he'd protect her, keep her safe, as safe as he kept Al.
She stared at him, her expression one of stunned confusion, and her lips moved as she tried to form a protest, stumbling over several incoherent sounds. "I- no, I couldn't. Edward--"
His stomach knotted and he closed his eyes tight, lifting his other hand to press cold, metal fingers to her lips to make her stop saying the words he didn't want to hear. But she drew her head back and with her free hand, pushed his aside, talking faster.
"I couldn't, it's not fair to you. You don't owe me anything, you don't need--"
"Owe you?" Ed cut her off, looking at her. "Is that what you think this is? Some misplaced sense of duty?"
"I understand that you feel guilty, even though you shouldn't for you didn't do anything wrong, listen to me, please, Edward," she begged, raising a hand to touch his cheek, her expression worried, even frightened. He fell silent for the moment, deciding to hear her out.
"You were just a child, this situation is one of my own making. You don't need to take on a responsibility brought on by whatever guilt or duty you feel. I've seen you all these years, Edward. I've read the reports. I know how determined you are, how far you'll go and have gone to try and make things right, and I admire that. You've won, Edward. You won. You don't need a responsibility you'll probably come to regret."
She might know all that, but she didn't know him. "Are you finished?" Not getting an answer, he took that for a yes and continued. "Good. It's not a sense of guilt or duty, at least not entirely. I've not been able to get you out of my mind, and I wasn't joking when I said I'd planned to take you away from all this years ago, get you away from someone who clearly didn't appreciate you anywhere near as much as he ought to. And you're right about one thing; I'll do whatever I have to do to make things right. I did it for years, for a lot of people. I was finally able to do it for Al, and now I want to do it for you." She started to speak, but he didn't give her a chance, continuing on and talking over her weak attempts at a protest.
"I watched my mother fade out waiting for somebody who never came back to her, and I won't watch you go into some kind of living death working under a man who uses you for his own amusement. If you don't want anything to do with me, if you want me gone and out of your life and don't want me bothering you again, that's one thing, but if you won't let me apologize to you for feeling like a liar every time anyone said anything good about me, especially Al, and hating every moment of remembering I enjoyed that day and hating myself for it, then I'm not about to let you remain shackled here because you're afraid of being an unwanted burden."
Her expression crumpled as he continued, and she began to choke back sobs as he finally stopped, trembling from nervous adrenaline and a sense of feeling something slipping away from his fingers. She covered her face with her hand, her shoulder shaking. "Wh- what about... th- the girl, Winry?"
"She's a part of my life and always will be, but she... she's family. I don't..." He trailed off, faltering at how to put it. "It doesn't matter now," he told her, hesitating for only another moment before pulling her into a hug, clinging to her to keep her there more than embracing her.
Say yes, don't do this, don't go.
He hadn't been able to do a single thing for Trisha, to make that sad look in her eyes go away somehow. He hadn't even been able to get that bastard to come back in time before she died, and he didn't even have a chance to transmutate her some simple fucking flowers. It was his choices, his path, his decisions that got Al into that mess, that hell for several long years, and even though he'd finally been able to fix it, even the recovery hadn't been easy. And now there was Riza, loyal and deadly, and if how she'd always been to Al even when others regarded him oddly was any indication, a pretty damned warmhearted woman to boot. And it was his choices, his questions that got her into that mess and she was drugged and raped because of him and he helped that bastard do it.
He was Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist. The alchemist for the people and the dog of the military who didn't walk to the military's drum. He was known all over Amestris for helping people, helping strangers, helping make things better and this was something else he helped cause and was his responsibility and couldn't she please see that he needed to help someone, that he needed to help her and make it better and protect her because he helped so many and it was time to help people who actually had an impact on his life now that Al was fixed and he could protect her?
When he felt her relax, or perhaps just collapse against him, trembling like she could barely stand, he held tighter, as if that would ward off the admittedly irrational fear that she'd evaporate away from his grip. Ed turned his face against her neck briefly at her muffled, choked apologies -- apologies for what, he didn't know and didn't care because they didn't matter, not to him, because she didn't do anything requiring apologies -- and then moved his hand up to grip her hair as he pulled his head back, kissing her with enough force to silence her.
When he felt a shuddering sob escape from her lips against his, Ed froze, his blood going cold as he realized what he'd just done. Great. Wonderful. Way to go, he angrily berated himself as he buried his face against her shoulder again, trying to unknot his stomach, trying to stop shaking; trying and failing. Force a kiss on the woman you raped and are trying to persuade she'd be safe with you.
"I'm sorry, I don't- I'm sorry," he whispered against her neck, feeling her shivering as he squeezed his eyes shut. "I was... that was out of line, I'm sorry, I won't do it again." He felt sick when her hands went to his shoulders and pushed him back. Away. Rejecting him. He'd screwed up again. Why could he so often make things right for strangers -- or are you just deluding yourself that you can? Remember Liore? -- but never to the ones closest around him? "Please don't go, you are safe with me, I promise, I'm sorry, I--"
Then it was his turn for his protests to be silenced by a kiss, not as forceful as his had been but no less certain. He froze and held his breath, afraid to even move lest she bolt, as if she were a wild deer or rabbit.
When the kiss almost broke, her lips just barely brushing his but retreating no further, he couldn't tell who was trembling: him, her, or both. Ed opened his eyes slowly, cautiously, and afraid of... he didn't know what. Seeing a sign pointing toward her leaving, or violet light, or something.
Her eyes were open as well, and he saw the hesitation there, and the raw fear behind it. Better the devil you know... Ed cupped her face between his hands and rested his forehead on hers -- he'd grown in those years, not as much as he'd like but he was only an inch and a half shy of his ultimate goal now, there was still a chance! -- trying to convey every last ounce of his earnest intensity into his eyes and voice, trying to get it across to her, through her.
"Please," he whispered, choking on his own voice. "I can protect you, I can. I'll take care of you, I promise. You can leave this, come away with us, and I'll keep you safe, and I won't get tired of it because you're mine. Please, I won't ever do anything to you, not like that, not anything you don't want, not as long as I'm still able to fight. I'll make this right, I'll fix things, make everything all right for you again. I won't hurt you, not ever, I promise, just please don't go."
"I- I- it's just... it... it doesn't ha- have to be f- for long," she whispered, stammered, her breathing unsteady under the shivers wracking her body. "I- I'll go when you change your mind, just let me stay long enough to find a way to go, please, I prom--"
He kissed her again, this time with more assurance, lingering a moment after he silenced her. "Riza? It's me. Look at me, look." He cupped her face and waited until her eyes -- haunted, hollow, scared -- met his. Ed flinched inwardly, his gaze dropping, moving from her eyes to his hands, alchemist hands, hands that have fixed, created, destroyed, and there was nothing those hands could do to take that look away. He drew in a deep breath and looked at her again.
"This is me, Riza. You know me. You know Ed. The Fullmetal Alchemist. The dog of the military who fights for the people. The one whose brother was trapped for years in armor, armor I trapped him in with my own blood and swore on the same blood to get him out. I did it, Riza. You know me, right?"
She nodded, a tiny motion, not looking from his eyes.
"You know my word, then. You know my promises. And above all you should know I don't go into something, I never go into something without seeing it through, without regrets and without looking back. You know this too, right?" He searched her eyes while she nodded again. "You're not an obligation, I'm not going to drop you after a while, I'm not going to resent you, and I am not going to hurt you, I swear that. Not ever."
Riza closed her eyes and clung to him, her breathing unsteady, trembling under his hands, against him. Ed held her, waiting patiently (well, maybe not that patiently under the surface) for her to give her answer.
He almost missed the hushed, tremulous whisper.
"Get me out of here."
Al was still awake by the time he returned to the inn. Ed hadn't wanted to leave, and a few times thought she might want him to stay, but it was frightening enough, those few chaste kisses he gave her. She'd finally consented to letting him take care of her, protect her, and the last thing he wanted to do was scare her off now.
"Welcome back, Brother," Al said as Ed shrugged out of his red coat. He glanced over, feeling less shaky now seeing that smile, and hung the coat up on a hook.
"Thanks, Al." There was an air of expectancy in the room; his younger brother waiting patiently for anything Ed might choose to tell him about his absence. What he'd tell him and how was something Ed still wasn't certain on, and he stretched out on his back on the bed Al hadn't claimed, his arms tucked under his head. "It's not gonna be just us anymore."
"Oh?" The bedsprings squeaked as Al changed position to look at him. "So who is she?"
That made Ed splutter and bolt upright, trying to keep the heat off his face. "What do you mean 'she'? She who? Who said anything ab--"
"So it's a he?" Al arched an eyebrow. "Not that it makes any difference to me, if you're happy, I'm ha--"
"It's not a he!" Ed made an incoherent, frustrated noise and raked a hand through his hair. "What made you say that anyway?"
"Well, those leather pants don't hide anything very well, Brother," Al said, giving him a very sweet (and in the circumstances, very bratty) smile. Ed scowled and flopped back on the bed. So much for his plans of telling Al about the changes, never mind the fact he didn't even know what to say to begin with. "After the way you'd been on the train ride the whole way here and now disappearing for a little while... I'm just trying to figure out who it is because I'm pretty sure I'd have noticed."
"Can't hide a damn thing from you, you brat," Ed grumbled and covered his eyes with his flesh arm.
"So, who is it?"
Ed sighed. Then he mumbled something that was in the approximate territory of sounding like her name.
"Hmm? I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that."
He tried again.
"Brother? You're going to have to speak up." Al frowned. "You're acting like you're ashamed of her."
That made Ed go cold, and he shut his eyes. "No! No, I'm not, Al. It's just... no. It's a bit of a mess but--"
"Is she pregnant?"
Ed was ready to swear that noise he heard wasn't the bedsprings shifting under his weight, but rather his brain as everything went haywire and ground to a very broken halt. "What? No! No, she's not!" At least I hope not. She better not be or a certain jackass is going to a glue factory.
"I'm just asking!" Al held his hands up. "So are you going to tell me who it is?"
Another sigh. "Hawkeye."
Now it was Al's turn to have a brain go haywire and stop functioning on higher levels for a few moments. "Wait, what? Who? Captain Hawkeye? The brigadier general's adjutant?"
"How did you know she was a captain?" Ed demanded. He hadn't even known that!
Al shrugged. "Last year, waiting on you, I saw her in the corridor and heard someone talking to her." He frowned. "Or maybe it was the year bef- no, it was definitely last year. I remember now, I was out of the armor then."
"But I didn't know you knew her!"
In a very interesting sense of the word. Ed sighed and rubbed his hand down his face and laid back down. "It's a long story, Al, but yeah, I know her. And she's leaving the military now. I talked to her tonight and she's going to try to resign her commission tomorrow. It'll be a while before we know if it's approved, and she might not be able to leave right then either."
Al was still frowning, trying to sort out all the information. "Okay, but what's going on, Brother?"
"We're going to take care of her now."
"Is she okay? She's not sick, is she?"
"No, but... but this isn't a good place for her. She needs a new life, but more than that, she needs somebody to protect her, and I'm going to do that."
"Brother, what aren't you telling me?"
Ed hesitated and froze. What wasn't he telling him? That he'd asked Mustang about kissing, that the jackass had drugged Hawkeye and had her go down on him, and... no. No way was he telling Al about any of that. Nope. That was something he was gonna take to his grave.
Besides, if people thought the Fullmetal Alchemist could be dangerous, Ed was the first to admit Al could be downright scary mad when he had a reason to be.
Mustang raping them? Yeah. Good reason. And as much as he'd like to see the jackass pay, even he wasn't stupid enough to want to risk getting the whole military on their asses. They'd finally reached their goal, and Ed was ready to get out and just be. Yeah, no telling Al.
"It's not my story, Al," he said, not meeting his brother's eyes and feeling guilty as he figuratively hid behind the older woman. "Look, none of that matters. We don't look back, right? So we're going to hang around Central till she's out of the military and then we'll get out of here."
Al got up and sat down next to Ed. "And go where? Are we going to keep on the road like usual?"
Ed blinked and shifted his gaze to his little brother, then shut his eyes tight as he swore under his breath. Good question. "I'll figure out something, Al. Right now I just want to get her away from this as quick as possible. We'll cross that bridge when we get there."
He felt a tug to his pants as a chain clinked softly, and looked down to see Al had pulled his pocketwatch out. "You're not going to take the reassessment exam, are you?"
Ed held his hand out for the silver watch, rubbing the embossed stylized dragon on the cover with his thumb as he studied it. "Fullmetal's a heavy name. It'll be nice to be able to put it down at last."
"No." Ed met his brother's eyes, refusing to budge on this. "There's nothing they can do for us now anyway, and I will not have you in there."
"Brother, I prom--"
"We'll find another way for you, but this isn't the way to keep it," Ed interrupted. "We're leaving for a reason. That's final. You are not going to take that exam, is that clear?"
Al sighed. "Yes, Brother." There was something in those gray eyes that made Ed squirm uncomfortably. "And I can be patient. When you're ready, you can tell me what's going, and I'll be here to listen."
Tell Al what happened. Right. Maybe in fifty years, if even then. Time to change topics; the important thing was that Al agreed not to become a state alchemist if he quit. Ed glanced at Al and smiled a bit as he shifted to his side, propped up on his elbow, opening the watch.
Don't forget. 3.Oct.10
The land was taking over again. The ruined tree was barely more than a scraggly stump now, and the grass grew through and around the rotten, charred remains. There was nothing to indicate a house had one stood on the hill, unless you knew where to look and came across the few traces still remaining, yet unmoved by time and elements.
Seven long years without a home. Wasn't there an old legend somewhere about seven years of famine? Or was it seven years of traveling? Or maybe forty years, or raining for seven? Ah, it didn't really matter anyway, just a bunch of old myths. It didn't change the fact they'd been without a home for far too long now.
"We could go back," Ed suggested, not looking up at Al.
"To Rizenbul? Winry would like that. We'd have to stay with them though."
"At least until we got a new place built." Ed looked up at his brother and grinned a grin that was a shade brighter than how he really felt. "It wouldn't take us long, with alchemy."
Al shot him a skeptical look. "I worry about your design skills, Brother."
"Hey!" Ed gave him a light shove. "I'm not going to create some lopsided disaster."
Al clearly remained unconvinced.
"Hmph. There's enough time to worry about that later," Ed said, cutting off any further debate on whether or not his creative skills left something to be desired. He looked at the watch again, setting it on the bed. He could feel Al's eyes on him as he pressed his hands together, then hesitated, reading the old, clumsy etching on the inside cover one last time before wiping it away with a fingertip.
Bittersweet nostalgia. It seemed so final, yet it was a door he was glad to finally close.
His brother's hand -- flesh hand, human hand, restored hand -- slipped over his, shutting the watch. "Thank you, Brother," Al whispered.
Ed didn't trust his voice. Eyes shut tight, he pulled Al down on top of him in a fierce hug.