Series Rating:: PG - NC-17
Main Characters:Edward Elric, Jean Havoc
Other Characters: Various other members of the Peanut Gallery called Fullmetal Alchemist
Word Count: 2,446
Warning Yaoi; consensual, underaged sex (well, maybe it's underaged to some); potential overdosing of crrrrack.
Synopsis: Ed learns a lesson. So does Jean.
Author's Notes: Companion/Sequel to Games Without Frontiers. I think you can read this without having read that (especially if you’re not into het!fic), but perhaps you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.</a>
The story is completely AU. My own little private timeline; my own private little world. Yeah, and, just to add, my own little crackpot theories. If ever there are any spoilers, I will place the appropriate warnings. Commentary is certainly welcome and tends to make me go “you like me! you really like me!”
Part 29: It’s Bringing Me to My Knees
Jean watched them while Ed spoke with Riza and Roy. He chuckled softly as Ed gave Riza a good once over and blurted his opinion on Riza’s changed appearance in his own special way. Pregnancy must have mellowed the First Lieutenant − she hardly blinked, only gave him a small verbal warning and kept her hand away from her firearm the whole time.
Then Roy took over the briefing, because that was exactly what that was. He did it in true Mustang/Elric Briefing fashion − smart comment against smart comment and then on to the pertinent questions.
Jean listened while Ed’s voice dipped to a subdued level and he began to talk about the new attack in the internment camp. Ed’s gaze was fastened tightly to his blanket, so Jean felt safe in moving into the doorway to listen.
Ed told them about being attacked by strange creatures, creatures dressed in black with strange, red tattoos. His eyebrow arched when Ed described that the first one’s mark was situated right between her breasts. Ed probably hadn’t even noticed the significance of such a location. He went on to describe the second creature’s mark − on its tongue − then his voice dipped even further when he said in a small voice: “He kept saying he wanted to eat me.”
It was then Jean heard the residual fear… something in Ed’s voice. It didn’t sound right, didn’t fit with the cocky way he was talking. His eyes narrowed and he paid closer attention to the small form in the bed.
Ed was pale. His eyes were sunken in his head, and one of them was surrounded by a glorious bruise. Jean also took in the bandage wrapped around Ed’s head. Head wound, black eye. Jean couldn’t see much else until he tore his eyes away from Ed and took a quick sweep of the room. His gaze settled briefly on the table near the window and noticed the automail lying there. The knee joint was missing and a couple of fingers were gone. Jean’s teeth clenched so tight then that he almost gave himself a headache. Stupid kid, he thought, his brain starting to run in circles on itself, Haven’t you learned you aren’t indestructible?
As he swept the room again, his gaze fell on Alphonse, seated beside his brother. He had been in the younger brother’s company enough to know what the tense way he held himself indicated. Edward was more injured than he was letting on. If not physically, then mentally. Unacceptable.
A word crossed between Roy and Ed that caught Jean’s complete attention for the simple fact that it was a word that he had only heard mentioned one or two times by Roy himself, and those times in a derisive, contemptuous way:
“They said they were… homunculi.”
Roy reared back in his seat and stared at Ed. Jean saw the man’s hand twitch, almost in instinct, before he saw the Colonel’s lip curl. "Fairy tales,” the man said. “Made up to scare us into behaving when we were kids. Keep us from transmuting our neighbor's cat into a potted plant."
Jean saw that spark in Ed’s eye and knew what was going to come next. "You saying you don’t believe me?”
“I’m saying that it will be pretty hard for anyone to believe,” Roy snapped. “There are many fantastic tales about the Homunculus. None of them have been proven to have a basis in fact. If I didn’t know you so well, I’d think you were making it all up to explain your carelessness in this situation.”
“Well, a fairy tale with hair that looked like a potted plant took a couple of chunks out of my ass!” Edward said leaning forward as if he wanted to take a couple of chunks out of the Colonel himself.
Jean took that moment to interrupt. With as much calmness as he could muster, he reached into this pocket as he leaned forward into the door. “If you're not careful, Boss, you're gonna pull your stitches out,” he drawled, hiding the shaking of his hands by flipping the cigarette into his mouth.
Ed’s mouth closed with an almost audible snap as Jean moved into the room. Roy stood, moving smoothly out of the way as Jean strode to the chair beside Ed’s bed. He pretended not to notice that his superior officer had just given up his seat and nodded a quick greeting to Alphonse from across the bed. Then he turned all of his attention to the person in the bed, assuming a quiet, listening pose and hoping that no one noticed how his eyes took in Ed’s condition from that vantage point.
“Didn’t we teach you not to bite off more than you could chew?” Jean asked. He kept his voice light, even though he wanted to rip someone’s head off and scream down their neck, Didn’t we have this conversation once already?
“Didn’t anyone ever teach you that you shouldn’t smoke in someone’s hospital room?” Edward shot back. “It’s unhealthy.”
Jean tilted his head, not sure how to interpret that. With a hard stare, he took a drag and blew a perfect smoke ring in the air. Then he turned and stubbed out the cigarette on the table next to the bed. Ignoring the look Riza gave him for relinquishing his precious cigarette, he crossed his arms over his chest. “So, did you forget how to duck?” the Lieutenant asked. Are you hurt more than I can see?
Ed stared at his blanket and started picking at a stray thread. Jean watched his every move, and noted the flush on the younger man’s cheeks. “I didn’t really have much of a choice,” he mumbled. Not now.
Jean heard the apology under the words and grunted, then sought around for something else to say that would let Ed know that, while he would hold his tongue for the moment, their private discussion was far from over. “You know Winry’s gonna knock your ever-lovin’ block off.” When they leave, I’ve got a few words for your stupid ass. He managed a short chuckle as he looked back toward the table. “You sure did a number on those.” If you have more than the few scratches I can see, I’m gonna kill you. Illogical, yes, Jean thought, but his sentiment nonetheless.
“Yeah, well, it couldn’t be helped. D’ya mind? I’m trying to give a report to the Colonel here.” Could you save it until these guys leave?
Oh, yeah, they had almost perfected this type of double conversation, which they started when talking about things that Ed didn’t want Al to know about yet. “Oh, of course,” he said, looking over at Roy. “Beg pardon for the interruption.”
Roy’s mouth twitched. “I think I can overlook it this time. As you were, Fullmetal.”
Jean subsided in the chair and took in the damage from closer point of view. He didn’t like that bandage around Ed’s midsection − it could have been for just about anything from superficial wound to big, gaping hole. And now that he was sitting closer, he could tell that Ed’s eyes were slightly dilated, which meant he was still under the influence of some serious pain-killing drugs. Then he noticed that Ed wasn’t simply picking at the blanket − he was clenching it in his fist. He saw how the knuckles whitened every time he shifted in the bed.
Roy caught his attention as he suddenly started moving toward the door. Jean had missed most of the conversation going on around him. Riza rose and started to follow. "Have a report on my desk about it as soon as you can, hmm?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know the drill, Colonel."
"And do have one of the girls type it up for you this time, please? I got a real headache reading the last one. Such handwriting should be outlawed and punishable by death."
Jean almost fell for the Colonel’s smart-ass act and laughed himself. Then Ed’s voice changed again, and a cold chill went down Jean’s spine.
"Oh, and Colonel?”
Roy turned from the door.
“There was something else, something about the one who did all of this to me."
Roy frowned. "Yes?"
"It… changed shape. That's how it got so close to me. It looked like one of the Ishbalans, then all of a sudden it... shifted into something else. It's true form, I suppose.”
"Shape shifting?” Roy almost barked. “Not good. If it could be anyone..."
The Colonel nodded. "Right then. Report, my desk, as soon as you are able."
Jean was staring at Ed as the door closed quietly on them. Homunculi… shape shifting… This was almost beyond what he could comprehend. But he would try.
Al shot up from his chair then as if his rear end had suddenly caught fire. “I’m-going-to-go-see-when-Winry-is-suppo
Before Ed could even lift a hand to stop him, the door shut with a firmer clank. Ed stared at the door as if his salvation had been lost, then sighed and stared back down at the blanket.
Jean stared at the ceiling for so long that he lost track of the time. As he did so, he felt all the anger he’d been holding on to drain out of him like a slow leak. Ed looked so… unlike himself. Like he’d suddenly found himself way out of his league.
“Well, aren’t you gonna yell at me now?” Ed muttered.
Jean looked over at Ed. “What?”
“C’mon... I know you want to. Let’s get it over with.”
Jean growled, the emotions he’d been keeping under control bubbling up to the surface. He moved before he thought, rising from the chair and moving over Edward as he sat there. Jean’s hand slapped the wall beside Ed’s head and he brought his face so close to Ed’s that their noses touched.
Ed’s eyes widened and his nostrils flared.
They sat suspended like that for what seemed like an hour. Finally, Ed said through his teeth, “Well?”
Jean heard the vulnerability under the challenge in Ed’s tone. And, just as quickly as it bloomed, the rest of his anger deflated. He moved back to the chair and sat down, clasping his hands and looking at the floor between his knees while he took a couple of deep breaths. Then he turned slowly and looked at Ed’s profile. “Do I need to yell at you?” Jean asked, hearing the strain in his own voice.
Ed winced at it and bent his head down again. After a moment, he shook his head, then turned minutely. “You mad at me?”
Jean sighed and shook his head as well. “Not anymore,” he allowed. “I admit, I didn’t catch most of it, nor do I understand about all of this homunculi business, but I have a feeling you realize that you have to change your attitude about running off half-cocked.” He leaned forward slightly. “Don’t you?”
“H-Homunculi… if they are real… are nothing to mess with,” was all Ed would say. He shifted and settled down to lie back against the pillows. “And if what I can remember from my f-father’s journals is true−” Jean heard Ed’s voice skip over the mention of his father, “then… you’re right. I… I don’t want to go after them. But… I have to−”
“Wait. After them?” Jean asked. “What do you mean after them?”
Ed turned his head on the pillow. Jean almost reared back himself; those eyes were hard and determined, and older than they should look. “They know,” he hissed, “about the Stone. The one who did most of this almost screamed it in my face. I gotta go after them, find out what they know.”
Jean’s hand itched for the cigarette in the ashtray. His mouth went so dry, he had to lick his lips to find moisture. He opened his mouth to protest the idea of Ed going anywhere near these… things again when he was interrupted.
“You gotta drive them back, right?” Ed suddenly asked.
“Huh?” Jean stammered. “Why?”
“I was wondering…”
Jean waited. When nothing else was forthcoming he prompted, “What, Ed?”
Ed sighed and shut his eyes. “C-Could you stay for a little while longer? Until I get to sleep.”
Jean blinked and felt the air leave his lungs in a rush.
“I mean it’s just so quiet in here and−and−and it might be easier for me to go to sleep if there’s another body in here and Al’s gone to find Winry and−”
“Ed. Go to sleep.”
Ed’s eyes snapped open for a moment and he stared directly at Jean.
Oh, yeah, the double conversation method was just about perfect. Jean was hearing things that Ed was refusing to say and felt himself responding in kind.
At one time, Jean thought that wild horses couldn’t have drug him kicking and screaming to this point in his life. He’d been happy to be a free agent, moving from one arrangement to the other effortlessly. Now it seemed as if he were going to run, practically skipping and dancing. across the point of no return of his own volition.
Someone, somewhere was going to be laughing at him. He was hoping it wasn’t going to be his own brain.