] o [ ] o [ ] o [
The word jolted Roy out of his deep sleep like the crack of a gunshot. His eyes popped open and he lay there a moment, disoriented, his heart fluttering like mad. He considered the ceiling for enough time for the cobwebs to desert his brain and for him to remember.
He closed his eyes briefly against the inevitability of remembering what had happened over the past few days. He expected to feel angry, pissed off at the fact that he was unable to escape the storm of an omegan heat despite his best efforts. In reality, however, all he felt was an interesting sense of calm. The last time he'd felt so calm was after he'd regained his sight after the Promised Day.
His alpha was close; he knew that, even though the other man was nowhere to be seen.
His alpha. Edward Elric.
Of all the people in the entire world, his particular alpha turned out to be Edward Elric. One day—in a more convenient future, he hoped—his last name would become Elric. His children would be Elrics. His children would be part Xerxian. Interesting. Alchemists? Most certainly. Powerful? Undoubtedly.
Even that knowledge didn't shake him the way he thought it should. All these years, he battled against his instincts with as much determination as he'd battled his way up the ranks of the Amestrian War Machine. Now, all he wanted to do right then was to discover exactly where in his house his alpha was and why the man wasn't there beside him the way he wanted. The way he needed.
That sweet smell of port wine still lingered around him, layered over two other scents that he was too exhausted to pick out. Muted were all of his senses; his whole body throbbed inside and out. He actually had to tell his brain to send the signals to make him move out of bed and when his body obeyed, he felt his every joint creak like rusty hinges in an old house full of doors and windows. He legs shook while he moved across the room to find his robe and wrap it around his nakedness.
Unsuccessful, he plucked a sheet up and wrapped it around his body and over one shoulder. He snorted to himself; four days of a long suppressed heat was making him feel about as old as Grumman. He looked down at himself as he closed the room. Yep. He felt—and smelled-about as old as Grumman after an orgy with ten different women. He would definitely need to spend about an eternity in the shower scraping sweat and other body fluids off before venturing back into the outside world. But first…
He needed to see his alpha.
The urgency slapped him in the face, disorienting him for a moment and making him dizzy. The driving hunger didn't help matters much. He felt the drive to race pell-mell through his own house, calling Edward's name. Anxiety skipped down his spine like an electrical current as he made his way down hallways and steps, following the distinct scent of Edward in the air.
Halfway down the hall he stopped, hearing lowered voices talking, sensing the other scents that wove their way into and around Edward. One was the warm smell of baking bread, a rich and alluring smell, and the other was the delicate scent of roses, light and dark and soothing as well. There were others in the house, he realized. His nerves jangled uncomfortably until he figured out the first scent. It had been Alphonse's scent when the Elric brothers had visited him in his office. He'd been just as drawn to it as to the unbelievable fragrance of the older Elric. The other? It was a mystery, but it wasn't unwelcome. In fact, the rose scent seemed to calm the tiny undercurrent of unease he realized he was feeling at the absence of his alpha.
He followed the three scents as they accurately drew him toward the kitchen area of his house.
Roy watched Ed look up from his book when he heard the shuffle of cloth in the entrance of the kitchen. Actually, both he and Al both stopped their studying all things dynamic when Roy shuffled in, trying not to scratch and a dried patch on his shoulder.
The person possessing the stranger scent looked up, smiled serenely, and went back to scrubbing the pan he'd been washing. Roy got the vague impression on Xingese, then Ed was in his field of vision and every bit of negative emotion left him like an exhaled breath.
Roy could see the intense concern sweep through Edward's eyes, darkening them slightly. He could also see the surprise and sense the heaviness in his mate's scent draping over him protectively.
"Roy, are you alright?" Ed murmured, putting a hand to the older man's face, trying to sweep away the confusion he could feel pouring from his own eyes.
"Hungry," Roy managed to say and startled at his scratchy voice. That sound gave him a vivid memory, and his mind cleared as he began to recall what was afoot. He looked down at himself again, realizing what he looked like to the others. Embarrassment hit him like a ton of bricks and he felt the heat of it flush his face.
Al chuckled. "Don't worry," he said, "everyone in this room knows exactly how you feel."
"Yeah, come and sit down," Ed practically ordered, reaching out to take the plate Tseng was handing him and pulling him toward the table.
Roy did so, quite reluctantly, wondering if there was any way to recover his dignity with them after this. Especially since there was a strange person standing at his sink, scrubbing away at his frying pan. He turned his head gently in the man's direction and realized that he was the source of the soothing, flower scent.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Al said, realizing what Roy was about. "That dynamo of domesticity over there is Tseng, my mate."
The Xingese man snorted in response to the description and raised a hand to give Roy a casual wave. "You think I'm going to leave a mess for these two to clean up?" Tseng said to Al, pitching his voice just as casually. Roy half smiled, understanding the technique and inwardly thanking him for it.
"It would never get done," Ed complained. His eyes were still focused on his new mate (and Roy blushed a bit at the idea), and he took a finger and pushed the plate closer. "Eat, Mustang." There was just enough rough tenderness in the order that Roy couldn't possibly take offense to the command underlying it. It was an odd feeling indeed, being cossetted by this particular man.
He pulled the plate closer and picked up his fork, mouth practically salivating at the pile of food in front of him. It was mostly protein and carbohydrates; exactly what his body needed to revive itself. He'd never seen so many eggs on one plate before, and beside them was tucked a nice, healthy, juicy piece of steak, and a stack of warm bread, slathered with enough butter to dry up an entire cow. He thought about the idea of some jam, then shoved it away. No, sugar wouldn't help him here. His body needed the energy more than his hedonistic mind needed the sweets. Beside, as if he'd been mind read, Ed was pushing a cup of coffee mixed just the way he liked it.
"If I remember, you take a bit of coffee with your sugar and cream?" Ed was saying with a quirky, almost bashful smile. All Roy could do with his full mouth was grunt an affirmative. He only half noticed, as he inhaled the plate in front of him, that Edward was pulling his own chair close to his, and was watching him carefully while pretending not to watch him. Normally, this would have made Roy very uneasy, but right then it was a soothing experience. He even had the oddest urge to bury his face into the side of Ed's neck and nuzzle. He cleared his throat and took a quick sip of coffee; that could be done later, without so much of an audience.
There was a simple, companionable silence for a while, while everyone did their thing, until suddenly, Roy heard a hiss and turned his head to see Tseng standing behind him, and felt the Xingese man's fingers on the back of his neck, brushing against the still sensitive bites. "Alphonse," the man said in a voice that reminded Roy of Ling but did not. "Look at these."
Al leaned over then gave his brother a scandalized look. "Brother! Did you have to eat him alive?"
Ed leaned and took a good look at the back of Roy's neck, just below the collar line, right where he'd savaged the scent glands. Roy could just imagine what they looked like, if Ed's bites were anything to go by. "Damn!" he exclaimed. "I'm sorry, Roy!"
"Could you find my kit, Alphonse?" Tseng asked again, rolling back up the sleeves he'd just rolled down.
"What are you going to do? You don't want to heal those!" Ed said. He was standing as if to move between Tseng and Roy, protectiveness in every bone of his body.
"Tch," Al said even as he moved toward the guest bedroom. "Nobody is going to heal your precious marks, Brother! He just needs to clean them so they won't get infected." Al continued to mutter as he moved out of hearing range, something about 'barbarian' and 'needing some serious home training'.
"Hey, Al!" Ed called after him. "Not everyone is as dainty as you are!"
Tseng snorted. "There is very little that is dainty about Alphonse," he murmured, a light flush crawling from his neckline up into his cheeks. It darkened his own mark, Roy noticed, also noticing it was in a prominent place and was much smaller than he knew his own to be.
Ed waved his hands as he sat. "Blech! Too much information!"
Roy laughed. He was feeling more relaxed, now that he had a belly full of good food… and his mate by his side (though he kept that last bit in the back of his mind).
"No, I'm just civilized!" Al reposted, returning with a small black lacquer box. Tseng took it, laid it on the table, and opened it up, exposing a neatly organized first aid kit complete with tiny bottles of antiseptic, elegantly rolled bandages, exotic packages of poultices and, lastly, precious metal alkehestry blades. "Although…" Al was just now looking at his brother's neck, similarly marked up. "It appears you are perfectly matched for subtlety." He looked over at Tseng. "These will need some healing."
That came from both Roy and Ed. The other two men froze and gave them a long look until they subsided with a quick gaze at one another.
"Can't heal my neck," Ed muttered, flopping back into his chair and burying his nose in his own coffee cup.
"Why on earth not?" Al asked. "You don't need to be marked so obviously!"
"Yes, I do." Ed gave Roy a look. "Explain it to them. I'll probably mess it all up."
Roy sat back, his neck still bent while Tseng worked, and explained the dilemma. After he finished, Al looked thoughtful for a while, then nodded.
"That does make sense," he said. "If they find out you've hidden this all this time, you'll ruin all of your chances, on top of whatever regulation you're in violation of for lying to your commanding officers."
"I never outright lied," Roy argued lamely. "They never asked me, so I never told them."
"Not his fault they made assumptions, right?" Ed added.
"Omitted crucial facts, then," Al answered. Roy watched the magnificent mind of this young alchemist working behind his burnished gold eyes. Given all that time between ages nine and fifteen to do nothing but reason and contemplate, the consensus was that Alphonse was in possession of one of the most formidable minds in Amestris. Roy knew that it would take very few steps for Alphonse to draw the correct conclusions given the information he had. His guess was confirmed when the young man nodded decisively and looked at the two of them.
"So, Brother, you are going to let people think you are the omega," Al said. It was not a question. "Which will allow Roy to escape during heats without question." He looked around. "It will be hard for anyone to guess what goes on within these walls." He narrowed his gaze upon Roy. "A ceremony?"
Roy looked at Ed. Ed looked at him. They hadn't discussed it, hadn't even thought about that; not like they'd had the time. "I suppose?" Roy said.
"Of course," Ed finished. "It would be stupid if we didn't make it formal. Cause too many questions." He shrugged. "We could always hyphenate our surnames for now." He smiled when Roy nodded.
"What about children? Surely, there will be a family."
Roy shook his head, feeling slightly uncomfortable brining this up. The option of bringing children into a family, though on the surface a joint decision, was ultimately the choice of the omega. "Not now. It's impossible, considering. I've been on a strong contraceptive for a while." Even saying it felt strange, now that he was mated.
It was part of Roy's instinctual drive to want to give his mate children. Right after a heat, that drive was at its strongest. Roy half expected the hand of some supreme being to come down and smack him silly for even thinking of putting off what was only natural for him. He shook his head and threw that thought into the back of his mind with everything else that screamed omega! at him. They would have time for that later. He found his gaze pulled toward his mate again, like the golden regard was a lodestone. He saw an oddly formed understanding there, as if Edward didn't even realize that he did understand.
The younger man placed a strong hand over his, the first real contact, since his heat ended. As expected, he felt it like lightning through his whole body and was certain that the spark shot out of his eyes for everyone to see. He definitely felt his body listing toward Ed's strong form. "We're not even going to discuss children until Roy reaches his goal," Ed finished softly. "That would obviously ruin everything he's been striving for since the beginning."
Al looked at the two of them quietly, calculating the values he saw between them. His piercing gaze had struck them both, seeing the drive to do the exact opposite under the surface of both determined gazes. "Also makes sense. If you are sure…"
"That's not negotiable," Roy spoke up, taking the chance of reply from his alpha. It was time for him to put on his veneer, and take the reins of command again. He would have to return to work within the next two days, and it was imperative for him to walk into that office essentially the same man that left it. And the time to start acting like the General he was had arrived.
"This will be interesting to see," Tseng was suddenly commenting. "Most people will see the trappings of an omega and alpha mating and will probably not question who is who. Scent notwithstanding."
"That's it," Al snapped his fingers. "What I was missing. How will you explain the scent?" He pointed at Edward. "You smell so obviously like an alpha I want to fight you just because. And you…" Al actually cleared his throat and twitched in his chair slightly. "Even I want to lock you up in your room and protect you." He looked at his own mate. "No offense."
Tseng laughed outright. "None taken. I want to do the same."
Roy didn't recognize the sound until it dawned on him; Edward was… growling. He stared.
"Oh, hush, Brother," Alphonse said. "I said I wanted to; of course I never would. But, your scents are something that needs to be addressed."
Roy had already walked that path, while the brothers were half-hissing at one another, and knew exactly what they would need for that. He even remembered then that was probably a logical reason.
Did he have to bring that up now? Or could it wait?
"Suppressants?" Ed offered. "They worked for you for a while. Think they'll work for me?"
"They'll work for anyone," Roy answered. "We can always say that we're too engrossed in our work and need them for a short time."
"That will cause gossip," Al said.
"What else is new?" Ed returned. "Haven't we all been the subject of gossip since we met?"
Al stopped to deliberate all of the options again. Everyone waited, each man holding his breath when blinked and pinned Roy with a suddenly precise look. "Tell me," he simply said, and then looked at all of the blinking eyes. "Oh, sorry!" He apologized, knowing he was a few steps in front of them. "I have a guess that Roy, you know how to make this work, right?"
Roy sighed. The buried thought surfaced again, and he knew that at the very least Ed would see the truth on his face. There was a way to make this work. It was something that was tentatively discussed in the back room of the Fuhrer's offices. It would be the perfect excuse for the pair of them to be on suppressants.
"It would have to do with… travel, wouldn't it?" the younger Elric was continuing. "It would make sense to give Edward something to do that causes him to travel, separating the two of you and making suppressants necessary." Roy watched, almost painfully, while Alphonse visually and verbally skipped on down a road that Roy didn't believe he was ready to have to cover. "And… Since he did such a good job in Drachma, it would make sense to let him continue working toward establishing good relations with the other countries around us."
Ed was blinking and looking poleaxed. Roy didn't rightly blame him. Roy took that thread wove a few words together in his head, a quick and clear-cut group of sentences that he could put out before his mate blew one of those infamous gaskets in his mind.
He started with one—and only one—word. "Xerxes." He said quietly.
The two last descendants of that country stared at him, the air around them suddenly still and thick. The Xingian in the room sensed the change and promptly put himself at his own mate's side, a calming hand on a shoulder.
He cleared his throat and waved a hand, hitching his sheet up over his shoulder again. His fingers brushed over a sensitive spot on his shoulder; a fresh blooming bruise, probably the same size as a finger. "There has been talk in Ishbal of rebuilding Xerxes as a center of learning."
Edward gave his new mate a narrowed, suspicious look. "Who has been talking, Mustang?"
Mustang. That was his warning; probably his only one. Edward was going to blow a gasket soon. Roy cleared his throat. "It's something that has only been discussed on an extremely preliminary level," he volunteered. "Only a close few know of the idea. The usual suspects."
He watched Edward and Alphonse look at one another and could almost see the words sizzling the air between them.
While knowledge of Xerxes was still an ephemeral thing through Amestris, and something that the government was still learning, it ran thick in the blood of these two young men. Their father had been the last true Xerxian, pureblood and ancient all in one. Their father, along with the hundreds of thousands of souls that took up residence inside of Van Hohenheim, were all that was left of that illustrious civilization.
Hohenheim released those bound souls during the Promised Day to avenge their own genocide. Many deep thinkers in the Amestrian government were still wondering exactly where all of those souls actually went. Had they gone to eternal rest? Did they replace souls that had been irrevocably taken by Father during his mad grasp for the power of God? Even now, were there "new" Xerxians populating Amestris and the surrounding countries?
As he continued to watch the Elric brothers silently debate, and while the young Xingian prince tended to Edward's matemarks, Roy wondered if they realized that those in power were preparing to find answers to that pressing question, and that those in power were preparing to find a way to use the two men before him to do just that.
Dead set against the idea to just use them, Roy almost managed to convince old Grumman to allow them to become part of the plan from the beginning. Nevertheless, even after the years between the Promised Day and this day, some soldiers—including the ever-cautious Fuhrer—were not ready to deal with the mercurial Elric brothers yet. Now that he and Ed were mates, Roy wondered how that would factor into the decision, and what role he himself would actually play.
Other than the role of the person who arranged for them to be at loose ends and able to come visit Central in the first place.
He sighed to himself and played with a crust of bread in the remnants of egg yolk left on his plate. He had a feeling if he told them everything today, this would be close to his final meal. Ed hated to be the victim of manipulation. It was something the man had dealt with from the beginning, when he was only ten. Alphonse as well, hated being played for a pawn, though the younger brother's temper was more manageable. When Roy first experienced the younger Elric in full anger, the frost-fire fierceness shook him enough to remember it well. Edward, however, would be a flash point, all of the heat and force, as usual, pointed directly at Roy, and rightfully so.
After all was said and done, and now that his heat had calmed and rational thought had returned, he was almost morose in thinking that this was not the way he'd planned on starting a mated relationship with anyone, let alone the former Fullmetal Alchemist.
Hardheaded and combustible—that was Edward Elric in full temper. Now, through a trick of nature, the younger man was, in everything but name, his husband. Now he would have the power of being the dominant mate behind his anger, forceful, heavy-handed and subjugating. If he so chose, he could have Roy curled up begging forgiveness for a fucking long time.
Roy had a feeling the first few months of this relationship would be a hellish ride, especially now that he'd introduced politics on top of an already outlandish situation. He was actually thinking about asking Sheska to go in search of some fireproof drawers to protect his ass once the two of them reached the correct conclusion.
Which, given Alphonse Elric's coldly arched eyebrow, and the storm brewing in Edward Elric's eyes, they were well on their way toward.
"General," it was Al that spoke first. Roy winced at the honorific. "I believe that it would be a good idea for you to give us a full explanation before your new mate decides to take more than just a bite out of your ass."
"And it better be satisfactory, Colonel Bastard," came the rumble from Fullmetal. "Or I might just rip that sorry mustache off your face myself."