AN:/ So, this was originally meant to be a practice at writing a fight scene, and it kind of... evolved. So the characters are sort of OOC, and the plotline is a little bit blurred between the manga and the first anime, but other than that, I'm pretty happy with it. Tell me what you think, PWEASE! lolXD

It's set right after Roy is released from hospital after the thing with Lust (around chapter 45 in the manga, episode 21 in brotherhood(I think)).


The air crackled with energy between the two opponents, although as yet neither had moved an inch. Wind whipped around the dull rubble, scattering dust in their faces and dimming the only bold colours in the grayscale landscape.

Two figures, red and blue, stood immobile in the lifeless world, the terrible explosions ready to spring to life at their fingertips hidden behind stony façades. The gale quietened, and the world seemed to take a breath; something was about to change.

Red cracked first. He dropped his gaze, unable to face down the fierce onyx stare any longer. He growled in annoyance at the lapse, then slammed his palms together defiantly, launching himself at the taller man dressed in blue. A steel blade ripped through his right glove, leaving shredded scraps of white fabric falling through the air in his wake.

The man in blue remained immobile; his only acknowledgement of the attack was the slightest movement of his dark eyes as he tracked the incoming midget. At last, he thought to himself, it begins.

When the sharp blade was barely inches from his chest, Mustang finally moved, whipping his gloved hand from his pocket and snapping his fingers in the boy's shocked face. A blast of hot air exploded in the small space between them, hurling Ed across the wreckage of previous fights, howling in frustration as he flew.

"Damn it, Mustang!"

The Flame Alchemist merely smirked at Ed as he crashed painfully into the debris, standing casually with his hands in his pockets again, the sudden gust of air still ruffling his black hair.

"Is that all you've got, shrimp?" His bitter tone belied his apparent lightness, anger seeping into his words. This fight was not just a regular training match; there was something running much deeper, evident only under close scrutiny of the two. It was barely noticeable – the slightest tightening of bunched muscles across the back of Ed's neck, the stiffness of Mustang's fixed, smirking mask – but it was there, hiding in plain sight.

The Elric boy gritted his teeth, for once not responding to the slight, instead shouting angrily at the man before him.

"Tell me, colonel,do you always hide behind that empty face? Or is it your pillow that you tell your stories to?"

Roy looked up sharply, anger flitting briefly across his expressionless face, and he raised his gloved hand again as Ed climbed to his feet. The silence stretched unbearably between them, the only sound the rushing wind as it howled through their dead surroundings.

When he finally spoke, the colonel's voice was cold, tight and filled with barely contained fury, a dark menace lacing his words.

"Fullmetal, this is your last chance. Don't make me do this."

Ed stared at him in disbelief, dragging his left hand across his face, his bladed right arm hanging limply at his side.

"Do I really look like I care about your threats right now, 'Flame'?"

Mustang's icy mask shattered, burning wrath splitting his face, and he snapped his fingers, wreathing the two of them in fire and smoke, blasting Ed off his feet again as threw himself away from the oncoming flames.

"I warned you, Fullmetal." He snapped, and Ed jumped back from the explosion, swearing loudly.

"What are you, Mustang? Have you blown a fuse?" He paused for breath, watching the anger rise in his officer's face. One more ought to do it, he thought. "I heard that dying fires spit like this when you pour water on them!"

Ed slammed his palms into the ground, transmuting a solid rock barrier barely a second before the searing tongues of flame lashed out at him once more. Smoke filled the air, billowing thickly out from the myriad infernos, and for a moment, Mustang could barely see.

It was all Ed needed.

He threw himself at the colonel and wrenched his glove off as he tackled him to the ground, pinning his arms to the floor. Mustang glared at Ed, struggling fiercely against him, but the boy's weight prevented him from escaping. He gave up and looked pointedly away from Ed, who had his metal knee pressed firmly into his chest and held his wrists tightly above his head. As small as he was, the elder Elric brother was heavy - he could barely breathe.

Seeing that the colonel had calmed a little, Ed slowly slipped off his other glove and relaxed his tight grip. His bladed arm was stuck in the ground, allowing him very little freedom of movement, but he didn't dare to release Roy, even for the few seconds it would take to transmute it back to normal.

"Get off me, Fullmetal." The order was distant, though he was clearly furious with the boy. Ed hesitated, then gently let go of his right arm and eased the pressure on his chest, but he refused to free him completely.

"Why? So you can run away from everything again? You're still in denial about Hughes, and it's been weeks!" He yelled at him, furious. "You didn't even tell me! You let me find out in the worst possible way, and then you let me think you'd killed Ross, who I knew was completely innocent! You're still running, even when you're up in that damn office! Ishbal is over, and that wasn't your fault, either! Stuff happens, and you have to deal with it! You have to stop running, colonel!"

Roy growled angrily and swung his fist at Ed, slamming into his stomach. Although his movements were severely restricted, he punched him hard enough to knock the boy off his chest, giving himself time to roll awkwardly to his feet. He brushed the dirt off his uniform, watching Ed as he clambered to his hands and knees, one arm wrapped around his stomach as he coughed violently.

"Shut up, Fullmetal!" He raised his voice, too angry to maintain his deathly quiet tone. "It's got nothing to do with you!" He snapped his fingers reflexively, even more enraged by the useless movement. He clenched his bare fists tightly, glaring at the defiant figure before him. "If it's a fight you want, shrimp, it's a fight you'll get."

Ed gave one last hacking cough and straightened shakily, fiercely staring down his commanding officer.

"I never said I wanted to fight you, Mr. Wet Matchstick, but you seriously need some sense knocking into you. I'm not sure I want the future Führer to be an emotionally unstable wreck..." He stepped closer with every word, stopping just out of the colonel's range. "I reckon we'd end up with another Wrath... What do you think Hawkeye would have to say to that?"

He ducked quickly as Mustang lashed out again, barely dodging the blow. Damn it, he's fast, Ed thought as he retaliated, welting the man in the side with the flat of his blade. The colonel hissed as the blow connected, more from shock than pain, and he lost his balance, wobbling backwards. Ed crashed into him, knocking him flat on his back. Mustang grabbed him as he toppled over, pulling him down with him. They fell side by side, both panting and furious with the other.

Ed recovered first, slapping his palms together and returning his arm to normal. He stood over the colonel, wary of his every movement. He spoke quietly, his tone low, subdued. "What happened to protecting your subordinates?"

Ed coughed again, wiping some of the grime from his face. He watched Mustang as he lay unmoving on the ground; the only sign of life was the unsteady rise and fall of his chest. Ed dropped to his knees beside the silent colonel, fighting the urge to slap a reaction from him. Anything, even a fight, was better than seeing him become this dead shell before him.

"Answer me, Mustang."

His only acknowledgement of the words was to look away from the boy, guilt plastering his face. The angry fires had drained from his body, leaving him hollow, unwilling and unable to respond.

"What's wrong?" He asked softly enough, but there was a hard, determined edge in Ed's voice. He was not going to drop this.

"Talk to me, colonel." It was difficult, but he refrained from raising his voice. Why did the man have to be so stubborn?

The silence stretched unbearably between them, neither keen to break it.

Suddenly, Ed snapped, grabbing Mustang's limp frame by his shirt collar and pulling him up to face him. "Look at me, Mustang!" He hissed. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

He drew himself up to his full height, dragging the colonel to his knees. Still, the man didn't reply, or even acknowledge him.

Ed pulled back his steel arm and slapped him across the face, leaving a bright red hand-shaped mark on his left cheek.

Roy groaned as the hard metal smacked into his face, and he looked at Ed. "What the hell are you doing, Fullmetal?"

"What am I doing?" Ed stared back at him, blinking, and then he sighed. "Are you going to listen to me yet? Or do I have to do that again?"

Mustang reached up and rubbed his cheek, flinching as he touched his raw skin. "That actually hurt, shrimp. You seem to be improving... marginally." He smirked at Ed, expecting, at the very least, another metallic slap to come flying his way.

Ed gritted his teeth, desperately trying not to react to his provocation. He tightened his grip on Mustang's shirt, forcing him to look straight at him.

"Don't change the subject, sir."

He brought his hand back, threatening the colonel with a punch this time. Mustang watched him, wincing at the prospect of being hit again. He wasn't afraid; he'd just rather not be smacked in the face with a bag of bolts if he could avoid it.

"Okay, okay, Fullmetal... I get it... Don't go jumping the gun..." He sighed, the plastic smirk dropping from his familiar features.

"So, what's wrong with you? Why have you given up on everything?" Ed asked softly, gently releasing Roy and letting him sink into a more comfortable position. He crouched beside the man, ready to spring at a moment's notice, but more relaxed than he had been earlier.

Mustang sat cross-legged on a flat rock, his face buried in his hands. A long, heavy silence fell, almost as if there were a barrier between the two.

Finally, the colonel broke the silence, his voice barely audible, every word forced out with effort.

"I don't want... I can't let anyone else go... I already lost Maes... I let him go; I almost let Hawkeye die too..." It was as if he were talking to himself rather than speaking to Ed. He didn't interrupt until Roy started blaming himself for Hughes' death again.

"I mean, if I'd been... maybe even ten seconds earlier..." He sighed despairingly, staring at the ground.

Ed reached out tentatively, awkwardly putting his arm across Mustang's shoulders. The metal clanked as he moved, punctuating his quiet speech with odd noises.

"It's not your fault, Mustang! If you'd got to that phone earlier, what could you have done?" Ed paused for barely a second, not expecting a response and not receiving one. "You'd have listened to your best friend die. You think that would make you feel any better? Do you think it would have done him any good? "

Mustang ran a hand through his black hair dejectedly, sighing again. "I still lost him. No, I let him go..." He swallowed thickly, and Ed could see just how deathly pale he was. It shocked him that he hadn't already noticed how ill he looked, exhausted and thin. No wonder I beat him so easily, he thought in alarm. He remembered guiltily how hard he had welted him with his blade, and belatedly recalled that he was only just out of the hospital.

"I'm... I'm scared, Ed." His words shocked Ed more than his dreadful appearance did; not once had he ever seen or even heard of the colonel being even remotely fearful of anything, and here he was confessing it to him. "I'm afraid of losing someone else." Ed stared at him, for once at a complete loss for words.

Idiot! You're not exactly going to protect them by sitting there doing nothing!

"You're not going to lose anyone as long as you do something about it! It's not like we're all just going to disappear!" He took a breath, gripping Roy's shoulder briefly before ploughing on. "I worry about people, too; Winry and Granny... Al... Hell, I worry about you sometimes! But I still keep going. It's all we can do. I've not given up yet, so neither should you."

Mustang laughed bitterly, a familiar, sadistic smirk returning to his features. "I guess you're right. But it doesn't improve anything." His smirk faded as he recalled the previous week's events. "Havoc's still hospitalized, Al got torn up, and... and I almost lost Hawkeye twice."

Ed frowned at him, sighing exasperatedly.

"You have to look at the positives, colonel! Nobody actually died, Al's all fixed up... Havoc's recovering, and although you managed to get yourself ripped to shreds, burnt, stabbed and then neglected to mention the severity of your injuries until it was almost too late, you are too. And to top it off, you killed a Homunculus and discovered which one it was that killed Hughes. I'd say that the positives outweigh the negatives this time round. Cheer up, Mustang. Depression doesn't suit you."

He removed his hand from Roy's shoulders, wrapping his arms around stomach instead and shivering in the cold morning.

Mustang nodded, taking his words in good grace, his face still muffled by his hands.

"Ed? ...Thanks." His voice was weaker than it should be, and as Ed glanced sharply over, his earlier worries about how ill he seemed flooding back.

"It's okay... Are you feeling alright?"

He looked up in surprise at Ed, the winter sunlight lending his already pale face a waxen, unhealthy pallor.

"You look ill; pale and too skinny..." Ed's voice trailed off as he scrutinized Roy, staring at him. "I'm sorry... You're still injured, and I made you fight. You've probably reopened that stab wound." He apologized profusely, checking him over for any signs of blood.

"Crap. You reckon?" He hissed in pain as he twisted to the left; he could feel his torn muscles straining, and the damp mass of blood-soaked bandages that pressed against his side.

"Hmm... yeah, I have..." He groaned as he slowly rose to his feet, awkwardly stripping off his tunic. There was no point in ruining another one – Hawkeye already had enough excuses to kill him as it was. "Don't worry, I'll be fine. I'll just go home and change the bandages."

He turned away, ready to leave, the entire right side of his shirt soaked in red blood, when Ed apologized again.

"It's alright, Fullmetal. I needed that... even if the Wrath thing was a bit extreme." He looked back, a real grin spread across his face. "If it really bothers you that much, you can come help me. It's easier with two pairs of hands than one." And Hawkeye will definitely kill me if I ask her again. "It's your decision."

He began to walk away again, weaving like a drunk as he raised a hand in farewell. Ed stood still for a moment, hesitating, and then ran after the colonel.

Unlike the surrounding landscape, the future was bright.

A/N: So, take whatever you want from the ending. I am severely allergic to RoyEd, but Rini is in love with it so that's why it ends like this.

For Rini XD

Happy (belated) Birthday!