A Brother's Burden

Breaking of the News

Al could stand on his own two feet; the sun was warm against his pale face. He wore a shirt a size too big and pants that he had to tuck into his boots to keep from tripping over them. His hair which had grown long in the gate, had been cut close to his scalp, a shade darker than Ed's. His grey eyes spoke of an intelligence that matched most 40-year-old men. The one thing that made him stick out in the crowd was his red coat, embellished on the back with the black Flamel, just like Ed's. He was tired a lot, and hungry a lot more. His dad was doing the best he could but with No money and only alchemy to use it didn't seem likely that they'd make it very far.

They had just made it back to Central after a week’s worth of journeying, a week for his brother to become sicker. Al felt horrible as he ate his third bowl of noodles that his dad bought him at a local stand. Here he was enjoying food while his brother was possibly in the hospital dying from something the doctors couldn't understand. He could tell his dad was feeling a bit guilty also by the way he continuously checked his watch and glanced over his shoulder. They'd have been moving quicker if it hadn't been for Al's body continuously adjusting to his returned soul. It was bothersome and trying but Al would willingly put up with the white flashes before his vision, the occasional stumble in his step, and the headaches as long as he could feel them. Al was grateful for every single thing he could feel, even if some of such feeling was pain.

Swallowing his last bite of noodle Al spoke slowly, unused to the functioning of his jaw and tongue.

"Brother is probably hiding at HQ now. I called Winry yesterday and she said she hadn't seen hide nor hair of him so HQ is the most likely place for him to hide."

"Didn't we check that command building already?"

"We did, but if Brother wasn't there before he probably is now. It's that or he headed out to Dublith and I doubt Brother would face teacher. Even if he did I feel she'd grab him by the ear and drag him to me while chewing him out for being such an idiot."

Hohenheim blinked in surprise. "This teacher of yours sounds like a very harsh lady, who is she exactly?"

Al smirked, "A housewife."

Their waiter showed up at that moment and Hohenheim paid their tab with the little money they had left. Al frowned thoughtfully, it did recently seem like they already had 'just enough' for whatever they wished to by. They always had just 'five hundred cenz more'. It seemed like Hohenheim was transmuting them more cash but for now Al chose to look the other way when he said they had a little more. He wasn't in the military after all, he didn't report this stuff.

Having paid up the two stood and started walking to HQ through the crowd of people. Al made a striking appearance in the crowd, people actually stepped out of his way and watched him walk by. He heard the whispers of people around, none knew who he was. He used to hear whispers about him being the Fullmetal Alchemist when he was in the armor, but he had always been with Brother. No longer in the armor people couldn't place who he was, he was a ghost on the edge of people's thoughts. A phantom of a memory. He didn't mind, people whispered about him and brother before, so now it wasn't that different. He heard a couple people remark on how thin he was, a couple on how tall he was for his age, a few would wonder aloud if he was a state alchemist. Those last ones made Al smile to himself as he walked beside his father. No one had ever wondered if Ed was a state alchemist when he walked by without Al around, yet the first time Al walked down a street everyone asked the same thing.

Al looked up at his dad, his thoughts turning back to his brother. "Dad," he said quietly to get his attention. "What are we going to do for Ed?"

Hohenheim sighed, "I have an idea. It's a long shot I'll say that much. I believe though that if we take Ed with us out to Xing we can get someone to use Alkahestry to heal him. It's worth a try at least, otherwise we'll need a philosopher's stone and I know how that went with you two."

Al nodded to himself, Xing was worth a shot. He just hoped that what Brother had said at the gate, he hadn't meant. Yeah, he could hope.

It took three days for Roy to get the papers together. During those days Ed had suffered from a fever and headache like no other. Roy had offered to take him to the hospital which he had adamantly refused. There'd be no hospitals for him, not now, not ever. Roy had to go to work though and Ed couldn't come because of how sick he was. The solution came in the form of Gracia Hughes who offered for Ed to come over to her place where she could look after him. Ed had grumbled to Roy about not needing a babysitter but spent those days at her place in any case. When he felt up to it he'd entertain Elysia, otherwise he'd spend his time sleeping on their couch.

At the end of the third day though it seemed he'd had a full comeback. His head was clear and his fever was gone. He hadn't had a panic attack in a long while, the last one being two days ago when Roy had slammed the car door too loudly. His appetite was still gone but Roy and Gracia were patient with him and at least made sure he ate some soup.

So it was that on the evening when Roy and he arrived back at home Roy presented him with the adoption papers. When they had gotten home Ed had gone up the stairs to his room to get ready for bed, as Roy hadn't been able to pick him up until 11 at night. A while before his fever set in he had Roy refurbish his room so it looked more like Ed actually lived in here. Now the room contained two bookshelves full of alchemy texts. He had a desk littered with papers that Ed had been using for notes on whatever currently interested him. His bed had gone from a tiny blue twin sized bed to a large king bed with a red bedspread and black pillows. On the wall he and Roy had sketched a few complex Alchemy circles together and so he had hung those on the wall. On his door there was a piece of paper taped to it which read in big bold letters "Ed's Room," just to make him feel like he actually lived there. There were small alterations about the house for him as well, a third chair at the table, an extra two armchairs in the living room, red towels placed in the bathroom for Ed to use. Little things that made Ed feel like he belonged there.

He changed into a white T-shirt and some pajama bottoms that Roy had bought him before heading downstairs when Roy called for him. On the couch in the living room Roy was dressed in similar casual clothes, leaning back into the cushions with some papers sitting on the coffee table before him.

"What's this all about?" Ed asked. Roy gestured for him to come sit down, which he did. Roy picked up one of the documents and passed it to Ed.

"It took me a while but I finally got the papers arranged, if you still want to. Since you have been feeling better today I figured it was now or never. You just need to sign a couple areas since Hohenheim isn't here to do it."

Ed looked up at Roy and beamed, "Of course I still want to. Hand me a pen, please."

Roy smiled and passed him a pen. Ed looked down at the document but then realized he had no idea where to sign. "Here," Roy said turning the document over to where three blanks were located. "Adoption in Amestris allows for a new name should you want it. Of course you don't have to, I can adopt you and you can still be named Edward Elric if you want. I didn't want to make the choice for you."

Ed frowned at the documents in confusion. "What's the middle blank?" he asked.

"You don't know what a middle name is?" Roy asked in confusion.

Ed held up his free hand and made a so-so gesture. "I know what it is but I don't know why people have it."

Roy ran a hand through his hair. "Well, it's typically used by parents to name their children after someone important to them. Like a deceased family member, or a famous person in history." Ed frowned, tapping the pen against his chin in thought. "Didn't you have a middle name before?" Roy asked.

Ed scowled, "Van, my middle name was Van."

"Oh," Roy could understand why Edward wouldn't want that mentioned, he probably hated sharing looks as well as a name with his birth father.

Ed suddenly seemed to have an idea, he bent over the paper and scribbled furiously, Roy trying to look over his shoulder but not seeing anything. Ed set that paper aside and held his hand out for the next document to sign. Roy passed him three more papers that needed his original signature. Then when it was done Roy couldn't hold back from asking, "So what did you name yourself as?"

Ed blushed a little and passed him the first paper for him to look at. In his signature chicken-scratch writing the name read: Edward Maes Mustang. Roy smiled broadly at his son, "To be honest with you, that's how I'd have named you anyway." With that Roy pulled his new son into a hug which Ed returned with all the strength he had.

After that Ed and Roy had four days of bliss, enjoying their new roles in life. Ed enjoyed finally having someone to turn to, someone who'd take the time to listen to him and help him. Roy for his part had never had such a large responsibility but after having looked after his team for years, looking after Ed wasn't such a big shift.

Ed stayed on the rebound from the disease he had, much to everyone's relief. The euphoria the boy was under seemed to have given him the strength to cast off whatever he had. So it was that Roy began taking Ed to the office with him where Ed began helping out with the paperwork. They didn't tell anyone about the adoption, choosing for them to figure it out on their own.

So it was that when they showed up to work with Roy's hand on his shoulder and neither boy nor man arguing, everyone thought the end of the world was at hand. Then when Ed began willingly helping Roy with his paperwork, Feury nearly passed out. It wasn't until the two went out to lunch together that the team started gossiping about what could have been going on between the two. Hawkeye had checked the inner office to see if the two had spent the whole time procrastinating from work. Havoc and Breda had been standing nearby when they saw Hawkeye faint. It was too much of a shock to find that Roy's paperwork was completed and ready to go by noon. When Hawkeye had come through the team had decided to search Roy's office for something to clue them into what was going on.

They were met with Alchemy texts and transmutation circles that they did not understand. They found a picture of the team plus Ed on Roy's desk, two empty coffee cups though one smelled of hot cocoa, and a large silver cenz piece that hadn't been used as actual currency in years. It wasn't until Falman had been going through Roy's papers that the team found what they were looking for. Half the reports on the table that hadn't needed to be signed by Roy were in fact signed by Edward. Except that the signature read not Edward Elric, but Edward Maes Mustang.

When Falman finished reading this Feury, Havoc, and Hawkeye fainted dead away. It was left to Falman and Breda to covertly hide the bodies of their fallen co-workers lest Ed and Roy return to find three people passed out. It was back breaking work to move Hawkeye and Havoc into a supply in the outer office, they couldn't even think of trying to move Feury without first ingesting twelve pints of liquor. So it was that they chose to sacrifice the poor man and left him be while they took their lunch hour.

The two men hadn't made it out of the inner office before the doors opened and Roy came back in, without Ed. Roy seemed to key into what was going on with the two subordinates and so shot them a long hard glare. There was a long sweat drop moment before Roy asked them what they were doing in his inner office. Feury took that moment to come through and sit up, groaning loudly, and ask what was going on.

In the outer office Ed was just coming in munching of a chocolate bar he had bought at the market he and his dad had passed through on their way back from lunch. There was a groan from the supply closet that Ed heard faintly as he passed by on the way to the inner office. He stopped and listened, the first groan of a man followed by another groan that rested on another octave entirely. Curious Ed followed the sounds to the closet and opened the door. On the ground Hawkeye and Havoc sat, blinking slowly with one hand on their heads. Havoc being the man he was had accidently placed one hand on Hawkeye's thigh while he tried to get his bearings.

Ed looked them both up and down, taking in the situation. "I knew it," he said before shutting the door on them and walking away; still eating his chocolate bar. Havoc turned to Hawkeye in the dark and asked her, "What does he know?"

There was the sound of a gun clicking into place and the steely voice of Hawkeye responded, "I believe he just saw something that wasn't there. Now if you'd be so kind as to remove your hand from my thigh…" Realization dawned on Havoc and he quickly moved his hand and fled the closet, followed shortly by an angry Hawkeye.

Back in the inner office Roy was looking between the groggy Feury, and the still sweat-dropping Breda and Falman. Then he saw that on the far table where he kept his bottle of whisky and glasses for a hard day at the office had been misplaced. Also some of the whisky was missing, from when Havoc had knocked the bottle over while searching through the office, dumping the contents on the floor. Naturally Roy got the wrong idea. He walked over and picked up the bottle, looking first at it then at Feury.

"I thought you could take your liquor better than that, Feury. Falman, Breda; you two should also know better than to get him drinking during office hours."

Ed had come in the office at this point and took in the scene. He frowned thoughtfully. "So wait," he said; trying to understand what was going on. "Falman and Breda got Feury drunk while Havoc and Hawkeye made out in the supply closet?"

"What!?" said both Feury and Roy in shock at the last part. Breda took this moment to break down in laughter and fall onto the floor.

Havoc came into the room at this moment and hurriedly saluted Roy. "I can assure you, sir, nothing of the sort happened. I swear!"

Hawkeye came in next, her gun still held in a dangerous way; her eyes cold and calculating. "I can also assure you nothing happened between us." She clicked the safety off on her gun again as if to emphasize the point.

"Then why were you two in the supply closet making noises?" Ed demanded, breaking off another bit of his chocolate bar and eating it.

Havoc and Hawkeye's eyes bugged out while Falman fell down beside Breda laughing helplessly. Roy came over to the part of the room where Ed stood and broke off a bit of his chocolate bar and ate it himself. A vein was bulging on his head and Feury was becoming edgy. "Alright, I give up." Roy said. "I don't understand what's up with you people. Just get back to work and leave me be. I think I'm going to need a nap after all this."

"Sir," Hawkeye said, coming forward and saluting. "We were only trying to determine what was going on between you and Edward."

Roy and Ed simultaneously arched an eyebrow at Hawkeye's question. "What do you mean?" Roy asked.

Breda leaned over on the floor and whispered to Falman. "It's creepy how they can do that one eyebrow thing at the same time. I can't even do it, let alone at the same time as someone else!" Falman nodded in agreement as they waited for Hawkeye's reply.

"What I mean is, sir… Well you and Edward haven't been arguing lately and then there's the matter of Edward's attitude and appearance… No offence, Edward."

It was true that Ed's new style had been an object of gossip among the staff. He had been seen on the street a few times by respective military personnel dressed normally. When Edward wasn't in the office he wore jeans and a hoodie like any normal boy did. Riza had seem him at the store once dressed in this manner, she had to do a double check to make sure it was actually him and not just a boy who looked like him.

Roy ran a hand through his hair, the vein popping very much apparent in his current annoyed stare. "I still don't see how that adds up to you and Havoc in a supply closet, and Feury passed out in my office."

"It's… Uh, it's uh... A long story really…" Hawkeye said carefully.

"Well to answer your question, Riza," Ed said politely, having given the rest of his chocolate bar to Roy. “The Colonel over here adopted me."

Though Feury and Havoc had no water in their mouths at the time they still did excellent spit takes. Falman fainted, having been doing so good to not faint up until that point. Breda for his part just let out a long "O," sound.

Hawkeye smirked; Roy glared. Then Roy said, "Get Falman out of here and get back to work everyone. We've wasted enough time on personal matters already."

"Sir!" Everyone, save Ed, shouted; saluting. Ed followed the team to the doors of the inner office and waved as they all filed out, Breda and Feury carrying Falman. Once they were gone Ed shut the doors to the inner office and turned to face Roy. They both broke down laughing until they cried.

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