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Roy hadn’t loved much about living in Hawkeye’s home growing up, too rural, too ramshackle but the winters there were beyond compare. The tired, dirty snow of the city couldn’t compare. The white silence of snow laden trees had been a solace to him, especially after grueling days of study and failing to impress Master Hawkeye. Roy had never returned once master Hawkeye had been buried. But when Gracia and Maes had invited him to a cottage not far from the town Riza grew up in, Roy decided to say yes. Riza didn’t even need to push him.

He hopped down from the sleigh and held out a hand to Riza. As far as anyone knew, they were investigating a possible candidate to be a State Alchemist – and there was an alchemist in town he could talk to to legitimize them being here for a few days. He hadn’t expected the cottage to be so far off the beaten track that it couldn’t be reached by car. Their driver helped him with the luggage before setting his horses back the way they came.

The cottage was cute, tucked between an icy lake and a mountain rising high behind it. Pure, unspoiled snow coated the path to the building, which was rich with icicles both real and wooden ones painted white. Roy took both his bag and Riza’s and started walking.

“It looks like a postcard,” she said quietly.

Roy nodded. “I’m sure Hughes has taken two rolls of film already of it. I could blow up one of them and frame it for Aunt Chris.”

“She’d like that.”

Riza walked out ahead of him and rapped on the door. Gracia answered almost immediately, smiling broadly. She hugged Riza who had never been much of a hugger but Gracia always forgot. She hugged Roy too.

“So glad you found the place.”

“It’s definitely isolated and pretty,” Roy said, wrestling their luggage inside so he could set it down and hug Gracia. She kissed his cheek.

“Had to be isolated,” Maes said coming out of one of the bedroom, shrugging into a heavy jacket. “You’re a noisy little sucker.”

“Be nice or you might have one long, lonely cold night.” Roy wiggled the appropriate finger at him.

Maes smirked. “Speaking of cold, we were going for a walk in the woods. Want to come or are you tired?”

“My back side is sore from the bumpy ride up here. I could use a walk,” Riza said.

“Just let me put this stuff in the bedroom.”

“The room on the right,” Maes replied.

Roy picked up the luggage and stowed it just inside the door. Gracia was kitted up for a winter walk by the time he returned. She took Maes’s arm and they led the way. Roy and Riza followed, arm in arm. Once they walked around the side of the cottage he saw footprints leading from the back door down to the lake. Fluffy snow played along the edge of the frozen lake as they strolled by, mostly in silence just drinking in the beauty of the landscape cloaked in white.

Maes led them away from the lake and into a grove. It had begun to snow again, lightly like feathery kisses against the skin. Roy remembered the forest around Hawkeye’s estate and sneaking out into it to canoodle with Riza away from her father’s less than watchful eye. He stole a kiss now for old time’s sake.

Riza melted against him then suddenly stiffened. She pointed. Just ahead on the trail stood a bobcat. The shy creature watched them for a moment then bolted.

“That was beautiful,” Gracia gasped.

“We had one in the woods behind my father’s house. I always loved it, wished I could have it as a pet,” Riza said.

“It fits you,” Maes said, turning around.

They headed back toward the cottage, giving the wild cat its space. Once inside, they kicked off their snowy boots and hung their coats up. Gracia shivered.

“Brr, cold in here.”

“I’ve already set wood in the fireplace. It just needs to burn,” Maes said, draping an arm around Roy’s shoulders. “We know whose job that is.”

“I’m not a match,” Roy huffed, shrugging out of Maes’s embrace.

“Yes, a match would complain less.” Maes slapped Roy’s butt.

Roy looped an arm around Gracia and Riza. He kissed each in turn. “You want me to burn? I can burn so hot.”
Maes grabbed his shirt, dragging Roy to him. His kiss was rough and demanding. When it ended, he said, “Don’t I know it! Now give us some flame so we’re nice and toasty and can get naked without freezing to death.”

“Fair enough. The glove’s in the other room.” Roy let the ladies go. “Fire then fun?”

“Oh you’ll get to show us how you burn,” Riza promised.

That was motivation enough for him. Having naked fun time with his three favorite people was definitely worth being a match.