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And Good-bye to All That

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Ed arrived in Central the January following Al's restoration to record low temperatures for winter and the station clock chiming midnight. He stepped off the train and saw his breath and thought, well, damn. A year in South, and suddenly 'cold' was a foreign thing, intolerable.

There wasn't anyone waiting for him on the platform. In fact, there wasn't anyone on the platform at all, save for the trickle of passengers disembarking. Every one of them looked as put off by the cold and dark as Ed did. But while the rest of them went straight for the streets, to shelter, Ed went for the phone booth. The phone was so cold that when he grabbed it with his flesh hand, it hurt. Ed sucked a breath through his teeth and slid a coin into the slot.

When he dialed the number, he had to remind himself he was twenty, not twelve, and that this was normal.

The line picked up, and the ringing ended quickly, dissolving into a tired mumbling. "It's midnight," the man on the other end said.

"Yeah?" Ed held his teeth apart so they wouldn't chatter. "Really, I had no clue. Thanks."

There was a pause, and then, "Fullmetal?"

"Colonel."

"General," Roy corrected, awake enough to sound smug. "What are you doing in Central?"

He could do this without sounding like he cared. "My watch," he said around the lump in his throat. "I came to give it back." The other end of the line went silent save for Roy's breathing. Ed pressed himself against the wall of the phone booth, trying to guard himself against the wind. Any time now, he thought. It was fucking cold. He didn't want to be out here longer than necessary—

"Come on, then," Roy said. "I'll leave the light on." The line went dead. Ed clenched his hand around the phone and rolled his eyes.

That old bastard never changed.

*

True to his word, the porch light was on when the General's home came into view at the end of the street. Ed wrapped his coat around himself tighter and trudged on. It had to be nearing one in the morning by the time he got up the steps and banged on the front door. He was cold, he was pissed off, and above all else, he wanted to be anywhere else than where he was going.

Roy answered the door still in his uniform, the jacket buttoned all the way to the neck like he'd never left his office. "Good morning," he said dryly.

"Fuck off," Ed muttered, pushing him out of the way and charging into the warm, well-lit house. He went straight for the kitchen, for food. Behind him, Roy let out a resigned hmph and followed.

"Is there something I can get you?"

"Nah," Ed said, digging through the cupboard. "S'not like I don't know where anything is."

A beat of silence, then, "I suppose that's true," as Roy sat down at the table. Ed joined him a few minutes later, putting a sandwich and a well-worn pocket watch down on the wooden surface. He slid the watch over to Roy. "There."

Roy picked it up and flicked the cover open. "Just like that?"

"Just like that," Ed said. "I'm done."

The cover clicked closed. "May I ask why?"

"No."

Roy hummed. He put the watch down and settled for staring at Ed as he crammed half the sandwich in his mouth at once. "You'll tell me one day." It wasn't a request.

Ed swallowed. "It's not even your business."

"Really?" Roy asked, and Ed had to look down. The man's eyes were just too sharp sometimes, like Ed's mind was an open book. He hated the games that Roy was a master of, had hated them since before he was old enough to understand them.

Ed responded with silence.

"I see you're set on being difficult," Roy said, resting his chin on his laced fingers. "It's my fault, I take it."

"I'm just ready," Ed denied. "I didn't want to be the military's dog forever. You knew that," and Roy stared him down for a moment before nodding, as though to say, yes, I did.

There was little room for conversation after that. Ed could read the lines on Roy's face well enough to see the exhaustion, so he excused himself and refused the offer of a room for the night. At the front door, one arm in his coat as he prepared himself to face the cold, he turned to Roy and said, "Congratulations, by the way."

Roy actually smiled at that. "Thank you. It was a long time coming."

Ed saw the newspaper in his mind, the image preceding the article as clear as it had been the day he'd first seen it, dark hair bowed low against honey blond, a woman smiling like he'd never seen her smile in all the years he'd known her. "Guess so. Tell Hawkeye I said hi."

"I sent an invitation," Roy said. "To South."

"I'll get it when I get back."

"That's an awfully long trip, just to hand me the watch and leave."

Ed pushed his other arm into the sleeve of his coat and straightened it on his shoulders. "I have a lot to do." He opened the door and stepped out into the night with Roy waving him off, lips a tired, happy curve.

"You'll come?" the General called after him.

Ed waved back and said, "Like I'd miss it?"

The cold felt ten times worse after having been inside. Ed hugged his arms to his chest to block out the biting wind and thought, how appropriate.