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Innocuous Exposure

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“The aqueducts are progressing ahead of schedule, and we’ve already started the irrigation process in the eastern fields.” Breda consults his notes then turns his attention to Roy again. “It’s still too early to tell how well the land will adapt to the irrigation but….”

And Ed zones out.

He glances down at the polished table and spins his pen on his notepad filled primarily with doodles and a few notes in the margins. It’s not like he needs to listen to this anyway considering he’s been heading up the whole project himself. Why he needs to sit in this sweltering office while Breda fills Roy in on everyone’s projects is beyond him. It’s times like this he wonders how he ever ended up in Ishval in the first place.

He doesn’t have to look far for an answer. Ed lifts his eyes to stare at Roy who’s looking entirely too put together for this heat. Granted, he has forgone his black “jacketcape” he was always wearing around Central, but he’s still wearing those white, damn dress gloves. Ed shakes his head and covers his snort with a cough when too many eyes turn his direction. He doesn’t understand Roy sometimes. As soon as he got his arm back he was done with gloves altogether. In fact, he was going to burn them all back in Resembool…until Winry started bitching at him for considering something so foolish.

Ed squirms in his chair and pushes a lock of hair behind his ear that’s come free from his hair tie. Hot as it is here he should consider cutting it, but he never intended to stay long. He never planned to come back to the military at all, but after a couple months of being relegated to being Winry’s shop cleaner and errand boy he needed to get away. Mustang’s invitation to see the progress in Ishval was just too inviting when the alternative was feeling utterly useless every moment of the day.

How was he to know Mr. Smith and Mr. Smythe were different people with different orders? They sounded exactly the same on the damn phone. If it was so fucking important, they should’ve been more specific! He did his best, but it was never good enough. At least out here if he messes up he doesn’t have to contend with having wrenches thrown at his head. That fact alone nearly offsets the sweltering heat.

Ed runs his hand over his face and attempts to look interested in the discussion about which crops they plan to test the newly irrigated fields with but it’s too hard to focus on something so trivial. Sure it’s important, but that’s not why he’s here. Actually, he’s surprised he’s still here. When he came out here to escape flying tools and constant insults about his organizational ability, he never expected to find something he’d enjoy, much less something he was good at. Without alchemy in his life he couldn’t imagine ever being useful again.

“So, how are the underground aqueducts progressing, Fullmetal? Have you been running into any more problems?”

It takes Ed a moment to realize the question’s directed at him and he blinks when he finds Roy’s dark gaze locked on him expectantly. There’s a hint of a disapproving frown on his lips and Ed instantly sits up straighter before he realizes he’s doing it. Damn bastard and his superiority. He’d consider commenting on it but for the fact if it weren’t for Mustang he’d still be floating along aimlessly back in Resembool.

“No, no problems. We’re actually moving a few days ahead of schedule.” He reaches up to brush sweat dampened hair out of his eyes. “The bedrock’s consistently about five to seven meters down. As long as everything’s anchored there we haven’t had too many issues.”

The traces of disapproval melt from Roy’s expression and he nods in response to Ed’s words. It’s not much, but something he’s learned means Mustang’s satisfied with his report. If he weren’t, he’d still be interrogating him about every little detail instead of turning to ask Scar about the latest moral updates from the city. Ed stares after Roy for a moment then looks down at his notes when he catches himself smiling. Sure he’s grateful to the bastard for making him feel useful, but there’s no need to be obvious about it.

Without his alchemy he never expected to accomplish anything significant again. Everything he knew was wrapped up in transmutation circles…or so he thought. He never considered how extensive his knowledge of geology or architecture were until Mustang pointed it out. He’d just always factored those things in when he went to draw stone from the ground or restructure a load bearing wall to create a door. He’d learned all those things in conjunction with the alchemy and had never thought about them separately, until now.

Ed stares down at his mostly empty notepad and sketches out a very simple array used for mending a broken object. He needs to talk to Scar about using this one in their next class. Ed smirks slightly as his pencil completes the simple circle around the array. Never in a million years did he ever think he’d be working with Scar to explain alchemy to a bunch of Ishvalans. But he’s pretty sure Scar never figured he’d be the one preaching tolerance and acceptance of the devil’s scientific art either.

Scar has been instrumental in bridging the gap between the military and the Ishvalans. It’s not enough for them to come in and try to help make things better. Without mutual understanding and respect it wouldn’t mean anything. Mustang’s the one who told him that and at first he thought it was a bunch of political bullshit. But as he’s been helping Scar explain how alchemy is just the manipulation of what is to make things better, like tending a flock of sheep or the growing of crops, he’s seeing things in a new light.

Ishvalans believed alchemy was an affront to their god. He still doesn’t buy into all that, but Scar’s helped show them it’s not playing god, but a tool to be used. Ed’s breaking down the functionality of alchemy and taking the magic out of it seems to be helping. It’s been a slow process but as minds have started becoming more open on both sides he’s finding it all more rewarding than he ever expected.

Ed jots down a note to talk to Scar about later then glances up to see Roy flipping a pen between his long fingers. He’s not sure why but his eyes are drawn to the movement, probably because it’s too hot to focus on anything else, and he notices his sleeve’s pulled up slightly to reveal his pale, pale wrist. How anyone can spend time in this desert and still be as pale as Mustang he really has no clue. Sure he spends a lot of time inside but he still walks the streets to survey the process. Ed stares at the glimpse of smooth skin, unlike anyone else he’s ever known, then shakes his head slightly. What the hell is he doing?

He means to look away, to pay attention to what Hawkeye’s talking about, but then Mustang takes that moment to drop the pen and slowly pull off his gloves, one finger at a time. Apparently the heat even gets to the untouchable Brigadier General. Ed watches as first one glove than the other drops beside his notes and he’s instantly transfixed by the long fingers that pick up the pen again. Who has hands like that anyway? If he didn’t know better he’d think Roy had never done hard work in his life, but he’s seen firsthand how Mustang will drop pretenses in a second to help if something needs to be done. How the hell can his hands still look like that?

Ed rubs his thumbs over his own fingers and glances down to look at his hands. He’s still surprised more times than not to see two flesh hands instead of one automail and he wonders how long that will be the case. He slides his thumbs across his fingertips again and feels rough callouses and tough skin. For as much time as he’s always spent with books he’s never shied away from doing things when they needed to be done. The last few months he spent in Resembool that was never more the case and he can see it in his hands along with all the work he’s been doing here in Ishval. Winry’s hands were the same way from all her work on automail and he wonders just how different Mustang’s hands would feel.

Ed’s eyes widen at the last thought then he clenches his fists tight. Where did the hell that come from? The heat’s obviously getting to him. He shifts around in his seat and lifts his head only to find Hawkeye’s disapproving stare aimed in his direction. Was he being that obvious? He ducks his head slightly because he hates it when she catches him doing something wrong. It makes him feel the way he did when his mom caught him misbehaving. He instantly sits up straighter and turns his attention back to Mustang who’s talking about some politician coming to see the changes they’ve been making.

He sighs softly at the boring report but then his breath catches, and it shouldn’t. It’s not a big deal. Half of those assembled for this meeting have their blue coats unfastened and hanging open. In all honesty he can’t think of a time he’s ever seen Breda with his done up, but then he hardly ever sees Mustang with his open. Ed’s gaze trails over his exposed next and it’s not a big deal. He knows he’s seen him like this before. Out here in the desert it’s only natural to—

Ed’s eyes lock on Mustang’s long, graceful fingers—hands like an artist, hasn’t he heard that somewhere before?—and watches as they reach for his collar and unfasten first one button, then a second, all one handed. Ed swallows and why has his mouth suddenly gotten so dry? It’s only Mustang and it’s just the barest glimpse of his smooth, pale chest that’s probably as soft as those hands must be, with the exception of the scars he must have. But on someone like him scars would only add to—

Ed’s eyes widen again and he sucks in a sharp breath when he realizes he’s…no…he can’t be. This can’t be happening. All eyes turn toward him and he jumps up out of his chair. He hears it hit the ground behind him but he doesn’t care. He tugs at his collar and takes a step back, for the first time thankful for the stupid military issue pants with their stupid and concealing, decorative split skirt. He tugs the flaps of the “butt cape” more toward the front of his trousers and takes a step back.


He doesn’t even look to see who calls his name. The room is too hot, stifling, and he has to get out. He pushes his way around Falman’s chair and bolts for the hallway. Slightly cooler air hits his face and he strides down the hall a ways before turning to lean back against the wall. He closes his eyes and blows out a long breath. Something is seriously wrong with him. It’s the only explanation. He must be sick or something because there is no way he should’ve been having that reaction staring at fucking Mustang.

Ed scrubs his hand over his face and keeps his eyes closed as he sags heavily against the wall. He doesn’t get like this. He never really has and he always assumed it had something to do with his link to Al behind the Gate or his intense focus on his goals. There wasn’t time for trivial matters like…that. Besides, Winry made it more than clear that if he were interested she was more than willing, but he wasn’t so they didn’t. Well, not more than once anyway. And even when they did…he didn’t feel like that!

Ed grits his teeth and fists his hands. His body still feels wrong, all tight and hot like his skin’s a size too small. He wets his lips and remembers the line of Mustang’s jaw and the hollow of his throat. He remembers how his Adam’s apple moved when he talked and how it made him feel all twisted up inside. He digs his nails into his palms as his heart races and his breath comes quicker. There’s no question about it. He’s sick. Could this be caused by heat exhaustion? He was out in the sun a long time yester—


Ed nearly chokes on his own tongue when he hears that voice echo down the hall. His rapid steps ring out against the hard stone floor ad Ed still doesn’t open his eyes. Maybe if he keeps them closed and ignores him he’ll go away. Maybe he’ll think he’s sick—which he must be—and will send him to the infirmary. Maybe he’ll do anything besides stop right in front of him, close enough for Ed to feel his body heat at the edge of his personal space.

“Fullmetal, I don’t know what’s gotten into you today but I don’t appreciate it.” Mustang’s voice is sharp with annoyance and it should be pissing Ed off. It always pisses him off when Mustang talks down to him. But this time it’s having an entirely different effect Ed won’t acknowledge, even to himself.

“It’s one thing for you to be bored during a meeting, and I would appreciate it if you’d do a little better job of disguising it. But to storm out in the middle of a report? It’s unacceptable and it reflects badly on me for encouraging you to come back to the military.” Mustang goes silent and Ed can only hope he’ll leave it at that. His hands ache from squeezing them so tight and it feels like his nails are nearly cutting through his skin. Leave it alone, Mustang. Just leave it alone.

“Dammit, Fullmetal. Open your eyes!”

Fuck. There’s no question that’s an order and Ed squeezes his eyes shut tighter for another moment before finally slitting them open. And he immediately wishes he hadn’t. Mustang’s right in front of him, just like he knew he would be, but that’s not the problem. The problem is he’s pissed, so pissed there’s a slight flush to his cheeks and his dark eyes are blazing. Ed’s gaze travels down again to his partially unbuttoned shirt and the bolt of electricity shooting through him takes him so much by surprise he gasps for breath. Heat crawls all over his skin like an unwanted lover…and where the hell did that thought come from?! He needs to get control.


“Edward?” Mustang’s face softens and fills with concern and somehow it makes it even worse. Ed wants to scream at him to be pissed again, but he’s afraid if he tries to speak it’ll come out all wrong. “Are you alright?” Mustang reaches out, probably in an attempt at a comforting gesture, but it’s all too much. “You look—”

Ed snatches Mustang by the wrist and before he can think about what he’s doing he jerks him forward so hard Mustang loses his balance. But it’s ok because Ed’s there to catch him by pressing his lips hard against Mustang’s. He hears a startled sound followed by Mustang trying to say something but Ed completely ignores it and uses the parting of his lips as an invitation to slide his tongue between them. He hasn’t done a lot of kissing in his life, but he’s running on instinct and instinct says he wants to know what Mustang’s mouth tastes like.

Mustang gasps when Ed brushes his tongue against his lips and Ed takes the chance to deepen the kiss even more. His hand’s still fisted around Mustang’s wrist and it’s only when he leans more toward him that he realizes Mustang’s no longer trying to pull away. He sweeps his tongue through Mustang’s mouth and a hard shudder runs through him at the hot, wet heat blanking out everything but Mustang. The rich taste of him, the feel of his pulse throbbing under Ed’s thumb, the smell of his sweat mixed with the faded scent of his cologne and the low sound he makes in his chest as Ed kisses him even harder wipes out everything else and he exists only in this hot, pulsating moment.

But then he has to pull back.

His vision blurs and his lungs burn as he pants to catch his breath. It’s not real. None of this can be real. But then, why do his lips tingle and taste like fire? He lifts his gaze slightly to find Mustang’s boring into him and panic shoots through him. Did he really just kiss Mustang?!

He brings his right hand up to cover his lips, still sensitive from the kiss, and he can barely think with the sound of his own pulse thundering in his ears. Mustang rocks back on his feet and he takes a breath, obviously to say something…and Ed can’t hear it. He can’t deal with any of this. Mustang’s eyes widen slightly, probably reading Ed’s intent but he doesn’t care.

He runs.

And runs, and runs, and runs.

He doesn’t know where to go or what to do now, but he does know his time in Ishval has just come to an end. There’s no way he can ever face Mustang again. Not after that. He runs outside the building they’ve been using as a headquarters and runs until his legs ache and his lungs burn then runs some more. Maybe if he runs hard enough he can outrun the little voice in the back of his head chanting over and over again.

“More. More. More.”