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Comfort Among the Ruins

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The dry, hot sand is insidious. It works its way into his eyes, his clothes, up his nose and down his throat. It scratches his skin, exposed or not, and finds its way inside everything like a disease he’ll never be rid of. His brow forms a familiar crease as the metaphor rings much too true even if he’d never say it aloud. He doesn’t need to. It’s etched on the faces of nearly everyone he moves past. Ever since he’s been in this place he’s felt dirty, like his very soul was being eaten away by some twisted sickness. That sickness is war, and it’s left them all diseased.

Roy shakes his head and some of the ever present sand sprinkles to the ground in the still heat. It’s been a long day and it’s getting to him even more than usual. It’s not usually this bad, but that’s probably because his day is usually broken up by some of Hughes’ ridiculous optimism. Unfortunately they had separate missions today and there’s been no mindless babble to keep his mind off the heat and death. Right now his throat is parched with smoke as well as sand and he needs a drink. With any luck Hughes will be around and they can work their way through a few beers or maybe even some whiskey. Otherwise, he doubts he’ll be getting much sleep tonight.

His feet crunch over the hard packed sand in the camp and he makes his way over to the large tent that serves as an unofficial bar for off duty officers. No one here has the luxury to get as blitzed as they’d like, but as long as things don’t get out of hand the occasional drinks are over looked. He pulls the flap to the tent open and his permanent scowl lightens slightly at the sound of a familiar voice…until he realizes it’s all wrong.

“You don’t understand! You didn’t see. Don’t you understand what we’ve all become?! We’re all MONSTERS!!”

Roy’s eyes widen in the dim light of the tent and he doesn’t have time to let his eyes adjust. The frantic voice is much too loud and if he’s not careful he’ll end up locked up, court marshaled, or worse. He stumbles half blind through the dimly lit tent towards the sound of the voice that’s usually filled with nothing but reason. He’s still ranting and Roy feels eyes on him even though his vision is still less than clear. Finally he reaches the form he’d know in any light and he puts his hand on his shoulder and squeezes tightly. “Maes, stop it. What are you—”

“ROY!” Hughes’ head whips around and he nearly falls off the small crate he’s sitting on. Stunned can’t begin to describe what Roy’s feeling when green eyes that are usually so keenly sharp are clouded even behind the glare of his glasses. “You know! You can make them listen. Tell them. Tell them what cursed monsters we all are. Tell them n—”

“You’re drunk.” The realization falls over Roy in stages as he takes in the crookedness of his glasses and his rumpled clothes. His blue, military coat is hanging open and even with Roy’s hand on his shoulder he’s swaying in his seat. Still it’s all nearly too much to process. Even in the Academy never saw Maes this drunk, though he’s well aware the reverse wasn’t true. Hughes blinks up at him like he hasn’t processed his words and Roy shakes his head before looking over at the other two soldiers sitting around the large crate they’re using as a table. They’re both shooting Hughes dark looks, as are the other eyes around them in the shadows and Roy knows he has to put an end to this now. “Don’t worry about him. He’s just had a few too many toni—”

“Fuck you, Mustang.” Roy stumbles backward, nearly going to the ground when a strong arm shoves him with no warning. He whips his head around to find Hughes glaring daggers at him with green eyes full of venom. “Fuck you…Roy Mustang.” There’s a slur to his words even now and Roy takes a step back toward him, his hand reaching out for his shoulder again but Hughes bats it away viciously. “Don’t touch me. And don’t fucking patronize me!” Hughes slams his fist on the makeshift table so hard it cracks and sneers back at him. “They should worry about me. They should ALL worry about me because I’m a fucking MONSTER!”

“Shit, Maes.” Roy rushes forward and grabs him with both hands on his shoulders. He shakes him hard then barely avoids a sloppy punch to the gut. Hughes swings at him again and Roy sidesteps it, which causes Hughes to fall off the smaller crate he was sitting on. He pushes himself up much faster than Roy was expecting and rushes him, his eyes glinting with sheer malice. Roy catches him around the waist and pulls him tight against him to keep him from hitting him or getting away. Then he lowers his voice and speaks right against his ear. “Is this what you want, Hughes? To kick my ass? If so let’s get out of here and you can take your best shot!”

“That a threat?” Hughes pulls back but Roy holds him firm. Hughes counters by shoving both hands hard against his chest and Roy has to let go or end up pulling them both down in a heap. Maes instantly takes a fighting stance and Roy has a feeling that he’d be a formidable opponent even in his current state. Either way, he has to get him out of here before someone who out ranks them both sees.

“Maybe it is. But you’ll have to come with me to find out.” Maes looks skeptical and Roy can tell he’s not buying it, yet. “Unless you’re chicken shit. Come on, isn’t it time to settle this shit between us once and for all?”

He can see the inner war going on inside him and he’s honestly not sure which way this is going to go. He doesn’t want to get into a brawl here of all places, but if it’s the only way to get him out of here he will. The sun was already beginning to set when he walked in and in a short time this tent will be filled with higher ranking officers wanting to wind down for the night. He needs to get him out of here, now.

“Fine. You’re right. Let’s finish this. Prick.” Hughes straightens up then takes a few steps toward the front of the tent. He stumbles slightly and Roy tries to give him a hand but ends up with a stinging reminder that Hughes isn’t ready for his help yet. He follows a pace behind him and shoots warning glances to the lower ranking officers around him. He tugs at his ignition gloves as well and hopes his message is conveyed. Right now it’s too hard to gauge whether this scene will be haunting them tomorrow.

Hughes makes his way out of the tent, only briefly fighting with the flap. Roy stays right behind him, following him through the tent city that makes up their desert home. He hoped Hughes would head back to his own barracks or even Roy’s tent, but instead he takes a left away from all the sleep tents and Roy’s shoulders droop. Apparently he really does want to hash this out. Roy sighs as Hughes stalks to the open area near the munitions tents that’s used as a staging area for battalions. It’s empty at this time of night, but there’s no question what Hughes has planned for it now.

“Maes, stop. We don’t need to do th—”

“Now who’s the chicken shit, Major?.” Hughes whips around and to Roy’s surprise stays steady on his feet. It’s a bad sign. If he’s only half drunk this could get ugly fast. “Don’t puss out on me now, Mustang. You know this has been building since the day we met.” Hughes adopts a fighting stance again and Roy needs to diffuse this before it gets even more out of hand.

“We got over that a long time ago.” He puts his hand up in a defensive posture. “What’s this about? Hughes, talk to me. What’s going on?”

“Maybe you did!” Hughes lunges for him and Roy barely misses getting hit in the jaw. He stays just out of Hughes’ reach and his eyes widen at the rage in his friend. What could do this to him? What could be worse than everything else they’ve seen? “Maybe I never did.” Hughes’ voice trembles with emotion and Roy has to force himself to stay vigilant against a possible attack. “Maybe I’m sick of you always getting to be the one wallowing in self-pity over all you’ve done. Maybe I’m sick of hearing you bitch about having the power to protect yourself while the rest of us barely get by. Maybe I’m sick of YOU!”

Roy blinks in surprise at the venomous words and that’s a second too long to avoid the right hook to the jaw. He stumbles backward, hand going to the bleeding corner of his mouth, and stares at his friend’s face twisted with anger. But there’s more, right under the surface, and he can see it plain as day. It’s the reason he hasn’t hit him again. It’s the reason he looks as shocked at his actions as Roy feels. It’s pain. Raw and pure and Roy only knows one way out of it now.

“Fine. You want to fight?” Roy wipes the blood off his mouth with the back of his hand then crouches into a fighting stance to match Hughes. “Then let’s fight!”

He rushes him with no warning and under normal circumstances he has no doubt Maes would avoid him. But the alcohol has slowed his reflexes and Roy connects with him full force and takes them both to the ground. Maes tries to roll them and Roy counters with a sweep of his legs, but in another instant there’s no telling which way is up. His fists connects with Maes’ gut but his satisfaction is short lived when a punch to the ribs steals his breath. He wasn’t planning to turn this into a brawl but before he knows it he’s as into the fight as Maes, punching and kicking at anything he comes into contact with. Sand burns his eyes and chokes his lungs as they roll in it until finally there’s no fight left in either of them.

Roy rolls over on his back and coughs at the grit in his throat. He stares up at night sky and the bright stars peppering the hazy darkness. The only thing marring the tranquil sight is the dust high in the air from the day full of explosions and fire. It twists at his gut, but he’s used to it as part of living in this hell hole. He closes his eyes and pants to catch his breath. His side is aching, and he can’t take a deep breath, but somehow the pain feels right, that is until he hears Maes…laughing?

He rolls over to his less injured side and squints over at his friend in the dark. He’s a few feet away, his body shaking, and it’s only then that he realizes the soft sound isn’t laughter. It’s tears. Maes is crying.

“Shit.” Roy scrambles to his knees and curses the fresh aches and pains that plague him. Why did he think fighting a drunk idiot was a good idea? He crawls over to him, but the instant he touches his shoulder Maes jerks away. He’d obviously like to hide the fact he’s falling apart but they’ve gone much too far for that. They need to talk, or something, but this isn’t the place. Roy shifts into a squat then reaches down to pull Maes up. He fights, but not hard, and in another awkward moment he has him on his feet with Hughes’ arm thrown over his shoulder and his damp face pressed against Roy’s neck. “C’mon. It’s not far.”

Hughes makes no motion or sound that he heard him but he does shuffle along with Roy. He leans heavily against him and Roy slides his arm around his waist to keep him steady. He’ll take him to his own tent. It’s closer and more private, thanks to Roy’s rank. It’s not very big, but at least he’s not sharing a tent with three others the way Maes and other lower ranked officers do. He knows Maes resented him a little for that, considering he is older and used to outrank him, but that’s just the privilege of being a human weapon. More than once he’s wished he could trade places.

They shuffle along in the full darkness and he’s hoping they aren’t making too much of a scene. Most soldiers tend to be busy with their own off duty rituals and he’s hoping no one important noticed their fight. That would be the last thing they need now. Maes feels almost like dead weight once they reach Roy’s tent but he is able to manage getting the flap open and dragging his pitiful ass inside.

The interior of the tent is dark and nearly stifling with its stuffy heat, but he doesn’t want an audience. He eases Maes down onto his sleep roll then turns to mostly close up the tent flap. He unties a small flap on the other side in an attempt to get a slight breeze but he’s not expecting much. It’s hard to find much comfort in hell. He runs his fingers through his damp and filthy hair then turns his attention back to Hughes and it’s not a pretty sight.

His blue coat is still hanging open but now it’s covered with dust and sand. His white undershirt is torn and it looks like his glasses are bent, but thankfully not broken. He could probably fix them with alchemy if they were, but that would require taking into account his lens prescription and he’s glad that won’t be an issue. There’s a bruise forming under his left eye and he has no doubt his body is covered with more. They never have done anything halfway, have they? Roy shakes his head slowly and squats down in front of him.

“You ready to tell me what this is all about?” Hughes doesn’t lift his gaze from his perusal of the hard packed floor, but his forehead does crease into a deep frown between his eyes. The tears have stopped, but from the look of him he’s not sure for how long. Maes looks right on the edge and Roy shifts to sit on the floor in front of him. “Drag this out all you want, but we both know you’ll tell me eventually.”

Maes lets out a long sigh then reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose under his glasses. They fall back into place when his hand drops away and he hangs his head even more. “I don’t want to do this.”

“That much is obvious, Hughes, but it’s that or go mad.” Roy runs his hand over his face and slumps his shoulders. They normally don’t talk about these things. There’s usually no need, but then they can normally swallow it all down and hold it inside. He can’t imagine what’s so bad that it’s torn Maes down like this. He’s normally the strong one.

“Fine.” His voice is flat and he’s still looking at the ground between them. Roy studies him for another moment then leans over to rummage through his bag near the top of his sleep roll. He pulls out a half empty bottle of whiskey and takes a drink of it before passing it over to Maes. He finally lifts his head to look at Roy when he holds out the bottle and Maes accepts it with a nod before taking a deep swallow. “Thanks,” he says with a grimace as he wipes his mouth and doesn’t hand the bottle back over, but Roy doesn’t mind too much. Maes obviously needs it more than he does tonight.

“You know we were clearing out the Southern Sector today, right?” Roy nods because he made sure to listen to every report from the south that he could. They’re usually stationed together, but apparently they needed more men in the south today. “Yeah, well, it was supposed to be pretty routine, clearing out any rebels that were hiding in the burnt out buildings. And that’s all it was until….”

Maes’ face twists in pain and he takes another deep pull from the bottle. He coughs from the strong liquor then clears his throat before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “It was a hospital, Roy. A hospital. Small, independent and hardly more than a small house, but still a hospital.” Maes swallows hard and his voice cracks. “They were Amestrian….”

A tear slips from Hughes’ right eye and mingles with the dust on his face to leave a dirty trail. He sucks in and lets out a rough breath and Roy has to force himself not to prod him for more. It’s not an interrogation. Maes will tell him what he needs to. Maes stares down at the bottle in his hands and as time passes between them Roy needs a drink himself. He pulls the bottle from Maes’ weak grip and takes a deep swallow before passing it back.

“It was…a couple. Doctors. They were obviously married.” Maes sucks in a shaky breath but his voice is a little more steady now. “They were tore apart, Roy. Bloody but still in each other’s arms. They-they….” He shakes his head and turns the bottle up, drinking nearly half of what’s left. He sets it back in the ground and shakes his head again. “People there said it was one of their patients that did it, but I don’t know if that was true or if….”

He doesn’t have to finish the sentence for Roy to know who he’s referring to. They all know about that squadron. Officially, as soldiers, they’re only supposed to be killing the rebels: anyone with a gun. That means men, women, children or any other sad soul who offers the least military resistance. But they all know that’s not the end of the story. They all know about Kimblee and Iron Blood and the others who are called upon to break those “merciful” rules. It could’ve been a patient, or it could’ve been another one of the blood squadron’s exterminations.

“It wasn’t you, Maes.” He keeps his words soft not wanting to set him off again but needing to reassure him. “You aren’t responsible for what the—”

“That’s BULLSHIT, Roy!” Maes’ head jerks up and Roy flinches back at the pain and malice in his eyes. “It’s ALL of us. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t pull the trigger. We’re all part of this abomination.” He shakes his head sharply and turns partially away. “You didn’t see.” His voice is softer now and if possibly even more heart rending than before. “They had a picture with them. A little girl.” Maes’ eyes squeeze shut as his breath hitches in his chest. “They were a family, Roy. That’s not supposed to happen. That’s not the way it goes. That little girl shouldn’t be growing up without parents. They were doctors! It’s not RIGHT!”

Tears slide down Maes’ face again and this time Roy understands. It was a loving couple, an Amestrian couple—not that it should matter, but somehow it does—and they probably had an ideal life working together and raising a daughter. It’s what he knows Maes has always wanted and to feel responsible for destroying something like that…. It all makes sense now.

Roy slides over to him and pulls the bottle away. Maes initially tries to fight him, but as he reaches for the bottle again Roy pulls him into his arms. He stiffens at first, but Roy stubbornly holds him close until Maes collapses against him. His face presses against Roy’s neck and Roy can feel the tears wet his skin. He holds Maes tight, but it’s not enough and he knows it. Nothing could ever be enough to counter balance the monsters they’ve become. They’re all sick inside and it’s not anything words or an embrace can cure.

But he has to try.

“They weren’t soldiers, but they assumed the risk, Maes. We all do.” Roy feels him shake his head against him and he runs his hand over his back. “I know. I know it’s wrong, but we have to keep moving forward. We have to survive th—”

“Why?!” Maes jerks back and wild green eyes brimming with agony stare him down and he can’t immediately find an answer. “Why should we? We don’t deserve to. You know that better than anyone, Flame. You know. You….” His head suddenly drops and silent shudders shake his chest. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore. You once asked how I could hold her with my hands covered in blo—”

“Don’t. Don’t do that, Hughes.” Roy reaches out to put his hands on his shoulders and shakes him. “Don’t. You’re better than this.” Maes lifts his head but the strength Roy’s so accustomed to seeing his in eyes is gone. His stare is haunting and he shakes him hard again. “We’ll get through this. We will. You just have to-to pull it together. I can’t fucking do this without you, dammit. Get it the fuck together!”

He didn't mean to scream at him. He didn’t mean to be so rough or make it about him. He didn’t mean to do any of those things and he waits for the punch he deserves across his jaw. But it doesn’t come. Silence stretches out between them and then in a flash the world goes completely insane. His mind spins because this can’t be right. He must’ve gotten hit by a bullet in the head and this is all some twisted, dying dream because there is no way in the world Maes Hughes would ever kiss him.

But he is.

And Roy’s obviously lost his mind. It can’t be real. It can’t. But then why does he feel Hughes’ warm body against him? Why does he feel his chapped and cracked lips pressing and moving against his own? Maes’ body trembles under his hands and he finally realizes. It’s not a delusion. It’s desperation and hurt and every other horrible things all rolled into one. It’s agony personified and he doesn’t know why Maes wants this, why he could possibly need this. But he also knows he can’t push him away.

Hughes is the closest friend he’s ever had and now that bond is forged through fire, sand and blood. There’s no way anyone else could ever understand him and accept him the way Maes has. He’s done and seen way too much, and unlike Hughes he knows he’ll never be able to swallow it all down and be normal. He’s broken, permanently, and if this one person who doesn’t hold that against him needs him there’s no way he’ll turn him away. But he won’t let it all be about pain. Maes deserves so much more than that. Roy finally wraps his head around all of this right as Maes pulls awkwardly away.

“Roy, I—” Maes shakes his head and tries to scoot away but Roy holds him firm by his shoulders. He looks to Roy again with confusion and despair clouding his normally bright green eyes. “I’m sorry. I just—”

“Shhhh.” Roy shakes his head slowly and slides his hands along Hughes’ collarbones until he’s cupping his face between his hands. Maes’ forehead creases with confusion and Roy shakes his head slowly again. “Don’t talk,” he murmurs softly as he wets his parched lips and leans forward. His lips brush over Maes’ tenderly, just a ghost of a touch. He’s a little unsure if he’s right about this and he’ll give him every chance to make it stop. He’s only offering comfort, but if Maes doesn’t want it….

Hands reach out and clutch tightly at Roy’s shoulders. For a moment he’s certain they’re going to push him away and he won’t blame him. He won’t ever even mention this again. But then just as he’s about to pretend this never happened he’s pulled forward suddenly as Maes’ lips part under his own. The touch is bordering on desperate, but Roy doesn’t fall into that. This isn’t drunken foolishness. This is deliberate and he won’t pretend otherwise. He glides his thumbs over Maes’ damp cheeks lightly, right under his glasses, and tilts his head as his tongue lightly sweeps over Maes’ lower lip.

He feels the tension, the expectation mixed with confusion and maybe even fear, but Roy holds his ground even against Maes insistent tugging to get him closer. Hughes tries to lunge for him, to deepen the kiss with brutal desperation but Roy gently holds him back until the tide of anguish laced with need passes. He knows Maes too well. If he lets this be about losing control he’ll never forgive himself. He’ll convince himself he manipulated Roy and the situation no matter how far that is from the truth. No, he’s offering comfort. Nothing more, nothing less, and it must be sinking in because Maes slowly begins to fight him less and less.

The desperate urgency passes in another moment and Roy lightly glides his fingertips along Maes’ whiskered jawline. He leans forward slowly and finally deepens the kiss, sliding his tongue past Hughes’ lips, and he swears he can taste the salt of his tears mixed with the cheap whiskey. He kisses him slowly, giving Maes time to adjust to the tender feel of his lips and tongue and the slow pace Roy demands. It takes a few long moments but gradually the tight tension wound through Maes lessens and he relaxes into the kiss.

Roy moves his hands up to cup Maes’ face again then gently slides his fingers back underneath his ears to rub the back and sides of his neck. Hughes relaxes even more and Roy doesn’t rush his touch or his kiss. It’s a crazy situation, not one he ever imagined in his wildest dreams, but in this instant he realizes he needs this just as much as Maes. But he won’t take, not now. Tonight he only wants to give. Maes will always be here for him, maybe not like this but he knows he’ll always be by his side. That fact alone is more than enough.

Roy kisses him slow and deep until all the tension he can feel in Maes melts away. He knows that nothing has really changed, but at least he doesn’t feel like he’s right on the edge anymore. Roy pulls back slowly and Maes just stares at him with swollen lips and a slightly flushed face. The image is so much better than the broken one before Roy knows he has to do more. He reaches up with both hands to gently pull off Hughes’ glasses. It’s only when he gets them completely off that Maes finally reacts and grabs his right wrist lightly.

“Roy, you don’t hav—”

“Shhhh.” Roy carefully extracts his hand from Maes’ light grip and stares into his eyes as he closes up the glasses. “I told you. No talking.” Roy leans forward to place a soft kiss to his lips to stop the attempted response then pulls back and sets the glasses on the bag at the top of his bed roll. He knows Maes needs them to see clearly and right now this isn’t about clear sight. It’s about the blurred edges and the soft fuzziness comfort can bring. That’s what he wants to give him and he hopes taking away the crystal clear reality around them will help a little more.

Roy scoots toward him again and reaches up to slide his hand along Maes’ jaw. He tugs him forward lightly and presses their lips together again. This time there’s no resistance or desperation in the touch, just comfort and tenderness mixed with a mild heat that has nothing to do with the desert around them. Maes deepens the kiss this time, but not in the wild and desperate way he was trying to before. Roy presses closer, tangling his tongue with Maes’ as his arms slide around Roy’s waist. He reciprocates as he presses closer and in an instant they’re completely wrapped up in each other’s arms.

Strong fingers run through his dirty hair and Roy shifts closer as Maes finally breaks the kiss and sucks in a breath. Roy takes the opportunity to kiss along the prickly whiskers lining his jaw and Maes responds by throwing his head back and letting out a breathy sigh. Roy kisses lower, down the column of his neck and he doesn’t miss the low sound that slips from Maes’ lips. It’s the only sound either of them have made other than words since this began and he sucks lightly at the exposed skin. He tastes grit, sand and smoke but Roy doesn’t care. They’re all covered in their sins out here and he’s not concerned with a little dirt. Maes’ hands run over his sides before pulling him closer and somehow they both make their way down onto the bedroll.

Roy stretches out beside him as he continues to place open mouth kisses down Maes’ throat. Fingers run through his hair again and curl around the short locks, pulling Roy even closer. He doesn’t resist. If anything he tries to get even closer still as he slides his hand under Maes’ coat and over the hard muscles of his back. Their bodies are flush against each other now and there’s no missing the effect this is having on them both. Roy pants lightly as he kisses over to Maes’ ear then rubs his cheek against Maes’ scruffy jaw in lieu of rubbing against something else and turning comfort into frustration.

Maes turns his head to capture Roy’s lips in another kiss and Roy closes his eyes as he rubs his hand over Maes’ lower back. The heat between them erases the desert and for a brief instant Roy forgets where he is. He slides his leg between Hughes’ and presses tighter against him. He kisses him harder as his hand inches lower and slides down over Maes’ ass. He pulls him tight against him at the same time his hips grind forward, feeding into the desire of his body while his mind takes a holiday. It’s carnal and blissful, until it shatters with a sharp intake of breath and a body going stiff with surprise.

Shit.

How could he forget? This isn’t fucking about him. Maes is rigid in his arms, but as close as they are Roy can still feel their twisted predicament. Maes shifts, trying to gets some space between them as the illusion of comfort melts away and Roy won’t have it. Not yet, not when he can already feel Maes closing off and falling back into despair. Roy tightens his arms around him and dips his head to speak right against Maes’ ear. “Turn around, Maes.”

Roy can feel his questions even without looking into his eyes but apparently the trust between them goes as deep as he’s always believed. Maes hesitates briefly then turns in his arms until he’s facing the dingy, fabric tent wall. Roy holds him close, Maes’ back against his chest, as he wills his own desires to cool and subside. This is about comfort, not what it almost became. This isn’t the time or place for that and he knew it until Maes pushed him too damn far. This is a battlefield, a live dangerous battlefield, not the place for them both to lose their heads. But as long as one of them is looking out for them both….

Roy dips his head and lightly kisses Maes’ neck again. Maes tenses for an instant but then slowly relaxes back into his touch as Roy lightly kisses and sucks down the column of his neck. He slides his hand over Maes’ chest and holds him tight against him. The soft breaths tells him he’s doing the right thing and Roy tries to bring him back to that hazy, bastion of comfort they found so easily before. Maes tilts his head back against Roy’s shoulder and he rubs his cheek against his before kissing along his jaw again. He distracts him with his kisses as he slides his other hand lower, sneaking it over his hard stomach until it inches down between his legs. Maes stiffens in more ways than one and Roy snuggles against the crook of his neck.

“Relax,” he whispers softly and surprisingly, Maes does. Roy kisses down his throat and noses the collar of his coat out of the way so he can kiss down to his collarbone while his hand rubs firmly over the hard bulge between his legs. Maes sucks in a breath and it’s the only sound between them other than the rustle of their clothing against each other. The tents here are too thin and much too close together for this which is another reason Roy needed to maintain control. It’s one thing to have your buddy come over and pass out after a few drinks but quite another to make an erotic spectacle to fuel camp gossip. Roy buries his face in Maes’ neck as his hand unfastens his trousers and slides inside.

Maes is hard despite the war around them and the pain they both still feel. Some would stay it’s only a physical reaction, but Roy knows much better than that. It’s a need for connection, primal and urgent, and one he doesn’t plan on depriving him of. He slowly wraps his hand around the smooth flesh and sucks lightly at the bared skin of his neck. Maes isn’t fighting and it tells him volumes. He never, ever would have asked for this, but he’s not stopping him either. He needs to connect with someone and Roy’s more than willing to be the one.

He slides his hand over him gently, building his desire slow as he works his other arm underneath and around him. He pulls Maes back against his chest tightly and another breathy sigh is the response he gets. Roy kisses down his neck then over to his ear. Maes shudders as he breathes against it and Roy sucks lightly at his earlobe. Maes is rocking into his hand now and Roy hasn’t missed the way his breathing quickens. With the emotional wringer he’s been through this probably won’t take long.

But he doesn’t rush him.

No, if anything he tries to draw it out, tries to give Maes more peace tonight then he’s felt in weeks since they’ve been here. There’s probably not a one of them that hasn’t done this at least once on their own in an attempt to feel anything but the oppressive burden of war. But it always ends too soon and the ensuing emptiness is nearly enough to keep a man from trying again. But they all do. He only hopes this is a little less empty for Hughes.

Maes trembles in his arms and Roy tightens his grip on his cock as well as pulls him tighter against his chest. His body is tightening, tensing like a live wire and Roy nuzzles against his neck in the best soothing gesture he can manage. His right hand twists and strokes over Maes’ hard need and then, finally, he’s there. Warmth spills out over Roy’s hand as Maes jerks and gasps in his arms. His body shudders and his hips buck a few more times as Roy gently strokes him through his release. He holds him close until Maes finally goes completely still and then he holds him a little longer before reaching up and into his bag at the head of the bed roll for a small towel.

He uses it to wipe off his own hand then he passes it to Maes as he sits up slightly and pulls off his coat. He tosses it to his side so he’s clad in only his pants and an undershirt then reaches to help Hughes out of his own coat. Maes shakes out of it as he puts the towel beside the bag and Roy adds Maes’ coat to his on the dusty floor. Roy stares at his friend’s back for another moment then moves closer to slide his arm around him again. He tries to settle in for the reminder of the uncomfortably hot night when Maes speaks softly again.

“Roy….”

“Shhhh. Told you. Don’t need to say anything.” He tightens his arm briefly around Maes then closes his eyes and tries to will himself to sleep. The bedroll isn’t really made for two, but it’ll be alright. He just needs to turn his mind off and get some rest. Then tomorrow when Maes is himself again they can pretend like this never—

Roy’s eyes open when Maes shifts and actually turns around in his arms. He blinks with stunned surprise when he’s suddenly face to face with familiar green eyes he didn’t expect to see again tonight. Roy swallows hard but is a little relived when his eyes aren’t still filled with despair. He looks tired and beaten down, but there’s no question the resilient Maes is still in there. His all too knowing eyes lock with Roy’s and his mouth goes dry with lack of anything to say.

“That’s where you’re wrong.” Roy shakes his head because this isn’t how this was supposed to go. He was just offering him comfort. There’s nothing to discuss. Roy jumps when Maes reaches up to touch the side of his face and his eyes widen at the tenderness as he strokes his thumb across Roy’s cheek. “Thank you.” His words are whispered soft and Roy just blinks, still unable to say a word. “Thank you for bringing me back to myself.” The corner of Maes’ mouth turns up in a familiar smile and Roy finally relaxes at seeing something normal even if it is in the craziest context. “I won’t forget it, Roy. Not ever.”

Roy nods slowly and watches as Maes nestles down beside him. Apparently he’s still needing a comforting touch and Roy slides his arm back around him. He probably should say something, but he can’t think of any words that would make any sense. Instead he cuddles up against his best friend and breathes a sigh of relief that the crisis is over. Tomorrow they’ll get up and be soldiers again, but at least now he knows he’s not the dead weight in this relationship. He’s just glad he could help.

Maes curls up against him a little more and a soft smile touches his lips. He may not be sure of much in this desert hell, but at least he knows he’ll always have Maes to fall back on. He’ll always have this one person who understands and won’t judge his bloody hands and broken soul. And Roy him….

It’s enough.