warnings: yaoi, PASTFIC, adult situations, language
rating: R to be safe
length: 5 pages
synopsis: Roy studies for the State Alchemist exam, Hughes helps in his own way.
He had to bang on the door twice to get an answer. The tiny window in the door flipped open and he could just barely see Roy’s eyes.
“Maes, I’m really busy,” he said flatly.
“I brought food, major!” Hughes said jovially and held the bag up to the little window, hoping at least the smell would entice his friend.
“Don’t call me ‘major,’” Roy grumbled, yet Maes could hear the locks being thrown back. “Not yet,” he heard Roy say. Roy Mustang was a scientist and a man of logic, but for some inexplicable reason, he considered it a jinx when Maes called him ‘major’ prematurely.
The door opened and Maes entered the loft. The evening sun from the west windows lit the room and highlighted the white chalk dust hanging thick in the air. There was a coating of it on almost every surface, and all over Roy. The sides of his charcoal pants were almost white from unconsciously wiping his hands there. There was even some on his face and in his hair.
“How long have you been cooped up in here?” Maes asked as he closed the door. Days, he figured by the state of Roy’s clothes and facial hair. He knew Roy was studying hard, he’d heard plenty of complaints that Roy was refusing dates, even. Why Roy’s dejected, would-be girlfriends came to him for explanations, he had no idea.
Roy didn’t answer his question, he was already standing in front of one of his chalk boards, adding symbols to an array. Hughes looked around at the blackboards that covered much of the tiny studio’s four walls. He remembered helping Roy install them all when he first moved into this place. Ed would have thought Roy had won the lottery, as excited as he was about getting all these chalk boards cheap from an elementary school that was being renovated. It had taken the two of them an entire day to get them there and hang them.
“At least open a window,” Maes said, coughing a little from the dust. Roy seemed not to hear him. The only sound in the room was the ‘tik-tik-tik’ of the chalk on the blackboard. Roy sort of went into a trance when he practiced arrays, Hughes had seen it before. He’d walked in at the end of the ritual, when Roy had it memorized and was simply perfecting the drawing. He would start the process by figuring out all the specific things he would need to get the transmutation he wanted, using books if need be, and then he would design the array with all of those things according to some esoteric alchemy rules that Maes had never been any good with. After he designed the right array for the job, he would practice until it was automatic, repeat it until he knew it by heart, until his hand could form the shapes and letters almost without having to think about it.
If the array was imperfect in any way, the transmutation would not work the way it was supposed to, Roy had explained. The circles had to be perfect, the lines at exact angles. Everything meant something. Circles, triangles, chords, rays, sine curves, symbols, text from a number of obscure languages, abstract animal forms – it all had to be perfect, Roy would say. And then he would go on to talk about quadrants, power flow, cardinal directions, balance, and degrees in a circle, and Maes would zone out. So, yeah, Maes didn’t really get it, but this was how his alchemist friend turned one thing into another.
Detailed and complicated arrays decorated almost every square inch of slate. Maes, of course, hadn’t a clue about what any of them did. There were series of similar ones, and some that were exactly the same or at least so similar that only Roy’s meticulous eye could tell them apart. Hughes would have recognized a few that Roy commonly used for fire, most especially the alchemist’s favorite that he had sewn onto his gloves.
Maes watched Roy in his trance for a moment, listening to the clacking of the chalk on the blackboard. Roy was finishing some text around the circle, writing it upside down. He watched until Roy stopped his furious writing and took a moment to look at his work.
“Roy, come on, it’s really bad in here,” Maes said to get his attention.
“Huh? Oh, right,” Roy replied.
Hughes opened a window and found a towel so he could try to fan the room out. Roy used his hands to sweep the chalk dust into little piles where it collected on the ledges under the chalk boards and on the nearby desk and shelves.
“Where do you get all this chalk anyway?” Maes asked, trying to imagine Roy with a cartful at the school supplies store.
“It’s special alchemy chalk, I reuse it,” Roy said.
“Reuse it?” Maes asked, looking over at him from the window.
“Watch,” Roy said simply. He took a pile of the dust over to the desk where Maes noticed a small array drawn in permanent marker. Roy poured the chalk dust on the array and activated it. After the short reaction, there were two new-looking sticks of white chalk on the desk. “There’s a net loss every time, because not every particle can be collected,” Roy explained, “and sometimes it gets impurities like specs of dirt and lint in it, but it’s really useful.”
“Of course,” Maes grinned, shaking his head. It figured. He put the towel down and leaned out the window to clap out Roy’s erasers. Roy swept up the chalk dust and repeated the transmutation several more times. He picked up a new stick of chalk and flipped to a new page in one of his books.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Maes said, grabbing him by the sleeve. “I brought you a good luck dinner, let’s eat!”
“I don’t need luck,” Roy said sourly as he was dragged to the small table.
Maes began to clear the table. “How about prayers, then?” he offered, just to goad his friend. Roy Mustang was a consummate atheist.
Roy just shot him an unamused look as they restacked his books on the floor. “Keep the books – ”
“In the same piles, I know,” Maes finished for him. Roy had some stacking method he could never hope to understand, but he’d messed it up enough times to finally get the picture. “You may as well put them away,” he ventured.
“Not yet,” Roy said.
He wasn’t cramming, Maes knew. Roy never crammed. Cramming implied learning things just for a test and then forgetting them almost immediately. Roy could read something once and not forget it. He was still learning, still studying, probably getting to the little-known, unimportant stuff they’d never ask anyway. “Come on, you’ve got the flame, you’re a shoe-in!” Hughes said. He knew for a fact that the State Alchemist Division had been trying to recruit Roy anyway.
“Yes, but I have to pass the written exam before I get to the practical exam,” Roy reminded him unnecessarily, “and there’s a whole lot more than fire manipulation on the written exam. Alchemy theory, earth elements, array modules, history of alchemy, metallurgy – ”
“I know, I know,” Maes sighed as he lit a few lamps. He also knew that Roy could go on for hours about any of these subjects. Roy kept his studious side a secret. The half-tucked shirt, the chalk dust-covered pants, the sticking-up hair – most people wouldn’t believe this side of Roy Mustang existed. The façade he put up was as perfect as the arrays that adorned this room. “Anyway, sit down! I brought your favorite!” Maes invited, extracting to-go boxes from the paper bag he’d brought.
“Boar’s Tusk?” Roy asked of their favorite tavern.
“Yep, Boar’s Tusk steaks! I told you, it’s your good luck dinner!” Maes announced with a grin.
Roy looked at the paper plates he was setting out, expression mildly troubled.
“Don’t say you can’t eat,” Maes rolled his eyes as he came over. God only knew when the last time Roy had eaten was. From the looks of him, he hadn’t slept in that time, either. “Sit down,” he ordered and pushed Roy into a chair by his shoulders. Maes then got them utensils and sat down across from his friend. He reached back into the bag and pulled out two bottles of beer, setting one in front of each of them.
“Maes, the exam is tomorrow morning at eight o’clock,” Roy said, as if Maes was not aware.
“Which is exactly why you need to stop thinking about it,” Maes replied as he cracked the metal cap off Roy’s bottle using the edge of the table and the heel of his hand. He set the foaming bottle in front of the other man again. “Besides, I know how you drink,” he grinned, “one doesn’t even touch you.” He popped the top off of his own beer and held it up. Roy clanked his bottle against it and they both drank.
Roy was apparently feeling more hungry than he realized, which Maes knew was typically the case if he could be coaxed into eating. They ate and Hughes talked about anything but alchemy, news around town, his crazy neighbors, his last disastrous date, and other nonsense. When they’d finished their beers, he produced two more from the brown bag. Roy smiled and shook his head as he uncapped them both the same way Hughes had. When they’d finished the meal, Maes dumped the disposables and Roy washed the utensils.
“You know, that toilet is still running, if you want to take a look at it,” Roy said as he hung the dishtowel.
“You bet,” Maes agreed readily. This toilet was his nemesis. No matter what he did to fix it, it always started running again. He went to Roy’s tiny bathroom and removed the lid from the toilet tank. As he fiddled with the lever and the plug at the bottom of the tank, he heard the long scrape of Roy drawing a circle with chalk. He sighed as Roy drew a few more lines and then the ‘tik-tik-tik’ sounds began.
He finished fixing the toilet before going out there again. Roy seemed not to notice when he passed behind him to shut the blinds on the window. He came up behind Roy and grabbed his wrist. “Enough,” he said. Roy turned with an irritated look, but Maes held fast. “That’s enough, Roy,” he repeated gruffly and pushed Roy back against the blackboard, trapping him there with his body.
He had Roy’s hand pinned against the board but he didn’t drop the chalk. Maes slid his hand up and took the chalk from him, letting it fall to the floor. He could feel the roughened pads of Roy’s fingers, dry and cracked from the chalk, as he laced his own between them. He kissed Roy, pressing him harder against the slate.
Roy could have stopped him. A slight push or even a word and Maes would have stopped, but Roy kissed back almost desperately. The way Roy wrapped his free arm around his waist made Maes’ heart jump into his throat. He thrust his tongue into Roy’s mouth as he began to unbutton his shirt. Roy’s hand slid up his back to clutch his hair. Maes opened his shirt and set his hands on that familiar body. When they were young, he thought they fucked because they were bored, or horny, or lonely, or any number of reasons that make sense to teenagers, but it was more than that. It had to be more than that because they couldn’t stop. It wasn’t as often anymore but they still did it. They would even do it when they were dating other people, mostly because Roy wasn’t all that good at fidelity and Maes wasn’t all that good at saying no to him.
Roy groaned and pressed his hips forward. Maes slid his hands down and hastily worked Roy’s pants open. He reached inside to take hold of him and Roy hissed, letting his head fall back against the blackboard. Maes grazed lips and teeth down Roy’s neck as he roughly encouraged Roy’s growing erection. Roy groaned and twisted against him, and finally gave him a shove in the direction of the bed. They stumbled to the unmade bed, kissing and tripping over books and still trying to undress each other. He pushed Roy onto his back and climbed on top of him. Roy reached up to removed Maes’ glasses and barely managed to make sure they were safely on the table before Maes claimed his lips again.
Roy broke away after a moment, panting, “Maes, eight o’clock… I do need to sleep some.”
“I know,” he whispered against Roy’s jaw. He kissed Roy again, promising, “I’ll make sure you get to sleep.”
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