Circumstantial Evidence


by Tenshi


Now, just because someone sees, you know,
two naked people asleep in bed together,
it doesn't necessarily prove sex was involved.
It does, however, make for a very strong case.

Mandy, Velvet Goldmine


The first thing to bear in mind was that they had both been extremely drunk. Roy hung on to this, waking up as he did in rather compromising circumstances. Surely it had been a simple matter of their highly intoxicated state, as could easily be proven by the many and varied empty bottles dribbling small amber puddles on the tile floor and the assorted bits of two uniforms tossed with reckless abandon around his room. Any outside witness, walking in on such a scene, would instantly ascertain that some form of alcohol had been imbibed in positively indecent quantities the night before. Therefore it was easily explainable how Lt. Colonel Roy Mustang woke up at exactly 10:42 am Sunday morning, wearing nothing but his natural talent and securely tied to his bedpost with his gold uniform braid.

Bad enough, if he had been alone.

He wasn't.

Sprawled across the end of his bed was a deeply unconscious Major Maes G. Hughes, who was by comparison the epitome of decorum, inasmuch as he was at least still wearing his glasses.

And while all of this provocative evidence no doubt added up to something terribly important, Roy could not, for the life of him, deduce its exact form. Somewhere after the second bottle of White Peacock vodka his memory became a pleasant, golden colored haze, and he was fairly certain that he had still been wearing his pants at his last point of recall. Not to mention that he had had every intention of retaining them.

Major Hughes was little or no help with the investigation, since he was drooling contentedly on Roy's mattress just out of foot-jabbing range and was in no position to untie Roy's wrists. Which had gone numb.

Roy sighed. It was typical of his life that the important stuff-- the really vital, earth-moving, eye-opening, god dammit man, this is the army information-- consistently failed to reach him. No, he had on his desk no less than sixty-seven memos from eighteen members of top brass discussing whether or not to introduce regulation boots that laced instead of pull-ons, but he, Roy Mustang, the best future hope for the state army of Amestria, could not figure out whether or not he had been shagged by his best friend the night before.

Roy wiggled his fingers and they tingled to painful life; he began to think he might have been better off leaving them alone. He wiggled and tugged and squirmed but it was no use, he had been trussed all too well. Squinting at the knot he recognized a traditional hand and a half twist, a good old sailor's knot, and done properly. The very devil of a thing to get out of.

"Dammit, Maes," he said, and tried to stretch far enough to jab Hughes in the shoulder with his right big toe. Two inches too short. "Wake up, you bastard," Roy muttered, the condition of his head preventing any louder speech, and wondered if he had ever at any point scratched an array on his bedframe.

He willed the rope to part, inserting oxygen between the fibers of the gold cord to loosen it. Nothing.

"...Shit."

Hughes rolled over, even further out of reach, smiling inanely in his sleep.

"What are you grinning at?" Roy snapped. "It's your fault I'm in this predicament."

Hughes said, "Potato," and continued to snore.

Roy sulked. The clock ticked. A truck rumbled by in the street outside, setting a dog barking.

He hadn't been that drunk, he reasoned. After all, there were only one, two, three... seven bottles on the floor, and none of them were that large. He eyed the bare curve of Hughes' hipbone and estimated that he would have needed at least twice that to be reduced to utter degradation. Not that Maes Hughes was not a good friend. And not that Roy hadn't seen him stripped down before; they had been roommates for years before Ishbal came along and saw fit to turn them into men. Furthermore Roy would be the last person to deny that when his schedule allowed he was a complete and utter hedonist. But truth be told he couldn't count the number of times the two of them had gotten absolutely shellacked, there were simply too many of those evenings, and never once had he woken up in such a state.

Roy tried to remember the threads of the conversation, as if he could hypothesize a suitable scenario that would have this obvious result. It was a simple scientific process. If Roy was a value of R and Maes was a value of M, and X was the unknown value, then X(RM+Alcohol)= Roy tied down naked to his bed. There. Math. That was comforting.

A minute snailed by. Hughes snorted.

What had they been talking about? Oh, right. It had been hot. Well that was reason enough for the uniform jackets to come off. And probably the shirts, too, or at least they would have been untucked and Roy's unbuttoned. Good. And it was entirely likely that one or both of them had sloshed liquor on dress uniform pants, requiring them to be wrung out and hung up to dry. Except that his trousers were in a twisted knot on the floor, an all-too familiar origami fold of passionate abandon.

Roy felt his face grow warm, and searched for Hughes' uniform. His jacket was on the back of the chair, next to Roy's. That was promising. His shirt was a limp fold of dark brown hung on the bathroom doorknob, not quite as good. His pants were draped carefully on the end of the bed, belt still on them, coat tails trailing. Roy sighed relief. They hadn't been flung on the ceiling fan or shoved in a lump at the end of the bed, so obviously he had taken them off with care, probably before he went to sleep and certainly not--

...thumbing the fly open slowly, his eyes on Roy's face as the alchemist lay tied to his bed and breathing heavily, unable to do anything but watch as...

Roy started hard enough to burn his wrists on the gold braid filament. What in the hell was that? His heart was thundering in his ears, his face burning. Not a memory. No, no, of course not. His imagination was running away with him; he was extrapolating. It was very unscientific, and likely to skew his data.

He swallowed hard, once or twice. It was simple. It was a hot sticky night, some booze had been spilled, so they had kicked off their clothes and sprawled in bed sometime in the wee hours of morning. That was all. Hughes hadn't even taken off his glasses, so he must have been--

"Leave 'em on, Maes," Roy said, behind Hughes' chair as he reached up to slide the square-framed glasses off his nose. Roy reached down, his hand over Hughes', tilting the glasses back up. Roy lingered, palm warm along the rough stubble of his jaw.

"You just want to see your reflection," Hughes said, his face entirely too close as Roy leaned over him, the half-empty bottle of whiskey he was reaching for forgotten.

"No," Roy answered, his breath warm on Hughes' parted lips, his eyes languid slits. "I just want to see you..."

Roy yelled that time. It lingered in his ringing ears, but failed to rouse the other man who, at this point, Roy wasn't certain he was ready to face. His breath was coming too fast, his throat suddenly dry. Surely that hadn't happened. "I just want to see you"? What kind of a lame line was that? Roy wouldn't use such a thing even if his repertoire had been utterly spent.

And even if he had kissed Hughes, it didn't mean that they had done... anything further. Both of them were grown men with more than a modicum of self control, right? Surely they wouldn't have tumbled to the bed in a blur of open-mouthed kisses and hands tangled in hair, impatient to be rid of stifling blue gabardine and to be only skin and heat and sensation, greedy and impatient.

Roy groaned, going limp in his bonds. He could quit lying to himself anytime now. It was obvious, and had been obvious since he came to. It was no good-natured tease that had left him looking like a ravished virgin on a dime novel cover, and this was no slumber party.

"So what's your conclusion?"

Roy's head shot up. Hughes was sitting up on his elbow watching him, his eyes amused, his mouth in something that was not entirely a smirk.

Roy made several valiant attempts at a clever rejoinder, but the one word that succeeded in getting out was "Conclusion?"

"You were obviously working something out." Hughes rolled over onto his back, hands behind his head, maddeningly smug. "I was just wondering if you'd come up with the answer."

"Answer?" Roy realized he was simply repeating the last word Hughes had said, and cleared his throat. "The answer to what, precisely, Major?" Roy did his best to present an image of an utterly composed, confident man with nothing whatsoever amiss about his present state. He had a talent for that; it was a requirement in the military. The fact that he was butt-streaking-naked was not enough to make a dent in all that training.

Hughes gestured around the room, summing up the bottles, the clothes, and the unorthodox use of Roy's uniform cord. "Last night."

"...You don't remember either?"

Hughes shook his head. Roy sagged in his cords.

"Good. Let's leave it that way. Now untie me before my hands fall off."

Hughes rolled up onto his side, stretching, and damn the man, Roy thought, but he never seemed to have a hangover. "Right right. It's a shame though, giving up on a mystery."

"I'll live somehow," Roy said, as Hughes leaned over to examine the knot.

"Did I tie this?" he asked, whistling admiration.

"No," Roy snapped. "It was probably the F├╝hrer and some scantily dressed cigarette girls. Of course it was you! It certainly wasn't me."

"Huh." Hughes wiggled a finger in the cords, trying to loosen them. "I didn't even know I knew this knot." He grinned. "Hey, try and say that three times--"

"No," Roy said, and took a sudden interest in the ceiling, as his only other option was to look at a rather choice bit of his best friend's anatomy. "And could you put your pants on?"

"Just gimme a second, I'll have it..." Hughes grunted, and Roy's hands went suddenly dead. He made a small strangled noise. "Oops, oops, sorry. Man, this is really a bear-- hang on." And while it would have been a practical move had Hughes been hunkering down to tap a phone transistor, Roy couldn't help but feel that Hughes kneeling on the mattress and straddling Roy's chest was not the best idea.

"Um, Maes?" Roy said, closing his eyes, as he was not sure he was ready to converse with the Hughes Family Jewels that early in the morning.

"Just a sec," Hughes said, shifting his weight a little, settling across Roy's hips. "I almost got it."

"I know," Roy said, his throat tight. "And so do I."

Hughes paused, blinked, and glanced to the side enough to catch a truly compromising image reflected in the mirror of Roy's dresser. "Ah!" He slid off sheepishly, though for some reason that only made it worse. "Sorry about that. Guess I got a little excited."

Roy took a deep breath. "Please don't say that."

"Heh." Hughes scrubbed at his hair. "Sorry. Anyway, I got it loose so..." He reached out and gently freed Roy's right hand from the cord, easing the fibers over abraded skin. Roy made an involuntary noise as his upper arm finally moved downwards. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Roy winced aloud. "Yeah, just hurts like a bitch."

"Here," Hughes cupped Roy's elbow in the palm of his hand and carefully straightened his arm. Roy nearly came off the mattress as the muscles contracted properly for the first time in hours. "Shh, you're gonna be a little sore."

"Really?" Roy said, through gritted teeth. "Am I?"

"You could say thank you." Hughes reached up to release Roy's other hand, their shoulders brushing. Roy looked up at his profile, clean against the midmorning sunlight slanting in through his blinds, and his sarcasm died in his throat.

"...Thank you."

"That's better." Hughes sat down on the edge of the bed, untangling the cord from the wrought-iron while Roy nursed his wrists in preoccupied silence.

"So what did you decide?" Hughes asked at last, trying to restore the gold braid to some kind of respectability.

"About what?" Roy answered, to a scar he did not know, a long thin knife mark across Hughes' ribs.

Hughes let the cord fall on the bedside table. "About last night."

"I can hardly decide something if I don't remember it."

"Of course you can." Hughes leaned back, and swung his legs like a little boy. "If nobody is there to remember, you can say whatever you want. The army does it all the time, trust me."

"But you remember--"

"Not a thing after the joke about the alchemist and the girl with three nipples." Hughes glanced at him over one bare shoulder, eyes narrow. "What about you?"

"I don't remember--" Hughes' weight on top of him, in the darkness, his face pressed into Roy's neck, a thundering heartbeat that Roy could not tell was his own or not, Hughes saying his name, voice breaking...

"Roy?" Hughes prompted, waving a hand in front of Roy's glazed eyes. "Hey, Roy?"

"Nothing!!" Roy said, and would have grabbed the sheets and yanked them around his waist, except that Hughes was sitting on them. "I don't remember a damn thing and if I had let you top me then I would remember it but I don't so you didn't and that's all there is to it don't try and change my mind!"

They stared at each other, Roy with a slow flush of color creeping over his face, Hughes unaware that his glasses were in serious danger of falling completely off his nose. A truck banged down the alley with a bucolic rumble, and Roy swallowed visibly.

"...I wasn't going to." Hughes turned away, his face in shadow, and slowly pulled his pants off the end of the bed. His buckles chimed loudly in the heavy summer silence. Roy sat and did not watch him, feeling exposed and awkward.

"Say something," he said at last. Hughes didn't answer, tugging on his trousers. His shoulders were shaking slightly with some emotion Roy could not determine, and Roy felt suddenly childish. Here was this man, his best friend since they were both boys playing stick-ball in the street, and if something had happened the night before then it made absolutely no difference in the bonds between them. Maes Hughes was the closest thing Roy had to an older brother, someone to stick up for him and stand behind him and also to tell him when to straighten up and get his head out of his ass when he needed to hear it. And now, just because Roy couldn't take responsibility for what he had done the night before, whatever it was, he had possibly damaged that trust.

Roy Mustang, he told himself, as he often had, you are a complete and utter asshole.

"Maes," Roy caught the other man's wrist as Hughes started for the bathroom to fetch his shirt, holding him back. "Maes, I'm sorry. It doesn't matter what happened. Sorry. I was stupid."

Hughes' face was still in shadow, but he couldn't stop the choking sound he made, like a stifled sob. For ten seconds Roy thought that if he had managed somehow to make Hughes cry, he had to be the lowest, lamest excuse for a best friend the world had ever seen.

That is, until Hughes burst into helpless laughter, falling down on the bed and holding his sides as though his ribs would shatter from the force of trying to hold it back. "I don't believe it!" He said, through gasps for air. There were tears streaming down his face, but not from any great emotional wound. "You shoulda seen your face when you woke up! God if I had a camera I could have died a happy man right then--" He kicked his feet against the mattress, subsiding into hiccupping chuckles and missing the dangerously darkening expression on Roy's face.

"What," the Flame Alchemist said, in extremely incendiary tones, "are you talking about."

Hughes took off his glasses and pressed the heel of his hand against his eyes, shaking his head as he tried to get words out in the midst of his chortling. "You! Passed out, last night! Tied you up-- just to see what you'd do--" He coughed, curling on his side on the bed. "Never thought I'd live to see you-- having a sexual identity crisis meltdown--" He was reduced to giggles, shaking. "And then I sat on you-- you went all pink-- man I don't know what I'd do without you, Roy, I'd be bored stupid--"

"Maes," Roy said, with the ominous sucking silence of a blaze before backdraft, "I'm going to fucking kill you."

"I--" Hughes wheezed, "--know." He looked up at Roy looming over him and smiled, breathing hard, face flushed, his hair trailing into his eyes. Something about Hughes lying there under him made a whisper of warmth down Roy's back. The flashes in Roy's memory slid suddenly into sharp focus, full of recent images of Hughes in the same position, head back, skin shining with sweat. Roy realized with a train derailing jolt that Hughes' wrists were ringed in slightly pink bruised skin, as though from being tied. His eyes flicked sideways and found a hint of gold caught in his footboard: a uniform braid with the knots still in it, sliver clasp swinging slightly. Hughes'.

"Well?" Hughes said, still braced for punishment. "Don't tell me you've turned into the forgiving type. You'll really ruin your reputation."

"You really don't remember what happened?" Roy's dark eyes met Hughes' hazel ones, and there was no laughter in them now, as though the other man has flipped a switch. "Or was that part of the prank?"

Hughes was often smiling, but there was a difference to them that Roy had learned long ago. This one was guarded, cautious. "What if I did?" He sat up carefully. "Would it change your mind?"

"Getting drunk doesn't make me less honest, Maes. It's the other way around." Roy's expression softened. "You know that."

Hughes shrugged. "It doesn't matter if I remember everything or if I remember nothing. Facts don't change because of a flimsy little thing like memory, no matter what the army thinks. But if you want to just forget about it, that's your right. I won't push you." He walked past Roy and knelt to retrieve the shirt that had slipped off the bathroom doorknob.

Roy watched as Hughes shook out the garment and tugged it over his head. "You're too good for the army, Maes."

"Yeah," Hughes emerged spikier than usual, and raked back his hair with both hands. "Well so are you, Roy Mustang." He scratched his chin, peering nearsightedly into Roy's sink mirror. "...But you can't tie knots worth a damn."

Roy's mouth twitched, as if he could not decide on a smile or a scowl, and he finally gave up and settled for wry resignation. "I never claimed I could," He said, yanking Hughes' uniform cord out of the bars of his footboard and tossing it to him. "At least I had the decency to let you wriggle out of it."

"Decency?" Hughes managed to catch his bedraggled gold braid and look offended all at the same time. "You? Besides," his grin was lopsided, full of trouble, "you'd never do it sober."

And Roy, with evidence and conclusion and motive all laid neatly out before him in the proper sequence, was left with no other option but to prove Maes Hughes wrong.

It was his duty as a scientist, after all.


~o~





b i s h o n e n i n k