Ed and Al were there, of course. So was Gracia, who understood. Pinako wasn’t, but only because she’d gone on herself a few years back. Other than that, Roy wasn’t surprised not to see anyone. There were others who had loved Riza and Winry, but no other family. No one who would still come to see them, five years after they’d burned up in that damned train crash. Everyone else had moved on.
It had been a year since Roy had seen either of the brothers. Al looked well- tall, handsome, and well-dressed. Sad, but doing well for himself. Ed looked like a fucking mess. Too thin, and his face too sharp, too closed.
Ed dropped flowers at the graves, and then stood back. “We should have taken her back to Resembool,” he said, fiercely. “She should be next to Granny and her parents.”
Al sighed. “You say that every year, Brother,” he said, quietly. “We weren’t there. General Mustang and Miss Gracia did the best they could.”
Roy closed his eyes. Ed was right; he was right every year. Winry should have gone home to Resembool. But the rail lines had been out, and a truck would have taken too long in the heat of summer. It had been the best he could do at the time. At least she had Maes and Riza to keep her company, Roy thought, ignoring the pricking of tears under his eyelids.
Gracia invited them all to her place for dinner. It was quiet, filled only by Elicia’s untroubled talk of her school and her friends and her plans for the future. Gracia tried to make conversation here and there, and Al engaged her a little. Ed barely ate, and hardly looked at anyone. Roy wondered how much of that was from the anniversary, and how much of that was just Ed these days. He had no idea. Ed spent his time traveling, wandering around doing whatever struck his fancy. Roy got reports from Al sometimes. Mostly, he suspected that Al didn’t know anything more than Roy did.
“Do you have a place to stay?” Roy asked the brothers quietly, as they left Gracia’s house.
“What do you care?” Ed snapped, looking somewhere off to the distance.
“Brother,” Al admonished him sharply. Al looked at Roy. “I’m staying with Kain and Sciezka,” he said. “You could stay with me there, Brother,” he offered, almost hopefully.
Ed shrugged. “Whatever,” he said.
“You could stay with me, if you need someplace,” Roy offered, knowing that he’d be refused.
“Go fuck yourself,” Ed told him, and stalked away.
“He blames me,” Roy said, quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Al said. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“It wasn’t,” Roy agreed. But it was his fault, and Roy knew it. It had been him who had called Riza in from Resembool, who had needed her in Central, who had asked her to take the late train especially. No one would ever know why Winry had decided to come along. A mile out of Central, the train had derailed. It had been two days before they’d dug Winry and Riza’s bodies out of the wreckage. Another week, and Ed and Winry would have been married. Ed had been in the West working out a few last details before the honeymoon.
Roy felt empty. He missed Hawkeye more than he could explain. And today, on the anniversary of her death, the emptiness ached inside.
Roy walked Al back to Fuery’s place, and Al bade him goodbye with a look of concern. Roy thought about going home, but he couldn’t quite bear it. Home was as empty as he was. It had always been empty, but tonight, he didn’t really want to be alone. He turned towards downtown and the bar district. He told himself that he wasn’t trying to get drunk, but he didn’t know what he was trying to find, either. He was on his fifth drink in his fourth bar when he realized that he was looking at Edward Elric’s long, blond ponytail from across the room.
About the same time that he realized who he was looking at, Ed apparently noticed him. Ed got up and stalked over. “Are you following me?” he accused. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Roy waved his drink. “Same thing as you, probably,” he said. “It doesn’t help, of course. No matter how many drinks we have, they’ll still be dead.”
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Ed punched him in the face, but somehow, it was. Roy folded, flying backwards off his barstool and onto the ground. He lay on his back for a long moment, seeing stars.
Suddenly, Ed was in his field of vision. “Fuck, bastard,” he snarled. “I didn’t hit you that hard. Get up.”
Roy pulled himself up shakily. He’d hit his head going down, and it hurt like hell. “I’m okay,” he assured Ed.
“I don’t fucking care,” Ed told him, but he gave him a hand up.
“I’m sorry,” Roy said, suddenly. The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them. “Hit me again, if it makes you feel better. You’re right. It’s my fault.”
Ed pulled his hand away from Roy like he’d been burned. “You’re drunk,” he accused.
Roy shrugged. “Maybe,” he said. “Probably not, though. I might have a concussion. I hit my head on the bar.”
“Fuck,” Ed swore. He grabbed Roy’s face, positioning it roughly underneath one of the hanging lightbulbs over the bar. He looked carefully into Roy’s eyes. “You look alright,” he said. “But I’m taking you home.”
“Why, Fullmetal,” Roy said, trying for joking, “I didn’t know you felt that way about me.”
Ed just glared at him. “That’s not my name anymore, bastard,” he said.
Roy ended up leaning on Ed to walk. The street was spinning too much for him to keep his feet. “Dammit,” Ed said. “If you weren’t such a drunk, we’d know whether this was a sign of trauma or what. We should probably take you to the fucking hospital.”
“No,” Roy protested. “I’m fine. We’re almost to my place. I’ll sleep it off.”
“The fuck you will,” Ed said. “That’s the last thing you do with a head injury.”
“That’s a myth,” Roy protested.
“Whatever,” Ed said, and pushed him up the stairs to his front door. “Where are your keys?”
Roy fished for them, and pulled them out of his pocket. He unlocked the door without too much difficulty, and let Ed lead him in. Ed dropped him on the couch, and then stared at him from Roy’s armchair. “Did you mean that?” Ed said, after a long, uncomfortable moment of silence.
“What?” Roy said, confused. He didn’t remember having said anything.
Ed waved a hand irritably. “That it was your fault,” he said. “Did you mean it?”
Roy pulled himself to sitting, burying his face in his hands. “If I hadn’t asked her to come,” he said, quietly. “If I hadn’t told her to take the late train instead of coming in the morning...” He looked over at Ed. “You should be married now. Kids running around. Your happy ending. I’m so sorry, Ed. It’s all my fault. I don’t blame you for hating me.”
Ed looked sick. “Fuck you,” he whispered.
Roy closed his eyes. He couldn’t look at Ed anymore.
“It wasn’t your fucking fault,” Ed said, firmly. Roy’s eyes snapped open in surprise. Ed looked at him, and Roy couldn’t look away. “It wasn’t,” Ed insisted. “Not about Winry, anyway. It was mine, okay? We’d been fighting, and I was supposed to come back to Resembool, and she told me Riza was going to Central and I could look for her there if I wanted-” Ed’s voice broke, and Roy suddenly realized that there were tears, that Ed was actually crying.
Roy stood, went to the armchair and knelt in front of Ed. Ed looked at him, his face red. “I should have been there,” Ed said. “You were there. Fuck. I don’t hate you, Mustang. It’s just I look at you, and I can’t stop thinking- I should have fucking been there.”
“It’s not your fault the train derailed, Ed,” Roy told him. “You can’t blame yourself.”
Ed glared at him. “You are such a fucking hypocrite, Mustang,” he said. “You blame yourself. Why shouldn’t I?”
“Fine,” Roy said. “I’m a hypocrite. But it’s not your fault. Winry wouldn’t want to see you doing this to yourself, either.”
Ed laughed, bitterly. “Doing what?” he said.
Roy frowned. “You’re just... drifting,” he said. “Even Al barely hears from you anymore. It’s like you’re a ghost.” He looked up at Ed, taking in his too-thin frame. “You’re almost skinny enough to be one.”
Ed’s face twisted. “And what about you, bastard?” he asked.
Roy froze. “What do you mean?” he said slowly.
“Do you think Riza would want to see you this way?” Ed snarled viciously. “Look at this place. When was the last time someone except you was in here? When was the last time you went out for drinks with someone, or... or went on a date?” he asked. “And you’ve given up on being Fuhrer. If Hawkeye could see you, she’d kick your ass.”
Roy stared at his hands. “Ed...” he whispered, not sure what to say.
Ed reached down, grabbed a handful of Roy’s shirt and hauled him up. “Wake up,” Ed said, through clenched teeth, and then he pushed Roy away.
Roy stared at him, blinking stupidly.
Ed stood, grabbed Roy’s shoulders and threw him into the couch. Roy tried to scramble drunkenly to his feet, shaking his head. “Wake up, Mustang!” Ed shouted, screaming his frustration. “You’re alive, dammit!” Ed said. “You lived. I’ve seen you; you walk like a fucking zombie. Dammit, you act like you died five years ago, but you’re still. Fucking. Here!” He kicked the couch savagely, his metal leg hitting within inches of Roy’s face.
Roy stared up at Ed. His gold hair was half out of the ponytail, hanging in wild strands around his face. He was breathing hard, his hands balled in fists at his sides. Roy pulled himself carefully to his feet. “Fullmetal-” he started.
“That’s not my name anymore!” Ed shouted, and shoved Roy hard with both hands. Roy’s fist snapped out, slamming into Ed’s face.
Ed staggered back, and then ducked low, his right leg sweeping across and knocking Roy off his feet. Roy went down in an undignified tumble against the couch. “Edward,” he called, as he tried to pull himself back up, “you’re still here, too.”
Ed stared at him for a long moment before dropping onto the ground next to Roy, his back up against the couch. “Son of a bitch,” he said, tilting his head up. There were tears in his eyes, but they didn’t fall.
Roy cleared his throat. “The offer’s still open,” he said. “If you need a place to stay tonight, you can stay here.”
Ed didn’t look at him. “Fine,” he said.
Roy woke up with the room spinning around him. His head was killing him, and he had the terrible presentiment that he was going to throw up. He pulled himself to his feet, trying to make for the bathroom. Halfway there, he sank to the ground, trying to wait until everything stopped spinning at least a little.
Suddenly, the light clicked on, and Roy moaned in pain, trying to shield his eyes from the sudden glare. “Fuck,” he heard someone say, and he didn’t know who would be in his house. Roy fumbled for his pockets for his gloves, but he couldn’t find them. Where were they? He was unarmed without his gloves. Useless.
“Fuck, Roy,” the voice repeated, closer now. Whoever it was lifted Roy’s head up, and that was it. Roy twisted away, emptying the contents of his stomach onto the floor. He heaved over and over again. He was dimly aware that there was a hand on his back as he retched. Finally, it subsided, and Roy lay for a moment, panting, before he scrambled weakly to his knees. He turned to see- Edward? Ed’s hair was down, and Roy hardly recognized him. He had a vague sense that there was a reason why Ed was in his apartment, but he couldn’t remember what it was.
“I’m getting a doctor,” Ed said, firmly. He leaned down and positioned his arm around Roy’s shoulders, hoisting him up. “Come on, jackass. Back to bed.”
Slowly, it was coming back to him. The funeral, the bar- Ed crying, the two of them fighting. Roy got his feet under him and walked slowly back to his bed. Ed laid him carefully down on the bed. “Sorry,” Roy said, not sure exactly which things he was apologizing for. There was a selection to choose from.
“Whatever.” Ed frowned. “I’ll be back in a little while.”
Roy woke again to the sound of a stranger’s voice. Adrenaline shot through him, and he reached for his gloves. Except- Roy didn’t need the gloves anymore, did he? He raised his hands to clap. Suddenly, strong hands closed on his wrists, stopping him. Roy looked up, confused, and Ed made eye contact. “It’s okay,” Ed said. “It’s just the doctor. I told you I was bringing a doctor, remember?” Ed turned, and Roy realized that the other voice belonged to a middle-aged man holding a black bag. “He was drinking when he... hit his head.” Shame flashed over Ed’s face. “I don’t know how much of this is the alcohol and how much is the injury.”
“All right,” the man said, and Roy forced himself to calm down. “Let’s start by having you tell me your name, alright?”
“Colonel Roy Mustang,” Roy snapped out. Then he scowled. That wasn’t right, was it? The look on Ed’s face meant that there was something wrong. “I mean...” he said, trying to think. “Brigadier-General. That’s my new rank.”
“That’s been his rank for the last six years,” Ed muttered.
“That’s fine,” the doctor said to Roy. He asked him other questions, and Roy wasn’t sure how he was doing. He felt like he was thinking through mud. The doctor examined him, poking and prodding and shining lights. Roy’s head hurt like hell, pain lancing into his forehead and around his eyes.
Roy felt pathetically weak. He knew that he’d lived through worse than this before- he remembered... he remembered the homunculus Lust. He remembered Wrath and Pride. He’d been able to get up and keep going then- why not now, after this ridiculous little bump on the head? He knew the answer without having to say it, though. Back then, he’d always had a reason to keep getting up; a reason to fight past the pain. Now, his reason was buried in a pine box next to the love of Ed’s life.
Roy closed his eyes. Off in the distance, he could hear the doctor’s voice, talking with Ed. It didn’t matter. He slept again.
When Roy woke again, the sun was up, and he smelled something cooking. His head was pounding, but the world was standing still. He examined his memories of the previous night, but everything was fuzzy. He remembered meeting Ed at a bar; remembered being walked home. Remembered some kind of fight. He frowned. Ed had called a doctor at some point? Roy wasn’t sure. Roy dragged himself up and to the bathroom. His mouth tasted awful, and he was in need of a shave.
Ed was waiting for him when he came out of the bathroom. “Good morning,” Roy said, not sure how to approach the situation.
Ed snorted. “Afternoon, you mean.” He walked up and grabbed Roy’s face roughly, peering into his eyes. “Do you remember your name now?”
“Brigadier-General Roy Mustang,” Roy said, dryly. The memories of last night were trickling back.
“Good,” Ed said, and let him go. He pointed at the bedside table. “There’s soup and painkillers. You’re supposed to eat both of them.” Ed flopped himself into a chair, crossing his arms.
Roy stared at the soup, and back to Ed. “Did someone bring soup over?” he asked.
Ed rolled his eyes. “No, dumbass. I made it. It’s not especially hard.”
Roy looked skeptically at it. It didn’t look terrible. It didn’t smell terrible either, so he took a tentative sip. It was fine- not the best soup he’d ever had, but certainly palatable. Warm, and meaty, and a little salty, with a hint of spice. “It’s good,” Roy allowed.
“I already gave you a concussion,” Ed said, his voice a little dark. “I wasn’t going to poison you on top of it.”
“Thank you,” Roy said, reaching for the painkillers. “Where did you learn to cook?” he asked, curious.
Ed shrugged. “Around,” he said. “I had to eat. I didn’t have a State Alchemist’s salary anymore, so I couldn’t really afford to eat out all the time.”
And Ed had been alone, with no one to cook for him. Roy swallowed the painkillers, and sipped at the soup. His stomach still felt a little delicate, so he took it easy. Throwing up in front of Ed was enough humiliation for the week; he didn’t care to repeat the experience.
Ed picked up the bowl when Roy was finished, and starting walking toward the kitchen. “I’m staying for a few days,” he declared, in a tone that brooked no argument.
“That’s fine,” Roy said.
Roy went back to work the next day. He wasn’t sure whether Ed would still be there when he got home. He was slightly surprised to find the other man sitting in an armchair in the living room, reading a novel.
“What are you reading?” he asked.
Ed snorted. “It’s your book,” he said. “I wouldn’t have figured you for a guy who liked trashy mysteries.”
Roy looked at the spine of the book. “It was a gift from Hughes,” he said, quietly.
Ed grunted, looking back to the book.
Roy hung his coat up, and went to the kitchen. The least he could do was pay Ed back for the soup yesterday. He set about slicing beef and boiling noodles.
Eventually, Ed wandered into the kitchen. “You’re cooking?”
“I have to eat too,” Roy said, dumping minced garlic into a pan. His head was killing him. He’d need to take some more painkillers once he had food in his stomach.
They ate at the table in the dining room. Roy wasn’t sure when the table had last been used; he tended to eat his meals in the kitchen, or at a side table in his study. It was strange, having a guest. Ed was quiet, but not ill-tempered. He made conversation on a few inconsequential subjects, and then declared that he was going to bed.
“You should, too,” Ed said, glaring at him pointedly. “The doctor said you should be resting, and I don’t want to have to clean up after you again.”
Roy found himself going to bed early that night.
When Roy got home the next day, he heard voices as he entered his house. It took him a moment to place the other voice- Alphonse, who’d no doubt figured out where his brother had been the last few days.
“I miss you, Brother,” he was saying.
There was a resounding silence in response to that. “I know, Al,” Ed said, finally, his voice choked. “I just...”
Alphonse sighed. “Whenever you’re ready,” he said. “You know that.”
Roy dodged to the side as Alphonse swept past him into the hallway. He noticed Roy. “Thanks for letting Brother stay with you,” he said, awkwardly.
“It’s no trouble,” Roy said, and watched Alphonse go. There were unshed tears in the young man’s yellow eyes.
Ed appeared in the doorway, watching his brother’s coat disappear through the door.
“I should be thanking you for staying,” Roy commented to Ed. He didn’t want Ed to feel as though Roy were doing him some sort of favor. “I wasn’t well the other night.”
Ed shrugged. “What do you want for dinner?” he asked. “I think you have some noodles. I like noodles.”
“Noodles are fine,” Roy said.
A week later, Ed was still there. Roy didn’t question it, even if he didn’t understand it. He and Ed hardly spoke, except on the subject of what they should eat for dinner, and whatever smalltalk emerged over meals. Ed cleaned up after himself, though, and Roy once noticed groceries appearing in the larder. Roy still had no idea what Ed was doing with his time during the day. He was almost afraid to ask, for fear any sort of questioning would send Ed running again.
“You’re welcome to invite Alphonse to dinner sometime, by the way,” he mentioned off-handedly, one evening. “I hear that he’s still in Central.”
Ed nodded, scowling. “I told him to go back to East, but he insists that he’s been meaning to do some research up here. Like I buy that.”
Roy didn’t quite follow. “What do you mean?” he asked, spearing a carrot with his fork.
Ed took a rather large gulp of his wine. “He’s just here because he thinks I need babysitting,” he explained.
“Do you?” Roy asked, mildly.
“Fuck no,” Ed said. He finished his glass- his second, Roy noted- and poured himself another.
Roy shrugged. “He probably just worries because he cares about you,” he offered.
Ed glared at him. “People always say that,” he said. “Really, he probably worries because he thinks I’m going to go off the fucking deep-end again.”
“You went off the deep-end before?” Roy asked, curious.
“Which time?” Ed snorted. “Fuck this. I’m not having this conversation. I’m fine. I’ve moved on.”
Roy stared at the younger man, at the wineglass in his hand. Ed’s hand was trembling- with what emotion, Roy couldn’t begin to guess. “I’m not fine,” he offered, slowly. He didn’t like to admit it. He liked admitting it out loud even less. But Ed wasn’t fine, no matter how much he claimed to be. Maybe if Roy just said it, Ed wouldn’t feel like he had to lie about himself. “You were right, that night. I haven’t moved on. I don’t know how, if she’s not with me.” It was true. He had a suspicion it was true for the both of them.
Ed looked at the glass in his hand, and downed it in one go. “Fuck, I’ve lost so many people,” he said. “You’d think that I could have coped with just one more. And I had Al, at least.” He stared down at the empty glass. “It was like- everything just came crashing to a halt. I’d been going so long, looking for a way to get Al’s body back. And then I did that, and I was working on getting him healthy again. And then he was, and we went traveling. And then I came home, and I was building a life for the two of us. And then-” His eyes grew wide. “Then there was just nothing. Stand up and walk. Keep moving forward. But... towards what? With her gone, I didn’t know what the fuck any of it was for, anymore.”
Roy nodded, reached for the bottle. “Sometimes it’s not for anything. It’s just life,” he said, pouring himself a glass.
Ed grabbed the bottle back. “Life is shitty,” he observed.
Roy had a hard time arguing with that. “There’s not nearly enough alcohol in that bottle to get either of us properly drunk,” he pointed out. “Well, maybe you. Smaller body mass, and all.”
Ed threw the bottle at his head. Roy ducked just in time, and the bottle smashed behind him, wine dribbling down the wall like blood. Roy grinned. “I was wondering if you were still sensitive about your height,” he said.
“Asshole,” Ed said, glaring at him. “I’m as tall as you are now, and I’m not all thin and feminine-looking either.”
“No, because the long hair is very masculine,” Roy pointed out. He didn’t point out that Ed was probably thinner than Roy was, no matter how broad-shouldered his genetics would have liked to make him. Ed didn’t take care of himself.
“Oh, yeah, and how much hair gel do you use on your extremely masculine short hair?” Ed asked. “I swear, it’s like sharing a bathroom with someone’s teen sister.”
Roy smiled and crossed his arms. “You’re cleaning the wine off my wall,” he said.
Ed rolled his eyes. “Transmute the stain out,” he said. “It’ll take you five seconds. Or haven’t you figured out how to use clap alchemy?”
“It’s the principle of the thing,” Roy insisted, stubbornly.
“I could say the same thing,” Ed answered, with a sharp-toothed grin.
Ed wasn’t there when Roy woke up in the morning. At least, he wasn’t sitting in the kitchen staring blearily at the coffee maker as he had been for the last week and a half. Roy didn’t check to see whether Ed had taken his things out of the spare room he’d been sleeping in. Either Ed was still here or not.
Ed wasn’t there when Roy got home, either. Instead, Alphonse was sitting in Roy’s living room. Roy didn’t bother to ask how he’d gotten in; Alphonse was probably the most gifted alchemist in Amestris. Roy’s lock wouldn’t have been a problem for him. “Hello,” Roy said.
“Hello,” Alphonse answered, his expression sad and a little rueful. “I was looking for Brother, but he’s not here.”
“I don’t know where he is,” Roy told him, shrugging. “He didn’t tell me he was leaving, though. He might just have gone out.”
Alphonse sighed, and leaned back against the couch. “I wish...” he said, trailing off. He gathered himself. “I’m sorry, General Mustang. I don’t mean to disturb you.”
“It’s no trouble,” Roy said, politely. “Can I get you some tea? Or a drink?”
“Tea, if you don’t mind,” Alphonse said.
They were quiet while Roy put on the kettle. It wasn’t until the tea was steeping that Alphonse spoke. “General Mustang,” he started. “How has Brother been?”
Roy shrugged, not sure that he was quite ready to deal with this influx of fraternal concern into his house. “Well enough,” he said.
Alphonse chewed his lip. “He shouldn’t have to live like this,” he said, sadly. “It’s not fair. I wish-” He sighed again. “I wish I could convince him to stay with me. I miss him.”
Roy pulled the infuser out of the teapot, shook it, and laid it on the little dish he’d set out for that purpose. “He said that you were afraid he’d go off the deep-end again,” he said. “Do you know what he meant by that?”
Alphonse looked instantly guilty. “Brother... had a hard time after Winry died,” he said. “I don’t think it was just losing Winry- I think it was everything. Mom, and me, and the homunculi, and everything. He started... he’d have these attacks. Sometimes he’d just go crazy, screaming and fighting us, and he didn’t even remember it later. Sometimes he’d think that people were trying to kill us, and he’d just panic. Granny and I tried to help, but... one day, he was just gone. He left a note saying that he just couldn’t take being in Winry’s house anymore, and not to worry about him.”
“You didn’t listen to me, though,” Ed said, coming into the kitchen. He looked tired, resigned. “You still worried.” He turned to Roy. “There, jackass, you happy? Edward Elric cracked up. Is that what you wanted to know?”
“Brother-” Alphonse said, startled.
“It’s fine, Al,” Ed said, sitting down. “It doesn’t matter. I’m okay.”
“Then why won’t you come home?” Alphonse cried, his face twisting with anguish. “Why do you keep disappearing? You’re all I have left, Brother!”
His brother’s words hit Ed like a punch in the gut. Roy suddenly wanted to run, to get away from this scene. It was too personal. Roy shouldn’t be watching this. “I’m sorry, Al,” Ed whispered. “I can’t. You- you have a life. You should have a life. You don’t need me anymore, and I’m not going to drag you down with me.”
Alphonse was crying now, his eyes gone red and puffy and tears tracking down his cheeks. “You’re an idiot,” he said. “You have to choose life, Brother. What did I say to you, all those years ago?”
Ed’s hands were shaking. He got up, and walked away. “You should go home, Al,” he said, before he walked out the door.
Alphonse sobbed, curling in on himself. It took him a few moments to calm himself down. “I’m sorry,” he said, bleakly. “I should probably go. If he comes back, tell him...” He paused. “I don’t know. Just tell him I love him.”
Two days later, Ed reappeared with no comment on where he’d been. He was simply there again one morning, staring at the coffee maker sleepily. When Roy got home that evening, Ed was reading in the study. They made dinner together, and talked about nothing in particular, and went to bed early.
It was strange, living with someone. Roy hadn’t lived with anyone since his Academy days. Even in Ishval, alchemists had merited solo quarters. It was probably good for both of them, Roy had to admit. Ed was starting to look a little less lean and starved, and Roy was getting regular meals again. They were sleeping more, too, even if neither of them slept well. Now and again, Roy woke up to the sound of Ed screaming or crying or hitting the wall. Now and again, Ed was no doubt woken up by the same thing from Roy. Neither of them ever spoke about it. Roy took a certain amount of comfort in that- it was nice to have someone around who didn’t badger him. If he was honest with himself, it was nice just to have someone around.
Roy took to working in his study in the evenings. Ed seemed inclined to read- mostly fiction, Roy noted silently. They spent their evenings in companionable silence; Roy with his papers, and Ed with his books.
One night, Ed looked up, twitched an eyebrow, and said, “I think you meant to write ‘King’s Rook Three’,” he said.
Roy looked down at his notebook, where he’d just scrawled N-KB3. Ed was right; he’d meant to write KR3. Roy was taken aback. He’d had no idea that Ed had been paying attention to what he’d been writing; the young man had seemed entirely absorbed in what appeared to be a historical Cretan romance. Even aside from that, there was the issue of how Ed knew what Roy had meant to write in his coded alchemical journal.
“Have you been reading my papers?” Roy asked, trying not to sound accusatory.
Ed shrugged. “You have them sitting out here every night,” he said. “I can’t not look at them.”
Papers which were sitting out across a room from Ed, which he’d never seemed altogether interested in, and which he’d have to have been reading upside down in a code which only Roy was supposed to have the key to. Roy raised an eyebrow.
Ed looked up at him. “I think your theories on copper fulmination will turn out to be pretty useful, by the way,” he said. “But the triangulate array you’re using isn’t going to work.”
“The triangulate array has the best power flow,” Roy argued, taken aback.
Ed shook his head, shutting his book and putting it to the side. “You want a hexate array,” he said. “Fulminated metals are really reactive. The power flow in a hexate array is almost as good as in a triangulate array, and it’s much more stable. Trust me- if you tried to use the array you have, you’d regret it.”
Roy leaned back, glaring at Ed. “I accounted for the instability!” he protested. “That’s what the sub-array is for, or didn’t you notice that?”
Ed rolled his eyes. “The sub-array’s inadequate. You want the copper to go boom when you say so, and not because you can’t control it. Two triangulates don’t make a hexate, not unless they’re on the same level.”
“I think Kimbley might disagree with you,” Roy said, tapping a pen on his notebook.
“Kimbley was a psycho. And he’s dead- trust me- so he can’t disagree with anyone,” Ed said, snarkily.
Roy flipped through his books, looking for a particular array. “He might have been a psycho, but he was a master of explosive alchemy,” he argued. “And his array was double-triangulate- one for force and one for control. That’s why I started working in that direction.”
Ed leaned forward. “And it never occurred to you that he was a crazy bastard who got off on almost blowing himself and everyone else up every time he did a transmutation? I saw his array. His timing had to be perfect, every time, or boom. Actually, probably the only reason he never killed himself is that he had a philosopher’s stone to pick up some of the slack. Since you don’t, use the fucking hexate.”
Roy’s eyes glittered. He tossed his pen to Ed. “Draw the array then, if you know what it’s meant to look like.”
“Fine,” Ed snapped. He took the pen, grabbed a mostly-empty sheet of paper from Roy’s desk, and began sketching an array.
It occurred to Roy that he’d never seen Ed draw an array before. It was incredible to watch. Ed’s circle was perfect the first time; Roy usually used a compass when time permitted. His lines were geometrically correct, by eye and without measuring. It was the first time anyone had ever drawn this array, and Ed had the kind of speed and fluidity with it that an alchemist usually only got by practicing an array until they saw it in their sleep.
“There,” Ed said, tossing the paper in his direction. “I liked what you did with the sub-array, by the way; it was a clever re-direct. So I incorporated that into the larger pattern.”
Roy stared at the paper. Ed had not only sketched the array, he’d annotated it. Carefully, neatly, and in Roy’s personal code. He’d also solved the alchemic problem that Roy had been worrying around for the last two months. “You’re right,” Roy said, still staring at the array, unraveling the complexity of it in his mind. “The hexate is better.”
Ed grinned, and Roy suddenly realized that it was the first real smile he’d seen out of the younger man in the entire time that they’d been living together. “Damn straight it is,” Ed said.
Roy started discussing alchemy with Ed. Not every night. It was just that sometimes, in place of their meaningless conversation about the weather, they started talking about Roy’s research. Roy hadn’t really talked shop with another alchemist since Master Hawkeye died; State Alchemists tended to assume that their colleagues were all out to steal each others’ secrets. It was surprising to him how much he enjoyed it. Ed might be incapable of activating a transmutation circle, but he still had his knowledge and his genius. He was quick, and clever, and had a knack for thinking sideways that Roy respected. It was a side of Ed that Roy had never gotten the chance to know back when they’d been commanding officer and subordinate.
Ed, for his part, seemed to take endless pleasure in telling Roy that he was wrong about things. Roy was surprised by how much he enjoyed that, too.
On the anniversary of Maes’s death, Ed noticed Roy putting on his dress uniform. Without having to ask what Roy was doing, Ed changed into his nice suit and presented himself at the door when Roy was ready to leave.
It was the first time in a number of years that there had been anyone but Roy, Gracia and Elicia at the grave. Armstrong always sent Gracia a note- beautifully calligraphed- but no one else remembered anymore. Ed and Roy dropped their flowers on Maes’s grave, and Roy put an arm around Gracia’s shoulders. She almost never cried at his grave anymore.
They stood around for a little while, talking about what Maes had meant to them in life. Elicia, who didn’t really remember him, listened wide-eyed.
“He looked out for us,” Ed said, not meeting Roy or Gracia’s eyes. “He cared about us, even though we weren’t anything to him. And even after he was gone, he gave me and Al the strength to do what was right. Losing him made us understand that we couldn’t lose anyone else.”
They left flowers for Riza and Winry, too, but neither of them cared to say anything at their graves. Gracia invited them both to dinner, and they went. Her cooking was as wonderful as it always was, but Ed hardly ate. He seemed far away; his mind occupied with something that Roy couldn’t see.
As they left, Gracia hugged them. “You’re both welcome to dinner any time,” she said. “It would be nice if we saw you more often.”
Roy nodded, because she was right, he should make a point to see her more. He knew that he shouldn’t isolate himself, but it didn’t stop him from doing it.
“You want a drink?” Ed asked, as they made their way to the car. He still wouldn’t look at Roy.
“I really do,” Roy said. He paused, delicately. “I might point out that there’s a full bottle of a rather good single-malt scotch in the cabinet back at the house, however.” He didn’t say back at home. Roy didn’t know where home was to Ed, but he was fairly certain that it wasn’t Roy’s house.
Roy’s house wasn’t home to him, either. Home was back in the graveyard they’d visited today.
Ed nodded. “Sounds fine to me,” he said. “Less chance of you injuring yourself,” he added, muttering.
Roy poured them both tumblers of scotch, neat. Roy raised his before sipping at it, but Ed just downed the whole thing without ceremony. Roy raised an eyebrow. “I’m impressed you can do that without choking,” he offered.
“Alcohol tastes disgusting,” Ed said. “I don’t see any point in drawing out the experience.” He shook his head, and held out his glass for more.
“I could argue that you’re a philistine,” Roy said, refilling his glass, “And that this is an eighteen-year-old, oak-aged single-malt scotch. And that it is delicious. But I think we both already knew all those points of information, and should move forward without having to belabor them.”
“That’s what I like about you, Mustang,” Ed said, and downed his second glass. “No unnecessary chatter.”
“I’m not refilling that again,” Roy told him, pulling back the bottle. “Not until you’ve metabolized it some. You’ll get alcohol poisoning if you keep that up.”
Ed rolled his eyes. “Given my body mass, you’d need to give me at least-” his eyes went up as he calculated in his head. “-At least some more glasses before I got really sick,” he finished, indistinctly.
Apparently, Ed wasn’t such a genius that he could do that kind of math in his head after two tumblers of scotch in as many minutes. Roy filed that away for future reference.
“I’m glad you like something about me,” Roy said, going back to what Ed’s comment a moment ago. “I’d wondered.”
Ed looked over at him. “Mm?” he said, and then shrugged. “You’re okay. Less annoying than I used to think. I mean, I stay here, don’t I?”
Roy sipped his drink. “Why?” he asked. “I’ve wanted to know. Why do you stay?” He knew he was taking advantage of Ed’s drunkenness, but he knew he wasn’t going to get an answer out of him sober.
“Want me to go?” Ed offered, raising an eyebrow.
“No,” Roy said. “But you’d hardly even been polite to me in...” he paused, thinking. “Well, ever. And then one day you just moved yourself in with me. I’m not... not objecting. But why?”
Ed shrugged. He knitted his fingers together, looking down at his lap. “You needed me,” he said. “No one else had needed me for years.”
Roy snorted. “I was fine on my own,” he protested.
“No you weren’t,” Ed said, leaning his head back. His cheeks were flushed from the scotch. “You’re still not. I saw the way you looked at Riza’s grave.”
Roy froze, his fingers tightening around the tumbler in his hands. “It’s not unusual to be sad at seeing a friend’s grave,” he said, coldly.
Ed looked up at him, finally meeting his eyes. “It is when you look like you wish you could bury yourself next to it,” he said. “Is that what you want? For us to put you next to her so that you can be together forever? I hate to tell you, but she’s gone. The only thing left at that grave is rotting flesh that isn’t Hawkeye anymore.” Roy’s eyes flashed, and his hands curled into fists. Ed ignored him, grinning nastily. “You don’t get to be buried until you’re dead and gone, Mustang, so stop wishing otherwise.”
“What the hell do you know about it?” Roy shouted, pushing aside his empty tumbler. “Don’t talk about her like that!”
“Like what, Mustang?” Ed snarled, pulling himself upright. “What, do you really think that she’s still alive, floating around somewhere? There was a steel beam through her chest, and her legs were crushed into pulp. She bled until she didn’t have any blood anymore, and then she died. The unique event that was Riza Hawkeye disappeared from the world. No second chances. And you broke your fucking promise, bastard.”
Roy forced himself to keep his shaking hands away from his ignition gloves. “What promise are you talking about?” He asked, his voice low and tight.
“You promised you’d become Fuhrer,” Ed said, his yellow eyes bright with grief and anger. “You promised you’d turn this country around. She believed in you, asshole. She gave you her life for it, a long time before she died.” He reached for the scotch bottle, leaning across the table. “I believed in you too,” he said, more quietly, his voice slurring a little.
Roy leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes. A full tumbler was shoved into his hands. Roy looked down at it, and then up at Ed, who was sipping at a newly-filled tumbler of his own. “I never told her I loved her,” Roy whispered, and part of his mind told him that he wasn’t nearly drunk enough to justify that kind of revelation.
Ed blinked at him. “Fuck you didn’t,” he snapped. “I saw you. Y’said- fuck, what was it... That shit about how her dying was unacceptable. Y’couldn’t lose her. That time with Envy. Fuck, asshole, even I could hear how much you loved her.”
Roy stared into his glass. This was all getting away from him. “I know she knew,” he whispered. “I should still have said the words.”
Ed glared at him. “Y’think you’ve got regrets,” he said. “You wanna hear mine? You wanna hear the thing I never told- I never told anyone? Not even Al. Or Granny.”
Roy stared at him, blinking. “Edward-” he started.
“Winry was pregnant,” Ed told him, swaying slightly. He gulped the last of the scotch in his glass. “S’what we were fightin’ about. She had just found out, an’ I was so fuckin’ scared an’ she got mad at me. Hung up on me. N’then she was gone, n’I never got the chance to tell her-” Ed leaned forward, his shoulders shaking. “She was gone, her an’ the baby, n’it was all my fault-”
Ed was sobbing then, keening his grief, clutching at his own hair with clumsy, drunken fingers. “Ed,” Roy said, gently, not knowing what to say. He sat for an awkward moment, watching the younger man cry. Then he reached out and put a hand on Ed’s shoulder. To Roy’s surprise, Ed didn’t push him away. Cautiously, slowly, Roy pulled the other man into his arms, pushing Ed’s hands away from his head so he couldn’t rip any more hair out. He didn’t even try to tell Ed that it wasn’t his fault. “She would have forgiven you,” Roy said, with as much certainty as he could muster. “If she’d gotten the chance. If she were still here, she would forgive you now.”
Ed clutched Roy’s arms, screaming into his shoulder, rocking back and forth with the intensity of his grief. Roy held him until he stilled, and if his own cheeks were wet, he refused to acknowledge it.
“Ed,” Roy said, pulling away enough to see the younger man’s face. “Let’s get you up to bed.”
Ed walked like a drunken zombie, but they got him up the stairs and into the room he slept in. Roy helped him pull his boots off, and he flopped back onto the pillow.
“Mustang,” Ed said, his voice quiet, and his eyes unfocused, “I miss her.”
“I know, Ed,” Roy said, glad that he hadn’t drunk nearly as much as Ed had.
“I miss Al, too. N’Granny, n’Mom. N’Dad. I miss... I miss me.” Ed turned his face into his pillow.
“I know,” Roy repeated. “It’s okay. We can talk about it in the morning, okay?”
“‘Kay,” Ed said, blearily. His eyes closed, and he was out.
It was nearly two days before Roy saw him again. The next morning, Roy made him a tray with some food, a large glass of water, and a finger of scotch. He left it next to Ed’s door and left him to face his hangover in solitude. When Roy got home from work that evening, Ed was still in his room, and didn’t come out for dinner. Roy cooked anyway and left him a plate in the icebox. It wasn’t until the following evening that Ed was again parked on the couch in the study, reading an Aerugian phrasebook. “Bonan vesperon,” Roy commented.
“Iru inferen,” Ed answered, not looking up.
Roy raised an eyebrow. “I don’t recall there being that kind of language in that book,” he said, peering sideways at it.
Ed shrugged. “Fuery taught me a few things he learned down South,” he said. “You cooking tonight, or am I?”
“I’m not particular,” Roy answered, congenially.
Roy cooked, and Ed set the table. There was a distinct lack of alcohol, Roy noted.
“I’ve been thinking,” Roy said, when they’d both had a chance to eat. “If you wanted, you could re-activate your commission.”
Ed looked up at him. “What the fuck?” he said, recoiling at the idea. “Why the hell would I do that? Besides, I’m not an alchemist anymore. I wouldn’t rank as a major.”
“Colonel,” Roy corrected. “You were double-promoted before your retirement, remember? Your military rank is ‘Colonel’, whether you’re a State Alchemist or not.”
Ed stared, stabbing a piece of meat with his fork. “What-the-fuck-ever,” he said. “I’m not an alchemist. I don’t belong in the military anymore- as much as I ever did. I mean, what the fuck kind of soldier won’t kill?”
“There are plenty of people in the military that aren’t alchemists,” Roy pointed out. “And you’ve been helpful, these last couple of months. You could be a staff researcher. You still know more about alchemy than most State Alchemists, after all. And- if I’m going to try to make it to the top, I’ll need people to support me.”
Ed’s eyes widened. “I thought you’d given up,” he said.
“I made a promise,” Roy said. “Someone reminded me of that recently.”
Ed blew out a breath. “I’ll think about it,” he said.
Ed showed up at Roy’s office more than a week later. He was wearing the uniform and carrying transfer papers. “They’ve assigned me as part of your staff, General,” he said, with a sardonic look in his eye. He didn’t quite salute.
“I’m glad to know that you’ll have my back, Colonel,” Roy told him.
One evening, Ed told Roy that he was moving out. “Al’s moving back here,” Ed told him. “He wants us to live together, and I told him that was okay.”
“Good,” Roy said. “It’s been a while since the two of you were together.” He was surprised by how unhappy he felt about this- he had surely known it was coming.
Ed nodded. “This isn’t an excuse for you to act like an idiot, okay?” His voice was brusque. “If you start up with that slow-suicide bullshit again, I’ll know.”
“I was never suicidal, Fullmetal,” Roy said, glaring at him. “Don’t insult me.”
“Hell you weren’t,” Ed muttered. “Look, there’s going to be dinner at Mrs. Hughes’s house on Sundays. So I’ll see you there.”
“If you like,” Roy said.
Ed and Al were there, of course. So was Gracia, who understood.
Al looked much as he ever had- still tall, still handsome. A little less sad, perhaps. He stood close to his brother, a hand on his shoulder.
Ed had come from work that morning. He’d taken off his uniform jacket, but was still in the blue pants and the white shirt. He knelt at Winry’s grave, two bouquets in his hands. His face was sad, but not haggard. There was less anger in his eyes and more grief.
“I’m sorry, Brother,” Al said, softly.
Ed nodded. “I miss her,” he said. “It’s still like she died yesterday. It doesn’t ever hurt less. It’s not fair.”
“It’s like that,” Gracia said, softly, putting a hand on Ed’s other shoulder. “That’s how it was for me.”
Gracia stood close to Roy as they walked back to their cars, towards her house and Sunday dinner. “He’s finally healing,” she said softly. “So are you.”
Roy blushed. “There’s no need to be so dramatic about it,” he said.
Gracia smiled. “I’ll do what I like,” she said. “We’re having roast for dinner on Tuesday. I’ll expect to see you there.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Roy said, softly.