Very unlike him, he buried his head in his arms folded across the long counter of the bar. His fourth shot of the evening sat beside a light-blue clad elbow, drained to the point that the only thing left was glass. The filtration of his shirt was a pleasant break from the air so filled with smoke he had trouble seeing through it, though maybe part of that was due to the alcohol coursing through his veins. He liked the atmosphere in that bar, the fact that the loud raucous youngsters generally stayed away and if they showed up they never cared to linger. No, this was a bar for the older, the brooding and the regretful; the wasted. There was very little noise, a sad, wordless tune filled the air interrupted only occasionally by the clink of ice in a glass or a bark of stale laughter.
Roy supposed he wasn’t nearly as drunk as he could be, as steady a drinker as he was he could hold alcohol very well and at that moment he could probably still have counted to twenty without taking his shoes off. His mind though, was a little hazy but he hadn’t had quite enough to dash away the sting of the swollen, broken skin on his jaw where an automail fist had made intentional contact. He sat back some to brush his fingers against the tender lump, putting just enough pressure to draw a dull throb deep against his jaw. “I thought you were unconscious.” The bar-keep said, having turned toward the movement. Roy didn’t say anything just smiled and shook his head slowly. “Well, are you ready for another then?” The elderly gent asked, gesturing to his empty glass. Reflexively, he opened his mouth to answer yes but his hand touched the mark Edward had left again, allowing the pain to be his conscious and moved his head from side to side.
“Not just yet.”
“Suit yourself then.” And he left to answer the silent beckon of another man on the far side of the bar.
A fly began to buzz about him, not a testament either for or against the sanitation of the place, simply unavoidable in the cool midst of autumn when every living creature was fighting for heat, whether wishing for the sun or simply a comfortable place to spend the night. His dark eyes followed the tiny, energetic insect for a few seconds until his head swam from the motion. It was funny, the similarities between himself and the bug, he realized as it swerved through drunken, swatting hands. He imagined the harshness of being so small afloat in something so cold, so large as it had been before the bar: the Ishballan Rebellion. The elation of finding something warm and safe: Edward; and the downhill slide of finding so much trouble still around even with that warmth. His mouth twisted forlornly as the bartender smacked the fly with a rag, only to wipe its corpse away a moment later.
Slowly his gaze drifted back to the clear tumbler before him and he gave thought to having it once again filled with the amber liquid of destruction. One more glass of numbness. He was raising his hand to signal for another when a gust of freezing night air hit his neck, sending an unbound shiver down his spine. The disturbance drew the attention of most patrons, including his own. The doorway held a small man, cheeks bright red with chill and a heavy brown duster fluttering still from the gust. His eyes, familiar and gold, scanned the room pointedly as he tossed one end of his dark blue scarf back over his shoulder. Their eyes caught but neither’s face changed expression. Roy turned back to the counter quietly and hunched his shoulders slightly, deeply surprised.
He watched out of the corner of his vision as Edward climbed onto the stool next to him, unwrapping his scarf as he did so. Tension hung thick between them and Roy couldn’t help the flare of pain in his chin as Ed’s automail wrist flashed in the dim light when his sleeve fell slightly. The younger man motioned for the old man behind the bar and ordered a mug of warm ale. Roy was almost sad when he noted there was no question in the bar tender’s nod, Edward was still small but no one doubted his maturity anymore, a more dire air hung about him than before. They remained shrouded in silence while Ed waited for his drink and the general continued to eye his empty cup, giving his lover low glances.
When it came Edward wrapped both hands around the thick glass mug and took a large drink; the change in temperature raised goosebumps on the flesh of his throat. After he’d set the cup down and ran the back of a gloved hand over his mouth he started: “I’m sorry I punched you.” He took a deep breath, “Not that you didn’t deserve it.” Roy may have smiled had the apology not been so obviously forced, not that he begrudged Ed’s anger. There was a long pause before anything else was said, but finally Roy spoke.
“I won’t hold it against you.” They chuckled together awkwardly, and Roy shifted on his stool simply for something to do.
“This has got to stop.” Edward said his tone quiet but firm. “I don’t,” he took another lengthy breath and sipped his beverage, “I don’t want to end this but to be honest I’m sick of this bullshit.” And he had every right to be, over months Roy’s drinking had simply gotten steadily worse, his attitude had become foul and he knew it but the addiction was strong. “It won’t be easy, and maybe I shouldn’t ask you to do it, but you’ve got to decide what’s more important: the alcohol or me.” He lifted his hand to get the waiters attention again and motioned to Roy’s glass. Roy wasn’t sure what to do, or even what to say, so he watched as the glass was filled once more. The aroma of stinging whiskey hit his nostrils, stronger than the smoke, and want snarled ghastly and venomous in his chest. Edward’s eyes were on him like a hawk, hard and curious and Roy met them for a second before returning to the drink. The numbness, that bitter-sweet escape but he breathed deep and knew it wasn’t worth it. He leaned forward, taking the glass in one hand and he could actually feel Ed tense beside him and begin to rise but his lean kept going and he upturned the glass in the sink beyond the counter.
Again there was a heavy silence, it wouldn’t be that easy but he had the will power and his priorities were set. He returned to his seat, staring straight ahead for what felt like ever until he had the nerves to glance back at Edward. One corner of his mouth had twitched up slightly though his expression hadn’t changed much otherwise. “Why did you come?” Roy asked softly.
“I promised once, if you don’t remember, that I’d put you back together if you fell apart. Well, Humpty, I may not be all the kings horses and all the kings men but I’ll do my best.” They finally did smile a small one together and Roy said:
“You never were one to break a promise.”