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When In Rome

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It figures that the moment Al leaves everything goes to shit.

 

Ed is in nothing but sweatpants, holding open the door to someone who is probably a Calvin Klein model in army pants and a shirt that reads '<3 Italia'.

 

Cosa vuoi ?” Ed says icily. The underwear model smiles at him tiredly and speaks in perfect English.

 

“Oh, I'm sorry. I must have got the wrong...room.” In one synchronised movement they look at the key in Mr. Model's hand, and then to the door number blazoned next to Ed's head. Both read 4.12.

 

Ed's eyebrow gives a tiny twitch. Hardly even noticeable. The army's hottest annoyance sighs lightly.

 

“I suppose we should sort this out with reception. You don't happen to speak English do you? Parlez-vous Francais?”

 

“English is fine.” Ed sighs deeply. “All right, let's get this over with.” Ed shuts the door in the guy's face. He grabs a shirt and pulls it over his head, considers fixing his no doubt awful hair in the mirror, and then dismisses any thought of looking presentable. Fuck that and fuck this hostel and fuck the hot dude outside his door.

 

No. No, on second thought, do not fuck the hot dude outside the door. Terrible idea.

 

He picks up his his key and opens the door once more. His uninvited guest is loitering in the hall and looks mildly relieved to see Ed return. Ed scowls at him. Instead of looking at the compact firmness of the arm gripping the heavy-looking black duffel bag, Ed tries to focus on being angry at being woken up.

 

“Move your ass,” he says, pushing past in the slim corridor. Hastily he patters down the spiralling Italian staircase. Behind him the clomp of army-issue boots echoes clunkily on the marble of the steps, so at least he's following.

 

Reception is an exceedingly hipster affair. The male staff all have beards and topknots, the females all have ridiculously complimentary shades of lipstick, and the walls are chalkboards detailing the sights of Rome in carefully-cool calligraphy.

 

“Room mix up,” Ed says without preamble, thumb jabbing in the direction of the guy he hopes is behind him. The receptionist looks at them both with one raised brow.

 

“Room numbers, please?” He asks.

 

“You gave him 4.12. But I'm in 4.12. So, room mix up.” Ed repeats. He's been in a sour mood since Al left and now he's having to deal with morons—and they aren't even Italian morons. Somehow he's managed to find the one place in Rome where everyone is fucking English. He has one more day left in Rome and then he's getting on his plane and the fuck out of dodge, and he just wants to sleep until then if that's allowed thank you.

 

“No, no mix up, Sir. Your companion checked out this morning, so this gentleman will be taking the second bed.” Ed's eyes widen, but he resists the urge to tip the bowl of fancy-looking candied nuts all over the receptionist's manbunned head.

 

“I paid for a room,” he states evenly instead.

 

“I'm afraid not Sir. We only sell beds here, since we're a hostel. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience, but yours is the only room with a space, and Mr. Mustang is in a pretty pressing situation.” The receptionist turns to look at the model-man still loitering—looming, the fucking giant— chicly behind Ed's shoulder. When it becomes evident that the receptionist is not going to expand further, Ed turns with a fist on his hip.

 

“You can't go elsewhere because...?” He demands. 'Mr. Mustang' is looking distinctly less friendly, but no less distinguished. He rubs one temple in a gracefully pained movement.

 

“My flight got changed to stop over in Rome. I won't have access to my accounts until tomorrow since my leave only just started, so I only have enough for somewhere cheap. Everywhere else is booked up; I know because I've walked between all of them personally. So, if you wouldn't mind being a bit more helpful about the whole ordeal, I'd really appreciate it.”

 

Another man might have been moved by his patient reply, or at least by his obscenely pretty face, but Ed is Ed. Other men are almost another species next to him, and he knows it.

 

“This really isn't acceptable,” he says to the receptionist, turning his back on Mustang, but not before catching sight of his frustrated shrug.

 

“I will literally give you a hundred euros just to give this up and let me use the bed. I'm dead on my feet and just want to sleep,” Mustang growls.

 

Ed weighs it up. Other people and him do not share personal space. Beyond the fact that Ed hates people, beyond the fact that people often hate Ed back, Ed has clear and justifiable reasons for wanting a space to himself. The weight difference between his two 'feet', and the sad lump that was once a leg attest to that.

 

On the other hand, he can kind of remember the small print saying something about two-bed rooms being shared, and a hundred euros would really not go amiss at this point in time. Plus the receptionist is starting to look at him like mould, and his flight will be leaving in five hours.

 

With a long-suffering sigh, Ed runs a hand through his bangs.

 

“Fine. Whatever. I'll be out of here in a few hours anyway. Just don't keep me up; I need to be up at like five. And that's gross enough as it is.” He turns on his heel, hair snapping, and begins the slow trudge up the steps again. Mustang catches up with him easily.

 

“Thank you, very much. I'm sorry for the inconvenience...?” Ed is wondering about the upward inflection until he sees the outstretched hand. He hesitates but then takes it. It would be better if this guy didn't garrote him in his sleep, after all.

 

“Edward Elric. You got a first name to go with Mustang?”

 

“It's Roy. Pleasure.”

 

“Liar.” Ed says without thinking. Roy laughs with a breath through his nose.

 

“Well, maybe it will be more of a pleasure in the morning, when I haven't just woken you up.”

 

“More unbelievable miracles have happened, probably.” The last steps are in sight. Ed is thinking longingly of bed and much less longingly of his early wake up.

 

He unlocks the door to his—their—room and gestures towards the neatly made bed.

 

“That one's yours, I guess. I don't have anything in the safety deposit box, so go nuts. I'm going to bed.” He tumbles into the white sheets and tries to get comfortable. His awareness of a stranger in the room is like a nagging noise, even though Roy moves quietly and efficiently into the bathroom. The water runs, and then Roy comes out in the same god-awful tee shirt and his boxers. Ed rolls his eyes and burrows into the duvet some more.

 

Well, he'd been right about the guy being underwear model material, anyway.

 

“I'm sorry, you don't happen to have a spare plug adapter do you?” Roy asks in a half whisper. Ed gestures vaguely over to Roy's side of the room.

 

“Yeah there's stuff plugged in over there you can pull out. Use that one. Now shut up and go to sleep.” He grumbles, and Roy pulls out the plugs with a muffled click. Finally, everything is silent.

 

> --------

 

Ed wakes to light rays of sunshine dappling the bed. His stump isn't too sore even after sleeping with the leg on, his stupid roommate didn't snore, and he feels well rested.

 

He turns over to look at the clock groggily. Its screen is blank.

 

Panic lances through him and he sits up quickly enough to smack his head on a shelf uselessly placed above the beds. Holding his head with one hand, he scrambles for his phone. Roy is waking up behind him with a yawn.

 

The phone is on ten percent battery, and the time is 6:27.

 

“Fuck!” Ed yells, stumbling out of the bed and hobbling to the bathroom, grabbing whatever the hell clothes he can see on the way. He's dressed in a total of twenty seconds, and emerges again carrying bathroom paraphernalia like he's going to distribute it among the masses.

 

Roy is halfway dressed, pulling on the same clothes as the previous day with a grimace.

 

“Weren't you supposed to leave at five?” Roy asks, and somehow there's no malice in his tone, only genuine confusion.

 

“Yes I pissing was but the stupid alarm clock has stopped working and I didn't even bother with the phone because it's been totally fine before now…” Ed is ramming bits and pieces into his backpack.

 

“Oh.” Roy says, meaningfully. And at his tone Ed turns to look at him, because that is an 'oh' laced with dawning guilt. An 'oh' that Ed is fairly familiar with himself.

 

“‘Oh’? Why ‘oh’? What did you do?” He demands. Roy is looking at him and somehow managing to look both smooth and apologetic at the same time.

 

“I think that the plug I used may have contained an extension cable, which might, maybe, have been powering the clock.”

Ed looks at him dumbly, and then the clock dumbly, and then opens and closes his mouth a few times for good measure.

 

“You…” He begins. Then he holds his hands in front of himself. 'I don't have time for this. I have to go! But there is a special circle of hell reserved for you, you know?' Ed wrenches open the door and manhandles his rucksack through the tiny corridor. For some god-forsaken reason, Roy is following him. Ed ignores him.

 

He takes the stairs two at a time with his right leg, normal pace with his left, and so ends up zigzagging at a decent pace. The receptionist jumps when Ed slams his key card onto the desk.

 

“Gotta catch a flight, here's the card, thanks for your help,” he chunters dutifully. The poor girl is floored.

 

“Are you going to make it in time if you leave now?” Roy asks, keeping up with him with ease. Ed would roll his eyes if he wasn't busy moving as quickly as possible.

 

“Probably not, no. Unless you want to go and unplug the plane for me; you could make that late as well.”

 

“Okay, I deserve that. Look, I can't apologise enough. Let me get your taxi. I owe you that hundred anyway, I can get your fare out as well,” Roy offers. He's a goddamn Adonis in the morning sun, and Ed feels short and plain and flustered next to him. Hadn't they gotten ready in the same amount of time as each other? How has Roy rolled out of bed looking so fucking put-together? On that note, has he even packed everything? There wasn't time to do a round of the room and check under the bed. His passport is probably down the back of the wardrobe or something.

 

“Whatever,” he says to both Mustang and his panicking thoughts.

 

Termini station gleams at them through the trees and cars. Even at the considerable distance they are at, Ed can see that the damn place is heaving. Buses clamour outside the front, and people are clusters of ants rushing to trains. He has to get a new bus now— - if there's even space. The coach his seat had been on an hour earlier had been fully booked.

 

As they get closer he can see the goddamn ticket line extending out of the door and up the street. That's that then, no bus. Sidestepping people and jettisoning into the main building, he fights his way to the departure boards.

 

“No nononono.” He groans. There's a train in two minutes. If he can somehow push his way to the front of a ticket machine queue, and then run through the barriers to the platform, he might just make it.

 

It takes cutting off an old lady and three nuns to get to the machine. Apologising profusely, he throws his bag to the ground next to it, and angry tittering starts up behind him.

 

The machine, hunking hulk of fucking garbage, doesn't respond to his fingertips. The touchscreen is a menace made to raise the blood pressure of the general populace, he's pretty sure. Stabbing violently at the screen a few more times somehow manages to take him back to the main menu. Ed is about three seconds away from ripping out a fistful of his own hair when Roy appears in his peripheral vision, shoulders Ed's backpack, and grabs his shirt to lead him bodily away from the ticket machine.

 

“The fuck Mustang?”

“The taxi takes about fifty minutes. What time is your flight?” Roy asks. A coffee is pushed into Ed's hands, and it's in a shitty paper cup, but the smell alone makes Ed grateful for it anyway.

 

“Like...seven-forty, or something,” Ed says. The taxi rank is empty and Roy herds him towards the end.

 

“It might be all right if we step on it,” Roy muses, slowing as Ed stumbles a bit. It's seconds before a taxi turns up. Roy and the driver both look blankly at him, so Ed reels off the correct airport name and clambers into the back seat.

 

To his surprise, Roy slides in neatly after him.

 

“What—” Ed begins. The engine rumbles to life as Roy clips his belt into place.

 

“I don't have anything on me so I'll have to pay him when we get there. There'll be a cash point at the airport.” Roy cuts him off. Ed buckles his own belt and slides down in the leather.

 

“Thanks. I guess,” he manages to force out.

 

“It's the least I can do for making your journey so stressful,” Roy replies with a guilty smile. The night before flits through Ed's mind and he wrinkles his nose at it.

 

“No, no I'm just in a fucking mood because flying is a pain and I was tired and...look it wasn't even your fault if we're both honest, was it? Because you did ask which socket you could use, and it was me who said to use the one with the extension cable in. This is probably just karma for being such an asshole to you. And I probably deserve it, too. So. Sorry. I—yeah you've been pretty decent about everything, actually.”

 

“Don't mention it,” Roy says, and he's still smiling, and Ed is wondering if there's something on his face or...what? The hell is he looking at? He takes a nervous sip of his coffee and resorts to watching Rome pass from the window.

 

The taxi driver starts talking about the sites as they go past in thickly-accented Italian. Ed is about to tell him not to bother when Roy pipes up.

 

“Do you, perhaps, know what he might be saying? What if the traffic—”

 

“Oh. No, he's just telling us about the historical stuff we're going past.” As Ed says it they turn into a road and the Colosseum rises up before them. Half covered by scaffolding thanks to it being off-season, it's still an imposing structure rising high and wide over anything around it. The sky is clear and blue through its arches. The driver carries on talking, giving Ed a friendly wink in the rearview mirror. Ed scrambles to translate loosely.

 

“He says that that's the Colosseum, and that over there you can see Palatine Hill. You can see the remains of the palaces off the other roads, but not this one. This one's quicker.”

 

“Which one?” Roy asks. Ed leans over to point at Roy's window.

 

“There, between the trees.” He looks at Roy to check he's looking in the right place, expecting him to have moved back. Roy has not. Their faces are almost awkwardly close.

 

Roy smirks when Ed pulls quickly back.

 

“Thank you. Maybe I'll have time to visit it before they get me on to another flight,” Roy muses. The view outside is changing from the archaeological sites of ancient Rome, to the high-rise hustle and bustle of the modern city. Hotel complexes pass them in a blur. “So, you're fluent in Italian?”

 

“Yeah, I've been here for about four months.”

 

“Studying?”

 

“No, I finished my degree last year. I'm scraping money together to get through a masters when I can. Waiting for my brother to graduate so we can do a masters together, which was actually the reason I'm flying out.”

 

'I'm sorry, it's pretty big to miss a graduation. I can see why you would be stressed.' Roy gives him a concerned look.

 

“Nah, even he won't be there for that. We'll both be back in England by then; I was just gonna see his campus and stuff before he left. It still sucks though, since it's my only real chance to see that part of his life. “ Ed would like to meet Al's friends, and see his bedroom, and look at his lecture halls. It would be weird if there was a whole, very influential section of Al's life he'd never be able to connect with. An entire three years that Ed could only talk about in vague terms, with memories just skype conversations that he is glossing over already.

 

Is that weird? Probably. They've been told too many times that they are far too reliant on each other;, 'codependent' is what the last shrink said. Ed is willing to bet that he was the enabler in that. Italy is close enough to Switzerland that he could get a train up to Al if he needed to, but he'd made it through without giving in to the urge to just turn up at his brother's door, just to see someone who loves him. He deserves points for that. Probably.

 

“Let's try and make sure you get on that plane then, hm?” Roy says, and Ed returns to earth.

 

“We can try.”

 

The taxi pulls in and Ed is off like a shot. He's sure that Roy won't mind- Roy doesn't seem to mind anything, really.

 

The inside of the airport is sparse, building works echoing over the squeaky clean tile. It's practically empty, and Ed can see his check-in desk, no line, looking like salvation.

 

He skids to a stop in front of it and the perfectly-coiffed lady there smiles at him in a friendly way.

 

“How may I help you?” She asks. Ed regulates his breathing and fumbles in his pocket for his boarding reservation.

 

“Flight to Switzerland?” He asks, gesturing to the screen behind her.

 

“Are you Mister Edward Elric?” She asks, and he smile turns sympathetic. Shit.

 

“Yes. Why?” He asks her warily.

 

“I'm afraid we called you several times, for the last half hour in fact. Your flight is due to leave in seven minutes. There's no way we can get you through security in that time, I'm so sorry.” She says. And he can see the apprehension in her eyes. Capping his rage and irritation, he simply sighs and slumps.

 

“No, my fault. I guess...I'll just look into another flight or something. Thanks, though.” A tired hand runs through his bangs, scraping them back off his face. The check-in assistant gives him another sympathetic look.

 

“I really am sorry, Sir. You can get another ticket sorted at the desk by E3;I'm sure they'll be able to find one leaving fairly soon to today's date.' She says.

 

“Yeah. Thanks.” Ed slouches off to crouch on a railing and rest his head in his hands for a minute. Fuck. Fucking fuck fuck.

 

He's pulling his phone out to message Al when Roy jogs up to him.

 

“You missed it?” Roy looks dismayed. Ed shrugs at him.

 

“Yeah, they wouldn't let me through. Thanks for trying though.”

 

Missed my flight like a fucking idiot. I'll update you.-

 

Ed sends.

 

“Are you okay?” Roy asks carefully. Ed shakes his head.

 

“Yeah. Yeah.” Yeah, right? He'll be fine. It's a flight. Plenty of worse things have happened in Ed's life. He's been looking forward to getting out of Rome, out of Italy, and back to Al. It feels like he's been on his own forever. But no big deal. It's just money. It's just another week or whatever to wait. It's just another small struggle, and he can deal with it. It's nothing.

 

“Will a hundred euros make you feel any better?” Roy asks, finger carding through the notes in his hand.

 

“You don't have to, I was being a dick. You've already helped a lot.” Ed takes a deep breath and stands up.

 

“You were being unnecessarily rude.”

 

“Yeah, I know. I'm sorry.”

 

“And childish.”

 

A’right .”

 

“And, in your own words, ‘kind of a dick.’” Roy says, closing his eyes and shoving his hands in his pockets. Ed is not going to apologise again. He has a shitty attitude, he knows that. So what? Roy Mustang has had his apology and now he can fuck right off.

 

“Try that once more, Mustang…”

 

“To make it up to me, you can accompany me to lunch.” Roy winks.

 

“Listen, you wait what?” Ed is left in the lurch, trapped in Roy's smug expression. He didn't He couldn't. Could he? Was Edward Elric, the obnoxious and the unsociable, actually being...hit on?

 

No. No way.

 

“But first, tickets. My European account is finally operational, and you need a new flight to Switzerland. I believe I saw customer services that way.” Roy grabs Ed's bag again (what is with that, do they do concierge training in the army or what?) and turns to leave. Ed gapes for just a few seconds a perfectly acceptable amount of time, he feels, hardly noticeable at all before hauling himself to follow. His brain scrambles for something to say in retort to the emotional whiplash he's just suffered.

 

“Your shirt is awful,” is what he manages to scrounge up. Roy laughs, and it's rich and low and clear. Ed feels it run up his spine like fingertips.

 

“I know,” Roy says. “I think I love it.”

 

----

 

After a lot of typing and umming and ahing, the lady at the customer service desk tells him the only flight that can fit him on is in two weeks. The trains, she says, have slowed for the winter, and only one is running weekly. He's missed the one for this week, and the next is fully booked, blah blah. Business as usual as an Elric.

 

So he grits his teeth and pays through the nose for a flight that will get him to Al just three days before their second flight to the UK. And he tries very hard to be grateful for it.

 

As the customer assistant sorts his information, Roy wanders off to another desk. Alone and still pretty grumpy, Ed pulls out his phone.

 

-Sorted it but i wont be with you until week after next

 

He hits send and locks the phone to avoid just staring at it and waiting for a reply. Al will be disappointed, but he'll be nice about it. Somehow that will make Ed feel worse.

 

With a sigh he fiddles with the chain around his neck. The fine gold links slide through his fingers easily, hooking around his thumb. Roy is flirting with the lady at the other desk, and Ed has a perfect view of it from his leaning slouch. Hitting on people must just be Roy's default, he surmises, which would fit because it's once in a blue moon that anyone bothers to put 'Ed' and 'flirting with' in the same sentence. Maybe if Ed had a face like that, he'd go around smarming his way about life as well.

 

The customer service lady laughs at something Roy says, and pinks prettily. Roy leans on the counter in a way that allows his eyes to be almost at her level, and gestures at her.

 

“Your reservation is complete.” Ed's passport slides into his vision and rips him away from analysing Roy's no-doubt practiced moves. His phone buzzes and he opens the message with one lazy hand.

 

“Thanks,” he says to the customer service assistant distractedly, focusing his tired eyes on Al's reply. She turns away from him to serve someone else.

 

-That's fine, email me the flight plan, okay? Will you be all right there without your flat? The hostel room is cheap, but still.

 

yeh i will. don't worry they put a new guy in your bed the second you left so i'm only paying half. it's bullshit and it's totally at least half the reason i missed the flight.-

 

-Don't be rude to him just because he got your room, Brother.

 

too late you know me too well-

 

-Have you already fought with him?

 

no, no, he's all long suffering and polite and shit.-

sorry polite and stuff-

 

-Maybe you could take a leaf from his book then, and be friendly.

 

Ed rolls his eyes and shoves his phone in his pocket. Dropping the chain to pick up the passport, it taps softly against his chest. Too softly. Ed frowns.

 

He runs both hands around the full length of the chain, but the links are stubbornly uninterrupted. His heart tumbles like a sack of rocks down to his feet.

 

Hooking his bags around himself and ramming his stuff into his pockets, he starts a jog towards 'lost luggage and property'.

 

“Be right back!” He calls to Roy and the prospective Mrs Mustang, not pausing for a moment. He'll have visited every desk in the damn airport by the time he leaves. He can feel Roy's confused gaze on him but he zeros in on the poor man in the lost property booth.

 

“Has anyone found a gold locket? No chain on it. It's probably broken. It's plain but there's two pictures inside, about the size of a bottle cap.” Ed directs at him in Italian.

 

“When did you lose it? Is it valuable?” There’s a man inside that goatee somewhere, and he moves to check the records. Ed tries to think back, but it's not something he's really aware of since he's always wearing it. When did he last have it? That could be anywhere.

 

“I'm hoping I had it when I came in about half an hour ago. Uh, it's real gold, but I don't think it's worth that much. It has, like, a lot of sentimental value though, or whatever. Maybe you could mention to the cleaning crews, in case they throw it out…”

 

“They're very good sir, don't worry. They wouldn't dispose of something like that. It doesn't look like we've had any hand-ins today. I can take your name and number though, and if we find it I can call you?”

 

“Yeah. Yeah okay.” Ed takes the form that he is handed and scribbles his details onto it.

 

“You've lost something? It's a bad luck day for you today.” Roy's voice, behind him and suddenly close, makes him jump.

 

“Uh, yeah. It's...a family heirloom, kind of. A locket. It's my mother's,” Ed sketches out. “I don't even know when I last had it though. It could be anywhere.”

 

“Well, it's probably in the room somewhere. You had to pack this morning in a hurry…” Roy sends him a reassuring smile.

 

Ed sends a watery one back.

 

“Hopefully. One more thing to go wrong, and then I'm done. Al maintains that they come in threes. Something about the human mind holding on to three negative events more easily than two.”

 

“So. One more?” Roy prompts.

 

“Bring it on.”

 

------

 

Ed manages to re-reserve his bed at the hostel. Which is, of course, good for his wallet. However, it's potentially very, very bad for his blood pressure.

 

Roy has discovered Ed's... insecurity about his slightly below average stature. Comments so far have ranged from 'would you like me to check the higher shelves?' to dad-level jokes like 'you must be at least 5"6 to ride this ride', and even one 'I'm not going to be criticised by a gremlin.'.

 

The result of course is that Ed's mood has been getting steadily darker, especially since they've torn through the whole room and found nothing but some loose change and a questionably out of date condom. It wouldn't be so bad if Roy would just let him be annoyed, but the bastard has to keep going and making smart-aleck remarks, or starting interesting conversations, and then Ed is responding before he has a chance to think about how irritable he is.

 

Frustrated and without the satisfying drama of an angry, black mood to go with it, Ed collapses onto the bed. Roy is in the shower singing some crappy French song bizarrely well. Ed can only understand every few words or so, since French is far enough removed from English and Italian to be confusing, but it's enough to get one line of the chorus to stick in his head. Blowing his bangs out of his face, he slides his phone out of his pocket.

 

save me this man is a menace-

 

He types to Al. The floating dots appear to let him know that Al is responding immediately.

 

-How so?

 

he's singing in the shower and has been for the past ten minutes. he hit on three women in the same bus on our journey home alone, he marches everywhere even though he's just a civilian here, and if he makes another comment about my height i'm gonna chop off his feet!!!-

 

-That hardly sounds menacing.

 

Wait. Just wait.-

 

Ed swaps to snapchat and lines his camera up with the bathroom door. Holding down record, he immortalises Roy's porcelain concert. He almost drops the phone when the door opens without warning, and Roy emerges, dripping and in a towel far too small to be decent. He's still singing at the exact same volume, deep and baritone. Ed's clumsy fumbling with the phone in his shock ends up sending the whole embarrassing thing to Al.

 

Roy grabs deodorant from his bag and disappears back into the steaming bathroom. Ed's retinas are trying to hold onto the image for the rest of time.

 

-I don't know why you're complaining Brother. He's practically a walking gay fantasy.

 

  1. No. Shut up Al. Cover your virgin eyes. you werent meant to see that, and youre NOT SUPPOSED TO THINK THAT EITHER-

 

Ed briefly, very briefly, considers asking Al to save the video. Then he remembers the tattered shreds of his dignity.

 

-Well one of us has to be honest.

 

No we dont. we really don't have to talk about it. ever.-

 

The bathroom door opens again. This time Roy's long, long legs are in a pair of army-issue trousers, and the tiny towel is being rubbed into his hair instead of being barely wrapped around his, as it turns out, fanfuckingtastic ass. There's still a healthy and delightful amount of chest on show though, which Ed tries and fails to be discreet about eyeballing. And there, seared through his left side, is a jagged pink scar. Ed pulls his collar to make sure his own, so similar, is completely covered. Whatever Roy's had been, it hadn't been quick, or clean.

 

In one sinuous movement, Roy pulls a tank over his head and undulates into it. The memory of that is going to haunt Ed's dreams.

 

“Where can we go for lunch that is obscenely overpriced and touristy?” Roy asks. Ed mock-gags at him.

 

“For real?” He asks.

 

“Yes, ‘for real’. I want the whole terrible tourist package experience. I get the impression you're just the man to help me avoid all the authentic and quaintly local places, and today seems like we could both do with some cheesein every sense of the word.” Roy leans back against the desk and crosses his arms in a way that implies he won't be argued with. For a moment Ed wants to deny him just because; because something in him wants to wind Roy up. Maybe because he doesn't like the assumption that he'll just fall into line.

 

His stomach rumbles loudly.

 

“Fine. But only because I'm hungry and all the closest places are shitty tourist traps.”

 

“Of course,” Roy agrees easily. Somehow, even that is annoying.

 

---

 

They find a place with a life-size plaster chef standing at the door. All the tablecloths are checkered, with a stubby candle in the centre, and the menus have tassels. Roy high fives the fake chef as they go past, and leads them straight into Italy hell.

 

Every single available surface is covered in junk. Creepy dolls in various states of decrepit decay squat between plastic replicas of food, and even in early autumn the Christmas decorations hang from the tiny chandelier; tinsel and laminated photographs dangling side by side.

 

A waiter grins at them and leads them through the junk jungle. They go past the display fridge and just the sight of the steaks in there has Ed's mouth watering. Maybe if the food is good he can ignore the obnoxiously twinkling fairy lights.

 

The waiter speaks entirely in English. His white moustache and rounding belly are a cultivated stereotype, along with his hearty 'ho ho' laugh. Like Geppetto. Roy is asking him about the napkins on the wall covered in messages and names, as though he's buying it. As though he's enjoying it.

 

The waiter leaves to get menus and Ed drops onto a bench.

 

“You like this kind of shit, don't you?” He accuses. Roy is the picture of innocence, fitting right in with his tacky tee and playfully cocked eyebrow.

 

“I like to see how countries condense themselves into bitesize touristy chunks, I'll admit. The less class the better.”

 

“You are the lamest.”

 

“Do you think I could get a Colosseum paperweight from the giftshop across the road?” Roy asks. Ed groans.

 

“Probably.”

 

“And a nodding pope. I've always wanted to have a bobblehead on my dash.”

 

“I can't believe I'm out in public with you.”

 

The waiter comes back with menus and also a suspicious square device that seems to have dropped straight out of the seventies.

 

“Take a picture, eh? We'll put it on the wall.” Geppetto suggests jovially, waving the instant camera at them.

 

“No,” Says Ed a the same time Roy lets out a 'we'd love to', and the bastard is getting up and circling the table. He slides in next to Ed and there's suddenly the attractive arm of an attractive dickhead around Ed's shoulders.

 

“Nonono…” Ed protests. Roy lets go immediately.

 

“I'm so sorry, I should have asked.” He apologises, and he looks so damn sincere that Ed is taken back.

 

“No what? No that's fine. I just

 

“Oh! Good then.” The arm is back, along with a warm and solid weight pressed to his side. Ed is suddenly hyper aware of everything; where does he put his arms? Does he smell? He totally didn't shower that morning. Roy smells like sunshine and hair product. Shit.

 

There's a loud click and then a whirring. Geppetto, the puppet-carving bastard, is laughing heartily. He takes a lethal-looking push pin and stabs the picture to the wall between them. It's still black as it develops, clearing slowly, and Ed dreads the results.

 

Roy peels himself away to go back to his seat. Ed's side is cold.

 

“You suck,” Ed declares.

 

“I just wanted a momento of my first lunch date in Italy. Is that so bad?” Roy sing-songs. He flaps his hand at the photo in an effort to develop it faster.

 

“It's not a date if you guilt someone into going, Mustang,” Ed clips. Roy mimes clutching his heart.

 

“You wound me. We're clearly the most perfect couple in here.” Ed looks pointedly around the empty restaurant, and then back to Roy.

 

“You really are just making my point with more evidence you know.”

 

“So you don't think we're the most perfect couple in here?” Roy looks offended. “Well, I suppose the armless baby and the teddy in the dungarees do look like soulmates. I can't really compete with lovers who have literally been nailed to a wall together.”

 

Ed looks over his shoulder, and sure enough amongst the detritus documenting the history of tourists through the ages, a cuddly toy and a doll are nailed to the wall in a way that makes them seem to be holding hands. It's an instant win for his 'creepiest things of the week' award, which is prestigious and much-coveted. He has to show it to Al.

 

“Yeh they definitely beat us. You'd look better in the dungarees though,” Ed throws back, pulling out his phone to take a picture. “It's so fucking creepy. I'm gonna send it to my brother and give him nightmares.”

 

“Dungarees don't really suit me, but thank you. So, your brother isn't into the childish and the macabre?” Roy leans back and bites on a fingernail, drawing Ed's eyes to the plump swell of his lips. Ed puts the phone down and goes for the water. Pouring it will give him precious extra seconds to get his shit together before he has to meet Mustang's eyes again.

 

“No, Al's more the kittens, Delia Smith, and fine art type. We can both appreciate some good Gothic architecture, though. People call us chalk and cheese, but we get along just fine, and we always have science and bad decisions in common if things go tits-up.”

 

“A hardy foundation for any relationship,” Roy agrees. “Good afternoon.” He says as their table is once again descended upon by waiting staff.

 

They are given a reprieve from Geppetto in the form of a waiter who is moustache-less and Ed's age, who brings over some of the weird oiled-up aubergine that all the restaurants in Rome seem to serve. The plate is placed on the table with a flourish, and the young man (tag name; Elia, hair gel; superglue) gives them a flash of devastatingly white smile.

 

“On the house, bello .” Elia's eyebrows do some kind of funny dance that Ed supposes is flirting, but given his personal ignorance in that area might just be a nervous tick. “Where have you been all my life? You are from America?”

 

“Thank you,” Roy replies smoothly. “That's very kind. No, actually we're from England.”

 

“Ah country of Elton John,” he starts to croon. “Can you feel~ the love tonight?” A wink happens. Ed resists the urge to roll his eyes but Roy just laughs good-naturedly.

 

“The peace the evening brings~” of course Roy would join in. As if that asshole would pass up an opportunity to be a complete humiliation.

 

“Ah ti amo ,” says Elia. “My love you are a treasure.”

 

“Just gilded, I'm afraid.” Roy smiles and laces his fingers together on the table top. Menus are placed delicately beside them both.

 

“I will be back for you.” Elia flips some completely-not-moving strands of hair before he leaves, and Ed breaks off a crusty bit of bread.

 

“Do you just get free shit everywhere you go for being hot?” He demands. The bread is shoveled into his mouth quickly to prevent it from saying anything else dumb.

 

“...Sometimes,” Roy concedes. Almost delicately, he cuts a portion of aubergine and chews on it thoughtfully. 'But they probably give this out to everyone, you know, like the bread.'

 

“I mean, sure. But our waiter is totally hitting on you,” Ed says round his bread. Roy pauses in sliding the fork from his mouth to raise an elegant eyebrow.

 

“Forgive me for the generalisation, but I presumed he was just...Italian. They're notorious flirts, and tourists are easy targets. He probably just wants a good tip.”

 

“If you say so.” Ed leans over and dips his bread into the oil on Roy's plate. He supposes he can't really judge given how desperately thirsty he's been acting. Maybe if Roy is this oblivious about Elia he'll be equally blind about Ed's own inability to keep himself in check.

 

Roy reaches up to unpluck the photograph print from the wall.

 

“I'm not sure it's what I would have picked to leave as my mark on this earth, but it does have a sort of honesty to it,” Roy muses. He hands the photo to Ed slotted between two fingers.

 

The picture is grainy and faded even though it's brand new, but Roy still looks like a goddamn wet dream. Ed has been caught with confusion and irritation warring on his face, mouth open in a silent protest. At least the candlelight and general low quality-ness obscure his various facial flaws. He sighs.

 

“I guess.” He's run out of bread, and he's run out of witty conversation too. But he's stuck at the table now and they haven't even ordered yet. Casting about in his mind for something interesting to say, Ed can almost feel the silence stretching along his skin. He doesn't do people. He doesn't do phatic conversation. “So, is anyone gonna be pissed that you're arriving home late?” Is what he settles on. That's the kind of low-level, shallow nothingness normal people talk about, isn't it?

 

“Is that your way of asking if I'm single?” Roy asks, cocking an eyebrow. Ed immediately splutters.

 

“No, you incorrigible prick. I was trying to be polite and stuff.” Ed pulls up a menu and casts his eye over the usual tourist fare of lasagne, pizza, and seafood pastas. His plan is to order the cheapest thing with the most cheese and leave it at that.

 

“Harsh. Well I am single, if you can believe it. A waste, I know. There's no sweetheart at home for meand my family are likely to be busy. To be honest, all of my closest friends are back at the camp.”

 

“That's pretty sad sounding.”

 

“I suppose. But now I'm in Italy with a fiery blonde, and most people would congratulate me for that.” Roy lifts one perfectly arched eyebrow, and leans back in his chair in a way that suggests his vocabulary doesn't contain the word 'rejection'. Ed is pretty sure that if anyone he knew saw him with Roy, he'd get less congratulations and more looks of utter confusion.

 

“You'll shut your trap or they'll be draping that Union Jack over your coffin earlier than planned,” Ed bites. Roy grins, and it's like the gleam on the blade of a knife.

 

“Not a bad way to go,” he declares.

 

“You do look like you've lived a long, long , fulfilling life.”

 

“Oi. Respect your elders,” Roy says with a twitch, but he pushes the plate of greasy aubergine Ed's way, so Ed can only assume he's still safely in the realm of teasing.

 

“Remember, they aren't wrinkles; they're laughter lines, and they mean you've had a lot to smile about.” Spearing a piece with the most garlic, Ed doesn't even bother to cut it up. Taking the entire thing into his mouth, he chews with little difficulty. Roy, to his credit, takes this in stride.

 

“You're such a brat.”

 

“You love it. You're, like, the king of banter.” Ed is gesturing with his fork.

 

“I don't recall that particular coronation.”

 

“Fine. Court jester.” The plate is empty. Ed's stomach lets out a sad little growl and he gives it a whap with the side of his hand. Meerkatting up, he stares at Elia hard until the poor man finally notices and glides over.

 

“Prince of my heart, are you ready to order?” Elia leans on the back of Roy's chair, all cheekbones and languid grace.

 

“If you would be so kind. What is the best thing on your steak menu?” There's suddenly a line to his shoulders, angled and sharp, that lends Roy an odd sort of sophistication. Even with the stupid shirt, even surrounded by Italian junk and a restaurant soundtrack that is just Lady and the Tramp instrumentals on a loop, he seems to be an oasis of class and calm. Ed watches his large, slender-fingered hands curl around the menu and allows his mind to briefly flicker over the idea of those hands on him.

 

It should make him feel ashamed, but Ed's brain hums only curiosity at him. He tears his eyes away to look at Elia, and finds him in a similar state of quiet appreciation.

 

“For you, my love, the costata di manzo . A delicious piece of meat.”

 

Ed rolls his eyes.

 

“Two, please. And the house wine, red,” Roy requests. Ed splutters.

 

“Woah woah, I can't afford steak, Mustang, I just bought a goddamn flight.” Making a cross with his arms, Ed tries not to think about how deliriously delicious the slabs of meat had looked when they'd passed.

 

“Did you forget? I invited you , Edward.”

 

“Yeh, so?”

 

“So, I'll be covering this tab,” Roy says, as though it's obvious, as though it's (for some reason) his responsibility to feed Ed obnoxiously overpriced meats. “Haven't you ever been on a date?” The mischievous tone returns, and Ed glares at him.

 

“Duh. Of course. But I'd never buy a date a steak worth more than they are. And anyway, this is not a date.” Elia is watching them like they're both mad.

 

“All right, not a date. But still, I was the one to invite you. Humour me?” Roy turns those dark eyes on him and it's suddenly difficult to speak, faced with that open, honest expression. It's the first time Ed has seen him express sincerity and it is, frankly, damn unsettling.

 

He likes to believe it is his inability to refuse a good cut of meat that prompts him to accept Roy's offer, and nothing at all to do with the way those eyes crinkle at the edges slightly when Roy gives a small smile.

 

“...Fine,” he wrestles out. Roy beams and turns to hand Elia the menus. Wine is poured, and Ed is filled with the uncomfortable sense that he should have at least said 'thank you'. Is it too late now? Would it be weird, and just draw more attention to it? Maybe he should do it at the end.

 

This is just...odd.

 

Of course Ed has been on dates. He made his messy way through high school blundering around romance just like everybody else. And then university, which was almost like a dating program with attached diploma. Half of the people he met at uni are still sharing beds and profile pictures and goldfish, or whatever.

 

So yes. He's done dates. Just not- well, never with-

 

This isn't a date. He'll say thank you at the end, like a normal person, when he offers to pay one more time just to be polite. He can do social convention sometimes.

 

The steak is cooked quickly; not even one whole loop of dodgy Disney passes over the speakers before Elia is back with two plates balanced carefully on his arms.

 

He interrupts Roy's history lesson in Italian architecture to place them delicately on the table. The smell wafts over Ed like a delicious, comforting blanket. He tries very hard not to drool; poor Elia has been through enough without saliva on his tablecloth.

 

“Ah, wonderful. Constato di manzo, did you say?” Roy asks.

 

Costata di manzo, amour mio .”

 

Costata di manzo .” Roy's replication is terrible, his accent is worse, and even though grammar never has and never will be important to Ed, it still makes him want to wince slightly.

 

“Very good.” Elia smiles, because he'll lie to get into anyone's pants, apparently. Or maybe just Roy's. Ed begrudgingly can't really fault him for it.

 

He ignores the two of them in favour of gently prodding his beef with the flat of his knife. Succulent and juicy, and surrounded by fresh, green, olive-oil drizzled salad, and some fluffy, white potatoes...

 

He's not waiting.  Mustang and the waiter can find a room and he'll get hitched to steak, instead. The meat cuts like fucking butter and he could almost cry. He'd never expect such quality from a place that has plastic pork chops nailed to the front door. It's a festival of goddamn flavour on his tongue and he has to physically stop himself from making a When Harry Met Sally style porn-noise of approval.

 

Half of it is gone before he can blink. He tries to savour it but it's hard when he's so hungry and Roy's Italian is so bad -

 

Bend me over the table right here ,” Roy says carefully. Apparently really fucking bad . Ed coughs and tries in vain not to get half-chewed potato everywhere.

 

“What?!” He squeaks, potato lodged in his lungs. Elia and Roy look at him, and he grabs the glass of water to chug, grace and etiquette be damned.

 

“Are you alright?” Roy asks when he's finished gulping.

 

“Yeh,” Ed croaks. “What-what were you-”

 

“Elia was teaching me some phrases for ordering wine. I'm aware my accent requires work, but I didn't think it was bad enough to kill,” answers Roy. Elia smiles with all the innocence of a cherub. Ed eyes him and wills the blood from his face and the images (oh god the images) from his head.

 

“I...see,” Ed says. He levels a look at Elia, Roy's genuine confusion is evidence enough that he really had thought he'd been talking about wine. Ergo, Elia is the prime suspect.

 

“Are you alright?” Elia asks, already pouring more water from the stoppered bottle. “Maybe I can get you something?”

 

“I'll be fine. Thanks.” Ed's mind is racing. Do you call someone out for that? Should he...complain, or something? Elia smiles genially at both of them, and does a weird little bow. Then it's just the swish of his apron tails as he sashays away.

 

“Are you really alright?” Roy asks, and there's that sincerity again, creeping through his voice like veins of silver through rocks.

 

Ed is, he supposes, not alright at all. His steak is going cold but all he can think about, all he can picture, is-

 

“You've gone red. You are breathing, still?” Roy. Fucking...fucking ROY. Or Roy maybe doing the fucking. Ed focuses on taking in air and carefully rearranging his thoughts.

 

Bend me over the table -”

 

“Don't! Don't say it again you fuckwit,” Ed explodes. Roy just laughs at him. Maybe he does know how to speak Italian and he's just fucking with all of them.

 

“So that’s what it is. What did he make me say?” Roy asks, finally cutting into his steak.

 

Ed fidgets in his seat and eventually picks up his knife and fork again.

 

“Nothing. Just dumb stuff, something that made you sound stupid,” he evades. The steak isn't nearly so good now that it's cooled to room temperature, but it still makes his taste buds dance.

 

“You really aren't going to tell me?” Roy pushes. He takes a sip of wine and Ed watches his Adam's apple bob with the gulp.

 

“You're probably better off not hearing it. And it doesn't...directly translate.” And now there's nothing left of Ed's steak but some well-chewed fat, and he idly wonders if chewing it forever more is preferable to opening his mouth again.

 

“I don't know, it gets a marvelous reaction out of you.” The bastard is onto him. Roy smirks around the rim of his glass, and damn if it isn't just as alluring as everything else he does. “I think I'll commit it to memory.”

 

“Just don't go saying it to strangers,” Ed mutters. Although maybe it would serve Mustang right to embarrass himself in front of some waiting staff.

 

“Ah, so it's a phrase for in private, just the two of us? You have to tell me now.”

 

“No, it's a phrase for never. Like, ever.” Ed glares. Roy looks him dead in the eye and lowers his voice to new, dark depths.

 

Bend me over the table right here ,” Roy says, slowly and deliberately.

 

Goosebumps rush up Ed's arms, and he can feel the hairs at the nape of his neck stand to attention. His control snaps.

 

“You know what? I warned you, you shit. So don't you blame me, but you're literally asking me to screw you over the nearest surface.”

 

Roy blinks at him rapidly for a moment. Ed eyes up his glass of wine, still mostly full. It would probably make the whole thing worse if he took a slightly stressed mouthful of it. His face is still red; he can feel the heat of it. And Roy is across from him looking shocked and silent.

 

Then Roy laughs.

 

“That is both much better and much worse than anything I could have imagined,” he admits, and his eyes are glinting.

 

“God you are so weird ,” sighs Ed, exasperated.

 

“Am I supposed to be embarrassed, perhaps?” Tapping a finger on his chin and tipping his head, Roy considers him. The scowl on Ed’s face is starting to set in.

 

“Most people have a degree of shame, yeah.”

 

“Having said worse things deliberately, it'll take a more concerted effort than that to embarrass me, I'm afraid.”

 

“Gross. As if that actually works.”

 

“You'd be surprised. I managed to get you to come to lunch with me, didn't I?” Roy says.

 

“This is not a date . Christ, do you ever actually listen?”

 

“When the speaker is engaging. And, although I do have many devout followers, I am not, in fact, Jesus Christ.”

 

“...” Ed stares at him. Hard.

 

“Did I break you?”

 

“...”

 

'”Edward?” Roy's lips curl around his name in a soft and precious way, and Ed tries hard not to delight in it.

 

“I'm not talking to you any more,” he says instead.

 

“You're talking now.”

 

“Nope.”

 

“But you are.”

 

“Not biting.” Ed tucks his hands behind his head and leans back in his seat, looking out of the window into the streets of Rome.

 

“Well, since you're not feeling especially loquacious, I'll get the bill, shall I?”

 

“You do that.”

 

It's Geppetto who brings them the bill and the freezing cold shot of Limoncello. Fresh, bright yellow, and sweet-sour on the tongue, Ed downs the shot as Roy drags the bill wallet over to his side of the table. Dark eyes watch his hands as Ed puts the glass down.

 

“What is it?” Roy lifts the glass to his nose and breathes in the scent.

 

“Lemon liqueur. It's a palate cleanser.”

 

“Well that's an excuse for a shot that I haven't heard of before. This has to have, what, a twenty-five percentage?”

 

“Just shut up and drink you you big baby.” Ed rolls his eyes. With a shrug Roy tips his head back and takes the shot smoothly. The white column of his throat moves when he swallows.

 

Elia thanks them on the way out, wink sultry and smile devious.

 

“Why are you leaving me, my love?” He asks. “How will I find you again?”

 

“Oh. I'm sure if it's fated, we'll see each other. Grazi .” Roy opens the restaurant door and exits like he's made of water, hips swaying tantalisingly for just a second. Ed doesn't need to look at Elia to know that both of their gazes are fixed firmly on Roy's ass.

 

Clearing his throat, Ed turns to their enraptured waiter. In perfectly accented Italian he says, “Tables are no good, you eat off those. Personally I'd bend him over a sports car; it's much more his style.”

 

Clutching his apron, Elia gapes at him. Ed grins wide and opens the door to follow Roy.

 

“See ya’.” He tosses behind him. And sure, the fact he said that particular fantasy out loud has him beet red for five whole minutes afterwards, but it's worth it.

 

-----

 

The afternoon is filled by Ed phoning up every historical spot he's ever gone as a guide, and trying to not panic when each one tells him resolutely that they've seen nothing even slightly gold and locket shaped. Roy flounces in and out, dumping money in the safe and coming back one time with fistfuls of packets of underwear. What is it with him and fucking boxer briefs?

 

The light outside is dimming, and the sparrows sound like a bird army in the impending twilight. Ed watches their insane twirling in the sky as the phone rings and rings, hot against his ear.

 

It's at 8:15 - he knows because he's just checked his phone and realised the stupid Castle Sant'Angelo will be well and truly closed- when Roy shoves a bed to one side and starts stretching.  

 

Ed is no stranger to the movement of muscles; he'd done his fair share of weird exercises during the physical therapy, and still does his part to keep his body at least capable of strenuous exercise. Even so, Roy's deltoids as he does fast-paced, even push ups are-

 

Yeah .

 

“Hello?” A voice picks up the phone.

 

“H-hi.” Shocked out of his reverie, Ed's reply is barely a squeak. He coughs. “Hi, can I speak to lost property please?”

 

“We're closed.” The voice is angry. Ed's eyes stray again to the play of light over Roy's back.

 

“Sorry.” He hangs up. Maybe it's a sign he should stop for the evening. Stop and focus on something else.

 

Roy has moved on to crunches. His abs must be like a fucking brick wall. Ed tenses his own without really thinking about it. When was the last time he'd had a proper work out? With the arrival of his flight date had also come the end of his gym membership. He'd gone running with Al the week he'd come to visit, maybe he could take that up again...

 

Roy is planking. Fine, black hair is starting to stick to his temples. A single bead of sweat rolls from his hairline down a cheek, and Ed swallows before throwing himself over on the bed to look at the window. He has been feeling a little restless, and he is stuck bed-to-bed with some kind of specimen of human beauty. Running. That would at least get these jitters out of his bones.

 

“Do you run? It's pretty cool to jog Rome during the sunrise. I might go in the mornings, so it'll wake you up anyway.” It's out of his mouth before he can stop it. No, how will running next to the dark Adonis help the situation? He needs time away from the sarcastic comments and inappropriate come-ons-

 

“That sounds like...a wonderful idea.” Roy grunts between...whatever. Whatever he's doing loudly and breathily. Ed doesn't even like him, what the fuck . He never thought his brain would be tricked by good looks alone. Okay, good looks and charm. And sometimes a good joke here and there- but that's not the point .

 

“Your push-ups are making me hungry. I'm getting a hamburger.” Ed announces. And he doesn't so much flee the room as scuttle from it. Roy gives a noise of understanding, and Ed bounces down the stairs towards open air and car horns.

 

-----

 

When he comes back later, stomach happily full and brain wrestled back into submission, Roy is bathed in the soft glow of the lamp and reading a book. Ed slinks into bed. And he intends to be silent, he really does. He intends to just spend some time in his own bed with his own thoughts thinking about how shit people are in general... but he just can't help himself.

 

“Peace and War? Really?” Ed says. Roy flicks his gaze over to meet Ed's eyes and smirks.

 

“Yes...but I believe you're thinking of Tolstoy, War and Peace. This is Joe Haldeman.”

 

“That explains the weirdly sci-fi cover then.”

 

“That it does.” Roy tucks an old boarding pass into the spine to mark his place, and slips the book onto the shelf above the beds. “So, where are we going tomorrow?”

 

“We?”

 

“Well, since I don't speak Italian and you are apparently well acquainted with the history…” Roy trails off.

 

“You're a pushy bastard.” He throws back.

 

“True.”

 

“Insufferable.”

 

“So I've been told.”

 

Silence reigns for a moment.

 

“Up at six for that run. Then let's start at the Vatican, and get that shit out the way.” Ed finally relents.

 

“Fantastic. Goodnight Edward.”


As the lights flicker off, Roy's voice cupping his name like that runs up Ed's spine in the dark.

Chapter Text

When the alarm clock goes off at half five, Ed groans. In the bed next to his, Roy's eyes slide open, and he sits straight up without so much as a yawn. Ed makes sure that he siphons all of his early morning grump into one angry glare, and narrows it to a point on Roy's forehead.

 

Roy smiles at him. Fucking asshole.

 

'Ready to run?" Roy stands and rolls his shoulders. In five wide strides he's at the curtains, pulling them open and letting the wan light filter into the room. Ed winces even though it's not all that bright yet.

 

“Did I really suggest this?” Ed wipes a hand down his face. His hair is sticking to one cheek.

 

“You said Rome is beautiful in the sunrise.” Roy says.

 

“Yeh well my pillow is looking pretty beautiful right now too.”

 

“I'll take the bathroom first then, shall I?” Roy suggests. Ed waves him off.

 

Once Roy is safely locked into the cubicle of porcelain and chrome pipework, Ed hurriedly fumbles with the catch on his metal leg. It comes off with a flash of quick relief that he refuses to focus on. Lightly, he rubs his palm over the stump. He really should take it off to sleep. It's tough from years of him pushing it as far as it will go, but that doesn't mean it can stand up to plain reckless abuse.

 

It really would be easier if he had his own room. Although...although he wonders if his roommate wasn't witty and attractive and strong and a fucking soldier , wouldn't he have just taken it off by now? Is it because Roy embodies those things that he's anxious about it? The thought makes him despise himself that bit more than usual. It's not like he's in some kind of pissing contest. Roy has actually been pretty accommodating and giving off a total of zero competitive vibes. It’s just...intimidating. There’s a constant low hum in the back of his head that makes him feel like he has something to lose.

 

Ed holds the packet of antiseptic wipes in his mouth as he cleans the cushion quickly, slipping the limb back into place. It gleams in the half-light, a piece of machinery so intricate, so precise... It's worth more than he is.

 

Winry would hit him. He should call her.

 

Later.

 

He pulls his thoughts into order as the chain in the bathroom flushes. Fishing out some running bottoms, he gets into his work-out gear with all the grace of a wet brick. Roy emerges just as he's wrestling his hair into a ponytail.

 

“All yours,” Roy says, looking fresh and slick and like a photoshoot for, like, Nike or something.

 

“Fanksh.” Ed says around the hair elastic between his teeth.

 

-

 

Washed and stretched and mildly awake, they exit the silence of the hostel and step out into the brimming light of a Roman morning.

 

“Which way?” Roy asks quietly. There's some kind of spell around them, stretching silence and golden light. A fairytale quality tinges everything. The cars parked in the gutters are like mechanical ogres sleeping; the dark shop windows yawn like caves.

 

So as not to break the fragile quiet, Ed points. He starts a slow jog, feet patting the cemented ground. Roy follows silently.

 

They weave through the curving streets, passing underneath the tiny shrines to the Madonna with their dried and wilted offerings. The sky is salmon pink and bruised with purple clouds; against it, domes and spires are silhouetted in black like someone cut them out of a picture.

 

The sun crests a steeple and gold flecks Ed" vision. Even though they’re moving at a respectable pace, his legs aren't stretching enough, his heart's not beating enough, he can feel the extra, unused capacity in his lungs...

 

He breaks from the measured pace of a jog into a run. The air on his cheeks feels good, and each breath through his nose fills his chest with cool breath.

 

The frustration in his heart goes into each step. He's so tired of being alone; he's so sick of being angry. There's nothing left to battle but he still feels like he's at war with the world, picking fights with anything he comes across. His muscles have begun to hurt, but he ignores them. It could have been ten minutes or an hour - he’s stopped counting.

 

Streets pass in a blur, and his clothes have started to stick to him.

 

The corner ahead leads to a street awash with light, and when he turns it he's at the bottom of a hill, surrounded on all sides by steep streets leading up. Rising alongside him are pink-washed walls and statues in gold and white. His lungs are screaming but he doesn't slow down.

 

Why can't he just be happy that Al is happy? Why can't he just get on with his life? Why is there always this crippling certainty that everything he loves is going to disappear?

 

The upward slope begins, and his feet hit the ground with heavy slaps. His heart and his head lurch at the sudden change in velocity.

 

He makes the mistake of looking over his shoulder.

 

Roy has kept up. Now that Ed has realised, he can pick up on the heavy breathing weaving in and out of his own. As they both tip turn the lip of the hill and gravity tries to pull them down, Roy catches his eye. Somehow, Ed knows.

 

He angles himself, and steadies his aching breath, and together they sprint the hill, gravity and friction and opposing forces be damned. Fuck this feeling, fuck being alone, fuck fear.

 

Ed's vision is swimming when they reach the top, but his heart is floating.

 

They lean their hands on their knees, lungs heaving. Maybe he should have had breakfast. Maybe he should get his head checked. A lot of 'maybes'.

 

Below them stretches the remains of the forum, pillars reaching upwards and tumbling rocks scattered like the toys of a child. The last of the sunrise has deepened the sky to a flaring red. They collapse onto a marble bench and watch it wordlessly, long silent after their breathing has evened and the sweat has cooled.

 

Ed loves Rome. Laid out like this, her ruins bare to the sky and every building site unearthing some new secret. He loves the language and the assertive, gregarious people. He loves history, and life, and his brother.

 

This feeling swells in his chest for a moment, and it and his unending frustration eye each other, unsure if they can co-exist. Is it possible to be full of love and also full of rage?

 

There's a weight on his back, but Ed doesn't turn from the glittering city before him. He can feel Roy's shoulder blades align with his own.

 

“Feel better?” Roy asks. It's the first sound either of them has made in an hour, but somehow it's not abrasive.

 

“Yeah,” Ed breathes out. He blinks and is surprised to find tears in his eyes. They don't spill.

 

 

 

They stay there like that, leaning on each other, until the city has fully woken. People come as a trickle, and then a flood as the day begins. The Sunday bells are ringing in the church towers. Life returns.

 

Ed clears his throat. “We should go.”

 

“Sure,” Roy says, and the speed with which he gets up suggests he's been ready to go for a while. Ed carefully doesn't consider why he chose to stay quiet, or how he knew that Ed needed to sit there in the rising sun with someone, anyone, at his back.

 

A hand is extended to him. Roy is smiling, and behind him is a blue sky.

 

Ed reaches out and take the offered hand, palm to palm, and Roy pulls him to his feet.

 

“I want to get breakfast.” A stomach growls between them.

 

“I second that motion.”

 

--------

 

Al is relentless when he wants something. Ed knows; Ed remembers how tyrannical Al was when trading Pokemon cards on the playground. An absolute business dictator until he had every single one.

 

Unfortunately for Ed, what Al wants at this particular moment is to interrogate Roy Mustang with all the loosely-restrained protective ferocity of a wild cougar. And if he has to do that from a screen across God-knows how many miles, he will. And it will be scary.

 

Polite smile and friendly hellos hide nothing, because there’s a glint of shark teeth and his eyes flash even as just pixels.

 

“Who is with you Brother?” Half way through their usual daily call, and right when Ed thought he was safe, the strike begins. Al will take him by the leg and drag him slowly to the water. They’d watched a documentary before on something like that. Alligators. They roll and roll until the victim just gives the fuck up.

 

“It’s just Roy.” Ed mumbles and hopes it’s low enough that Roy doesn’t hear him.

 

“Is that your brother?” Roy asks from his languid posture on the bed (ignore that open slip of stomach, ignore it ignore it )

 

“Yeh. Alphonse, Roy, Roy, Alphonse.” Ed doesn’t look up, like if he doesn’t move then maybe that will be the end of it.

 

Roy stands up and stretches and fuck that tee shirt just wants to be anywhere but on his body, doesn’t it? He walks over to Ed to peer over his shoulder.

 

“Hello Alphonse, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Oh really? Well, before it settles in let me be the first to tell you that Brother has a very wild imagination.” Al tilts his head innocently, and Roy laughs. Ed sinks lower into the bed.

 

“No, no, only good things.”

 

“Well, good. I’ve heard a lot about you, too, Mister Mustang.”

 

“You have?” Roy sounds confused.

“Yes. You have a lovely singing voice.”

 

“Ooohkaaay thanks Roy you can sit back down now.” Ed cuts in and glares meaningfully at the screen. Roy does not sit down.

 

“Thank you?” Roy raises a quizzical eyebrow and Ed finds it strangely cute to see him off balance. He doesn’t have time to focus on this revelation as Al continues, peppy voice concealing a bladed tongue.

 

“You’re very welcome. I’m so sorry for my brother, he’s naturally rude. People did their best but manners never really stuck.”

 

“He’s been more than pleasant company so far.” Roy promises disarmingly. Al’s eyes narrow even though his polite smile doesn’t waver.

 

“Oh I’m sure he has.” Al eyes Ed and it’s pure evil in those honey depths. “He’s said that it’s been very ‘pleasurable" in your company also.”

 

Al . I swear to god I will post that picture of you eating lipstick when you were ten. All over facebook. Everywhere .”

 

“Be careful with him Mister Mustang, he’s just a fragile flower really-”

“Oh my god.”

 

“He’d better get to me with every golden hair in perfect place on his hollow head-”

 

“Hey!”



“Or I’ll be forced to come and kill you. Army training or no.”

 

“On my honour, Alphonse, he’ll be well looked after.” Roy lifts a hand over his heart and solemnly dips his head.

“I hate both of you. Forever. I’m going to curl up and die now.” Ed burrows into the covers, almost knocking the phone to the floor. His face is scarlet. Roy is laughing at him, and he knows it. Bastard.

“Goodbye Brother. It was nice to meet you, Mister Mustang.”

 

“A pleasure, Alphonse.”

 

The screen goes back to Ed’s background (Al using french fries as walrus tusks, years old but well loved) and Roy nudges the Ed lump with a foot, hands in pockets and smirk in place.

 

“You okay?”



“Fuck off.” Ed growls. It’s hot under the blanket, filling up with all his exhaled carbon dioxide. But he’s not going to look at Roy now .

 

“Alright. I think that means you need feeding again.”

 

“What are you, my keeper?” Ed kicks at him from under the covers. Roy evades, but a glancing blow catches him in the shin.

 

“You heard your brother.”

 

“Suck a dick, Mustang.”

 

“Pasta for lunch?”

 

“...Fish.”

 

“Deal. Now get out of the bed.”

 

-------

 

Ed waltzes up to the Vatican Museum like he's lived there for a month.

 

“Move your ass, Mustang; they're not going to let us in after twelve thirty.” The vendors selling scarves and selfie sticks pick up on his use of English and start to descend. Ed scowls at them with all of his frustration. They're going to get accosted by tour guides if Roy doesn't catch up and get through the revolving doors quickly.

 

Roy is dawdling along the pathway, trapped between a kindly looking old couple moving at the speed of death, and a large bum-bagged tourist eating a croissant. He doesn't seem to mind, though, and is looking up at the old brick walls of the Vatican city with intrigue.

 

Ed huffs.

 

“Seriously, hurry up,” he demands, grabbing Roy's sleeve and pulling him towards the entrance. Roy just smiles at him and laughs a little. Ed wants to yell about being locked out of the one site they have left to see that day, but decides that Roy will only have some smart-ass remark he doesn't need to hear. He must have a witty comebacks guidebook under his pillow every night.

 

Inside is heaving. There's a melody of different voices all trying to be heard, and every tour guide has a uniquely coloured rag attached to their sticks. They sway in the breeze like an ugly meadow. Around them, the room is marble, and echoing with the security checks.

 

Ed knows where he's going. Many weekends spent leading wide-eyed backpackers around the historical sites have given him the edge on cutting queues and avoiding delays. With a shove, he finally gets Roy into the queue closest to a wall, and then he's shedding his jacket like a second skin. He dumps it into the plastic tray with a flump, and then empties out all of his change and his phone. The security guard is looking at him like he's mad. Ed is secure in the knowledge that if any of the security team had to do this twelve times in one month, they too would do it with an efficiency that bordered on the insane.

 

He waltzes through the body scanner, and a bored woman waves him on with a ' preggo '. All clear.

 

Of course Roy is taking forever. Of course Ed turns round to look for him at the exact moment that he lifts his stupid fucking jacket off his shoulders just at the right angle to shift his shirt, revealing a fleeting band of abdomen. Of course Roy gets stopped on the way through the scanner and a big, burly security guard comes along to scan him overly-familiarly with a weird metal-detecting paddle.

 

“Thanks for waiting,” Roy says, walking up to him with a brilliant smile and jacket over one shoulder, lazily fanning himself with a guide leaflet. Ed can agree that it's warm in the museum. He'll use that as the excuse for the flush he gets at Roy's stupid grin, too.

 

“Come on I don't want to be here any longer than necessary.” He rolls his eyes for effect and then turns on the ball of his foot to head up the intricately painted stairwell.

 

The friezes and murals are, of course, beautiful. Or, they probably are to people who are into art and Renaissance sculpture and...whatever. Marble shit.

 

Ed likes the scenes that depict the seven rings of hell, and there's some particularly gory tapestries that amused him the first time Al forced him to 'take in the history'. But most of it is pale statues of serene women and overly-muscled men holding grapes. He doesn't get it, and that's fine. A well crafted equation is beautiful enough for him.

 

He stomps down a corridor lined with statues, busts, and fragments of the two. Tourists scatter as he clinks past. He checks the dusty corners and behind any plinths just for good measure. The room guard gives him a dirty look, but decides he isn't worth leaving his seat for.

 

He can't see it. If he's honest, he doesn't really expect to either. Checking the Vatican museum is an act of desperation, in the end. There was nothing in any of the lost property sections when he'd phoned the sites. He glares at the marbled floor angrily. It's more than likely that someone picked it up and kept it, or that it got kicked down a drain. The idea of his mum's locket being somewhere dingy and dark causes an unpleasant prickling sensation in his chest. He crossed his arms over it and tries to think of something else. Anything else.

 

The unmistakable click of a camera phone going off makes him look up.

 

Roy is tilting his head at him, half smirk half apology. His phone is up in the air as a testament to his guilt.

 

“What the fuck,” Ed says. Roy brings the phone closer to his face and smirks wider at the image there. Then he turns the screen to show Ed.

 

“It just looked so perfect that I couldn't resist. I can delete it if you like, but I thought your brother might get a kick out of it.” Roy's voice is velvety and low, quiet for the sake of the museum. It does funny things to Ed's chest, very different from the plucking guilt before.

 

Ignoring the sensation as best he can, he looks at the screen. Standing looking surly and scary, he's got his arms crossed over his chest and an intimidating scowl. Ed thinks it's an awful picture, and he photographs pretty badly on a good day anyway. Behind him, though, is a statue of some god or hero, and their poses are almost exactly the same.

 

He snorts through his nose before he can stop himself. And then he very carefully doesn't think about how nice it is that someone who has never met Al would somehow think of something that would probably make him pretty happy.

 

“You never told me you were a demigod,” Roy says.

 

“Flattery will get you a punch in the arm, Mustang. Who said you could I around taking pictures of people without their consent?” Ed bites. He regrets it when Roy's expression becomes apologetic.

 

“I’m sorry. I'll delete it.”

 

“No chance now. It's your turn to do one. And I get to pick.” Ed tries to throw in a smile to soften things. It doesn't come easily, but Roy's shoulders relax so he can't have fucked it up too badly.

 

“I suppose I'd better prepare myself for some extreme humiliation?”

 

“The extreme-est.” Ed searches the room for the best choice, evaluating and then discarding several choices. He settles on a robed lady holding a small scroll aloft. “Her,” he demands.

 

“Well, I don't think I'll ever be quite so demurely pure, but I'll try.” Roy steps forward seemingly without shame, puts one dramatic hand to his chest, and the other out floating. Ed lines up his phone.

 

“No, there's something missing,” he decides. Roy maintains his pose as Ed jumps forward and pulls Roy's phone from his pocket. “Here hold this. It almost looks like she's taking a selfie.”

 

Roy obediently takes the phone, flicking it out flamboyantly. Ed can feel his own grin as he lines up the shot. Behind him he can hear a group of girls tittering. Roy's winks at them and Ed swears he hears them swoon. Just for that, he waits an extra few seconds before he announces that he's done. Irritatingly Roy doesn't seem flustered at all.

 

“That’s pretty good,” Ed says, finally showing him the phone. Taking it from Ed requires that their fingers brush. His fingertips don't tingle and his palm doesn't buzz. The grin that breaks over Roy's face doesn't do a single thing for him either.

 

“I think I did her justice. I'm sure she'd approve.” Roy turns to salute the statue lazily. The tourists who had turned to watch them are starting to go back to their own business.

 

“Not good enough,” Ed announces.

 

“No?”

 

“Not a chance. You have to do at least three for photographing me without my permission.” Ed flicks his fringe out of his eyes and hunts for another worthy candidate.

 

“If there's going to be this many rules, then maybe we should make a real game out of it,” Roy suggests. 'Winner buys a round of gelato."

 

Ed perks up at the sound of food.

 

“Keep talking.”

 

“We each take three, send the best one to your brother, and he can pick who has the most accurate likeness.” Roy tucks a thumb into his pocket and cocks a hip, jacket slung haphazardly over one shoulder. He looks like a goddamn model, and probably photographs like one too. But Ed knows what Al likes and Ed would do bad things for any kind of ice cream, so he smirks.

 

“You're on. But you're not allowed to do the old ones just because you already have the wrinkles,” Ed jibes. Roy prods at his own face gently in mock distress.

 

“How rude. In that case, you aren't allowed to do any cherubs, or anyone low to the ground.”

 

“Low blow. Asshole.” Ed scowls. Roy raises an eyebrow with a creeping smirk. “Shut up. A high blow. A very much average-height-for-it's-age blow.” Ed shoves him. Roy just laughs that delicious laugh of his.

 

They search the compound and after a comedic mask interpretation, and taking on the role of a nymph, Heracles, and an overly-homoerotic Zeus, Ed decides that Roy looks pretty hot doing basically anything. Even when he's pulling dumb faces and looking like a dork.

 

Especially then.

 

Ed's own collection is less aesthetically pleasing. They frequently have to stop to stifle laughter, getting dirty looks from some poor nuns just trying to enjoy their holy pilgrimage. Pinched lips within neat little habits make the giggles rise like champagne bubbles in his chest, and Ed ends up laughing almost doubled over. Without any subtlety whatsoever, they duck into a side room of empty exhibits to get themselves back under control.

 

Roy wipes a tear from his eye and fluffs his hair. Like it's anything but perfect. Ed takes a deep breath and opens his photos.

 

“Here, here, which one is your winning image?” Ed asks.

 

Roy leans close to pick his picture, and Ed pretends not to notice.

 

“Definitely the nymph. I think I missed my calling,” He says. His breath ghosts over Ed's neck in a way that forces him to focus hard on not fumbling and dropping the phone.

 

Yo Al you have to back me up on this so that I can win gelato okay-

 

He sends. Al should be on lunch, more than free to help Ed win a delicious snack.

 

-Good morning Ed. How can I help?

 

afternoon now lazy bum and you have to pick which one of us looks the most accurate. And it's definitely me. Don't pick Mustang just because he's got that whole renaissance-y vibe going on, ok?-

 

-Okay?

 

Ed sends their pictures. His best was Roy's original photo, but since it was candid they agree it doesn't count. He settles on his Emperor Augustus instead.

 

“You think I'm renaissance-y?” Roy grins.

 

“Shut up,” Ed responds wittily.

 

They move through the tour groups as they wait for Al to respond. When Roy stops to read a plaque explaining an exhibit, Ed allows himself to take in the broad shoulders and the slim waist, the cocky walk that is clearly backed up by physical power, the fucking artful way that strands of obsidian hair fall gently into his eyes. Someone should paint that, he thinks. That he could appreciate.

 

His phone buzzes.

 

-Mr Mustang does make a very fetching nymph.

 

Ed pulls a face at the screen.

 

-But in the end no one does a grumpy face like you, Brother. I have to admit, you win.

 

Ed hisses out a 'yes!" And turns the screen to Roy, who is returning from his study of a globe bigger than Ed is.

 

“Prepare your wallet Mustang, I'm going all out,” Ed goads. Roy lifts two hands in a shrug.

 

“A deal's a deal,” he agrees. “Clearly you are the master actor between us. My wallet is at your service.”

 

Ed grins, but then it fades and he groans.

 

“But there's still at least twenty minutes of museum left. They don't let you turn around and go back that way.”

 

“Then we'll go forward,” Roy suggests. Ed scrunches his nose.

 

“If we have to. At least there's ice cream involved now. Don't get stuck behind anyone, okay?”

 

“I promise to try my very hardest,” Roy replies solemnly. Ed sniffs at him, and then plunges into the tourists ahead of them. The multitudes are moving at speeds too slow to be catalogued, but somehow he weaves and winds his way through. Behind him he can hear Roy's polite 'excuse me" every few yards. At the next gasping gap in the throng, he turns back.

 

“It's ' scusi ',” He says. Roy blinks at him.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“When you're pushing through. It's ' scusi '. But to be honest, people are pretty used to just getting moved.”

 

“Alright. Thank you. Normally I would endeavour to learn at least some basic phrases, but since this trip was so out of the blue, I'm fairly useless,” Roy says.

 

“I thought that was just your normal state,” Ed jibes. Roy mimes offence.

 

“So you're a comedian now, are you?”

 

“Nah, you just make a good punch line.”

 

Roy shoves him gently.

 

“You know,” Roy says, “there are a lot of naked men carved and painted here, and yet absolutely none of them have genitals.” Ed almost chokes on his own breath.

 

“What the fuck,” he deadpans.

 

“Some of them clearly had all their bits and pieces at some point. Now a lot of them just have disturbing little holes.”

 

“Well, yeh. The Catholic Church was pretty keen to prove they weren’t, you know, buggering, frivolous sinners to Protestant protesters. In the end, they removed a whole load of dicks. Some of them were covered with fig leaves or whatever, but…”

 

“There's nothing more disturbing than seeing a perfectly rendered marble sack and then a sad abyss where the rest should be.” Roy announces. Ed guffaws.

 

“What?” Roy asks.

 

“Only you would bring up marble dicks and then talk about them so poetically.”

 

“Well it's the elephant in the room, don't you think?” Roy asks, gesturing to a statue of a man holding up his robes to cradle some fruit. Underneath his bare legs and balls are clearly visible. There's an uneven slice through the rest.

 

They both share a wince at it.

 

“No. Not even a little bit. I don't even think I noticed that the first three times I came through here, it was just a funny story to me,” Ed defends.

 

“You’re a terrible liar.”

 

“You're the one looking at marble dicks.” Pointing a finger, Ed jabs him in the chest.

 

“Lack of. The lack of marble dicks.”

 

“Pedant,” Ed says. Roy just grins that goddamn grin of his.

 

The ceilings above them are so busy with carvings and paintings and that weird little flower symbol that seems to be everywhere that it's hard to remain focused on the exhibits around them. Ed finds himself craning his neck every now and again even as he searches the floor for the locket. Roy keeps sticking his head through doors blocked off by velvet ropes.

 

“What are you doing? You're going to fall into one of those and then an angry security guard is going to come and yell at you in Italian,” Ed asks.

 

“Logic tells us that if that many marble examples of the male phallus have been removed, they're likely to all be stored somewhere. A dick room, if you will.” Roy shrugs nonchalantly. Ed whacks him in the arm.

 

“Would you stop thinking about dicks for one minute?” Ed asks.

 

“I'll consider it,” Roy replies blithely. “None of these rooms appear to be it anyway, and unfortunately they don't seem to contain any trace of your missing locket, either.” Ed sucks in a breath and lets it out again slowly.

 

“You don't need to look, you know. You should be enjoying your leave, or whatever.” He shoves his hands into his pockets and scuffs his sole against the fancy marble work underfoot.

 

“I am enjoying myself though. Immensely.” And he tilts his head to look at Ed, sleek strands of hair falling into his eyes and expression soft. The autumn sun hits him through the window like fucking Nature herself is telling Ed 'look, this is a good one."  

 

And Ed thinks maybe she's right. Roy seems like a nice guy, all chivalry and smiles. He's the kind of guy Ed would want to take home to his mum, if she was still there. She'd like his purple-prose way of speaking and constant need to open doors for people, for sure. Even if he is in the army, even if he did make Ed miss his Very Important Flight, he seems to be genuinely...decent. And he's promised Ed ice cream, which gives him an extra five points on top of everything if he makes good on it.

 

Roy is still looking at him, so he turns away and starts to walk towards the next set of overly-ornate stairs before he can become an Ed-tomato. At this rate even if the locket is somewhere in the stupid museum, he'll miss it. Roy's best talent seems to be distracting him.

 

The slow creep of tourists is carrying them toward the Sistine Chapel. Al had allowed him to leave that pretty quickly; neither of them are particularly comfortable standing around in actual places of worship. But there is a chance he'd dropped it here, herding tourists through the throng. It’s always so full of people you can barely see the floor, making it nearly impossible to search.

 

Roy's shoulder presses against his as they funnel into the skinny stairwell leading down to the chapel. The warmth from it surprises him.

 

Eventually they reach the entrance, and before them opens the Sistine chapel - dark and rectangular, with every single surface covered in paintings. The edges are all frescos of draping curtains, gold leaf applied so artfully that they catch the light and look as real as Ed's own hand. The room is full of people looking up, hushed whispers buzzing like gnats. It's oppressive rather than impressive to Ed. He doesn't bother to look up at the ceiling with all of its carefully painted religious scenes, and instead pushes past people slowing to take in the solemn beauty of the place.

 

“No pictures." A curator bellows suddenly from beside him. He nearly jumps out of his skin.

 

Scowling, he heads past the huge altar with its life-size Christ, and patters down the wooden stairs to the main room. Immediately he's shorter than almost everyone else around him, penned in by humans. Shuffling to the edge, he starts to walk along the wall, eyes scanning the corners, nooks, and crannies. Roy appears at his side fluidly, and casts his gaze quickly over the heads of those around them. Ed envies his easy perusal of the room.

 

“I'll go check the other side, shall I? We can meet at the back in the middle,” he suggests quietly. Ed nods at him.

 

“Thanks.”

 

Of course, Ed finds nothing. He gets shoved into a wall twice, his toes trodden on once, and his braid snags on someone's zipper for good measure. When the Tannoy flares to life to rather redundantly declare 'silencio!" at the highest possible volume setting, Ed is more than ready to get the hell out and back into the real world.

 

Roy is leaning against a carved wooden awning that divides the main altar room from whatever space is behind it. A pretty brunette is listening to him talk, twirling her sunglasses and bringing them to rest on her bottom lip. Ed squeezes himself through the remains of the crowd, but someone manages to kick his left foot out from under him. The world heaves up and then he's falling, grabbing the nearest shoulder to stop himself. His leg twists and catches, shifting out of place, and sending out a spike of pain harsh enough to make fairy lights splatter across his vision. His breath almost stops in his lungs.

 

Someone helps him up, but he can only let out a small noise of agony in thanks. He pushes away from the mass (staring at him, uselessly blocking him in like a wall of fucking judgement)  and pops out with enough pained noise to attract Roy's, and security's, attention.

 

The pretty brunette is immediately cut off with one polite hand movement. Roy bows his head to her as a goodbye, and reaches Ed in a matter of seconds. The security guard has got there quicker however, and hisses in Italian at him to make his way to the exit carefully, pointing to a door bottle-necking the crowd as people leave. Ed hisses back with some venom that he can see the door, thanks. Roy's gentle hand on his shoulder and disarming smile toward the guard diffuse the situation just enough for him to lead Ed away without incident.

 

“You okay?” Roy asks, and his concern is genuine. Ed tries not to think about the pain lancing through his thigh where the prosthetic got crushed in the throng.

 

“Yeh,” he dismisses. “You can go back to her if you want. You looked like you were making headway. I'll wait outside.” He tries hard not to hobble, and measures whether or not it will be worth the pain later to hide his limp now. There's no bath in the hostel to help his muscles relax later, and there's yet more stairs to get out of the stupid fancy chapel, but part of him doesn't want Roy to see him all twisted up and grumpy from trying to get his stump to chill the fuck out.

 

Ed curses Michelangelo, and he curses renaissance art, and then when he realises he's in a holy place he curses that too, just for good measure.

 

“I'm going to stay with you, Edward. Please, let me help,” Roy offers earnestly. There's not a lot of point hiding it if Roy can see through him like a window. Ed clenches his jaw.

 

“...Alright. I mean, thanks. I - you go up behind me, and I can lean on your shoulder or something,” Ed acquiesces. People are bunching behind them, and the crush is starting again. Ed refuses to rush, but he's...lighter than the average human, thanks to one limb being made primarily from plastic and maybe not completely being a little bit shorter than a lot of the people around him. It means he gets jostled fairly easily. Normally his stocky build and stubborn nature make him immovable, but balancing essentially on one foot ruins his centre of gravity enough that every tourist becomes a looming mountain of potential pain.

 

Roy looks back at him as they reach the bottom step, and with a gulp Ed sets his left hand on Roy's shoulder. He leans his weight experimentally.

 

The pain flares when he lifts his leg, but it's bearable enough. A step above Roy puts him at a comfortable enough height to lean back if he needs to, and Roy appears unaffected by Ed's weight on him. He clings close to the wall and people stream past, but Roy ends up blocking Ed from most of them. It’s embarrassing and endearing all at once.

 

“Almost there,” Roy says, and it's kind of useless to say because Ed's eyes are open and he can see for himself where they are, but the sentiment is still sort of nice, and everything with Roy has been sort of nice, and now Ed's ruining it by muttering 'shit" every five steps in a holy building. If they ever get to the top of the stupid staircase Ed won't blame him if Roy runs for the hills.

 

They do reach it, and Roy must be regretting his decision to stick with Ed's stupid, damaged ass, but for some reason still just leads him to a marble bench and helps him to sit down. Then he reaches into an inside pocket of his jacket and pulls out a bottle of water.

 

“It's warm but it's not open. It might help,” Roy says, handing it to him. And this is the bit where people usually ask what happened, what's wrong, why Ed can go from perfectly fine to raging pain just by turning badly. But Roy doesn't. He just moves to look at the crowd so that Ed doesn't have to deal with him watching.

 

Ed feels the outline of the prosthetic through his jeans, but he can't quite get a grip on it to turn it back into a decent position. The nerve endings in his stump are trilling anyway, and the bone will probably ache until tomorrow morning. Reaching into his jacket pocket, Ed pulls out a packet of over the counter pain killers and pops two into his palm. He swallows them both together. Maybe they'll help, maybe they'll do absolutely nothing. It's always a toss-up as to whether or not the pain will be enough to knock him out of commission. At this point in Ed's life, it's older than old.

 

Like every time his dumbass leg forces him to show his weakness in public, the whole thing makes Ed miss Al acutely. Al always knows what to say to make Ed feel less self-conscious, and as he feels people looking at him curiously, he regrets ever splitting from him. He won't use Al as a crutch though, he refuses to. And so he's here in Rome, trying to make his tattered life mean something, and giving his little brother room to stretch his wings...

 

Roy has disappeared somewhere during Ed's self-deprecating inner monologue. Ed only notices when Roy splits the crowd again, and comes to sit on the bench beside him.

 

“The exit is about five rooms away, but I found someone who understood my garbled Italian enough to show me a fire exit we can use instead. She said she'd wait until you're ready to move,” Roy says casually. Then he flicks open a stubby book that unfolds into a map. He smooths it over his knees and pulls out a pen to go with it. In a few moments he's found the Vatican City, circled it neatly, and put a cross through it. “While we wait, do you feel up to telling me which places will be best to search?”

 

Ed doesn't know what to say. The relief at not being asked to explain himself is at war with the anxiety that the question might still be coming. Roy has solved the problem of getting out of this damn place, which is a task Ed hadn't even considered tackling yet, in one fell swoop, and now he's sitting there in all his fucking cover-boy glory working on fixing Ed's other problems too.

 

“What's your deal Mustang?” The words do a swan-dive from his mouth before he can stop them.

 

“Sorry?” Roy asks, stilling his pen to look at Ed through his eyelashes.

 

“I mean...there's no way you're this nice. No-one is this nice. What's your game? You already know I have literally no money, right?” For a moment Ed thinks he's truly blown it, and that Roy is insulted. But then that persistent grin is back.

 

“No, I'm only this nice to people I find interesting. I'm a selfish creature at heart,” Roy tells him.

 

“Don't try to woo me with your smooth-ass pickup lines,” Ed says, finally releasing the death grip he'd had on his thigh.

 

“I make no promises.” Roy grins.

 

Ed leans in slightly to look over the map.

 

“Well, I still want to check the Forum and Palatine Hill. It's fucking huge but I couldn't leave without at least trying.” He prods at the page with one finger. Roy dutifully circles both. “There's also the Trevi Fountain, which I'm hoping the locket isn't somehow at the bottom of, and the Spanish Steps, and that eyesore of a museum...-the Vittoriano or whatever. It might be outside that somewhere.” Ed runs a hand through his bangs, and doesn't miss that when he lets them fall back into place Roy's eyes follow the movement. Ed's heart gives a solid thump out of sync. Their heads are bent together, eyes locked.

 

“Okay. Well, we can probably do some of central Rome if you're feeling better tomorrow, but for now I think we should go back to the hostel,” Roy says distractedly.

 

“I guess,” Ed agrees without moving. Roy's eyes are dark, darker than dark. But up close Ed can see that they're a very dark brown rather than pure black. They reflect the tiny spotlights in the exhibits cases, creating tiny but infinite constellations. “Hey wait, you owe me gelato!”

 

His exclamation seems to shock Roy out of whatever reverie he had been in.

 

“Are...you feeling up to it? Don't push yourself, I can always go and get some to bring back to the room-”

 

“Gelato loses its purpose if you don't eat it in the sun. I'll be fine. Ice cream fixes sick people, didn't anyone ever tell you that?” Ed jibes, feeling better. The painkillers might be kicking in, or the adrenaline that seems to suddenly jolt his system every time Roy gets overly familiar might be helping. Ed pushes himself up, and it's uncomfortable and there are still little jolts to his femur, but he's fine. He said he'd do bad things for ice cream, after all. “Let me find a toilet before we go.”

 

A woman behind one of the incongruous pop-up gift shops spots (harshly juxtaposing the fancy corridor around it, but what the hell does Ed know about interior decorating anyway?) jogs over to him with a grin.

 

“May I help?” She asks in accented English. And Ed is glad for the language barrier suddenly as he asks her in fluent Italian where the nearest disabled bathroom is. Roy just blinks at the two of them.

 

She leads him past the excitable shoppers and into a staff area, opening the wide door for him. Ed is alone in the vast room with its almost comically small toilet shoved into one corner. As a general rule, he avoids these places. He looks and acts able-bodied, and people have got the wrong end of the stick with him in the past. It's a lot of effort to take your fake leg off just to prove a point, but he has been known to do it if people are being particularly self-righteous.

 

In the end though, he'd almost always prefer to use the same bathroom as the majority of people around him, and avoid the awkward conversations.

 

He slams down the lid on the toilet and pulls off his jeans to sit on it. His prosthetic is pretty cool for what it is - Winry is always trying to make him love it the way that she loves prosthetics in general, which meant she put all her creativity into it when she created it. Made out of black plastic, it's intricate and looks like someone has made him a leg out of biro scribbles. The knee joint is all shining, dark chrome in smooth curves. It's a work of art, but he's still not too comfortable having it out. The scars crisscrossing like fraying ropes at his mid-thigh certainly aren't artful to him, anyway.

 

He pulls it off and the relief is instant. Allowing himself a few seconds, he breathes for a moment before readjusting the cushioning and massaging the jagged stump. Maybe he'll be lucky today and the pain will just carry on eking away. It doesn't look too bad, at any rate, and there's very little swelling.

 

With force he straps his leg back into place. It's much more comfortable than it had been, but not as good as having it off completely. It'll have to do though, because his bed is on the other side of the city.

 

Standing, he tests the balance, and after twelve years of fake-limb tuning it's good enough to stand on first try. The mirror shows him that his hair is escaping, so he pulls it out of the braid and into a simple tail. Some water to his face is enough to stop him looking like a sweating mess, and In moments he is dressed and set to go.

 

He looks at the door, and it squats on its hinges at him. Outside are people, and probably pain...

 

...but also gelato.

Let's get this over with , he thinks.

 

---

 

Roy is waiting at the bench for him, and seems to perk up at seeing Ed walking easily towards him.

 

“Everything alright?” He asks, folding up the map and tucking it absently into a pocket. Ed grins at him.

 

“Alright enough for ice cream. You're not getting out of it that easy.”

 

“Fair enough. Got a place in mind?”

 

“We're in the most touristy spot of Rome, there'll be one on every street corner and eight in the middle too. We can just pick the emptiest one,” Ed says.

 

Ed flags down the gift shop lady and asks directions to the mythical fire exit. They manage to get outside and into the sun in under five minutes, which Ed counts as a personal record.

 

Outside is shining and painful on the eyes after the shaded interior of the Vatican museum. Ed squints like a chipmunk, but Roy just lifts one elegant arm to cover his eyes. Walking at a brisk pace, Ed leads them away from the bustling crowds and through the border between the Vatican City and Rome herself.

 

“There.” He points. It's a shitty chain with an open front that spills onto the street. Inside has just enough room for walking and a line of tables for two along the wall. The girl behind the counter looks bored out of her skull. Ed sits down on a wicker chair and takes in a deep breath of coffee smell.

 

“What would you like?” Roy asks.

 

“I will eat any flavour of gelato. Literally any. So, surprise me. You need to practice your Italian anyway.” Ed shrugs.

 

“I take it you'd like a large of whatever I manage to make her order?” Roy asks.

 

“Well, I mean, if you're offering,” Ed says. They both know this means 'get the biggest cone size possible" in Ed language. So Roy walks over to the counter and starts butchering the Italian language, and Ed tunes out at the moment he resorts to flirting yet again to extend the poor cashier's patience with him. He searches for solace in his phone.

 

thanks Al gelato incoming-

 

-You won fair and square, Brother. But I am surprised you went back to the Vatican without me there to force you.

 

Ed winces.

 

yeh don't worry I still think it's dumb. I'll Skype you about it later ok?-

 

-Sure. Are you sure you're okay? How are things with Mr Mustang?

 

i'm ok Al don't worry about me. Mustang is still a knowitall flirt with an over inflated ego. but hes not that bad now-

 

-Worrying about you is my job.
-When you say 'now" does that mean something has changed?

 

Ed stares at his phone for a moment. Has something changed? Not particularly. In fact, Roy is acting the same way now as he had when he first met Ed, just with a more relaxed air. He's still just as polite, still flirts incorrigibly, and still has a childish sense of humour. Maybe Roy really is just genuinely and apologetically himself from the get-go.

 

i mightv judged him more harshly than necessary-

 

-Have you considered apologising?

 

Before Ed can think that one over, a large cardboard pot is placed before him. Several flavours of gelato are clearly visible, with bits of fruit and chunks of chocolate scattered intermittently throughout. Ed's mouth starts to water immediately.

 

“Now that is what I'm talking about. Finally a decent portion size.” He rubs his hands and looks at Roy. “D'you get a tiny spade-spatula thing?” Ed asks.

 

“Well, you see this is a portion to be shared, but she only had the one spoon left. I suppose we’ll have to take turns…”

 

“Hell no Mustang you'd better hand that over or-” Roy laughs like ochre and honey, and Ed can't help but stop. Roy holds up the spoon is his hand, flicks his fingers a little, and reveals a second one.

 

“Alright, alright. I got two spoons.” Roy sits in front of him, reclining slightly and pushing the other neon plastic spoon over the tablecloth to Ed. With angry grumbles Ed picks it up and starts to sample the flavours he can see, trying to ignore Roy's deft swipes into the frozen treat every now and again. What a bastard. Victory ice cream should never be shared, that defeats the purpose of winning in the first place.

 

He takes a scoop of vanilla and chomps it. The second spoonful is halfway to his mouth when his brain finally registers the taste.

 

“Ugh, gross, what the hell is that? That's not vanilla, that's evil in frost form. The antivanilla, from icecream Hell. Are you trying to poison me?”

 

Roy raises a delicate eyebrow, lips wrapped around his own spoon. He slides it out from between his lips slowly.

 

“She may have mentioned a milk pudding flavour. Something of that ilk, anyway. You don't like it?” He asks.

 

“Fucking milk?! What is wrong with people? Ice cream is only good because they got rid of the dairy flavour.” Ed scowls at his spoon. The scoop of milk pudding gelato perches on it innocently.

 

Roy smirks at him and reaches over to take his wrist, pulling it towards him. In one smooth motion, he leans forward and closes his mouth around Ed's spoon.

 

Ed's brain is momentarily pure white.

 

And then he feels the flush all the way to the tips of his ears.

 

“I'll eat it then, no point letting it go to waste. You can have one of the other flavours to yourself in exchange,” Roy offers, and a pink tongue comes out to swipe his lips and Ed's thoughts all drop straight into the gutter.

 

What, so he admits for one second that the guy is a decent human being and his hormones give in, just like that? All his innate distrust and dislike of people outside of his weird, cobbled-together family can't seem to touch Roy. Roy with his deft hands and easy smiles and caring gestures...and his face! His stupid attractive face. And all it takes for Ed to start tipping over the edge of that steep-ass slippery slope is for someone to be nice to him for a day or two.

 

It's no wonder he gets screwed over so often.

 

Roy is shaping a little mountain out of the disgusting milk pudding ice cream. Sure he looks like a perfectly normal, ordinary, drop-dead-gorgeous army officer in the Italian sun, but don't they all? Well, no, but the point is, you can't ever tell which one is going to stomp into your well-ordered life, leave muddy footprints on your soul, and break the door on their way back out. They all look harmless in the beginning.

 

But shit, it sure would be nice to fall into that, just for a minute.

 

In the end, Ed is going to keep on travelling, and Roy is going to go home and then back out on whatever campaign wants his trigger finger next. The only decision left to make, in that case, is whether that makes hooking up with him for such a short time incredibly simple or incredibly painful.

 

Roy smiles at him, and it's like someone has caught fishhooks in Ed's chest and is pulling everything up through his throat.

 

Shoveling anything that isn't milk onto his spoon, Ed attempts to freeze the confusion in his chest into submission, or at least numbness.

 

“Rome has a Metro system, correct? Should we take that back to the room?” Roy asks. And Ed hates him for caring. He swallows.

 

“Yeh, I guess. It will still be a little walk to the hostel, but better than walking the whole way.”

 

“I could get us a taxi? I have enough Euros-”

 

“No! No that's cool. I can walk. Thanks.” Ed waves his hands in front of him.

 

“Of course,” Roy says quietly. For a moment there's a pause, and then he steals the last scoop of mint chocolate and licks it off the spoon instead of just eating it like a goddamn normal person, and Ed's insides are being splashed simultaneously with the colours of 'fuck shouldn't that be public indecency or something" and 'god don't let him start pitying me'.

 

“Ready to go?” Roy asks.

 

“Yeah let's get out of here,” Ed says, and he's up and out of his seat and into the bustling street without even looking at tall, dark, and stereotype, because he doesn't know what kind of backflips his heart will do if he catches sight of those eyes again at that moment.

 

Ed forges his way to the metro station without looking back, like he's on a mission. When he gets to the dingy stairs that lead into Rome's underbelly, he turns and catches sight of Roy's shoes. It's enough to prove he's keeping up.

 

“Let's go get tickets,” Ed says, and he's pattering down the steps, each one a jarr to his leg, but he won't slow down. Not now.

 

Unbalanced forces though. He has to stop some time, and in this case the unbalanced force preventing his inertia is a blockage of dumbass tourists at the top of the escalators.

 

He can feel Roy behind him, with an appropriate distance for personal space between them, but that doesn't stop it from feeling impossibly electrically charged. It's probably just him, and all the dumb thoughts that have taken over the dumb goop posing as his brain. Yeah, it has to be in his head.

 

But maybe he should look, just to check.

 

He flicks his eyes over his shoulder and turns his head minutely. His eyes and Roy's meet. They both snap back to looking at nothing whiplash fast.

 

Ed's heart is a herd of stampeding horses. Being ridden by screaming teenage girls. Over bouncy castles.

 

Fuuuuuuuck he thinks eloquently.

 

He almost trips at the bottom of the escalator but he pulls himself together. This is fine. The metaphorical world is sort of burning down around him, but it's fine. Really. Yeah.

 

It's not...bad, per se. Roy's been flirting from the beginning, even though Ed's pretty sure he'd flirt with anything that breathed. And also possibly mirrors.

 

So it's not bad, and it's also not that unexpected. But it could be bad, if he lets it in. Everything could go so, so wrong. But the worst bit is that there's a part of him that wants to go for it anyway.

 

As they split to different ticket machines, he scrambles for change at the same time as he watches Roy from the corner of his eye.

 

Just because the man knows he's hot doesn't make it any less true. And then, there's Ed. Short and badly dressed and suffering from what Winry likes to call 'resting bitch face'.

 

Damn. How long is it going to take to get back to Termini? Because if this is his thought process for the whole journey then he's going to have an existential crisis by the time they get off.

 

The trains, at least, are on time. Graffitied carriages thunder past on shuddering tracks, and they step in unison into the yellow strip-lights of the standing area. A television attached to the central pole is chattering about some kind of chocolate, and the gelato turns over in his belly. Roy wobbles, off balance for a moment as the train launches into movement, and it's so stupidly cute that Ed's belly turns again.

 

“We should find you a seat,” Roy says. Ed is leaning heavily on his good leg and can already feel the strain in his back from it, so when Roy pulls him by the sleeve down the carriage to an empty space, he doesn't protest. When he slides into it, Roy holds the bar above their heads and stands with his legs braced. It's almost as though he's defending him, and Ed is faced directly with a view of clingy shirt to gently rising and falling chest.

 

He's sure he stutters through some small talk, and when Roy cracks a joke, he doesn't laugh too manically. He fixes his vision on one of the safety stickers that looks suspiciously like a man with his ass stuck in the metro doors. Perhaps, he thinks whilst eyeing the peeling sticker corners, he should stop thinking about it and just get through the week without doing anything stupid.

 

It's twilight when they emerge the other end. Autumn allows the nights to creep in earlier, and the restaurants are lighting up their heaters and putting candles on the outside tables. They wander past the chic fashion boutiques and confusing little bakeries, and the voices around them begin to be dotted with English, German, and French, rather than the sleepy gregariousness of Italian. Hotel names flash in neon colours, and every building seems to be fronted by a reception.

 

The Yellow is hidden by a huge pair of double doors. Ed pushes on one and a much smaller door opens out of the wood, like a secret entrance. He has to lift his leg over the high plank at the bottom, and winces even though he tries not to show it. Roy's look of concern catches his eye and he knows he should try not to feel angered by it.

 

Four flights of smooth marble steps await them, spiraling around the wire cage of the elevator in the centre. Ed takes a breath and sets his hand on the rail.

 

This is pain that is familiar, and it's not even that bad. It's nothing on the time his stump split and Al had to both beg and bribe a taxi to take them to a hospital. They'd tried so hard not to leave blood on the seats, since there was no way they could afford the cleaning bill. Al had ruined his brand new coat instead. Thank god that had been back in England - Ed's travel insurance cost everything and covered nothing, like the company resented him just for the potential money he could cost them with a 'pre-existing condition'. He has no idea what Italy's hospital fees are like, and he has zero desire to find out.

 

With old pain fixed in his mind, he takes on the first flight and the discomfort doesn't feel too bad. He thinks about his bed, and pulling off the prosthetic and letting his leg finally breathe. Only three floors to go.

 

Roy's hand curling around his elbow makes him suddenly realise that he's been climbing in silence. Three loudly chattering hostel guests brush past them, and Roy subtly blocks them. Still linked, they stop by the hostel reception, and the staff inside peer at them for a moment before turning away disinterestedly. Roy turns to the tiny, old-fashioned elevator, and presses the call button.

 

“Tell me you aren't calling the death trap,” Ed deadpans.

 

“Is that the official brand name?” Roy asks back. The chains and mechanisms are whirring, and the tiny wooden box descends towards them in its rusting cage. Ed's mind is thinking about the rate of oxidisation and velocity vs impact.

 

“Come on it's only three more floors, we can walk it,” Ed says, and moves to turn. Roy's hand holds him in place for a moment, before letting go.

 

“I know it's not my business, but I really think you should consider risking the ‘Death Trap’, just for today. You plan to walk a fair distance again tomorrow, is that right?” Roy opens the large metal door to reveal the glossy wooden interior. Ed gives it a withering look.

 

“Some walking pain tomorrow seems a fair price to pay for not being splattered all over the inside of this tiny moving coffin,”'Ed bites. But he sighs and steps in anyway. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his jacket and shuffles in as far as he can. Roy shuts the caged gate across the door, and the modern metal one closes them in for good.

 

The space is small. Really small. The two of them are enough to fill up the elevator completely, and the only reason Ed doesn't feel the walls closing in is the windows showing him the wrought ironwork of the mechanism. It doesn't fill him with optimism. Roy's elbow jostles against Ed's ribcage as he presses the button for the fourth floor. In the still air Ed can smell him, the faint lilt of some shitty airport body-spray and the sun-warmed wool of his jacket.

 

The elevator makes its slow and juddering way upwards.

 

“Cosy in here, hm?” Roy comments lightly. They stand shoulder to shoulder, almost chest to chest. They're close enough for Ed to see the pulse in Roy's neck. It flutters, and his eyes are flashing.

 

“Not big enough to fit all of your ego, Mustang?” Ed quips. More to distract himself than anything.

 

“No, I was just thinking how nice this place is to provide facilities specially for you and your diminutive stature.” Roy smirks at him.

 

“You're such an asshole,” accuses Ed, but there's warmth in his voice. Roy mimes a small theatrical bow.

 

A loud ding vibrates through the wood, and the elevator stops.

 

Hobbling out, Ed allows his shoulders to drain their tension as Roy opens the door to the corridor and holds it for him. Fucking gentleman.

 

Despite his great desire to, Ed does not dive onto the bed. Instead he sits himself gently on the side and lets the weight off his leg. He wants to take it off and drop it in a corner for the evening, but Roy is there at the door fiddling with his duffel bag.

 

He considers heading to the bathroom and hiding out in there for a bit. Maybe he could shower, that wouldn't look too weird. A half hour without his leg might be enough to sort it out.

 

Roy is tucking euros into his wallet.

 

“I'll leave you to talk to Alphonse. I'll be back in maybe an hour.” Ed's heart both leaps and falls.

 

“Where are you sneaking off to?” He asks.

 

“I need to get some more money out, and grab some supplies. All I have are the few things I could get at the airport,” Roy tells him, pulling a jumper over his shirt with snake-like movements that just beg Ed to run his hands down those muscled sides. He shakes his head.

 

“If you get lost I'm not coming to find you,” Ed says.

 

“I'll be fine, I'm sure. Say hello to your brother for me.” Opening the door, Roy kisses his fingers and then flicks them in Ed's direction. “ Ciao .”

 

Ed can only pray that his face went bright red after the door closed, and not whilst Roy was still smirking at him through the gap.

 

----

 

A limb-removal, shower, and his comfiest set of pyjamas later, Ed is lying wet-haired in his slim, white hostel bed. His stump is thrumming with the happiness of flesh no longer under tension, and his phone is trilling musically as it sends a call to Al.

 

“Hello?" Al asks, and he pops up on the screen in low-def pixels. Ed can feel his smile widen at the sight of him.

 

“Hey Al. How's everything in Switzerland?"

 

“Good, thanks! I got my final marks back today, and it all worked out okay. I'm done now for the year.”

 

“Oh yeah? What did you get overall?”

 

“Well, they haven't released the full grades yet..." Al hesitates.

 

“Come on, I know you've been adding it all up as you've been going along," Ed pushes. Al's shy grin betrays his thoughts.

 

“Well, if I'm correct about how I did in the exam, then I'm hoping for a five point five. But my coursework marks are all sixes so, if I managed to do well..." He trails off.

 

“Hell yeah Al! I'm sure you knocked that exam out of the water." Al flushes at Ed's approval to the point where it's obvious even through the screen. Ed's chest is full of pride, and he can't keep it out of his voice. “You've done so well Al. You're really amazing. They wouldn't recognise you back home.”

 

“Well, I think they might not recognise you, either, you know," Al says. His grin is wide and his eyes are soft and Ed misses him like crazy.

 

“More like they'll never forget me," says Ed, rolling his eyes.

 

“You are hard to forget," Al agrees. Then his expression turns serious. “Brother, are you alright? You said you were going to speak to me about something." Ed rubs the join between his neck and his shoulder and leans back against the wall.

 

“Yeah, I really am fine Al. I guess...It sucks that I didn't get to hang out with you in your last fortnight in Switzerland. And I'm stressed about the flights and I managed to fuck up my leg today too...but I just wanted to tell you...I lost mum's locket. And maybe it's stupid, I don't know. But it can't leave it here. It feels like I'm leaving her here with it, you know?" Al has a way of looking at him that isn't quite sympathy, but still manages to make Ed feel like someone else understands and somehow shares his bad times. “I'm really sorry. I should have been more careful.”

 

“Hey, stop that. It's fine. Mum isn't in a locket, she's in our heads and our hearts, right? If you want to stay there and look for it, that's fine. I'm alright here. Are you okay for money?" Al's words are a tumble of solutions. Ed can feel himself looking miserable.

 

“I don't know, I'm probably okay but since I have no income right now...this is dumb. I should just fly to you and forget about it." Ed sighs and flips one wet slither of strands over his shoulder. It leaves dark marks on his tee shirt.

 

“...Well, sleep on it? Maybe you'll know how you feel in the morning. Mum always said that things happen for a reason. This might be one of those times." Al's tinny wisdom sounds thin through his phone speakers.

 

“Yeah. Maybe." Ed shrugs. As a scientist, he can't bring himself to believe things like that. But he wants to.

 

“And besides. Mr. Mustang seems to be looking after you," Al says with a honeyed smile.

 

“What the hell does any of this have to do with him?" Demands Ed.

 

“You seemed like you had fun today. And you can be...difficult, when you're stressed and in pain. Like anyone would be. What I'm saying is, I'm glad you have someone there with you who can help you smile.”

 

“Nice save, Al," Ed drips sarcastically.

 

“You did have fun though?" Al pushes.

 

“I guess.”

 

“So he's not a 'dickbag reincarnation of Narcissus’ after all?”

 

‘Oh my god Al get off my case!" Ed whines, sliding down into the covers and blowing his bangs out of his eyes. Al laughs.

 

There's a knock at the door. "Ed? It's Roy. Can I come in?" Ed almost drops the phone.

 

“Shit!" He says under his breath.

 

“What’s wrong?" Al asks from the device.

 

“Sh!" Ed tells him, reaching over the edge of the bed. "I don't have my leg on." He raises his voice enough to be heard through the door. "Sorry, uh...could you just - would it be okay for you to wait out there for five minutes?”

 

“Of course," comes Roy's smooth, ready answer. "Call me when you're done.”

 

“Brother this is ridiculous. I'm surprised you didn't hide your leg in his bed to scare him the first night he stayed." When he hazards a look at the screen, Al is two parts concerned and one part annoyed. "Did you sleep with it on? I thought you didn't mind it so much now?”

 

“I know okay. I know it's fucking dumb, but...I just don't want him to see it. Not yet. Not when he's been so...not when I still have to be around him for another two weeks." He pulls the leg on and slots it into place. Al is thoughtfully silent.

 

“In the end, only you know best what will help you," Al submits eventually. And Ed can hear the worry and the sadness in his tone; it creeps out every now and again. "It's selfish I know, I just don't want you to hurt yourself for the sake of a stranger's opinion." Ed's guilt complex slides into place on cue. He knows Al doesn't mean it like that, but he can't help but feel like scum if he ever makes Al worry. Al has enough to worry about already. He takes a breath.

 

“It’s not his opinion, really. I just don't want to be treated like glass whilst I'm stuck here," Ed says. He sighs deeply, and turns to look at the phone screen. "That's not dumb, right?”

 

“No Ed. Your feelings are never dumb, not to me," Al says quietly. Ed smiles at him ruefully.

 

Can he continue this ridiculous limb-hide-and-seek if it’s going to worry Al? It’s not worth it. Nothing’s worth making Al fret about him. Not even the opinion of a painfully attractive, goofy, caring, piece of shit army dog. But the thought of Roy suddenly treating him like someone to be coddled, someone less

 

It just bothers him. That’s all.

 

But in the end, if it all changes from now, he's had some fun out of it. More than he'd expected to. And, if he's honest with himself, isn't keeping this part of himself hidden compromising his integrity in some way? If Roy Fucking Mustang tries to treat him like a leper or a china doll, he'll just cuss him out. Awkwardness can go to hell - it's not like he's been particularly polite up till now anyway.

 

And the idea of trying to hide his leg for that long is a lead weight at the back of his head.

 

“Alright. Alright, let's just get it the fuck over with." Ed pulls off the leg again and leans it by the bed. Then he hauls himself into the sheets and smooths them over his hips. There's a significant vacancy from his left thigh down.

 

“Are you sure?" Al's tone is surprised.

 

“Yeah. Fuck it, right?" Ed gives the screen a thumbs up and yells before he can change his mind. "Oi Mustang! You can come in now." Ed lifts Al and holds him on his lap. There's a muffled noise from beyond the door, but then the sound of the key card sliding into the lock echoes solidly through the room and Roy steps in.

 

“Hello," he says. "Are you feeling any better?" Ed watches, air caught in his lungs, as Roy's eyes flicker over his missing leg, and over the prosthetic leaning wonkily against the wall. Ed shrugs with some mustered bravado.

 

“Yeah, I'm okay. Where did you go?" He asks. Roy lifts his hands to where Ed can see that they're gripping several fancy looking bags.

 

“Just clothes and general supplies. One moment, I'm going to try this on." Roy dumps all but one bag on the foot of his bed, and slips into the en suit. Ed releases his breath through his nose.

 

Al is watching him from the phone in his hands. Ed meets his eyes and cocks his head.

 

“So far so good," he says.

 

“Was he okay?'

 

“I don't know. He definitely saw, but he didn't say anything." Ed runs fingers through his matted hair distractedly. Al just lets him think.

 

The en suit door opens with a squeak, and Ed is suddenly surrounded by the smell of quality cologne. When Roy steps out, it's like someone has found him and polished him to shining. In a suit that hugs and wraps him in ways that make Ed's mouth dry up in an instant, Roy is standing taller and moving with more grace than Ed has ever seen him. Sleek new shoes are on his feet, and they tap ever so lightly on the linoleum floor.

 

“That's so much better. I finally feel presentable," Roy says, smile glittering in the shitty lamplight. He belongs in a stylish coffee bar or an opera house or something, not the scattered mess of their hostel room.  "How do I look?" He asks. Ed tries to make his jaw move from it's position of vague, gormless awe. Somehow, this is the guy that was bumming it with him at a backstreet gelato place just a few hours ago. How?

 

“May I see?" Al pipes up from the phone, saving him from certain embarrassment.

 

“Oh, is that Alphonse? Hello." Ed manages to turn the phone clumsily. Roy puts out his arms and turns slowly. Ed's eyes are glued to his ass and the curve of his waist and the set of his shoulders...

 

“Wow you're like a new man, Mister Mustang," Al says. "Maybe you could convince Brother to get some nice suits like that.”

 

“I'll certainly try. I bet he'd look absolutely stunning." Ed recovers his senses enough to throw a pillow at him.

 

“Oi cut the sarcasm," he huffs. Roy catches the pillow and volleys it back to land with a poof next to Ed's hand.

 

“There wasn't even a hint of sarcasm hidden in that statement. I think you'd look gorgeous in a suit, and I'd love to see it." Roy winks at him and Ed realises with some panic that the suit seems to have upped Roy's forward flirting by about 50%. Before he can stutter back a no doubt lacklustre rebuttal, Roy has sat himself on the edge of the bed right next to Ed's stump. "I thought that dinner tonight might be a bit much, but I can head downstairs and get some pizza from the street food place, if you're feeling hungry." Ed internally slaps himself with a ‘ what the fuck is wrong with you, Elric? ’ and forces himself to look Roy in the eye. "Pizza sounds good. Pizza sounds great, actually, I'm wasting away up here.”

 

“Alright. Any particular toppings I can get for you?”

 

“Salami and peppers," Ed and Al say in near unison. "Brother you never change," Al chimes in at the end. Roy tilts his head at them and laughs through his nose, and Ed holds back from kissing the tip of it somehow.

 

“Give me fifteen minutes," Roy says, and he's leaving again, and nothing has changed, and Ed doesn't know what he's doing.

 

“You're bright red.”

 

“Shut the hell up, Al."

-----------------

Roy makes good on his word and returns in just under quarter of an hour, bursting through the door like Ed's personal daydream, gorgeous with arms full of delicious, cheesy food. He gets back into his sweats and undershirt, and pushes his bed close to Ed's to sit cross legged next to him. As hot as he is in the sharp charcoal of tailored trousers, Ed thinks he looks better in worn cotton, curling his toes into the sheets.

 

Roy doesn't say anything as Ed lifts himself up to lean against the wall and grab a slice, and they end up eating with relish. The pizza is amazing, or maybe Ed is just staving; he wolfs it down either way. Talk is companionable, and light. He forgets about his leg before the second slice has even a bite missing.

 

“You and Al seem very close," Roy muses after licking each finger delicately. It takes a lot of cheese to distract Ed from that, so he sandwiches two slices together and takes a bite.

 

“Yeah, we are, I guess." Close is an understatement. Al is his only family; his best friend; his world, if he's honest. Ed's used to people not getting it, not everyone has to fight for their family in the way that they did.

 

“I thought having siblings was primarily about bickering and getting each other into trouble," Roy says. Ed snorts.

 

“Well we do plenty of both of those. But Al is special. He's probably the nicest guy in the world, for a start. So it's hard to stay mad at him."

 

“I did get that impression." Roy settles in and watches him lazily.

 

“What, you want a bedtime story?" Ed asks. Roy smiles in that suddenly disarming way that always throws Ed off, and it works its usual charm.

 

“Only if you feel like telling me about yourself. I'd like to know."

 

“...you know, it's not very happy.”

 

“Only if you want to.”

 

Ed is torn. Somehow...somehow  he wants to tell. To explain, and give Roy some hint as to why he acts the way he does.

 

“I guess...well, our mum died when we were young. Multiple Sclerosis. Our dad was off doing fuck knows what, and we never had family outside of that. My godmother tried to adopt us but she was already pretty old, and she'd already had to take on her own grandchild. So, we ended up in care.
And that wasn't so bad, right? It was just these weird little homes that always smelled like hotel corridors, and me and Al swapped schools and ended up in the city because it was the closest one. But it was okay. Because we had each other still, and I guess we didn't want to stay in our house without Mum anyway. But when we got to about eleven, twelve, years old, Al got adopted. Without me."

 

A pained sound comes from Roy's side of the room. Ed looks over at him and dumps his pizza back onto the cardboard. He'll finish it after he's done ejecting all the spiteful little facts about his life.

 

“That's more than awful. I'm sorry," Roy says with feeling. It makes Ed's heart hurt, and he doesn't know how to fix that, so he runs a hand through his bangs and clicks his neck.

 

“It was okay. I mean, they were nice people, Bill and Mary. At the time, I was glad he was somewhere that was going to...love him, you know? I didn't want to get in the way of that. He deserved a chance to have a family again. So I told him to go with them and he did, and I ended up in this foster home for "troubled" kids, right? Which just meant I had to learn how to fight or get trampled on. That place was hell. I hated it." Ed can still smell the damp in the stairwell of that ‘home', hear the clunking of the pipes and the shouts of teenage gangs brawling in the streets. He looks up through his hair. Roy is focused on him, rapt attention making him feel self-conscious. "But that's boring and over. So. Whatever.”

 

“How did you find him again?" Roy asks. Ed huffs, more as a way to expel energy than because he's annoyed.

 

“Turns out if I stop talking to Al he'll hunt me down like a bloodhound. Even as a kid he was way too smart. I was trying to be cool and self-sacrificing, leaving him to his happy new life without making him worry about me. But of course that just made everything worse. He ended up working out where my school was, and he snuck onto a train, traveled back to the city, and climbed the gate at lunch to come find me. I cried like a fucking baby, which completely screwed any street cred I'd managed to scrounge up for myself. This was about three months after he'd started with the new parents. They went nuts. We both had to go to counselling after that, too.'

 

“It's amazing that he managed to find you. Did they...take both of you, afterwards?”

 

“They wanted to...there wasn't enough room or money or time for two kids there though. They were nice. Sometimes I wonder if he'd have been better with them, especially when everything's really shit for us, but you can't think like that. It messes you up," Ed says.

 

“It sounds like he wanted to be with you, anyway," Roy says. Ed smiles before he can stop it.

 

“He worked out before I did that we're pretty useless apart. I don't think either of us would have made it through on our own," Ed admits. Roy smiles at him with soft, soft eyes. It makes Ed feel...weird. "Anyway, they took him home with a warning and lots of crying. Then I broke into the records office, stole the address of his new family, and broke into their house too a week later. They walked in to find us asleep in the duvet against a wall. I got sent home.
The time after that, Al turned up at my school with two backpacks and we made our own way right up to Newcastle before they found us.
Eventually, Bill and Mary said they didn't want to be splitting us up any more, so Al ended up back in the system with me. They still send us presents on birthdays and Christmas. In the end, we stayed in care until I was eighteen. We'd both been working since sixteen and so had just enough saved to get the hell out of there. I think they were glad to see us go.”

 

“And now you're in Italy?" Roy pushes.

 

“And Al is in Switzerland, finishing up his degree. We decided it's a bit nuts to be together all the time, especially as adults." Ed doesn't mention that he feels adrift without having Al to look out for, steering his decisions. He carefully avoids bringing up that the space without Al is foreign and dead and kind of eerie, too.

 

“So, why are you in Italy?" Roy asks.

 

“Nope. The Tour of Edward's Shitty Life is closed for the day. Your turn. Where did you grow up?" Roy blinks at him for a minute, like he didn't expect Ed to care. Ed supposes he hasn't been the friendliest of people, but still. He wouldn't be sharing his ugly past if he didn't have at least some measure of trust involved. He thinks belatedly that this might be an example of Al's claim that he "closes off" from people. Sitting up, he makes an effort to look alert and invested.

 

“Do you really want to know? It's not nearly as touching as your story." Roy cocks his head and his hair falls forward into his eyes. Ed wants to push it back with his fingers.

 

“I asked didn't I?"

 

“Alright, that's true. Hum, where to start? First of all, I was sent from Korea by my mother to live with my father before my memories even begin, and long before you were born. He didn't have a lot of time for me, and left me in the care of my Aunt Chris. She runs a company of escorts. You can imagine what it was like to grow up surrounded by beautiful women." Roy laughs. Ed stares him down.

 

“You're shitting me," Ed blurts.

 

“Beg pardon?'

 

“That explains so much."

 

“I see. I suppose it might. They all had very...strong personalities. And a lot of them were young. It was like having large group of sisters." Roy pulls out a wallet from his jacket by the bed. Opening it, he reveals a selection of tiny pictures, each of which has him surrounded by at least eight busty, beaming women. Roy gets younger the further Ed looks through them.

 

“I bet you whip this out when you need evidence of your ladykilling ways," Ed says. "No-one would believe that about you as a teenager though. You look like such a turd." Roy laughs. He's a far cry from that scruffy-haired, gangly teen now, lounging around like he's paid to look hot and relaxed.

 

“Many others at the time agreed with you.”

 

“So why the army? Didn't fancy the escort life?" Ed asks.

 

“Ah," Roy says meaningfully. He rolls onto his front and steeples his fingers. Ed tries not to be obvious about trailing his gaze over long legs and taut thighs and- "I was sent to good schools, Chris worked hard to make that happen. I ended up at university doing political science, with a view to going into politics properly. A young and stupid dalliance with a professor ended that rather quickly - the university mopped it up and I was thrown out with the dirty water. I gather it was something he was proud of, his streak of student conquests. Less so for those of us on the other end of it. It'd never happen now, of course. Anyway, the long and short of it is that in a relatively delicate state of mind I followed a friend into the armed forces through blind inability to see other options, and maybe due to feeling a little dramatic. It was the best way I could think of a the time to help my country if I couldn’t be a politician.”

 

“Okay," Ed says, "okay. So. A few questions, how old are you for anything to be "long before I was born'? Expand on that to explain why you apparently went to uni in the fucking dark ages. And finally, did you punch the professor guy? Because I think someone should punch the professor guy.”

 

“Are you defending my honour, Edward Elric?" Roy smirks and Ed starts the going-red process again, again, but he doesn't look away this time.

 

“Well, yeh. I mean, I would be if you had any. I just...I dunno, if someone did that to Al I'd string him up by his dick like a twat pinata."

 

“I believe you," Roy says seriously, “and Al's future partners have my sympathy. But, no. The 'professor guy’ continued to teach for another five years before the university thought he was more of a liability than an asset and quietly let him go. " Ed makes a noise of anger. "And to answer your question, I'm thirty-five, and the 2000s were a dark age in their own way.”

 

"That long? What kind of shitty uni-! Never mind. Sorry. We don't have to talk about that any more. Except to be honest the 'thirty-five’ bit because that's a blatant lie. I mean, early thirties at a stretch..." Ed gestures at Roy's face. Roy puffs up a little.

 

“I do get told that I look young for my age," He says. "How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?”

 

“Twenty-four," Ed says, narrowing his eyes. "And there will be no comments on whether or not I look twenty-four. Because I do. Thank you."

 

Roy raises his palms.

 

“Of course you do. What slanderous fiend would suggest otherwise?'

 

“Shut up Mustang. You're a terrible liar. Tell a funny one so that I can eat for a bit."

 

Ed picks up the pizza again and Roy launches into a tale about his training days involving lost boots and an overly-friendly barrack mouse. It's surprisingly easy between them even after Ed's just unloaded half of his unpleasant history. Roy leaves him an extra slice of pizza and pretends it belonged to Ed all along, earning him another handful of brownie points. Ed's leg sits between their beds, and they both ignore it with simple ease.

 

In the low-lamp dark of the hostel room with the sounds of Rome's nightlife filtering through the window on the mild night air, Ed allows himself to be happy. Just for that moment.

Chapter Text

The day greets them with alarm clock screeches at almost dawn. Somehow Ed doesn't mind it as much as usual. He sits up and turns to the bed beside him, fingers rubbing crumbling sleep dust from his eyes.

“What?" Ed asks. Roy is highlighted by the white of the sheets; the contrast against his hair is sharp and beautiful. He's lying on his side and watching Ed with a strange sort of half smile.

'’'What’, what? Good morning."

Ed snorts back at him, "you're weird as hell." Roy just shrugs.

Ed seizes his leg from between them and straps it on deftly. His eyes flicker to Roy without his leave, even though he thinks the words I don't want to know if he looks away so fiercely that he can almost see them in his mind’s eye. If Roy looks away then he's disgusted, or awkward, or both. If he keeps looking...if he keeps looking it could be because Ed's a curiosity. A sideshow of the grotesque and morbid.

Roy catches his eye.

“I want pastry for breakfast." He demands. Then he gets up and yawns his way to the wardrobe.

Well.

It feels like Ed missed a stair on the way down, but still hasn't hit the floor yet. When is Roy going to say something? Why does he want Roy to say something? He doesn't. He really doesn't want to talk about it. But knowing that Roy knows is driving him nuts.

“Are you alright?" Roy has paused in his rummage through the wardrobe and is watching Ed with some unidentifiable emotion in the dark depths of his eyes. His voice is the same as it was during the incident at the Vatican City; soft with concern, but without a single iota of patronisation. Ed swallows.

“I...yeah. Thanks."

“Okay." Roy gives him a nod and slowly returns to his wardrobe perusal. He clearly doesn't believe Ed's less than enthusiastic response, but he doesn't press it.

Ed thinks maybe there is something he likes about Roy Mustang after all.

Well, something beside his ass.

 


 

The routine they fall into is disturbingly natural, and, frankly, freaks Ed out just a little bit. Waking up gets easier as his body gets used to the early exercise, and the awkward pauses between them become almost non-existent. Like Roy has just slipped into a space in Ed’s life that was always there and waiting for him.

Their favourite bakery starts to recognise them, greeting them by name when they pick up pastries or sandwiches (although Roy jokes that they probably remember Ed only for the fact he always buys out half the store), and there’s a weird sense of domesticity and just... rightness about it all.

And it’s fucking Ed up. Because he’s having fun. He wakes up wanting to smile because he knows he’s in the same room as someone who will be happy to wish him a good morning. Food tastes better at dinner because he’s not scoffing it, alone, on the go. The idea of getting up and looking for an irreplaceable memento is somehow not stressful, but more silver-lined with a sense of adventure. It’s like going from breathing city smog to cool mountain air.

But every day he smiles is one day ticked off the list, gone from potential happiness to a memory, like it’s been stamped and dumped in the ‘outgoing’ pile. Someday, and someday so, so soon, he’s going to be alone again. And he won’t get to see Roy’s expression light up when he shows him something genuinely interesting, or watch him pull a face at something he disagrees with in the imported newspapers. He’s backpedaling so hard to try and avoid getting attached, but the thought of this ending already makes him want to lie face-down on the floor and just stop moving.

And every time he thinks that, and his eyes become downcast, Roy will get his attention and ply him with debates or food or terrible puns until he can carry on again. And thus, Ed falls a little more.

 


 

Tossing and turning from the other bed wakes him. The night is deep and dark still; his lethargy tells him it must barely be morning.

With monumental effort, Ed turns himself onto his side, sliding his gaze over Roy in the next bed.

The covers are half on the floor, trailing like a drunken ghost. Roy is on his back, arms flung wide, but otherwise still. Tired eyes move to the clock; three thirty. Fuck that.

Groaning, Ed buries his face in the pillow and lets his back muscles relax again. Roy's breathing, barely detectable, lulls him to the brink of sleep. Dark and warm and vacant...

There's a sudden shift on the next bed, and Ed's eyes fly open, blood thundering, at the strangled yelp that comes from it. Roy sits up with a ragged gasp. His hands rake the sheets, head turning sharply to work out where he is in the dark.

Ed says nothing as Roy lowers his head and just sits there, face cupped in the claw of his hand. The telltale rattle of a shiver shudders him in the night chill. He doesn't move to cover himself. With a silent sigh, Ed swings his one leg over the side, grabs the sheets, and hops the single step to Roy's bed.

"You okay?" Draping the blanket around Roy's shoulders makes him look somehow small. Ed doesn't like it.

Roy swallows a few times, and a hand closes gently around the covers just enough to hold them on, like he doesn't have any strength in his grip.

"Yes. I will be, in a moment." Ed watches him force his breathing back to calm and measured. With a sleep-grogged brain he realises it's probably pretty awkward having someone watch when you're...having a midnight breakdown, or whatever, so he leans to pick up his phone just for something to do.

After a few moments, Roy taps him on the leg so lightly it might never have happened.

"Thank you. You can go back to bed now."

"Y'don't wanna talk about it?"

"No. It was just a dream. I'll be fine." Roy's voice is steady but he's still shaking. Ed tenses to stand. It doesn't seem right to leave, though, so he doesn't make it off the bed. He covers Roy's hand with his own and squeezes it lightly. Regret will find him in the morning, piggie-backing embarrassment, but in the close of the dark it's too personal for Ed to feel self conscious.

"Al says, well I guess Mum said, that you can't have another nightmare after a kiss." Raising Roy's hand, he lightly dusts the palm with his lips. "So don't, okay?"

Sleep-fuzzed and cold, Ed pushes himself off the bed to standing, and collapses back into his own sheets. After a moment Roy lays down himself. The covers wrap him like a burrito, but under his chin is tucked the hand that Ed kissed, cradled like it’s the only thing between him and the dark.

 


 

 

Although the morning is brittle and cold, they warm up quickly with the run. Roy looks tired, but he smiles when Ed looks his way, and he doesn't say anything about the disruption in the night. Ed lets it lie. God knows he's had his own demons before.

And he doesn't need to remember his godstupididiot little fucking kiss move either what the fuck . In the breaking light of day, something that had seemed so natural at the time is about the most humiliating memory Ed has ever added to the bank. The cringe echoes through him with every footstep. It was just a strange family custom. Appropriate, maybe, to do for a child. A bit weird between siblings, but Al hadn't had to use that particular technique for years so whatever. Between two grown adults, however...

Maybe if he's lucky a pillar will fall over and squash him flat at some point on the jog.

The sky is a roar of colour when they reach the top of the hill. They sit side by side on what Ed has come to think of as 'their' bench. As if that isn't the fucking lamest thing ever. But the world is quiet and small when they sit there waiting for the sun to fully rise, so it's hard to think of it any other way.

Ed looks out over the rocky playbox of the forum and munches his breakfast pastry, very, very carefully not thinking anything about the night before. Or even anything about Roy in general.  

The crumbs fall off him to become a feast for sparrows when he stands. He stretches and feels the pleasant hum of muscles being pulled taut. Behind him Roy dumps their napkins in a bin, and then boldly presses a hand fingers widespread and tantalisingly warm to the small of Ed's back.

"Let's go." No explanation is offered.

He does it again after the second portion of their run; moving Ed by the hips when he's messing up the card reader on the hostel door. The sudden contact flits up Ed's nerves to firework in his brain, and just as quickly is gone. Roy's card works first try. Because it's Roy, and he'd probably just fucking wink at the door and have the damn thing open right up, and Ed is flustered when he realises he and the door have a lot in common.  

The third time is on the metro, with a casual arm slung over Ed's shoulders when there are no bars to hold on to and he's unable to reach the hanging straps comfortably. A very promising rant on their ridiculous height is stopped in its tracks by the press against Roy's chest. Every swerve of the carriage crushes them together and damn, damn, damn .

Ed didn't sign up for this. Before Roy's attractiveness had been mostly objective; pleasing to the eye and just plain fact. But with every new personal bubble broken, it becomes a threat to his sanity. Getting so close to him means noticing details that Ed should never have been able to pick up on, like the barely-there dusting of freckles on Roy's forearms, with their wide wrists and smooth undersides. Or the small scar right on the corner of his stupidly well-defined jaw; a crescent of silvered skin that looks like it would be utterly delicious to lave a tongue across. By the afternoon Ed has become so familiar with the contact that an arm slung loose and low on his waist almost seems normal.

He allows it because a casual touch isn't a commitment. There's no promise in allowing Roy's hands to mold him as they will. It isn't leading someone on to allow touches...probably, right? It's not like you can just come out with something as self-important as 'we're not gonna be romantic, like at all, so could you not' without making everything awkward for everyone involved.

And anyway, it feels, for lack of a better word, nice. He forgets sometimes in his constant quest for isolation how pleasant the touch of another human being can be. It helps, of course, that this particular human is pretty much the crowning achievement of the species. But whatever.

They'd wandered the whole of the Circus Maximus, and Roy's hands had wandered over shoulders, spine, and once a cheekbone. Glitter, he'd said. As if Ed, of all people, would ever allow himself to be soiled with the stuff.

But in the rolling dips and swaying grass, he accepts the excuse. And if he extends a hand to Roy at the top of the grassy side, and grips tight as he pulls him over the lip of what was once a great racing track, then that's only being helpful. And if Roy's getting ideas in the four solid seconds they spend staring at each other then it's his problem.

The river runs beside them, wide and calm. The paving stones are littered with leaves, and when Roy accidentally kicks some in Ed's direction, it turns into small scale war. Ed marvels at just how much preteen still exists in Roy Mustang, wrapped in the charisma and the self confidence.

"Okay, truce!" Ed shouts, half laughter and half desperation as Roy prepares to stuff a handful of crunchy, leafy detritus down the back of his shirt. Roy smirks and releases his hold on Ed's collar. Then Ed is momentarily blinded as the vegetation is upended over his head, tangling in his hair and collecting in his hood.  When the leaf fall clears, Roy is close enough that Ed would headbutt him if he did so much as sneeze.

Ed pulls a clump out of his hair and grimaces, but it turns into a grin when he notices the gold-tinged leaf lodged in Roy's collar. He pulls that out too, and crushes it with the others. It makes a satisfying crunch.

Deft hands come up to clear his hood; fingers brushing his neck and then stopping there, hot as brands. It's hard being this close to Roy Mustang. Looking at him directly is like putting your face an open flame. The sense of heat is only heightened by the fucking obscene way his tongue sweeps out over his lips.

The cyclist isn't something Ed registers until she's almost on top of them, and he is forced to jerk them both backwards to avoid having strawberry jam for a roommate. She passes with a whoosh of air and the tinkle of a bell. Stonework on the wall behind him digs into his hip, and Roy's arms have caught around him. The leaves settle once again.

"Hello." Roy says quietly.

"Hey." Ed is somehow quieter. And then he gets an idea. A terrible one, really; almost certainly taking advantage. But the opportunity glows at him like coals on a banking fire.

He slides both arms either side of Roy's waist, and pushes up on the balls of his toes. Roy's fingers curl into the back of his hoodie. His eyes are low-lidded. Leaves crunch as Ed's hand subconsciously tightens.

"That's not what 'truce' means, you shithead." Ed whispers into Roy's ear. And that's when he plunges the whole handful of crackling, crumbling fauna down the back of Roy's pants.

Roy lets out a strangled noise of abject horror. Ed can sympathise, of course, given that those pants fit him like a fucking glove. But it just makes victory taste all the more sweet, in the end.

"You little-!"

"Little what, Roy? Do you really want to finish that sentence?"

"I never agreed to a truce, anyway. Did you pick the crumbliest ones on purpose?"

Ed just laughs at him as he's forced to stick his hand down his own pants and fish out what he can. Something about the contrast between Roy's usual grace and an action so juvenile gives the giggles too much force to be stopped. Even ten minutes later, when Roy is mostly de-leafed and only shaking bits out of his trouser leg every now and again, Ed still lets out a snort at the memory.

"Are you still snickering?"

"I dunno, are you still sulking?"

"Yes. I have leaves in places no leaf should ever go."

Ed's grin cracks across his face again. Roy sends him a haughty glare, but eventually even that wobbles into a half smile.

"He smiles! I thought you were gonna grouch forever."

"I can't deprive the world of the wonder that is my sparkling grin, Edward. I do have a heart."

"Yeah, yeah I'm sure the starving orphans are really thankful for it."

"Wait a second..." Roy backtracks a few steps to look through an open doorway. Ed watches him, bemused. "I know where we are." Roy declares.

"Rome. Italy. Planet earth..." Ed is cut off by Roy grabbing his wrist, eyes rolling at him.

"Stop being a smart mouth for two seconds and follow me." So Ed does, and is lead down a little corridor. Their footsteps echo off the stones.

"Are you sure we're allowed in here?" He asks. The place is empty.

"Yes. Mostly. Unless it's closed."

"Unless what's closed?" They round a corner and end up in the empty gaze of a huge face. A disk taller than Roy, thicker than the span of a hand, squats against the wall. Into it has been carved a foreboding face, with holes for eyes, nostrils, and mouth. A threadbare velvet rope sits in front of it.

"The Mouth of Truth." Roy says, as though that should clear everything up. Ed raises an eyebrow at him.

"And that is what exactly?"

"Haven't you ever seen 'Roman Holiday'?" Roy steps forward and lays a hand on the cool surface of the stone. A tug on Ed's wrist gets him to follow.

"No. I don't really bother with movies. I've only seen stuff from like ten years ago."

Roy smiles at him like he's a basket full of fucking kittens or something. "It's a black and white film Ed, with Audrey Hepburn.”

"Oh." Ed shrugs. His eyes flicker to where Roy still has a grip on his arm.

"In the film, a runaway princess meets a reporter, and they travel Rome together. He brings her here, to the Mouth of Truth, and tells her the legend: that if you are a liar, and you put your hand in the mouth, it will get bitten off." Roy mimes a bite in a way that should not be sexy but somehow, (completely definitely indisputably,) is.

Ed rolls his eyes and studies a plaque on the wall.

"Says here it's a drain cover." He nods at the plaque. Roy looks disappointed.

"...Cursed drain cover?"

"No. Just a regular drain cover. Hadrianic."

"That's no fun. Well. If it's just a distasteful but harmless giant manhole cover, care to try your luck?" Roy gestures at the mouth, finally releasing his hold on Ed's arm.

"No way. This fucker probably hasn't brushed his teeth in the last thousand years." Ed pats the cracked nose of the carving instead. The stone between the lips is shined from centuries of human hand-grease smoothing the rock, and inside the hole is fairly shallow.

"Wuss." Roy goads. He steps forward himself to lift a hand, fingertips skimming the stone lips. Slowly, too slowly, he inches his hand into the oblong mouth.

"You're so fucking dramatic."

"Ed, there's...something I probably should have told you." Ed blinks up at him, and the centre of him does a nervous little hop. Roy's eyes are downcast. His face is a blank slate, eyebrows drawn just slightly.

"Okay?"

"Edward, I...shit!" Roy's face contorts into pain, and he slams his free hand into the stone face, trying to wrench his arm free from the looming rocky mouth. Ed panics and takes hold of Roy's shoulder, fingers curling into the suit jacket. Using his body weight he forces Roy's arm from the hole. It almost knocks both of them to the floor.

The arm in his grip wiggles its fingers, and then does a little wave at him. Roy is laughing. Ed's gonna kill him.

Without pulling his punch even one teeny tiny bit, Ed comets a fist into Roy's upper arm.

"Ow!" Roy complains, but he's still laughing. "Lord, Ed, that's going to bruise, you know."

"Serves you fucking right. I have an actual missing limb you bastard. Think about your audience."

"You didn't believe the legend for a moment." Roy's grin is infuriating, and part of Ed's brain screams at him just to fucking kiss him until it goes away.

"No but like, what if someone had put razor blades or something in it."

"It saddens me that you even conjured that to worry about at all." Roy's eyes are doing the softening thing again. He lifts a hand to brush some of Ed's hair from his face. "You were supposed to jump into my arms with relief, you know."

"Was this a scene from your dumb fucking movie?" Ed goes to hit him again, and Roy dodges with a bubbling laugh. Longer legs allow him to dance out of Ed's reach, and he makes his escape down the portico. "Wait, was I supposed to be the princess ? Have you even seen yourself? That's totally you! Get back here, you prick!"

Squinting as they enter the sunlight again, Ed settles for just flicking Roy on the ear.

They fall into step, cars passing lazily.

"What was it you were gonna tell me, anyway?"

"I hardly have an incentive to tell you now that we've proven the Mouth of Truth is a sham." The tell-tale arm itself lifts to rest lightly across Ed's shoulders. Roy tilts his head to look down into Ed's eyes.

"Pssh. I knew it; you're a secret Chippendale."

"I...think you have to be in America to qualify as a Chippendale?"

"Italy could be a stopover from Las Vegas. Totally. Your stage name is G.I. Hoe, and all that army shit you have is just props."

Roy laughs and Ed can feel the vibrations of it through all the places their bodies connect.

"If only my life were actually so glamourous."

"Well, what then?"

Roy's arm tightens briefly around him, "I'm sure you have some idea. I'll let you work it out."

 


 

The sun beats down on The Vittoriano, and on the other side its shadow spreads far. It's a huge, white building, a monument, a warehouse made out of fancy pillars and statues, each triple the height of a normal man. On the top, bronze statues of robed Victories leading chariots and charging horses mirror each other. Beyond the ornate iron gates and fountains containing reclining marble men, a ridiculous amount of steps lead up and into the dark doorways. Just looking up at it makes Ed angry. He doesn't need people making oversized rubbish when he already has to contend with the world's definition of 'short’ (which is, of course, incorrect).

They join the sparse crowds at the gates, and Ed pulls a face when he realises he's in the background of a selfie. Instead of moving away, he sticks his tongue out at the photographer. He turns to see Roy grinning at him widely.

“I thought you didn't like photographs?" Roy asks.

“I don't. But, if I have to be in them, at least I can say I chose to look godawful." Ed rubs his nose.

“I suppose that follows a strange sort of logic," Roy concedes. When they next pass a group of school kids taking a group picture, Roy joins him in the face contortion. They scarper quickly when the teacher gives them a withering look.

“So, what is this ridiculous man-made monolith for, then?" Roy asks. He squints up at the Italian flags swaying lazily on their golden flagpoles.

Ed sighs.

“The Vittoriano, also know as the Altare della Patria, was built between 1885 and 1925 to honour the first king of a unified Italy

“Woah there, talking textbook. Are you plugged in to Wikipedia over there?" Roy flicks Ed lightly in the head. "I don't see any wires…”

“Shut up. You asked for the spiel. I worked as a tour guide, so. Yeh. It's not like I was hanging out at all the tourist spots for fun."

“Ah, I suppose 'fun’ would be somewhat out of character for you."

“Fuck you," Ed spits with a middle finger.

“Right out here, in the open? I take it back. You're the definition of fun."

Mustang —”

“All right, all right. Can you blame me? You're cute when you're infuriated." Roy lifts a finger and taps Ed under the chin. It's quite possibly the weirdest simultaneously casual and intimate touch Ed has ever received. Ed locks his knees as the jelly feeling shudders through him, and he knows his ears have gone red. He still looks Roy right in the eye though, because if he's exposed to it enough, Ed will stare down anything.

“Do you ever stop being a smarmy shit?'

“I try to exercise my empathy muscles for at least two hours a day." Roy flicks his hair out of his eyes in a practiced movement. Ed rolls his eyes, but..well he's not blind .

“Telling your reflection how gorgeous it is doesn't count as empathising with another person.”

“Then, how about I tell you how gorgeous you are, instead?"

“That's a good way to get a punch in the fucking nose." Ed sniffs. Roy regards him quietly for a moment.

“I know there's a...back and forth between us. But in this I'm serious, Edward. Although I think, perhaps, you've not been taking me seriously at all.”

“What are you going on about?" Ed asks. But it's a lie because he knows. As vague as Roy is. He knows it can't be good, because his heart is beating a mile a minute. He knows but he just...can't.

“I'm saying that you're fascinating and engaging, and absolutely stunning on top of that. I'm saying ." Roy leans forwards and down, and Ed would be offended if he weren't busy trying to deal with Roy's face being so, so close, "that I would very much like to take you out properly, with honest intentions. Those being romantic.”

“Ooookaay I'm gonna stop you there. You're clearly nuts because we don't even know each other." Ed lifts a tentative finger and pushes Roy away by his forehead. Roy quirks an eyebrow at him but moves back slightly.

“We have a good few days under the belt. And isn't that the point of dating though; learning another person?" Roy hypothesises.

“That's not- that's what 'friendship’ is for. And anyway, you flirt with everyone. Constantly. How do I know you aren't just...I dunno, working within convenient proximity.” Ed makes a wild hand gesture and tries not to look as panicked as he feels. 

“Wouldn't our waiter friend have made more sense if that was the case?" Roy stands straight and shrugs slightly. His stupid handsome face and stupid tentative smile are making Ed's stomach perform an entire gymnastics routine in his trunk. It's an Organ Olympics as his heart hammers erratically. He thinks he feels his spleen do the splits.

“We're not even going to be near each other in, like, ten days. It would be a waste of —”

“Edward.”

“What?”

“I'm sorry. What's wrong? You really are free to say no, if you'd rather not. I won't hold it against you.”

“I don't...know." The silence stretches between them. Ed vaguely registers the screeching of the sparrows overhead, like swarms of bees ducking and whirling. Roy watches him, unflinchingly. Like he hasn't just turned Ed's world upside down. Maybe for him, this kind of thing really is as mundane and casual as he makes it out to be. Maybe..maybe that's the problem .

Because Ed can never let someone become important to him casually. That's just not how he works. He's hard-wired to dig his claws in and hold and hold and hold....

Case in point: Al. More than enough evidence to damn him in one family member alone.

A splatter hits the ground beside Ed's shoe. They both look at it, startled. Another lands somewhere behind Ed, and the final hits Roy on the arm of his suit. It leaves a white smudge.

“Is that...bird poo?" Roy is looking distinctly unimpressed. Somewhere behind them, a young girl shrieks. The starlings make noise like an incoming storm, huge clumps of them descending on the flats of the trees, or weaving through the sky. The ground is peppered with tiny splats of shit.

Ed thinks that it's pretty fitting for the shitty way he just handled that situation.

“Come on! We're gonna be coated if we don't get out of here.”

“It's like a biblical plague..." Roy mutters as they jog out across the dangerously unsupervised, overly-wide road. Around them people cover their heads with bags and scarves. The noise is deafening, but Ed thinks they're probably both happy to avoid talking for a while.

It takes them twenty minutes to get to the bottom of the Palatine Hill, and they trek it in silence. The ancient walls loom over them as they walk, and dry, dead pines scatter underfoot.

Ed digs his hands deep into his pockets and fixes his mind forward. He hates feeling confused; anything he doesn't understand becomes the subject of his focus until he's picked it apart and understood every facet. And so he refuses to hide away from that...whatever that was.  

The problem, he knows, is not Roy.

Roy is fun, and pretty patient all things considered, and hot no, Roy is not the issue.

The issue lies with Ed. So. How did he not pick up on his own massive fear of connecting with people, and when did it even start? He hadn't been this worried about this kind of dumb shit during any of his previous relationships.  

Well, except

Oh.

So maybe his shrink had been right. Maybe he has some abandonment issues, some father issues, some guilt issues. He knows he rejects authority because it never did anything for him. He knows he's overly attached to his sibling, because he's read the essays and the textbooks. This is just one more pebble on the mountain of his mental flaws.

It's another contradiction in him, that he hates this gnawing loneliness but he's too afraid of being left to get close enough to someone who will fix it.

He tugs out his guide pass to get them through the turnstile and onto the hill. It rises before them, broken aqueducts jutting from the grassy earth, ancient stone paths disappearing and reappearing in the dirt. Ed runs his fingers through his ponytail with a sigh, realising that his search is far from over. This dumb locket is just more evidence of his slow but persistent mental crumbling.

His fingers snag, and he pulls them back to see something sticky and goopy on them. He groans aloud and Roy, Roy perfect life-ruining fucking Mustang , starts at the sudden noise.

“Are you alright?" Roy asks. Ed is pulling his hair free of the tie and carefully sweeping it over one shoulder to inspect.

“Fuckin" bird shit in my hair." Ed growls. "Gross. Why does it always have to be my hair ?"   

“There's a bathroom over there. You can wash it out in the sink," Roy suggests, wetting his lips as though he wants to say something else. When he doesn't, Ed turns for the toilet.

The sinks are tiny, and low to the ground, and the taps seem to be supplied by a pipe from the moon because the water pressure is high enough to splatter everything out of the porcelain bowl. Using his hand as a cup, Ed grimaces as he trickles water down his neck by accident.

“This isn't gonna work." Ed sighs. He turns and crouches on his heels, flipping his hair back into the sink. Gesturing with one hand to his head, he finally looks at Roy properly.  "Could you just...'

“...I suppose."

There's a hesitation only in Roy's first step, then he's over Ed, and surprisingly gentle hands are in his hair.

Ed stares hard at the urinal in front of him, but the subtle scrape of fingertips on his scalp makes him break out in goosebumps anyway.

“I've only done the bit that it hit, so you should be able to dry it quickly under the hand dryer." Roy says evenly. His fingers slide through the wet portion of hair, working out the knots.

“Thanks. Sorry for making you touch poop." Ed stands quickly, almost headbutting Roy in the chin.

“I forgive you." Roy smiles again. As Ed positions himself in an awkward half-hunch under the dryer, Roy washes his hands in the sink. He's been quiet but he doesn't seem any different. Ed wonders if anyone has ever said something remotely close to 'no’ to him before. Even then, Ed hadn't really said 'no', he'd just sort of said 'why...?’

The silence that replaces the roar of the dryer is brittle.

“Where are we going, then? You said this place was large. Do we split up?" Roy rocks back on his heels.

“We can follow my tour route. The museum doesn't have it, but it could be on a path somewhere. You don't still have to help me look.” Why would he? Ed basically told him he wasn’t interested. Which was stupid. Because he is . He’s just...scared. But there’s nothing holding Roy to him, now. Now, thanks to Ed’s not-quite rejection, there’s nothing for him to gain. No reward will come of him helping Ed search the hillside for some dumb fucking jewellery that Roy’s never even seen, and it’s not like Ed’s being particularly good company. Or has ever been, in fact.  He’s boring. And when he’s not boring, he’s annoying. And the rest of the time he’s awkward. Why the hell is Roy still here? Can’t he just drop Ed now like any normal fucking person?

“Which way?” Roy asks. Ed doesn’t...he doesn’t get it.

“...Left.”

“Okay.”

Roy exits the bathroom and steps out into the grey of the day. Ed is left in the darkness, patting down his hair and wondering, wondering.

----

Their odd quiet continues as they round the first corner and see the beginning of the ruins in their crumbling, ruddy brick. Roy seems content to let Ed think, busying himself looking in the scrub for a glint of gold, or reading the sparse plaques on the jutting ruins.

The trees whisper in the wind, but there are no starlings here. Everything is strangely hushed. The hills gets steeper as they ascend, and the ruins more coherent. Archways and windows become more obvious, and the occasional mosaic surprises them from the soil underfoot. They come to a large, rectangular pit, and Ed leaves Roy at the railing of it to peruse the rim. Inside are the ruins of a small circus, toppled pillars laying side by side. There isn't a soul around.

“Where is everyone?" Roy asks as Ed makes his way back.

“Who knows. It takes hours to get round this place. It's been built on for millennia.'

“Christ"

“About a thousand years before him, actually.”

“No, I mean...how are we going to search it all?" Roy asks. Ed shrugs.

“I don't really think I'm going to find it. I just need to know that I tried." Ed squints at the sky. The clouds are swollen and grey. He feels like sand is slipping through his fingers. The thing is...the last few days he's actually had fun. He's been stuck in Italy and Al has gone home but he's been okay, he's enjoyed himself. If he goes back to Al, ( when he goes back to Al), Al will be used to having his independence. He won't want his surly older brother in his business all the time. And Ed had sworn to himself that he would sort his life out. Maybe the first step is to actually try.

A fork of lightning splits the sky. It's only moments before the rumble reaches them. Spots of dark dot the dusty earth as the rain starts to fall, quickly growing from a spattering to a downpour.

“Ah, shit!" Ed grabs Roy by the arm and pulls him towards an arching doorway. The roofs of the old palaces have long since rotted away; there's no real shelter as they huddle under the arch.  The lightning crashes again, and they can see it light up the terracotta roofs in the distance of the main city from where they stand.

“Are we going to get electrocuted out in the open like this?" Roy mutters. Ed elbows him halfheartedly. Both of their hair is already plastered to their skulls.

Roy seems surprised when Ed leans against him, but he doesn't object. They watch the rain fall for a bit, and the smell of petrichor rises around them, sweet and nostalgic. Ed takes a deep breath.

“I'm not easy to be around, you know. You've only scratched the surface." His confession hangs in the air.

“I think I would like the opportunity to decide that for myself, if you're willing to allow me it," Roy responds evenly.  

“That's the thing, you see. It's easy for me to tell you that I suck, because then when you leave it's something that I've told you to do. If you get to know me, if you see me at my worst, and then you decide that the good bits aren't worth it, then it's just one more person proving that I'm a waste of time.”

Roy looks at him, and then he looks out over the city. His shoulders fall a little, but Ed can't tell if it's with a sigh of calm or of irritation.

“I think that is the same for everyone." He says lowly.

“Yeh. It is. Doesn't make it any easier though.”

“I suppose not. It doesn't have to be so big and scary, you know. It can be one thing at a time.”

Ed bites back the urge to argue with him. It has to be big and scary to begin with, otherwise you turn around one day and the big and scary catches you when you're vulnerable.

But he doesn't say that. He steps out from the meagre protection of the ancient stones, and the rain tickles his scalp as it runs down towards his face.

“All right. One thing at a time." The thunder cracks behind him. He wonders briefly what he looks like, wind-whipped by the storm with flashes of lightning as his backlight. Roy is fixed on him, either way.  

“All right," Roy echoes. Ed reaches up and out until the pads of his fingers come into contact with the faint warmth of Roy's cheek. Water is creeping down his neck, and he can see that the shoulders of Roy's suit are dark with it. It drips off his black eyelashes and his graceful chin.

Well, if Ed's going to fall, then he may as well have a great view.

Standing not-quite on tiptoes, he slips his hand round to grip the back of Roy's neck. He pulls the wet head down and closer, close enough to touch his lips to the waiting mouth before him. Their noses are cold, but their kiss is breath-warm.

It's been a long, long time since Ed has kissed anybody. He wants to wrap his arms around the solid waist before him, but they're both soaked and he knows it'll feel disgusting. Roy curls one hand around Ed's hip and pulls him closer, but not so much that they touch. It's enough to make Ed feel warmed straight through; just five digits and a palm. He'd intended this kiss as a test, somehow. Like he'd know, Disney-style, if it was going to be worth it or not. What he finds himself knowing instead is that Roy's tongue moves as dexterously as his fingers, and that he really, really wants to get into Roy’s pants.

There are no fireworks or sudden choruses of angels; in fact the rain is starting to seep cold into his bones and they are both quite literally covered in shit, but it's soft and real in the quiet blanket of raindrops thudding.

Roy's free hand comes up to cover Ed's, still lingering against his cheek. Ed swipes out his tongue, (just one teeny, tiny taste; he never had been able to resist a treat if it was out on the table) and then pulls back, shaking rain from his eyes.

Roy looks at him with some complex emotion that Ed can only think of as between affection and hunger, and he reaches out to rake sodden strands of gold from Ed's eyes. He tries and fails to tuck them behind one ear. Having to try again only seems to please him.

“That wasn't the step I thought we'd get to try first, but I'm very glad that I was wrong," Roy says, and he cocks his head in a way that makes Ed want to ruffle his rain-slick bangs.

“Just a test. I still can't tell if I want to kiss you or strangle you, so. I need to do some experimenting.”

“At the risk of convincing you to take the route of strangulation, I'm certainly not opposed to further experimentation." Roy briefly touches the pad of his thumb to his bottom lip, and grins. Ed whaps him in the shoulder.

“You're really pushing your luck today."

“It's worked out exceptionally well for me, so far." There are hands on Ed's hips, and they give a light squeeze.

“Yeh well. No promises. About anything. This, right now...this is just for shits and giggles. Okay?"

“Shits and giggles," Roy repeats. And it's neither a confirmation nor a question. He seems faintly put out. But Ed is keeping his exit strategy in place, and that means leaving every metaphorical front door, back door, and window open for escape purposes.

Roy looks pointedly at his own sleeve.

“We have," he begins cautiously, "one part of that already covered. The giggles, however…”

Ed can see the mischief in the flick of Roy's spine, and the slight twitch of his fingers.

“What're you " Ed begins, but before he can finish fingers are dancing up his sides, and just how the fuck does Roy know exactly the parts of him that are the most ticklish, anyway?. His wet clothes do absolutely nothing to protect him, and his writhing just makes the cold, flappy bits stick to him.

With nothing less than a manly shriek, Ed shoves him off and spins to take to the hill.

“Fuck you Mustang, we were being serious !" The wind takes most of his words but a breathy laugh somewhere behind him lets him know that Roy is listening, and catching up.

His foot slips in the new mud and Ed ends up skidding a few feet on his butt. The wet world spins for a moment, and then Roy literally slides into place next to him like he's at a waterpark or some shit.

“You all right?"

“No, you fucking asshole, you tickled me. And now I can add mud to the list of stains-I'm-never-getting-out-of-these-clothes, too.”

"I can help you out of them if you'd like."

"Oh fuck off . Come on, we're not getting this shitty hill searched today. Let's head back and get dry."

They weave their way through tourists trying to shelter in the ruins, and when a street seller offers them an umbrella, they can't help but laugh at him, drenched as they are.

Cars scream their horns at them as they make mad dashes across roads, creating tidal waves out of puddles with slowly numbing toes.

Roy's hand is burning against Ed's palm, somehow hot over the chill of their skin. Both of their fingertips are pruned. Ed can barely see through the haze of water.

A car speeding beside them dips deep into a puddle, and the resulting wave is brown and freezing. Ed runs out into the street to shout obscenities in Italian, only to be cut short by Roy pulling him behind a parked van for a damp, shivery kiss that makes his five remaining toes curl pleasantly in their sodden boot. An Ed-shaped imprint is left in the dirt on the van doors.

They slop up the stairs, leaving puddles on the marble and drips down the walls. Roy drags him into the elevator just because he sees it waiting and empty. In the tight space he grips at the base of Ed's ponytail and kisses him hard, pushing him up against the glass of the tiny windows. He clearly has a thing for surfaces and, frankly, now Ed does too. Being held up in place, his tiptoes only just grounding him to the floor, makes his heart break dance in his chest. He can hardly move but it's perfect. Roy's perfect.

Ed is swimming, floundering, but it feels good. It's delicious and he's already hooked, already unable to pull away. Every soggy hand tracing down his sides and every teasing bite to his bottom lip spears pleasure through him. He reaches round to take two handfuls of finely muscled ass and uses his hold there to grind Roy forward. Their bodies meet with sparks fucking skittering through his belly, and despite his every reservation he groans into the hot mouth above him.

When he moves his hips again Roy does a stifled half gasp and shit, shit , if he hadn’t been hard before...

The elevator pings and he drags Roy by the collar to their door. As Roy tries valiantly, with his hair mussed every direction and shirt half undone, to get the key card into the slot, Ed finally takes his moment to lick the pretty little scar on his jaw. For once the reality isn't outdone by the fantasy. It’s fucking bliss to drag his tongue across Roy’s jawbone.

Roy slams the door behind them, and has the decency to look chagrined about it until Ed pulls him back down again. Good manners are not coming between Ed and that mouth. The neighbours can go straight to Hell; do not pass go, do not collect two hundred pounds.

Something about curling his tongue inside Roy’s mouth, the wet slide of them meeting, whirpools a need through him. Being so desperate is terrifying, and an absolute fucking jolt to his system. The adrenalin alone makes his thoughts thin and sharpens the pure want to a point. He curls a hand around the door handle and holds onto it like it can keep him from losing it completely. Roy’s leg nudges his knees apart and then a muscled thigh is pressing insistently into him. It’s been too long and there’s just no fucking way he can hide how hopeless he is.

Fingers skate his cheek, his jaw, the curve of his shoulder under his shirt; like he’s a treasure. A palm at the base of his spine pulls him up the thigh with delicious friction. When his hip meets Roy’s stomach, Roy rolls himself forward and

“Oh god, Edward.” He can’t take his name, drawn out and gasped. He can’t take how Roy pants into his neck, movement relentless, and then pulls back to look at him like he’s some kind of miracle. That stare feels like it rips through his walls and hits the soft and squishy underneath. He buries his face in Roy’s neck instead.

But he can’t kiss Roy from there (although his clavicle is mouth-watering and he feels like he’s wrapped up completely in the world of another human being) so when Roy smooths a hand up his chest, skimming the vulnerable flesh of his throat to lift his chin again, Ed doesn’t fight it. Even as Roy presses their foreheads together and moves so achingly slowly he thinks he’s going to scream, he doesn’t fight it. Eye to eye and feeling like a bug pinned to a board, all he can do is lose himself in the intensity of that look, and yet he’s still not fighting. The one time he should be, the one defense he should actually have up, crumbling to nothing as Roy’s slow but deliberate movements against him strip him of rational thought and reduce him to a creature of torturous rhythm and clutching hands.

He only manages to pull himself back when Roy starts to smooth his shirt up his stomach, revealing him rib by rib. But he can’t. This moment is special. If it has to happen (Roy undulates against him and hell yes this is happening, fuck it shudders straight through him) it can’t be with him all tattered and ugly. He’s not ready for that.

So he spins them, and Roy’s ‘oof’ when he hits the wall is about as adorable as a fully grown, gun-wielding snake charmer can get. He takes Roy’s wrists in hand.

“Not...not that. Not now.” He says quietly. Their breaths and the relentless brush of clothing are the only sounds in the room. Roy stops and looks at him with such concern, his eyebrows drawing together. Without breaking from Ed’s grip, he brushes away strands of gold sticking to the sweat of Ed’s forehead.

“We can...stop.” He swallows and Ed can feel the insistent press of him against his hip still.

“No. I don’t want to stop.”

“Then you’ll have to lead, Ed.” So Ed grinds into him with just enough restraint to stop it from being painful. Roy leans to capture his mouth again, but Ed can only take that wet heat for a short while before it’s too hard to move, and breathe, and kiss all at the same time. He licks up the shell of Roy’s ear just as a purposeful hand takes hold of Ed’s hip. He feels the flutter of fingers at his fly.

“This. Is this—?”

“It’s fine Roy. Come on .” He’s fast, he’s so fast. Ed doesn’t think he even looks down to unzip Ed’s jeans. The idea of it being Roy’s tapered fingers skimming inside the elastic of his underwear has Ed’s brain spinning drunkenly in his skull. A heartbeat of want echoes out through the centre of him, and then those fingers are on him properly, and he bucks before he can stop himself.  “F-fuck—”

Roy’s hands are unapologetic. They brazenly wander him, and begin a rhythm he can’t hope to escape. Not to be outdone, he fumbles with the catch on Roy’s suit trousers. Roy’s breathy noise when he can finally slide his hand inside is lost in his neck, and then there’s the prickle of not-quite pain that comes with the wet suck of a love bite. When Ed uses his thumb just so, a light graze of teeth nips the skin of his throat. The knowledge that he can make Roy lose control like that, even for just a second, courses through him like an avalanche. He does it again just because he can.

Roy’s hand sneaks under the hem of his shirt and slides slowly up the knots of his spine, pressing him into the slide and the heat. The steady pace has Ed fighting not to writhe against him. It’s just that he smells so good this close, and every time incisors scrape his neck he thinks he’s going to come on the spot. He tightens his grip a little at the thought and Roy shudders against him. Trying hard to concentrate through the pleasure haze, Ed measures his rhythm and sets a pace he knows from experience is irresistible. Roy’s hand movements become sloppy as Ed focusses his efforts, chest rising and falling with the weight of his breaths. He looks utterly delectable when his head lifts from the crook of Ed’s neck and half-lidded, black eyes meet molten-gold  gaze. Ed thrusts into the hand around him with that image filling his vision, and Roy arches once off the wall.

“Uhn, Roy please, I—” He gasps as Roy’s hand once more takes control. The unremitting pump of Roy’s hand mixed with the sight of him, beautiful and flushed and wanting— wanting Ed , makes him feel electrically charged. Roy’s pupils are blown wide enough to drive a car through and Ed can’t help but rutt helplessly into the grip on him as those eyes rove him hungrily. The hand at his back claws at his shoulder blades. “Roy, Roy…

And Roy shudders violently into him with a soundless cry, head falling to Ed’s shoulder.

For a few moments Roy breathes against his sweat-slick skin, lazy movements driving Ed to utter distraction when he needs hard and fast and now . Without warning Roy releases him and takes him by the hips. Roy’s knees hit the floor with a dull thud and then there’s a tongue and the wet suck of a mouth, and Ed can see his eyes are closed and his hair sways when he moves. Ed has to slam both palms into the wall to stop himself from doubling over. His mouth is dry but oh god, Roy on his knees is a fucking miracle made flesh and if he can stop himself from manically thrusting forward that will be a miracle too…

Incoherency spills from his mouth, and his hands scrabble at the walls when he’s unable to contain the unabating sensation of Roy’s mouth around him. Fingers press into the soft flesh at the top of his thighs, and Roy’s tongue does something wickedly wonderful, and he can’t fight it, he can’t .  

Ed’s orgasm hits him like a wall, ricocheting inside him and making every part of him ring like a bell. He can’t even hear what sound he makes because he’s lost in white noise and pleasure chasing pleasure around every nerve. When he can see again, Roy is wiping his mouth with the back of a hand, and smirking at him self-satisfactorily. Ed drops down before him and plants a sloppy kiss on his lips.

Without bothering to warn him, Ed pitches forward and lays his head on the warm, half-revealed skin of Roy's chest. For the first time in a long, long while, it feels like a burden has been briefly lifted from him. Roy curls a hand round him and shifts him closer, burying his nose in the mussed top of Ed's head and leaning back against the wall.

Ed's so tired. The solid thump of Roy's heartbeat makes him feel weightless. The fingers running through his hair make his neck prickle pleasantly. It's so easy to melt there, into warmth and security. His fingers curl into Roy's shirt and his eyes close.

He wakes when Roy bodily lifts him, rolling his shoulders and propping Ed onto his feet.

"Sorry, d'I fall asleep?" Ed rubs at one eye and Roy leans in to kiss him. Ed clumsily responds, eyes still not fully co-operating. It feels so nice, so safe. When Roy guides him to the bed he just allows himself to be moved. He goes to splay a palm over the silver sliver of skin at Roy's gaping collar, but grimaces at the state of his hand.

"Hold on." Roy says lowly. Ed can barely hear him over the howl of the storm outside, rattling the shutters. He falls back to sit on the bed and fumblingly pulls down jean leg to unclasp his leg.

"Here." Roy is back with a warm cloth. Ed wipes his hand gratefully.

"You cleaned up? Sorry, I'm useless..." Roy chuckles in a way that prompts Ed to reach for him. When his fingers hit Roy's shoulder, he grabs hold and pulls him in for a bumbling but affectionate kiss.

"That's alright. You can get it next time." Roy says when they part, and the promise of a next time drags a lazy smile onto Ed's face whether he wills it or not.

He shucks the jeans to the floor and pulls the covers over himself with a yawn. The only light is the screen of charging phones, and in the warm dark there's not one single chance he can fight sleep. He will compromise, however, when Roy climbs into the other bed. Roy reaches a hand out for him in the dark, and Ed threads their fingers together, allowing them to dangle between the beds. It is, after all, becoming increasingly harder to let go of Roy.

 


 

Ed wakes up alone.

At first it doesn't register as anything out of the ordinary. It's a familiar ceiling, and the morning air smells like sun-warmed tile and sweetness. It takes a few minutes for his mind to go from the groggy pleasantness of waking up dappled by sunlight to confusion at the fact the sun is up at all. And then he sees Roy's empty bed, and he remembers the day before, the evening before, and his mind is a rush of memories and panic.

He scans the room, barely daring to breathe. Change on the desk, a sock under the bed, military boots lopsidedly discarded on the floor where they'd...

Okay so Roy hadn't just packed his bags and fled in the night. Probably. That's...that's good. Ed had done literally the opposite of what he swore to himself he would do, but he's woken up and the sun is shining and, well, he can't see any brimstone, so apparently Armageddon has decided to wait.

Leg back on? Check. Some clothes that don't smell like ass? Check. Hair tie? Well shit he left it in. Now he's going to have a stupid crimpy bump where the tie has been all night, and it's going to be poofy as fuck.

He staggers to the toilet, and every time he catches another glimpse of the door, the memory of Roy on his knees flashes like sheet lightning across his mind.

He stops short in front of the mirror. His neck is a mess of dark pink marks, strung about the base of his throat like violent jewels. He touches them lightly in their strange little constellation, and blushes to the tips of his ears. At least, he thinks, he knows it definitely happened now, and that this isn't some weird fever dream from, like, bad seafood pasta. Or whatever.

He brushes his teeth out of habit, but the mouthwash only comes into consideration when he has the thought that Roy might come back and want to, maybe, if he feels like it, kiss again. The hairbrush is ripped with no mercy through tangles of gold. The kink defies him stubbornly and he narrows his eyes at it.

Did Roy go running without him? Seems weird. Why wouldn't he wake him? He should be back by now. The alarm clock that started the whole damn mess is flashing nine-twenty. The niggling worry that he's being avoided flutters at the edge of his mind like the unavoidable onset of a migraine, and Ed starts to feel stupid for primping for someone who isn't even there. Maybe he'd just fucked the entire thing up, after all. Maybe Armageddon is just looking at your own tired reflection in the strip lights of a bathroom mirror.

Ed squares his shoulders and slaps the light switch. His phone vibrates harshly on the shelf above the beds, shuddering towards the edge. Scooping it up, he goes to stand in the sun pouring through the open window, and tries very hard not to melt down into a puddle of angry desolation.  

-Good morning Brother! I didn't hear from you last night. Are you alright?

 

Guilt and embarrassment are a freight train slamming into his rib cage. He immediately starts to type back, I'm sorry Al, I was... what? Distracted? Busy? Being ravaged by a magical disappearing god of blow jobs?

 

I'm totally fine al sorry for worrying you-

 

That should be enough. It'll have to be enough, because he doesn't know yet if he has to pretend all of this is some bad dream that never happened.

 

-Were you busy having fun?

 

Ed leans against the sun-warmed wood of the window. Did he have fun? He'd felt, to be honest, like he was floating into space. And he'd been terrified as much as he'd been turned on. Apparently clean and simple 'fun' was hard to pinpoint. But...

He knows he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

The bedroom door almost slams open and Roy's sing-song voice makes Ed's clumsy morning-fingers juggle the phone in his shock.

"Rise and shine, sleepyhead!" He whirls around the corner with a smile wider than the Atlantic, tray on his arm balanced seemingly without any trouble at all. When his eyes fall on Ed scruffy in the sunlight, half poised to run he stops and takes a deep breath in. He looks at Ed like he's a gift. The hair-brushing ceases to have seemed a stupid idea.

"You're up. I wanted to bring you breakfast in bed." The tray is deposited neatly on the desk. The room starts to fill with the smell of coffee and chocolate, but Roy leaves it where it is to walk towards Ed with cautious little footsteps.

"You look like a dream." He murmurs, lifting a hand to brush the back of his hand over Ed's cheek. Ed snorts.

"It's way too early for your smarm, Mustang."

"Ah, poetry."

"If you ever recite poetry at me I'll shave your eyebrows off in your sleep."

"I shall have to resort to more inventive ways to communicate my adoration, then." Ed rolls his eyes but there's a warmth blooming in his chest, small and persistent. He dodges round Roy and heads for food. How he's supposed to deal with all this first thing on an empty stomach, he just doesn't know. Fucking know-it-all probably deliberately targeted him at his weakest.

A light grip on his hair pulls him back a little. Ed stops just short of it pulling, and turns to face Roy again with a frown beginning to form.  There is an arm around his waist before he can escape to tasty freedom. It's worth it, though, when Roy leans in to kiss him firmly. Roy makes it feel like this is the only natural course of action; that of course they're supposed to be connected at all times by hand, heart, and mouth. His casual confidence and the insistent way he licks at Ed's bottom lip make's Ed feel that yes, he actually should be here, in the arms of someone so... Fuck, his stupid sappiness is contagious.  

But kissing him is an endorphin rush like nothing else, and the relief that everything is normal...ish between them leads him to twine arms around Roy's neck, eyes fluttering closed.

"Everything okay?" Roy asks quietly once they part.

"Didn't know where you'd gone." Ed says through the daze.

"Ah. Well, we never set the alarm. And when I woke you just looked so peaceful drooling a lake into your pillow that I thought we could have a day off. But then I thought we'd have to go out for breakfast, and you know that finding food after ten is impossible in this country, so I improvised." Roy gestures to the tray.

At an insistent noise from his stomach, Ed releases Roy's neck and wanders over to peruse Roy's offering. Coffee in take-out cups, a bag of pastries, a clutch of grapes looking fat and round. On the side is a little posy of blue flowers, each no bigger than a fingernail, in a makeshift wrapping of foil. Ed has absolutely no idea how to feel about flowers.

"You didn't have to do anything of...that." Ed gestures vaguely at the tray. Roy slides up behind him and pulls him back against a firm chest.

"Perhaps not. I wanted to though." He plucks off a grape and hold before Ed's mouth. "Hungry?"

Ed knows he's red again. It's just a fucking grape, how does Roy always manage to make it so fucking mortifying? Ed leans forward quickly and takes the grape in his mouth, whirling away without a pause.

"Really hungry." He chews and grabs the pastry bag. "You better've got the ones with hazelnut. If I'm gonna get fat it's gonna be for the good stuff."

Roy smiles at him fondly, and picks up a coffee. Ed wonders how many times he'll eat a croissant whilst panicking about how fucking perfect Roy Mustang is. His guesstimate is that he'll get to five before shit really hits the fan.

Ed remembers the phone in his hand and impulsively takes a sneaky picture of him, sitting at the desk chair drinking coffee with his eyes closed like a fucking commercial. The idea that this moment is captured somehow, that there's proof of it, helps him to calm a bit. 

 

breakfast in bed-

 

He sends it to Al. At least in part so that he doesn't feel creepy for having it on his phone for no explainable reason.

 

-I see!

 

Is the puzzling and immediate response.

 

What?-

 

-Nothing at all. You carry on!

 


Cryptic little shit. Thinks he knows everything.

Oh god his little brother definitely knows everything.  

Fuck.

Chapter Text

Shower-damp and in fresh clothes, Ed opens a cupboard door with immediate regret.

There's the tell-tale hiss of paper sliding slowly out of place, and the panic in Ed's voice is unconcealed. Jumping up, he lunges for the nearest cupboard, but not in time to prevent a paper avalanche from burying his feet.

"Stupid fucking fuck." He grumbles. Behind him, Roy does his dumb closed-mouth laugh, so Ed gives him the finger over one shoulder.

Everything is out of order, (yes his work is scruffy and his handwriting almost illegible, but there is an order, damnit), and even though the pages are numbered he can't find the first one in the carpet of notes. A thick book slides out, a late arrival, to clunk painfully onto his fingers. He shakes his hand with a hiss. It's caught in graceful hands and suddenly Roy is at his back, pressing a kiss to his throbbing knuckles.

"Let me help." Releasing him, Roy begins to scoop up papers into something resembling a stack. Ed gives up on his order with a sigh.

"Thanks. Fucking catastrophe every day around here." Ed reaches under the bed to slide out some runaways.

"I don't know, if it gets me views like this, I can live with  a few catastrophic events." Ed pulls back from under the bed and removes Roy's gaze from his ass by shoving the newly acquired papers into his chest.

"You can clean up on your own next time then, if you love it so much."

"Pass. What is all of this, anyway?" Roy lifts a paper and scans his eyes over the scrawl there, flickering over the detailed diagrams and margin notes.

"It's my research. Just notes and stuff." Ed pulls it from his hand and tries to stuff it at the back of a stack.

"What are you researching?" Roy asks, picking up another page and reading again, unperturbed by Ed's dismissal.

Ed sighs.

"It's dumb."

"You have a whole cupboard full of research on something 'dumb'?"

"Well, okay, so I don't think it's dumb. But it's subjective. Other people think it's dumb."

Roy just looks at him expectantly, kneeling in a way that makes his thighs look fucking delicious, and can't they just make out or something instead of talking about Ed and his dumb shit all the time?

Ed groans. "Okay, so, Italy is kind of one of the big hubs of, like, alchemy, or whatever. So, you know, lead to gold and that kind of stuff. And, I don't know, I guess I just always found it interesting. It started as a kind of hobby, reading books on it and stuff. And then after uni I thought...why not look into it properly? So." Ed shrugs.

"Why on earth would that be dumb, Ed?" Roy leans an elbow on the bed and rests his chin on it, looking at Ed with faint amusement.

"I dunno. When you share something you love with someone, it always sounds dumb."

Roy, the massive fucking tool, thumbs him on the nose.

"So what is your research leading towards?"

"Nothing. Well, nothing in particular. It's more of a casting about to see what I can find out, since it's for fun. I...needed something to do." Ran headfirst into the only other thing enjoyable about life, started chasing a fanciful dream to avoid failing in reality, hid in a fairytale instead of finding a place in the world and contributing to the onward chugging march of humanity in general ... There are a lot of reasons Ed is here immersing himself in Renaissance 'science' instead of moving on with his career or life or whatever. "Plus I needed to kill time whilst Al finished up his post grad."

"See? Not dumb at all. Hobbies are good. They're the meat in the sandwich of life."

"What the actual fuck, Mustang."

"Or maybe they're more like the relish, and family and friends are the meat? Either way work is the crusts."

"Roy, seriously."

"This metaphor comes courtesy of my stomach."

"Ugh."

"Kisses to you too."

"Actually, that gives me an idea."

"Well, I was joking, but if a kiss is on the table, then-"

"No, you idiot. I remembered another place that I might have dropped the locket. I used to go there for research, and to think, sometimes. get your shit together, let's go before it gets busy." Ed moves to stand but Roy leans over him, placing a hand either side of Ed's shoulders on the bed. Ed is pressed into the crisp, white sheets, Roy's kiss firm against his lips.

How could he say no? Smelling of clean, soapy goodness, and with trails of water still trickling down the back of his neck, Roy is an offer he cannot refuse. Ed slides his hands over Roy's ribs, and across the muscles of his back. Roy's tongue is as goddamn tricky as the rest of him, arrogant and sure of itself. Ed pushes back. These kisses make him giddy, they fill him up like helium, and then Roy touches him and it's the fucking spark that starts the explosion inside him. It isn't fair, surely, for one human to be able to move their mouth and their hands in completely synchronised perfection. Ed should tag him with a warning label. Or, maybe a 'property of Edward Elric' label. Is that creepy-cute, or creepy, creepy? Well it's Roy's fault, either way. Roy and his hand sneaking to the small of Ed's back, pushing him into an arch. He'd better take some goddamned responsibility.

Roy pulls back to breathe (quitter, pansy, he should get back in there and fucking kiss Ed into next week, what's wrong with him?), smiling down at Ed like he just got the big prize in the cereal box. Ed tugs impatiently on his collar.

"I thought we were making out?"

"I thought we were leaving?"

"We were, until you made such a compelling argument in favour of staying in."

"I did?"

"Yes. You can't kiss me like that out there. So. In."

"I see." Roy's thumb moves in little swipes over the skin of Ed's hipbone. It almost tickles, but mostly just makes his skin feel tingly and his heart do little jumps. He surges upwards, a wave from collar to knee that connects him, briefly and wonderfully, with Roy. He wants ... and Roy laughs, and it's not at him, it's just an expression of joy. Do people do that? Laugh in the middle of romantic shit? Ed had laughed once before, when a guy told him he had the best legs for a skirt. That hadn't ended well for either of them, even if the guy in question had been weirdly serious about it.

Roy though. Roy laughs in the bedroom the same way he laughs out in the sunlight; like Ed makes him happy everywhere he is. At all times.

Something in him swells, but when it finally bursts, inside is black and oily with fear. Ed likes Roy way too much. He doesn't just want to kiss Roy until he can't feel his face any more, he doesn't just want to throw him on the bed and demand they fuck in every position they can brainstorm between them. He wants to be there when Roy gets back after a long day and opens the door; the first smiling face of 'home'. He wants to find out if Roy's the kind of guy who crushes the garbage down with a face of disgust, or if he bothers to take it out and change the bag. He wants, oh, god, he wants to show Roy where he and Al grew up before everything went to shit. The final nail in his coffin. He's so fucked. He's so, so, unbelievably fucked.

Roy hooks arms under Ed’s knees and grips his upper thighs tightly, and the pressure sends a spike of pleasure through Ed, strangely juxtaposed with his underlying panic.

"Hold on to me." Roy says, and Ed's mind reels, wondering how Roy knows he's just confronted his inability to let Roy go. When strong arms start to lift him, he understands, and just barely manages fling himself around Roy's shoulders before he can tip backwards onto the floor. He's dropped with a whump to the bed, and something about that makes his blood pump hotter. Roy crawls over him, the two of them barely fitting on the narrow bunk. Black hair tickles his cheek as Roy brushes his lips to the shell of Ed's ear.

"Nice jeans. They'd look better on my floor." His voice cracks and he laughs on the last word. Ed snorts.

"What was that ?"

"These lines are usually the best way to ensure you don't get laid. In the interest of us actually leaving today, I'm testing their terrible potency." Roy's actions betray his real motives though, as he dapples kisses on the marks peeking over the top of Ed's collar. Hands run down his sides to slip just under the waistband of Ed's jeans. "Besides, I'd look much better on you than those jeans do."

“You talk too much. I hear kissing’s a good cure for that.” Ed offers.

“Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?” Roy’s grin is glittering. His thumbs smooth over Ed’s hips, a tantalising pressure.

“I lost my number, can I have yours?” Roy takes that moment to kiss him back into the blankets. It’s an awkward clash of teeth since they’re both still laughing. Ed wraps his arms around Roy’s neck and breathes him in deeply.

"Somehow you look even better underneath me." Roy whispers. And Ed thinks he's joking, probably, maybe, even though there was no laughter with that one, and Roy finishes saying it by biting his bottom lip. “I’m not positive though. I think we should try this position again. Later. Maybe a few times just to be sure.”

Ed punches him weakly in the shoulder.

“You’re such a dumbass.”

“Later, though?”

“...Later.”

 


 

 

The call comes in the evening. It comes, in fact, right as Roy hooks his shirt at the back of his neck, and pulls it over his head, all whilst giving Ed the least subtle look in existence. Ed is so tense that it makes him jump out of his skin - skin that has been imagining Roy’s touch on it all fucking day . And now that they’re back into a private space, silently daring each other to make the first move, the phone bleeps shrilly between them like a stern governess. Roy glares at it.

"Should you get that?" Ed asks.

"Probably." Roy doesn't move.

"Are you going to?"

"...No." The ringing is relentless. Facetime has no voicemail system, and whoever is calling is obnoxiously stubborn, so it rings and rings until Ed is sure he’s going to hear that damn noise in his nightmares. When it finally cuts off, the relief is immediate. Sweet, sweet silence reigns once more.

"Good," Roy grins, eyes like shards of jet. He advances and Ed’s breath catches in his throat. Roy is a vision stalking across the room. "For the next few hours, in fact, I think we should turn them off compl-" The ringing begins again. Roy groans and looks to the ceiling. "Really?" He demands of the universe. With an exasperated sigh, Ed takes the phone in hand himself.

On the screen is a photo of a handsome man with designer facial hair and the kind of grin usually only found on the presenters of children's television.

"Says it's from 'Do Not Answer'." Ed reads aloud. "If you aren't supposed to answer, why don't you block it?"

Roy makes a beckoning motion and Ed hands over the phone.

"You'll find out." Roy promises darkly, swiping the call with practiced ease. The screen is an image of a white-plastered wall reflecting sunlight strongly enough to make the camera focus fail.  A head pops into vision from one side.

"Roy! You picked up! And on the second ring. Should I be worried? Do you miss me that much?" The camera finally finds its footing, and the man from the photograph is made flesh, glasses gleaming and grin wide.

"What do you want, Hughes?"

"Just checking in. You know I call Gracia and Elysia every day-"

"Yes. I know."

"-but you've been gone almost a week and no one here has heard a peep. We're worried about you, you know? Well, Riza pretends she isn't, but she's been extra viscious when shooting the rats in the grain stores so we're all pretty sure...who's that?"

Ed can barely keep up. He's cataloging everything he can from where he assumes Roy had been stationed; woven baskets and old bullet holes in the brick work and the lick of a palm leaf, so still it might have never even heard of a breeze. Hughes has sweated through his shirt, but he looks so clean-shaven it must be an unavoidable side effect of surviving in the arid climate. Rats, he'd said. Grain stores. In the background dust rises, and a desert-camouflaged army-jeep containing blue-helmeted cadets thunders along an uneven road. Ed takes a breath of the cool Italian air.

"I’m Edward. Yo." He lifts a hand, and Hughes lifts an eyebrow.

"Maes Hughes. Nice to meet you, Edward. Roy, you're suspiciously silent as the young blonde in your room introduces himself to me." Beside Ed, Roy is uncharacteristically quiet. He clears his throat before he finally speaks. 

"Sorry. Edward is my..."

"Watch it, Mustang."

"Italy wife."

"No."

"Fuck-bu-"

"No!"

"Lover."

"Mustang I will end you."

"Roommate. Roommates is what we are." Roy is grinning, but it's like a plastic dentist's model of his usual one. Ed looks at him with concern, but Roy is fixed on the phone. Hughes is looking between them, brows lightly drawn, but then he smiles.

"Well, it's nice to see he has someone looking after him, Edward-the-roommate." Ed is bright red. He wonders if it'll show up through all the pixels. "How's the stomach, Roy?"

Ed can see Roy's hand twitch, as though he wants to reach up and cover the gnarling scar beneath his ribs.

"It's fine. I'd...almost forgotten about it, to be honest." Clearing his throat, Roy makes a visible effort to lift himself. "How's the team?"

"Fine, fine. Armstrong's started pitching in with some farmers and they like to bring us beers as a thank you. Fridays are pretty good now, thanks to that. Riza's all patched up. The cut on her face barely even scarred; she was disappointed." Roy winces. Ed wonders if he should leave, but Hughes' tone is so conversational and light, he can't put his finger on what's wrong.

"And...Havoc?" Roy's hands curl around a bedpost, knuckles white and straining. On the screen, Hughes leans back in his chair and pushes his glasses up his nose.

"He's doing okay. Fury's at the hospital with him. We're hoping that when your replacement turns up, they won't make Fury leave, because he's really the backbone of support right now." A little laugh that fools none of them is followed by a sigh. "They've already made flames to stick to the wheels of his chair. He's going to race the EOD robot when they let him out. The betting pool is fierce."

"A chair." Roy echoes, faintly.

"Yeah. For the foreseeable future. He's keen to start the PT though. Should begin next month."

Roy is silent. Ed fidgets a little on the bed.

"So. We're all here with Ross' attempts to make the supplies edible and sand in our unmentionables, nothing different. Where, exactly, are you?"

"Italy." Roy's eyes are unfocused and distracted. Hughes waits patiently for more information, and when Ed realises that Roy isn't going to be responding any time soon, he fills the gaps.

"He got stuck here thanks to some dumb plane mix-up, and now he won't leave me alone."

"Ah, the patented Hughes Friend-Making Technique! Don't let him twist your arm Edward. He acts like he's the dog's bollocks but inside he's all squishy, and just wants a hug. He could probably do with a hug actually." Ed laughs nervously. Roy's eyes have returned to the screen, but his shoulders are slumped low. His face is unreadable.

"Please express my regret." The request is clipped. "And my sincerest hope for a swift recovery."

"He knows, Roy-"

"I'm going to go now."

"Roy, wait-"

"Tell everyone- never mind. Bye, Maes."

"Just a-" With a flick of his thumb, the call is ended. Ed studies his face and races his thoughts against each other to come up with something to say. 'Are you alright?' answers itself, but to directly ask about...well he gets the impression that if Roy had known the conversation was going to head in the direction it did, he would have taken the call privately.

"I'm going to go...out. Will you be okay? You live here, that's a redundant question." Shaking his head, Roy stands up.

"Where are you going?" Ed asks. Roy looks at the phone in his hand, and then slides it onto the desk with a clatter.

"I don't know. I'll find somewhere." The time it takes Roy to cross the floor and slip silently through the front door is impossibly short. When he's gone, the room is so quiet it’s suffocating. Ed feels like everything just fell out of his hands to smash on the floor.

 


 

 

The reality is that Ed doesn't know what to do with himself without having Roy to bounce off any more. For a while he gets out a book and starts taking some notes, but he can't focus and his work is sloppy enough to annoy even him. He passes the time absentmindedly folding post-it notes into sticky origami cranes until Al is free from end-of-university drinks (and Ed isn't jealous and definitely doesn't care that he's panicking alone in a hostel room instead of at a party he was supposed to be a part of), and then he relays an abridged version of the events so that Al can help him obsess over all the details. Like Hollywood's rendition of high school girls. Or..stalkers.

As the minutes tick by slower than he'd even imagined could be possible, he has the brief and terrifying thought that life is always going to be like this when Roy heads back to wherever he calls home. He very determinedly quashes it and starts teasing Al about girls just to avoid thinking about it.

An hour later, he's apologising profusely when Al is refusing to respond unless he 'stops being un-necessarily mean'.

An hour after that, they've tired both of Words With Friends and with dissecting various articles in the Swiss 'Futurescope' science journal, and have somehow hit eleven o'clock.

Isn't it bedtime for you?-

-It's not term time any more, so it doesn't really matter.

al you never go to bed later than eleven-

-It's okay. I'm talking to you.

And there it is. Roy's been gone for about five hours and Ed, like a high-flying trapeze limpet, has just swung from clinging to him to clinging to Al. This is what the shrinks had always been warning about.  This is what he's been trying to avoid...with both of them, no less. He should be out there learning to 'love his own company' or some other coaster-quote bullshit.

thats ok its been great to talk.-

He grits his teeth and thinks about what the right thing is to say in this situation; the thing that will make Al go to sleep feeling good instead of worried about him.

i feel better now thanks. you should sleep tho. you get cranky otherwise. maybe ill try sleeping at a normal time too-

The little dots signalling Al's response wobble at him for so long that Ed has enough time to get up, pace, sit back down, and make Roy's bed again from where he's rucked it up. When the response finally does come, it's disappointingly short, and reveals that Al can see straight through him as always.

-You should go and find him.

Ed stares at the words but they don't change.

nah he doesn't want me around right now. go to sleep. talk tomorrow?-

-Of course. Goodnight Ed. Message if you want to.

night al-

Ed locks his phone and looks out into the emptiness of the room. For a moment he feels like he can't move from the end of the desk, as if he's stuck there. He can imagine Roy's reaction should he come in; 'elf on the shelf', or maybe, 'does sitting up there make you feel taller?"

The door remains shut, and the room remains empty. He unclenches his hands and it breaks the spell, like his body just remembered how to move. Lurching back to standing, he blunders through the night time routine. When he leans his leg against the wall, it somehow feels less hollow than the rest of him does.

Surrounded by the light linens, Al's words repeat themselves in his head. He could go looking. Rome is pretty big, but he's walked the streets for hours before with less reason to.

Roy had wanted to be alone though. Hadn't that been the point of him leaving? Ed is bad at working out when people want him to leave, but even he knows that part of social conduct.

The thing is, and it's a big thing, bigger than Roy and maybe bigger than Al, even, but the thing is...

He'd got real scared about it, about pushing himself on people, when he was young. When Al kept coming to find him, and it felt like they were fighting the whole damn world just to stay together, They'd told him that it wasn't what big boys did, or that he wasn't healthy, or that being apart was somehow 'helping'. They, capital T, because it had been all of Them. Every person. And phrases got banded around that he quickly grew to know the definition of, even so young; abandonment and CBT and a host of terms that are all on his medical record, like the ingredients listed on the back of a cereal box.

And some of Them had been eerily detached and calm about it, explaining what was best and what was right. And bits of it had even made sense. ..bits are still making sense.

Other bits had just made him feel like he was wrong, on the inside.

Eleven years old and in a care home full of other brats just as angry and scared and alone as he was, and the over-worked, over-stressed staff assigned to the worst kids in the worst area; something was bound to break. And he'd been so sure it wouldn't be him. He was strong, he had Al. Everything else they'd ever had was gone for good, but nothing would ever manage to come between them. They kept proving it. They fought for it.

But all it took was one angry, bitter little conversation from someone who was supposed to help. Ed can't even remember her name, now. She'd caught him on the way out. They'd taken all his back packs long before that, a misguided attempt to keep him grounded, so he'd had only one pocket full of Babybells and a singular clean pair of underwear on him. He was supposed to meet Al at the train station, but a carer, worn and terrified after losing him so many times - after being repeatedly called incompetent for allowing him (resourceful and far too clever even then, not her fault) to escape over and over, had seized him and sat him bodily at a table.

Someone else had been sent for Al. They'd taken him home, and imposed a month of strict visitation scheduling out of sheer desperation. And Ed was sat at that table just having to believe Al was okay, staring at the carved names in the old wood, cast into sharp relief by the single light blaring overhead. She'd poured herself a shot of something. Ed had been given some juice. And she'd said. 'listen kiddo, it's time to talk to you like you're an adult.'

And she'd said that people don't like you if you cling too hard. People leave if you try to pin them down. If you're chasing someone then it's because they don't want to walk beside you. She'd said, face completely serious, that Al didn't even want to keep leaving his nice new home. Ed was just making it all about himself, and what he wanted. Al had told her sometimes he just wished Ed would go away. Al had told her that he wanted Ed to stay in his own house. She told him that sometimes even she wished he would disappear, just so she wouldn't have to keep fucking looking for him. She was sick of him, she hated him, and everyone else was going to hate him too.

She'd locked him in his room, against all protocol. And then, past his window, she'd jumped off the roof.

Broken arm, dislocated hip, concussion. She had made a full recovery, in the end. Everything was 'alright', They kept saying. Not his fault, lots of factors, she'd be looked after. But in some ways, that night had been worse than when their mother died. Having a panic attack in the dark, all the while thinking people would rather die than be around him; Ed's never going to forget that close, cloying darkness...

But why can't he remember her fucking name ?  

Across the room, Roy's phone lights up. At first he stares at it, the spiral of memories trying to drown him suddenly broken by the light. It glows for a long time, illuminating the whitewashed wall and giving him something to focus on as he takes deep breaths.

When it goes back to sleep mode, he decides he can't take the darkness any more and slams the lights on. The world seems much smaller in the sparse hostel room; manageable, and not at all scary. He wipes his palms on the sheets and gets up.

Roy's phone, when he hops to it, displays twenty-seven missed calls. Most from Do Not Answer, but a few from Riza and one from an errant Chris M.

As he scrolls through, a new message appears. He can only read the beginning; 'If you're getting drunk again then I sw...'.

He sighs through his nose. It doesn't matter, he decides, if Roy doesn't want him there. He's just gonna have to put up with it, because Ed is going to clip on his stupid fucking leg and find that goddamn fucking idiot, and bring him home, and who gives a fuck if that pushes him away because he's going to be leaving anyway so fuck fuckedy fuck it .

 


 

Rome isn't especially easy to find people in, but it's very good at ejecting tourists from anywhere halfway decent. Ed rules out any place across the river as too far away, and all the close 'student chic' bars as too rowdy. It's possible that Roy has gone to take a walk around some gardens to contemplate life, but there's a heavy weight in Ed's gut and that text on Roy's phone both telling him that a bar is the best place to look.

He almost gives up to go back to the room more than once. Cold and still fighting the undercurrent of panic inside of him, adrenalin raised thanks to an almost-not-quite altercation with an overly familiar drunk and an overly tall bouncer, Ed wants to curl up in his bed and wait for morning. But Roy's phone is still ringing. Every now and again he'll take it out and the numbers will have gone up. There are voicemails, now. Two of them. Ed wonders idly what time it is in the desert. Whichever desert it is.

Roy's probably back at the room, lying in bed and wondering where the fuck his phone has gone. Ed should have left it there, probably. He should go back.

Street lamps wash over him, painting all of him gold for a moment as he passes. He squares his shoulders and walks the opposite direction to the Yellow. There are a few places he hasn't tried. Places that don't serve alcohol, but which might just be familiar enough to lure in a drunk in a strange city. Roy is worth looking just a half hour longer.

It takes him twenty-four minutes and about twelve seconds. Not that he’s counting.

Roy is on his back, staring at the stars from his place on their bench and stiller than if he'd been carved there. The forum below is dark and foreboding, but the moon is bright. His arms dangle over the sides like he's boneless. Knuckles scrape the paving stones, so Ed nudges one with his foot very, very carefully.

"You're going to get mugged," he says, voice soft.

"Hm." Roy doesn't move.

The sigh that makes its way out of Ed's throat is short but long-suffering. It's an Al-level sigh, which doesn't bode well for how quickly Ed's sinking into this mess, but it's not the time to have another meltdown about that .

Mindful of his leg and the cold of the cobbles, Ed lies down on the floor below Roy, fixing his eyes on the multitudes of twinkling stars above.  

'Did you drink?" Ed asks.

'Not enough. Roman bartenders talk too much." Roy's hand shifts until it's laying on top of Ed's chest.

'Welcome to Italy." Ed says cheerfully. Roy is silent.

His profile is perfect in the half light. The cool colours and gentle light from the moon compliment his colouring exquisitely, and it's strange that Ed never thought the English language needed words like 'exquisite" until Roy came along. Ed traces constellations with his eyes. "Hughes seems nice."

"He's a pain in the ass," Roy responds blandly.

"Close friends, huh?" That gets a snort from Roy. Ed tentatively curls his fingers around the hand on his chest, lightly stroking patterns with a thumb. "I guess you miss them."

"We've been friends for a long time. It's difficult to think about them all in the thick of it, when I'm here, useless." Roy's words don't slur but they're slow, and deliberate. Ed knows he's drunk.

"Well, when're you going back?" Ed asks.

"I'm not."

"'You're not?" Are you AWOL, Mustang?" A couple passes them quickly, heads down and footsteps fast.

"No. 'Medical discharge" actually. Something wrong with me, in the head. Not much you can do about that. If you get blown up they just sew you back together, but when you start to slip … When you can no longer pull a trigger you're pretty useless as a commanding officer. There's no point...you put your whole team in danger if you can't pull your weight at the same time as theirs. I screwed up enough already. Havoc's in a wheelchair . This is for the best."

"Roy...I don't understand."

"It's better that you don't." Roy's voice is a dry roll of self loathing.

"I'm only gonna let you wallow if you talk it out, you know. If you're just making vague references to how awful you are then I'm going back to the room."

The silence stretches between them, but their hands are still connected. Roy shifts slightly on the bench. Someone bursts out of a door further down the street and the noise of a party briefly fills the air. Silence descends again.

"There was a girl," Roy ejects. His words are husky, but whether with alcohol or emotion is hard to tell. "She was called Kesi. That's all they would tell me. We'd had problems...problems with rebel forces strapping explosives to dogs, at first. Sending them over to us and then detonating. We're just a peacekeeping force, mostly equipped for aid, so we weren't prepared. We lost two men in a week at the beginning. It's simple to shoot a dog though, they're so noisy, it makes them easy to spot. When they realised dogs wouldn't work any more, when they sent the first person...the camp next to us lost their C.O. We heard about it via radio. Everyone was scared, no-one wanted to have to face that kind of thing. They weren't fighters; they were just ordinary people strapped into a ticking deathtrap and told to walk. They were the people we'd been sent there to protect. I-
There was Kesi. Anyway. And she was walking towards us with a white flag and we weren't at the camp, we were in the middle of the goddamn jungle trying to diffuse some god-awful nail bomb on the side of the road. I couldn't see any reason as to why she should approach, but... I told her to stop. I told her to stop in French, Swahili, English... But she kept walking. Riza...Riza was going to do it. She didn't even blink. Just leveled her gun and said 'orders, Sir.’
I couldn't let her take that responsibility. She's part of my team, one of my men. So I- I did it myself."

The hand under Ed's gentle ministrations clenches into a fist. Taking it in both hands, he sits up and leans his forehead against the cold shoulder jutting from the bench. Roy has stopped talking. When the silence becomes too much, Ed shakes his head, bangs sweeping Roy’s arm.

"You...stopped her detonating, then?"

One shaky breath in and Roy flops an arm over his eyes.

"No...no, she wasn't carrying explosives. She was deaf, actually, and lost. We found her mother behind our road block."

"It's awful. It is. But, it's not your fault," Ed says into Roy's sleeve. He hears a scoff from Roy.

"I made the decision, I gave the order, and I pulled the trigger. There is quite literally no-one else to blame."

"You didn't have a choice."

"There's always a choice, Edward."

"...I don't know what to tell you, Roy. Do you want me to say you're a bad guy? Because you're not. Life's pretty shit, you know? Bad stuff happens to good people, and your actions sometimes have really bad consequences. But all you can do is try. There's no other option."

"My 'consequences' happened to be the murder of a girl younger than your brother. It's not the same as running a red light or losing the keys to the house-"

"Jesus, you aren't a fucking murderer. Do you even hear yourself?"

Roy sits up and buries his hands in his hair, dislodging Ed. Fingers claw around dark, mussed strands.

"Isn't guilt the normal reaction? Should I not be repenting this every day, now? A civilian would be locked up. They gave me money, some kind of...redundancy pay too big to even spend, like I should be compensated for... I don’t know what they were thinking at that fucking tribunal. God, the only way I could hate myself more would be if I didn't have this constant guilt. Why are you getting angry with me for regretting the worst thing I ever did?"

"I'm not ! I just hate the idea of you being so... fucking riddled with it. You won't talk about it except in these abstract little bites of self-loathing.  You can't even know what you've done just by stomping into my life. You've changed me, you've given me a kind of hope that I haven't been able to see for- shit I don't know what I'm saying, Roy. You can't give up on you, because you've brought so much good. I'm not giving up on you. Okay? So just...fucking talk about it. I've been to enough shrinks to know that, no, it doesn't fix everything, but it lets the pressure out. You need to. Before you get crushed by it."

Ed is breathing more heavily than he'd like. He tries to ignore the persistent hum of 'he killed someone killed someone killed someone" in the back of his mind. Roy is a soldier - of course he's killed people. Hearing the full story just brings it into focus, humanises it. And he's so guilty, so sad...

"...I'm drunk." Roy says.

"You're drunk."

"Normally I'm alone when I'm drunk. No one has to scold me for my self-indulgent self loathing."

"See? That's the problem. Talking. S'good."

Roy lets his hands fall to his lap and sighs deeply. Goosebumps have risen on his skin, but he doesn't seem to feel the nighttime cold. The wind moves lazily through the trees behind him, leaves falling in the silver moonlight.

When Ed gets up, he brushes off his jeans and reaches to take Roy's limp hand.

"Home now." Ed orders quietly, drawing him to stand. No words come from Roy as he's led through the near-silent streets. Yellow light from the street lamps washes over them in waves. The wide roads are empty, and all the window shutters are closed. It could be just the two of them in the whole wide universe.

Roy's fingers must be leaving imprints on his skin, but neither of them loosen their grip.

If the hostel is silent, their room is like a grave. Ed throws open the windows just to let the sound of the breeze in the trees soften the edges of the quiet. Roy sits on the edge of the bed as though he's hanging off the side of a cliff.

"You want water before bed? Actually don't answer that. You're having water." Ed moves to pass him, but finds himself caught by the belt loop. When he turns back, Roy's nose suddenly buries itself in his stomach. Breath settles warm on the fabric of Ed's shirt.

"Roy?"

Hands come up to rest loosely on Ed's lower back. With a sigh, he places a hand on the back of Roy's head.

"A month ago, a boy walked up to our outpost at Geddah, and he wouldn't stop when I ordered. And when I looked at him through the cross-hairs I saw Kesi, and I couldn't shoot. I couldn't even speak.
No one took the shot for me. They trusted me, and I... He just said 'please" and then Havoc might never walk again; a tiny shard of metal managed to get just the wrong spot on his spine. Not another scratch on him, but that damn shrapnel . Riza took a hit to the shoulder. Half a tree lodged itself in me, but I'm walking around Rome like it never even happened." Roy's hand has moved to curl into a claw over the scar on his side. "And on top of all the guilt, I can't even do my job any more. Just a waste of space. May I stop talking now?"

"Yes, if you want to." Ed reaches down to gently untangle Roy's clenched fingers from where they are pressing eternal creases into his shirt. Quickly, lightly, he kisses the top of the dark head below him, and then lets go.

"Water. Then bed."

The bottle crinkles in his hand, and water streams over his fingers as he clumsily fumbles at the tap. Ed's reflection is as it always is, although perhaps more slack than usual.

A peacekeeper, Roy had said. It sounds better than ‘soldier’, and ‘mercenary’, and ‘canon fodder’. But conflict is conflict, Ed supposes. It doesn't stop the idea of taking another human life from turning his stomach.

He sets his jaw, and looks himself in the eye. Roy is still Roy. This has, in fact, always been Roy. The only difference now is that Ed has been trusted to know the deep and dark and gritty. Roy knows the worst parts about him. Roy hadn't hidden in the bathroom like a little kid when he'd met all of Ed's demons.

Okay. Deep breath. Go.

He holds the bottle against Roy's forehead, and Roy uncurls himself from the loose fetal position he had adopted on the bed.

"Thanks."

"Do you feel better?" Ed scans his face for clues, but all Roy looks is tired.

"...I'm not sure." Uncapping the bottle, Roy drinks enough that it dents inward on itself. With his thumbs he massages the plastic back into shape. His voice is small between the pops. "Thank you, though."

Ed shrugs at him.

"I think you should sleep now." A gentle hand to Roy's shoulder, to push him back into the pillows. Roy catches his wrist and pulls slightly.

"Would you

"I don't think now is the time."

"No. Not that."

Their gazes clash for a moment, and Ed doesn't know what it means, but he knows it's heavy. It's important.

"Move over then, fatass." He climbs in next to Roy, toeing off his boots and letting them drop with a thump to the floor. Roy keeps his head down, but allows Ed to draw it to rest against his collarbone. Ed fixes his eyes on the wall over the top of Roy's head, and allows his body to relax into the heat of two people under bedclothes. Arms close round him, clumsy and tentative.

"Okay. Sleep now." Ed's voice is a murmur in the night, a whisper.

He doesn't so much as close his eyes until he hears Roy's breathing even out, and feels the grip of his hands go slack.

The two of them are just a pair of ruins, he thinks. Rome is the perfect place for them.

 


 

 

In the morning, Ed wakes up with a crick in his neck and a faceful of dark, silken hair. Roy's nose is buried somewhere around his clavical, breaths softly puffing over the skin revealed by two open top buttons there. An arm is around his waist, just under the hem of his shirt. When he shifts, he can feel their skin stuck with the sweat of the night. He decides to stop moving.

It's not yet time for the alarm. He must have had an hour of sleep, tops. He tries to work out whether or not he feels tired but somehow can't pinpoint his current state in any way that's useful. Instead of worrying about how to take on the day ahead, he lifts an arm and, whilst holding his breath and exercising extreme muscle control, he lowers it to curl around Roy's shoulders. Roy sleeps on like he's dead. Ed would be worried if it wasn't for the gentle, damp warmth of breath on his neck. It makes his skin prickle. He closes his eyes and tries to sleep again.

The alarm clock makes him jump. Releasing Roy like he's a burning brand, Ed swings his leg over the side of the mattress. Roy remains a lump on the bed.

"Oi, Mustang. It's go time." Ed whistles loudly, cutting through the morning stillness. Roy mumbles and ducks further down into the covers. "Come on or we'll miss it."

"Let me sleep. 'N be quieter." The bundle rumbles.

"No. If you're hungover it's your own damn fault." Ed's voice is light, but he knows that today it's time for him to step up to the plate. He's going to look after this idiot dropped so haphazardly into his life. People have been taking care of Ed long enough that he must have picked up on some of it by now.

If it was Al looking after him, there would be bacon for breakfast, and gentle coaxing and caring until Ed stopped frowning, and maybe a hug or two. And then, if Ed persisted with his self loathing, the asskickings would begin.

Ed decides enough cuddling has happened, and skips right to step two. Taking his leg from where it's been discarded beside the bed, he uses it to give Roy a sound whap in the region most likely to be his backside.

"What on Earth , Ed."

"I'm kicking your ass with one leg. Now get up."

Roy mumbles something which may be 'fuck off', so Ed straps on his leg, stands with a stretch, and then rips the covers off Roy with a fluid swipe.

Roy rolls onto his back and stares at the ceiling.

"I hate you."

"I know. Come on. If you're going to punish yourself for being a 'terrible person', or whatever, you can do it by running through your hangover, eating a healthy breakfast, and calling Hughes. All the shit you should do even though you don't want to. "

"Ed-"

"Shut the fuck up and get out of the bed, Mustang."

He gets a glare hot enough to melt sand to glass, but Roy gets up and brushes past to the bathroom. His steps are wobbly. Ed thinks he's probably still drunk.

He makes Roy run at least four blocks. Then he stops on the pretense of being thirsty, buying them both a bottle of water. As they slog up the hill towards the ever-faithful bench, Roy drags a hand down his face.

"Riza would love you. She'd be so pleased to know someone else had taken over her whipping duties." He drains the last of the water and winces at the sun. Ed grins at him.

"Shoots pests, thinks scars are cool, whoops your butt; I think I like her too."

Roy grunts at him and goes back to focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. Ed carries on grinning. They're walking side by side, and the night before is just a bunch of underwater memories.

He treats Roy to breakfast, and watches the colour return to him. The ashen ghost he'd woken up with is starting to look more like the obnoxious moron he's come to know and...be overly fond of. Roy smiles at the waiter, and is very polite to the staff at the hostel reception. It's only when other people leave that the crease re-appears between his eyes.

A light shove is all it takes to get him into the common room.

"Call Hughes. Or text him. Or whatever. I thought your phone was gonna scramble itself dealing with all your incoming whatever last night."

"...Alright."

The door swings closed, and through the glass walls Ed watches him sit in a worn leather chair and stare at his phone. Eventually, his fingers fumble against the screen, and Ed turns to the main desk.

"Hi. Do you guys still do that transport rental?"

Mr Manbun at the front desk looks terrified. Oh yeah, they remember Ed all right. He does so like to leave an impression.

 


 

 

Roy meets him at the front of the hostel looking like a kicked puppy.

"Got chewed out, huh?" Ed asks.

"My pride, I think, is done for the day." Roy takes a deep breath. "What are you doing out here?"

The sun is radiant. Every colour around them is warm and inviting, and the scent of late-blooming flowers tricked by the warm autumn settles like perfumed dust. Ed leans over to pat the sun-baked leather of a battered scooter.

"You got a scooter," Roy states, voice blank.

"Rented it. We're gonna get out of here for a bit. Change of scenery, some fresh air...that sort of thing." Ed throws him a rounded helmet, swinging it by the chin strap, and Roy catches it deftly. His face is incredulous, but when Ed slides onto the scooter and kicks away the stand, Roy pulls the helmet on and slides into place behind him. With warm arms around his waist, and a solid weight on his back, Ed grins.

"Hold on." He warns. And then he's gunning it away from the hostel entrance and into the city. Roy's arms tighten in a way that makes his heart leap every time he takes a corner a bit too fast, or thumps over a speed bump, but Ed knows what he's doing. He's a speed demon, but he's never crashed once in all his miserable little life.

"Where's your helmet?" Roy shouts over the wind. Ed laughs.

"They only had one, and I figured you'd want it!"

They thunder over a sewage grate and Roy doesn't argue with him. The tingles where they touch are sparking up Ed's spine and his heart feels just a little bit like it's flying.

"We're going to die." Roy mutters.

"Pipe down, Backseat."

Ed doesn't slow down until they speed out of the city. Not the fancy end with the high-rise hotels and the casinos. The other side, towards La Storta, with it's rural houses and sprawling fields. The buildings fall away, and the only thing at the roadside is a well-baked wooden telephone pole, or a poplar tree swaying lazily. The fields are ready to be ploughed, fat with ripened produce, changing colour from greens and browns to rich, vibrant golds.

Ed pulls into a layby and waits for Roy to slowly unwind his arms from their position frozen around his waist.

"You have some intense road rage."

"Words of high praise." Reaching forward, Ed undoes the catch on the helmet under Roy's chin. "You're alive, aren't you? You baby."

"Barely. I can't believe we have to go back. I almost think I'd rather sleep here."

"Shut up, it's fun to go fast. And you know it."

"...maybe a little. The old lady who dropped her shopping when you cut her off probably disagrees though." Roy pulls off the helmet, flicking his hair in the sun and melting Ed on the spot into something dumb and gooey.

"She had oranges. They have skin. Germs won't bother them."

"If you say so. Where are we, anyway?"

"Nowhere in particular. Some farmland in between Rome and Tuscany. We don't have the time to go too much further but...this place reminds me a lot of home. I mean, my old home. When Mum was alive. I...wanted to show you."

The crease between Roy's eyes disappears for a minute, first to be replaced with surprise, and then a small smile. He places the helmet on the seat of the scooter, and then threads the fingers of his right hand with Ed's left.

Ed eyes their hands warily for a moment, and then pulls Roy down into the ditch beside the field.

"Come on." They fight through the brush and the weeds, and then scale the fence. Dropping down over the sun-bleached wood, they're suddenly surrounded by swaying golden wheat.

"Are we allowed in here?"

"Pro'lly not." Ed puts his hands out and skims them over the top of the stalks, wading through the field like he's in a lake of molten precious metal. Birds scatter as they approach an ineffective scarecrow. Ed whoops to scare off the braver ones too. Feathers flutter back down, stark against the uninterrupted blue of the sky.

"I didn't think anywhere in England was like this." Roy muses.

"It wouldn’t be for dumb southern city folk like you."

"How do you know I'm from a city? And I don't think I count as 'Southern'." Roy has joined him in making ripples in the wheat. Behind them are two cleaved paths slowly closing back up.

"You just reek of restaurants with jam-jars instead of glasses, and the slow, merciless gentrification of family-owned grocery stores. I bet you're from London, or Bath Spa." Roy laughs at him.

"Oxford. The jam-jar glasses phase seems to have come about after I left the country, though."

"Figures."

"You and Alphonse?"

"Norfolk, a tiny village outside the Broads. No inbred jokes, please, I really have heard them all."

"My lips are sealed." Roy breathes deeply and stretches his arms up, linking them behind his head. "It’s beautiful here. Is Norfolk really this nice?"

"It rains more."

"Ah."

With a flump, Ed drops to the grass. He rolls around for a few moments until he's flattened a small section to sit in.

"Ed? You camouflage fairly well in here." Roy's voice lilts on the breeze. Ed can't see him from below the rise of the grasses.

"Is that a short joke?"

"No." The wheat parts next to Ed and Roy crushes a little extra space for himself. "I meant your hair, and your eyes. The shimmer of your skin, like a summer's day. Your sparkling personality..."

Ed shoves him.

"Shut up."

"But really, Ed. You're as gorgeous as this place is. And...it means a lot to me that you've brought me here." Ed is red. Ed is a slowly boiled lobster rolling in the pot. Ed is the pantone red that Valentine card companies dream about in February.

"S'okay." He mumbles. "I don't like seeing you sad, so...yeah."

Roy leans in and gives him a short, sweet kiss.

Ed smiles at him. He's perfect in the soft light of the slowly descending sun, this melancholy smart-ass of a man. Whatever he's done, whatever he flays himself alive for, Ed wouldn't change him. He's never met someone who's such a pain in the neck but also so deeply caring. He wonders if he ever will again.

"Why do you do that?" Roy asks.

"Do what?"

"Get sad when you look at me. Is it catching?"

"Don't be dumb." Ed shakes his head.

The grasshoppers make their weird little bug noises around them. Ed pulls his legs up.

"Don't laugh." Ed demands.

"Okay." Roy cocks his head and looks at him with curiosity.

"I...am going to miss you, when you go. That's what makes me...do that." Ed forces himself to meet Roy's eyes. Roy's grin widens to an impossible distance. Ed scowls at him. "You said you wouldn't laugh!"

"I am most certainly not laughing, Edward." His name again; two syllables delivered so heart-stoppingly. Roy leans forward, shuffling into place next to him so that they are aligned from knee to hip to shoulder. "I am going to miss you too. Very much. But England's a small place, you know. Maybe you can come to Oxford for some cocktails in jam jars sometime. Maybe I can catch a train to Norfolk, and we can tip some cows or whatever it is you do in the sticks for fun."

"...Maybe."

"And in the meantime, there's always facebook, and skype, and phone calls, and love letters."

"Roy..."

"The postal service aren't always the best but they try hard. We can make it work."

"Okay, listen. I...I don't want to do that kind of...thing."

"What, communicate?"

"Yes...No. Yes. I don't want this, everything from the past week or whatever, to be reduced to a postcard and a facebook birthday message once a year. I don't want it to suffocate slowly. That's why I said this is just for shits and giggles."

"I don't like to see you sad either, you know." Roy's eyes are serious and steadfast. 

"What?"

"It doesn't have to be like that. I don’t want to hurt you; I wouldn't just drop you."

"It's not about how good of a person you are, Roy. It's just what happens."

"You're being pessimistic, again."

"I'm being realistic! People are inherently selfish and to be honest there's not much to me once you get past all the sob stories and the sarcasm, and it would just...it would just be cooler if you left and we were friends and I could sleep at night knowing there was someone out there who thought about me in a good way sometimes. Instead of working out that I'm just boring and clingy."

"What if I don't want to just leave you?"

"Then...tough titties, I guess." Ed shrugs. He's not going to cry. This was supposed to be about looking after Roy. He watched a kid blow up; he took shrapnel to the stomach and got up and walked it the fuck off. If Roy can be a big fucking boy about it, Ed sure as hell can. Ed's life is just normal. Nothing big or scary about it - just the kind of shit everyone has to deal with. So he's not going to cry.

"Who called you 'boring and clingy'?" Roy is stiff next to him. Ed stares into the stalks around them like they hold the secrets to the universe.

"What?"

"Someone must have said these things to you. There's no way you could be so vicious to yourself for no reason."

Ed snorts.

"You want the whole list? Because I mean I probably have a name for every letter of the alphabet. Well, actually I don't know any people who have a name starting with 'x', but...my old man's name started with a 'v', so that's quite far along right? One down."

"There's something rotten in a world where people like me exist entirely on self-cultivated ego, and someone as  earnestly honest as you thinks that any time spent with you is wasted." There’s a sadness in Roy’s eyes, and, well hey, Ed’s doing a really great job of lifting the mood right? Stellar job there. It’s probably too late to make a joke now.

Instead he shrugs. He's too tired to argue with Roy about their respective levels of earnestness or honesty, or about the merits of being a naturally charming, gorgeous bastard, versus the ongoing battle that is being an awkward, socially reclusive amputee. The lost night is catching up with him, clearly. Roy can see right through him, like Al can. Maybe once anyone gets past his brash attitude and constant low-level irritation, he's about as easy to read as a pamphlet at an eye clinic. Maybe all that separates the throbbing vulnerability of him from the rest of the world is a sassy one-liner thrown out at just the right time.

"Some of them were idiots, I'm talking real base-line ignorance. But not all of them. And it's not like they can all be wrong."

"It's statistically unlikely, but not impossible."

"Okay and how often do you get told that how much you care for a person is 'unhealthy', or 'obsessive', or that you're 'in way too deep'? Because I'm guessing someone with your...uh...everything is mostly kinda' exempt from, you know, that." Ed wants to be angry about it, but it comes out as a genuine question. Roy has shaken him since he arrived; behaving as though Ed is fun, or desirable, or in some way whole and worth pursuing. By this point, Ed half believes that Roy means it. His traitorous brain, in the dark corners of his skull, suggests that if Roy can see worth in him, maybe it’s actually there .

And isn’t that a dangerous thought.

Roy considers for a few moments, playing absent-mindedly with Ed's fingers.  He brushes the pad of his thumb over each fingernail in turn, and then takes Ed's hand properly to do the same with his knuckles.

“Well, I did get dismissed from a job I’ve had my whole life because I had a-... difficulties dealing with the injury of one my team. In the words of the military psych; I am ‘overly dependent and too emotionally invested to function optimally as a leader’, which is not quite the same thing, I understand, but is still somewhat of a blow to one’s confidence.”

“Are you trying to start a competition for the sad brownie?” Ed raises an eyebrow. Roy looks gracefully bemused.

“The...sad brownie?”

“The sad brownie. Person with the worst story wins the sad brownie and gets to cry into delicious, calorific, chocolatey goodness, whilst everyone else gets the satisfaction of not having had the worst life.”

“That wasn’t my intention-”

“Good because I don’t know how we’d hash out dead-mum, care-home, and missing-leg, against dead-kids, survivor’s guilt, and trigger-finger-freezing. Not even sure I want to know which one of us would win that one. Also now I want a brownie.” Ed’s stomach rolls but he ignores it. The field is too serene, and the sun too high, and the conversation too...weird to stop now for something as simple as food.

“You forgot ‘seduced by an authority figure’”

“Yeh but I skipped ‘fell into teenage gangs’ out of mine so we’re even.”

“I never even told you about the ex lover who told everyone I was a prostitute.”

“Oh come on, I can beat that with- wait what?”

“Scott. He found out about Aunt Chris’s business and assumed, then offered me money after we broke up for ‘one last time’. Not good enough to date but still good enough to sleep with, I suppose. I kicked him out for good, but he’d already handed out my number to half the recruits on my base and a load of his friends in the city. With a picture attached. I couldn’t go anywhere for about seven months without someone asking me for a blowjob in the bathroom.” Ed feels an irrational amount of anger, but Roy is smirking wryly.

“Well of course they’re going to keep asking if you keep doling them out.” Ed quips. He gets an elbow to the ribs.

“Does this tip the scales in my favour for the brownie?”

“Probably. The worst thing my exes ever did was awkwardly pretend I didn’t exist.”

“That’s awful.”

"Well, at first it wasn’t. At first he was...really nice. He wanted to know everything about me, all the time. What I thought about stuff, things I'd done, my favourite fuckin' colour and shit. No-one had ever talked to me that much before, and he was right there the whole time...for a year. Then, when he knew everything, I guess I was boring. Like a book. Like he'd read every chapter of me and got to the end and thought 'yep, that was a waste of time'. After that it was just like I was on his coffee table and always getting in the way when he was trying to do something else, you know? I'm not...I didn't get it. I mean it's not like I'm high maintenance, or anything..."

"I don't know, I've seen your bathroom habits."

"Prick."

"Princess."

They grin at each other. The grasses sway, gold and gleaming.

"And then he just...stopped talking to me. There was nothing big or dramatic about it. He just made me the centre of his world for a long enough time that being dropped out of orbit was enough to really fuck me up. I felt...stupid, talking to him or anyone else about it. He kept saying things like 'it's not a big deal if I don't talk to you for a week, don't you have your own life to get on with?'"

"Ouch."

"Yeah. The last time I saw him was at a party. He hadn't spoken to me in three weeks. He ignored me to my face, and I just- well, I mean, you kind of have to accept that someone doesn't want you around any more when that happens." Ed buries his chin in his knees and his voice comes out muffled. He eyes a quaint farmhouse in the distance. "I was pretty pathetic about it. Got told to man up a lot."

Roy tucks the whole Ed-ball that he's made of himself under one arm, and kisses the side of his head. Ed can feel those eyes full of sadness settling on him. Like Roy would suck all the sharp bits out of him and leave him smooth if only he could; take them into himself and leave Ed feeling solid again.

“I think we both should have a brownie just because.” Roy says.

“I didn’t bring any.” Ed is going to suggest that they head back home to get some, but Roy, as ever, is quicker. Kisses seal Ed’s words in his own mouth and steal his breath. But it doesn’t deepen like he’s used to; it tapers off and there’s only Roy’s arms around him, and his head on a chest that’s thundering with a heartbeat. This is... cuddling . This is a gloriously warm afternoon for autumn, in the arms of a guy that had just played sad brownie with him and somehow come out of it fucking smiling. And the panic starts at the bottom of his chest, but he’s too damn tired . Maybe now Roy knows what Russell did-

“Do you even love me any more?”

“I...care about you. A lot.

“No, then.”

“I just never loved you as much as you loved me. I should have been upfront about that.”

“No. I don’t think you ever loved me at all.”

-maybe now he won’t do the same thing. But it was Ed’s fault, last time, for getting carried away. It was his fault for latching on and clinging hard and demanding to be important to someone. So if he’s careful this time, it’ll be fine. It’ll all be just fucking dandy.

He curls his hands into Roy’s shirt and tries to memorise the feeling of being against the soft, sun-smelling cotton.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay.” Roy murmurs quietly. Hands smooth down Ed’s back. Ed holds on and tries to believe it.

“I was trying to make you feel better, and now the exact opposite is happening.”

“I felt better the moment you told me this place reminded you of home.”

“Oh.”

“You make me very happy, Ed. This week...you’ve helped a lot.” Ed is floored. He eyes a loose thread in one of Roy’s button holes and clenches and unclenches his hand.

He hazards a smile. 

“...You make me pretty happy too.”

Chapter Text

Roy's hand slides itself into place above Ed's hip as they weave through tiny cobbled streets, ducking under painted wooden signs and avoiding restaurant tables. The weight of it there is natural, necessary, even.

Streets around them are empty and still. They pass a vendor writing his wares in chalk, and get a friendly call from a plump lady hanging out her sheets over a balcony, but otherwise Rome is only just waking.

 

The sound of babbling water reaches them before they enter the square. Ed can't help but watch Roy as they turn the last corner and come face to face with the Trevi Fountain. Al had almost exploded with delight when Ed had shown him, and seeing him so happy had given Ed a grin he couldn't dislodge for days.

 

Roy doesn't explode. He's almost always composed and cool, but because Ed is looking for it, he spots the falter in Roy's step as the massive horses come into view. Roy's eyes widen just slightly, mouth opening to reveal the tips of his perfectly white front teeth. Ed wants to take him to Florence, and Tuscany, and Venice, just to see that expression subtly change in front of the churches and palaces. It hadn't taken him long to work out Roy's love of beautiful things. Between the suits and the way he slows as they pass the shops of antique furniture, it's clear that Roy is a magpie for things classic and pretty. He wonders how far it extends; how many different artists he and Al would each go starry eyed over. Watching Roy's pupils dance over the sculpted marble, Ed thinks that the two of them would probably get along like a house on fire.

 

His heart aches a little at the thought of them meeting.

 

"This...looks a lot smaller in pictures." Roy says. He releases Ed to tap down the steps. stopping at the marble lip of the pure turquoise water. When he turns to look at Ed over one shoulder, he's heart-breakingly beautiful.  "How did they afford to build all of this ridiculous opulence in one city?"

 

Ed follows more sedately, holding the rail and shielding his eyes from the sun with one arm.

 

"This one came from a tax on wine." He answers with a shrug.

 

"I'll bet that was popular."

 

"About as popular as a screaming toddler on a plane." Ed reaches his side, and leans over to look at all the different coins twinkling in the dawning light.

 

"You really think it's in there?" Roy asks. The rippling water reflects the two of them, distorting their faces.

 

"It's the last place to look." Ed frowns. "They should have stopped the fountain running now, though." As though the universe hears him, the waterfalls become a dribble. The tinkling of drips and streams quiets to a pitter patter of errant drops.

 

"...So, did you know you had the power to control water, or is this your pilot chapter?" Roy asks, raising a brow.

 

"Idiot. I looked up when they collect the coins. Like a sensible person."

 

"Ah. I was wondering how we were supposed to check the bottom of a waterlogged, internationally-renowned monument, but I see now that I should never doubt you."

 

"Too fucking right." Ed eyeballs a van that drives into the square. The windows are down and outdated pop music floats from inside, along with laughter and chattering voices. The doors burst open to reveal a group of Italian teens grinning at each other. When they start handing out colourful rain boots, he knows he's got the right truck. "Come on."

 

The teens look mildly confused at their approach, but relax quickly at Ed's easy greeting in Italian. He zeroes in on a small, chirpy looking girl, and directs his requests to her.

 

"Hey, you guys are with the charity right? I'm pretty sure I dropped an important piece of jewellery in the fountain, I was hoping I could have a look for it whilst you guys drained it."

 

"Uh, I dunno-" she begins. Then her eyes go impossibly wide, and he wonders if he's somehow managed to be intimidating or rude again. A shadow falls over his shoulder and he hears Roy's gentle ' ciao ' behind him, and everything makes sense. The poor girl blushes and Ed feels for her, he really does, the she's unprepared in the face of Roy in sunrise light. He shoots Roy a look. Now would be the perfect time to make the most of that dumbfuck Mustang charm.

 

"I'm Edward, and this is Roy. What's your name?"

 

"Annalie." She mutters. Ed switches back to English.

 

"Roy, this is Annalie. She's gonna' let us check the fountain pool." Roy is sharp as a tack, and a total dick besides, so he side-smirks to Ed and then lifts Annalie's hand to his lips. She looks like she's going to rattle apart at the light kiss to her knuckles.

 

"Buongiorno, Bella." Annalie looks to Ed in distress. He just shrugs.

 

"Maybe I can let you guys look... Wait here." She blushes. Her first steps away from them are wobbly, but she moves at remarkable speed towards a serious looking girl in a reflective jacket.

 

"You're the worst." Ed says jovially.

 

"She seems happy, though." Roy tucks a hand in his pocket and nods at the girls. Ed looks again towards Annalie and sees her grinning as the serious girl taps her shoulder excitedly. She comes back over to them with a skip in her step and shouts in Italian.

 

"It's okay! But you have to help. Get a broom from the back of the van and put on a jacket and some boots." Ed gives her a thumbs up and turns to grab a broom handle. He holds it out to Roy with a hand on his hip.

 

"Here. You're not gonna' like this." He grabs a second broom for himself.

 

"...Like what, exactly?"

 

"I just signed us up to help a charity remove all the currency from the Trevi Fountain."

 

"Edward."

 

"What?"

 

"I'm wearing Brioni."

 

"I'm sure he's really happy about that."

 

" Ed ."

 

"Here's your boots. Suck it up. You'll just have to be careful." He chucks the boots next to Roy's feet, and with much grumbling Roy sits in the back of the van to remove his shoes and socks, carefully rolling up his trousers. Ed leans in and very, very quietly speaks into Roy's ear.

 

"I'll find a way to pay you back for the suit."

 

The sudden fire in Roy's eyes makes him briefly consider whether or not he should be worried.  

 

The water, when they step in, is freezing even through the boots. The fountain is still draining, the coins are slippery underfoot, and the whole thing seems like a perfectly quick and stupid way to die. Roy looks ridiculous in boots with rolled up trousers, but thanks to his obscenely handsome face, he pulls it off as something dorkily cute. Ed is simultaneously envious and protective. The urge to tackle him into a crushing hug is strong.

 

As one team, they start to sweep the coins towards the edge. Conversation is light and friendly; the charity team are pleased to have the help. Roy's very basic understanding of Italian is the joke of the day, with many repetitions of his awful pronunciations echoing around the group like a pet shop full of parrots. The kids are all from the same school, and belong to the same church group. The tall one, Georgio, moves Ed to a shallower part of the pool without mentioning a single thing about height, and Ed can't decide if he's grateful for the discretion or outraged at the notion he could be too small for a fucking fountain. Laughing at one of Ed's chemistry jokes gets him off the hook in the end though. Just. Lucky Georgio.

 

The girls try to engage him in a conversation about how he looks just like some boy-band canary or another, and he deflects until they move on to which actor Roy resembles. When they don't name anyone younger than twenty-five, Roy starts to pout. Ed's heart does a wobbly flip in his chest.

 

They want to know all about England, and then all about the army, and then all about Roy's upbringing in 'the English brothel'. Ed finds himself hastily translating racy stories between languages with a beet-red face.

 

They sort through the coins, crouching in the few remaining centimeters of water at the pool's edge. Roy's hand brushes Ed's more times than necessary. His presence is solid and steady at Ed's shoulder. Working side by side, a quiet team, feels right somehow, and it settles inside Ed softly.

 

"I'm sorry Edward, we haven't found a locket," Georgio says sadly, returning from his last-ditch walk of the ring of coins. Ed stands from his crouch to clap him on the arm.

 

"I know, it's okay. Thanks for letting us look. I had fun, weirdly."

 

Georgio grins and gives him a thumbs up.

 

"Me too. You want to help full time?"

 

"As much as I love shoveling large amounts of money around, I have to catch a plane in a few days. Thanks though." Georgio shrugs.

 

"Can you blame a guy for trying?"

 

"Not at all."

 

"Hey, grab the sacks! We only have an hour until they turn the water back on." Annalie calls.

 

They use dustpans to shovel the coins into buckets. There's some of every currency Ed can imagine. Roy holds up a rupee and rolls it across his fingers like a gangster in a prohibition film.

 

"I never understood why people threw money into wells when there's always stars to wish on for free." He muses.

 

"It doesn't feel like you'll get something decent unless you swap something of value for it, I guess. Equivalent exchange. Anyway, you don't throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain for a wish. You throw it because it's supposed to guarantee you'll return to Rome, one day."

 

"That's a quaint idea. You're one euro down from your 'return to Rome' fund right off the bat, mind, but the sentiment is lovely."

 

"Earns Caritas something like six-hundred thousand pounds a year. Especially since if you throw two, you're supposed to have a love affair, and if you throw three, a wedding will happen. Three euros from every person, probably about a thousand people throwing coins everyday...it's no wonder this is taking hours."

 

Roy flicks the rupee into a bucket.

 

"We're almost finished. It shouldn't take much longer."

 

Roy's right. An hour more of scooping up change and lugging heavy, wet sacks to the van, the fountain pool is almost clear. With a pleasant gurgle the water starts running again, sloshing over the jagged rocks and the smooth, carved-marble arms of Neptune and his sea nymphs. It laps at Ed's boots.

 

"I think we're done Roy. Here, catch." Ed swings a bucket in Roy's direction. The expression of surprise is all Ed needs to immediately regret his bucket toss. Roy catches it just fine, but in reaching out for it he loses his grip on the marble floor. With a loud splash he ends up on his ass and half-submerged.

 

"Oh shit, sorry. Uh, are you-? Wait a sec." Ed wades out to him. With the newly incoming water, and the low height of his size small ( wrong wrong wrong ) rainboots, the water sloshes over the tops to immediately drench the denim within. He tries to take the bucket from Roy's lap, but Roy keeps hold of it and stands stiffly, bucket half full and clothes completely sodden. "You okay?" Ed asks nervously.

 

Roy looks at him for a moment, expression unreadable. Ed swallows.

 

The bucket is upended without mercy on his head. It's ice cold, and Ed splutters with the force of it.

 

"That's a return for the leaves in the underwear, and this sudden fountain dunking, and stealing the covers, too." Roy takes his arm to lead him out of the fountain's shadow and into the sun. Annalie gasps when she sees them.

 

"Were you under a waterfall? I'm so sorry I thought you knew it was on! I think we have towels, one second." Ed could kiss her when she pulls out two threadbare but absorbent cloths. Roy takes the first one and wraps it around Ed's shoulders, rubbing up and down his arms a few times to help him warm up. The second he wraps around himself like the Madonna.

 

They perch with their backs to the water, allowing the morning sun to dry the worst of it. Roy's shirt had been white, and now it's slick to him, perfectly outlining the curves of his chest. Is that worth Ed's ponytail being a golden tangle, and the heaviness of his wet hoodie?

 

...Actually, yes.

 

Ed pulls a collection of useless change out of his soggy pocket. He nudges Roy in the side.

 

"Here. You want to throw the first coin in of the season?" He holds it out, shaking his palm a little so the coins jingle.

 

"If I come back to Rome, you had better come back, too." Roy says sternly. He reaches out to scoop up the change, and with a grin lifts a twenty cent piece. "To returning to the city of angry blondes and perverted waiters." He throws the coin over one shoulder, and they both turn at the 'plip!' it makes to watch it sink through the bright blue. Ed turns back to Roy's wicked smirk, and a kiss to his cheek. "To a love affair." Roy throws another. "The last one...was a wedding?"

 

"Don't you dare." Ed lunges for the last coin, and a brief tussle breaks out between them. Damn Roy and his long arms. Ed's going to give him a kick with the fiberglass leg in payment for rubbing his freakish arm length in Ed's face. He goes for Roy's ribs but overshoots it. With a lurch they almost fall as one back into the water, and in the panic to stay upright the coin is fumbled between them. It drops into the shallows and rests innocently on the marble. Entwined, they stare at it for a moment in horror.

 

"Should...I take it out? Does that count?" Roy asks uncertainly.

 

"It's illegal to take money out of the fountain."

 

"Oh."

 

Ed looks at him nervously, and licks his lips to speak.

 

"How do you feel about outdoor weddings?" Roy beats him to it. "I always liked those ones with the big marquees. "

 

"Fuck off."

 

"Just a suggestion."

 

"Um..." The regularly scheduled fight is interrupted by Annalie fidgeting before them. She waves at Roy, about the highest level of communication they can reach, and then speaks to Ed. "Thanks for helping out today, and we're really sorry that your mother's locket wasn't here. We were wondering...if you'd maybe like to come out for drinks this evening? As a thank you. You guys are cool."

 

"Uhh..one sec. Roy, you want to go on a drunken teenage rampage this evening?" He translates. Roy arches a brow at him.

 

"I haven't been a teenager for over a decade."

 

"You're only as old as you feel."

 

"Is that supposed to make me feel better? Because I have news for you..."

 

"Okay you're only as old as you act. Which puts you at younger than these guys."

 

"...Fair enough."

 

"Yeah sure Annalie, we'd love to."

 

She's cute as a button as she lights up and shakes her little fisted hands in excitement.

 

"Great! We're going to Cripta, do you know where it is?"

 

"Sure. What time?"

 

"I dunno', like eight maybe?" She shrugs. They're almost the same height, and the realisation of that fact makes Ed's eye twitch for a moment.

 

"See you there, then." They hand back the towels and boots, and give a shivering wave to the retreating van.

 

"Back to the room?" Roy says casually. His teeth chattering betray him.

 

"Fuck yeah, I think my toes are gonna fall off."

 

"Be grateful it was just your feet and head."

 

Ed spares a wince for Roy as he glances as his still wet ass.

 

"There's a shower at home." Ed says slowly.

 

"There is."

 

"I...did say I'd pay you back for those trousers."

 

"You owe me for a shirt now, too."

 

Ed can feel his wicked grin split across his face.

 

---

 

Ed doesn’t pause when they finally get into the room. Marching into the bathroom, he turns the knob and the shower splutters out water. Pulling out his hair tie and grimacing as it rips a few strands with it, he shakes the damp locks free.

 

Roy, when he finally looks up, is frozen in the doorway.

 

“What?”

 

“That was perfect Bond-girl hair shaking.”

 

“Oh fuck off.” Ed turns his back on him, and steps - leg, clothes, and all- under the hot spray. His back eases almost immediately from where it tensed against the cold. He’ll have to wipe and dry the whole leg later, but it’s worth it for twenty seconds sooner of warmth.

 

“Am I dreaming?” Roy mutters, hand on the doorknob.

 

“Are you gonna’ stand there all day talkin’ shit, or are you getting in this shower?”

 

“I’m definitely dreaming.”

 

“Get in or get out, Mustang. You’re letting all the steam out.”

 

Roy closes the door sharply and starts undoing buttons. Ed watches from under the water, eyes glued to muscles outlined in the wet shirt.

 

“Wait,” he says. Reaching an arm out and dripping water onto the tiles, he gropes for Roy’s hand. Without hesitation it’s lifted to him. Their fingers interlock before he can even think about it, and he tugs Roy towards the tub. “You look really fucking good in a wet shirt.”

 

“I know.” Roy smirks. He leaves the buttons and pulls off his socks instead. When he lifts a leg to step into the bath, Ed is forced back to press against the cold tile. It seeps through the thin cotton of his tee to menace his shoulderblades. He wants Roy to touch him. He wants Roy to push him into the tile and fuck him until he can hardly see straight. And that's a bad sign, isn't it? To go from fumbling in the dark to wanting a full-scale fucking pounding. But he can't help it.

 

“You’re such a shit.” All this thinking really has to stop. He grabs a handful of that sopping shirt collar and pulls Roy in, going straight for teeth and tongue and bruising. Roy is in control though. He’s a balm to Ed’s burning intensity. A hand in Ed’s hair tilts his head to neaten the kiss, and then a clever, devious tongue is tying him in knots.

 

Ed’s hands can’t resist skimming over the wet cotton. When Roy shivers against him it sends all the blood roaring downwards in the same direction, and he should be embarrassed at how quickly his body reacts. But he thinks anybody with eyes and a brain and a sex drive would be hard fucking pressed not to.

 

Holding him in place with one arm, Roy reaches up to angle the showerhead so that the spray bounces off his shoulder. Ed smooths the disgustingly indecent shirt over a nipple, and leans in to take it in his mouth. The water on the cotton is cold, but the skin beneath the shirt is hot. Roy groans, hand tightening around the showerhead with a squeak of wet skin against metal.

 

Pressing a palm over Roy’s crotch, he kneads gently. Roy lets out a breathy laugh.

 

“What?” Ed asks nervously.

 

“I can’t believe the universe worked out in a way that I got to room with, not only the sexiest blonde I have ever seen, but also one willing to engage in hostel shower sex with me. Do you know that you are a treasure? A diamond among zircons? The most- Ha-aah-”

 

Ed shuts him up by slipping a hand past the (very easily undone - as though Roy had said to the tailor ‘I want a date to be able to get into these in under three seconds’) catch on Roy’s trousers, and giving a long, hard stroke to the flesh beneath. Roy throws his head back and the water trails down his face. He’s a goddamn Herbal Essences ad. He’s an Attitude magazine perfect dream-man. Except he’s not; he hates himself and he has shitty taste in jokes, and is way too cocky for his own damn good, the asshole. He’s the biggest dork even though he’s almost a decade Ed’s senior, and his goddamn ageless face is going to get them both into trouble one day...

 

He also has the best sex face Ed has ever seen. Which sounds ridiculous but is so fucking factual it should be in an encyclopedia of the world.

 

Eyebrows drawn and mouth slightly open, halfway between distress and need, one hand clenching in the wet fabric at Ed’s shoulder, it’s almost a crime that the rest of the world can’t see him in this moment. But Ed is fine with that. This is how Roy looks just for him, and him alone. The possessive flash through him makes his blood pump violently. He leans forward and up on his toes to claim Roy’s mouth.

When they pull away he gives Roy a low-lidded look before he even knows what he’s doing. Roy sucks in a shaky breath, fighting through the sensation of hands on him to keep his eyes open and looking into Ed’s.

 

“Roy, you’re...amazing. You…” Ed stretches up again to place a kiss on the soft flesh below Roy’s cheekbone, right beside his ear. “I think...I-”

 

Cold like an electric shock, like the Antarctic Ocean itself grew a hand just to ruin their perfect moment with an ice-cold slap, rains down over them. Ed yelps and Roy does a mangled little half screech. He ends up toppling backwards and out of the tub, feet over the edge and indecently exposed. Ed manages to slam a hand onto the tap and turn the damn thing off, nerves screaming at the sudden change and shivers wracking him in an entirely different way to ten minutes before.

 

They look at each other, frozen to the bone. Roy looks so pitiable with a grumpy look on his face, splayed on the bath mat. Ed fights the grin, he really, truly does, but in the end he’s too happy to be angry about it. The moment he laughs, Roy’s frown slips away, and he tips his head back to release a laugh as well.

 

"I'm vetoing water, at least for today. All water. Everything. Even bottles." Roy orders.

 

"I'm not gonna' argue with you."

 

Climbing out, Ed wraps him in a towel. He drops a kiss on Roy’s nose, and then dives for a towel himself. Hostels, he decides, are not made for romantic rendezvous of any kind.

 

In the end they settle on the beds under a mound of towels, stripped to dry pyjama bottoms, eating the last of the grapes, and reveling in each other’s body heat. Ed puts on some rubbish on his i-phone whilst he pulls off his leg and begins to meticulously dry it. Every so often, Roy will look up at him and smile heart-wrenchingly softly. And when that happens, Ed can’t resist the need to kiss him.

 

---

 

The issue they find themselves wrestling with is that Ed only has jeans, and Roy only has suits, and neither are really appropriate for Crypta . They stand in the hostel room surrounded by Roy's discarded options, and tap their feet.

 

"Well, Oscar Wilde said that the only way to atone for being overdressed is to be immensely over-educated. I'm not sure how I can communicate that to teenagers through a language barrier, but I'm sure I'll find a way. Would you like to borrow something of mine?" Roy adjusts a cuff and generally looks like a million fucking bucks. Ed scowls at him.

 

"Are you kidding?"

 

"How do you mean?"

 

"As if anything'd fit. You're trying to make me say that I'm small. Sorry Mustang, you're just weirdly large."

 

"How rude." Roy twists to look down his own back, and then runs a hand over his stomach. "I think I'm really quite trim."

 

"Oh! Your ass gives me an idea." Ed shoots up and heads for the wardrobe. Roy pouts. He can feel the sulk behind him as he digs deep through the sedimentary layers of his backpack, going back in time.

 

"I hear that a lot, but it doesn't usually end up with people walking away from me. Quite the opposite, in fact," Roy grumbles.

 

"Yeah well, I've gotten used to your siren gorgeousness by now, you know. Give me a minute, I'm putting these on in the bathroom." Roy raises an eyebrow, but he looks pleased with himself at Ed's hidden compliment. Ed feels a glow inside that a simple comment from him can make Roy so happy."Be right back."

 

Roy shrugs, a nonchalant roll of his shoulders. He's the picture of laid-back refinery.

 

In the bathroom, Ed unfolds a relic from older times. The leather is warm under his hands; soft from years of use. He has to sit on the toilet lid to pull them on. He wiggles, and the fiberglass squeaks as he slides them up his fake leg, but they go on without too much trouble. Maybe they're a bit tighter than they were, but from what he can see in the mirror, they're acceptable.  He's not going to split a seam, or anything. Hopefully.

 

He steps out and Roy's fiddling with his hair in the mirror. His waist is slim and his shoulders are broad and no one can really judge Ed for needing to step forward and wrap his arms around the idiot.  He catches Roy's smile in the mirror.

 

"And what did I do to deserve this?" Roy asks softly. Ed ducks his head.

 

"Nothin'. Just like you sometimes, I guess. Don't go letting it get to your head."

 

"I can make no promises of that magnitude." Roy turns in his arms and pulls him closer. The kiss is impossible to avoid, like the moment simply demands it. Ed doesn't understand how, in a world full of people he wants to ship to the moon, one total dipshit can inspire such touchy-feely grossness in him. He's done fighting it though. This entire thing has an expiry date, and he's going to make the most of it until then.

 

Roy's hands, as ever, stray to his ass. It's like they're magnetised there, or something. He gives a generous squeeze.  Ed hums his appreciation,  but then Roy is pulling back. Confused, Ed just blinks at him.

 

Taking him by the shoulders, Roy steps back and runs his eyes down Ed's body. He wets his lips once.

 

"Leather." He says, finally.

 

"Yup."

 

"I...don't know that I should let you go out wearing leather."

 

"That's not creepy at all." Ed rolls his eyes. Roy is still fixated on his thighs.

 

He's moved to the side so that Roy can lean around him to look at the back. Ed makes a noise of exasperation.

 

"You're a fucking perv. They're just clothes."

 

"Edward, have you seen yourself? Those are not clothes. Those are a declaration of war against the concept of decency."  With a strong grip, Roy runs  his fingers up the back of Ed's thighs, pressing the two of them together at the front.

 

"You're really riled up about this, huh?"

 

"It's just what you do to me."  He nuzzles with his nose against Ed's temple, pressing a kiss to his cheekbone.

 

"We're already gonna be late because you spent a whole hour picking a shirt. We have to go." Ed pushes him away lightly.

 

"Go? But Ed, you're wearing leather."

 

"Yes, I know, now get your fucking shoes on." In truth, Ed's heart is beating a tattoo against his ribs. The thrill of power he gets at seeing Roy so...interested floods his veins. It's a little scary though. Never once before had he considered his old trousers might be some kind of turn on, or whatever. They were just cool, kind of punk rock, when he was back in the UK being a shitty younger version of himself. Warm too, when he had to spend an hour or more waiting for an unheated bus in the middle of winter.

 

Stepping out of the circle of Roy's arms, he jams his feet into his boots and pulls the door open. When he looks back, Roy has his palms together and is miming 'thank you' at the ceiling. When he catches Ed's eye, he grins.

 

"I'll leave without you," Ed threatens.

 

"Alright, I'm coming."

 

They both pause. And then snicker.

 

"Shut up, it's not funny."

 

"You laughed too."

 

"Idiot."

 

Roy slings an arm over his shoulders and they leave with twin grins.

 

--

 

Crypta is a stylish bar at the bottom of a small stone staircase. At one point it was probably the wine cellar of a villa, but that night the wine is behind the bar, and the flagstones are stepped by a crowd of stilettos and designer trainers. The bouncer waves them through without giving a single shit about their clothes, and Ed rolls his eyes at the time wasted.

 

The corner is a stage being completely owned by a live band. The cocky lead singer moves her arm in a way that makes the snake tattooed over it writhe in the low lights. The music is almost too loud to talk over. Roy leans on his shoulder to bring their faces close together.

 

"Would you like a drink?" He half-shouts over the beat. Ed just nods back, and scans the crowd for the charity kids. It's only strangers that he can pick out. They wade to the bar and Ed can't help but feel out of place.

 

The bar is lit up from underneath - huge slabs of raw crystal with a smooth top to put the drinks on. The bartender turns to Roy right away despite the pulsing crowd, and Ed is awed once more by the weird charisma he has that just draws people in. He can't even hear what Roy orders for them, but when it comes it's in a bowl-shaped glass and faintly tinged red. An experimental sip reveals it's more sweet than anything, with the slightly bitter aftertaste of lemon and some spirit Ed isn't cultured or cool enough to name. Roy drags him to a high table with no chairs. A cluster of glasses already wait on it; a strange modern-art installation of haphazard shapes.

 

"Ed!" A delighted squeal from behind him makes him turn. Annalie is flushed and beaming. He dress is short but floaty, and her glass is half empty. Half full. Ed can never remember which is the good one.

 

"Hey, Annalie." He waves. She jumps in to hug him, and he awkwardly catches her. He's released almost instantly so that she can do the same to Roy with distinctly ruddier cheeks. Roy accepts her with an easy chuckle.

 

"Everyone's in the courtyard!" She announces, grabbing Ed's sleeve and dragging him through the crowd. He's confused when she doesn't head towards the stairs. With slight panic he looks back for Roy, but of course he's there, moving through the crowd like a shark through minnows.

 

Fresh air cuts through the heavy atmosphere of dancing bodies and the press of heat. Double doors stand open, and beyond them is a courtyard festooned with fairy lights. They're at least a storey underground but the roof is open to the stars, and a grated well squats in the centre, covered with gossiping people. The pillars around the edge of the portico act as trellises for heavy-hanging honeysuckle. The scent of it is sweet and heady.  

 

The group is large, but they all give a whoop of welcome when Annalie announces their arrival. Drinks go into the air, spilling onto the stones, and Ed wonders how long these kids have been drinking.

 

They're pulled into the throng. Ed is immediately beset by Georgio and a group of his science student friends, apparently to settle a debate they've been drunkenly waging for an hour. He looks to Roy to make sure he's okay, but Roy just grins at his concern, and bows to Annalie, hand outstretched; an invitation to dance that is clearly universally known.

 

Ed's drink goes down quickly as he talks animatedly, getting invested despite himself. Around him eyes are wide and trusting. Roy plies the glass from his fingers and replaces it with a new one; blissfully cool with condensation beading on the outside. Is this the third time this has happened, or just the second? He's lost track of time. Roy is flushed from dancing. Ed is struck dumb by his radiance under the coloured lights.

 

Suddenly he wonders how long he's been talking for. He's just left Roy to his own devices in a club filled with people whose language he has only the faintest grasp on. When he tries to ask if Roy is okay over the music, he gets an arm around his shoulder.

 

"I'm fine. Stop worrying about me. You're having fun, right?"

 

"I mean, I'm not sure many people would consider an impromptu lecture to be 'fun' as per the dictionary definition, but...yeah. I kind of am. But I don't want you to be, like, bored. Or whatever." He's waving his hands around. They didn't eat dinner, and he's only three quarters of a normal person. And what's in these drinks anyway? Roy doesn't look at all affected, even though he has a new drink in his hand too.

 

Georgio slams a tray on the table and a cheer goes up. Bright green fucking poison sits in tiny shot glasses, gleaming and devious.

 

"He's going to get into trouble soon." Roy nods at Georgio, who has started passing out the glasses.

 

"What do you mean?" Ed asks. A glass is pushed into his hand, and another into Roy's. Roy scrunches his nose in distaste. It's so fucking cute that Ed downs his quickly just to shut his fucking heart up.

 

"He hasn't danced with Annalie once this evening. She's danced with me a few times, I'd hazard to make him jealous, but he hasn't seemed to notice."

 

Ed rolls his eyes.

 

"Teenage fucking drama. You're loving it, aren't you? I don't know why I was worried about you being bored." He finds somewhere to dump the shot glass and wipes his brow.

 

"It's a political circuit of its own kind." Roy shrugs. He drinks his shot smoothly, but doesn't look happy about it. "The point of being old is that I don't need to drink this garbage any more."

 

"You're not old. You're..distinguished. Or something. Vintage." Ed sips at the new drink to get rid of the taste of the shot. It's gotta' be rum. He knows that one. He realises belatedly that alcohol won’t help him deal with alcohol, and lowers the glass.

 

"Such compliments." Roy brushes imaginary lint from his shoulder.

 

"Yeah well. Hey, can we go outside for a bit? I shouldn't have had that shot."

 

"Are you alright?" A hand is on his waist, another on his shoulder.

 

"Yeah, just, outside. Yeah?"

 

Roy tries to lead him up the stairs, but he's not that far gone. The nighttime air feels good on his face, and he takes a deep breath in. His head is fuzzy but his heart is light. Roy is watching him with concern.

 

"Do you feel sick?"

 

"Huh? Nah I just know when to stop. Wanna' sober up just a little bit." Clicking his wrists, Ed scales a small wall to sit on it. Roy looks deeply alarmed, but he's fine, he's fine. The moon above them is huge and white. It's pretty. Roy leans against the wall beside him. He's pretty too.

 

"You're a really nice guy, you know. Dancing with her all night, 'n lookin' after me." Ed says, pulling up his good knee to wrap an arm around it. Roy quirks a brow at him.

 

"Thank you?"

 

"No seriously. You think you're kind of terrible, and I know your weird flirting with anything that moves is some, like, defense mechanism so no one can see whatever you think you're hiding... I get that. I think that everyone has something they hate about themselves, and that's, you know, whatever. But you're a genuinely nice person. I guess people don't normally tell you that, because you blind them with all your flashy charm and shit. But you care. And that's really cool." Roy looks away from him, and goes quiet. The buzz in Ed's head is pleasant, and he looks back to the stars. There's a comfortable silence between them as Roy puzzles over Ed's words. He thinks they're pretty simple, himself.

 

"Hey, help me down." Ed orders. Roy laughs a little, but then presents his back for Ed to slide onto. He lifts Ed's weight with no trouble at all. Ed hugs him hard from behind.

 

"'M right you know. I'm always right. Onward noble steed." With a shake of his head, Roy starts walking towards the stairs again. The night is blue, and Roy is solid and warm between Ed’s thighs. He takes a deep breath in and closes his eyes, nose resting in the juncture between Roy’s neck and shoulder. The steady thumping steps are soothing, because he knows Roy has his full weight.

 

"You sure you don't want to go home and sleep?" Roy's voice rumbles through him and Ed smiles.

 

"Nah. It's barely even ten. I'll sort myself out if we stay in the cold for a bit."

 

"Where would you like to go, then?" Roy shifts Ed on his hips, and Ed resists the urge to wriggle happily.

 

"Pancakes."

 

"Ed, I don't know where to get pancakes at ten-pm in Rome." Roy sounds frustrated, but the hands under Ed's thighs clench and slide against the leather. They give a playful squeeze and Ed tenses around Roy's waist. His grin spreads against Roy's neck.

 

"I'll direct you."

 

"We're playing hooky, are we?"

 

"They're all so drunk they won't even know we're gone. And it looks like you missed Georgio and Annalie making out in the doorway over there. I guess your make-him-jealous tactic worked."

 

"I am a master manipulator."

 

"Yeah, well. Slow down. I'll know it's just a flimsy excuse if you start dancing with all the pretty girls."

 

"My, are we jealous?"

 

"Offended. You're mine, now, Mustang. Those're the rules."

 

"It's sad, but true."

 

Ed leads with softly muttered directions every now and again, and Roy follows them without question. They leave the nightclubs behind, and pass restaurants filled with people winding down their meals with wine and fine conversation.

 

Pier's Pancake House is French. Probably. Maybe a bit American, given that they do the fat cakey ones as well as the flat crepey ones. But the point is, the point is , that when Ed sees the red awning and glinting gold of the door handle, he's just shy of salivating all down Roy's shoulder.

 

"Down!" He bounces excitedly. Roy drops him carefully and they both stagger on the pavement. There's an audible crack as Roy stretches, and then massages his shoulder. "You could have put me down if I was heavy." Ed says guiltily.

 

"You don't weigh very much. Miraculously, given the ridiculous amount of food you require to function. I'm just getting old. Anyway, I didn't want to put you down. Those leather trousers kept me going."

 

"I was going to tell you that you aren't old, and you're in your prime, and other nice things. But you really are just an old pervert, aren't you?"

 

"Of course." Roy opens the door and holds it for him. Ed knows it's because he wants to look at his ass as he walks inside. He knows , and yet all he does is mutter 'definitely a pervert' again and stride in with a slight swing of his hips. Because he's still tipsy. Because Roy is hot and Roy, for some god-known reason, thinks Ed is hot too, and it makes him want to...well. Tease.

 

Pier's pancakes are the best pancakes. And even though Ed drowns his in maple syrup ("It makes the bacon better, don't look at me like that!") Roy still swipes mouthfuls every now and again, distracting Ed with a hand that moves ever further up his thigh. The tip of a tongue comes out to collect wayward syrup, and Ed can almost feel his eyes glaze over for a moment. He wants to kiss, he wants to pin him to the booth and crawl on top and...

 

Roy notices, of course, and leans in with a smirk to kiss him unapologetically. He tastes like maple syrup, which is fucking irresistible, and if they aren't careful Ed's going to have a problem that the damn leather pants will do absolutely nothing to hide.

 

He pulls free from Roy's wandering fingers and slams some euros on the table. Red-faced and horribly turned on (from nothing, from one kiss and some fucking groping, and the way Roy's eyes undress him bit by bit like he's unwrapping a fucking chocola- oh god stop thinking ) Ed stomps to the door and bursts back out into the night. The staff inside are stirring pancake mix and pretending not to watch him.

 

"Are you alright? You look a bit flushed." Roy's honeyed voice, rolling and lulling, comes from behind him, and the cafe door is closed with a soft tinkle of the bell.

 

"What about you, Mister Grabby Hands.? Don't try and jump a guy when he's tryin' to eat! There's things more important, however hard it is for you to believe, than you, an' food is one of th-"

 

Ed's mouth is assaulted, is consumed, and Roy is kissing him with a hunger that probably-maybe has nothing to do with pancakes. They stumble around the side of the cafe and brace themselves against the ancient stones of an alleyway, limbs tangling and clumsy and absolutely locked. Roy's clever, clever hands are on his ass again, tracing the outlines of the seems and taking obscene handfuls. The irrational part of Ed's brain remembers how he felt in the shower, recalls his knew revelation, and all over again he wants to be turned against the wall and fucked right there. Properly. The whole messy fucking shebang.

There's probably something terrible and telling that this is happening only now; only when Ed has seen Roy vulnerable and emotional and unstable. It probably writes essays about his own trust issues and need for control. But damn, that doesn't stop the press of cold, ancient stone to his back from being hot as fuck.

 

Roy’s hands are somehow everywhere at once. Just as fingers thread, strong and secure, through his hair, massaging his scalp in a way that makes him let out a hum of appreciation, another hand curls around his hip. The palm is wide enough that fingertips just graze the globe of his ass and Roy squeezes...and it's like he's being grounded to the earth by the force of it. That's just as well, Ed thinks, because the slow slide of tongue against him is making his mind float off like a fucking cloud.

 

Hiding in the shadows, streetlights nipping at his ankles and the sound of traffic and tourists in the distance, Ed is being slowly consumed by Roy Mustang. And he can't even find the force of will to mind.

 

Ed wants more, needs it like it’s the only possible thing that could ensure he’d survive the night, but even Roy ‘I’m-A-Model’ Mustang can’t make him desperate enough to do the dirty right there in the street. He takes the wandering hands in his own and breathlessly disconnects from Roy’s playful nips and licks.

 

“Come on.” He pushes off the wall and right into Roy’s chest. The bastard doesn’t move away. Instead, he leans down and takes Ed’s mouth with his, and takes it deep. Ed grips the seams of Roy’s shirt at the shoulders just to stay up. Breathing becomes secondary to tasting more. He’s bent almost into a ballroom dip and all the blood rushes to his head, like he needed any help feeling more drunk and lost. Roy’s hands are fisted in his shirt, lightly scraping his back, as though he’s going to hold Ed to him forever. When he finally pulls back and the world rushes in again, Ed is seriously reconsidering his ‘not in the street’ policy. So seriously his brain is trying to work out if it's a fine or a sentence if you get caught.

 

“Where are we going?” Roy asks, like caramel. Ed wants to rip the fancy suit right off him. His brain has to fight to remember where he'd intended to lead them.

 

“The hostel. If we’re gonna’ fuck we’re gonna’ need a mattress because I’m not into grass stains.” Ed says. Refusing to think about what it means, Ed links their fingers together and starts to drag Roy towards the messy room they’ve started calling ‘home’.

 

Roy stops dead. The silence stretches, and Ed feels his breath catch. Maybe, somehow, even after all that...maybe Roy just doesn’t want to actually- Maybe Ed isn’t enough, maybe he’s too much-

 

“The first time we do this isn't going to be on two hostel beds pushed together. We're going to do it properly.” Roy says. The sigh that escapes Ed is swift and almost a laugh. He grins and pretends that Roy’s words don't make his heart do flutters. It flaps under his sternum like a drunken moth, because not only does this perfect, dark-eyed idiot want to sleep with him, he wants to follow some kind of code of conduct about it. Like Ed’s important. Like Ed matters.

 

“Then, where?” Ed breathes. Roy pushes him to walking, changing their direction for the city centre. Ed’s dumb trousers are feeling a little tight but he can deal with that, he can deal with anything so long as Roy keeps looking at him with that slow burn.

 

“Wasn’t there a four star villa down this way?” Roy asks, offhand. Ed blanches at him.

 

“That shit costs the earth! Are you kidding?”

 

“Not even remotely.”

 

“Roy you’ve already done too much-”

 

“Let me use this goddamn pity money on something worthwhile. Absolutely nothing in this world right now is more worthwhile than you.” Roy's eyes are steel and that look, that fucking look, is electricity sparking up Ed's spine. Ed knows what that means. Ed knows that Roy wants something good to come from that ugly reminder squatting in his bank account.

 

And so, he grins a lightbulb grin.

 

“Let's order strawberries and champagne.” Ed says, and his tone, his flash of teeth, his hand sliding unashamedly up Roy's thigh are all devious.

 

“Whipped cream.” Roy continues. “A Jacuzzi. Let's order the Honeymoon Package, whatever it is.”

 

“You're such a dick.”

 

“I don't hear you complaining.” Roy raises an eyebrow.

 

“Not this time. Has anyone ever told you that you’re really hot when you curse?” Ed refuses to duck his head. He looks right at Roy as that devil grin splits his face, and his black, black eyes light up with something like boyish glee.

 

The hotel is tall, and old, and ornately carved. The outside has an awning and a red freaking carpet, and Ed’s shoes sink into it as they pass the doorman. Red velvet continues into the lobby, which is an overindulgence of chandeliers and plush furniture. The marble desk comes up to his chin. He looks over it and tries to look his age when the receptionist greets him.

 

Ed books the room in practiced Italian because, well, because . He can't- he won't wait around whilst Roy fumbles his tenses and accidentally orders them a twin room or something. The receptionist looks between the two of them and makes the connection when he requests a honeymoon suite, face turning red. She hands him a key without meeting his eyes. Despite himself, Ed can feel his own cheeks as they, no doubt, turn an equally bright burgundy.

 

Roy smirks smugly at both of them, flinging one arm around Ed’s shoulders.

 

Gratzi .” He drawls at her. Like he’s proud that she knows what he’s about to do, who he’s about to do.

 

Ed feels like everyone watches them get into the elevator.

 

The doors close and Roy is a thrumming warmth beside him. The hand over his shoulder slides down to Ed’s waist as Roy steps behind him, lightly grinding against his rear.

 

‘We’re not even in the room yet, you horndog." Ed looks at what he can of Roy’s face over one shoulder. Roy ignores him, and runs a widely spread hand down the muscles of Ed’s front. "You have about twenty seconds before we have to get off.”

 

“That’s what I’m trying to-”

 

“Do not. You are the worst at puns in the history of- nng!" Roy’s hand slips between his legs, and that’s not fair because the leather is uncomfortable damnit. The hardness of Roy pressed into his lower back sends a flutter straight to his dick, which then finds itself similarly troubled at the front. Fucking sex butterflies or some shit, shimmering through his goddamn blood. It’s not fair, so Ed puts a hand over Roy’s, and pushes his palm down so that the pressure is perfect, and then he grinds backwards with his ass because he fucking can.

 

Roy, like he expected it, like he’s as smooth as silk in any situation, bites the lobe of Ed’s ear and moans straight into it.

 

Okay. Okay, fucking one-love to Roy. Ed can admit when he’s beaten.

 

---

 

The room is probably pretty plush. It almost certainly has mints on the pillows and a little fridge stocked with mineral water and tiny vodkas, but after stumbling down the corridor (it must have used up every ounce of luck in Ed’s life that no other guest had stepped out to get ice at the same time) and almost falling through the hotel room doorway, Ed is far too focussed on whatever Roy is doing with his hands to take any note other than double bed let’s get there now.

 

But Roy heads for the white-plastic, horrifically out of date hotel phone, and Ed is forced to follow or let go. And Ed is not letting go.

 

“Hello, reception?” Roy’s voice should be recorded for lonely housewives and frustrated businessmen and decent porn dubs. Ed takes the moment of distraction to fumble open Roy’s fly, and as the muffled murmur of the receptionist faintly responds, he takes Roy in his fist without mercy and strokes confidently.

 

Roy biting the flesh on the back of his thumb to stay quiet is probably the sexiest thing Ed has ever seen. But after a moment, he roughly clears his throat and continues.

 

“Honeymoon package please. Yes. That’s fine. That’s...really? W-wonderful.” Ed leans in to suck gently on the neck before him, curved slightly as Roy holds the phone in place against his shoulder.

 

Roy's responses are carefully limited to 'hm' and 'yes', forcing his voice to stay even. When his spare hand halts Ed's wrist, Ed smirks and lightly uses the drag of his nails instead. He gets a sharp intake of breath for his efforts.

 

“Thank you. Goodnight.” Roy says finally, somewhat clipped.

 

The phone is slammed down. Ed lets out a small yelp as he’s whirled around and shoved to the bed.

 

Egyptian cotton sheets rustle and the silky comforter billows up for a moment with his sudden weight. The mattress accepts him, soft and plush, and he bounces with the force. Roy is above him. Arms hit the mattress either side of his head before he can even blink. Everything smells like clean laundry and Roy’s expensive cologne; it’s about the best thing Ed can imagine. He swallows thickly and his breath comes out as a low gasp.

 

“Dangerous move, Edward, bringing teasing into this. We have this room for the whole night. My revenge could be wonderfully sweet…” Roy noses at Ed’s cheek. Ideas flash through Ed’s head like an old-timey film reel; hands pinned above his head, sweat in his eyes, pleading…

 

There’s a knock on the door.

 

Fuck.”

 

The bellhop looks startled when the door opens and they're both standing there, hair trussed and clothes loose, laughing into the backs of their hands and trying to look composed. His wheeled, golden cart has strawberries and cream, and a silver bucket of champagne overflowing with ice. The crystal flutes tinkle against each other as the cart crosses the threshold.

 

Nervous, the bellhop gestures to the set meekly.

 

“Honeymoon suite?” Roy tucks some euros into his breast pocket and practically dances the boy out of the door.

 

“Is this massage oil?” Ed raises a small bottle with fancy golden script across it. The liquid inside glows a warm amber.

 

“You know, I do believe it is. And that is definitely lube.” Roy pops the cap and holds it to his nose. “It smells fantastic.”

 

“Ew, Roy.”

 

“No really. Here.” The bottle is thrust under Ed’s nose. He sends Roy an incredulous look, but sniffs anyway. It’s rich and dark. Nothing like the plastic-tang of the plain stuff he’s used to.

 

“Okay, so it smells good. Are we going to stand around sniffing lube all day or are you going to finally fu-"

 

Roy, with all the grace of a panther, pounces.

 

Ed doesn't want to admit that being held against the wooden pillar of a four-poster bed is driving him kind of wild, but it's difficult to lie to yourself when you're crazy hard and clawing desperately at the back of the expensive shirt of the army pin-up playing ping pong with your tonsils. Roy should get a medal. For the tonsil-pong French-kissing championships. And the rule should be that he's only allowed to wear the medal if he isn't wearing anything else.  

 

Ed finds himself suddenly distressed by how many clothes Roy still has on.

 

“Oi. Take this off." He tugs at the top button and Roy lifts his head from where he's kissing the expanse of neck under Ed's ear. "Or I'm gonna rip it," Ed threatens. Roy smirks.

 

“Eager, are we?" His tone is teasing. But Ed is sure, and he knows what he wants, and he's unashamed. Which spells disaster for Roy, really.

 

“Fuck yeah I am! Now get your fucking clothes off," Ed growls. He can see Roy's pupils dilate at the husk in his voice.

 

“Eloquent as ever, Edward." Roy is almost purring. The use of his name spikes through Ed like lightning and hot water. It shouldn't be fair; Roy's name is too short to turn over in his mouth like some delectable rarity. Only Ed gets the shock of want from hearing his name so masterfully claimed in syllables and hard consonants.

 

Although, he thinks, 'Roy’ is certainly short enough to scream effectively.

 

The man in question is undoing tiny pearl buttons one by one, still leaning his hips against Ed's. The light pressure is a maddening sensation, just present enough to keep the pure, unfiltered want at the forefront of Ed’s mind. Each slip of deft fingers reveals more marble-white skin. It’s like he’s stepped off a fucking podium in one of the museums, just to sexually torment Ed until the end of time.

 

When Roy shrugs the shirt off his shoulders he grinds his hips forward. Ed can only bite his bottom lip. His teeth slip thanks to it being kiss-swollen and slick. Hands flutter up to Roy’s neck before he can so much as think about it, thumbs pressing lightly into the dip between Roy’s collarbones. Everything is soft, and warm, and Roy’s heartbeat pulses lightly through his fingers. It must be a drumbeat in his head for Ed to feel it on his skin. Roy’s eyes are burning coals on him.

 

That’s it. The bastard is taking too long deliberately. Must fucking enjoy being looked at, but Ed has been looking and looking for over a week now, and it’s time to touch.

 

Minimal fumbling is all he needs to undo the button of Roy’s slickly-hugging suit trousers, tighter than ever with the strain of his erection.

 

“You don’t want the show?" Roy asks. Ed puts a firm but gentle hand over his mouth, fingertips resting on Roy’s top lip, silencing him. Even with just one hand, the smooth fabric makes it easy to push the trousers down over Roy’s hips to crease at his calves and ankles. Ed gently kneads the palm of his free hand over the swell in Roy’s boxer briefs.

 

“You sure do like to talk." Ed hazards a look at Roy’s face. His eyes glint beneath black strands with something cocky and teasing, and he rolls his hips into Ed’s hand without shame. Taking the two fingertips on his lips between his teeth, Roy licks. The sharp prick of incisors against the pad of Ed’s ring finger forces a thump of desire through him. Ed can’t swallow back a noise that comes out something like ‘ nng ’.

 

With enough buttons open, Roy rolls his shoulders and the shirt falls to the floor with a satisfying thump. One hand brushes strands of hair out of his eyes, and they fall back into place delectably. Ed's brain is in overdrive. That's fine though, because his dick is definitely the one in charge. He takes a moment to run wide-spread hands from Roy's hipbones all the way up to rest on his shoulders. Aside from the scar in Roy's side, there are slashes and long-healed wounds scrambled here and there across the expanse of pale skin. Ed wants to know the story of each one, and to make sure no others are ever added to the collection. Instead of asking about them, he buries a hand in the hair at Roy's nape, and kisses sweetly the pulse point on his neck.

 

"Jesus Fuck, I don't want to make your ego any bigger, but you're like those guys in the commercials for his and hers perfumes."

 

"Thank you?"

 

"You're welcome." Ed pauses. His vision fuzzes on lightly sweat-sheened skin before him, and he clenches his hands into loose fists against Roy's chest. "You ready for the horror show?"

 

"Don't do anything you don't want to do." Roy's eyes swim back into focus, and they're hard but so fucking gentle. Ed sucks in a breath.

 

"No. I think it'll be okay." Pushing Roy back a little, Ed hooks a hand in his collar and pulls off his shirt. The discoloured skin at his shoulder, the white scars like ropes coiling, strangely compliment the marks on Roy's skin. The two of them are like a pair of socks with the same pattern; a matching set. His fly he undoes without much thought other than the trill of sensation at the pressure changes against his heated crotch. Pushing his waistband down gets a swipe of pink tongue across Roy's bottom lip that makes his heart inflate. But then he gets to his knees.

 

It's ungainly from there. The top of the prosthesis shows first; shining in the light but still so foreign against his skin. Stepping out of his trousers will not be graceful or alluring. If his fake foot doesn't get stuck, maybe he can be done in a few minutes. Maybe he can manage to do it on one leg, if he holds the bed post. Maybe the mood will last just long enough for him to lower himself stiffly to the bed, and shimmy the leather over the fibre glass and chrome.

 

Roy descends gracefully, and Ed can't help but remember the last time Roy got on his knees for him. The memory sends fire through his veins.

 

But Roy simply slides the trousers down to Ed's ankles. Deftly, he takes the prosthesis and pulls off the shoe, allowing Ed to balance on his good leg. Ed steadies himself on the bedpost before he lifts the other. The feeling of his shoe being removed gives him an inexplicable blush. He doesn't understand why his heart is beating so fast. Roy holds the waistband so Ed can step out of the trousers, and then abandons them in favour of trailing fingers up the outside of both of Ed's legs as he stands. He doesn't linger on the prosthesis, but there's not a single trace of aversion to it. The relief is immediate. Ed is dizzy with the intensity of it. Hands resting, thumbs stroking, on Ed's hipbones, Roy noses at his cheek.

 

"Is this okay?" Roy's voice is a whisper. Ed finds his voice somewhere in the cacophony of emotional noise.

 

"Yeah. Yeah it's fine." He's being kissed again, and Ed closes his eyes. It's good this way, not having to look at himself. But he can't look at Roy, either, and that is a monumental fucking travesty. So Ed takes a deep breath, and sends a bucket tumbling into the well of himself to draw up all his bravery.

 

"The bed." He demands. And he crawls on without looking back.

 

"After all those statues, yours is still the best ass in Rome." Roy murmurs behind him. Ed turns swiftly to sit on the muscle mass in question, glaring at Roy with his face on fire. "And I will never understand how you go from mind-numbingly sexy to completely adorable in five seconds flat, but I can appreciate it."

 

Lazy movements, sanguine grace, Roy picks up the fancy lube bottle and follows. Ed gives him the finger.

 

The bed is huge. Ed's stupid leg is stark against the shining red of the sheets, but Roy's skin is white silk against them too, and it distracts him with ease. He can't resist running his thumbs up the inside of those thighs. Roy's intake of breath through his nose makes Ed's arousal spike. A hand on Ed's shoulder pushes him back into the over-abundance of pillows, but Roy comes with him. In one movement he's pulled off those tight boxer briefs. Hanging above Ed like some motherfucking masterpiece, he grins lasciviously.

 

"I take it from your comment earlier that you would like to be on the receiving end this evening?"

 

"Why are you still talking when you're supposed to be fucking me into the mattress, Mustang? I thought you'd be a pro at this."

 

"Are you actually questioning my sexual prowess right as we're about to-"

 

"Roy, stop talking and please, please , just fucking touch me ." And if he'd have known that begging would make Roy's eyes widen like that he'd have done it long ago, because being pulled off his elbows as Roy drags him down the bed is dizzying and exciting and hot as all fuck. Boxers feel the lick of fingertips, and then are dragged down Ed's legs like they're too dirty to touch him any longer; like any of him being covered is a sacrilege. They end up in a corner of the room out of Ed's line of sight.

He's lifted off the bed by his hips, and laid in Roy's lap. Hands spread his knees, resting legs -one skin, one plastic- either side of Roy's ribs. For a moment Roy just looks at him, and Ed goes red up to the roots of his hair.

 

"Do I haveta' ask again? What the fuck are you looking at?" He wills his blush to go back down. This is the worst time to look like a fucking lobster, especially since Roy has barely a hair out of place and is practically sparkling with self satisfaction. Ed didn't sign up for this crap. He sits up deftly and loops an arm around Roy's neck, shifting his weight so that he's sat on Roy's knelt legs. He grinds himself wetly against Roy's stomach, and leans forward to take his bottom lip between gently biting teeth. Hands skate up the back of Ed's thighs to knead the join between ass and leg. Roy thrusts up, just barely grazing against him as he turns Ed's nips at his lips into a real kiss. Ed wants to break that composure. He wants Roy's heavy breath on his neck as he loses control.

 

Roy gropes at the sheets and finally comes back with the golden bottle. He presses it to Ed's side and it's so cold that Ed yelps, left there to warm up. He's held in place so he can't move away from the frigid plastic.

 

"The fuck Mustang?"

 

"Couldn't resist. Sorry." There's a glint in Roy's eye and he pops the cap.

 

"No you're not." Ed rolls his eyes, but there are kisses to his shoulder that make it impossible for him to be truly annoyed.

 

"I am...mostly. May I earn your forgiveness?"

 

'You can do whatever you like as long as you get on with doing something ." Ed snatches the bottle and pours a small golden pool into the palm of his hand. Shoving it back in Roy's direction, he smears the whole handful down Roy's lower abdomen and over his waiting length. Roy's eyelids flutter closed for a moment, savouring Ed's smooth movements. He bucks into Ed's hand and pulls them closer together. The hand on the back of Ed's thigh moves to part his cheeks, and a single finger dances over his entrance. Then, without any ceremony, the bottle of lube is upended on the small of his back.

 

The feeling of the lukewarm gel running down the cleft of his ass makes him squirm against the body below him. A slick, curling finger dips just inside him, and Roy's other hand, fingers splayed wide, spreads the oily mess over Ed's naked cheeks.

 

"I've been thinking about doing this all night." Roy growls, low in his throat. As the finger enters Ed again, a little deeper this time, Roy slips his hand round to smooth the slick palm over the head of Ed's cock.

 

"I know, you made it pretty, ng, pretty obvious." Ed pushes back on the finger to take it further in. His own grip on Roy has tightened, and the shallow thrusts into his hand have found a rhythm.

 

"I told you about the leather." Roy say before leaning in to lick up the side of Ed's neck and take an earlobe between his teeth.

 

"You were crazy quick to get me out of it."

 

"If you'd like, next time I'll just roll them down a little way and fuck you when you're still in them." Ed shudders at the mental image and wraps his arm around Roy's neck more securely. A second finger stretches him, and he bites at Roy's shoulder. It's hard to focus on keeping a rhythm with his own hand when Roy's is sinking deeper into him, slipping on slick skin. A choked little noise escapes him at the third finger. Roy takes a deep breath upon hearing it, and curls his fingers sharply inside.

 

"Ah!" Unprepared, Ed jerks and they hit it again, the point that makes every inch of him trill. It's close, so close. Not quite close enough to satisfy though. All it does is make him ache for more, for deeper. "Roy it's not-hah-"

 

"Wrong angle." Roy murmurs. Fingers pull out of Ed with a dirty wet noise, and he sucks in a breath. "Turn around?"

 

Ed chokes a little at the idea of...at the thought of presenting his ass. But Roy is flushed down his chest and Ed's hand is still making him buck every now and again, and fuck if Ed doesn't want more of those fingers in him. He releases Roy and turns. A hand slides up his spine, and pushes down in the centre of it so that he has to bow. His face is on fire. Head in the sheets and back arched, Ed shivers but is not cold at all.

 

Roy leans forward and the bed creaks as he lightly bites Ed's ass cheek.

 

"Cut it out!" Ed's voice is muffled by the sheets. He feels the breath of Roy's laugh, cool on the oil, and then at once three fingers glide back into him, and further, and further. Ed whines before he realises it. The fingers turn, and swirl, and finally hit what Ed's been waiting for.

 

It rockets through him; sensation dragging him under. Every time the tide retreats, Roy finds it again with a frightening precision and refuses to relent. All Ed can do is grip the sheets, feeling them become wet beneath his cheek from his open mouth.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, s-shit-" His curses are buried in the rucked sheets. On every thrust of fingers he arches back, pushing into them hard. The room to him is just obscene noises and blurred red and Roy's restless fidgeting. "F- fuh-uck. " Everything in him is singing, and keening. It's so deep he almost wants to shy away, but he's already almost flat to the bed, bending as much as he can. He's going to come like this, practically humping a mattress and not even able to see Roy's face - "No, Roy, please-"

 

Somehow Roy understands his garbled pleas, and reluctantly removes his fingers. The sudden stillness is almost as bad as the relentless pressure, so Ed sits up and throws himself into Roy's arms. He tries to pull him close, but his hands slip over skin. The goddamn fucking oil is everywhere , and then Roy is flipping Ed onto his back, and the air rushes for a moment from his lungs.

 

"Lord, Ed, the noises you make." Roy ruts once against him, rock hard and pulsing. And Ed spreads his legs before he's even asked, grinding just to draw a hum of pleasure from Roy, just to resume contact.

 

"Come on, " he orders. Roy near scrambles into position, smoothing along Ed's thigh and lining himself up. Ed's heart jumps at the feeling of Roy at his entrance, of the first stretch. He winces at the slow slide in.

 

"Okay?" Roy asks. He wipes some errant hairs from Ed's face, holding himself impeccably still, but lightly shuddering despite his effort.

 

"Yeh. M'okay." Pressing their foreheads together, Roy drops a light kiss on Ed's nose. He rocks in gently, shallow thrusts getting deeper each time. Ed's breathing gets shuddery as he's slowly, slowly filled to the brim. His hands coast up and down Roy's back. With a deft kiss, and a lick of tongue just to keep the fires fully stoked, Roy pulls back. When he thrusts back in, Ed groans deeply.  

 

"Oh god, Ed," Roy mutters into his hair. A kiss is placed to his temple, and then Roy is moving again, hands wrapped around Ed's hipbones to pull him into each new roll of the hips. It's fast, and hard, and Ed feels like he's drowning from the get-go. Anyone else, and maybe he'd be able to hold on. Anyone but this massive fucking dope, this squidgy sap in a fucking muscle suit. He pulls Roy closer and breathes him in, allowing the sensations roll over him as Roy grinds against the point in him that makes him see fireworks against his eyelids.

 

On the next thrust, the bed lets out a groan of protest. Ed throws back his head and Roy takes the opportunity to suck gently on the side of his neck. His thrusts are merciless. The bed is starting to squeak louder than any noises they make themselves, Each movement resulting in a painful shriek of wood on wood.

 

And even though his dick is throbbing, even though Roy is above him frowning slightly as he gets lost in his own pleasure, Ed can't fight the sudden and incredibly badly-timed onset of giggles. On the next creak a bedspring pops, and Ed buries his face in Roy's shoulder, snorting spectacularly.

 

Roy's shoulders are shaking and Ed can hear him suppressing laughter. This is it; the mid-coitus comedy break. They should plan an interval or something, if the furniture is going to be so hilarious. The fucking bed is still squeaking, each tiny, hollow shriek like they're in an all-wood cast production of Psycho. Ed feels the embarrassment, but the laughter is just made worse by the fact that he shouldn't be allowing it. Trying to stop it only makes it come out in ragged little bursts of air. A bubbling of laughter trickles from Roy above him.

 

"I'm sorry, I really am. I tried to ignore it. But the bed is screaming." He pulls back and slows.

 

"Do we move?" Ed asks.

 

"To the springy side? I'm not sure I trusted that pop."

 

"The neighbours must think we're pulling up the floor." Ed shifts and bites his lip at the feeling of Roy still within him.

 

"The feng shui in here does feel a little off..."

 

"The feng shui of your face is gonna be off if you don't move soon," Ed hisses. Roy grins at him and casts about for a solution. His eyes alight on the low chaise longue, and they fucking sparkle.

 

"Roy, no."

 

"We have very few other options. I'm just saying..."

"If you pull out now I swear to god-" hands slip under him and scoop him close. With an undignified yelp Ed is bodily lifted from the bed and suddenly looking down into Roy's eyes. He slides deeper onto Roy thanks to the magic of gravity. and it wrings a gasp from him. Oh fuck, he didn't know he was into this. Oh fuck, what does it reveal about him that he finds it fucking hot to be manhandled into the fucking air?

 

He clings to Roy's shoulders and trembles lightly, hating himself for the sudden spike of goddamn lust spearing through him. In an impressive display of strength, Roy lowers the two of them gently down. The chaise is plush but cold against Ed's back. It's low enough to the floor that Roy can kneel on the wooden floorboards and lean forward to lave a tongue expertly over Ed's nipple, and at the first buck of Roy's hips Ed plants his palms on the floral fabric to push himself to meet it. A hand closes round him to give an infuriatingly frustrating pump. Ed growls low in his throat.

 

Roy finally, finally , picks a speed, and the pleasure from before comes rushing back, thrumming inside him and beginning the slow, relentless wind up. Roy's tongue is wicked, and Ed wants badly to kiss him, but he's too far down. Instead he settles for threading fingers through the soft dark strands of Roy's hair and arching a little into that mouth. Dark eyes look up at him through Roy's eyelashes and he's gripping Ed's hips hard. Roy changes his angle and it's a lightning bolt through him.

 

"There!" He gasps. He can feel Roy's grin against the skin of his stomach, and then he's being pounded into without reprieve. There's nothing to hold onto on the chaise; the cushion goes flying to the floor, and his oil-slick fingers skate over the lacquered wood trim without gripping. He twists his head to one side and tries to bury the sounds being torn from his chest on each perfect slam to his prostate. "Ah- please, yes.." Ed keens. At the desperate cry, Roy's fingers dig into his hips. Ed's inner demon rubs its hands in glee, and he tries again. "Please, Roy. Nng !"

 

"You. Are going to drive me mad," Roy forces through clenched teeth. Ed loves the deep red flush on his face, the sweat down his chest. Roy's burning-coal eyes focus on Ed's face and he swallows a groan, looking at Ed like he's salvation. Ed reaches out to him. Roy leans his head into the touch, oil and sweat mingling on Ed's palm, barely able to hold it in place due to the force of Roy's hips moving him on the couch.

 

"Roy I'm..oh god." His voice is small, and Ed can feel it coming; the plunge. It hooks in him as his muscles and nerves tighten together. Roy doesn't slow, he just shifts so that Ed can touch himself freely. Ed can hardly concentrate enough to form a rhythm, being stretched around Roy so mercilessly is blanking his goddamn mind, but he curls his fingers and strokes himself once, twice . His nerve endings scream their pleasure, and Roy's thrusts are getting erratic. He just can't fight it any longer.

 

With a jerk against the cushions that sheaths Roy fully, Ed locks his good leg around Roy's waist and arches with a wordless cry, shuddering as he splatters his front with come and tightens desperately around Roy inside him.

 

"Ed," Roy moans brokenly, leaning over him and sinking teeth into his chest. He grunts harshly and then goes rigidly still.

 

They're both breathing heavily as Roy pulls carefully out and crawls over him to kiss him, lips pressing gently like he's precious. Ed curls an arm around Roy's quickly cooling shoulders.  

 

"You really are something else," Roy breathes. Ed grins at him, endorphins filling him to bursting and the sated contentment settling in his bones.

 

"Was that supposed to be a compliment?"

 

"Of course." Roy holds out a hand as Ed pushes himself up off the chase. Their kiss is languid and lazy, limbs lax and tangling.

 

"I don't know about you," Roy says, moving to the golden cart and picking up the ice bucket, "but I think it's time for champagne."

 

"Victory after-sex champagne? Is that a thing now?" Roy throws a strawberry at him, and Ed dodges with a shit-eating grin, easing himself back onto the bed. "Alright, alright. It would probably be a shame to waste it."

 

---

 

"What do you even do with food in bed, anyway?" Ed asks, the concept of using food instead of eating it has always been lost on him. Now that Roy is between his legs, leaning on his chest, and biting into the succulent flesh of a strawberry, he still doesn’t really understand. But he’s willing to listen.

 

Roy swipes the remains of the strawberry down Ed’s chest. It’s cold and Ed grimaces.

 

"Whatever you can think of." Roy answers, leaning in to lick the juice from Ed’s sternum.

 

"Okay, but...I mean, that feels nice and everything, but you could definitely do it without getting me all sticky."

 

Roy, the fruit-molesting, shark-toothed bastard, laughs.

 

"You’re going to be plenty sticky once we’re done, Ed."

 

"You’re disgusting." Ed shakes his head. Smirking up at him, Roy eats the last of the overly-abused strawberry. When he leans up for a kiss, he tastes sweet, and smells sweet. Instead of the slick slide of a tongue, strawberry floods Ed’s mouth as Roy swaps the bite between them. Ed swallows and feels the flush in his cheeks.

 

"That's a fucking cliche," he mutters.

 

"A cliche you would like to repeat?"

 

"...maybe. Wipe that grin off your face."

---

 

Ed doesn't even bother to turn on the light in the bathroom for cleanup, and collapses into the screaming bed with a fwump. Immediately he is enveloped and a kiss is placed to his temple. On their sides and facing each other in the dark, they both grin lopsidedly.

 

"I think that went well," Roy whispers.

 

"Define 'well'," Ed murmurs back, running a hand over the hump of Roy's hip and resting it on the dip of his waist. With his good leg he kicks the champagne bottle, hollow and forgotten, so that it rolls down the comforter and rumbles slowly across the floor. It comes to a stop in the curtains.

 

"All this means is that we'll have to try out every place except the bed tomorrow morning. Which, if anything, simply makes it more exciting."

 

"Speak for yourself. I think I've got peonies rug-burned into my shoulders." Ed tries to keep a straight face, but the smirk busts through. He's bubbly again, tipsy. Full of fucking joy and a bone-deep, satisfied tiredness. Roy drags him in and tucks him under a chin. It's warm, and secure, and he's surrounded by the low, sleepy sounds of Roy's living body.

 

"What time do we have to check out?" Roy asks lowly. Ed's grin widens.

 

"I asked to keep it for the whole day."

 

"You are a perfect creature, do you know that?" Ed nips playfully at Roy's collar bone and relishes the small ah he gets in response.

 

"Sounds like bull. You'll just have to keep saying it until I believe it."

 

"I am more than willing to do so."

 

---

Ed wakes with a groggy head, a full bladder, and aches in places he really shouldn't have them. He also wakes with a grin he just can't fucking shift for the life of him.

 

He has to fight his way out of Roy's arms. They lock around him to pull him back into the covers, and with a laugh he prods Roy in the ribs.

 

"Let go, dumbass. I'll be back in a second. I have to pee."

 

"Mmm no, you have to stay here in this bed and let me alternate between holding you and screwing your brains out." Roy's reply is muffled by the plush, downy sheets.

 

"You want me to wet the bed? Because that's what's gonna' happen." With a dramatic groan he is released.

 

"Be quick," Roy demands blearily.

 

Ed pads over the squishy cream carpet and opens the door to the bathroom. Inside is a porcelain heaven. Taps and pipes gleam, and there's a TV, a whole flatscreen fucking television, hanging on the wall. The best bit, though, is the gargantuan corner tub that is filled with the tell-tale nozzles of high-powered massage jets. Fucking jackpot.

 

When he crawls back into the bed, Roy is an octopus looping around him and dragging him into the depths. Kisses are scattered over his face, and when he turns away with a laugh, they land on his neck instead.

 

"You'd better not leave this bed again for the whole day, Edward Elric. There will be consequences. I have plans for you."

 

"Sounds ominous." Ed hooks his good leg under Roy's knee and drags them together with it. It's darker under the covers, but he can see Roy's glittering grin anyway.

 

"Very ominous. I'd prepare for the worst, if I were you."

 

"But Roy, there's a bathtub-hottub lovechild in the bathroom with our fuckin' names on it."

 

Roy pauses for a moment to consider this information. Ed stretches, shifting in the comfortable sheets.

 

"Well, maybe some of my plans can be...adjusted. For now, though..." The covers are suddenly flipped up, and cold air licks his skin. Before he can yell at Roy for being an idiot, there are skillful fingers on his length and kisses on his thigh.

 

"R-Roy, what the shit-"

 

"I told you, Ed. I have plans . And how on Earth am I supposed to resist you when you wriggle like that, hm?"

 

"I don't fuckin' wriggle, that's the least sexy thing I've ever he-eard." Ed fights with the duvet cover, trying to move the mass of fluffy comfort out of the way. His body is a goddamn traitor, and it sings under Roy's hands. When a wet heat closes around him, he arches off the bed. "I just...just woke up, you bastard."

 

Roy hums dismissively and Ed's breath catches. He couldn't have imagined a better morning if you'd paid him.

 

---

 

They fill the tub with bubble bath and use the jets to make a wall of soapy, bubbly goodness. When Ed steps in he's nearly lost in it, and it hides his slowly-pinking stump nicely. It's the first time he's taken the leg off since they began, and it doesn't even seem like Roy notices his hopping, but he's still glad that it won't be there, an awkward lump between them.

 

Roy uses the side of his hand to cleave a window to him through the suds, and Ed plants a palm on the tile to keep his balance on the slippery tub floor.

 

"We're gonna' fuck up the bathroom." Ed deadpans, and blows some bubbles to watch them float lazily to the heated tiles. Roy pulls their two bodies flush, and little soapy clouds fly up into the air.

 

"I should have done only half the bottle, perhaps. But they should label a portion size if it's a hazard to use it." Roy pushes some bubbles over the side. The water remains completely hidden.

 

" You're a goddamn hazard. And I'm pretty sure it's only a portion size if you eat it." Together they manage to scoop most of the offending suds onto the floor. There's the obligatory scrub down, then the obligatory bubble fight. Halfway through Ed very seriously stops them to point out that Roy has an elegant bubble moustache. Between them they groom it to perfection.

 

"Never, under any circumstances, get an actual moustache." Ed pulls a face at their creation. a pointy bubble goatee is on his own chin, dripping suds into the water.

 

"Your wish is my command. " Roy leans in, and when he kisses him both masterpieces are lost as their lips connect.

 

The last of the bubbles, because they are boys and totally unable to resist, are used to create a giant, lopsided, soapy phallus, and Ed has to wonder again if Roy's claim of being in his thirties is really true. Maybe adulthood doesn't slowly suck all the happiness and fun out of you until you're a husk of taxes and late-night TV after twenty-five. Roy has a habit of making him that little bit more hopeful.

 

Roy turns on the hot water and jets once more, and Ed sinks into it with a groan.

 

"I never thought I would be jealous of a bathtub, and yet here we are." Roy muses aloud as Ed releases another near-pornographic moan.

 

"Shut up. Jets 're good."

 

"Better than me?"

 

"Uh, debatable. I mean these are really good jets..." Ed leans forward as one hits a knot in his back. Roy mock-pouts and it looks disgustingly good on him. He gets up to stalk from the bathroom and Ed watches his perfect, sud-slicked ass with the happy knowledge that he is allowed to. Invited to, even.

 

"Are you going to sulk?" Ed calls. Roy fills the doorway again, bottle in hand.

 

"No, my dear, sweet menace. I am going to rise to the challenge." Roy motions for Ed to turn away from the jets, and Ed groans his complaint, but follows instruction.

 

For a moment there's just the peppering of kisses, a constellation of them across his shoulder blades as Roy's legs find their way to kneel either side of him. Then comes the slick slide of an oiled hand across the back of his neck, and careful thumbs kneading the muscles there. Ed's vocal chords make noise without him. Roy releases an amused answering hum from behind him.

 

"You've got...a remarkable amount of tension." Roy's thumbs dig under a shoulder blade and Ed slumps forward into the warm porcelain of the side.

 

"Yeah, it's because you're such a pain in my ass."

 

"Now literally."

 

"Now liter- Oh fuck you, Mustang." Ed's curses lack their usual pointed violence, partially slurred as they are as he rapidly becomes warmed clay under Roy's palms.

 

"If you'd like," Roy rumbles. Ed can hear the smirk in his words.

 

"Ugh. I'll yell at you for being a shit the second you stop. So make sure you don't."

 

"As you wish."

 

Ed's skin is pleasantly tingling, and his muscles are so relaxed he wonders if they've just fallen right out of their various compartments. Roy, to his credit, commits to the job. He doesn't so much as lessen the expertly balanced pressure until the water has cooled enough that both of them have goosebumps, and fingertips like soft walnut shells. Ed is lured from the bath (through the last vestiges of the dying bubbles and wrapped snugly in a towel bigger than he is) with the promise of room service. When Roy flicks the TV on to some superhero movie with a terrible Italian dub, and the room is filled with the scent of food, and he's wrapped suddenly from behind in a plush, downy blanket, Ed's stupid little heart is so drunk on joy it almost knocks itself out in his chest.

 

Roy takes the rose from the dinner tray and tucks it behind Ed's ear. He gets a cuff to the shoulder for it. It remains there through the meal, through the movie, through the not-even-slightly-subtle shifting of the two of them closer and closer. It only falls out when Ed, full of food and sparkling fucking feelings, is pinned to the bed for more of Roy's 'plans'. As it's crushed underneath them, Ed sends it the last, comforting thought that it dies for a worthy cause.

 

After quite possibly the best experience Ed has ever, will ever, could ever imagine he could have, they eventually leave the hotel with matching grins and a big tip on the pillow. 'For the mess', Roy winks.

 

Chapter Text

Sometimes, with the beds slotted together and a fair amount of sleep-wiggling, Ed will find himself wedged in the gap between mattresses . All the jostling to get free inevitably wakes Roy, who equally inevitably laughs. But once he's been jimmied free and tucked back under Roy's chin, the only thing that Ed can focus on is the careful way Roy's arms fold around him, and the sinking feeling that he's never going to be able to sleep so soundly again.

"Somehow, you think even louder than you talk. And your mouth is pretty big." Roy rumbles. Ed's eyes snap open.

"Fuck'ff."

"Then stop thinking so hard."

"Can't help it."

"Do I need to tire you out some more?" Roy teases suggestively.

"I'm not a toddler."

"No, you most certainly are not." Ed is pulled close and a kiss is planted in his hair. He smiles into the dark.

-----------

Nothing works for Ed for very long. It's surprising, really, that he's managed to come this far with Roy without sticking his big fucking fiberglass foot in it. A fucking miracle, in fact. Because that's just who he is, and how his life pans out. One day maybe he'll finally acclimatise to it, and then it won't throw him so completely every time. If he's lucky. Which he's not .

And Ed had felt over the moon, beyond the stars, like he was being scattered through the universe, he was so happy. There had been stolen kisses under bridges and play fights in the afternoon sun. They'd done the Coliseum so Roy could kick it off his bucket list, and Ed's every organ had tied itself to a balloon and floated into the sky every time their eyes met, and their smiles grew.  His brain must have been one of those helium fuckers, because he hadn't shied away from the warning phrases ('next time', 'back home', 'a few months from now'), and when Roy had finally asked what he wanted to do when they were reunited in the UK, Ed had been utterly unprepared, and only hollow sounds had come out.

And now the whole thing is a glass-bowled pavlova smashing on the floor.

"I don't understand." Roy is patient, and calm. Ed can see the growing frustration in those dark eyes though.  He's trying to keep it casual himself, but his blood is already thrumming and his stomach is turning.

"I can't...explain any differently. This has been...I've never done anything like this, not with anybody. And it's amazing, it's... that's why it has to end. We can't stay in Rome forever. And let's be real, it's not like either of us are going to wait."

"You've decided that, have you? That I wouldn't manage a few months on my own?" The frown comes through to Roy's face properly, and Ed forces himself not to wince at it.

"Alright, sorry. Maybe you would. But, I don't want you to have to." He doesn't say it's because he's afraid Roy will realise he's not worth waiting for, and resent him for wasting his time. He doesn't say that waiting for Roy would probably drive him into the ground.

The stones underfoot are bleached by the sun, and leaves collect, crisping, in the corners of the courtyard. There's no one else around to ease the heavy silence between them.

"This is about more than just a commitment to long distance, isn't it." Roy's voice holds no question.

Ed shrugs.

"Prob'ly. Told you, I'm all made up of messed up shit. It doesn't matter what it is, because it's a fact. Just gotta' deal with it. So this is me, dealing.  Before it gets all complicated and sticky."  Ed is hunching into his hoodie, curling in on himself. He can't do the leap to high and then plummet to low of emotions - he wasn't built for that spectrum. Inside him everything is reeling and he doesn't even know what to try and hold onto to steady himself. All he wants is for Roy to stop looking at him like that; he can't stand that he's the reason for such an expression.

"What are you so afraid of? You hate being alone but you're too scared to open up to someone else. That doesn't make any sense. You can't tell me that there's nothing between us; that we aren't attached yet. We've already jumped , Ed. There's no point trying to cling to the edge now. I'm attached to you, I want you. And either you're a very skilled actor, or you want me too." Roy's eyes are flashing with anger, and part of Ed wants to curl up and hide. The rest of him, the loud and brash and falsely-confident part, is irritated that Roy doesn't get it.

"Yes, okay? I am 'attached' . I fucking care, and whatever. I never thought I'd get to live two weeks like these, and I never thought such a fucking perfect douchebag like you could exist. And that's why I don't want you to stick around and start to hate me. I don't want to 'just be friends' and freak out when you start to see someone else. I don't want to put my head between my knees on the fucking tube because seeing a photo of you with someone new turns me into a pathetic fucking mess-"

"There wouldn't be anyone else if you'd just let yourself be with me properly-"

"There's always someone else! Fuck ! There's always someone with two legs, and no debt, who doesn't have a closet full of skeletons. And they always win, Roy."

"It's frankly insulting that you assume that I would cheat on you." Roy's expression is dark and Ed is floundering. It's happening, as always, exactly what he's tried to avoid.

"I'm not...that's not what I mean. It's not a person, it's a potential. It's realising after the fiftieth fight of the week because my stump makes me irritable that there's a whole population of people who will come home from work and not take it out on you. It's sighing because you have to reply to obsessive texts again and you have other things to do, and wishing I'd just shut the fuck up for a bit. It's when you look back on the times when you didn't always have to hang out with your boyfriend's brother every day because I'm too chickenshit to live life on my own."

"Relationships are compromise,  Ed. There's going to be a lot you don't like about me, as well. you're going to discover things that hurt, and things that make you absolutely livid. But part of a relationship is working together to overcome those things. You're not even willing to try and that's the worst thing, honestly. I can't believe we're even having this conversation." Roy folds his arms, face an impenetrable fortress for whatever he's actually feeling. Ed hates it when he shuts down, and closes off from everyone outside the calculating gears in his own head. It feels like he's losing him.

"You don't understand-" He tries, desperation lacing the edges of his words.

"I understand that I'm not worth facing your fears for."

"No! That's not fair, Roy. You know that's how this works. You're smart, you get logic. Relationships end and they usually end badly. I'm not scared of getting hurt so much as I'm scared of becoming something you regret. You're important. I don't want another important person out there thinking that I'm a piece of shit."

"You...can't regret something you don't actually do."

"Exactly."

"You can't love it, either." Ed gapes at him, and then the cold white of anger flashes over his skin.  

"Don't say that. That's not even...not even on the table. That's a whole other mess and we've known each other for two fucking weeks . Why the fuck would you say that?"

Roy looks at him sharply, and Ed feels the cut.

"So you're crushing the possibility. You're thinking that if you stop it now, the potential remains. There will always be Italy and these memories, and we won't ever move away from thinking of each other fondly, even as our lives progress. Like Schrodinger's cat, if we don't let it leave this box that is this country, it'll always be both alive and dead. But, exactly the same as that damn cat; the reality is that the relationship is over after we leave, or it continues after we leave, regardless of the memories we have of it in a few years. You can't preserve how you feel about someone in resin - it's a living thing and you have to keep feeding it. If you don't, you kill it. So what's it going to be, Ed? You're scared of this ending, but you're the only one ending it at this moment."

Ed regrets mentioning logic. Roy has clearly worked out how to tie him up with it. But logic doesn't stop the rising black sludge within him, and it doesn't help him kill the ants scurrying through his veins. He's ending a relationship because he's afraid of it ending. He's jumping to avoid falling. He's a paradox. God, he hates himself. But he can't do anything about it.

All he can do is shake his head.

"I'm sorry. I don't know how to explain it beyond that. I just...I can't do that any more. I can't deal with watching the slow break down."

"It isn't cynicism, and it isn't logic. It's fear that keeps you alone. Maybe people who risk everything to fall in love are ignorant, or maybe they're brave. But I think they're the ones doing things right, in the end."

"You're angry."

"I'm frustrated," Roy corrects.

"This is the kind of shit I never wanted to you to have to put up with from me." Ed's hands are shaking, so he tucks them under his armpits and swallows twice. The muscles in his back have been so tense for so long that he can feel the spasms beginning. His spine is a creaking door of throbbing pain.

"Well, you've said it now. And I'm still here. If it's things like this, then I think we can overcome them. Together."

Ed doesn't look at him. He can't look at him. Maybe it is only fear, and all his pessimism is just a cover for being scared out of his fucking mind. But it's still enough to make him want to hurl into the nearest trash can, because knowing it's irrational doesn't stop it from being a problem. Roy means what he says today; he's genuine as he stands, hand outstretched, offering to help Ed and stay with him when he's being a stupid piece of shit. He means it from the bottom of his heart...or at least right now he does, at any rate. In a month, in a year, that could have turned a complete one-eighty.

He could be blindingly, heart-soaringly happy, or he could be dashed on the cliffs. There's no middle ground.

"Ed?"

"I'm sorry." He shakes his head and his bangs fall over his eyes. He can't see Roy's expression, but his imagination is worse anyway. It supplies him with Roy as a clenched fist of anger, or saturated with betrayal. His voice becomes a whisper. "I'm sorry." A hand settles on his forearm, and that's when the prickling behind his eyes, the tightness in his lungs, gets too much. All he can think to do is run, so he spins and flows near-blind out of the square. He just needs to calm down. Just needs to shake a finger at his dumb-as-shit brain and get it to sort its shit out again.

He stops by a young tree and steadies himself against it with one hand, clawing breath in. For a moment all he can do is dry-heave, skin rasping against the bark and everything inside him getting wound around his gears like taffy.

Roy does not follow him.

---

Ten minutes is all it takes. Ed feels like shit. Like a shit sandwich. Like a shit sandwich with guilt-sprinkles on the top. The back of his tongue is bitter and the front of his mind is flaring. Something in his chest is tight and painful every time he breathes in, and even though he knows that's not where his heart is, it sure feels like that's the cause.

He drags his feet up the hill to their bench, and isn't surprised to find Roy sat there, elbows on his knees and hands clasped in front of him. He almost looks like he's praying.

Ed slips into place silently beside him and tries to make his mouth work. He knows he wants to speak but his mind is a white page. The only thing he can think about is how awful he is and how awful he feels, but that's not what he wants to say.

"I'm sorry, Ed. I don't want to be at odds, not on our last day together. This time we've shared, it's been...precious, to me. I don't know how to stop fighting for things that I find important, and this seems like the most important thing I've come across in a long while. But, if your decision really is final, then I'll respect it. I don't want to waste what's left." Roy's voice has an odd husk to it, and he turns his face to look at Ed from the corner of his eye rather than his usual head-on confrontation. Ed swallows thickly.

Something in him is smashing jagged shards into all his squidgy bits, but at the same time the relief that Roy isn't angry with him any more is like a balm over all of him.  

"It's...yeah, my final decision." Ed swallows again. Roy sighs and sits up. Then there's fingers threading through the ones on Ed's right hand.

"Okay. I'm glad you came back."

"...Me too." Ed wants to kiss him, but he thinks that's probably inappropriate right after telling someone you care about that you can never be together. How much can he really care after just two weeks, anyway? Totally isolated, doing everything together, but a drop in the ocean in terms of a lifetime. He can’t be in this deep. Neither of them can.

Roy pulls him in by the waist and leans his forehead on Ed's shoulder. He takes a deep breath through his nose, and Ed would give anything to know what's going through his mind.

Lifting a hand, Ed rests it lightly on the back of Roy's head. He'll be okay. No one gets that attached- not to Ed. He's easy to walk away from. Roy will be okay. And they'll both have some nice memories, and Roy will never have to see his face when he's desperate and angry, and he'll never have to see Roy when he gets sick of him. This will be a locked moment in time, dead and unreachable, but unspoiled.

A tiny voice of doubt in him is quickly squashed by fear.

Head lifting, Roy ghosts the back of his fingers over Ed's jaw. The kiss he gives him is bittersweet and soft, and it wrenches the organs out of Ed's chest one by one.

"Let's go back to the room." He says, tightening his grip on Ed's hand and pulling him to his feet. They look over the forum together, linked by the hands and ringing with pain bouncing between them. When they start to walk down the hill, Roy can't seem to resist one look back at the familiar white slabs of the bench. His expression is nostalgic enough to take Ed's breath away.

"Wait." He says suddenly, and he's pulling Ed back. He refuses to release Ed's hand, so Ed has to bend forward when he drops to one knee by the bench. He scratches between the cobbles for a moment, and then stands with dirt smudged fingers.

"This...is this...?" Cupped loosely in his palm, glittering and just the way he remembers it, is Ed's stupid locket. The stupid, stupid, dumb fucking locket. Under their stupid perfect dumb fucking bench the whole time. Ed feels his face crumple before his brain can even process why, and he covers the expression as much as he can with his hand.

"Hey, hey, you've got it back now. That's a good thing." Roy' arms encircle him and Ed breathes ragged and deep. He's not going to cry. He fucking refuses to fucking cry. Fuck .

"This..it's really over now, isn't it? Even found the impossibly lost locket. Everything's done. Quest completed, game over. I can't even be h-happy about it. Everything is finished now."

"Not yet. Not yet."

Roy doesn't let him go for a second. Not through the crowds, not up the stairs, not even to fumble out the keycard and slip it into the lock. His fingerprints feel like they'll be on Ed's skin forever, and he knows that's exactly how they both want it to feel.

The hostel room no longer smells like cheap cleaning fluid and dust; all their junk and their breathing and living there has left their scent in the air. Walking into the room is as close as Ed has come to breathing in 'home smell' in years. Their beds are pressed together, sleepwear folded on Roy's pillow and stuffed under Ed's. Two rucksacks lean against each other drunkenly by the door. Two phone chargers are in the socket by the bed, two toothbrushes by the sink, and the two of them stand clutching their hands together like letting go now will be the end of it forever.

There's always a part of them connected as clothes are peeled away. The slow reveal of layer after layer is a blur because Roy's too close for Ed to see what's happening. Ed's entire vision is the join of neck to shoulder, the crease of a shirt collar, and eventually  an undefended clavicle. The marks are still there from the night at the hotel; light dustings of the shape of Ed's mouth on Roy's skin.

Roy lays him on the bed and touches their foreheads together. The air is cool, and the contrast between Roy's warm skin and the chill of the room makes goosebumps break out over Ed's arms. Kissing him slowly, gently, Roy gropes on the bedside table for the little golden bottle. Ed hears rather than sees the squeeze of it into Roy's palm, trapped in a kiss that has them both shuddering. Roy pulls back to watch his face as he spreads the slick substance between Ed's cheeks, gently massaging in a way that makes Ed's breath catch. He doesn't look away as he slips the first finger inside, meeting Ed's eyes head on. The flush prickles Ed's cheeks with its intensity. There are no words, and there’s no build up. There’s only Roy trying to connect them as soon as possible.

How he's supposed to meet those sad eyes, he doesn't know. Roy must really hate him to make him face those perfect down-turned lips, wringing out his heart like a wet shirt. He turns his face away from the burn of Roy's gaze but a hand cups his jaw and forces him to look forward. Roy's mouth is open just slightly. He's staring at Ed's face like he can memorise it perfectly if he just watches it for long enough. Ed's not worthy of that. Roy should start forgetting.

The slow, slippery movements inside him are making his heart beat so fucking fast, and his toes curl in the cotton sheets. When he bites his lip, Roy is watching. When he winces a little at the second finger, Roy is watching. The flush on his pale skin is more pronounced with each passing minute, and Ed watches back as the sweat starts to build at Roy's temples.

The air can't seem to circulate Ed's lungs the way it should, like his body has forgotten how to function. He takes in shuddery breaths, and when he steadies an arm against Roy's shoulder, his fingers are trembling. Roy's ongoing stare is making his hair stand on end, his nerves screaming their sensitivity. And below it all, the constant, twisting, wet movements inside him. At the third finger, he can't prevent the quiet breath of 'ahh' that escapes him. As close as they are, Roy's thick swallow is impossible to miss. There's no chill to speak of now; all of Ed is on fire. The heel of his prosthesis slips on the sheets as he writhes, and it fully extends. Roy lifts it back by the thigh and hooks it over one shoulder. The draw of his eyebrows, and the low grunt he makes in response to Ed's gasp, makes Ed's overtaxed heart somersault.

So he hands his heart over, then. A conscious acknowledgement that a piece of him will always leave with the man above him, intrinsic and vital. He commits to losing it forever. And he can only be glad that Roy will have it.  

Chest rising and falling deeply, dark strands sticking to his skin, Roy hovers above him. Ed wants to climb into him, he's so beautiful. The hand on Ed's face is burning, and he's a mess of sweat and shivers. Roy is relentless. His eyes trace Ed's lips, the tip of his ears, the swirl of gold when he jolts his head sharply at the barrage of sensations. Ed only gets relief when lids close over those dark, dark fucking eyes so that Roy can connect their lips again, and press Ed into the thin mattress with the strength of the kiss.

Ed's breath is harsh through his nose. When Roy pulls back and out of him, his hands are shaking almost as much as Ed's. He upends the gilded bottle again, and half the contents end up spilling over Ed's shuddering stomach. It's cold and makes him cry out, another sensation he can't resist, and is swallowed under by.

Roy coats himself as quickly as possible, thighs pressed hard against Ed's, refusing to stop touching him. He takes only enough time to line himself up before he's over Ed again, kissing like he'll never kiss again.

The slide in is the slowest thing Ed has ever experienced. He thinks he's going to go mad.

Barely moving at all, they rock together. Roy's eyes are back on his face again. Ed can't look away now. He doesn't care how he looks, tangled in the sheets with his hair like a fishnet cast out over the pillow. He wants to get closer to Roy, somehow. And Roy is pressing into him like they can both just fuse if they push hard and slow enough.

Surely it can't take this long, surely hit has to be over soon. Seconds drag like dead weights. Ed is lost in the endless feeling of Roy inside him, Roy around him. The build up is so tortuously slow, but the constant, shallow movements inside him are proof that Roy is there .

Their chests slide against each other slickly thanks to the spilled oil; the sheets are going to be ruined. The only sounds are the deepening rasps of their breaths. In the heat of it the fiberglass calf is slipping from Roy's shoulder, but he catches it in the crook of his elbow, using it to bend Ed's leg and slip even deeper into him. Ed cries out. He doesn't know how much longer he can take it. Every muscle feels tensed; his fingers clench and unclench in the sheets. Roy doesn't seem to be faring much better. His slow and shallow thrusts are on shaking thighs. He leans on his forearm, braced above Ed's head, and claws the pillow.

The pressure is everywhere, winding tighter even when he writhes, even when he moves sharply for release. Ed feels it at the base of his spine and stomach, where he should, but also pulsing in the tips of his fingers, and at the back of his knee. It's behind his eyes in both his skull and his mind. It's a world-shaking hum that vibrates through him, just getting louder. Inescapable.

" Hah , Roy... please- nng ." Ed’s voice is a gunshot that makes them both jump. Roy tenses over him but doesn't speed up. Instead he buries his face in Ed's neck, and Ed is startled at the warm wetness there. He wraps both arms tightly around Roy's sweat-slicked back, and if there are any tears they both ignore them.

When his brain is officially turning to liquid gold, leaking, no doubt, from one ear, Ed scrapes his short nails hard down Roy's back. Over the round hill of Roy's shoulder he can see the red welts they leave behind. He makes another set and Roy bites into the base of his neck. He's writhing, sliding under the weight of Roy and tangling in the sheets. He's wriggling like a snake because the sensation is too much. The want to escape it is as much as the need to throw himself into it. Then the idea that this will end, and they will separate, makes him clench and still, biting his tongue with the effort. His fingers bury themselves in Roy's hair and he buries himself with them. It can't end. He'll die here in this room with Roy slowly fucking him into insanity.

But Roy's still moving. The tension is still coiling and almost spilling out over him. How's he supposed to survive this? Suddenly he can feel acutely Roy's burning palm on his ruined upper thigh, and the drag of Roy's hips on the backs of his legs. Even the sheets are making his skin skitter with electricity, and he can't take it. He's going to break open right down the middle and Roy has barely even touched him. His nails claw again at Roy's back like he can hold himself together if he just gets enough purchase. It must hurt, Ed thinks he sees blood, but all Roy does is raise his wet eyes and lean in to kiss Ed almost chastely.

Ed comes unexpectedly; harder than he's ever done in his whole twisted little life, and with a cry of mingled despair and total surrender. He stops breathing and arches off the bed into Roy in a way that makes his spine click. Every single part of him locks and his vision is pure, blinding white. Even when he can drag a breath in again, forcing his lungs to expand, the pulses and tremors wrack him.

Roy holds him in the arch. He presses them together with a splayed hand to Ed's lower back. Powerful, almost violent thrusts replace the light rippling he's become accustomed to. The rough conquering of him makes him clench where Roy is buried in him. Ed twists his neck and forms silent, unreadable words. With a cry, Roy spasms. The hand on his stump clenches hard enough to bruise. It's the most exquisite pain he has ever felt.

The minutes stretch as their wet panting melts back into the quiet breathing of rest. Roy has only rolled half off him, draping over Ed's wet skin. Ed gathers him close, twining their legs together and aligning them like jigsaw pieces. Roy allows himself to be ensnared. They close their eyes like that, tangled together, but sleep takes an age to come.

---

The morning rolls in like a tank, rumbling them awake and forcing them from the warm cocoon of the sheets. When Ed starts to sit up,  Roy holds him in place with an arm locked around his waist. Ed's heart does a suicidal leap. After a kiss to his side, another to his hip, and a deep breath without Roy opening his eyes, he is released.

The bed is a mess. Ed's a mess too, in more ways than just the muck on his body.

"Shower with me?" He asks quietly. Roy cracks open one eye, and then sits up like it pains him. Like living pains him. Ed's own aches are clamouring, muscles giving low moans of distress, but he barely notices over the oppressive sadness hanging around his neck.

"Alright," Roy submits. He starts to rise. When Ed goes to brush his hair, the brush is taken from him, and strong but gentle hands do it for him instead. When he's guided to the shower, it's Roy who turns it on, and then cleans him carefully of the night before.

Roy packs meticulously. There's not a part of him left in the room, and everything manages to fit snugly into the army duffel. Ed has to wait for him in the corridor because the sight of Roy disappearing into that bag makes him want to punch a hole through the wall.

When the door clicks shut behind Roy a few moments later, it's like a deadbolt falling into place.

---

Termini Station is unchanging. It's still a huge open hall of noise and confusion, travelers parting around Roy and shoving past Ed. In a move that has become second nature to both of them, Roy stands behind Ed's shoulder, shielding him slightly from the flood of figures.

Ed's chest is a rubber-band-ball. It turns, slowly winching in his veins, his arteries, his trachea. Roy slides a hand over his shoulder blades.

"My train is in fifteen minutes."

Ed's going to throw up. Well, first he's going to cry, and then he's going to upchuck. All over Roy's fancy Italian shoes. And that'll be the very last memory they both have of any of this.

"Ed?"

"Yeah. Yeah sorry. Do you...want a drink or whatever, for the journey?" He steadies his voice, but Roy can probably feel him trembling through the hand on his back. It smooths up to rest at the base of his neck, squeezing reassuringly.

"No, thank you. I think I'll be fine."

Ed turns and looks him over. Stupid fucking gloriously gorgeous shithead. His lapel is wonky, so Ed takes the excuse to brush it flat. Roy is, as always, warm.

"You sure you've got everythin'?" Ed fiddles with his shirt buttons, with his tie; anything to keep his fingers on Roy, connecting them. Roy smiles down at him so, so softly. That expression, that assassination of his self control, scoops out everything inside Ed's ribcage and dumps it on the floor beside them like the garbage it is.   

"Everything that I came here with, at any rate."

Long fingers flick golden strands from Ed's eyes, and when Ed finally looks at Roy's expression, he almost drowns in the sadness there. He draws his face into a frown just so that no one can see his bottom lip quiver. He's not going to fucking cry, it's not like anyone is dying . It just feels like his soul is being pulled into a paper shredder, that's all. That's all.

He's tried so hard not to get attached. They'd both known this day was coming. And here it is, right on time, so why is it so hard ?

"We should get you through the barriers. Don't forget to stamp your ticket. They'll fine you if you don't." Ed doesn't move his hands, and Roy doesn't move to go. They stand together like rocks being buffeted on the shore.

"I think...I'm going to miss you more than I would miss breathing." Roy says, a tinge of confusion in his voice.

"Roy...please."

"...No. No, I think it would do you good to hear it. You are worth so, so much more than you think you are. I will think of you every time I see an Italian flag, every time someone yells at me for a pun, and every time someone gets defecated on by a bird. God knows what I'll do when it rains and I don't have you to run through it with. There's not one single person on the planet with a heart so big as yours, or so walled off. I doubt I'll ever again meet someone whose swearing vocabulary is so large either, in any language.
You have a mind sharper than your tongue, and your tongue is a shard of glass so I'm not sure how you managed that. You're beautiful and honest, and you care so deeply that I don't know how you stand it. Even though the world has taken so many stabs at you...you just keep standing up every time. I don't think I'll ever be able to give up again, knowing that somewhere out there is you, sticking a middle finger up at the universe."

Ed is shaking his head and he can't see, like his life is a movie and someone has smeared Vaseline on the camera lens. He feels the first tear drip swiftly down his face, barely leaving a mark. There's cement drying in his vocal chords.

"I can't do this..." Ed chokes.

"I can't believe I'm leaving you here like this. If you'd let me I'd–" Roy stops himself and takes a deep breath. "Whoever gets to keep you, Edward Elric, had better treat you like you're made of gold. Because anything less and I don't know that I'd be able to stay out of it."

"Fuck you, you asshole. You made me cry."

"I'm sorry." Roy uses the back of a finger to wipe a tear away, and his voice catches. He clears his throat. "I have to go."

"God, you suck."

Roy gathers Ed up, pressing him close. Around Ed is Roy smell, calming and clean. It's the smell of happiness to him, now. And in a few moments he has to step out of it, maybe forever. And it's all his own fault.

His chin is lifted with a gentle finger, tilting his head. When Roy's lips touch his feel like they leave bruises even though he's gentler than he's ever been.

Fingers clawing into Roy's shirt, Ed pushes forwards. This is the last time he'll taste this tongue. He doesn't know what to do first, or what to do last. How do you make the most of a final kiss? In the end all he can do is hold on desperately and keep pushing forward, willing time with all his atoms to slow as much as possible. Roy grips him tightly, movements measured but with the sudden judders of trying to fit in everything at once. Ed is unwound, undone. He's a deflated balloon animal.

"More than breathing, Ed." Roy says. Their arms stretch, their fingers slide down one another. And then Ed is clutching air. The familiar duffel bag is moving away from him, and the crowds are closing in on the gap that Roy has left. Inside of him is hollow but at the same time so full of pain, it's pushing his lungs out.

He watches the top of the crowd on his tiptoes, straining, until even the top of Roy's head is lost.

Ed is alone.

 

----

The walk home isn't recorded in his memory. All he knows is that the stairwell of the hostel is far too recent an association with companionship and happiness, and he hates walking it without Roy at his side.

He could have...he could have got Roy's facebook. Or something. They could have exchanged numbers. Long distance isn't so hard, probably. This could have worked. They could have worked. They could have both been happy, with each other.

He thinks of Al. He thinks of how he sends Al messages one after another, every day. He thinks of how he went to another country just to give his little brother some goddamn space, and about the constant, yawning need to abandon everything in his lonely life and turn up at Al's door like the mess he is.

Al deals with it because he has to. He's family.

With Roy, how soon would it be before it was too many messages? At what point would cute phone calls become chores, and visits become burdens? He doesn't want to have something beautiful just for it to crack down the middle and mold over, slowly.

He'd rather have had nothing at all.

The room is a lead-lined box. Roy's side is empty and barren, but evidence of him is in the wrinkles on the sheets. Ed digs his nails as hard as he can into his palm to resist laying on Roy's bed and wallowing in his absence.

His heart gropes outwards for any kind of comfort, and settles on Al. Ever present, ever patient Al. When Ed pulls out his phone, his fingers shake enough that the touchscreen fights him.

He doesn't know what to write.

There's so much roiling, serpentine pain inside of him, words can't box it. He can't bring himself to write out everything that's happened. There's no guarantee he can hold himself together if he defines it so acutely.  

He hits call instead. The shrill ringing in his ear is cut off abruptly.

"Brother?"

"Hi Al." Ed's voice is filled with sawdust, clogging and clawing at the same time. "How's the land of the Swiss?"

It's weak and he knows it. It's almost as bad as coming right out and asking Al to coddle him. But he can't keep his voice steady, and he can't deal with the low-hanging silence of the room on his own.

"It's cold. Are you alright? You never call."

"I...yeah, I'm fine. What're you doing? Are you busy? I probably...called at a bad time."

"Tell me what's wrong."

"Al, it's not–"

"Brother."

The silence returns. Ed opens his mouth to speak, once, twice. He swallows.

"He...got his flight back home."

"Oh, Ed..."

Ed feels his expression crumble. One dry sob escapes him before he can suffocate it, and he clamps a hand over his mouth. Somehow, Al gets it. Without him saying anything more, Al puts all the pieces together, because no-one knows how big of a mess Ed is better than his little brother.

"You're flying tomorrow. I'll get Paninya to make stew for when you arrive; she's really excited to meet you. And you can show me all your research. And you can leave everything there in Rome, and start a new chapter."

Ed drops to the bed and focuses on Al's voice. Leaving Rome doesn't feel like an escape any more. It feels like he'll carry this rucksack full of fucking misery with him wherever he goes for the rest of time.

"Yeah," he manages through his fingers.

"We'll be busy sorting out everything going home, and fixing up the new flat. You can...try and focus on all of that for a while."

Ed can hear the disappointment that Al isn't voicing, and starts to tune out the meaning of his individual words. He knows Al wanted him to finally, finally, be happy. But they both should have known he'd fuck it up. He'd tried so hard not to fuck it up that he'd somehow made the whole thing worse than anyone had ever thought possible.

Why the shitstaining godfucking fuck had he let Roy just...leave?

He falls bonelessly onto his side and the pillow puffs around his face. Something rolls to bump him in the nose.

Shaking fingers pluck it from where it's trying to tangle in his hair, holding it in front of him as his eyes focus. It's a rose. The one that Roy had tucked into his hair in the hotel, complete with the petals that had been crushed when they'd rolled on top of it.

Ed's heart is severed by cheese wire in his chest.

He sits up. The rose had been placed on his pillow on top of Roy's neatly folded '<3 Italia' tee. Gingerly, he lifts it. It smells like Roy. His every muscle tenses.

"I'm the biggest fucking moron in the whole history of human-fucking-kind." He cuts Al off mid-sentence, and there's a pause.

"...Ed?"

"Al, I've got to go. I'm gonna...I'm gonna catch up to him. I'm gonna– I have to go."

"Oh thank god."

"What?"

" Go , Brother. Geeze."

"Right. Uh. Bye."

Ed slams the end call button, and hurls himself toward the door. The stairs are populated with girls lifting wheeled suitcases, and he ducks and dives and weaves for all he's worth.

The receptionist startles from a nap as he careens into the room and slams a wad of money on the table. Ed has no idea how much is there, but he reaches over the counter and grabs the Vespa keys anyway.

"Renting the scooter, back before five, room 2.14!" There's no way the receptionist heard the room number because he's yelling it up the stairs from the lobby, bursting into the street in an explosion of gold and desperation.

The scooter is a gleaming tool of salvation in the sun. He kicks up the stand, slams on the helmet, and rams the keys into place, throwing a quick prayer out to anyone who can hear him that the trains are as slow as he remembers them. There's a smudge of tire track on the road as he peels away, exhaust smoking.

It's only been twenty minutes. He can do it. He can do it . And if he doesn't do it then he'll die trying and then it won't even matter.

He uses the angry little horn to scatter pedestrians crossing the road, blaring through them like skittles. Drivers look at him with expressions painted with panic as he skids around corners and between vehicles.

Curling into a backstreet, the paving stones under the wheels are jagged enough to shudder his teeth in his gums. Slamming his right leg down, he bodily turns the scooter around a sharp bend. Waiters yell at him from their spots guarding the outdoor tables, but no-one can stop him; he's a devil on wheels.

The Pantheon rises and the noise of the exhaust echoes around the square, drawing a hundred eyes to him as he rockets through the streets. His heart is a club-beat in his chest of Roy, Roy, Roy.

Finally, finally a real road. When he hits a red light, he turns the scooter around and drives through the middle of a park. Pigeons explode upwards in a fountain of feathers and squawking, buffeting the couple feeding them with wind. Ed whoops as he sails off the curb and back onto tarmac, airborne for a few seconds and feeling like if he has to, really truly has too, he'll fucking fly there.

Suddenly he notices the dials on the dash, and how they're getting lower, and lower. Where do you fill a tank in Rome? Romans have to have somewhere...has he ever seen one? How far can he get on half a tank?

Maybe far enough. God, Ghandi, Grace Kelly, please .

He gets as far as the outskirts before the exhaust starts stuttering. He's banging a fist on the dial when some massive fucking idiot cuts him off.

Head over ass, the world is a swirling mess and it's all he can do to wrestle the handlebars, trying to keep himself out of oncoming traffic. Whatever he bumps over makes the cushioned seat launch upwards and at the very least bruise his particulars like very fragile fruits. The last thing he sees before a world of pain is a low concrete wall and a telephone pole.

"Oh sweet Madonna, oooh baby Jesus. Are you alright? You must be alright."

Someone is leaning over him and babbling in Italian. Around him are black plastic bags straining with...yep. That's garbage. Thanks a lot, Grace Kelly, for absolutely nothing.

"Gettoff." Ed demands. He bats the fussing hands away from his face, and hops gingerly out of the stinking pile.. The scooter is on the floor looking scratched, but blessedly still functional.

"Maybe you should sit down," Ed’s collidee suggests. Ed finally turns to face the person hovering around him with the dawning though that they are most likely the one that cut him off. He's gonna make them pay. Maybe by forcing them to give him their car.

A familiar set of pearly whites greet him.

"Elia?"

"Sports-car Sex?" Elia looks part relieved and part (a justifiable part) more concerned than ever. Ed pulls a face.

"'Sports-car Sex'? Really?"

"Eh I don't know your name, but your preferences stuck with me. Please don't sue me. I don't earn enough, you've seen where I work! You're alright, yes? No? Please yes."

Ed's expression goes from irritation to inspiration, and then from that to sadistic, devilish glee.

"Oh I'm gonna sue you alright. I'm gonna' take your car, and your house, and your hair gel."

"No, please no..."

"Unless..."

"Anything!"

"Get your ass back in your car, and drive me to the airport faster than you've ever driven in your life."

"I...okay?"

"Great. Which one's yours?"

Elia indicates towards a shining, black, open-topped car with leather seats.

"Of course. I don't know why I would expect anything different."

"What?" Elia shrugs at him innocently. "I thought you would be a person to appreciate a beauty such as her.

"Shut the fuck up and help me get the scooter in the back seat." Together with a lot of huffing and heaving, and some panicked screams ("Girl." "Shut up Mr Sports-car.") over the paintwork of Elia's car, the scooter is finally squatting on the back, wonkily tilting like it's drunk.

But then they're off, speeding. The engine is a roar and the wind is whipping Ed's ponytail and his heart's going a million, trillion miles an hour.

"Why the big rush, Sports-car?" Elia shouts at him over the noise.

"The fucking love of my life is getting on a plane and I've got to stop him before I'm alone forever!" Ed yells back. Elia just purses his lips and nods like it happens every day. His sunglasses get pushed up his nose, and he grins.

"We had better get a move on then. For true love!" His battle cry is lost to the exhaust as he guns it, eating up the road at almost illegal speeds.

The sun isn't at the highest point in the sky yet. Ed can only think of Roy on that train. Is he watching the cloudless sky too? Does he have any idea of the tidal wave of adrenaline and fear crashing through Ed as they speed towards the same destination?

The car screeches to a stop.

"What the fuck Elia?!"

"My sister!" Elia gestures to the pavement, where a curvy, gorgeous, big-haired and big-titted woman smiles a lipsticky smile at them.

"Baby Elia, you're late!"

"Get in Maria. We have to hurry."

"Eh?" She says, but slips in anyway.

Ed climbs into the back, throwing his arms in the air, as she squeezes her long, high-heeled legs into the tiny foot space.

"True love, Sis. True love."

The scooter rattles up a storm as they hit the motorway. Poplar trees pass quicker than Ed can blink, and the tire is printing rubber tracks onto his jeans. It's been twenty minutes. When does the train get there? When does the plane leave? Maybe he can run onto the runway and stand in front of the damn thing and demand they make Roy get off.

The sports car turns abruptly and Ed is squashed closer to a scooter than he ever wanted to get. They stop again.

" Elia ." Ed's voice is pure desperation.

"Grandmama, she's finished her bingo." Says Maria, who has found a matching pair of bug-large sunglasses and perched them on her perfect nose. A sharp yap comes from Ed's side of the car, and he looks over the side to see a tiny, pampered dog.

"Pincho, shh." A little old lady with purple-tinted hair and a sunflower raincoat totters up to the car.

"You have to move, Sports-car."

"Where the fuck to?!"

"..."

They speed down the motorway, Maria in the front, Elia driving, Grandmama in Ed's spot, and Ed clinging for dear fucking life to the top of the scooter, Pincho the mutt clutched under one arm and Roy's stupid shirt stuffed into his pocket. They look as terrified as each other, him and the dog, and Ed's fake leg would be shaking in his boot if his whole body wasn't already being shuddered like a washing machine on an intense cycle.

At a red light, he finally has a chance to position himself in a way that anchors him more to the rest of the world. He ties the seat belt around him and the mutt best he can.

"Oi Elia, what's happening?" A new voice joins the fray, and Ed resists the urge to scream.

A car next to them is waiting for the same light, and inside are two couples. Those in the back don't stop their attempt to eat each others' faces for even a second.

"Got to get this little man to the airport to stop his boyfriend leaving, Fezz. Got to save their true love."

"Whoa woah, we're coming too man! Hey,  Julianno!"

The driver of the new car leans over his girlfriend to whistle. On the other side of him is a bike emblazoned with 'polizia'. The rider is all in black, and his face can't be seen through the tinted visor. He nods at them all silently.

"Julianno, this guy needs to get to the airport before his true love leaves forever. Can you use the flash and blue?" Fezz asks. The light is stubbornly still on green. Ed's teeth are starting to ache from how harshly he's clenching his jaw.

"Idiot." Fezz's girlfriend slaps him on the chest. "He can't use the lights unless it's an emergency."

Fezz smirks.

"Hey Grandmama, you don't look so good. You need the hospital as soon as possible, yes?"

There's a brief silence. Grandmama turns to pat Ed on the leg, smile sweet as gingerbread, and then it, too, morphs into a smirk. Ed nearly jumps right out of the car when she groans loudly enough that the engine noise is almost a fond memory.

Grandmama gives him an over-exaggerated wink.

"See, Julianno? Emergency. Help us out buddy." Fezz begs, nervously looking between the visor and the lights. Red flicks to amber.

Julianno nods at them.

Italian sirens are just as piercing as anywhere else, but Ed has never been so close to another country's police force to really tell the difference. His eardrums scream as Juilanno revs and speeds away from them, green light an afterthought. Elia slams his foot down and they're following, cars spreading like the Red Sea before them. Behind them, the excited shouts of the couples in Fezz's car rise about the noise of vehicles in the sun.

"What the fuck is happening?" Ed yells at no-one in particular. Elia barks a laugh.

"Italians take love very seriously my friend! You are in the right country for a ridiculous romantic gesture!"

Ed can't respond because the dog is barking in his face, and Grandmama is clutching his leg, and...is she really faking? Because it sounds pretty real– Jesus that lorry is close enough to make him get a second taste of breakfast.

"Five minutes, Sports-car! Are we going to make it?"

"Uh, I don't know! Maybe, yes? If we don't stop." Ed wrestles the canine down and clenches his fist around the tee shirt before the wind can whip it away. He rubs the sweat from his eyes and his hand comes back red. "I'm fucking bleeding , Elia!"

"I know, I know! I'm sorry, okay." The car almost topples onto its side as Elia takes a corner at full speed.

"Your driving sucks!"

"I'm trying to concentrate!"

"I see the airport!" Maria yells, pointing a manicured nail over the windscreen to the gleaming building in the distance.

Departures is busy, but not busy enough to stop them. The caravan of vehicles slides right through the taxi ranks and comes to a screaming stop outside the doors to the airport, and Ed all but throws the damn dog to vault the side. It takes less than a second for the rest of the entourage to follow.  

His boots slip on the glossy floor but he pushes on anyway, skidding when people push suitcases in front of him, and making a running jump over a luggage trolley. The gates are listed on the board, '33a'. How far away is 33?

He's at 15. Shit.

Julianno overtakes him, flashing his badge at a concerned security guard. He looks back at Ed with his bike helmet still in place. Somehow, he looks quizzical.

"Uh, gate 33a?" Ed suggests.

Julianno nods.

They skip the treadmill-like walkways and weave through passengers, leaving a trail of destruction and curses behind them. Julianno flashes his badge and does a complicated hand movement to another imposing and equally silent airport police officer, and they're allowed to bypass security completely. He's going to make it, he's going to have to think of something to say. He's going to have to find a way to say it whilst attached to Roy by the fucking face because he's going to kiss him into oblivion ...

Gate 33, and he can see the plane through the windows. He can see the stewardess at the little desk that checks the boarding passes. He's never pumped his legs so hard in his life, and his left is slipping out of place but he won't stop now.   

The temporary corridor that connects the airport with the plane starts to pull away.

" No ! No stop the plane!" He shouts, and the stewardess clutches her papers to her chest in alarm.

"Sir?" She blinks rapidly at him, scared. The plane engines start up, and the looming mass of it pulls away from the window. Ed lunges for the door, but Julianno catches his arm before he can hurl himself onto the concrete below.

He wants to. It would be better, anything would be better, than watching that damnfuckingshitting plane pull slowly away from him.

His breath is ripping a hole in his chest. maybe his heart fell out of it and that's why everything hurts so badly.

He shrugs off Julianno and leans against the window, breathing heavily. Hands spread on the glass and condensation rapidly emerging around them. Everything narrows around him to just the retreating plane, noise nothing but engines. The urge to punch the glass is fleeting but intense, and then equally intense is the apathy that follows. What's the point? What's the point .  

The glass is cold. All of him is cold as his sweat starts to evaporate under the air conditioning. The plane has hit the runway, taxiing slowly. Refusing to fly because the universe has decided that Ed has to watch it for as long as possible, staring at it and realising exactly everything that he's lost.

It feels like his entire nervous system has been attached to a turbine. It'll fly off and rip most of him with it.

When it finally speeds up, he stares at the window and prays that maybe Roy will have looked out of one and seen him. The aircraft disappears behind the control tower. Ed shuffles backwards and collapses into a shitty plastic airport chair, registering but not able to care about the Elia collective that have stopped behind him. He fists a hand in his hair and clenches forward into a ball.

A small, warm hand settles on one shoulder, and then another on his opposite. In the corner of his eye he can see sunflowers. Grandmama's sun-freckled, pruned arms settle round him loosely in a hug.

They stay like that, silently, as Ed's bitter little heart breaks and breaks and breaks.

"Yes, I know. No I already went through security, I want to go- Si . Is this really necessary?"

The pieces of Ed's heart hurtle, jagged, to the floor.

He stands, Grandmama's hand at his back, and turns whiplash fast. Around them are only airport personnel, and empty chairs.

Down a ramp, halfway through a door, a messy, beautiful, perfect man is trying to hold on to his escaping duffel bag, security guard arguing with him in a machine-gun barrage of Italian.

Ed's entire soul throws itself forward, and it's all he can do to run after it. He swings under a railing, thudding down over the side of the ramp, and stops a meter away from everything he'd almost lost.

"Ed?"

Sweet and confused and hopeful, Roy's voice is the first rain of summer.

Ed throws the <3 Italia tee shirt in his face.

Roy wrestles it off with a look of pure bewilderment. "Ed, I-"

"Please, I...can I just say this? I need to say this. So...so people leave. Mum left even though she didn't want to, Dad left just because he could. Al leaves even though he always comes back. Foster families and carers leave, and friends and partners and- well it's deterioration. It's a fact of life, biology, physics, even, and you can't argue with science right? So one day, you're gonna leave. Or I'm gonna' leave. But I think the time between will be worth the complete suck when it ends. I think...I think if I don't try this now, when everything good is just falling into my hands, then I'm going to regret it for my whole life.
And I already regret so much. I can't believe I told you to leave; dumbest fucking thing I ever did, and that includes the leg. And basically...I'm just so sorry. You're a fucking miracle Mustang, and don't let that go to your head, but I know I treated you like shit and I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry-"

The duffel bag is dropped. Somewhere in the background Julianno is having silent words with the security guard, and Roy is free to stride forward and collect Ed into his arms as he crumples. The breath is squeezed right out of him.

"Hey, it's okay..."

"Can we...not...just let this die? Have I really fucked it up beyond saving?" Roy's arms are home, and he clings.  

"Of course you haven't. I- I'm so glad that you came. I can hardly believe that you're here. Are you...okay? You're bleeding. Should we find the medic bay?"

"Jesus Fucking Christ, Roy." Ed ejects, exasperated. He fists both hands in Roy's jacket lapels and pulls him down, kissing with teeth and all the desperation of the day. It's Roy's arms around him, and that's what feels right. Alone and coping isn't good enough any more, not when Ed can have this. How could he ever think he could go back to that after a taste of the fucking whirlwind disaster that is Roy? The future will bring what it will bring, but at this moment the one and only place Ed could be is here, feeling the tantalising slide of tongue and urgent grip of near-miss hands.

Behind them is a whoop and disembodied clapping, and when Roy looks up in confusion, Ed tries to reclaim the use of his leg, wobbly as it is from happy sparkly feelings coursing through him.

"Who...?"

"I, uh, hitched a lift." Ed is red. Hanging over the safety bars at the top of the ramp, the whole host of them are watching with grins. Staff and passing tourists have stopped to watch the display as well. Ed tries hard to disappear into Roy's coat.

He's allowed a few moments in the dark fabric before Roy pushes him lightly up the ramp, pausing to sling his bag on once more. At the top, Elia claps a hand on his shoulder and pulls him into a hug.

"You did it, Sports-car."

Awkwardly, Ed raises his free hand to pat Elia on the back.

"Well, we did it. Thanks Elia."

"Anything for love." Elia taps his heart. Behind him, Maria is looking tearful and is clutching the Pincho like she can use the dog as a Kleenex. Hands come out to pat Ed on the shoulders as he passes, and he murmurs his thanks. Inside his head is a clamour of screaming excitement, but he feels so tired. He wants to curl up on top of Roy and sleep for days.

They stop outside a bathroom, and Roy reaches out a hand to Elia.

"Thank you, for bringing him back to me."

"Well, you will not be so pleased, I think, when you know that I did it because I nearly hit him with my car."

"What?" Roy's eyes widen and Ed grabs him by the sleeve.

"Thanks Elia, really. I owe you. Will you take the scooter back to The Yellow? I swear I'll give you the biggest tip of your life for this. I'll tell everyone there to go eat at your weird restaurant. Okay?" Ed says in Italian. Elia grins at him, swept up in the air of triumphant romance.

"Of course. Look after him now. Don't let him go."

"I won't. I really won't." He sees the entourage off, Grandmama at the back waving the most enthusiastically. Roy swings his wide gaze to Ed's face, and he shrinks.

"You got hit by a car?"

"Well, not hit, exactly. I just crashed the scooter a little bit-"

"You crashed ."

"It's okay, my fall was broken by some handy garbage. So." Roy shakes his head and drags Ed into the bathroom. With a hop, Ed sits himself on the sink cabinet. The mirror is cold against his back. Roy pulls out hand cloths with some violence from the dispenser, wetting them under the tap and then reaching to carefully, carefully press the damp wad to Ed's forehead.

"Are you sure you're okay? You didn't black out, you don't feel sick?"

"I'm seriously fine. Although picking up on a concussion with Elia's shitty driving is pretty hard-"

"Ed, I'm serious."

"So'm I. I'm totally fine. Anyway, what about you? Why didn't you get on the plane?"

It's Roy's turn to look sheepish. As close as they are, Ed can see the faint dusting of pink in his cheeks, made all the more visible thanks to Roy's pale complexion.

"Well...actually I did. And then I couldn't stay there. I kept thinking about never seeing you again, and it felt like I'd left my whole heart in your pocket, Ed. I..." Roy sighs and puts down the cloth, tinged a pinky red. He cups Ed's face with a cool hand and runs a thumb over his cheekbone. "To be honest, I panicked a little. I had a whole speech in my head...I really did want to respect your wishes. I didn't want to turn up again when you'd told me that you couldn't deal with that, but then I found this." Roy's hand leaves his cheek, and he's rummaging in his coat pocket. Eventually, he pulls out a twinkling of gold. Trisha's locket spins slowly, dangling from his clever fingers.

"How...?"

"I was panicking on the plane, and then I found this in my pocket. After that, I couldn't stay there. I made them let me off. I've left a lot of enemies on that flight." Nervous laughter rumbles from Roy's chest. Their gazes focus on the locket and its lazy gleam in the low bathroom light.

"You don't think..." Ed begins.

"It is a bit weird."

"Fate and shit, stuff like that doesn't happen. It's just...I mean, the probability of this ending up in your pocket is pretty high. So it's not, like, related."

"Yes. Just coincidence."

"Probably just forgot I asked you to hold onto it or something. No...dead Mum match-making, or like...fate..."

"Almost certainly not. Well, it's home now."

Lifting Ed's palm, Roy settles the locket in the center. Ed closes his fingers around for a moment, and then pops it open.

"This is my Mum." He lifts the locket to show Roy the images within; one of him and Al catching fish as children, the other of the two of them being gathered close by Trisha Elric. A hand slides down Ed's arm, and Roy is smiling at him.

"She's beautiful. You look a lot like her." The locket is handed back with reverence. Ed snorts.

"You don't need to flirt with me when I chased you down at an airport, Mustang. Job done, at this point."

"Maybe I like to, though. Did you ever think of that? Perhaps I like to see how embarrassed I can make you." Roy leans forward and lightly touches their noses together, so close his face is just a blur of skin. Ed can't fight off the grin.

"Dick."

"Well, since you bring it up..."

"Roy. We're in a toilet."

Ed's hips are pulled forward, sliding over the shitty plastic of the side. Shoulders slipping down the mirror, he has to hold onto Roy's shoulders to avoid sliding off the lip of the edge.

"No one ever chased me through an airport before." Roy says over his lips, barely brushing against him. The air catches in Ed's lungs.

"I won't make a habit of it." Ed breathes.

There are hands moving, hot, down his thighs. They stop at his knees, pushing them apart and god if that doesn't shoot straight through him like an arrow, dick to heart to dick. Arching his back, he pulls Roy in by the back of the neck.

"I really can't explain just how terrible it felt to leave you behind." Roy's words are ghosts on his hot skin, and then there's the familiar softness of Roy's lips on his. A practiced move brings Ed's bottom lip between  Roy's teeth and yes, this is everything he ever wanted.

Roy makes a small, almost needy noise, and coaxes Ed's back to arch again. They align hip to hip, chest to chest. Ed could swear their hearts beat together. What a fucking sap . Hands bury themselves in Ed's hair and the elastic snaps with a whipcrack against the glass of the mirror, falling gold slip-sliding forwards and over his shoulders.

The reality of how close they'd come to never having this - this perfect puzzle-piece fit of minds and skin - is heavy in the room. It makes each action desperate, tinges every fingertip with a little extra haste. Ed's brain signals have come together like sheep, herded from one shuddering sensation to the next. He just about has the mental capacity left to reach forward and pull off the tailored jacket. So he does. Roy shrugs it to the floor.

"God, Ed." Ed's hands have worked their way under the shirt to splay over Roy's back, broad and smooth. Sitting on the sinks, Ed is finally tall enough to meet Roy's eyes straight on, and so he looks dead into them as he curls a hand into the hair at the back of Roy's head and pulls. The curve that is Roy with his head tipped back is beautiful.

Roy's neck tastes like cologne. His laugh at Ed's scrunched expression of distaste is light and airy and pops; pink bubblegum in Ed's chest. It changes to a breathy catch when teeth scrape teasingly over the skin of Roy's throat; for that noise Ed will use his mouth until there's not a single trace of scent left. Fuck the acrid taste.

He presses his advantage, crushing heavy kisses to Roy's mouth and running his nails lightly over little ridges of spine. There are fingers on his hips and Roy drags him forwards, grinding once lightly, and then harder. And fuck, fuck , how is he supposed to say no to the man with one hand in his pants and the other wrapped around his heart? He's only human.

His knees lock against Roy's hips, holding him in place as Ed rocks into him. The hiss that sneaks between his teeth at the relief of contact is a traitor to just how badly Ed is getting lost. Nothing he can think of would be enough to separate him from Roy at this moment.

Roy's breath is short; damp pants between their mouths, with kiss-slicked lips silently forming Ed's name over and over. Praying like Ed is the only thing that can save him. Arms close round the small of Ed's waist to drag him up. The mirror behind him squeaks as he's shifted against it.

"A-ah-!" Caught in the rhythm and thrillingly shocked by a sudden nip to his collar bone, Ed closes his eyes. Roy has found a beat to move to. The relentless pressure makes his blood thunder. Ed's fingers curl into the buttons of Roy's shirt - salmon pink and ostentatious and mindblowingly fucking gorgeous on him - popping one out and then another with shaking hands. Trying to focus on them is difficult through the haze and the movement and the building, blinding pleasure.

Loud voices outside the door make him freeze. Roy stills, but doesn't remove his arms from their grip on Ed's sides. Heart in his mouth, Ed watches the door. His face is already burning at just the prospect...

The voices pass and move away, fading into nothing. A wicked tongue makes its way from Ed's clavicle up to his jaw.

"Roy...we're still in a toilet."

"Completely gorgeous and observant to boot. How do you stand being so perfect?" Roy murmurs into the hollow of Ed's throat, which both tickles and arouses and is generally not the direction Ed is aiming for.

"Seriously, someone could come in at any time, and I'm open minded, but I'm really not into strangers seeing my junk, yeah?" Roy's thumb sneaks under the hem of Ed's shirt, swiping smoothly over the skin. He pulls away slightly.

 

"I have to admit that the idea of anyone else being able to see the most intimate parts of you does make me irrationally angry." The arms around him pull Ed fully off the sink vanity. Ed has to crane his neck to look up at Roy once again. “There’s a disabled toilet just outside.”

“What if someone needs it…”

“We’ll be quick.”

“You’re a romantic motherfucker, aren’t you?” All Ed gets for his efforts is another bite to his neck and a hand to his groin. And then they’re stumbling out, praying there’s no one waiting, and slamming the lock into place. Roy’s duffel is dropped on the floor in favour of wrenching open Ed’s fly. He’s shoved up against the wall and Roy grinds deliciously into him without preamble. Ed fists a hand in Roy’s hair and gasps.

Roy sets him down to kneel by the duffel and rummage. When he comes up with the golden bottle again, tucked neatly into its little clear plastic bag, Ed snorts.

“You kept it?”

“I didn’t want to just throw it away…”

“What, are you too embarrassed to buy lube?” Ed raises a brow with a creeping grin. Roy pouts. He fucking pouts .

“Hardly. I...didn’t have anything of yours. This seemed like- listen. I’m done with the melodrama now. At the time it seemed sentimental and I am fully aware that that is ridiculous, and am suitably humiliated. You can and will mock me for it, I know, but for now can we please get back to our impromptu tryst?”

Ed snorts again.

What ?”

“‘Tryst’”

Roy pulls him down by the neck of his shirt and kisses him into shutting up. He’s such an idiot; a completely cute and utterly hopeless goddamn fool. And he’s Ed’s now. For what...for good? For the foreseeable future? This coiling heat and burning need are going to be a part of his life basically permanently. Ed shudders at the thought. Hands turn him to face the wall, and he presses his hot cheek to the tile whilst trying not to think about germs.

Roy has learned him. Such a short time and he already knows where to press to make Ed arch, how to stroke to get him to bite his tongue against errant moans. Roy’s hardness presses into his upper thigh; a promise as his fingers slickly writhe inside Ed without reprieve. A hand fists him from the front and Ed’s fingers press into the wall, trying to sink through and grab something- anything.

“No more, Roy. Please. Just do it .”

“You’re sure?” Those fingers twirl again. Ed gasps.

“Fuck!”

“I’ll take that as a yes.” The fingers desert him, and Ed fights to catch his breath. When he feels Roy line up with him, tensing to enter, he pulls away.

“Wait,” he demands. Roy stops dead, fully hard with eyes dark and hair sex-mussed. He watches Ed warily but doesn’t move. Ed feels a flush of power. “I want you to...lift me.”

“Against the wall?” Roy drawls slowly, eyes flashing. Ed’s blood spikes.

“I-if you want.” For a moment Roy just leans closer, touching their foreheads and resting a hand behind Ed’s neck. Then he’s hooking both arms under Ed’s legs and lifting. There’s no grace as they wrestle Ed’s jeans off, and in the end he gets so annoyed with the whole process that he unstraps his leg and lets the entire mess drop with a clank to the floor. Winry’s going to kill him. But maybe, now, he can die happy anyway.

He must weigh less without the leg, but he can’t be too light. Despite that, Roy manages to hold them both steady, braced against the wall. Being in the air has Ed harder than he should have any right to be. He wraps his arms around Roy’s neck and feels the muscle there, feels his own reliance on another person. Roy’s hands stretch him open and he shivers expectantly. The wall is hard against his shoulder blades.

“Come on ,” he urges. Roy presses, and breaches, and Ed’s fingers scrabble at his back. It feels different when he’s sinking onto that pressure with only Roy’s slick skin to hold onto. He’s suspended in pleasure, being slowly split apart. “ Ah , shit.”

“Are you alright?” Roy gasps into his neck.

“Yeah it’s just...it’s deep, and-” Roy thrusts once. Ed keens and slaps a hand over his mouth at the noise. “ Again ,” he demands. Roy is compliant. He’s compliant to the point of pressing Ed against the wall and starting to thrust in earnest. Ed likes it when Roy takes orders, likes it when he gets shoved up against the wall and screwed into the tile. Roy’s hands are digging into his thighs, and he can only bounce a little on the sharp curve of Roy’s hipbones, but even so the pace is almost frantic.

He runs his fingers through Roy’s hair, cards them down his neck and over the planes of his back. Roy’s teeth nip at his collarbone and he half yelps between shuddering breaths. Every thrust is enough to sweep the right spots inside him, but he needs more, he needs it to be real.

“Harder,” Ed hisses. Roy appeases him with thrusts that almost knock his head off the wall. He can’t reach his dick but it trails tantalisingly against Roy’s stomach, sending extra jolts of pleasure through him. At the apex of each thrust a small cry is torn from him. This only seems to speed Roy further, despite the sweat that coats him and his slipping grip. With a sharp snap of his hips, and a violent scrape of teeth down Ed’s neck, Roy pushes him over the edge. Ed is held in place, trapped against the wall writhing, toes curling as Roy’s harsh movements trigger the wave that rushes through him. He comes up Roy’s stomach, and for a few moments pants into Roy’s neck. Then slowly, gently like he’s precious, he’s lowered to the floor.

“Are you alright?” Roy’s tone is concerned. But Ed asked for that; he’d wanted it.

“What about you? You’re not done yet.” Refusing to think about his actions, and ignoring Roy’s quiet protests, Ed turns and places both palms against the wall. “Come on. Before someone finds us.”

For a moment he’s suspended, silently waiting, but then strong hands curl around his hips and Roy slides back in without resistance. Ed bites his lip, oversensitised. But he can deal with it. He focusses on the things he’s usually too far gone to notice, like the low pants and how Roy’s hot palm comes to rest above Ed’s heart to hold him. Ed places his hand on top of Roy’s, threading their fingers and allowing himself to feel the slide of skin between them. When Roy finally comes it’s with Ed’s name on his lips and gentle hands holding him close.

---

"What time is your new flight?" Ed asks, holding out a paper bag of fast food burger goodness, and smiling fondly as Roy walks towards the plastic seating. Roy lands in the chair beside him with a fwhump.

"Fifty minutes." He clicks his shoulder and takes the paper bag gracefully, immediately plunging in to grab a handful of fries.

"Okay. Well. Before that. This time I'm not gonna' be a fuckwit, and I'm takin' your number, your facebook, your snapchat, and even your goddamn Linkedin. And if I bombard you, don't get freaked out, okay? I talk a lot, like a lot , and you don't have to respond to everything-"

"Ed. Breathe. You can contact me whenever you like. I'm hoping you'll allow me to call you when I touch down, anyway."

Ed fights down the flutters and just nods. He swallows twice. He knows he's going to have to trust Roy, and he's going to have to stop flapping out about shit that doesn't matter. Knowing doesn't make it easy though.

"Yeah. Yeah, please call."

"Then I will." There's a french fry tapping against Ed's lips, so he takes it between his teeth and turns away so that a large German family get his blush instead of Roy. He opens his contacts and takes a deep breath.

"So, you wanna' do this?" Roy eyes him with a mouthful of food, but wipes his hands on a little napkin (Ed has never used anything but the sides of his pants and wonders briefly how Roy remembers not to do the same) and holds out a hand for Ed's phone.

Ed twitches and fidgets his way through Roy's incredibly slow inputting of details, shoes squeaking on the shined airport floor. He feels like a twelve year old.

Roy hands over his phone, and Ed takes the smooth case in shaking hands. There's already a message.

"Why did you send me a pineapple?" Ed asks, eyebrows furrowing in confusion. Roy looks bemusedly over his shoulder.

"That...was supposed to be a heart."

"Idiot."

"Brat." There's a kiss to his cheekbone and then Roy is leaning back to eat fries again, licking his fingers and looking exceptionally smug.

"You know," Ed begins, "between us we've missed two flights now."

"I'd venture to say it was worth it. And...well this is going to sound silly, and you might be angry, but...I could have got a flight the day after I got stuck here. I'm glad that I chose to stay."

"But, why?" Ed pulls up the good leg and wraps his arms around it. Roy unwraps the burger from its paper almost daintily, and doesn't look up.

"Asking the hard questions, as usual, Ed. I wasn't prepared to go home for one, and the second reason...you provided the most spectacular distraction from  the situation back at base."

"You stayed here so that I could entertain you?"

"And you did a fantastic job." Roy flashes a small grin. Ed elbows him.

"Bastard."

"You were a much more reliable support than I could have ever even dreamed. I don't know what I would have done if I'd have gone home without having met you. Thank you." Roy's face is fond and soft and Ed goes red all the way up to his ears.

"Um, good. I'm, like, glad. And you're welcome. Now can we...not, with the mushy stuff now? In all honesty my heart is seriously gonna' explode." Ed stammers. It's not even time to say goodbye yet (again! In the same day! He's going to start having palpitations) and Roy is still managing to pull the emotional rug out from under him. The man in question grins, and offers him another fry.

"Can I help it if you make me 'mushy'?"

"I'm gonna buy a Toblerone just to hit you with it."

"I'm going to miss you."

"...I'll miss you too. But not for long."

"No. Not for long."

---

In the evening, in the empty hotel room that is infinitely less awful than it had been that morning, Ed curls up in Roy's '<3 Italia' tee and makes sure he's packed for his flight. Al is chattering away on skype, propped up against the desk lamp. A notification covers his face for a moment.

-The weather is abysmal and I did mention that I would be terrible in the rain without you, so I'm afraid you'll have to hear about it. They delayed my train for an hour, and that's when it really sank in that I was back in Britain. I hope you're in bed, and that they haven't put another strapping young officer in your room. If they have, do not let him use your plugs, and definitely do not let him take you to a villa for several rounds of fantastic sex. Please. If you would be so kind.

Sleep well x

A string of Pineapple emojis follow; their bright yellow spikes conjuring a smile on Ed's face that he can't dislodge.

"Brother you're doing that thing with your face, again."

"Shut up, Al!"

It's going to be a long wait until he gets back home. But it's going to be worth it.

---

 

END.