It was pouring so heavily it took a few tries before Roy realized the pounding sound was coming from someone banging on his front door, not the thunder in the skies. He rushed to the door, wondering who the hell was even out in this weather.
He shouldn’t have been surprised to see Ed, who defied all logic on his best and worst days.
“Goodness, Edward,” he said, moving aside and opening the door wider. “Come in.”
“Don’t need to tell me twice,” Ed said, shuffling inside.
Roy closed the door against the onslaught of wind and rain. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Ed’s only protection against the weather was a burgundy sweatshirt, and it was soaked through. His hair hung free from its characteristic braid, plastered to the sides of his head and dripping a consistent plat plat plat plat on Roy’s hardwood floor.
“I just got back,” Ed said, which answered Roy’s next question: How long have you been in Central?
Ed shivered and rubbed his right shoulder. Roy touched his left. “Let’s get you to a shower.”
Ed allowed Roy to lead him until they reached the bathroom door, then he shrugged him off, not looking at him.
“Can you just leave the towel and stuff on the counter by the sink,” he said, not a question or request. “Thanks.”
He disappeared into the bathroom, and the door clicked shut behind him but the lock didn’t.
Roy retreated to his bedroom. Ed kept two sets of clothes in the bottom drawer of Roy’s dresser, which he suspected was already a fourth of Ed’s total wardrobe. Ed had perfected the art of traveling light and living out of a suitcase, but Roy hoped he could convince him to expand his wardrobe if he planned on settling down.
…That was a very big if.
Roy took one of the sets of clothing—underwear, black sweatshirt and sweatpants. After a moment’s deliberation, he opened the top drawer and added one of his own sweaters. A clean white towel from the linen closet later, and he was back at the bathroom door.
Ed took showers that could only be described as scalding. When Roy opened the door, he was greeted by a puff of hot damp air directly to his face. Further in, the shower curtain was drawn tight, billows of steam pouring through the space between the top of the curtain and the ceiling.
On any other day, Roy might tease, offer to join him knowing full well that his advances would be rebuffed. Today, he wordlessly placed the towel and clothes on the counter as requested.
Roy shut the door softly behind him and went back to the bedroom to wait. Sometimes with Ed, that was all he could do.
They were dating, in some capacity of the word.
Ed had returned to Central two years ago, five years after leaving Resembool and seven years after Roy had seen him last. He’d turned up the way he usually arrived places: like a natural disaster. In other words, he’d shown up in Roy’s office without any prior warning and caused what could be mildly described as a commotion.
Over the course of his travels, Ed had accumulated a mountain of research notes and little else. Somewhere in between Ed demanding—or requesting, perhaps, but in a way which implied he hadn’t even considered that Roy might refuse—that Roy give him access to military-restricted alchemical texts from the newly-rebuilt Central National Library and contact information for any editor at the Amestrian Journal of Alchemy, Roy found himself inviting Ed to crash on his couch so he didn’t have to pay for a hotel.
Ed unofficially moved in, and his research notes moved in with him. In what free time he had, Roy helped sort through the pages and pages of notes, marking where he knew of a book or two Ed might like to cross-reference. He found himself looking forward to nights with Ed, reading through books and notes and talking about everything Ed had seen and learned.
Roy had always felt too busy to do more than the bare minimum of research to submit for his yearly State Alchemist assessment, and even that was a formality; it wasn’t conceited to say that no one would ever revoke his license, it was just fact. But he made time for Ed. Roy had forgotten, somewhere in the flames of Ishval, that alchemy was a passion as much as it was a tool. He’d studied alchemy to benefit the state but it was impossible to be a successful alchemist without a passion for the science. Ed had never lost that passion, even after all he’d seen, even after losing the ability to perform alchemy himself. Even after seeing all the horrors alchemy was capable of, he’d never forgotten that it was capable of beauty, too.
And he seemed determined to remind Roy—though in all likelihood, Ed wasn’t trying to do anything to him at all. It was just an unintentional side effect of being in Ed’s presence. After being at the military headquarters all day, maneuvering the political quagmire, spending time with Ed tasted like freedom.
Somewhere in between sharing takeout and draping a blanket over Ed’s shoulders because he’d fallen asleep at the desk again, Roy fell in love.
It wasn’t as if there was ever any doubt, but after Ed’s first article was accepted by the AJA, he’d jumped up and down, so exuberant and so utterly brilliant and beautiful that Roy wanted so badly to kiss him. Roy wouldn’t have, would have pushed the urge back into his chest and locked it up tight, had Ed not grabbed him by the lapels and kissed him first.
Their nights stayed mostly the same after that, except with a lot more kissing in between discussions of alchemical theory. Ed slept in Roy’s bed but they didn’t sleep together in the other sense of the word, one or both usually too tired to do anything but collapse onto the mattress already half gone. But sometimes kissing turned to making out turned to breathless grinding, fully clothed, until one or both of them came in their pants, or into Ed guiding Roy’s hand into his sweatpants, his boxers, panting heavily in Roy’s ear as he jacked Ed off.
They never talked about it, and maybe that had been Roy’s critical mistake.
And then, a year after Ed had, Al had returned to Central and he and Ed moved into an apartment together. And it’d felt like rejection, the way Ed had just picked up and left. Like it’d never meant anything, like Roy had just been a convenient warm body and it didn’t matter who he was.
But Ed came back, and kept coming back, and Roy thought maybe they were on the same page after all—until two weeks ago, when three words had sent Ed running off to Rush Valley with the barest of notes in explanation.
Now Roy didn’t know if they were chapters apart or if they weren’t even in the same book.
Ed’s voice, loud and irreverent, usually preceded his appearance in a room. Today, the soft click of his metal sole against the hardwood heralded his approach. Roy looked up, and then had to think very hard about not thinking about how Ed looked utterly gorgeous in Roy’s sweater. It was a little baggy on him—Ed was nearly as tall as Roy now, but not so broad—and Roy felt a rush of possessiveness Ed would detest if he knew.
“Hey,” Ed said, quiet.
“Hello,” Roy said. “Do you think we can have a conversation without you running away to another city for two weeks?”
Ed’s face reddened deeply. “I—I told you—”
“Your leg needed tune-ups. Of course.”
“Yeah, well, you can’t just spring that shit on me,” Ed said.
Roy, heroically, did not flinch. “I rather thought we were building up to it.”
Ed stared down at him. A part of Roy wanted to rise to his feet, put themselves on equal ground, but he stayed seated, and Ed stayed standing five feet away.
“Did you…mean it, then,” Ed said.
Roy tried to muster up a smile, which wasn’t the easiest task when it felt like the inside of his chest was being clawed out. “With all my heart.”
“Even if I don’t stay?” Ed asked. “Even if I’m always moving from one place to another and you rarely even see me?”
“Even if,” Roy said.
“Even if…” Ed licked his lips and rubbed his right shoulder. “Even if I don’t put out?”
Roy hadn’t quite seen that one coming. He thought of frottage and messy hand jobs wrapped in blankets and darkness. He would certainly consider that sex even if Ed didn’t.
It was hardly relevant, though, because that wasn’t what Ed was really trying to get at.
“You can’t make me stop l—” No, saying it might scare him off again. “You’re not going to change how I feel.”
Ed huffed, then winced and moved to sit next to Roy at the edge of the bed and started massaging his left thigh with both hands.
“Does it hurt?” Roy asked.
“Just aches,” Ed muttered. “Always happens when the atmospheric pressure drops. Fuck, if I’d known it was gonna storm so bad I would’ve stayed in Rush Valley longer.”
“Does your shoulder ache? You’ve been rubbing it.”
Ed stilled. “Sometimes it aches where the port used to be. I don’t know.” He rubbed the shoulder in question. “Obviously, no one else has ever, uh, recovered a limb that was formerly automail. I don’t know if it’s a phantom pain or if my shoulder’s just fucked up now. You know they had to dig the metal out of my shoulder after? That hurt like a bitch.”
Roy wanted to reach out and touch but he wasn’t sure what was allowed. Ed had made the move to sit next to him, true, but he had also very deliberately left a foot of space between them on the bed.
He felt stuck and uncertain. He had bared his heart; Ed could stand to return the favor.
But that wasn’t how these things worked.
“They’re not conditional,” he said.
“My feelings for you,” Roy said. “They aren’t conditional. You don’t have to reciprocate. You don’t have to do anything. They will hold fast and true for as long as I breathe.”
Ed stared at him with wide eyes, breathing shallowly through slightly-parted lips. Roy gathered his resolve and pushed forward.
“But if you don’t want them, Ed, you don’t have to accept them. They’re a gift, freely given, but you don’t have to take it. I love you. I will love you, and I will take care of you, and do things for you, if you’ll let me. But if you don’t want that…then that’s your right. And I’ll respect it.” Even if it would devastate him.
“You,” Ed said, his voice shaky, “are too damn nice.”
And he kissed Roy.
Thank God, Roy thought, and kissed back. He slid a hand into Ed’s hair, still damp from his shower, and settled on the nape of his neck.
Ed kissed slow, deliberate, and hot like a brand. He repositioned himself to sit on his knees, holding himself over Roy and anchoring his hands on either shoulder. There was something greedy about it, a taking and taking and taking, but Roy was more than happy to give. When they kissed, the focus of Roy’s world narrowed to Ed and only Ed. He was captivated, and he had the wild thought that his plans, his ambitions, he would throw them all away if it meant keeping this.
Ed would never allow it, would hate to know Roy even entertained the thought because he expected better, expected more from him, never mind the fact that Ed couldn’t be kept. And realistically Roy wouldn’t abandon the rest of his life so easily, but when Ed was on him like this, hands on his face now to hold him in place and sliding their tongues together, he couldn’t stop the thought: There is no future without this.
Ed broke the kiss—Roy didn’t think he could’ve done it himself if he tried—and pressed their foreheads together, breathing heavily.
“Maybe with the lights off,” he said.
Ed sat back on his heels and looked at Roy with consideration. “You can fuck me with the lights off.”
Thank God Roy was practiced in the art of conversation with Edward Elric, filling in the gaps between his leaps of logic.
“Are you…” There really was no way to put this delicately, was there? “…self-conscious?”
“No,” Ed snapped. “That would be stupid.”
“Naturally,” Roy said. “You’re beautiful.”
“And you’re full of shit,” Ed said. He looked away. “I don’t…it’s stupid.”
“You can tell me.” Roy reached a hand out to cup Ed’s cheek. He half-expected Ed to shy away, but he turned into it and closed his eyes.
“It’s different with you,” Ed said, lips moving against Roy’s palm, voice a soft vibration on his skin. “If I’m fighting and my shirt or something tears, it’s whatever. No one’s looking closely and I’m, you know, kind of busy fighting for my life. And Winry is my mechanic and my doctor, and basically my sister.
“But with you—a relationship is different. You’re looking for something to like, but all you’re gonna see are my scars and you’ll realize that I’m ugly, I’m fucked up, I’m damaged goods, and you’ll leave.”
Ed’s breath hitched, and Roy’s heart clenched. He withdrew his hand.
“Edward, Ed, sweetheart, look at me,” Roy said.
Ed did, nose scrunching in disagreement with the pet name, and Roy smiled despite himself.
“You’re not the only one with scars.”
“I know—” Ed objected, but Roy cut him off.
He held up both hands, palms up. A jagged scar ran through the center of each. “When they forced me to open the Gate, Wrath stabbed through both hands to hold me in place.”
“I-I know,” Ed said again, weakly. He put his hands under Roy’s and ran the pads of his thumbs over the scars.
Roy turned his right hand over in Ed’s. The scar there was thin and more faded than the others, but an inerasable part of him nonetheless. “When I fought Lust, she tore my gloves. I carved the transmutation circle onto my hand and used Havoc’s lighter for the spark.”
He pulled his hands away from Ed and tugged his sweatshirt off. “Here’s where Lust stabbed me,” he said, touching the scarred skin on his abdomen. “I had to burn the wound shut to cauterize it. It goes all the way around to part of my back.”
He wasn’t saying anything Ed didn’t already know, but Ed was looking at each mark as if for the first time, eyes a little wide, biting his lip like he was afraid to speak. He pressed a hand against the burn wound. Roy couldn’t feel it as sharply he did touch on the rest of his skin, the nerves burned and dead, but he could feel the pressure, the coolness of Ed’s hand.
He pulled Ed’s attention to a burn wound on his right bicep. “I got this one in Ishval. You can’t perform flame alchemy in close quarters and walk away unscathed. There are others.” Roy lifted his arms in an inviting gesture. “Would you like to look? I’ve no shortage of scars.”
“And what about the ones I carry inside?” Roy asked. “The weight of what I did in Ishval. Hero of Ishval, Ed, that’s my cross to bear for the rest of my life. And every vile thing I’ve had to do under orders, in the name of the military, everything I’ve had to close my eyes to by saying it’s the only way, I must be obedient so I can move up, because only by being at the top can I truly hope to make lasting change. Does that make it okay? Will the end really justify the means? I don’t know, but sometimes telling myself so is the only way I can sleep at night.”
Ed hunched his shoulders. “I’m sorry, I don’t—I don’t know what to say.”
“The truth,” Roy said. “Do you think me less for any of these things? Anything you’ve just seen or heard?”
“What the fuck, Roy, no,” Ed said. His eyes blazed with conviction, and it was the most he’d looked like himself tonight. “I respect you more than anyone.”
Roy had expected an answer to the effect, but tension he hadn’t realized had built up melted away at the words, and he sighed, relief and tiredness both.
“Then why can’t you trust that I feel the same about you?”
Just like that, the fire disappeared. “I don’t know,” Ed said, eyes flicking away. “I guess because good things don’t happen to me.”
“Then that makes two of us,” Roy said, and Ed jerked to meet his gaze. “Though I maintain that you are one of the best things to happen to me regardless of the fate of our relationship.”
“Geez,” Ed said. “You’re really too much, you know that? What am I supposed to do with you?”
“Can I look at you?” Roy asked in return.
He didn’t need to clarify what he meant. Ed rubbed his arms and said, “I guess.”
“I don’t have to,” Roy said. “When you’re ready, not before.”
Ed laughed without mirth. “I don’t think I’ll ever be ready, so let’s just get it over with.”
Before Roy could stop him, he pulled his sweater and sweatshirt off together quickly and without ceremony and let it drop to the floor. His face was red and his eyes kept darting back and forth between Roy’s and somewhere over Roy’s shoulder.
“Ed,” Roy said, and Ed’s eyes jumped back to his.
Roy leaned forward and kissed him. Ed gasped a little into it, and Roy swallowed the sound, pressing in closer and wishing, helplessly, that Ed could feel how he made Roy feel when they were together.
He guided Ed down onto his back on the bed. Ed blinked up at him, and Roy stroked his hair.
“I don’t want to cheapen what you’ve been through. I won’t say they make you more beautiful,” he said. “But they certainly don’t make you any less.”
He lay down beside Ed and gently rested one of his hands on one of the more prominent scars on Ed’s torso, the one on his abdomen. Roy knew just enough about what had happened while Ed was in the north to guess where it had come from.
“And you are,” he said, “so beautiful.”
“How do you just say shit like that,” Ed said, and Roy laughed softly.
“After all the lying I have to do in my day job, it’s refreshing to be able to come home and speak only the truth.” He paused. “My love.”
Ed groaned, long and exaggerated. Roy tilted his head down and pressed his lips to the scar on Ed’s shoulder where his automail port used to be, and Ed’s groan changed in pitch to a whine. He turned his head away.
“I mean everything I say to you,” Roy said, and kissed the scar again.
“Roy,” Ed said.
Roy took that as invitation to trail kisses down along the jagged scar.
“You are perfection,” he said between kisses. “The most brilliant man I’ve ever met. I don’t think you realize, sometimes, that you are a legitimate genius. And you make it look so effortless.
“And you’re gorgeous. Your hair is sunshine and your eyes are fire. I love your hands; with or without alchemy they create amazing things. You—”
“Roy,” Ed said again, turning back to him. “I really need you to shut up, preferably by kissing me and then fucking me, in that order.”
“Anything for you,” Roy said, and complied.
They fucked slow and quiet. Rather, when Roy attempted to compliment Ed, Ed pressed their mouths together with no little force, clacking their teeth in his haste to shut Roy up.
“Less bullshit, more fucking,” he said breathlessly once they’d parted.
Roy couldn’t do much after that but hold Ed close and do as commanded, shivering at the hot puffs of Ed’s breath in his ear, relishing in his stuttered moans when Roy pushed inside him, the full-body shudders when he stroked Ed, the choked cry when the mounting tension snapped and released. Ed arched up, heels digging into Roy’s back, and then collapsed.
“Fuck, Roy,” Ed said, breathing heavily.
“Mm,” Roy replied, nuzzling Ed’s neck.
Ed petted his hair and brushed Roy’s bangs, stuck to his forehead by sweat, out of his face.
They should get cleaned up. Objectively this was the worst part of sex, because Roy just wanted to cuddle and sleep, but instead he had to get up, discard his condom, and wet a washcloth.
Seeing Ed’s blissed-out expression twist into a frown as he squirmed, ticklish, under Roy’s attempts to wipe him clean, though, made it worth it.
“I was lying earlier,” Ed said when Roy lay back down. His eyes tracked Roy’s face.
“I won’t leave,” Ed said. “I won’t go traveling around. I’ll stay here, with you.”
“Ed,” Roy said, something tightening in his chest. “The last thing I want to do is tie you down.”
“Hey.” Ed poked his finger to Roy’s chest. “You’re not.”
“Would you honestly be happy staying here, never exploring the world?”
“We can go on vacation or something. Together. Oh, don’t give me that look,” Ed said before Roy could protest. “I know you’re very busy and important. We’ll figure it out, okay?”
“I’m still not sure…”
“Listen,” Ed said. He rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “My father left. Sure, he had reasons, but he still fucking left, and he made Mom sad. And Mom never stopped loving him, and she never stopped missing him, and she died alone.”
“She had you,” Roy ventured.
“You know what I fucking mean,” Ed said. “If we’re really doing this, I’m not leaving you. And you’re not tying me down; I’m choosing to stay.” He turned back to Roy and stared him down with those intense eyes of his. “It’s a two-way street, asshole. I’m not gonna let you be all self-sacrificial and do shit for me without getting anything in return.”
Equivalent exchange for an emotion that defied all laws and logic?
Roy smiled, a little helplessly. He took Ed’s hand in his own, lacing their fingers and squeezing gently. He’d give up so much, he knew, if it was what it would take to make Ed happy.
“That’s what love is, I’m afraid.”
“Yeah?” Ed said. “Well, it doesn’t have to be, ‘cause guess what: I love you, too.”
Roy’s smile widened into something more genuine. He drew Ed close and kissed the top of his head. “Then it seems good things do happen.”