It had taken a while, but Roy Mustang was finally starting to catch on to something.
Edward Elric wouldn't be called a subtle creature by most people who had met him. He was loud, abrasive, forthright; his foul temper and fouler tongue were known across the country by this point. He was also known for his surprising selflessness, his steadfast morals, and his stubborn determination. This was all common knowledge, and it was all perfectly true.
So no, most people wouldn't call Edward subtle - but most people didn't have the displeasure (privilege) of seeing the alchemist so up-close, emotionally speaking. They didn't know the ins and outs of his odd ways of speaking - the ways he expressed gratitude or forgiveness, for example - or have all of his little compulsions memorised. They didn't get to see the flustered smiles or thoughtful sighs when Ed thought no one was looking.
And it was these things that had Roy wondering, had him second-guessing something that he'd been battling with himself over for a couple of years now:
Were his feelings towards the boy unrequited?
Of course, Roy's first internal war concerning this matter had been something a little more... ethical. His attraction to Fullmetal hadn't reared its head until he was seventeen, and despite that being completely legal Roy had still felt a twisting kind of guilt about it for another year. His mind during that time had been a tangled mess of worries and questions - Is he too young? Is this crossing a line for my role in his life? Should I be concerned about his being my subordinate? - but most of that started to dissipate once Ed turned eighteen.
It was still definitely inappropriate to be having such thoughts about a subordinate, yes, but the then-Colonel had figured that it wasn't an issue if he didn't act on it.
And he didn't. Roy continued to have a few short, casual relationships with near-strangers, half-pretending not to notice that he was starting to have a serious preference for blondes (and was sleeping with more and more men as time went on). And it was fine. Everything was fine.
Except now, with Edward at nineteen years old and Roy finally promoted to General, the older man was starting to piece some things together.
First of all, there was what the others had been hinting to him. It wasn't anything explicit: a well-timed theatrical wink from Havoc here, a knowing smile from Hawkeye there, so on and so forth. He would always remember one particularly daring occasion at a local pub, when a rather tipsy Kain Fuery had patted an even tipsier Ed on the back, looking Roy very deliberately in the eye, saying, "Seems like we need to get you laid, Elric!"
At first, Roy had started to worry that his team were noticing the looks he gave Ed but tried to hide, his soft spot for the blond. Those concerns faded quickly enough, however, as he liked to think that at least Riza would have the sense to confront him about anything inappropriate.
He then entertained the idea that it was all just a bit of friendly teasing, nothing more; their friends had always found amusement in Roy and Ed's petty and tempestuous relationship, anyway.
But now, some new ideas were starting to settle in Roy's mind, and he wasn't sure how to feel about them yet.
He'd been catching Fullmetal in the middle of those pensive, almost wistful stares more and more often recently, for one. All too frequently would he look up from his desk when he was talking to the boy to find those golden eyes gazing down at him with an interesting kind of thoughtfulness, so different from the kind he would give a challenging passage of alchemy notes or when thinking up a complex strategy.
And sometimes, when Roy decided to teasingly snap the Major out of his reverie, Ed would have the audacity to blush. How was he even allowed to do such a thing? His tan skin looked too pretty when it flushed, and his embarrassment was far too cute to be permitted. Not that Roy would dare to call Edward cute to his face - he was sure that would lose him an eye, or perhaps more likely his tongue.
Ed had been smiling at him more recently, too. Well, not so much at him, but around him. Or because of him. These little smiles when Roy made an obnoxious joke or helped Ed and the team with something were soft and bitten-cheeked, and they made Roy's heart sing.
See, Edward was subtle, but only when he really needed to be, and only when it came to matters of emotion and personal relationships. Roy had been noticing these small details for a long time - his refusal to meet anyone's eyes when talking about his father, how he tended to play with the end of his braid if he was reminded of his mother, how he seemed a little like he didn't know what to do with his body when he was happy - but was only just starting to apply them to himself.
Ed was nearly twenty years old now. He was up for promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel soon (although the rest of their little team had chosen not to mention this to him yet), and had matured significantly since the Promised Day and everything surrounding it.
He was also still somewhat childish, and sinfully adorable at times, in a way that did funny things to Roy's breathing. The way he would chew and suck on a pen or pencil he was writing with, the way some of Havoc and Breda's filthier jokes would only elicit from him scrunched brows and wide eyes, the fact that he really hadn't grown all that much since he was fifteen... It all got under Roy's skin in a very nice way.
But Ed was an adult, and that meant that Roy was very interested to see where his new hunch would lead him.