It started as a game.
Ed had joined the old team at the pub for what he’d thought would be just another ordinary evening of tipsy shenanigans with his sort-of-favorite old coworkers. He’d really come to value the time he spent with them—it gave him perspective, for one thing; and laughing was supposed to make you live longer, for another. After the way he’d treated his body up until just a couple years ago, he was well-aware that he was going to need all the help that he could get.
It also gave him an invaluable semi-regular opportunity to ogle Mustang in an informal setting, and sometimes even in informal clothes. The uniform didn’t do the bastard any favors—which was absurd, actually, because he looked fucking killer in the uniform, too; it was just that he was so much more devastating out of it, and…
Well. Mustang out of his clothes was further than Ed could afford to go in his head when he was out in public, a little drunk, in full view of the object of his impure thoughts, and liable—if not likely—to say all kinds of stupid shit.
He had just, in fact, said some stupid shit to Havoc, about how he was kind-of-sort-of-sorry for rolling his eyes with everybody else back in the days when Havoc had used to complain about being serially dateless, because it turned out that dating was actually a hell of a lot harder than Ed had ever thought.
Havoc was staring at him.
Ed didn’t like the character of that particular stare, so he glowered back, just to be safe. Petulant defensiveness was rarely a bad starting position, right?
Al would smack him for even thinking that—and Al always, of course, somehow Knew what Ed was thinking at the worst possible times—but fortunately Al was currently doing field research in Xerxes for his weird archaeology degree.
“What?” Ed said for good measure.
“Nothing,” Havoc said, which was patently untrue and therefore patently useless. “Just—guy like you? People’s Alchemist? Total genius? Long blond hair and great shoulders and…” He gestured, marginally more indicatively but not much more helpfully, up and down at Ed. “…all the rest of it? You want me to believe you have a hard time getting dates?”
“It’s not about believing it,” Ed said. “It’s the truth. And that’s the thing, though—it’s not necessarily that it’s hard to get ’em in the first place; sometimes that part goes okay. But nobody wants to stick around. And—like—shit! Why would they? I’m fucking boring.”
The silence that ensued at the table was perhaps the loudest bout of quietude that Ed had ever heard.
“Ed,” Breda said, mostly gently, “how drunk are you?”
Roy was doing that terrible thing that he did where he had one arm across his chest, with the other elbow propped up on top of it so that he could hold his curled hand contemplatively in front of his mouth. His eyes were gleaming. Ed couldn’t even look at him when he was doing stuff like that; he was like something out of a portrait gallery and a photoshoot and a filthy-delicious dream.
“I’m serious,” Ed said. “Just think about it. All I ever want to talk about is obscure alchemy shit, and… Al. Sometimes both at once. Occasionally I tell weird stories, and in a bunch of those, a lot of people die. Like—who the hell wants to blow their limited spare time listening to that? There aren’t even very many alchemists who wanna talk to me, because I get into bizarre advanced stuff that nobody cares about and then diagram all over the table, and it’s rude, and weird, and I don’t even stop for breath.”
They were still staring. Clearly the best solution was to keep going at full speed.
“That’s just—me,” Ed said. “Like—I try to change it, and I can’t, and… or they say one thing about their family, and I’m off about Al for, like, two hours, and—who cares? I mean, I care, obviously, but who else would? Nobody. They don’t know him, and it’s not like they’re on a date with Al, anyway; they’re on a date with me, so it’s really no surprise if it gets to the end of the night, and maybe something happens, or maybe it doesn’t, but I never, ever get another call. It’s just, y’know—‘Sorry, thanks, have a nice life.’ But it makes sense. I don’t blame ’em. Statistically speaking, I have no idea how I’m supposed to find somebody who has even one of those niche interests in common, let alone—”
Roy got up from the table, and something in Ed’s chest clenched—followed by his stomach flipping, twisting, and then going extremely, abruptly cold. He’d even managed to bore the shit out of the universe’s premiere procrastinator in real time—that was something of an accomplishment, at least. Maybe if he put it on his résumé—
Roy didn’t leave the table, though—he came around the edge of it, reached down, grabbed Ed’s hand, and pulled.
Ed had already demonstrated that he’d had enough to drink that he could neither filter his speech nor finish a rant once he’d gotten going. He’d also apparently had enough that he was fairly suggestible, because he let Roy haul him up to his feet and then stood there, staring at their joined hands, for a long second before he said, “What are you doing?”
Roy lifted their hands. Roy set his free hand on Ed’s waist and pushed him two steps back, then drew him two steps forward, then slung him outward to the length of their extended arms, then twirled him back in, then dipped him low on his back foot—real low, way low; so low he should have been afraid that he was one misstep away from falling.
Then Roy whipped him upright again so fast that his head spun, and little bubbles kept popping bright and effervescent in his chest. His heart was beating so fast that he wasn’t really sure how he registered them, but God, were they there.
“Go out with me,” Roy said.
“I’m out with you right now,” Ed said. “We’re all out.”
Roy still had both arms around him. Roy grinned, and he looked young, and happy, and so fucking good—
“On a date, Edward,” Roy said. “I’ve never found you boring in my life, and I don’t imagine that I ever will.”
Ed wasn’t entirely sure that he was breathing, although he could still hear his heart banging in his head. Or maybe that was the riotous applause from the cadre of lousy traitors at the table. Or maybe that was all of the neurons in his brain blowing up one at a time.
The bottom line was that he was at such a cavernously colossal loss for words that he couldn’t have described the concept of a no even if he’d wanted to, and it took him a full forty seconds before he could summon up a nod.
He knew two things from the world-shaking smugness of Roy’s smile—firstly, that he was in for something utterly extraordinary; secondly, that he was going to have to get his revenge.
Two could play at any game, and Ed was good at bending the living daylights out of the rules.
On their first date, Ed didn’t even wait until their appetizers had made it to the table.
It wasn’t his fault—Roy was sipping at his glass of wine and doing the eye-smolder thing on an unprecedented scale, like he thought that he could convince Ed that he was suave and worldly and sophisticated. He seemed to have forgotten that just last week Ed had seen him buy Havoc a new beer specifically for the purpose of stealing the first sip, deliberately tipping foam onto his upper lip, and shaping it with his fingers into a villain mustache to do a terrible impression of Major General Pontiface.
So Ed had drunk a little bit of his wine (which tasted like off-grape-flavored ass) and then swilled it around in the glass and raised an eyebrow and said, as calmly as possible, “Just for your information, I can still do the splits.”
Roy sprayed wine out of his nose and all over the tablecloth.
There were purple speckles on the bread.
That had to hurt like fucking hell.
Ed quickly discovered that it was very difficult to try to gently mop wine off of someone’s face and cry laughing at the same time. Their waiter discovered that the Amestrian military was a fucking sham. Roy discovered that Ed was not planning to take any prisoners, now or ever, and that wine was one more betrayer in a world full of them.
All in all, it was a very productive evening.
Ed didn’t actually have to demonstrate his flexibility for a while after that, because Roy was doing a gentleman thing, apparently.
But people who thought that Ed wasn’t patient didn’t understand the sheer amount of concentrated hours required to research the things that he’d done as a kid—let alone the additional time investment needed after that to prepare for them, and then to execute the ones that mattered.
So Ed waited.
And he started letting his hair down a lot.
And he wore progressively tighter pairs of pants.
Roy had more self-control than anyone that Ed had ever met, but Ed was a scientist, and he was better than people expected at cataloguing details when they could be used as observations. Knowing specifically what made Roy’s eyes widen and his pulse quicken and his hands shake a little bit—not that he ever let Ed see them shaking, but the smooth disappearance of them into his pockets was a dead giveaway after a while—gave Ed a lot more leverage than just trying to be attractive in a general sort of way. He’d never been particularly successful at that.
But knowing what Roy was a sucker for made it almost easy, in the end, to finally, finally seduce the stubborn bastard and do it right.
Maybe there was some truth to that stupid platitude that good things came to those who waited—or maybe it was better to say that those who waited came, and it was good.
Ed didn’t know if the brain-splitting beauty of the whole experience had more to do with Roy, or with the precise friction between the two of them, or with the waiting itself, or with the combination of waiting and their personalities and the years and years of pent-up sexual tension that they’d poured in to tonight.
He did know that he wanted to do this again. And again. And again. Preferably on a fairly regular basis until the sun burnt out.
He’d accumulated just enough previous data points to understand that everybody handled the afterwards part a little bit differently, but not enough of them to be able to guess exactly how Roy would approach the whole thing. Ed had determined that most of the people that you’d want to sleep with again let it be sort of… quiet and nice.
Roy was doing really well at quiet and nice. He was doing even better at playing with Ed’s hair.
It was so soothing that it didn’t really register just how intent Roy was on smoothing it down over the pillow and separating the little tangles with his fingertips and brushing back Ed’s bangs until it had gone on for… a long time, probably. At least a couple of minutes, completely uninterrupted. And Roy was… looking, too. Not quite staring, but definitely watching. Watching close.
So Ed did the only thing he could think of, which was swallowing hard, clearing his throat, and jumping right into the fire: “What?”
Roy smiled. There was something soft about it—something warm and something gentle and something fragile and something very, very sad.
It slammed into Ed’s guts like a freight train and exploded on impact. Somehow he really hadn’t expected to have his stomach full of a smoking iron wreckage of coal and mangled track and twisted metal this evening, but being one more person to underestimate General Roy Mustang was definitely his mistake.
“Sorry,” Roy said. “I don’t mean to… it’s…” He took a deep breath. He looked rueful. Ed regretted the day he’d ever learned that word. “It’s just that I’m so perfectly happy in this moment that I’m trying to memorize it as well as I can—and at the same time, there’s already a part of me that’s grieving the fact that I can’t stay right here like this forever.”
Ed tried to swallow again, but it didn’t work—his breath had stuck, and his whole throat had panicked and cinched in tight, and…
And even if he could have spoken, he didn’t have the slightest damn clue what to say.
Hopefully rolling over and slinging an arm around Roy’s neck and burying his face in Roy’s collarbones would more or less get the message across.
Ed won one round by showing up on Roy’s doorstep with soup and blankets and stupid board games in the middle of the day on a Monday when he found out through the traitor-team grapevine that Roy had called in sick.
Roy took the next one two months later by extremely casually inviting Ed to move in.
Ed wasn’t entirely sure that Roy knew that they were playing a leave-the-other-person-speechless game—but if Roy did, it would be embarrassing to tell him the rules; and if he didn’t, he was already so damn good at it that the prospect of how much better he’d be when he found out was too terrifying to contemplate.
Ed figured he would just roll with it. He’d always had a knack for that.
The only question Roy asked when he came home to find Ed elbow-deep in flour and butter and shortening and apple slices and cornstarch and nutmeg and cinnamon was “Can I help?”
So Ed said, “Sure, yeah,” and put him to work.
Several minutes later—after Roy had booped flour onto the tip of Ed’s nose and laughed uproariously at his anguish; and after Ed had christened the dough a no-good, back-stabbing, evil asshole piece of shit; and after Roy had used his impossibly fast hands to steal no fewer than three apple slices to eat them—Roy said, “May I ask why we’re making an apple pie from scratch on Wednesday night?”
“I dunno,” Ed said. “Because I can do anything Winry can do, and…”
He kneaded harder. He could have said the other things—he knew he could; he knew Roy would hear him out, even if neither the long nor the short of it made a whole lot of sense. He knew he could say All of the successful relationships I’ve seen—the Curtises and the Hugheses and Al and Winry now—have had a real strong basis in food. And obviously that’s not enough significance to be considered causative by any stretch of the imagination, but it does seem like there’s at least some degree of correlation, and—I mean, shit. It sure can’t hurt, and Roy would listen.
But there was another part of it, too—the part that had put it into his head in the first place. The part that was scarier, somehow, because it was quieter, and it was vulnerable.
“It would’ve been my mom’s birthday today,” he said, looking down at his diabolical pie-crust-in-progress. “It’s… she wasn’t ever as good a cook as Gracia, or anything, but she used to let me and Al mix stuff and help her out in the kitchen a lot, so it sort of—makes me feel a little bit closer to her, I guess.”
He sneaked a glance at Roy. Roy had leaned against the counter and was looking at him like…
Well, like he was… worth it. Like he was worth a lot.
“Thank you for letting me be a part of it,” Roy said, very softly. “Did she—or did you and Al—have any other particular favorites? That bookstore downtown has a fairly extensive selection of cookbooks if there’s anything you have in mind.”
Ed looked at him for a long second. Roy, in his shirtsleeves—which were rolled up to the elbows, which was a different problem that provoked a different kind of hunger—with his gorgeous hands mottled white with flour, with his eyes all warm and gooey-gentle and his hair a mess from tussling over the apples and his heart wide open at a time like this—
Roy raised his eyebrows, half-smiling. “Not that I’m trying to suggest that you should do more cooking; I only meant—”
“Nah,” Ed said. “I was just thinking that my mom probably would’ve liked you a lot.”
He hadn’t even been trying that time, but Roy went silent for the better part of a minute before he got out a tiny little “Thank you.”
Roy was in the kitchen, waging a scrubbing war against the mess on their stovetop; and Ed was swinging a broom around over his head in the entryway, trying to reduce the amount of cobwebs in the corners. He didn’t really think cobwebs should have been a high priority, considering that they had little to no impact on sanitation insofar as they presented minimal health risks, but Al and Winry were going to visit again next weekend, and he knew Al would give him hell for “not taking care of his home now that he finally had one” or whatever it was this month.
So he was sweeping the ceiling, which was probably hilarious for a lot of reasons, not least among which was the fact that he had to half-climb up on things sometimes, or brace one foot against one of the baseboards to give himself a few more precious centimeters and the leverage to collect the straggling threads of a particularly ambitious arachnid construction.
“Hey, Ed?” Roy called.
He was halfway up and stretched to the limits of his arms and his legs and his tiptoes, so he just made an affirmative-ish noise, hoping to avoid jeopardizing his balance by subletting parts of his brain to work on speech.
“I was just thinking,” Roy said. Scrubbing noises ensued, including one awful screech of steel wool against a stove coil. “Do you… hell. I don’t know. Do you want to get married?”
Ed fell, obviously. He took the broom and a large collection of cobwebs and half of the knickknacks on the nearby wall shelves with him.
Being winded certainly didn’t help, but that was only about forty percent of the reason that Ed ended up lying on the carpet runner staring at their still-cobwebby ceiling. Roy got a full two minutes to be all terrified chagrin and cautious hands and desperate apologies before Ed managed to croak out, “The fuck are you sorry for?”, but it was pretty self-evident that Roy had won this round by a landslide.
Two could play at any game, and this was, without question, the best and most beautiful game of Ed’s life. It was the best one he could imagine, and over the years he’d come up with some pretty creative stuff.
Roy was wearing that dumb formal uniform, which was made much less dumb by the fact of Roy wearing it, because Roy still had an infuriating natural talent for making everything look staggeringly good.
They’d agreed not to do anything too over-the-top as far as reveals and all that nonsense, and Roy had actually helped Ed pick out a tuxedo that looked good and a red waistcoat that suited both Roy’s fancy fashion sense and Ed’s color palette of choice.
So it wasn’t that it was a surprise, exactly, for either of them, when they hiked up their opposite sides of the little hill to meet in the middle where Hawkeye was standing with the paperwork in her hands, like she expected to have to shove it in someone’s face as proof when they ran up and accused Roy of not having filled it out.
Planning this thing, they’d eventually agreed that it didn’t hurt to indulge in a little bit of symbolism by meeting in the middle to do the talking parts. Accordingly, they’d gotten dressed separately in order to come up to the altar from opposite sides, and it was when he was alone that Ed had gotten ambushed.
Al and Winry had left Ed’s clothes alone, at least, but they’d taken his hair out of the ponytail that he’d shoved it up into. Instead, they’d braided it down and around over his shoulder—and then they’d crammed it full of so many tiny red and orange flowers that when you caught a glimpse of it before you focused, it looked like a trailing tail of flame.
The perpetrators, who were now standing to Hawkeye’s left side and beaming like the horrible, lovable pair of conspiring jerks they were, somehow managed to grin a little wider as Ed came up to the center and tried to slow the hammering of his heart by force of will.
It wasn’t like he thought anything bad was going to happen—he was quite literally surrounded by all of his favorite people on the planet, about to make an unnecessary but sort of nice legal commitment to the extra-favorite one he already lived with.
“Well?” he said, trying to keep his voice low enough that only Roy would hear it. “What do you think? Did we do all right?”
If he hadn’t been staring at his gorgeous fucking fiancé—soon to graduate into a gorgeous fucking spouse; what the hell?—quite so hard, he might not have noticed the way that Roy’s eyes had started to glimmer, particularly along the line of his lower lashes.
“Whoa,” Ed said helplessly, reaching towards him, heart going all the more haywire and leaping up into his throat. “Are you—okay?”
Roy lifted his left hand to thumb away the tears at the corners of his eyes and caught Ed’s hand in the right.
He was smiling. That was the thing. He smiled, and nodded, and clutched Ed’s fingers tight.
It was after midnight by the time they crashed on the bed at home, too exhausted to get more than halfway out of the fancy clothes but still too giddily wired to try to sleep.
Ed watched Roy’s eyelashes lifting and lowering for a while. Roy was staring at the ceiling. Roy was still smiling. Ed did not remember the ceiling being particularly amusing, but maybe he was missing out.
“I guess I should’ve asked this a couple hours ago,” Ed said, “but—y’know. Are you sure you wanna be stuck with me for the rest of both of our lives?”
“You say ‘stuck’ like it’s a bad thing,” Roy said, turning the single cheesiest grin on him full-force. “Who wouldn’t want to be stuck like honey to their honey?”
“Well,” Ed said, trying harder now to ignore the squirmy feeling in his chest, “at least ‘the rest of both of our lives’ will be pretty short if I kill you in your sleep.”
“If you murder me on our wedding night,” Roy said, “you have to promise me that you’ll marry again almost immediately, and that it’ll be somebody very rich, so that the newspapers can say that I died ‘under suspicious circumstances’.”
“That’s not funny,” Ed said, which might have been more convincing if he hadn’t been very obviously choking on a laugh.
Roy propped himself up on one elbow to maximize the effect of the smirk. “I’m well-known for my unfunniness. Now who’s stuck with whom?”
“Shut up,” Ed said. The flush was creeping up his neck no matter how he tried to fight it. “You know what I mean.”
“I do,” Roy said, which tingled. “And since apparently you were taking a nap during my vows—”
“They were long, Roy,” Ed said, which was true, even though obviously he could have repeated half of them back right off the top of his head anyway, and Roy knew it.
“No comment,” Roy said. “Well—I suppose I should have told you this several hours ago, but… I am entirely indifferent to the prospect of the privilege of spending every day of the rest of my life making stupid jokes with you. And to getting to wake up next to you, and to knowing that you’ll listen to any and all complaints about my day no matter how whiny and trivial, and to attempting questionable baking experiments together late at night because we can, and to knowing that I can count on you to carry me when I’m tired and set me straight when I wander and steady me every time I start to falter—”
“Yeah,” Ed said. “You sure sound indifferent.”
“Tragically blasé,” Roy said. “That should be the title of my autobiography. I’ll look forward to your scathing marginalia when I bribe you to edit it. The point is, Ed, that I clearly didn’t do any of this because I love you more than I think that I can stand some days.” He paused for dramatic effect, because that was who he was as a person. “It was because I was just so excited at the prospect of all the paperwork.”
“Holy shit,” Ed said, maybe, possibly, potentially the tiniest bit thickly. “I should’ve known.”
Roy just laid there, head still propped up on his elbow like a fucking model, and gazed at Ed for a little while, smiling beatifically. Roy had done a hell of a lot of that today. Roy did a hell of a lot of that all the time.
“What?” Ed said.
The smile split into a grin. “Do you remember the first time we slept together?”
“What the hell do you mean, do I remember?” Ed said. “I’m pretty sure your neighbors remember. Half of Central probably does.”
“Point taken,” Roy said. He only sounded marginally more smug than usual, which demonstrated some remarkable restraint. “I just… I don’t know. I was thinking about that sappy thing I said that night—”
Ed said, “You might have to be more specific”—just to be annoying, though, because he knew exactly which sappy thing it was.
“About everything being perfect,” Roy said. “And how I wanted that forever.” The beatificness had deepened substantially, which Ed hadn’t thought was possible. “And… it’s… things aren’t perfect, of course—but at the same time, they are. This is our kind of perfect. It’s our kind of doing-the-best-we-can. And today I really did get it forever.” He laughed, slightly wetly, and held his hands over his eyes, and the ring kept gleaming, and Ed’s throat closed up tight. “Sorry, I—think I’m—in shock?”
Ed pushed at Roy’s shoulder—not very hard—and struggled with words for what felt like eons. When that was done, he struggled a little more.
Eventually he summoned up just enough wherewithal to say, “You win.”
Roy blinked at him, all mussed-up and adorable and perfect and dweeby and sweet and dark and awful and amazing and his. “Win what?”
“Never mind,” Ed said.
Roy had suggested the Cretan coastline for their honeymoon—Ed thought, for the record, that honeymoon was a stupid nonsense word with no bearing on anything, let alone the activity at hand—because somehow neither of them, despite the various and sundry trips and travels, had ever seen the ocean.
Such it was that they ended up standing on the sand for the better part of half an hour, staring at the waves in total silence.
There weren’t words for it, Ed supposed. A part of him was a little scandalized that he could have spent his whole life chasing and characterizing progressively more complicated scientific phenomena in greater and greater detail and still walk up to a fairly fundamental piece of nature and find himself gobsmacked.
The rest of him, though…
The rest of him recognized that he was here, wordless, with Roy—Roy, who was wearing dorky shorts and dorkier sandals and sexy sunglasses and an unreasonably gorgeous grin and a gold ring with both their names engraved inside. Every time he squeezed Roy’s hand, he could feel the matching metal pressing into his.
There wasn’t any better way to lose a game—even to an inanimate entity that would continue rising and receding well after both of them were long, long gone—than this.