Ed woke up with a strangled cry dying in his throat, cool sweat covered his body as he clenched his hands so hard into the bedsheets that his knuckles on one hand were turning white, and his automail hand had ripped a few holes on its side, a pounding all too familiar headache itching the back of his skull. It wasn't abnormal for him to wake up like this from nightmares, he'd gotten mostly used to them over the last fifteen years.
Last night was different, most nights he dreamt of losing his mother and brother but the one he'd just experienced neither, it was new, and it wasn't even someone Ed recognized. A demon, it had to be a demon, one with pitch-black eyes and hair parading behind a porcelain-skinned face of a beautiful young man in agony and screaming Ed's name, calling for help with all his might.
Settling back into the bed Ed stared up at the ceiling to the Inn he was currently staying at and took in a few deep breathes to calm his nerves. Lifting his metal hand over his head Ed clenched the hand a few times before resting it on his stomach, "Just some nightmare, I just need to forget about it...I've got a job to do today."
Before getting dressed Ed munched on a small bit of dried jerky and pulled out his journal and flipped through it, no one in this day and age seemed to care about keeping history or information like they used to. He couldn't quite blame them, there were a lot of other important things people had to do nowadays, like avoid demons and make crops grow in half-dead soil.
Ed didn't have much else to do with his spare time so keeping track of what he noticed with the world changing around them felt like a good enough hobby, he flipped through until he landed on his hand-drawn map. Part of it had been copied over from an old world map just for the basic landscape, most else had changed.
Personally, he had only traveled in the western area of his map, there was the large green forest that surrounded the village he was in currently called Strathe and towards the west there were several other small settlements and the further north you came towards the Red Desert the more remnants of demon-trampled towns became apparent. In the south the land became more field like and perfect for farming, many people had fled from the smaller villages to gather inside of the larger town that Ed was more familiar with called Centuria, and the villages to the south mostly lived off of fishing from the ocean.
"I'm headed just north of here today....how cliche a fucking church in the middle of the woods?" the hunter muttered as he closed the book and got up to get dressed, then slung his pack over his shoulder and headed outside. Looking up at the sky Ed couldn't help but sigh, he'd grown used to the consistent forecast of clouds cluttering the sky for the last fifteen years but every morning he still found himself hoping to see the sun peeking through. It was easy enough to tell the difference between daytime and night, so the sun hadn't disappeared, but the cloud cover was so thick you couldn't see the blue sky, the sun itself, or the moon when it was out at night.
The only time you could see something different in the sky prominently were eclipses, those were a sight to see but were far and few between.
Then again this world was nothing like the one he briefly remembered from his young childhood, all of that had been ripped away from him and the world and no one had been able to explain just exactly why on that fateful day. He remembered the sky turning blood red and dark figures swarming the skies and soon the ground, his mother shielding him from their attacks and screaming as she was torn apart on top of him.
Ed would never forget that day nor would he forgive the beasts that killed his mother and began to crawl the Earth from then on, changing the world in its entirety. Society had taken a huge toll at the beginning when demons had easy access to the stupid unknowing humans.
Nowadays the world looked like a medieval post-apocalyptic setting from the old movies that Ed remembered. Villages or small towns, everyone had fled the large cities to live together in closer-knit communities that were easier to maintain. Not many still used electricity and life had gone back to a more simpler time, places in the early days that had tried to keep their civilized sense of lifestyle always had been targeted first for demon raids.
Ed himself didn't rely too much on technology other than his metal arm, which family friends had installed for him and repaired when it wore down. Other than that he hunted, cooked on a fire, he'd learned herbs and medicines for when he was sick, and he worked hard to get the things he needed with coin or bartering.
Some of the more well off folk back in Strathe had quickly figured out Ed's occupation in demon-slaying and offered to pay for his services, pulling together a small amount of coin for a down payment and offering supplies upon his return and vanquishing their demon problem. Money was an odd thing, no everywhere accepted coin anymore so it had become the very lowest of low type of payment, Ed still wasn't sure how this type of currency hadn't died out yet but humans were stubborn about the simplest of things.
Trekking through the thick woods with a lantern strung to his hips and lit low Ed preemptively pressed the lever on his automail and let all of the gears whirl, changing from a hand to an extremely sharp and heavy sword that was coated in silver. Silver didn't help so much with corporeal demons but the ones that were almost ghost-like, usually very weak, but impossible to get rid of if you couldn't get rid of them.
"Seems pretty quiet out..." he muttered to himself, the townsfolk had told him there was a church out this way with nuns and priests that had been caging a powerful demon inside for the last decade or more. As of late they had stopped coming to town for supplies and the first demon hunter they had sent up to check on them had never returned, they weren't sure if he had chickened out and left with their coin or slain by the demon.
The church wasn't hard to find and standing in front of it he couldn't help but scoff, "Cliche." he grumbled, "A church in the middle of the woods?" God had never helped Ed and he was quite cynical at the thought that just being in a church, a normal building, could hold a demon just because a few people prayed enough. If that were the case a lot of villages that Ed had passed through would have been spared their fate instead of being covered in dried blood and destruction.
On that thought Ed sniffed the air as he grew closer, it was thick and heavy with the scent of blood and bodies, he'd smelled this stench before. Readying himself and his weapon before slowly pushing open one of the large doors Ed was hit with the same smells at ten times the strength and a dark church that he could only see an outline of pews and objects from the small light filtering in through the windows.
A sound caught him off guard, chains rattling around and dragging against the wood of the church floor. "Who's there?" a crackled voice called from the dark, Ed jerked at the ready to attack but his shoulders began to relax just a little, this didn't feel quite right. He knew what a demon presence felt like on his skin, knew what the tickle of being near one felt like on the back of his neck and this was similar...but not quite the same.
A pair of black eyes gave off a gray light in the darkness, "I asked who.is.there?" the irritated voice called again and the light from those eyes quickly shot in all directions to the hung lanterns and candles scattered throughout the church and lit them to fire brightening everything.
"So you are a demon," Ed muttered more to himself than anything else. Stepping closer, sword still ready to strike, the blond frowned at what he saw, "You..." It was the young man from his nightmare last night, pitch-black eyes and hair, pale skin, his voice sounded the same but tired. In his dream the demon had been clothed and looked healthy while the one in front of him was naked and chained heavily to the floor of the church with his arms twisted painfully restrained, hair ragged, and he looked half-starved to death.
Ed was left almost stunned and frozen by the sight in front of him more so than the trick with the lights had, it was easy to ignore that and the church painted with dried bloody and gored bodies of nuns and priests that were cast around the room missing limbs and intestines spilling out of their bodies.
"What are you?" Ed asked as he stepped closer, only a few feet away from the demon and lifting his sword threateningly. He'd known demons to take human form before but once caught in their act they usually shed that skin for the comfort of their true form.
"Isn't it obvious?" it dared to smile dare Ed to think it, handsomely. "At least partially...are you a hunter come to kill me?"
"Yes but before that, I want some answers." Ed thought he'd seen most tricks that demons had by now but this one had him baffled, he needed to understand. "Are you in that form to try and trick me like with those dreams, to lull me into a sense of lust because of how you look?"
"Oh." the demon chuckled almost sweetly and its smile widened, "You think I'm attractive then? I'm afraid it has nothing to do with your preferences hunter...this is simply what I look like, this is my body."
"Are you part demon, even then I feel like you should be more...grotesque?" he questioned, "I didn't think it was possible for demons to fully take over a human body like this, so you must be made of a coupling between a human and demon."
"Neither but I suppose you're on the right track with those thoughts. I'll tell you how I was made but in return I want something."
Of course, no demon would give something for free, Ed should have guessed. "I won't sacrifice anyone to you or free you from your shackles."
"Water." It said easily then and when Ed looked confused it repeated himself, "I want a drink of water, I'm parched."
Sure that it had to be a trick Ed pulled out his waterskin and stepped in closer, his nerves twitchy and ready to kill but he messily poured water for the demon to have a few large mouthfuls before pulling away. "There, I held up my end."
The demon sighed and looked relieved to an extent, "Let me tell you my tale then, have a seat." he said dramatically and shuffled around to a new position as best he could with the chains holding him so securely.
"Fifteen years ago it wasn't long after that day when hell broke loose on Earth, the people at this church decided to perform an ancient ritual from some old text they'd found. They were desperate and I can't say I really blame them, well my mother was part of the prayer circle in the ritual and I was playing in the corner of the church—" his dark eyes glanced over towards the other end of the room as if replaying that day in his memories.
"I must have been two, maybe two and a half. This ritual, at least as far as I understand it, was to seal enough demonic energy together inside of a human person to create a type of metaphorical key that could close the portal or door to the other realm, permanently they'd hoped I'm sure. It sort of worked, but their chosen host couldn't hold the energy and it went crazy killing most everyone in the ritual and the energy itself fled to the next viable host it took a liking to...me, for some reason." the demon smiled cheekily and tilted his head.
"But this is just stuff the priests told me so I have no idea how true any of that is, all I personally remember from that day is suddenly being in excruciating pain for a long time before coming to and the priests deciding the ritual was a terrible idea and that it was a better idea to suppress me instead of using me like the fucking key they'd made." the demon said, sounding quite bitter about that.
"That...I've heard crazy stories about people attempting different rituals like that but never seen or even heard of any that succeeded." Ed's eyes went wide, "You're telling me that the demonic power that I feel from you is all of that energy merged into you and can be used as a lock and key to seal away the demons?" Where such a door was Ed had no idea but he'd heard rumors of more distorted changes in the far east.
"Yes that's exactly what I"m saying." the demon nodded, "I kept telling the priests and nuns that if they had time and energy to pray and keep me locked up here then they should have put that to use finding that door and using me to close the fucking thing as soon as possible but noooo they knew what was best!" he sneered and tugged at his chains but settled down after wincing, clearly in pain and discomfort.
"So you killed them?... And not too long ago by my guess." Ed said back bluntly.
This time the demon paused before saying, this time softer, "They weren't listening to me...I don't have much time left. This power inside of me is only growing and I can't prove it but I can feel it bubbling and wanting to do something...awful. It feels like...like right around when I turn eighteen it's going to be too late and I won't be able to contain it inside of my human body anymore, it'll tear me apart like breaking out of a cage and do as it pleases. Which I would assume is not some very kind things."
"The fools," Ed muttered glancing at the bodies of the holy men and women scattered around, they had tried but in their fear of the unknown and lack of action could doom the world to an even worse fate than it already had. "Tell me why I shouldn't kill you right now then if you're so dangerous."
"I would say you should, but the energy and I aren't exactly one being at this point. I can control it to a point because it's decided to stay resting inside of me so it can grow stronger. If you manage to kill me it will release off to somewhere, but likely it will backlash and attack you...that's what happened here." this time the demon looked around eyeing the bodies around and scrunching up his face at them, "One of them decided he wanted a life outside of this place and tried to slit my throat, then everyone in this place died in a very brutal and painful manner."
"Almost sounds like you want to die, demon." Ed shifted from where he sat before the demon and crossed his arms, looking the creature up and down trying to decide the best course of action.
"Believe it or not I am mostly human, I don't want to hurt people. If...If I'm a lock and key then I should be used for what I was more for, that's what I'd decided a long time ago. It's better than letting me sit and rot in these chains."
"Then seal a blood oath with me," Ed said perhaps a bit forcefully and sitting forward a bit, "If you're telling me the truth then make a blood oath with me and I'll find that door and protect you along the way, we'll close it and be rid of these abominations forever!"
Black eyes stared into him for a long moment, "...You're serious." the demon stated impressed by Ed's suddenly determination, "You know that blood oaths can't be broken easily right? We'll be bound to our oath or we die." It was dark magic but so was most kinds nowadays and Ed knew that demons were tricky and had found ways to slink out of their oaths with loopholes before, surely this one would try to do the same. But he was willing to chance it with the hope of a kinder world.
"I understand what it means, now how are you being held here? If the power is that strong surely you could have broken the chains and left when you killed these people."
He nodded, "It's the diagram on the floor, it's the same one from the original ritual and it's been tweaked to hold my energy signature and suppress it inside of the sigils. Though the priests decided to take extra precautions with good old fashioned heavy chains....and starving me, can't say it didn't work." he said nonchalantly and tugged at his chains making them rattle.
"Easy enough." Ed stood and searched the bodies until he found the kye to the chains and used it to release a single one of the demon's arms. "We swear the oath and then I'll release you completely, you go first."
Quiet for a moment the demon held out his hand for Ed to slice the oath sigils into his palm with a spare knife, "I swear to uphold my side of this bargain, to search with you to find the demonic doorway and seal it with the power inside of me." the blood dripping from his hand began to glow.
Ed wished he could add another list of other conditions to this bargain like not killing humans or playing tricks on Ed himself, but this sort of thing worked best when kept simple. The spell wasn't stupid and could almost think for itself but getting too intricate could weaken its energy.
Carving into his flesh hand Ed stated, "I swear to uphold my end of this bargain, I'll set you free and protect you, search for the doorway to the demon realm so that we can use your power to close it." his own blood began to close and they shook hands, a power surged between the bloody palms and as the light bursts blindingly between them and was gone just as quickly.
Blinking away the light spots in his eyes Ed looked at his palm, half of the sigil was left healed but carved in permanently and the other half on the demon's hand signifying their oath together had formed.
Unlocking the other chains and scuffing off the ritual design from the floor it was like an illusion disappeared from Ed's eyes, the demon still looked like himself but his body was shaking as he tried to stand up. He looked so weak and disheveled, so utterly human that it tugged at Ed's frozen heart. Clicking his tongue Ed pulled off his light coat and pulled it around the demon's thin shoulders and helped him zip it up to cover himself at least somewhat modestly, then yanked the demon fully to his shaky feet.
Wobbling out of the circle for the first time that he could remember the demon smiled softly and genuinely as he looked from his bare feet up to Ed, so happy but after another step he collapsed into Ed's arms when his feet wouldn't carry him any further. "Apologies...my body is quite sturdy but I'm still human, it might take a little time for me to recover properly."
"How irritating." Ed murmured and slid one arm behind the demon's shoulders and the other under his bony knees to scoop him up into a carry, "I'm Edward by the way, Edward Elric...demon hunter."
Snorting the demon didn't complain while being carried out of the church and into the fresh air outside but started to look ready to pass out, eyes beginning to close and his energy temporarily drained after just leaving the circle. "I'm...I'm Roy," he said before losing consciousness.
Their partnership doesn't get off to the easiest start, there's a lot of distrust from Ed's side but honestly Roy is just so thrilled to be free he can't find it in himself to hate the hunter. Winry does her best to snap some sense into her old friend, even if she doesn't know the full extent of the story between these two.
Ed could hardly believe it himself even while having the very realistic weight in his arms, he was carrying a demon back into town as the creature slept in his arms peacefully and practically snuggling up to his bodily warmth. This was the second worst type of demon in Ed's book, the type that lulled you securely with how utterly cute they looked while they slept...
Carrying him into town no one noticed anything demonic about Roy and quickly assumed him to be a victim from the church and that Ed had killed the demon upon his return, he didn't bother arguing with them and he didn't need an angry mob trying to kill Roy either.
Tucking the young demon into the bed at his room at the Inn Ed watched him sleep peacefully for a while, he intended to watch and stay awake sitting on the other side of the bed until Roy woke up but something about this just felt too calm and relaxing. He blamed just how human being around Roy looked and felt, Ed ended up dozing off one way or another.
He slept comfortably until early the next morning when another nightmare shook him awake, he woke up with eyes snapping wide and hard breathes heaving his chest, clenching a hand over his quick beating heart. "That dream again..." the same one with Roy that left him confused. Turning his head quickly Ed reached out to the other side of the bed to find it empty, "Shit!" he scrambled out of bed.
Cussing under his breath the hunter raced out his door, down the hallway, through the lobby of the Inn, and out the front door before skidding to a stop. Roy was standing only a few feet out from the Inn himself, clutching Ed's long jacket to himself tightly and still the only thing he wore.
It was early so even darker than normal day but Ed could see Roy clear enough, it was chilly out early in the morning this time of year and Roy was standing there with goosebumps covering his skin as he quietly stared up at the sky and looked at his breath forming in the cool air as he exhaled. "Good morning Edward." he greeted, "Were you worried that I'd run off?"
"Yes." he didn't bother lying, "Let's go back inside people are staring at you, and I'm sure your feet hurt standing in the gravel like that." he urged.
"I don't mind it." Roy said softly but didn't fuss, turning and following Ed back to the room only to have an old ratted pair of pants thrown in his face, "Gah! Do I really have to wear these?"
Ed's cheeks held the faintest of pink and he nodded, "For now yes, the town owes me supplies for taking care of their demon problem, that's you. I'll be able to grab you some better clothes and anything else you really need." he offered but was trying not to look at Roy until he put the pants on.
"Clothes would be nice, and some food and water." was all he requested. "I've spent my whole life in that church so I don't think I need much other than bare essentials."
Starting to scrunch up his nose Ed nodded, "Yeah and you kind of smell, it's probably been a while since you were able to wash up or take care of yourself." Saying that left Ed wondering how well the priests and nuns had cared for Roy's hygiene while keeping him imprisoned, surely they'd bathed him somehow to prevent the church from smelling too bad.
"I haven't been washed since I killed those people in the church, where do humans normally wash up?" Roy asked looking to the blond for answers with an utterly serious look on his face.
Ed wanted to think that it was easy to forget how Roy had lived for a long time, but just looking at his scrawny body and unkept hygiene it was completely obvious and sad. If a normal human had been contained in such a horrific way being chained tightly for years, fed little, cleaned barely, they would have been deformed or probably dead. The only thing keeping Roy as healthy as he was had to be the demonic power hiding under his pretty face.
It wasn't a fun first day together but Ed spent it helping Roy with mundane things, cutting Roy's hair to a manageable length and getting him washed properly, then gathering supplies along with Roy's clothing so that the blond could stop letting his eyes wander to the demon's legs.
Feeling like he could finally look at Roy properly Ed sighed, still distracting because of his handsome face but it was the best Ed could do. How he'd kept his composure while the demon had been so naked was a mystery even to himself.
Throughout the day he fed Roy, making sure he didn't eat enough to make himself sick but giving him more than what someone would eat on a normal day, he needed the nutrition. One more night of sleep and the next morning they were ready to head out, he held out a pack to the demon. "This is yours, just some basics."
"I'm ready to go." Roy nodded and slung the pack onto his shoulders, he looked much healthier today and still scrawny but his powers had gone to work to fill him out a bit more and no longer looked as if a stiff breeze would blow him over.
"Why don't you have your shoes on?" Ed asked with a sigh and a hand on his hip, "Whatever I don't care, but I think it would be best if we stopped by the town to the south I'm familiar with before going too deep into this travel. I know some people there that can get me better supplies than here, things that are good for fighting demons and can tune-up my arm."
"Ooh." Roy's eyes sparkled and he cooed with interest and quickly reached to touch Ed's automail, "I was wondering about this when I first saw, but I got distracted." he admitted and touched his fingertips along it until the blond roughly pushed him away.
"Don't touch it!" the hunter snarled, "Don't just touch it so casually like that, it's dangerous you idiot!"
Clicking his tongue Roy rolled his eyes and reached to touch it again but pulled back, "I'm not scared of it." he said but Ed heard it more as, I'm not scared of you, which was something few people said to him. "Now let's go I want to be outside again."
Traveling south from Strathe by foot it took nearly three and a half days, slightly longer than it would have taken Ed on his own but Roy just had to stop and look at absolutely everything. Every funny-looking bug, animal, tree, stream, he picked up rocks a lot before getting bored with them quickly, and unless the terrain was too rough Roy refused to wear the shoes Ed had gotten him.
The behavior was borderline cute, at first it almost made Ed smile watching Roy enjoy the outside world like this but each night that same nightmare woke him up and kept him restless, it was wearing on his patience with the demon. Waking up every early morning to the sound of Roy screaming in roaring agony only to wake up and see Roy sleeping peacefully near him.
During the night the dark visions in his head were clear as day what was happening but by the time he awoke it was all so hazy to remember, all Ed could recall was the sound of screams but not what caused them.
That was the roughest part for him, the smaller demons wandering the roadsides this way south weren't too bad, nothing Ed couldn't handle but lack of sleep could be dangerous and those dreams were taking it out of him more than the average nightmare.
Ed had been this way plenty of times so he knew just the types that tended to float around and just how to cut them down quickly, most of them tended to be smaller creatures like the demonic vampire bats or ones that liked to sneak up on people inside of their shadows.
During their time together Ed spent his time staying alert and on the side studying Roy's behavior, he was odd as Ed had deduced before. He hadn't shown a lick of his powers, but he didn't know how to act human and sometimes it seemed like Roy was still learning to walk properly as he tripped here and there. Falling or scuffing himself causing small bits of pain didn't seem to bother him, instead he usually giggled to himself.
The part that might be the death of Ed was that Roy had little recognition of personal space, it had been so long since Ed had spent so much constant time with someone and it was mentally wearing him out in his already exhausted state. So arriving at the small bustling town of Centuria in the farmlands in the southern continent Ed was relieved and knocked on a familiar door.
Winry answered the door, daughter of the household though both her parents had long since passed. She was Ed's age and they were old friends, Winry was a tall pretty blond woman but Ed knew she held a fiery passionate temper under that.
"Ed, nice of you to visit and...oh who is this?" her eyes turned to Roy, it was unusual for Ed to travel with anyone and Roy was being odd again standing to the side of the house looking at Winry's rose bush growing there.
Sighing heavily Ed muttered, "That's Roy, long story short is that I've got a big job I need to prepare for. I need supplies."
"Then I hope you've got coin, or are ready to move some heavy shit." she crossed her arms but gestured her head for them to come inside.
"Roy!" Ed snapped catching the demon's attention right before he pricked his finger on a rose stem, "Come on already!" INside he let Roy loose on the home, he was off studying every picture and decoration on the walls or standing around and quickly disappeared from their sight.
Winry laughed and covered her mouth, "He's curious like a little kid, where did you pick him up?"
Ed decided to construct a half-lie, he told her a partial truth but left out everything involving the ritual and what Roy was, and the fact that they were going on a long journey to attempt closing off every demon from the earth. If he told her those things she would only worry more about him than she already did, "So I'm escorting him since where he wants to go is on the way to my next big job out east."
"Oh poor thing." she said gently, "No wonder he's so scrawny and pale if he wasn't let outside for so long, must be why he's so curious to look at everything too."
That's what Ed had figured too and he tried not to be too snappy when Roy dawdled but sometimes he couldn't help himself, it felt like they were on a tight time limit and the hunter had been meaning to get more specifics on their time frame before Roy's eighteenth birthday but sometimes it was just hard to have a normal conversation with a demonic young man.
"Have you at least been trying to be kind to him?" Winry accused and headed into the kitchen expecting Ed to follow her, she pulled out a big pot and started pulling ingredients out.
"What do you mean? Of course I have!"
"Hm..." she pondered, "I feel bad for him getting stuck with you, you're so bad at emotions. I bet what he needs is to be coddled right now."
That was a funny thought, coddling a demon, Roy was plenty self-sufficient and he wasn't a child just naive about everything. He could be extremely serious when talking about the things he knew about, mostly the demonic ritual and other demon things, but when it came to his human side that Ed rarely acknowledged he was just so clueless.
"I think I'll try to teach him to cook something while you go in the backyard to do some work, I just got a new shipment of heavy parts in that need to be taken into my workhouse. If you have time maybe you can clean the animal stalls out and feed them too." Winry smiled at him and reached to touch his automail, Ed had to fight his instinct not to pull away. "Looks like you're taking good care of it by the way, that makes me happy."
In Winry language that meant, you've been taking decent care of yourself, I'm happy.
Ed lost track of time out back carrying heavy packages of different metal parts likely for one of Winry's new experimental machines, weapons, or perhaps something she was getting paid to make. She was even more of a genius than her parents had been for inventing automail and Ed couldn't help but be impressed by her.
After finishing up moving the packages to the shed, Winry's workshop, he decided to take a break and get a glass of water from the kitchen, walking inside quietly he opened his mouth to call out to anyone around since it seemed so quiet but quickly silenced himself. They were talking, Winry and Roy in the kitchen.
Winry was doing as she'd mentioned and trying to show Roy how to cook over their fire oven but he just looked confused and that made her sigh, "You're not getting any of this are you?"
"No really." Roy said bluntly and tilted his head looking at the ingredients on the counter, Winry had laid them out in a line, "So this one is a cup of milk and these are the...potatoes?"
"No...No sweetie," she couldn't help but sigh a second time, "Those are eggs, these are the potatoes. Oh well cooking isn't for everyone and if you don't have a stove you probably won't ever need this recipe anyways." she'd just been trying to be kind and help with Roy's curiosity giving him something to do but she shrugged her shoulders. Roy mimicked and shrugged then looked away for a moment.
"So you're the one that looks after Edward's automail and stuff?"
"My parents were the ones that invented automail and with my grandmother's medical knowledge they were able to install the first successful piece into Ed...and to think he was only seven at the time..." she said her hands moving on their own beginning to cook as Roy watched.
"He was only seven?" Roy asked looking astounded.
"The story isn't really for me to tell, it's very personal but yeah, he was seven when he had the first surgery and it was soon after that he decided that he wanted to make his living hunting demons." Winry murmured and didn't see the way Roy's eyes saddened.
"He's been through a lot I can tell that much and I want to know more about him, he's....fascinating. Edward doesn't like to talk about himself so I've been trying not to push and make him angry with me."
"Sounds like you have a bit of a crush!" the blond woman teased and brightened quickly, "That is SO cute! Can't blame you, he's like your hero in this type of world, it's just...it's so cute." turning her attention to Roy she reached and pulled him close into a hug. He was stiff at first, he'd never been held this way but it was easy to melt into the platonic touch.
Pulling away Winry went to the fridge and filled a glass with cold lemonade, "Bring this to Ed, would you? He's probably dying of thirst by now." hearing that Ed stiffened and briskly walked back outside to act like he was still working instead of being caught eavesdropping.
If Roy had sensed his presence he didn't mention it and was soon in the backyard holding out the glass and averting his eyes because Ed had stripped down to just his pants and a black tank top because of the hard work to keep cool, it was the fewest clothes Roy had ever seen him in.
"Winry said you would like this," he said nonchalantly with a calm expression even as his eyes avoided Ed's body.
"Oh, cool. Winry always makes the best homemade lemonade." Taking the glass Ed took a big gulp and ended up spitting it out in a sputter into the grass and wiping his lips, "Shit that's tart! Did Winry make this!?"
Dark eyes were now fully staring at Ed calmly, "I did, she said that no one could screw up lemonade." Blinking a few times Roy brushed some bangs away from his face nervously, "That bad? I tried to warn her I didn't know what I was doing but she was very insistent."
Looking at the glass Ed swallowed deep in his throat before taking a smaller sip, this time he was able to keep his face more controlled and swallow it down, "It's not that bad, just caught me off guard and at least it's cold."
"Really?" Roy wasn't quite smiling but he looked very pleased with the half-praise, "Good. Also I like Winry, she's very kind....are you in love with her?"
For the second time while Ed was drinking he spit out some lemonade, "N-No! No way we're just friends, old and good friends!" When Roy began to smirk Ed lashed out without thinking, he grabbed Roy's arm with his metal hand in a tight grip, "Are you planning to seduce her or something?"
"Hu-what!?" It was Roy's turn to look panicked and his face grew heated with a light blush, the first real color Ed had seen cross those pale cheeks, "No not at all! I don't have any interest in fornicating with random people especially someone who has been as kind to me as Winry!"
"Go...Good, keep it that way at least with her." Releasing the arm Ed could already see a bruise forming on Roy's skin but after a few moments, it was gone just like that.
Ed was woken suddenly being shoved late that night before he even had a chance to start having the usual nightmares, Winry's worried voice shouting, "Hurry and get up you need to do something! There's a huge demon wreaking havoc in the streets and killing people!"
Within moments Ed was up and in his clothes, pulling on his automail that Winry had been sharpening earlier. Roy's hand was the one to stop him from marching out the front door, "Let me help, I can help."
"No way, I don't need you drawing attention to us with your power." he shook his head.
"That's why I wanted you to show me how to use that crossbow thing earlier!" Roy snapped.
Just after dinner Winry had presented him with a new crossbow and gear, his automail was great for close combat but sometimes a hunter needed something longer range and more silence than the average gun, crossbows were the ideal weapon under the right circumstances.
"I'll rethink it sometime but right now stay here with Winry, this is what I'm good at and I don't need help."
Stepping outside Ed could feel the demon's water but it didn't feel all that strong, more of a large nuisance but the fact that there were already three dead bodies at its feet made him all the angrier. A sizzling ire filled him with a need to shed demon blood, raising his sword arm ready for battle Ed whistled to gain its attention.
Larger than a human but with the basic shape of one the demon had dark gray skin and the face of an old man whose skin had begun to sag severely towards the ground like it was ready to melt off into a pile of good onto the ground. Its face was oily and beard unkept, ears pointed, and two large horns jutting out straight back from its bald head. Elongated toes and fingers that ended with sharp nails Ed noted, and a long lion-like tail protruding from its naked backside.
"There you are." it said in a slow lazy voice, its eyes shined a bright ruby red, "I've been looking for you, I was sent here to greet you two." Its eyes slowly looked around for another figure but found none, only Ed.
"Who sent you?" Ed asked taking a few steps closer, there was still lots of space between himself and the demon.
"My brethren are very interested in you and your companion, I can smell him on you," it said just as a merchant who had been hiding behind his stand found some courage and grabbed a nearby knife, running to stab the demon in the back. It didn't even cry out as a dark ooze of blood dripping to the ground from the wound.
Turning it's goo-like face towards the man as soon as it caught the human's eyes the merchant went completely relaxed and fell to the ground unable to move, but his eyes still flickering around and breathing, he was alive still.
That is until the demon idly and without rush lifted his large foot and slowly let it sink back down to the ground over the merchant's head, slowly crushing everything below it into the dirt. Eyes popped from their sockets, the man's crushed teeth bit their own tongue off, blood and braids spilled from cracks spewing out in a puddle as the human didn't fight a single thing letting the demon squeeze the life out of him with a single step.
It had to have been the eye contact, Ed noted to himself, somehow that had made the man go completely out of control with his body. "I was curious about what you had to say but now I'm pissed." It was time to finish this as quickly as possible to prevent more human death.
Roy watched with Winry from the window of her home as Ed expertly slew the demon, it cried out in agony as Ed slaughtered it like a lamb to a farmer.
"He's quite something to watch isn't he?" Winry smiled.
A hunter like Ed was akin to a hero in this world and for the most part, he was inspired and proud of Ed for being so brilliant in battle. Another part of him was also terrified, Ed was strong and smart and if he chose to he could surely kill Roy.
"He sure is," Roy muttered tensely.
New territory has Ed on edge but the almost-companionship growing between he and Roy scares him more and he's intent on destroying that. He doesn't like Roy, he doesn't like this forest, this town, or the people, he wants to hate it all.
After sleeping in the next morning and packing up the two took to the road towards the east, Ed had heard vaguely of a few villages out that way along the road but this was all new for both of them. Ed had no idea what kind of demons or terrible nightmares were out this way and that was already putting him on edge, he'd heard bad rumors about the world to the east.
They'd started by passing over the old stone bridge, Roy leaned heavily over one side so far that he looked almost ready to fall over, "There's a bridge but no water?"
"There used to be but it dried up sometime after the whole demon thing."
"Huh, fascinating..." Roy muttered.
Each day that passed the chill in the air grew, by the second night it had grown cold enough that Roy had foregone his love for being barefoot and started wearing the socks and shoes Ed bought him without complaint.
They'd entered a new forest but neither of them had any idea what kind of trees they were looking at, they were sturdy but they looked dead. Large but withered without color, no leaves, moss, there was a lack of animals and insects out this way and despite the lack of coverage from leaves this area felt much darker than out west.
The nights were harsher and they'd begun to share blankets which meant they were sleeping in very close proximities.
The next two mornings after that Ed had woken from his bad dreams to Roy cuddled up to his back, a warm and comforting presence that Ed hadn't allowed himself in a long time. He still didn't trust his tag along demon fully but by now it was pretty evident that Roy didn't intend to just flat out try to get him killed or break their oath, he would have tried by now with them alone on the road without any other travelers.
That distrust was slowly fading away and a growing lust was taking its place at the same pace, he had noticed himself taking more glances in Roy's direction to look at him or see what he was doing. Soon ed found that he hated them being close much less than before, he practically looked forward to it.
That growing comfort at the same time made him uncomfortable, he'd spent so much time growing himself into a heartless hunter facade for a reason, to protect himself. Being around someone he was starting to care for was ruining that little by little, it was trudging up emotions and old memories he'd long since buried. That was the same reason Ed avoided visiting Winry too often back in Centuria.
Maybe the nightmares were to blame, Roy's screams in his head breaking him down inside even though part of him suspected the demon was causing this on purpose. For the record he had asked, or snapped, about it a few times but each time Roy just had been confused so the subject was dropped.
On the fourth night, Ed's mind had just started to replay the nightmare plaguing him since they'd met but quickly it was gone and he was waking up. A warm hand was wrapped around his upper chest resting over his heart and the other running through his long hair, "Morning." Roy greeted groggily from behind him.
Pushing himself up slowly from where they were sleeping Ed turned and shoved Roy back with a hand to his chest, putting a good few inches between them and glaring daggers at the demon. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" his voice was low and dangerous like never before.
"You...You were having a nightmare, I was just trying to help. You have them every night." Roy laid there where he'd been shoved and looked calm as ever, no matter how little of a people person Ed was and how often he snapped Roy hadn't gotten anything more than slightly frustrated or flustered due to it. No real verbal or physical fights, no huge arguments, and Ed knew that's what his behavior was trying to pull between them. Something hard that wasn't so easy to brush off, some issue big enough to put a rift between what was growing between them.
"I don't need your help, especially with something that is your fault in the first place!"
Pushing himself to sit up on his knees similarly to Ed he responded, "I told you I don't know what that means!"
"You seriously don't fucking know?" Ed accused, "This nightmare has to be your doing, I had it the night before I met you so what other explanation is there!?" clenching his hands into the grass beneath him, a ripping sound of blades being torn from Ed's metal fingers.
"I'm...I am not doing that Edward." Roy shook his head calmly, "We're supposed to be working together, you should have told me about this seriously sooner maybe I could help."
"Why would I trust a demon any more than I have to?" finally Ed felt he was at his limit, crossing any line he could think of in his sleep-deprived state and grabbed Roy by his sleep shirt and shoved him down into the grass hovering over him close with a threat in his gaze. "Your kind is the reason my family is dead and you are the reason I can't even see them in my nightmares anymore."
Looking up with wide dark eyes Roy was quiet but his breathing shuddered and his eyes fluttered, he hated being manhandled and spoken to the way Ed did and had adamantly told Ed whenever he could that he was mostly human. That clearly hadn't sunk in.
A metal hand grabbed his face roughly but he didn't flinch, he'd felt worse pain before, "Say something goddammit!"
"I already told you I don't have anything to do with your dreams, I'm not a fucking demon!" he yelled back and shoved Ed away from him with a surge of power and strength, "I'm not a demon!"
A vile smile came over Ed's face as he'd just gotten exactly what he wanted, "Tell that to your eyes."
Touching his upper cheek with a few fingers just under one of his eyes Roy pushed himself to sit up again, his powers had flared in his anger without him meaning to. His eyes were glowing that dark aura and that's what really scared him, he was never in complete control and what he did have was loosening by a thread every day. Forcing the power back down inside of him his eyes normalized for the time being.
Ed clicked his tongue and stood up looking like he'd just proven a point and started getting ready for the day. "Get up, we need to make progress today if we only have another two months to get this done."
That sent another knife of reality through Roy's sensitive heart, he didn't know what to say back so he just stood up and complied. He didn't know his exact birthdate just the time of year, they needed to make every day count.
By the time they reached the town of Helmes later that day Ed had been thinking about what to call this forest on his map. He'd temporarily scribbled in the Dark Forest but that sounded stupid, he was contemplating Deep Forest, Twisted Forest, it all sounded stupid so he just left it as was.
As they neared town the trees began to change slightly more, the branches and roots that jutted from the ground had groin more twisted and without reason, some intertwining together giving it quite a dark aesthetic.
Ed had spent so much time in his thoughts that day, he'd finally put some mental distance between them and Roy was much more quiet than usual keeping himself from asking about the different things he saw or getting distracted picking things up. The inner guilt Ed felt was easy to cover up with anger.
Helmes was a moderately sized village that the road lead right through, but like the forest this place felt different int he air and the people. The people here were clearly not used to travelers anymore and were staring intently at the two of them without trying to hide it, the architecture in the buildings were much tighter to conserve heat with the much chillier weather that Ed wasn't used to from the west.
"Can we stay at that Inn tonight?" Roy spoke up for the first time that day and pointed over towards a run-down sign hanging off of one hinge that read Inn.
"A bed does sound night, we'll get a room and then I want you to stay put while I get supplies and try to pick around for information where to head next." It was a long shot but any rumor could help lead them in the right direction.
"I could help." Roy offered eagerly.
"And what are you going to do? You have no idea what to buy or if you're being swindled, I don't trust you wandering around here on your own." Ed said sternly and turned into the small building, relieved to find that indoors was quite a bit warmer than outside.
"I'm looking to get a room or two, do you accept coin here?" the blond asked the woman walking around the open first floor and cleaning some of the tables set up for a dining room.
She was short and middle-aged with prominent crows feet and frown lines on her face, frankly she looked exhausted. "We're full." seeing Ed's confusion she put a hand on her hip, "I have more people than I can handle staying here that are homeless that pay me in one way or another, I don't have room to house another two even for a night."
"Seriously? We don't need much, just a corner to roll a blanket out on to sleep-" he tried to reason with her but this woman was having none of it.
"I said no! I'm worn thin as it is now go away I've got nowhere to put you two!"
They both quickly found the experience in this village unpleasant, Roy had the gall to attempt a smile at Ed when they left the building, "Guess it's the woods for us again tonight huh?" the smile fizzled as the tension between them grew tighter.
Unable to leave Roy in a room Ed had no choice but to drag him with shopping, what little shopping he could do here. Again this village disappointed and wasn't accustomed to travelers so the market place was literally just two stalls that some of the locals likely traded goods with.
Dealing with the older woman at one stall had been easy enough, she'd given them supplies accepting a little work as payment. Ed had fixed a few parts of her roof in exchange and left happy enough. The one run by a younger man not much older than themselves wasn't quite as 4easy.
"So you won't accept coin, work, or trade, what good are you having this stand at all then?" Ed growled clenching his hands at his sides.
"I've got no use for coins, I have enough workers, and none of the goods you have are things that I need. I can't help that none of it benefits me and honestly I don't give a shit if you starve." the man's light eyes began to wander just behind Ed to the side, his gaze falling heavy on Roy who was bored kicking rocks around.
"Your friend on the other hand—" Roy perked up being noticed and looked towards the attention, "He's very pretty." the man raised an eyebrow at the both of them suggesting exactly what Ed was thinking it meant.
"Edward I can help—"
"No fucking way!" Ed yelled, slamming his metal hand onto the counter with a loud bang, "You're fucking sick, people like you disgust me! Let's go Roy!" Grabbing his companion's arm Ed pulled them out onto the dirt road and towards the forest on the edge of town finding a spot for camp far enough off to not be noticed. They would just have to do some extra hunting work for food.
"This village pisses me off! These people piss me off! Your face is seriously pissing me off!" Ed ranted and continued to raise his voice until finding a place he found satisfactory with space but coverage of dead bushes to make camp.
"I didn't do anything!" Roy defended himself as Ed finally released his arm, "I don't know what that guy was talking about but if I could have gotten us supplies I'm willing to-"
"Willing to do something you probably have no idea about!?' This time Ed grabbed both of Roy's upper arms and shook the demon slightly to show he was being serious, "I'll be blunt, he wanted to fuck you Roy. Do you know how two men have sex? I guarantee he wouldn't be gentle with it either."
"Oh." Roy swallowed hard, "I didn't realize that's what he meant."
"I swear sometimes it's like you're begging someone to shove their cock in your ass," Ed said still angry but beginning to calm down.
Letting out a soft gasp and a bright blush Roy shook his head, "Okay I understand." lifting his hands to touch Ed's wrists, "You were just looking out for my body's welfare, thank you, Edward."
Releasing Roy to rub his hands over his face with an exasperated noise Ed whined, "Why are you thanking me after I just grabbed and yelled at you!?"
"Because sometimes that your way of hiding your kindness, I think this is one of those times...that's all."
Roy looked at him with such trust and a certain amount of affection in his eyes, the way he spoke to Ed made something swell inside of the hunter that was quickly deflating his anger further. "You're such a fucking idiot to think like that, you would die to something out here if you were alone, or die to someone in town for sure."
"You're probably right, I need you and whether you believe me or not I'm happy that I have you with me Edward."
Ed had a tough time falling asleep that night, they were close under their blankets but there was a small space between them as Roy breathed slowly asleep. Every time Ed was sure that he'd set a new low bar for Roy the demon just looked at him and smiled or said something like he had earlier, how was it that he saw through Ed's rash actions and words straight to his heart and what he actually meant?
When he felt Roy was in a deep enough sleep Ed reached to tuck Roy in tighter to the blankets to keep warm and brushed a few strands of dark bangs out from his face. Could he do things like this when they were awake? Be soft and sweet with Roy while knowing he was a demon, knowing that doing so would make Ed lose his focus and that could possibly get them killed?
Mere hours later the forest had become nearly pitch black and all was quiet, Ed had almost lulled himself into slumber when that familiar prickle on the hairs on the back of his neck stood up to make him sit up from the bed. "Roy." he muttered and shook the other quickly, "Wake up I think we need to move."
"Mn, demons?" Roy asked but didn't argue as he groaned, sitting up and pulling his pack close to make sure everything was there before pausing. "Wait I, I can feel this one." Roy's eyes looked off into the distance as if they could penetrate the darkness of night and see right through it. "It's not in the woods, it's walking into town."
Roy was able to sense demons sometimes unlike Ed who could feel them almost always if they were close enough. It had to be because the demonic presence inside of himself was so strong that it easily overlapped the tingle of weaker demons around him, but Roy could feel the bigger energy signatures like this strong demon.
"So it's big and strong, anything you can tell about it?" Ed asked and pulled out his crossbow.
Roy sat there contemplating, trying to feel what he could but just aid, "It's...angry, or should I say that it feels wrathful and I don't know why I can feel that but it's oozing that emotion. It's not slow and lazy like the one trying to attack Winry's town, this one has clear intentions...it wants something."
"Okay—" Before anything else, there was a loud crash and people screaming from the village, "Stay here it's too dangerous for you over there."
"No, no let me come help you this time! I won't get in your way!"
Roy flinched when Ed touched his shoulder and with care pushed him to sit back on the ground, "This isn't about trust right now, if this thing is honestly dangerous I want to be focused and know that you're here safe waiting for me to return."
Watching Ed run off into the darkness left Roy with a bad feeling in his gut, he was told to stay but every fiber in Roy's being was telling him to follow. Just as back up, just in case, what if this demon was too much and Ed died without him there?
It's true that without Ed he had no idea how this world worked, how to travel, barter, deal with people or demons in the same way someone as expertly as Ed did. But that wasn't the reason he was worried, Roy could find someone else to travel with him...somehow.
He was worried because he liked Ed, they were two sides of the same coin in his mind. Both broken, alone, but trying to be kind in the way they knew best. Ed hid that kindness under a rough exterior that Roy saw right through and if Roy didn't get to finish this journey by Ed's side well...well he didn't even want to think about that option.
Ed had been the first person to take his intentions and somewhat believe him, to free him and not even to be a slave being dragged around as a tool but one a somewhat equal footing only different because of Ed's knowledge of the world.
Picking himself off the ground Roy reached into his pack and grabbed the extra knife Ed had given him, just for emergencies, and darted out of camp in the same direction Ed had left.
Growing closer Roy could feel heavy footsteps moving quickly, moving between the houses and peeking around one corner Roy watched Ed facing off with the creature.
The demon wasn't that large, smaller than the last big one in Centuria at maybe a human and a half tall in height. It was larger with a massive bulging top half filled with gray-skinned muscles protruding with veins, its legs were curved with hooves like a horses and one arm was a huge piece of sturdy flesh like a shield while the other was split into three smaller arms but only one held a sword. The face wasn't a face, instead it had slitted eyes with no clear pupils and a gaping open jaw with pincers like a spider would have.
Ed looked so tiny compared to it but he was standing his own, using speed and accuracy to his advantage up close and having discarded his crossbow somewhere. A few shots were making the creature bleed heavily out of it's back, one in its leg and one right near an eye hole.
Unlike back in Centuria where people had quickly hidden inside their homes the humans here were panicking, flooding the streets and trampling each other crudely.
"I could...I could just..." Roy lifted one of his hands against his will, shaking as the power inside of him called to be used. He could vaporize this demon with the wave of his hand but what if once released it decided to take other lives as well, what if it killed Edward in the mix?
"It wants to be used, it wants me to use it," he mumbled to himself without thinking, repeating that a few times as his breath grew ragged fighting internally with himself over what to do.
A high pitched scream bled through the noise and Roy's thoughts catching his attention, far behind Ed on the street that had nearly cleared laid a small little girl clutching a stuffed animal. She looked half trampled over and holding her ankle like it was in pain as she cried for help only to go unanswered.
Watching in slow motion as the gray demon lifted it's long sword with the power of all three small arms, readying a powerful strike, Roy moved with his hand outstretched. "Everyone move!" he demanded, the street cleared but not by choice.
Roy's eyes glowed with the dark swirling demonic aura, that same visage wrapped out the people in the streets and violently shoved them as near the buildings as possible and out of the line of immediate death as Roy ran to the girl and held his hand up.
"Huh?" the demonic voice grated, it had swung powerfully down but its sword had not collided with the ground and instead stopped just higher than Roy himself with his hand lifted to the air. His dark presence wrapped around the sword keeping it completely immobile. Tugging its sword with all its strength the demon couldn't fight Roy's hold, "You're the one I'm looking for, let me devour—GAH!" it gave an inhuman shriek of pain when Ed's sword found it's mark in its back and out its chest.
Dark coagulated blood spewed out like a fountain, Ed stabbed several more times before placing a well-aimed strike through the creatures small monstrous head until it gurgled and fell to the ground dead in a pool of its blood.
"Roy!" an angry voice rushed over to him. Looking at his hand Roy's head felt fuzzy in the most delightful way, using his power had never felt so overwhelmingly good as it washed through him and he'd had that huge demon at his mercy. Would it feel better to let the rope out further and let this power do what it liked?
Seeing his foe dead and bleeding gave Roy a satisfied feeling and he smiled, "We killed it." he breathed out, black smoke filling his eyes as a surge of power grew inside of him. Clenching his arms over his stomach just as Ed reached him and touched his shoulders. "I'm okay, I'm okay..." he muttered and forced the power inside of him once again. No, he wouldn't give in today, not today when he'd done something very good for once in his life.
New darkness filled Roy's eyes as he lost balance and fell over losing consciousness.
After witnessing Roy's act of kindness Ed can't find it in himself to keep up this facade of hate, or at least he plans on working at it. Being friendly to Roy actually feels pretty good and seeing how much Roy melts under friendly affection and praise can be pretty cute.
Roy gets to see the ocean for the first time at their next destination, the ocean isn't quite how Ed remembers it.
Ed had seen that menacing blade coming a mile away and moved, one thing he had on his opponent was speed but it far outweighed him in strength. What he needed was a good distraction and Ed had taken it once the beast's attention was elsewhere.
Against his wishes Roy had come to town to help, letting his powers burst like black ropes pushing people out of the street and encasing the demon's sword in a thick layer so tight it couldn't have moved. When he'd ran up Roy had quickly passed out in his arms.
"Is he gonna be okay?" a small child asked from below.
That's how he met the Hughes family, Maes the father had found them quickly after everything and hugged his daughter tight and began to cry from relief that she wasn't dead. Then quickly after hearing what happened from his daughter, Elicia, had invited them both to rest at their home for a night or two while Roy rested.
Sharing the double bed they'd been offered that night Ed muttered, "Idio...were you that worried?"
It hit him worse than ever that morning after waking up from his nightmare, Roy in such pain could become a real thing just like that. Thoughts ran through his head, he needed to try harder, he needed to be kinder to Roy. Demon or not he was trying to help and be kind as much as he knew too.
Watching Roy's long eyelashes flutter as the demon started to wake Ed brushed his thumb under one eye to brush away a little bit of sleep that had gathered there. "Morning sleeping beauty, about time you woke up." he joked then quickly realized Roy probably didn't get the reference.
"Mn Edward?" Roy slurred and lazily sat up in bed leaning against the wall and gazing over at the blond with exhaustion in his eyes, "Did I pass out? But I was feeling so good before that." he said still in a dreamy state.
"I don't know what happened but I am happy that you're alive and awake."
Roy looked at him like he was a completely different person seeing as yesterday's argument was still fresh compared to the almost sweet way Ed was talking to him now. "I know this is sudden but I've been well...kind of a jerk to you, I'm sorry."
"You mean it?" Roy breathed out, "I don't know much about you but I know that I like the person you are, does this mean you don't mind me as I am?"
"What you are makes me uncomfortable but who you are I think I might like." Ed scratched over an inch on his cheek nervously then reached his hand to place it on Roy's leg for a show of good faith.
"That means a lot coming from you Edward." Roy was happy but gasped and allowed himself to touch Ed's arm, "Is that little girl okay!?"
"More than okay thanks to you." a new voice came from the open doorway, a man in his early thirties stood there with two classes of something in his hands and a gentle smile on his face, "I'm Maes Hughes, that girl is my daughter Elicia and this is our house." Walking over he offered the two their glasses of tea.
"I'm so glad." Roy accepted the tea and sipped at it.
"I honestly can't thank you both enough, we got separated in all of that chaos...you have no idea how panicked I was." and how frantically he'd been searching until Roy's power had shoved him out of the street. "When you two are done talking I have breakfast ready."
The man's eyes glistened with a certain kindness and he reached to ruffle both of their hair, "Such cute kids." he cooed exaggerating their age difference before giving the travelers their space.
Touching the top of his head Roy said fervently, "I like him. He reminds me of Winry."
"Of Winry?" the blond raised an eyebrow, oh he must have meant their kindness. It was hard to find people like that nowadays.
Overjoyed by the physical touch Roy hadn't expected anymore but as Ed pulled him close in bed into a loose hug Roy felt almost overwhelmed enough to cry and leaned into it. "You're odd today Edward."
"I just realized what an idiot I've been being the way I have to you. You might not be fully human but that doesn't mean..." Ed's voice hitched for a moment before he continued, "I promise to try and be nicer about things."
Roy smiled widely and leaned up to nuzzle under Ed's chin, "Maes was right, you are cute~" being pushed away the demon giggled at Ed's flustered face.
Breakfast was delicious, a nice meal instead of dried rations or a critter cooked too heavily over a fire and while Ed ended up talking with Maes in the kitchen Elicia was eager to pull her hero off to her room and show him all of her toys.
"Should I go get him?" Ed turned to retrieve Roy until Maes shook his head.
"No they'll be fine, Elicia is quite taken with her hero is all."
"But you saw or at least felt what he did yesterday right? Aren't you scared?" He couldn't blame the man, Roy was stronger than that crazy demon from yesterday, that was frankly terrifying.
"A bit but a true demon wouldn't have saved my little girl as he did, why would he now? I've seen demons play on a human's kindness or weakness to draw them close and in for the kill, that's how I lost my wife." the man said with heavy eyes and heart as he leaned back into his counter, "So rumors of a demonic doorway, that's what you're looking for? I've heard a lot of things but nothing concrete or in a long time, our village has kept to itself since the forest died."
Leaning forward to urge Maes on the blond said, "Anything you can tell me would be potentially helpful, we justs need a direction so that we can keep tracking down any lead that we can."
"Well I have heard this one rumor that has been a big thing for a long while, we're not far from the ocean here and right around when demons started roaming I remember hearing things about a huge constant whirlpool in the ocean not far out from the city south of here." Rubbing the scruff on his chin Maes looked to Ed with worry, "I heard it's become overrun with demons by now, are you sure that's a place you want to go?"
"That sounds exactly like what we'd be looking for!" Ed brightened with excitement, "A whirlpool that could easily be a doorway! Thank you, thank you so much that helps us a lot!"
A worried frown pulled at Hughes' lips, "You're strong but I can't help but worry."
"We don't have much choice." the blond said looking at the blood oath mark on his hand, just like with Winry he had picked and chosen the details he wanted to share and what they were really doing. Telling anyone too much, even people they trusted, could circulate rumors that could spread to places they didn't want looking in their directions. It was already a bit worrying that two large demons had followed them directly into civilization looking for them specifically.
"Sadly I'm not well off enough to be as kind as I used to for travelers like you two, I don't have anything extra to give you but I hope the decent nights rest was enough to help at least a bit," he said kindly his face showing that he ached to do more for them but was stuck.
"It was perfect thank you sir, we'll be out of your hair soon."
"Any time if you're ever passing through here again you two can feel free to use my spare room. In fact please do stop by once all of your travelings are done, I'd like to know how you two are doing."
Things were still quiet between them on the first day back through entering the twisted up forest but it wasn't tense between them like before, most of the bad air had cleared up between them making room for other things to build.
And strangely enough, that night as they laid in bed close together for warmth and facing each other they each muttered a good night, Ed slept better than he had in the Hughes house, the reason? No nightmares, not a single one about Roy or his family, the first night in fifteen years that he'd slept through the night without being awoken in terror but instead to a soft face pressed to his chest.
Tears prickled the corners of Ed's eyes as he wrapped his arms around Roy, this was a good thing not having them. It meant things between him and Roy could heal properly and they could work together better, it meant that he could sleep without seeing his family murdered for the millionth time. It didn't mean that he was forgetting that or losing details of their faces...that's not what it meant, he hoped.
By midday the two of them stumbled across an abandoned village, Ed made sure to mark the spot on his map but he said, "I haven't seen this place before, might be worth searching and see if there's anything useful to scavenge."
"That isn't considered stealing if the people are dead?"
"No, this place looks like it's been abandoned for a long time." Some buildings were half burnt to the ground and others looked like something huge had smashed through them but there were no bodies or scent of blood, it had definitely been long enough between now and when it had fallen. "Just take a look around, be careful but pick up anything like food or you think might be useful."
Ed was trusting Roy for the first time to help out, to be out of his sight, he still ached to keep Roy close in case anything happened but that wasn't healthy. That wasn't how the beginning of friendship worked.
"Yes sir!" Roy teased and nudged him before trudging off, in his excitement he almost dripped over a piece of fallen wood but caught himself and headed deep into town.
Maybe this place hadn't been gone as long as Ed had thought, his best guess, after looking around and taking everything in, was a month and that was quite fresh compared to most other ruins he'd found. Those had been taken over and squished of life within the first few years of this demonic world.
He found a few cans of food and packages of rations and a spout for water that after a few bumps the water cleared from muddy into crystal clear. He'd filled their waterskins full and taken a large drink, it was high enough that it wouldn't be a bad idea to use as a shower before they left.
"Roy? Where did you go?"
"Over here!" Roy called from not too far off, a bag filled with things he'd collected but was standing in the open doorway to a mostly burnt down building, ashes have long since blown away leaving just the unsteady framework pieces. "Any idea what this is?" he pointed to what was hanging from the doorway.
Mistletoe, fake of course but somehow barely burnt and still held some red and green color as it hung by a few threads. "It's not the real plant but it's called mistletoe, people hang it around Christmas." That lead Ed to believe whoever had lived here was just a pervert, Christmas time was nowhere near before or after this place had been abandoned.
"I know a little about Christmas in the biblical sense because of the people at the church, but from what I heard people mostly used it as a reason to exchange presents?" Roy asked him.
"Yeah you're right, everyone has their own reasons and people don't make as big of a deal about it anymore...but most places celebrate. Anything to keep people from drowning too much in despair I suppose," he answered and watched Roy reach to touch the mistletoe but stopped seeing how fragilely it was hanging there.
"So why is mistletoe hung in the doorway like this?"
"Ah..." feeling slightly flustered Ed's eyes fell softly onto Roy, "It's a stupid old tradition. When two people got caught underneath it together, for whatever reason, they were supposed to...to..." Glancing up at the decoration and then down to Roy's awaiting expression.
"To what Edward?" he pressed and shuffled closer to Ed with a frown tugging at his soft-looking lips, "It can't be that weird just tell me, or show me if you have to."
Taking that as permission Ed leaned forward and brushed a chaste kiss over the top of Roy's forehead, "You're supposed to kiss." he whispered.
Roy covered his forehead with both hands and fidgeted around as his face grew beet red, pulling one hand from his face to lightly swat Ed's chest, "Y-You didn't need to do that!" He was so cute as he tried to come to terms with his first kiss, flustered but Ed saw the pleased look on his red face when he was able to put both arms back at his sides.
Ed hadn't seen him take it but later that night while Roy was curled up to his shoulder sharing the warmth he reached into his bag and rustled around before holding up between them the fake mistletoe and looked at Ed hopefully. "I thought it um...it was a nice tradition..."
"I always thought it was stupid." Ed looked up at it bluntly but before the hurt could even make it to Roy's face the blond smiled and touched the other's cheek with his metal hand. "But I think I'm starting to like it too." Closing his eyes Roy leaned into the cool touch like it was just as comforting as a real hand, Ed knew it couldn't but he appreciated the gesture.
Tossing the decoration to the side Roy dove back in and hugged up to Ed making the hunter snort, "You don't want your kiss then? Too embarrassed?" Roy mumbled something into his chest that Ed couldn't understand, sighing happily he settled for placing a kiss on Roy's head before pulling the blanket tighter over them for the night.
Roy had known all different kinds of pain from living in that church. Mental ones like being unable to sleep for days on end and feeling like he was going crazy, the people there telling him what awful creatures demons were and that Roy was no different and that's why he was being kept here. The things they told him, the cruelties of the world and demons were still there in his mind.
He knew physical ones all the more, he'd been whipped, burned, cut, beaten, chained, starved, all in hopes that it would drive the evil force inside of him back to hell.
In the last few weeks, Roy had experienced things he'd never seen or felt before. He could feel the cool air on his skin, see the terribly sad cloudy sky with his own eyes, he could feel rocks and grass beneath his feet or regular pains like cuts and bruises from everyday life. Best of all he'd been hugged by Winry, Maes had patted his head tenderly, Elicia had held his hand so warmly, and the things Ed had been doing with him made his heart feel like it was going to burst.
Waking up on their fifth day on the road they knew they had to be getting close soon they could practically smell the salt in the air from the ocean. Today he woke up first and couldn't bring himself to wake Ed now that the hunter was able to get a decent night sleep without bad dreams, that and the loose and strong arm curled around his shoulders keeping him close was also a new touch.
That reminded him, Ed had kissed him on the head recently and just thinking about it made Roy flustered and shy. He'd known Ed was kind but Roy could have never guessed that something like these feelings could bloom between them in such a short period. Closing his eyes the demon smiled more sadly and muttered, "I wish we had more time together..."
Every day he could feel energy inside of him growing more and more restless, his birthday had to be coming up soon. Or maybe it wasn't his birthday but whatever this painful swelling of aura was inside of him, it was going to burst in a matter of weeks and now Roy was more determined than ever to use it properly. He had things he wanted to protect in this world, kind people that deserved better.
"Have you ever seen the ocean Edward?" he asked later that day after the day had grown to it's warmest point, which wasn't very warm where they were. He wasn't too concerned about watching their surroundings, Ed had that covered, he was more focused taking glances at his companion. Had Ed's eyes always been such a dark shade of gold? He hadn't noticed before. "I've heard that it's beautiful, but I've also heard it just looks like a giant puddle."
"Pftt a puddle? No, it doesn't look anything like that. It's more...hm how do I describe it and do it justice?" Ed pondered and felt Roy's arm press into his as they walked closer, the demon's eyes on him waiting for an actual answer.
"So? Come on I want to know!"
"Well if you want to know so bad the best thing we can do is get you the real thing!" the blond exclaimed and grabbed Roy's hand in his before running forward tugging the other with him at a quick dash. So far in these woods most things had been dead, plants, insects, animals, and demons had yet to give them much of a problem. They must fester here less because they'd already sucked out what life they could from the land and people.
They had been even closer to the ocean than they thought, Ed could see the break of tree line ahead and as they ran Roy picked up his pace even more so once they could hear the crashing of waves. Both of them came to a skidding halt as they stood at the edge of the forest and on top of a small cliff, only about fifteen feet off of the ocean side and with a pathway down onto the beach.
Both of them were grinning like idiots holding hands but seeing the ocean their smiles faded. "It's...so dark." Yes, the ocean out here looked different than over near the Centuria part of the continent and Ed should have known it would with how different the landscape was.
The waters were so dark here you couldn't see through it a lick, the dark waves crashed into the cliffside foreboding as the clouds that went out into the sky across the ocean swirled like they were going to storm and crackled with energy. "I dunno I don't think it's so bad, different but not bad...reminds me of you." Ed squeezed Roy's hand in his.
"You think so?"
"Yeah, it's dark and odd but the ocean still sparkles even if it's dark see-" he looked over into the water. Sure enough the water was pretty in an alluring way and mixed with the aesthetic of the clouds and dead treeline Ed just smiled lightly, "But you're much more pretty than this ocean and when all of this is over I'll show you the ocean I know and when the demons are gone we could even go swimming in it. Hell, there are tons of cool things I could take you to see when this is over with!"
Roy wanted that more than anything, and right now he didn't have the strength to crush that hope between them, he couldn't tell Ed the inevitable truth yet. "I'd like that more than anything Edward, I really would."
Ed kept his eyes peeled as they walked along the beach, taking that route rather than the grass so that the demon could feel what it was like to walk barefoot on the sand. Roy was enjoying himself thoroughly but they were both started when a large dark octopus tentacle slithered out of the ocean, blending in with the water and sand and going right for Roy's ankle.
"Woh careful!" Ed called and sliced the tentacle tip off in warning, bleeding it slowly skulked back into the watery depths, "Little shit...You okay?"
Roy was calm but he'd pulled out the knife Ed had given him a while back and nodded, "Yeah it just...that thing gave me a weird feeling is all. It's gone now so let's go, maybe we should walk on higher ground in case there are more."
Another hour of walking and listening to the ocean in peace they spotted it, what was once a very large port city made of stone buildings had been reduced to barely standing structures of rubble. There was a large dock area made of sturdy wood that was mostly intact, part of it had leaned over the years and had been swallowed by the ocean while another end looked like something huge had taken a bite out of it, still it was the best kept thing standing in this old city.
Just out into the ocean the water began to act strangely and they didn't have to guess why, the whirlpool was very noticeable and by far larger than either of them had expected. At least one hundred feet in diameter maybe larger.
Before they laid foot inside of the broken city a huge wave rushed up against the pier and half of the city, it must happen throughout the day every day because the half closer towards the ocean was all worn from the water constantly wearing at it, moss and little sea things had stuck themselves and grown out of moist cracks in the pavements while the more dry half of the city wasn't much of that way.
"I thought Maes said this place was going to be crawling with demons?" Ed said more to himself, there was a faint prickling on the back of his neck but he didn't feel any demons immediately near them. "You feel anything weird around here Roy?"
Shuddering the other nodded and rubbed his hands over his arms, "Yeah, just like on the beach with that tentacle, this place feels wrong Edward. I don't think we should stay long." he warned but followed Ed around the edge of the city and down onto the side of the docks that was still high above the ocean.
"Be careful it's slippery," Ed said touching Roy's back to steady him.
"I promise to be careful." holding his arms around his stomach Roy made a face like he was going to be sick and walked towards the edge of a long pier, "Edward I...I don't feel good around here. I don't think it's a doorway down there, it's got to be something else...something..."
"Are you sure it's not a doorway? Sorry Roy but we can't leave until we're positive, can't waste time on maybes," he said a bit harshly but it was true. "Maybe if you release some of your power it'll react to whatever is causing that whirlpool?"
Roy looked reluctant but he nodded trusting in his companion and holding out a hand, scrunching up his eyes as they began to glow and his shadowy aura swirled up his arm and out of his palm. Just a small dose of it shot out into the ocean and sunk, deep deep down into the depths.
Breathing in a few deep lungfuls Roy turned away, he didn't want Ed to see how much trouble he was starting to have controlling what was inside of him.
"There you are little one..." a soothing womanly voice came from out in the ocean, Roy quickly took a few steps back to get away from the edge of the pier he stood on as several black octopus tentacles curled up onto the wooden platform. "I thought I felt you earlier but now you're so much closer."
"Edward! Edward we need to leave!" turning he reached for Ed's hand to find the blond frozen, standing there calmly and staring out into the water with a glazed over look in his eyes. "You!" Roy snapped his gaze towards the intruding tentacles slowly coming closer, "Bitch what did you do to him!?"
With a hearty laugh the demon woman cooed, "He's a poor little human boy, can't help but be entranced by my voice no matter how much he feels for you. Don't worry he's feeling very good right now, let's talk little one."
"Edward, Edward come on move!" pulling with all of his might Roy was having no luck moving Ed further onto land in this state, ready to use his powers Roy gasped and looked down as a suction cup stuck to his leg and tugged, Roy fell on his face straight into the pier as it dragged him back towards the briny deep it came from. "No let go, fucking let go!" he screamed and clawed his fingertips so hard into the wood that it left indents, and splinters under his nails.
Roy felt it the moment the dark and icy cold water swallowed him up and filled his lungs like it had a mind of its own, further and further the tentacle pulled him in towards something much bigger than these mere limbs.
His head felt fuzzy and his lungs burned but Roy wasn't drowning, he could feel the ocean pressure popping in his ears until he saw a few small lights, fish with large teeth swimming in circles around him and some down on the ocean floor illuminating giant eyes, and a mouth circular and open filled with teeth going down and down, and down as far as Roy's eyes could see.
"You've met two of my brethren already now haven't you? Demons larger than the average?" The voice was still crystal clear but this time Roy felt it in his head and without thinking spoke the same way back in his haze.
"You're one of them...those things that are after Edward and me for some reason."
"No no little one, we're only after you. He is just in the way and protecting you, shielding you from our full sight because of how damn human he is. We want you or more importantly, we want what's inside of you." the tentacle around his leg slithered up curling around not just that leg but part of Roy's stomach and stopping at his chest.
"You want me to join you and use my power is that it? I'm not interested I'm sure you already know that but if you must just kill me and leave Edward alone, he's just a defenseless human."
"I'm not sure exactly what my brethren want from you but I personally do not need your power. I'm content living here where I'm comfortable, eating all the creatures of the sea and drawing in men that think I'm the voice of a siren to devour. What I want from you little one is whatever you hold dearest, but that isn't your power like I'd first assumed."
Hearing that Roy began to panic and swirl, pushing at the sticky suction cups restricting him and listening to the creature laugh in its beautiful voice. "Good you understand, ah there he is." Similarly to Roy one of the tentacles pulled down into the ocean a figure, one with air bubbles leaking from his mouth that Roy could barely sea until a few of the light fish started to circle him with curious interests as well.
Roy reached up for Ed trying to scream with his mouth but no sound came out, "No! No don't you dare touch him! Leave him alone I'll do whatever, give you whatever you want but not him!"
"That reaction and those emotions are exactly why I want him, I want to feel everything you've experienced together inside of me once I consume him." She seemed mostly finished talking once Roy used his dark aura to burn the tentacle with the palms of his hands until it released him.
Roy had never swum before but in a panic he was a quick learner and tried to propel himself upwards with his powers, it wasn't as fast as he liked but it was helping. Grabbing onto the blond Roy touched his face, he was cold and pale, completely unconscious and being this deep couldn't be good for Ed's body and he was likely drowning, unlike Roy who could survive in this environment due to his odd nature. This time he shot a directed spear of energy at the tentacle holding his companion cutting it into pieces and tearing it off of Ed's body.
Grabbing hold of the hunter Roy started to swim as fast as he could which wasn't faster than the dozens of other tentacles reaching up towards them. One tried to snatch Ed from his grip causing Roy to completely lose it, his eyes flashed their dark glow and he yelled, "I said don't touch him!" A sound wave burst from his body cutting everything in its bath, the tentacles into thin slices, the light fish and other swimming critters vaporized altogether.
Roy didn't bother looking at anything else and swam hard towards the surface before the leviathan could recover and attack again. "Come back here I want him! Get them, get them or I'll eat all of you!" She screeched still in her perfect voice.
This time it wasn't tentacles but some of those fish from below with the large sharp teeth that rushed them, they were still small so Roy didn't waste time with them even as two took bites out of his legs and one bit a chunk through Ed's back clothing, their blood mixing together in the already dark sea.
One final stray tentacle, barely staying together with how sliced up it was and bleeding black ooze into the matching water it made a dash and grabbed Roy around the neck and began to squeeze. As he began to pass out Roy felt that euphoric power seal over his skin again, and the next thing he knew he was awake and already dragging Ed up the beach before collapsing next to him.
"Edward! Edward! Wake up, please wake up!" Ed began to come to, warm hands helped him turn on his side to throw up the water in his lungs. Everything hurt but mostly his head and chest as he sucked in every breath that he could.
"Gotta...gotta stop the bleeding..." he heard Roy start to panic and hyperventilate while pressing his hands to the bite mark taken out of Ed's back. His lungs hurt so badly that he hadn't even noticed the wound or feeling of blood pooling under him, he couldn't even get himself to make any noise to let Roy know he was awake.
His eyelids felt like they were made of pure lead but after a few moments listening to Roy's breathing become more and more anxious he peeled his gold eyes open halfway to see a blurry world, and a figure.
"You poor things." a new voice came from the side, "Come with me and I promise to heal him." He couldn't keep his eyes open any longer and let a fresh rest taken him.