He should’ve changed his phone alarm to some kind of death knell sound.
“Oh, God,” he hears his own voice rasp out. “Why do we even have a four in the morning?”
“Masochism?” Roy suggests into his pillow—probably that’s what that word is; it’s sort of hard to tell between the mumble and the cotton fluff.
“Fuck,” Ed says, since that’s about the only thing that even comes close to summing it up. He drags his reluctant torso upright and fumbles for the phone on the nightstand; just the light of the screen is blinding. His thumbs don’t really want to operate this early, but on the third try he silences the stupid fucking alarm. He tries to think of something pithy to greet the morning with, but… really there’s only the one option. “Fuuuuuck.”
“Mm,” Roy says, and there’s a rustle in the shadow-dark as he rolls over. “Cancel everything. Stay.” His fingers find Ed’s knee, and then his arm snakes around Ed’s waist, and suddenly his warm body is curling in around Ed’s hip in a way that would make anybody go instantaneously weak. “I’ll be your sex slave.”
“You’re already my sex slave,” Ed says, stroking at Roy’s hair a little, ’cause it gets all ruffled and fluffy when he sleeps, which is about the best thing ever. “You gotta sweeten the deal.”
Roy nestles in a little closer and yawns. “I’ll be your sex slave and make you breakfast every single morning for the rest of your life.”
“Done,” Ed says. “I’ll cancel it all. Guess I better return all the stuff we got with the money, though.” He nudges a finger at Roy’s ear, and Roy does the whole-body wriggle of the secretly-ticklish. “Y’know. Matter of principle.”
Roy snuggles a little closer to Ed’s hip. “Tragic.”
“Yeah,” Ed says. “You better say sayonara to the Suit.”
When Ed won the dumb Nobel, Roy took him out the next day—sheer lack of sleep and overwhelming endless marathon of fucking press conferences and flashbulbs and chaos be damned—to get a ludicrously expensive tailored suit in charcoal gray, complete with a starkly crisp white shirt and an admittedly rather pretty red silk tie. Roy spent the whole fitting grinning so fucking smugly Ed thought he was liable to break his own face (which would’ve been a crying shame given the face in question), but somehow they both came out unscathed, and Ed came out with a brand-spankin’-new set of obscenely high-priced digs.
In summary: the Suit cost almost as much as Ed’s car, but in the two years since they bought it, nobody with a pair of working eyes has argued that he doesn’t look seriously damn good in the thing. Roy, in particular, loves the Suit more than… just about anything. More than chocolate, he said once. Although it’s hard to figure out how much he actually likes it, given that he’s never let it stay on Ed’s body for any longer than was strictly societally necessary.
In conclusion… that was Ed’s trump card.
“You can’t return the Suit,” Roy says.
Ed pats his head. “If I stay here, I really oughta, don’t you th—”
“Go,” Roy says, pushing at his hip and thigh with both hands now. “Get out. Out of the bed. You’re diabolical.”
“Learned from the best,” Ed says, climbing down, and then whatever other brilliant shit he meant to say flees his brain as his feet hit the frozen fucking wasteland of the floorboards. “Hey, while I’m gone, you should get that rug you’ve been talking about since forever.”
He can make out the basic shapes of Roy’s face in the dimness as he glances over—just enough to see the softness of his eyes, and the little smile, and the absent play of his fingertips across a fold in the sheet.
“I think you’ve broken me once and for all,” Roy says. “I miss you, and you haven’t even left.”
“Shut up,” Ed says, and leans down and in to kiss the tip of his nose, to make sure he knows it doesn’t mean Shut up at all.
It started over a cup of coffee—over the twelfth cup of coffee in as many business days. It was the twelfth requested at seven fifty AM precisely, with the same Good morning and the same way-too-fucking-sexy polite smile; it was the twelfth purchased with three one-dollar bills, with the seventy-five extra cents deposited into the tip jar; it was the twelfth that received three packets of raw sugar and a drizzle of whole milk.
Not that Ed was paying attention, or anything.
But when the really hot guy in the nice suit who always gave the pastry case an assessing glance and always asked how the cashier was today before he’d take the cup showed up and reached out for the twelfth one (with his left hand, no ring, not that Ed was paying attention), it was sort of impossible not to say something.
Admittedly, something other than “Man, you’ve got to be the most predictable person I’ve ever met” might’ve been preferable, but Ed’s shift had started at four-thirty in the morning, and besides, it was true.
Really Hot Guy smiled a little wider, and his eyebrows went up, and holy fuckballs, was he a looker. Killer eyes, killer smile, killer cheekbones, killer hands, killer shoulder breadth, killer posture, killer… everything. And Ed sure as hell wouldn’t have minded a little death under the ministrations of this murderer, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
“You think so?” Really Hot Guy asked.
“They should synchronize Swiss clocks off of you,” Ed said.
Really Hot Guy grinned broadly, which naturally made him even Really Hotter. “Or the German train system, perhaps. You’re working tomorrow, right?”
It was a Tuesday—two work weeks plus two days; twelve cups of coffee; twelve days Ed had been at the bar pulling shots and cussing at the cash register, because he could just make it to his classes after getting off at ten thirty, and then he had the rest of the day to yell at his projects in the lab.
Clearly, Really Hot Guy was not-paying-attention almost as diligently as Ed was.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll be here.”
“Lovely,” Really Hot Guy said.
He went over to the condiments and put in three packets of raw sugar and a drizzle of whole milk. He stirred. He fitted a lid on with unholy ease given how stubborn the damn things were for most people. And he glanced back at Ed and smiled one more time on his way out the door.
That last part was new.
Wednesday morning at seven forty-five, Ed developed a sudden-onset case of a rare disease called unable to stop looking at the clock.
Wednesday morning at seven fifty, Really Hot Guy appeared through the front windows like a vision—all sharp dark gray suit lines and crisp, classy pale blue shirt with a sapphire tie that made his dark eyes stand out like fucking stars. He slipped in through the door, sauntered up to the counter, smiled, and said, “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Russell said at the register. “What can I get for you today?”
“A double espresso, please,” Really Hot Guy said.
Only Ed’s instinctual death grip saved the glass he was holding from an untimely death in shards all over the floor. “What?”
Russell gave him the patent-pending You are such a fucking amateur glare, which was always pretty rich coming from a guy who did nothing but get high in his spare time, because “Sometimes I think plants are the only thing that’s really real, you know?”
“For here or to go?” Russell asked, and he was totally assessing Really Hot Guy for himself now, which was incredibly unfair, and also stupid. Russell was just generally stupid. And he had stupid hair. And wore it stupidly.
All the same—Ed held his breath a little for the response, because “espresso to-go” was a contradiction in terms; an espresso ceased to be an espresso the instant you tried to put it into a paper cup.
“For here, please,” Really Hot Guy said, and as Russell glanced down at the register keys, he looked over at Ed and—winked.
With the utmost of dignity and elegance, Ed fumbled to brace a hand on the bar counter so that his fucking knees wouldn’t just go.
“Sure thing,” Russell was saying. “That’ll be two-seventy-two, and Ed’ll have that right up for you—”
This glare was Won’t you, Ed? (Or else…), which was even more stupid than the last one, because Ed had been working there way longer than Russell had—and for fuck’s sake, pulling a shot wasn’t advanced quantum physics. Which Ed could also do, but couldn’t get eight bucks an hour for just yet.
Ed banged a demitasse down hard enough that he didn’t hear the rest of Russell’s sentence (which was probably insufferably stupid anyway) and pulled the damn shots. By the time he put the cup on a saucer and slid it across the countertop, Really Hot Guy had retrieved both a spoon and a disproportionately pleased expression. If Ed had known that cutlery was his thing, they could’ve kicked this off eleven days ago.
…he needed to stop thinking like that. Really Hot Guy probably had a ridiculously gorgeous redhead underwear model girlfriend waiting at home, and she just wasn’t the marrying type, or some shit. Or maybe a ridiculously gorgeous redhead underwear model boyfriend; still out of the picture. Or maybe he wasn’t really into any of that, and he had a cat, and he still wasn’t interested, and why the hell would anyone be interested in Ed, anyway? Enough with the bullshit fantasies. He knew damn well what dark, sad little doomed-dream warrens those carved out.
“Thank you,” Really Hot Guy said.
Ed eyeballed him. Not because he was so goddamn attractive, or anything. Suspiciously. “You even know how to drink that?”
Usually people—especially customers, but really just people—reacted pretty badly when the growl started to get into Ed’s voice, but Really Hot Guy’s serene smile never faltered. “Yes. I lived in Italy for a year.”
Fucking bastard just got more fucking worldly and urbane by the second, and Ed wanted to strangle him and then kiss him until they both asphyxiated.
Couldn’t really say that in a coffee shop, though, so all he said was “Huh.”
Really Hot Guy tipped the spoon towards him like some sort of salute, then settled at the nearest empty table, skimmed the crema smoothly off the surface of his drink, deposited it onto the saucer, stirred the espresso, tapped the spoon delicately on the rim of the demitasse, set it down, raised the cup, and sipped.
He closed his eyes and really savored it, and Ed’s heart was just about beating its way out of his chest.
Really Hot Guy gave it a full fifteen seconds before he sipped again, and this time—for fuck’s sake, if that wasn’t his orgasm face, Ed was a monkey’s uncle, and not in a haha-Darwinian-descendant kind of way; as in, betting the whole fucking farm on that horse.
Kissing him right about then would’ve been so goddamn glorious that Ed’s throat stopped, and his hands shook, and his heart skittered at the very abstract thought. Sharp, smooth espresso and all that unbelievable ivory skin; he’d taste so fucking good—
Really Hot Guy opened his beautiful eyes halfway and let them rest like that for a long second, heavy-lidded, while he smiled lazily and gave the demitasse one gentle swirl. He drew a deep breath, released it as a contented sigh, and started to turn towards the bar again.
Ed scrambled to look busy and succeeded only in slamming his elbow into the side of the espresso machine, which he could immediately tell was going to bruise fucking nightshade purple. Which figured.
While he was howling expletives in the safety of his own head and trying not to move his right arm—he was going to suffer for this for days; with his luck, he’d probably jolted the fucked-up nerve, and it was never going to forgive him—Really Hot Guy apparently drank off the rest of his fancy-pants fucking espresso and brought his extremely fine, even fancier-pantsed fucking ass back up to the counter to return the dishes, even though there was a perfectly good bin for them off by the condiments.
“Thank you very much,” he said. “That was lovely.”
Your mom is lovely, Ed thought very hard.
“Glad to hear it,” was what he said, though, because… customer service.
“Did I drink it to your satisfaction?” Really Hot Guy asked—and that wasn’t fair, right, because ‘satisfaction’ was the kind of word that carried a suitcase full of connotations everywhere it went.
Ed had to swallow twice before his mouth would produce enough saliva for speech. “Guess so, yeah. I mean, I’ve never been anywhere near Italy, so I should probably defer to you.”
“No?” Really Hot Guy asked, and he wouldn’t fucking stop it with that fucking smile, and his eyes were like embers, and— “I think you’d like it. It’s where I learned to appreciate coffee, so in a way, it’s what brought me here.”
Talking to him was like getting sucked into a vortex of gorgeousness and never, ever wanting to leave. Looking at him was like staring into the sun and enjoying the way your eyes were melting.
In the interest of preserving his retinas, Ed forced his gaze to shift up to the clock on the wall behind Really Hot Guy’s head.
“Aren’t you gonna be late, Mr. Clockwork?” he asked.
Really Hot Guy turned to follow the direction of Ed’s eyes and smiled. Three minutes to eight. At least if Ed’s laboring heart gave up the ghost, he’d know what to tell the medics.
“Ah,” Really Hot Guy said. “I suppose.” The smile turned into a beaming grin, and Ed wondered how ordinary human beings dealt with this guy all day without dying. “And it’s Roy, by the way.”
“Okay,” Ed said, stupidly, which was slightly less stupid than Nice to meet you; I’m Infatuated, which was the other thing he was thinking of. “Ed.”
“I know,” Really Hot Guy said, turning towards the door. He waved over his shoulder. “Ciao, bello.”
Ed’s piqued nerves flared madly. “What did you just call me?”
“Look it up,” Really Hot Guy said from the door, grinning even wider, and then he slipped out and was gone.
There was a long pause. One of the regulars in the back corner rubbed her nose and turned a textbook page.
“You suck,” Russell said.
“Shut the fuck up, Tringham,” Ed said. He had no idea whether Russell meant at his job, or because he’d just demonstrated a spate of some of the most incompetent flirting known to man, but it didn’t really matter, because the correct response was pretty much the same.
Thursday morning crawled.
Five o’clock. Five-fifteen. Five-thirty. Five-forty. Five-fifty. Six. Six-oh-five. Six-oh-seven.
Like Ed needed another reason to hate mornings with the fiery passion of a thousand blazing suns.
Despite the fact that Has Beans opened promptly at five-thirty every damn day of the week, almost no one ever showed their bleary face in the store before a quarter after six. Ed whittled a couple minutes away by comping out some beans for Al, and then dusting every goddamn flat surface he could think of. He wasn’t much good at cleaning at the best of times, though, because it was a detail thing, and he always got distracted and forgot some major part of it, or just ran out of patience when he thought about something else and wandered away.
Regulars started to trickle in; Sheila got her calorie-bomb double-chocolate mocha, poured a shit-ton of sugar in it, and retreated to her window table for the usual bout of people-watching. The guy Ed had been calling Frank in his head for so long that it was impossible to adjust to Alan brought his weird Death Valley mug up to the counter and duly paid for coffee to fill it, plus the prospective refill.
In desperation, Ed went to the back and washed some dishes.
“You are a walking, talking freak-show, Elric,” Russell said in what he seemed to think was a generous sort of tone.
“Shut the fuck up, Tringham,” Ed said.
He needed that on a T-shirt. It would save a lot of time.
It wasn’t his fault he happened to be antsy on top of being distracted on top of being exhausted—he’d been in lab until nine yesterday pursuing a minor breakthrough in the field of biomedicine, and then he’d staggered home, and Al had made him eat something, and then he’d been up half the night pondering said minor breakthrough and how to break it open wider to make it into something big.
The biggest thing Russell fucking Tringham had probably done in his damn life was determining by process of elimination which local variety of weed sent him on the raddest average trip.
Admittedly, Ed had been up the other half of the night thinking about Really Hot Guy (about Roy, and wasn’t it fucking hilarious that it was the correspondent letters of the three words, Really Hot Guy?) and trying not to… resort to any particular acts that would make it impossible to look that asshole in the gorgeous eyes this morning. But Russell didn’t need to know that, and fuck him anyway.
Russell was rolling his eyes like it was a competitive sport and stalking off towards the back, presumably to re-wash the dishes Ed just washed, because there was maybe one little smudge of a fingerprint on the outside of one of them, or something. On the plus side, that made it easier for Ed to swallow his pride and kick the little footstool out from under the front counter, so that he could climb up and align all the stacks of cappuccino cups on top of the espresso machine. Whoever put that shelf on top of the machine must have been a super-tall giant-monster of one sort or another; and, more importantly, a cappuccino was Ed’s secret bet for what Roy (Roy) was going to order today.
This was what Purgatory felt like, wasn’t it? Being perpetually, breathlessly on-edge hoping for something good to happen, and all the while expecting the worst.
Seven fifty, and there he was, and fuck everything; Ed felt like he’d been sucker-punched in the kidney and beaten around the head, and his heart was racing like it had aspirations to compete in the Kentucky Derby.
Nobody should have that much power over him. Nobody. It wasn’t fair. He’d built this goddamn life one fragment at a time, from scraps and rubble, and it was crappy sometimes, but it was his, and he was proud of it. He was his own fucking man, and Al was fine, Al was good, Al was happy; Al was about to get his B.S. in physiology, and he was going to go to med school someday; and they had a place to live where the neighbors weren’t even too terrible and the sun through the windows sometimes felt the same kind of warm it had at home; and he and Al scraped up the rent money every month and ate nothing but ramen and comped-out breakfast burritos when they had to. The foundation of all of it was Ed’s sheer stubborn independence, and he’d be damned if he’d let some too-fucking-pretty guy in a really, really nice slate-gray suit and a tie in Ed’s exact favorite shade of blood-red sparkle some dark eyes a little and knock him down.
Edward Elric was the undisputed fucking master of picking himself back up. Whoever the hell Roy was, whatever the hell he thought of himself, he didn’t have shit.
He sauntered up to the counter smiling that stupid fucking knee-weakening smile, and Ed hung onto the cash register for dear life.
“Good morning,” he said.
“S’up,” Ed said.
“Very little,” Roy said. “But it’s early yet.”
Ed didn’t realize there were still people on the planet who actually spoke the word ‘yet’ as a synonym for ‘still’. “What can I get for you?”
Roy… grinned. Broadly, beautifully, like the sun through the clouds, like a revelation.
“A medium hazelnut latte with an extra shot, please,” he said.
Ed stabbed the register keys with his finger a bit more vigorously than was strictly necessary. “You want whole milk in that, or…?”
“Please,” Roy said.
Either the fucker knew it foamed better, or he didn’t give a shit about calories, and Ed wasn’t sure which one was worse.
The register chimed extra-loudly, in solidarity perhaps, as he closed the sale. “Four dollars and two cents.”
Roy thumbed through his wallet and proffered a five-dollar bill. “Did I say something wrong?”
Nothing like the invigoration of feeling like you’d been stabbed through the pancreas at eight minutes to eight in the morning.
“No,” Ed said hastily, because really, it wasn’t Roy’s fault that Ed seriously resented him for being so goddamn swoon-worthy. Excuses on the fly were not exactly his forte, but… “It’s just—funny.”
Roy blinked. He held his palm out for Ed to dump the ninety-eight cents into, then poured all the coins directly into the tip jar. “What is?”
“Hazelnut,” Ed said. “And you’re a hard nut to crack.” He felt his cheeks going scarlet. Icing on the fucking cake. “Well. It was funny in my head.”
Roy grinned slowly. “I think it’s rather funny out loud, too. I do hope I’m shaking the ‘predictable’ title, one way or another.”
“Well, that’s the thing,” Ed said, going for the syrup. He had to pause in speaking to empty the grinds out of the portafilters, which entailed banging them on the counter, which, naturally, was one one of his favorite parts of barista-ing most of the time. “You still keep to the same schedule, down to the minute—” He had to shut up for a second again to tamp down the grinds, which was also loud and enjoyable, but Roy was just… watching him. Patiently. Waiting for what he was going to say. “—and you’re still getting coffee, so it’s just the details that’ve changed.” He pulled the shots. They were breathtakingly perfect, as usual. Russell could go fuck himself. “And that’s one of the things that’s confusing.”
“Confusing,” Roy said slowly, but he looked and sounded delighted.
“Yeah,” Ed said. He had to break off again to splash milk into the little jug and foam it and start doling it gently into the cup, and then he set it on the counter.
Roy took it in his right hand but made no move whatsoever to walk away—his eyebrows went up, and his smile tilted expectant, no less.
The idea that they were communicating without words made Ed’s stomach roil in a kind-of-maybe-good way.
“It’s just that you’re always on time,” Ed said. “And you stand up real straight, and your stride is really… measured, I guess, but then there’s the—uh—nice—suits and all that. And the living in Italy; that doesn’t fit either.” He stepped back, suddenly feeling sort of… exposed… under the goddamn incomprehensible flicker in Roy’s gaze. “So… yeah. Confusing. I mean, not that it’s bad, just… Confusing’s not the same thing as unpredictable.”
“Very true,” Roy said, which was colossally unhelpful. He reached over to get a little paper sleeve for his stupid latte. “If it helps at all in your analysis, I’m a lawyer.”
He glanced back as he said it, like he was waiting for Ed to recoil in horror or something.
“Okay,” Ed said.
“Just thought it was worth mentioning,” Roy said. “Most people hate lawyers.”
“I don’t hate groups,” Ed said, straightening the cookies by the register so he wouldn’t have to look at Roy’s stupid-gorgeous-incisive eyes. “I hate individuals.”
“That’s rather magnanimous of you.”
“Not really,” Ed said. “The individuals are a long-ass list.”
Ed felt totally adrift. Nobody laughed at his stupid jokes except Al, and Al mostly just sort of snickered behind his hand with the dancey-eyes and shit, and Al was stuck with him, and in Al’s case it was probably just the Stockholm Syndrome warping his sense of humor, so he didn’t entirely count anyway.
“You’re gonna be late,” he said, which was dumb, and off-topic, but also true, and saving him from the silence.
Roy turned to look at the clock. His hair did this… subtle swooshy thing and then settled in a fluttery sort of way on his forehead again. The bottom of Ed’s stomach dropped out like a fucking trapdoor.
“Ah, yes,” Roy said. “So I am.” Very calmly, he popped a lid onto his latte cup. “Are you going to be working tomorrow?”
These cookies were extremely disorderly, and Ed’s ears were on fire. “Yup.”
He glanced up in time to catch the grin, which did not help with the general architectural failures manifesting in his stomach right now. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
“Guess so,” Ed said helplessly.
Roy was smiling, smiling, smiling, and then gone.
Ed leaned his burning cheek against the metal side of the espresso machine for a second and closed his eyes.
“What the hell are you doing, Ed?” Russell asked.
“Communing with the coffee,” Ed said.
“You’re an odd duck, Elric.”
“Shut the fuck up, Tringham.”
If Thursday had crawled, Friday morning dragged its weary body one centimeter at a time through mud and sludge and dreck, one-limbed and wrongly-weighted, like an extremely disinterested snail with its shell knocked askew.
…no, Ed hadn’t gotten much sleep last night either. Yes, his interior monologue’s metaphors were suffering. No, they hadn’t been much to write home about to start with.
On the upside, Russell usually worked a later shift on Fridays, presumably because his drug-addled crony-buddy-whatever-they-weres liked to get wild on Thursday nights, and he needed to sleep off the hangover, so Ed was working with Rosé. Rosé, in addition to being a wonderful person, was a kickass barista, and, even more importantly, not Russell.
“Are you okay?” she asked after the third time she caught him glaring daggers at the clock, which was at six thirty-two.
“I dunno,” he said. “I think I’m sick.”
She made a genuinely sympathetic face, which was part of the reason he loved that chick. Also: not Russell. “Oh, gosh. Do you want to go home? I bet I could get Marta in; she’s back from Oregon.”
“Nah,” Ed said. “I think it’s psychosomatic. I’ll be okay.”
“Just let me know if you change your mind, okay?” Rosé said.
Funny how sometimes nice people were harder to deal with than assholes, because then you had to feel guilty for making them give a fuck about you.
Realistically speaking, Ed had probably missed his calling as a hermit in a cave somewhere.
All the same, the morning continued dragging itself, and Ed continued struggling to keep his way-beyond-fucked-up organs more or less where they belonged in his body, since his heart kept leaping, and his guts kept swooping, and he had more than enough anatomy classes under his belt to know that something was seriously wrong here.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Rosé asked.
“Mostly,” Ed said.
He went and jammed more packets of sugar into the jars on the condiment bar.
He’d always had the vague premonition that he was going to die young, but he’d never realized it would be from cardiac arrest waiting for some smokin’-hot lawyer douchebag to walk through the door of his workplace.
There was Roy in the far window. There was Roy in the doorway. There was Roy catching him watching, grinning widely, tossing his head—he knew his hair was going to do the thing, and Ed’s whole body was going to tremble—
So unfair—so fucking unfair. All Roy had done so far was strike up conversations—maybe flirt a little bit, depending on who you asked.
Ed wasn’t one of those people who flirted for fun. Ed flirted poorly, and with intent. And Ed didn’t half-ass jackshit, which meant that if he was at a threshold of human appreciation high enough to flirt, it was because he was invested, and this guy was probably just trying to start his mornings off on a good note by chatting up an ugly, dumb barista kid, and…
“Let me guess,” he said as Roy sauntered up to the register. “An upside-down caramel macchiato at a hundred-twenty degrees.”
“Nope,” Roy said, and the grin was just getting bigger, and Ed felt like his heart was squeezing smaller, and—
“Okay,” he said. “White-chocolate mocha, extra whipped cream.”
“No, thank you,” Roy said.
“Not even close.”
Ed leaned his elbow on the register and his chin on his hand. “You win,” he said. “What’s it gonna be?”
“I don’t need any coffee,” Roy said. “May I have your number?”
Ed’s elbow slid off of the corner of the cash register and slammed down onto the countertop, jamming his funny bone at precisely the right angle, with precisely the right force, to make his entire arm go ferociously pins-and-needles numb.
“What?” he said.
“Your phone number,” Roy said. “May I have it?”
Ed swallowed, swallowed again, wondered in a panicked sort of way where Rosé was, and found that he couldn’t tear his eyes away from Roy’s long enough to look. “I—dunno. I don’t think I’m—allowed—to give it out—while I’m on the clock, or—something—?”
“Ah,” Roy said, and his eyes were just—gleaming. He reached into his stupid, tantalizingly well-cut suit jacket, and with two elegant fingers he drew out a little white card. “Well, you’re allowed to take tips, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Ed said, which was pretty impressive given that neither his lungs nor his throat seemed to be functioning properly.
Roy put the card in the tip jar, winked, and said “Have a nice day, Ed.”
And then he was gone.
“Edward Elric,” Rosé’s voice said from somewhere outside of the tiny little portion of the world that contained the card in the tip jar, which was all that Ed could see right now. “You little jerk, why didn’t you tell me you had a customer romance?”
“It’s not a romance,” the autopilot part of Ed’s brain announced.
“Maybe not yet,” Rosé said. Her hand and thoroughly-bangled wrist appeared in the tiny portion of the world, fished the card out from among the crumpled bills and paltry change, and took it away. She whistled. “He hand-wrote his cell on it. Ed, at least text him.”
“Nope,” Ed said to the tip jar.
“Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?”
She really didn’t know who she was talking to. “You want the whole novel, or just the back cover summary?”
Rosé sighed. “Y’know, if you’re determined to be unhappy, nobody can stop you. But, Ed—I mean, sometimes… you just gotta let go and let things happen. Sometimes that’s good.”
Ed managed to look at her. “That’s like saying ‘If you jump off of enough cliffs, one of these days the air will catch you instead of letting you splatter into gore on the rocks below.’”
Rosé held out the card, raising an eyebrow. “I’ve never seen you back down from a challenge, Ed.”
Damn it. Maybe she knew him better than he thought.
He took a deep breath, and then he took the card, and then he shoved it into his pocket by his phone.
“I’m going to regret this,” he said.
She beamed at him. “Maybe not.”
By the time he staggered out of lab just after seven, he felt like death defrosted. Warmed over. Whatever. Two basically-all-nighters in a row had fucked him over in ways that even emptying his stash of chocolate-covered espresso beans couldn’t fix.
All fucking day long, in every spare second—when his BioE professor was scribbling on the board but hadn’t moved out of the way yet; when the centrifuge was running; when some maintenance guy asked him to step away from his bench for a second to tinker with the fume hood—Ed had been thinking about the little white business card burning a hole in his pocket.
He’d taken it out on his way to class and looked at it—just once. Once was enough to memorize it, anyway; there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot on it.
It was all black on the back side, with a gold and blue logo of a horse and a hawk. The whole thing was kind of silly—a law firm called Mustang & Hawkeye, LLP, for fuck’s sake; those both sounded like fake names. The front was white, with Roy Mustang, Attorney at Law in red, and then really simple black type for a street address (with a suite number, which implied that Mustang & Hawkeye was not exactly a big operation), a phone number, a fax number, an email address, and a website. Rosé hadn’t been bullshitting him—in smooth blank ink, with impeccable loopy handwriting, Roy had penned in another phone number and written the word cell.
So what the fuck was Ed supposed to do? On the one hand, he didn’t owe this Roy guy jackshit.
On the other hand, he… really kind of wanted to see where this might go.
But that was stupid, because he knew the answer already: it’d go where everything, especially his interpersonal relationships, always went—that was, directly into the gutter, to snuggle up with the wet globs of discarded newspapers and the soggy leaves, to be stepped on and squished down into mulch. Ed didn’t do relationships. He seemed to be pathologically incapable. He couldn’t even get pity fucks these days; his lousy excuse for a personality turned people off so fast nobody would even jump in the sack with him for five minutes at a stretch. So what was the point?
Roy had initiated this shit, hadn’t he? In pretty much every possible way, pushing gently when Ed wouldn’t budge, trying and trying and trying some more, breezing past all of the prickly go away vibes and the defensive sarcasm. He was interested. He was interested in Ed. Kind of a lot, by the looks of it.
Ed turned the thought of it over and over as he walked home, and let himself in, and let Al force-feed him something nutritious instead of just decimating a pint of ice cream like he would’ve done left to his own devices. They talked for a while about a genomics lecture Al had gone to, and then Al catapulted a bunch of peas at Ed off of his spoon because Ed was being an asshole, and then they laughed until they hurt themselves, and then Al went to go call Winry like he did sixteen times a day, and Ed took out his phone and the card and stared at them both.
He put the number in.
He titled it Is that even your real name.
He stared at it for a long, long, long thirty seconds.
Then he texted the word hi.
He put the phone down on the tabletop, got up, and went around the kitchen collecting the projectile peas from the linoleum. Just as he was depositing them into the garbage disposal, the phone buzzed, startlingly loud on the crappy formica.
Not as loud, of course, as Ed’s heartbeat in his ears, but hey.
He swallowed, ordered himself to breathe, crossed back to the table, and picked up his phone.
Is this Ed? the number had texted back.
He put the phone down. He picked it up. He put it down again. He made a furious noise at himself in the back of his throat and picked it up again.
yeah. this better be roy or he’s dead meat for giving me a fake number
This time, he just held onto the damn thing while he waited for a response—which didn’t stop him from practically jumping out of his fucking skin when the phone vibrated, obviously, but whatever.
It is. And rest assured that I’m far too wary of your wrath to do such a thing after seeing how aggressively you make lattes.
Ed’s heart was throbbing in his ears so intensely it was surprising that the whole kitchen hadn’t started to shake.
yeah you better be so what the hell do you want anyway
He realized he was holding his breath while he waited and let it out in a rush, and then he got up and paced three sharp steps away from the table, and three sharp steps back. This was stupid. This was so stupid. He was such a fucking idiot; what the hell—
I want to take you out to dinner tomorrow night. What about you?
Ed… sat down. He looked at the phone. He rubbed his eyes, and then blinked, and then rubbed them again. He’d been sleepless a long time now, but the pixels on the phone screen didn’t seem to be changing.
Dodging the question was always safe, right?
what about me what?
Roy was texting back so fast that he must’ve been sitting down with his phone, too, maybe on a nice couch, maybe in a huge leather chair at his swanky law office, maybe… maybe curled up in a big, huge, fluffy bed, smiling at the screen.
Ha, ha, ha. Right. Like Ed had ever even had the opportunity to date someone who wasn’t a loser taking advantage.
The phone buzzed.
What do YOU want? You could have thrown the card away, and you didn’t, and that gives me hope that I’ve got a chance here.
The second half of that last sentence made no fucking sense. A chance at what?
Right, so… dodge the questions and ignore the incongruities; that was fine conversational etiquette. Great start.
i would’ve recycled it jeez. and. i dunno. where were you thinking for dinner
Had he just agreed to go?
…if only the offer of possibly-free food wasn’t so fucking persuasive.
There wasn’t long to despair over the matter before his phone was vibrating again.
May I surprise you? I could pick you up at 6:30.
Ed tried to weigh his options rationally, rather than typing FUCK YES YOU CAN, which was something his stomach and his hormones seemed to have jointly selected as an appropriate response.
For one thing, Roy clearly had enough money for nice suits, which presumably meant he had enough money for nice food. For another thing, dinner wasn’t marriage; if Ed found out he was a psycho fucking weirdo perv (and he sort of had to be at least psycho, if he was asking Ed out to dinner, right?), Roy was going to find out that there were much easier targets than scrappy PhD candidates with several judo trophies and more than one experience with a knife fight. Worst-case scenario: the dude turned out to be one of the bad ones, and Ed had to kick his ass and file for another restraining order. Either way, he was probably looking at a free steak at least; very few of those guys let on that they were weirdo pervs before dessert.
So… win-win, right? Or possibly win-lose, but it would still work out relatively even, and for fuck’s sake, he hadn’t been out on a Saturday night in over three months, and even that was just getting drunk while Al and Winry made eyes at each other back before they wanted to admit they were an item.
Didn’t mean he had to be a moron about it, though.
can you pick me up from the coffee shop?
This, he thought, was a particularly ingenious turn of the tables; it left the situation open-ended enough for Roy to assume that he was working tomorrow, instead of inferring that he was paranoid about giving his home address out to Schrödinger’s weirdo-perv.
Roy didn’t keep him waiting.
Perfect. I’ll see you then. Suggested dress for the surprise venue is classy casual if that’s all right.
you say that like i have any fucking idea what that means
…oops. Roy hadn’t heard him curse like a sailor yet; he put the filter on hard at work.
Time for some smooth, subtle damage-control:
If nothing else, Ed had already learned that Roy was a fast fucking texter. It was getting increasingly difficult not to extrapolate that to a general talent with the hands, which… shit.
It hardly matters, Roy had replied. If you deign to show up, you’ll look stunning.
Ed swallowed very hard.
dial it back mustang you’ve never even seen me for more than 5 mins at a time
He did not add You don’t have any idea what’s under all this, or Try putting up with me for a whole half-hour and see how ‘stunning’ you think I am, or even You don’t know what the fuck you’re getting into, pal, which he thought was rather restrained.
Forgive me, Roy texted back. Can you blame me for being excited? 6:30 then. And until then, goodnight!
Ed took a deep, deep breath, typed yeah you too, and put the phone facedown on the table.
Until then… yeah, right, like there was going to be any sleeping.
I had to edit and post this inside of half an hour because I'm stupid. YAY! :'D
Roy pulls on a pair of faded jeans and an old T-shirt, and Ed seriously reconsiders going to London and doing the whole conference thing. The two-thousand-dollar plane ticket would no longer be reimbursable, and no way they’d refund the hotel for a cancellation this late, and…
But Roy. In weekend clothes.
The man looks like a million bucks in the very, very smartly-fitting suits he has in every shade of gray imaginable (and, like, eight in black), but the weekend clothes are a special privilege, and in them he is delectable. Halfway out of them, even more-so. Entirely naked—
Ed slaps himself mentally and stumbles towards the bathroom to try to cram in as much shower as possible while the coffee brews. Maybe, he thinks as he adjusts the shower-head to a significantly lower angle, he’d better make it kinda cold.
It’s really not his fault, is it, that Roy ages like it’s a professional sport, and he’s a fucking Olympian? He was slam-bang, drop-dead gorgeous when they met, and he just gets worse—better—whatever—as he goes along. There are these delicate little darts of white in his hair, and crinkles at the corners of his eyes, and he is…
Perfect. Kinda. In that not-actually-quite-perfect way that makes it safe to love somebody, because you’ll live through it if you let them down.
In brief, since he’s apparently going into withdrawals a mere five hours after the conclusion of the previous act, it’s fair to say that the only person looking forward to no-sex-with-Roy-for-eight-whole-fucking-days less than Ed is… Roy himself. Roy, Ed knows, is really sort of devastated, but he’s trying to keep a brave face for both of their benefit.
The part that really fucking blows (or, y’know, not for eight whole fucking days) is that Roy could’ve come too, except that he had to have a fucking trial in the middle of the whole thing, which tragically punctured Ed’s swelling hopes of covert groping near major landmarks, which just so happens to be his new favorite hobby after that time they scandalized several families on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Well. There’s gonna be one hell of a welcome-home party, at least. Roy’s pretty damn reliable for that sort of thing, and he thinks about details, too—like washing two sets of sheets, so they can completely obliterate one and then put the other clean ones out to sleep on. Probably there will also be hot fudge and at least one blindfold, and heartfelt speeches, and possibly tears. The source of the tears could be the speeches, or it could be the spanking, and either way, Ed’s got something to look forward to.
He just has to get there first, so he can get back.
To that effect, he climbs out of the shower well before he’d like to, does a criminally half-assed job of toweling at his hair, sorta-kinda brushes his teeth (this is a Roy habit; Roy brushes his teeth before coffee and then waits until his saliva has neutralized the toothpaste sugars or something, because otherwise he ‘wouldn’t remember to brush at all’; basically, he’s a weirdo), and goes in search of clothes. He’s slightly confused about how desolate the dresser is until he remembers that he packed half of his shit to take with him, which doesn’t leave a whole lot.
His hair is dripping down his back, and cold droplets of water are creeping towards his ass. Boy, that’s uncomfortable. If Roy was up here, he’d probably lick them off, and…
And Ed needs to put some pants on, which is going to be substantially more difficult if he keeps thinking like that.
This is Roy’s fault for being so goddamn irresistible all the freakin’ time.
Right—travel. Planes. Aerodynamic tubes filled with stale air and human misery, kind of like giant steel Twinkies. He should dress as comfortably as he can, or whatever. This is going to suck no matter what.
A very old pair of black cargo pants, a stupidly soft T-shirt he got for free at work, and Roy’s Harvard escutcheon hoodie later, he is wreathed in Roy-smell and actually feels slightly prepared to face the soul-ravaging lousiness of international air travel.
He’s still scrubbing at his eyes when he reaches the bottom of the stairs, and his wet hair is leaving little lines all over the shoulders of the sweatshirt.
Roy looks up from the coffee pot and two plates of French toast (God fucking bless him) as Ed comes into the doorway, and just… smiles. Like the sun came out after a blizzard or some shit. Like he had the longest day ever, and some stranger just walked up and gave him a hug. Like he found a fifty-dollar bill in his pocket. Like…
Well, like Ed’s the best thing that ever happened to him, really.
“Good morning, beautiful,” he says.
“It’s not morning,” Ed says. Turns out words are really hard right now. “’S not even five yet. That’s still fucking nighttime.”
Roy has transitioned from smiling like heaven bestowed a blessing to grinning like a cat with a carton full of cream.
“What?” Ed asks. That perfectly good food’s gonna get cold if they stand here staring at each other any longer.
“Nothing,” Roy says, turning to the fridge for the syrup.
Ed goes over to vacillate over whether breakfast or caffeine takes precedence. “No, what?” He tugs on the hoodie. “Do you not want me to wear it? I could put it back.”
“As far as I’m concerned,” Roy says, “you can wear it forever. I adore you in it.”
Ed’s analytical facilities are somewhat stunted when the sun hasn’t even dragged its ass up past the horizon yet. “Then what?”
Roy’s little mischievous grin is unreasonably hot. “It’s… it… dwarfs you, a bit. And that, on top of the rest of the ensemble, makes you look very young.”
Ed tries to translate back and forth from Roy to English enough to figure out what the fuck that means.
“Did you just call me short?” he manages. “No, wait—I mean, yes, you did, but—you—Roy, you fucker, you—you’re looking forward to kissing me goodbye because all of the security assholes are going to think I’m underage. Aren’t you?”
Dumbass Roy made the mistake of taking a sip of coffee while Ed was processing, a portion of which has now sprayed into his hand and across the linoleum as he started laughing.
Anyone who thinks Roy fucking Mustang, Esquire, is a dignified and sophisticated human being is a frigging idiot.
To be fair, though, Ed wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Spit it out,” Ed said.
…boy. That was his new number one on the list of Shit That Would Sound Seriously Fucked-Up Out of Context.
“There’s nothing to expectorate,” Al said from his unassailable post by Ed’s bedroom door. He uncrossed his arms just long enough to rub his nose and then folded them again. “I’m delighted that you have a date.”
“You’re not acting delighted,” Ed said. This hairbrush hated him and everything he stood for. Why did he even have this fucking thing? “You’re acting like one or both of us got the death sentence for running a stop sign.”
“I’ve never run a stop sign in my life,” Al said. “And it’s just… Well.”
“Well what?” Ed said.
Al was using his Tactful Voice. “You don’t exactly have the best first-date track record of anyone I’ve ever met.”
It was pretty much rhetorically impossible to argue with that. “You’re the one who’s always telling me to live in hope, Al.”
“Hope, yes,” Al said. “I just… don’t want to have to move to another city and send strongly-worded letters to every organization that tries to list our address again.”
Ed looked at him—glared, really, although his glare for Al was a hell of a lot softer than his glare for everybody else. “You say that like it’s my fault the guy turned out to be a fucking stalker.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Al said, looking genuinely pained. “Just—I worry about you. And of course I want you to be happy, and of course I want you to find somebody and fall in love—”
“That’s a little premature,” Ed said.
“—but… I’d really… maybe Winry and I could put together a committee of people to vet your potential romantic interests before you go out on unaccompanied dates in possibly insecure locations. Don’t you think?”
“I’m not twelve,” Ed said. “And Russell tried to jack this one for himself, and Rosé thought he was ‘dashing’. So they already vetted him. And I’m not a total idiot all the time. So let me just go already, okay?”
Al sighed, very loudly, for a full ten seconds. It was kind of impressive.
“I just…” His voice dropped to a lower volume, and he kicked at the carpet, and his face was so—sad—that Ed went still. “It’s so… hard… standing by and watching you get hurt.”
Something sticky and heavy and hot was climbing up Ed’s throat. It was either tears or a demon from the deepest reaches of hell, and either way he wasn’t about to let it out.
“Hey, come on,” he said, forcing his voice out through the little shudders in his chest. “He seems really normal. And if he’s not, he doesn’t know where we live, and I’ll bail at the first sign that he’s a creeper, get a cab home, and bring the SWAT team down on his ass. Okay?”
“You have such a gift for making things sound simple,” Al said, trying for a smile and making more progress this time. “Do you even know how to contact the SWAT team?”
“No,” Ed said. “But I bet WikiHow does. Al, chill out; I’ll be fine.”
“All right,” Al said.
“Sweet,” Ed said. “So… next question. What the fuck does ‘classy casual’ mean?”
At six twenty-eight, Ed was sitting at one of the tables in Has Beans—wearing kinda-tight black slacks, his least-beat-to-shit shoes, a red shirt with buttons, and a black waistcoat; all at Al’s indefatigable insistence—and thinking that loitering around here, watching the clock and waiting for Roy, was starting to get way too familiar.
Before he had too much time to lament the brevity of the human condition and also the inevitable stupidity of being attracted to people, however, Roy walked in.
The words Roy walked in were, of course, woefully fucking insufficient to describe the transcendence of the event that occurred.
Roy didn’t really walk in so much as appear from the ether—like a vision, like a myth of a model breathed to life, like a highly-detailed fantasy coalescing. Reservations be damned, Ed was on board for more fantasies that involved Roy showing up in slim dark-wash jeans and white Oxford shirts with the first couple buttons left open and navy-blue sports coats (or were they still suit jackets if they were without their mates? …wrong word to be thinking). As he stepped over the threshold, arm extended gracefully to hold the door, hips tilted in mid-stride, he pushed his sunglasses up into his hair, and…
And Ed was his.
Roy caught sight of him sitting frozen to his chair, paralyzed by his swiftly-approaching doom, like a rabbit in the headlights of a Range Rover, and some part of Ed expected him to bust up laughing. Just kidding! What a good joke—me and you? Really? How stupid do I look? I love it—you even got all gussied up, like you believed me. It’d almost be cute on somebody I’d touch with a ten-foot pole.
Except that Roy’s eyes widened, and then he started looking really… pleased.
Like, really pleased.
“Good Lord,” he said, strolling over, and Ed’s heart was banging like the bass track on a sped-up pop song. “You look—well. I’ll dial it back for now.”
Ed couldn’t help the grin creeping over his face. Hopefully the edge of hysteria wasn’t showing through. “You’re some kinda wiseass, aren’t you?”
“Suffice to say it wouldn’t be the first time I’d been accused of that,” Roy said, and the playful glimmer in his eye just about melted Ed’s knees. Maybe his elbows, too, just for shits and giggles. Roy gestured towards the door again. “Shall we?”
Sure thing; let me just figure out where all my joints ran off to. “I—yeah.” Trying to get up was a dangerous gamble to put it lightly, but somehow he made it upright. “Is it still a secret where we’re going?”
Roy grinned. Ed was doomed. “I like to maintain the mystique for as long as possible.”
“Should I expect you to have a double-life as a superhero, or what?” Ed said, instead of Well, I like you.
Roy drove a Mustang.
Not just a Mustang—one of the models with MUSTANG debossed on the back bumper.
Ed couldn’t stop laughing. Again with the hysteria, maybe, but for the record, it was pretty fucking funny.
“What?” Roy asked, but he was smiling, so he couldn’t be too mad. “It’s free advertising for the firm. Come on. You’d do the same thing, wouldn’t you? An opportunity like that?”
“It’s like having your name on your backpack for the first day of kindergarten,” Ed said.
Roy was trying very hard to look severe. “It is not.”
“Eyes on the road,” Ed said, partly in the interest of preserving both of their miserable little lives, and partly because it made it easier to ogle Roy sideways. There was a glimmer of silver chain just inside his collar. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” Roy said contentedly.
They were going up—up into the hills, no less; on a winding road, as the world darkened around them. Ed made a concerted effort to ignore the whisper of a voice in the back of his head suggesting that an enterprising serial killer and/or cannibal attorney would, in fact, fit very neatly into his less-than-exemplary dating history. He wasn’t going to jump to any conclusions until he heard dueling banjos. And then he was going to jump right the fuck out of the car.
There was a carved wooden sign on the side of the road. It didn’t say Starvation Gulch, either; it said 2.5 miles to L’Éclarlate Winery.
“Oops,” Roy said. “Spoilers.”
Ed opened his mouth to say You’re taking me to a winery? They’re going to ban my impoverished ass on sight, and then shut it again. Maybe they wouldn’t, if he was with Roy, who exuded fucking upper-class charm like fine cologne.
…he had really fine cologne on, for the record. Ed had accidentally noticed when Roy had held the door for him at Has Beans, and he’d had to sidle past very close while he rolled his eyes and muttered about how chivalry had died with the advent of gunpowder, for the historical record.
“Is this your way of subtly trying to find out whether or not I’m twenty-one?” he asked instead.
Roy blinked and then grinned, looking absolutely tickled. “It… might be.”
“You could’ve asked,” Ed said.
“Where’s the fun in that?” Roy asked. “And besides—trust me on this—there is no way to make that not sound questionable.” He put on an overstated leer and a growly tone that was apparently supposed to be his perv voice. “So… you’re awfully… young… and… supple… you wouldn’t happen to be legal, would you? Just out of curiosity, mind.”
Ed shouldn’t have been fighting down a laugh. Really, really shouldn’t have. Really, really didn’t find that funny at all, because he’d actually been down that road, and it was a shitty road, with lots of gravel and potholes and an open sewer line at the end. “I’m twenty-four, for your fucking information, asshole.”
“See?” Roy said, all airy ebullience again. “My plan worked.”
Al was right—this was a terrible idea. Roy wasn’t playing fair at all.
The designated 2.5 miles flew by rather more quickly than Ed would have liked, to be quite honest—despite the fact that the eponymous (and that was funny, because, y’know, eponymous) Mustang was a stick-shift, Roy drove a hell of a lot faster and a hell of a lot closer to the sheer cliff face at the edge of the road than Ed would’ve been willing to do if somebody had held a gun to his head. It was a little exhilarating, to tell the truth. Also, a lot fucking terrifying, but there it was: sometimes you just had to give yourself over into somebody’s hands, and Ed could think of much worse hands to put his faith in than Roy’s. For one thing, recklessness or no, he drove with an incredible amount of confidence; for another, the hands in question were damn sexy to say the least.
Roy put on the Super-Suave Smile (presumably trademarked) as he swooped into a parking space. “Let me get your d—”
“Oh, hell, no,” Ed said, hopping out unaided before Roy could get his own door open, let alone Ed’s. “You’re gonna have to put the child locks on if you want to do that. And that’ll definitely be questionable.”
Roy was grinning—with sunglasses on as the light faded, for fuck’s sake; he looked like a freaking rockstar.
“So,” he said. “Wine?”
Ed’s heart did a weird sort of wobbly thing, which he did his damnedest to ignore. “There better be something other than peanuts to eat, too, or I’m walkin’ out.”
“It’s a winery,” Roy said, “not a wine bar.”
Ed stopped marching towards the entrance long enough to eye him. “What’s the difference?”
Roy’s goddamn smile was so goddamn easy, and he swept up alongside Ed and then touched just the tips of his fingers to the small of Ed’s back—just for a second. Ed would’ve thought he’d imagined it, but his imagination wasn’t vivid enough to give him fucking goosebumps head-to-toe.
“Why don’t we find out?” Roy said.
Turned out the difference was that a wine bar—presumably, anyway, since Ed had never been to a wine bar—was exactly what it said on the tin, i.e. a bar that served nothing but wine, which was sort of stupid, but that was a different problem.
Whereas a winery had a whole lot of other shit going on, namely an entire restaurant with some not-too-lame-or-intrusive live music and a beyond-jaw-drop-worthy view of the whole valley below, blanketed in darkness picked out with little yellow lights.
“May I offer you anything to drink?” the waiter asked—and not just any waiter, either; some slightly older dude with a moustache, dressed all in black, with one of those half-apron-pocket-things in white. Ed was pretty sure he saw the telltale gleam of one of those little rectangles of metal that fancy-pants restaurants seemed to think were necessary for sweeping crumbs off the tablecloth, despite the fact that that was why God had given people hands.
Unfortunately for their posh-as-shit waiter, however, this was the first time either Roy or Ed had even glanced at the posh-as-shit menu, because… well, hell—because they’d been too fucking busy staring at each other; that was why.
Ed felt like there was a hot air balloon inside his ribcage, and Roy was firing it up so fucking fast it was a miracle he hadn’t floated right out of their goddamn secluded little back-of-the-place velvet-lined booth.
“Ah,” Roy said, which Ed was pretty sure was Super-Suave Hot Person language for Oh, shit, uh, hang on. “Do you recommend a particular merlot?”
“The house’s ’98 is excellent, sir,” the waiter said.
This was like peeking into another dimension—the only question was what Ed was going to name this new-found Wonderland. Rich-Ass-Motherfuckers-topia?
That was a little unwieldy. He was going to have to work on it.
Meanwhile, he had to try to make like the Romans.
“For you, sir?” the waiter was saying.
“Do you have any halfway-decent beer on tap?” Ed asked.
The waiter smiled thinly and did a crazy twirl-thing with his pen. “Define ‘halfway-decent’, sir.”
“Yeah,” Ed said, “lemme rephrase that—do you have anything that you would drink?”
This waiter was a serious pro; he made scribbling look elegant. “Coming right up, sir. Do you gentlemen need a bit more time to look at the menu?”
“I certainly do,” Roy said, looking over at Ed. “How about you?”
“Yeah,” Ed said. “Probably shouldn’t just stab a fork in and pick whatever it lands on. Especially since this is pretty nice laminate.”
The waiter looked distinctly amused, and Roy looked distinctly… what? Fascinated? Fond? Was that what fondness looked like when it was at home?
“I meant to ask,” Roy said when their surprisingly-awesome-albeit-still-posh-as-shit waiter had ghosted off to attend to more decisive customers, “if I may, that is—what is Ed short for?”
The last person to ask that had gotten menaced with a broken table leg for using that particular turn of phrase, which made it all the more startling when the red mist of rage did not descend over Ed’s vision at the utterance of that sequence of words.
“Oh,” he said. “Edward.”
“Edward,” Roy said—calmly, quietly, but with a completely weird and completely captivating sort of… lingering… heat. Like he was holding it on his tongue for a second until it warmed up against the roof of his mouth and then unfurling it into the air, and it was a thing alive; it was more than just the full breadth of what his mom used to call him when he was kinda-sorta in trouble after finger-painting long division on the wall.
Ed swallowed and tried not to think about Roy being hot and Mom being mad at him one after the other, because that was some textbook shit. “What’s Roy short for, then?”
“Nothing,” Roy said. “Just Roy.”
“Huh,” Ed said.
Roy folded his hands, propped both elbows on the edge of the table, and set his chin atop his knitted fingers. He smiled. “Thank you for giving me a chance,” he said.
Ed blinked at him for long enough that the smile faded, and he started to look alarmed.
“Back up a second,” Ed said. “I think you’re fundamentally misunderstanding the balance of objective attractiveness at work here.”
“There’s nothing objective about attractiveness,” Roy said. “Additionally, have you seen yourself?”
Ed wrinkled his nose.
Roy wrinkled his right back.
And the sight of that—of a however-old gorgeous-as-fuck ludicrously-debonair fucking lawyer guy making faces at Ed across a restaurant table—shattered the tension that had been building in his chest. It was less like glass smashing, though, and more like… an old rubber band pulled too taut and starting to disintegrate, maybe. It didn’t hurt at all.
“Okay,” he said. “My turn for personal fucking questions. How old are you?”
That got Roy grimacing in a hurry. “Can I give you a rounded estimate?”
Ed let his well-practiced dangerous grin speak for itself.
“Lord,” Roy said under his breath. “Am I correct in assuming that if I don’t tell you, you will somehow acquire my driver’s license from my wallet while I have my back turned?”
Ed let the grin wax lyrical.
“All right,” Roy sighed. “I’ll be thirty-five in April. Feel free to run screaming from the premises.”
Ed said, “Are you sure?”
Roy raised an eyebrow at him. “I am.”
“No, really,” Ed said. “I might need that license after all. Thirty-five? Nah. No way.”
It was hard to tell in this lighting, but there might have been just the rosiest touch of color to Roy’s cheekbones now. “Gospel truth, I swear.”
“Holy crap,” Ed said. “You really, really don’t look it.”
Roy leaned back, settling an arm rather jauntily over the back of the bench seat. “I’ve been told.”
“Jeez,” Ed said. “Jeez.”
Roy cleared his throat. “I suppose,” he said, “we should make selections before we have to turn the waiter away again. What would you like to eat?”
You, Ed thought, with a fervency that surprised him.
“Uh,” he said. “I dunno. Steak?”
“I’m not sure if they have idunno steak,” Roy said, “but for you, they’d probably make it special.”
“Fuck you,” Ed said.
It was an instinct—that’s all. That was just the sort of thing he said to people, as an automatic response to snark. It was a defense mechanism, and a knee-jerk reaction, and…
And for fuck’s sake, he was supposed to be on his best behavior on a first date. Apparently, this was his best.
There went any hope of a second one—so much for this half a chance at a relationship or whatever. Admittedly, he’d had shorter; there’d been the guy who walked out the second Ed walked in with all the scars on display. He sort of hated himself for never having had the balls to do that again, and for suddenly relegating all of his low-necked and/or sleeveless shirts to the back of the closet just because of what some douchebag thought of his skin.
Were they still going to have dinner? He’d probably fucked it up too much for that, hadn’t he? This was the part with the huffing and the glaring and the I nevering, and then the check please and the door. You didn’t just spit Fuck you back at nice guys, at classy guys; they weren’t just somebody on the street, or somebody who had to live with you anyway because their DNA overlapped with yours. That was a no-no, and a deal-breaker, and Ed had just gone and taken a good thing and thrashed the shit out of it in the first five minutes by being his uncensored dumbass fucking self.
Except that Roy…
Ed choked his way through the requisite “Uh—my bad.”
“No,” Roy said. “I like it. You’re… candid. Unguarded. It’s incredibly refreshing.”
“You make me sound like a fucking Sprite,” Ed said.
“Only in the archaic sense,” Roy said, and the way his eyes were dancing was so fucking distracting Ed forgot to breathe for a little while. “The mythical sense. Like Puck. Like Ariel.”
Ed had gotten dragged to enough Shakespeare festivals with Al (and sometimes Winry, who either cried her eyes out or fell asleep) to know Roy wasn’t comparing him to the fucking Little Mermaid, which at least was a little bit of a relief.
“So who does that make you?” he asked. “Wait, don’t answer that; I can’t think of anything that’s not fucked up.” This was getting too convoluted altogether. When conversations unwound too far, they tended to realign themselves into nooses and ended up tightening around Ed’s throat. “Uh—what are you gonna have? The answer to ‘What’s good’ is ‘Everything’, right?”
“I’d be willing to bet,” Roy said.
The waiter made his graceful return bearing a tray with a wineglass, two bottles, and a pint glass of what looked like an awesome beer, if the surface tension of the almost-overflowing foam was anything to judge by. “Just a glass, sir?” he said to Roy. “Or shall I leave the bottle?”
“I’d better take it one glass at a time,” Roy said. “Thank you very much.”
Ed glanced at the prices (which, presumably, Sophisticated People were not supposed to do) and picked something-something-filet-mignon from the steak section, partly because it wasn’t a total bank-breaker, and partly because it came with potatoes, and potatoes were the shit.
Roy got some fish thing, and the waiter said “Very good, sir” at least twice, which was sort of hilarious, but—presumably—Sophisticated People didn’t laugh at that shit. Not out loud, anyway. That sounded like the sort of thing that would get your ass kicked out of a place like this.
All the same, there were some things you just couldn’t not say, whether or not you classily allowed the waiter get out of earshot first.
Namely: “I always misread ‘fingerling’ and think for a second that somebody really likes potatoes.”
Roy almost spat wine across the table and then almost choked to death laughing. Ed slid partway around the bench seat to pound him on the back and counted that as a passing grade on the sense of humor test.
“So you’re a lawyer or whatever,” Ed said when he’d inhaled a pretty considerable amount of really, really good steak. “But what do you do?”
Roy chased a little bit of fish around his plate with the fork, and for a second there was a really deep line between his brows, like he was thinking super-fucking-intensely about what he was going to say—like he hadn’t just gotten Ed’s whole Yeah, I guess you could say I’m one of those fucking dumbass idealists who wants to cure cancer, which isn’t even really the right way of thinking about it, because preventing cancer in the first place would be so much more efficient, but anyway, mostly what I do is stare into a lot of microscopes and irradiate mice and look into centrifuges until I get dizzy, so it’s, like… yeah spiel, which usually made people want to stop talking to him altogether.
“Primarily,” Roy said, “I’m involved in legal counsel and representation for veterans.”
Ed paused. “You mean, like… war crime shit?”
…that was probably not a tactful thing to say, but fuck tact with a spiked mace anyway.
“Not quite,” Roy said, which was sort of a relief, honestly. “Mostly I focus on trying to help them get readjusted—convincing their healthcare to pay for their psychologist sessions; dealing with the insurance companies who don’t want to cover their prescriptions; making sure their university of choice will accept their GI Bill money, and that they get it in the first place; settling any disputes that cropped up while they were deployed… That sort of thing.”
Ed tried valiantly to figure out what the fuck you were supposed to say to that.
He came up with: “What made you want to work with vets?”
Roy smiled a weird little smile that didn’t even live in the same neighborhood as his eyes.
“Afghanistan,” he said.
Ed was pretty sure there wasn’t any hope of figuring out what the right response for that one was.
“Oh,” he said. That wasn’t too bad, was it? “How long were you there?” Maybe that was a faux pas—time for some frantic backpedaling. “If you don’t mind me asking, I mean.”
“Not at all,” Roy said, but this smile was from a different country than his eyes, and they didn’t speak a common language. “Full tour of duty. They extended the length of them while we were there, actually. Fifteen months, all told.”
Ed swallowed. His potatoes were starting to look real interesting. “Guess ‘How was it’ is a stupid question.”
“It’s not a stupid question at all,” Roy said, and his voice was sort of soft and… well, sad was understating the enormity of it, probably. “Just a complicated one. And an even more complicated answer—which might be for another time, perhaps.”
“Sorry,” Ed said, looking up from the food again and finding that Roy’s eyes were even gentler than his voice. “I’m really good for that—buzzkilling the fuck out of a conversation, I mean. It’s a talent. I should bottle it. Call it Eau d’Awkward.”
“It’s really not your fault,” Roy said, which was kind of, y’know, not true at all, but Ed wasn’t above taking it anyway. “All the same… why don’t you regale me with some of your most ridiculous customer requests?”
He couldn’t have asked for anything easier.
Ed was starting to like that about this guy—he had a pretty good sense for where Ed’s emotions were at any given time, and how much he could push the playfulness, and when he should smoothly retreat. A lot of people—well, hell, pretty much all people, excepting Al—just assumed that because Ed was loud about his anger, he was sort of emotionally unassailable, and nothing really registered with him. Which, obviously, wasn’t even close to being the case.
“Buckle your seatbelt,” Ed said. “Okay, so—this guy walks in at eight-thirty with a Starbucks gift card, and he comes up to the counter and is like, ‘Can I get an upside-down caramel macchiato with non-fat milk and whipped cream at a hundred and ninety degrees?’ and we’re like, ‘…can you get the fuck out of the store?’, except obviously we don’t say that—we say, ‘Do you want a macchiato, or do you want what Starbucks calls a macchiato, and why the hell are you putting whipped cream on it either way?’”
“And?” Roy said, grinning again, which was a relief, and which also made Ed’s heart do the weirdest and most embarrassing pitter-patter thing known to man.
“And it ended with the pastry case in ruins, and two of us almost getting written up for threatening a customer,” Ed said. “Which we didn’t; I just told him that if he didn’t want to take his ass to Starbucks to order a Starbucks drink, I’d take it for him. That’s not a threat. Nothing about shoving biscotti up his dumb ass or anything. Lucky for me it was Rosé there, and she had my back; Russell would’ve sold me out in a second.” He sipped his beer. “Anyway, that’s the CliffsNotes version—long version is, he comes up to the counter and holds out the gift card, and we’re like ‘…you know that doesn’t work here, don’t you?’, and he’s like, ‘The customer is always right’, and we’re like, ‘Is it Thursday already?’”
And it was funny—how making Roy laugh felt like wrapping warm gauze bandages around his own heart.
Ed tosses Roy the keys, and they get into his beat-to-crap, faithful-as-hell old Civic, and Roy reaches down for the lever to push the seat way back, which is Not to Be Commented On.
There’s coffee in the cupholder, and a piece of toast halfway into Ed’s mouth, and his bags are in the trunk, and apparently he actually has to go through with this.
“You’re going to have fun,” Roy says, reaching over to lay his arm across the back of Ed’s seat and craning his neck as he backs out of the driveway—like there’s gonna be anybody tearing down a residential street at five in the morning. “Once you settle in, it’ll be lovely, and there’ll be all these other über-genius nerds to talk science with, and you’ll get to see Trafalgar Square, and you can finally go on the London Eye and pretend you’re thinking about angular momentum instead of Doctor Who, and you’re really going to enjoy it.”
“Maybe,” Ed says, sliding down in the seat as far as he can go without the shoulder-belt constricting his throat. “But I’ll miss you like an open fucking wound.”
Instead of commenting on the fact that he really kind of mangled that metaphor, Roy just… smiles, softly.
“Likewise,” he says. “Conceptually, I think it’s a good thing, to have time apart, to make us stay grateful, but… when it really comes down to it, I never want you out of my sight. Sometimes I think every moment of my life without you in it is wasted.”
Five years, and this asshole can still make him blush like a kid. “Sometimes I think you’re crazy.”
“If loving you is crazy,” Roy says, flicking the blinker on to turn even though the streets are silent, “I’m not very interested in being sane.”
Ed leans his head back against the headrest—well, the bottom half of the headrest; fucking cars—and closes his eyes. “If you’re trying to make me miss you even more, it’s definitely working.”
Roy laugh-sighs, which is a very special talent of his that sometimes makes Ed want to accidentally open a cabinet door against his funny bone, because you should pick one so that people understand what you’re feeling. Isn’t that the whole fucking point of vocal emotion cues?
“I’m sorry,” Roy says, which is unambiguous enough, so maybe his ulnar nerve can go unbruised a while longer. “Every time you leave, the quiet gets a little… deeper. It’s strange.” He pulls onto the highway and floors it, and Ed’s Civic resists initially, then hauls like the badass little beast it is. “Maybe we should get a—”
“We’re not getting a cat,” Ed says. Al has enough of them to muster a feline army and conquer Eurasia; you can’t even set foot in his and Winry’s place without getting an instantaneous faceful of cat fur. “Or put it this way—if you get us a cat, you will never get laid again.”
“Tell me how you really feel,” Roy says, but he’s grinning. “I was going to suggest a dog, if you must know.”
“We’d have to leave it at home alone all the time,” Ed says. “And if you wanna potty-train a puppy, be my freakin’ guest.”
“We could get an older dog,” Roy says. “One of the ones nobody wants to adopt. And I could take it to the office sometimes, and you could bring it into the lab sometimes, and—”
“And it’d compete with me for head scratches,” Ed says. “No thanks.”
Roy pauses. “You get head scratches in lab?”
“I meant from you, dumbass,” Ed says, and then he coughs into his hand so that he won’t laugh and ruin it.
Roy knows him too well; he sees through that faster than a bullshit piece of evidence or whatever and knows Ed’s not really pissed at him. “Ah,” he says. “Well, then. I would hate to impinge on your allocated head-scratching time by bringing in another mammal that appreciates similar gestures of affection.”
It is too fucking early for this. “Did you just call me a dog?”
“I said no such thing,” Roy says, and he looks delighted, and he is such a dick, and Ed loves him.
“Right,” Ed says. “Did you just heavily imply that I am a dog?”
Roy clears his throat. He’s trying very, very hard to tamp down his grin, but his mask-face powers are greatly reduced before nine in the morning. “That’s speculation.”
“I hate arguing with you,” Ed says.
“Your tendency to do it anyway indicates otherwise,” Roy says.
“That’s speculation,” Ed says.
Roy actually laughs out loud at that one, so Ed awards himself five points.
“Fuckin’ lawyers,” Ed says.
Roy’s grin only widens. “Only fucking one, I hope.”
Ed buries his face in his hands. “Not for eight fucking days, Roy.”
That wipes the grin off. “Oh, God, don’t remind me.”
When the waiter came bearing a tray with the bill folder on it, Ed reached for his wallet. Fighting it out of his pocket required taking his eyes off of Roy for a grand total of about two seconds.
Evidently, two seconds was ample time for Roy to whip out his credit card and jam it into the little slot before the waiter had even had time to set the bill down on the tabletop.
“No way,” Ed said, helplessly, far too late, as the waiter whisked away. “We should go Dutch. Do they have an ATM? I—”
“I picked the venue,” Roy said, folding his hands and steepling his fingers and looking terribly contented and even-more-terribly cute; “I should pick up the tab. We can certainly do it the other way around sometime.”
Was that an invitation for a second date?
It was so damn hard to tell what Roy was actually saying when he said stuff.
Ed played with a tiny loose string on the corner of his napkin and tried to sound cool and noncommittal and shit as he managed, “Sure. Okay.”
The summary of it was that dessert had been better than the entrée—not that Ed was biased, or anything; and not that it was tiramisu, or anything—and he’d had a second beer to keep the bubbly feeling in his chest limited to happy-bubbles instead of the little rushing, popping, panicky ones; and the stars looked fucking amazing from here on the dumb-awesome hill that this dumb-awesome winery sat on. The air was just starting to slip from brisk to chilly, and the constellations burned white-hot overhead with thousands of tiny pinpricks splayed out in between.
This was, without a doubt, far and away the best date Ed had ever been on.
Roy was twirling his keys around his index finger as they walked back towards the car. If Ed tried that, the damn things would be on the ground and then leaping into a sewer grate the second that he blinked, but Roy made it look damn good.
Roy made everything look damn good, which was sort of a problem, actually.
The vehicular Mustang’s headlights flashed as the more personable Mustang beeped the locks, and Ed was reaching for the passenger side door handle when—
Ed never should’ve told him that—Roy made the two syllables sound a thousand times more seductive than they’d ever been or aspired to be, and every muscle in Ed’s body tightened all at once.
He turned quickly so Roy wouldn’t think he was having some kind of spasm or something. “Wh—oh.”
Roy was way closer than simple physics ought to have allowed him to get in the time since he’d been caressing Ed’s name with his voice just a second ago.
He lifted his right hand and touched two fingertips to Ed’s jaw so lightly it was almost like they weren’t there at all; almost like Ed was imagining this from start to finish, like he just wanted Roy’s touch so fiercely that he was hallucinating the whole thing on purpose—
Which wasn’t implausible at all, of course, but he would have had to have been tripping hard to invent that tiny little tingle of contact, and the tiny little scrape of fingernail, and the impossible depth of Roy’s eyes searching his, and that fucking insufferably gorgeous little smile.
“May I kiss you?” Roy asked.
Ed could barely drag enough of a breath into his frozen lungs for speech.
“You fuckin’ better,” he said.
Roy was laughing softly as he leaned down and sealed his mouth over Ed’s, and holy shit; this was everything he’d been daydreaming of like a fucking idiot since the first day Roy strolled in looking like some kind of miracle made flesh. Ed forgot to close his eyes for a second and ended up just staring at Roy’s eyelashes, which were every bit as fucking amazing as every other part of him—and then he remembered, and the dark swirled in, and there was nothing left to distract him from the heat of Roy’s mouth, Roy’s palm flattening against the side of his neck, the gentle press of his tongue on Ed’s lip—
Funny thing was, Ed had always found French kissing kind of gross, but this was…
Not gross. Really not-gross. Anti-gross, actually. Fucking badass, and also delicious.
He heard himself mumble something embarrassingly similar to “Oh, God” into Roy’s mouth, and then he had both hands buried in Roy’s hair—which was also goddamn gorgeous, for the record; the record was starting to sound broken, but that was hardly Ed’s fault—
One of Roy’s hands was dragging down his chest, and the other was curling around his hip, and Roy’s tongue against his was spectacular, and how had he ever thought this was lame? It was damp and breathy and hot and really hot, and Roy’s eyelashes were catching in his, and Roy kept making these soft little pleasure-noises in the back of his throat that resonated straight through Ed’s mouth and hammered into the center of his chest—
Next thing he knew, one of his hands had disentangled itself from Roy’s hair and fixed on a car door handle instead. Next thing after that, he was tossing himself blindly backwards onto the benchseat in the back of the Mustang and trying to drag Roy with him.
For a split-second that made his heart drop to the pit of his stomach so fast it sucker-punched his liver, Ed thought Roy was pulling away.
Technically, Roy was—except that resistance, in the traditional sense of the word, as a rejection of Ed’s unspoken proposal of some full-bodied action, was apparently not on the after-dessert menu. Yeah, Roy was pulling free of Ed’s grip on his shirtfront—but then Roy was climbing into the car, carefully pushing Ed’s feet out of rush-amputation range, and then slamming the door shut behind him.
Holy shit, Ed wanted him so bad he couldn’t hear a thing over his heartbeat; he couldn’t feel his fingers or his toes; he couldn’t even understand his own brain signals. Roy planted one knee on either side of his hips; and this was seriously nice leather on the seats, okay; and Roy had one hand splayed out on it right above his shoulder, and the other braced against the door behind Ed’s head; and—and God—
He leaned down, and his beautiful fucking hair hung around his face and framed the ivory of it even more starkly, and it brushed Ed’s cheek as their mouths met again—and again—and again—
Roy kissed like they had all the time in the world, and Ed was the only thing in it that mattered. Roy kissed like every single square centimeter of Ed’s mouth had to be mapped and charted; Roy kissed like every inch of his skin was precious and fragile and needed a slow, slow, too fucking slow exploration with a fingertip. Ed’s heart was banging, and his breath was catching, and he felt so warm and light he had to have stopped being Ed and started being someone else.
Maybe there was still an Ed part—the part demanding in abject horror what he was doing unbuttoning the shirt of a guy he’d only just met a couple mornings ago, and only just talked to on Thursday. But horrified Ed didn’t tend to be especially loud, and the beat of the blood in his ears was drowning out the sound of the protests, the second guesses, the what-ifs, and the good things don’t happen to yous; and couldn’t he just have something fantastic for one fucking night?
The little flash of a silver chain that Ed had seen earlier resolved into dog tags, which slipped free of the shirt Ed was undoing with maybe-kinda-sorta-shaking hands, and they jingled, and Roy’s gaze lifted to Ed’s right as Ed looked up at him, and…
And fuck, because nobody should ever have any right to be able to look at another person like that—to be able to convey so much complicated shit without even speaking, without so much as a gesture. Because Roy’s eyes said I want you just as much as you want me, and I’ll be careful; I promise you that; you’re irresistible, but I know what I’m doing, and I know how to do this right.
Then again—and Ed was arching his back to rise up into another kiss; Roy’s soft breath against his mouth and Roy’s teeth grazing his lip and Roy’s hand spreading under his spine made something in him just liquefy—maybe it wasn’t possible after all. Maybe not even somebody as smooth and sexy and fucking untouchable as Roy could say all that with just a couple seconds of a smolder-y look. Maybe Ed was just reading all of that into it, because those were the things he wanted to hear—the things he’d given up on, really, after the first few collision-encounters with the kind of people who were willing to go all the way with the likes of him.
Roy bit his lip—gently, gently, but with meaning, or maybe not, or maybe—
Well, who fucking cared?
Ed was no stranger to using his own body weight to his advantage, but it didn’t seem like Roy had ever studied martial arts, if his startled expression when Ed flipped their positions was anything to go by. But the shock gave way to a wicked grin when Ed straddled his hips and flattened both hands on his recently-bared chest.
“Damn,” Ed heard himself panting. “You look even better from this angle.”
Roy reached up and brushed his bangs out of his eyes, trying to tuck them back behind his ear—which never, ever worked, because they were too short and way too ornery, but which meant he had Roy Mustang’s soft fingers nestled in against his temple, which he could definitely get used to. “I was about to say the same of you.”
In a possibly-slightly-somewhat-transparent effort to hide the fact that he was both blushing and speechless, Ed resettled his hands over Roy’s ribs—holy hell, was that nice—and bent down to kiss him again, which ground their hips together, which…
Well, Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick, Ed had been throbbing his way towards half-hard before, and with this advent, his dick had abandoned all pretenses of modesty and just wanted the whole world to know how fucking hot Roy was right now.
There was a pretty considerable consolation to be had, though, in the fact that Roy’s groin seemed to be meeting his, pulse for desperate pulse of overheated blood. Ed shifted a little, just to verify—to be sure that the pressure was what he thought it was, that he wasn’t in this alone, that somebody… that Roy actually wanted him—and wound up answering that question in the affirmative and also summoning a faint little gasp from Roy’s lips in a moment where they’d just parted damply from his.
It was like starting an engine—like releasing a boulder on a hillside, and fuck those obstacles anyway. It was like bringing water to a boil; it was like catapulting something skyward and not caring where it would fall. He was gathering speed, gathering heat; he was a freight train; he was momentum personified, and he did not care how this ended; he did not care how this looked; all he knew, all he recognized, all he gave a flying fuck about was how goddamn delectable Roy’s hand felt on his ass and how to get these stupid clothes out of the fucking way so he could taste Roy’s skin from forehead to fucking metatarsals and learn the contours of his bones.
He brushed his hips over Roy’s real light, and then harder, and then he leaned in and bit down on Roy’s bottom lip and crushed their bodies together and cinched his knees in tighter around Roy’s thighs. Both of Roy’s hands twisted into his hair, first to drag him deeper into the kiss and then to tug on it almost too much—Roy was guiding him upright, undoing the dumb black vest that he had to admit kind of flattered his torso or whatever; and then he was twisting to try to shrug it off, and—
The nerve in his shoulder twinged like a motherfucker, and it was all he could do to swallow down a fucking puppy yelp at the suddenness of the pain.
Roy froze, and his eyes went huge and wide and worried, and his hands just hovered there, tangled up in Ed’s half-cast-off clothes.
“Are you all right?” he asked after a second—softly, so softly; the bastard had no right to be so gorgeous and so worldly and so nice.
And that was the thing. Ed wasn’t all right. He never was; he couldn’t be. And he remembered, now, through the haze of the lust-addled illusions of invincibility—he remembered why he couldn’t do this. He remembered why the first night was always too soon. He remembered why he had to stock up investment before he could risk shit getting serious.
One guy had walked out of his own apartment when he saw the scars—walked out and slammed the door and disappeared into the night; Ed didn’t even know where; he’d just sat there for a while shaking, and then put his clothes on and scrolled down to the taxi number in his speed-dial and tried to speak the guy’s address instead of the words Nobody is ever going to want me.
Most of them just sort of wrinkled their noses or lost interest or looked at the wall an awful lot. And sure, Roy seemed okay; Roy seemed like a decent guy under it all—but there was still a chance that he wasn’t, and if he fucked off right this minute, he’d be ditching Ed in the dark at the top of a mountain, tipsy and a little cold and completely fucking humiliated.
Somehow Ed didn’t feel up for that Russian roulette game tonight.
“Yeah,” he said, ironing the wince out of his voice. “Fine, just—” The awkward laugh managed to sound just the right amount forced. “I don’t… put out on the first date.”
Smiled, and slid back, and sat up, and straightened Ed’s collar, and smoothed both hands down the front of his shirt, and why did he have to be so damn—
“I don’t usually, either,” he said. “You seem to have a talent for making me forget my own rules.” While Ed stumbled over the enormous knot his tongue had turned into, Roy did up half the buttons on his own shirt and then scooted back to lean against the car door, at which point he… smiled, again, and opened up his arms. “Is first-date cuddling permissible?”
Ed wanted to mention—tactfully, of course—that he was not an adolescent girl, and furthermore that cuddling was dumb and unnecessary.
Instead he pretty much dove in and snuggled up. Like fuck was he passing on the opportunity for more skin-to-skin with Roy Mustang, so… there it was.
He kind of felt like he should be embarrassed or something—and there was a flare of it, hot in his cheeks and his throat and under his skin, but then Roy’s arms wrapped around him, and his shoulder fit perfectly in under Roy’s, and it was just so goddamn pleasant that he forgot to be ashamed of himself.
Besides, he was kind of tired, and resting his head against Roy’s chest was about the best damn thing in the universe right now.
The little chain pressed into his cheek as he settled, and he kind of couldn’t help lifting a hand and touching the outline of the dog tags through Roy’s shirt. “Can I look at these?” He thought he remembered reading that they had a soldier’s social security number on them or something. “I promise not to steal your identity. And if I do, I promise to do something really cool with it.”
“Like rob a bank?” Roy asked. “I feel that would be a worthy cause for identity theft.” He fished the chain out and laid the tags in Ed’s palm. “Although I’m afraid your genius masterplan has been foiled by one small detail.”
Ed squinted in the dimness. “Your name isn’t Maes Hughes.” Then again… “Is it? I mean, ‘Roy Mustang’ is pretty incredible; is your name actua…” A little late, but better than never, he noticed the weird kind of sadness in Roy’s smile. “So who is he?”
“He was my best friend,” Roy said, and Ed thought of Al, and of the incredible cruelty of the past tense, and his heart felt so heavy for a second that he thought they might both sink straight through the seat. “IED. There are a thousand stories like it.”
“That doesn’t make one less sad,” Ed said.
Roy sighed, and his smile was wistful, and he looked like something out of a movie—except that movies were cold, through the distance of the screen and the fuzziness of the airbrushing; and this was real. “No. In any case—I asked his wife if I could keep them, and she let me. To be more specific, I believe her exact words were, ‘Take them, take the damn things, I never want to see those again in my life.’”
Ed swallowed. He looked at the faint glimmer of parking lot light in the metal, and then he looked up at Roy, who seemed to be keeping his face neutral while he waited for a response.
“I’m sorry,” Ed said. “That’s… really shitty. I can’t even imagine.”
“Thank you,” Roy said softly.
Ed nudged his thumb over the engraving on the back of the tag. Dude had been O-, which must have meant the blood banks hounded him on a weekly basis. “You mind me asking what he was like?”
“Not at all,” Roy said. “I think… I should say, sometimes I think we do the dead a disservice when in trying not to speak ill of them, we refuse to speak of them at all. He was an extraordinary human being, and by that I mean that he could be extraordinarily magnanimous or extraordinarily obnoxious, and on several occasions both at once. He deserves to be remembered for the ups, the downs, the sine waves, the spirals…” He grinned at Ed’s half-laugh. “You know what I mean. My greatest fear is that his daughter will forget him entirely, no matter how many videos we saved, because it’s not the same, of course—remembering someone, and trying to learn what they were like.” He sighed, feelingly, and ran his fingers through Ed’s ponytail—which felt awesome, which was a weird fucking contrast with the whole emotional misery thing. “Honestly, I’m starting to forget him. Only the details, so far, but… little scares me more than the thought I’ll wake up one day and not remember that I’m living for the both of us, and it’s my responsibility to do right by him in everything I try.”
Ed weighed his options for a second of silence. He could not say it. Nobody would blame him. He’d been burned so many times, and this was just the first night, and he hadn’t even gotten Al to Google-stalk this guy yet; who the hell knew who Roy Mustang really was, and what he was capable of, and what he might do with a peek behind the scenes of Ed’s psyche? He was a lawyer, after all. As far as most people’s personal dictionaries were concerned, that was a synonym for “shark”—and if he smelled blood in the water, who was to say he wouldn’t bite on instinct, no matter how harmless he might seem?
Except that he’d put a big piece of himself out right now, and he’d trusted Ed with it, and if Ed believed in anything, it was conservation of energy—universal balance. A weird sort of flow that wasn’t justice, certainly, but it was kind of… equivalent.
“You have to be careful, thinking like that,” he said, slowly, watching the lines of Roy’s face instead of looking into his eyes. “I used to, for a long time, after my mom died, and… it didn’t go so good.”
That was a pretty understated way of saying Turns out most psychiatrists refuse to believe that a twelve-year-old can have a nervous breakdown, but I guess most of the time they might be right, so maybe that’s just an evidential bias thing?
Roy was quiet for a long moment, stroking his fingers through Ed’s hair. “May I ask how old you were when it happened?”
“Ten,” Ed said. “Al was nine. My dad’d fucked off a long time ago, and our best friend’s grandmother was looking out for us a lot, but I was—y’know. Kids don’t really understand. I was trying to be everything so maybe Al wouldn’t even have to think about what we were missing, and… yeah. That one crashed and burned pretty hard.” He cleared his throat. “So… I guess for tonight I should’ve put on my shirt that says ‘Warning: Total Fucking Downer’ in big orange letters.”
“If you have such a shirt,” Roy said, “which I don’t think I would put past you, I insist that you give it to me so that I can shred it into a thousand pieces.” He nuzzled into Ed’s hair a little, which should’ve felt weird but didn’t. Because it felt great. “You’re no such thing. Although it’s—I mean, ordinarily I don’t tell my life story on the first date, either.”
Ed couldn’t resist leaning into the touch a little—just a little. So little it barely counted, really, come on. “Funny.”
“Something like that,” Roy said.
The talking just… didn’t stop. Eventually, when the parking lot was nearly empty, and the winery was turning out its lights, they managed to pry themselves out of the backseat, and Roy drove them down the nightmare-hill.
When Ed got home and opened the door as quietly as humanly possible, the hall was dark, so he dared to hope that Al might have given up and gone to bed, and he could tiptoe in, and tomorrow he could say something vague about “getting in kinda late”, which was much less damning than Well, it’s only half my fault that we talked until midnight, and then we had to survive the treacherous mountain pass and whatever.
Pity Al was sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop, turning towards the door to raise an eyebrow very, very slowly as Ed crept in.
“Don’t give me that look,” Ed said.
“What look is that?” Al asked in his Perfectly Calm and Neutral Voice.
Ed shut the door, turned the bolt, turned the lock, and toed off one of his shoes. The vest was gonna be ancient history in another second. “That’s ‘Gosh you’re late, Brother; did you get laid, or are you just irresponsible about time?’”
Al grinned. “Actually, this is ‘Gosh, Brother, I can’t believe how happy you look.’”
Ed got stuck on the second shoe, stumbled bad enough that he had to windmill both arms to stay upright, and then braced himself on the wall. “Wh—really?”
Al fake-frowned at him. “It’s a little unsettling, to tell the truth. Did he spike your drink, or…?”
Ed’s fist clenched with the urge to punch Al in the arm even though the demonspawn (that was Hohenheim being the demon, for the record) in question was way too far away. “No. He was a perfect gentleman. It was kind of disgusting, actually, since you asked.”
“And we made out a lot, but that’s it, and there was hardly even any tongue—” A lie, but Al lost a shade of color anyway, so probably a lie he should just keep telling until it was impossible to sustain any longer. “—and then we talked about seriously personal shit forever, and it was fucking weird how easy it was.” He ran a hand through his hair and hit bedraggled ponytail in record time. “That’s it. That’s really it.”
Al was pretty good at wiping his face completely clean of visible emotion with other people, but he had a problem hiding smiles from Ed. “That sounds like the single most successful date you’ve had since…”
Ed fought the other shoe off. In a final act of doomed rebellion, it flipped itself against the wall and left a faint tread imprint. “Ever?”
“Just about,” Al said.
This waistcoat was about to be a memory. Or at least a closet-floor-liner for a while. The buttons fought back as much as the shoe had; either there was a major sartorial mutiny going on, or had Ed somehow gotten significantly tipsier than he thought. “Awesome. That doesn’t make me sound pathetic at all.”
“It’s nothing to do with patheticness,” Al said, closing the laptop and tucking it under his arm. He was already in his pajamas. Gross, he’d been waiting up. “Just… bad luck.”
“I don’t believe in luck,” Ed said, besting the waistcoat at last and starting down the hall to hurl it directly into the back of the closet as a warning to the others.
“I think it believes in you,” Al said.
“It’s an abstract concept,” Ed said. “It can’t ‘believe’ in anything. A wrong abstract concept, which means it definitely can’t.”
“You need to go to bed, Brother,” Al said.
If the adrenaline would let him, Ed sort of couldn’t argue with that.
“Oh,” Al said, pausing at his bedroom door. “It went well, right? So… are there plans for a second date?”
Ed fumbled his phone out of his pocket and squinted at it. “Not yet. Maybe I sucked.”
Al blinked. “But you said you didn’t do anyth—”
Ed waved both hands frantically before that could get any worse. “Now who needs to go to bed?”
Sundays meant he was free of the chai-dusted chains and rusting manacles of coffee-peddlerdom, but there were about eight things he probably needed to check up on in the lab, so he dragged his ass out of bed before nine, dragged it into the shower, resisted the urge to get off to the mere thought of Roy’s hands on his bare waist, suffered, washed his hair, sort of tied it up, half-brushed his teeth, snagged a travel mug’s worth of the coffee Al was making, jammed his feet into a pair of sneakers that were pretty ratty but more chemical-proof than flip-flops, and got in the car.
Usually he just walked—some days it was faster, given the obscene amount of stop signs on campus—but today even just the trudge from the parking lot to the lab felt daunting. He sort of missed the era where he used to get real days off. He sort of missed the era where he didn’t beeline from one workplace to the next, one stressor to the next, one project, one purpose, one drive to the next—the era before the endless cycle; before the insatiable exhaustion; before the dogged, head-down, chin-up determination to take it one day at a time and hold himself together and survive.
The miserable hike (of about a quarter-mile, probably, but who was counting) from the lot eventually deposited him at the lab, where he badged in, staggered down the cluttered aisle to his bench, and dropped into his chair. Dropping into his chair, for the record, was not easy in the slightest, since it had needed to be raised marginally more than the average amount before he could actually reach the bench if he was sitting on it, so before he could drop anywhere, he sort of had to get some momentum by planting a hand on the benchtop and hiking himself up a little. It was a complicated maneuver, but he hadn’t missed yet.
He’d only just pulled out his laptop and banged on the keys to wake it up, though, when his phone vibrated in his pocket. Everything sounded overwhelmingly loud in an empty lab, so it wasn’t his fault if he jumped a little bit, was it?
Definitely not. No way.
He fought the good fight and eventually managed to wrangle his phone out of his pocket without shifting his position in the chair—which was important, thank you very much—only to see that the new text message was from someone called Is that even your real name.
…oh, right. He probably needed to change that to something slightly more indicative of Roy’s identity.
And he would, right after he frantically opened it and struggled to read despite the way his blood was beating a wild tattoo against the insides of his skull.
The text was five words and five words only:
Can I see you again?
Ed sat back. He swallowed. He sat forward.
well yeah i mean you’re going to come get coffee on monday aren’t you
Roy and his quick, quick, clever, clever hands—
I wouldn’t if it made you uncomfortable. Though that’s a relief; you really do have the best coffee in town by a considerable margin. Mostly I meant -- may I take you out for dinner again?
Ed was feeling just the slightest bit playful. His definition of ‘playful’, however, tended to overlap with most people’s definition of ‘evil’, which had caused him some problems in the past. He took a deep breath and texted:
Then he counted to five.
Then he texted:
my turn this time remember?
The response to that one came so fast that there was no explanation for five full seconds of silence other than that he’d executed his plan perfectly and left Roy momentarily speechless. Keep ’em on their toes, right? Keep ’em guessing? Keep friends close, enemies closer, and lovers at arm’s length, because they knew where your heart was, and they might have a knife?
Something like that.
Lord, Edward, you really shouldn’t say things like that. I nearly had a heart attack just there.
Ed grinned. It felt like his face was cracking. That should’ve hurt, but it was awesome.
is this you admitting that you’re old? hang on i’m getting a screenshot
He could almost hear Roy groaning melodramatically—could almost see the rolled eyes. Scary thought. One night, and he was already thinking about habits, about reactions, about… details. Little things. The parts of somebody that you didn’t just like.
I walked directly into that one and then knelt and begged for it, didn’t I? Let me gracefully change the subject: when do I get the privilege of spending more time with you?
Ed held a hand over his mouth for several seconds to make sure he was breathing properly, because it sure as hell didn’t feel like it.
i dunno. what day’s good for you? friday?
He barely had time to put the phone down before he had to pick it up again.
Any day will be marvelous if you’re in it. Friday sounds excellent. May I pick you up?
Stupid fucking bastard was such a fucking charmer, and Ed was the cobra in the basket, and Roy could twist him any way he wanted, and it just wasn’t fair.
yeah my place is fine i guess wanna say 6 this time? might need to be later if i have crap in lab but i’ll let you know
He was definitely going to have crap in lab if he didn’t get some crap done now, but he couldn’t even think about working until the closure came:
Beautiful. See you soon.
Freakin’ bastard. Just like that, Ed’s life was ruined, and all he’d done was serve a guy a couple coffees, which he’d had to, for his job.
And he loved it.
Monday morning. Seven fifty. The door opened. Ed looked up.
He looked down again even faster, because Marta could smell a blush on him like too much cologne, and she’d never let him live it down.
“Good morning,” Roy said, sauntering up to the counter and leaning on it, all the while grinning fit to split his face.
“Hey,” Ed said. He almost sounded normal and not overly strangled and completely strained. Almost. “How are you?”
“Magnificent,” Roy said, and Ed was red to the roots of his hair, and Marta was probably looking up from the dishes in the back and sniffing like a bloodhound. “I had the loveliest weekend—I went out on a spectacular date with the most amazing young man, and I know it’s a terrible cliché, but I feel like I’m walking on air and breathing in sunbeams. For good measure, it appears to be destroying any lyrical capacity I ever had, and I can’t even bring myself to care.” He winked. Ed’s knees wobbled. “How about you?”
“Eh,” Ed said. “Y’know. Same old, same old.”
Roy’s eyebrows lowered, and the corners of his mouth turned down, and Ed couldn’t help starting to laugh.
“Lay off,” he said. “You look like you Frenched a freakin’ lemon.”
The scowl tilted right back into a smirk. How did he do that? “I must say, tonsil hockey with you is much more pleasant than it is with citrus.”
Every blood vessel in Ed’s face flooded again, and all of the cartilage melted in his knees. “Shut up. Do you want coffee or not?”
Roy planted his elbow on the counter, leaned forward, and gave him the cheesiest grin on Earth. He knew exactly what he was doing to Ed’s vital systems, and he was milking it like a fucking dairy farmer, and—and what a bastard. God. “Can I get a tall glass of something else hot and delicious that makes my heart beat faster?”
Ed felt his jaw drop and was powerless to stop it.
“Well,” Roy said, and he was laughing now, and Ed was going to kill him, “maybe not a tall glass, but it’s a figure of speech, you know…”
Ed tried to make sound come out of his mouth. What he managed was a very faint, very reedy, very raspy: “S-say what?”
Roy looked like he was about to explode into rainbows and delight. “I think this is the part where I suavely mention that I think you’re the perfect size.”
Ed glared as ferociously as he was able. “That’s smooth like Teflon. That’s almost as smooth as the thin, thin, thin ice your ass is on right now, Roy.”
“Language,” Marta said from right behind him, and was it really his fault he practically started out of his fucking skin?
“‘Ass’?” Roy said. “That’s hardly swearing; he was probably just equating me with a pack animal.”
Marta looked at Roy like he was a rather mangy dog that she hadn’t really expected to be capable of speech. “Man, if you want to encourage him—your funeral. Can I get something started for you?”
After several moments of unadulterated awe, during which he somehow fumbled some change out of the register and a cup from under the counter for Roy’s coffee, Ed remembered that Marta was a self-proclaimed ‘militant lesbian’, which explained why she was immune to the Royness.
Ed, meanwhile, tried but honestly could not stop his feet from drifting over towards where Roy was filling his cup from the light roast cambro.
“You finding everything okay?” he asked, hating himself for it as he articulated the syllables, because there was lame, right, and then there was him right now.
“Yes, thank you,” Roy said. Damn his voice. Everything he said sounded like… sex. Everything he said sounded like sex, and it was really fucking distracting, and Ed still had a full two and a half hours of work to get through before he could even think about indulging that observation.
Ed fidgeted, and swallowed, and glanced over to where Marta was watching him like an especially disapproving hawk, and glared at her instead of sticking his tongue out like he really wanted, and then looked back to Roy.
Roy was smiling at him. Just—smiling. Just holding the coffee cup and basking in the steam and smiling at Ed like he was something precious.
“Friday?” he said.
“Friday,” Ed said.
“Lovely,” Roy said.
He put the sugar and the milk in his coffee, smiled one more time over his shoulder, and ghosted out the door.
“You flirt with all the subtlety of a fucking freight train with the caboose on fire,” Marta said.
“Language,” Ed said.
Lucky thing Marta was trying to stack up hours this week, and/or that some new and exciting formulation of cannabis had fallen into Russell’s hands; Ed didn’t have to deal with a certain stupid-haired asshole’s condescension even once, and in the meantime Marta was humoring him mightily. She even went so far as to remark—on Wednesday, after Roy had disappeared with another Queen-of-England-worthy wave—that Ed had pretty good taste, at least in an aesthetic sort of way, for people who were into that, she assumed. It sounded like she approved. Or something. Maybe?
Ed was still kind of too lovestruck to care.
This shit sucked.
It was awesome.
Ed had the presence of mind to text Roy Thursday night with the very poetic words: shit i forgot by the way this place is not-at-all-classy casual is that cool?
Stupid Roy and his stupid fast hands and his stupid… stupidness.
That sounds very appealing. 6:00 still all right with you?
What would be appealing would be if Roy materialized in this empty, lonely, silent fucking lab and peeled Ed’s clothes off and bent him over this stupid fucking lab bench and fucked him so thoroughly that he forgot how obnoxious his data was being right now.
Not-even-the-second-date was a little too early for frustrated sexting, though. …right? Wasn’t that in the rules somewhere?
God, he was so tired of rules. Rules were the only thing actually fucking him right now, if you extended the denotation to include universal laws, and also Murphy’s fucking law, which was the real wrench in the machine lately.
He leaned back in his chair, considered, reconsidered, and picked up his phone. He let his thumbs hesitate for another second, just for show, but really it’d been too late for a while.
hey can i tell you something
One thing he wasn’t planning on confessing any time soon was just how fucking great it felt that Roy responded to his texts so fast. Like he was just that important, and… jeez.
Of course you can. What’s on your mind?
You, you, you, you, and, oh, for some variety, you. With chocolate sauce.
you looked so fucking hot in red this morning i think i actually tensed to jump over the counter and put my tongue down your throat. rose being right there was probably the only thing that stopped me
That was even more embarrassing written out on his screen in unrelenting, ineffaceable pixels. He’d sent that. He couldn’t take it back. He was an idiot.
Roy’s reply didn’t take long.
You ought to be careful talking like that. My tenuous grasp of the social construct and the tenets of acceptable public conduct have prevented me from throwing you down on a bag of coffee beans and having my wicked way with you so far, but who knows how long that’ll last?
In the middle of the empty, lonely, silent fucking lab, Ed was laughing, and also turned on, and also so, so, so in love.
It kinda made everything suck less.
Maybe that was the point.
“Holy mackerel,” Al’s voice said from the front room.
“Why the sanctified Scombridae?” Ed called.
“Your ride’s here,” Al said. “He’s… wow. I… understand a lot of things I didn’t a minute ago.”
“The Kelley Blue Book market price of a 2004 Ford Mustang is less than six-thousand dollars,” Ed said. “So I’m not in it for a sugar-daddy, before you start on about fucking Freud and shit.”
“That’s not where I was going,” Al said as Ed stomped in still fighting with his best giant-flaming-pewter-skull belt buckle, “but you can consider the vehemence of your response duly noted.”
“Shut up,” Ed said. “Then where were you going?”
Al turned primly back to the window, curling a finger in the edge of the curtain to peek past it down the walk. “Well, I can’t tell you and shut up at the same time, so I’ll just shut up.”
Ed put on his best plaintive voice. “But Al…”
Al sighed heavily. “It’s just that he’s very…”
The doorbell rang.
“Very what?” Ed hissed, trying to flatten his bangs and fix his belt at the same time and failing miserably at both.
Sometimes, Ed gauged Al’s evilness levels at something like eighty-five percent. But they never, ever exceeded that, because at the core, Al was the kind of person who would click his tongue, hasten over, and whip Ed’s hair and accessories into shape in the blink of a bewildered eye, and then pat his shoulder for good measure. Because deep down, Al loved Ed too much for his own good.
Al licked his fingertip and smoothed one last hair in Ed’s bangs.
“Very GQMF,” he said.
Ed stared a little, but staring didn’t help with translation. “…huh?”
“Never mind,” Al said. He hummed two notes, crossed to the door, and opened it. “Hello! You must be Roy.”
“You must be Al,” Roy said, and even just his fucking voice made weird little tremors chase each other up and down Ed’s spine.
“I’ll spare you the full shovel speech,” Al said, blithely ignoring the fact that Ed groaned “Al!” as loudly as humanly possible in the background, “but here’s the brief version: most people think Ed is the brother you should be afraid of.” He gave Roy the sweetest and most winsome of his thousand smiles, with just the slightest edge of malice. “Most people are wrong.”
“His shovel speech isn’t really a shovel speech anyway,” Ed said, trying to shoulder Al out of the doorway and encountering what felt like a solid cement block of Elric. “He always waxes poetic about how there won’t be enough left to bury. Al, would you move? Tryin’ to go on a goddamn date here—”
Obligingly, Al shifted a half-step sideways, which finally gave Ed a view of the front step, which finally revealed Roy freakin’ Mustang in those same really nice jeans and a black T-shirt that was proportioned absolutely perfectly—like, snug at the shoulders, fitted at the chest, and close but not tight all the way down to the plain black belt with a small but very bright silver buckle that made Ed’s eyes fixate on his hips.
Ed had always been painfully aware that the universe was not just, but this was a step up from basic karmic inconsistency. Nobody should be physically capable of looking that fucking mouth-watering in a goddamn T-shirt.
“Um,” Ed managed. Funny how when all the saliva rushed into his mouth, his throat went dry. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Roy said. He was grinning like he couldn’t help it, and Ed couldn’t fight the contagion of it; his face was mirroring the enthusiasm before he knew it. It was like ebola or some shit. Only with more smiling and less bleeding from the eyes. Actually not really like ebola at all; much better than ebola. “I thought of bringing flowers, but I thought you’d probably shove them somewhere I’d rather not have to extract them from, so… is it all right if I give you this?”
It was a box.
It was a sizable box.
It was a sizable box of Ghirardelli’s espresso beans.
“I thought it was better to get an assortment,” Roy said, and his smile was taking on just the faintest edge of uncertainty as Ed and Al stood staring at him dumbly. “I wasn’t sure what type of chocolate you preferred, although I was hoping anything espresso was probably safe.”
“Brother,” Al said slowly, “you can keep him.”
Ed started to reach for chocolate-coffee nirvana and then hesitated. “You really—I mean, Jesus, Roy, you don’t have to bring me shit; what… you…”
“Accept the gift, Brother,” Al said, nudging him with a distinctly un-cushy elbow.
So Ed took it.
But he kept eyeing Roy.
Because the thing was—sometimes it wasn’t a gift, really; it was a trade, right? It was a bribe, and they expected something in exchange, and if you didn’t cough up whatever it was they were waiting for, they’d hold it against you, and they’d count the points, and they’d make the tallies, and then they’d show you their list of ways you fell short, things you’d failed on, shit you hadn’t delivered that you should have if you wanted to meet their unarticulated criteria for a halfway-fucking-decent fucking boyfriend—
And then you were floundering in their wake, just trying not to drown, with no fucking clue when you even went under.
“It’s just a thank-you,” Roy said, still smiling, and there was something soft and gleaming in his eye that made Ed think that maybe—maybe—he understood. “For giving me another chance even now that you know better.”
Ed stared at him.
Then Ed stared at Al, who was also staring at him.
“Oh, dear,” Al said. “Brother, definitely keep him.”
“Al,” Ed said.
“What?” Al said.
“Go read a book or something,” Ed said. “Educate yourself. Don’t call me.”
“Be safe, Brother,” Al said in the mild voice he used to cover gleeful amusement, stepping out of the way. “Have fun. I won’t wait up. I—”
Ed stepped out and shut the door.
“Shall we?” Roy asked, grinning again.
“Yeah,” Ed said. “Before he starts texting me about how I need a new wardrobe to be seen with you in public or some shit. C’mon.”
He buckled his seatbelt, Roy started the engine, and then… they didn’t go anywhere.
“He’s quite a lot like you,” Roy said. He dropped the parking brake and pulled out into the street at last. “Where are we headed?”
“Hang a left at the stoplight up there,” Ed said. “What the hell do you mean? People used to ask if I was adopted.”
“That’s just silly,” Roy said, “given the hair, and the eyes—but that’s not what I meant. It’s something in the way you carry yourselves, and the way you talk. The attitude—the way you throw yourself at life full-force and don’t take prisoners and don’t look back. And the way you always say exactly what you’re thinking and refuse to apologize for it—the way you won’t let anyone make you ashamed for being who you are.”
Ed realized too late that he was crossing his arms and leaning back into the seat—like he was bracing himself, or protecting himself, and wasn’t unconscious body language just a fucking riot?
“I guess so,” he said, because that was a hell of a lot easier than It’s so much more complicated than that, don’t you get it? There’s so much compensation in it. Al talks about this shit all the time—how being too loud and too boisterous won’t change how deep I let it cut me when somebody whose opinion matters says I’m doing something wrong. How I make a big-ass fucking point of being devil-may-care and shit about the stuff that doesn’t make a difference, how overstated the whole show of indifference is to cover up the reality that I’m a weak, pathetic piece of shit groveling for approval from everybody I can get to stand still long enough for me to alienate them.
Roy glanced at him. Roy seemed to have a supernatural sixth sense for the direction of Ed’s internal monologue. Roy was getting more and more dangerous as this went on.
“Wait a second,” Ed said before the bastard could get another whiff of the ongoing existential crisis. “Did you just sweet-talk me by way of complimenting my brother?”
Roy grinned. “Possibly.”
“Take a right up here,” Ed said. “You are good.”
Roy grinned wider. “I do what I can.”
“So explain this to me,” Ed said, and his heart was in his throat, but that was better than it being in the bottom of the gutter, crushed under the treads of somebody’s shoe. “You are a smooth fucking operator like I have never met, with a great job and a great car and a winning genetic lottery ticket.”
“…thank you?” Roy said.
“Sure,” Ed said. “So what the hell are you doing letting me into all that shit?”
Roy’s smile took on a weird sort of a… twist. Just a little one, right at the corner of his mouth. Wry or something. “That explains a lot.”
“Right onto the next street,” Ed said. “It’s sort of a sharp turn, so heads up. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“It explains why you’re single,” Roy said. “It explains why you’re defensive.”
Ed felt his cheeks heating and was powerless to stop them. “I’m not defensive. And what does?”
“You’re captivating,” Roy said. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you don’t believe me, but it’s true.”
“Shut up,” Ed said. His heart was banging, and his head was teetering a little bit. “And pull over.”
Roy glanced into his mirror and then over his shoulder. “Where i—”
“We’re not there yet,” Ed said. He could feel his nerve failing; his hands were starting to shake a little, and his whole right arm tightened with a flash of pain, only then it was gone. “Just—”
“Trust you?” Roy asked, and he swung the car through the bike lane and into an open space along the sidewalk in the time it took Ed to grip the armrest in terror.
Ed swallowed, blinked, and swallowed again. “Yeah. I guess. I… yeah.”
Roy killed the engine and settled his arm on the wheel, turning towards Ed with another one of those stupid, brilliant grins. “As it turns out, I do. So what was that dubiously-legal driving maneuver supposed to be f—”
Ed grabbed two fistfuls of his goddamn too-perfect T-shirt and kissed him like…
Well, like he was a ridiculously hot older guy with perfect hair and perfect hands and a perfect mouth that tasted like sex and cinnamon Altoids.
Jesus. Ed could have kept at that shit forever if he hadn’t been so damn hungry.
Roy made a pretty good case for making out for the better part of eternity, or at least until they starved to death.
“Holy fuck,” Ed managed when they came up for air. “Can’t believe I had to wait a whole week to do that again.”
“Not a whole week,” Roy said. Damn it. Figured; that was the story of Ed’s life—always with the coming on too hot and the seeming desperate and the pathetic pining and the basic inability t— “Five days, eighteen hours, and…” He glanced at the clock, realized it wasn’t operational because he’d turned off the engine, and glanced at his watch. Damn, those wrists— “Twelve minutes.”
Ed wasn’t sure whether his heart had stopped, or if it had started beating so fast that the rhythm had blurred into a single ongoing hum. “Are you—counting from now, or from before I put my tongue in your mouth?”
“Ah, you’re right,” Roy said, tapping a fingertip on the watch face and nodding solemnly. “Five days, eighteen hours, and… what would you say, nine minutes? Time seems to pass differently with you.”
“Stop that,” Ed said, turning the impulse to cover his face into pushing a hand through his hair instead, since that was slightly less four-year-old-ish. “Okay, I’m starving to death; you wanna drive?”
“For you, baby,” Roy said, gunning the engine, and Ed felt the vibration in every fiber of his frame, “anything.”
Sorry for the delay! RL kicked my ass pretty hard last week. D:
I'd warn for gratuitous Shakespeare references, but I think that's pretty much a given with me. XD''
They pull into the entry driveway for the short-term parking lot, and Roy reaches out to the little machine and hits the button, and it spits out a ticket. That time Ed was driving and couldn’t stretch enough to touch the button and had to undo his seatbelt, open the door, and step out of the car—spitting a string of curses so vehement that it would have gotten censored on HBO—in order to get their permit is also Not to Be Commented On. Roy almost gave himself a hernia laughing (at the time, and at intervals for several days afterward), so at least karma kind of had Ed’s back.
Without incident, because he’s one of those stupid lucky people for whom parking spots just open up at the precise moment he needs them, Roy parks neatly. He’s gotten out and retrieved the duffel bag from the trunk before Ed’s even finished rubbing his eyes and fumbling for the door handle; Ed barely makes it over in time to snatch his backpack and his laptop bag away and shoulder them on. Roy’d carry those for him, too, given half the chance, and it’d be impossible to get them away from him without actually bruising him. Roy’d probably carry him into the airport if there wouldn’t be a hell of a lot of bodily injury involved in Ed’s attempts to escape.
Roy locks the car and takes Ed’s hand in his free one and squeezes before Ed can muster much irritation about the whole chivalric duty thing.
Ed clears his throat. “You sure you’re gonna be okay all by yourself?”
“Yes,” Roy says, although his grip on Ed’s hand tightens a little bit. “I’ll see if I can drag the guys out of hibernation for a poker night.”
“We don’t need the money,” Ed says.
“Of course we don’t,” Roy says. “That doesn’t make it any less fun to rob them blind. Might see if I can coax Gracia and Elicia out for dinner one night, too; and I may finally get caught up on all that reading I’ve been meaning to do.”
“I’m gonna have Riza check up on you,” Ed says. “If you marathon a single reality show, I’m going to tell her to take away your laptop.”
“That’s libel,” Roy says.
“Libel has to be published,” Ed says. “This is just defamation.”
Roy stops short, hauling back on his hand. Ed stumbles, and Roy steadies his shoulder and then kisses him like there’s no goddamn tomorrow.
Please, please let there be a goddamn tomorrow, and a goddamn day after, and a goddamn eight days from now when Ed gets to come back to this.
“I do love nothing in the world so well as you,” Roy says. “Is not that strange?”
“You’re not allowed to marathon Kenneth Branagh Shakespeares either,” Ed says, and if his voice shakes a little—well. Whatever. “It makes you loopy.” He tugs on Roy’s hand and despises the very abstract concept of having to relinquish it soon. “C’mon. That security line isn’t gonna take off its own shoes.”
“I suppose not,” Roy says.
The fuzziness of Ed’s brain makes it both a very long and an all-too-brief trek to the terminal.
They only have to get his boarding pass, because like hell was he going to check a bag for only eight days and risk his stuff ending up in Timbuktu or some shit; and it’s always sort of blearily desolate at the airport this early, so it’s a matter of minutes before they’re dragging their feet towards the tired-looking TSA agents and the ominous conveyor belts and the spaceshippy full-body scanner.
Roy gives the lattermost a baleful look. “You know, that thing is—”
“‘Much too intimate for your liking’?” Ed says. “Coming from a guy who was in the army?”
“There’s nothing intimate about the army,” Roy says. He pauses. “Unless you happen to be a bisexual opportunist who is both sharing a bunk with and slightly in love with his best friend. And even then, I would classify that less as ‘intimate’ and more as ‘ethically questionable’.”
“Uh huh,” Ed says.
They stand there, fingers knitted together, and neither of them moves.
“I guess I should go,” Ed says, which is the last thing he wants to say, and the laster-than-last thing he wants to do.
The pad of Roy’s thumb sweeps across the back of his hand. “Call me when you get in,” he says, sounding about as enthusiastic as Ed feels.
Ed finds a smile for him anyway. “Like you’re not going to be stalking my flight from start to finish?”
“Of course I am,” Roy says. “But the flight tracker doesn’t include a half-hour rant about the insufferable mediocrity of airplane food, and that’s my favorite part.”
“Plane food sucks,” Ed says.
“Like a jet engine,” Roy says.
“Hey,” Ed says. Some businessman moves past them and gets in line. “Will you make something awesome for dinner when I get back?”
“I will,” Roy says. “Or I’ll die trying.”
“Har, har,” Ed says.
They keep just… standing there.
“Fuck,” Ed says. “I should really go.”
Roy sighs, smiles, and releases his hand—their fingers honestly seem to stick for a minute; no part of them wants to separate—in order to fold him into a rib-straining hug instead. Ed presses his ear to Roy’s chest, closes his eyes, and tries to memorize the gently-drumming cadence of Roy’s heart beating softly. There are so many goddamn things to miss that he doesn’t know where he’s supposed to start.
“Take pictures,” Roy murmurs into Ed’s hair. “And if you need anything—anything—don’t do the time zone math; just call.”
“You’re dating the wrong guy if you don’t want me to do math,” Ed says.
“I am doing no such thing,” Roy says, “math notwithstanding.” He draws back, cupping Ed’s face in both hands, and kisses his forehead. “All right. Go on. Have your exciting U.K. adventure so you can come home to me.”
“Tallyho,” Ed says.
“Maybe don’t say that to any Brits,” Roy says.
“I’m kidding,” Ed says. “I’ll be on my best behavior-with-a-U.”
Roy grimaces. “I’ll watch the BBC News homepage for tales of your exploits.”
“Think of it this way,” Ed says. “If I get expatriated, I’ll be home sooner.”
Roy smiles, and then the smile fades, and then Roy is just looking him in the eyes—so still, so fucking serious, like they’re alone at the end of the world instead of standing in a dumbass fucking airport. And maybe they are, in a way, somehow, because Roy’s intensity makes the rest of it just… fade. The whine of the escalator and the chatter of the employees and the buzz of their radios and the intercom and the sounds of people’s footfalls as they stagger to get their shoes off and the clinks of their belt buckles hitting those just-the-wrong-size plastic trays—
It’s all… gone, in that second.
Roy is the whole world.
His thumb brushes Ed’s bangs back, and his mouth curves just a little.
“I love you,” he says.
Ed’s chest tightens, his throat tightens, his grip on Roy’s shirt tightens; he’s contracting.
“I love you, too,” he says.
Roy starts to lean down, and Ed pushes up onto his toes to meet him halfway. Last kisses are the worst, because you’re trying so hard to make them count that you barely feel them, and then they’re over, and the cold is rushing in.
“Go on,” Roy says softly. He touches Ed’s cheek, then Ed’s throat, then Ed’s shoulder, and then he drops his hand. “It’s not goodbye; it’s see you soon.”
“Let me know when you get home,” Ed says, forcing the words through the little chinks in the stone wall of misery that’s slamming down around him. “I’m gonna text you about how bored I am until they make me turn my phone off.”
“Get an overpriced scone from Starbucks before you board,” Roy says.
“And be branded a coffee-traitor?” Ed asks.
“Get something,” Roy says, with a shadow of his designated God-I-love-humoring-you-darling grin, and then he brushes his lips over Ed’s one more time, and then he steps back. It looks like he’s forcing himself to do it, so Ed forces his hands not to lift up and latch on.
“Eight days,” Ed says.
“I’m already counting,” Roy says.
Ed steadies his backpack and grabs the handle of his rolling suitcase and starts for the security line. He doesn’t trust himself to hold his shit together if he looks back, so he doesn’t risk it.
Roy’ll text him stupid selfies all week long anyway. He knows that.
It’s just that the leaving part sucks the most.
Ed’s not-exactly-secret second date spot was the best goddamn burger place in town.
Roy followed his lead and ordered a best-goddamn-burger (not the actual name on the menu) and a root beer, and Ed got them an order of fries and tried not to think about how much their fingers would be colliding in the process of sharing the little basket. He settled them at one of the outside tables, because otherwise you smelled like best-goddamn-burger for pretty much ever, which would’ve been great except for how hungry he always got.
There was a red-and-white umbrella over their table and crappy fifties music for “ambiance” or something. Ed could tell from last week that Roy appreciated good food, and anybody with tastebuds would forgive this place its foibles, and why the fuck was he so high-strung right now?
Apparently Roy could tell.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Ed said. He remembered that Al had once told him he lied about as convincingly as a sugar-crazed six-year-old trying to deny having painted on the walls with the evidence still smeared all over his face and hands. Which, again, Ed had actually done. Maybe more than once. So Al was speaking with concrete knowledge behind the simile. “Just… starving. And—” He glanced away, glanced at Roy, and got interested in the napkin holder. “…nervous. I guess.”
Roy leaned back in his crappy plastic chair, stretched so that his stupid fucking T-shirt rode up and displayed a breathtakingly tantalizing sliver of abdomen, and grinned like a goddamn movie star.
“I promise you,” he said, “that you don’t have to be nervous with me.”
A lot of Ed’s fucked-up exes had said shit like that, but that was the sort of thing you didn’t bring up in conversation. I don’t have definitive proof yet that you’re not a sociopath was not exactly grade-A flirtation dialogue.
“Okay,” he said instead, trying very hard not to stare at Roy’s stomach and will it to reveal itself again. “So… how’s your week been?”
Evidently, Roy’s week had been a roller coaster of meetings, note doodles, scribbling out note doodles as people came around the meeting table to prevent the people in question from discovering that he thought they would look better as amphibians, a color-coded Post-It-pocalypse, and a great deal of frantic typing. Ed hadn’t realized lawyering could be so funny.
Maybe it was just Roy, though.
Probably it was just Roy.
…it was just Roy.
Their burgers came up at the window, and they were fucking excellent; and Roy said something that made Ed snort root beer through his nose but then was so freaking sweet about dabbing it off of his face with napkins and apologizing over and over that Ed didn’t even mind; and he completely shocked himself by reaching out across the table and swiping a little smudge of ketchup off the corner of Roy’s mouth and then licking it off his own fingertip. Roy’s surprise gave way to a grin that made his guts melt.
Ed demolished his burger in less than six minutes, but they ended up sitting there for two hours, and Roy’s foot was resting comfortably against Ed’s underneath the table for the vast majority of it.
It just felt so right that a mantra cropped up and started swirling in his head:
Please don’t let this one turn out to be a psycho. Please, please, please, please.
He didn’t know who he was pleading to, but surely he’d paid his dues by now.
Roy parked in front of his and Al’s duplex-apartment-house-thing (the technical term for the arrangement, as far as Ed was concerned; he was pretty sure that was what had been written on the lease), and they kissed and kissed and kissed and kissed, and if Roy’s fingertips tracing up his collarbone didn’t take him one step closer to discovering religion, nothing would.
If he kept following that route, he’d—
“Crap,” Ed said, drawing back a little and trying to catch his breath. Roy’s eyelids lifted so slow, and his mouth was just… “I should—I have to go in to lab tomorrow, so…”
“On a Saturday?” Roy asked in the deep-purr-of-absolute-sex voice.
Ed’s will, entrails, and loins trembled in unison. “Y… eah. Yeah. I got stuff.”
“Stuff,” Roy said, but he was grinning. “Fair enough.” He lifted his hand and grazed his knuckles down along Ed’s jaw. “Can I see you again soon?”
Ed’s heart wouldn’t lay off skittering. It was really distracting. “You free tomorrow? There’s this falafel place on the other side of town that’s pretty much the shit.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Roy said, and kissed him a little more, and if there hadn’t been a ninety-eight percent probability that Al was watching through the window, Ed probably would’ve jumped him then and there, gearshift and insecurities both be damned.
The falafel was badass. Ed barely noticed. Roy was clearly some kind of extremely addictive drug disguised as a human being.
“So how the hell did you wind up at Has Beans anyway?” Ed asked around a mouthful of falafel, which Al would have slapped him upside the head for. It was a familiar dialogue: Who raised you, Brother? Uh, we pretty much raised ourselves, Al… Good point; that does explain a lot.
“I’ve been coming for years, actually,” Roy said, and he licked his fingertips, and Ed very nearly suffered the most pleasant bout of cardiac arrest ever recorded. “The office is just down Main—”
“Oh, yeah,” Ed said, which was significantly less creepy than I know; the address is on the card, and Al and I Google-stalked the hell out of you last night. Harvard Law, huh? Your LinkedIn somehow dances on the line between impressively informative and totally smarmy.
Roy set an elbow on the tabletop and swilled his cup of water a little bit, all without ever taking his eyes off of Ed. That demonstrated some pretty incredible spatial awareness, no two ways about it. “Riza only ever drinks tea,” he said. “I don’t know how she survives, but there it is. So I brought a coffee machine in right after we got started—crappy off-brand thing, but it got the job done… right up until three weeks ago, when it died on me suddenly and without warning. I used to stop by the shop after work and buy grounds, but I hadn’t had a chance to replace it yet, and I couldn’t exactly live without coffee, so… I cleared out ten minutes of my morning to swing by.” His grin went from amused super-hot model-type to amused super-hot Cheshire cat. “And then I discovered that weekday mornings at the shop meant seeing you, and replacing the coffee machine didn’t seem nearly so urgent.”
Was Ed blushing? Nah. No way. It was just… warm in here. And the heat was really localized. It was an HVAC glitch. That was all.
“A likely story,” he said. “You read that Yelp review about the time Tringham and I had an espresso shot contest and wanted to see for yourself, didn’t you?”
“Caught red-handed,” Roy said, grinning wider. “How did that turn out, by the way?”
“First things first,” Ed said, “we’d just gotten off the clock, and it was all comp drinks, so if anybody tells you we’re irresponsible, they’re full of shit. And nobody got hospitalized, although it was maybe kind of a close thing. And I couldn’t sleep for about twenty hours after that, three hours of which was Al lecturing me about caffeine overdose. Which is ridiculous, because you’d have to have something like eighty cups of coffee to OD on caffeine, and even I can’t do that, and the point is that I beat Tringham’s sorry ass anyway.”
Roy looked like he couldn’t contain his hilarity, and it was going to explode out of him any second now. “And someone Yelped this?”
“There’s video on YouTube,” Ed said. “It’s horrible. If the place wasn’t so short-staffed, we’d probably’ve gotten fired, even though we really weren’t doing anything wrong, and it was a slow day to start with.” He stirred the ice in his Pepsi with the straw, because, y’know, fluid dynamics. “For all of those reasons and a couple more—never doing that again.”
“How many shots did you have?” Roy asked.
“Eight,” Ed said. He paused. The memory was kind of… well, less hazy than blurry, like a motion blur. Like the recollections were all shot through with streaks of lightning. “Nine? I think it was nine.”
“Good Lord,” Roy said, still trying not to bust his ass laughing, which Ed supposed was a nice gesture or whatever. “I’ll have to look that up.”
“Me and my fat mouth,” Ed said, sitting back. He was careful not to dislodge his ankle from where it was touching Roy’s, though, because… because. “Okay, you’ve got to have an embarrassing work story, too, right?”
Roy gave him a grimace-y sort of grin. “More than one. But I know which one would be Maes’s favorite—when my first big case finally ended up in the courtroom, I bought a very nice new suit so I could make the best possible impression. But there was a power outage in the middle of the night, so my clock alarm went dead, and naturally I’d been up half the night panicking, so my brain was grasping for the extra sleep. I never even would have made it if Riza hadn’t called me an hour before I was supposed to be in front of the judge to ask if I’d left yet, because there’d been an accident two streets down from the courthouse.”
Ed couldn’t help that his sympathetic wince was tainted by a little bit of schadenfreude, right?
Roy sighed, not too discontentedly, all things considered. “I made it. By a hair. But I was frazzled, I hadn’t had a drop of coffee, and I hadn’t had a spare second to review my notes, so… I poured all of that emotion into my opening statement. I did my best Hamlet on the damn thing; I channeled all of the terror and the adrenaline right into it, and I barreled straight through like a berserker, and… my conclusion was greeted with absolute silence. Everyone was staring. I figured I must have been so brilliant I startled them all out of complacence and left them speechless, so I went and sat down with Riza again while the defendant’s lawyer delivered his, and I felt like I’d turned the day around by force.” He ran a hand through his hair, which did not help to subdue the searing tide of want coursing through Ed’s body at nothing more than the way his eyes gleamed. “That is, right up until the moment she leaned over and said ‘The tags on your suit are showing, one of your socks is purple, and your cowlick is a natural disaster.’”
Ed covered his mouth with one hand before he realized what he was doing.
“That was about my reaction, too,” Roy said with a slightly sheepish version of the usual magazine-cover grin. “We managed to wrestle the tags off before the defense had finished their opening statement, but the cowlick had to wait for a recess, and there was nothing to be done for the sock. Riza’s comment on the general state of affairs was that it was going to make me even more insufferably smug if we won in spite of me.”
“Did you?” Ed asked.
Roy winked. Goddamn, that should have been illegal.
“Of course,” he said. “I’m very good at getting what I want.”
The falafel got real interesting real fast, which only had a little bit of a tangential relation to the fact that Ed’s face was suddenly on fire.
Kissing in the car was starting to feel the best kind of familiar. Ed loved these seats. He loved that steering wheel. He loved this center console. These were the greatest cupholders in the world.
“How is next Friday for you?” Roy asked, breathlessly—breathless because Ed had taken his breath away, because Ed had a claim to him, because Ed had power over him, and that was a fact.
“Awesome,” Ed said. “Or I’ll make it awesome.” No schedule could hope to stand in his way right now. He would force the gels to set faster by glaring them into submission if he had to. “What time?”
Roy’s mouth on his throat reaffirmed his determination not to be in lab on Friday night, and also his love of life and the universe. “Would you like to say six?”
“Done.” Anything, anything, for one more flick of that tongue on his skin—
Roy’s warm breath unfurled past his throat. “Would you like to come to my place? I was thinking I could cook for you.”
Ed’s heart stumbled hard, and he couldn’t stop his whole body from freezing up at once. “Oh. I—sure. Okay. Yeah.”
Roy drew back, and his hands were so soft against Ed’s face, and his voice was even softer, and his eyes were so concerned. “Just a suggestion,” he said. “We don’t have to. We don’t have to do anything. Would you rather not? I know a thousand other restaurants I’d love to show you; let’s do that inst—”
Something rattled in and out of Ed’s ice-made skeleton. It seemed to be a breath.
“I just don’t want you not to want me anymore,” he said.
Silence like a black drape—like a funeral shroud; one fwump, and everything was still and cold and silent.
Roy’s face had gone marble-pale and enigmatic in the half-beams of the streetlamps. The sound of dumbass crickets filtered in to Ed’s ears, but he couldn’t have taken his eyes off Roy’s if his life had hinged on it.
“I’m sorry,” Roy said quietly after a moment, and Ed’s whole body was beating to a slow, monosyllabic pulse—what the fuck did you do, Ed, you dumb piece of shit? “I don’t know what you mean.”
This was the bad part. This was the part where he usually held off and held back and procrastinated and hid until they found out the hard way, and they recoiled, and it was never the same again. This was the part where the sweetness cracked open, and the dreck poured out, and the whole thing went bitter and decayed.
He cleared his throat. He swallowed. He scrounged up something like his voice. “I’m kind of more complicated than it looks like.”
Roy’s fingertips were still pressed gently to his cheeks and his jawline, and they shifted just a bit. “I’m still… I don’t—”
It was getting fucking impossible to look at him—his earnest fucking eyes and his genuine confusion; it was all going to funnel into disappointment, and if this was it, then at least Ed would be getting it over with before there was any time to scream about betrayal or misrepresentation or an omission as good as an outright lie—
“Here,” Ed said, and nudged Roy’s hands away, and took the back of the collar of his shirt in both hands and hauled it off over his head.
His hair swung down and settled, and he looked at the ball of cotton in his clenching fingers and watched the blood bleach out of his knuckles.
Fingertips again, softly, softly, dappling at the edge of the flesh that was still whole—right at the boundary line between what was clean and what was wrecked straight through.
“What happened?” Roy asked, and his voice was so gentle, but Ed couldn’t look, just couldn’t, just didn’t dare.
“We really needed money,” he said to the leather on the back of the seat. Nice leather. He didn’t belong in a car like this. “When we were kids, after Mom died, we were… So I got us crap jobs in this horrible factory, like some serious child-labor law shit, but we needed it, so… Al kept saying it was stupid, and of course he was right, but it was too late, and I was too stubborn, and… same old story. Couple months in, there was an earthquake, right—pretty mild, but… something in one of the biggest of the machines broke—like, snapped clean off; it got jarred just the right way—and there was this… saw, huge fucking circular saw, steel and all rusted, and I thought it was gonna hit Al, and…”
It sounded like something out of a shitty-ass gore-porn horror movie.
He’d never been able to watch those fucking things.
He swallowed. He couldn’t believe his fingers hadn’t fractured by now; he was holding his shirt so tight they should’ve broken.
“I got in the way,” he said. “It was my fucking fault we were there to start with, and he’s all I’ve ever had, and I didn’t even think about it. It wasn’t a choice; sometimes people say it was brave, but it wasn’t; you have to be conquering some kind of fear to be brave, but that was just… instinct. And it was selfish, too, because I did it so I wouldn’t have to lose him, but…”
He needed to shut his fucking mouth; like Roy gave a fuck about his dumbass piece of shit sob-story when it was standing between him and Well, that’s nice; now could you please get your damaged ass out of my vehicle?
“Anyway.” He cleared his throat; it was doing something real classy that made it feel like he was grinding gravel when he spoke. “It almost took my arm off. So… there’s this.”
Roy’s fingertips hesitated at the sick-shiny tip of one of the ridges. “Does it hurt?”
“The scar tissue doesn’t,” Ed said. If he focused on Roy’s hands, Roy’s wrists, Roy’s sleeves, he wouldn’t have to look at Roy’s face. “That’s just… dead, I guess, mostly. It tore the shit out of a nerve or two, though, when it happened, so… sometimes it’ll just hurt like hell out of nowhere, and I definitely feel it when I’ve been moving my arm too much. But that part’s just… ugly. Is all.”
The pad of Roy’s first finger skimmed over the outline of the worst scarring, where the stitches had pulled, and the skin had puckered, and the whole thing was like a maggot-white ravine streaked with blood-blister pink—a badge of shame and stupidity; a broad ribbon of grotesquerie; a—
“Do you really think that?” Roy asked, voice softer even than his careful fingertips.
Ed was not looking at anything now. “Think what?”
“That this makes you unattractive,” Roy said, and Ed had to look, and Roy’s eyes were fixed on his—deep-dark and so warm that an answering rush of blood rose in Ed’s cheeks just at the heat of them. “I don’t mean to dismiss your opinion, but I’m afraid that that is positively ridiculous.”
There were a few words choking in Ed’s throat, but he couldn’t drag any of them up to his tongue. His teeth caught the few sounds that surfaced from the tangle, and they withered in his mouth.
“Believe me,” Roy said. Ed felt like there would be thumbprints on his skin tomorrow; Roy’s touch was searing; Ed’s heart was fluttering with wounded-sparrow desperation underneath the spread of that beautiful hand. “It makes you more stunning—it does; don’t look like that. I understand you better now.” He leaned in; Ed’s breath snagged, caught, held, crystallized inside his chest. Roy’s mouth moved so, so slowly along the pale breadth of the scarring, upward, over his collarbone, to the top of his shoulder, where it was thickest and worst. “What I want is more of you.”
“Okay,” Ed said, maybe a little bit shakily, but nobody could prove it. “But this wasn’t what you were thinking.”
Roy’s mouth was under his ear, and something inside him was going positively fucking haywire from the combination of ticklish and turned on. “Why does that make it bad?”
“It’s not just this,” Ed said, not because he had mustered the requisite guts and gumption to be courageously straightforward, or anything, but because Roy made it feel so weirdly fucking safe somehow, in this stupid car with the stupid too-nice leather on its stupid seats, that the words were bubbling up out of him before he could pin them down. “I—this whole—structure thing fell, too, and it busted the fuck out of my knee, and I landed on top of Al, after all that, and he was in a coma for two days—a fucking—coma—and—I mean, we had Mom’s life insurance, which we weren’t supposed to touch, and our college funds, which we weren’t… and there were just so many fucking bills, and…”
Roy had sat back again, and his left hand had settled over the snarl of scars like it wasn’t even there; and the right was flattened against the side of Ed’s neck, and it was pretty much a miracle that the T-shirt Ed was still wringing the shit out of hadn’t ripped to shreds.
“And the Rockbells did everything they could, but they’re not made of money, for fuck’s sake, and—and physical therapy is so fucking expensive, and in the end we just had to keep getting jobs like that until we could legally get better ones, and we’ve just barely been scraping by on scholarships and elbow grease ever since, and he should’ve had a nice life, you know—Al should’ve, he deserves it, we were doing okay—except that I took it away. I did that; it’s my fault; I’m the reason he’s never had anything good in his life except—”
“Except you,” Roy said.
Ed realized, kind of late, that he hadn’t breathed in about forty seconds, and tears were climbing his throat, and this whole situation was fucking embarrassing, and who the hell was Roy Mustang, anyway? What the fuck gave him this magical ability to tear Ed’s walls all down without a single siege weapon—just by looking? Just by being there?
“I was going to say ‘except awesome coffee beans’,” Ed said, fighting to crush the quaver out of his voice. “We get a lot of those. And he says he likes his job, and I guess maybe he does. He works part-time at the Humane Society. Gets to play with cats.”
“Edward,” Roy said.
Ed was going to become the president of the United States someday just so that he could outlaw Roy articulating his name. There was a Constitutional amendment in order here; nobody should be able to liquefy his internal organs like that and get away with it.
“You,” Roy said, “are amazing.”
“Bullshit,” Ed said. “I’m a fuckup. I just told you; weren’t you listening? I can sling a pretty mean data set, though.”
“Don’t sell yourself—” Roy caught the look on Ed’s face despite the weak lighting. “…don’t undersell yourself. Have you stepped back and looked at your life lately? It’s not where you start out, Ed. How old were you when you graduated college?”
Ed rubbed his eye. Because it was itching, obviously. Not for any other reason. Probably he was getting pink-eye or some shit. That’d be just his fucking luck. “Nineteen. But I started early. Lots of people do that.”
“Statistically significant ‘lots’?” Roy asked. “And how many of those leap right into a PhD? And how many of those aspire to the sorts of things that you do?”
Ed eyed him. He’d gotten variations on this pep talk theme from Al enough times to know where this was going. “Plenty.”
Roy’s grin softened, and then it sharpened, and then it tilted, and then he cupped his hand around the base of Ed’s skull and curled his fingers into Ed’s hair, tugging just hard enough that Ed’s whole scalp tingled, and the electricity of it sparked right into his veins.
“How many of them kiss as well as you do?” he asked.
Okay, so Al had never said that. The flush felt like a fever. “Jesus, wh—I mean, I haven’t exactly done a survey.”
“I’ve conducted my share,” Roy said, leaning in, touching just their foreheads together at first, and then letting his nose brush Ed’s cheek, and then letting his mouth graze the corner of Ed’s just slightly— “And I don’t know if I’ve ever met a single person who attracted me and intrigued me and challenged me all at once the way you do; it’s extraordinary—”
“Shut up,” Ed said.
“You shut up,” Roy said, and his eyes were alight, and he was grinning like a maniac, and that shouldn’t have been hot. “I have an obscene amount of legal training. I’ll be the judge of whether you’re a fuckup or not.”
Ed just couldn’t fight the urge to lean into his hands anymore; it just felt so goddamn motherfucking nice. “If you’re trying to sweet-talk your way into my pants, it’s totally working.”
“That wasn’t my primary motivation,” Roy said, kissing him once, and then again, and then again, so light that Ed’s body tipped itself forward in a thoughtless desperation to get more. “But I’m not about to complain if that’s one of the fringe benefits.”
Ed had to release his own shirt at last to grab a fistful of Roy’s and drag on it. “Will you quit teasing, asshole?”
Roy’s eyes were so wicked you could write them a musical. “No,” he said, utterly unrepentant, but then he dragged Ed back in towards him to apologize.
God, but kissing this fucking man was a blinding kind of heaven and a special kind of hell.
Roy’s tongue in his mouth, Roy’s teeth on his lip, Roy’s hands skimming down his sides so slow and so smooth that his blood beat harder like it was trying to seep out through his skin to meet the touch—
Roy’s fingertips reached the top of his jeans and trailed, devastatingly leisurely, around the front to his belt buckle.
Something spiraled through Ed’s brain like a scrap of ash from a mounting fire and settled, very gently, in the forefront of his mind.
“Fuck,” he breathed into the next kiss. “We—better—can I give you a rain check?”
“Mm,” Roy said, which sounded vaguely affirmative, but it was hard to tell whether it was Yes, I intuit your point and fully understand; I’m glad we had this talk-affirmative, or more like Yes, I would like to keep licking your pulse point and gripping your hipbones while you convulse under my hands from the enormity of the pleasure.
“Al’s probably watching through the window,” Ed said—primarily to clarify, but also in the hopes of killing his own boner before he had to walk inside. “He probably freaked the fuck out when he saw me take my shirt off. He’s probably going to text me in a se—”
Roy’s hand had just settled on his thigh, so they both startled and looked down as Ed’s phone buzzed in his pocket.
“How did you do that?” Roy asked.
“Elric brother telepathy,” Ed said. “Also, the wisdom of experience.”
He fished the phone out, trying not to tremble too obviously under the less-urgent-but-still-seriously-gorgeous ongoing ministrations of Roy’s hands drifting over his torso.
You should at least move to the backseat, Al had texted. You’ll get weird bruises. But I wouldn’t know, because I’m already in bed and have no idea what you’re up to parked right out on the street where anyone could see you. Goodnight!
“What a douchebag,” Ed said, turning the phone screen for Roy to read. “I love him.”
Roy grinned, though there was a weird second layer to it that Ed couldn’t parse before it vanished. “Let me guess,” he said. “You have nosy neighbors, too.”
“The schnozziest,” Ed said.
“I suppose I’ll just have to waste away in longing, then,” Roy said, rather more cheerfully than the average Brontë heroine. He caught a handful of Ed’s hair again and tugged him into one last brain-blowing, skin-blazing, hormone-ravaging, system-wrecking kiss. When he drew back, his eyes were supernova-deep and bright and cataclysmic. “Goodnight, Edward.”
“You gotta stop calling me that,” Ed said before he could stop himself. “Fucks with my brain so bad.” He yanked his shirt back on in record time and then fumbled for the door handle while Roy laughed in a way that was not apologetic at all. “G’night.”
The cool air was a fucking miracle on his skin. Less miraculous was the way the skin in question prickled anyway, because he could feel Roy’s eyes on him all the way up the walk and to the door—not a bad look, like the ones he usually got when his jeans were tight and his shirt was short. Sort of—protective.
Definitely protective, if the way Roy didn’t rev the engine and drive off until Ed had unlocked the door, waved with his face on fire, slipped inside, and closed it again was any indication.
I'm 27,000 words into the sequel/next part to this, and I have no idea whether I'm going to be able to finish it or not. O__o
If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about my writing process, consider that the reason this chapter doesn't start with a real-time/now-timeline scene is because… I had no idea I was going to divide this thing up like that until I did it. X'D
I AM MAKING THIS SHIT UP AS I GO ALONG, GUYS. ._____.'''''
The next morning, he had a text message by the time he woke up.
What’s your favorite flower?
Ed didn’t really have to think about it—which was good, because he’d only just bested his gritty eyelids, and thinking wasn’t especially feasible just yet.
Not having thought about it had its disadvantages, however: for instance, not having wondered about Roy’s motive before he replied. Was he about to get a flytrap bouquet? Al would kill him. And feed him to them. Actually, that would work out pretty well.
There wasn’t a whole lot of time to fret about it before Roy texted back.
I must remember that I can’t use lines on you. I was going to say “That’s silly; you’re far more beautiful than they are”, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect here…
Ed was going to ignore the part of that text that was stupid, and which may or may not have made his heart squeeze in a slightly alarming way.
what’s wrong with venus flytraps?? they’re way better than normal flowers because they’re like a pet as well as a plant. i told Al he could get one instead of a kitten but he gave me the brother-you-are-a-cretin look and said “thank you for the suggestion”. which always means “no”.
He still thought he was right.
I see your point, Roy sent, but if he’s looking for something he can snuggle with, I don’t imagine a Venus flytrap fits the bill.
Ed rolled his eyes as hard as he could without them hurting.
taking Al’s side in an argument is my #1 turnoff. JUST FYI
Roy was nothing if not quick on the uptake; Ed had to give him that.
Oh dear. I believe you misread the intention of my last text, which was to say that I absolutely agree with you on all counts, no exceptions, no questions asked, no holds barred… I’m so very clever to be dating someone who’s always right, aren’t I?
Ed couldn’t help snickering. He couldn’t help it.
good start, he sent back. keep talkin’
The phone buzzed so fast he kind of had to wonder how often Roy texted, if he was this deft a hand at the whole thing.
If I were to start waxing poetic about you, he’d said, I’d probably never stop, and I’m not sure it would be an entirely pleasant experience on anyone’s part, since I’m what you might call “a seriously crap poet”, no matter how sincere my motivations.
So maybe Ed was enjoying torturing him just a little.
Obviously Roy was enjoying it, too, or he wouldn’t be putting up with it; the dude was clearly smart enough and retort-oriented enough to shut Ed down in two sentences if he really wanted to. In Ed’s admittedly limited but still pretty telling experience, lawyers were like that.
Not as cute as you, my dear, Roy said. May I call you that? ‘Idol of my worship’ is a bit long. I think Venus flytraps are rather fitting, actually; you’re so enthralling that it’s starting to be dangerous; I can’t pay a moment of attention to anything else. Are you carnivorous?
Ed buried his face in his pillow, like the universe wouldn’t know he was grinning like a stupid fucking kid. Unfuckingbelievable. Sunday morning, and a stream of texts to a gorgeous guy who was talking to him like Ed was the one slumming it here. When had his life turned into this?
no pet names, he sent. they’re barf-gross. i’m an omnivore do your homework. although if we’re still on for friday maybe i’ll see how you taste
He shoved his face back into the pillow, punching the corner to make a divot big enough to let him watch the phone with one eye. He—or the he that he knew, the Edward Elric he was familiar with—didn’t write shit like that. He didn’t flirt, or at least not well, or recognizably; he didn’t invite shit like that; he didn’t… seduce.
Partly that was because he’d never had the confidence, because he’d never been able to be sure that somebody wanted him to, and partly… he’d never really been this hungry for it before.
Yeah, sex was great, and satisfying, and gave him an adrenaline high and an endorphin chaser like a motherfucking tidal wave, but… asking for it always felt weird, somehow. Like he was stumbling through a phonetical pronunciation of some ancient curse-spell that everybody was just supposed to know.
…well, sort of like that.
Maybe Roy just wouldn’t text back—ever. Maybe Roy would say something like Why would you assume that that was my intention? Maybe Roy’d play along for a while and then just never pick him up.
Then again, maybe Roy would text back inside of twenty seconds.
Oh, Lord. You’re going to be the ruination of me. Do you happen to have a time machine? I’d really, really like it to be Friday immediately, if that sounds all right.
Stupid Roy. Stupid, stupid, perfect, gorgeous Roy.
no can do, time machine gas prices are way too high in this county. also i’ve got shit in lab hahaha
He was grinning like such a goddamn nerd.
But if we had a time machine, we could come back -- and drop you off at the lab doors, no?
God. Could every Sunday start like this? Could every weekend morning be a big old mess of dozing and half-dreaming and smiling soppily at his stupid phone?
i’m glad you’re nerdy enough to think of it like that but the bad news is i haven’t figured out how to alter time yet
He was going to get up in another minute. Honestly. Just as soon as he was done losing his mind over his… boyfriend. His boyfriend. That was the word for it; that was what this was.
Let me know if you make any progress, Roy sent back. I’d be very interested to figure out if I could make time spent with you last forever.
Ed was going to kill him, and then kiss him, and then maybe kiss him some more.
Russell was back on Monday, not especially bright-eyed or bushy-tailed—slightly red-eyed, actually, with a neon-orange plastic band around his wrist.
“Gonna go out on a limb here and guess you had a good weekend,” Ed said.
“Yup,” Russell said.
Russell yawned massively and didn’t put his hand over it. Then he went over to the espresso machine, pulled three shots, and downed them in succession.
Ed would like the record to show that he had tried to have a conversation with Russell fucking Tringham, and it wasn’t his fault that the bastard wouldn’t bite.
Ed banged a couple dishes around in the sink and then felt better. He’d get his vengeance by just having better weekends than Russell, all the fucking time, and casually implying as much but never giving any details. That was a rational, mature way of handling the situation, right?
“Rational” and “mature” tended to mean something slightly different in Ed’s brain at 4:45 AM when he hadn’t had any caffeine yet.
For all that Russell was even more determinedly douchebaggy than ever, there was enough restocking to do that seven fifty crept up way faster than Ed expected.
Like a goddamn demigod descending—
The door opened. Roy swept in. Choruses of angels hit a high note and twanged their little golden harps.
Ed swallowed hard and drummed his fingers on the counter by the register. He was going to play it cool if it killed him, damn it; he was.
“Hey,” he said to Roy’s beautiful-smug-perfect fucking face, which was contented and amused and… amazing. Was the thing. “What are you in the mood for?”
“You,” Roy said.
There was a one-beat pause while Ed’s heart stuttered, and heat flooded violently under every centimeter of his skin.
“…sual will be just fine,” Roy said, with a huge, cheesy, horrible, blush-worsening wink. “Just a coffee.”
Ed cleared his throat, and his hands jittered back into motion to tap the register keys. “Sure thing. Hey, will you look at that?”
Roy blinked, but his calm-neutral-suave face didn’t give way to any surprise. “At what?”
“Coffee’s down to the low, low price of free-fifty,” Ed said, “just for today. Ain’t that funny?”
Roy’s smile curved slow and staggering, like the perfect fucking sunset. “Are you comping my coffee?”
“Maybe,” Ed said, slinging a cup onto the counter. “Now get out of here; you’re gonna be late.”
Roy’s eyes darted sideways so swiftly and subtly that even Ed barely noticed. He lowered his voice and leaned in just a little, so Russell must’ve been fucking around with the grinder or something. Ed couldn’t quite bring himself to tear his gaze away from Roy long enough to find out.
“I owe you one,” Roy said. “And I intend to repay it. With interest.”
Weird how Roy could make words sound like other words. Ed had never heard the word ‘interest’ ring so strongly with the implication of ‘amazing sex on Friday’ in his life.
“Cool,” Ed managed in a very faint impression of his regular voice. “Um. Have a good one.”
“You, too,” Roy said. He tipped the cup at Ed and grinned just one more time, because the cartilage in Ed’s knees just wasn’t wobbly enough. “Thanks.”
“You bet, “Ed said.
Roy added his condiments, stirred, waved with a terrible-wonderful smirk, and slipped out the door.
“What the hell’s with you?” Russell asked from far too close to Ed’s shoulder.
It wasn’t his fault he practically jumped out of his skin and left it pooling on the floor; that was the only sane reaction to suddenly finding a total dickwad way, way inside your personal bubble, just about breathing in your ear.
“Nothing,” Ed said. “I was just giving a guy some coffee. Y’know, like I get paid to do.”
He thought that was pretty damn smooth, thank you very much. Dumbass Russell would never suspect a thing. He finished off the brilliant execution by taking a swig of his own coffee and raising an eyebrow at dumbass Russell over the rim.
Dumbass Russell said, “Yeah, right. You were eyefucking him like there was no tomorrow.”
The downside was that Russell didn’t help clean the coffee that Ed spat everywhere off of the counter.
The upside was that Russell didn’t help clean the coffee off of the counter because he was in the bathroom, trying to scrub it off of his stupid face and equally stupid shirt.
Ed regretted nothing.
Not even the dragging leaden weights of anticipation could stop Friday altogether, though they damn well tried.
By five o’clock, Ed had changed his clothes twice, decided that he refused to think about buttons versus T-shirts and the pros and cons of tight jeans any more, and collapsed onto the couch to will time to pass faster.
Al wandered over and leaned against the back of the couch. Ed peeked around the arm he’d draped over his face to confirm his suspicion—because somehow you could just tell, from the quality of the air and the vibe, or some hippie bullshit like that—that Al was drinking tea from an actual teacup again. Pinky out and everything. On anyone else, it would have been pretentious asshattery of the highest degree, but Al made it cute somehow.
“You’re a bit tragic right now, Brother,” Al said.
Ed adjusted his arm to cover his eyes again; the ceiling lights were stupid. “Shakespeare-tragic, or Nicholas Sparks-‘tragic’?”
“Bit of both,” Al said. He sipped his tea. “This one’s different, isn’t it?”
That question was definitely getting into rom-com territory, and Ed didn’t want any part of it. “I dunno. I guess.”
“Brother,” Al said.
Ed made him wait through a giant, melodramatic sigh to get his stupid answer. “Well—I mean, yeah, it… like, it’s not just that I want to jump him on any available mostly-flat surface—I mean, I do—I mean, you didn’t hear me say that—I—but mostly I just… wanna be around him. You know? Just… nearby, even. It’s just—nice.”
There was a mostly-silence for several moments except for Al sipping his tea. “Have you ever felt like that before?”
Ed laid his arm down at his side, then lifted it again and folded both hands on his chest and tilted his head to avoid the light. “Kind… of. Kind of. Yeah. For a while. With Ling.”
Al was silent for a few seconds before—very quietly—he said, “Oh.”
Because Ed and Ling had been great best friends—the best of best friends; the greatest partners in crime; two peas in a terrible, wonderful, unstoppable pod; and that love had been granite-strong and bedrock-deep.
But when the awkward too-long touches turned to red-faced kisses and helpless, hormone-jolted fumbling in the laundry room—when they shifted letters back and forth and tried boyfriend and then each other’s skin on addled, clumsy tongues—when they met in the middle of the shared hesitation and burned it to the ground; when they built up towers of what-if futures on the ashes and made promises that no one could have hoped to keep—when they gave themselves permission to be jealous, and possessive, and then vengeful, and then cruel—
When they’d sucked each other in so deep and clung so tight and turned each other’s worlds so far inside-out that prying and snarling and counting points and holding grudges and gouging at each other started to seem like affection—
Ed couldn’t deny him anything, because what if he left? What if he crumpled Ed up like greasy tinfoil and tossed him aside, and that was it? Al was an hour away and buried in his own damn course-load, and Ed didn’t have any other friends; he needed someone; he needed to be needed; he needed to be loved. He had to be important to somebody, and he would disintegrate without another person’s support. He couldn’t leave. He couldn’t say no—not to anything; not to stupid parties or late nights or lousy sex or horrible, silent, miserable dates he couldn’t even afford. They didn’t kid around anymore. They didn’t laugh; they didn’t joke; they didn’t play; it was all just… business. Necessity. A crutch.
It was marginally better than being alone.
The friendship failed, under all that weight—shattered beneath the strain, into jagged little shards of broken little dreams, and Ed knew in his gut that it was over long before Ling closed the door and leaned against it and looked at him with eyes that knew it, too.
I’m going home, he said. Back to China. The week after graduation—maybe just for a while; maybe forever; I’m not sure yet, and… I want you to come with me.
And Ed said, No.
Ling smiled like the path of a tornado had ravaged a city and spared a flowerbed. I didn’t think so. You were never meant to be enclosed.
Ed said, What’s that supposed to mean?
Ling said, I caged you. I never meant to, and I hope you know that, but I did. And you fought me, and we’re both a bloody mess for that, but it’s all right. I’m sorry. I hope you know I’m sorry. I want good things for you—good things to happen to you. I wanted to be one of them, but it seems now that I haven’t been.
There was a universe collapsing in Ed’s chest. Are you breaking up with me?
No, Ling said. I’m breaking you out, Ed. I’m setting you free.
At risk of blinding himself with the lights, Ed looked over at Al.
Al had almost swum to China and murdered Ling after the first time Ed accidentally let slip about some shitty thing he’d said that had made Ling say something even shittier.
They’d been stupid kids. They’d done it to themselves; they’d fed off each other; they’d made it worse, because they were constantly one-upping one another’s crappy low blows and lash-outs. They’d been idiots, and Ed had learned a lot of shit about relationships the hard way, by finding out what didn’t work at all.
Al had almost murdered him when he’d sent Ling a Facebook message two years later that said hey hope you’re okay.
But all Ling had ever come back with was Yes, thank you and a great big pile of radio silence, so Al had let him live.
The whole thing still felt like road rash on his soul some days, some nights. They could’ve been something great, if they hadn’t been so stupid, if they hadn’t been themselves—but then what was the point?
It just sucked. That was all. It just sucked, and he’d been trying not to think about it, because sometimes this shit started out so great and then went sour, and if Roy was another Ling—
He’d dragged his battered psyche through it once, but he didn’t know if he could take that shit again.
“This one’s different,” Al said, softly, not a question this time.
Ed forced some words out: “Hope so.”
Al took a deep breath, let it out, swirled his tea, sipped, and then stared into it. “The way he looked at you… I mean, no, that’s not any guarantee of anything; it’s not insurance; it’s not a promise, but… Well, he cares. A lot.”
Ed rubbed his face with both hands. “Guess that’s something.”
Al stood there for another moment, and then he walked off into the kitchen.
“Where are you going?” Ed asked.
“To make you some coffee,” Al said. “I’m not sending you over there for date night all mopey and tired; we’re going to make this work.”
Ed couldn’t help grinning. “Oh, are we?”
“You bet your butt we are,” Al said.
“Hi,” Ed said, yanking the door open before Roy could raise his hand to knock.
“Good evening,” Roy said, and he was grinning, and Ed was grinning, and Al made an overstated gag noise in the background, but Ed didn’t really give a shit. “You look wonderful.”
Ed tried to remember what he’d finally put on, but his mind had gone completely white-out-snowstorm blank, and he ended up having to look down at himself anyway. “Nah. Whatever. You look great.”
Roy’s grin broadened a little bit. “You’re much too kind.”
Ed scuffed his foot on the threshold a little, which probably looked even dumber than it felt.
Al coughed loudly. “Ed, why don’t you step outside so that you lovebirds can stop letting the bugs in?”
“There aren’t any bugs,” Ed said automatically.
Roy stepped back and swept an arm out towards the car. “Shall we?”
“Guess we better,” Ed said. “Before Al kicks me out on the curb for inviting imaginary bugs into the h—”
Al shoved him out onto the step and closed the door.
“Hate you!” Ed shouted.
“Love you, too!” Al shouted back.
Roy just kept beaming at him.
“What’s so funny?” Ed asked. “No, don’t answer that. Hey, you promised me food. I’m holding you to that, okay?”
“I blitzed the grocery store last night,” Roy said, beeping the locks on that stupid-awesome Mustang. “Would you like to help cook? You don’t have to, of course; I just thought… it might be fun.”
“You sure you wanna hand me a knife?” Ed asked, darting to the passenger door before Roy could try to open it for him, at which point Ed would be obligated to enact a forcible removal the offending hand.
“I imagine that you work with extremely expensive equipment and dangerous chemicals on a daily basis,” Roy said. “I also imagine that you were perfectly capable of handling a scalpel when it came to dissections in school, because you were focused at the time.”
Ed dropped into his seat and gave Roy an assessing look. “You sure you’re really a lawyer?” he said. “Not some disguised psychiatrist lulling me into a false sense of security so they can write a fucking book about my neuroses?”
“I would never,” Roy said, meeting his eyes with a faint but somehow-not-at-all-mocking kind of smile. “That’s a promise.”
Ed was fighting his face’s impulse to smile back. Roy seemed to have that effect on him. It was seriously fucking obnoxious. “Yeah, well… okay. Food it is. I hope you bought the whole store out; I’m starving.”
Roy gunned the engine and slipped on his sunglasses, and damn, if Ed wasn’t the luckiest son of a bitch in the whole stupid world, somehow. “Let’s see what we can do.”
Ed’s heart was banging so hard he thought he’d choke on it as they drove past downtown, past the university, and out into the cute little hilly residential streets. You just never knew, was the thing. You just never knew when somebody who seemed perfectly normal was, in fact, a master actor—when somebody you thought was awesome was a masquerading psychopath. And yeah, Al was going to be texting him in a matter of hours asking how he was. Yeah, probability was on Ed’s side, after all the odds he’d stacked. But there wasn’t any signed, sealed certificate stating that he wouldn’t end up in individually-shrink-wrapped dismembered pieces in an industrial freezer in Roy Mustang’s garage.
As in, the garage they were pulling into right now, which was part of a cute, narrow townhouse with pale gray paint and white shutters on a little side-street cul-de-sac.
Ed eagle-eyed it as Mustang parked. No big-ass fucking freezer in sight. That was a start. Plus if you got to thinking about the fact that serial killers probably gauged their parking jobs by driving up to orange tennis balls hung on strings from the ceiling just like everybody else, the prospect of living ended up too scary to contemplate.
It was just different—being in public with somebody, and setting foot inside their house, alone, unchaperoned, unsupervised, unseen. It was different, and Ed’s gut trusted Roy pretty damn fully, but dealing with his damn paranoid nerves was a whole ’nother ballgame. One where the ball was a sea urchin on fire, and the bat was a rusted crowbar that was probably going to give him tetanus.
The problem was that, in his head, there were pretty much two outcomes for the trajectory of tonight—one where Roy chopped Ed into little pieces and buried them in the backyard, or maybe sprinkled them over dessert; and one where they had glorious, mind-blowing sex all over this cutesy townhouse. And both of those were nerve-wracking. And Al had made him coffee just an hour ago, which was really not helping with his hyperactive imagination and overproducing adrenal glands.
Jesus, he was a wreck. Maybe it was for the best if he accidentally torpedoed the living hell out of tonight; Roy shouldn’t be stuck dating a fuckup this colossal under any circumstances. It just didn’t make sense. It wasn’t even. It wasn’t really… right.
“Come on in,” Roy said, holding the door from the garage to the front hall. “Would you like the two-minute-and-thirty-second tour, or shall we get down to business?”
Ed swallowed. Funny, his throat was kind of dry. “Does ‘business’ in this case mean ‘food’?”
“I think that answers my question,” Roy said. “I hope rosemary chicken sounds appealing.”
“It sounds like food,” Ed said. “Done deal.”
Roy looked at him like he was made of sunshine and rainbows and little brightly-colored butterflies, all cooped up in a vague sort of person-form, and Ed couldn’t bring himself to find anything even remotely serial-killer-ish about that facial expression. He didn’t want to jinx it, but he couldn’t help thinking that he might—he might, this might—be safe.
Especially since Roy kept handing him the knives.
It turned out that cooking with Roy was kind of… enjoyable. There were about a billion things to slice and dice and stir around the bottoms of pots and pans, and Roy had elected to include mashed potatoes in tonight’s culinary magnum opus, so Ed didn’t even really care what the rest of it tasted like. It didn’t shake his longstanding belief that the only food-making tools a human being required were a microwave and a mug or two of tap water—with which you could make both hot chocolate and Cup Noodles, which meant you were set for life—but it was interesting. It was kind of fun. Just being with Roy was fun—elbow-to-elbow at the counter, trading stupid quips and even stupider vegetable puns. It was nice. Roy had a puppy calendar hanging on the pantry door, and his dishtowels were all an uneven light pink, like he’d accidentally washed them with something red a couple of years ago. He had a really cool whale-shaped can opener that operated in a weird and seriously awesome way to stop you from cutting yourself open on the edge of the tin, and it was all Ed could do not to stop sous-cheffing and take the mechanisms apart; if Winry had been there, the damn thing wouldn’t have stood a chance.
It was just… nice. All of it was nice. And the peek into Roy’s inner sanctum didn’t seem to make him guarded; even when Ed ribbed him for having literally twenty kinds of tea lined up on the shelf, first in alphabetical order and then by brand so that Twinings’s assam came after Bigelow’s, Roy just… smiled. He smiled at Ed an awful lot, seemed like.
Roy slid the foil-lined pan bearing the labored-over chicken into the oven, closed the door, checked the heat, set the timer, and stood back. He put his hands on his hips. One of them still had an oven mitt (one hand, not one hip). He looked ridiculous, and Ed wanted to kiss his brains out. “Well. I hope that wasn’t too excruciating. I’m afraid we do have a few minutes to wait—would you like that tour now?”
“Yeah,” Ed said. “Yeah, let’s do it.”
Roy either didn’t hear the extremely subtle come-on in that incredibly sophisticated innuendo, or he chose to ignore it, because he just abandoned the mitt and sauntered out of the kitchen, heading over into the little dining room nook-thing. “Not much to do, really; it’s all fairly self-explanatory…”
“How do you keep the plants alive?” Ed asked. “I suck at plants.”
Roy grinned. “It’s just regular watering.”
“I tried that,” Ed said. “Winry gave me a plant for Christmas once—she said she was trying to bring out my ‘nurturing instincts’, and Al laughed so hard he almost passed out. The plant lasted, like, two weeks.”
“Maybe I just have a green thumb,” Roy said, beckoning him on into the living room. “I’ve never been accused of being ‘nurturing’, so that can’t be it.”
“Huh,” Ed said.
“Would you like to watch a movie later?” Roy asked. He opened the cabinet next to the TV—the seriously nice TV, it had to be noted. A cursory glance confirmed Ed’s dual suspicions: firstly, that Roy had alphabetized his poor, defenseless DVDs just as meticulously as the teas; and secondly, that Roy owned nothing but dumb blockbuster movies and what people called the Classics.
It struck him after a second that there was an exception to that—nowhere in three shelves did he see a real war movie, no matter how famous or critically beloved.
“Let me guess,” he said to cover the really weird churn in his stomach, which must have been showing through on his face. “‘Casablanca’ is your favorite.”
“I will confess a great weakness for Captain Renault,” Roy said, “but if I had to pick a favorite… I wouldn’t be the first to say that anyone who doesn’t enjoy ‘Amélie’ can’t possibly have a soul.”
“Then we should watch that,” Ed said. “But first.”
Roy blinked at him, receptively.
So Ed grabbed his lapels and dragged him down and kissed him.
Goddamn, Roy Mustang led a charmed life—or maybe he was the single most brilliant advance planner on the face of the planet. He’d been doing a honey glaze (whatever the fuck “glaze” meant; Ed figured a viscous yellow liquid is a viscous yellow liquid no matter which way you slice it) to go with the rosemary on the chicken, and he’d been taste-testing it, and he got it on his fingertips and licked it off and ruined Ed’s life some more, and the point was that he tasted like honey. Honey—or viscous yellow liquid, or something gooey and insubstantial—also seemed to be replacing the cartilage in Ed’s knees.
It would’ve been really stupid if he just sort of collapsed on the floor in the middle of a perfectly good—of a perfectly perfect—makeout session, so he reverted to Plan B, which entailed tightening his grip on Roy’s shirt and using it to drag the man over to the couch.
Couches were an entirely reasonable place to collapse. Better yet, it was a freakin’ excellent couch, smooth-worn black leather and squishier than you would’ve thought; better even than that, Roy planted both hands on the back and leaned down to follow Ed’s trajectory as he dropped, so that their mouths barely parted before Ed’s ass hit the cushion. Roy hiked one knee up next to his for leverage, and then one of those gorgeous hands was curling into his hair again, and Ed still wasn’t sure there was such a thing as paradise, but Roy Mustang’s couch was looking seriously damn close.
The only problem with Plan B was that the details of it—well, the details of everything—sort of started to get progressively hazier the longer Roy kept his tongue in Ed’s mouth and his hand in Ed’s hair. Ed sacrificed half his grasp on Roy’s shirt in favor of scoping out his collarbones, which were, of course, as mind-blowingly amazing as all the other parts of him. The next logical step was to start undoing the buttons of his shirt—turquoise-blue kind of shirt today; it was an okay color on its own, made much more than okay by its proximity to Roy’s skin—and then commence examining the other features of his torso. The dog tags swung loose; Ed was vaguely aware that their mouths had separated, and Roy’s was traveling down the side of his neck, and he couldn’t get a full breath into his lungs for the life of him.
And that was the thing that decided him, in the end—the thing that quieted the trailing wisps and impulses fluttering around his stomach like so many sad old ghosts. Roy was so good. Roy felt so good. Roy was so good to him.
He got a blurry half-glimpse of framed pictures on the mantel and an incredibly well-maintained phonograph, which was almost—but not quite—enough to distract him from the wonderful task of dragging the rest of Roy’s shirt buttons loose. Thank God the bastard wasn’t one of those mega-classy sorts of guys who always wore an undershirt beneath an Oxford—or maybe he usually was, except when he was trying to be stupidly provocative because he was going out with Ed. Thank God he’d taken off the tie he’d had on this morning—white with teal stripes and great against his complexion, but way too complicated for Ed to have managed untangling right about now. Thank God he was bringing his other knee up onto the couch, straddling Ed’s thighs, kissing Ed’s throat so soft and hot and beautiful that it was ecstasy, and Ed could happily have died—
Well… maybe not that. He definitely wanted to see this through. Then he could die.
Well, no, he couldn’t; there was Al to consider, for one thing; and all his lab shit, for another—nobody else was going to run his experiments with the maddeningly meticulous iron fist that he did. And there were early mornings at the beach, and late nights laughing at bad TV with Al and Winry, and upcoming issues of Nature, and star charts, and tadpoles, and flowers growing through cement. There were lots of reasons to live, when you started to think about it. Making out with Roy was fast becoming one of them.
Roy’s hands needed a shrine or some shit; Ed would worship at it every goddamn day—the one that wasn’t buried in his hair and tugging just hard enough was slinking down his side, and then the fingertips were underneath the hem of his T-shirt, warmly skating on his skin—
“I meant to demonstrate restraint,” Roy murmured against the underside of his jaw, breath against his ear, eyelashes grazing past his cheek, “at least until dessert.”
“Best-laid plans and shit,” Ed managed.
The faint chuckle resonated in Roy’s chest and vibrated right on through to Ed’s, and it was all he could do not to wail. “And I meant for this to happen in the bedroom. I washed the sheets.”
“What,” Ed said, “so we could get ’em dirty?”
“Well,” Roy said, and bit his earlobe, and ho—ly—fuck— “of course it sounds silly when you say it like that.”
“Just—s’a bit— c… counterproductive.” Was that his voice? Jesus. This wasn’t fair; this just wasn’t fair.
Roy’s searching hand pushed his T-shirt upward, palm skimming slowly along his side, his ribs, around his shoulder-blade—then catching the hem again and tugging it off, flipping the whole damn thing inside-out in the process; it pulled on Ed’s hair for a second and then slipped free, and then it was on the floor, and had there ever been a more satisfying onomatopoeia than that particular fwip?
Roy’s fingertips settled on his left shoulder, pressing in just enough to dimple the skin as he started to trace the colored lines coming down the side towards Ed’s bicep. “I meant to ask about this the other night, but I thought perhaps it should wait.”
“There’s not a whole lot to it,” Ed said, which… was… not exactly a lie. “It’s a caduceus, only one snake’s DNA, and one’s RNA, and the wings on the staff are the same design as the ones on my mom’s gravestone. That’s why it’s more of a cross than a staff, too; I dunno why the fuck she had that in her will as what she wanted on her headstone, but… it must’ve meant something to her that she just never explained, I guess. Anyway. Al’s got one in the same place. It’s sort of… our commitment to science, and to beating what killed her, so maybe someday some other kids won’t have to go through all the shit that we did.”
Roy was looking at him like he was an alien. A good kind of alien, maybe, but definitely something foreign that he didn’t really understand.
“Every time I peel a layer back,” he said, “there’s just more tragedy underneath.”
“Nice to meet you, Pot,” Ed said, catching the dog tags hanging in between them. “I’m Kettle.”
Roy smiled. “Touché.”
“Besides,” Ed said. “All that shit is over.” He pulled a little bit, meaningfully, not hard enough to hurt Roy’s neck with the tension on the chain. “So whaddya say we quit chit-chatting, and you get back to trying to make me cum in my pants?”
“But they’re such nice pants,” Roy said, trying—unsuccessfully—to fight down a huge-ass fucking grin. Both of his hands settled on Ed’s hips and drew slowly, slowly down along the tops of his thighs, thumbs sweeping the insides with just enough force to make the skin there tingle like he’d been zapped with a fucking Tesla arc. “Although I must admit they have a rather cruel habit of clinging to your ass so beautifully that it’s torture trying not to tear them off and get that close myself.”
Ed’s face was probably stoplight red. Hell, every inch of him probably was. Oh, well. “You been staring at my ass, Mustang?”
“Hardly staring,” Roy said, hands sliding back up to Ed’s hips. “More like… consistent observation. Consistent reverent observation. Very devout. I’m sure the church would sanction it.”
“I’ll bet,” Ed said dryly, but the laugh was wriggling in his lungs, and he couldn’t keep it down.
Roy kissed him again, which solved that problem—and again, and again, and Ed broke away just long enough to shove that okay-colored-but-now-sort-of-in-the-way blue shirt off of his shoulders, and it rippled kind of awesomely en route to the floor. Roy made a soft, low noise very deep in his chest—almost like a hum, or a purr—and the dog tags swung forward to start tapping against Ed’s sternum as Roy leaned in and nibbled so, so gently at the side of his neck—
Fucking hell; at the rate this was going, he was going to have to dig up enough collared shirts of his own to last him a week while the bruises faded.
He must have tensed, because Roy paused, breathing damply on his skin; goosebumps chased his pulse all the way to his fingertips.
“Is that all right?” Roy asked.
“It’s friggin’ great,” Ed managed, with minimal gasping. “Just…”
“Ah,” Roy said. “Of course—pardon me; it’s the excitement.”
The idea that somebody as poised as Roy could be so excited about getting it on with him that they’d forget themselves—
“Mm,” Roy was saying, kissing his way down to Ed’s collarbone, right by the swathe of scar tissue, and sucking hard on that instead.
Ed would’ve thanked him or something, if he’d been able to speak, but he was kind of too busy throwing his head back and arching up into the contact. Roy’s mouth felt so fucking transcendent—and his hands were on Ed’s hips, and then on the fly of his jeans, and undoing it, and dragging them slowly down—
Ed was so fucking hard already that his face went scarlet all over again; he was acting like a horny fucking teenager, and it was embarrassing, and they hadn’t even done anything yet, and—
Well, to be fair, he had warned Roy about the coming-in-the-pants thing. He’d been serious. Had he sounded serious? Maybe it had sounded like a joke.
Except that Roy seemed to be completely fucking unperturbed, if the way he was climbing down off the couch to kneel on the floor and kiss his way slowly and—well, kind of… tenderly… down the inside of Ed’s left leg was any indication. He mumbled something that sounded like “Gorgeous”, and the color of Ed’s face moved onto a whole new scale of infrareds. He was probably generating enough heat to power, like, a toaster or some shit. Maybe a toaster-oven. Maybe a microwave.
At least he’d had the foresight to put on his classiest pair of boxers, which were plain black and fitted nice and made of a breathable kind of cotton-blend-whatever that left precious little to the imagination right about now. He had a couple of less-classy ones—although honestly he thought the ones patterned with the physics formulas would probably be a turn-on for anyone worth banging. He hadn’t been quite up to taking that leap of faith tonight.
“Hey,” he said, and he if he had to fight for the breath to add another sentence, well… surely that was just a coincidence. “Don’t let me be naked alone. That’s a sign of addiction.”
“Is nakedness addiction a growing concern?” Roy asked, unfolding to his feet and unbuckling his belt and good Lord the man was hot. “I really don’t imagine I’d have a problem with it if you were to develop a penchant for wandering around in the nude.” The slacks slithered off him like they were loathe to stop hugging his body, and Ed definitely couldn’t blame them; he stepped out of them so calmly… and then reached down, grimacing, to peel off his socks.
He was wearing navy-blue boxer-briefs. Ed had always thought those were stupid, except they weren’t; they were fucking amazing. He was having an underwear epiphany. It was glorious. Also, Roy was demonstrably two things: firstly, just as eager to get this fucking party started as Ed was; secondly, somewhat generously endowed.
“Holy hot damn,” he heard his voice say. “You sure you’re thirty-five?”
Roy looked like he’d just been showered in treasures and miracles. “You’re buttering me up,” he said. “Presumably to eat me, because you don’t trust my cooking.”
“You caught me,” Ed said, which was not easy, because his head was swimming, and the majority of his blood was traveling to places rather distant from his brain. “I’m a cannibal. C’mere and give me a free sample, wouldya?”
“What do I look like,” Roy said, “Costco?”
“Shut up,” Ed said, reaching out, and it was so goddamn satisfying—the way Roy responded instantly, just dove on him— “Trader Joe’s at least.”
Roy started laughing so hard he couldn’t kiss at Ed’s ears and neck and throat and collarbones anymore, so that was sort of a mixed bag.
“Hey,” Ed said, tugging on the waistband of the revelatory undergarment standing in his way. “Less amusement, more sex.”
“Good idea,” Roy said, and then he hitched his hips forward in a way that just—just—fucking—wow.
Ed wasn’t usually the one who made the first move, was the thing—not because he didn’t want to so much as because it just didn’t seem… right, somehow. It seemed like it was asking too much, maybe; he always got the feeling that if he was in the driver’s seat, he’d never be able to resist the urge to jam his foot down on the gas, and the whole thing would go careening off a cliff. He didn’t trust himself to balance it all right.
But Roy did—or seemed to, or sounded like it, or… Roy just made him feel really safe. Like even if he wasn’t perfect all the time, that was okay; he could be not-perfect, because there was nothing to lose. It didn’t feel like Roy was going to punish him for doing something wrong.
And the laughing. Ed had never laughed so much with somebody—let alone while stripping somebody—in his entire life. Who knew relationships could be funny? Who knew sex could be fun?
So… fuck the inhibitions. Fuck that second guess. Ed dragged Roy’s underwear off and grabbed his hips and hauled them down and lifted his to grind up into them and kissed him and kissed him and…
“What’s that smell?” he asked.
Roy stared at him.
Roy said, “That… is…”
Roy blinked again.
Suddenly it was very cold, and there was much less force trying to pin Ed to the couch in the general interests of sucking on his tongue, etcetera.
“Oh,” Ed said.
After another heartbeat of trying to process all of the new information, he made a valiant effort to catapult himself off of the couch, doubled over hissing at the unheralded fury of the pain lancing from his right shoulder down his arm, gritted his teeth until the worst of it receded, and then made his way over towards the kitchen gently massaging at it with his left hand. Like that would help. Like anything helped.
Weirdly enough, walking in to find Roy Mustang standing buck-naked on a kitchen chair, stretching up to the ceiling to disassemble the smoke detector while the room thickened with noxious chicken-charcoal fumes kind of… did. Just about.
“Here, hang on,” Ed said, and hastened over to open the window.
“Thank you,” Roy said. There was a bit of a strained quality to his voice that Ed hadn’t heard before—hadn’t heard yet, apparently. Those damn clever hands plucked the batteries out from the entrails of the smoke detector and climbed carefully down from the chair holding them and the casing. “This is… a bit… off-putting, I imagine.”
Ed had been fighting with the cutesy little curtains, which apparently were out for his blood, but he sort of had to spin around at that. “Are you kidding?”
Roy hesitated, setting his prizes on the table. “Well—”
“Okay, look,” Ed said, quickly, before his nerve could totally fucking fail. “Two minutes ago, you were a one-hundred-percent perfect fucking stud-guy way out of my league, and I was that kid who’s actually small-scale famous for slipping on the stairs to the chemistry building almost every single day because I’m thinking too hard about shit. I’m a nerd, okay? And you’re… amazing. You’re amazing. But this—” He gestured sort of vaguely to the whole fiasco. “—this is the sort of thing that happens to real people. To people like me. This is—this makes you… possible. This makes you somebody I can actually… somebody I’ve got a fucking chance with, I dunno; somebody I can understand—somebody who can understand me, and the life I have, and the way the universe likes to sucker-punch me when I’m already down.” He swallowed, ducked his head, and tried to make the grin real damn convincing. “Plus I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been enjoying the opportunity to look at your ass. I mean, c’mon.”
Fucking hell, that was awkward. He stormed over and turned the oven heat off and then backed up, trying to wave smoke away from his face.
Roy was starting to smile—warmly, and looking kind of… relieved. He cleared his throat and crossed his arms, and if everybody looked that good naked, Ed would’ve died of an overdose of impure intentions by now.
“Is now a good time to mention that I hid several of my DVDs?” Roy asked. “Namely, the full Star Trek collection, the vast majority of early Doctor Who, the entirety of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, and all of the extended editions of Lord of the Rings?”
Ed couldn’t help grinning, and if it was a little wild, or a little “wolfish”—that was Al’s word, wolfish, like he was gonna rip somebody’s throat out or something; like wolves were anything other than undomesticated dogs; like they weren’t more scared of people than people were of them—well, that wasn’t his fault, either. “Now’s good, yeah.”
“Now might also be a good time to let the smoke out of this kitchen before we asphyxiate ourselves,” Roy said. “If you’ll pardon me…”
And then he was strutting out past Ed—a slightly different strut than the usual one; maybe this was the I’m trying not to be humiliated but I am bare-assed and also em-barr-assed in front of my new boyfriend, like a compensatory version of the normal strut—into the front hall. From the depths of the closet, he retrieved a medium-sized electric fan, which he offered to Ed.
“Would you mind plugging this in while I put some pants on?” he asked. “Just in case we have to evacuate. My neighbors still have this strange idea that I’m an upright citizen and whatever else.”
“When really,” Ed said, taking the fan, “you’re a sexual deviant who likes younger men and nerdy sci-fi TV shows.”
“Define ‘deviant’,” Roy said, although there was a slight touch of pink in his cheeks now. “And I don’t limit myself to sci-fi; life is too short for just one genre.”
“Deep,” Ed said. “Okay, go get decent—on one condition.”
Roy arched an eyebrow.
Ed felt his face heating, but he was already committed now; he had to go for it. He cast a lingering look at Roy’s… y’know. “I get to take those pants off again later.”
“Done,” Roy said, and the smug tone had slipped back into his voice, but Ed was finding he kind of liked it.
Roy turned on his heel and swaggered back over to the living room, swinging his ass as he went, and Ed was… infatuated. Yeah, that was about right.
By the time Ed had plugged the fan in and pointed it towards the window, Roy was back, dressed in just his slacks—but without the belt, so that they hung low under his perfect hipbones; and if the dark hair trailing down from his bellybutton was not specifically designed for Ed’s personal torment, he’d be damned.
“So,” Roy said. “How does pizza sound?”
“Rad,” Ed said. He turned the fan on. “Are we feeling brave enough to open the oven now?”
“I’ve been feeling remarkably brave for three weeks running,” Roy said, and went over to pull the door open, stepping back from the streaming billow of black, and even coughing into his arm, he was just… gorgeous. Gorgeous, and wonderful, and, right now, Ed’s.
Being in love was so, so, so shitty; and the best.
So… the good news is, I'm 38,000 words into the next part now. The bad news is, I still haven't gotten to half of the shit I'd actually planned, so there will probably have to be a Part 3, which means a whole new round of "Am I going to be able to finish this damn thing?!" :'D
The other good news is, this is one of the only fics I've ever written that hasn't fought me and stalled at some point, which is even more bewildering given that it's now the longest fic I've ever written. The other bad news is, now that I've said that, I've probably jinxed it. XD'
tl;dr, I can't thank you all enough for being here, reading this, and supporting it. You guys are, as my coworker would say, thebomb.com. With any luck, I'll be back to thank you for it properly with another 40K in not-too-long. ♥
…P.S. THIS IS THE SMUTTY CHAPTER. JSYK. There is no important information in the actual smutty part, so feel free to skip it, but please do tune back in afterwards, because the sections after that introduce a little bit of "plot" stuff and some jokes and whatnot. ^^;;;
Ed slouches in the crappy plastic chair. Casting repeated baleful looks at the big TV screen next to the gate has not persuaded it to change; there’s still at least an hour before they’ll even start the sardine-migration commonly known as boarding.
When he bothered to think about it, he always figured it would take the habitual hunching over lab benches longer to catch up with him, but his back is killing him. Getting old fucking sucks. He doesn’t even want to think about how he’s going to feel after thirteen hours trapped in a goddamn plane seat.
He nudges his foot at his laptop bag, which still bears the signs of a hasty un- and repacking around the X-ray machine, and then remembers that he turned his phone off to run it through. He fishes it out of his pocket and switches it on; there’s a text from Roy from just about five minutes ago.
Back home. Inconsolable already. Pillow still smells like you. Please hurry home before I waste away. You drank a grand total of three sips of the coffee in the car; did you get some more? <3
Winry slips five-dollar Starbucks gift cards into the cracks and crevices of every present she ever gives him, because she’s an evil witch. Sometimes evil witchery comes in handy, though.
yeah… for about the cost of a private island. next time let’s just buy the island instead of this trip whaddya say. you want the rant about security now or later??
Ed’s guess is that Roy is lying in bed half-dressed, dozing while he waits for Ed to respond—a supposition corroborated by the speed of the reply.
What kind of private island square footage do you think we could get for the price of a frappuccino? If we forgo the extra espresso shot, we could probably put it towards a yacht… Now for the rant sounds lovely.
It’s kind of hard not to just type I love you I love you I love you I love you over and over, but given that Ed just fucked Roy’s sleeping schedule pretty much until he gets back, the least he can do is try to text coherently.
okay so let’s just think logically here. LOGICALLY speaking do they honestly believe that people with long hair are statistically more likely to demonstrate suspicious behavior?? because i did not fucking see them patting down the fucking seven-year-old girl whose ponytail was PRETTY MUCH IDENTICAL to mine and do i have a discrimination suit here or do i have a discrimination suit here
Roy’s laugh is the cutest goddamn thing when he’s sleepy—sort of low and gentle and… rolling. He’s probably laughing right this second. It’s kind of like a consolation prize, to be able to give him that.
If you’d like to take them to court, I am behind you 100%, but I cannot guarantee that my abilities are quite up to the task… And I don’t imagine you’re eager to give the airlines -more- of your money. That said, from a personal rather than a professional standpoint, I am SCANDALIZED that they don’t appreciate the precious natural wonder that is your hair. The heathens!
Ed slides a little lower in the crappy plastic torture-chair and tries to look less bedraggled and more intimidatingly aggravated so that no one will want to sit next to him.
thank you. okay so. LOGICALLY speaking if you were going to smuggle (a) illicit >3.4-oz liquids or (b) drug contraband or (c) explosives or (d) various combinations of the above onto a plane under a hoodie WOULD YOU GO TO THE TROUBLE OF GETTING A HARVARD HOODIE??
His overpriced coffee is getting cold; he takes another overpriced sip and glares at the overpriced sleeve. Does the “60% post-consumer recycled fiber” include diamonds, or what? Diamond coffee cup sleeves. He’s willing to bet there are Hollywood starlets who actually have those. Probably with their names bedazzled on.
Not just a Harvard hoodie, Roy sends. A Harvard -Law- hoodie, heavily implying your full awareness of the legal consequences of such an undertaking. Did they pat you down, then? Damn it, I’m about to be jealous of TSA agents. My life is a shambles. Remember me as I was.
Ed sighs to himself, maybe a little bit loud, but that lady who just stared at him like he was seriously impacting the quality of her kid’s bleepy little fucking Gameboy experience can go fuck herself.
It’s sort of hard to stay too pissed off when he’s thinking about Roy, though. That’s sort of… the whole point. Of this. Of stuff. Of everything.
you were cute and dumb then and you are cute and dumb now Mustang you’re just going to have to get used to it. and FOR YOUR INFORMATION YES THEY DID. and then they ALSO MADE ME GO THROUGH THE FULL-BODY SCANNER because ONE INVASIVE EXAMINATION IS NOT ENOUGH because apparently WEARING YOUR HAIR LONG IS A FUCKING CRIME IN THIS FUCKING COUNTRY ROY
He balances the phone on his thigh, sips his coffee, and tries to figure out what game the stupid kid is playing without looking directly at either stupid kid or gaming device. The music seems vaguely familiar, but he and Al never really had enough time to get into that kind of stuff—and even if they had done, he’s an old fogey now; he has no idea what the zeitgeist is for the young, restless, and very quick-thumbed nowadays. Maybe he should just retire. The house is all paid off, and they could afford a new car if his ever finally went kaput—how much was it that he saw in their savings account the other day, exactly? Maybe he could stay on as emeritus and teach a little and draw some income, and then Roy could retire. Roy really kind of needs glasses now, after all those endless years of tiny-print legalese, but the vain bastard is going to die and/or squint until his eyes pop out before he admits i—
The only crime here is someone disrespecting your hair, Roy sent. I’m going to write a strongly-worded letter. ‘To whom it may concern: Which should be everyone at this whole damn airport, since all of you had better be concerned. It has been brought to my attention that unconscionable implications have been made about Edward Elric’s hair. Not only is this young man a genius of a caliber your puny brains are unlikely to understand, he is also phenomenally gorgeous, and he happens to be my lover and the idol of my life, and I WILL HAVE YOUR HEADS FOR THIS. Sincerely, Roy Mustang.’ What do you think?
Ed has to chug the rest of the coffee to compose himself.
i think i’m in danger of crying in a fucking airport is what i think. quit being perfect you fucking asshole i miss you so much right now. why is it so much worse when i know i’m going to be gone?? i’m away from you for hours and hours all the time but i never get this bad in lab and it’s stupid. this is stupid. i am stupid. goddamnit Roy.
“Nooooooo,” the kid with the game says, sticking his bottom lip out. Ed kind of sympathizes with that sentiment right this minute. The kid tries to show his mom the game, but she’s scrolling with her thumb on her phone, and she waves him off.
Ed’s phone vibrates on his knee, and he snatches it up before the change in balance can send it tumbling to the floor.
Stupid Roy. Stupid, stupid Roy.
I love you, too. It’s just eight days, sweetheart. It’s going to be terrible, but it’s not forever. And you’ll have fun once you get there; when you see the students, it’ll be worth it.
Stupid, rational, helpful Roy.
i’m trying to guilt-trip you into phone sex the second i get to the hotel Mustang help me the fuck out here. my shoulder is killing me. i forgot my fucking hot water bottle because i’m a dumbass.
To be fair, Ed knows for a fact that Roy will still be game for phone sex, because Roy is always game for phone sex, but he’d been having a really good wallow in his misery for a second there.
And his shoulder is, in fact, hurting like a goddamn motherfucking bitch, so there’s that.
Roy should be getting ready to leave for work, but evidently he’s still just dawdling around with his phone and stuff.
The hwb is in your duffel bag. :] There’s Advil in it and also in your laptop bag, in the front velcro pocket. :) And phone sex is, as always, a definite go. :D
Stupid, wonderful, thoughtful, meddling, perfect fucking Roy.
i don’t know how you do it but i’d be totally fucking lost without you so KEEP DOING IT PLEASE <3
He rips a pack of Advil open, pops both pills, drinks the gritty dregs of the coffee, shudders, gets up, and goes to sit next to the kid with the game.
“So what’s this thing about?” he asks.
The kid stares at him for a long second.
“Saving the world,” the kid says. He thinks about it, sucking in his cheeks. “All my games are.”
“You must save the world an awful lot, then,” Ed says.
The kid bangs out an insanely wicked combo with his thumbs, and the game trills like crazy. “Sometimes. But sometimes I just suck.”
“Yeah,” Ed says. “I hear that.”
Pizza on the couch in minimal clothes (the delivery guy gave Roy’s half-buttoned shirt and Ed’s rumpled jeans a seriously skeptical look before he handed over the goods) and some quality time with old sci-fi turned out to be… about the best date ever, actually.
“This is a nice couch,” Ed said when the credits were rolling. He planted his hands on either side of himself—which meant one of them was a little crushed against Roy’s thigh, because they’d been cuddled up pretty freakin’ close—and bounced experimentally, which nudged him in under Roy’s shoulder some more. “Nice and… springy.”
Roy looked at him very seriously. “It’s not bad. Do you know what’s even better?”
Ed was pretty sure he did, but he put on his best wide-eyed-innocent face all the same. “What’s that?”
“The b…” Roy’s solemnity broke into a grin. “I can’t do this; it’s just too ridiculous.” He stood (levering himself up off the back of the couch subtly with one hand, Ed noticed; maybe he really was thirty-five) and offered Ed both hands. “Shall we?”
“Hell fuckin’ yeah,” Ed said, grabbing on tight.
Roy pulled him upright, caught two fistfuls of his shirt, and dragged him into a kiss that tasted very, very strongly of pepperoni, which Ed immediately decided was his new favorite thing.
Kissing was great and all, but it really just wasn’t enough anymore—for either of them, apparently, given that Roy started hauling on Ed’s shirt, dragging them both out of the living room, down the hall, past the still-slightly-smoky kitchen, up the stairs—
Ed’s heart was a piston bashing hard against his sternum; was a closed fist slamming on a locked door; was a frantic metronome—
And if it broke through; if the door opened; if the tempo increased—
It was just kind of terrifying, wanting somebody this bad. Like there was a hole in the seething core of him, a vacuum, and somehow he’d nominated Roy as the matter to fill it, which first of all was messed up, and second of all wasn’t fair, because Roy’d signed up for food and hanky-panky, and Ed was throwing his whole heart in like it just another betting chip.
Stumbling up the stairs, backwards, joined at the mouth, half-laughing, wholly-panting, was more than a little bit hazardous. Roy had both hands under Ed’s shirt again, thumbs smoothing back and forth over his stomach, up his sides, over his ribs, then back down to press gently at his hips, and then Roy took the lead into the upstairs hall and pushed the bedroom door open with his heel.
And Ed—wanted. Wanted fiercely; wanted hard; wanted all of it, everything, now—
Roy directed their four-footed stumble back towards the bed, one hand in Ed’s hair, one around the small of his back and drifting oh-so playfully towards his ass—grazing and retreating and then teasing again—
“Knock if off,” Ed growled into the next kiss, and Roy started laughing, so he caught the bastard’s bottom lip between his teeth to punctuate the point.
“Sorry,” Roy said, and the hand in his hair tightened just a touch.
“You are not,” Ed said.
“I swear I am,” Roy said, and both hands shifted to Ed’s hips and hauled him forward, and then they were bouncing down onto the bed, Roy sitting, Ed straddling him, and he could feel Roy’s heartbeat through those searching fingertips. “Let me make it up to you.”
Ed fought to keep his scowl together when he just wanted to bust out laughing at the incredibly exaggerated seriousness of Roy’s wide eyes. “Start talkin’.”
Roy threaded his fingers back into Ed’s hair, using the handhold to tilt his head, and Ed’s first instinct was to resist—he was nobody’s fucking puppet, nobody’s fucking toy—but Roy’s warm mouth chased a cool breath up the opposite side of his neck, and his will cracked straight down the center.
“Talking can be a good start,” he said, and his voice was so low and thick and melty-dark-chocolate-hot that Ed couldn’t have resisted the urge to wriggle in closer if he’d tried. Chest-to-chest, hips-to-hips, mouth-to-mouth; Roy nipped his lip and then sucked on it until Ed whimpered—that made them even, right? “Do you have a preference?” Roy asked, and his hands were kneading their way up the sides of Ed’s thighs, and the anticipation was eviscerating him.
“F-for—” Fuck. He cleared his throat, but then he bared it to Roy’s insistent mouth, the press of which pretty much clogged it up with hot blood and animal sounds all over again. “Preference… for what?”
Roy licked his pulse point. Apparently it—or maybe Ed’s shiver—was delicious, because he immediately did it again. “Who’s on top,” he said—just like that, plain as day. “Which would you rather?”
Funny, if you thought about it—how Roy could make him move like there was a demon in him with just the lightest brush of a fingertip; and how Roy could still him like a statue in the snow.
The culprit of all of this looked startled—confused, maybe, or concerned. His pupils were totally blown, and there was a smudge of sweat on his forehead matting into his hair, and he was so hot like this that Ed wanted a picture to keep in the pit of his stomach for the lonely nights.
“I’m sorry,” Roy said slowly, and Ed wanted to trace his eyebrows as they drew in close. “Did I…? What’s wrong?”
Ed tried to say Nothing, but it wouldn’t leave his mouth. Looked like he was stuck with the truth again. He fucking hated that. “Just… nobody’s… ever asked me that before.”
Roy blinked. The smile was tentative, but all his smiles were just so fucking cute. “Who have you been sleeping with—barbarians?”
Ed tried to laugh, but it sort of came out as a huff of air through a grimace, which was probably pretty gross.
“Good Lord,” Roy said. “Let’s not talk about it—let’s not talk about them, or think about them, ever again.” He caught Ed’s waist in both hands and kissed him hard, and that was the only warning before they were whipping around, flipping their weights, and then Ed was fumbling to orient himself in the room—he was on his back on the mattress, which was pretty damn nice; and Roy was over him, smooth ink-hair framing his face, both hands planted just above Ed’s shoulders, grinning down, and that was so nice that the rest of the universe just… dissolved. “Which is going to be easy,” Roy said, “because I’m going to make you forget everyone that came before.”
Ed arched his back and hooked a leg around Roy’s waist. “‘Came before’? Really? That’s the best sex pun you’ve got?”
“Wiseass,” Roy said, but the gleam of mischief hadn’t left his eyes. “Wait and see.” He ducked to kiss Ed’s jaw, his ears, his temples— “The question stands.”
“Okay,” Ed said, and it was—it was; that was the thing. He didn’t feel… ashamed. He was quickly getting naked in some great guy’s bed, and he didn’t feel ashamed at all. “Why don’t you fuck me this time, and show me what you’ve got?”
“Rarely,” Roy said, “have I considered a pleasanter pastime.”
“Shut up,” Ed said.
Roy’s eyes were shining so bright that Ed grabbed the dog-tags for a handhold, so he wouldn’t just get swept away. “Yes, sir.”
It didn’t take long—approximately four seconds, give or take a fraction of a thought or two—for Ed to figure out that he had made the right damn call. Roy was kissing him, and kissing him, and somehow finishing up that whole pesky undressing process without even pausing for breath; and then he was spreading his hands under the backs of Ed’s knees and hoisting him a little and smoothing his palms up the backs of Ed’s thighs, and it was weird, feeling so… precious. Because Roy kept touching him like he was—not quite fragile, but… irreplaceable, maybe. Wondrous or something. Important.
Also, Roy seemed to be completely convinced that slow, slow, gentle foreplay was an entire discipline of its own—related to, but fundamentally separate from sex itself—and you could write essays and sell books and get degrees and teach classes in this shit all by itself.
He was making a damn good case for it, too. The man must have had several fucking postgraduate degrees in… well, fucking.
Who even had a bedside table these days, anyway? Was he really reading the Steven Hawking book on it with a Post-It note sticking out a third of the way through, or had he staged that to make Ed go from desperate to dying in point-two seconds flat? Ed’s breath was coming fast and ragged; it was like he couldn’t drag enough into his lungs, and the oxygen that he could get was rough-edged, scraping up and down his throat. He wanted more, more, more—
Roy was kissing him, and then pausing, and saying “Don’t tell my dentist,” and ripping the condom foil with his teeth, and Ed may have actually moaned, which was embarrassing as fuck but also pretty much inevitable, so he was planning to get over it. He’d get right on that as soon as he was done snatching the goddamn latex out of Roy’s unsteady hands and priming the tip with a push of his tongue and then rolling it on good and slow, rubbing with both hands, stroking with the pads of his thumbs to feel the answering press of the veins—
Roy let out a shaky laugh that trailed into a thick sigh, pressing his forehead to Ed’s with his eyes closed for a second, then two—and when he opened them, holy fucking shit, the fire—
“Your turn,” he said.
Ed had never seen anybody sling lube that fast. It was pretty goddamn flattering.
“I’ve got you,” Roy was saying, and Ed realized there was a weird sort of keening whine in the back of his throat, and just a little of it was slipping free. Roy’s left hand was splayed under the small of his back, hot-hot fingertips and pressure pushing up; Roy’s right was slick on his skin, grazing over the tip of his dick just to make him twitch, gliding down, settling, one knuckle braced against his goddamn perineum, which felt like it was on fire—hot-hot fingertips and pressure pushing in—
Ed was grinding his teeth and fisting the sheet; not fast enough; it had to be fast enough that he didn’t get to think— “Fucking g-give it—to me—”
“Not a chance,” Roy said softly. Too gentle; too slow; it was fucking torture— “Relax, relax, look at me—”
Ed didn’t have a hope in hell of resisting that voice. Roy met his eyes and smiled at him, then leaned in and nudged his nose at Ed’s burning cheek and kissed just under the ridge of the bone.
“Look at me,” he said again—a whisper now, barely even more than a breath.
So Ed wrapped one arm around the back of Roy’s neck and held on tight to the crumpled bedclothes with the other, and he watched the dip of Roy’s eyelashes and the curve of that smile, and Roy’s lip dimpled where he started to bite it as he worked his smallest finger in further, and deeper, and…
“How long has it been?” Roy asked, and his eyes didn’t leave Ed’s for a second.
“Way too fuckin’ long,” Ed managed somehow.
“That’s criminal,” Roy said, and his breath caught a little, and that made Ed’s heart just fucking race. “You’re so beautiful right now I don’t…” The smile widened into a grin with something else to it—shyness? Couldn’t be. Not Roy. “I don’t even have words. Perhaps it’s a good thing, then; I don’t know if I could bear to think about someone else being here, getting this—I don’t know how anyone could ever give it up.”
Ed pulled him down to kiss him again, maybe-possibly a little too reckless, and a little too hard, with a lot of teeth and a lot of tongue and maybe a bit of bruising.
“Enough with the fucking sweet-talk,” he gasped into the two centimeters between their mouths when he let go long enough for breathing. “I fucking need you, Roy, for fuck’s sake, just—”
“You’ve already got me,” Roy said, and Ed could tell he kind of wasn’t talking about finger-fucking at this particular moment, even though he was slipping a second one in and starting to pump pretty fucking vigorously now, and God, that was weird, and God, it was good—
Ed twisted his hips down on Roy’s hand harder, and then faster and harder, and then he hit it, and holyfuckinghell yes—
“Right fucking there,” he heard about a quarter of his voice gasp out. “R-right—”
“Duly noted,” Roy said, and Ed wanted to laugh, but he couldn’t find the breath—every fiber of his body had turned to light—every particle a photon; he was white-hot, streaming, scorching, burning from the inside outward towards his all-too-combustible skin—the core of him, the center of his form, was glowing with it, feverishly, pulsing bright—
Roy withdrew his hand, and the disappointment flooded inward with the cold; didn’t the stupid bastard know that he couldn’t afford to let the fire go out—?
But then there was more lube, and little frigid droplets flecked his skin, and then Roy kissed him and whispered “Tell me if I should stop,” which was ridiculous, and holy hell, three fingers and a mouthful of tongue was the new pinnacle of existence, and he didn’t know if he could bear to come down—
He was slamming his hips down hard enough Roy’s wrist was probably in danger of a complex fucking fracture, and the dumbass bastard went and left butterfly kisses on his eyelids and said “Are you okay?”
“Not for long,” Ed said, writhing, grinding, come on— “Not if you keep—holding—back—”
Roy licked a line of sweat—so slowly, so damn slowly—off his throat.
“You’re a dream,” he said. “I’m dreaming. Please don’t wake me up.”
Ed started laughing, and maybe it was a little bit hysterical, but he couldn’t help it; he just felt so fucking good. “Put out or get out, Mustang.”
“In my own bedroom,” Roy said. “The audacity.”
Ed swung the other leg around Roy’s waist and bucked his hips very, very meaningfully.
“On second thought,” Roy said, “my indignant outrage can wait.”
“Good,” Ed said.
And it was.
And it was.
Roy fucked him slow and slow and shuddering from the front; he’d close his eyes and bury his face in Ed’s neck and whisper “God”, and the shiver would rack through him from the top of his spine and ripple right through Ed’s, like they were one body breathing, like their skin would melt, their sweat would blend, their squeezing veins would intertwine—same bones, same heart, same incandescent elation, and Ed was on the edge—
Only then Roy flipped them so fast that his head spun, and they had to stop long enough for Ed to lose his shit laughing over the fact that he was riding Mustang, right, and Roy’s eyes fell half-lidded, and his mouth went into a flat line, and he said “Never heard that one before” in such an impeccable deadpan that Ed lost his shit even more, and then a grin cracked through the pissed-off mask, and they were both laughing until there were tears in Ed’s eyes, and he rolled his hips on Roy’s, and the character of the breathlessness and the air in the room both changed whiplash-quick.
Right when Ed thought he just couldn’t hold the sunshine in anymore, Roy caught his shoulders and turned them over on their sides, like they were just going to lie there, only obviously there was still the pressing issue of Roy’s dick in Ed’s ass. And then it was even slower, and it should’ve been awkward, but it was smooth, and careful, and gentle, and sweet, and Roy wouldn’t look away from his fucking eyes, and you could see in his that there was nowhere else in the world he would’ve chosen to be. He brushed Ed’s hair back once, and then again, and then curled his fingers in it and said, “Again?”
Ed said, “Fuck yeah,” and then they made it true.
Ed came with Roy’s hand in his hair and Roy’s teeth on his collarbone—with a whiteout like the obliteration of the fucking universe, with fucking spiral rainbows exploding into sparkles in his stupid brain, and tingling bursts of pleasure coursing down every goddamn nerve he hadn’t wrecked. He felt like he was on fire, and on ice, and on cloud nine, and also like his joints were jelly, and he never wanted to get up again.
Figured that Roy could somehow be a perfect gentleman even about this; he kissed Ed twice and then tucked his face into the side of Ed’s neck again, gripped Ed’s hipbones with both hands, and followed suit. He kept panting for a long moment, and when he lifted his head, his hair was all stuck up everywhere with sweat and fuck knew how much wayward lube, and he was so fucking adorable Ed was speechless.
Roy wasn’t, which was pretty much par for the course.
“Hang on a second,” he said.
And then he ducked down and started licking Ed’s fucking jizz off of his stomach, and that—
Shouldn’t have been hot. Shouldn’t have been… sweet, really, and tickly; shouldn’t have made him feel even more wanted.
Shouldn’t have mattered.
Shouldn’t have made the pull of this thing’s gravity even stronger, like its weight hadn’t long since fucked the balance of Ed’s entire life.
Roy ran the tip of his tongue slowly over his lip and gave Ed what was without a doubt the single most smoldering look he had ever and would ever receive if he lived to be a thousand and six.
The he reached up and very gently smoothed Ed’s bangs back off of his forehead.
“Was that all right?” he asked.
Ed stared at him for a second before the weird jump-pop-hiccup thing in his chest resolved into helpless laughter.
Roy blinked and then grinned. “May I take that as a ‘yes’?”
Ed rolled his eyes, and Roy leaned over to deposit the condom in a trashcan that was so close to the side of the bed that it had to be premeditated. Then he settled back in and pulled the blankets over both of them.
“Get off,” Ed said, pushing at him, albeit not too vigorously, where the bastard was starting to get all cuddly with Ed’s arm.
“Just did,” Roy said contentedly. “It was fabulous.”
“Your mom is fabulous,” Ed said, play-nipping at Roy’s shoulder to force him to shift. He’d forgotten how intense the sting-burn-ache feeling could be at first, but he couldn’t exactly say he regretted any of the process. “Move, I need to go pee.”
“That’s a good idea, actually,” Roy said, collapsing into the pillow the moment Ed vacated it. “Helps prevent urinary tract infections. So does cranberry juice.”
Ed’s knees were so fucking weak that he actually had to grab onto the nightstand to stay upright. The most embarrassing part was that he still didn’t regret it. “Does it have to be juice, or can you just eat a shit-ton of craisins?”
“Not sure,” Roy said, half-muffled by the pillow now. “I’ll research. Let you know.”
“Uh huh,” Ed said. His legs seemed steady enough to support him now, and he started tentatively for the bathroom, collecting his boxers en route.
“Hurry back,” Roy muffle-called. “It’s cold.”
“You’re a cuddler, aren’t you?”
“You are. You’re a fucking snuggle monster.”
“Slander and lies.”
Roy rolled onto his back and propped himself up on his elbows, which was way too fucking enticing altogether. He knew it, too, the smug bastard; you could see it in the tilt of his grin. “Are you coming back or not?”
“Didn’t say I wasn’t,” Ed said, and shut the bathroom door.
On his way back to the bed—and it really wasn’t his fault; never had a bed looked quite so damn inviting—he snagged his phone out of the pocket of his abandoned jeans. Al had texted Does your face hurt? about half an hour previously, so Ed texted back Because it’s killing me!. Several disasters ago, they’d somehow settled on that exchange as an all-clear signal, which meant Al could go to sleep in peace knowing Ed was more or less safe and sound. If Ed had sent Like a bitch, Al would have gotten here in five minutes flat with an escape vehicle and possibly a smoke bomb, if he could figure where those had ended up in the most recent move.
“He’s checking in on me,” Ed said to Roy’s raised eyebrow, setting the phone back down and climbing up onto the mattress. He’d put the boxers back on; it was just too weird crawling into bed with somebody he barely knew and also being naked. One or the other he could deal with. “It’s all good.”
“I could’ve told you that,” Roy said, holding an arm out to him.
Ed considered pretending to be a cuddle snob, and then remembered he’d let the cat out of the bag in the car the other night, so fuck that anyway. He nestled in as close as he could get and got a good, deep lungful of the Roy-scent that was starting to be a synonym for awesome-happy-great.
The beautiful snuggly silence lasted a grand total of eighteen seconds.
“Now I have to pee, too,” Roy said.
Ed gave him a look.
Roy kissed him, and he forgot how to be mad about it.
Roy coaxed him back out of bed and bestowed a spare toothbrush on him, which Ed accepted primarily because Al would have jumped for joy at the prospect of Ed prioritizing oral hygiene over… other available oral activities. Roy had put on a pair of blue plaid pajama pants and a faded gray T-shirt by that point, which was both devastatingly cute and sort of disappointing, the latter being based on the simple fact that it meant no more naked Roy. Which sucked. Or didn’t actually suck. Or whatever.
Roy flipped the lights off and settled on the side of the bed further from the door, where the mattress had a little bit of a him-shaped impression, and then they spooned for about a billion years, with Roy carding his fingers slowly through Ed’s hair and talking about this article he’d read that reminded him of Ed, which had been kind of a primer on oncogenes, and either it was pretty accurate, or Ed’s brain had shut off completely the second fingernails grazed his scalp, because he couldn’t come up with any protests.
“All right,” Roy said when Ed was drifting back and forth between Roy actually scratching his head, and a dream of Roy scratching his head. “I think some sleep is in order.”
“’S your arm all numb?” Ed managed, shifting off of it.
“Slightly,” Roy said, settling back and rolling his wrist. “I believe I’ll live.”
“S’good,” Ed mumbled.
Roy leaned in, drew his hair back, and kissed just behind his ear.
“Thank you,” he said. “Tonight was wonderful.”
Stupid Roy. People were trying to sleep here, and you couldn’t exactly say “Shut the fuck up, I’m about to REM” to that.
Ed summoned the energy to twist around and grin at him a little bit. “S’not a ‘thank you’ situation when it’s mutual, dumbass.”
Roy favored him with a sardonic look. “I don’t know how you cope with my incredible denseness.”
“Me neither,” Ed said. “Maybe you should try beauty sleep, only for your IQ.”
Roy was trying not to laugh. On most people, maybe that would’ve been unflattering, but it was starting to be Ed’s single favorite of Roy’s eight billion faces. “If we’re going to investigate that as a possible remedy for denseness, I really think we should set up a control group and some metrics of measurement.”
Ed couldn’t help that his eyes widened. “Are—okay, back up, are—are you telling me how to do science?”
Roy nodded sagely.
The silence lasted a very long quarter of a minute.
“It was a joke,” Roy said.
“Jokes are funny,” Ed said.
Roy swallowed another bout of laughter. The bastard. That wasn’t Ed’s favorite anymore. “I thought it was funny.”
“What’s funny,” Ed said, “is how you can go from penthouse to doghouse in two seconds flat.”
“I have another question,” Roy said, grinning. “For science.”
Ed narrowed his eyes in a permissive-slash-expectant sort of way.
“Bacon?” Roy said.
“Always,” Ed said. “Specifically what are we talking about?”
“Dinner was something of a debacle,” Roy said. “I’m hoping to redeem my culinary reputation with breakfast.”
“If there’s bacon in it,” Ed said, “I’ll eat it.”
“That sounds like a challenge,” Roy said.
“Unless it’s eggplant,” Ed said. “Can’t stand that shit. Or milk. Not even bacon could save fucking milk. God.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Roy said. He wriggled closer and snagged one more kiss. “All right, for real this time—goodnight.”
“G’night, Roy,” Ed said, and the mind-blower was how totally fucking not-weird it was.
All he had the time and the presence of mind to register was that the room was dark, the blankets were tangling around him, and there was a heavy pressure on his chest.
A hand gripping his upper arm way too tight, and the weight of a substantial body crushing him down into the mattress—harsh breath in his ear—pain flared through the fucked-up nerve in his shoulder like a flash-flood on steroids; it was like a blowtorch—the adrenaline seared through his system so fast it left him reeling, dizzy, cold-fingered and shaky before he’d even choked in a breath to speak—
And then the breath above him caught, and stutteringly choked back out.
The grasp on his arm released, and the weight retreated, and…
“What the fuck?” he croaked out, trying to reach over across the suddenly-cool expanse of mattress, sheet pale with wrinkled ridges in the weak light filtered through the blinds. “What—”
“I’m sorry,” the same voice—barely the same voice—said, and then Ed remembered everything, remembered Roy, remembered… “I—shit. I’m—sorry. I’m so sorry. I—”
“Hey,” Ed said, rolling over and pushing himself up into a sitting position, striving to ignore the darts of pain down his shoulder. “Roy.”
His eyes were starting to adjust to the dark, and he could just distinguish the huddled form at the edge of the bed from the pile of crumpled sheets. “I’m sorry. I didn’t—I sh-shouldn’t have—I’m sorry, I—”
“Roy,” Ed said, reaching out to grab his arm, catching what felt like a wrist. Roy flinched at the touch and tried to pull away, but Ed wouldn’t let him. “Look at me.”
He couldn’t distinguish facial features in the dark; who the fuck knew if Roy could see his, either? Both of them went still, though, for a second, and the only things Ed could hear were a faint, distant clock ticking and the arrhythmic trade-off as they both breathed. The muscles in Roy’s forearm stayed tense, stayed solid like he’d balled his fist—like he was waiting.
“It’s okay,” Ed said. “It’s okay; I’m okay; you’re okay.” Fuck. “Are you okay? You know where you are? I—”
“I’m at home,” Roy said, quietly. He tugged against Ed’s grip again, and this time Ed let go. “I didn’t… intend… for you to have to see that.” He swallowed. “I was gambling on a good night.”
“It was still a pretty damn good night,” Ed said. This felt so fucking weird; this felt so fucking bad; it was like all of a sudden a million miles had sprawled out in between them, and the Roy he’d been laughing with for hours was nowhere to be found. He lowered himself down to the bed again and tried to find a way to lie there that didn’t jar his stupid fucking throbbing punk-ass busted nerve. “Do—well. I dunno. Do you want to talk about it?”
Roy was silent for a long moment, but when he spoke, some of the strain had seeped out of his voice. “No,” he said, softer. “Mostly, it’s better not to. But—thank you.” A whisper of sheets, then fingertips very light on Ed’s arm— “I mean that. And I meant the apologies, too; I’m sorry I woke you, and that I… grabbed you like that, and that—that I tainted tonight with this; it really—it really has been extraordinary, and I wish I hadn’t given you cause to remember this when you thought of—”
“Shut up,” Ed said, fumbling to take his hand and haul on it. “And come here.”
For what was probably the first time in his damn life, Roy obliged on both counts without protest.
Ed wrapped him into the tightest hug humanly possible, and Roy pressed his face into Ed’s hair, and finally, finally, his breathing started to even out. Ed could hear his heartbeat, settled in this close, and eventually it slowed too.
Roy drew a deeper breath. His eyelashes kept flicking against Ed’s forehead. “I really am s—”
“Don’t be sorry,” Ed said, and head-butted under his chin a little for emphasis. “Just be you. That’s enough. Okay?”
Roy was quieter for longer than that merited. “Ah. Yes. Okay.”
Ed head-butted again, because he didn’t want to move his arms, so poking Roy’s sternum was out. “The whole weird, random silence thing is not so convincing, Roy.”
“Sor…” Roy cleared his throat. “It’s just that I was… I realized something.” He went to the trouble of smiling, even in the pitch-black stupid dark, and then he kissed the bridge of Ed’s nose. “Goodnight, Edward.”
After the agonizingly slow purgatorial parade that the airlines call “boarding”, Ed winds up in a middle seat (of course) with a huge guy on one side (of course) and a sour-looking older lady by the window (of course). He almost took his own head off trying to get his duffel and his backpack into the overhead—not because the weight was hard to lift straight over his own head, as was the case for most of the not-quite-so-trained-in-judo-etcetera passengers around him, but because the goddamn motherfucking bins are set so high that he could barely reach to tip his shit over the lip on the edge. A freakishly tall flight attendant actually had to close the fucking thing for him. Fuck.
He can barely extend his elbows enough to text, but Roy needs to know about this, so his seat-mates can just suck it the fuck up if he jabs them on accident.
guess what I’m mad about right now
He glances at the time. It’s just past eight, so Roy shouldn’t be in the car anymore—he should’ve checked that first; Roy has been known to text Ed while driving and then transparently pretend he doesn’t know anything about it. It’s kind of funny what a shitty liar he is where Ed’s concerned, given, y’know, lawyer and all.
Can I make a list of possibilities? Roy sends back.
shoot Ed says.
1. Crying baby seated behind you. 2. Desk attendant asked you if you were here with an adult while taking your boarding pass. 3. Starbucks “coffee” making you sick. 4. Seated next to two giants who will be able to manipulate your air vent.
It’s a good thing he’s going to have twelve and a half uninterrupted hours—and a layover in New York—to work his way back up to a proper sulk, because Roy’s really ruining this one.
0 for 4, Mustang, you’re losing your touch
I’m not finished yet! Roy sends back. 5. Overhead bins full and/or absurdly poorly designed in discriminatory favor of people who are abnormally large etc. etc. 6. You smelled the “meal” on the way in and are considering a fast. 7. Seat neighbors clearly of the “Drool on my shoulder while you’re sleeping and I’ll put these plastic knitting needles through your throat” philosophy.
Ed mimicks dragging his hand down his face tiredly so he can cover his mouth and hide the grin. it’s like you’re fucking psychic I swear to god
Still not done! 8. You were hoping against hope that all of the in-flight movies wouldn’t suck, and now you have browsed and been disillusioned. 9. Someone stole your blanket and pillow on the way in, because they’re determined to go to hell in a handbasket. Said basket will now be cushioned with an airplane pillow. 10. Even your knees don’t fit with this seat. Not that there’s anything wrong with your knees. 11. Your feet don’t touch the floor because FUCK PLANE DESIGNERS ANYWAY. 12. You can taste the bacteria in the plane air. 13. You just realized you left your gold-framed picture of me at home and are making your peace with the fact that you will feel utterly bereft all week without it.
The steward guy at the front is about to tell them all to turn their devices off; Ed can see it in the bastard’s eyes.
shit goddamn son of a bitch about to take off but. I hate you you’re perfect. have a good day okay. be safe remember to eat remember I love your dumb ass like way too much. okay bye bye I love you I’ll call you later byeeeeee
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the guy says, waving an arm for good measure. “We’re about to start taxiing down the runway—I’m going to have to ask you to make sure your seatback trays are stowed, your seats are in the full upright position, and all phones, iPads, laptops, and everything else that goes ‘bleep’ in the night is either off or turned to airplane mode…”
Ed touches the button with his thumb, switches the screen off, shoves his phone in his pocket, and makes a valiant attempt to lean his head back against the way-too-damn-high headrest.
It’s going to be a long, long, long fucking day. And not just because of the time zones turning one day into basically-two.
He swallows a sigh, rolls his shoulders, and settles in. Roy’ll be waiting for his call when he gets in, and Roy’ll make it better, and that’s enough. That’s enough to look forward to, and enough to believe in, and enough to get him through.
He catches himself smiling. Goddamn Roy.