Hello, baby, hello
Haven’t seen your face for a while
Have you quit doing time for me?
Or are you still the same spoiled child?
Hello, I said hello
Is this the only place you thought to go?
Am I the only man you ever had?
Or am I just the last surviving friend that you know?
– Elton John – “Harmony” –
When Roy shifts the three deadbolts, twists the handle, and opens the door, light spills out onto the doorstep. It is shortly after midnight, and Edward Elric is a silhouette and a flash of yellow eyes.
“I understand you’re not Führer yet,” he says before Roy has regained the intellectual capacity required even to lower his gloved right hand. “So you still owe me something. Can I crash on your couch?”
Roy has not yet enjoyed the luxury of a coherent thought by the time he’s closed and locked the door again. “What in the hell are you doing here?”
Edward sets down his suitcase and toes off his shoes; the loss of the latter leaves him half an inch shorter and displays rather threadbare socks for a moment before his pants legs trail down over his heels. He pads along the entry hall, and if Roy’s not mistaken, his ponytail flicks just a little—betraying a glance through the doorway into the kitchen before he enters. “Can I help myself?”
“Can I stop you?” Roy asks.
“I think you’re getting smarter,” Ed says.
If that’s the case, it’s only because four years broken by nothing but a postcard (with an image of the seaside on the front; with half a dozen stamps, most of them Cretan; with the wandering penmanship even less legible than was its habit before; with the words Very wet here—you’d be even lamer than usual scrawled across the open space) has been enough time that Edward Elric had almost ceased to occupy his thoughts.
Roy follows him to the kitchen and leans on the doorframe, watching him bang through the cupboards like a hungry tornado. “Is it pointless to ask how you’ve been?”
The next door doesn’t bang; it slams. Roy suppresses a wince.
“Yeah,” Edward says. “So don’t.”
Roy makes tea. Edward makes toast. Roy puts two mugs down. Edward gives him a look that seems to convey that no real man would stock his kitchen with apricot jam.
Roy sits down and folds his arms. He watches Ed through the overlaid steam curling from both of their cups. “Going to be in the city long?”
Ed takes the largest bite of toast Roy has ever seen. Over a quarter of the piece of bread is gone. “There’s a train East at nine.”
While they’re playing the observation game, there are crumbs all over Roy’s kitchen table at twelve-fifteen.
“Resembool?” Roy hazards.
“For maintenance, or for…” He can’t bring himself to utter the word ‘forever’ to a twenty-year-old. Edward’s scientific comprehension of the concept of infinity is unassailable; his emotional understanding is a wisp of marsh gas in the night. “…an extended period, perhaps?”
Edward shrugs and moves on to the second piece of toast. Despite being a critic of those who purchase apricot jam, he seems to have no problem slathering it on thick. “I was thinking about getting Winry to put the Northern stuff back. See if they’re doing any interesting research at Briggs. Maybe hang out there a while.”
“Blizzards, monotony, and unquestioning obedience doesn’t sound like your kind of gig,” Roy says.
Edward shrugs again. “I could keep an eye on General Armstrong for you. Make sure she doesn’t decide that she wants your chair and then kick your sorry ass out of it. Warn you if she starts thinking about it, so you can run.”
“Spying isn’t your kind of gig either.”
Edward scrapes the back of his hand across his mouth, and he’s scowling by the time Roy can see his face. “Since when do you know what kind of gigs I take, General?”
Roy leans forward and looks him in the eyes. “You haven’t changed. Things have changed around you. I assume that’s what you’re running from.”
Edward looks like he wants to put a metal fist in Roy’s face.
Then he looks like he’s just remembered he doesn’t have one anymore.
“Fuck you,” he says, picking up his tea. “If pretending that predicting people will let you control their actions makes you feel better, I’m not going to rain on your parade.”
Roy sits back and folds his arms again. “I don’t think Briggs would suit you. I’m surprised you’re even considering working with the military again—and if you’re serious about it, why not stay here instead? The weather’s nicer, for one thing, and you have…” Friends. Ex-lovers. “…contacts.”
“It doesn’t matter where I am,” Edward says. “It’s all shit if I’m not… reaching for something. Right now, I don’t have a direction, and I don’t have a specialization, and for all intents and purposes I don’t have a brother, and I’m just… drifting. Which is shit.”
He dips a finger into the jam jar. Roy resists the extremely powerful urge to splash this tea in his hair.
“You’ve accomplished more in two decades than most people do in a lifetime,” Roy says. “At this point, I think it’s time to sit back and think about what you want. It doesn’t seem like you’ve ever… quite… done that before. Lived for yourself, I mean.”
Edward shakes his head faintly; by the haziness of his eyes, he’s already half a world away. Roy was right—he hasn’t changed. “I guess not. I thought this whole quest-for-knowledge thing was a good idea, except it’s just… an idea. It’s too abstract for me, I guess. Like, when am I finished? When have I done enough? I need something specific. And I tried not to think about it too much, before—about what I’d do when I could do whatever I wanted. It seemed like teasing myself. But when I did, I thought… I mean, I assumed it’d be alchemy. And that’s out.”
It’s kind of wonderful and kind of terrible and kind of like being socked in the diaphragm to hear that Edward Elric’s sacrifice of what was almost certainly the finest talent the country has ever known amounts to that future’s been crossed off the list.
“Why did you come here?” Roy asks. “You could have tried any member of my team, or Gracia.”
Edward looks at him for a long second and then smirks. “Dumbass.”
Roy blinks. “I beg your pardon.”
“I’m pretty sure Lieutenant Hawkeye doesn’t even have a couch.”
“Lieutenant Havoc, then.”
“Place is an ashtray.”
“Would get me plastered, and I’d miss my train.”
Fuery and Falman live in the dorms; the Armstrong estate is a rather long taxi ride from the train station. “Why not Gracia?”
“Hurts too much.”
Roy’s lungs go on strike for a few moments.
Ed gets up, chugs the last of his tea, and takes the mug over to the sink, where he fits it in among the other dirty dishes waiting for the weekend. “If you’re not changing your answer to a no, can I have a blanket or something?”
Inside of ten minutes, he’s brushed his teeth and let down his hair and curled up on the sofa, and the meteorite Roy hooked to his chariot eight years ago is just a huddled body underneath some borrowed bedclothes.
An amendment: he hasn’t changed much.
Twenty minutes after three, Roy’s sidling down the stairs in the dark, one hand grazing the wall to guide him. He makes his way to the foyer like a blind man—like a blind-again man—and flattens his palm on the front door. Up, right, up a little further; he touches each of the three dead-bolts. They’re all secure. He lets out a breath, drops his hand, and turns a hundred and eighty degrees to stumble back towards the stairs.
“General?” Edward’s voice calls unsteadily.
Roy hesitates, and then he redirects his stumble in what he believes is the direction of the sitting room. “Everything all right?”
“Um—not—really. No. Definitely not.”
Roy’s too old for this.
He fumbles his way down the entry hall; there’s a light on very low in the sitting room, dim enough that it doesn’t illuminate anything until he’s actually stepped over the threshold. Edward is sitting on the floor in front of the couch, the blankets around his shoulders. His eyes are glazed, fixed unblinkingly on the small white pill bottle he’s set on the coffee table.
“I think… I took too many,” he says.
Roy can hear his heart in his ears, a distant drumbeat, accelerating towards a call to panic and to arms. “Too many what, Ed?”
“Sometimes I can’t sleep,” Edward says.
Roy’s too old for this.
Proof positive—his knees crack alarmingly as he crouches down in front of the evening’s muddled miracle and preemptively apologizes to his back.
“Put your arms around my neck,” he says.
Ed blinks once, very slowly, and then gives a crooked smile, eerie in the half-light. “It’s funny ’cause I always used to imagine putting my hands around your neck and squeezing until you, like, set me on fire or some shit.”
“That’s not funny at all,” Roy says.
Roy smothers his inhibitions and manhandles Edward into a piggyback position. All of his joints object at once as he stands; if he can move tomorrow, he’ll pat himself on the back for not dropping his muttering charge onto the floor. As they make their ungainly way back down the hall—Edward has been eating too much; that hasn’t changed—Roy can’t help getting distracted by the fact that the back of Ed’s left knee is cold, and the back of the right one is warm. Or by the fact that Edward’s arms, looped loosely around his shoulders, feel strangely comfortable. Or by the fact that Edward’s breath is soft and moist against the back of his neck, and Edward’s loose hair is catching in the collar of his shirt and tickling.
“Stairs,” Roy says. He waves his elbow around a great deal, which would be extraordinarily embarrassing if it wasn’t pitch-black, and manages to make contact with the light-switch. They shrink away from the light like two pieces of a single nocturnal beast, and then Roy squints and carefully ascends. “You’re heavy.”
Edward’s voice slurs, and his lips move against the nape of Roy’s neck. “’M not fat.”
“I know that,” Roy says. “Do people call you fat?”
“No,” Edward mumbles. “They jus’ ask why ’m not.”
“That’s rather rude of them.”
“Just because you eat a metric ton at every meal?”
“Uh h… shut up.”
“How did the Cretans take your eating habits?”
Roy’s back is screaming, his breath is coming short, and there are goosebumps all over his body from the way Edward’s mouth keeps shifting against his skin. “Do tell.”
“Pushy asshole… bastard… stuff.”
Roy tops the stairs. “You’re very lucky you don’t work for me anymore, or I might have to report you for that.”
“You never did b’fore.”
“I was somewhat lax.”
“You were lazy.”
I was in love with you. “Watch the doorknob. Careful—”
Somehow he sets Edward on the bathroom floor without injuring either of them. His skeletal system will never forgive him for tonight; he kneels, takes a deep breath, and cradles Edward’s remarkably defined jaw in one hand.
The gold-eyed glare is every bit as arresting as it was the first time—the very first time. “The fuck are you—”
Roy pries Edward’s mouth open and sticks two fingers down his throat.
He didn’t expect induced vomiting to be pleasant or pretty, but he still feels like he’s been skewered with the arm-blade of old when Edward sits back gasping, and there are tears at the corners of his eyes.
“The fuck, Mustang?” he hisses, wiping weakly at his mouth.
“I thought it was likely to be preferable to dying of an overdose,” Roy says.
“I didn’t take… I don’t th… I… Fuck you.”
Roy helps him up and searches the medicine cabinet for a toothbrush. “You’re welcome.”
“You shouldn’t even…”
“Save your life?” Roy looks at the way Ed’s hands are shaking and applies the toothpaste for him instead. “I’m sorry; I just thought it would be slightly inconvenient if I came downstairs for breakfast and found you dead on my couch. Awkward questions, you know—police inquest, lots of red tape, your brother inevitably finding out and killing me and then figuring out human transmutation so that he could resurrect me to kill me again…”
The altered line of Edward’s jaw tightens. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Gladly,” Roy says, and hands him the brush.
It’s not long before the energy of Edward’s rage is fading, and Roy has bundled him into bed and wrapped both arms around him to monitor his heart. A half-hour dwindles while Roy counts the gentle presses against his palm, planning the caffeine hits he’s going to need tomorrow if he intends to stay awake for more than five minutes at a stretch. It’s closing in on four; if he skips a shower in the morning—the proper morning—he can get three more hours of sleep. He decides that if a dozing Edward was going to die, the little twit would have done it by now, and he reaches out for the alarm clock and turns the dial.
As he moves back, Ed rolls over, snuffles, and nestles in against his chest. There are two flesh hands to fist his shirt this time; the way Edward noses at his neck and then settles again, breathing evenly, with a shadow of a smile, makes his heart twist like it’s being bathed in flame.
Roy’s too old for this.
“…bastard,” Edward says.
Roy lifts the arm that is not completely numb from Edward’s weight and uses it to ruffle the tangled mass of yellow hair. “Good morning. Breakfast?”
“After breakfast, Ed.”
The scintillating rejoinder is lost to the pillow in which Edward buries his face. Roy pats the back of Edward’s head, waits for the growl, and then drags his sorry body out of the bed, the better to drag it through another day.
Edward is attempting to fight his hair into some semblance of order when he trudges into the kitchen ten minutes later. The toast leaps from the toaster as though Roy masterminded it this way. Edward drops into the closest chair; first he leans back so far that the front legs leave the ground, and then he rocks forward and buries his face in both hands.
“About last night,” he says.
Roy pauses in spreading apricot jam.
Edward swallows audibly. “Just… thanks, all right? You didn’t have to, but—I mean, it was an accident. And… yeah. Thank you.”
Roy smiles faintly. “Of course.”
“And thanks for… the other thing.”
Roy tilts his head, and Edward looks away.
“For… not calling me ‘Fullmetal’. Most people forget.”
The prospect is surreal almost to the point of being amusing—the idea that anything about Edward Elric could be forgotten.
Roy sets the plate of toast on the table. “Fortunately, I’m not most people.”
Edward eyes him, warily it seems. “Fortunately.”
Roy keeps feeding him for another fifteen minutes, and then he’s brushing up against the deadline for showing up to work looking like a human being rather than a reanimated corpse.
He leans against the counter and waits until Ed glances up from cleaning the most recent plate of scrambled eggs. “You should come in,” he says.
Edward blinks. “To Central Command?”
Roy shifts. “Everyone’s missed you, and they’ll be glad that you’re all right.” He succeeds in suppressing a wince. “More or less.”
“Asshole,” Ed mutters, scrubbing at his face with both hands. He gets up and wanders over to the sideboard, examining the wallpaper and then prodding at the light-switch. “Well—I dunno. I was—I could still catch my train, if I—”
“Stay,” Roy says. “Just for a while.”
Edward eyes him for a long, long moment; the wall clock counts out ten, eleven; the heat of Ed’s gaze makes Roy’s skin burn, but the silence makes it crawl.
And then Edward is crossing the room, one foot bare and one foot clicking steel, and twisting both hands into Roy’s shirtfront, and pushing up on those mismatched toes to crush their mouths together hard.
There’s a shower of sparks in Roy’s head, and then… white. Nothing. A flash of stark yellow and a burst of red and a heat building behind his eyes, inside his ribs, between his hips.
Edward draws back, panting lightly, and the sharp eyes search Roy’s face. The grip on his shirt tightens fractionally.
“Thought so,” Edward says.
“What in the hell did you ‘think so’?” Roy is understandably proud that he’s managed a response given that his head is a merry-go-round spinning disastrously out of control.
Ed releases his shirt and steps back, chin raised, gaze assessing. Roy hasn’t seen him level that kind of a challenge in a long time. “That you still wanted me. It was the only logical explanation for the way you’ve been taking care of me but keeping me at a distance. Like you’re scared of what you might do.”
The merry-go-round is flinging small children off into the stratosphere, and the horses are next.
“I have to go to work,” Roy says, focusing on the syllables. “I’m sure everyone would like to see you, but it’s your choice.”
He turns and leaves the room without giving Ed time to reply. Any more of this ridiculous game, and he’s going to be late. At least if Riza eviscerates him for tardiness, he won’t have to worry about his guts churning to the point of malfunction anymore.
The unison is impressive. A part of Roy—one of the few parts not occupied with processing caffeine, suppressing memories, planning meetings, remembering deadlines, or figuring out how the hell he’s going to explain this—is miffed that he can’t get this group of individuals to salute at the same time for the life of him.
Riza sweeps in to embrace the boy first, and it doesn’t escape Roy’s notice that Edward clings to her like he doesn’t want to let her go. Havoc is already reaching for his shoulder, however, and in moments he’s been drawn into a circle of hand-pumping and back-patting and hair-tousling, and he’s scowling fit to break his face.
Riza moves over and touches Roy’s arm. “Are you all right, sir?”
After last night, it is an inevitable fact that Edward looks like death warmed over. Roy looks like death slopped into an airtight container and thoroughly chilled under fluorescent lights.
“I need more coffee,” Roy says.
“That wasn’t my question.”
“Close enough,” Roy says.
The corners of Riza’s mouth quirk. “I see.”
Apparently she does, because she doesn’t try to get him to undertake any strenuous mental activity while he can hear Edward’s voice bantering with the team so nearby.
A few budget proposals come back bearing the marks of his previous corrections, and he signs off. Riza fills and refills his coffee mug; when he doesn’t look at her straight on, he can almost see her halo.
“How bad?” she asks, tilting her head fractionally towards the outer office.
Roy folds his hands atop the latest file. “Very.”
Riza sorts through the paperwork apocalypse of the in-box. “How long will he be here?”
Roy shakes his head.
“Right,” Riza says. She pauses. “If he gets to be too—problematic—he can stay with me.”
“He said he didn’t think you have a couch.”
“Like hell,” Riza says, handing Roy a folder and sifting deftly through the next few in the pile. “He knows you’ll let him walk all over you.” She softens a little at his expression. “I know he doesn’t do it on purpose—this is Edward after all—but he’s so used to being focused that his aimlessness is… destructive. And I think he knows instinctively that he can take it out on you. Misery loves company, and he needs someone to… fall back on. That’s not good for you.”
“I can handle him,” Roy says.
Riza favors him with the look that routinely makes Havoc whimper aloud.
Roy holds his hands up. “Maybe I can set him right.”
“Forgive me, sir, but last time your feelings on this matter dictated your decision, you were unproductive for an entire week, and we simply can’t afford that kind of a delay with quarterly reviews imminent and Hakuro breathing down our necks.”
“I’m not going to get distracted,” Roy says.
Riza favors him with the look that once made Havoc cry.
Roy smiles faintly. “Trust me?”
She sighs, somewhat meaningfully. “You know I do.”
“And kick him out of here so that I can get some work done?”
She smiles back—thinly, but she knows that he knows his limits, at least today. “Yes, sir.”
The door shuts behind her, and the excited conversation peters out. She doesn’t even have to clear her throat. Roy lives in awe of this woman.
“Why don’t you gentlemen show Edward the new coffee shop down the street? And then you could take him out to lunch.”
There’s a pause.
“Boss is sick of us, huh?” Breda asks.
“‘Sick’ is a rather strong word, Second Lieutenant,” Riza says.
“How was the coffee in Creta?” Havoc asks.
“Crap,” Ed says.
“How were the women?” Breda asks.
Judging by the silence, Edward shrugs. “Fine, I guess.”
“Maybe you should try Creta, Havoc,” Breda says. “If nothing else, you don’t have a rep there.”
“But he doesn’t speak the language,” Falman says.
“That might actually help,” Fuery says, “given his pick-up lines.”
That sounds distinctly like one of Breda’s trademark palm-stinging high-fives.
“You’re all traitors,” Havoc says. “And bad friends.”
“We’re just trying to help,” Breda says, entirely unconvincingly.
This time Riza does clear her throat.
“So,” Ed says. “Where’s this coffee place at?”
The exodus is followed by merciful silence. At last Roy manages to fix his eyes on the lines of small print crawling across his desk.
As the fading sunlight slants across his back, the door creaks open. Edward’s head appears in the gap. His hair swings like a metronome. “Are you almost finished?”
Roy just raises an eyebrow.
“This is insane,” Ed says. “The more they promote you, the more work you do?”
Roy lowers the eyebrow and attempts to find his place in that sentence again. “I believe that’s how the system is meant to function, yes.”
“Since when do you play by the rules?”
“Since I intended to win the game.”
“Well, I’m hungry.”
“Save it. Should I wait, or do you want me to bring up takeout or something?”
Roy digs into his pocket and comes up with a couple bills. “You’re probably tired of Cretan food; pick whatever you like.”
Edward leans forward and takes the money by pinching it between his finger and his thumb, maintaining eye contact for the entire exchange. “It confuses me when you’re nice.”
Roy blinks. “I’m always nice.”
“In a self-serving, part-of-the-plan kind of way.”
Roy frowns at him. “Just go get us something to eat.”
Ed grins, and there’s a weird pang in Roy’s (admittedly empty) stomach. “That’s more like it. Ta.”
Once he’s blasted out of the office again, Riza peeks in. “I’m headed home, sir. Are you sure you’re going to be all right?”
“That depends,” Roy says, “on whether he drives me to homicide.”
“That would besmirch your record a bit, sir,” Riza says.
He settles his chin on his hand and musters a smile. “I’ll keep that in mind. Goodnight, Lieutenant.”
She closes the door quietly, and then it’s just him and the million tiny weights bogging down his impossible dreams.
Edward drags Havoc’s chair into Roy’s office and spins around in it until Roy’s dizzy. “What are you working on?”
“Something that will not be aided by your inexplicably insatiable curiosity about my progr—stop doing that.”
Edward laughs, loud and bright, too big for the space. “Come on, it’s dark out there. You can work more tomorrow; I promise the papers aren’t going anywhere.”
Roy skims the last few paragraphs of this file, slaps himself mentally, and rereads them more carefully. Only when he’s sure of what he’s signing off upon does he look up at Edward. “You were still talking about leaving this morning. What are you in such a hurry to do?”
Ed gives him a bored look. “You, dumbass.”
The pen drops to the blotter and rolls around a bit, rather feebly.
Edward frowns. “What? That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
“And what would that make us?” Roy asks, and if his voice comes out low and slightly harsh, he hardly thinks that’s his fault. “A two-night stand? Or has sufficient time passed that it’s just two loosely-connected one-night stands? Lovely. Perfect. Bless your brilliant little heart; that’s exactly what I was looking for this week.”
Ed bares his teeth, and it’s definitely not Roy’s fault that he’s just imagining them grazing his skin. “Don’t you fucking snark at me—I can take you, and you know it. We were fucking amazing last time. Why the hell wouldn’t you want to do it again? Aren’t you supposed to be Central’s resident sex machine, or are you too old for that shit these days?”
Roy is not going to throw the pen at him. He’s not. He’s better than that. “How dare you—”
Edward’s up and out of the chair and gesticulating wildly, ponytail flying everywhere. “How dare I? Right, I think I get it—it’s totally okay to throw me down on your bed and fuck me until I can’t walk when I’m fifteen years old and work for you and get all starry-eyed when you look my way, but when I’m actually of the age of consent and have a life and don’t worship the ground you walk on, it’s not kinky and flattering enough, so never mind, let’s just chalk that one up to youthful naïveté and pretend like it never ha—”
Roy slams both hands down on the desk as he stands. “Shut your fucking mouth, Ed.”
Whether it’s the noise or the profanity or the look on Roy’s face, for once Edward does as he’s told.
“Thank you,” Roy says delicately. “Listen to me. It was a mistake to begin what I did with you when our time was limited, but I was acting on the assumption that things might go sour, and I should seize any opportunities that I could. I did not intend for us to have sex once and then go our separate ways. I did not treat you that way deliberately, and I regret that I gave you that impression, but of course it’s far too late to change that now. Tonight, however, is within my power. We can start over. Tonight, no bullshit—not yours, not mine. Dessert if you want it, and then sleep so I can get to work on time tomorrow. If you’re still interested by this weekend, we can reevaluate.”
Edward blinks at him. “…‘still interested’?”
Roy stares back.
“I just…” Edward blinks a little more. “I just pretty much told you I was infatuated with you.”
“When you were fifteen,” Roy says.
Edward shrugs. “I haven’t changed that much, have I?”
Roy looks down at his hands as they start sorting folders. He’s always thought his hands were intelligent—certainly more than his heart, and often more than his brain. “I don’t know. Have you?”
A glance up finds Edward sucking on the inside of his cheek. “What day is it—Wednesday? Guess you’ll have to wait and find out.”
Roy ends up bringing paperwork home. Edward ends up prying it out of his hands and dragging him upstairs. They both end up wrapped around each other on the bed, one tight tangle of limbs and blankets. Edward tucks his head under Roy’s chin, curling one arm in between them and laying the other over Roy’s side, and it’s close and comfortable and warm.
“How’s this?” he mutters.
Roy manages not to hum contentedly. “What do you mean? It’s—nice.”
“I meant as far as this whole pretend-relationship thing you’re suddenly obsessed with.”
Damn him. Forever. “Why does it have to be pretend?”
The hand between them extends a finger and pokes Roy in the chest. “You don’t have time for courtship if you’re going to be Führer. Which you are. If you hurry your ass up.”
“You… seem to be predicating your assumptions on the—entirely erroneous—perception that there are two types of relationships, one of which involves a full-fledged, long-term emotional process complete with various symbolic gestures; the other of which is sex without strings attached.”
“I fucking hate your vocabulary.”
“That may be, but I’m right. Why can’t we have a valid relationship that still accommodates my political ambition—and also frees you to pursue whatever activities strike your fancy?”
“Well—well, relationships are shit anyway. We should probably just stick with the sex, and if you insist on cuddling like this and eating together and whatever, I guess that’s fine.”
Roy is about to protest when he realizes how few examples Edward has had of romantic relationships in the past. His father deliberately abandoned their family when he was a child; Maes unintentionally left a similar void in his; Havoc is constantly getting jilted and discussing it loudly; and Roy himself is a notorious womanizer.
“Perhaps we should approach it like that,” Roy says slowly. “As… sex, with trappings. Do you think?”
“‘Trappings’ sounds like you trying not to say ‘trap,’” Edward mutters.
Roy smiles thinly. “Sex with flourishes? Sex with extras? Sex with bonus material?”
Ed buries his face in Roy’s chest. “Fuck it; never mind; goodnight, asshole.”
Roy smiles a little more. “Goodnight, Edward.”
Thursday, Roy leaves Edward as a muttering lump under the blankets, topped with a tuft of somehow-still-startling gold hair. He returns to find Edward sitting in the bath, both feet propped up on the edge, reading the newspaper.
“Make yourself at home,” Roy says. “You’re welcome to anything you like. Don’t worry about sloshing your bathwater all over the floor like a four-year-old.”
“Cool, thanks,” Ed says without looking up.
Roy grinds his teeth and takes a deep breath and counts slowly to ten.
“Have you eaten?” he asks when none of his veins are likely to burst any moment.
“Poked around in the fridge a little,” Edward says, turning the page, “but I haven’t had dinner, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“It is,” Roy says. “About how long are you likely to be?”
“Huh? Oh, I’m done. Just loitering. Nice bathtub you got here, General.” He tosses the paper aside—directly into a puddle of water, of course—and climbs out. Roy assiduously does not look at certain now-obvious parts of him, because Roy is exhausted, and exhaustion makes him weak, and just the sharp lines of Edward’s strong back and the wet drape of his hair make Roy’s insides twist and throb.
As Ed stomps (metal foot loud on the tile) over to the heated towel rack, Roy gets a little weaker—can he be blamed for that?—and lets his gaze slide low, appreciatively, over the firm curves of Edward’s ass and the tantalizing definition of his athletic thighs. That’s not a crime, is it? Looking? Liking? Planning where to touch?
He sweeps past before Ed’s finished wrapping the towel around his waist. “It is a nice bathtub,” Roy says, “isn’t it?”
Edward has turned up Roy’s best bathrobe and donned it to hover, mostly unobstructively, as Roy makes dinner for the pair of them. Despite the fact that Edward has, at last, noticeably grown, the garment dwarfs him. Roy bites his lip to hold that observation back; he’s cooking with hot oil, and the odds of it getting splattered all over one or both of them after a size comment are extremely high. (Unlike Edward.)
Miraculously, and mostly thanks to Roy’s impressive self-control, they make it to the table unscathed.
“So,” he says, trying not to feel slightly ill just watching Edward inhale food at such an unholy speed, “have you heard from Alphonse recently?”
“Nah,” Ed says. He has the grace to pause, chew, and breathe. “But it’s cool, because he was planning to go up to this sanctuary-monastery-thing at the top of a really big mountain for, like, a week or two, and I figure they probably don’t have a post office.”
“Oh?” Roy says, and not about the post office; he certainly wouldn’t expect… Goodness, it’s been a long day. And goodness, Ed’s eyes are distracting.
“Yeah, he said it’s supposed to be the best place in the entirety of Xing for deep-immersion meditation. He’s really hoping he can get that to work as an in for figuring out all this qi stuff.” Edward starts gesturing haphazardly with his fork, and Roy resists the urge to duck. “Because the thing is—it’s central to alkahestry, right? But it’s not just something alkahestrists can sense; Ling and Lan Fan and Fu were all over who had what qi, and whose qi was bad, and what Al was if he wasn’t a source of qi. So it must not be related to the actual performance of alkahestry, or to any kind of inherent power—it must be something you can learn. He’s been struggling with it, but it’d give him a huge edge as far as Amestrian alchemy is concerned, so I’m expecting him to come back and start throwing knives around, and there’ll be alkahestry circles drawn on, like, the shower door and stuff.”
“He’s coming back, then?” Roy says, and as soon as the words are past his lips he wishes that he could rescind them.
Edward blinks. “Well… yeah. Of course. That’s what you do when you go away from home.”
“Right,” Roy says slowly. He mashes the fish on his plate and then moves it around with a finesse that borders on artistic. “Did you pick up anything interesting in Creta?”
Ed snorts. “Does a bear shit in the woods?”
“Given that I understand their habitat is mostly in the north,” Roy says, “which doesn’t have a great deal of forested area in the regions where the reports are concen—”
Edward is glaring at him. He grins.
“Anyway,” Edward says, pointedly, “I’m excited to get a chance to talk to Al about it. Cretan alchemy is mostly like a sort of muted version of Amestrian alchemy—like, they don’t do much of any significance; they’re kind of scared of it. It’s not as taboo as in Ishval, or anything, but they associate it with us, and not in a good way. Except—” He points his fork at Roy. “—a ton of it revolves around something that translates roughly as ‘soul currents’. Which is basically qi. So I’m really interested to find out if Hohenheim taught them that—and I’m not sure either way, because they don’t have a big dumb ‘yellow-haired sage’ legend like we and the Xingese do—or whether there’s something embedded in alchemy that makes the soul thing paramount.” He sets the end of the fork on his bottom lip and presses until the tines make little dimples, and Roy wants to vault across the table and suck on every inch of him. “If it does, there’s a hell of a lot more potential for combining branches of alchemy even than Al and I were expecting, and he’s going to be goddamn unstoppable.”
Roy puts his utensils down, sets his elbow on the table—his mother would kill him—and rests his chin on the heel of his hand. “As are you.”
Edward blinks, and then he scowls. “Very funny, douchewad.”
It is remarkable that four years and immense exposure to another language have not improved Edward’s selection of insults. “I wasn’t trying to be funny. You just spent several minutes proving my hypothesis that even without your alchemy, you’re an incredibly brilliant scientist. You could apply that to theoretical alchemy, if you wanted—you could transform the ready-made array busin—”
“Ready-made arrays are shit.”
Roy resists the urge to massage his temples. “But they don’t have to be. That’s what I mean. Your intellect is powerful enough that you could change that single-handedly, if the whim struck you. Or you could go into chemistry for its own sake; clearly your knowledge is extremely advanced. Hard science. Why not?”
Edward’s fingers tighten around the handle of his fork, and his eyes are sharp as they flick over Roy’s face. “I didn’t realize this was a career counseling dinner. What the fuck is your game, Mustang?”
“I don’t have one,” Roy says. “You’re looking for a way to apply yourself; I’m making suggestions. Plans come from ideas, and results come from plans.”
“You should write a fucking book of aphorisms,” Edward mutters.
“When I’m Führer,” Roy says. “It’d be pretentious now.”
Ed laughs and then looks slightly surprised. “You’d better get a move on. I was serious about General Armstrong; she could kick your ass and feed it to you.”
Roy manages not to be slightly stung. “I am quite aware of that. General Armstrong’s ambitions, however, seem to be satisfied where she is—which I certainly don’t blame her for. Given her temperament, I think she’s much happier commanding her extraordinarily well-trained contingent than she would be playing politics with all of the juvenile talking heads down here. Frankly, even if she didn’t hate the word-bandying and the back-stabbing, I think she’d be bored. Every day is a test of survival up there; around here it’s a very, very slow game of chess.”
“Which you’re going to win,” Edward says, in the exact same tone he used to say When you have your body back, Al. Roy finds that for a moment he can’t speak. “And then you’ll have to wear the dress-thing all the time, and maybe a hat, and you’ll be insufferable.”
“Thank you for the vote of confidence,” Roy says, standing to collect the plates. “Would you like more, or are you ready for dessert?”
Ed flashes the hungry-wolf grin in answer.
Amusingly enough, on the many late-lonely-night occasions upon which Roy imagined this scenario, he always forgot to account for how much food would be required.
Hello, baby, hello
Open up your heart and let your feelings flow
You’re not unlucky knowing me
Keeping the speed real slow
In any case, I set my own pace by stealing the show
Say hello, hello
Harmony and me
Were pretty good company
Looking for an island in our boat upon the sea
Harmony, gee, I really love you
And I wanna love you forever
I dream of never, never, never leaving Harmony
– Elton John – “Harmony” –
“Cuddling is boring.”
“If we’re already in bed and wearing stuff that’s easy to take off, why can’t we just do the dirty?”
“It’s not even that late yet. If we’re really quick, you could be asleep before midnight.”
“Waiting until the weekend was a stupid idea.”
“Oh, you can generate more than one word. Congrats.”
“Edward, how many sexual encounters have you had?”
“Huh? Oh. Lots. Tons. Shit-tons. Like, a million.”
“…people, dumbass. Or do you sometimes get a craving for sheep?”
“Men? Women? Your own age? Cretan?”
“…y… yeah. All of those.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Well, you’re a bastard.”
“Be that as it may, my suspicion is that you haven’t established any meaningful physical connections since you and I first slept together.”
“That’s not true! I was all over this one Cretan chick in a bar, and she had huge boobs—Havoc would’ve died—and she took me home, and—”
Edward swallows. “Well—fuck you. Smug piece of shit.”
“This isn’t smug,” Roy says. “This is receptive. What happened?”
Edward gets interested in the folds of Roy’s pajamas. “I dunno. It just—went—weird. Like, we were getting undressed, and she sort of tore my shirt, which was kind of distracting because it’s not like I can fix it with alchemy anymore, y’know. And then she thought the leg was a little off-putting, I guess, but we were still gonna go for it, but then—it just—felt really… bad. Like my ribcage was collapsing or something, like black-hole-of-despair or some shit. And I couldn’t breathe, so I kind of panicked, and that made her freak out, and then I just left and got spectacularly drunk and picked a fight with some guy who looked like an asshole.”
Roy lets that settle, and then he lifts a hand and runs his fingers slowly through Ed’s hair. “There’s nothing wrong with not having casual sex.”
“You do it all the time!”
Roy laughs, rather dryly. “On the contrary.”
“What, you’re like a celibate monk now that you’re a big-shot? Forgive me for finding that hard to believe.”
“First of all,” Roy says, “I never had casual sex—it was calculated sex. Contracting anything unpleasant would have made for a very embarrassing impediment to my plans, and the plans were always my priority. Second, I did not have partners ‘all the time’ at any period of my career; only when things were very quiet, I was very stressed, or maintaining my image as a young and slightly flippant up-and-comer was very important.”
“So most of the time the girls were either a free massage or a front,” Ed says. “Gee, that makes me respect you way more. How could yo—”
“I didn’t do anything I would take back,” Roy says. “Not in that sphere of my life. I think that counts for something.”
Edward goes quiet for a while, and then he settles in a little closer. “You’re still a bastard.”
“So I hear.”
“You shouldn’t have slept with me.” He glares up. “Wait a second, you wouldn’t take that back? Then you were talking all kinds of shit yesterday. I guess that’s not a surprise.”
“I wouldn’t take that one back,” Roy says, levelly, “because it was absolutely extraordinary. I… thought it might be my only chance to experience that—to experience you like that—and while I regret the implications of the haste, I… would take that chance again in a second.”
Edward draws back a little to frown at him.
Roy frowns back. “What?”
Edward pokes him in the chest again, even more firmly. “Why aren’t you taking it now?”
Roy strokes his hair a little more, partly just to make him squirm. “Apparently your only experiences are losing your virginity in a mad rush before the Apocalypse and an abortive attempt to hook up with a stranger in a foreign country. I think it’ll be very healthy for you to think the whole thing through for once.”
There is a distinct possibility that having a prospective sexual partner stare at you like you’re an abomination (and Ed would know) should be distressing, but Roy is kind of tickled.
“Besides,” Roy says. “Anticipation is exciting.”
“Fuck anticipation,” Edward mutters.
“Well,” Roy says, “the idea is to fuck each other. But not yet.”
Edward presses his face to Roy’s chest and mutters a string of impressively unprintable things.
When Roy lets himself in just before eight on Friday, he’s thinking about where to cast his lot on the issue of Aerugan trade tariffs. The majority of the military, especially the tattered remains of the old guard, want to preserve their power and keep Amestris as isolated as possible; the Aerugans are chomping at the bit to undercut local production; the Amestrian people are convinced that they can change a dictatorship to a democracy by checking a box and then going about their daily business. What does he believe? Riza thinks he should sit out on this one, but he’s held his tongue over a number of diplomatic dilemmas lately, and there’s a point at which noninterference gets mistaken for indifference, which they can’t afford with Hakuro spreading his influence like Pride’s shadows…
He’s climbed the stairs, stepped into the bedroom, and started to undo his uniform jacket before he notices, with a poorly-suppressed start, that Edward is sprawled on the bed—hair loose, chin in hands, ankles crossed, buck naked.
“General,” he purrs, “it’s embarrassing as hell, but I’m actually tingling after listening to you coming up the stairs so slowl…”
Roy hangs his jacket in the wardrobe, follows it with the cavalry skirt, loosens his collar, and starts for the door again.
“…where in the ever-loving fuck are you going?”
“I’m starving,” Roy says, “and exhausted. Where do you think?”
“It’s the fucking weekend! I’ve been waiting three days, you—you dick!”
“Now, now,” Roy says, pausing at the threshold and glancing back to admire the view. “Hungry?”
Edward bares his teeth. “That’s beside the fucking point!”
“Not really,” Roy says. “The point is to do it properly this time—well, and wonderfully, and thoroughly. In order to accomplish that, we’re going to have to be rested and fed.” He starts down the stairs again, raising his voice a little. “Is there any food left in the house, by the way?”
“I hate you!” Ed calls.
“If you meant that,” Roy says, “you wouldn’t be here.”
Edward talks, grudgingly at first and then more animatedly as he forgets to be angry, about Cretan libraries as they eat. Roy turns that over and adds it to his mental list of Things That Could Occupy Edward (to Keep Him Here Forever), although the administrative minutiae of running a library or developing plans for improvement of the system would probably bore Edward out of his skull. It’s a pity. It’s a pity that the road he was perfect for has been closed off to him.
Edward remembers that he’s angry as they’re brushing their teeth and abruptly stops making faces at Roy in the mirror. He stalks out while Roy is settling in the bedroom, returning with a selection of books from Roy’s personal library and curling up on the very edge of the bed to crack the first one open.
“Don’t pout,” Roy says. “It’s unbecoming.” It’s not.
“This isn’t pouting,” Ed says. “This is seething. You never keep your fucking promises.”
Roy folds his hands on his chest and manages not to sigh. “I said ‘the weekend,’ not ‘the first thirty seconds that qualify as the conclusion of the work week.’” He looks over, not liking something in the silence. “When have I ever broken a promise to you?”
“You said all kinds of things,” Edward mutters, turning a page. “The first time. And like a fucking idiot I sort of believed you.”
There is little that Roy despises more than finding himself speechless. But it’s obvious now—glaringly obvious, searingly obvious—that he’s been pushing this away too long. Instinctually, he compartmentalized it as something discrete, something limited, something almost sacred—something precious and tenuous that it hurt to touch. So he locked it up. He jotted notes about the contents on the side of the container (amazing amazing amazing gone), but he has spent the interim trying not to piece the spears of sensation and the half-memories back together into coherency. It was an act of self-preservation, but now… Apparently now he has to open it. He has to accept it. He has to make it right again, if he can.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“Sorry I called you out,” Ed says.
“You know that’s not fair.”
“I can’t believe I have to tell you that the goddamn world isn’t.”
Roy runs his hands over his face, sinks into the pillow, and disassembles the barriers.
He remembers gripping Ed’s flesh hand, tugging him through the foyer. He remembers saying something about Alphonse wondering where Edward had gone, and Edward shrugging and telling him not to worry, and he remembers listening to that. The stairs practically disappeared; the bedroom narrowed to Edward, to Edward’s sharp eyes, bright and nervous and curious and amused. Roy must have been peeling layers off like a madman after that initial pause; he remembers Edward’s breath catching as Roy licked at his throat. He remembers Edward’s hips in his hands, remembers five cold fingers dappling uncertainly at his shoulder, remembers the halting mumble of Some people don’t like— and remembers I don’t give a shit about those people, and you shouldn’t either, Edward, because you are so fucking beautiful I don’t know where to begin. He remembers pressing his mouth to the hot flush high on the cheekbones; remembers grinding their hips together and not knowing why he was still wearing his clothes; remembers a pang of guilt thinking Edward had interpreted Roy undressing him as a test, as an assessment, which it was possible to fail.
He remembers trying to shuck everything off without letting go of Edward’s shoulders, hips, ribs, jaw; he remembers stuttering out I want you—Ed, I need you—fuck, so bad, so much—I always will.
He remembers finding, tracing, probing, learning all the dips and valleys of Edward’s powerful body with his tongue; he remembers branding every inch of skin with his fingertips; he remembers the salt of Edward’s sweat on his lips, the arc of Edward’s spine off the bed, the tug of metal fingers twisted in his hair. He remembers heat and joy; remembers hard muscles underneath his hands; remembers raking his eyes up and down, over and over, trying to imprint the image on his mind. He remembers Edward writhing, hissing, gasping, clinging; he remembers Edward’s head thrown back, throat exposed and hair a splash of light; he remembers a steel calf crooked around his thigh; he remembers moving in perfect synergy, close and wet and ecstatic, hips crushing, breath catching, tight and hot and desperate. He remembers flipping Edward onto his mismatched hands and mismatched knees, cringing at the soft whine, brushing the hair back obsessively. He remembers leaning forward, bodies flush, whispering Do you trust me?; he remembers the nod. He remembers snatching up the glove crumpled on the comforter and making sparks dance down Edward’s spine. He remembers pressing kisses to the flesh shoulder-blade, remembers the metallic tang of dragging his tongue along the edge of the automail. He remembers the shivers; remembers wrapping his arms tighter; remembers burying his face in Edward’s neck; remembers touching everywhere, grasping, clutching, smoothing; remembers Come for me, Edward, co—you—fuck, Ed—
He remembers the whiteout. He remembers fading back in and feeling like his skin was on fire.
He remembers looping an arm around Ed’s waist, kissing insistently, pulling him back to the damp spot on the bed. He remembers Lemme go, Colonel, and he remembers Stay.
He remembers concession; he remembers leaning in, nosing at the ear, nuzzling at the hair, murmuring I love you, I love you, will you stay?
He remembers waking up alone.
He sits up, vaguely surprised to find himself wearing his pajamas, and pushes a shaky hand through his hair. He dares a glance, and then he shifts over and settles, slipping an arm around Edward, leaving him space to turn the pages in the event that he’s not fake-reading to make a point.
“I’m sorry,” Roy says.
“Whatever,” Edward mutters, but he doesn’t pull away.
Roy cracks an eye open at eight, weighs his options, wedges himself in against Edward’s back a little more, and settles to doze a bit. It’s nice, waking up next to someone and not having anywhere to be. Nice, rare, pleasant, soft, warm. Privileged. Roy smoothes his hand down Edward’s bare chest, the pressure of his fingertips earning a sleepy mumble, and nestles his face into Edward’s hair, which is unsurprisingly even more stunning half-aflame in the bands of sunlight. He hadn’t forgotten the machine-oil-and-sweat-and-electricity smell, mixed now with the scent of his own shampoo.
Roy drifts idly in and out of dreams as he lies there curled around the small body radiating heat. This is what he wants—just this. Just the peace. If he has to pay in storms and sacrifices, so be it; this is what he wants.
After a good half-hour of laziness, he shakes his head to clear it as much as is possible in a pre-caffeine state, and then he climbs carefully over Ed, shoulders his robe on, and pads downstairs. Coffee first. Then breakfast. Then fixing things he broke a long time ago.
As anticipated, when he carries a tray of hot, fragrant food into the bedroom, Edward wakes up in a hurry.
The suspicion isn’t slow to follow—Ed eyes him like steadying the glass of orange juice is an extremely questionable gesture. “You… made me breakfast.”
Roy sets the tray in his lap and unscrews the lid of the jam jar. “I did.”
Edward frowns. “This,” he says, pointing at the tray, “looks like courtship.”
“How silly of me,” Roy says. “I thought that was toast.” He offers Edward the knife, which, thinking about it, is probably not the wisest thing to do whilst sassing the little bastard.
For all of his bitching, Edward does not look a gift horse in the mouth, or at least not when the gift horse is feeding him. The apricot jam triumphantly rides again. “Are your ‘trappings’ always going to involve bringing me goddamn breakfast in bed on weekends?”
“Hell, no,” Roy says. “I just wanted to make sure you’d had appropriate sustenance.”
Ed’s halfway into the second piece of toast despite the fact that he’s done the majority of the talking. He pauses to raise an eyebrow. “When your vocabulary is done patting itself on the back, you want to translate that into my native language of non-bullshit?”
Roy rescues the jam knife and slowly licks the jam off of the blade, finishing with a flourish, unblinkingly holding Edward’s gaze.
Edward swallows hard.
Roy sets the knife down on the napkin and straightens the tray. “Eat up,” he says.
Edward swallows one more time. Then he starts shoveling food again, even faster than before.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” Roy says, but this time he deserves the glare, because that sounded indescribably smug.
Momentarily, Edward is shoving the tray onto the nightstand, and then the muscles in his back bunch enticingly as he shifts, and he looks like he’s about to pounce.
He doesn’t. He just stares, for a long, long moment—hot yellow eyes and a stone-cold poker face. When the hell did he learn that?
“You brought me fucking breakfast,” he says.
Roy rolls his shoulders and then peels off his pajama top, arching his back as he goes. “In the interests,” he says, “of post-breakfast fucking.”
Ed swallows yet again, which is a very promising sign that his mouth may be watering.
And Roy waits, looking like several million cens, because he won’t make the mistake of taking advantage twice. This time Edward has to make the first move, or there won’t be a second, and a third, and a crescendo of reactions, no matter how fast Roy’s blood beats just seeing him there across the bed.
He curls his fingers slowly in the comforter, and he waits.
Edward’s eyes flick up, flick down, linger, and then dart up again. Roy tilts his head, just a little, in case what he’s looking for is a nod. He’s not used to Ed asking for permission, but he’s also not used to Ed responding to jam-knife suggestion and checking him out with typical Elric meticulousness.
Edward draws a breath, releases it, and crawls smoothly across the mattress. Roy’s whole body tenses, and then he thrills; Edward Elric, in just those cotton boxer shorts, is enough to make him break into a sweat. Ed lifts a hand, hesitates, and settles it on Roy’s shoulder, thumb skimming against the side of his neck.
That’s about as much patience as Roy can muster. He slings an arm around Ed’s waist and twists the other hand deep into that unbelievably glorious hair, which somehow feels even better than it looks.
Roy had always kind of wondered, when he allowed himself—whether Edward always kisses like the world is ending, or only does so when the likelihood of the world ending imminently is indeed fairly high. The crush of the hot mouth and the brief, startling pain of the boy’s careless teeth lays that mystery to rest. One of Edward’s hands flattens on his chest, whether to steady him or to hold him at a distance he doesn’t know, and the fingers of the other tighten in the hair at the back of his neck.
“S-sure about this?” Roy manages—a last attempt at chivalry, and a rather valiant effort, he thinks.
“Dumbass,” Ed whispers, nipping gently at his bottom lip and then dragging him down onto the bed.
They just twist together for a moment, experimentally, fitting their bodies around each other a few slightly different ways—Edward’s fractionally taller now, which he probably proclaims to the world at large whenever he has a chance, but they still mold together just like they did before. They match up, line up, and when Roy plants a knee for leverage and shifts his hips hard, everything rubs so perfectly that his brain shoots sparks. The flesh leg hooks around his back, and Edward’s spine arcs as he contorts to grind on Roy’s thigh; it’s a challenge and a half to resist the sheer animal want and to remember that they’re supposed to be doing this properly, carefully—that Roy can’t just throw him down and pin him to the mattress and rut against him until they both come sticky and shameful all over each other, all over the bed—
With a little effort, he can still track down and gain hold of his brain; he seizes what may be his last opportunity to do so and fumbles for the nightstand drawer—it’s still stocked with items he hasn’t had cause to use in a long while. He tosses the lube and the condom down on the mattress for now; he’s not complicating the process until it’s absolutely necessary.
“Remember how this works?” he breathes against Ed’s throat.
Edward swallows, Adam’s apple rolling against Roy’s lips. “…the fuck do you have to ask? D-don’t need alchemy to be a fucking genius—”
“That’s what I’ve been telling you for three days,” Roy says, and then he drags his tongue down Ed’s neck and along his right collarbone—the one Roy hasn’t tasted before.
“Y-you—” Edward gasps in a deep breath and releases it as a long whimper as Roy moves down to a nipple, flicking his tongue, circling, sucking. “—y… you signed up for the military and gave alchemy up except for killing people and then d-descended on me when I was eleven and had two limbs; f-forgive me for doubting your career advice—”
Roy employs his teeth, and the rest of that rant gives way to a soft squeal.
He drags his hands down Edward’s sides, digging in his fingernails, and is about to strip the boxers off when he remembers that moment of what might have seemed like judgment the first time—that moment when Edward, his inexperienced subordinate, was laid out before Roy, in all of his concrete status and fabled prowess, fully clothed and then wrapped again in rumor. He can barely conceptualize the depth of that vulnerability, and at the time he barely took notice of it.
So he sits back and wriggles—ungracefully, garnering a weak snicker from Edward, which he rewards with a glare—out of the paltry remainders of his pajamas, and then he settles a gentle and appreciative gaze on the young man whose thighs he’s straddling.
That’s almost enough. Roy takes his cock in his hand, and a shiver prickles down his spine, and he just looks at Edward—hair a burst of gold on the sheets, eyes challenging, face flushed. Just looking is almost enough; if he pulled three long strokes right this second, he could come hard all over that taut stomach and tightly-muscled chest, and he hasn’t needed Ed to be here to know how hard he climaxes when this is what’s on his mind. If shower walls could speak… well, it’s a good damn thing they can’t.
Ed bucks his hips up so that their dicks brush with just the cotton of his boxers in between, and Roy has to bite his lip hard on a groan. “Are you seriously going to sit there and jack off?”
At this point, Roy’s vocabulary has pretty much dissolved into Fuck, good, Ed, and a few rather primal sounds, so he shakes his head reproachfully and leans down to fold their bodies together again, catching Edward’s mouth for another filthy, probing kiss and pressing his dick between them to leave damp trails of precum on the hot skin of Edward’s stomach.
When he draws back and meets Ed’s eyes, they’re both gasping for air and straining; Edward’s heels are slipping on the sheets, and their chests keep colliding in their synchronized struggles to breathe.
“Okay,” Edward says. “Just fuck me. Now.”
Roy grips the boy’s hipbones and grins. “Yes, sir.”
Edward musters the presence of mind to roll his eyes despite the way he’s panting. “Shut up, asshole.”
Roy licks up along his throat, fumbling to find the top hem of his boxers. “Does that include inarticulate noises inspired by pleasure, sir?” Roy’s back into his element now—with a willing, nigh-on-needing sexual partner at his mercy.
“Holy fuck,” Ed groans, hips lifting as Roy fists a handful of cotton and drags the shorts out of the way by force. “You sound like fucking Falman.” The fabric catches in a groove of the metal knee, and Roy tugs and twists to get it loose without ripping it; Edward would almost certainly decapitate him as equivalent exchange for the damage. “It’s the unsexiest thing ev—”
Roy shifts down and unceremoniously takes Ed in all the way to the back of his throat, sucking gently and savoring the taste. Most men—certainly most military men—probably would have advised him to seek psychiatric help when he discovered how much he likes having another man’s dick in his mouth, but his first subject was Hughes, and Hughes’s advice was never normal and always flawless. At the time, Hughes’s advice was “Oh, God, fuck, deeper”; a few minutes later his advice was “You have to teach that to my girlfriend”; the next day, his advice was “There’s nothing wrong about something that doesn’t hurt anyone and makes you happy. Happy is hard to come by; take it where you can get it.”
“Nnnnh,” Ed says, which is somewhat less pithy than is his habit. “F…” On the other hand, Roy doesn’t really care what it requires or what it sounds like if he gets to watch through his bangs as Edward Elric writhes like that, head thrown back, fingers scrabbling for purchase on Roy’s shoulders.
He gives the underside of Ed’s dick a long, slow, proper lathing, and then he draws back and attempts to find his breath while he fights with the cap on the lubricant bottle. It really has been too fucking long; the cap is stuck on and a little crusted over, but he’ll be damned if—
“I hate you,” Edward says, somewhat faintly, limbs sprawled. “Leaving me like this while you have technical difficulties. Thought you were supposed to be some kind of sex god. Fuck. General, come on.”
“Good things come to those who wait,” Roy says.
“That has never been true in my entire fucking life. Or yours. Good things come to those who fucking seek them out and fight to the death for them.”
Roy wedges his fingernail into the gummiest bit. It’s extremely difficult to think rationally with his head swimming and his cock throbbing and Edward right there, gasping and bitchy and incredibly fine. “Apparently this bottle is of the fight-to-the-death mentality as well.”
“I’m going to get up and leave in a minute.”
“No damn way you can walk right now.”
“Fucking touché. Fuck.”
“‘Fuck’ is still my intenti—” The piece of shit product he is never buying again finally concedes victory with a final wrench, and then words are entirely superfluous, because Roy is slicking his shaky fingers and diving on Edward to use them.
“Oh, shit—” Edward’s voice is uncharacteristically high and tremulous; Roy should’ve been more careful, but he just… needs… this. He pins Ed’s right hip with the heel of his free hand and works his finger in deeper, gently now, leaning in to drag tongue and teeth all over Ed’s chest to distract him. “Forgot how fucking weird that is.”
Roy shifts up to mouth at his neck, which is about as close as he dares to get to Ed’s ear for fear of hurting one or both of them. “I didn’t forget how fucking tight you are.”
“Less talking,” Edward says, “more fingeri—holy shit—”
Roy’s still got it.
He forces himself to breathe steadily and presses the second finger in more slowly, rotating his wrist a little as he goes. The urge to drop the pretense of civilization, grab Ed’s hips, and just fuck him into the mattress without any further ado is intense—and, as the incredibly persistent rational centers of Roy’s brain remind him, utterly and completely out of the question. Edward will never admit it, but he needs to feel welcome and wanted and safe. That’s why he’s here. That’s why he keeps pushing, prodding, whining, snarling—to test the limits of Roy’s patience. To try the boundaries of the acceptance. To determine if the extremes of his personality are compatible with Roy’s life, Roy’s world, just… Roy. It’s scientific. It’s Ed. And Roy is going to prove to him that he has a home.
Besides, there’s definitely something to be said for fucking him nice and long and slow. Lovingly. Like he deserves.
Roy scissors his fingers, spreads them, and draws them almost all the way free of the staggering wet heat of Ed’s body; he drives them back in with his third finger angled between them, pushing hard for Ed’s prostate. The sweat beading on Roy’s forehead smears as Ed seizes a handful of hair and smushes Roy’s face into his chest with a wordless shout.
“Stop,” Edward gasps next, and Roy freezes—ironic, that. “No, don’t stop-stop—shit—General, I hate you—”
If Roy is not mistaken, he’s supposed to stop stopping, which probably means doing that again; he stretches his fingers and allows himself a wracking shiver at the sheer anticipation; lets himself nudge his desperately hard cock against Ed’s right thigh.
“No, dumbass,” Edward says, arching up against his hand, hips jerking, hair spilling, mouth dark red and wet. “S-stop with the fucking f-fingers already—”
“You give a hell of a lot of orders for someone who’s supposedly retired from duty,” Roy says. As Ed’s eyes and mouth open wide in outrage, Roy slides his fingers out, curls them around his own cock, tilts Edward’s hips with his other hand, and guides himself in.
Roy doesn’t really like to think about the implications of the fact that moments like this one are the closest he gets to religion.
“Fuck,” he says.
“F-f-fuck,” Ed agrees, breathlessly.
Roy braces himself on the mattress with his damp hand; the other seems to have a fixed vise grip on Ed’s hip, and he needs the leverage to try to press in deeper. “You feel so fucking amazing—”
“I bet you s-say that to all the g-girls, you b-bastard—”
“You’re not a girl—oh, fuck—and f-furthermore that’s no way to speak to someone who’s having excellent sex with you.”
Tendons tighten in Edward’s neck as Roy shifts in, all the way in, deep-full-fantastic-holy-hell in. The boy hisses softly through his teeth. “‘Excellent’ remains to be s—”
Why are they still talking? Roy wraps his hand around Ed’s dick and squeezes hard, which derails that sentence into gasping, squirming, and a new flare of hot pink in Ed’s cheeks.
Roy rocks his hips back and forth, stroking at Edward’s cock slightly feverishly as the obliteratively wonderful pressure around his own makes his brain stutter, makes his hands shake, makes him shiver like it’s snowing. Ed’s chest heaves, and his eyelids flicker; both of his hands uncurl from the comforter and drag themselves slowly up Roy’s sides. The left one is calloused; the right one is soft, and fortunately that’s the one that carefully explores the contours of Roy’s scar tissue from the fight with Lust.
It’s pretty funny, now that he thinks about it. That’s probably the only fight with lust that he’s ever won.
He shifts forward harder, and Edward moans faintly, head dropping back.
“There,” he gasps out. “Fuck, oh, man—”
Roy licks a quivering droplet of sweat off of Ed’s breastbone and tries to figure out where all of his own limbs are. One of his hands was on Edward’s hip and has gravitated around to that delightful ass, which is good; he digs those fingers in a little and reaps a half-stifled squeak. The other hand is still wrapped around Ed’s cock and smoothing absently up and down, which is also good; he tightens his grip and then loosens it and dapples his fingertips along the length and over the head; Edward chokes on his next breath and writhes beautifully. Roy’s knees are starting to protest the unjust treatment they’ve been subjected to ever since he slung Ed onto his back that first night, but they’ll hold out for this. The only other appendage of note is buried inside of Edward Elric, pulsing and overwhelmed with sensation.
This is about as good as it gets.
Edward whines in the back of his throat, and his hips rise against Roy’s. “Do that again—fuck—you bastard, don’t fucking tease me—”
Roy thrusts harder, whimpers approvingly in perfect time with Ed, and realizes with bolt-of-lightning abruptness that he forgot the condom.
It’s not like he’s diseased, but—but there—and Ed’s obviously not—except—
Edward’s gaze sharpens and latches onto his. “What the fuck just happened?”
Ed looks up at him again and painstakingly slowly arcs an eyebrow.
“Protection,” Roy says blankly.
“Against what?” Edward asks, and Roy stares at him, because he can’t possibly not know— “It’s not like I’m going to conceive some kind of magic man-baby; and it’s not like we haven’t established that I’m a virgin except for you anyway; and if I was really so disgusting that you wanted to sheathe your dick before you put it in me, you wouldn’t let me sleep in your bed.” His eyes narrow to slits, and he sets his jaw. “So which is it, General? You infected with something fun that you like to pass around? Or is it just the concept of exclusivity that gives you the willies?”
“You’re one to talk,” Roy says, ironing out the tremor in his voice. “You ran from exclusivity the first chance you had, and you didn’t stop running until you hit the ocean and had to start back.”
The sweat is starting to go cold. So are Ed’s eyes. “You weren’t offering exclusivity, Mustang. You were offering a pity fuck.”
Roy imagines that receiving a sledgehammer blow to the chest feels something like this. “You really don’t know a goddamn thing about me, do you?” Edward starts to twist sideways to escape, and Roy slams both hands down on his shoulders to pin him in place. “Do you?”
Now the wriggling begins in earnest, and Edward snarls like a cornered cat. “Get the fuck off of me, fucking child molester rapist piece of shit—”
That shouldn’t hurt, but it does, and it’s really all Roy can do to hold him down and try to find a fragment of forgiveness somewhere in the being beneath him. “Edward, would you just—think back?”
Ed digs his heels into the mattress and snaps his hips up so violently that Roy sees stars—terrible ones; the kind he usually observes before he wakes up on the ground with people standing over him brandishing cups of water and lectures about hydration. “To what? What a fucking idiot I was to fall for your shit like every stupid girl in this stupid city—let me go!”
“I told you,” Roy says, and he can’t get the quaver out this time, “that I loved you. And I fucking meant it. And I still fucking mean it, and it’s terrifying, Ed, but neither of us is going to run from this.”
All of the bucking energy goes out of Edward like a wire’s been cut, and he drops to the bed. His whole face changes. His chest rises, falls, rises; he tilts his head to look away, and somehow he’s mastered the angle that’ll make his bangs hang over his eyes even when he’s lying down.
“You’re bruising me,” he says.
Roy lifts both hands from off of his shoulders and sits back.
Ed swallows, and his left hand slides over to rub at his right shoulder absently for a moment before it withdraws again and settles on the mattress limply, fingers half-bent.
“You can’t—” He draws and releases a shallow, impatient breath; his hair flutters unrevealingly. “You can’t just—say that.”
Roy tries to find something solid to hold onto, but it’s only them, and the bed, and the soft morning sunlight. “I’m not just saying it. It’s been true for years, and it will almost certainly remain true for the foreseeable future.”
“What a commitment,” Ed mutters.
“That’s what it is,” Roy says, and he casts around himself for an anchor again, but there’s nothing. “Take it or leave it.”
Edward is quiet for a long, long moment. He drags the back of his hand across his eyes, and then he uses it to lift his hair out of the way and glance at Roy. “The thing is—I mean, you probably—it’s like there’s this huge weight on your whole chest, and one wrong move will make your ribs crack, and it’ll crush the fuck out of you. Or—or like your whole body’s turned into this one giant wound, and it’s warm, but it’s raw somehow, and you’re swimming in this dread that if someone touches it or stabs it or messes with it, it’ll bleed, and it might never stop bleeding. And maybe it’s better not to risk letting anybody get that close.”
Roy settles his hands flat on the bed on either side of Ed’s body, leans down, and kisses both of his shoulders in turn. He looks up and meets Edward’s gaze and holds it.
“I will never hurt you,” he says. “I can’t make promises against accidents, or flukes, or sometimes going too far when we’re bickering like we do, but I will never hurt you if I can help it. You’re too damn important to me. All right?”
Edward raises a shaky hand and pushes Roy’s damp hair back, filtering his fingers through it slowly.
“All right,” he whispers. He blinks, swallows again, and tugs gently on Roy’s hair. “So how about that for a mood killer?”
Roy’s smiling as he darts in to lick at Ed’s throat. “How about we call a truce and rebuild it?”
Edward mumbles something that sounds like acquiescence while he writhes away from Roy’s tongue, shivering rather tellingly.
It probably says a lot about Roy that it really only takes him thirty seconds of exploring Edward’s marvelous body with his eyes, then his hands, then his mouth to be hard and needy and pressing back into the wet heat, teeth gritted to slow himself down. Hopefully it says a lot about Edward that he responds with every bit as much alacrity and a series of soft gasps that trail off into moaning.
There’s something heady and sweet blossoming in Roy’s chest—a phenomenon intense enough to distract him from the throes of unbelievable pleasure that only sex with Edward Elric seems to supply. There is a tiny part of him still analyzing, and that tiny part murmurs that the difference now is that there’s nothing left to prove. The difference is that they’re on the same side, and they want the same thing.
He can see it now, and he can feel it—the air is different; Ed’s hands are different, even though the gestures haven’t really changed. They’re moving together now, smoothly, collaboratively; Edward is, unsurprisingly, an unsettlingly quick study, and now they’re both seeking closeness instead of closure, and…
And Roy feels like his veins are conducting an immense current of electricity; like his cock is buried in undiluted perfection; like Edward’s sweat is fine wine, and Edward’s half-lidded eyes and lopsided smile are sharp and tiny blessings. Roy feels like his entire being is on fire.
They rock back and forth together, give and take and ebb and flow, and the combination of soothing and stimulating makes Roy’s spine tingle; he grips Ed’s hips in both hands, tilts them, and pushes in deep—he knows the angle now. The cry starts rough and low in the back of Edward’s throat, and Roy shifts one hand to seize his cock and pump hard, fingertips grazing his balls, dragging through the coarse hair. Edward comes hot and wet against his stomach—back arching, breath held, left hand clenched tightly in Roy’s hair.
He collapses, panting, and then he sets a smoldering look on Roy. The hand in Roy’s hair hauls him into a violent kiss, the goal of which seems to be Ed actually biting Roy’s tongue, and then Ed does this thing with his hips—a quick pop-jerk that’s viciously good, and Roy’s whole back goes rigid. With his audience captivated, Edward sucks on Roy’s lip and clenches his gorgeous ass and brings Roy down whimpering as everything vanishes into sparks and silence.
Hazily Roy fades back into himself after some indeterminate interval. His arm is draped over Edward’s chest, and the young man is curled up against him, head tucked under Roy’s chin.
“How was that?” Edward asks.
“You know exactly how that was,” Roy says.
“Bet you’d never guess I’ve only ever had sex once before.” When Roy merely makes a thoughtful noise, Ed elbows him. “Well?”
Roy sorts through his brain for a few leftover words that are not oh God more sex now please. “Not in my wildest dreams.”
“Dumbass,” Ed says. “That was your wildest dream.”
“Guilty as charged,” Roy says. He raises his head a little and looks around, blinking until the features of the room come into focus. “Except for the small detail that in dreams we don’t have to clean up.”
Edward tries to pull him back to the nest of rumpled bedsheets. “C’mon, we can just wash everything later.”
“We could,” Roy says. “But what we’re going to do is get up, take a shower, do some work, and have lunch.”
Ed pouts. “It’s Saturd…” Revelation sets in. “You mean, like, one shower between the two of us? Both of us in the same shower? You all wet and useless, but also naked?”
With a somewhat superhuman effort, Roy reaches the edge of the bed, slides off, steadies his knees, and reaches both arms out to Edward. “You’re covered in bodily fluids; let me carry you.”
“Fuck, no,” Ed says, scrambling for the other side. “Me and all of my cum-soaked dignity are going to walk.” He tries to stand and immediately drops to the floor, flailing all the way. “What the fuck happened to my leg?”
“Sex,” Roy says. He moves around the bed and offers a hand up. “Remember?”
“You are so much more attractive when you’re too busy fucking me to talk,” Ed says—but he grabs onto Roy’s hand all the same.
Edward demands ice cream after lunch. Given that it is the weekend, Roy reluctantly puts some clothes on, and they make their way down to the square. There’s a possibility that Roy is spoiling him, but considering the life Edward Elric has led, he can’t help thinking that it’s more than overdue.
The vendor looks slightly horrified when Ed asks for four scoops, and Roy manages to cover his amusement with a cough while he retrieves his wallet.
As they walk back, Roy wondering just how expensive this venture into the unknown realm of potential happiness is going to prove, Ed seems at first to be quite oblivious to how suggestively he’s licking his mass of ice cream. Then awareness sinks in, and the beginnings of a wicked grin make the lapping and flicking even worse, and Roy admires the hedges intently for a while.
Very nice hedges, these. Neatly-trimmed. Lots of leaves.
“Hey,” Edward says after Roy has catalogued several hedges and a few driveways to boot. “Did you really mean that thing you said?”
Roy dares to turn and blink at him. “You’re going to have to be marginally more specific.”
Ed glances out at the street and nibbles on his lip. “Um… y’know. Do you actually think I can still be—I dunno, useful? In science or something.”
“I do more than thinking it,” Roy says. “I guarantee it. You were brilliant at alchemy because you’re just plain brilliant, Edward. You’re terrifyingly intelligent and extremely adaptable. Your instincts were very well-suited to improvised alchemical solutions to various problems, but there is not a sliver of doubt in my mind that if you re-trained your brain, you’d revolutionize any field you applied it to.”
Ed goes a bit pink. “You’re—not bullshitting me. Or trying to get me in bed. Or plotting to steal my ice cream. Or hoping to send me into some discipline that’ll actually end up helping you in some kind of crazy master plan that even you know is at least eighty percent dependent on dumb luck and me doing all of your dirty w—”
“I’m not bullshitting you,” Roy says, “or planning anything underhanded.” He takes a deep breath and lets it out as a sigh, shrugging and mustering a small smile. “I just want you to be happy, Ed.”
There’s a pause. Then Edward licks all the way up the nearest side of his dessert.
“A fuck-ton of ice cream is usually a good start,” he says.
“I’m going to have to ask for a raise,” Roy says.
Edward flashes him a broad wink and a cheesy grin. “I’ll give you a raise.”
So it’s really not Roy’s fault that he leans in and steals a kiss that’s all surprise and melted ice cream right in the middle of the sidewalk.
“It’s Saturday,” Edward says.
“I’d noticed. Not least because you’ve pointed that out to me several times today.”
Edward drapes himself on the couch theatrically and gives Roy an extremely mournful look. “You shouldn’t do any work on Saturdays. I’m bored.”
“I’m sorry,” Roy says. “I can’t hear you over the recollection of more than a dozen occasions upon which you spent all forty-eight hours of the weekend researching in the library and missed meetings with me because you were passed out all day Monday.”
“Bastard,” Ed says contentedly, squirming until he manages to fit his head into Roy’s lap underneath the latest file. Roy rests it on his nose, and he swats at it. “So—so as far as my… I dunno, prospects, what do you think should be our first step?”
Collective pronouns are an inimitable first step, but Roy knows very well that he’d get an eyeroll or better for mentioning it. “I have a few contacts in the university faculty. I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t make an exception for your unusual educational records given every other record of you in existence. If they don’t want to, I will convince them.”
“Ooh,” Ed says mildly. “Blackmail. How about I actually earn it? You know, for the challenge.”
“I don’t even have to employ questionable methods of persuasion anymore,” Roy says. “There are perks to this position, you know.”
“Like the fact that no one will argue with you about the fact that your new boyfriend is fifteen years younger and used to work for you?”
Roy’s face is getting a bit hot. “Like… that, yes.”
“Good,” Ed says warmly. “I wouldn’t want to have to beat the shit out of any military officials my first week back in Central.” The doorbell rings, and he’s up and darting out into the hall, nothing more than the last slither of his hair across Roy’s thighs to mark his passage. “Got it!”
Roy sets the folder aside and starts after him at a rather more leisurely pace. The three bolts ensure that Edward is only just opening the door as Roy emerges into the hallway.
“Good afternoon, Edward,” Riza says. Hayate sniffs at the threshold. “It was actually you I was looking for.”
“Roy did it,” Ed says. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Riza arches an eyebrow and quirks a smile. “I brought you a letter from your brother. He said you’d spoken of coming back from Creta soon and sent it to me in the hopes that I might be able to forward it along.”
Edward takes the considerable envelope, eyes tremendous. “Holy crap. There’s enough paper in here that he’s either figured out the qi thing or written a fucking novel.” He beams, bright-eyed and stunning. “Thanks, Lieutenant! General, I’m taking your seat. Tough shit.” He’s already tearing the letter open before he’s finished careening down the hall, presumably planning to take up the entire couch and be an ass about it.
Roy looks at Riza. Riza looks back.
“Forgive my earlier skepticism, sir,” she says. “You seem to have handled it quite well.”
Roy crouches down to scratch behind Hayate’s ears, not that she won’t know he’s trying to hide his grin. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“It’s… good to see him looking—passionate—again.”
He stands and brushes the creases out of his slacks. This time the smile is meant for sharing, and she does. “It is, isn’t it?”
She pulls him into a hug, and then she hands him another important file with which to desecrate his weekend.
“Give Maria my best,” he says as she starts down the walk. “If you know what I mean.”
Riza favors him with a withering look, but he knows by now that it’s her fondest one.
Roy wakes up slowly on Sunday—he’s warm and well-rested, although the idea of wrapping all available limbs around a certain warm body and dozing until noon sounds virtually irresistible. He reaches out and runs his hand along the mattress, except…
…that the vaguely Ed-shaped dip is unoccupied, and the sheets are cool.
His heart is disintegrating, going frail at the edges even as it leaps painfully into his throat, and the bedclothes whisper, falling around him as he sits up and forces himself to breathe. It could be just—an excursion to the restroom, or a mid-morning hunger pang, or any number of things—
It could be—
“Aw, shit,” a familiar voice says. A weight collides with the door. “Fuck, I should’ve left that open. Uh. Help?”
Roy is still on the verge of vibrating from the shock, which makes him more than numb enough to slip out of bed and wordlessly open the bedroom door.
Edward, who blinks up at him and smiles sheepishly, is holding a tray.
A tray full of breakfast.
Including apricot jam.
“I kind of burned the toast,” he says. “Uh, twice. But it’s probably good if you just put a lot of jam on… Are you okay?”
Roy pries the tray out of his hands, sets it on the bed, and folds Ed tightly into his arms.
“Hey!” comes the indignant squeal. “Watch the hair! What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want breakfast?”
“No,” Roy says. “Just you.”
In the end, Edward makes sure they don’t starve.
In the end, he stays.