Rachel (inugrlrayn) wrote,
Rachel
inugrlrayn

Big Bang Story - Part 2

Title: Sparks and Shadows - Part 2
Author: Inugrlrayn
Genre: Romance/angst
Rating: R
Word Count: 15,279
Pairing/Characters: Roy/Ed
Warnings: Angst and some mildly adult material
Summary: Ed's denial over his feelings towards Roy inadvertently cause an accident that would have killed his lover. Ed bargains with the Gate, trading Roy's memories of ever knowing him in exchange for keeping him alive. Opting not to tell Roy about their history in favor of not trapping him in a relationship with someone he doesn't remember, Ed must live with the consequences and risk the possibility that what they had was purely circumstantial.
Author's Note: Thanks so much to sink_or_swim for the beta, and to rueme for the gorgeous art that can be found
here.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters in this story.

The rest of my fics are here.





Part 1

Roy’s vision swam, nothingness and tendrils of gold, ephemeral and just out of reach. A voice he knew murmured to him, garbled as if he were lying under water. He recognized … something, but could not put a name to it. Unconsciousness dragged at him, and he felt pinned under glass, aware and helpless.

It was eons before he pried his eyes open, startled back to reality by a phantom touch, warm fingers he may have only imagined. The emptiness he was awash in shifted slowly to a blur of antiseptic white, and Roy blinked, trying to clear his vision. Slowly, inch by inch, the world came into focus, the hospital sheets, the bedside table, a young man with a too bright smile, watching him as if… as if what?

“Who are you?” Roy asked warily, taken aback by the stranger lurking in his hospital room. Surely, Hawkeye wouldn’t allow anyone with ill intent this close when he was so vulnerable. He caught her standing by the door, at the edges of his vision, and managed to relax just a bit, schooling his expression into something more neutral until he could sort out what exactly was going on.

The young man opened and closed his mouth like he’d been asked something terribly complicated. His smile shriveled before Roy’s eyes, still there, but anemic and forced. He doesn’t want you to see him crying, something whispered in the back of his mind, and he wasn’t sure why he should know that. The face he was looking at was terribly expressive in any case, and so Roy wrote it off. The stranger sitting beside him was just easy to read, and there were more pressing questions than why someone he didn’t know would cry over him in the first place. His fingers twitched on the sheets like they might move of their own accord, reaching out to the young man… and he had no explanation for that.

“I’m Edward Elric. I… I’m part of your team.” The young man’s voice rasped like responding was a struggle, and Roy narrowed his eyes. He knew his team and he was fairly certain he’d remember someone so… unique. A figure of gold, he’d have remembered those eyes alone if he’d seen them on the street, let alone his office.

His head ached, and nothing made much sense. Hawkeye hadn’t contradicted this Edward person, and yet, he was certain he’d never seen the young man’s face before. Unsure of how to respond, Roy said nothing, narrowing his eyes as he tried to focus.

“Look I just, well, you wouldn’t have gotten hurt if you weren’t rescuing me from oncoming traffic so I figured I ought to stick around and make sure you were okay and…” Edward Elric, who supposedly worked with him, was waving his arms in a vague sort of gesture, though it certainly didn’t make whatever point he was trying to get across any clearer. He was still talking, but the words seemed to trip over each other in their haste to get out, and the only thing Roy caught after that was something about how he was very busy and really did have to go. Roy didn’t miss the troubled expression the young man wore, but Edward was gone before he’d gathered the wits to tell him to stop.

Roy stared at the empty doorway, perplexed by his unease. A million questions rattled in his head. Scrubbing at his face, Roy looked up at Hawkeye, noting the way her hair seemed to have grown out overnight. With every intention of inquiring about that oddity later, he finally asked the most pressing question, “Where am I?”

“The hospital in Central, sir,” Hawkeye replied. Roy’s brows furrowed, only more confused. He’d been… He couldn’t quite recall, but he didn’t remember anything about Edward and he didn’t think it was Central.

Roy closed his eyes, leaning against the headboard of the hospital bed. The train station wasn’t far away, and a distant whistle met his ears. It jarred something, and Roy abruptly sat up, demanding, “How exactly am I in Central, Lieutenant?”

“The accident was here in Central.” Hawkeye pursed her lips, silently regarding him for a moment before asking, “Where is it you think you ought to be, sir?”

“I…” Memory came in bits and pieces, train cars and scenery flying by the window. He’d been checking into something, something… a letter he was pretty certain. He could just barely remember childish scrawling across the envelope, a name that fled his memory. “We were on a train, following up on a lead in… Rizembul.”

Riza’s eyes widened in something like alarm, and Roy wondered if somehow he had given the wrong answer. He didn’t remember reaching the station, so there couldn’t be anything else, and yet his lieutenant stared at him as if he’d lost his mind. “Sir, that was eight years ago.”

“There must be some mistake,” Roy murmured, demanding a paper. His heart nearly stopped as the world crashed in. The realization that nearly a decade of his life was simply gone left him numb.

So much time had passed, and suddenly he knew nothing about the world, or even his own life. Hawkeye’s expression was sympathetic when Roy shoved the paper back at her, disgusted by the loss. Her voice was soft as she took the paper, laying it on the table. “I’m sorry sir. There’s no mistake.”

He had to get a grip. Panicking wouldn’t bring his memories back, and every moment he spent feeling sorry for himself only wasted more time. Ignoring the way his head still pounded, he looked up at Hawkeye, demanding information. Maybe he couldn’t remember what had happened, but he could read reports at least, reacquainting himself with the last eight years to minimize the potential damage.

“Are you certain that’s wise, sir? You’ve only just woken up. I imagine the doctor will want you to rest,” Hawkeye pointed out.

“Physically I feel fine,” Roy replied a bit testily, stunned to find it was true. It was as if the accident had stolen away his memories, leaving him otherwise perfectly unharmed. Shaking off the uneasy feeling that something was off about the whole thing, he added, “I will have to go back to work, likely sooner rather than later. I don’t intend to return uninformed.”

In the end, the doctor insisted on keeping Roy for observation. Aggravating as the prospect was, it bought him time at least, time he intended to use wisely. The side table was stacked with reports, and he read through each one, hoping something within the pages would spark his memory.

It was a strange and awkward feeling, reacquainting himself with the world through words that meant nothing. The documents were in no particular order, and he combed through them as they came. Largely, nothing touched him, but Roy’s breath caught violently in his throat when he finally opened the file that explained why his best friend had yet to show up.

He needed a drink. It had been years, but none of that mattered when Roy could remember none of the grief, and none of the healing. Roy squeezed his eyes shut and set his jaw, and suddenly he wasn’t sure he wanted to read anymore. He was so lost in his own agony, he didn’t hear the soft shuffle of feet against the tile.

“You killed the bastard that did it,” a voice at the side of Roy’s bed startled him, and he found himself staring up into a pair of eyes the color of apple juice. Edward looked as if he was grieving nearly so much as Roy was, though he couldn’t imagine why. Ignoring it, Roy schooled his expression into something more neutral.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, his voice a bit harsh in his desperation to find some distance.

“Lieutenant Hawkeye was busy. I came to bring you more of the reports you asked for,” Edward replied, head turned just far enough away that Roy couldn’t see his expression. The silence was stilted and raw and for all that he couldn’t remember, Roy was certain it wasn’t normal for them.

“Have we known each other long?” Roy asked, curiosity finally getting the better of him. He couldn’t get that time back, but maybe he could piece together something. Maybe he could at least distract himself from losing his best friend all over again.

“We took the military apart together. I’d damn well say so,” Edward replied, and the cocky grin that briefly slipped across his lips looked far more at home there than the grim expressions Roy had seen so far. There was something familiar in it, though Roy couldn’t recall actually ever seeing it.

Roy nodded, not really sure how to respond. He hadn’t the faintest idea what had happened, and he wasn’t naïve enough to believe that the reports would give him the whole story. Ed stood there, the smile on his face slowly slipping, and Roy still knew nothing about him. He’d always recruited carefully, and he couldn’t help wondering what had made him choose the young man standing beside his bed, mismatched fingers wrapped around the files he was holding.

“I should get back to the office.” Edward set down the files, turning on his heel to leave. Roy didn’t know if they hated each other, if they were friends, or even how they’d met, but his hand shot out before he quite noticed what he was doing. His fingers curled around Ed’s flesh and blood wrist, and the young man looked at him, his eyes wide and startled. Roy heard his breath catch, the twist of his lips something alarmingly mournful, but Edward didn’t pull away, only freezing there in the hospital room.

“I need to know what’s happened,” Roy heard himself say.

Edward stared blankly at him for a moment. His golden eyes were wide and terribly expressive, slowly trailing down to where Roy’s fingers still clutched at him. Roy pulled his hand back, letting it settle in his lap as Ed asked, “What do you want to know?”

“Everything… anything,” Roy replied, but Ed didn’t seem very forthcoming. With a frustrated sigh, Roy settled on something a bit more specific. “How long have we worked together?”

Edward frowned at him, and then looked at the door as if he seriously considered bolting. It was hard to say if he was sad or angry or something else entirely, but any trace of a smile had entirely fled. His voice was a terrifyingly forced sort of level as he finally answered, “Seven years.”

Seven years? He hardly looked old enough for that. Thinking there must be some sort of confusion or disconnect, he tried again. “How is that possible? You’re only…”

“The youngest state alchemist Amestris has ever had,” Edward said wearily, as if all the pride he ought to be feeling at that achievement had petered out. He slumped down in a chair beside the hospital bed, any trace of military decorum vanishing altogether.

“How did you pull that off?” Roy pressed, intrigued by the new development. He sat up a little straighter, noting the way Edward’s eyes tracked his every move.

“Have you even bothered to look at half that stuff? You’ve got every damn report you’ve ever made me write,” Edward retorted, waving at the pile of folders still on Roy’s night stand. He was cagey about it, suspiciously so, and Roy intended to find out what it was that wasn’t in those reports.

“Watch your tongue. Just because you’re a civilian consultant doesn’t give you any right to be disrespectful,” Roy bit out. Protégé or not, what on earth had possessed him to enlist the services of someone like this? Surely, he wasn’t always so difficult.

It was hard to tell at first if Edward was laughing or crying. It was a bitter thing, the edges shredded like the barest edges of hysteria were creeping in. His eyes were shadowed and lost, and there was no humor in the smile that twisted across his lips as he muttered, “You really don’t remember anything at all, do you?”

The room was quiet save for Edward’s faintly uneven breathing. For all he didn’t begin to understand it, Roy felt for him, was sympathetic to whatever it was that made him seem so vaguely unstable. His own world was fragmented. He was tired and if nothing else, clinging to the potential distraction from being alone with his grief all over again. When he finally answered, he spoke softly, watching the thick fall of blond hair that hid Edward’s face. “No. I don’t remember, but if you’d tell me I’d at least know.”

“They say you’re not supposed to tell amnesia patients this stuff. Let ‘em remember it on their own or something,” Edward responded, his words tinged with something Roy couldn’t pick out. Abruptly, the young man was looking at him again, his expression strangely fierce as he said, “But fine if you want to know. Let me tell you a story.”

Edward settled in his seat and spun out a tale that started with two little boys at a grave stone. It was sad, tragic really. Roy listened to Ed talk about hopelessness and loss and creatures Roy swore only lurked in the intangible corners of his worst nightmares.

Yet it wasn’t all so sad. He found himself smiling now and again, and sometimes Edward’s expression wasn’t so severe. They’d won after all. They’d won and they were still alive and the world a better place for the sacrifices they had made.

Their conversation fell to other things, the transition so liquid that Roy hardly noticed they were actually talking. Ed’s mood had brightened, and like this he was downright pleasant. He was bright and a little bit comical, and Roy only had scant moments between their words to wonder if they’d always been like this. He hadn’t the heart to ask for fear of losing the shaky balance they’d found.

For all Edward hadn’t seemed keen on staying in the first place, it was remarkably easy to keep him there. At some point he sprawled there like he’d grown roots, and the sun was setting outside by the time Roy even noticed. Talking came so easily, and maybe he couldn’t remember, but it felt like they’d been doing this for ages.

Listening to years of a history that could just as easily been someone else’s as his own, Roy was struck by Edward’s sense of personal responsibility. He listened to the young man talk, everything underwritten with a peculiar sense of guilt, and Roy briefly wondered if Edward had ever met an unfortunate circumstance he didn’t blame himself for. It was then that Roy remembered what Edward had said about his own accident. Intent on alleviating at least that one thing from Ed’s shoulders if he could, he finally asked, “The accident… What happened?”

Edward sighed, the smile abruptly dropping from his lips. “I’m sure the doctors told you. You got hit by a car.”

They way Edward sat back in the chair, he looked a bit like a cornered animal, but Roy pressed, “You said it was your fault. Were you driving?”

“No I…” Edward trailed off, looking away. When he finally finished, his voice was hardly more than a bitter whisper. “No, I was in the street. You got hurt pushing me out of traffic. So like I said, it was my fault. I’m sorry.”

“Did you ask me to help you?” Roy asked, already knowing the answer. He liked to think he would have protected any of his subordinates.

“Course not,” Ed replied tersely. He stood up, already taking a step toward the door as if he could win the argument by escape.

“It’s hardly your fault that I chose to help you, them,” Roy pointed out. He couldn’t ease his own pain and sense of loss, but maybe he could at least help someone he obviously had trusted enough to be a part of his team. “Don’t own what isn’t yours.”

Edward spun on his heel, something fierce and desperate in his expression. His voice rose almost startlingly, “You don’t even know.”

“I know I don’t blame you. Stop blaming yourself,” Roy ordered, inwardly pleased to see the way Edward faltered, as if at least considering what was said.

“It’s late. I need to get back to work,” Ed muttered, offering an awkward, forced smile and all but scrambling for the door.

“I mean it. This isn’t your fault,” Roy repeated to Edward’s rapidly retreating figure. It was only after the doorway was long since empty that he realized that Edward’s story really begged to question why they’d been together that morning in the first place.


He had made the right choice. Ed had to believe that or he might go mad. It made no difference. Too strung out to sleep and too weary to focus on reading, he lay on the couch, alone in his apartment, staring at the lazy rotation of the ceiling fan. Roy’s insistence that it wasn’t his fault still rang in his ears. If only he could believe it.

Eventually, Ed fell asleep, curled up on the cushions and buried under a blanket. It was fitful, littered with dreams that made his heart tremble and left him cold and empty. It came in fragments, the blaring of a car horn and gurgling, gasping breaths, and when Ed sprang upright, even the darkness was tinged in crimson.

Ed buried his face in his hands, shoulders tense. He could still feel the Gate all over him, could still feel Roy’s body go still in his arms, and he shuddered to think what might’ve happened. Reminding himself that Roy was safe and whole, probably fast asleep in a hospital bed, he tried to go back to sleep. Ed huddled in a ball under his blanket, but sleep didn’t come.

Maybe a distraction would do him some good. Ed remembered nights when he’d been younger, talking to Al for hours when he couldn’t sleep. It always seemed to help. Foggy with sleep, he didn’t really stop to consider the time, already lurching unsteadily off the couch. Ed fumbled with the phone, eventually getting the receiver to his ear. He’d memorized the number so thoroughly, even his sleep muddled mind managed to pull it up despite the fact that he was so tired and disoriented he wasn’t standing up quite straight.

Giving up on standing altogether, Ed slumped down in the chair by the phone. What was he supposed to say, anyway? Hey Al, guess what? I managed to screw up my life and Roy’s and you’ve only been gone a few days. That was stupid. What time was it anyway? It was probably late. He should also probably hang up so as not to wake Al. It was already too late though, the phone was ringing.

“Hello?” Al’s voice crackled through the line. It was slurred with sleep, which made it all the worse. Ed very distinctly wished he’d hung up when he had the chance.

“Sorry, Al. Didn’t mean to wake you,” he mumbled. “Go back to sleep.”

“Brother? It’s… it’s…” There was a pause and some fumbling sounds, followed by a crash and a curse that would’ve made Ed laugh under other circumstances. “Two in the morning. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. I forgot the time. Just hang up and go back to sleep,” Ed replied, pulling his legs up under him as he curled up in the chair.

“You’re a terrible liar,” Al chastised, but there was sympathy in his voice, even at two in the morning.

Ed hmmed noncommittally. Al didn’t need his problems. He had school, and a life, and Ed didn’t want to be worried about. He did his best to feign honesty in his voice. Maybe he could sound alright, so long as Al didn’t see his face. “The apartment was quiet is all. It made me wonder how things were going for you, if you were settling in alright. Get some sleep, Al. You can just call me later.”

“I’m surprised you’re even at the apartment.” Al paused, that dangerous, thoughtful sort of silence that meant in the next ten minutes Ed would be telling him everything whether he wanted to or not. It made Ed sick to his stomach because bad enough what had happened without dragging his little brother into it.” He was so lost in thought, he only barely noticed when Al asked, “Did you and the General have a fight?”

“What? No, we didn’t fight. We…” What Ed meant to say was that they were fine. What actually came out was, “He asked me to move in with him.”

“That’s great, Brother,” Al said, and the way his grin was an almost audible thing made Ed’s chest ache. He bit his lip, not trusting his voice as Al continued a bit less certainly. “I mean, it is, isn’t it?”

There was silence on the line, but Ed couldn’t bring himself to break it, breath catching in his throat when Al finally asked, “Ed, did you say no?”

“I didn’t… No I… I never got the chance to answer,” Ed bit out, voice cracking on the words.

“Brother what happened?” Al prompted again, worry evident in his voice.

The moment had been inevitable from the moment Ed had dialed Al’s number. For all he wanted to pretend thing were fine, he’d never been good at lying to his brother. Like a crack in a dam, he said a little and then the truth crashed through, tumbling off his lips as he scrubbed furiously at his eyes. His brother listened quietly until he mentioned the Gate.”

“Brother you idiot! You could’ve been killed. What made you think that was a good idea?” Al demanded, and it was hard to tell if he was angry or terrified.

“He was dying, Al. You didn’t… you weren’t there,” Ed tried to explain, shaking in spite of himself as he remembered the broken, wet sounds Roy had made in trying to breath. “I couldn’t let him die.”

If nothing else, Al surely had to understand that it hadn’t been a choice so much as something he’d just had to do. There was uneasy silence and finally Al spoke to him again, “Well, you’re not in the hospital. You’re okay, right? What… what did it take?”

“His memories of me,” Ed answered flatly. It sounded so insignificant when he said it out loud, and yet his chest still felt like a gaping hole. “They’re keeping him at the hospital for a few days, but he’s fine too.”

“You should be there,” Al admonished. “I’m sure he’d appreciate it.”

“You don’t understand,” Ed cut in before Al could say more. “He hasn’t just forgotten we were together. He… eight years it took. He doesn’t even remember I existed.”

“Oh Ed. Are you…” Al started.

“I’m fine. I’m… I’ll be fine,” Ed insisted, damned if he’d let Al come home for this.

“Well, maybe you could talk to him at least. I’m sure it’s hard, but… don’t you think it hurts him too that he probably thinks the person he cared about doesn’t even want to be around him?” Al’s voice gently prodded, and even from far away, Ed winced.

“He doesn’t know,” Ed blurted out, the admission sitting like ash in his throat.

“You… Ed, you didn’t tell him?” Al asked, and even tired as they both were, Ed could hear the alarm in his voice.

“Why? So he can try to force himself to want to be with someone he doesn’t even know?” Ed spat bitterly.

“Because even if he doesn’t remember, he chose to be with you, Ed. He deserves to know, and I imagine he’ll take it a great deal better from you than when he finds out from someone else that you didn’t even bother to tell him,” Al pointed out.

“No one needs to tell him,” Ed retorted. “It’s no one’s business.”

“Don’t be an idiot, Brother,” Al replied, patience all but gone from his voice. “You know it’s only a matter of time before he sorts it out. Just because he’s forgotten doesn’t mean he’s stupid, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you just tell him.”

“I can’t,” Ed croaked, blinking furiously, glad Al couldn’t see him now.

“Why?” Al prodded.

“Because… I love him,” Ed admitted, miserably shaking his head. “It isn’t fair to make him feel like he has to, you know? He… he should just be happy.”

“If you love him, you have to tell him, Ed. What isn’t fair is keeping him in the dark,” Al replied with a long suffering sigh.

Al changed the subject after that, and Ed let him, grateful for the distraction. He tried halfheartedly to get Al to go back to sleep, but Al was a far better brother than Ed thought he remotely deserved. He stayed on the line despite Ed’s attempts to argue, and they talked until he finally dozed off, phone still clutched in his hand.

XX

Roy dreamt of tendrils of gold that brushed across his cheeks. Whispers brushed against his ears, just faint enough he couldn’t quite make out the words. He closed his eyes, reaching out, but all he came up with was empty sheets that caught in his fingers.

Roy snapped awake. The sun was up, filtering through the blinds of the hospital window, and the halls were already bustling. Neither did anything to shake the hollow feeling that assaulted him, like he was missing something far more tangible than memories. Some…one maybe?

Roy was still mulling over the possibilities when Riza came in, more of the files he’d asked for in her arms. His eyes flicked to where she stood, the very picture of professionalism and was once again surprised by how long her hair had gotten. His breath caught very faintly at a half remembered dream of gold slipping through is fingers. The dreams he’d had were fragments, and her hair wasn’t gold exactly, but it was the solution that made the most sense in the moment.

Surely he wasn’t involved with Hawkeye. It sounded like a death wish, and yet no one else had come to tell him otherwise. It seemed like a terrible secret to keep, but at least if it was Riza, he could count on some sensible explanation for being left in the dark. Perhaps it had been a secret. He didn’t want to consider the alternatives.

“You look lovely this morning, Lieutenant,” Roy tried. It seemed like a safe enough thing to say in any case.

Riza’s eyes widened ever so slightly. Maybe he really was on to something. Riza set down the files, “Are you feeling alright, sir?”

“Never better. I believe they’re releasing me today. I’ll be back at the office before you know it,” Roy replied, watching every faint shift in her expression. He grabbed a file she’d brought, glancing haphazardly through it.

“That’s good to hear, sir. There’s plenty of work waiting for you,” Riza said slowly, and if Roy hadn’t known her for … apparently even longer than he’d thought, he wouldn’t have even noticed her discomfort in light of how well she hid it.

This wasn’t going remotely the way he’d meant it to. Roy was silent a moment too long, and Riza started to excuse herself. It only made him more suspicious, and he reached out, grasping her hand in his.

“General?” Riza asked, and it took a split second to process because he wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to waking up and finding himself at the top of the food chain. He tightened his fingers around Riza’s, and while she frowned at him, she hadn’t pulled away or threatened him yet.

It was a gamble, but he had to know. Roy tugged on Riza’s hand until she stepped closer, reaching out to brush his fingers through her hair. Her throat worked, her voice strangely soft as she murmured, “Sir?”

“I keep having these dreams.” Roy’s heart hammered in his chest as he leaned in to brush his lips over Riza’s.

“Mmm mmm…” Roy’s eyes snapped open as Riza jerked back, her expression closed lipped and brutally disapproving. She did not, in fact, look like someone he’d built a relationship with.


“I… Sorry. I’ll come back later,” another voice broke the tense silence and Roy looked up to find Edward in the doorway. He stared at Riza and Roy with those startlingly wide gold eyes, all but frozen at the entrance to the hospital room.

He was empty handed, so he wasn’t bringing files. Roy couldn’t think what else Edward might want, so when the young man made no move to explain himself, Roy finally asked, “Did you need something?”

Roy watched Edward’s throat work, lips parted as if the words had simply gotten stuck. He shook his head, and the smile his mouth twisted into was false and mirthless. “It wasn’t anything important. I… have to go.”

Edward was gone before Roy could stop him. Riza, on the other hand, hadn’t gone anywhere. She was a few steps from the bed, looking all the more displeased for having discovered Edward had been there too.

“My apologies Lieutenant,” Roy scrambled to explain. As hard as it was to feel anything like charming or smooth sitting there in a hospital gown, it was more humiliating to realize he’d just been probably very appropriately rejected in front of another subordinate. It was shaping up to be a fabulous day, obviously. “I keep having these dreams and I just thought that perhaps you and I had been… something else to each other. Apparently, that was incorrect.”

Riza’s expression softened as she listened to him. Roy allowed himself to briefly hope she would give him the answer he was looking for, tell him what exactly was missing, but all she said was, “You and I have never been involved.”

She excused herself not long after, leaving Roy alone in the hospital room once more. No one else came, and Roy wondered if maybe the dreams meant nothing at all. Perhaps he was simply entertaining a fantasy, and he hoped that was the case. It was less heartbreaking than the alternative.

X

They released him that evening, just as the sun was setting. In eight years, Havoc was no less recognizable. That said, his car might as well have been driven by a stranger. They drove in near silence, and what conversation they managed was brief and stilted. Largely, Roy watched the city go by, clinging to the things he still recognized.

The car was slowing as the car rolled down a quiet street full of stately houses and manicured lawns. Before he could stop to think, his lips were already moving. “Where are we going?”

“Your house, Chief,” Havoc replied. The man didn’t look over, but Roy didn’t miss the way Jean winced as he said it.

Havoc stopped the car in the driveway of a house much the same as all the others. Two stories of brick loomed at him, a bit too big really, for just one person. It was exactly the sort of house he imagined a general ought to own.

Roy got out of the car with as little conversation as he could manage, making his way to the porch. He felt like a stranger, and when he dug in his pockets for his keys, he half imagined that none of them would fit the lock. The very first one did, however, and Roy found himself holding his breath as he swung the door open.

The hall was dark in the last remnants of daylight. Roy’s hands reached instinctively for the light switch though he couldn’t have said where it was if he’d thought about it. Shaking his head, he stared down the hall of an empty house he couldn’t begin to recognize.

There was nothing relaxing about being in his own home. Roy moved restlessly from room to room, trying to reacquaint himself with the house. Nothing looked familiar as he searched for any clue as to the life he’d forgotten.

The living room scarcely looked lived in save for the ashes scattered in the fireplace. The hallway was much the same, the walls devoid of pictures or decoration. Roy poked his head briefly into the kitchen, relieved to find the dishes were done at least. Unfortunately, it told him nothing.

The study was the only room that looked as if he’d spent much time in it. Papers were strewn across the desk, arrays and notes in his own code, personal research he imagined. He rifled through them, too weary to give them much consideration. Amidst his own notes were a few pages in someone else’s handwriting, but he didn’t recognize the script.

With a heavy sigh, Roy headed out of the study and up the stairs, not sure which door was which. He came across the bathroom and an empty guest room before reaching the far end, the last door cracked open. Hoping he at least had the sense to have invested in a comfortable bed, he swung the door the rest of the way open, taking a moment to flip on the light.

The bedroom was neat so far as bedrooms went. The floor was empty, the top of the dresser uncluttered, and only a drawer of the bedside table was slightly ajar. Swallowing, Roy took a step inside.

The bed itself was another matter. Rumpled sheets had mostly been pushed to the foot of the bed, along with the bedspread. It seemed far too big for one person, and he wished he knew if it was normal to be sitting down on it alone.

The mattress dipped as he sat at the edge of it, reaching almost instinctively to push the bedside drawer shut. His fingers brushed aimlessly over the pillows. He was being ridiculous… probably.

Roy was just about to get up and dress for bed, too mentally exhausted for much else. He watched as his palm slipped back across the covers, only barely noticing a blond hair, almost invisible on the faded blue sheets. It was long when he picked it up, and for just a moment his breath caught as he thought perhaps he remembered running his fingers through the rest of it.

He dropped it to the floor with a bitter scowl. It didn’t mean anything, of course. He told himself it could’ve been a one night stand. It probably didn’t mean anything at all. Yet, the niggling feeling remained that he didn’t really mean to be alone.

It begged to question then, why was he alone? Surely his judgment wasn’t so poor that he’d invite someone into his life who would do something so intentionally cruel. As Roy changed and shut out the light, crawling into a too large bed with sheets that smelled like someone he might’ve loved once, all he could wonder was what he’d done to make them leave.

XX

For all the world waxed poetic about crying in the rain, it was an absurdly sunny day. Ed fled Roy’s hospital room with all the enthusiasm he’d had going in the first place. The truth had been poised on his tongue, dying in his mouth as he watched Roy pull Hawkeye a little closer.

It was just as well, really. Maybe it was what Roy had wanted all along. Perhaps he’d been no more than a consolation prize, and Ed held onto that painful thought even as his heart whispered that he was a ridiculous liar.

Even so, it hardly mattered. Their relationship had been carefully orchestrated to avoid either of them running into any legitimate trouble, the way Roy had always run everything. The fact that no one could really accuse them of anything career shattering did nothing to assuage the raided eyebrows and whispers, and Ed never felt entirely at ease with the way he imagined it was stalling Roy’s career.

Riza… Riza was the kind of person, the kind of woman who would be perfect for Roy. Loyal and trustworthy, and Ed couldn’t pretend he hadn’t heard the rumors so long as he could remember. Maybe it was where they’d belonged all along.

Writing off his decision to tell Roy everything as a moment of utter stupidity, Ed put as much distance between himself and the hospital as he could manage. He couldn’t undo the mistake he’d made, but Roy deserved to be happy. If Ed wasn’t a part of that happiness, well… he’d make do like he always did.

Head bowed, lost in thought, Ed walked to the library, resolving to hole himself up there for the next decade. He would let Roy do whatever he needed to be happy. It didn’t mean it didn’t it didn’t feel as if his heart had been replaced by an empty, gaping hole.

Part 3
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