He couldn’t see. It was pitch black in the cell they’d thrown him into. He was still unsure of why he was here, and he thought back on anything he might have done to make people afraid of him as he cradled the empty damaged socket where his automail had been. Maybe it was his girlfriend. She’d seemed pretty shocked when he’d finally worked up the courage to let her see it. Then again, there was a war going on and no one felt they needed a real reason to lock people away these days. They didn’t have automail here and maybe that was enough. Regardless, it didn’t negate the fact that they’d stormed into the little apartment he’d shared with Alfons and hauled him away like some sort of felon.
He’d been so close. Ed was positive he’d found a way to get home. He couldn’t have made himself a one way ticket, and it didn’t have to end like this. If only he could remember the array he’d been working out. If only he had something to draw it with. Moving his hand away from the empty socket, he ran his fingers through grimy hair. It came away wet and his palm smelled of blood. Maybe, just maybe, he could use the things they’d done to him to his advantage.
Dizziness crept up on him like a predator in the shadows of his cell. He was so focused on the hope he’d created for himself that he didn’t realize how much blood he’d lost, was still losing. With a weak, but satisfied grin, he drew the last line on the array. Footsteps down a hallway beyond his cell door brought his attention back to reality. He wasn’t alone and if he wasn’t gone before they opened his cell, he had a vague feeling that he wouldn’t be living to try it again. As weakness overcame him, he struggled to reach the array just one more time, to call up the energy to make this work. The lines glowed dimly, but he was focused too much to see the filth he was laying in, or the blood spatters from wounds over the last few weeks. He ignored the sound of steps echoing closer in favor of focusing all his strength on the array before him. The light shone brighter with each passing moment and in the background, he heard the creak of a door just as he tumbled into darkness, losing consciousness in the nothing that surrounded him.
Roy curled up beneath the blankets, doing his damnedest to tune out the alarm clock. Today was not a good day. Today was a day more painful then most, and he just wasn’t ready to pretend that life went on without a hint of regret. In the end, the alarm won out and he crawled out of bed to face the world. After all, that was his responsibility.
He went through the motions of preparing for work, but his mind was elsewhere. Five years ago to the day was the last time he’d seen Edward Elric. He wondered vaguely why it still hit so hard, as he walked out to his car. There would be no driver today, for which he was immensely grateful. It gave him just a few more minutes to gain the composure he’d need to muddle through the day.
With a deep breath, he strode into Central headquarters. He nodded cordially to all the soldiers saluting their fuhrer, and forced himself to make pleasant conversation with those that approached him. Roy felt ready to hide by the time he reached his office and only barely refrained from running for the door when he saw it and slamming the thing behind him.
He’d only just barely shut the door in a far more professional manner than he really wanted to and was removing his jacket when a splash of red on his couch caught his eye. For just a moment, Roy was sure there were black boots and blond hair attached, but when he turned to look, it was only a blanket he’d left out from taking a nap the day before. With a sigh, he settled down into the chair behind his desk, resigning himself to spending the last hour until everyone went home doing paperwork and pretending the world was just dandy. He reached toward the picture of Ed and Al he kept on his desk, to tip it forward, perhaps gain some relief from this pain, however slight. As he did, the phone rang, startling him. With a shaking hand, he picked it up.
“Mustang speaking,” he waited warily for some sort of response.
“Something’s changed,” an eerily familiar voice nearly shrieked through the phone.
“I think I need to come to Central. I’ll be there in a few days. I bet that’s where he’ll come back to,” Al spoke quickly, and Roy had a hard time deciphering the words.
“Slow down, Al. Why are you calling me? Who’s coming back?”
“Ed,” Al gasped, out of breath with excitement.
“What makes you think that?” Roy prayed it was really Al, that this was real and not some sick joke.
“I remember. I remember everything that I couldn’t after he left. Who knows, he might already be back Anyway, I’m leaving on the next train. I’ll be there in a couple of days,” in his haste, he hung up without waiting for a response.
For just a moment, Roy hesitated. If this were a joke, or if Al was wrong, it might be too much. If it was true though… He needed to find out, had to know for himself. Refusing to allow himself anymore time to dwell on the matter, he stood and put his jacket back on. Fear of allowing himself to hope did not keep him from doing what he did this day every year. Just a quick look around, he promised himself. Hawkeye would come get him if he took longer than that anyway, if nothing else, to make sure he had not decided to make the underground city his place to wallow in pain and self pity.
As he made his way down the stairs, he swore he caught a faint scent of transmutation. Roy dismissed the idea offhand. His mind had to be fooling him. It was just the phone call he’d received getting to him. Regardless, he moved a little more quickly down the staircase to the rubble below.
The scent he’d caught before was stronger here. It was still faded, as if perhaps an hour or two old, but it was impossible to shut out. That was certainly not his imagination. The doors had been sealed a few years previously, so it couldn’t have been someone from outside. Roy found himself moving more briskly in search of where the transmutation had been done.
In his hurry, he almost tripped over a fallen figure on the floor. There was red everywhere, but it wasn’t shreds of Ed’s jacket, but blood coloring the floor. What might have been blond hair obscured the person’s face, but it was Ed, it had to be. Roy gasped as he moved closer, trying to inspect and see if he could be moved. His automail was missing and blood oozed from the crushed port where his arm should have been. It was pulling away and crusted over where it attached to his chest. The younger alchemist’s body was mottled with bruises of various ages and littered with wounds. If not for the shivering of Ed’s malnourished and under clothed body, Roy might have mistaken him for dead. In desperation, he wrapped Ed in his jacket and gathered the injured man up in his arms, afraid to wait for help he was sure wouldn’t come in time.
“What happened to you, Ed? Where’ve you been?” he whispered, struggling up the steps with the added weight. The trek seemed to go on and on forever. Roy struggled to hold Ed steady, not to fall over the edge.
Ed stirred into what might have almost passed for consciousness. His eyes fluttered for a moment before closing once more, never so much as looking at Roy.
“Please stop. Don’t touch me,” he moaned into Roy’s shirt. He shook with fear like the last leaf hanging on the dead of a winter storm. The older man froze for a moment, waiting for some sort of explanation.
“What did I do? Just want,” Ed’s voice dropped to a broken whisper.
“Home. Please… can’t die here.”
“Ed, you’re safe. You’re home now,” Roy soothed as best he could, renewing this pace up the steps. It wasn’t much further if he could just get Ed help in time.
“Home?” Ed sounded hopeful and struggled to open one eye, crusted shut with caked blood.
“Home,” Roy affirmed. One golden eye looked blearily up at him before shutting against the pain that coursed through every bone.
“Where’s Al?” he slurred, struggling not to fall back into darkness.
“He’ll be here in a couple of days. He’s… well he was out looking for you.”
“It’s really you isn’t it?” Ed sounded weary and frightened.
“Kay,” the younger alchemist gave up fighting to stay awake and buried his face against Roy’s chest once more.
“What’s happened to you, Ed?” his name was a melancholy song on Roy’s lips as he climbed the last few stairs, coming face to face with Riza.
“Edward?” She did not bother to reign in her surprise.
“I need you to drive us to the hospital,” Roy did not bother to stop and explain the situation, not that he could have if he’d wanted to.
The three of them piled into the car, Hawkeye in the driver’s seat and Ed pillowed in the back in Roy’s arms. Ed couldn’t die now, not when he was so close to seeing what a wonderful job he’d done restoring his little brother’s life to him.
Two hours later saw Edward resting comfortably, asleep in a hospital bed, with a doctor’s promise to Roy that he would recover, albeit slowly. The ports would have to be removed and allowed to heal before Ed could ever hope to have functioning automail again. Roy shuddered at the idea of anyone dealing with an invalid Edward and prayed he would heal too quickly to start terrorizing anyone.
Roy didn’t know he’d fallen asleep until he was whacked rather soundly with Ed’s good arm. He opened his eyes to find his head pillowed on the edge of Ed’s mattress. The injured alchemist struggled in his sleep, thrashing as much as his damaged body would allow.
“Ed,” Roy gently shook his shoulder.
“Stop,” Ed moaned in his sleep. “Sorry, so sorry.”
He was quiet after that, silent and still beneath the blankets. Roy frowned at the pain etched in Ed’s face and body, even in his sleep. Desperate to offer any sort of comfort, he reached out, gently stroking Ed’s dingy hair, ignoring the blood and dirt caked in the once golden strands.
“Is Al here?” Ed’s murmuring broke the silence as he blinked into semi-awareness.
“He’ll be here soon,” Roy promised, pulling his hand away as Ed tried to shake the blurriness from his vision.
“I’m really home aren’t I?” he grinned for a split second before the pain got to be too much.
“You are,” Roy wanted to continue, to ask where he’d been and what had happened to bring him home like this, but the effort it took for Ed to just open his eyes was painfully evident. Questions would wait. He was home and safe now and that was what mattered.
With much effort, Ed gave himself a visual once over.
“I look terrible,” he concluded.
“Like something that dug its way out of a grave,” Roy conceded.
“I should go get cleaned up before Al gets here. He can’t see me like this,” Ed was already trying to force himself out of bed. Roy rose to stop him, but he paused on his own, realizing his predicament.
“Would you like me to call you a nurse? I’ll make sure she’s cute,” Roy smirked.
“You think I want one of your girlfriends fawning all over me in the bathtub?” Ed fumed, his face turning beet red.
“Suit yourself,” Roy shrugged, going back to the book he’d been reading.
“Just…” Ed paused, looking around desperately for some other solution.
“Just help me, okay?”
“And this is your better alternative to some cute nurse taking care of you?” Roy raised an eyebrow in amusement.
“God, I’m half dead and you’re still making fun of me, you jerk. It’s just… well, it’s the lesser of two evils, okay?” Ed tried to roll over away from Roy’s gaze and promptly cried out in pain.
“Okay, okay. Don’t hurt yourself over it,” Roy gave in, moving to the bathroom to run a bath. He came back to find Ed wheezing with the effort of trying to sit back up.
“Don’t be an idiot. You asked for help, so let me help you,” but there was no reprimand in Roy’s voice as he snaked an arm gingerly around Ed.
“The fuck. I can’t even walk to the bathroom on my own,” Ed grumbled, hobbling a single step with the majority of his weight supported against Roy. With an irritated sigh, he allowed himself to be guided into the chair the hospital had provided, deciding it was better at least than being carried. He frowned when they reached the tub.
“How the fuck do they expect me to take this thing off. It’s tied in the fucking back,” he grumbled, fumbling weakly with his good arm. Roy untied it for him and the younger man froze as it fluttered to the floor. The older man ignored his embarrassment, easing Ed into the tub. It only took a few moments in the warm, soothing water for the smaller alchemist to relax completely.
“Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve actually been clean?” Ed half whispered.
“I’m sure I don’t want to know,” Roy retorted.
“You can leave me be now, you know.”
“And exactly what are you planning to do if you fall in too far? It’s not like you can fish yourself out in your condition.”
“Whatever,” Ed didn’t argue after that, contenting himself to struggle with getting his hair washed. Roy finally tugged his arm gently away, squeezing some shampoo into his own hand and raking his fingers gently through the grimy locks.
Ed said nothing, but sighed softly, allowing himself to enjoy the feeling as the older man rinsed his hair and patiently combed through the snarls while he relaxed. He was too tired to resist and let himself drift peacefully off. Roy called a nurse to change the sheets and periodically drained cool water and added more hot to keep the younger alchemist from getting cold. After all he’d apparently been through, he needed this. Though nothing could be done to erase the bruises and cuts that painted his body, at least the blood and dirt was gone. Roy stroked his hands through the soft, wet locks of Ed’s hair, smiling to himself that Ed was really home now and everything would be okay.
“Sorry,” Ed slurred when he finally awoke, “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
Roy didn’t comment, “Are you ready to go back to bed?”
With a heavy sigh, Ed nodded, too worn to complain about the fact that he couldn’t do this on his own or that Roy had to tie the hospital gown back on him, though he turned red once more and stared pointedly at the ceiling.
“So what did the doctor say? When can I have my arm back?” Ed asked as Roy helped him back to bed.
“It could be a while. The port is completely ruined, and even if you could hook anything up to it, it’s not attached properly to your body anymore.”
“Well, at least they didn’t mess up the port for my leg, the bastards. Winry is gonna kill me as is,” but despite the worry in his voice, he sounded genuinely happy at the prospect of finally seeing another old friend.
“I certainly hope not. It’d be a shame to finally get you back after all these years just for me to have to deal with funeral arrangements. I have a whole country to run. It’d be an awful pain to have to handle that.”
“Egotistic jerk,” Ed half smiled as he said it, the wounds on his face no longer taut and painful with dried blood.
“Who says I’d want you planning my funeral anyway?”
Ed shut his eyes, letting himself drift off to sleep. With scant hours before sunrise, Roy figured he might as well too, but allowed himself to watch the younger alchemist for just a moment longer. It was difficult to reconcile the young man in front of him with the brash, volatile teenager he’d known before. This Edward was a little more mild, more good humored. This Edward also seemed a little lonelier and forlorn. In the end though, he was unmistakably Ed, brilliant and determined to live for everyone but himself. Roy frowned a little to himself, wondering when Ed had become so beautiful, beautiful and full of sorrow.
Roy was startled awake by someone yelling very close to his ear. He opened his eyes to find the happiest face he’d ever seen on Edward Elric in all the time he’d known him. It only lasted a split second before being blocked by Al’s body as he wrapped his older brother in a hug.
“I was starting to think I might never see you again,” Ed blinked back a torrent of happy tears for only a moment before succumbing, hugging Al to him with his good arm and grinning against his brother’s shoulder.
“I can’t believe you’re home,” Al squeaked, too caught up in having Ed back to ask what had happened.
Slowly the effect wore off and Al regarded his older brother with a worried look.
“What happened to you, Ed?”
“I umm… well, it’s kind of hard to explain.”
“Hard to explain? Your arm is gone, and I don’t think even Winry could fix it! You look like you got hit with a house or something.”
Ed only chuckled, marveling at the frantic expression on his brother’s real, human face.
“It’s not funny, Ed. I was scared that you might never come back,” Al bit his lip and Ed immediately sobered, all hints of mirth vanishing from his face.
“I’m here now, and I’m alive. I’m not leaving again, okay?” Ed offered in the most comforting way his condition would allow.
“So, where have you been?” Al asked after a moment, resulting in a long discussion about the world Ed had found himself trapped in, the long years he’d spent desperate for a way home, and an enthusiastic discussion of the brilliance that finally put things right. Roy listened idly, pretending to read his book It seemed a better alternative to grilling Edward later on all the things he was so willingly babbling about to his brother. Though they had parted on friendly terms, Ed had always been difficult to deal with, and Roy figured it would be better to assume he still was then to force him through all this again.
“You never did tell me what happened to you,” Al interjected after a while, “Why are you so beat up?”
“You know, Al, that world isn’t so different from ours. I mean, the technology is different. No one has the first clue about alchemy, at least not in the same manner. People are the same though. They cling to what they know. They’re afraid of anyone who is different and they fight. There are wars over ridiculously asinine things. I just got caught up in the wrong situation, that’s all,” Ed’s voice was full of misery, like there was more he might say that refused to cross his lips.
“You’re home now though,” Al’s smile brightened and Ed seemed to forget whatever had been troubling him.
The rest of the day saw an influx of people, come to visit the alchemist they’d all assumed dead. Hawkeye brought with her Havoc and the rest of the group Ed had known when Roy was still colonel. Gracia dropped in with cake that Ed promptly devoured as if he’d not had real food in ages. In the end, Winry was too elated to see her long lost friend to throw anything at him over the damaged automail, though she swore vengeance on the people who dared to damage her work. She was last to clear out, leaving with a promise to bring him a proper leg soon and to fit a new port for his arm when the old one was removed and healed.
“What are you still doing here, anyway?” Ed asked Roy, who’d scarcely left the chair he currently occupied.
“Keeping an eye on you,” Roy said, hoping it would suffice.
“Thanks I guess. Al’s here now though. I mean, you’ve been here since I got here, and I know I hate hospitals, and I mean, you probably have a life outside of babysitting me, and” Ed stopped, eyes widening for a split second before he reigned himself in. “Anyway, I just figured you could probably use a break from me,” he finished.
“Fair enough,” Roy got up to leave, almost running into the doctor on the way out. He loitered around, not sure why he cared what she had to say.
“First, I’d like to say you seem to be recovering nicely,” she smiled a little more than warmly at Ed.
“When can I go home?” he didn’t seem to notice her beyond the fact that she was his doctor.
“We’ll have to schedule you for surgery to remove the port for your arm. You can be released a few days after that, when you’ve healed sufficiently, but I wouldn’t go far. You’ll need to come in for rehabilitation to learn to walk again, and your automail mechanic is here, so I imagine this is where you’d want to take care of all that,” she pulled nervously at a strand of hair, biting the corner of her lip.
“My mechanic is in Rizembool,” Ed corrected.
“Actually, Ed. Winry set up shop here in Central a year ago. She wanted to get out and see the world and with me out looking for you, it gave me a bigger city to stop in and rest,” Al pointed out.
“Oh. Okay then. Guess we’ll just stay with Winry. Thanks doc,” he said dismissively, promptly forgetting she existed. With slumped shoulders, she looked over his charts and left the room.
“She was really eyeing you,” Roy smirked.
“Yeah…” Ed responded darkly.
“I thought you were leaving.”
“So I am,” Roy walked out the door, intending to get some very well deserved rest. Instead he found himself scanning ads for apartments, trying to find something that might suit the brothers. They couldn’t stay with Winry indefinitely in her tiny apartment above the automail shop, if for no other reason than it would be difficult for Ed to maneuver up the stairs.
Finally, he came up with a solution. In the end, it was perhaps just an excuse to go back Maybe he needed to feel like he’d done something to make up for his obscene failure to protect Ed and Al before, to compensate to the young man who’d haunted his every day, every waking moment for the last five years.
When Roy returned, he found Al on a bed beside Ed’s. There hadn’t been room for the both of them one and they seemed to have finagled another.
“You’re back,” Ed noted sleepily.
“Guess I didn’t have anything more interesting to do than babysit you after all,” Roy quipped.
“I would think being the fuhrer would be a lot more interesting than sitting around a hospital room.”
“You’d think. It’s a surprisingly boring job, lately,” Roy responded. “Has the doctor said anything else?”
“She hasn’t been back. Maybe she’ll just let me sleep,” Ed sounded hopeful that she wouldn’t return.
“So what if she does? She likes you and it’s not like she’s an old hag or anything.”
“I… nevermind,” Ed shook his head, as if trying to drive away a bad memory.
“What happened to you back there?” Roy pushed.
“It’s just… There was this girl, back there. I really liked her too. The thing is, when she finally saw me for what I was, automail and all, she freaked out and ran away. I got hauled off to that jail the next day. It’s sort of hard not to draw a conclusion from that,” Ed replied.
“So, because one girl was unkind, you write them all off?”
“You don’t even know what happened to me back there,” Ed whispered loudly, torn between anger and his fear of waking Al.
“I would if you told me.”
“Why do you want to know, anyway? It’s not like it makes a difference,” Ed fumed.
“You’re not the same anymore. You look like you’ve got the world on your shoulders, even after you’ve accomplished the impossible over and over again. I just want to know why.”
“Who cares?” Ed growled.
“I care!” Roy glared at the younger alchemist.
“Why? Why does it matter? It doesn’t make any difference anyway,” the venom was gone from Ed’s voice, his shoulders sagged as he looked over at Roy.
“Of course it does. You hurt and it’s not just the cuts and bruises. After everything you’ve been through, you deserve better, but no one can help you if you won’t let them in.”
“I’m not some sort of trophy for you anymore, Mustang. I’m not someone you have to make look good to make yourself look good. I’m just a washed up alchemist. Leave it at that, would you?” Ed rolled over, curling up beneath the sheets.
“Is that what you thought? Ed, it was never about trying to make me look good. I looked out for you because you needed it. I wanted you to succeed. Maybe I didn’t always go about it the right way, but I promise I did it because I cared about you, about Al,” Roy sounded wounded, pleading with Ed to believe him. The younger alchemist considered his words, rolling over slowly and grimacing in pain.
“You want to know what happened to me? Really?” Ed asked, waiting for Roy to confirm, which he did with a slow nod.
“They took my automail away that first day and beat me senseless. That was a good day. I’m surprised they kept me around at all. They sent most people to work camps and stuff. I guess they decided I deserved a special little piece of hell. I guess Gretchen saw the arrays I was working on. They were convinced I was in a cult and kept telling me I could go free if I’d just turn in the person in charge. When I didn’t have an answer they liked, they’d just retaliate with whatever was handy,” Ed spoke as if it were nothing but a distant memory, but he shook slightly, his eyes taking on a haggard, fretful cast.
“I’m sorry, Ed,” Roy bowed his head, trying to ignore the horrors he could only imagine, what they had to have done to inflict this much damage on him.
“Why are you sorry? It’s not like you did it?”
“I didn’t protect you, either, and I should have.”
“Would you just shut up? Look what came of all this? Al’s in the body he belongs in again and I’m home. Don’t you dare go feeling guilty that you didn’t stop me,” Ed grumbled.
“Besides, I got us into the whole mess. If anyone should be feeling guilty it’s me. I left Al all alone for five years, and now I’m home and I can’t even take care of him. Not that he needs me. It looks like he’s been doing just fine,” Ed shut his eyes against this realization, trying to find a way to bury his head under the blankets without appearing childish.
“Of course he needs you, Ed. You’re his brother. Just because he can take care of himself doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you and want you around. Need is more than physical dependence,” Roy assured him.
“It’s just, for so long I’ve waited for this, to come home. And I thought it would be like old times kinda, that it would be… I don’t know what I thought, but it wasn’t this. He shouldn’t be having to tend to me. Al should be able to enjoy being in his own body again, but first he had to spend all his time looking for me and now he’s trying to take care of me. It’s ridiculous,” Ed whispered miserably.
A large tear rolled down one cheek and Roy forced himself not to wipe it away. Unfortunately, this was a part of Edward he knew, the part that blamed himself for everything, and he was pretty sure that telling the younger alchemist to suck it up and move on wouldn’t help this time. Instead, he leaned over and pulled Ed into his arms, not saying a word as Ed sniffled into his shirt.
Eventually, the sniffles stopped and Roy looked over to find Ed had fallen asleep against his chest. He looked more peaceful now, as if having someone to tell his woes to had finally lifted some of the burden he was carrying. As gently as he could, Roy lay Ed back against the pillow, pulling up the blanket around him. With a last glance at the two brothers, he turned around and left. They both looked exhausted and anything he had to say could wait until tomorrow.
Roy’s idea ended up having to wait while Ed recovered from surgery. The plan had been to remove the port when Ed was in better condition to handle the strain, but it seemed his body had other ideas. Roy arrived to Al pacing the waiting room, babbling something about the port bleeding and not stopping. Roy tried not show his own concern, calmly sitting Al down with a steady hand on his back
By the time they were allowed to see him, the anesthesia was wearing off, and Ed was complaining about how he really just wanted to get out of this place already and that he needed something to read. Al was quick to volunteer to make a trip to the library, if nothing else, to avoid listening to Ed’s tirade about how much he hated hospitals.
“Any luck on finding somewhere to go?” Roy asked in between complaints.
“Al suggested Winry, but I really don’t know. It’s hard to find a place that I’ll be able to… manage,” Ed finished with effort that obviously hurt his pride.
“You two are welcome to stay with me,” Roy suggested.
“And we’d do that because….”
“I have more than enough room. There are bedrooms downstairs that might be easier for you to navigate. It’s close to Winry and the hospital. Besides, I have a library so you wouldn’t have to go searching for reading material,” he finished and waited silently for Ed to mull the idea over.
“This isn’t an offer because you feel guilty or some shit like that is it?” Ed looked him in the eye, daring him to lie to him.
“No,” Roy affirmed. He wasn’t actually sure why he offered. Maybe it was a little bit out of guilt, but it wasn’t just that. He liked having the Elric brothers around. The playboy reputation he’d acquired wasn’t exactly deserved, with most of his “dates” being informants. No, generally he went home alone, and life was pretty lonely. This was as much for his benefit as for theirs.
“I’ll think about it,” Ed conceded.
Ed learned very quickly to maneuver a book in one hand, much to everyone’s relief. It wasn’t long before Winry had replaced his automail leg and he was learning to walk again, able to hobble a few steps without help.
The more time Ed and Al spent together, the more they realized they’d adjusted to being without each other for so long, it was hard to be together all the time. It wasn’t that their relationship was any less important to either of them, just that it was maturing. It started with them sleeping in separate rooms most of the time, and eventually, when Ed was mostly self sufficient, Al found things to do on his own once in a while.
The distance gave Ed breathing room he hadn’t even realized he’d needed. Eventually, he ran out of things to occupy him in the bedroom and moved on, exploring Roy’s library rather enthusiastically. The desk presented itself as a perfect place to read, and Ed quickly situated himself, plopping down in the leather chair and pulling the book he’d picked out closer to him. There were plans for a garden in the back, with a pond and a bridge, and Ed chuckled at the idea of Roy drawing out these plans he’d always be too lazy to follow through on. As he did, it knocked over a frame which he reached to pick up, hoping he hadn’t cracked the glass.
As Ed picked it up, he looked to see what the picture was and almost dropped it once more. He wasn’t sure why it surprised him so much that Roy kept a picture of him here. Ed stared at the picture, a little faded with time. He smiled ruefully, remembering the day, when he’d thought he could beat Roy in a fight. Had he really been that confident once up on a time? Those eyes had seen so much, but in the years since, he’d seen more, things he wished above all else he could take back. Pushing the picture away, he smiled a little to himself, wondering how it would come out between the two of them if he fought him now.
“You know, it’s pretty nice out. Some fresh air would probably do you some good,” Ed jumped at the sound of Roy’s voice. He’d been so wrapped up in his book he hadn’t even heard the older man come in.
“It’s nice in here, too,” he quipped.
“Suit yourself,” Roy turned on his heel. Ed reached for something to say, anything to keep him around for a minute, though he couldn’t think of a good reason why he cared. At least it was company, he reasoned.
“You know, maybe it would be nice to go outside,” he allowed. Roy rolled his eyes, coming back over to offer the younger alchemist a hand.
The two of them made their way slowly outside, neither really sure how to break the silence. Ed found it didn’t matter. It was spring and as they walked through the grounds around Roy’s home, the wind blew warmly over them.
Ed finally found a soft place to sit, beneath the boughs of a tulip tree. Immediately engrossed in his book, he didn’t seem to notice the petals that fell with every breeze, raining beautifully around him, blossoms landing in his hair. Roy couldn’t help but stare. Sitting there in the sun like this, Ed was so radiant you didn’t notice the missing arm or the automail leg. He looked like he’d stepped from a painting of something beyond comprehension.
“You know, you should maybe sit down or something. Standing over me like that’s a little creepy,” Ed flopped back on the ground grinning up at Roy, a smile finally devoid of all the worry that usually seemed to haunt him. He sighed, sitting down next to the younger alchemist, who was thoroughly absorbed in watching the clouds through the branches and blossoms.
“What’s on your mind?” he asked, looking away from the trees and sky to focus on Roy.
“What makes you think anything is?” Roy responded warily. He was still getting to know this different Edward, the one who was aware of others and thought to ask after those he cared about.
“You’re not making fun of me,” Ed shrugged as best he could lying in the grass and petals.
“You’re not being particularly obnoxious today.”
“You’re making me sorry I asked,” Ed shut his eyes, relaxing as completely as he could. His unbound hair framed his face in golden strands and his lips parted slightly. Roy was horrified by the sudden urge to touch him, kiss him, something. It washed over him in a flood, an urging to just love Edward.
“You’re staring at me,” Ed muttered, not bothering to open his eyes to confirm the statement.
This can’t be happening. Really, it’s not. Roy denied the feeling, wishing it away, but to no avail. In frustration, he got up, deciding it would be better to leave then to do something that Ed wouldn’t forgive him for.
“Where are you going?” Ed called after him, but Roy didn’t hear.
Roy’s heart pounded as he walked into the house. Every bone in his body ached to go back to Ed, just to be near him. When had things gotten so out of hand, he wondered, staring out the window where Ed still lay in the distance.
In his efforts to block out his recent discovery, Roy forgot that Ed couldn’t really get back inside on his own. By the time he remembered, it was raining. Ed was going to kill him, and if he didn’t, Al would.
“Thanks,” Ed glared up at him where he stood, supporting his weight against a tree. Rain poured from his hair into his eyes.
“Sorry,” Roy tried to find the words to explain, but how could he tell Ed what had made him run off like that?
“Forget it. I’ll get inside myself,” the blonde grumbled.
“It’s raining. Let me help you.” Roy reached out to Ed, grabbing him by the arm.
“Now you notice. I’m fine already. Just go back inside, you jerk,” Ed tried to shove him off, only succeeding in losing his balance. He fell face first into Roy’s arms and sighed miserably.
“I’m sorry, Ed. I really didn’t mean to leave you out here,” Roy whispered, allowing himself just a moment to hold the younger alchemist against him. Ed shivered in his arms, maybe from the rain.
“It’s okay,” Ed regained his balance, allowing Roy to guide him inside.
It wasn’t to be unexpected, Ed decided. After all, he was used to being tossed aside and forgotten. He tried to convince himself that Roy hadn’t meant it, but the fact still stung. He looked over at the older man, wondering what made him look every bit as sad as Ed felt. Did he really feel that bad? It sort of made him want to hug Roy, let him know that things really were okay. He was a good friend after all. It wasn’t anything beyond that, Ed swore to himself. Roy was just a good friend.
Still, when Roy looked down at him, making sure the pace wasn’t too fast for him, Ed felt his breath catch in his chest. Whatever misery might be wrought by the rain, it did something altogether different to Roy. There was something about the way he looked against the blackened sky that… Ed stopped right there. This was not okay. Forcing his gaze away, he meekly allowed himself to be led inside.
Roy sat him down, grabbing a couple of thick towels. Wordlessly, he wrapped them around the younger man, offering what comfort he could in restitution for his error. He knelt down in front of where Ed sat to dry his hair and for just a moment, Ed swore he leaned that close just so he’d kiss him. It was difficult not to, but he forced his mind away from the thought. He’d had a girlfriend and that had been how he liked it, he reasoned. Besides, even if he didn’t bring anyone home, Roy seemed fairly content with his playboy reputation. What would he think if Edward even hinted at what he was feeling?
Roy hovered on the edge of indecision. He’d thought, for just a moment, that Ed was going to say something, do something, and maybe it would put an end to this silliness. He didn’t though, and the older alchemist felt like he might be going crazy.
“How do you decide when a risk is worth taking?” Ed asked abruptly.
“What do you mean?”
“Well… say if you do something, it might have a wonderful result, or it could ruin your life. How do you decide if it’s worth the risk?” Ed seemed thoughtful as he looked at him.
“I guess you just wait until the desire to know outweighs the risk,” Roy might have said more, but Ed had pinned his lips against his own. Roy could feel the younger alchemist’s heart hammer in his chest, but he was too stunned to react for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, pushing himself back onto the couch, away from Roy. “I’m so sorry… I just… I couldn’t,” Roy didn’t let him finish, kissing him with five years of mourning and not understanding why he couldn’t let go behind it, months of aching to be close to the young man who walked the hallway of his house and didn’t get what he was feeling, and every ounce of passion in his body.
When he finally dredged up the courage to pull away and look, really look at Ed, the blond’s eyes were glazed over and he panted softly against Roy’s neck.
Roy moved in for another kiss, but the front door clattered open, sending both to opposite ends of the couch, instinctively trying to look as innocent as possible.
“Hi brother!” Al greeted Ed, oblivious to their discomfort.
Ed made himself scarce for a while, though Roy wasn’t sure it was really on purpose. Al seemed to have dragged him out on errands, claiming the fresh air would do him good. It was just as well, he supposed. They both needed time to think, time to breathe. The next day he got a call letting him know that Ed was being refitted with automail for his shoulder and arm. He offered to come, remembering how painful it was for the younger alchemist, but the offer was brushed aside. Ed wanted as few people to see him in that state as possible.
“You realize you’re being ridiculous, don’t you?” Roy asked over the phone.
“Because I want to have a little pride left?”
“No, because I stayed with you in the hospital,” Roy responded. He could almost taste the tension between them, and didn’t know how to dispel it.
“I’ll be back in a few days anyway. At least until we can find a place. I mean, I can almost…” Ed choked on his explanation, hating both the idea of leaving and admitting his movement difficulties.
“I understand,” Roy hung up the phone, wishing he knew how to make things stop being so awkward between them. Why couldn’t they just be like normal people, the ones who were capable of being kind and loving towards each other?
The automail hurt longer than Ed remembered, made him want to die where he sat as the port was attached to nerves and flesh. It would be a few days, maybe weeks before he was healed enough to have his arm back, but maybe that was for the best. His shoulder felt on fire and for once he wished he had someone to make it go away.
The change of scenery gave him time to think, though. Perhaps it wasn’t that he didn’t like girls. It was just that he liked Roy more. The things he’d despised as a teenager, he began to see in a different light. Ed had spent so much time pushing Roy away, he didn’t realize that he’d only meant well for he and his brother both. Hell, the man had chased him all the way to Rizembool, not because he wanted to punish him, but to protect him and find out why Ed hadn’t just asked for help.
He could fix this, Ed decided, for once content to just let things be for a while. There was something warm about knowing someone cared, someone who wasn’t obligated in any way. Roy could have pushed him away, but he hadn’t. He’d kissed him back. Maybe the man didn’t love him, but he felt something and that was a start.
Roy didn’t come to see Ed, begrudgingly respecting the younger man’s wishes. He wasn’t home when Ed returned, which the blond decided was a pleasant surprise. He convinced Al to distract Roy if he happened to come home, not bothering to try and hide what he was sure his little brother had deciphered.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Ed had carried out his plan and washed himself of all evidence before Roy walked through the door. Al made himself scarce, citing a book at the library that he really did need to have right this minute.
“You’re looking well,” Roy commented.
“No thanks to you,” Ed grinned as he said it, lifting the awkwardness between them with his smile.
“I would have been there,” Roy began to explain, but Ed quickly cut him off.
“There’s something you have to see,” he struggled to look serious, but couldn’t erase the mirth from his composure. With a careless gesture, he grabbed Roy’s hand, leading him slowly and unsteadily through the yard.
“Close your eyes,” he ordered, and Roy laughed.
“And let you make us both fall over?”
“I’ll be fine. Seriously, just cover your eyes already.”
Roy did, feeling every jerk and struggle to balance in Ed’s step. They continued what seemed like forever before something changed under Roy’s feet.
“You can open your eyes now,” Ed released his hand, waiting expectantly for some sort of reaction.
Roy’s eyes widened as he looked down at the bridge they stood on, overlooking a pond, and though Ed had added a few details, a fountain and a waterfall, the trademark Elric embellishments were nowhere to be found, no silliness to detract from the beauty of it all.
“Did you do this?”
“I wanted to try out the new automail,” Ed shrugged off Roy’s disbelief.
“How did you know?”
“It was in the study.”
“I… Thank you, Ed.”
Ed might have responded, but Roy was kissing him and that was just as well in his book. He tasted like… well, Ed didn’t really know what he tasted like, but it was good. His lips were soft and smooth, working over Ed’s and teasing with his tongue. He was drowning in Roy’s kisses and touches, one hand cupped lovingly around his jaw, the other combing softly through his hair. There was nothing else that mattered just now, and it hurt to pull away.
“Is this okay?” he whispered.
“Is what okay?”
“This… Us,” Ed swallowed thickly.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Roy looked Ed in the eye, taking him by the hand and heading back towards the house.
“It’s just different, and you’re the fuhrer. Everyone watches what you do.”
Roy laughed. “You’re the last person I’d imagine worrying about something being different.”
“A month locked up in a cage because you’re different tends to give a new perspective.”
“Sometimes the benefit is worth the risk,” Roy smiled.
“Is it this time?”
“Love always is,”
“Love?” Ed stammered the word, his eyes wide with surprise.
“Ed, even when you were gone I couldn’t get rid of you. I spent five years convincing myself that even though no one had seen or heard from you, not even your own brother, that you were still alive somewhere. It was like you took a piece of me when you left, and I couldn’t get it back. It was like dying some in some horribly slow way. I found you because I spent a lot of time down there, looking for some clue as to where you’d gone. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.”
Ed’s face softened, and he bit his lip, unsure of how to respond.
“I’m here now,” he offered a small smile.
“I’m glad you are.”
“Me too,” was all Ed got out before Roy was kissing him again, soft and gentle, like they had all the time in the world to just be. He sank into the older man’s arms, tilting his head back as Roy’s lips descended along his jaw and down his neck. Ed drew in a sharp breath as Roy nipped at the soft flesh there.
Ed couldn’t stop. He was tugging anxiously at Roy’s shirt, desperate for something. He reached shakily for the buttons on the other man’s dress shirt, working them out achingly slowly. Roy devoured Ed’s lips, guiding him up the stairs, maneuvering their shirts off as they went.
His body was on fire. Roy was unbuttoning his pants and nudging him into his bedroom and onto the bed. There were hands pulling his slacks off and lips smothering his. Ed groped desperately for the clasp on Roy’s pants, moaning into the other man’s mouth. He forgot all about what he was doing though, as Roy’s hand slid over his boxers, gripping him through the fabric.
“Oh fuck,” he sighed, tipping his head back.
“That’s the idea,” Roy grinned against his neck, using his free hand to pull off his pants before turning his attention to removing Ed’s boxers. For a split second, it occurred to Ed to be nervous, to stop, something, but it was quickly lost in the tide of Roy’s hands all over him, lips and tongue working their way down his chest with an urgency he’d never known. He was reduced to running desperate hands through Roy’s hair, gasping for breath he couldn’t catch, and moaning as he was enveloped in heat and wet and god did Roy’s mouth feel better than he’d even realized it was possible to feel.
Roy reached blindly for the lube in his bedside drawer. Awkwardly, he worked some onto his fingers, distracting Ed with his mouth. The younger man jumped slightly in surprise as Roy slid one digit easily into him, but he moaned his approval as he moved it in rhythm with his mouth.
“Ohhh,” Ed’s toes curled and he squirmed with pleasure as a second finger was added, gently stretching him. He was so infuriatingly close, but every time he thought he might tip over the edge, Roy backed off. It was the sweetest agony, and if he could have kissed Roy and screamed and still kept at this, he would have.
Abruptly, Roy’s mouth was gone, his fingers were gone, and he was looking down at Ed as he finished disrobing. The older man was about to voice a question, but Ed beat him to it.
“Please don’t stop,” he begged, eyes half open and dazed with pleasure. He reached for Roy, and his lover was happy to oblige, leaning over Ed, and pressing their lips together.
And then Ed really was screaming, muffled by Roy’s lips, because he was sliding in and out of him, and the hand that wasn’t leaning against the mattress to hold him up was slick and sliding over Ed’s cock. He didn’t stop when Ed dangled over the precipice and Ed was falling, crashing into beautiful oblivion and dragging Roy along with him.
They lay silently, legs tangled and arms around each other. Ed smiled at the way Roy affectionately worked the tangles from his hair with his fingers.
“Love you,” he slurred, letting the best kind of exhaustion wash over him.
“Love you too, Ed,” Roy replied, kissing the younger man’s temple. If this was what he had to look forward to, five years had been worth it.