Rating: PG... Maybe PG-13 if you're pushing it
Ed calls him a coward, not once, but twice.
The first time, he storms into Roy’s office after what has apparently been a particularly grueling mission. He stomps up to the Colonel’s desk, muttering obscenities, ignoring the way his hair hangs in dirtied lumps, mostly fallen from its braid.
Roy listens only halfway as Ed sputters angrily about how he is, “a manipulative bastard who never gets his own damn hands dirty.” He thinks about correcting the older Elric brother, informing him of all the ways he’s already paid his dues, but no sooner has Ed said his piece and dropped his report, complete with angry Ed doodles, onto his desk, then he is stomping back out the door.
The second time is a bit more baffling. They walk together through the halls of Central, because even though Ed has turned in a paper copy of his latest report, it is far from legible and Roy is on his way to lunch, so this seems a good way to save time. He listens haphazardly as Ed rambles on about why it was perfectly acceptable that he had blown up those buildings and they’d caught the guy they were after, hadn’t they?
As Ed goes on, they pass a group of soldiers, whispering among themselves. They stop as Roy and Ed walk by, but not before the two hear their disparaging remarks about Roy’s ambition and ethics. The Flame Alchemist says nothing, continuing on as if he hasn’t heard. It surprises him greatly to see Ed fuming beside him.
“It’s not as if they were insulting you,” he remarks, looking down at Ed.
“You’re just going to let them talk like that?” the younger man responds.
“Do you disapprove?” Roy quirks an eyebrow at him, amused by the fury written in golden skin and citrine eyes.
“You’re such a coward,” Ed complains.
“You act like such an ass, and you don’t let anyone in. You’re not even a bad person, pretty great even once in a while, but you never own up to it. It’s like you want people to think you’re six kinds of evil.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with you,” Roy looks down once more in expectation of another snide remark, but Ed is gone. Roy can’t decide if he is more insulted at Ed’s disapproval or warmed by the fact that Ed doesn’t actually think badly of him, at least not at this particular moment.
Roy taps a pen on his desk, considering the incidents and wondering if there is merit to Ed’s words. He has to wonder though, if he is such a coward, why is Ed always the one turning his back and walking away?
As the years got by, Roy feels himself less and less inclined to prod at Ed’s volatile temper. Ed doesn’t seem to notice, always braced for some sort of verbal abuse. As time wears on, Roy starts to see what was happening, to read the hurt there for what it is. Does he really think that Roy means to be unkind? He is just incredibly easy to tease. Finally, the Colonel tries to explain it, tired of the worn out look directed at him from golden eyes, but Ed never lets him, sighing in exasperation and walking out the door of his office. He thinks of calling after him, but Ed seems impossible to reach.
Ed is growing up, and Roy can’t help but notice. He hates to admit it, but, even though he isn’t exactly tall, at seventeen, Ed is a fairly normal height, perhaps an inch or two shorter than Roy. He’s filled out, slender and beautiful, and the General can’t help but stare sometimes. Though he seems to have grown into his own skin, relaxed and friendly with most of the people around him, with Mustang, things are different. He is still awkward and irritable on his best days, and Roy can’t figure out for the life of him why. He’s teased the young man less and less as he’s found himself taken with the person Ed is becoming, but it hasn’t mattered. He sees Ed’s back more than anything these days, and it is probably just as well because this is an accident waiting to happen.
He’s been surprised when Ed requests to fight him once more as assessments come around, though in the end he obliges. He’s more surprised at Ed’s ferocity, more than a match for him this time. It seems that time has tempered his skills, and he now he’s weaponless, backed up against a wall before he realizes what’s hit him.
“What’s the matter? No more gloves?” Ed taunts, and Roy is left wondering what exactly the point is to all this.
“What are you trying to prove, Ed?” Roy asks, dropping his hands to his sides, but Ed just stares, wide eyed and wordless. He gathers up the tattered pieces of one of the man’s gloves, staring for a moment, his expression indecipherable. Ed sets them down once more, clapping his hands together and pressing them to the ground beside the shredded fabric, piecing the glove back together.
He turns away then, tossing the glove to Roy over his shoulder, never bothering to answer Roy’s inquiry.
Ed looks at him a little differently now, and he can’t quite decipher the meaning. It’s as if the older Elric brother has come to some sort of conclusion, though Roy can’t figure out for the life of him what it is. It doesn’t really matter though. What matters is that Ed rarely blows up in his face these days, and though their time around each other is brief, it’s nearly amiable. It makes Roy consider things he’d never have put past himself in the earlier years they’d known one another, but it seems that Ed cam sense the questions on the tip of his tongue, and always, just as the older man thinks to ask, he is left with footsteps echoing down the hall, jacket fluttering in the wind.
Ed is eighteen now and Roy had hardly expects him to come bounding into his office without so much as a knock on the door. He is grinning like a man on death row who’s just been pardoned, and is dragging a slight figure behind him.
“We did it,” he murmurs, tequila colored eyes alight with a joy that Roy’s never seen in all the years they’ve danced around each other. He sees it now, brought on by a slip of a boy with a voice Roy only knows coming from a suit of armor, and he can’t help but smile at Ed’s success.
It aches a little when he considers it, that they’ll probably go home now. He may never see Ed again and he wishes he could put into words why that bothers him so much. Ed’s pulling out his pocket watch, and Roy knows it’s his only chance, but then Ed grins at him, and for just a second everything is alright.
“Bet you thought I was just gonna go home, huh?”
Roy is silent because Ed’s hit the nail on the head, and why isn’t he going home?
“Then again, this is as close to home as we’re going to get I think. I mean, we set ours on fire,” and there’s something sorrowful edging into Ed’s expression, but he pushes it away, shoving the watch back in his pocket.
“I might as well keep doing this as anything,” he announces, and Roy feels a weight lift from his chest, that he’s bought a little more time to muddle through whatever this emotion is.
“Very well,” his lips are moving, but Roy honestly hasn’t a clue what he’s said, and he wants to ask Ed to wait, but already he’s turned around, nudging his baby brother out the door.
Ed’s got a girlfriend now, and she’s beautiful, with china doll skin and long mahogany curls. Ed’s got his own office, and she stops by all the time, always greeting Roy with a wave and a smile and thanking him for, “keeping her Edward in line.”
Roy wants to find some reason she can’t be here, but he can’t face Ed’s suspicion, wanting to know what problem Roy has with his girlfriend. He tries to think of ways to make her leave, so at least he doesn’t have to watch her shamelessly paw the young man.
When he finally decides that he really can’t watch her fawning over him anymore, Roy calls Ed into his office, trying to decide the most delicate way to put it.
“Well, that’s different, Roy,” Ed grins, and the General is left wondering when Ed has started calling him by his name, and what exactly it means.
“I always thought you liked eye candy,” and Ed isn’t giving him a chance to explain, for which he’s a little bit grateful. There’s a blue uniform, because Ed’s actually wearing it now, and it’s walking out of his office, and he hasn’t the slightest idea how to make this all stop.
Ed’s downing a beer and grumbling about girls that can’t keep their damn pants on and Roy is still trying to figure out how he ended up here, in the dark corner of a bar, listening to Edward Elric whine about a girl. He knows he’s had far too much to drink and that he’s about to do something incredibly stupid, but his mouth is faster than his brain in this state and before he’s got a handle on himself, he’s offering to take Ed back to his place.
In earlier days, it would have been worth it, just to see that horrified expression on Ed’s face, but not now, not when he actually cares what the younger man thinks of him. To his surprise, once the shock is gone, Ed’s laughing it off, telling him he really must have had too much to drink and just because he’s single now doesn’t mean Roy gets to hit on him.
Roy wants to tell him that he’s not that drunk, but he’s more afraid of what Ed would say if he knew the truth than he is of leaving things as they are, and so they have their drinks and Ed calls him a cab, sending him off home and walking away once more.
There’s another girl, and another heartache, and Roy wonders how it is that Ed is always the one hurting. He’s spent years dating around, after all, and it’s always been the girl who keeps wanting more than he’s willing to give. He remembers though, that Ed is forceful and devoted and at this age, that’s enough to scare most people off.
Roy thinks about suggesting he find an older woman to date, but he holds his tongue, knowing that’s not what he really wants to say.
Ed’s in his office again, blissfully unattached and asking Roy about something. He’s not listening though, letting himself get lost just watching Ed’s mouth move, staring at his reflection in citrine eyes. He’s so close Roy can smell the soap he uses and after this long, he can’t stop himself.
He presses his lips to Ed’s and the twenty year old alchemist freezes, though he does not immediately push Roy away. Roy thinks for a minute he might even be enjoying it, because those soft lips are moving with his, and Ed’s eyes have slid shut, but he stares openly as Roy stops, pulling back to gaze at him.
“You… you…” Ed splutters, not finishing his thought. He turns around and he’s practically running out of Roy’s office. The General sighs, watching him go and wondering just how bad of an idea that was, but he looks out the window a while later and Ed’s practically dancing his way down the steps, as if there was finally something beautiful.
Ed walks into his office, eyeing him with a look Roy’s never seen before. He wants to find out what it means, but then Ed’s asking him questions instead.
“Why?” he demands, and Roy’s not sure exactly what he wants to know.
“I’m sure I’ve no idea what you mean,” he responds smoothly and it must have been the wrong answer, because Ed looks like he wants to hit him.
“You know exactly what I mean,” Ed insists, and he considers the question, deciding Ed probably isn’t asking for the deep answer, the one that would explain why he’s watched him for years now, longing for something he had no right to. He probably just wants to know why Roy kissed him, and the answer to that is equally complicated, so Roy just regards him silently, waiting for something to happen.
Ed makes a disgusted sound and turns on his heel, and finally, finally Roy gets it. He understands now why Ed looks at him that way, why he’s always around, looking like he’s waiting for something. Ed’s walking away, but he stands up from behind his desk.
“Ed, wait,” he pleads. Ed freezes midstep, his body stiffening. Ever so slowly, he turns to face Roy, but there’s a grin on his face.
“I thought you’d never ask.”