pandora_culpa: (Ed golden eye)
[personal profile] pandora_culpa


Liver damage sucked.

Roy sat hunched at the bar, nursing the same beer he'd ordered when he first arrived, nearly two hours earlier. It had long gone tepid and flat but, unable to drink to the excesses he craved, he clutched the pint glass and took infrequent sips from its lip, as though in sullen defiance of both his ravaged organ and the unpalatability of the ale. Only the memory of the searing pain that had accompanied his only binge since his goring kept him from throwing medical advice to the winds and emptying as many bottles as he could.

It was a conditioned response, the way he'd dealt with so many bad things in his past, and he recognized that it was an extremely unhealthy way to react, as well as just being a shitty idea in general. But oh, how he wanted the numbness that alcohol provided. The ability to not think about how awful people all too often were, and the knowledge that there was worse yet to come. He took another sip of the beer, mouth twisting at the sour wash over his tongue, and reminded himself yet again why he wasn't ordering a second, or a third, or a scotch. Stupid, fucking, lacerated liver...

“You look like someone just shot your dog.”

Turning to his left, Roy saw a woman settling onto the stool next to his. Dark curls nestled around a long face, too angular to be called beautiful, but not without appeal. She glanced at his beer, shaking her head in quiet amusement as she cocked a thumb its way. “And that probably isn't helping matters.”

“It's not,” he agreed. “That's why I'm drinking it.”

She considered that, then nodded. “In that case, I think I'll have what you're having,” she stated, gesturing for the bartender. “I don't really want to drink tonight either.”

It was an obvious opening, but Roy refused to take it. The last thing he was interested in was an even remotely flirtatious encounter after witnessing firsthand the ugly implosion of one relationship that evening. “I'm sorry,” he said, rising from his stool and tossing down enough cens to cover the tab and then some. “I don't think I'm the kind of company you're looking for this evening.”

The woman gave him a skeptical look. “And what makes you think I'm looking for company? Just because I spoke to you? Please. I just thought you looked unhappy, and you have a kind face. I don't like to see nice people sad. It's nothing personal.”

Despite everything, Roy felt a flicker of amusement. “You sound like a friend of mine. I believe his goal in life is puncturing my ego.”

She gave him a grin that was more smirk than smile, and winked. “He sounds like a very reasonable fellow.”

“Oh, reasonable isn't the word that comes to mind for Edward,” he replied with the edge of laughter in his voice and, unbidden, his mind produced an image of how Ed was likely to react to Merisel's infidelity. His humor drained away, and Roy reached for his glass. “He is a good friend, however.”

“There's that sorry face again.” Her beer was set in front of her, and she took a drink of it only to make a horrified grimace. “Oh my- this is the worst thing I've ever tasted!” she exclaimed, giving the glass an offended glare, and Roy couldn't help chuckling. The woman grinned.

“There- that's a much nicer look on you,” she told him, a twinkle in her eyes. “My name's Sophie.”

*****


Crisp, red button-up, black pants. Jacket slung over a nearby chair back, polished shoes sitting underneath, and he pulled a tie from his closet to lay with the jacket. Examining himself in the mirror, Roy combed his fingers through still-damp hair and brushed a few errant strands back into place. Almost six o'clock; it had been a good idea to slip out of the office early today.

He had never intended to meet someone while out the other night, and he felt more than a touch of irrational guilt over it. But Ed would be the first to tell him not to pass up a chance out of misplaced remorse. And although Sophie was not the type of woman he would normally have been attracted to, there was a curious chemistry forming between them and it left Roy with a light, fluttery feeling inside that he hadn't known since he was a teenager.

Keys, wallet. Gloves, because even though time had eroded the paranoia of Ishval down to mere caution, it was a habit that never left him. Another glance in the mirror, and as Roy was reaching for his cologne, he heard the rattle of a lock, and then footsteps in the entrance hallway.

Ed? He wasn't due home for another day yet...

Slipping on a glove and tucking the other in his pocket, Roy moved down the stairs with quiet steps until he saw the battered suitcase leaning against the wall where it had clearly been dropped upon entry. A few feet away was a clunky black boot lying on its side, its mate a little ways beyond that. Trailing out the doorway to the living room was a length of red cloth that Roy recognized as Ed's coat. The entire scene was haphazard and careless, and Roy paused on the bottom step, sensing something amiss.

“Edward?” he called out, striding toward the door.

The alchemist glanced up at him as he entered the room, his normally warm eyes hard and brittle. Ed was standing in front of Roy's liquor cabinet, and it was plain from his expression that he'd been contemplating the bottles within. His shoulders were tense, but the young man's stance was defeated, and without preamble Ed stated, “She's fucking someone else.”

Roy stopped dead in the doorway, and something in his face must have given him away. Ed's eyes narrowed slightly, his chin lifting in an aggressive tilt. “You knew,” he accused in a terrible, hollow voice, and Roy couldn't bring himself to lie.

“I'm sorry,” he said softly, looking away in shame. “It wasn't the kind of news that I wanted to tell you over the phone. You didn't need to find out that way.”

“Yeah, well I didn't fucking need to find out this way, either!” Ed snarled, throwing his arms wide. Teeth bared, he paced to the fireplace and back as he spoke. “Finished up sooner than I'd thought I would, caught the early train out. Got back in town about an hour ago, and figured I'd drop in and surprise Merisel.” He spat a wordless curse, fists clenching at his side. “Fucking surprised her, alright. Lieutenant Colonel Davis, too.”

He paused in his circuit, chagrin passing across his face. “Yeah, you might hear from him on Monday. But I'm not sorry, not one damn bit.”

Regardless of what Ed had done, Roy didn't feel particularly inclined to hear the Lieutenant Colonel's complaint. Davis had a wife and two young children at home, and had no business philandering. “What happened?” he asked, moving over to the sofa and taking his usual place there.

Ed shrugged irritably, coming around to sit at the other end. “Things got ugly,” he said, as if it could have been anything but. “I was yelling at Merisel, and she was screaming at me, and then that fucking ape got in my face, telling me to leave. Asshole wasn't even wearing pants, he's been pawing over my girlfriend, and he's got the nerve to tell me to leave!” Gold eyes blazed, and for a moment Ed looked positively feral. “So I hit him.”

The odd tilt to Ed's lips said he wasn't telling the whole story. Roy raised an eyebrow, a reminder that he'd find out, sooner or later, “You hit him.”

How Ed managed to look embarrassed, angry and smug all at once, Roy had no idea. Face red, mouth pulled tight, but his eyes were dancing as his gaze shifted away. “I punched him in the balls,” he mumbled, almost proudly. “The dick had it coming.”

Roy chuckled, nodding. “I would have to agree.”

Ed was silent for a moment, before hanging his head with a sigh. “Fuck. This is gonna be a mess, isn't it?”

“With Davis?” Roy frowned. “No. You aren't under his command, and neither of you were engaged in military business when you,” he coughed delicately, “punched him in the balls. And if he takes it into his head to make problems for you about this, there are a few things I can say to him that ought to settle him down again.” Actually, Ed had given Roy quite a bit of ammunition against the Lieutenant Colonel, but considering the circumstances, he wasn't going to thank him for that. But he damn sure would make sure Ed didn't suffer any more from the situation than he already was.

Gold bangs fluttered as Ed huffed out a shaky laugh. “Well, I guess I'm glad I don't have to worry about being court martialed on top of everything else.” He looked up at Roy, trying to smile but failing miserably. “Thanks.”

Then he blinked, suddenly seeming to actually see Roy. His brows drew together, the look in his eyes sharpening as he put the pieces together. “You're awfully dressed up.”

Guilt flared once again in Roy. “Yes,” he admitted with some reluctance. “A few days ago, I met someone...”

Ed snorted, and tried to hide the flash of hurt on his face by turning away. “Seems like that's going around,” he muttered, slumping down deeper on the sofa. “Well, have a nice time then.”

It was to be their first real date, after half a week of lunches and phonecalls, and even now Roy was eager to see her. But the decision he made, watching Ed huddle in on himself, was no real choice at all; dates were pleasant, and Sophie's company particularly so, but friendship was more important. He rose and excused himself, going directly to the telephone, dialing Sophie's number and praying that she'd be understanding.

A few minutes later, he was back in the living room, a pair of small glasses filled with ice in one hand and a bottle of medication in his pocket. Ed didn't look up at him until he set the glasses down on the coffee table, as well as a bottle of fine scotch he'd been looking forward to cracking open just prior to his injury. When he saw the liquor, Ed sat up, twisting to glare at Roy. “You can't drink that, bastard.”

“It's mostly meant for you,” he replied, breaking the seal and taking a moment to appreciate the smell of the scotch. Oh, he'd missed that.

“There are two glasses,” Ed pointed out accusingly.

Amber liquid sloshed as Roy poured it into one of the glasses. “This is an excellent single-malt scotch. I'm not letting you drink it alone. Besides, you haven't the background to appreciate this particular vintage's pedigree.”

“First off, alcoholism doesn't count as background,” Ed growled, taking the glass he was offered. “And liquor doesn't come with pedigrees, we're not talking about fucking dogs. And weren't you going somewhere?”

Shaking his head in mock regret, Roy lifted his own glass up to the light to better admire its rich hue, and swirled it a few times. “Just because I'm well versed in fine liquor does not make me an alcoholic, Edward,” he said with a mild smile. “And this scotch most certainly does have a pedigree. It's older than you, and was brewed in East City's finest distillery, aged in Aerugan sherry casks...”

“Whatever.” Ed waved a dismissive hand, his eyes still riveted to Roy. “What about your date?”

Roy sighed, taking a small sip from his glass and letting the scotch roll over his tongue. “I'm not going.”

The look Ed gave him suggested he was insane. “You had plans,” he insisted. “Doubt your date's gonna be too impressed by getting ditched for the night. You don't have to stay home and babysit me, Mustang.”

“That's not the point at all.” Setting the glass aside, he leaned back and studied the man sitting next to him. Defensive in the manner of an injured animal, Ed was hunched against the sofa's arm, still holding his drink warily between them and trying very hard not to appear weak. “Friends do this for one another,” Roy told him gently, “and if Sophie wasn't able to understand that, then she wouldn't be worth my time in the first place.”

The younger man digested that for few moments, while Roy contemplated another nip of his scotch. Finally Ed sat up a little straighter, eyeing his glass with interest.

“So this shit is pretty good, huh?”

Roy rolled his eyes heavenward. “That shit is some of the most expensive scotch in Central.”

“Great.” Ed threw back his glass, tossing its entire contents down his throat in one shot while Roy gaped at the sacrilege. “Keep 'em comin'.”

*****


Roy had sorely miscalculated.

Oh, the scotch had done the trick for Edward, all right; the young man was sprawled in a boneless slump against his shoulder, murmuring unintelligibly about Merisel and his general shit luck with women. The keen edge of his anger had worn off and, as Roy had hoped, Ed was letting out some of the feelings of disappointment and betrayal that he'd been trying to bottle up.

No, the problem was entirely his own. Since recovering from the goring, he'd had only scant amounts of alcohol, that one ill-advised binge aside. As such, his tolerance was nearly nonexistent, and fine scotch packed a far greater punch than stale beer. He was very nearly as wasted as Ed, despite having only partaken of two (or possibly three; he'd gotten confused) glasses.

“Sucks,” Ed announced abruptly, his chin digging into Roy's shoulder as he swiveled his head to angle a bleary glare toward the older man's face. “Got nothin' to show from this, nothin'. She fuckin' used me, an' lied to me, an' was a fuckin' bitch half the time anyway, and why do I fall for girls like that, huh? Ones that jus' make me feel stupid an' incomp'tant an'... stupid.”

“You're not stupid.” At least he managed to control his speech better than Ed. It wasn't much of a consolation, but Roy clung to it all the same.

Ed snickered. “'m not incomp'tant, been in the fuckin' military since I was twelve, they don't let incomp'tant people do that. An' I'm smarter than you, right? Even if you do always get the good ones...” His face darkened, mood plummeting. “Fuck, everyone does. Even that asshole fuck Davis...”

Anxious to steer Ed out of another downward spiral, Roy quickly said, “No, he's stuck with a bitch. Good lookin' bitch, but still a bitch. She's gonna cause him no end of trouble, especially once she figures out he's married.”

“He's married?” Ed's eyebrows rose, but there was no malicious glee in his expression as Roy might have expected. Instead he seemed to sink in on himself, looking broken and sad. “He's gotta wife, an' my girlfriend? Fuckin' shit...”

“Hey.” Roy poked him in the arm. “He did you a favor, in the long run. You can do a hell of a lot better than her. Imagine if you'd married that.”

But Ed wasn't looking at him. Face hidden behind a tangle of long, loose hair, he sighed tremulously. “Wish I wasn't such a fuck up,” he said in mournful tones. “Wish I wasn't some kind of freak. Fuck up everything I touch, I fucked up my mom, an' Al, an' Nina...” A torrent of names followed, and never had Roy realized just how dreadfully much guilt Ed assumed, carrying it around as though he'd earned it. As he listened to the list, past girlfriend's names mixed in with friends and family that Ed felt he'd hurt, something panged in his heart that a person as enormously talented and intelligent and good as Ed could think of himself as a failure.

“You're not a freak,” he said emphatically, nudging Ed with his shoulder. “And I don't believe any of those people would say that about you. I know Alphonse wouldn't.”

He could feel the smile against his arm, even if he couldn't see it. “Al. I miss him. Why's he gotta live in Riesembul now anyway, 's too far...” He shifted, metal elbow digging into Roy's ribs, and his voice quavered again. “'Course he's got Winry now, even my li'l brother's got more luck with women than a freak like me.”

“I told you, you're not a freak. And I don't like hearing you talk about yourself like that.”

Ed gave a melancholy laugh. “Yeah, 's against the rules. But I'm good at breakin' rules, aren't I? Good at breakin' everything.”

“Ed. Stop it.” The scotch was making his senses hazy, his reason blurred. But he couldn't stand hearing this; these were lies, and if Ed kept repeating them he'd soon start believing his own bullshit. “You saved me.”

Slowly, Ed lifted his head, gazing up at Roy with eyes bright with alcohol. “Had to,” he said in a thin voice. “Couldn't fuck up again. Couldn't let you die. Not that stupid.”

“Not stupid at all,” Roy countered, but Ed went on as if he hadn't heard.

“She always tol' me I was stupid, that I couldn't see what was under my nose, an' I guess she was right, didn't see what she was doin', after all. An' now she's gone, an' I'm still stupid, got nothin' but shit luck and fuck, who's gonna wanna be with someone like that?”

He was half-turned, one hand fisted in Roy's shirt to keep his balance, his face creased in an expression of pain. “It's fucked up that I still want her, Roy, it's stupid, an' I'm stupid, I'm such a freak, I dunno what's wrong with me-”

There was no volition to his reaction, the liquor was buzzing in his brain and it wasn't until he felt the chapped roughness of Ed's mouth against his own that Roy even realized what he'd done. It was a chaste kiss, a mere brushing of lips that lasted only a few seconds, and afterwards Roy drew back, gritting his teeth and waiting for the explosion, and wondering just what in the hell had come over him.

But Ed only stared at him with wide, thoughtful eyes, as though he'd figured out a piece to some confounding puzzle. “Huh,” he said finally, and let his head drop back against Roy's shoulder.

*****


Pain woke him, a burning, throbbing sensation in his abdomen as his damaged liver struggled to metabolize the glut of alcohol in his system. Despite the medicine he'd taken the night before, for a moment all Roy wanted was to curl up and pray for it to subside. But after a minute or two of breathing shakily into the sofa cushions he forced himself to move, to prop himself up and reach for the medicine bottle once more. Popping the cap, he swallowed down two tablets dry before flopping back and waiting for them to take effect.

Ed had fallen asleep practically on top of him last night, although there was no sign of him now. Which was fine; Roy wasn't at all certain he could handle the pain in his gut and physical contact at the same time. And after what had happened, he wasn't entirely sure what to think anyway.

He shook his head, and immediately regretted it as his body reminded him of exactly what a hangover felt like. Unfair, to have to deal with that on top of the screaming of his liver, and the aching stiffness in his neck from sleeping in a strange position. Ed had warned him against drinking...

Once again, he shut down the thought. Not yet. He'd address that later, when he could think without it hurting. Maybe Ed wouldn't remember anyway; that would solve so many problems. After all, it wasn't as though he'd been coming on to Ed. It had been practically a reflex action, trying to soothe the despair in Ed's eyes; he hadn't thought about it, for god's sake. It wasn't planned, it wasn't even considered. Roy Mustang was a ladies' man, and always had been; he loved woman, he was currently dating a perfectly lovely woman-

Oh shit. Sophie.

Roy groaned, digging the heels of his hands into his eyes. He should call her, give her something more than the hurried explanation he'd offered last night. Once he could stand he'd do that, maybe try to set up a time to see her later, after he'd made sure that Ed was going to be okay.

Damn it, why did his mind keep going back to Ed?

After a while the searing pain below his stomach started to ebb, leaving him with nothing more than a mundane pounding in his temples and a myriad of aches throughout his body. Deciding that this was probably the best he could hope for, Roy finally heaved himself to his feet and stumbled toward the kitchen. As he did, he became aware of the smell of brewed coffee, and his pace picked up in a conditioned response to the stimulant. Rounding the corner into the kitchen, he first saw his coffee cup, sitting next to the still-steaming percolator and as he heaved a happy sigh, he became aware of Ed sitting at the table, hunched over a mug of his own.

The young man looked bleary and disheveled, but still in decidedly better shape than Roy himself. Coffee mug cupped between his palms, hair hanging in a loose golden waterfall around his bare shoulders, he grunted a greeting to Roy, who responded in kind before beelining the pot. Only after he'd poured himself a cup and taken several rejuvenating sips did he allow himself to sink into the chair opposite Ed, nodding silent thanks to his housemate for the brew.

“There's some oatmeal on the stove,” Ed rasped, his own hangover evident in the roughness of his voice. “Made it when I heard you stirring. Should still be warm.”

Roy took another drink of coffee, closing his eyes and feeling the steam wash over his cheeks. “Thank you,” he replied.

“It's plain. But I set out the cream and brown sugar, know you like that shit in it.”

Roy hmmed in reply, still basking in the warmth of the mug.

“I'm not gay.”

Roy's eyes snapped open. Across the table, Ed was staring at him with serene, bloodshot eyes, and every rational thought in Roy's head suddenly went careening out of control. He scrambled desperately for some kind of response, anything that made sense, but found himself wordless and horrified.

Ed calmly took another sip of his coffee, giving Roy more time to flounder within his mind before continuing. “I know you're not either. And I've been thinking about what happened, and you know, I get it. That kiss...”

“Ed, I-” Roy sputtered, but the young man waved him off.

“It's okay. I get it.” Golden eyes regarded him with remarkable equanimity. “You were just trying to help. I mean, I'm not into guys like that, but... I was feeling pretty shitty and low and... Fuck, I don't know. I'm not mad or anything. I just don't want things to be weird between us.”

Somewhere in the middle of Ed's speech, Roy's brain had decided to kick back into gear, and he spoke up quickly. “I didn't mean to do that. I mean... I hated seeing you so depressed, and when you looked at me... it just... happened,” he finished lamely, wondering where all his glib words had wandered off to that morning, the one time he really needed them.

“It's okay,” Ed repeated. “Like I said, I'm not pissed off about it. I mean, sure, if it had been some other guy, I'd have slugged him, but...” he stopped, looking somewhat startled at what he'd just said and ducked his head. “Fuck, this is gonna make me sound like a real freak now,” he muttered, and Roy didn't like the sound of that any better sober than he had drunk.

“You're not a freak,” he stated, “and you need to stop saying you are.”

An uncomfortable shrug. “Maybe I am, though. 'Cause that kiss... in a weird kinda way, it wasn't bad. I mean, it doesn't have to be a sex thing, right? Kissing is just... it feels good.”

“Kissing is good,” Roy said slowly, a little confused as to exactly what he was agreeing with.

“Right. So we're not weird just 'cause we kissed. Nothing wrong with that.”

“No, it's not wrong.” Somewhere along the line, things had taken a decidedly strange turn. Roy had to wonder if he wasn't still a little drunk after all, because surely this conversation wasn't really taking place.

“Okay.” The chairlegs scraped as Ed pushed himself away from the table. “So we're cool then?”

“Yes...?”

Ed nodded, seemingly satisfied. “Eat your breakfast before it gets lumpy. And you oughta shower, too, you look like shit.” He was gone before Roy could reply; the Colonel's brain having had all it could take, and once again deciding that switching off was the best policy.

What just happened?

*****


“How's your friend doing?”

“Better.” Roy smiled at the lady across from him, receiving a smile of his own in return. “Edward has a tendency to hold everything inside, and to blame himself for the most ridiculous things. It was good for him to let it out a bit.”

Sophie shook her head. “Poor fellow. I feel so badly for him.”

He took her hand, delighted when the gesture produced a faint blush on her cheeks as her fingers tightened around his. “Don't, my dear. It was certainly unfortunate, and less than he deserved, but don't ever make the mistake of feeling sorry for Edward. He's no one's victim.”

A waiter came to remove their empty dishes, and the two of them waited for him to leave before continuing the conversation. “He's got a good friend looking out for him,” Sophie commented, her smile growing. “I suppose I can't begrudge him your time last night.” She gave him a saucy wink, surprising Roy anew with her mischievous boldness. “Although I'm a little bit jealous...” Another quick wink, to assure him she was joking.

Roy was smitten.

“You've no need to be,” he murmured, bringing her hand to his lips before adding in a low voice, “And I'm with you tonight.”

Her large brown eyes twinkled, the soft smile parting her lips so very different from the ones that had come before. “Which makes me a very lucky woman, Roy Mustang.”

*****


Ed called out a hello as Roy shut the door behind him, his voice echoing out from the living room where he was undoubtedly ensconced on the sofa. Roy hung his coat, taking his time with the small task while replaying the evening in his mind before finally ambling in to greet his housemate, and trying hard not to look too pleased.

“Did you have a good- shit, look at you.” Ed cocked a knowing eyebrow at Roy and gave a shark-like grin. “Yeah, you had a good time. Guess she wasn't too upset about yesterday.”

“Not in the least.” Roy shoved Ed's legs out of the way, and although the younger man made a token struggle, he quickly made room for the other to sit. “In fact,” he remarked with a smirk, “I think the compassionate response to a friend's plight actually worked in my favor.”

Ed rolled his eyes. “So glad my fucked up relationship is gonna help you score, asshole,” he snorted, punching Roy in the hip.

Roy jabbed him back in the shoulder. The wrong shoulder; he winced as his fist struck steel, and Ed cackled wickedly at him while he hissed in pain, shaking his stinging hand. “Evil brat,” he mock-growled. “As if I needed the help.”

“Newspaper. Folding socks,” Ed reminded him with a decidedly devilish glint in his eyes. But he relented, chuckling lightly and remarking with only a little bitterness, “Well, at least someone around here will be seeing a little action.”

The ache in Ed's words chased the smile from Roy's face. “Ed-” he began, only for the other man to cut him off.

“Don't. I'm fine. I mean, yeah, it sucks, but I don't want someone who's gonna treat me like that.” He gave a wistful sigh, his gaze drifting from Roy's face to focus on something out of sight. “Still miss her- well, miss the good times, at least. It wasn't all shit. I just wish...”

“You'll find someone,” Roy said quietly. “Some young lady who'll realize how lucky she is to have caught your eye.”

A reluctant smile curled at the corner of Ed's mouth. “Yeah. Hope so.”

They sat quietly for a while, Ed lost in his thoughts, while Roy wandered through his own memories of the evening. It had been a good night. Dinner with Sophie, a walk through Central Plaza and down to the riverside, listening to the street musicians and watching as the ferries passed, strung with winking lights like captive fireflies. He let his eyes sag shut, tired but happy, and imagined Sophie again, the sweetness of her smile, the way she fit against his side as they walked...

He must have dozed off, because his pleasant dreams of Sophie melted into the reality of a warm mouth over his, lips caressing in a way that made his skin tingle. Still caught in sleepy illusions, Roy reached up to cup one hand around the curve of a jawbone, running his thumb tenderly along the warm swell of a cheek. So nice...

His eyelids fluttered open, but it was not the expected tangle of dark curls that filled his vision, but rather a haze of gold and with that, the illusion burst into full awakening. His living room, his own hand cradling Ed's face as the young man regarded him through drowsy, contemplative eyes, and for the second time that day his mind flailed, without traction. Only the arm of the sofa, pressed hard against his spine, prevented him from scrambling backwards in shocked confusion.

“Huh,” Ed murmured, just as he had the previous night. His face had taken a sharply considering cast, although his eyes were still unfocused, and the tip of his tongue darted out to trace his lips. Roy's eyes followed the motion and then, realizing his hand was still curved against Edward's cheek, pulled it back as though it had been scalded, heart racing. Ed didn't seem to notice.

“Still kinda nice,” he finally concluded, “even when m'not drunk. Huh. Weird.”

Weird didn't even begin to describe... “Edward, what-”

Golden eyes shifted to his, soft and sleepy. “I like kissing. And you said it wasn't weird that we did it.”

He was never drinking again, never, never. “But... that was... last night...”

A ball of heat in his stomach, soft lips dragging with tantalizing allure across his own; even now, in the full awareness of what had happened, and with whom, Roy's mind was muddled with confused longings. Good, yes, but this was Ed, not Sophie...

“Last night you kissed me. So tonight, I kissed you. S'equivalent, right?” Ed made it sound so simple and logical when he said it like that, but Roy wasn't quite wrapping his brain around it at all.

Was this about equivalence? “I suppose so, but... Ed, I thought we decided we both like women.”

“Yeah. Women are great.” A slow smile stretched across Ed's face. “But I really like kissing. And it's not weird, right? It just feels good, so what's wrong with that?”

“Nothing, theoretically...”

“Then what's the problem?” Ed could be so infuriatingly direct at times, and at that moment Roy couldn't come up with any rational reason to protest. Kissing did feel good, and it wasn't as though he was worried Ed was going to do anything more than that, and he certainly wasn't...

“Look,” Ed said, interrupting his thoughts. “That really wasn't fair. You were barely awake-”

“Wasn't awake at all,” Roy pointed out, and Ed conceded with a nod.

“Okay, you weren't awake at all, so it wasn't a viable experiment.”

“Wait.” Roy struggled to sit up, as if a simple change of posture would help him comprehend the surreality of the situation any better. “You're saying-”

“Try it again.” Ed's expression was serious. “See if it's okay.”

For a minute Roy just stared at him, feeling as though the floor had been jerked out from under his feet. “Try it?” he finally managed to repeat.

“Oh for fuck's sake, just kiss me!” Ed glared at him from beneath his bangs. “If it's too weird, if it doesn't feel good, we don't ever do it again and no harm done. Right?”

So easy, when he put it that way. As though there were nothing at all strange about his proposal that two completely straight men kiss. Each other.

But then again, it really could be that easy. One kiss. Just one, and while Roy was fairly certain it would be one of the most embarrassing moments of his life, it would be over quickly, and they could pretend it never happened. One kiss, to resolve Ed's curiosity. It couldn't hurt anything. Just one kiss.

“All right,” he agreed, voice shaking a little.

He leaned forward, hesitating slightly when Ed did the same. Their faces were only inches apart; from here he could see flecks of dark amber amid the pure, bright gold of Ed's irises, could discern the faint white line of a scar across the tanned skin of his forehead. This close, he noticed how long Ed's lashes were, the faint crease between his brows that would one day be etched permanently there, the bow-shaped curve of his upper lip. Expectation painted the younger man's features, and with a juddering breath Roy shut his eyes and closed the distance between them.

*****


“Sir?”

Roy's head flew up from where it rested on his fist, eyes darting about the room in confusion, momentarily disoriented. A blur of blue caught his attention; half-leaning over the desk, a stack of paperwork in her hand, Hawkeye was frowning at him. “You were sleeping again, Colonel.”

He blinked, trying to recover some measure of dignity. “I wasn't asleep. I was thinking.”

The Lieutenant gave him a long-suffering look. “General Lomas would like your comments on the joint maneuvers by three o'clock,” she told him. “And Sergeant Fuery has been waiting all morning for you to hear his proposal.”

“Ah.” Rubbing his forehead, Roy tried to block out the headache that had plagued him all morning. “I'm afraid the paperwork for the General will take precedence today. Please let Kain know that I'll make time for him tomorrow morning, before the office meeting.”

Riza pursed her lips in disapproval. “If you'd begun work promptly, you would have had time for him today, sir,” she said, too blandly for it to be insubordinate, but a rebuke nonetheless. His temples throbbed.

“Thank you,” he growled. “Dismissed.”

He kept his eyes on the paperwork she'd left, listening to her steady stride as she moved away. The precise footsteps paused as the door was opened, and then to his surprise she spoke up again. “You had a call while you were in your meeting with Colonel Downs and Colonel Edgewood. The message is beside your phone.”

The door clicked quietly shut, and Roy glanced over at the message pad. Sophie's name and telephone number were written there in the Lieutenant's neat script, and he couldn't understand the frisson that went down his spine as he stared at it.

*****


There is nothing in the press of lips to define gender. Eyes closed, sightless, kissing Ed was no different than kissing a woman; warmth and gentle intimacy. Neither one of them opened their mouths to the other, exploring with lips alone, but the cautious caress could hardly have been called boring. If it had none of the rowdy exuberance he'd expected of Ed, it was still far from passionless. It reminded Roy of his first kiss, years back, before he had gained the confidence and skill he now claimed; it was as though he were new to the motions, learning them again, feeling the tremble of attraction for the first time.

But he wasn't attracted to men. He'd never been, wasn't now.

And yet, as he drew his head back, as he opened his eyes and saw Ed regarding him with flushed cheeks and lips darkened by their recent embrace, when Ed cocked his head to the side, eyes flashing overbright in the lamplight, and asked, “Was it okay?” the lie withered and died on his tongue.

*****


“Are you all right?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, of course.” A quick grin, the charming one that never failed him, sprang to his lips, and Roy added a quick squeeze to the hand he held for good measure. Sophie smiled back at him, her fingers tightening on his.

“You've been somewhere else tonight,” she told him, still smiling, but with a hint of concern in her eyes. “Has work been difficult lately?” Before he could reply, she tapped her lips, looking amused. “Ah, no, don't answer that. Whatever it is, I shouldn't make you think about it more. Maybe a little distraction is in order.” She stood, brushing her skirts straight before pulling him after her.

He followed, eyes on her graceful figure. “And where are you taking me?” he asked with a teasing lilt that he hoped would hide his distraction. “Nowhere that would besmirch your reputation, I sincerely hope.”

Her answering grin was sly. “Why then, you're an unusual specimen.” Black curls bounced, and she laughed merrily. He was coming to love that laugh, and the way it made her eyes sparkle. “I'm only taking you to the dance floor, so you can lay your worries to rest. My reputation is safe enough there, and I'll bet that whatever is on your mind can't keep up with a good foxtrot.”

Roy chuckled, dragging her to a stop and bowing over her wrist. “My lady, I place myself in your hands,” he told her, honest affection in his words. “Do lead the way.”

She did, and he followed her, trying hard to keep his mind in the present and on her, instead of mired once more in confused preoccupation.

*****


“Well?”

Impatient, maybe a little nervous now. The heat in Ed's cheeks was cooling, but his eyes were as intense as ever, gleaming beneath the riot of gold hair spilling around his face. And maybe it was the strangeness of the night, maybe it was the utterly bizarre moment, the two of them sitting on his sofa as they did every night and yet it was like no other night, not having just kissed one another, and them both cold sober. It was like nothing Roy could have ever imagined, much less experienced, and it went against every social more he'd grown up with-

“Roy?”

-but this was Edward, Ed, who'd offered up a piece of own life for him; for him, for his worthless self, and even if he hadn't, Roy could never lie to him. Never.

Deep breath. “Yes. It was nice.”

~*~**~*~


go back ~*~ go forward
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September 2011

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