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

Part Two


The late afternoon light filtered through the clouds with a muted, amber glow, warming the streets and buildings despite the chill gathering on the breeze. Winter hadn't quite loosed its hold on Central, but the air was rich with the promise of spring, and Roy took a moment to breathe it in, savoring the subtle shift from the cold that had enveloped the city for months.

He'd found himself doing this more often, since his injury. Taking notice of the little things he'd once passed by, like so many of Central's other citizens, things he'd been to busy to recognize and enjoy. But when his life had nearly ended, and been handed back to him like a gift at a dear cost to a friend, Roy had resolved to start appreciating it more. And days like these, walking along the mellowing streets instead of driving through them, unseeing, were one of the small ways he'd followed through on that resolution.

He was especially mindful of his reasons to be thankful today. His doctor had today pronounced his health to be as good as it could be considering the enormous damage he'd suffered at the chimera's tusks, and he planned to celebrate it with an evening of dancing with a lovely lady, of whom he was growing increasingly fond. And of course, he was looking forward to sharing the good news with Edward as well. Even more than Sophie, Ed would understand the enormity of this assessment, having cared for Roy through the difficult and painful recovery.

Graying shadows were lengthening and his breath was forming little white puffs in the air when he finally arrived home, glad to be out of the gathering cold of evening. Roy slid his boots off in the hallway and from somewhere near the kitchen, Ed called out a distracted greeting.

Passing the living room, Roy glanced in and a small journal lying innocently on his desk caught his eye. He paused for a moment just outside the doorway, a flurry of thoughts running through his brain, before he stepped into the room, heading unerringly for the book.

Its leather cover was filmed in a light layer of dust, and one hand swept it clear as Roy studied the journal with a considering gaze. Inside lay that remarkable array, the one Ed had used to save him, the one he'd meant to learn. He'd been neglecting his work with it, spending time with Sophie and in the office, but in light of today's diagnosis he felt a touch of remorse for his lax attitude. Such a small thing, by comparison to what had been done for him. He needed to make more time for it.

“Hey.” Turning, Roy saw Ed leaning against the doorframe, hair pulled back into a high ponytail, dripping spatula clutched in a metal fist. “How'd the visit go?”

He couldn't contain his smile. “Wonderfully. Everything has healed well, and so long as I keep minding my medicines and watch the alcohol, he's ready to pronounce me completely recovered.”

Ed flashed a brilliant, toothy grin, his eyes gleaming with what looked a bit like pride. “Fuck yeah! That's great news!”

“Yes.” His hand lingered on the journal, and Roy silently vowed, tomorrow, tomorrow for sure. “I thought I'd call Sophie, take her out to Martingale's and tell her as well.”

“Oh. She called earlier. Said her mom's sick, and that she's goin' over to take care of her tonight.” Ed's smile faded a little, and he fidgeted with the spatula. “Sorry.”

Although he was disappointed, Roy shrugged it off. “It's only one evening. I'll call her tomorrow, make sure everything is alright.”

“Ah. Well, you can have dinner with me. I'm makin' some Cretan stir fry, 'Least that's what it's supposed to be, but I don't think it's coming out quite... shit!” Eyes widening in alarm, Ed turned and bolted from the room, his hair a banner of gold behind him as he ran for the food he'd left cooking, the distinctive smell of burning meat finally reaching Roy's nose.


Despite Ed's inattention, the meal wasn't a total loss, and actually quite flavorful if one disregarded the somewhat charred taste of the pork strips. The two men bantered back and forth, baiting one another and generally enjoying the pleasant friction that always sparked between them. Arguing with Ed was, Roy concluded, at least as enjoyable as conversing with most people, and preferable to the majority of those conversations. His wits were never keener than when pitted against Ed's genius; it was almost as though he were able to absorb some of the brilliance that flowed constantly from the young man by mere proximity.

As he lingered over his tea, Ed somewhat haughtily pointed out that since he had cooked, Roy could clean, and dashed from the kitchen leaving his housemate staring in dismay at the mess he'd created. Shaking his head at Ed's unparalleled ability to wreck destruction, Roy pushed back his chair and set to work.

Returning to the living room after the last pan was set in the drainer and the counters were all wiped clear, he found Ed lazing the sofa, spread completely across the cushions, head lolling back on one arm. A fire was crackling merrily in the hearth, and the young man seemed to be soaking up its warmth like a cat, all slitted eyes and lazy sprawl, flame-burnished hair almost glowing. He looked to be half-asleep, and despite their usual sport of sneak attacks and fights for dominance over the piece of furniture, for a moment Roy was loathe to disturb him. Instead he stood in the doorway, watching the steady rise and fall of the broad chest, stretching the black fabric of his shirt tight before loosening once more.

This casual relaxation was something that hadn't been evident in quite a while, not since before Merisel, and it lifted Roy's heart to see Ed so content once again. It was as though a weight had been lifted off of the young man, leaving him vibrant and more alive than ever, the change visible even when he was at rest like this. A small, secretive smile curved Roy's lips; Ed, happy, was transfigured into something glorious, and he felt similarly transformed in his presence.

“Don't stare.” Ed didn't open his eyes, but he lolled his head in Roy's general direction. “It's creepy.”

“I'm just working out how to get you off that sofa,” Roy replied lightly, coming into the room at last. “It would be nice to have a place to sit, for a change.”

One eye cracked open, a lambent gold glare fixing upon him. Apparently deciding he wasn't worth the trouble, it slid closed again, and Ed made an amused rumble deep in his chest as he stretched extravagantly, taking up more space than seemed physically possible for such a small person.

Roy snagged him by the ankle, and Ed surged into motion, pulling his leg back in close to his chest and drawing the larger man still holding onto him in as well. Pulled off balance, Roy caught the back of the sofa with his other hand, but Ed was already moving; in seconds, Roy found himself immobilized, arm twisted behind his back, face pressed into the back of the sofa, while Ed snickered over his shoulder, “Whatcha got to say now, Colonel Shit?”

With his nose being crushed against the cushions Ed couldn't see his expression, but Roy smirked into the leather anyway. “Made you move.”

An amused snort. The pressure on his arm relaxed, allowing Roy to push himself back upright. Ed was sitting up as well now, alert and poised, with a gleam in his eyes that reminded the Colonel that the young man used to spar with a seven foot suit of indefatigable armor for fun.

Shaking his head at the exuberance of youth, Roy reached over to the end table, where the newspaper was neatly folded. Despite his disdain of Roy's 'boring' habit, Ed always made sure the paper was there for his nightly reading, a consideration at odds with his rather vocal disparagement. The Colonel shook out the pages, and beside him Ed made a disappointed noise as he realized the roughhousing was over. But once Roy had gotten comfortable and began to read, the young man yawned and leaned against his shoulder, using him for a backrest as he settled once more into somnolence.

The position made it hard to turn the pages, but Roy had become accustomed to Ed's weight limiting the motion of his arm, and wasn't bothered by the inconvenience. He flipped through the pages one-handed, soaking up the articles of politics and local scandal, skimming the editorials before taking his time checking over the leisure section, noting a couple new plays that were opening, and a symphony that looked interesting. Perhaps this weekend...

Eventually he folded the paper in his lap, before laying it aside. As if this were a signal, Ed roused and sat forward, turning to fix Roy with an expectant eye before leaning across the other man's lap and pressing their lips together.

This, too, had become normal.

It wasn't about attraction, Roy reminded himself, cupping a hand at the base of Ed's skull, feeling the cascade of fire-warmed hair in heated trails over his hand. It wasn't about desire, although he couldn't deny the shiver that traced his skin as Ed's teeth skimmed his lips, and their tongues tangled. He imagined it as exercise, practice, something they might put to use elsewhere for more serious pursuits. And in the meantime, as Ed had asserted, it felt very good.

That young man had certainly proven himself to be as full of surprises in this endeavor as he was in all others. The same mouth that produced obscenities that could startle even Roy, career soldier that he was, could also be gentle against his own, surprisingly pliant. Teeth more often seen bared in a feral grin nipped delicately at his lips, teasing so differently from his usual, caustic overtures. And Ed's tongue was as sinfully flexible as the rest of him, curling and taunting as it mapped out every inch of Roy's mouth until he very nearly felt ashamed of the small, involuntary gasps it elicited.

Not to be outdone, Roy put his years of experience to work, reasserting control of the kiss and giving that nimble tongue a quick suck before letting the younger man withdraw it. Ed made an eager, guttural sound at the ploy, responding with more exuberance and less finesse than before, and Roy smiled against the other man's mouth.

Sometimes he felt twinges of guilt, doing these things with Ed. They weren't even remotely a couple despite this strange pastime of theirs, and Sophie was still very dear to him, and his intentions toward her were good. Telling himself that this didn't represent any kind of threat to her, or cheapen his feelings toward her wasn't a very convincing argument when he found himself absorbed in Ed's scent, or giddy from the rush of endorphins when Ed's mouth slid along his in sheer carnal sensation.

Some indefinable impulse let his mouth drift from the other's, biting carefully along the strong line of his jaw, tracking down to the sensitive skin just below his ear and nibbling delicately there until Ed's hands were clamped hard on his shoulders, head thrown back as far as Roy's hold allowed, quivering. But Roy paused, pulling his head back abruptly in surprise. Where had that come from?

They had never progressed beyond mere kissing before...

Ed's chin dropped back to his chest, his breathing ragged as he looked up at Roy through disheveled bangs. His eyes were wild, and a little unfocused, as he gave his unsettled housemate a frankly unabashed grin. “Fuck, Roy. Gotta remember that trick!”

Unsure of how to respond, Roy just nodded dumbly, and Ed shook his head, hair a spray of gold as it flew around his shoulders. “Damn. Alright. I'd better go change and get to bed, since some shit's got an office meeting scheduled too fucking early, that every-damn-body is required to attend.” He stood, lithe body stretching once more as Roy tried not to watch, and punched the Colonel gently on the shoulder as he strode past. “Don't stay up too late, old man. The Lieutenant isn't gonna let you off the hook if you're late to your own meeting.”

And Roy was left in quiet bafflement on his sofa, wondering what on earth had possessed him to do such a thing.

illustration by [ profile] bob_fish


It wasn't as though Edward had forgone dating. At his age, and with his drive, such a thing would have been ludicrous. No, the young man was far from celibate, though he eschewed any relationship as exclusive and intense as he'd had with Merisel. But he was never at a loss for a date, a woman to dine with, a lady to meet at a bar or dance hall. In the prime of his life and far from hard on the eye, Edward was an irresistible force.

And yet he still sat on Roy's sofa in the evenings, kissing him with all the singleminded focus he applied to everything in his life.

It was clear that the young man had little difficulty reconciling his exploits outside of the house with the activities within. When curiosity overwhelmed him once, and Roy asked about this perspective, Ed gave a short bark of laughter, and replied, “It's not the same thing at all, now is it?”

But for Roy, it was not quite so simple.

When he had begun seeing Sophie, Roy had been all too aware of his past; the casual flings and endless dating, his reputation as a dilettante playboy. The recent collapse of Edward's relationship had been on his mind as well, and he'd made a conscious choice not to follow old habits, but to proceed with more caution and respect. His courtship of her was proper, probably old-fashioned by most standards, but as Sophie was an exceptional lady, she not only seemed to appreciate his slow approach, but also to mirror it. In the months that they'd been together, they had exchanged little more than the chastest of kisses, usually to the cheek or wrist, and Roy had told himself that it was out of respect and genuine affection for the lady, and a desire to for once proceed with the decorum a relationship of this depth deserved.

Now, however, as evenings spent kissing Ed showed no sign of abating, he had to wonder if his reticence with Sophie was out of guilt for his deceit, rather than propriety. Not that he felt the same for Ed as he did for her; with Sophie, Roy was certain he could see a future, and one which would have caused Maes to extol at length over the virtues of wedded bliss. The man would have been ridiculously proud of Roy for even considering the path of marriage, and Sophie would without a doubt have earned his blessing.

He wished that Maes was still here, to give him that lecture. And while he was at it, to possibly explain just what the hell Roy was doing with Edward in the meantime.


The wind whipped, buffeting against the heavy wool of Roy's greatcoat and setting the Colonel's teeth on edge as he hurried across the parade ground, head bent to the chilly spattering of rain. He hated these early spring showers, although he went through great pains to keep his face empty of the discomfort he was experiencing. Not only for the sake of his subordinate, wheezing slightly as he struggled to keep up with Roy's long strides, or for the fact that they were passing beneath the broad windows of the Fuhrer's offices, but for his own pride. Mere weather wasn't going to get the best of him.

“Damn, sir, can't you slow down a bit?” Breda groused, footsteps squelching heavily through the gathering puddles. “We're gonna be soaked to the bone by the time we get to the warehouses as it is, we don't need to be out of breath as well.”

“You should exercise more often,” Roy replied without slowing his pace. “A little walk like this shouldn't tire you out, soldier.”

Breda snorted. “With all due respect, Chief, shove it up your ass. I do what I do, and I do it damn well. You want a lean dog to follow you around base, fine, but I'd like to see it work out Drachman tactics.”

Roy chuckled at the Lieutenant's acerbity. “Just a suggestion, Heymans, just a suggestion. You're sounding almost as touchy as Fullmetal.”

The big man at his shoulder only grunted, still breathing heavily. They reached the warehouses, saluting the Private on duty at the door, and were admitted to the cool dimness of the building with relief, veiled on Roy's part, and loudly public on Breda's. As the Colonel sorted through the papers he'd brought for the surprise inspection they were conducting, Breda remarked, “So it seems like this thing between you and the Boss is working out okay.”

Papers rustled, and Roy nearly spilled them on the floor. “Oh?” he said in a neutral tone, keeping his face turned downward to hide the surprise at the comment. His cheeks were warming uncomfortably, making him grateful for the uncertain lighting.

Breda made an amused sound. “Yeah. We didn't think you two would last this long, living together, without one of you ending up in the hospital. Havoc had his money on the Boss throttling you in your sleep. But it looks like Fuery's taking the pot home this time.”

He'd forgotten about the office bets, and relief washed over Roy in a chilly sheet. Of course Breda didn't mean what he'd thought. Hawkeye excepted, of course, his office was nothing but red-blooded males. There was no way the would assume that he and Edward were playing tonsil hockey every other night, without strong evidence. He cocked his head, lifting an eyebrow at the canny Lieutenant standing beside him. “Where'd you put your bet?”

“Me?” The big man chuckled, belly bouncing. “I'm your loyal supporter, sir. I had my money on you.”

Roy gave him a thin smile. “I'm flattered,” he replied, dry humor lacing his words. Papers once again in order, he began making his way down the aisles, the stocky Lieutenant at his heels. Of course no one knew. They had no reason to know. After all, it was hardly a normal, unexceptional occurrence. Right?

But it felt that way now. Normal. Natural, even.

And what did that say about him?



Ed drew his head back, scowling at arm's length as Roy made a grotesque face. “What? What the fuck's the problem?”

Wishing he could spit, Roy pulled back farther. “Have you taken up smoking, Ed? You taste like Havoc smells!” The heavy, bitter taste clung to his palate, permeating his entire mouth, and Roy resisted the urge to paw at his tongue.

“Oh...” A faint hint of red flushed over his cheeks, and Ed looked pained. “I did see Charlotte before I got home. I just didn't think...”

“Clearly.” It was a little difficult to stand, with Ed all but in his lap, but Roy managed and moved for the stairs, still grimacing. “I need to brush my teeth. Or,” he added, as he started his ascent, “maybe you do.”

“Fuckin' picky-ass bastard,” he heard Ed grumbling at his back. But a few minutes later, Roy heard water running in the guest bathroom, and the brisk sounds of scrubbing.

Ed didn't mention Charlotte after that. Nor did his mouth ever taste of cigarettes again.


The chilly months bloomed into the warmth of full spring. Along the riverbanks the cherry trees were awash in white blooms, while the parks and pathways of Central were vibrant with flowers of all colors vying for the sun. Roy and Sophie attended garden parties and outdoor concerts, dined in courtyard cafes and wandered through museums, appreciating the return of sunlight and bright days as much as they did the artwork.

In the office, Breda and Havoc teased Roy incessantly, noting that he'd been dating the same woman for months- which surely heralded the end of the world!- and asking when they should have their dress blues dusted off for the wedding. Hawkeye rolled her eyes at her coworkers' childish behavior, while Falman treated them all to reminiscences about his sister's wedding until Breda threatened to start sharing his love stories, which quieted the office for a little while.

Throughout these months, Edward was everywhere. He took a week of well earned vacation- his first, in all his years as a State Alchemist- to visit Al and Winry in Riesembul, returning with a cheerful disposition and the start of a tan, and stories to be shared that kept Roy up until past midnight. He was home for a mere week before being sent out again on back to back missions in New Optain and Eastern Headquarters, and then only three days after returning, he was off once more, this time to Lior.

In Ed's absence, Roy followed through on the promise he'd made himself. Evenings not passed in Sophie's company were spent poring over lines and symbols, fruitless attempts to commit them to memory and understand the way life's energy was bent and spilled through the circle. He had finally come to the point where, while staring at the intricate lines, he could just about grasp the flow, but with the paper out of sight he might as well been grasping at smoke. His mind simply couldn't, or wouldn't, retain the array in its full complexity.

But soon Ed returned, and the diagram was put away. They talked, and argued, sniped at one another in the office. Traded chores in the house, fought over the sofa in the evenings. They leaned against one another as they read, shared their space without a thought and, with the windows cracked open, warm air and the scent of honeysuckle creeping in, they indulged in their strange occupation, and kissed, kissed...

And then, as the spring melted into the steamy beginnings of summer, Ed met Julia.


Glancing at the clock on the mantel, Roy noted that, even by his housemate's lax standards, Ed was late. That wasn't unusual in itself, but they'd made loose plans for a game of chess this evening, and the young man was generally good about keeping those. At least, so long as he hadn't become immersed in some new book, but the library had closed an hour ago.

Returning to the kitchen, Roy sat down and picked at the remains of his dinner. Expecting Ed's company, he'd made enough for both of them, but now he supposed he'd need to pack it away in the icebox instead. With Ed this late already, there was no telling when he'd return home, and there was no sense in letting the food spoil on the counter. He sighed, finally pushing his plate away and rising to clean up the remains of the meal. If nothing else, he'd have lunch to take in tomorrow, and possibly the day after that.

It was nearly nine before he heard the front door open, and moments later Ed wandered into the living room, a paper sack gripped in one hand and a soft, bemused expression on his face. Roy laid his paper aside, shifting to give the young man room to sit, and Ed plopped down, that distracted half-smile still firmly intact. The paper bag crunched as he settled it in his lap.

“Did you get lost?” Roy asked, teasing, but only a little, as Ed's eyes were somewhat dazed, and the dreamy smile that spread at the question was definitely out of the ordinary.

“Nah. Might've wandered around a bit, but... What time is it, anyway?”

Roy glanced up at the clock. “Five of nine. Did you lose your pocketwatch as well?”

“What?” Ed glanced down at his hip, as if for confirmation before shaking his head. “No, just got a little distracted. Didn't realize it was so late.”

“Seems like more than just a little distraction.” Frowning slightly at the odd look on Ed's face, Roy wondered if he ought to be concerned. “Is everything alright?” he asked in a gentler tone.

“Yeah. Oh yeah. Everything's fine.” Ed nodded at Roy with a broad smile, warm, and a bit awestruck as well. “Everything's great.” He offered nothing more, just continued smiling to himself, fingers flexing on the top of the bag in his lap.

Looking at Ed, who was clearly lost in some blissful thought, Roy could only blink in surprise. At a loss for anything else to say, he asked, “Are you hungry? There are some leftovers from dinner in the icebox. It wouldn't take any time to warm them up.”

“Not hungry.”

Roy's brows drew together with alarming speed. Ed was never not hungry, not in all the time he'd known him. But then... he'd been late, and he was carrying that bag. Perhaps he had eaten out?

That smile was starting to unnerve him. “What's in the bag?” Roy asked, unable to restrain his curiosity.

If anything, the happiness on Ed's face increased. “Onion rolls,” he said, and the grin widened into something blinding. Bright gold eyes turned his way, catching Roy off guard with their brilliance. “Julia gave them to me.”

He clutched the bag covetously on his lap, cradling it as though it was far more valuable than a plain bakery sack. And Roy suddenly realized what this was, this soft light in Edward's face, this fragile joy suffusing his smile. His breath caught in his throat as he looked upon the gentle stirrings of love in Ed's eyes, and Roy felt his chest constrict. Not again, not like last time, with Merisel, when Ed had been so hurt and diminished... But he couldn't let himself think like that.

“Well. It looks as though congratulations are in order.” He offered his own smile, which was returned with interest. A faint flush rose in Ed's cheeks, and he fumbled with the bag.

“S'not like anything's happened,” he mumbled. “Not yet, she's only agreed to let me buy her dinner tomorrow. She's... she's not like other girls.” He looked almost embarrassed, and yet so hopeful. “She's really shy, but... fuck, Roy, she's the sweetest person I think I've ever met.”

“She sounds lovely,” Roy told him, and he nodded enthusiastically.

“She is, you gotta meet her. You'll love her.” As if hearing what he'd said, Ed shot Roy a look. “Not like that, I mean...”

Roy laughed outright at Ed's overprotective reaction. “Of course not. And there's always Sophie.”

The defensive look faded, and Ed grinned, still fingering the paper. “We're both lucky.”

“Yes, we are,” Roy agreed, but somehow it didn't feel that way. It seemed as though something had already changed, and with a start he realized- the sofa, their evenings. The odd arrangement they had, which had become so comfortable and pleasant; somewhere along the line he'd relaxed enough to enjoy it a great deal. But now, with this new girl, Ed was sure to be preoccupied, uninterested in what he'd begun. Though really, Roy thought, he still had Sophie, whom he cared about a great deal; he ought not miss these things...

But it wasn't the same...

“Hey. What are you doin'?” Ed's eyes widened as he peered up at him, although Roy didn't recall getting to his feet.

“I just...” Fumbling for words, because he hadn't any idea where this was going. But Roy was spared the prevarication, as Ed set the bag aside and grabbed his arm, pulling the older man back down beside him. And before he quite understood what was happening, Ed had one arm latched firmly around Roy's neck, and was kissing him with urgency, teeth clashing, tongue winding desperately with his own. It was somewhat overwhelming, and Roy had a moment of fleeting wonder, whether Ed might be using him to play out some fantasy of Julia, but the thought didn't, couldn't last beneath the onslaught. When Ed finally released him, all he could do was stare, panting, into those wild gold eyes.

“Thought you liked this,” Ed said, voice a little ragged. “You don't wanna stop, do you?”

Head spinning, Roy heard himself say, “Not particularly. But this girl-”

“Doesn't change anything,” Ed interrupted impatiently. “That's different.”

“I don't understand...”

“Don't get weird about this.” An open mouthed kiss, teeth tugging at his lower lip. Hands, warm and cool, framing his face, brushing the bangs back from his forehead, hot breath husking over his ear in an aching whisper. “This is just us.”

Just the two of them, and Ed was right; it was comfortable, it felt good, it was theirs, and he didn't want to stop. Just the two of them, and Roy relented, let go, allowed himself to succumb once more to this strange seduction.


Absorbed in a finance report, it took Roy a moment to notice that Hawkeye was standing in the doorway, waiting for his attention. A glance at the clock confirmed that it was nearly half an hour past when he should have left, although he should have realized it from the silence beyond his door. Pushing the paper aside and rubbing his eyes he gave her a weary smile, appreciating not for the first time her unspoken concern.

She stared back, the barest hint of a indulgent smile reaching her lips. “You've done enough today, sir. It's time to go home.”

Roy sighed, leaning back in his chair until it creaked in protest. “You go ahead, Lieutenant,” he told her. “I just want to finish this up, and then I'll be on my way.”

Mischief crinkled the corners of her eyes as she tilted her head toward the door. “I think Edward is getting tired of waiting for you,” she informed him, and Roy sat forward quickly.

“Edward? I didn't even know he was here.”

She rolled her eyes, giving the suggestion that he was trying her patience, although Roy knew very well that she was probably amused by his reaction. “I informed you when he arrived, sir. That was almost an hour ago.”

“Almost- damn, I forgot.” He frowned accusingly down at his paperwork. “I'm surprised he didn't kick my door in.”

“I convinced him to wait outside,” Hawkeye replied in a dry tone, and Roy could well imagine her methods of persuasion. Chuckling, he laid his pen aside.

“Well, I suppose I'm done after all then.” He stood, back stiff and aching from the unnoticed hours he'd spent working at the desk, and followed her into the outer office, courteously waiting as she gathered her own belongings. They walked out together through the empty hallways in companionable silence for a few minutes before she turned to him with that small smile once again.

“If you don't mind my saying, sir,” she said, “I think that inviting Edward to live with you was one of the better choices you've made.”

He raised an eyebrow, not slowing his stride. “Oh? How's that?”

Hawkeye's smile broadened, growing fond. “He seems much more settled, since he moved in. Calmer.”

A short laugh slipped out before he could stop it. “Calling Edward 'calm' is an oxymoron, Lieutenant.”

Cutting her eyes his way, Riza shook her head. “You know what I mean, sir. He was never very comfortable living on his own. Nor,” she added with another sly glance, “were you.”

Roy missed a step. “Me? I was perfectly happy, living by myself.”

Rounding the corner into the main hall, she gave him a look that was clearly skeptical. “Don't be ridiculous, sir,” she murmured, nodding a greeting to the guard at the door. “I've known you too long to believe that.”

Stung, Roy insisted, “I was!” as he held the door for her, but it only earned him another disbelieving stare.

“If you say so,” she replied in a tone that suggested, rather pointedly, that he was full of shit. Glancing at something over his shoulder, she gave him a brief smile. “I'll see you tomorrow, sir,” she told him, and turned away before he could argue further.

“Hey! Bastard! What the hell took you so long?”

Roy turned around to see Ed sauntering toward him with a scowl on his face that wasn't so much annoyed as it was anxious. The familiar smirk slid into place, and Roy straightened just enough to be able to look down his nose at the smaller man. “I was working, Fullmetal, something most people have to do to keep a roof over their heads, and food on the table...”

Drawing level with him, Ed punched the Colonel in the arm- and not gently, either. Roy hid the wince as bright, angry eyes glared at him. “Shut up, fuck, you do love to hear yourself talk, don't you? You're late, just come on...”

He pushed past Roy, deliberately shouldering him in the process, and headed off across the square. Resisting the urge to rub his bicep- there was going to be an ugly bruise there, later- Roy matched the quick pace Ed set, following him out into the city streets.


“Just around the corner,” Ed told him, petulance giving way to an unrestrained smile. He looked up at Roy, his grin widening with excitement. “I can't wait for you to meet her.”

Neither could Roy, although for reasons other than Ed's. Although months in the past, the debacle with Merisel was still fresh in his mind, and he wasn't about to see any other person do that to Ed again. If he got any sense at all that this girl was playing with his friend, he was prepared to do everything in his considerable power to bring Ed to his senses before he got hurt. No one would use Edward ever again, so long as he had any say in the matter.

But he had to admit, this Ed that all but bounded eagerly along beside him bore no resemblance to the tense, unhappy man Roy had watched him turn into months ago. The closer they drew to their destination, the more he smiled, and his steps had a bounce to them that hadn't been present when they started. Hair pulled back into a long tail down his back, Ed hadn't bothered with his usual jacket today, although he was wearing his favorite black tank, leaving his arms exposed to the warm summer air. The young man, nearly glowing with happiness, swung his arms freely and careless of the occasional curious stares that were directed his way, and that casual unconcern for his automail spoke to a degree of comfort that Roy could find no fault in.

The bakery where Julia worked was a tidy little building, nestled between a bookstore and an apothecary; a perfect trifecta for Edward. Tiny bells over the door rang cheerily as they walked into the shop, a delicious aroma wafting from the ovens in the back and from the many racks of bread, rolls and pastries that lined the walls. Behind the counter, handling an broad tray of scones with dexterous ease, was a young woman, her long, pale hair tied back with a satin ribbon. In a tender voice Roy had only heard directed at Elysia, and occasionally Al, Ed said quietly, “Hi, Julia.”

She was a tiny thing, Roy thought, as she turned to greet them, a smile curving her lips for Ed before fading when she looked past the young man to meet his gaze. Timid to the point of seeming fearful, she spoke to him when Ed introduced them, but Roy only caught a few of the softly voiced words she directed his way. Hands clenched in her apron, Julia unconsciously moved closer to Ed, as if trying to hide behind him.

Ed leaned on one elbow at the glass counter, chatting comfortably with the girl who responded to the young alchemist with a little more confidence. To Roy's surprise, Ed acted the perfect gentleman for her, and she was far more at ease with him, smiling at his quips and blushing prettily when he complimented her dress. After a few minutes with Ed talking and carrying the brunt of the conversation, she finally warmed up a little to Roy as well, smiling shyly as he tried to charm her, though still obviously wary.

It seemed odd to Roy, that Ed would be so taken with a woman this delicate and cautious. He had a history with strong women- his mechanic was nearly as formidable as Riza, as was Pinako Rockbell, who'd raised the boys after their mother died, and Roy had heard plenty of tales about Ed's sensei. A personality as forceful as Ed's required another to balance it, or so he'd thought. And watching the two of them, now talking quietly to one another over the counter, Roy wondered. But when he saw Julia slip her hand into Ed's hand- his metal hand- without so much as hesitating, he understood.


go back ~*~ go forward

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September 2011

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