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


Ed was awake when he returned, curses and the banging of pans informing Roy as to his location. It was doubtful the young man had even realized he'd gone anywhere, and so he slipped into the living room, placing the velvet box from the jewelers on his desk with a worried frown. As excited as he'd been last night, delirious and exhausted, and as eager as he'd been to make the purchase, he wasn't yet ready to tackle the challenge it represented. He'd only get one shot at it, and it would have to be perfect.

A particularly loud bang, followed by a yelp, made him look up with surprise and some amusement. Ed was a surprisingly good cook when he managed to keep his attention on what he was doing, but breakfast was the overwhelming exception to the rule. Still groggy from sleep and before the coffee had provided its caffeinated boost to the morning, Ed didn't so much prepare breakfast as wage war on it. From the sound of things, the meal had gained the upper hand, and Ed was readying his offensive. For the sake of peace and an intact kitchen, Roy decided that it was time for a diplomatic intervention.

Stepping out into the hall Roy wondered briefly how it was going to be, facing Ed after what transpired the previous night, and he felt it was one of his greater acts of bravery that he continued instead of turning tail and hiding in his room for the rest of the day. But to his relief, when he entered Ed just looked up at him, blew his bangs out of his face and said, “You're here, you do the eggs,” shoving the overfilled pan his way. Just like always.

They worked in companionable silence, broken only by the stray quiet question and grunted response. Before long Roy was spooning the eggs out onto plates while Ed slathered slices of toast with jam, clutching his coffee mug in an automail grip as though it held the elixir of life. The bacon had been left on the back burner for too long but it still appeared to be edible, so Roy added it to the plates as well before pouring his own mug of coffee and taking his seat. Ed flopped down across from him, all tangled hair and sleepy eyes, and tucked into his food without a word.

Despite knowing that he shouldn't, Roy stole occasional glances up at his housemate while they ate. As was usual when it was warm, Ed was wearing only boxers, and a tank top that must have been at least one size too large. It hung loose at the neck and the arms, the red bruise across his collarbone plainly visible. More than once Roy found his eyes resting there, on the mark he'd made, his stomach gone suddenly light and shaky.

But the sheer normality of their routine soothed the few fits of nerves Roy had from being close to Ed. The young man grumbled through his first plate of food, got seconds and another cup of coffee, and by the time he went back for one last piece of toast Ed was alert and trading jabs with him, and it could have been any unexceptional Saturday morning. They ended up gravitating into the living room, with a heavy book of Cretan alchemy written in a dead language that Ed, of course, could read, and the morning paper for Roy, sitting back to back on the sofa as usual. By now it felt far stranger to sit any other way than pillowed against the other man's shoulders, but it didn't feel safe to let his mind dwell upon Ed's solid presence at his back for too long, so Roy focused on the newspaper instead.

He was deliberately not paying attention to Ed so hard that it took a while for Roy to notice that the occasional noises of pages being turned had ceased. Warm hair was nestled against the back of his neck where Ed was resting his head, staring out into the center of the room. This was not part of the pattern they followed, and he was about to ask if something was bothering Ed when the young man spoke.

“I didn't realize,” he said in hushed, careful voice, “that you and Sophie were so serious.”

Roy's brows tightened in confusion at the unexpected comment. “We've been exclusive since we started dating...” he replied slowly, but Ed interrupted.

“No, I mean... you really like her, don't you? Like, someone you could stay with. For good.”

Feeling distinctly uncomfortable, Roy said, “We haven't really gotten to that sort of thing yet. Edward-”

“So I was thinking,” Ed continued in that overly cautious tone, “that maybe I oughta be tryin' harder to get my own place.”

The remark completely blindsided Roy, and his heart contracted into a small, painful lump in his chest in the silence following the statement. The newspaper dropped into his lap, as he dared to voice the question, “Does this have to do with last night?”

The silky mass of Ed's hair brushed his ear as the younger man shook his head. “Nah, don't be stupid. Told you how I felt about that. I just... I don't wanna be in your way. You've got your own life, and I've been pretty inconsiderate...”

“Edward.” Roy shifted, his usual signal that he wanted Ed to sit up, but today the gesture was ignored; Ed remained pressed to his back, head tucked into the crook of his shoulder. Unable to look him in the face, Roy frowned. “You never have been. There's no reason for you to leave.”

He felt the sigh fill Ed's lungs. “Just don't think I'm being fair to you.”

It was amazing, Roy thought as his lungs froze with panic, how such an innocuous comment could clarify his mind so rapidly. “I don't want you to go,” he replied, perhaps a little too fast, but it was important that he make himself clear.

“Can't stay forever.” Ed's voice was a rough, uneven growl, and he turned his face into Roy's hair. “Things change, Mustang, I get that.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” He wanted to leap up, force Ed to look at him so that he might understand, but Roy sat still, afraid to jostle the other man from his strangely vulnerable posture, this sudden talk of leaving more distressing than he could have expected. Nearly a year since Ed had moved in, and he couldn't even think of it as simply his home any longer; it was Ed's as well now, and how could he believe he was in the way...?

“Sometimes you just see things differently,” Ed told him, cryptic and quiet, and rolled forward, leaving Roy free to twist around. But the young man was already on his feet, looking out over the room with a strange, glum expression. His gaze seemed to settle on something, but it quickly shifted over to Roy, who stared back at him with painful intensity.

“Please don't make this decision hastily.” He was willing to beg, if Ed would only reconsider. Maybe Hawkeye was right, maybe he was no good on his own, because damned if the thought of Ed leaving didn't make him seize up inside. And perhaps the young man saw this, because some of the sad determination in his eyes faded as Roy held his eyes. Please...

Sunlight glinted off of metal plates as Ed finally shrugged. “I'll think about it,” he conceded, still sounding uncertain. Gold eyes flicked back to that unidentified focal point and his mouth firmed into a frown. “Goin' to the library,” he mumbled, before retreating upstairs to change his clothes.

Roy listened to the sounds of the other man moving around overhead, stomach tight with apprehension. After a few minutes Ed clomped back down, not making eye contact as he hurried out the door, and Roy restrained the urge to watch him go from the window. Instead he stood, moving over to the desk and taking up his journal.

Weighing the book in his hand, he looked down at the little velvet ring box still sitting unobtrusively on the edge of his blotter and felt his courage flagging. But in the end he picked it up, tucking it in his pocket before walking stiffly to the door to his basement. This couldn't be done tonight, but there were preparations he could make in the meantime. And then he had to call Sophie.

Roy was a strategist. He was accustomed to the future being a nebulous thing, something that could be analyzed but never predicted with absolute certainty, and he'd learned to plan for as many contingencies as he could imagine. But this time he felt adrift, his last, best chances for happiness floating beyond his reach or control, and there was no way of knowing where he might be cast up.

He slid his hand into his pocket, fingers curling around the soft corners of the box, and sent up a silent prayer that he was doing the right thing.

*****


Roy spent the afternoon at a play with Sophie and her sister, and afterwards they dropped her sister off and the two of them returned for a quiet dinner at the small house she rented. It was pleasant, but lingering worries and questions swarmed like stinging flies, constantly pricking and distracting him as he spoke, and although she said nothing about his preoccupation, Sophie's smile soon stopped reaching her eyes.

Before he left, Sophie stopped him in the hallway as he was sliding on his shoes. Stepping in close, she tilted her head up and whispered, “Roy. Please... kiss me. Like you did last night.” Her eyes were bright with the memory of moonlight, and rich with entreaty, and her fingers plucked at his collar with nervous excitement. I love her, he whispered to his heart, staring down into her expectant face, and again as he bent to kiss her. I love her.

But his heart said nothing back.

He did his best. He tried, he honestly tried to recapture the heat of that moment. He gave his best effort to summon the passion that had always been so easy to find, the raw emotion that she desired. But the kiss he managed was nothing like the one he'd given her before, and as he drew back, he knew that she could tell the difference. Oh, she smiled at him, lovely and demure, but he could see the comparison in her eyes, and knew that he had failed.

Discomfited, he bade her goodnight, promising to call the following evening, and she waved from her porch as he drove away.

The house was dark and quiet when he returned, and Roy stood in the middle of the living room for a few minutes, unsure of what to do. There was the array, now laid out on his workbench in the basement, but he was still tired from his near-sleepless night, and didn't trust himself not to make mistakes. And sitting on the sofa to read, as he might otherwise have done, wasn't nearly so appealing without Ed's presence. He sighed, wondering where the young man was, although he was almost certain he knew the answer.

Julia... she and Ed were very close. It bothered him in a way he was afraid to name, how close they seemed to be. Julia wasn't Merisel, she wasn't a person who would hurt Ed in any way, and he knew he ought to be content with his friend's happiness. Yet when Roy thought of them together his stomach clenched. Ed and Julia, standing in the shadows kissing- a spark of irrational anger grew in him, making him want to snarl that he had been there first, he'd left his mark, and it was his teeth on Ed's neck that caused the young man to shiver uncontrollably...

Roy made a quiet, despairing sound, giving up the fight, and tilted his head back. Jealousy. How embarrassing. And so foolish- what claim did he have on Ed? Was he supposed to ask his friend to give up a relationship that was inarguably good for him, so that he could have his company in the house, and kisses that led nowhere? What could he offer, when he wasn't even sure what he wanted?

And Sophie. Shame heating his cheeks, Roy dropped onto the sofa and put his face in his hands. Last night, in a weary daze, he'd thought he'd seen the answer, imperfect though it was. But now it seemed impossible once again. For all that Ed had inveigled his way so deeply into his life, Sophie was important to him as well. The thought of letting go of her was as difficult as the idea of losing Ed. And yet it seemed that the two couldn't coexist in his heart without conflict.

For a bare, fleeting moment, Roy wished that his principles would allow him both. But even in his imagination that didn't work. Did he want the same kind of idyllic marriage that Maes had enjoyed? A lovely wife, a family, a normal life? Could he afford to risk that, to throw it away for something he didn't understand, with a man- a man!- whose future may very well lie elsewhere?

“I'm considering a relationship with Edward Elric, instead of marrying Sophie as quick as I can put a ring on her finger,” Roy said softly, and his breath hitched once. He said it again, disbelieving, and his shoulders shook with the effort of not bursting into distraught laughter. “Oh god,” he gasped, “Oh goddamn me, I'm losing my mind. With Edward... who has a girlfriend, and- oh god.”

It would have been really funny, if it wasn't so fucking sad.

*****


He pulled himself together and went to bed some time later, but his sleep was light and broken, and after several hours with little rest he realized he was waiting to hear the front door, and Ed coming home. But the night dragged on, well past the hour when the young man usually returned from visiting Julia, with no jingling of keys or familiar, uneven tread coming up the stairs. Roy dozed, woke, drifted off again only to start alert as the clock in the hall chimed.

Finally, at nearly three in the morning, the front door creaked and there were the footsteps he knew so well on the stairs, in the hall. Hesitation, just outside his bedroom door, then he heard Ed shutting his own door, and Roy's body finally let go of the tension it had been holding. But his mind, overtired and overstimulated, refused to stop racing.

Where had Ed been? He was never this late anymore, and hadn't been for a very long time. And surely he wasn't picking up women at the bars any longer. He'd never mentioned that anything was amiss between himself and Julia, and whatever she did for him had made Ed happier than Roy could ever recall seeing before. The only thing lacking in their relationship, now that he thought about it, was sex-

No.

Roy's eyes opened wide in the darkness, listening to the faint sounds of Ed in the room across the hall. No, they couldn't have. Julia was too much of an innocent, he couldn't imagine... But Ed, coming back so late- why else would he be out until the hours before dawn?

There was a heavy flump in the other room, the sounds of bedsprings protesting. Roy turned his face into his pillow and wanted to howl with frustration.

*****


The remainder of the weekend was miserable. Both men seemed intent on pretending that nothing had ever happened, but it lurked beneath the surface nonetheless, in the careful way they spoke to one another, and the difficulty they had meeting each others' eyes. Subdued and quiet, Ed finally went out before lunchtime, which eased the awkwardness, but Roy quickly found that the other man's absence was even harder to handle than his presence.

He worked with the array in the basement for awhile, but the meticulous nature of the work was difficult given his spotty concentration. When he caught himself drifting for a second time while tracing out the design he stopped, putting his tools aside. There was no room for errors, and he wasn't about to ruin it all by pushing himself into drawing an incorrect line. Shaking his head at what little progress he'd made, Roy cleaned up his workbench and tucked the drawing back into his journal.

Too moody to want to leave, too restless to want to stay in, and too many hours until he could crawl back into bed. He invented diversion after diversion- chores that needed to be done, projects he'd meant to start- but he was irritable and distracted, and one by one they were all abandoned. He called Sophie, but even though she could sense his strange mood, she was unable to soothe it out of him. Their conversation was flat and empty, and after suffering through it for a while Sophie mercifully ended the call, pleading a previous commitment with a friend. It was with relief that Roy hung up the phone, though it left him once again facing the hollow hours of the afternoon.

He finally made himself override the anxious urge to move, and stretched out on the sofa with a book. He was worn from lack of sleep and sick to death of thinking, and forcing his mind to make sense of the words on the page was more work than pleasure, but it was still better than letting his thoughts linger in the same helpless track they'd worn since Friday night. Reading was a pointless exercise, as he retained nothing from page to page, but it served to calm him a little and the heat of the afternoon sun eventually lulled his weary body into sleep.

When he awoke, dusky shadows draped the room and outside the window crickets were singing an evening song. The leather of the couch was almost hot beneath him but Roy didn't move, blinking lazily as he tried to focus his eyes. From the dimness cloaking the room he judged that it was past dinnertime, but there didn't seem to be any lights on in the house, nor the sounds of movement. Only the faint orange glow of a gaslight flickering to life in the street outside his window, the quiet hiss of his own slow breathing-

Wait, no. That wasn't him.

He noticed the legs first, sprawling away from the chair and nearly invisible in black leather against the gloom. The dark shirt similarly camouflaged Ed's chest, but his arms glowed softly in the warm light, silver and gold. Cheek pillowed on a fist, elbow propped on the chair's arm, head slumping downward in what had to be an uncomfortable position while gold hair straggling loose from a messy braid flung over his shoulder. The young man's mouth was slightly agape as he breathed, his face utterly relaxed, so open that Roy found himself staring at Ed with unabashed interest.

Chest aching, he levered himself careful up on one elbow so that he could see him better, but the slight noise caused Ed's eyelids to flutter and then open. There was a moment of silence as they stared at one another before Ed shifted and yawned, wincing slightly. “Ow,” he growled, voice roughened with sleep, eyes cloudy. “M'fuckin' neck hurts.”

“That always was a bad chair to sleep in,” Roy commented, still unable to take his eyes off of the other man as Ed stretched and tried to rub his sore neck.

“Mm. Didn't mean to fall asleep.” Ed must've fallen asleep watching him, a detail that didn't escape Roy's notice, and something warm and quietly happy pushed aside the anxious knot below his heart that had been weighing him down all day.

He hesitated for a moment. “I never heard you come in.”

Ed's gaze lifted, hand still on the back of his neck, and the young man gave him a wry half-smile. “You were out cold. And you looked so damn tired I figured I wouldn't wake you.”

“It would have been alright,” Roy told him in a low voice, and Ed shrugged in reply. His eyes remained locked with Roy's.

They weren't saying what they were thinking, neither of them, but all of those unspoken words seemed irrelevant at that moment. The tension that had infected the household all weekend was gone, replaced by something close and intimate, and Roy thought he might give anything to hold that feeling. But as if on cue, Edward's stomach let out a loud, demanding rumble, and the young man groaned.

“Shit, it was my night for dinner, wasn't it? Don't have any idea what to make, it'll have to be something quick...”

“Why don't we go out for Xingian?” Roy suggested, swinging his legs around so that he could sit up. “That way you don't have to bother with cooking.” And maybe this comfortable feeling might stay with them.

Ed considered for a minute, then nodded. “Yeah, that sounds pretty good.” One hand plucked the tie from his braid, fingercombing the strands out. “I should fix this mess before we go, it's no good after I've slept on it...”

He sectioned his hair quickly, but the crick in his neck gave him difficulty in rebraiding the strands. After a couple of attempts, punctuated by Ed's curses and mounting frustration, Roy leaned forward to get his attention. “May I?”

For a moment Roy was certain that Ed would brush off the offer. The young man's mouth twisted, but he let his hands drop to his knees and rolled his shoulders as if to suggest it didn't matter. It was invitation enough for Roy, who motioned for Ed to come sit beside him on the sofa, smiling as the other man did so.

He let his hands slide through the thick mass of hair, strands flowing like silk around his fingers, before buckling down to the task, separating and weaving it into the familiar heavy plait. It was hard to concentrate on the work, being this close to Ed, however. His hands remembered the sensation of touching that tanned, supple skin, and a few times his fingertips brushed against Ed's neck in a way that wasn't purely necessary.

The desire to turn Ed around, to kiss him, was almost unbearable. But Roy thought of Julia, and with a heartdropping certainty knew he couldn't do that. Imperiling his own relationship was one thing; disrupting Ed's was quite another. He's earned his happy ending, Roy mused, his thumb sweeping through the soft tail of hair as he tied the plait off. If I care about him, I have to let him go.

They would always share a deep friendship; he wasn't willing to ever relinquish that. And there was a part of Ed that would always belong to him, a piece Ed had given freely, and it was a greater gift than he deserved. He could be content with that.

The finished braid hung slightly off-center, and wasn't as tight as Ed normally made it, but it would do. With a melancholy smile that Ed couldn't see, Roy pushed the braid aside and bent down to press one last, longing kiss onto the nape of his neck, just above his collar. Ed sat very still beneath his lips, twisting around to look at him with an expression that was hard to see in the gathering night when he drew back. “What was that for?” he asked, and Roy couldn't tell if there was anger or apprehension in the question.

“It... I just wanted to,” Roy told him quietly, and oh, he wanted to touch him again. But Ed was still watching him, eyes dark and inscrutable, and if that terrible awkwardness came between them once more Roy wasn't sure he could stand it. Feeling his pulse beginning to race, he asked, “Was that alright?”

“No, I mean... yeah, it was fine. It's fine.” Ed's voice had an odd, husky quality, making Roy wish he could see his face better, but the acceptance he heard was enough to make him weak with relief. Cool metal fingers brushed the back of his hand, not quite a caress, but Roy felt himself heat as though feverish at the touch. Pausing at the door, Ed turned back and extended his hand to him. “C'mon,” he said. “Let's go.”

*****


After that evening, things improved around the house. Although a part of Roy twisted whenever he saw Ed off for an evening with Julia, it was still better by far than the awkwardness that had permeated most of the weekend. The normal routine of their home slowly reasserted itself, and were it not for the ache that filled him from time to time, Roy could almost believe things were as they'd been before.

Mending things with Ed also brought an improvement in his relationship with Sophie. Feeling more himself, Roy took her out dancing on Tuesday night, and the disenchantment from before seemed to vanish as they circled and spun on the floor. She laughed, and gave him the smiles he'd come to love, and were it not for the occasional pangs he felt as he looked at her, Roy would have thought his life couldn't possibly be improved.

He dropped her off at her house later that evening, after making plans to see her on Friday, and although he sensed that she wanted him to kiss her as they stood together on the porch, he couldn't bring himself to risk disappointing her again. Instead he left her with a quick peck on the cheek, and hoped she wouldn't be offended by his return to the restrained courting that had characterized their earlier dates.

She voiced no complaint, but her smile was opaque, and her dark eyes glimmered as she wished him a good night.

The next few weeks seemed to fly past; work at the office, evenings at home with Ed. Dinners with Sophie, dancing, a play. One glorious afternoon, playing chess with Ed in the baking heat of his backyard and arguing about nothing of consequence. One seemingly endless night, counting the chimes of the clock until Edward came home again.

The summer crept on.

It wasn't long before Roy began seeing a pattern to his behavior. When Ed was out with Julia, he never cared how late he was out with Sophie. Yet if the other man mentioned that he would be home on an evening, or if there was a chance he didn't have plans, there was always a reason for Roy's night to end early. When he realized what he'd been doing he felt rightly guilty for shortchanging Sophie of his time. But he rationalized that Ed was going to move out sometime, probably sooner than later, and then the situation would right itself, and he would be free to devote all of his attention to Sophie. But until then, he wanted to spend time with his friend, knowing that once Ed had moved on there would likely be far less contact between them; a thought that saddened him.

In the meantime he tried to make up for his distraction in little ways; sending flowers, calling her from the office just to say hello and inquire about her day. He didn't want Sophie to feel neglected, for she was dear to him no matter what draw he felt toward Edward, and with that in mind Roy spent an afternoon pulling strings and calling in a few favors to secure them a table at the most exclusive restaurant in Central. He decided to leave their destination a surprise, so he could enjoy the look of delight on her face when she realized just where he was taking them. It would be a fine gesture, he thought, a way to express to her just how much she meant to him

With a satisfied smile on his face, Roy dialed her up to make plans for Saturday night.

*****


“Fuck's sake, Roy, enough is enough! Give it a rest!”

Roy scowled at the young man, lounging in his doorway with a cocky grin. “I don't think you realize how selective this establishment is,” he told him. “It wouldn't do to show up looking anything but one's best. Now where the hell are my antique cufflinks?”

Ed snorted. “What, are they gonna inspect you or something when you arrive? Give you a test, look at your teeth? Shit, I can't believe you'd want to go to some place like that. Check your suit pocket.”

There was something off about the young man; he'd been picking up hints of it all day. They were only glimpses, caught from the corner of his eye, and disappearing whenever he tried to study Ed to work out what was amiss. For the most part, Roy only saw the caustic attitude the other man always projected. But he could sense the difference nonetheless, a faint disturbance like a ripple in a pool, or the subtle trace of old alchemy.

The cufflinks were exactly where Ed had suggested. With grumbled thanks, Roy fastened his cuffs and stepped back, examining his reflection in the mirror with a critical eye. “That's got it.”

“Vain bastard.” Ed rolled his eyes, and feigned disinterest.

Perhaps it was simply because Julia was out of town this weekend, visiting family. Not that Ed had been acting lonely; he seemed perfectly content lazing around the house. Although... he had called Al twice already today, and while the brothers were still close despite the distance separating them, Ed usually only called Al once a week or so. Maybe, Roy thought, it was Alphonse that Edward was missing, and he made a mental note to mention another vacation to his subordinate. Ed was certainly entitled to it, and Roy wanted him to be happy.

Glancing at his pocketwatch, Roy did a few quick mental calculations. If he left within the next few minutes he'd have plenty of time to stop by the florist's and pick up the flowers he'd ordered, collect Sophie from her house and get them to the restaurant early enough that they could sit in the lounge and talk for a while before their table was ready. Satisfied with the way his plans were working out, Roy tucked his watch back in his pocket, and from the edge of his vision saw Ed's face pull into a small, unhappy frown. But by the time he looked up it was gone, and Ed's expression was one of fond disdain.

He picked up his jacket, sliding it on. “What are you planning to do tonight?” Roy asked, pretending not to watch the other man as he patted his hair down one last time. From the doorway Ed shrugged, arms crossed over his chest, eyes distant.

“I dunno. Got a few letters I oughta write, might do that.” Another shrug. “Nothing near as exciting as what you've got planned.”

There was nothing overtly unusual in Ed's tone, but it still caught his ear. Roy had lived with him long enough to pick up on the subtleties of his speech and hear the tension there, even though it was hidden well enough that Al was probably the only other person who would notice. And, he ceded with some regret, Al was likely the only person who could coax Ed into admitting it. Roy studied the man leaning against the doorframe, golden hair tumbling loose around his shoulders, radiating amusement and insouciance even as his bright eyes were dimmed by shadows, and wished that he knew how to chase that darkness away.

“Is there anything-” he began, although he wasn't sure what he was offering. Ed raised an eyebrow at him as he floundered for words, and then huffed a short laugh.

“Get out of here, Mustang,” he told him. “Your date's waiting for you.”

Roy hesitated, wanting to say something more but unable to find the words. And Ed was right; it was time for him to leave. The young man sidled out of the way as he moved through the door, standing just out of reach and watching Roy with a stiff grin. “Go on,” he said, making shooing motions as he herded the other man down the stairs. “Have a good time, and don't fuckin' touch the alcohol.”

Anything Roy might have said in reply would have had to make its way past the hard lump in his throat, and so he simply gave Ed a wan smile and a wave, and headed for the car.

*****


Sophie didn't answer the door at his first knock. He heard her coming on the heels of the second, and Roy smiled in anticipation as he fingered the petals of the lilies in the corsage he'd brought for her. However when the door swung open he was surprised to see that she wasn't dressed for an elegant evening, but instead wore a faded gingham dress and a light sweater. He stared at her, nonplussed, for a moment but alarm stiffened his spine when she lifted her face, exposing red-rimmed eyes that had been hidden by the dark tangle of her curls.

“Sweetheart,” he exclaimed, one hand reaching out as worry shook him. “What's wrong?”

Her mouth curled in a tremulous smile, but her eyes were so, so sad. “Roy,” she said, very softly, stepping back and motioning him inside. “Please come in. We need to talk.”

*****


The keys fell, clattering on the doorstep. Roy bent to pick them up, numb fingers clutching them in an indelicate grip as he fumbled one into the lock. It bound, and he twisted at it uselessly for a few moments before realizing it was the backdoor key. It took another minute for him to find the correct one, picking through the little bits of metal without any recognition. This time the door swung inward, but there was no relief at his success and he stepped into the house feeling every passing second crushing him.

He didn't know what to do. There was nothing but an awful, ringing silence inside of him, and he stood, lost in his own foyer, and couldn't even move to go to his bedroom, the living room, anywhere. He couldn't even remember the drive home, and was distantly aware that he should be appalled that he'd gotten behind the wheel in such a state. But it didn't matter to him at all.

Rapid footsteps pattered upstairs, followed moments later by Ed's appearance at the top of the stairs, wary and on guard against the unexpected arrival, but he paused in confusion. “Roy?” he exclaimed, as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. “What are you doing back?”

It seemed impossible to speak, the effort far beyond his abilities. Something must have showed on his expression, because Ed was down the stairs in an instant, grasping his arm and looking up into his face, worry sharpening his gaze. “Shit, you look terrible! Come on, sit down...”

Roy was ushered into the living room, and sat down on the couch with Ed hovering solicitously next to him, still holding his arm. “What happened?” he demanded. “Are you okay? Fuck's sake, Roy, talk to me!” His voice rose in alarm, and the lithe body at Roy's knee was tensed with adrenaline, ready to leap into action. The hand locked on his arm shook.

“She broke up with me.” The words sounded distant, as though someone else had spoken them; surely it wasn't him, still sitting there in shock. Ed started as though slapped, but wouldn't let go.

“Sophie?” he asked, disbelief evident in the question. “But... she couldn't... she wouldn't, Roy, why would she do that? She's the fuckin' world to you, doesn't she know?”

“Sophie, please- I don't want to lose you!”

She was so beautiful, smiling at him, sad and forlorn. “You haven't lost me. I've lost you.”

A strangled whisper. “I'm right here.”

She sighed, and pain stabbed clear through him, seeing her this unhappy. “You're right here, but your heart is somewhere else.”

“No. No, Sophie, I love you-”

“Don't.” She held up a hand, and for the first time, tears glistened in her eyes. “Roy, you don't. You've tried- oh, my sweet man, you've tried. But... I don't know who you love, but it isn't me. And we can't afford to pretend, neither of us. Not in something like this.”


“It wasn't enough,” Roy mumbled, covering his face with his hands, misery battering against the walls of his control. “I couldn't give her enough, not what she deserved.”

“No!” Ed's refutal was furious, indignant. “That's bullshit, how can she say that? How can you say that? I oughta go down there, tell her-”

“Ed.” Roy lifted his head, staring at the young man's livid expression with aching eyes. “It's over. She's not coming back.”

But Ed wouldn't be deterred. “We can still talk to her though, right? She's made a mistake, you love her, we can show her that! She'll see, she was wrong, Roy, she'll come back...”

Why wouldn't he understand? “She was right,” Roy whispered, despair breaking him down as he realized just how right she'd been. How unfair he'd been, to everyone, and he'd known it, deep down. It was a bitter truth to admit, but he had to; he'd denied it long enough. He'd failed, and he'd lost her; he'd lost every chance given him and what did he have left? Nothing, nothing...

He'd forgotten about Ed's hand latched onto his arm until it tugged at him. “You can't give up,” the other man insisted, wretched determination filling his face. “Weren't you going to propose? What about the ring?”

Surprise jolted Roy from his pain. “What ring?” he asked, and Ed colored beneath his scrutiny.

“The, uh, the ring,” he stammered. “The one you brought home the day after we all went out.”

If he weren't already filled with more emotion than he could process, Roy thought, if he weren't clinging to the numbness filling him as a shield against crumbling completely, he might be furious at the implied snooping. “I never showed you that ring,” he stated coldly, and Ed flushed brighter. “How do you know about it?”

The hand dropped from his arm, and Ed shrugged helplessly. “I just... when I got up that morning, you weren't around. I thought maybe you were in here, and I looked- but you weren't, and there wasn't anything out of place, you know how orderly you keep things. And then later, you got back, and when we came in here it was there, on your desk... What else would it be,” he finished miserably, “but a ring for Sophie? You've been nuts for her ever since you met, everyone knows that.”

He hadn't looked. He didn't know... Roy shook his head, feeling far worse than before. “It wasn't for her,” he said quietly. “Maybe it should have been.” He hid his face in his hands once more, angry with himself, hurting, and so very empty. “Oh god, I messed up...”

Strong arms encircled him, drawing him close until he folded against the other man's chest, his face against the hollow of Ed's throat as gentle fingers carded through his hair. “She fucked up,” Ed whispered, fierce voice cracking with intensity. “Lettin' you go was the stupidest thing she coulda done, can't believe she'd be so dumb. She's never gonna find another one like you, Roy, she'll be sorry, she'll be back...”

The tumble of reassuring words tickled his ear, but they only increased his pain. How could Ed know that Sophie had told him nearly the same thing? That she loved him so much, that she'd never find his match; it was such cruel irony. But here, in Ed's protective embrace, was an agony even worse than his loss. Because if Sophie was right, if he loved anyone other than her, then this was where his heart lay, at the feet of a man who was beyond his reach.

The woman of his dreams was gone, Ed belonged to someone else, and even as his friend tried to comfort him, that blow finally broke Roy's stoicism. Bereft, heartbroken and hopeless, he pushed himself out of the other's arms, away from the succor he didn't deserve. “I'm sorry,” he choked out, lurching to his feet and trying not to look at the hurt that flashed in those arresting gold eyes. “I'm sorry, Edward, I'm a fool, and I'm so, so sorry...”

Turning, he all but fled up the stairs, stumbling, staggering like a drunk until he was inside his bedroom, behind a closed door, and he could sink down onto the edge of his bed. Trembling, a fisted hand held to his mouth, he lashed himself over every misstep and willful blind eye he'd turned to the choices he'd made and there, alone in the darkness, Roy finally allowed the tears to fall.

*****


go back ~*~ go forward

Date: 2010-04-05 09:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cats-bell.livejournal.com
Ooh. Wicked cliff hanger of doom. Can't wait for the rest of this! It's so well done and your development with the relationships, both Roy's and Ed's, is so wonderful.

<3

I also find it extremely refreshing that you didn't just turn Sophie into a huge, angry, bitch just because the relationship ended. Kudos!

Date: 2010-04-06 12:59 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
Thank you! It's been fun, as well as challenging, balancing the relationships in this story. And I still kinda feel bad for Sophie for the way things turned out; she really is a nice person.

I'm so happy that you're enjoying the story. I should have the ending up in just a few more days. Thanks for reading!

Date: 2010-04-05 03:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mnekochan.livejournal.com
Happy to see this continued so soon! I felt sorry for Sophia, maybe her and Roy will continue to be good friends. Anyways, can't wait for the conclusion you rock!!!

Date: 2010-04-06 01:01 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
I felt sorry for Sophie, too. She's a good person; were it not for Ed, I think she and Roy would've made a nice pair.

The conclusion should be up in a few more days. Thanks for reading!

Date: 2010-04-05 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adraekh.livejournal.com
Enjoyed this to bits. I love how natural all of this seems, how realistic you portray the different relationships in the story. I'm particularly impressed with how you handled Roy throughout all of this. (You really enjoy torturing him, don't you?) In any case, eagerly waiting for the denouement.

Date: 2010-04-05 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adraekh.livejournal.com
*realistically.

I can't let typos rest in peace, apparently.

Date: 2010-04-06 01:28 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
Thank you, m'dear! Yeah, I kinda do like torturing Roy- he takes it so beautifully! Hee. On a more serious note, I'm glad it's coming across realistically. Sometimes it's nice to delve into a common, and yet knotty issue like this- dealing with one's sexuality, being torn between two loves, not being honest with yourself- instead of the more fantastic (and fun; don't get me wrong!) scenarios that so often crop up. So it's a good payoff to know that it seems plausible.

The conclusion should be up in a few days. Glad you're hanging with it and enjoying it; thanks for reading!

Date: 2010-04-05 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-big-apple.livejournal.com
Oh NO! Quick, post the rest of it!! Lol. This story is getting so painful, in a really really good way. I've been where Roy is, and You capture that confusion really beautifully.

Date: 2010-04-06 01:17 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
Ah, thank you! Poor Roy... he *is* in a bad spot right now. But I think he's learned a thing or two. And don't worry- the ending will be up by the end of the week. It's pretty much done already. :) Thanks for reading!

Date: 2010-04-05 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elfen.livejournal.com
Oh, my poor heart just aches for them both. It's one thing to have this kind of dilemma over one's sexuality -- especially at thirtysomething, poor Roy -- but then to think that regardless of one's feelings it's simply hopeless. *sniffles*

I only wish you were posting the rest of this today. It's going to be torture waiting a couple more days again. I really do love this story.

Date: 2010-04-06 01:34 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
Aw, I'm so happy that you're enjoying this so much! (I was afraid people would think it was boring, since it's such a 'slice of life' piece)

Roy's definitely having a rough time with things right now. Of course, I think he's also learning that he needs to be honest with himself, as well as with those around him. He's learning, poor woobie. But it isn't fun, in the meantime.

And ah, sorry to torture you with the wait! But the finale will be up by the end of the week (I'd like to get it posted by Wednesday, but we'll have to see how it goes). At any rate, it won't be long, and I hope it's worth the wait. Thanks so much, hun!

Date: 2010-04-06 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elfen.livejournal.com
Boring? Boring?! Silly woman, that is impossible. The emotional impact of this is so palpable that it makes my own gut twist just watching it play out amongst all the characters.

(And I love that you called Roy a poor woobie. He really is. ;D)

Date: 2010-04-06 02:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oh-so-blase.livejournal.com
Roy is breaking my heart.
you've done a great job of writing him (and Ed). the way the act, the things they say, etc. is really in character and yet you've fitted them to make them your own perfectly.

i truly adore this story. and I can't wait for the last part.

Date: 2010-04-10 12:44 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
I love writing Roy so very much. Ed is loads of fun as well, but something about Roy's view on life and his inner voice (as well as all his baggage) gets me every time.

I'm so happy that you've been enjoying the fic! Thanks so much!

Date: 2010-04-06 06:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wind-storms.livejournal.com
This is such an amazing fic. I loved the subtle and realistic way they got under each other's skin without even realizing it was happening. It struck me that what Roy explained to Ed in the beginning about relationships being unbalanced has now happened to him with Ed. I really like Sophie and Julia and feel bad for them as well.

Your writing style is absolutely beautiful and it flows so naturally. It is a wonderful story. I can't wait for the rest!

Date: 2010-04-10 12:47 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
I'm so glad that someone noticed the recurrence of the relationship themes! There are actually a few of them rattling around in the story; I hope I managed to successfully tie them all in properly.

And Sophie and Julia are both characters that I liked as well. It's a relief to know that they are reaching others as well; I really wanted them to be sympathetic, and not just OCs that have to be endured.

Thanks for the lovely compliments, and I'm glad you've enjoyed the story!

Date: 2010-04-06 06:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inugrlrayn.livejournal.com
This is beautifully brutal, darling. I hurt for all of them, and you've made the emotional turmoil they're going through incredibly poignant.

Date: 2010-04-10 12:48 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
I keep trying to read that comment as "brutiful"... how strange!

Thank you so much, m'dear! Comments like this, and from such a talented writer, always make me wriggle with glee. I'm so happy you've enjoyed it thus far! Thank you so much for reading!

Date: 2010-04-06 07:14 am (UTC)
ext_411884: (DC Sakura 2010)
From: [identity profile] ductapealchemst.livejournal.com
I'm tearing up for Roy . . . oh. my. Post the rest!!

This has really be wonderful. But it's 3 am and my brain fails me for any praise more eloquent than that at present :)

Date: 2010-04-06 07:14 am (UTC)
ext_411884: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ductapealchemst.livejournal.com
been* wonderful, even see note regarding time.

Date: 2010-04-10 12:49 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
Roy's having a pretty rough time, alright. Poor guy- I'm never easy on him.

I'm delighted that you've enjoyed it so far! Hope the ending makes you just as happy! Thanks for reading!

Date: 2010-04-06 09:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calysto-1395.livejournal.com
you are an evil woman >-<
how can you stop there aaarrhg
god poor roy
this is such a mess ><
but i still love it
more please~

Date: 2010-04-10 12:50 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
I *am* evil. It's what I do! ;D

I'm glad you love it anyway though. Thank you so much!

Date: 2010-04-06 04:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazylamia.livejournal.com
I used to think that Roy is rather not fond of complications in his life – and he found himself in this predicament. Being older and more experienced he should predict this situation – but still he let himself be seduced by Ed. I wonder if Ed is really so clueless or simply selfish, trying to have both – a girlfriend and Roy. Fortunately (or not) for Roy, Sophie is smarter than him and strong enough to end the relationship which could bring more harm to them. But now Roy is left with nothing, not even being able to confess his feelings to the person he loves.
I digest if Ed figures this out – he is a prodigy, after all.

Date: 2010-04-10 12:53 am (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
I don't think Roy really had any idea what he was getting into, and was in far too much denial to accept that he was in way over his head. As for Ed, his motives will be clearer later on- he's not quite so deluded as Roy, but he's also still young, and prone to errors of judgment as well.

Sophie probably would have been a good match for Roy, were it not for his helpless draw toward Ed. I couldn't help but see her as wise enough to draw the line, for the sake of them all. Someone had to be the adult, after all.

Thanks for reading- I hope you'll enjoy the finale!

Date: 2010-07-01 05:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] talkofthetown1.livejournal.com
Still groggy from sleep and before the coffee had provided its caffeinated boost to the morning, Ed didn't so much prepare breakfast as wage war on it. From the sound of things, the meal had gained the upper hand, and Ed was readying his offensive.

^This is the best description of someone preparing a meal that I've ever read, I love it!

Date: 2010-08-12 03:02 pm (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
Aiee! Bad me, letting this go so long, unreplied!

Hee, I'm glad you liked that description! Yeah, I don't see Ed as much of a morning person. He's lucky if he can get cereal into a bowl before his coffee kicks in. ;)

Thanks for reading!

Date: 2010-08-08 07:39 pm (UTC)
enemytosleep: Space man (Emo Ed)
From: [personal profile] enemytosleep
Oh ho! The plot thickens. It seems Roy is finally cottoning on to his own feelings for Ed now.

Date: 2010-08-12 03:04 pm (UTC)
ext_27574: (FMA- Roy/Ed orange)
From: [identity profile] pandoraculpa.livejournal.com
Poor Roy is a bit dense in this one. Stuck in denial, though who can blame him? It's a bit of a large shift in his sexuality, and his psyche as a whole. Still, he's a bright boy. ;)
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