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

Had he been asleep, he would never have heard the soft click of the front door.

But to Roy, sleepless and bereft, the sound struck him like a blow and his entire body reacted, jerking beneath the sheets. Scarcely daring to breathe, he listened for the familiar footsteps coming up the stairs, the sound of the door across the hall. However, nothing more came, and he clenched his fists in the sheets, thinking, he's gone to get a drink before bed, he'll be up soon.

Every sense honed to attention, to Ed, he still only just caught the sound of the back door.

For a moment Roy lay there, dazed with exhaustion and unhappiness, swamped with confusion, inventing and discarding reasons why Ed would go out to the backyard at this time of night. Why Ed had been gone all day, why he'd clearly been avoiding him, why he'd gone back on his word to give him an answer...

After nearly half an hour of roiling anxiety, he sat up, shoving the bedding aside and hauling himself from the bed. This had to stop, one way or another. If it was over, fine, but let it be over now, not hanging on in this interminable limbo that had been lingering for days. It wasn't bravery, but weariness and a certain fatalism that sent him down the stairs, padding through the kitchen to the back door, where he rested one hand on the doorknob and paused, just for a second, to hold onto his last moment of uncertainty before stepping outside.

The summer air was warm on his bare skin, even this late, though he shivered at its touch all the same. Peaking high in the sky, the moon was little more than a sliver of light in the sky, casting just enough light to shimmer off the pale fall of hair down Ed's back where he sat on the top step of the porch. His shoulders were hunched, and although he didn't turn when Roy let the door swing quietly shut, his head lifted just slightly, a tacit awareness of his company. “Hey,” he muttered, his voice rough and barely loud enough to be heard despite the hush of the night.

His voice had dried up completely. He'd wanted this settled, an end to the ceaseless worrying, but now that he was finally with Ed, Roy couldn't speak a word. However, he was spared the attempt as Ed sighed, still looking out over the darkened garden.

“I've been really happy here,” he said in a low voice, hands folding beneath his chin. “This past year. Never expected it.”

Throat aching, Roy sunk down on the step beside him, close enough that their shoulders nearly brushed. “I'm glad you've been happy,” he said softly. “I've always wanted that for you.”

Ed made a little humming sound of agreement, his bangs hiding his face. It made Roy want to push them aside, to see his face, although that led to other thoughts as well; the way that strong jawline fit against his palm, the sound Ed would make if he kissed the corner of his mouth... Pulling himself back to the present, he cleared his throat, forcing out the words. “I was thinking... even if you're moving out. My house is always open to you. I... Keep the key.”

For a moment, he thought the other man was going to turn him down. But Ed gave a choking little laugh, tilting his head to the side to give him a pained smile as though he'd said something cruel, yet funny. “I turned down the flat, Roy.”

His face must have given him away, going slack and incredulous, his breath drawing in sharp. “You did?” So focused on disaster, he'd never given much weight to the thought that Ed might actually stay. “But how... was it... was Julia very disappointed?”

The smile on Ed's face, which hadn't been a terribly happy one from the start, seemed to fall apart. “Yeah. She was a little upset.”

“I'm sorry,” Roy told him, but Ed shook his head.

“I'm not.”

There was silence then. Even the sounds of cars had quieted, as the city slept around them. Near the back of the yard a cricket sang once, a shrill, shivering call that hung in the darkness.

“I didn't want you to go,” Roy admitted, wanting to close the strange distance the night had put between them.

He felt Ed stir at his side. “I know you didn't.” A pause. “I had to make a choice.”

“I would never ask you to stay just because I-” he began, but the words stuttered out. Ed was shaking his head again, that faintly wry smile back again.

“You really don't get it, do you?” he asked, and as it was apparent he wasn't actually looking for an answer, Roy didn't reply.

They sat quietly for a few minutes, listening to the murmurs of the night. Eventually Roy tilted his head down, staring at the steps. “Where were you today?” he asked, and Ed shrugged.

“Out. Around. I... I needed to think. So I took a walk, went down to the river. It's a good place to think, reminds me of Riesembul. Especially at night... Been going down there a lot lately.”

All those late nights... “Weren't you staying with Julia most nights?”

“Are you kidding?” The young man snorted in disbelief. “You don't really think... Fuck, no, Roy. She's not... we never...” He trailed off, but his meaning was clear enough. Roy didn't think he'd ever felt such relief.

“Hey... can I ask you something?” Ed nudged up against him, and he nodded.

“Of course.”

“After Ishval...” he said haltingly, and Roy drew his head back in surprise, “after what happened there. What you had to do. Did you ever want... to be close to something innocent, after that? To feel something clean?”

The non sequitur threw him into confusion for a moment, but Roy had known Ed long enough to understand that sometimes he applied an oblique, circular logic to his conversations. And despite his reticence to talk about that portion of his past, he was disinclined to shrug off the subject as he normally would. The need to touch something pure, to hope that it could wipe some of your sins away... those memories were bitter, but he wouldn't deny their truth. “Yes,” he whispered. “I remember that feeling.”

“Yeah.” Ed stared out into the darkness, unseeing. “I broke up with Julia today.”

The admission came like a smack in the face, completely unexpected, and Roy gaped at the man sitting calmly beside him. “What? You... I thought...” He couldn't find any words to explain, they were too chaotic to make any sense. “Ed... why?”

The young man was silent for a long moment. Finally he sighed, head hanging low between his shoulders, as though he wasn't able to support its weight. “I couldn't be the person she wanted. And she would never be what I needed.”

Roy took a moment to let that sink in. “How did she take it?”

A shrug bumped his shoulder once again. “She took it alright,” Ed ventured, then stopped, shook his head savagely. “No,” he corrected himself. “Fuck... she cried her goddamn eyes out. I felt like shit, and I deserved it.” His shoulders trembled, and he threw his head back, staring up into the sky, blinking hard. “Made me cry too. I never meant to hurt her. But when I figured out... I had to. I had to. It was the only thing that was fair.” He scrubbed his eyes with the back of one arm, voice gone ragged. “Only thing that ever felt worse than this was when I saw what I'd done to Al...”

He couldn't resist reaching out to the young man, clasping his shoulder in commiseration though what Roy truly wanted was to pull Ed into his arms, stroke the pain from his forehead. “I... I really don't understand. If you had asked me as little as a few days ago, I'd have wagered you'd be married before the end of summer.”

“I wouldn't... Roy,” Ed lifted his head, turning to face him with a small frown. “I couldn't. She isn't someone I could be with like that.”

It made no sense. “I don't-” he began again, and Ed sighed.

“She's innocent. I mean, completely. I told you once, I've never met anyone like her before. And it felt really good, being around someone like that. Someone who couldn't even imagine all the bad shit I've seen. And done. Made me feel like a normal person, almost.”

Roy nodded, finally understanding the earlier comment, as well as Ed's attraction to the girl. But the rest, to leave her, give up that comfort... “So why would you break up?”

“If I stayed,” Ed said slowly, leaning into Roy's touch, “I'd kill what I loved about her. That purity. Roy, she doesn't even know how I got this.” Automail fingers curled, clicking softly, the moonlight gathering on its planes with gentle luminescence. “She thinks it was an accident, and I could never bring myself to tell her the truth. She couldn't deal with the shit in my past, I don't even want her to, and if I told her... How could I stay with her, when I can't even tell her about myself?” A bitter light flared in his eyes. “Life fucks everyone out of their innocence eventually, but I won't be the one who does it to her. I've ruined enough people.”

“Ed, you haven't,” Roy protested, hating the frustration and self-loathing he heard in the young man's voice. But Ed rode over him, refusing to meet his eyes.

“And she's too young for something this serious. Only nineteen- she's got her whole goddamn life ahead of her. And fuck, I know, I'm not much older than that... but damn it Roy, I'm at least twice as old as anyone else my age. All the shit I've been through... It wouldn't be fair. Not to either one of us. I couldn't confide in her, she'd never know me... and what the hell kind of relationship would that be?”

“But love...” Roy whispered, even as his heart shuddered at the traitorous word. “You loved her.”

Ed sat very still, before turning slightly, his knee brushing against Roy's thigh as those eyes, bright even in the moon's sallow glow, fixed him with a resolute stare. “Yeah. But she wasn't ever someone I could have, not in the way you're talking about. And I... I don't want that with her anyway.”

Something in Ed's gaze held Roy mute. There was sadness there, and regret, but also determination. And something else- something his heart fluttered to recognize, but his mind would not accept. Something that drew him back to a different evening, under a different moon, and a world dipped in silver...

“I don't want something that isn't real,” Ed told him, and the night was contracting down to single, small points; those twin golden eyes, the press of a knee into his leg, the small, calloused hand creeping into his own. “I don't want to be with someone who doesn't even know me.”

Roy's heart tightened until every beat made it feet like it was going to burst. All conscious thought had been stripped from him; he simply reacted, clenching tight on the hand in his as an anchor, the other reaching blindly out to cup the back of Ed's neck, pulling him forward. Their mouths met in an uncoordinated clash, desperate and needy, fumbling to find a rhythm yet too starved to slow down. It never entered into Roy's mind to ask, but Ed's response- just as frantic as his own- was answer enough.

It was glorious, delirious. Everything was broken into fragments- the heat of Ed's mouth against his, the wet curl of tongue on tongue, the bruising force of kiss after kiss. Teeth scraped hard against Roy's lip, pain sparking amidst the sweetness and Ed tilted his head, tongue darting out to lap at the injury.

They eventually had to part to breathe, foreheads still touching, afraid to separate any further. Ed's fingers curled possessively in his hair, and his own hands had found their way around the other man's waist, beneath his shirt, splaying across warm skin. Roy's mind was finally starting to catch up with what was happening, and tremors climbed up his back until he was clinging to Ed and certain he was going to die from the raw need spiraling through him, a chemical reaction that was slowly devouring him.

Ed panted against his chin, and Roy drank in those little breaths greedily. “I don't care,” Ed stammered, voice as thin and unsteady as Roy felt. “Don't care if I'm weird, I don't care. I just want- this, want you, can't even think about anything else...”

Somehow, he found a voice. “Yours,” trailing kisses along the young man's jaw, whispering beside his ear, “I couldn't... no one else... Ed...” Coherence was beyond him; it was a herculean effort simply to form words at all, but Ed moaned softly, breathing his name back to him as he tugged Roy's face up, bringing their lips together once more.

He lost time, sitting there on the porch with Ed, kissing, touching, drowning in sensation. It was more than Roy had ever dared hope for, frightening in its intensity, but after suppressing his desire for so long its liberation overwhelmed any obstacle his conscious mind might have thrown up. And it felt so good, to finally be allowed this- the stroke of tongue on palate, teeth grazing the tender spots of neck and shoulder, the indistinct, pleased sounds the young man made as his lips worked down his neck.

“Are you sure?” Roy murmured to him at some point, after they'd slowed, calmed. One finger traced along the ridge of collarbone, and Ed hummed deep in his throat. “This isn't conventional, and you and I... we aren't...”

Ed snorted, punching him lightly in the shoulder and grinning. “Weren't you listening, you shit?”

But Roy held his eyes, his mood abruptly serious. “I want you to be sure.”

A sigh wafted from the other man, and for a moment Roy was frightened that his hopes were drifting away with it. Then Ed shook his head, his smile returning. “Idiot. You really think I haven't thought about this?” The look in his eyes sharpened, growing cautious, and he added, “What about you?”

Roy let out a mirthless chuckle. “Absolutely. Sophie told me I was in love with someone else...” He paused, not having intended to say so much, but Ed was watching him expectantly, and he couldn't stop now. “There's no one who has ever meant so much to me.”

Ed responded by pulling him in for another kiss, slow and deep, and when he finally let go there was a look of tenderness on his face that Roy had only ever seen directed at Alphonse. “You always seemed happy, with all those women, and as long as you were happy...” He was silent for a moment. “I just wanted to know that you were okay, and to be around you. Never did put it together, but then you kissed me... But there was Sophie, and then Julia too, and you never dated guys...”

“Have you?” Roy asked, and Ed laughed.

“Fuck no! Told you before, I'm not gay.”

“But then this...”

“I don't know,” Ed admitted. “This is different. I mean, yeah, you're a guy, and I'm a guy, and... I don't know, Roy. Just know that as long as it's us, I don't mind.”

“If we're... together,” Roy said, tasting the word, appreciating its implications, “then what... how do...” He stopped, face starting to redden, a terrible sense of inadequacy creeping over him. “I mean, I don't know if I can...”

“Hey.” Hands, both warm and cool, cupped his face, a metal thumb gently stroking his cheek. Calm, gold eyes met his, and Ed gave him a look that silenced him instantly. “It doesn't matter. We'll figure it out, okay? And if it doesn't happen...” He shrugged, unconcerned. “All I want is to be with you.”

“Yes,” Roy whispered, eyes prickling with emotion until he closed them, felt Ed's lips ghosting over his lids. “Just the two of us.”

“Just us,” Ed agreed. “Just us.”

*****


They dithered in the hallway at the top of the stairs, hands still clasped, their motions tentative and uncertain. A quick whisper, another caress, a kiss, and Ed rubbed his eyes, smiling apologetically. “Got to sleep,” he murmured, making no move to pull away. “Gonna fall over where I stand.”

Roy caught his chin, tipping his head back and capturing his mouth in a deep kiss, until they were both sagging into one another for support. Ed hummed contentedly against his shoulder, and Roy turned his head to kiss his cheek.

“Stay with me tonight?” he whispered, and Ed's hand tightened on his side.

“Yeah.”

They crossed the threshold into the bedroom, solemn, and a little nervous, Ed's arm still curled around his waist, and Roy marveled that the younger man didn't seem anxious at all. Despite that he couldn't bear the thought of letting Ed go, the thought that he was going to lie down so intimately with another man had his heart thrumming so hard that he doubted he'd sleep a wink. But I want this... I want this.

The warmth of Ed's arm slipped away, and for a moment Roy thought he had changed his mind. But a quick flutter of fear pulsed through him as he realized that Ed was about to undress for bed.

I want this, I want him... why is this so strange to me?

There was a soft hiss of cloth as Ed pulled his shirt over his head, glancing about guiltily before letting it drop onto the floor in a rumpled heap, and for all his trepidation, Roy couldn't help but stare. Sun-kissed skin stretched taut and smooth over firm planes of muscle, rippling as the young man moved. His broad chest was almost hairless, but as Roy's eyes traveled down, it thickened into a clear, if thin, path descending to the button of the leather pants which Ed was thumbing open...

Roy jerked his gaze back up to Ed's face, feeling a flush burning his cheeks. It was ridiculous- he knew it was stupid, knew he wanted to be with Ed... only he'd never really considered beyond kissing him and now Ed was in his room, shedding his clothing, and though he knew in theory what lay beneath those sinfully tight leather pants, he'd never seen, or even imagined save for a very few conflicted moments. Not knowing where to look, he shuffled closer to the bed, thankful beyond measure that he had already dressed for bed earlier, because he wasn't sure if he'd have been able to disrobe before the other man.

“Roy.” Ed's voice was oddly hushed in the room, yet insistent. “Is this okay?”

He made himself look up. Ed's hands were on his waistband, button undone, but the pants still clung to his hips. Gold eyes flooded with concern met his, and the young man took a cautious step forward, as though Roy were some wild thing that would bolt if startled. “If it bothers you,” Ed continued, a line drawing between his brows, “we don't have to do this. I'll be right across the hall, I promise I'm not going anywhere...”

“Don't.” Not hesitating, Roy reached out to him, pulling Ed to him and burying his face in his hair. “I want you to stay.”

“If you're sure,” Ed muttered, fingers skating delicately over Roy's ribs.

Roy took a deep breath, feeling his nerves flare once more as Ed's hands kindled a different kind of heat near the base of his spine. “Yes,” he said softly. “It's just so strange, to know what I want, and yet have no idea of what to do with it- with you.” He pressed a kiss to the younger man's crown, shivering as those clever fingers continued to map him.

“Not so different,” Ed pointed out, a grin in his voice. “You've never known what to do with me.”

Some of the nervousness seemed to loosen at that, and Roy laughed, sinking down to sit on the edge of the bed, arms still looped around the other man. “Quite true.” He rested his cheek against the chiseled contours of Ed's stomach, feeling fingers scratching gently along his hairline in response, and smiled into that smooth skin. “Why me, Ed?” he whispered. “Why would you want someone like me?”

The fingers never ceased moving, from his hair down to his ear, tracing delicately along its rim, but Roy felt the sigh that trembled through Ed's frame. “Because I can't live without you,” the young man finally replied in a voice almost as faint as his own. “When I thought you were going to die... I don't even like to think about that. And the closer I get to you, the more I want to be with you and... fuck, that sounds selfish...”

“No.” Greatly daring, Roy turned his head, kissing along the pale line of hair that crossed the other man's stomach, heart leaping at Ed's hushed intake of breath. “Come to bed.”

After his attack of nerves a few minutes ago, Roy had thought this would be awkward. But Ed stepped back, shucking off his pants and climbing in next to him before he had a chance to think about things like gender and convention. Then warmth and fumbling to get comfortable, just like anyone he'd ever lain down with, and Roy found himself relaxing. Legs tangled with his as Ed wriggled in closer, not seeming to want an inch of space between them and he obliged, pulling the young man's head onto his shoulder and folding him in his arms. A sigh gusted across his chest, an arm flung around his waist as Ed melted against him, bonelessly content.

It wasn't strange at all. It was just Ed, whom he'd loved since before he'd ever recognized the feeling, and Roy didn't want him anywhere but here, in his arms.

*****


A gentle, rhythmic sound tugged Roy upwards into the morning, bringing a haze of confusion to his sleep-addled mind. Not fully awake, he slowly became aware of little things first: the extra warmth of the bed, the unyielding lump beneath his pillow, hair in his mouth. Annoyed, he moved to wipe the offending strands from his lips but paused, feeling the satiny brush of skin beneath his fingertips.

For numerous and complex reasons, Roy had never brought many lovers to his bed, and waking up next to another body never failed to leave him disconcerted. Blinking slowly into awareness, his eyes passed over the sunkissed vista of skin that he was curled around, and sudden recognition slammed him headlong into full consciousness. Next to him, Ed slumbered on, sprawled on his back with one ankle hooked possessively over his, cheek resting against Roy's pillow which had been drawn up onto his shoulder. It was peculiarly comfortable.


illustration by [livejournal.com profile] bob_fish


None of his experience had prepared him for a morning such as this, and Roy lay still and quiet, wondering what came next. Women generally seemed to want cuddling and sweet nothings when they awoke, but he wasn't at all certain if Ed would appreciate that sort of thing. And he had no idea what a man would want from another man in the wake of such an emotional confession. Gruff avoidance of the topic? Coffee? Had he been fooling himself that he could do this?

But how could he bear to fail?

He didn't have long to fret over this however, as Ed shifted beneath his hand, yawning hugely and rumbling deep in his chest as he woke. Those bright gold eyes opened, almost a second sunrise, and as they settled on him and a strangely shy smile split Ed's face, all of Roy's worries faded into nothing. There was no embarrassment or awkward regret in the young man's expression, only quiet pleasure. “Hey,” Ed rasped in a rough, morning kind of voice.

“Hey,” Roy replied, smiling in spite of his insecurities. Really, it was hard to feel any discomfort when Ed was looking at him like that, as though he'd found something unexpectedly good in front of him. His arm, draped over Ed's chest, tightened and pulled him just a little closer, and the young man made a happy sound in his throat.

Blinking lazily, humor quirked the corner of Ed's mouth. “My hair's in your mouth,” he murmured, and Roy hurriedly brushed it away.

“Sorry,” he muttered, and Ed gave a rusty chuckle.

“Idiot.” He pulled his arm from beneath Roy's pillow and rolled over, arms splayed on either side of the other man's head. His hair hung loose, shading both of their faces within a tent of gold as he dipped his head closer, stealing a quick kiss. The last of Roy's reticence disappeared at the gesture, and he wound his arms around Ed's shoulders, even the automail warm against his skin as he tugged the young man down again, bringing their mouths together once more; slow this time, lingering, taking his time and drinking in every delicious sound Ed made.

A noise rather like a chimera chewing tin cans rumbled up from Ed's stomach, and the two of them stopped abruptly, Roy's eyes gone wide and startled while the other man colored furiously. “Sorry,” Ed mumbled, eyes averted and cheeks absolutely flaming. “Forgot to eat dinner last night...”

Roy couldn't help it; he laughed, so hard and helpless that he ended up pulling Ed down on top of him, while the young man growled and flailed with embarrassment. “I suppose I'd better feed you then,” he said once he'd recovered his breath, and Ed grumbled something in response that he couldn't begin to make out.

Rolling off of him and onto his feet, the young man frowned over his shoulder. “You don't have to take care of me, you know, I'm not some woman you brought home with you.”

Beneath the bristling attitude, Roy caught just the faintest edge of something else, a defensiveness that made him wonder if brash, brave Ed himself wasn't just a little bit nervous this morning as well. Pushing himself up, he met Ed's hard stare and gave a little half-smirk.

“First of all,” he said sternly, “for your information, very seldom have I ever brought women home with me. I don't share my bed with just anyone. And second...” He rose from the bed and caught Ed by the hips, tilting his head down to press another kiss to those scowling lips. His voice was surprisingly husky when he pulled back. “Second, I know very well what you are. And I wouldn't have it any other way.”

Ed blinked up at him, and Roy had a moment to marvel that perhaps he was the one catching the unpredictable alchemist by surprise this time. “Yeah,” he eventually ground out, a hint of the smile from earlier returning. “Well. Good. In that case, I'm gonna go make some coffee. You can make waffles.”

“I'm right behind you,” Roy told him, pulling him in for another kiss before reluctantly letting him go at last. We have all the time we could want now, he reminded himself, listening to Ed stomp down the stairs and curse as his foot hit the cold tiles in the foyer. Time to touch and kiss without guilt or reservation, time to learn whether or not they could make this strange attraction work. Work that was, no doubt, going to be as difficult as deciphering that array, but Roy was certain that it would be even more rewarding in the end.

And speaking of the array...

Digging in the pocket of the pants he'd worn the day before, Roy pulled out the finished ring. The topaz gleamed like honey in the morning sun, or the lucent beauty of Ed's eyes and with a small smile of satisfaction, he slipped it onto the third finger of his left hand. The lines of the array pressed against his skin, rough beneath the unfamiliar weight of the ring. It was the fulfillment of a promise he'd made to himself, but looking at it now, it was so much more. Now it was a vow he silently gave to Ed- to love, to live, and to never stop being thankful, or grow complacent with those he cared about.

A yelp and a loud crash echoed up from downstairs, followed by a quick shout of, “It's fine, everything's fine!” Muffled cursing ensued and, chuckling to himself, Roy headed down the stairs, curious to see what awaited him.

~*~**~*~



Many, many thanks must go again to [livejournal.com profile] evil_whimsey, [livejournal.com profile] artemisrae, and [livejournal.com profile] bob_fish, who were all of tremendous help in refining and encouraging this story. It would not be what it is today without their invaluable input. Also, please be sure to go and check out [livejournal.com profile] bob_fish's art post here, and tell her what a magnificent job she did with the illustrations! I am beyond lucky to be able to feature her talents in this story.

I would be remiss if I didn't extend so very many thanks to all who have seen this story through to the end. I cannot express my gratitude that so many people have been reading; it's really overwhelming. Thank you all!

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September 2011

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