Ed was mute.
Well- he hadn’t always been that way. It was trauma, granny Pinako had said when he had remained silent after the failed human transmutation. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t tried- he had, oh how he had tried. But his voice got stuck in his throat and no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t. Within a year and a half from the transmutation, however, Ed, Al, Winry, and granny Pinako had become fluent in sign language (although Al, with his armour, couldn’t really use it himself, he could easily read it).
With his mutism, certain things, however, had proven to be a significant challenge. He wasn’t able to make calls on his own. Al was the one left to make all the phone calls, while Ed took care of the letter writing. Mostly, he wrote for Al when he wanted to send letters, but they had figured that if Ed couldn’t use his voice, he should at least have enough practice with writing so that his chicken scratch wouldn’t be entirely illegible.
They had also not foreseen the challenge it would be for Ed to be a state alchemist. First off, the military didn’t really accept people with a disability such as mutism, deafness or blindness- unless of course, their intelligence or alchemy skills far outweighed it. And Ed was rather confident that, in that department, he wouldn’t have any trouble.
He had been right.
The written part of the exam had been child’s play, and so had the practical. The psychological testing, however, had proven a bit more of a challenge. The team hadn’t been interested in having him write out all the answer by hand or just ask him ‘yes or no’ questions. To Ed, it seemed like they were trying to weed him out. So, he had just gracefully clapped his hands together every time he was required to answer and the argon in the air lit up with his response. That, Ed, was confident, had surprised them.
And then, when he thought that the worst was over-
He had been assigned under the dickhead Mustang, who-
-actually wasn’t that bad.
He had accepted Ed as different without making a big deal out of it. It also seemed like he had known in advance that Ed would be accepted, and made his entire team learn sign language.
And Ed wanted to hate him for it. But, as strange as he found it, he didn’t.
It was a normal, weekly occurrence even before Ed had joined them. Every Friday night, the team would go out to a small, shabby bar on the east side of Central and relax. It was mostly the same things that went down: Havoc and Breda competing on who could drink the most, Havoc failing at picking up ladies and so on.
Even though Ed had been able to drink legally for more than two years now, he never really joined the Friday night endeavours- he couldn’t leave Al alone, he had excused it with, which technically was the truth. But now Al was studying for one of his university Alkahestry exams that were coming up and-
Here he was, late in the evening, probably far past eleven, watching a rather drunk Havoc trying (read: failing) to flirt his way into the good graces of the server. Ed raised his eyebrow at Riza, whose expression told him that this happened on the regular and should be treated as normality.
Since it was his first time out, he opted for not drinking, purely for the fact that a) sign language and/or argon manipulation got hard when the brain didn’t fully work the way it was intended to and b) there was no way he was risking embarrassing himself in any way, shape or form. Not that it was somehow avoidable with this team, who liked teasing him at every opportunity put in front of him, even when silent.
:How’s Black Hayate?: he opted for signing to Riza and she let a small smile slip onto her face- a thing that would never have happened in a work setting. He was genuinely interested, but also needed an excuse to not look at the bastard sitting opposite him, discussing something with Falman that he didn’t quite understand. Roy-attractive-as-fuck-Mustang and his stupid perfect face and stupid voice and stupid everything. But he tried to not focus on that, and he listened more than a little intensely to that Riza had to say about her dog’s current condition, a discussion which Fuery quickly joined in on and soon it had turned into a conversation about general animal care.
Some minutes later (Ed was terrible at telling how much time had passed), Roy gracefully joined their conversation by mentioning the time when Fuery had found Black Hayate, and they’d had a discussion about who would take care of him. Ed snorted silently when Breda (for the umpteenth time) tried to declare Hayate a murderous leg-biting monster. Which in turn had (for the umpteenth-and-one time) made Riza glare dangerously in Breda’s direction while reaching for her gun.
“You live in an apartment with your brother now, right, Edward?” Fuery turned to look at him, clearly in an attempt to defuse the situation. “Have you got any pets? Al is a big cat person, right? I’d almost be surprised if he hasn’t convinced you to at least have a couple.”
Ed looked at Roy, who seemed to smirk at him. He knew that Ed was more of a dog person than cat person and seemed to take gratification from the predicament Ed had now found himself in. Well, fuck him. :We’ve got two. One that keeps trying to eat my damn hair and one that does nothing more than sleep in the most inconvenient places possible. What kind of cat sleeps in the shower?:
That made the team laugh, apparently at equal amounts trying to imagine the shower cat or Ed’s disgruntled expression when he realised that a feline was trying to chew up his hair like cooked spaghetti. The only person at the table who seemed to take it rather calmly, however, was staring at Ed’s hair with something resembling … jealousy? Almost as if he wanted Ed’s hair for himself.
Okay, someone must have snuck something into his water, because Ed was damn sure that at this point, his brain was playing tricks on him.
“Your shoulders are tense,” Roy murmured against his neck as he snaked his arms around Ed’s waist a couple months after Ed’s first time out. “You ought to not stress so much. It’s not good for you.”
Ed placed an elbow down in the middle of the book he was reading and pressed his hands together, setting off the transmutation that would make the argon in the air light up the words he wanted to be said. Well, you shouldn’t have given me so many assignments requiring written, detailed reports then, bastard.
“Charming as ever, Edward. I truly do envy your ability to get your point across even with the expletives included.”
Ed ignored the statement and returned to reading his body: an alchemical journal specifying some of the points that one of his latest research assignments had forced him to reaffirm.
“If you want to, I can try to give you a massage. It might ease up some of the tension,” Roy said, his face partially in Ed’s messy, half undone braid. Ed nodded noncommittally; as long as he could at least read some of the book he was working through while Roy did it, he would be happy.
While Ed turned the page of his book with a flick of his hand, Roy’s fingers pulled the hair tie from his braid and gently combed his fingers through it to undo the rest of the plait before pulling it all back and up into a messy bun at the top of Ed’s head. Then he heard it, unclear but obvious all the same, with Roy’s lips pressed to the back of his neck. You’re gorgeous.
Ed flushed but didn’t react to it in any way that Roy would see- not that he could easily anyways. Sign language was hard without turning around and the close proximity would make it hard for Roy to read. Argon transmutation was bright and at times obnoxious and besides required concentration to work; Ed didn’t want to waste something so precious on something so unimportant. Roy knew that Ed had heard it and taken it to heart anyway. Despite not speaking, Ed always made himself heard.
When Roy’s thumbs started digging into the tense and strained muscles in the middle of his back, Ed let out a forced sort of breath- one expressing bliss. Realising quickly that he wouldn’t be able to get any work done while Roy was performing actual miracles to resolve his deep-set aches, Ed bookmarked the page and closed the book before dropping it onto the floor next to the couch.
A couple minutes into what seemed to be actually heaven, Roy suddenly stopped, and Ed’s eyes snapped open. He turned to look at Roy, who was just looking at him with a thoughtful, but apprehensive expression.
“Edward, I’m sorry if this question offends you or puts you off in any way, but your vocal cords are functioning, right?”
:I’m mute from mental trauma, so yeah. Didn’t I tell you at some time and stressed the fact that you really couldn’t tell anyone because I told the brass it was a thing I was born with? I can make sounds and talk. I just- prefer not to. At least not when I’m outside somewhere I don’t know.:
Ed didn’t mind talking about this with Roy. He felt safe and comfortable- besides, he was dating the man for fuck’s sake. He deserved to know exactly what had happened.
Ed scooted a bit back on the couch so that Roy would have an easier time reading his signing. :And before you throw a fit of worry, I don’t mind talking about this. Or well, not talk, but you get what I mean.:
That made Roy smile. Ed fucking loved it when he got to see a carefree expression such as this one on his overworked general-in-the-fucking-military-and-technically-but-also-technically-not-his-commanding-officer boyfriend. “So, in theory, you would be able to talk in a setting where you feel safe?”
:I can talk when I’m with Al, and I sometimes do that. But like, my vocal chords are weak because I don’t talk much at general, so I get exhausted.: Ed leant close to Roy and pressed a kiss to the front of his throat, close to where Roy’s vocal chords were situated. Then, he hummed, so softly it was almost impossible to hear.
“Would it be rude to ask if- and only if you want to- if you could say my name?”
And Roy was looking at him with that expression, his dark eyes rimmed with hope, with love, with trust, and Ed couldn’t help but want to indulge him.
His voice was quiet and cracky, but it wasn’t from the frankly probably terrifying amounts of endorphins rushing through his blood but rather from the lack of use. At least, that’s what he told himself.
And then Roy was over him again, crushing Ed in one of the tightest hugs Ed had ever found himself in before. And of course, the only proper thing to do was to gently punch Roy in the stomach before grabbing him by the front of the shirt and pulling him into a kiss oh so full of intention and hidden meanings.
When Ed knocked on Roy’s door with Al standing behind him three weeks after the entire massage-and-talking escapade, he wondered for himself if he had told Al that Roy knew he could speak and that he’d heard him. He was pretty sure that he had mentioned part of it- like some bullshit that they’d discussed. If he had, he was at least 100 per cent sure that he had not mentioned exactly what had followed the conversation.
And then all thoughts of the last time he’d been inside the door of Roy’s two-storey townhouse vanished because Roy had opened the door and with the light from the hallway radiation out around him, he looked like an angel.
And because Ed was Ed, he stalked right up to the general before pulling him down for a kiss that lasted a couple seconds longer than strictly necessary. Behind him, Al coughed gently, and he was shaken out of his daze.
:Well, are you gonna invite us in or make us stand on your doorstep freezing to death all night?:
And if Ed’s hands had seemed shakier than usual, well then, so be it. Being close to Roy after not seeing him for days tended to have some sort of freaky effect on him, with symptoms ranging from jelly-like knees (but seriously, how did Roy make a metal knee buckle?) to a racing heart guilty of sending excessive amounts of blood to his cheeks. Ed hated that he loved it.
“I would never,” Roy said as he stepped to the side, allowing the brothers to step inside before shutting the door behind them. Always such a fucking gentleman.
“Thank you for inviting us over, General,” Al said mildly as he hung his coat up on the coat rack next to the door. “It’s really a pleasant change from the studying I’ve been confined for the last couple of weeks.”
“I would be interested to hear more about that while we eat if you would be so kind,” Roy replied while gesturing to the kitchen. “As Ed has reminded me on many occasions while planning a fitting time and date for this, your return to your original body left you with some nasty flavour sensitivities. I did my best to accommodate them.”
And Ed’s heart was going to officially burst because Roy was too good for him, too good for Al, too good for any person that had ever had the pleasure of meeting him, even though he was smarmy and infuriating and-
He looked up and saw Al looking at him, with his head tilted like a fucking dog, smiling at him like he knew something Ed didn’t. “Are you quite okay there, brother?”
Ed coughed and forcibly looked away from Roy’s face for long enough to manoeuvre himself over to Roy’s dark mahogany kitchen table, where three bowls, spoons and glasses were standing next to a water pitcher and a dark pot with steam rising out of it. It smelled absolutely delicious.
He sat down by the table after making sure that Al wouldn’t fall (“I can take care of myself, Brother, don’t you worry too much.”) and looked up at Roy, mouthing something along the lines of, you really didn’t have to invite Al and me for dinner, but thank you, really, for dragging him away from the damn fuzzbuckets and textbooks.
“I can lip-read too, Brother. Don’t you dare to hide anything from me,” Al said, though there was no malice in the words.
“Oh, I’m sure he wasn’t trying to keep anything from you,” Roy said as he ladled some sort of stew with into Ed’s bowl, then Al’s and lastly his own. “Now, Alphonse, you would be interested to discuss your university course? From the sound of it, it sounds very intriguing and I would be honoured to learn more about it.”
And Ed couldn’t help but watch the easy conversation between his brother and his boyfriend, relishing in the fact that the two of them got so well along (that he had technically known all along, as Al always had been the less partial one of them in regard to Mustang.) and were able to hold a conversation he wouldn’t have to partake in. Food, of course, was always his first priority and Ed liked to keep his priorities straight.
…as straight as he could be, anyway.
“Please call me Al, sir.”
“Of course, if you insist. So, Al, you are aware that my team, and now including Edward, go out every Friday to destress for the week- it’s quite entertaining, you should consider joining us once-”
“I’m not letting Al go to that shitty bar, Roy,” Ed grumbled into his food without thinking, making Al stare at him. “And he’s not old enough to drink.”
Al took a second to comprehend that his brother had a) just spoken (which in itself was a rarity) b) spoken at a sound level at which an average human would be able to hear (which was even more of a rarity) and c) Ed had just spoken in front of another human for the first time since the accident. The only thing that came to Al’s mind was, “I’ve been able to drink legally for like two years, Brother. Don’t get ahead of yourself here just because you’re the older one.”
Then, as his mind caught up to it, “Brother, since exactly when did you speak in the presence of others? That’s great! I’m so glad to see you improving!”
Ed didn’t look up as he replied, “’s been about three or four weeks. Last time I was over. We ended up discussing it because Roy braided my hair or something and I accidentally hummed because it was nice. That sorta shit. It was a happy accident.”
Then Ed’s mind returned to exactly what the happy accident had lead to, which in turn led to his cheeks apparently deciding that they were a fitting place to light a fire and his throat a good place to make a barricade. When he came to again, Al was grinning maliciously at him. “Happy accident, huh? What exactly happened, Brother?”
“Frankly, Alpho- Al, I don’t suggest you ask unless you genuinely want to know the answer. Besides, you’ve still got some food left and if you don’t eat it, it might get cold.”
Ed silently thanked whichever non-existent god is listening for his amazing boyfriend saving the day … and possibly his dignity.
“It’s really kind of you to finally let me come along, Brother,” Al said as he buttoned up his coat. “Although I don’t really see the need for you to pick me up. I can navigate my way around the city just fine. You could have told me the address and it would’ve been a piece of cake, I’m sure.”
“I can’t be seen coming with the bastard. The team doesn’t know we’re dating and definitely has no business knowing that we basically live together at this point,” Ed huffed. “Don’t let anything slip, will ya? And also, before you ask, I don’t talk around them, so don’t mention anything about that. They’re still unaware of the fact that I can speak at all and I intend to let them think that as long as I’m still recovering.”
“If you say so, Brother,” Al hummed before leaning down to hug one of the cats goodbye. Ed rolled his eyes; he didn’t get how Al could love those hair-chewing monsters but decided not to comment on this odd display of affection. If it made Al happy, it sure as hell was allowed to make Al happy.
He left the apartment and waited for Al to be done with his odd ritual with the felines while throwing his keys from one hand to the other. Now that he was out, he was again reduced to the ‘bare minimum or preferably no verbal exclamations of any kind’ persona he had spent the greater deal of 8 years perfecting.
He whistled loudly to catch Al’s attention and he threw the keys in the general direction of Al, who caught them with an annoyed expression that radiated ‘really? Can you not just throw stuff at my face without giving me a better warning?’
Ed wordlessly flipped him off with a grin.
The 25-minute walk to the bar was mainly in silence, with a couple of injections from Al about questions he was going to ask the various members of the team in an attempt to catch up. Considering that Al wasn’t a part of the military, and had never been, he had never really had the same opportunity as Ed to see the team on either a daily- or weekly basis.
“I think I should invite Sergeant Fuery over sometime to let him meet the cats. He really likes animals, and maybe he’s got some good tricks for taking even better care of them,” Al said while plucking a stray cat hair from his coat.
Ed snorted and waved a hand to catch Al’s attention before clapping his hands to form the words, ‘I already told them about the cats the first time I went out. The entire bunch seems to really like the claw machines you insist on calling ‘cute’’ in fluorescent blue.
“But they are!”
:Your arguments are ricocheting off the invisible wall around me. Talk to Fuery or Hawkeye if you wanna discuss animals, Al.:
Hours later, after Ed had probably had one beer too many and kicked Roy’s shin probably five times too many (the expression on the man’s face had promised nothing but events that would take places later that night. Ed felt a cold shiver run down his spine as he met the dark eyes of his lover), the team exited the bar into the brisk, rainy autumn night.
Al had, good for him, kept to his promise that he wouldn’t ingest anything containing the least bit of alcohol. That meant that at least his brother would be responsible for getting himself home- Ed would only follow him, oh, half-way or so before taking to either the streets or the roofs to get back to Roy’s place.
They all said their goodbyes and split ways. Since Ed and Al were the only ones going in their particular direction, they walked alone. Ed knew he would see Roy in less than half an hour anyway, but couldn’t help but turn back at look at where Roy was holding up a half-passed out, definitely-drunk Havoc along with Hawkeye, whose posture suggested she was not amused in the slightest.
And as if Roy had fucking eyes at the back of his head, he turned around and waved dismissively in the direction of Ed. Al, who had also turned around to look at the rest of the group, snorted amusedly.
“You fucking bastard!” Ed exclaimed without thinking, loud enough for the team to turn on their heels, similarly to how someone would react to the sound of a gun being fired. Ed flushed before turning around and stalking away, unsure of what to do. And when unsure what to do, the best thing was to walk away like nothing had happened with his cackling, traitorous brother following him.
Ed waited until him and Roy were safely inside the house, door closed and locked for the night, before he started yelling after the bastard, “I get that they don’t know that we’re together, but you still don’t have to act like that! That shit’s just offensive.”
“Because you sprouting shit about me with a grin the size of Drachma is not offensive at all?” Roy drawled from somewhere inside the kitchen. “You are aware that it’s way easier to hear what you’re saying in that bar because you don’t have to compete with the general noise level of the place. And I hardly think that yelling ‘fuck you bastard’ after your superior officer and boyfriend is proper.”
Ed snaked up behind him, the pent-up excitement from sexually frustrating his boyfriend in a social setting and yelling after said boyfriend still in him as he wrapped his arms around his lover. He grinned against Roy’s neck. “But what if it wasn’t intended to be proper?”
He could feel Roy’s shoulders tensing up, before saying in the Voice. “Then what was it intended to be, Edward?”
The tone was dangerous but rather dangerous in the way that made Ed hurt. The tone that made him want to be as close to this man as humanly possible and to beg to be fucked senseless.
“Well, you better find out then, huh, bastard?”