“Al, I don’t have time for this, I’ve got a presentation on Thursday and you know what these people are like, they’d just love to see me fail, and I’ve got fucking Russel fucking Triningham on my team and he’s the biggest deadweight on the planet and I--”
“Brother,” Al interrupts calmly, and Ed stops. “It’s one dinner. You don’t even have to call it a date if you don’t want to. He’s a nice guy, my friend vouched for him and she promised he’s a nice guy. She’s known him forever, since they were kids. You’ll be out for a few hours and you’ll have fun. Even if you’re not into him romantically, you’ll make a new friend. I heard he’s really into biology.”
“That sounds like a line,” Ed mumbles, but he stops protesting and lets his brother dig through his wardrobe in peace. He knows what his brother gets like; he has no idea why people think Al is the nice one. Al could out-stubborn an ox. Ed’s the victim here.
“Do you want to wear something of mine?” Al asks, shoulder deep in the disaster zone that is his closet, voice a little muffled.
"No,” Ed says, crossing his arms defensively, sitting down on the edge of his own bed. “Because everything you own is either too big or too small for me. I’m not going out dressed like I’m trying to be you.” He doesn’t mean that in an insulting way, but he and Al are different, and that’s the way they both like it. “Besides, none of your clothes look good on me. I just don’t think I’m suited for button-downs and ties.”
Al mumbles something inaudible. “What?” Ed asks, because if Al is dissing him, he should at least do it loud enough for Ed to hear.
“I said,” Al says, backing out of the disaster zone and turning to face Ed, “I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”
Ed rolls his ruby-red eyes and averts his gaze. “Yeah,” he mumbles. “That’s what they all say.”
Al puts a hand on his shoulder and holds tight.
Ed doesn’t hate being half-Ishvalan, but he hates the way people treat him for it. If he ever succeeds, it’s because he’s half Xerexian. If he ever fails, it’s his Ishvalan side coming out. It’s stupid, and it’s just not fair.
If there’s one good thing, one just thing in the universe, it’s that Al escaped the same fate by a sheer accident of birth. It means that when Ed was caught up in the same riots which killed his mother, Al managed to get away, just because his eyes and hair are gold and blonde unlike Ed’s red and white. It means that for the most part, when people see them together, no one ever assumes they’re related.
On a good day, Ed can appreciate the way he looks in a mirror. His features are unique, and his face is not not handsome. But soon enough his gaze will travel down to his metallic arm, and any semblance of admiration or pride will dissipate. No matter what Winry says, his automail is not beautiful. His automail is practical, and useful, and ingenious. He is practical and useful and ingenious. He is not beautiful.
“I wish you’d just give up,” he sighs after Al passes him a black t-shirt. It’s a size too small, tight around his chest and biceps, but he can almost appreciate what Al is trying to do. Dark-washed jeans and a pair of sneakers complete the look. It’s not like he’s expecting much out of his casual-dinner-cum-date anyway. If it doesn’t end with someone accusing him of theft, he’ll call it a win.
Al sighs in turn and pulls the black rubber-band off the end of Ed’s braid, releasing his white hair into soft waves. “I wish you wouldn’t, Brother. I don’t want you to be alone.”
Ed shrugs carefully, to not disturb Al’s gentle fingers pulling his hair up into a high tail. “I’m alright, Al. I don’t need anyone.”
Al sighs again and doesn’t respond. Once he’s done fiddling with Ed’s hair, Ed steps back before Al can find the stash of makeup. “You’re meeting him at a diner near the old science labs. His name is Roy. I’ve been told you’ll know who he is when you see him.”
Ed blinks at him, silently demanding an explanation. Al just shrugs; he doesn’t have one. “If he turns me into a pair of boots, you can have my thesis, but you have to finish it, and publish the damn thing.”
Al doesn’t brush him off. He leans in to kiss Ed’s forehead and smiles. “I promise, Brother.” The little shit.
The diner is… unassuming.
Which is good. Ed hates pretentious places. Like fuck he’s going to pay stupid amounts of money for food that doesn’t even cover a third of the plate’s surface. Also if Winry tries to feed him foam-something or reduction-other ever again, he’s going to feed her his boot, just to see how she likes it.
He tries not to look out of place when he walks in, but he definitely feels it. Even though the place is mostly empty, he probably sticks out like a sore thumb; it’s not possible to dye Ishvalan hair. The colour just doesn’t stick, and combined with his skin and his eyes; it’s pretty obvious that he’s the only Ishvalan in here. God, what had Al been thinking?!
It doesn’t seem like the kind of place that takes reservations, but Ed tries anyway, shuffling up to the order counter. “Uh, I’m looking for Roy?”
The girl taking orders is cute, but in a little-sister type of way. She’s got a dark bob of hair curling around her jawline and her eyes go comically wide when he says it, glossy lips going round and shiny around an ‘oh ’. Then she grins and Ed relaxes a little, because at least she’s not going to call the police or anything. “No worries dude! I’ll show you the way!”
“Dude?” he mouths to himself. He can’t remember the last time anyone called him ‘dude’.
She leads him to a small corner booth at the back of the diner, close enough to the heater to be warm, and not so far that they’d feel cold every time the front door opened. Sitting at the table is a man, wearing sunglasses. He doesn’t look up.
Ed wants to assume the worst, because what kind of douchebag wears sunglasses indoors, at night, but something stops him. The girl - lady - puts a hand on the man’s shoulder and he tenses briefly before looking up. “Roy,” she says, “I’ve got someone here to see you.”
He snorts, like she’s cracked a joke. And then he grins up at Ed, or in Ed’s general direction, and his entire face changes. He goes from an ordinary looking man to someone who’s quite - someone who’s breathtaking. He offers a hand and Ed takes it, shaking it firmly. “I’m Roy Mustang. You must be Edward Elric.”
“You got that right,” Ed says, forgetting himself. “Mind if I grab a seat?” Roy gestures towards the seat opposite his, and he makes it look so natural. Ed slides into the booth and tries not to kick his feet under the table. “But call me Ed. It’s nice to meet you.”
Roy grins again, and there it is - Ed’s having some difficulties breathing - why. “It’s nice to meet you too. I understand my friend knows your brother? Riza?”
Suddenly everything falls into place; of course. “I should’ve known that Al wouldn’t trust anyone but Hawkeye with this.”
Roy grins and puts his hands on the table. His fingers are long and elegant, and Ed doesn’t dare to admire them too obviously, in case this is all just a prank and they’re waiting for him to trip up so they can post the video of him being useless and gay online and become youtube millionaires. Al probably has nothing to do with it, but Ed wouldn’t turn down a share of the money if there was any.
“So, in the interest of making full disclosure,” Roy says after a moment of awkward silence. “I’m blind.”
“Uh,” Ed stutters, totally taken aback. “Cool.” Roy snorts and oh god, “No hold on, that’s not what I meant, not cool, but, uh. Shit. Geez. Don’t laugh, you know what I mean. If we’re doing the disclosure thing, I’m half-Ishvalan.”
Roy’s smile softens but it doesn’t fade, and an angry muscle in his lower back begins to ease. “Cool,” he teases, and Ed rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling too. It’s impossible to hide it. He thinks this may be the first person who’s ever reacted so… calmly. There are no tensed shoulders, no gritted teeth.
“So, what do you do? I hear you like biology?” Ed tries again, and Roy snorts even louder.
“That sounds like such a line...”
For a split second, Ed forgets himself and guffaws. “That’s what I said! God, I wish my brother could see that I’m not the only fucking one.”
Roy’s smile turns rakish and he opens his mouth to say something. Ed finds himself leaning halfway across the table, like there’s a magnet inside him and Roy’s the north pole, but just as quickly as it had come, the look fades and the laughter dims. Roy drags a hand across his mouth like he’s trying to swallow something bitter. “Sorry,” he offers, “sorry I was just about to say something inappropriate.”
Ed’s barely known this guy for ten minutes but he wants to reach out across the table and touch his hand to comfort him. It’s unheard of. “I’m really hard to offend, Roy. I promise. Like I bet, there’s nothing you could say that I haven’t heard before.” Roy tries to smile at him but it looks strained, and Ed wants to see that rakish grin from seconds ago. “As long as you don’t hate brown people, we’re good.” Roy coughs like he hadn’t been expecting that degree of honesty. “What were you going to say? I wanna hear it.”
“I was going to say,” Roy starts, leaning in conspiratorially, and Ed is suddenly, shockingly grateful that no one is here to witness them with their faces so close together, like they’re already lovers. Well, from his thoughts to Ishvala's ears, or whatever. Al is going to hold this over him forever. “Well. I can’t remember exactly, now, but I was going to say something about seeing and fucking and being blind. Something Riza would have smacked me for. You get the idea.”
Ed huffs a laugh, because yeah, he does get the idea, and he kinda wishes Roy had gone through with it. Though, now, being this close to the man isn’t exactly a hardship. Drawing back takes real effort. “Sounds like we have the same sense of humour,” Ed offers. “That’s always a good start.”
“Definitely. And for the record, I don’t see race, I’m colourblind.” The shit-eating grin is back on Roy’s face, and he’s unfairly attractive.
Ed laughs again. “You’re a riot, aren't you?”
“Aren’t I just,” Roy replies smugly. “Anyway, want to order?”
“Sure,” Ed replies, flipping open the menu. “Have you been here before?” He's not sure if he should offer to read out the menu options, but he figures it would be pretty insulting to offer.
Roy flashes a smile at him. “I come here pretty frequently because I’m based in the old science labs. It’s easier than going long distances for lunch and dinner, you know?”
“Yeah,” Ed replies, because he does know. Getting used to his automail leg had taken years, and he remembers making that assessment every single day; whether he was up to travelling anywhere or not. “Any recommendations?”
Roy props his chin on his knuckles, and his elbows on the table, and looks straight at him. There’s a smile playing around the corners of his mouth and Ed desperately wants to know if his eyes are smiling too. “Generally everything’s good. If you like cheese—”
“I don’t,” Ed interrupts.
“Well, I’m probably going for a pasta tonight but the burgers are pretty good. I get mine with extra pickles because I think they do them in house.”
“Cool, I’m good with burgers.” Ed closes the menu, decision made. “Fries to share?” Roy nods and Ed flags down a waitress. They order and Ed tries not to pay attention to the fact that almost every server in the restaurant is watching them. “Uh, this is awkward, but is there any reason the people here are watching us? It’s a little creepy.”
Roy sighs and Ed gets the distinct feeling that somehow, internally, he’s rolling his eyes. He wants to see that too. “I’m friends with the people who run this place. I come here so often that I know most of the staff, and they’re all busybodies who can’t mind their own business ,” Roy says, raising his voice a little. The ensuing movement as people go back to their business is too calm to be a scramble, but the lack of scrutiny makes Ed feel much better.
“Thanks,” he says lowly. “It was a little weird.”
Roy sighs again but it doesn’t seem like he’s sighing at Ed. “Next time we’ll go somewhere else?”
Ed can’t help but laugh at the cheek. “Next time? You’re presuming an awful lot, aren’t you?”
Roy’s entire face flushes, from his nose to the tips of his ears, and he’s adorable. “Shit, sorry. Didn’t mean to—”
“Shh,” Ed says, flapping a hand even though Roy can’t see it. “I’m teasing. There’s probably some stuff you should know about me before you ask me out again.”
Roy looks in his direction intently, and his face is schooled into seriousness. “Are you an axe murderer?”
It’s such a ridiculous question that Ed splutters and almost knocks his own drink over, “no,” he gasps, “what the fuck?”
Roy grins and shrugs. “Then I don’t care.”
“That’s stupid,” Ed says, because it is. “There’s worse things than death. I could be a rapist. Or a drug dealer. I could be sexually attracted to cats,” he says, just to see the twitch of Roy’s lips. “Or I could have lost my arm and my leg in an accident when I was a kid.” He doesn’t mean to say it, but - but he wants to. He has to get it out before this goes too far.
Roy places his hands on the table, palms up. Ed hesitates before reaching out and meeting him half-way. The one hand that he can feel is warm and rough and real. He doesn’t want to know what Roy feels when he touches steel. “Automail?” he asks, gently.
Ed shrugs and then verbalises. “Yeah. Sorry, I know it’s not exactly—”
Roy flaps his hand at Ed in a gesture that’s uncannily similar to his own, but there’s no way he could have seen— “I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what’s normal and what’s not. I don’t — people in glass houses, and all that. It’s alright.”
Ed tamps down on a shuddering breath because it’ll give him away, and squeezes around Roy’s fingers gently before letting go. Roy’s hands twitch, like they didn’t want to release him, but when the waitress places a plate in front of Roy, he draws his hands back.
Ed tentatively nudges Roy’s shoe with his own, and Roy’s answering grin is brighter than a spotlight. He nudges back, even as the waitress is arranging cutlery on the table and telling them to enjoy their meal. Ed grabs his own fork and knife and then pauses when Roy doesn’t immediately reach for his food.
“D’you need a hand?” he asks, as casually as he can manage. He remembers hating when people tried to help him, in the beginning. He doesn’t want to make Roy feel like Ed doesn’t think he can handle it. “I’ve got one I could spare,” he continues, almost absently.
Roy huffs but reaches out onto the table, fingers moving slowly until he touches the plate. The fork is neatly tucked under the left side of the plate, and the knife on the right. Roy neatly manages to stab some pasta with his fork and lift it to his mouth. Ed grins and starts eating too. He nabs some french fries and then slides the bowl over towards Roy. “Fries at your 2’o’clock, if you want some.” Roy reaches out with perfect precision and grabs two french fries, eating them with evident pleasure.
“Tell me more about you,” Roy says, after they’ve both made some inroads into their meals. Ed hadn’t realised how hungry he’d been.
He shrugs, and then remembers that Roy can’t see him. “Sorry, I just shrugged.” Roy bumps Ed’s shoe with his own and Ed takes it as a signal to continue. “I mean. There’s nothing interesting about me. I’m about to finish my PhD in physics. I’ve got a thesis due in like, three months, and I’m not done yet. There’s a project I’m working on and I hate my teammates. My best friend in the entire world is my little brother, Al. I really hate milk.”
The smile on Roy’s face is growing wider and wider with every word he says, and it should be unnerving but it isn’t, Ed likes it. “What?” He asks anyway, because it feels like he should.
“Nothing,” Roy replies, “you just sound really cute.”
The worst thing - the worst thing is that it doesn’t even sound like a line. Ed can feel his own face going scarlet and hot. “Shut the fuck up,” he swears, forcing himself to not to cover his face. It’d only muffle his voice and give him away.
“Are you blushing?” Roy asks, his voice delighted in a way that makes Ed want to — makes him want to do something, though he doesn’t know what.
“No,” Ed lies and Roy laughs delightedly and Ed doesn’t even mind, shit. Al’s going to tease him forever. “Shut up,” he adds unnecessarily, even though Roy isn’t saying anything. “Tell me about you, then, smartass.”
Roy slides his plate to a side and chin-hands again, looking unfairly cute while he does. “Let’s see. I’m thirty going on thirty one,” he starts, and Ed can’t help but interrupt.
“Shut the fuck up,” he says, smacking a hand on the table. Roy stops. “You’re not thirty one.”
Roy tilts his head. “I’m not, I just said I’m thirty.”
“No fucking way dude. You look twenty five, tops. I call bullshit.” Ed knows he’s being rude; this isn’t how polite people behave on first dates, but fuck, no way. Even sitting down Ed can see that Roy’s stupidly fit, and oh god, he shouldn’t be checking out his blind date while he’s not paying attention, shit. He looks back up to see a grin spreading across Roy’s face and he can’t help but groan. “Shut up,” he whispers under his breath, speaking to Roy and himself equally.
“You’re adorable, Ed,” Roy says, and Ed wants to kick him under the table but he gets a feeling that Roy would just take that as well as he’s taken everything else this evening, and Ed can’t handle being attracted to him anymore than he already is.
“I’m not, you’re—” Ed manages to bite the words back before he tells Roy that he’s the adorable one. God he hasn’t even had anything to drink, he’s so fucked. “Shut up. Tell me about you. I won’t interrupt.”
Roy’s foot slides against his and he presses back. “Which is it, I can’t shut up and talk at the same time.” Ed growls and Roy laughs but stops teasing. “As I was saying. I’m thirty one. I’m an adjunct professor at the University. I used to be a colonel in the military, but I was invalided out after all this,” he gestures at his face, his eyes, and Ed wants to know everything about it, but even he knows the first date isn’t the right time to ask.
“I’m working towards my own PhD. I know it’s a bit late but I figured better late than never, right?” He sounds almost uncharacteristically uncertain, and Ed doesn’t know how he can even assess what Roy sounds like when he’s certain, but he just knows.
“Definitely,” he says, because he genuinely believes it, and Roy shouldn’t doubt that. “It’s not like there’s an age limit on learning.”
Roy grins and continues. “My best friend in the world is Riza, or Hawkeye as you might know her. I have another best friend but he’s still in the army and I haven’t seen him in a while. I spend a lot of my time with his wife and his daughter, who’s three years old, and possibly even cuter than you are, though I feel like it might be a tie.”
“Oh my god, dork, shut up,” Ed demands but Roy merely shrugs and smiles back at him beatifically.
“I really do like biology, and it’s not a line. It’s just a little - the subject is a little taboo. I’m trying to figure out some stuff about chimerism in cells.”
“What’s so taboo about it?” Ed asks, because he doesn’t get it.
Roy shrugs. “Religious objections. The same stuff that people don’t like about stem cells and stuff. There’s a lot of backstory, but basically there’s a reason they’ve put me out of the way in the old labs.”
Ed rolls his eyes and then tells Roy, so that he can appreciate it. And then, because their plates are empty and Ed's still a little hungry, “do you want dessert?”
“Always,” Roy replies.
“Wanna go somewhere else?” Roy hesitates for the first time that evening and Ed sees it as clear as day, and fuck if he doesn’t understand it. Ed’s got a physical advantage over Roy, not to mention they’ve just met — he’d be an idiot to not be wary. “Or we could stay here, it’s totally cool!”
“No, no, it’s okay, we can—”
“No shut up, we’ll stay here, don’t be silly—”
Roy reaches out and grabs his wrist, and it’s a little clumsy and inaccurate but it shuts Ed up just as effectively. “You’ve told me to shut up like thirty times tonight. Haven’t listened to you yet, what makes you think I’ll start now?” He smiles at Ed as if to assure him that he’s teasing. “And don't get me wrong, it’s got nothing to do with you. I’d love to come for dessert with you. I’m just not the most graceful when it comes to new places. You know?”
Ed turns his hand and Roy releases his grip like he’d entirely forgotten that they were still touching, but before he can snatch his hand back, Ed catches it and laces their fingers together. It’s more daring than anything he’s ever done on a date, before. “I’m the least graceful person on the planet, and I don’t even have an excuse. So if that’s what you’re worried about, don’t be. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t let you fall.” Roy relaxes ostensibly, but his smile is a little tense, still.
“And,” Ed continues, “if you want to invite some of your friends along or maybe drop Riza a text? Or I swear, we could have dessert here. It’s okay. I get it. I’m not offended, I promise.” He’s really not. Roy being comfortable is more important than anything else.
Roy squeezes Ed’s fingers between his own and the tension in his shoulders finally slips away. “You saying that makes me more comfortable than anything else. Thank you, Ed.”
Ed shrugs. “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to head to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” He quietly pays the bill before he goes to the bathroom and makes sure to tip the waitress too. When he comes out, Roy’s on the phone, so he lingers a safe distance away until Roy ends the call.
“Yo. Everything ok?”
“I’m good,” Roy replies, turning towards his voice and smiling at him warmly. “Shall we get the bill?”
“Already got it, don’t worry.” Before Roy can even protest, Ed presses on. “Any preferences on dessert?”
Roy sighs, and then shrugs, clearly recognising that Ed’s not going to give in on this one. “I don’t really know many trendy places, unfortunately. Don’t get out too much.”
Ed snorts. “You say that like I do. I wouldn’t know shit unless Al told me about it. He’s been raving about this pie place for weeks now. Apparently they do an incredible chocolate silk pie and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since he told me about it. Do you like pie?”
“I do, indeed. One day, you could meet Gracia. She bakes the most amazing apple pie I’ve ever eaten. That’s Hughes’ wife, by the way.”
“I’d like that,” Ed says, standing up from the booth, waiting for Roy. Roy slides his wallet into one pocket and his phone into the other, and picks up a cane from beneath the table. Ed waits for him to adjust it in one hand before he falls into step on the other side, where he won’t get in the way.
“Is it far?” Roy asks.
Ed stops to think, and then fishes out his phone to check. “Yeah, it’s about ten minutes by car. I drive but seriously dude, I’d be happy eating a McDonald’s soft serve with you, it really doesn’t have to be pie.”
Roy shakes his head. “Now I’ve got my hopes up about the pie. If you don’t mind driving…”
Ed studies Roy’s face, and it’s different from other people’s faces because Ed can’t rely on their eyes for clues. Roy’s mouth and nose are the most expressive parts of his face, and none of them are registering discomfort now. “No, I don’t mind driving. But give me Riza’s number, I’ll drop her a text with the address.”
They amble slowly towards the carpark, talking about Ed’s second-hand Mazda while Ed sends a text message to Riza from his own phone. It buzzes twice but he doesn’t bother taking it out of his pocket to read the messages. It’s been a long time since he’s been on a date which he didn't want to end.
Being around Roy is easier than being around almost anyone else, and it’s bewildering and amazing at the same time. He opens the passenger door and puts his hand on the upper edge of the passenger seat door so that Roy doesn’t hit his head, and resists the urge to put a hand on the small of Roy’s back because the last thing he wants is for Roy to be uncomfortable with uninvited touch.
Even while driving, Ed keeps his hands carefully on his side of the gearbox. Making any moves now, in a moving car, would be nothing less than a threat, though he wonders if Roy feels it too; the desire to reach out and touch, like there are magnets embedded beneath their skins. The conversation remains casual and easy and Ed finds himself laughing at Roy’s jokes, and wanting to make Roy laugh with his own.
He’s never been to the pie place which Al had recommended, but his brother rarely steers him wrong in terms of food, so he goes on trust. “We’re here,” he announces. He waits for Roy outside the passenger door, and he’s rewarded when Roy reaches out for his hand after getting out of the car. Ed is so so grateful that no one is around to see him smiling like an idiot. “It’s called the Pie-Hole,” Ed starts, but before he can finish his sentence, Roy is laughing. “What?” He asks, slightly concerned.
Roy squeezes Ed’s hand before letting it go, and he hadn’t even noticed they were still holding hands, oh god — and flashes a brilliant smile at him. “Remember I mentioned Gracia? My best friend’s wife?” He pushes the door open like he knows where he is, like he’s familiar with it. “Gracia!” He calls, and a tiny shrieking ball of energy barrels towards his knees.
“Uncle Roy!” The blur materialises into a tiny girl, not more than a foot tall, with two tiny pony tails on the top of her head. “Uncle Roy, you’re here!” She shrieks and Roy smoothly catches her before she slams into his knees, the cane clattering to the floor, both arms scooping her up and close to his chest. She wraps her tiny arms around his neck and kisses his cheeks, one at a time as he presents them. There’s a small voice in the back of Ed’s head that’s screaming, and he ignores it because he’s not a woman reaching the end of her child bearing years, but fuck if this isn’t adorable.
He bends down and picks up the cane, just to keep himself from covering his face and screaming from how not prepared he was for this. He straightens up in time to see a beautiful woman walking out of the back of the cafe, smoothing her apron down and smiling fondly at the two of them like this isn’t an unusual sight. She catches sight of them and her grin widens slightly, and Ed resists the urge to duck his head.
“Hello Roy,” she says, announcing her presence for Roy’s benefit. “I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.”
“I haven’t seen you forever!” The girl interjects, curling into Roy’s neck and hugging him with her whole body. Both Roy and the woman laugh lightly.
“Elicia, I saw you last night,” Roy teases, before turning towards Gracia and smiling a little bashfully. “I wasn’t expecting to see you either,” which is a blind joke but Ed’s not going to be the one to point it out, “but let me introduce you to someone. This is my date, Edward Elric.”
It’s stunning how Roy can introduce Ed as his date so casually, like it’s not a big deal to be dating an Ishvalan man, of all things, but Ed figures it has something to with the sight thing. It’s probably easier to ignore if Roy doesn’t actually have to see his eyes and his skin. Not that he thinks Roy is racist or anything, it’s just… it’s normal. He’s used to it. He’s ready for the woman’s reaction.
Except, apparently he’s not, because she steps forward and kisses his cheeks the way fancy people do, with their hands held between them and their necks outstretched. “It’s lovely to meet you Edward, my name is Gracia,” she says, “and this is my little monkey, Elicia.”
She rescues Roy from Elicia, who’s living up to the title and clinging to Roy like she’s afraid he’ll disappear if she lets go. In all fairness, Ed isn’t sure this whole evening hasn’t been a vivid fever dream, so. It’s forgivable. “What brings you here tonight, gentlemen?” She asks, propping Elicia in her hip, where the girl immediately sticks her fingers into her mother’s hair and starts trying to braid it. She seems like a handful, but a very cute one. Ed is a little honoured that Roy thinks he's as cute as Elicia.
“Actually that’s my fault,” Ed says. Gracia starts leading them to a booth and Ed looks at Roy, who doesn’t seem to have noticed. He taps Roy’s shoulder to get his attention, then brushes his hand against Roy’s hand. Roy seems to understand what Ed is trying to say, and wraps his hand around Ed’s arm, just above his elbow. Ed leads him to the booth and slides in first, hoping that Roy will sit beside him. He can’t hide the grin on his face when Roy does, and turns back to Gracia knowing that she’s probably seen everything he’s trying to hide from Roy. He shrugs when she grins at him, watching them with her chin propped on her cupped palm, elbow on the table. “My brother recommended this place to me. He’s been raving about the chocolate silk pie since he found it, and I decided that we could try some for dessert.”
“Uh huh,” Gracia says, still smiling at them fondly. If anyone else had looked at him like that, Ed thinks he’d have been really upset, but there’s nothing condescending about her expression; she looks genuinely delighted, and Ed gets the feeling that she’s at least part of the reason Al comes here so frequently. She reminds him a little of their mom.
“What’s your brother’s name? If he’s a regular, I might know him,” she continues.
Ed winces and braces himself. “You probably do. Alphonse Elric? Goes by Al?” He sees the surprise on her face, the way everyone looks surprised when they realise that Ed and Al are related.
“Big brother Al?” Elicia pipes in, attention caught by a familiar name. “You know big brother Al?” she asks, turning to Ed for the first time, eyes wide in awe. God, he’d forgotten how much he liked little kids.
“Al is your big brother, right?” he asks, and waits for her to nod before continuing. “Well, I’m Al’s big brother.” He sees Elicia mouth the words ‘big brother’ to himself, as if she’s still processing it.
“Whoa,” she whispers lowly, looking at him with shining eyes. He waits for it, for the question about why he looks so different, but when she opens her mouth, she says, “but big brother Al is bigger than you?”
It’s such an unexpected observation that Ed can’t stopper the laughter that bubbles out of him. She looks delighted and not at all afraid, and if that it’s a sign of a happy, loving family, Ed doesn’t know what is. “Al is taller than me, but I’m older than him,” he explains patiently.
Gracia reaches out and touches his forearm gently, looking apologetic. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to assume. Al is wonderful with Elicia, and he says that everything he knows about children, he learned from his big brother. I just didn’t -”
“Genetic lottery,” Ed shrugs it off. He’s had worse reactions. “It’s fine,” he says, smiling to reassure her.
“I’m missing something?” Roy asks, smile slightly tense. Ed touches Roy’s hand briefly, trying to reassure him without words. And then he figures Roy deserves better. It must be beyond annoying to be missing that one vital piece of information.
“We’re mixed. Mum was Ishvalan and Dad was Xerexian, as far as we can guess. Al looks like dad. Blonde hair, golden eyes. Beansprout,” he adds, to make Elicia giggle.
“And you take after your mother?” Roy asks. His hand is on the vinyl seat between them and he turns it palm side up, an invitation that Ed can’t resist. Their fingers fit together perfectly. Ed knows it doesn’t mean anything, not really, but he can’t help but ascribe it a greater meaning.
“He’s pretty,” Elicia pipes in, making Ed blink.
“Oh?” Roy asks, soft smile turning into a grin as he turns to her. “Tell me more? I don’t know what Ed looks like, yet.”
“He’s really pretty. His eyes are like cherries and his skin is like chocolate cake and his hair is like the moon,” she gasps, and Ed wants to cry because he’s heard a lot of descriptions but this one literally takes the cake. If everyone could see him the way Elicia sees him, he suspects his life would be a lot easier. “He’s even prettier than you, Uncle Roy,” she whispers conspiratorially, blinking in confusion as all three adults burst into laughter.
“That,” Gracia says, sliding out of her side of the booth and scooping Elicia up with the ease of long practice, “is quite enough out of you, little monkey.” Elicia giggles but doesn’t protest the nickname or the manhandling, curling into her mother’s arms like there’s nowhere else she’d rather be. “Shall I get you some pie, gentlemen? Say goodnight to Uncle Roy and big brother Ed, Elicia,” Gracia says, and Elicia obediently blows kisses at both of them.
“Big brother Ed!” she calls as Gracia carries her away, “say goodnight to big brother Al for me!”
On a whim and struck by inspiration, before he can let fear paralyse him, Ed leans in and kisses Roy’s cheek, retreating as quickly as he’d approached. Roy turns to face him, eyebrows rising and a grin practically cracking his face in half. He squeezes Ed’s fingers with his own. “What was that?” he asks lowly, thumb stroking the back of Ed’s hand in a very distracting way.
“Elicia blew a kiss goodnight,” Ed replies, just as low, “and I thought you'd like to receive it.”
“Oh,” Roy says, practically purring, “so you were just passing along a message, were you?”
Ed nods and hums, feigning casualness, keeping his mouth shut because if he opens it he might shriek and give himself away; he can’t believe he just did that.
Roy’s reply is interrupted by Gracia sliding two plates of pie onto the table top. “Apple and chocolate silk, don’t let me interrupt,” she says with a wink before gliding away.
Roy leans in really close and Ed can’t help but mirror him, still holding hands. “She’s going to text Maes now, and then we’ll never hear the end of it,” he whispers, and Ed laughs, just a puff of breath because he’s so close to Roy. He can’t look away, and is utterly enthralled by the thought of being with Roy long enough for there to be a ‘never’.
“I don’t care,” Ed replies, “Al’s going to torture me for deets tonight anyway. Your friend can’t be worse than my brother.”
Roy draws back slightly but doesn’t let go of his hand. Ed brings both plates closer to them and passes a fork to Roy, making no attempt to free his dominant hand. Fate has made him ambidextrous and he finally knows why. “I thought your brother was really nice? That’s what everyone tells me?”
Ed chuckles and carves out a chunk of the chocolate pie before replying. “That’s what he wants everyone to think. Al looks like an angel and he talks like, I dunno, a very soft librarian or something, but he’s the terrifying one. I just look scary. The worst I’d do is throw a punch. Al’s the psychological thriller type, and he’s so damn smart he can get away with it. I suspect he already knew that you know Gracia, which is why he’s been selling this cafe to me for weeks. He knows me well enough to predict how I’d think. He’s going to rule the world someday,” he confides, unable to feel anything but pride at the thought.
Roy winces dramatically. “That’s probably why he gets along with Hawkeye. She’s exactly the same. Everyone thinks she’s the nice, normal one. She’s actually scarier than me and Maes and all of our friends put together.”
Ed sighs and resists the urge to kiss Roy again, and not just on his cheek. “I’d suggest we avoid letting them meet, but I think we’re past that. Nothing left to do but go along for the ride.”
Roy shrugs. “It seems like a fun ride, I don’t want to get off.”
Ed sniggers, because he can’t help it and he’s a compulsive moment-ruiner. “Oh, you don’t want to get off, do you?”
Roy coughs and then sticks out his tongue at Ed when he realises what he’d said. “I’ll have you know,” he says, pretending to be put off, “I’m not the type to put out until the third date.”
It’s the perfect opening. “So there’s going to be a third date?” he asks, before sticking the bite of pie in his mouth before he can follow up with a hundred other words to drown out his stupid, stupid question. And holy shit, the pie is amazing, but he’s too busy waiting for Roy’s reaction to fully appreciate it.
Roy blushes pink and puts his fork down, so that he can wrap his other hand around their interlaced fingers. “There’s going to be a lot more than three dates, if I have anything to say about it,” he says. “As long as you want more, too. More dates, I mean. As long as you-”
Ed cuts him off by leaning in and pressing their lips together chastely. He stays there for a brief second before drawing back, lingering close enough that he can see Roy swallowing hard, eyes drawn to Roy’s mouth as his tongue flickers out to wet his lips. “Yes,” he says, in case he hadn’t made his point. “I’d like to go on as many dates as you like.”
Roy is so pink that Ed almost wants to touch his face, to see if he’s become hot from all the blood in his face. “Okay,” Roy replies, when he finally finds his words again. “Yes,” he says, presumably in response to Ed’s statement? But it doesn’t matter. The look on his face isn’t that of a man who's upset about the way things are going. “Definitely,” he continues, apparently on autopilot.
“Eat your pie,” Ed tells him, before the man blushes to death.
Roy nods decisively, turning to his pie and appearing to stare very intently at the table. Ed picks up his fork and presses it into his hand again, and takes the opportunity to brush their fingers together. “Want to share?” Roy asks, clearly forcing his voice to be steady.
“Yes,” Ed replies, in pretty much the same situation. It’s a relief to know he’s not the only one shrieking internally.
Like before, time flies. It doesn’t feel like much time has passed before Gracia is at their table, smiling fondly at Roy. “I hate to interrupt, but I’m afraid it’s time for me to close.” Clearly neither of them have been paying attention to the time, because they both startle and scramble for their wallets to pay the bill. Gracia waves them off. “Don’t be ridiculous, it’s on the house.”
“Not a chance, Gracia. What kind of friend would I be--”
“Two slices of pie are hardly going to bankrupt me, Roy. And you do more than enough for us. More than anyone could ask for. It’s good to see you so happy.” Ed can feel his own face heating up at the implication that Roy is happy because of him.
“This isn’t the end of it, Gracia. I’ll be back,” Roy promises, trying to sound threatening. He sounds ridiculous, and Gracia clearly agrees if the look on her face is anything to go by.
“Of course you will, you promised to take Elicia to the zoo on Sunday.”
Roy deflates like a balloon with a hole in it and it’s so funny that Ed can’t help but snort. “She’s got you pegged, doesn’t she,” he teases.
“I’m not too arrogant to accept defeat when I see it,” Roy says, “so it’s a good thing I can’t see much these days.” Both Ed and Gracia laugh this time, and Roy’s lips curve into a pleased little smile.
“Go on then,” Gracia says, “get out of here. I’ll close up.”
Ed waits for Roy to stand up before he turns to Gracia. “Are you sure? We can stick around until you’re done and drive you home, if you want.” The thought of a single woman and a young child alone at this time of night sends chills down Ed’s spine. People are animals when they think they can get away with it.
“Oh, you’re a dear but don’t worry about it. I live right upstairs.” Ed sighs in relief.
“Good. Give Elicia my love?” Ed asks, hoping he’s not crossing any boundaries. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“And you, Ed. Send my regards to your brother, and come by again soon!”
The night outside is cold, and there’s a brisk breeze that cuts straight through their clothes. Roy shivers and Ed tentatively slides a hand around his waist, drawing him close. Roy moves easily, leaning into Ed’s warmth, and they stand there at a street corner, wrapped in each other. It’s shockingly intimate and comfortable, considering they’d only just met each other hour before. “Can I give you a lift home?” Ed asks, because he doesn’t want Roy to be alone outside at this time of night, but he also doesn’t know if Roy wants him to know where he lives.
Roy sighs and presses his cold nose against Ed’s cheek. “Yes, please.”
Ed shivers and lets go of Roy, a little dazed by how close he feels to the other man. It shouldn’t feel like this; it’s never felt like this before, with any of his other dates. Is this what Al was talking about when he said chemistry? “You’re entirely too tempting, Roy.”
Roy laughs and takes a step back. “It’s good to know that I’m capable of tempting someone who’s as beautiful as the moon.” He’s teasing, but not in a mean way, like he’s a little bit serious too.
Ed ducks his head and clicks his tongue dismissively. “I do have white hair and dark skin, but I’m definitely not as pretty as you, she was just being nice.” He’s still leaning towards Roy’s body a little bit helplessly, but they can’t stand here forever. “Can I hold your hand?” he asks, and tries not to trip over his own feet when Roy reaches out for Ed’s hand and laces their fingers together. His hand is warm and dry and Ed can’t believe this is happening to him; this can’t possibly be real.
The drive to Roy’s place is quicker than expected, and it’s clear that Roy’s a little disappointed too, if the way he lingers is anything to go by. “It’s been really nice,” Roy says, and it’s endearing how he ducks his head too, like his body remembers reacting to the feeling of bashfulness.
“Yeah,” Ed agrees instead of pointing it out. “I had a great time. I’m glad I agreed to this setup.” Baring himself like this makes his skin itch but it’s worth it for the way Roy smiles at him, and not for the first time Ed desperately wants to ask Royto take off his glasses, so Ed can see the rest of his beautiful face. But there must be a reason he’s still wearing them, and Ed doesn’t want to push.
“Would you like to come to the zoo with me and Elicia on Sunday?” Roy asks, sounding a little nervous. “I know it’s probably not going to be very datelike but--”
Ed cuts him off. “Are you kidding? I’d love to come to the zoo with you guys, Roy. But are you sure Elicia wouldn’t mind me interrupting your bonding time?”
Roy shakes his head and then answers, “no, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. I think she’d like it, actually. And I admit, I’d enjoy it very much, too.”
“Yes, then,” Ed replies, taking Roy’s hand in his own. “Definitely.”
“Good,” Roy replies, sounding as breathless as Ed feels, and god this is so stupid. He’s not a teenager anymore, he shouldn’t be reacting like this to one date, to any one person, but god.
“Can I kiss you, please?” Ed asks, half-hoping that Roy lets him, and half-hoping that Roy doesn’t hear him because he can’t believe he just - he sounds so dumb --
“You don’t have to ask,” Roy replies before Ed can kick himself too much, and leans in, meeting Ed half-way over the gearbox. Roy’s lips are warm and soft and he kisses like he knows what he’s doing, licking at Ed’s lips and letting Ed into his mouth to deepen the kiss. The position is awkward but Ed barely even notices the strain in his neck or the stick shift digging into his abdomen as he leans further forward. Roy’s hand is soft on his cheek, cupping his jaw, holding him just there, at the perfect angle.
Roy starts making the sweetest noises in the back of his throat and Ed drinks them in until they run out of breath and even when they stop kissing, they stay close together, lips scant inches apart, sharing the same oxygen.
“Your face is beautiful,” Roy says, almost pressing the words into Ed’s mouth. “I can tell. You’re absolutely gorgeous,” he continues, “and you taste like my favourite apple pie. I never want to stop kissing you.” Ed can’t help but kiss Roy again, chaste and sweet and soft.
“If there’s anyone waiting for you at home,” Ed says finally, “they’re going to know exactly what we’ve been doing,” because Roy’s lips are a little swollen and he looks like he’s been thoroughly kissed. Ed probably does, too, but he doesn’t want to waste time looking in a mirror when he could be looking at Roy instead. Roy wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand and then nibbles at his lower lip, making Ed’s stomach bubble with lust.
Roy shrugs, still smiling at Ed. “I owe Riza for setting this up. I can take a bit of teasing. I’m guessing your brother is going to do the same?”
Ed nods before he remembers Roy can’t see him and says, “yeah, but he probably already predicted this. I’m used to Al knowing everything before I do…”
Roy shakes his head in sympathy. “I should go,” he says, and then doesn’t move.
Ed laughs. “I don’t really want you to, but you should. It’s probably a bad idea for you to come home with me.”
“Tempting, though,” Roy muses, unbuckling his seatbelt.
“You’re tempting,” Ed teases back.
“I’m attempting to leave this vehicle, is all I’m doing,” Roy sniffs, pouting exaggeratedly.
“Would you like me to walk you to the door?” Ed asks, lightly touching Roy’s hand so he knows it’s a sincere offer.
Roy shakes his head. “If you do, I’ll ask you to come in and then I won’t be able to let you leave. I imagine your brother might have something to say about you being kidnapped by an older man after a first date...”
Ed snorts and gives up the ghost, leaning in and kissing Roy’s cheek again. “Is it kidnapping if I come voluntarily?”
He’s noticed that although Roy is very good at flirting, he chokes up when Ed flirts with him, and it’s adorable. Sure enough, Roy picks up on the innuendo and makes a strangled noise before stepping out of the car quickly. “I’m leaving before I embarrass myself any more. Good night, Ed.”
“I’ll see you soon, Roy. Have sweet dreams,” Ed can’t resist, laughing when Roy throws up a middle finger in his general direction.
God, he thinks as he waits for Roy to close the front door before he drives off. Al’s going to hold this over his head for the rest of his life, and he doesn’t even mind. He can’t wait for Sunday.