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It’s almost amusing how avidly Central City hates the snow—scarves and hats and mittens in every color that wool can be dyed dot the crowds on the streets; Roy has spotted two separate secretaries wearing their overcoats inside, and one trying to hold the telephone against her earmuffs.  And while (in something of a sick turn of irony) it has only gotten harder for him to look the other way since he lost one of his eyes, he can’t exactly criticize their longing to be warm.  It’s an impulse he’s always understood, and now…

Well.  The citizens of Central don’t know, don’t really know, how cold it’s possible to be—but who can blame them for bemoaning the prickle of the frozen air against their tongues?  They don’t have to gorge themselves to know they hate the taste.

Roy stands in his office as the sun goes down, watching pink and violet bleed into the sky.  The light barely even touches the North this time of year—hardly skims it; kisses just the surface of the snow with glints of silver, then is gone.

It’s all a bit like his encounters with a certain blond-haired alchemist-for-hire who swans in and out of his life with reckless abandon, carving trails of fire through the drifts.

Roy lifts his bare hand to the windowpane and presses his fingertips against the glass.  He can feel the cold radiating through, and the contact plunges needles of it deep into his skin.

But not so deep.  Nowhere past that; nowhere near the bone.

He draws a breath and lets it out to mist against the glass, and then he smiles at the shadows on the snow.




Two hours later, the dark has swelled out from the night and seeped into the offices; it’s pooling in the corners and bruising nightshade-purple at the edges of the haloes of the lamps.  His ever-faithful pack—his angel-dogs, the devotees who saw him sink into the glacier, watched him drown in soundless ice without so much as an attempt at fighting, and believed him still a hero all the same—scrape their chairs back from the table one by one and stretch, and scratch, and yawn, and crack their knuckles and their elbows and their jaws.  They mutter their goodnights; Falman and Fuery grace him with a weary tap of heels each and a pair of numb-fingered salutes; the usual suspects deign to wave over their shoulders, burying their noses in their scarves.

Riza waits it out for another half-hour before she rises, sets a stack of folders on the corner of his desk, straightens them, and fixes him with a sharp look.

“Don’t stay too late, sir,” she says.

“Certainly not, Major,” he says.  “When have I ever taken poor care of myself?”

Her eyebrows drop, and the corner of her mouth quirks, ever-so-slightly sardonic.  “When indeed,” she says.  She crosses back to the coat rack and lifts hers down, shoulders it on, smoothes the lapels, dons gloves and hat, and draws her scarf up over her nose.  She turns at the door with hardly more than her eyes showing; he can see the flicker of a smile in them.  “Goodnight, sir.”

“Goodnight, Major.”

He’s earned back her faith in him.  No swathe of medals or line of stars could measure up to that.

He tracks his eyes over another report, a second, a third… Does she calculate how far he’ll get by the end of the day and slip a series of particularly dull requisition forms into the part of the pile he’ll reach at six, with the intention of boring him so badly that he’ll leave?

They also tend to lower the heat in this godforsaken place after five, as if he needed another reason to be dreaming of his hearth.  His fingers are starting to cramp—he can’t tell if it’s from the cold or the repetitive motion; likely both.  He rubs his knuckles at his eye for a moment, then stares at them as he lowers his hand, realizing far too late that they’re smudged with ink all over; now he may very well have smeared an artificial black eye onto his own face.

He sighs—mostly inwardly; there’s no one left to impress with the melodrama, after all—and leans back until the axle of his chair creaks, massaging at the bridge of his nose as he goes.  The motion makes the patch scrape softly across his cheek.

He lowers his hand to pull out the top-right drawer of his desk.  He nudges a few spare ignition gloves and a pen and three faded-edged photographs aside to slide an envelope from underneath them.

To most, perhaps, it might look ordinary.  There are two remarkable features of the front: the unspeakably atrocious handwriting; and the fact that it is addressed to someone named “General Bastard (i.e. Mustang)”.

Fortunately, military contractors can’t be court-martialled.

Equally fortunately, Roy actually takes pleasure in puzzling out the tangled letters and distorted lines—somehow the extra effort to unravel the words seems only to amplify their meaning.  Having to decipher the scrawl every step of the way makes the fragmentary notes last longer.  All he wants is more—more words, more thoughts, more time.  More of Ed.

One last miserable week remains of the two-month contract that sent Edward swaggering up to North City just before the freeze set in; six days and some dozen hours lie between Roy Mustang and the meaning of it—between him and the moment Ed bounds down off of the train steps and sets off along the train platform towards him.  After so many partings—so many last words swallowed down while watching that boy walk away—Roy doesn’t think the novelty of Ed coming to him will ever wear off.

It’s as simple as that, sometimes.  Sometimes it’s easy.

But not always.

Sometimes the unnumbered wonders of the world are much more fascinating than a sad old dog with a desert for a heart and snowfall in his soul.  Sometimes Ed is perfectly content for days, for weeks on end, before he stands up one morning and declares that he’s got somewhere to go.  Sometimes they’re both too volatile; sometimes Roy’s too shuttered-up, and Ed spells out the hardest truths in painful little syllables, one chunk of stubborn sound after another, and he can’t return the honesty in kind.  Sometimes all he has to offer is the silkspun lies and a handbook’s worth of smug, poetic little platitudes.  Sometimes Ed can’t stand him—hence the walking out.

But—these days, these nights, this new-born lifetime—he always comes back.

Mostly, they’re all right.  Mostly, they’re so much more than all right—mostly, they fit together like two cogs turning in perfect time.  Mostly, it’s strange and remarkable like everything about that boy has always been; mostly it’s as beautiful as he’s become.

Mostly, Ed’s planted both feet in Roy’s life and wrapped both hands around his heart, and mostly he looks more reluctant every time he goes to leave.

Mostly, Roy strives to say what he means in a way that can be comprehended, and what he can’t speak, he writes.  Mostly, Ed is sweeter than Roy ever would have dreamed possible; mostly, he’s learned how to tease, but when to stop; he’s learned how to express the gratitude before it curdles into guilt; he’s learned, now, how to love without destroying the object or himself.  Mostly, he’s searingly bright and incurably restless, but he’s never, ever cruel.  He knows—knows more; knows better; knows how brittle Roy Mustang’s constitution is beneath the shell.  He knows a thing or two about bravado, and he knows the sound it makes when a human being breaks below the surface.

Mostly, their jagged jigsaw edges perfectly align, and Roy hasn’t loved so hard or so deep or so fully in all the years that he’s known how.  Mostly, it’s far more than he dared to dream on winter midnights when the snowed-in silence weighed down on his eardrums with such a pressing emptiness that he was sure they’d burst.

Roy unfolds the latest letter.  Six more days; six more days and a handful of hours until the fingertips that held the pen will slide across his skin again.

Hi Mustang,

So fucking cold here.  I don’t know how you ever did it let alone for all that time.  It’s like knives at first but then it gets like this river of ice in your bone marrow and I guess I don’t have to tell you but holy hell Roy, how did you do this without anything to come back to?

You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want.

I am a little curious because you don’t seem to be missing any toes and that is fucking impressive actually.

I don’t know how you write so much, I always feel like an idiot trying to make up shit to say and it looks even dumber on the paper than it does in my head.  And I can’t ever write pretty like you do, you bastard.  I was reading science books when you were getting all poetic and shit, it’s not my fault.

You always say you don’t care what I say but obviously you don’t mean that.

Does Major Hawkeye know you write me fucking novels?  You must be doing it at work, you wouldn’t waste your newspaper/lounging time on this shit.  Plus nobody other than the major would notice that you were writing something other than your paperwork right.  Except you’re probably the type who gets all thoughtful and wistful and taps your pen on your lips and stares off into space a lot while you’re thinking about what gross disgusting poetry to write about my hair and whatever.  Don’t even deny it, I know you are.  And now I’m thinking about your mouth and also your eye and also your hands which is a goddamn pain in this ass and completely your fault.  It isn’t fair play for you to go around looking like that you know.  I bet you do know.  You bastard.

Anyway all there is to write about is either bitching about how you’re not here which (a) you already know and (b) will go to your head… or the stupid shit I’m working on so I’ll tell you about that I guess.

What follows is—as Roy knows almost down to the last uneven swipe of the low-quality pen—a long and detailed record of the research Ed’s been commissioned to conduct in that lousy little gray-walled lab.  The treatise is complicated, packed with jargon and abbreviations both, and denser than the snowbanks suffocating the alchemical scientists holed up inside, but it’s full of what Roy very fondly terms Ed-ioms—turns of phrase so terribly particular and absolutely characteristic that Ed could read the telephone book followed by an inventory list of janitorial supplies, and Roy would soak up every word.  Besides, he’s read it enough times now that he mostly understands the principles at the heart of it; he may even have a few pieces of useful commentary when Ed inevitably wants to rant about the project later on.

Ed finishes up with a few sage words that will spin slowly through Roy’s head like so many pinwheels winking in the sunlight, for years and years to come:

Anyway that’s the gist of it.  Fuck you and your letter fetish, my hand hurts like hell now.  Or I think it does, it’s pretty numb.  I have to take the gloves off to write obviously so I hope you are appropriately grateful for the sacrifice of my comfort etc.  If I get frostbite and lose all my fingers and shit you better still find me sexy or I am going to be pissed like you would not believe and there may be some irreparable damage done to your balls just so you know.

You know sometimes I wonder if that bullet didn’t graze your brain or something because.  Nobody’s ever treated me like you do.  Or at least not anyone who wasn’t stuck with me from the start and whatever.  And I know sometimes I’m the most obnoxious shit (not a little shit though, don’t even go there Mustang) in two fucking universes (I checked don’t forget) but.  I hope you know it’s never because I don’t… you know.  Care.  It’s not because I don’t care, I always care.  Most of the time I care too much.  I think you figured that out about me a long time ago.  And I think you figured that sometimes when I’m mad I say shit I don’t mean and later it’s like a fucking flesh rot inside me and I hope you think about it the same way I do is all because my feelings aren’t your responsibility or your fault, they’re mine.  I own that.  And I know I’m not always fucking easy to deal with and a lot of people have given up on me and you’d be within your rights to but

I hope you won’t.

I hope you don’t ever because I swear I feel you burning in my blood every second of every day like the baseline my heart beats to and it makes me better, it makes me stronger and it makes me a lot happier too just knowing that you exist for fuck’s sake let alone that you’re there and waiting and thinking of me.  You could have anybody Mustang and maybe it’s vain or selfish or whatever but I can’t help that it feels good knowing that you picked me and the only reason I’m so good at riling you the fuck up is that we’re the same like that, it gets under our skin because we care too much.  You always thought I wasn’t paying attention but I was.  You always cared.  It’s just a little bigger now.

Anyway my hand is going to fall the fuck off in another minute and then Winry will try to talk me into getting a claw one with a grappling hook or some shit which would be useful but then you probably wouldn’t want to have sex anymore so fuck it I better keep this hand.

I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to write the sappy shit so.  I love you.

Don’t do anything stupid before I get back because I’ll probably either want to join in or laugh at you so just save all your dumbass urges for two weeks.

Thanks for giving a shit about me, Roy.  I mean that.

Thank you for giving me one last chance so goddamn many times.

Thank you for being you.

Bastard.

More stupid love shit,

Ed

It gets even better: Roy bought him a camera this time, making an offhanded mention of how expensive and inefficient developing fluid seems to be.  As would probably have been uncharacteristic a few years back, Ed got the hint—he sends snapshot photographs of himself making faces at his experiments, and at the other alchemists in the lab, and at the weather outside the windows.  One arrived, tucked into the folds of this letter, which depicts him pouting in a dormitory wearing an enormous scarf and looking balefully out the window at the snow.  He scrawled wish you were here to melt this shit, although Roy’s fingerprints around the edges have almost smeared it out by now.

Six more days.  That’s not so long, and it’s not so cold.

Not here.  Not anymore.




Rereading the letter sustains him for another half an hour of miserable drudgery and so forth.  He’s now entirely positive that Riza deliberately stacks the paperwork with the intention of chasing him out of here before he loses his mind.

He swallows down the sigh—no need for it, not here, not now, not with the whole world swimming in light snow and possibility—and taps the piles on his desk into a slightly more convincing semblance of order, and then he dons all the trappings dangling from the coatrack, looking rather lonely there now that all of their erstwhile companions have gone.  He winds the faded red scarf Hughes gave him heaven knows how many years ago around his neck three times, sets his fedora at a jaunty angle that won’t chafe against the patch, and pulls on his rabbit-fur-lined gloves—the one insulated pair he owns with ignition cloth sewn carefully into the fingertips.  As he bends his fingers and savors the way the fur caresses his tired hands, he can’t help a little slip of fantasy: Ed will almost certainly try to drag him into a snowball fight before the weather turns, especially if Alphonse comes from Dublith for a visit, and he’ll wear these gloves, and the snow will soak them straight through.  The world, two worlds, the life, the thousand shadowed edges on the brightest lights—Roy, with all his misery and his melodrama and his blood-soaked dreams—haven’t ground the last sparks of youth out of Ed just yet, and there are no words sufficient for the depth of gratitude Roy feels for that.

He buttons his coat and strides through the dim, empty halls; he steps out to the motor pool and breathes out a coil of mist, and he simply can’t help the smile.

The corporal standing at the head of the motor pool with both arms wrapped tightly around himself gives him an odd look—which transitions into recognition, and then vague horror at the realization that he’s just side-eyed a general.

“Terribly sorry, sir,” he says, sounding ever so slightly faint.  “There just…” He gestures out to the empty loop of pavement and then tucks his hand securely back under the opposite arm.  “I’m afraid no one’s been willing to walk tonight, and… I—if you don’t mind waiting, sir—or if you’d like to stay inside, I could send someone the moment a car arrives—”

“It’s quite all right,” Roy says, tugging his gloves on more firmly, somehow forgetting what they symbolize until he sees the corporal’s gaze following the tiny white stitches of the array on the back.  He clears his throat, and the young man’s eyes dart back up to his face—in mortification this time.  Roy summons his single most cordial smile to show that he’s not bothered… yet.  “I don’t mind walking,” he says.  “It’s not going to snow for another hour at least.”

He remembers, at the surprised blinking, that not everyone knows how to smell it in the air with quite so much precision.

“Stay warm,” he says, turning up his collar around the scarf.  “Goodnight.”

The “Goodnight, sir!” trails him down the stairs, and he acknowledges it with a wave over his shoulder for good measure.  It never hurts to bestow impeccable courtesy upon lower officers; Roy doesn’t suppose that most of the brass understands how much the cumulative gravity of their individual opinions may someday change the tide.

In the meantime, one of the perks of his recovered rank—and one of the unexpected boons of having lost everything and started to rebuild from spare fragments of a foundation—is owning a townhouse a mere mile and a half from Central Command.

The crystalline frigidity of the air feels bracing, tingling as it burrows into his lungs, but even as his fingertips begin to numb—this isn’t cold.  Not really.  The streetlamps push their feeble orange glow against the thickness of the night, and some of the shopfronts remain resolutely lit.  The snow has cast a pall over the city, to be sure, but the life pulses underneath.  This is worlds away from cold, from true cold—this is a charitable, habitable place.  This is far, far, far from that paradoxical hell.

It is also far, far less welcoming than he’d been hoping after the first half-mile.  It isn’t in his bones; it isn’t in his soul; it isn’t in the core of him, spreading spindly trees of white along the lines of every capillary, claiming him from the inside to destroy him piece by piece—but Central’s winter, while comparatively tame, is certainly making a sincere attempt to seep into every last layer of his skin.

No matter.  He raises his shoulders to shift his scarf higher and pushes his hands into his pockets.  No matter; ten tiny minutes stand between him and his sanctuary.  No matter—the world is kind, mostly; and almost-fair some days, some nights.

And some nights—tonight, at least—he sees from three houses down that there’s warm golden light pouring out from his front window.

Either a rather incompetent burglar has broken into his home and seen fit to open his drapes during the robbery, or something’s caught on fire and incinerated the curtains without producing any smoke, or—

More likely—

Inconceivably wonderful, in the life he’s lived ’til now, but somehow more likely—

If any of his neighbors have objections to a decorated general of the Amestrian military clapping one hand on top of his hat and sprinting down the sidewalk at the greatest speed he can muster without slipping on the ice, then they can—as the glory incarnate at his destination would say—get fucked.

He takes the front steps in one leap but forces himself to pause on the doorstep long enough to catch at least a fraction of his breath.  Some dignity would be a welcome change, whether or not it really matters here.  Whether or not there’s anything left to hide.

He drags a little more frozen air into his lungs, grins, fumbles one gloved hand into his trouser pocket, and fishes up his keys.

A gust of wind enters with him; he pushes the door shut, bolts it, and hangs his hat from one of the prongs on the coatrack.  That’s as far as he gets before the footsteps and the motion from down the hall monopolize every iota of his attention.

There’s a tremor in his chest, somehow—illogical but unshakeable—what if he’s wrong?  What if it’s not?  What if this is another fever dream in the cabin in the white; what if—

“Fuckin’ thermodynamics,” Ed says, giving an overstated shiver as he emerges from the flickering flame-spun shadows of the living room swathed in a blanket and—unless he’s doubled in volume in his absence—quite a lot of layers underneath.  He could be wearing burlap and trailing sludge; his grin is a revelation.  “’Dja miss me?”

Every inch of skin; every strand of hair; every spark in your constellation-eyes.

“A bit,” Roy says.  He gestures to the pile of fabric cascading from Ed’s shoulders.  “Are you all right?”

“Gonna have to be,” Ed says, grin jackknifing just a little wider.  “Every damn fireplace in your house is lit.”  One hand—the right, unrecognizable as automail under a monstrosity that looks like it once aspired to being a knitted glove—appears from under the blanket-cloak to gesture unrevealingly.  “On the upside, it’d take you the better part of two hours to get into my pants, so I’ll know if you’re serious.”

Roy can’t resist the draw of him for the sake of stupid banter anymore.  His heart beats weak, weak, weak—or maybe warm, warm, warm—as he crosses the foyer, peels off his gloves, drops them to the tile, and lays his hands somewhere in the area of Ed’s shoulders.  He raises one to graze his knuckles down the too-beautiful line of Ed’s jaw, then swipes the pad of his thumb over the cracked, chapped line of Ed’s bottom lip.  It curves at the attention, nearly splits—it’s all right, though.  He’ll kiss it until it heals.  And then, perhaps, quite a bit longer after that.

“Was there ever any doubt of my seriousness?” he asks.

“Eh,” Ed says.  Hot blood blossoms on the peaks of his cheekbones.  “I didn’t think it was possible to put the word ‘love’ in a one-page letter eighty fucking times, so after you managed that… I sort of got the point.”

“Are you sure?” Roy asks.  He doesn’t need the fire, or the coats, or the insulated windows, or the fur-lined boots—none of it.  Just this.  Just this, and he has never been so warm.  “I could say it again, if you like.”

“Nah,” Ed says.  The blush deepens; his lashes dip; he looks up through them in what—knowing Ed—must be one of the charming bouts of shyness, but which somehow manages to look indescribably sultry.  “I got parts of that thing memorized anyway.”  At Roy’s slow grin, he scowls.  “Shut up.  It’s fucking cold up there, and—you know about the phones.”  He shuffles his feet, which are swaddled in at least two pairs of socks.  It’s a wonder there’s not lightning crackling from his heels every time he moves across the carpet.  “Sometimes—I mean, sometimes your damn gushy-ass letters are all I got.”

“You’re back early,” Roy says, filing the words away in the center of his chest, wrapping them in tissue and ribbon to open again and appreciate another time.  “Did everything go all right?”

Ed may be shrugging, or it might be a full-bodied shiver.  “Yeah, it was fine.  Just figured out what I was doing at the last minute there and finished it up faster than they expected.  Once I realized that my two choices were to get the shit done or freeze my ass off for another week while I took my sweet time, it was pretty obvious.  Only took one all-nighter, which is freakin’ child’s play.”  He frowns, expression overstated, bottom lip protruding, and Roy could kiss him forever and never tire of craving more.  “If they try to dock my pay for that, though, asses’re gonna get kicked from here to Xing.”

“All I ask,” Roy says, “is that you let me know if they’re stupid enough to try to keep your money from you, and give me a few days to try negotiation before you expatriate anybody with your foot.”

Ed grins up at him, shameless and radiant and so damn cute that it’s really no surprise that neither universe could hold him any longer than he wanted; working miracles is hardly even a strain for the ever-impossible Edward Elric, is it?

“All right, all right,” Ed says.  “You’re such a spoilsport.”  The grin tilts like the deck of a ship, and Roy’s heart has long since skidded overboard.  “You gonna shut up long enough for a proper ‘hello’ now?”

“Oh,” Roy says, pretending to consider as Ed’s arms—knitted abominations and all—slide up around his neck, “I suppose.”

Ed glowers.

Roy kisses him, and kisses him again, and again, and would be overjoyed to keep at it for the rest of time if there weren’t such petty concerns as sleep and nutrition getting in the way.

Somehow, some fingertips have emerged from the terrible semi-sentient wool-creature that’s devoured Ed’s hands.  These fingertips wind themselves into the hair at the nape of Roy’s neck, slowly and deliciously, tugging just enough to send a touch of electricity lancing down his spine.

Ed sinks back down onto his heels, panting lightly, and the boy who was here that one wretched day—those few wretched hours—wore a different pair of eyes altogether than the one in Roy’s arms right now.

“Aren’t you starving, dumbass?” Ed asks.  “What the hell were you doing there so late, anyway?”

Occasionally, the truth is very simple, and the heat in Roy’s chest smoothes its passage up his throat.  “Not having you to come home to.”

Color leaps to Ed’s cheeks, seeping sideways towards his ears.

“You—” he says.  “Shut up.  You’re hungry.  C’mon.”

He seizes Roy’s hand in his—in the automail, notably, because Roy’s being ‘bastardly’ at the moment—and drags them into the kitchen, where he commences rummaging through the icebox with gusto.  Roy doesn’t remember what’s there.  Roy doesn’t remember much at all; his perception has narrowed to Ed and Ed alone, and he wouldn’t change that for anything.

Ed makes something warm and surprisingly palatable.  Roy suspects that his knack—which the occasional forgotten pot boiling over or neglected pan burning probably precludes from classification as a talent—for eminently edible cooking most likely originated in the other place, very possibly when he brought Alphonse back there with him and felt compelled to provide for his newly-recovered idol.  Roy has a lot of guesses about the things that happened there, a lot of observations traced partway back and ending at a brick wall.  Ed speaks of it so rarely that it’s like he’s trying to make those silent years cease altogether to exist.  The scraps of history that he does reveal, he doles out at unexpected moments, when Roy’s entirely unprepared—in the middle of a normal conversation, sometimes, in a soft, light, casual voice with his eyes tracking upward to the ceiling; or late at night, tacked onto the end of another sentence like Roy won’t notice, but the truth of it will still have slithered out, and maybe, maybe, once voiced, it won’t watch him from the shadows anymore.

Cooking requires Ed to pull the vaguely glove-shaped items made of pink wool with blue and white specks off of his hands.  He jams them into his pockets, rather proudly; there’s a tube of the same tragic color scheme cocooning his automail arm.

“Tam made these for me,” he said.  “Pretty great.”

Roy has never been able to determine any personal details about Tam except that this individual has earned Ed’s approval by virtue of a firm grasp of the scientific method, and that they knit when they’re waiting for their experiments to percolate.  Apparently Ed passes the downtime either writing letters to Roy (like a sop, Mustang, this is what you do to me, I hope you feel like shit, you transmuted me into a sop and I can’t reverse it) or redesigning the entire system of pipes for the laboratory complex to make their heating more efficient, but the steady stream of warm gifts seems to have instilled in him a genuine admiration for the knitting.

“Pretty great, indeed,” Roy says.  Ed is stirring things, grabbing down plates; Roy should get up and help, but it feels like he’s rooted to the chair.  “You’re much too good to me.”

Ed grins at him, bright and delighted, and Roy knows that his laziness is forgiven, at least for now.  “You’re damn right I am.  Don’t you fuckin’ forget it.”

Roy puts an elbow on the tabletop and balances his chin on his hand, letting his eyelid slip low.  “I have a few ideas about how to balance the equivalent exchange.”

He thinks he can see a flush climbing the sides of Ed’s neck, and the way Ed refuses to turn around from the stove might as well be a signed confirmation of its presence.  “Jesus fuck, you get horny when I’m gone.”

“You’re damn right I do,” Roy says.  “Can you blame me?”

The blanket mound making him dinner shakes its golden head.  “I keep tryin’.  Never can.  You fuck up my logic like nothing else I’ve ever seen.”

“In its way,” Roy says, and a bit more honesty isn’t too much to muster when Ed is here at last, “I think that’s the highest compliment I’ve ever received.”

Ed darts a glare at him, red to the tips of his ears and impossibly adorable for it.  “Save your fat mouth for eating and sex, Mustang.”

“As you wish, my love,” Roy says, and he can’t help the little smirk that hijacks his grin at the tiny squeak noise that leaves Ed’s throat.




As soon as he’s eaten—Ed cleaned his own plate several minutes ago, of course—Roy snatches up all the dishes, dumps them in the sink, and takes Ed’s hands instead.  The automail is so bitterly cold even indoors that he understands the purpose of the glove.

“Well, then,” he says, sweeping his thumbs over the knuckles on both sides.  “Shall we see about your exchange?”

Ed’s right eyebrow arches, pulling the corner of his lips up with it until a flash of ivory shows.  “Aren’t you gonna regret this tomorrow when you’re half-asleep at work, and Major Hawkeye keeps looking at you and stroking her guns all meaningfully?”

“No,” Roy says, and that’s honest too.

Ed grips his hands, grinning wider, and makes a show of rolling his eyes.  “I can’t leave you alone for five fuckin’ minutes.”

“You can,” Roy says.  “Although I’d rather that you didn’t.”

That’s the dream, isn’t it?  That’s the whisper of an undying hope—to preoccupy the pole star just a little longer.  To convince him, somehow, that this time he should stay.

“Fuck’s sake,” Ed says.

“One of those syllables is very much to my liking,” Roy says.

Ed blinks wide, innocent eyes at him.  “‘Sake’?”

“Close enough,” Roy says.

Ed grins, cheekily, and Roy presses his advantage.

One-eyed or no, he can still move faster than almost any man alive—he has an arm around Ed’s waist and the bulk of Ed’s weight over his shoulder in the time it takes his quarry to react with a lot of scrabbling and a vociferous howl.  Ed’s instinctive reflexes used to best him almost every time, but he’s finding it easier to get the edge of late: either Ed is letting Roy win, or he’s letting his guard down.  Is it possible that he’s finally settled enough to sleep through the night?

Well—Roy can seek the answers to that query later on.  For now, the play-fighting—which it certainly is; no matter how vigorously Ed squirms, no metal strikes the side of Roy’s head, and none lands solidly in his gut, and if Ed wanted out of his grasp, he’d know—carries them all the way up the stairs, where Roy’s back sends up a prayer of gratitude as he deposits his extremely heavy, avidly-writhing charge onto the bed.

Ed’s hair bounces, and his chest heaves, and his grin curves wicked, and this should not be real.  This is a thousand, a million times more than Roy has ever deserved; this is more than he’s ever dared to want for longer than a fragment of a second; this is the sort of sublimity that sent poets up to mountain peaks to gaze up at the sky until the darkness came—

Funny, how the cold doesn’t seem to make the slightest difference when there’s a fever pounding through his every vessel, bright in every searing drop of blood—Roy climbs up over Ed, knees planted on either side of his perfect hips, and drags both hands slowly down his sides; every last damn rib is a blessing he never thought he’d get to touch.  All of this—he lost all of this not once, but twice, against a bloody sunset and above a city torn to smoking shreds—but here they are, and everything he’s suffered through to get here, every moment, is more than justified when Ed grins at him like he was worth the wait.

Philosophy aside, however, this particular occasion raises a slightly more pertinent concern:

“Good Lord,” he says, trying to sift through the layers of flannel and fleece.  “Are you sure you’re really under there?”

Ed’s laugh could save a lesser sinner all alone.  “Back the fuck up, Mustang—who the hell are you calling so small you drop a blanket on him, and he disappears?”

“Mmm,” Roy says, ducking to mouth upward along the lines of Ed’s beautiful throat, flicking the tip of his tongue against the jugular as he goes.  “I was thinking more along the lines of you fitting into the weave of the knit and slipping through the holes.”

Ed tries to look scandalized, but the laugh starts as a glimmer in his eyes and resonates down through his chest, and then it’s bubbling up from his lungs like fine champagne, and Roy could drink him in forever.

Roy fights his way through one long row of tiny shirt buttons—how in the world did Ed do these up with his metal hand?—only to be met with the thick gray cable-knit of another sweater underneath.

Ed’s grin broadens, and the mischief in his eyes is intoxicating.  “Told you,” he says.

“You did,” Roy says.  “Which doesn’t make it any less inconvenient.”  He slips his hands under Ed’s shoulder-blades, which is a unique sort of pleasure even with all of the innumerable articles of clothing in the way.  “Up—”

“Not your damn dog, Mustang,” Ed says, but there’s no venom in his voice, and he twists his torso in some inconceivable, too-mesmerizing way until he’s sitting upright, and he clasps his hands together at the back of Roy’s neck.  “Keep talking like that, and you’re gonna get bit.”

“Is that meant to deter me?” Roy asks.  For all his protests, Ed obligingly raises both arms as Roy starts peeling everything off of him, as fast as he can manage without endangering the world’s most indisputably beautiful hair or its single most precious face.  “It sounds rather appealing, to tell the truth.”

“You’re sick,” Ed says, slightly muffled by a particularly persistent swathe of fabric clinging to his frame.  Roy can’t exactly fault it for its priorities; if he was a sweater, he’d do the same.  “You’re lucky I like it.”

“I’m lucky in general,” Roy says, carefully tugging a collar loose from his ear.

Ed snickers.  “Pretty sure I’m the one in a general.”

Roy kisses butterfly-light at the ridges of his throat to make him wriggle.  “But I’m the one getting lucky.”

“Oh, lay off,” Ed says, fighting free of his woolly confines to give Roy a glare along with the patented pout this time.  “Like you’re not the most eligible bachelor in the entire fucking country right now.”

“You have an odd definition of the word ‘eligible’,” Roy says.  “And of the word ‘bachelor’.”

“You have an odd definition of the word ‘fuck me until I can’t fucking walk tomorrow, ’cause I don’t wanna go anywhere anyway, and Al won’t be here to judge me’,” Ed says, with another of those grins like a slice of moonlight.  “Here’s a hint—usually there’s a lot less talking and shit.”

Part of Roy would like to point out that the phrase in question is quite a bit more than a single word.  A significantly larger and more persuasive part of him just wants to follow the instruction.

“Also,” Ed says as Roy pushes him down onto his back, tangling the bulk of the fabric around his wrists and kissing down his breastbone so that his back arches like a longbow, “fuck you; my definition of ‘bachelor’ is perfectly fucking correct.  Unless you got married on me while I was gone, in which case you’re not gonna be a non-bachelor for long, anyway, ’cause you’re gonna be a corpse.”

“I see,” Roy says, despite the fact that all he can see from here is vast—well, not especially vast—expanses of beautiful skin nicked everywhere with pink and silver scars.  “I subscribe to a slightly looser understanding—”

“Yeah, I’d say you’re ‘slightly loose’,” Ed cuts in, but his attempts to free his hands from the mass of clothes and blankets do not succeed, so Roy wins that round.

Roy clears his throat, which makes Ed grin, and then nips right above Ed’s hipbone, which makes Ed moan softly and flush down to his collarbones.

“I define the word more as a matter of not being taken,” Roy says.  “Which… not being taken with someone; not being taken in and taken over; and given that I spectacularly fail at meeting those criteria, I don’t consider myself a bachelor in the least.”

Ed finally manages to extract his left hand, and he drapes his forearm over his eyes like Roy won’t see him smiling if he can’t see Roy.  “Oh, gross.  Fine time to take up semantics, Mustang.”

“You started it,” Roy says.

“I did not,” Ed says, and the full-bodied writhe he employs trying to wrench his automail hand out from the blankets obliterates any chance Roy had at a rebuttal, because his mind goes white.  “That’s more like it,” Ed says, sitting up again to fist both hands in the front of Roy’s uniform and drag him down onto the bed again.  “You’re about a thousand times cuter with your mouth shut.”

“Oh?” Roy says.  He leans in, lips parted, and slips his tongue in next to Ed’s, and Ed makes a noise that sounds rather a lot like concession.

He can’t, however, deny the appeal of dispensing with the conversations for a moment.

“Roll over,” he says when they draw back.

Ed gives him a look like he’s threatening one of Alphonse’s kittens with a blunt object.

“Poor choice of words,” Roy says.  “I meant—”

“No,” Ed says, “poor choice of tone.”  He scoots further up the foot of the bed and settles back, shrugging his shoulders in more comfortably against the nest of fabric Roy unearthed him from, and offering up a lazy smirk.  “If you wanna give me orders, give me orders.  Don’t half-ass it.”

“I have a better idea,” Roy says.

Ed’s eyebrow arches.

Roy grabs him by the beautiful hips and flips him over, earning a startled yelp and a breathtaking cascade of golden hair.  Before Ed can start struggling in earnest to get out from under him, Roy presses his right knee in between Ed’s legs and the knuckles of his right hand into the scar tissue right where it meets Ed’s shoulder-blade.

“Ohfuck,” Ed says—or, rather, gasps, and nothing fires sparks down Roy’s spine and kindles them to flaring in the pit of his stomach quite like that indescribably exquisite sound.

For the moment, though, he kneads at the knots in Ed’s back with as much strength as he can leverage, drawing forth a series of progressively louder, more emphatic, and more pornographic groans punctuated by the occasional high, desperate whimper.  Slowly, he starts to shift his knee to rub in time with the hardest pressure of the massage.

“You’re—” Ed’s breath hitches, catches, shudders free.  “You’re—r-right—”

“Mm?” Roy asks, leaning down, parting Ed’s hair over the back of that beautiful neck, brushing his lips over the upper ridges of vertebrae.

“Th—” Ed tries to clear his throat, makes a weak noise, and then makes a distressed noise about the weakness.  “This—is—”

“Yes?” Roy breathes into his hairline.

“A f-fucking great idea—” He grits his teeth audibly, swallowing most—but not all—of a soft cry as Roy grinds his knuckles and his knee in simultaneously.  “—you… bastard.”

“That’s a high compliment,” Roy says, keeping his voice as light and casual as he can bear even as his guts roil and his groin throbs and his head whirls with the sheer proximity of Ed, with the sheer potential of where they are; “coming from you.”

“Fuckin’—hell, Roy—” Ed buries his face in the blankets, both feet scrabbling for purchase on the sheets; Roy sets his free hand on the back of his waist to pin him down.  “You could talk ’til f-fuckin’ Doomsday and still be standing there like, ‘And another thing.’”

“Likely verbatim,” Roy says, dragging just his fingertips down over the curve of Ed’s ass.  It is, without a doubt, the loveliest he has ever laid eyes on—and he’s examined perhaps more than his share.  “I imagine I’d have quite a few protests on that particular occasion.”

A dry, desperate sob of a breath jars out of Ed’s chest, half-muffled in the blankets.  “Enough fucking teasing, Roy; come on; s’been seven fucking weeks in a climate too cold to take care’f myself without thinking I’ll get fucking frostbite—”

Roy bends to set his mouth against the side of Ed’s neck, silken hair slithering as Ed’s shoulders stiffen, as the muscles of his back ripple under Roy’s hands, as his heartbeat hammers against Roy’s lips—

“Hush,” Roy says, and his voice stays softer than the mattress underneath, but it is unmistakably a command.

He can hear Ed swallowing hard, and the writhing body beneath his stills but for one last twitch and one more shaking breath.

“On your knees,” he says, and the tail end of a gasp escapes Ed’s throat; Roy eases off to kneel over his ankles as he hikes himself up onto his knees and his elbows, body arcing up to meet Roy’s fingertips when they run feather-lightly through a segment of gold hair and then trace down Ed’s spine all the way to his tailbone, where Roy… stops.  “Arm out,” he says.

Instantly, Ed extends his left arm straighter than a rod.  God, that’s good; God, that feels like… Getting that response, that immediate obedience, from the searing comet of stubborn brilliance that is Edward Elric—it’s like learning flame alchemy all over again, to have that much control over such raw power and potential—

And in the realm of the less philosophical and rather more physical, Roy will gladly die before he passes up an opportunity to smack that incredible ass with the flat of his hand.

“The other arm,” he says, letting just a trace of a growl into his voice.

Ed whines softly—a noise of instinct, a primal noise, resonating in the back of his throat and rattling free.  He props himself up on his left arm and carefully unfolds the right, stretching it out slowly.  The metal gleams, and if Roy’s not mistaken, the fingertips are trembling just a touch.  Cold radiates steadily off the steel, which is… the whole point, really.

Roy leans in close to breathe into Ed’s ear.

“Don’t move,” he says.  “Do you trust me?”

Ed presses his face into his forearm, and the curtain of smooth hair hides his expression, but the choked intensity of his voice is enough.  “You know I f-fucking do.”

Roy kisses the shell of his ear, the back of his neck, the largest ribbed scar on his left shoulder.  He stretches over to reach into the nightstand drawer for two objects—the first he drops to the blankets for now; Ed’s eyes must dart to it; the muscles of his back jolt and then somehow tighten even more.

But the lubricant can wait.  At the moment, Roy’s pulling on his glove.

“Stay absolutely still,” he says.  “You hear me?”

Ed nods without lifting his head, and Roy sweeps his hair meticulously out of the way, guiding it down over the safer shoulder, carding his fingers through.

Then he aligns his body with Ed’s, sets his gloved hand directly above the innermost edge of the automail, and snaps his fingers once.

Flame engulfs Ed’s automail arm down to the tips of the fingers—a flash of bright gold fire to match his eyes; too cool to melt any wires beneath the casing, too cool to singe the metal, too cool to hurt him in any way that Roy can think of.  With a single delicate twirl down the shining metal, the wisps of flame are gone again, like they never were—just enough heat and just enough time to warm the steel, to smother the chill that had been seeping from it to spread in gooseflesh ripples down Ed’s side.

“Oh, fuck,” Ed says, voice so tight and low and rough that Roy’s guts seize in answer—but there’s no pain in it.  For once, for a change, he’s done something good with the curse he’ll wear as a mantle until he dies.

Ed’s twisting over, grabbing the front of his uniform with both hands, tearing the catches loose—

“You bastard,” he says.  “You know alchemy gets me so fucking hot—”

“Believe it or not,” Roy says, catching his right wrist—warm still, but not nearly enough to burn him, or to endanger Ed’s skin where the metal joins—and holding it aside before it shreds the hard-earned medals, scrabbling like that.  “That wasn’t my primary motivation, unless you mean it entirely literally.”

Ed rolls his eyes, left hand battling avidly with Roy’s shirt buttons, but his breathing hasn’t slowed.  “You know what I fucking mean.”

“Mm,” Roy says, leaning in to mouth under his ear, exhaling deliberately on the damp trails, cherishing the way Ed’s jaw clenches under the ministrations; “and you know that I only provoke you because you’re so beautiful when you’re mad.”

“You’re a fucking dick,” Ed says, somewhat belied by the enthusiasm with which he is kissing at Roy’s newly-revealed collarbones.

“I’ll show you a…” His voice vetoes the motion and fails before he can force it to make the sounds.  “…I can’t,” he manages.  “I can’t say it.  It’s too much.”

Ed laughs and shoves playfully at Roy’s chest—open-handed, with hardly any force; Roy knows full well that Ed could send him over the edge of the bed in one move without breaking a sweat.  “You suck.”

“Happy to do that as well,” Roy says.  “Would y—”

“You’re so distractible,” Ed says, snatching Roy’s shirt again and returning to the last of the buttons blocking his way.  “No fuckin’ wonder Major Hawkeye’s always on your ass.”

“Shall I get on your ass?” Roy asks.  Ed tries to swallow another laugh—Roy can see it jittering in his chest—only for the remnants of it to emerge as a snort.  “Besides, ‘distractible’ isn’t a word.  I looked it up on a particularly offensive occasion when Maes accused me of having the attention span of a sick gnat, as well as several other choice strains of libel—”

“You would,” Ed says.  He slings his lithe body so fast sometimes Roy can barely even see it move—his legs shift out sideways and then beneath him, and he rises up to his knees to push the uniform jacket from Roy’s shoulders as one heavy tangle of wool.  His hands dart almost compulsively up over the exposed skin of Roy’s stomach, his chest, his throat; then down again, fingertips sliding back and forth along the lines of his ribs.  His softer set of fingertips creeps back up to the thick white mark cocked like a crooked grin just above Roy’s left collarbone.  “Still pissed about this one.”

“I’m not,” Roy says.  “By all rights, I shouldn’t have survived.”

“No rights about it,” Ed mutters.  His gaze flicks to the eyepatch.  “Don’t even get me started on that shit.”  He growls low in his throat, and sparks trill from the back of Roy’s neck all the way to the base of his spine.  “Fuck me.”

“A fine idea,” Roy says.

Ed’s eyes widen—if he wasn’t fighting hard to suppress his viciously effective defensive instincts every time his adrenaline surges inside the walls of this house, Roy would be a man-shaped pile of thoroughly-beaten pulp by now, and the extra quarter-second while he forces himself to hesitate is the only reason Roy can ever press his advantage.

He thinks too, sometimes, that a part of Ed may just like losing, when it’s safe.

In any case, Roy isn’t going to pass up this precious fraction of a moment—he catches Ed’s gorgeous hips in both hands, levies his weight, and tosses Ed up further towards the head of the bed.

The twice-over savior of all known universes, who has (so Alphonse says; Ed’s given no indication but a few bouts of half-coherent babbling when the last cobwebby threads of the nightmare haven’t torn away) died twice and come back kicking, tumbles glorious ass over metaphorical teakettle and yelps loudly as he lands.

“Fuckin’ warn me before you do that!” he howls, flailing an arm out to grasp the headboard as he tries to right himself.

Roy’s on him, and no amount of damage to his depth perception could keep him from tugging the glove off with his teeth—Ed’s breath hitches again—and then fixing his hands on the fly of Ed’s extremely fetching slate-gray trousers.  “Where’s the fun in that?”

Ed snarls, but he’s not exactly pulling away.  “Fun for who?”

“For whom,” Roy says.

“Fuck your shit!”

“It’s just grammar, my dear heart.”

“Fuck your grammar!”

“Please accept my sincerest apologies for any and all implications of condescension,” Roy says.

Ed glares down at Roy, although the flush high in his cheeks makes it evident that he hasn’t failed to notice that Roy has parted the fly of his trousers and is pausing with parted lips a grand total of three inches away from his fairly evident erection.

“Less talk,” Ed says, “more acti… awwfuck—”

Roy wraps his mouth around Ed’s rapidly hardening cock and tries not to grin as he feels Ed’s blood sing in answer—is there anything on this planet, in this life, quite as satisfying as weakening the mismatched knees of a younger lover in the warm safety of one’s own bed?  The fabric in the way is a distraction, however; he draws back long enough to hook all of his fingers into the elastic of Ed’s waistband, and he drags both trousers and underwear down to the knees in question and then off altogether, pitching them over the side of the bed without a second glance.  A faint, cataclysmically needy whine slithers out of Ed’s throat, and he tilts his head back, hips jerking, at the sudden chill and the deprivation both.  Roy doesn’t have the heart to leave him like that—or the balls, really; his are already aching; the heat and pressure are getting to be unbearable, and every hitch of Ed’s hips makes it worse.

He digs his fingers into Ed’s thighs and lowers his head again, sneaking glances at Ed’s face up through his hair as he lathes and favors slowly, slowly, so deliberately that the groan in Ed’s throat shakes violently on its way out.

Ed’s metal fingers curl into his hair and grip so hard that his scalp stings—and then the fist loosens slightly, at the same moment that Ed looses a ragged breath; the pain dulls to a gentle prickling that’s actually rather pleasant, if you’re of the sick sort of mind that Roy has been for as long as he can recall.  That doesn’t mean he can let that gesture go unaddressed—he drags one hand up Ed’s skin to the crease of his thigh and smoothes the other underneath until he reaches the back of the automail knee, using the leverage to hike it over his shoulder and hold it there.  Ed’s heel swings against his bare back—frigidly cold—and the fingers tighten in his hair until he can hear the knuckles creak.

“Fuck’s sake, Roy,” Ed forces out.  “Y-you always gonna welcome me home like this?”

Roy would cut his heart out and serve it with caviar if Ed called it home every time.

He draws back to respond, running the pad of his thumb up the underside of Ed’s slick, straining cock to ameliorate the loss of heat and friction, although Ed chokes on a soft sigh all the same.

“Yes,” he says.  “Unless I can think of something better.”

Ed grins at him, cheeks stained, hair wildly scattered, flyaways sticking in the slight gleam of sweat across his forehead.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” he says.

After all the things he learned and gleaned and fought through in that other place, on the other side—all the scraps and morsels of languages Roy’s tongue can’t even fathom, muttered out the corner of his mouth at Al; all the scars and welts and the stories buried silent underneath them; all the newer, deeper shadows in his eyes; all the long, long hesitations at the precipice every time Roy offered up a fraction of himself in hopes of an equivalent exchange—

How is it possible that he doesn’t know better?

Coming back once, Roy could understand—back to this world, back to friends and family and the bright-lit magic that’s always made him whole; back to the unspoken, unplumbed potential of the static lightning every time their breath met in the air.

But once the forks of electricity had left their tracks and tendrils burnt into his skin—once he’d sifted through the rubble for the remains of the man who used to be Roy Mustang; once he’d turned up the relics of a life that could have mattered

Why in the hell does he come back now?

These are the iron-clad questions, crossing and crisscrossing into latticeworks and fine-wrought gates, that bar Roy’s brain from sleeping, most nights—these and the others, the more familiar, the comfortably cruel and recognizable.  These and the endless clumps of bloodstained sand.

Ed is a young god in his element, older and wiser and more beautiful than ever, smarter by some miracle, and significantly more sedate.  Anyone with a thought in their head and a modicum of good taste would drop to their knees for a chance at what Roy’s claiming here.

Certainly, he was appealing once—before the crimping white hairs, before the crow-foot lines at the edges of his solitary eye.  Before his life slipped from his grasp, and the whole world flooded past him, and he drowned in snowdrifts daily but somehow didn’t quite elect to die.

But he’s always been putrid at the core—always been rank, fragmented, and past salvation—and Ed’s never put much stock into appearances or pretty little lies.

That’s part of what makes this so damned important—so much more than just sex, even sex with someone he loves more than mere words can hope to encapsulate.  Ed doesn’t trust what he sees anymore, after monsters with familiar faces and heaven knows what hells in the other place—and he’s never cared to listen to poetry or promises or any of the tripe.

He trusts what he feels.  This is the best, the truest way to worship him.

Ed tries to disentangle his hand from Roy’s hair, but one of the knuckles snags.  He’s grinning again.  He doesn’t have the slightest idea what his smile is capable of.

“What?” he asks.  “What are you getting hung up on?”

“You,” Roy says.  “More specifically, how devastatingly beautiful you are.”

The flush staging a slow coup of his skin deepens.  “Oh, shut it.  And fuck me.  Like, now.”

“Difficult to argue with that,” Roy says, trailing his fingertips over Ed’s hipbones, up his sides.

“Yeah,” Ed says.  “You’re probably gonna try anyw—hmmm.”

One of Roy’s many prided talents has, historically, been kissing fast and hard and well and thoroughly, and he doesn’t seem to have lost his touch.  Ed finally works the automail loose from Roy’s hair and cups it under his jaw instead—the metal’s cool, but the icy bite is gone from the steel, and it’s a pleasant contrast now to the heat of the air between them.

The transcendent pleasure of meeting Ed’s mouth merits volumes of poetry, but Roy can never find sufficient words.  Ed’s incredible at this, of course; he’s incredible at everything; he kisses single-mindedly, wholeheartedly, with everything that’s in him; tongue, teeth, cold-cracked lips, and so much of his soul in every last damn gasped-out breath—

Roy grasps his hips and drags him down away from the headboard, thrilling in the way his hair spills out behind him all over again, liquid gold flowing loose—Ed’s startlement segues into a twist of a hungry grin, and he hooks both legs around the small of Roy’s back, crossing his ankles to lock the two of them in position.

“You know I like it when you get aggressive?” he asks.

“The thought had occurred to me,” Roy says.  His hands never listen to his brain where Ed’s involved; they’re roving up and down without his permission, smoothing over skin and bone and all the exquisite muscle shifting underneath; perhaps he needs to know, to prove, that this is real, after all those years of hollow wanting, to assuage the self-consuming void that he became.  It’s amusing, in its way, that his famous willpower fails so utterly when faced with Ed and Ed alone.

Ed’s grin is bright and mischievous and unrepentant.  “You’re pullin’ out all the stops tonight, aren’t you?  Alchemy, the alpha male shit—”

“If you don’t like it,” Roy says, running his hands up the backs of Ed’s thighs and over the indescribably luscious curve of his ass, “stop me.”

Ed arches his back and bites down hard on his bottom lip, eyes fluttering closed, and God— “Never said th-that.  Never said a-anything like… that.”

Roy kisses his knees in turn, murmuring into the skin of the right, “Forgive me.”

Ed’s shoulders roll; his hair shimmers as he turns his head, throat working.  “What I d-did say was—”

“Fuck you, ‘like, now’,” Roy says.  “I remember.”

Ed laughs breathlessly, chest jumping, left hand snatching for fistful of Roy’s hair and then smoothing it out again just as quickly.  “You are so f-fucking contrary I dunno how you survive.”

That’s rather simple—Roy survives for moments like this.  For the chance to look at Edward Elric, sprawled out and riled up and waiting for him to deliver satisfaction in due time.

Or in extremely overdue time, most likely, the way Ed sees it.

Roy reaches back for the abandoned tube of lubricant he retrieved from the nightstand with the glove and then flung aside.

“Are you ready?” he asks, leaning in to drag his mouth up along Ed’s jawline, wanting to taste his answer; needing to know, down to the bones and the blood and the high note of a heartbeat—

“Fucking yes already,” Ed says, rather cavalierly ignoring gravity long enough to writhe up and nip Roy’s ear.  “You and your fucking foreplay fetish, I swear; we could’ve done it four times by now—”

“Four seems a bit steep,” Roy says.  “No more than three and three-quarters, surely.”

Ed presses his lips together, trying to scowl instead of laughing.  He is always too beautiful to make sense in this miserable universe, but never more than when he’s high on endorphins and tangling his warm body tightly around Roy’s.

“Yes, darling,” Roy says to the unspoken command, kissing the tip of Ed’s nose to drive the endearment home.  He’s never claimed to be anything other than a bastard, after all.

As Ed starts grinding his teeth on the coarse beginnings of his pet name rant, Roy uncaps the tube and slicks his fingers thoroughly, committing his full attention to the process—other than the mandatory portion of it still and always dedicated to Ed, which alerts him to the way the prospective tirade dies instantly on Ed’s faint out-breath.

In the name of getting on with it—in order to get off; isn’t language grand?—Roy meets Ed’s eyes as best he can with one alone and grazes his first fingertip down Ed’s perineum to his entrance.  Both sets of Ed’s toes curl against Roy’s back, and Ed catches his lower lip between his teeth, and is there anything in the immense potential of a human lifetime that can measure up to this?

Roy’s whole circulatory system seems to contract as he pushes his fingertip in—wet heat and tight muscle and the promise of so much magnificence to come; there are tiny preemptive sparks in his stomach, seething upward, tingling in his lungs, tickling his heart, as though it needs to jump faster, as though it can stand to.  His hands aren’t unsteady; it’s the rest of the world that’s shaking around him.

“Relax,” he says.

“I fucking know,” Ed says, jaw clenched.  “S’just been fucking forever—”

Roy has had some time to commune with the concept of eternity.  Seven weeks doesn’t even cast a shadow on the wall.

“Relax,” he says again, softer, lower, but with that specific undertone of absolute authority that always makes Ed’s pupils dilate instantly until they’ve almost blotted out the gold.

Fuck,” Ed gasps out, right on cue, fingers twitching on the sheets, and then he fixes his bottom lip between his teeth again and bites down hard.  He squeezes his eyes shut, sweat beading on his forehead, shimmering on his jawline; his throat works, his eyelashes quiver, his hands curl—

He breathes out, slowly, and his body sinks back onto the bed, and it’s still indescribable—the slick tight-heat around Roy’s fingertips, the dizzyingly tantalizing promise of what’s to follow—but there’s a little more give, a little less pulsing desperation, and he presses his finger gently deeper, further, in—

“Missed you,” Ed whispers.  It’s almost unvoiced, almost indistinguishable, almost possible for Roy to think he’s merely imagined—almost possible to ignore.

“And I you,” he says, leaning in to murmur it into the skin of Ed’s throat, drawing his mouth up to the tender skin beneath Ed’s ear, kissing the lobe, nipping the shell.  “More than there are words for.”

Ed writhes underneath him, both hands latching onto his shirt buttons again, and he finds that he hardly cares if this particular piece of clothing gets destroyed.  In fact, he wouldn’t mind framing the shreds up on his wall—Yes, hello, welcome to my lovely home; oh, that, above the couch?  Yes, that’s documented proof that I fuck Edward Elric on the regular.  Would you like to see the kitchen?

“S-somehow I get the feeling,” Ed grinds out, “that that’s still not gonna shut you u—fuck, Roy—”

There are many, many advantages to having a long-term lover as staggeringly beautiful and shamelessly vocal as Edward.  One of them is that Roy knows—as a matter of mathematical angles and measured distance; and in his guts and his blood and his bones—exactly how high to lift Ed’s hips off of the mattress, and exactly how far to plunge his finger in.  Ed’s body convulses as he crooks it, straightens it, soothes, caresses, pushes hard

F-fuck’s s-s-sake—”

If Roy believed in anything, this is how he’d pray.

Linen rips at what feels like the seam, and Ed laughs breathlessly as buttons rain down on his chest.

“S-sorry—”

Roy licks across Ed’s collarbone and down the line of pink-pale scarring at the automail join.  “I’m not.”

He gives his finger another twist to prove it, and Ed’s head drops back; wisps and flyaways cling to the sweat at his hairline, tangling against each other, darkened from bright gold to a warm honey brown.  His body undulates off the bed, and he jerks his hips against Roy’s hand, striving for more pressure, more depth, more heat—

That’s a noble quest if Roy’s ever seen one.

He draws his hand back, slicks his second finger again—Ed’s always so damn greedy for it, when they’re like this, melting at the edges in the safety of the sheets, but the last reserves of Roy’s well-touted self-control won’t let him indulge the impulse to forget the caution and just take.

That said, it would require a rather stronger man than he to resist the impulse to drag his tongue up Ed’s gorgeous cock when the boy arches his back at the loss of the sensation and scrabbles for purchase with both heels.

The sound that trembles out of Ed’s throat combines the best parts of laughter and a moan.  “God, you fucking t-tease—”

“Guilty as charged,” Roy says.

But he drives his fingers in harder this time, which is perhaps the single most wonderful apology he’s ever had to make.

He pumps and presses with two until Ed’s whimpers almost break to sobs, and then he adds a third, and then—

Twin slivers of yellow, and a flash of a grin.

“C’mon, Mustang,” Ed gets out, breath hitching, chest heaving, hair spilled out—grander than any halo, any aura, anything.  “You gonna do it or not, General?”

The brat knows all his weak points—every soreness, every fault, every messy-knitted scar—and targets with no mercy.  Someday Roy might just muster the audacity to complain.

But not tonight.

Tonight he shoves his trousers down with all of the dexterity he has left, cups one hand under Ed’s incomparable ass to lift his hips, and lines them up—and—

God

If burying himself to the hilt in another human being has ever felt this good, let him be struck down the second that this ends—

On second thought, let this never end.

Ed spits a few more curses; shuddering on their heels is another laugh.  He wraps his left hand around the back of Roy’s neck, curls the right arm around the small of Roy’s back—and the cool metal against the hot sweat with the linen of his shirt between is transcendent, is transformative

Ed’s mouth drags up Roy’s jaw.  “So f-fucking—good—”

“I know you are,” Roy says.

Ed’s fingers twist into his hair and tug gently.  “B-bastard—”

“And to think,” Roy says, “all yours.”

Ed draws back just far enough to glower at him.  “Th-think about that a damn fucking lot, ac—” Roy rolls his hips; Ed’s eyelids flutter.  “…tual… ly.”

Roy leans in to kiss the gasp off of his lips, but Ed’s grip on his hair tightens, holding him back.

“Hang on,” Ed gets out.  “Haven’t seen you in seven fucking weeks; I wanna see you.”

Perhaps it should be unsettling, to understand so well—to know what that means well before Ed’s metal hand clasps a tighter fistful of his shirt; well before the softer fingers shake themselves free of his hair and slide up underneath the bottom edge of the eyepatch; well before light little fingertips dapple upward over the wreck of Roy’s tortured eye socket and then draw the whole patch off over his head; well before Ed half-folds it and sets it on the nightstand like it’s just another object, useful but without significance, like it doesn’t matter, not in any way that counts—

“Better,” Ed says, and he wraps his legs around Roy’s hips and crosses his ankles, and his toes curl against Roy’s back as he shifts—which, incidentally, sends spears of searing pleasure up Roy’s spine, and volcanic heat courses through to every last damn capillary in his frame.

Then Ed twists up and kisses over the snarled web of white where the eye used to be.

“Okay,” he says, dropping to the bed again, snapping his hips up with a wolfish grin as he goes.  “Now you can fuck me ’til I scream.”

Roy’s mouth goes slightly dry—which makes it a profitable opportunity to lick his lips, so in the end he counts it as a victory.

“I’d be delighted,” he says.

“I bet you would,” Ed says, and he snickers at Roy’s scowl.

But not for long.

Is it strange, given how they began?  Is it strange, when their interactions once revolved around snarling anger and bottomless frustration, when they both struck as viciously as they were able as a smokescreen for the instinctive trust—is it strange that now they move together like two halves of one being?  Is it strange that they exist now in perfect complement, down to the last gouged mark, scars matching up like mirror images on their skin?

And move they do—slow at first, savoring every twinge of muscle, every surge of swelling joy—every spike of ecstasy shudders through the pair of them, almost at once—blood beating, breath mingling, sweat mixing, hips crashing, hearts slamming, hands roving, every nerve down to the fingertips alight

Roy’s whole body throbs like one open wound—but so beautiful, so fucking sweet—and Ed’s fingers dig into his shoulders, scrabbling, as he angles towards Ed’s prostate and drives hard

The gasp tearing out of Ed rattles through both of them—gale-force, lightning-bright, illuminating.  “Holyfuckingshit—Roy—”

Even if Roy wasn’t several worlds away from coherence, he doesn’t think there’s really much of an answer to that—except the one word, the most important that perhaps he’s ever uttered.

He buries his face in Ed’s sweat-matted hair and breathes deep.

“Edward,” he says.

Fuck,” Ed says again—Roy used to fear he’d tire of that syllable, of the sharpness, of all the little casual obscenities, but like everything else, they just feel reassuring these days.  “H-hang on—”

There’s no time to wonder before Ed’s tightening his legs around Roy’s waist—God, the twitch of the muscles in his thighs against Roy’s hips; no heaven another man’s imagined could live up to this—and using his weight to flip them over in one swift motion.

Edward Elric is stunning from any angle, in any light, with any twist of feeling on his features, but this Ed—lit faintly from behind, hair spilt loose and nearly glowing, fixed above him with both palms planted on Roy’s chest, cheeks flushed, eyes bright, laughing breathlessly—might just be Roy’s single favorite permutation.

Ed leans down, pressing their foreheads together, and threads the fingers of his left hand into Roy’s hair.  He closes his eyes, and he smiles, and he rolls his hips so slow.

When Roy hisses through clenched teeth and tries to buck out from underneath him, Ed laughs, sits back, and jolts his hips down once—just once, just a split-second of mind-splintering perfection—and then folds his body down to bite Roy’s bottom lip, worrying it between his teeth before drawing himself up again with a smirk Roy never should have taught him how to make his own.

“Brat,” Roy fights out.

“Bastard,” Ed says, and it leaves his lips sounding like a benediction.

Roy puts both hands on his waist, pulling him down and arching up to meet him, and Ed chokes on the next smartass remark.  He flashes the second most devastating of all his grins—lesser only than the one that doesn’t touch the corners of his eyes, that leaves the cold and sadness curling in them even as he forces out the smile—and hitches his body in closer, closer, tighter-hotter-better into Roy’s—

“All right,” he says.

But it’s so, so, so much more than that.

Roy’s guts twist; his blood races—Ed’s hands skate up either side of his ribcage, cool-warm; Roy fists one hand in the silk trailing down his shoulder-blades, tugs to tilt Ed’s head back, licks up the lines of sweat collecting on the ridges of his throat—

Ed moves like a wave, like a snake, like the breath of God, like a ripple of absolution—his back arches, his knees shift, his fingers flicker down over Roy’s chest; he presses forward, rocks back, folds in until their collarbones meet, swings his weight back again, somehow sinking lower still on Roy’s cock—

Roy claws his fingers deeper into Ed’s hair, hauls him down to crush their mouths together, tastes the back of Ed’s tongue, swallows down the noise of need

He fits his other hand into the narrow space between them and curls his fingers around Ed’s cock, tunnels them, strokes once, twice—

The supernova in him starts as starlight—pale warm, expanding; blazing red; then searing white; then—

“Shit,” Ed chokes out.

Roy tightens his grip just slightly, and the veins pulse underneath his fingertips—wet heat splatters between them, and that oughtn’t—

Should that seem hopelessly intimate—immensely erotic, indescribable, overpowering—?

Ed nestles his face into the side of Roy’s neck, whimpers, jimmies his hips in hard—his body tightens, and the single hard, heavy shiver that runs through him shakes Roy’s spine from end to end, and—

Oh

It takes Roy several moments of focused concentration to blink the lights out of his eyes.  Ed huffs half a laugh, climbs off of him, wobbles, glares at his own wrist like it’s betrayed his trust, and drops down on the bed.  He stretches out on his back and cycles his right shoulder, then the left.  Roy gravitates towards the warmth.

Silence reigns for a long moment before the fizzing contentment coalesces into a rumble in his chest.

“Mmm,” he says.  There is no better cradle in the world for his face than Ed’s bicep on one side and a down pillow on the other.

“Hey,” Ed says, prodding at his shoulder with his automail index finger.  “No sleeping.”

“Slave-driver,” Roy says.

“Can it,” Ed says.  “You and I both know you always bitch the next morning if we fall asleep with fluids and shit everywhere.  And I can still feel the fucking train grime, so—c’mon.”

“You let me have sex with you while you were still train-grimy?” Roy mumbles.  “Shame.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Ed says.  “I would’ve showered when I got in, but I wanted to jump your bones the second you finally dragged your fine ass through the door.”

There’s a glow in Roy’s chest that is less ego than insurmountable love—although there is a bit of both.

“You’re forgiven,” he says.

“Good,” Ed says.  “Come on, you lazy bastard.  I’ll let you wash my hair.”

Roy forces his heavy eyelids up again.  “Good heavens.  Why didn’t you say so?”

“’Cause you never pull out the artillery ’til after the little guns misfire,” Ed says.  He shouldn’t know that; shouldn’t think like that—he shouldn’t have to.  Roy reaches out to stroke a fingertip along the crescents underneath his eyes.  “So—shower.”

“Shower,” Roy says.  “You may have to carry me.”

“Well,” Ed says, “you got me up the stairs.  Equivalent exchange.”

“I love you,” Roy says.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Ed says.  “I just told you—equivalent exchange.”

If snow falls forever on Central City, Roy hardly cares; with Edward’s smile back in it, the world will never look bleak again.

Roy reaches out to smooth a wayward lock of damp gold hair back into place.  “I should have known.”

“Yeah,” Ed says.  “You should’ve.  ’Cause it ain’t about to change.”

“You have such a gift for phrasing.”

“Fuck you.”

“I believe you just did,” Roy says.  “I thought it was wonderful.”

Ed rolls his eyes so hard that Roy’s remaining one aches sympathetically.

“All right, Mustang,” Ed says, squirming towards the edge of the bed, stepping down, and reaching back with both hands.  “Shower.  Then sleep.  Then we kick tomorrow’s sorry ass.”

Roy has relied on his talent for an iron-fisted control of his own expressions his entire life—a poker game played out every moment of every day, with the stakes higher than most men can imagine.

But when it comes to Ed—and it always comes to Ed; the roads all lead back home—he simply can’t stop himself from smiling back.

He takes the offered hands and holds on tight.

“That sounds like an excellent plan,” he says.