Vitamin C (tierfal) wrote in tierfallen,
Vitamin C

FMA -- Mistaken (Part V)

Title: Mistaken
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Pairing: Roy/Ed
Rating: R
Word Count: 22,500 (6,100 this part)
Warnings: major spoilers for '03/CoS; language; a bit of violence (unimpressive next to canon); adults behaving irresponsibly (including alcohol use); naughty stuff to come
Summary: It is a telling and terrible reflection on Roy's life that the kidnapping is not the worst thing that's happened this week.
Author's Note: I love how none of you were even a little bit worried about Roy's survival, 'cause you know I wouldn't do that to you guys. :') Anyway – thank you so much for reading. ♥ You guys are so much better to me than I deserve! ;__;

[Part V]

“Hang on,” Ed says.

He’s on his feet and ghosting towards the window, slight and soundless, before Roy has the chance to do much more than blink.  Then again, there isn’t much more he can do than blink, so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing.

He’s lying at a lucky angle—he doesn’t have to lift his head to watch Ed peering through a crack between two planks, both hands hovering centimeters away from the wood like he might have to pry it away at any moment.  His shoulders are so tight Roy thinks of kissing them—kneading with both hands and tracing with his mouth down around the sharp bones outlining his left shoulder blade, and the elegant curve of the metal on the right—until their owner can’t help relaxing.

Tragically, it would be a very ill-fitting time to voice that thought.  Less-tragically, Ed’s shoulders drop regardless, and he releases a breath, half-turns, and says only “About time” before heading for the door.

Unlike the window, Roy’s angle on the door is abysmal verging on nonexistent, so he can’t watch Ed letting himself back out, but Roy, and so many others, have trusted Ed with so much more than this.  Roy would trust Ed to choose the fate of the world at large.

The good news is that Ed returns, Riza in tow, before Roy can wander too far down that particularly melodramatic passageway of thought.  Riza looks like she just rolled out of bed, which is probably because she almost certainly did.  A delicate sound of clicking on the concrete reveals that Hayate isn’t far behind.

Riza does not gasp, or grimace, or lose a shade of color when she sees the wound.  She doesn’t have to: Roy has known her too long not to detect the flicker of it in her eyes before she nods once, sharply, to Ed.

“Can you—”

“Yeah,” Ed says, darting around to the head of the workbench—or what has become the head since Roy lay down on it and appointed it with a direction—and sliding his hands under Roy’s shoulders.

“Excuse me,” Roy says.  “I wasn’t shot in the legs; I can—”

“No,” Ed and Riza say in terrifying unison.

“Dumbass,” Ed adds, so at least that’s something.  He hooks his hands under Roy’s arms, takes and releases a deep breath, and then says, “Ready when you are.”

Roy has only the thinnest, frailest, skin-of-his-teeth sort of claim to dignity, but damn it, he’s not going to cede the scraps without a fight.  “This is really not nec—”

Starting to sit up makes his head lurch—wild and harsh and sickening, a heave like tipping over the edge of the universe, and starspots flit across his vision, blinking and dancing and then disappearing, replaced by others in different shades of gold and gray—

“Don’t you fucking dare, Mustang!” says a distant voice that sounds like Ed.

“Seconded,” a distant voice like Riza’s says.

“Ah,” Roy says, brilliantly.

“One,” Riza says; “two, and—”

She has his ankles; Ed has his torso, which is fitting, isn’t it?  She’s always been his foundation; Ed’s been the owner of his pathetic excuse for a heart for so many years now that the habit barely hurts.

His brain thinks that his whole body’s dropping again—like his consciousness just boarded an elevator, and someone sliced the cable clean through—as Ed and Riza lift him, and the light sways further from him, and he scrambles to reach for the last, trailing tail of his intellect as the darkness compresses—

Damn it,” Ed says.

And the dark wins.

He doesn’t have the slightest bit of an idea how much later it is when his eyes agree to open again.  He’s in a car; either the roar of the average engine has doubled in volume since the last time he lounged artfully in the backseat, or it just sounds louder when you’re lying down like this, head close to the door.

Much more pertinently, however, he’s lying with his head in Ed’s lap.  He wouldn’t have bet the farm on his ability to identify Ed’s thighs solely by the way their contours meet the back of his neck, but a halo of gold is coming slowly into focus, and there is a colder than average and rather unyielding hand pressed to his still-throbbing wound.

The resonations of Ed’s voice in his chest from here sound… lovely, actually.  Very nearly divine.

The content of the sentence being spoken is somewhat less inspiring.

“He always try to die after he makes a promise?” Ed asks Riza, who is presumably the one conducting them at what feels like breakneck speed.

“Yes,” she says.

“I resent that,” Roy says.

“You can resent it all you like,” Riza says calmly, though from here Roy can hear that Ed’s breath catches.  “That doesn’t make it any less true.”

“It should,” he says.  “I haven’t been…” Ed’s face and the roof of the car start to swim, and he tries to take deeper breaths to keep the oxygen flowing.  “I haven’t been a blight on the face of the planet every day of my life.  There should be… some sort of an exchange… whereby my resentment makes a notable impact on the veracit—”

“How about you shut up and save your energy for surviving until we get to the fucking hospital?” Ed says.

Roy makes a valiant attempt at a grin.  “What fun would that be?”

“Stupid me,” Ed says.  “Here I was, thinkin’ we were trying to keep your dumb ass alive, when all along this was supposed to be about fun.  Can’t believe I fucked that up.”

Roy laughs.

Which hurts like hell.

He splits the difference by wincing in an amused sort of way.

“I’m sure there will be… plenty of time to keep my dumb ass alive later,” he says.

Ed just—looks at him.  Ed looks at him, and Ed’s eyes are so tired they should belong to a man four times his age.  It is a distinct, recognizable weariness—the kind that is only ever born behind all of one’s other expressions after watching one too many human beings cease to exist.

Ed reaches around to use his left hand to stroke Roy’s hair back from his forehead—awkwardly and tenderly in equal measure, in little uncertain pushes, as though he’s expecting poison, or to be scalded, or for all of it to disintegrate at a touch.

“Better be,” Ed says.  “Or I’m gonna track you right through the Gate to teach you a lesson.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you,” Roy says.

“Good,” Ed says.  “Then I guess we’re in agreement that you’re not allowed to kick the bucket.”

“Never intended to kick it,” Roy says.  He wants, very, very much, for Ed to stroke his hair again.  “Perhaps just… nudge it… a bit.  One toe.”

“Fuck your one toe,” Ed says.

Roy is… Roy has lost a lot of blood.

“That’s a strange fetish,” he says, “but I’ll try anything once.”

The car does not swerve a centimeter off-course, but he does hear Riza choke on her next breath, which—as far as her vocalizations go—is the rough equivalent of an extremely loud gasp.

Ed, similarly, is struggling with a laugh that’s wreaking chaos on his face as it battles the serious expression that was there before.

“Changed my mind,” he says.  “If you wanna be unconscious again for a while, that’s okay with me.”

“I don’t have to take orders from you,” Roy says, in—if he may flatter himself so much—a near-perfect impression of the specific intonations Ed always used.  To be fair, he’s had quite a bit of practice repeating them to other members of the team, as well as to the bathroom mirror; but to be even more fair, it’s been literally years since he trotted it out aloud.

Judging by the all-new contortions through which Ed’s face progresses, the sound rings a bell whether he likes it or not.

“In another second,” Ed says, “I’m gonna knock you unconscious myself.”

“Careful,” Roy says.  “If you start battles, you’re going to get the heavy artillery, and you’ll have no one else to blame.”

“Is that supposed to be a euphemism?” Ed asks.

Riza chokes a little bit again.  Then she says—quietly, but with such flawless elocution that each word is quite clear—“You two deserve each other.”

“Hey,” Ed says.  “I resent that.”

“Oh, no,” Roy says.  “My feelings.  This gunshot wound is nothing; my feelings are injured beyond rep—”

“At least it’s keeping him awake,” Riza says.

“Sure,” Ed says.  “But at what cost?”

“I’m right here,” Roy says.

“I noticed,” Ed says.  “On account of the blood all over my clothes, and your fat head pinning me to the seat here.”

“Are you hearing this?” Roy asks Riza.

“Sir,” she says, “with every iota of due respect, you did this to yourself.”

“I can’t believe this,” Roy says.  “Traitors everywhere.”

“Your life is just one tragedy after another,” Ed says.  “How much further is it?”

“With any luck,” Riza says, “and a few creative interpretations of traffic laws—about fifty seconds, give or take?”

“You’re the fucking best,” Ed says.

“Thank you,” Riza says.

“I’m still right here,” Roy says.

Ed’s grin gives him away a bit.  “Why do you think I said it?  I mean, other than because it’s true.”

“Traitors,” Roy says, rather weakly.  “A whole world full of them.  I don’t know how I survived this long.”

“Me neither,” Ed says.

But when Riza takes a corner at a slightly inadvisable speed, his arms tighten around Roy, and that…

That says a lot without saying anything out loud.

“You had some help,” Riza says, in a tone so pointedly earnest that it sounds slightly jarring coming from her mouth.  “Quite a lot, actually.  On a regular basis.”

“Yes, thank you,” Roy says.  The blood loss is impeding his ability to hit the perfect mix of dry, solemn, and sarcastic for the quarter-truth.  “I am painfully aware that I couldn’t last twenty minutes in a safehouse on my own.”

“Or in a cabin in perpetual blizzard conditions,” Riza says, cheerfully, because of course she understands.  She always does, which is precisely why it’s better that he stayed away for a while—stayed out of her way for a while.

“I always wonder about that,” Ed says.  He pushes gently at Roy’s shoulder.  “You can tell me the whole story while you’re lying in your hospital bed whining about how much you’re suffering.”

“The whole story would be very dull,” Roy says.  “I’ll tell you the version where I’ve added explosions and avalanches and a fight with a bear.  It’s much more your style.”

“Hell, yeah,” Ed says.  “Can’t wait.”

The insistent use of the future tense is indescribably sweet.  Roy is about to tell him so when Riza says “Hold tight” in a voice Roy is quite positive he doesn’t like.

In the end, she swerves far less than she could have done, and no one’s skull knocks against the inside of the door, and Ed only squeezes Roy a little bit too hard to prevent him from sliding across the backseat, and altogether it’s not nearly as traumatizing as it had the potential to be.

“Stay here,” Riza says, killing the engine before it feels like they’ve even stopped.  She flings the door open and starts to slide out, adding “I’ll have them bring a stretcher” in the last instant before Roy’s animal brain starts to panic that she’s abandoning him once and for all.

The door slams hard enough to rock the car, and then the silence settles all the more thickly in the moments after.

“Y’know,” Ed says.  “I’m not kidding around here.  I’ve got a lot more stuff I still need to give you shit about.”

“I see,” Roy says.  “Nice to know I have that to look forward to.”

“I’m saying ‘don’t die’,” Ed says.

“I know,” Roy says.  “I wasn’t planning to.  I have an assortment of unfinished business, after all.”

Ed half-smiles down at him, raising an eyebrow.  “Never heard that pet name before.”

“It’s a Roy Mustang original,” Roy says.  “I charge royalties if people use it.”

Ed smirks.  “Royalties, huh?”

Roy cannot comprehend the concept that anyone—let alone someone with soul-level similarities to him—could ever consider Ed second-best.

“You,” he says, “are absolutely the fi—”

Commotion outside crescendoes, and someone opens the door, and then Ed’s trying to shift Roy over closer to them without jarring the wound, and he will die before he lets doctors haul him out of this car by his ankles like an unruly cat—

The next few minutes are a dizzy, hazy blur fading in and out of blackness and back into ambient white lights.  At least he hasn’t seen any of them materialize at the end of a tunnel with a holy-sounding voice beckoning to him, followed by derisive laughter and a swift descent.

They hook him up to an intravenous drip of saline almost immediately, which he would appreciate much better if someone hadn’t shoved Ed out of the way in order to reach his right forearm.  Which reminds him—

“It’s broken,” he says.

“Don’t worry, Colonel,” the nurse says in a very soothing voice.  “Just a bit of—”

“I meant my wrist,” he says.

The flurry of activity around him increases yet again—a touch more harriedly, at that.  Ordinarily, Roy loves being the center of attention, but in a situation like this, he would really rather pass.

He sinks down into the dark intermittently a few more times before he surfaces in a hospital bed that seems rather small for a distinguished, accomplished, and highly-celebrated officer in the Amestrian military, but no one asked him.  Or if they did, they did it while he was drifting through the corridors of his unconscious, and Ed probably told them to pick the tiniest bed available as a means of very belated revenge for all of those size jokes.  Which were, for the record, better-meant than Ed may ever know, because Roy only ever pulled out the big guns—so to speak—when the weariness was starting to etch cold, miserable lines on Ed’s face, and only the fires of flailing rage could bring him out of it.

In any case, Roy returns to himself, feeling that he has landed there rather more securely this time around, to find his right arm still strung to the IV, with that wrist thoroughly splinted and bandaged—and, more interestingly, cradled very carefully in both of Ed’s hands.

Roy is so intent on smiling beatifically up at Ed that it takes him several moments to register the fairly significant amount of pain emanating from his left side.  Next he registers that the source of the pain—well, the source of the new, exciting, additional pain; he remembers the primary source—is the doctor prodding at his wound with some sort of sharp implement.

“Ow,” he says; followed by “Good morning,” because he is not a cretin.

“Good morning,” she says.  “I’ve got most of the metal out; we’re going to stitch it up after that.”

“‘We’?” he says, because maybe he’s a bit of a cretin.  “Goodness.  I hope I don’t have to participate past lying here and complaining—I’m not sure I can rely on my hands too much at the moment.”

She smiles thinly, which means he delivered it right.  Even fresh off of passing out from pain, Roy Mustang has still got it.

Whatever it is, precisely.  Charm; charisma; unparalleled bullshitting prowess.

“I think I can handle it,” she says.  “As long as you’re very focused on the lying here and complaining part.”

“Don’t tell him that,” Ed says.  “He could write a book on that shit.”

“How do you know I haven’t?” Roy says.

“’Cause you would’ve been so smug about it that you would’ve waved it in my face by now,” Ed says.

“Fair point,” Roy says.

There’s a terrible twinge that must mean the doctor is extracting an especially stubborn piece of metal from his flesh.  He swallows the noise clawing its way up his throat and attempts to turn the corners of his grimace upward.

“If I stick to my regimen of lying here and whining,” he says to the doctor, “is it likely that I’ll make a full recovery?”

“I don’t believe in guarantees,” the doctor says, and Roy can almost hear Ed radiating approval; “but your odds are promising.  You probably won’t be feeling up to any vigorous exercise for a while.”

“Have you met Mustang?” Ed asks.

Roy’s arm twitches with the impulse to bat Ed’s hands in a playfully reprimanding sort of way, but the damage to his wrist has left his fingers unable to respond to any of the impulses he’s trying to send from his brain.  It’s a puzzling, unsettling thing in several ways—first, that Ed is sitting just beside him, sweetly holding onto his hand, and he can’t even respond to it; second, that he can’t help wondering if this bears some small resemblance to automail habituation.  Would the sensation of reaching for one’s own nerve endings on instinct, finding no capacity for movement, and scrabbling for control sound familiar to Ed—would it come too close for comfort altogether?

“This is the first time I’ve had the unrivaled pleasure,” the doctor says.

“You’re much too kind,” Roy says.

“Stop flirting,” Ed says.

“This isn’t flirting,” Roy says.  “This is how I talk.”

“Sorry,” the doctor says.  “I started it.”

“He started it,” Ed says.  “He always starts it.  He starts it by existing.”

“My apologies,” Roy says.  “I’ll try to exist less flirtatiously next time.”

“You’d better,” Ed says.

“Cross my heart and hope to die, which I shall also attempt to do less flirtatiously,” Roy says.

Ed glares at him.

Another spear of pain alerts him to the doctor’s continued progress.  A milder version follows as she dabs at the renewed well of blood.  Roy has long since crossed the transcendent threshold where seeing his vitals exposed and his lifeblood pouring out all over the place no longer affects him psychologically; his brain has hit its capacity for trauma and forcibly shut down his ability to generate a rational reaction to the stimulus.

“That’s the last one,” she says.  “I’m going to numb the area while I do your stitches, all right?”  She doesn’t wait for him to answer before turning to Ed and adding, “Can you keep him talking?  It’s a big help.”

“Can I stop him?” Ed asks.

“You’re adorable,” Roy says.

“That makes one of us,” Ed says.

Roy laughs, which hurts, and then notices the way Ed’s grip on his wrist is tightening dangerously fast as the doctor selects a hypodermic from her supplies.  Expertly—or deftly enough to convince Roy of experience, at least—she flicks the cylinder to clear the air bubbles, and Ed’s eyes dart down towards the IV needle already embedded in Roy’s skin, and the last of the color in his face begins to make its escape.

“Edward,” Roy says, which draws Ed’s gaze to him instead.  “Have you gotten a hold of your brother yet?”

“Yeah,” Ed says, instantly donning a scowl.  “Had so much damn time to spare while I was sitting here freakin’ out about you trying to die on me and shit.  Just been making all my social calls while I waited, y’know.  Wrote an opinion piece for the Central Times, too, while I was at it, about the traffic congestion around all those new restaurants downtown.  It’s really fucking up the quaint, picturesque aesthetic we used to have around here.”

“Those are,” Roy says, “without a doubt, the words I would have chosen to describe that part of town.  May I read what you wrote?  I’ll co-sign it.”

“Shut up,” Ed says.  “Are you trying to get rid of me?  I mean, I can go call Al if you’re sure you’re not going to up and expire the second that I’m gone.  I’d say he’s probably wondering where I went, but I’m sure he’ll use the Knowing Voice and say he had a hunch I was—” He glances at the doctor and works his jaw.  “With… you.  Somewhere.  Although I don’t figure he predicted kidnapping.  He’s not that good.”

Roy keeps his face very still and very stable—which is a bit challenging despite his many talents for self-restraint, because he would love nothing more than to reach out with his operable hand and give Ed a few reasons to be with him somewhere a lot more often.

Also, he just felt the anesthetic needle stab in deep and sharply, just underneath his rib.

“If he knew about this before we did,” Roy says, “despite the fact that we were the ones being kidnapped, I would greatly appreciate you encouraging him to join my information network on an official basis once and for all.”

“Over my dead fucking body,” Ed says calmly.  “No more military connections in the Elric family, now or ever.  We make big fuckin’ mistakes, but we only make ’em once.”  He squeezes Roy’s hand—which is delightful, and necessarily unrequited—and stands up from the bedside.  “Fine.  I can take a hint.”  That is patently untrue, but there isn’t time to say so.  “I’ll go call Al.”

“Give him my best,” Roy says.  “And my best apologies.”

“Not a chance,” Ed says over his shoulder as he heads for the door.  “Done enough of your work for you over the years.”

“Sometimes you were even aware of it at the time,” Roy calls after him.

He earns a halfhearted glare, and then the ponytail swishes beautifully as Ed turns into the hallway.

“So,” Roy says to his attending physician when the coast is clear.  “Were you being honest with me?”

“Can you feel this?” she asks, prodding at his side with a fingertip.

“The bullet wound still hurts,” he says.  “That didn’t register.”

“Excellent,” she says, bending to the work.  “Was I being honest about your chances?” she asks next, without looking up from the first insertion of that rather broad needle tip.  Blessedly, he can’t feel any of it.  He’s starting to feel less of everything; is the numbness supposed to spread?  “Or about me flirting with you while I’m on the job?”

“You seem to be managing wonderfully despite the immense distraction of my insuppressible charms,” he says.

She looks up long enough to raise an eyebrow at him.

“Good heavens,” he says.  “I do always start it.  Evidently my existing needs some work.”

“You’re going to have to take it easy for a while,” she says.  He resists the obvious play on easy, even though it pains him to leave the low-hanging fruit unpicked.  “And this time, you’ll actually have to stay in the hospital bed until we release you.”

Roy tries at a rakish grin.  He has no idea how much blood and dreck there is on his face.  Perhaps a moderate amount of dreck will help with the rakishness, come to think of it.  “They told you about that?”

“Word travels,” she says.  “You and Edward are both a bit legendary for ignoring hospital recommendations with a thoroughness that impresses all of us.”

It’s so damn simple falling back into it—he wore the tracks so deep that he can’t help letting his feet fit in.  “My personal philosophy is that anything worth doing is worth doing with panache,” he says.

She nods absently, drawing on the needle to tug another suture into place.  “That’s what I’ve heard.  Which is why Lieutenant Hawkeye gave me specific instructions to tell you that it’s our way, or the barrel of her gun.  She then waited out a pointed pause before adding ‘Sir’.”

Roy knows exactly how long it lasted, and exactly how flat her voice was.  “Of course she did.”

“That said,” the doctor says, “she also suggested that we expand visiting hours in your particular case if we didn’t want certain people who interpret the rules somewhat loosely to start climbing through your window.”

Riza knows too much.  At least she mostly uses her powers for good.

“That… might not be a bad idea,” Roy says.

The doctor nods again, calmly, once again without ever looking up.  She does remarkably fast work; if he’s not mistaken, she’s nearly finished.  “Would you like me to fetch Edward for you once all of the needles have been put away?”

“That would be extremely kind and very much appreciated,” he says.

“We do our best,” she says.

“I’ll do my best to keep your windows intact,” he says.

Ed does not return immediately after the doctor departs with promises to find him, but Roy assumes it’s fairly likely that Alphonse has a few choice words for dear Edward about matters such as drinking to excess, sleeping with one’s ex-boss, and then getting kidnapped for someone else’s crimes.  Besides, Roy maligned this bed a bit when he first woke in it; it’s really not so bad, and despite the persistent low-grade pain of the IV in his arm, the medium-grade pain of the broken wrist below it, and the high-grade-but-half-numbed pain of the gouge cut through him by the bullet, he finds himself sinking in against the pillows and drifting off towards sleep again.

It’s probably the best thing for him, isn’t it?  After the night he’s had—the night they’ve had.  The one before that didn’t exactly consist of restful activities, either.  Perhaps Ed’s still young enough to treat his indescribably gorgeous body that way, but Roy’s been too old for this sort of nonsense for a good while now, and…

And he can, now.  He can rest, period; he can rest easier.  Enough has been settled that he can afford a few moments’ peace.

When his body deigns to wake again, the room is dimmer, and Ed has reprised his place beside the bed again—with gauze wrapped around the base of his left hand.

“Are you all right?” Roy asks, and his voice does an awful little creaking, cracking sort of thing that forces him to clear his throat.

“Yeah,” Ed says, holding up his hand for scrutiny and shaking it around a bit.  “I just moved a little when you were burning off the ropes and shit.”  He crosses his arms and shrugs.  “Not your fault; your aim was really good.”

It is sadder than Roy can find words for that Ed feels the need to specify—that Ed feels the need to articulate that he feels he should take the blame for a situation like this.

“It’s not your fault,” Roy says.  “None of this was.”

Ed eyes him.  When he is determined to shoulder a weight like this, no application of logic, no matter how infallible, will sway him.  Roy’s going to have to circle back to the other conversation from a different angle—wage the battle on a field Ed wouldn’t expect, so that he isn’t prepared to fight it, and he can’t put up the barricades in time.

“Al says he hopes they’re making you drink lots of water,” Ed tells him.  “D’they give you some?”

“Yes,” Roy says.  “And several vague threats of varying severity.”

“Speaking of which,” Ed says, “Lieutenant Hawkeye looked in on you a minute ago.  She said if you weren’t actively dying, she had stuff to do, but she’ll be back later.”

Roy wars with the impulse to say Fancy that; I also have stuff to do.  Like you, for instance.  You’re at the top of the list.

“Somehow I dare to dream we may survive without her for an hour or two,” he says instead.

“Ambitious,” Ed says, arching an eyebrow and starting to smile.  “Sure hope we’re up to it.”

The stolen sleep has fortified Roy enough to act on inspiration, and despite the minor protests from his miscellaneous miseries, he shifts enough to reach across with his left hand and grazes his fingertips down Ed’s cheek.

“Edward,” he says, “you are more wonderful than I have words for.  I know you don’t believe it, and you probably won’t believe that I do, or you’ll chalk it up to my longstanding tradition of mild delusion, but that’s the truth.  Could we—” He swallows, takes a breath.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained; lesser hearts have taken greater leaps.  “Could we—try it again, perhaps?  Start over?  I can’t promise perfection, but I’ll swear by any metric that you like that I’d do a better job this time.”

Ed’s mouth quirks.  His folded arms shift inwards slightly—hugging himself just a little tighter.  “Yeah.  I—all right.  Yeah.  You wanna just… forget this whole thing ever happened?”

“I don’t know that we should go that far,” Roy says.  “I’d say it taught both of us an important lesson about impulse control.”

“Speak for yourself,” Ed says.

“All right,” Roy says.  “I’d say it taught me an important lesson about impulse control.”

Ed’s mouth quirks a little further, and then it’s spreading into a full-fledged grin, and he’s ducking to hide it.

One of these days, Roy is going to prove to him that he doesn’t have to.  One of these days, Roy is going to demonstrate, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is finally safe to smile.  One of these days, Roy is going to show Ed unequivocally that if the world wants to take away his happiness, it’s going to have to get through Roy first.

“Jeez,” Ed says.  “You always been an amateur comedian?”

“Probably not,” Roy says.  “I was more or less nonverbal until I was four, because I wanted to be able to construct complete sentences before I started speaking.  Although arguably that was my pantomime phase.”

“Bet that was cute and never made anybody want to smack you,” Ed says.

“Quite like the rest of my life in that regard,” Roy says.

They look at each other, and Roy’s heart beats in his ears.  It’s a rhythm like the measure of a waltz; it’s a count you can’t march to.  Dancers only.  He wants, so keenly, so intently, so earnestly, to be prepared for this.  Surely his feet still remember how to move.

He reaches out again, to touch Ed’s jaw this time—slowly, lightly, leaving time for him to lean away.

“But you want to,” he says.  “Try this again, from the beginning.  You’re not…”

“Not what?” Ed asks.  He hesitates, and then he lifts his right hand and lays it carefully over Roy’s, holding it there along the curve of his jawline beneath his ear.  “Humoring you?  I’d die first, and you know it.”

Roy finds himself smiling, but somehow he has to contain the worst of it until they’ve finished this conversation.  “I just want to be sure.”

“Nobody can ever be sure of anything,” Ed says.  “Everything is relative to principles that human beings establish as ‘facts’.  That’s just science.”

Roy wrinkles his nose.  “Is that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’?”

Ed looks at him for a long, long second—searchingly, and some days his eyes are so old and so tired that everything in Roy strains to cradle his face in both hands and kiss the circles underneath them until they start to crinkle at the corners with a smile.

He can, now.  Can’t he?

Or he will be able to, theoretically speaking, once his damned wrist heals.  Perhaps he can beg off of some paperwork, but it’s likely that Riza will just make him a signature stamp and then spirit it away again the instant that his fingers start to function.

“It’s a yes,” Ed says, which blots all of those thoughts out of Roy’s head and floods his entire skull with blinding light.  “Until further notice.  In case you fuck up.”

“Probation?” Roy says.  “Fair enough.”

Ed swallows, and clenches his jaw—Roy can feel the little muscles moving; it’s exquisite to be so close to him; somehow he can’t imagine this will ever lose its luster—and then lowers their tangled hands.  Before Roy can quantify any kind of disappointment, Ed is kicking off his boots and then climbing up onto the tiny bed, the better to try to cram himself in under Roy’s right arm, useless hand be damned.

“Move your ass,” the angel of Roy’s esteem says, wriggling to try to fit himself in against Roy’s uninjured side.

“Yes, dear,” Roy says, and the real tragedy is that, at great risk of tumbling off the other side, he does.

“There’s another condition,” Ed mumbles when he’s settled his head in against Roy’s shoulder and—cautiously, like he expects Roy to pull away, like he thinks Roy’s still capable—draped his right arm across Roy’s chest.  “You gotta back me up with Winry gives me hell for all of the blood that got into the inner parts of her masterpiece.”

Gently, Roy leans his head against Ed’s.  It takes him a few moments of fussing to wrap his right arm around Ed without jarring the IV or requiring any use of his fingers.

“I will always,” he says, “always have your back.  Whether we’re together or not.  I hope you know that.”

“Yeah,” Ed mutters.  He curls his steel fingers into the rather unimpressive hospital blanket, then smoothes it out again and pats it down over Roy’s collarbone.  “You can have the front, too, y’know.”

“Thank you,” Roy says.  “That’s very kind.  Many of my favorite parts of you are primarily on the front side.”

“Except my ass,” Ed says.

“Except your ass,” Roy says.  “And a portion of your hair, depending on how you’re wearing it.”

“Again with the hair thing,” Ed says.  “I thought about cutting it.  It was getting in the way.”

Roy would like to be the sort of man who can truthfully proclaim that it doesn’t matter.  And it is absolutely true that Ed would still be devastatingly appealing with short hair, or ragged hair, or no hair at all—and that Roy would still adore every last damn fiber of his being.

But it’s also true that something in his chest clenches at the mere suggestion of someone taking a crude cutting implement to the sheer, unrivaled glory of all of that gold.

“I am delighted,” he says, shamelessly reaching across to run his fingers through the slightly tangled tail, “that you came to your senses.”

Ed snorts.  “Just didn’t have the chance, is all.  I was thinking about it right before we started stumbling on all the stuff about that world’s version of alchemy and what it meant and everything, which was the keystone that we ended up needing, and… anyway.  I had a lot of reasons to get out of there at that point.  And then once we were back here, everybody recognizes me like this, so… yeah.”

Roy strokes his fingers through it a touch more reverently this time, now that he knows how close he came to losing this opportunity for several months at least.  How long would it take for it to grow back out?

“And you subconsciously wanted to make me an extremely happy man,” he says.

Ed snickers.  Roy can feel his warm breath through the terrible fabric of the insufferable hospital clothes.

“Yeah,” Ed says.  “Something like that.”

“In case you need to hear it in so many words,” Roy says, “you’ve succeeded.”

Ed scrunches up his nose.  “Gross.”  He scrunches his nose up even further when Roy pushes his bangs back, the better to lean in and kiss his forehead.  “Gross.”

“My dear,” Roy says, “to put it in terms I think you’ll understand—you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

“Shit,” Ed says.  The faux outrage would be marginally more convincing if Ed would put an ounce of anger behind it, or if he was moving away from Roy’s hand, rather than closer to it.  “You think those kidnappers’ll take me back again if I ask nicely?”

“Doubt it,” Roy says.  “I’m afraid you’re probably stuck here.”

Ed nestles in a little bit closer.

“Damn,” he says.  “Oh, well.”

“Oh, well,” Roy says.

His list of regrets is still long enough to make several classic novels feel inadequate, but this is not—and this will never—be one of them.

That much he knows.

Tags: [fic] chapter
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