Title: Moving Forward
Characters: Roy Mustang, mostly
Summary: Roy Mustang was in denial. Deep in denial.
Warnings: Spoilers for the series and the movie; possible really vague hints of Roy/Ed and Roy/Al.
It had been so long since that fateful day that had changed everything in the flash of an alchemic reaction. And so long that Roy Mustang had been telling himself that it had all been for the better.
The government had been overthrown and replaced by a parliament, which was most definitely a good thing. He no longer held his position as Colonel Roy Mustang, the Flame Alchemist, which was, at least, a good thing for him. The country was slowly rebuilding itself with the help of the reformed military and its own steam power. Alphonse's body had been restored and, even though his memories of the five years he'd spent trapped in that metallic body were gone, maybe even that was for the best.
But then there was Edward. On that very night that everything had changed, Edward had disappeared. Of course everyone that had known the Elric brothers' secret had realized what had happened the moment young Alphonse had been discovered in his ten year old body. The young blonde must have been so frightened, waking up in a strange place, all alone when the last thing he remembered was standing in his father's study at home with his brother. Now, though, his brother was gone -- disappeared in the span of one night. The FullMetal Alchemist's name had become renown throughout the country, hailing the young man who'd possessed it as a genius, a prodigy, and one of the most powerful alchemists alive that, despite the State Alchemists' reputation, had actually followed their motto: "Be thou for the people." And in the end, he'd sacrificed it all to achieve the one thing that no one before him had ever been able to do. Edward Elric had proven the impossible to be possible, but had given his life in the process.
And Roy Mustang was in denial. Deep in denial. Perhaps it was because there was, ultimately, no actual proof that he'd died. Perhaps it was because he'd believed that the Elrics had been able to create the Philosopher's Stone in the end and, using that, there was just no way that he could have died. Or, perhaps he'd just been surrounded by death nearly his entire military career, had just recently lost his best friend, and hadn't wanted to admit that someone else that he'd cared so much about had been taken away from him far too young, even if it had been the blonde's own choice. Perhaps, also, he didn't want to admit that he might have done more, himself, to save the extraordinary young man that it had been his duty to protect.
As much as Edward hadn't wanted to admit it, he and Roy had been very much alike; it had been one of the things that had attracted the Colonel to him in the first place. That and the fact that Edward had been an absolute genius at the only the age of eleven and mostly self-taught. But they were both able to look ahead when they needed to, reading people's personalities nearly flawlessly to determine what they'd do next. Even more so, though, they both had an acute sense of guilt that they drowned out by throwing themselves into their work that they believed would somehow make up for their sins. It was why Edward had fought so hard to restore his brother's body. It was why Roy had worked so hard to get to the top in the Military. And it was why Roy was where he was now: There simply was no way to make up for his sins with Edward.
It was cold up in the north -- it was always cold -- and there seemed to be a constant blanket of snow on the ground. Roy lived there, in a small wooden house, serving as a police officer. The house was comfortable enough for his purposes, because all he needed to do was live and protect his country. He had to keep going because he could. Wasn't that what he'd told Edward so long ago? You have to move forward because you can so as you weren't dead.
But he couldn't move forward with his previous plan because the position he'd been vying for had been terminated. But, also, the reason he'd wanted to become Fuhrer in the first place was so that he could make certain that no one would ever again have to do the things that he and the other State Alchemists had had to do in Ishbal. Now, though, there was no need for him to do that because the new government was going to straighten things out. Supposedly. They seemed to be doing a decent job so far, but, then again, nearly anyone would seem better than the self-serving, bastard homunculus Fuhrer that Roy had managed to bring down.
He still wanted to serve his country, though, because it was what he wanted to do, but he didn't feel he was nearly as productive as he had been now that he was stuck out in the middle of nowhere. If he'd still been the Flame Alchemist, then he probably could do more, but every time he'd tried he could only hear the screams and see the horror-stricken faces of the innocent people he'd slain using it. How could he do good for anyone if he couldn't get past those paralyzing memories?
So he didn't use alchemy anymore. Instead, he had a rifle -- standard issue for all police officers -- which he used mostly as something to lean on as he stood for hours on end just staring out at the White.
Until one day when, out of the curtain of snow, appeared a figure. The person was hunched over against the cold wind, a long coat flapping out behind them. It was the color of the coat, however, that fixated the man's eyes on the approaching figure.
Roy knew that coat.
And he barely was able to even breathe as details slowly became clearer: Long, blonde hair; a long, red, hooded coat; black clothes beneath, white gloves.
There was only one person he knew of that wore those clothes and, for one glorious moment, as the young man finally came up to him, he thought that it really was him. But when the seeming apparition looked up, he illusion was broken. The blonde hair was darker as well as those gorgeous, gold Elric eyes, and his face was much rounder and more innocent.
This wasn't Edward, but it was definitely an Elric.
"Are you Roy Mustang?" Alphonse asked with an intensity to match his brother's.
Roy could only nod dumbly.
"Good," the blonde smiled, breaking the illusion again. "You know me. My name's Alphonse Elric and I was told that my brother and I used to work for you."
Another nod. Alphonse seemed to be getting a bit frustrated with the lack of actual responses.
"I need to ask you a few questions about my brother and the night he disappeared."
Finally Roy came out of his stunned silence and gestured towards the front door of his little wooden house, "Of course, Alphonse." The desolate, snowy desert could protect itself long enough for him to answer a few questions.
Title: 'Round the Table
Characters: Um...everyone? o.O;;;
Summary: “To Alphonse!” “And a long successful career!” “You’re finally a dog like the rest of us, kid!” “Arf! Arf!”
Disclaimer: If I owned FMA, then I wouldn't be poor and this wouldn't be a fanfic.
Warnings: Shounen ai, Ed/Roy/Al, innuendo, some language, possible spoilers, rowdy Military men.
“And a long successful career!”
“You’re finally a dog like the rest of us, kid!”
The entire table exploded into laughter and took long gulps of their respective drinks after lifting them ceremoniously toward the guest of honor, who was too busy blushing and laughing somewhat nervously to notice the waitress come up behind him.
“Now, boys,” the busty woman chided as she all-but leered at every last one of her customers, “Some of the other customers're complainin' about the noise. Try'n keep it down some, okay?"
"Aw, c'mon, Berta!"
"Yeah, give us a break!"
"It's a special occasion!"
The woman just raised an eyebrow at the party, heedless of the young blonde right in front of her trying to disappear into his seat. His efforts were quickly cut off, though, as the slightly older, but nearly a foot shorter blonde to his right practically jumped into his lap as he wrapped his arms around the taller boy, leaning in to nibble lightly on his ear before turning a wicked grin on the waitress, "My baby brother just passed the State Certification Exam!"
"Izzat so!" Berta turned from the blonde (whose face was doing a fine impression of her bright red apron) to the rest of the table who all held either wide grins or proud smirks. "Well, alright then! Drinks all around, and you," she smiled, ruffling the blushing blonde's hair, "Pick out whatever you like on the menu, on the house!"
There was roar of cheers, though, as the woman turned away, a quiet grumble was barely heard across the room. But what was heard was Berta's voice as the table of soldiers snickered, "I don't care how much noise they're makin'. This's my diner, and I say they c'n make however much noise's they want! That table's full o' national heroes and a new one in the makin', and if you got a problem withat, then you c'n find somewhere else to bring yer business."
Another cheer went up and, though the three men the waitress had been addressing looked less than pleased, they didn't leave.
"'A national hero in the making,' hm? I think I like the sound of that. What do you think, Alphonse?”
Alphonse blinked up, wondering what had sparked the question as he hadn’t really been paying attention to much of the conversation in the first place. “H-huh?”
Roy smirked back at him, dark eyes dancing as he leaned an elbow on the table, his cheek in his hand, “Do you plan on following in your brother’s footsteps, Alphonse? Will you become as renown and decorated as him?”
The young blonde flushed again, turning to his brother only to see a soft barely-there smile and a similar blush on his own cheeks.
“I...” Bronze eyes turned to the rest of the table, eight pairs of eyes looking expectantly back at him. “I don’t know...” Alphonse admitted quietly, ducking his head, “I haven’t really thought about it.”
“That’s okay, kid,” Havoc piped up with surprising clarity around a cigarette as he glanced at either of the men to Alphonse's sides, his eyes full of innuendo, "After all, I'm sure you've had...other things on your mind."
The young blonde swore that his face had caught on fire as he tried to sink under the table while most of the rest of the party burst into laughter again. Really, it wasn't that he didn't appreciate them all getting together to celebrate because of him, or that he was really ashamed of his relationship, but...did Havoc have to go and point it out to the entire world?
Okay, so the restaurant was hardly the entire world, but there were still people in there that he was sure didn't want to know about his personal life; and he was perfectly happy with them not knowing. It was Alphonse's belief that one shouldn't go around announcing to anyone with ears that one was in a homosexual relationship with two other men, one of whom happened to be his older brother and the other fourteen years his senior.
"Oh-ho!" The entire table flinched as Major Armstrong's voice thundered throughout the building, gesturing with his glass towards the youth trying to will himself invisible and nearly knocking the table over, "That is unacceptable, young Alphonse! You must always plan ahead for your career! Never leave anything to chance and avoid all distractions!"
That seemed to at least get Edward's attention as he sat up straighter, trying to make himself seem taller than he actually was, the younger boy assumed. "Hey, now, c'mon Major! A little distraction never hurt anyone, right Al?"
The younger boy was sure that his brother enjoyed his reaction far too much when he leaned over and thrust his tongue into Alphonse's ear. "Brother!!" he squeaked, jumping away from the other boy.
Only to land practically in Roy's lap.
"I think I'll have to side with Edward on this one," the man purred, wrapping an arm around the boy's waist and grinning almost predatorily. "All work and no play, after all, Major."
Alphonse swore that if he managed to get out of this alive and with the least amount of embarrassment possible, he was going to devote the rest of his days to the betterment of the lives of the lower class and poverty stricken. Just please make them all stop!
Wriggling himself out of the man's lap, the boy managed to make his way back into his own chair. He offered Roy and Edward a sheepish smile and tried to ignore the laughter surrounding him. Why did they all have to be so...rowdy? Even Riza, who was normally so unforgiving of such things was laughing quietly to herself as she nursed her drink. Did he have any comrades left in the world?
Well, maybe there was at least one.
"Uh, so, Alphonse, what did you do for the practical portion of the exam?"
The blonde in question smiled gratefully at Fury for shifting the subject away from his love life. Just as he was about to recount the tale, though, his brother once again had to jump in and open his big mouth: "Oh, it was great, you should've seen him!" the older boy crowed, clapping Alphonse soundly on the back and grinning widely with pride. "One of the other applicants nearly tore his arm off trying to get at one of the trees and they were about to take him to the hospital. But then in comes Al and tells the guy to just lie down and he claps his hands together and fixes up the guy's arm, good as new! I'm not really surprised, though; he's got previous experience reattaching limbs, don't you, Al?"
The younger boy flushed again, grabbing Edward's wrist before he could slap his back again and frowned at him. "Brother, how do you know that? I haven't told anyone, and Roy hasn't had time to tell anyone either."
"Wasn't he there?" Breda chimed in, scratching his head and turning to his coworkers for support. "I thought all the top-ranking State Alchemists were required to be there for at least the practical."
"Yes, as well as the Fuhrer, the General directly under the Fuhrer, and the State Alchemists sponsoring the applicants."
"A conflict of interest."
Attention quickly shifted to Riza who didn't bother looking up from her glass.
"Alphonse is Edward's younger brother, and everyone knows that. Since he is one of the top-ranking State Alchemists, and since he didn't sponsor anyone, he would have been required to judge and mediate. However, with his brother as one of the applicants, a fair and partial decision couldn't be ensured; and only those involved with the test are permitted to attend any portion of the Exam."
"Wait a second," Havoc interrupted, turning his gaze between Riza and the two brothers, "Ed didn't sponsor anyone? I thought he was sponsoring Al."
"Conflict of interest," Ed grumbled, casting almost vicious looks at Roy, who merely lifted a shoulder in a helpless shrug.
"Oh, I see. So then did Roy?"
"I'm afraid not, Fury," the man lamented, "The Fuhrer isn't permitted to sponsor anyone, even if he's a State Alchemist. Even though those mediating come to a decision themselves, technically speaking I could overrule that decision; so it would be unwise to show any sort of preference."
"So then who sponsored Al?"
The four lower-ranking officers that had been seemingly left in the dark throughout the entire process turned to the newly-instated State Alchemist...
Who merely shifted uncomfortably under their scrutiny and flicked his eyes to his left, bringing the others' attention to the massive, sparkling Major Armstrong, flexing and posing for his suddenly pale audience.
Well, of course it would have been him; who else was left?
Finally, after what had seemed like an hour long stretch of awkward silence, someone spoke up.
"So the boss wasn't allowed into watch the practical? And no one told him what happened. So how does he know?"
Edward sent a death glare the older blonde's way, only satisfied when he nearly dropped his cigarette. Though he flushed entirely when Roy spoke up.
"He snuck in, of course."
Damnit, he did it again!
"And just how do you figure that?"
Roy turned a lazy grin on the young man, a clear sign that he obviously knew Ed's every last move and was going to enjoy proving himself right. "You snuck past the main guards at the gate when the applicants were just beginning to arrive so you would get looked over in the confusion. Then you carefully made your way to the back of the fair grounds where you wrestled one of the guards out of his clothes and locked him up in a transmuted cage until the end of the Exam."
Edward's mouth worked silently for a few moments, trying to think up with some response to that, but only able to come up with, "But...how do you know that?"
"I saw you," the man answered matter-of-factly before adding, "And I spoke to the guard you accosted."
"But...that could've been anyone that the guard was talking about!"
"Oh, no, it couldn't have."
Everyone's expressions as they watched the Fuhrer asked, "Why not?" And he was more than happy to oblige.
"Because I asked him hw tall he was."
"Who's so short they have to wear infants' clothing?!"
Alphonse groaned quietly to himself, wishing, not for the first time, that his brother's temper wasn't so short; or at least that Roy didn't enjoy baiting Edward as much as he did. It was all so tiresome sometimes, and he felt he'd listened to the argument his whole life, even the voices in the background either egging Edward on or trying to calm him down as he tried to throttle Roy.
He wasn't sure he could deal with this -- wasn't sure he wanted to deal with it. All he'd wanted to do was go out with his friends and lovers and have a nice time. But then everyone had to go and start teasing each other...and trying to assassinate their leader.
It was just becoming a little too much for the blonde, and he quietly excused himself, pushing away from the table and heading for the bathroom to see if he might be able to get some peace in there.
The water from the sink was nice and warm as the boy splashed it against his face, scrubbing at his eyes and perhaps almost wishing that he was asleep. He just couldn't understand how people who were so kind and claimed to like each other could speak to each other like that. Alphonse knew they cared, really, it was just that...the way they showed it...some people weren't like them! Some people didn't like getting teased and having their personal lives made fun of and put on display in front of complete strangers who already had a bad opinion of them. Some people didn't appreciate getting spied on, as if they couldn't be trusted to do their job. And some people didn't enjoy getting stepped on by someone they loved only so that they could try and kill someone else that they loved.
Why couldn't they understand? Why could they never understand?
It had been the same thing every day since he was eleven: Baiting and teasing and flirting and mocking. And still, after all those years, they were still there doing the same thing!
But, Alphonse realized, they were still there.
Alphonse had known these people for seven years (well, Armstrong he'd only known for three) and, during those seven years he knew that he and Ed had caused their share of problems (breaking into secret Military functions only one of them), stepped on their share of toes. It was probably safe to say that they'd frustrated each of those soldiers at least once in the time that they'd known them...
And yet they were still there. After everything the brothers had done and all of the problems and frustration that they'd caused, Havoc and Falman and Breda and Fury, Riza and Armstrong and Roy were still there.
And maybe that was the point; not that they all didn't share the same sense of humor or lack of subtlety, but that they all cared.
Alphonse stared at his reflection in the mirror, looking into his own eyes and remembering the first day he'd walked into Central Head Quarters as Alphonse Elric, instead of a huge suit of armor. He'd expected a thousand questions and shocked stares; all he'd gotten, however, was exactly what he'd gotten any other time he'd walked into HQ. They'd all treated him just the same as before, not giving any sign that anything had changed, only sending a few discreet smiles his way when they thought no one was looking.
Oh, but he'd been so grateful to them. He hadn't wanted anyone to make a big deal out of it because, even though it was, he didn't really like being the center of attention and, especially with something like that, it would have made him far too uncomfortable.
But now he'd passed the State Certification Exam, and now they were all celebrating and drinking and putting him on the spot, like they hadn't that day.
Because it was a completely different situation. Maybe...it was okay to be the center of attention once in a while -- after all, Ed had done it for years. And, maybe, it was okay to laugh at some of the jokes. Because these people were enjoying themselves, and none of them took the joking seriously, and they deserved to have a fun night out.
And because they cared -- about him and about each other. Because these people...were the closest thing he'd had to a family since he and Edward had left Rizenbul.
The blonde smiled as he realized just how true that was and he barely noticed when the door to the bathroom opened and his brother poked his head through, "Alphonse?"
Hesitantly stepping through the door, Edward reached out as if he wanted to place a hand on his brother's shoulder, but he changed his mind at the last second merely letting it fall to his side. "Are you alright?"
The younger boy blinked up, almost startled to be asked the question until he remembered how he'd left. He turned his smile on his brother and nodded that he fine.
Edward seemed more than relieved, finally venturing closer to him and looking the younger boy over, as if checking for injuries. "You're sure? I didn't hit you or anything back there, right?"
"No, Brother," Alphonse chided with a soft laugh, "I'm fine. Really."
"Well good, then what're you doing in here?" the older boy asked, tugging his brother towards the door, "Berta just brought another round of drinks and we're all waiting to toast you again!"
"Wait, Brother!" Alphonse resisted the hold on his wrist just barely, lifting his other hand to wrap around the older boy's neck as he leaned in to capture a kiss, trying almost desperately to reassure that part of his brother that was probably still feeling guilty. And maybe he just enjoyed kissing Edward as well.
What Alphonse hadn't noticed, though, was that Ed had had the door to the bathroom half open already...and hadn't let it go. Well, he hadn't noticed until he heard the cat calls start from the table he'd left not minutes ago. When the younger boy finally pulled away from his brother, he was blushing brilliantly and had half-a-mind to hide away in one of the bathroom stalls until they'd all left. With his recent realization, though, he decided on a different route.
He flashed Edward a decidedly wicked grin and pulled away completely, beginning to walk back towards the table. "Oh, come on guys," he called, glancing back over his shoulder at Ed, "He's not that good."
A cry of indignation went up behind Alphonse. He'd never had that much fun running for his life as long as he could remember.
Characters: Ed and Roy
Summary: There were so many questions in the boy's eyes, in his face, in just his posture, and Roy wasn't sure if he was ready to hear them yet, even less sure if he was ready to answer them.
Disclaimer: If I owned FMA, then I wouldn’t be poor and this wouldn’t be a fanfic.
Warnings: Implied shounen ai, emotional!Ed, some spoilers for the series, uncertain!Roy.
The sun was bright and blinded him as he finally left the Rockbell house, stumbling only slightly; that and the almost dull look in his eyes the only indication of just how exhausted he was. Meandering across the expanse of lawn that covered the Rockbells' backyard, he eventually came to the fence cutting off their property and leaned back against it, letting his eyes fall closed as he breathed in the silence that surrounded him.
"Where is Alphonse?"
The man's quiet voice cut across the silence, and Ed took a moment to contemplate why that didn't bother him as much as it would have three years ago.
"He's inside; our old room..."
"Mm. And how is he?"
"Tired," Edward sighed, opening his eyes to the sky and briefly following the path of a bird as it flew overhead, "Getting used to everything again... He's resting."
He could feel it as those dark calculating and measuring eyes turned to him, almost shivered under their scrutiny, though he couldn't even see it. "And shouldn't you be doing the same?"
The blonde had been expecting the question since before he'd even stepped outside. Even so, he still didn't have an answer. He knew that, even if he had tried, he wouldn't have been able to sleep; he was still too high...and too afraid that he might wake up to find he'd been dreaming again. Besides, he'd fought through worse than simple exhaustion, all for his brother, and though it wouldn't be necessary anymore, it was almost habit. He just needed to get his bearings back.
"Feel like going for a walk?" Ed asked, abruptly pushing off of the fence and starting towards the side that faced the road regardless. He knew he'd be followed and didn't even hesitate as he climbed over the fence and took up the path down the dirt road.
He was easily caught up to, the man keeping a step behind the blonde, not as familiar with the town. He kept a careful eye on the boy; he didn't appear to be entirely unsteady, but Edward, while not necessarily good at hiding his emotions, was damn good at hiding physical weakness.
The road eventually joined another larger one that winded and twisted its way through the town of Rizenbul, occasionally bisecting, joining, and separating from other smaller roads, like the one they'd left behind at the Rockbells'. In either direction was simply an expanse of farmland, dotted by farmhouses and a few grazing animals, the small mountain range just visible in the distance. They stayed on this road for quite some time, about twenty minutes by Roy's estimation, until they came to a small sheep farm. One of the fluffy animals stared at them through the fence locking the flock in as the two Alchemists finally turned off of the main road.
After another ten minutes, they passed a small chapel -- a little white-washed wooden building sitting alone among the empty landscape -- and Roy couldn't help but be surprised as Ed slowed down and led him towards the building. After a moment, the man realized that it wasn't the chapel that they were heading to, but a small cemetery off to the side of it, and a sudden stab of realization widened those normally calm eyes. But he remained silent; Edward obviously had a reasons for bringing him here, and he would allow the boy to get to it in his own time.
Edward led them silently through the graveyard, remembering the exact spot he was looking for even after so many years. His breathing was becoming a bit labored after the long walk, still feeling drained but doing his best to ignore it.
"You were the only one who understood us," the boy murmured finally once they came to a stop in front of a modest headstone. "You were the only one...who understood what we were trying to do...and why."
Roy watched the blonde thoughtfully, noting that he seemed more tired than when they'd first set out, but not daring to say anything.
"You never questioned us..." Edward finally paused and Roy took that as his turn to speak.
"There was never any point."
Those golden eyes turned to him and, if he were a lesser man, he might have quailed under that gaze. There were so many questions in the boy's eyes, in his face, in just his posture, and Roy wasn't sure if he was ready to hear them yet, even less sure if he was ready to answer them.
"I know you, Edward,” he continued anyway, “From the time I first came to this town I knew that you would follow whatever path you set out on until the end, and no one could change that except yourself, no matter how many perfectly logical points they brought up."
The boy had gone back to staring at the headstone, but he didn't speak. And so Roy continued, "If there was any possibility that you would be swayed, it would be because you realized something, not because of something anyone else told you. I understand this. And I think I understand why you brought me here."
"You think you do?" Edward snorted, his hands clenching slightly at his sides, "Then why don't you tell me?"
Roy's eyes narrowed imperceptibly at the challenge and disbelief in the boy's voice, regarding him, measuring his mood. "Because you don't believe I understand why you were in this predicament in the first place. It's an understandable assumption to make, considering how I greeted you that night." Images from the meeting flashed before the man's eyes -- a small broken boy, bandaged and confined to a wheelchair, pushed around by a ten-year-old cursed to live his life as a hulking suit of armor, those bright yellow eyes drowned in guilt that overflowed in tears as the Lieutenant Colonel lifted the boy by his collar demanding to know, Why?! Perhaps he'd overreacted a little, but not even Ed blamed him for it.
"I wish I had known her," he murmured finally, reading the simple inscription on the grave, "To have raised you and your brother, knowing all you've accomplished, she must have been an amazing woman. But even knowing only her name, Edward, I can understand why." Roy reached out, gently tucking the blonde's hair behind his ear and worrying a bit at how pale his complexion seemed to have gotten. "Whether you like it or not, Edward, you and I are very much alike."
"Alike, huh?" the boy muttered, his tone bitterly amused. "Did you think about it, Roy? Did you think about diving into the realm of forbidden Alchemy? About performing the worst sin against god? Did you want to bring Hughes back, Roy? And all those Ishbalans you killed? Oh, and let's not forget about the Rockbells; did you think about it then too, Roy?" Edward could see the pain and anger rising in the man, but as much as he hated it, he wanted it. "But that's all you did, isn't it? You thought about it. That's where we're different, Roy. You thought about it. Al and I studied for months, planning and researching until we finally thought we were strong enough.
"But we weren't..."
"And I still think, even knowing what I do now and after going through all we did that, if we were just able to find the right combination of materials and the right theory and get stronger that maybe we could get it right and be able to bring her back..."
"Everyone is always going on about how strong I am and how talented... But I'm not; Al's the strong one. Al was able to move on afterwards. He was able to realize that we could live without her. I told myself that I just wanted to give him back the life he deserved... Even when we were searching for the Stone I tried to convince myself that it was all just for Al but...I hated it. Just watching him everyday trying to move around in that damned armor and knowing that I put him there. I couldn't take the guilt, every day, even knowing that I deserved it."
A bitter smirk twisted Edward's lips and he tilted his head to the sky, closing his eyes almost in resignation, "I'm such a selfish bastard."
Roy wasn't entirely sure what to say to that. He wanted to object, to assure the boy that this was all just his guilt manipulating the situation, but how could he compete against something Ed's own mind was telling him was true?
"It's not just with him though..."
The man was left suddenly breathless as he found himself looking into those eyes again, full of something he wasn't sure he wanted to identify.
"You know you weren't my first?"
The question was just so seemingly random that Roy almost laughed. He got the feeling that that would have been the wrong reaction, though, and simply quirked an eyebrow at the boy.
Ed couldn't help but grin at the man's expression. "It was four years ago... You remember that Barry the Chopper guy. After you took us to the hospital, I had to send Al back to the inn 'cause he was fussing so much. But-"
The blonde turned an interesting shade of red, though somewhat subdued as the blood slowly drained from his face.
"In the hospital, Edward?"
"Shut up! We were only twelve, okay?! It was the heat of the moment; we both almost died for crying out loud!"
"I see," Roy nodded as solemnly as possible, though it was rather offset by the smirk that had settled on his lips, "So you went through a traumatic experience with your childhood friend and, left alone together in a private hospital room, you decided to do a little...experimentation."
"Yeah well...it's not like it was very good. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing..."
"And you weren't really interested."
"Neither was she."
That was information Roy wasn't certain was meant for his ears, though he couldn't say he was really terribly surprised; but before he could respond, Edward was speaking again, turned and leaning back against the headstone (partly, the man thought, to reserve some of his strength) so they were finally facing one another. Once again the man found himself facing down all the questions he wasn't sure he wanted to be asked, but knew, this time, that they were unavoidable.
"I never understood it; even now, I just can't get it, so maybe you, in all of your understanding, can explain it to me.
"Even with only Mom around we knew what was expected of us. We were supposed to be polite, and fair, and always eat our vegetables. We were supposed to be nice to others and defend people if they were being treated badly. We were supposed to go to school and learn and get good grades and then go on to get a job and become a productive member of society.
"And we were supposed to grow up," he continued, his voice growing quiet as his eyes dropped to the ground, "And fall in love with one of our childhood friends, get married, have kids, buy a dog and a big house, and live happily ever after... But, if that's what I'm supposed to do," the blonde asked, making a valiant effort to keep some of the emotion out of his voice, but his eyes betrayed him, as they always had, "Then why, whenever I think about what I'm supposed to do next...all I see is you?"
Roy would swear for years to come that his heart had stopped for the seconds it took Edward speak again. Not a sound came out of his mouth, though his lips worked as though he wanted to say something. But what? his mind asked over and over again. What could he say? What did Edward expect him to say? More importantly, what did Edward want him to say?
He was granted the small gift of some more time to think of his response, however, as the boy continued, perhaps realizing the man's utter loss. "When we finally figured it all out, Al asked me; what I was gonna do afterwards, y'know? But...I couldn't answer him. I've spent most of my life working toward a goal -- researching and tracking down leads and reading every book that even mentions Alchemy, trying to make life the way it should be; the way it should have been. So I had no idea what I was supposed to do -- what I wanted to do -- after it was finally over. Once I didn’t have to search anymore.
"At first I thought we'd just move back to Rizenbul and maybe help out Granny at her shop but...then I realized...that I'd be too far away from you. Then I thought that maybe I could find a place and stay in East City, just leave the Military. I cause more trouble than I do good, so I doubt many people would miss me. But then I realized that I still wouldn't be seeing you as much, and what happened if you got promoted or transferred or something? What if you got shipped back to Central? Or...anywhere else?
"It was the same problem, no matter what idea I came up with. I don't like the thought of you...not being there...with me."
Roy was at a loss. He’d never expected to be faced with this, not so soon anyway. But, then again, Edward had always done things as quickly as he could; he was passionate and determined in everything he did, so why shouldn’t he do this just the same? The main problem was that, as much as he believed he and Edward were alike, they were also different in some ways. Namely in that the almost desperate and pleading look in the boy’s eyes spoke of how much he wanted to know the answers to these questions, but Roy didn’t think he wanted to give them; didn’t even know if he knew the answers in the first place.
“I’m not sure what to tell you, Edward,” the man finally murmured slowly. “These are your own thoughts and uncertainties; I don’t see what I can do-”
“Tell me what to do! You always know everything, right?”
“I can’t do that, Edward. This isn’t something that-”
“Then tell me what you want me to do!”
The blonde pushed suddenly off of the headstone, and Roy could tell from the way he staggered that it hadn’t been the best idea. He was still weakening after expending so much energy earlier and he hadn’t even given himself time to rest! His eyes seemed to be having a difficult time focusing on the man, but Ed refused the steadying hand at his elbow.
“There haven’t been a lot of people in my life that I consider really important.” The boy’s words seemed rushed, as if he were trying to get them out before he couldn’t. “Mom and Al, of course, and Granny Pinako and Winry. But then you came along and, damnit you’re a bastard, but I don’t like the idea of you being where I’m not. I already lost Mom, and I’ve come too close to losing Winry and Al. But damnit Roy, I don’t-... Don’t...”
Edward’s face had been growing slowly paler, and Roy could see his entire body shaking with just the effort to stand. It didn’t take him more than a moment to react when the boy finally collapsed, lunging forward to catch him before he hit the ground; or worse, the headstone. He wrapped his arms tightly around the boy, holding him up and barely realizing when Edward’s hands clutched at his shirt until he heard the words whispered against his throat, “Please don’t leave me, Roy. I don’t want to be alone. Please don’t leave me.”
The man pulled away just enough that he could see the blonde’s face, his eyes screwed shut and his lips still silently whispering the words. He seemed to be just barely holding onto consciousness, waiting for Roy’s answer. Oddly enough, he found it then as easily as if it had been sitting there the whole time and, as he bent down, curling an arm under the boy’s knees and lifting him, cradling him against his chest, Roy quietly whispered into the blonde’s ear, “You will never be alone, Edward, as long as I have anything to say about it.”