Roy Mustang is dancing.
Dancing is nothing new to him; he has trained at it as diligently as he has anything else, he has had many partners with varying tastes, learned all the proper etiquette. It is moderately exhilarating the first time—there are many twists and turns, dips and whirls—but after dancing with the same people over and over again, he cannot help but find a routine to it; people will try anything to make the dance more interesting, but nothing has been able to hold his attention for much longer than a minute or two. Dancing is much like life to him, all murmured words and smiles hidden behind gloved hands; the music all different tunes with the same basic rhythm.
A whirl, a flash of gold—
He finds life irrepressibly boring; the same people are always playing the same games, and he is much better at them—his opponents are waning. Whether it is a battle of wits or a battle of strengths, he would always emerge as the victor; he finds himself wondering what it would be like, just once, to actually lose...
—the world gives a sudden turn, carousels of fabric spin deliciously into the folds of bedsheets, and the dance becomes a wrestling match—
He supposes that there is one person who had been able to beat him in a battle of strength—had beat him to an explosive draw, at least—but the thought is frightening rather than comforting. The person who had stalemated him was a child, a very jaded and experienced child, but still worthy of the title. He will not dance this dance with a child—
—sheets twisting, limbs tangling, tongues teasing, hips thrusting, and a sinfully angelic boy's tenor—
Roy sits bolt upright, eyes wide with an unseemly panic(and wouldn't Hakuro just love it, if he could have seen it), blinking harshly at the sudden adjustment to light. He takes a moment to register the fact that he is sleeping on his couch—there is a questionable amount of oddity to it—but it is quickly squashed by relief.
A sick dream, true, one worthy of imprisonment, but a dream all the same. He has never dreamed like this, a dream both powerful and symbolic—he hardly dreams at all, because he is not a very deep sleeper—and the fact that this dream is so disturbing and memorable all at once makes him shift uncomfortably, carding hands through his disheveled hair.
And then hands shake at his arm; one is much heavier and cooler than the other, and a quiet voice speaks in his ear.
"Colonel? Are you all right? I just wanted to know where the shower was so I could... "
Roy looks up, slowly, as though he is the victim in a horror movie—
"... wash all of this gunk off," Edward finishes embarrassedly, turning his head away suddenly, face crimsoning.
Ohhhhhh, God. Roy feels his pupils dilate, watches as the world gives a terrible whirl, and groans morbidly as he falls back against the couch, tilting his head towards the ceiling.
Not a dream. Memory. And why the hell was the room spinning so much?
He pushes past Edward abruptly, stumbling towards the bathroom. He makes it just in time to throw up in the sink—couldn't get to the toilet in time; fucking pathetic—retching piteously and gripping the basin so hard his knuckles turn white; someone is calling his name, the telephone rings, and eventually there is nothing left in his stomach to eschew—he rinses out the sink and scrubs his face, taking deep breaths. He once went on a two-day drinking binge, and though the hangover was enough to make him sob, he has never thrown up so forcefully before—can't remember the last time he has vomited; it must have been a long time ago, back when he was Edward's age—
—a fucking long time, indeed—
—back when sickening situations and life in general filled him with something more than the usual detached logic. This is something different; something terrifying and tantalizing and vividly different—it seems as though colors are brighter and he can almost see the elusive fourth dimension—but he won't treat it as something different, he will treat it the same way he treats everything; victim to logic, subject to fact.
"Colonel?" comes Edward's voice through the door, confused and concerned. "First Lieutenant Hawkeye's on the phone wanting to know why you're late for work; what should I tell her?"
Roy thrusts his hand through a crack in the door; Edward hands over the phone with neither criticism nor complaint. "Sick," he croaks through the receiver, discovering that not only is he nauseous, he has also lost most of his voice, as well.
"Sick?" asks Hawkeye doubtfully, her voice tinged with crisp asperity. "Need I remind you, Colonel, that there is a formidable quantity of paperwork over here that needs to be done; if you're calling in sick to play hooky, I will be very upset indeed..."
"Sick," Roy manages again, for once not exaggerating. "Work tomorrow."
Hawkeye sighs; he can almost see her shaking her head in exasperation. "Early tomorrow," she states, tone leaving no room for argument. Roy, thinking it the end of the conversation, goes to hang up, but the woman apparently has a bit more of her mind to share.
"I'm not going to ask what it is you're doing with Edward Elric," she says flatly, "because I don't want to know; I don't care." She also sounds... hurt? Upset? Disgusted... ? "But I will warn you, sir, because you seem to possess very little foresight when it comes to yourself—be careful, sir, be impossibly careful, because there are many people out there who would love to use your weakness for the Elric brothers to their own advantage, if you were to make it known—and that includes Edward-kun."
Roy hangs up on her.
He shaves then—nicking himself repeatedly but not bothering to blot the wounds—and brushes his teeth, trying to rinse the taste of vomit(and an older, saltier taste, as well) out of his mouth, scrubbing until the gums bleed, until he can only taste blood and mint mingling over his tongue.
He scrawls 'U-N-F-O-R-G-I-V-E-N' in the sink with the toothpaste and shaving cream lather before rinsing it resolutely down the drain.
When Mustang reenters the living room, there is an aromatic smell wafting through the room—further investigation reveals a plate of eggs, bacon and toast sitting companionably next to a bowl of cold cereal(did he even have that much food?; he ate out so often it was hard to tell), and two steaming mugs set next to them—and Edward is wolfing down his cereal with an innocent intent, already helping himself to the morning's paper. He looks up at Roy's entry, hastily shoving the paper down on the couch.
"I... I made tea," he stammers lowly, gesturing unnecessarily. He is underdressed, dressed in last night's boxers and nothing else—how the hell did he manage to look as though the entire thing was nothing more than a trifle embarassing, instead of worthy of suicide? "I thought it'd be better for... well, you know... for your... throat." He looks away. "Sorry about your throat."
Breakfast. Edward Elric has made him breakfast, a breakfast that he will probably not be able to keep down anyway, due to his uncommon nausea. He didn't even know Fullmetal could cook; had always assumed that Alphonse would be the one to handle their domestic sorts of chores, because Fullmetal did not go around just making breakfast for anybody—and he thumps down on the couch next to the blonde in disbelief, trying frantically to make this situation seem less surreal.
"Shower," he rasps, pointing. "Over there. Clothes—I'll get you some. Towels on the rack. Kindly don't use all my shampoo, Fullmetal—somewhat expensive."
"A-Ah, thanks." Edward stands quickly, virtually running to the bathroom—perhaps he's going to be sick, too, Roy thinks nastily—and slamming the door behind him. The sink runs a bit before the shower does; Roy drinks his tea—it's astonishingly good; more lemon than sugar, the way he likes it—and manages to swallow everything but the toast, because it's a bit too dry. It stays down, too, as he regains more and more control over this bizarre, utterly bizarre, situation. And that's fine. Yesterday was about release, today he will teach Fullmetal the meaning of control.
Just in time, he remembers the clothes, and heads for his bedroom, trying to find something that would fit the boy's miniature size. He can only settle for an old T-shirt and a pair of pajama pants; they are much too large and will fit Edward as though he is a rag doll being dressed by a fashion-retarded child, but they will suffice. He will do the wash after Edward gets out of the shower, and when the wash is done, he will...
Send the boy home? Ravish him again? Hell if he knew.
He steps inside the bathroom silently, nearly choking on the heavy sheets of steam boiling up from inside the shower, and sets the garments on the sink, before retreating hastily to the couch and his tea. He finishes the tea and pours himself coffee; coffee, coffee, God, he could not do this without coffee, and inhales the fragrance of the beverage blissfully, letting a slack-jawed smile spread across his face.
There is a noise from the hallway; Roy turns and sees Edward gaping at him as though he has sprouted a second head—he feels in his hair just to be sure, he wasn't fully awake yet—face reddening from something that had nothing to do with hot water. Control, control, he reminds himself, and smirks. "Something on my face, Fullmetal?" he asks innocently, snapping the youth out of his reverie.
"Yeah," Edward snaps in return, though it is slightly breathy, "a smile."
Unexpected; a rare victory for his opponent. Roy doesn't know what to say, so he gracefully concedes the field, spreading his hands, palms out. Edward takes the concession as an invitation, and seats himself next to the older alchemist, picking up the paper again.
Oh so subtely, Roy tries to catch a glimpse of the article Fullmetal is perusing, but his attempt is discovered, and Edward jerks the paper so close to his face that even he probably cannot read it. "Butt out," he grumbles, face still red. "Get your own damned paper."
"That is my paper, Fullmetal," Roy reminds him, trying unsuccessfully to hide his mirth. He stands up, taking the breakfast dishes with him—breakfast, Edward Elric has just made him breakfast, and how fucking odd is that?—and glancing over his shoulder at the paper as he heads for the kitchen.
—And in the next installment of the Chronicles of the Super Space Alchemist, will the evil Dr. Moofy succeed in his attempts to create an entire army of transmuted super-humans?—
Roy is not aware that he has dropped the plates until a piece of the shrapnel cuts him in the leg.
It is not an article on world peace or the state of the nation; nothing of starving orphans or alchemial breakthroughs—it is comics, the boy is reading fucking comics, and Roy feels ready to lose his recently imbibed breakfast all over again.
There is a clap sounding from below him; Edward fixes the plates in a flash of blue light and leans forward, on his knees, to investigate the freely bleeding cut. "It's not too bad," he says, but it is, it is very bad indeed; painful reminders over and over again that he is not normal, that he is damned, and that he needs to rectify this situation immediately. "You ought to put something on it, though—it's shallow but it bleeds a lot."
Mustang forces a jaunty smile in place. "If I lick it, it'll heal—isn't that what we dogs do? All dogs are still dogs, even if one's got a prettier collar than the other."
Edward looks baffled; perhaps he sees through the false vivacity, perhaps he has realized that the entire world around him is insane—but what he does next is even weirder.
Slowly, ever so slowly—slow enough for anyone to stop him if they wanted—he stretches out his neck to lap at the wound hesitantly, then with growing confidence.
And Roy can only blink at him with astonishment—so damn bizarre, weirder than breakfast, maybe even as strange as the night before—and watch with a sort of morbid fascination as a small pink tongue gathers up drops of blood and devours them. The cut is stinging; he would ordinarly make some sort of joke about rabies, but his heart is not in it today, and the blood is flowing faster rather than slowing—he ought to get gauze.
He ought to do a lot of things, such as drop-kick Fullmetal out of his window all the way back to the dorms, or explain to him that it was just a release thing, a one-time thing—
Hauling the blonde up by his wrists and kissing him hungrily was not on the list, he would swear it to anyone who asked, but it does not stop him from doing it anyway. Edward is surprised for a moment—he must have known it wasn't on the list, too—but it does not take long, it does not take long at all for him to open his mouth enthusiastically; Roy can taste his own blood, thick and unpleasant and metallic—it is better than the goddamned candy, at least.
Candy, and comics, and dear God, the boy took orange juice instead of coffee and if he dug the plastic toy out of the cereal box—
Roy lets go, suddenly, and Edward loses his balance, falling onto the floor. He jumps to his feet as instantly as if he were made of rubber, snarling viciously. "What the hell was that for?!" he shouts, gesticulating wildly with his arms.
Last night, before he dropped off to sleep and feverish dreams, Roy told himself that he would think tomorrow, but tomorrow is today, and now he needs to think; needs to correct this grievous error before it grows into something more than what it is—what it was, he corrects himself firmly. He holds his hands up in the air, forestalling the impending argument, and shakes his head solemnly. "We need to talk," he says quietly, and it is not the first time he has spoken these words, but never have they cost so much to say, either.
Edward stills so suddenly that it's frightening. "About what?" he asks warily, though he probably knows damn well what.
"Last night, I acted... nefariously, so to speak," Roy begins, folding his arms behind his back to keep his hands from wringing together, "and I'd like to do anything I can to correct that... well, somewhat bad decision."
Edward colors, though it is impossible to tell whether it is from anger or embarrassment. "A bad decision," he repeats dully, eyes flashing dangerously. "Doing all that... saying all that... making me feel that way... you're trying to tell me that it was just a bad decision?!" he howls at the end, arms clutching at each other as though he is in pain, twitching violently.
It's just dancing. Drive the point home.
"Yes. As your commanding officer—as well as an elder who is responsible for you—I had no right to jeopardize our position as colleagues like that. I had no right to... pressure... you in such a manner."
"To hell with stands on ceremony," Edward hisses through gritted teeth, fingers tightening enough to leave bruises on his arms. "You know I don't give a damn about any of that. It was good enough for you then, wasn't it, what the hell is so different about now?!" He swallows, lower lip trembling fractionally. "It was never really for me... was it?"
There is a sudden intake of breath; it takes a moment for Roy to register that it is his own. Never really for Edward? He barks out a sudden laugh, unable to help it. Everything, everything that he did was for Edward; sometimes it was for himself, or for the both of them, but always, always for that short and short-tempered blonde shaking in front of him, and he wants to pull that small body into a crushing embrace and repeat those words over and over, but—
Shatter. Break it to pieces.
- he digs fingernails into the flesh of his arms and wills himself to speak. "Make of it what you will," he shrugs, feigning indifference despite his desire to scream, "but you should have known that something like this couldn't have been lasting. You are fourteen years my junior and my subordinate in the military; there are certain rules that I will bend for you, Fullmetal, but I will not break any of them, not for a fanciful whim."
"Fanciful whim," Edward breathes, quite obviously trying to force himself to calm down. "Right. So, now what?" He smiles unpleasantly. "Another 'informal arrangement' thing? We'll get together whenever I'm horny and you're bored? I won't like it, but I can work with it."
Mustang knows he is being baited, but he has yet the see the fisherman snared by the fish. "No arrangement, period. It's the end of the matter—you are to speak of this to no one. My advice to you is to find yourself a nice girlfriend—one who will love you in every sense of the word—and forget this entire thing took place." He pauses for a brief moment. "You're welcome to stay until your clothes are washed, but you'll have to be out of here by the afternoon—I'm ill, you see, and I'll have to lie down for a while," he adds pointedly, forcing more hoarseness into his voice than he actually feels.
It is a momentary success—Edward blushes at the reminder but does not comment, instead stalking to the bedroom and clomping out moments later, boots on his feet and his belt in hand, but leaving the rest of his clothes on floor. "You can have 'em," he snarls, striding to the front door and throwing it open,"I've got spares. Besides..." He grabs the front of the oversized T-shirt that the older man had lent to him and presses it up against his nose, inhaling deeply. "—It smells like you," he spits invectively, "and unlike you, I won't try to forget. I'll remember, and I bet you'll remember me; won't be able to forget me. So keep the damn clothes; you can roll yourself in them at night like a dog on the carpet, I don't give a fuck."
"And your watch?" Mustang calls blandly, eyebrows raised but nothing more.
"You can have that, too," Edward hisses in farewell, slamming the door behind him.