A world gone white. A silent emptiness. A literal Tabula rasa. Or worse still, Rauschenberg’s eponymous ‘White Painting’ brought unimaginatively to life...
These strange thoughts flitted through Ed’s head as he stared through the frosted panes of glass at the outside world. Snow fell from the sky in swirling heaps, like giant, fuzzy cotton balls of shining softness. But it was deceptive, snow. It looked soft, it invited your touch, but if you did touch it, it either melted into water or crunched under your fingers like ice. Snow...it wasn’t truly soft: not like cotton, not like fur, not like silk. No—it was just good ol’ fashion H2O, shaped by temperature and pressure and other natural forces; it just happened to look soft. Every good alchemist understood this, understood the base chemistry involved. But even still, watching it fall from inside the snug confines of a fire-lit study on a sunless Sunday afternoon, Ed had to admit that it did look beautiful. Deceptively soft, but still beautiful.
Roy, look at all the snow! It never snows like this in Risembool... The words were almost out of his mouth before Edward remembered. Remembered that he and Roy were currently fighting, and that Edward had been rigorously giving him the silent treatment all day. The argument had started when Roy, always the neat-freak, had thrown away some research papers that Ed had left strewn across the floor by the library’s window seat. Papers that Roy had immediately assumed were trash, being that they were left on the floor and were stained with coffee and spaghetti sauce and god only knew what else. Disgusting looking. So he had picked them up and tossed them into a bin. And when Edward had found out about it, he had exploded.
“What gives you the right to just throw away my things?!”
“I’m sorry, Ed; I didn’t realize they were important. The library...it was a mess—like a pack of rabid monkeys had gone on some paper-and-spaghetti-sauce flinging spree. And anyway, if they were so important, why didn‘t you put them on the desk when you were done with them?”
“Why should I have to? I live here too, don’t I?”
“Yes, you do. But if you could just try, once in a while, to clean up after yourself...”
“Oh, here we go again with the cleaning speech. And don’t try and use that tone with me; I’m not a little kid, you know.”
“With the way you behave sometimes, that’s highly debatable.”
“Bastard! I knew moving in with you was a mistake. I knew it and I did it anyway. You know they have a pool on us at the office, right? Nobody thinks this is going to last, and I’m starting to see why—”
“—now you really are being childish, Ed. Why is it whenever I ask you to clean up after yourself, it turns in the Ishbalan War all over again? Stop being so melodramatic—”
“—I’m being melodramatic? You just compared this whole thing to the Ishbalan War, Mr. Melodrama. If you weren’t so concerned with coffee rings staining your precious mahogany—”
“That’s not the point, Ed. I just want you to show some respect for my—our—living space.”
“Why should I when you just up and throw my goddam work into the garbage? Where’s the respect there?”
“Jesus, you’re not going to let this drop, are you? You know what? I’m tired of arguing with you. I think I’m going to take a walk.”
“Fine. You do that. I’ll just stay here and work on recreating all the shit you threw away...”
Roy stood stock still in the doorway of the study, an icy, black-haired angel cast in gleaming marble. It was almost as if he were afraid to cross the threshold, afraid of impinging on enemy territory. Ed sighed and allowed his shoulders to slump. He had done nothing but ponder the particular absurdities of their fight the whole time Roy had been gone. He had even thought about capitulation. But Ed was stubborn. And like a dog with a bone to gnaw, he kept coming back to his lost research over and over again. He knew that he should let it go, that he should just let things be as they were before, but some unreasonable sense of stalwart dickishness inside of him wouldn’t allow it. So he remained sullenly silent, and continued to stare, unseeing, out the window with his back to the door.
“C’mon Ed, can’t we...can’t we call a truce to this? Look, I’ve even brought a peace offering.”
Curiosity got the best of him, and Ed turned to observe the object in Roy’s hand. Blond wood and shiny red rails: a sled. Ed was torn between a childlike smile and a grimace of offense—offense, because to him, this was possibly more of Roy’s ‘god, you’re such a child, Ed’ crap. The more logical part of his brain told him to stop trying to decipher what was probably a bunch of non-existent meanings and take the truce and the sled. But what he said instead was:
“I can’t believe you bought a sled. And you call me the childish one...”
“This has nothing to do with being childish, Ed. I just thought the snow looked really beautiful, and I remembered that you said it hardly ever snowed in Risembool, so I thought maybe a sleigh ride would be something new, something different for you. Something we could enjoy together.”
“So go enjoy it without me. I don’t feel like going out there.”
“Even though it’s absolutely gorgeous?”
“Huh, it may look gorgeous, but I guarantee you there’s a layer of ice under there waiting to trip you up. Not to mention you’re gonna freeze your balls off.”
Roy wound his dark wool scarf tighter around himself in response. “Fine then. I’ll take this baby out for a spin myself. You don’t know what you’re missing.” With that, Roy hoisted the sled under his arm and headed for the front door. There was the audible click! of the lock and Ed turned solemnly back to the window. A gust of winter air set the snowflakes to dancing wildly, hurling them across the lawn like a troupe of windblown fairies. A sudden sense of longing invaded Ed’s being, longing tinged with great big heaps of regret. It was true, he had never been on a sleigh ride. It was also true that he really, really wanted to go with Roy. His fingers gripped the window sill, the flesh ones so hard that they turned purple. God, why was he such an idiot? Why couldn’t he just enjoy things like normal people? Why did everything have to be such a protracted battle? WhyWhyWhy?
Filled with a new sense of determination, Ed squared his shoulders and pushed away from the window sill. Like the soldier that he was, he made a mental battle plan. First objective: wool socks. Second objective: fleece pullover. Third objective: his winter gloves. And lastly: his boots and his red coat with the hood. Once Edward had all his cold weather gear in place, he headed out the front door. And was immediately blinded by the sea of whiteness in front of him. The hedges, the walkway, the car—all of it was covered in thick sparkling snow, and Ed blinked to make out the now colorless objects. The landscape was hauntingly familiar yet foreign at the same time. Like the world had gone all topsy-turvy while his head had been turned.
There was a loud, thunderous crack like several pairs of chopsticks were being simultaneously snapped in two, followed by the sound of something heavy falling, the object hitting the ground so hard that the earth literally shook beneath Edward’s feet. An unknown fear reached in and grabbed Ed’s heart, chilling him to the bone with icy, grasping fingers. A morbid suspicion began to grow as Ed’s eyes swept across the skyline near the roof of the house: the giant oak tree, the limbs of which could usually be seen peering over the back of the house from as far as the road, was conspicuously absent. Without conscious thought, Ed started to slosh forward through the damp snow towards the back yard. A yard he had to get to by going down a softly sloping hill...
A conversation from a few weeks ago drifted through Ed’s mind as he slogged forward—a conversation that was accompanied by a specific image of Roy, dressed only in pair of pajama bottoms, standing by their bedroom window. He remembered the moment well, remembered it because he had been looking at Roy with such fond admiration from the warm crush of blankets in the king-sized bed that they shared. He remembered thinking, “This is the most beautiful man in the world. And he’s all mine. I can’t believe it.” He also happened to remember what Roy had said as he stood there, an off-hand comment that he had made as Ed admired his too-lovely reflection in the glass. “That oak tree out there has been dead for years. I should have it taken down before it falls on the house.”
Ed nearly tripped and fell head first down the hill, his foot caught on some unseen root or similar object neatly camouflaged by snow. He caught himself at the last minute and cursed, struggling to stay upright. He lifted his head and through frenetic swirls of white, swan-like wings of snowflakes he saw it: the old oak, lying dead on its side, a wooden giant felled by weight and weather and time. The tree had missed the house. That should have filled Ed with relief, but the coldness gripping his heart was still there; it refused to let go. And that’s when he saw it: a bright twist of red metal growing like a false limb from underneath the fallen tree.
This time the name was barely a whisper, an inaudible plea caught up and flung away by a heartless wind. Instead of shouting, Ed stood there trembling. Instead of rushing forward and bringing his hands together, he stood there fearing. Fearing what he might actually find under those deceptively soft-looking drifts of snow.
“Well, damn...it looks like the tree got the sled.”
Edward jumped as a heavy hand came to rest on his shoulder. He whirled, and almost tripped and fell a second time. He looked up from under his hood to see Roy standing there with a small shopping bag dangling from a gloved hand, his face almost completely covered by his scarf. He was looking at the tree. Or rather, the remains of the sled that were visible beneath the tree.
A strangled whine escaped Ed’s lips, and he flung himself at Roy, almost knocking him off his feet. “Whoa now! Hey, does this mean we’re done fighting?” Roy asked with a chuckle. Ed yanked down the scarf covering Roy’s face and kissed him full on the lips. Roy noticed the agitated look in Ed’s eyes, the way he was clinging to him and asked, “Hey, is something the matter?”
Ed turned away from the fallen tree and his own lurid imagination, pulling Roy along by the hand. “Nothing’s the matter. I just realized that this whole fight of ours is stupid, and I wanted to come and tell you that I’m sorry for behaving like a brat.”
Roy arched an incredulous eyebrow. “Oh really?”
“Yes, really,” Ed confirmed with a nod. His brows scrunched together as a new thought occurred to him. “Hey—where were you anyway? I thought you were...you know...going sledding.”
Roy frowned. “Nah. Sledding’s no fun alone. That’s when I decided to try a different tactic to lure you out of your sulk, so I went down to the corner store and bought some hot chocolate and marshmallows instead.” Roy lifted the bag he was carrying in confirmation.
Ed smiled. “Yummy. I love hot chocolate with marshmallows.”
Roy smiled back as they made their way up the hill. “I thought you might.”
“Hey, you know what would make all that even better?” Ed asked with a mischievous grin.
“Having it while we lounge around naked on that fur throw in front of the fireplace.”
“Hey, now you’re talking!” smirked Roy. “I’ll race you there!”
“Ha! You can’t outrun me!”
“With that kind of motivation I can!”
“We’ll see about that!”
“First man up the hill is the first to go down!”
“C’mon, you know you love it!”
“I know I do...” Ed paused. Then: “Hey, Roy...”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Ed.”
Ed smiled and deliberately slowed his pace up the hill. He no longer cared that the wind was freezing his nose, that the snow was causing him to slide in increments. Right now the world was a beautiful frozen wonder of soft, sparkling silk. An empty, unblemished page. A Tabula rasa. Or...
A fresh start to love.