Roy Mustang stands on the hill overlooking the Elric house. He doesn't know what to think. He had felt the same way when Alphonse's letter had said that Edward had come home changed. What was 'changed?' Was he whole in flesh? Was he whole in spirit? Had he somehow been scarred in a way that Alphonse could not put into words in a letter? Was he afraid of something? Did he fear it being read by the unintended, or any of those who were unaware of the 'swap' that had been played at all these years?
When Roy had the man on the porch—five foot five, still short, but broad in shoulder, sporting a thick growth of beard, and long, fair hair—Roy had understood. Something about this Gate that he had not grasped and now did; this other place Edward, where Edward had been thrust when he traded away his life for Alphonse's whole, young body, had aged him.
Edward had gotten old.
They had tea together. Hawkeye excuses herself, still unable to not stare. Roy manages with slightly more aplomb. They speak of time spent apart. Edward was very interested in news in how the last five years have gone. His pale eyes flicker behind his half-cut spectacles as he listens.
He looks tired, despite his interest. He seems washed out, stretched too thin; not enough meat beneath his pale, scarred skin. His automail is gone; in its place are limbs that moved awkwardly, using pulleys and straps. It rests on a harness that peeks around Edward's collar, skin scarred where it had been rubbed raw, worn down to callused toughness.
Roy had not wanted to cry for many years; he hadn't wept since Ishbal. Looking at Edward, he feels heat prick his eyes.
He should have done something different.
Edward speaks of a family, and Roy's heart clenches. There had been a son, two daughters. He'd been married ten years after his stranding in the other world. He would have been twenty six; he is now nearly forty three. Just over five years passed for every one that occurred here, ticking by. His wife was called Anna, and his three children had been named Gunther, Hilde, and Agatha. The names sounded familiar to Amestris' own nomenclatures but Roy can't help but think of them as foreign sounding.
Edward's son was dead first, in the Great War; the irony is not lost on Roy as he watches Edward recount it; he speaks of the way his son had gone to fight for the Fuhrer despite his parents' protest. Ed's daughters would be dead in fighting, later. There had been a bombing that ended in death when they had fled to into other parts of Europe. He had realized too late what was coming.
Edward had been close to swallowing his own pistol when Alphonse had come through, plucked him from that world and traded away the life of the homunculus Gluttony, along with the last fragments of the Philosopher's Stone to save his brother.
Alphonse is not here, at their home; Roy is surprised, but Edward is not. He smiles sadly, and explains, "I am not the brother he remembers, or the father he desires. Our bond is broken."
Roy wonders when Edward had died so much that he could simply accept that Alphonse could not love him as he once had.
Roy did not womanize anymore, and Edward found this amusing. "You are still Roy Mustang," Ed says. "This should hardly stop you."
"It takes a special woman to love a cripple."
Edward's face shadows with something unknowable, and Roy knows immediately that he's just lanced a still healing wound. "Doesn't it, though?" Edward says.
Roy does not speak again.
He comes and goes, a welcome visitor in the Resembool house that had sheltered Edward. It seems that beyond Roy's sporadic visitation and Alphonse's equally unpredictable timetable, Edward only has Rose and her son for company. Winry Rockbell is now Mrs. Tringham, and had become so almost immediately after Edward had vanished. Pinako had promised to keep Edward's reappearance a secret from her own granddaughter, because she knew that the sight of him, his mangled body and aging face, would break her heart.
Roy kills pity for Edward by indulging in some for himself. Edward had found a beautiful woman, if gentle words about Anna had been any indication, and had a beautiful of family. Roy had his work and nothing more, he's a corporal dog, not even certified by the State.
Roy sits by and watches Edward as he sits on the porch, his face alight with the sunset, and realizes that for each day that passes here, nearly a week goes by in the world he had abandoned, the world he had lived in longer then the one of his birth.
He could not bring himself to ask, 'Do you miss it there?'
Neither alchemize anything anymore. Both have sworn it off in the time between. Edward still remembers every array he ever had touched or studied, and Roy could see his interest when Alphonse brought home news of some study or experiment and when Al shows him the lines of the gloves he had created to perfect his costume and imitation of Edward's alchemy.
When Roy asks about it, Edward merely smiles at him and says, "Why did you leave it behind?"
"I had my reasons," is all Roy can offer.
"So did I," Edward replies, and they must resolve to leave it at that.
It is a year after his return that Edward begins to speak of the time before Anna, the memories before. It takes a great deal of good liquor, the expensive stuff that Roy had squirreled away for special occasions. The one year anniversary of his return to this world, the world he had been born to, seemed special enough to Roy.
Two bottles of expensive whiskey later, Edward spoke of the years of frustration, working his hands till they bled, studying everything from rockets to pharmacology. He talks of his partner Alfons and of the loss of hope.
It had been Alfons death that killed him. Tuberculosis had claimed Alfons' life, and ended Edward's partnership with him. Neither had seen the sky from a rocket. Instead, everything had come spiraling down, in a violent nosedive.
Sex. Liquor. Living in alleys and taverns. Eating little. Fucking far too much. He had been twenty-two when he had sex for the first time, with a woman. A month later, he had sex for the first time, with a man. Roy's mouth is dry as he describes the feeling of rolling over to an empty bed, a sore body, and a hollow heart.
Some men leave money, and it had left Edward feeling lower then ever; the vastness behind his eyes speaks of the remembered horror, echoed in his unsteady voice.
Roy feels the hot prick of tears again, and drinks more.
Not everything had been suffering, though.
Edward speaks of his father coming to find him; the shock of his 'gentleman caller' being Hohenheim Elric had brought him back to his senses, and his father had taken him in his arms and forgave him. They went back to their small, shared flat and Edward had allowed himself to be cleaned up, made respectable, and became his father's assistant in all things.
It would be at the university his father teaches at that he meets Anna, and allows himself to love. Her brother had been one of Hohenheim's students, and she was headstrong, intelligent and lovely. Certainly, she'd been smarter then her brother, who had introduced them hoping the connection would spark, and he can use this to levy his flagging grades. He had not expected them to truly fall in love.
They marry; her brother flunked. It all worked out, as far as Edward is concerned.
"Funny how that works," Edward says, fixing Roy with his eyes. "How we find someone who can love us in the least likely of places."
Roy does not realize he is being seduced. That Edward is lonely is a given; that Roy is nearly the only person who grasps at his position is not lost on the former Flame Alchemist; he was never particularly stupid or blind—at least, not until a bullet lodged itself behind his eye.
However, he doesn't realize that the way Edward undoes his hair or the way he speaks of the heat an unbuttons his shirt collar is a lure, a hopefulness. He is lonely, and he has picked Roy.
Roy has never had sex with a man before, and really had no intentions of starting. All the same, eighteen months after he had first walked up the hill to see the Fullmetal Alchemist sitting on his porch, and grumbles to himself about his cane and the trip up here to see the boy—he finds himself sweating and grunting and clawing with one near paralyzed hand at Edward's shoulders, surprised as he is brought to orgasm, his eyepatch lost, scars bared, and Edward's mouth finding his to swallow the stuttering cry he releases.
It doesn't start passionate. It is a gentle suggestion, a subtly dropped hint. Edward cannot give him devotion and affection, or follow him to Central, or wherever he may go. He cannot be more then a friend, really, with a certain sorts of benefits. He can, however, give him a release he has been lacking these last six and a half years.
It takes a special woman to love a cripple; Edward, however, is a cripple and so is Roy. Understanding is born from it and the frustration of a body unmade, a frame that does not obey, an existence with new and aggravating limitations is something Edward understands more than anyone else could.
Edward tops; it amuses them both, but they can have sex no other way. Roy's command of his body is not so fine, and despite his missing limbs, Edward finds his hips and one leg work just fine, as do his hands and mouth.
The fact that he is damnably good at fellatio—he should not be, he shouldn't be good at any of this, he should be young and reasonably whole and not sprawled between Roy's legs—disturbs Roy to no end, making climax a guilty pleasure. He tells Edward, to make him understand it's something he doesn't want, the man who was the boy on his poor knees. So, Edward finds other ways to bring him to completion, but never does Roy let him do it with his mouth, no matter how much either likes it.
Edward makes a joke about the beard, and the anatomy of a woman, and Roy falls flat. Literally.
Their sex is awkward at first; Roy is never certain about this with a man, but if he closes his eye and relaxes with the strokes of Edward's flesh and blood hand, it stops mattering. He enjoys himself immensely.
They are lovers in the only way they can be: irregularly. It depends on mood and time availability and inclination. Roy regains some confidence; if he can have sex with Edward, even taking the thrusts instead of dishing them out, by god, he can have sex with a woman again.
He tries a few times, but no one takes him seriously except one woman. He realizes in the midst of foreplay, that her interest stems from the freak factor and nothing more. He wilts, and perfunctorily brings her to orgasm with cunnilingus.
His reputation with women is forgotten and he returns to Edward with few regrets. At least, leaning against the other man's chest, they can speak of things and there is understanding, compassion, and empathy.
Sometimes, Roy wonders when he started requiring those things in a partner.
Edward tells him things he would tell no other; he tells him of the world beyond, the secrets of alchemy, the planes, the trains, the weapons, and the war.
He cries out for his wife sometimes, or his children, in the night; Roy recalls when he was smaller, younger, slightly less damaged. He used to scream for his mother.
Roy wonders if he died tomorrow, if Edward would scream for him. Wouldn't he just be among the other ghosts in Edward's bed, crowding them together. They seem to cling so desperately, because there was no room to do anything else. The dead took up too much room there was little else they could do.
Edward dies five years after his arrival.
Roy does not even grasp that he is growing ill; he eats like a bird, he is always quiet and he is always wan. It seems to be the affect that world had on him, sapping his life till there was only a ghost left. A ghost who made love to him so that he would not be alone, so that the ghost would be remembered by someone as something more then just the boy he had been.
Alphonse sends the letter; Edward holds on till Roy is there, though he is gone in mind, his eyes fixed on Roy as the other man takes his hand. Alphonse sits to his other side, weeping openly. It is the second time he has done this, and for that, Roy pities him.
He watches Edward fade peacefully away, his fingers going slack, a slight smile on his lips. Alphonse speaks hollowly, when they are alone with the cooling body, and says, "He was just like mom when she died."
They grieve. Alphonse and Rose and Roy, with the few who remember, the few who were allowed to know.
They lay the body by Trisha Elric. The man that rests next to her is not her long dead husband, though the resemblance has been uncanny. They mark it Hohenheim Elric anyway; the Fullmetal Alchemist that exists is now Edward, still alive, still vibrant and passionate and fighting for what he thinks is right. The reality does not matter; Alphonse grieving for his dead brother, weeping hard against one hand, with Roy's own palm on his shoulder.
The sky pours down rain. The black they wear is darker for it.
Roy buries him with a solemn mien; he would have liked to have served as pall bearer, but he could not. His broken body would not allow it. He does not deny tears; not with the rain splattering them all till they're soaked to the bones. They return to Edward's house, and have dinner and speak of their memories, and Roy tells them little by little, what he thought Edward would have wanted them to know.
Roy goes to sleep in what used to be their bed, and swears he can feel Edward's weight on the mattress, his warmth at his back; Edward had loved to spoon against him, make love (because it had been making love, a tiny treacherous voice says) like that.
He inherits a bed full of ghosts and wonders what they'll do when Roy, too, is no longer there.