Lieutenant Ross is nothing short of twisted lip victorious as she hands him the official looking piece of paper with two words capitalized, underlined and scratched out in thick, black marker, "Sleep, Fullmetal" and Ed watches, dismayed, as the steam of his determination floods out from between his shoulder blades with a pronounced 'whoosh'. Two weeks enforced leave, it says, no missions, no haphazard raison d'etre quests to City A or Village B, just 'for god's sake sit still for awhile, Ed.'
"Everyone has to breathe sometime, Edward-san," Ross reasons, breeching that third wall of propriety once again and when it occurs to him that he should be fighting back, he gazes up to the thinly veiled worry pressed behind her eyes and feels something raw and slow stretch itself out in his chest with a sullen oh. He lets go, exhales.
Al, of course, takes the entire thing in stride and as they sit watching the sun seep away behind the city, he places a heavy hand on the crown of Ed's head, a thumb smoothing lightly across his hair until the tense humming and haa-ing peaks Ed's frustration, "What's wrong, Al?"
Sheepish metallic laughter, "Winry's been asking when I'm going to visit again, Brother."
The silent 'alone' lurking beneath the request palms an embedded bit of hurt in the middle of Ed's chest and he's surprised when he puts a name to it, as it's not jealousy like he thought. He should have seen/sensed this before, it whispers. Should have just pushed Al onto a train and said 'go, go be with her' instead of dwelling on all the physical 'hows' and 'whyfors'. Silently, he hands his brother enough money for a ticket, then pulls his face down from the light because god, this was Al he was talking about, idiot idiot moron, 'impossible' didn't even begin to apply.
Twitchy and spiteful on day five, Ed takes to turning up his collar and wandering the chilled streets of the alchemist quarter alone just because he can. Except the occasional murmur of Ross' voice somewhere behind him strikes out any philosophical delusion of being alone and the 'because he can' is null and void as he has purpose.
Which is not (period, exclamation mark) stalking.
This is especially true when he pulls to a stop in front of the pseudo-escher mansion with its familiar address box insignia (aha, found you!) and calls out to the street, "That's Colonel Mustang's house, isn't it?"
Ross' bemused voice echoes up from two alleyways back, "Yes, sir!"
The Colonel is all raised eyebrows and obvious lack of surprise when he finds Ed on the doorstep and it's enough to make his head go "um" and his stomach to flip-flop wildly. It's not like he was going out of his way to end up here.
Well, actually, he was but denial is easier than the alternative of Deconstructing Edward Elric's Inner Urges.
"How very inevitable of you, Fullmetal. Come in."
Ed abandons his shoes and jacket near the door, because the coat rack is too damn tall and follows Roy into the large, rather bare living space just beyond. The Colonel should, by all that is logical in the world, be less intimidating out of his uniform. But lounging in a heavy leather chair, an arm thrown behind it, Roy's lips curve up to wrinkle at his eyes and the dull, smudged lights make him somehow more threatening.
If they were going to Freudalize and compartmentalize (which Ed does, more than he likes to think on) then Personae A (The Colonel) was the epitome of straight-backed, narrowed eyed military. But at least the rank came with rules, standards which dictated behaviour. Personae B (Roy), on the other hand, well, Roy had a big, echoing house, something sharp in his eyes and fire lingering on his fingertips even when his hands were bare. And therein lay the problem; because here it wasn't the Colonel and Fullmetal, it was Roy and Ed, Ed and Roy. Or maybe some congolmeration with bits and assorted mentalities from all four personalities and yeah, now Ed's starting to think, "crash and burn, run while you still have your eyebrows."
Ed fiddles with the abacus on Roy's desk, counts off 200 g nitrogen, 50 phosphorus, 100 carbon until he realizes Roy is staring at him. Not blinking. Waiting. He pulls the demobilization order from his pocket and lets it flutter to the floor with a quiet "Why?"
Roy shifts in the chair, flicks a thumb at the mirror over Ed's shoulder, "You're a walking, talking answer to your own question, Fullmetal," a rustle of movement and he's on his feet, "And you're no use to anyone like that."
Ed turns, stares at his reflection for a moment and thinks heavy. Dark eyes, limp hair, dull metal, pale-pale empty white. And alright, he looks a little wild eyed, maybe, but not incapable, "We're close, Colonel, you hear me? We can't stop now!"
"Icarus," Roy's hands are on his shoulders then, weighted and warm, and his voice thrums its low, shivering way up the back of Ed's neck, "your wings are melting, but you're so blinded by the sun you can't even smell the wax."
Ed wants to seethe, to confront and demand. Snap, if that's what it takes to make him understand. He can't stop right now, it was too close to surrender's fine edge and this Growing Up (But Don't Really) thing they've been impressing on him is starting to feel too much like fading away, "I can't. Just. Don't you get it?"
Roy shrugs at the mirror, at the doppelganger, then paces humming over to the record player settled along the far wall. It's a clunkier, older model than the ones currently sweeping the market, but Ed isn't really surprised. Looking around the room he sees that Roy obviously has a taste for the classics; books, plinking clocks and tapered, wooden ceilings cut high by heavy buttresses. He watches Roy pull a polished black record from its slip and needle it onto the player where it creaks momentarily with static before settling into a sultry, swaying jazz. It's a little more piano than what he's used to, with a languid male baritone singin' bout the beatin' of his heart and filling out the bass line; hum hum hum thump, trembling the walls and vibrating the floorboards. The song dates Roy and Ed is just about to tell him so when Roy turns slowly and everything grinds, grinds, halts. Suspends.
And Roy is looking at him, bright, unwavering.
Ed hears the shock fall from his lips but he doesn't look away, finds that he can't. Roy closes the distance between them, coming up until they meet toe to toe, sways along the floor to the beat unconscious/silent. The smile is the same though, and Ed swallows the inexplicable urge to reach out and touch it just to see if it's real or something that will shatter if he pokes it, "Do you know how to dance, Fullmetal?"
"No." It's not his voice, or hasn't been his voice in more years than he can count.
Roy's arm comes up around Ed's waist, fingers ghosting against ribs, pulling close the remaining distance and suddenly they are rocking, back and forth, smooth with the steady rhythm of the bass, "You have two weeks to learn."
Ed thinks this (right here, right now) is the critical point of no return. That he's standing on the threshold of more than one room simultaneously, unable to make sense of, well. Of anything. Everything. But he can feel his body wanting to imitate Roy's motion, the sway of his hips, the shift of his feet. And there are lines being breached here, but they're Ed and Roy. Not Colonel Mustang and Fullmetal.
Or so Ed keeps telling himself.
"That's an order," Roy states under frantic violin, then eases Ed's arm up to rest along his shoulder and watches himself, slowly, as his palm smooths back down over warm skin and fabric, their foreheads and gazes clashing in a fury of high octave piano. Ed expects it to be awkward with his automail leg, but it's simpler to allow Roy lead, the arm tight around him correcting without missing a step. And they are lost, completely, everything shifting kaleidoscope into 4/4 time. Percussion and c sharps. The tension clinging onto Ed's spine seems to drain gently out his toes and he lets the warmth and music roll over him, laughs weakly when he pictures Roy, stiff but oddly graceful, spinning around this room with an invisible partner every night. The beat picks up, and so do they, Ed sliding a knee between Roy's slightly parted thighs (feels right, natural?) and watches, rather breathlessly, as the other man's head falls back with a choked ah.
"Music is about just being, Fullmetal," Roy tells him, his voice low and rough and curling coy along Ed's cheek. The record crackles and spits to an end before resetting itself on a melodic violin solo and they stop moving. Hold on. For a heartbeat, there's no hovering promises or Stones, pretty painted facades or missions to City X and Y.
Ed nods (Roy's mouth is very, very close and he still wants to touch it so he pushes up on his toes), breathes deeply and just is.