Ed didn't go home that night. The vision of Roy's angry face, his voice filled with utter betrayal and the thought of spending a second in a house where he wasn't welcome was too much. Home was supposed to be safe; it was supposed to be the one place where all the shit from the outside didn't matter. They could argue—and did they—they could scream at each other, but it never really meant anything.
When Roy told him to leave, though... he'd meant that as surely as he'd meant anything in his life and Ed didn't quite know what to do with that. They had decided together to live with each other. They wanted to spend more time together, to share more with each other. Yet in the end, apparently, it was still Roy's house and Ed was just staying there. He could move as much of his stuff in as he wanted, but at the end of the day, it was Roy's, and Ed was little more than a tenant.
Ed swallowed against the bile in his throat and wondered if he should go to Al's. He knew his brother would have a place for him, Al would always have a place for him, but then Al would want to talk about it and Ed didn't feel like that at the moment. He didn't want anyone knowing. It was too embarrassing, and the last thing he needed was sympathy.
Instead, Ed went to his office. On Sunday, he kept the office closed, so he had the rooms to himself. Occasionally the phone rang, but Ed ignored it. The only person he wanted to talk to was Roy, and Roy wasn't about to call him. Instead he caught up on paperwork, worked on some arrays that needed attention and read through a couple prospective cases. Not all of his work came from the military, and maybe it was time to start distancing himself from their opportunities.
He worked through the day, surprised when he checked the clock at how late it was. If there was one thing he excelled at, it was burying himself in work and ignoring the larger problems until they could be dealt with. Only Ed wasn't sure he was ready to deal. He could only think of a handful of outcomes and most of them were less than pleasant. Either they argued some more and Roy kicked Ed all the way out; they argued, stayed mad for a couple days and went on with Roy bringing it up at every opportunity until he kicked Ed out; they ignored it entirely until it blew up in their faces and Roy kicked him out, or somehow, amazingly, Roy got over the idea of being second best in Ed's life, got over Ed's stupid overactive mouth, and allowed Ed to stay.
Right. Ed figured he could start looking for apartments in the morning and just stay in his office until he found a place. If he was lucky, Roy would be magnanimous enough not to throw his shit out on the lawn and wait for Ed to actually come and collect it.
Unable to sit any longer, Ed closed up the office and started walking. His dinner was provided by a street vendor when the first waft of spicy, greasy food hit his nose and he realized he hadn't eaten all day. He stood at the stall and devoured three servings before the vendor cocked his head and asked, "Hey, aren't you—"
Ed walked away before he could finish and threw the rest of his food in the nearest trashcan.
As the night wore on, Ed walked the streets of Central. Apparently he was getting old, because he used to be able to walk for days and not get tired, but about three in the morning, he started to drag. He stopped for a while on a park bench, scrubbing his eyes with his hands and wishing he could press out everything that had happened with the pressure of his fingers. He wondered if Roy was looking for him, or if he'd even noticed Ed hadn't come home yet.
Then he wondered if Al was looking for him. Al was sure to have seen the paper by now and had probably tried to get in touch with him during the day. What would he think when Roy told him he wasn't at the house and didn't know where he was? Maybe he should call. But then he'd have to talk, to answer questions and even now, hours later, he wasn't ready. Roy was the only one he wanted to see, but he was too afraid of what he was going to say to actually go and face him.
Ed jerked up at the sound, not sure if he'd actually been sleeping or lost in his own thoughts. "What?" A young uniformed officer stood in front of him, looking like it was his first day on the job.
"You can't sleep in the park, sir. I can take you to a shelter or if you have somewhere to go, but you can't stay here."
Great. "I'm not, I wasn't, I have—" Ed blew out a frustrated breath because he wasn't sure of anything, including if he had a home to go to. Instead, he pushed himself to his feet. "Yeah, whatever." Cities were so strange about where they let you sleep. How was he hurting anyone by sitting in the park? It wasn't like he was a raving lunatic freaking out families of four during their sacrosanct picnic time.
Ed wandered away, ignoring the well-intentioned questions of the young officer. He walked blindly, too tired now to dwell properly on his problems. All around him, the darkness slowly lifted until Ed found himself on a bridge, leaning against the high stone side. The bridge where everything started. Well, not everything, but everything with Roy that led him to his current predicament.
A little over a year ago they had stood here, shoulder to shoulder, the last lingering traces of winter still etching the cool breeze. They'd bought coffee, sipping it quietly out of paper cups as they watched the sun set over the river. Ed was hyperaware of Roy's body, so close to his own as he tried to figure out what the fuck they were doing. He didn't work for Roy anymore; hell, just the fact that he called him Roy and not Mustang was significant, but Roy's face had been so hard for Ed to read in those days. The sun sank below the water, Ed finished his coffee and was ready to give up on whatever it was they were doing or not doing when Roy made a strange sound that caused Ed to turn. And then Roy had kissed him. His nose was cold against Ed's cheek and Roy tasted like coffee and too much sugar and Ed liked to pretend it wasn't the reason he couldn't go through a day without a cup. But really, the taste would forever make him think of Roy, made him want Roy.
With that kiss, Roy could not have set fire to him more effectively if he had snapped his fingers. Everything they had been stepping around and ignoring since Ed came back through the Gate was right there. They'd barely made it back to Roy's apartment before falling on each other. The first time they had sex had been right in the entryway to the apartment.
He'd really loved Roy's apartment. It was small and cramped, but it smelled like Roy and felt like him and in some ways represented everything about their relationship that was uncomplicated and easy. In the beginning, Ed would come over, they'd have sex, eat, sometimes talk about stuff and then go their separate ways. Then Roy wanted more and if he was honest with himself, Ed wanted more. He wasn't sure when his need to see Roy all the time had turned to an obsession, when he couldn't go a day without touching him or breathing in his scent.
"You're a hard man to find."
Ed jerked at the voice and frowned at Hughes as he crossed to Ed's side of the bridge and leaned next to him. "I wasn't trying to hide." God, was Roy so pissed he couldn't even come himself? If he was going to kick Ed to the curb, the least he could do was do it himself. "Did you need something?"
"Need something? How about more time with my family, sleep, and for you not to be quite so stupid." He turned around, leaning his back against the cool stone and thrusting his chin towards the sky. "I used to think Roy was impossible, but the two of you together? You're making me old before my time."
Ed bent forward until his forehead was pressed against the rough stone, his eyes closed. "What do you want? I'm sorry, okay? I didn't know he was a reporter and I didn't say exactly what he makes it sound like I did."
The pressure of Hughes' hand on his shoulder made Ed flinch, but Hughes didn't retract his touch. "I wasn't talking about the article, though that was a headache to deal with. We solved it hours ago. I'm talking about not knowing where you were all night. Your first instinct when things go wrong is to run, I get that. But you don't have to run anymore, Ed."
"I didn't run. He kicked me out."
"Hmmm, he didn't mention that."
Ed snorted. "He wouldn't. When have I ever run?"
"I think burning down your house was a pretty good start. I'm not talking about physical confrontation, Ed. I wouldn't have anyone else at my back in a fight. When things get rough on an emotional level, that's when you back off pretty quickly."
Ed cracked his forehead, gently, against the bridge and looked up at Hughes. "Why are you here?"
"We've been looking for you."
"Well, here I am. What do you want?" Maybe if he promised Al he would talk to him later, he'd let Ed sleep without an interrogation.
"Nothing more complicated than to offer you a ride home." He patted Ed's shoulder. "Come on."
It was far more complicated than Hughes thought, but Ed was too tired to argue. Home wasn't really home at the moment, though if he intended to take Ed to the Hughes' home, Ed wouldn't mind that so much. Ed let himself be steered away from the bridge and to Hughes' car. He collapsed in the front seat, his head tipped back against the headrest as the soft purr of the engine lulled him into a mellow, not quite sleep.
"The biggest problem the two of you have is that you don't talk."
Ed opened his eyes and squinted at Hughes. "What?"
"I don't know how you can spend so much time together and never talk. You think you don't honestly have a place in Roy's life. Like you're a boarder who's likely to be evicted at any moment. He thinks that the bond you have with your brother somehow threatens what he has with you. If you two would just talk to each other, instead of whatever it is you do when you're alone, we wouldn't be sitting here right now." Hughes tapped his fingers against the steering wheel. "I think Gracia and I should open a clinic to counsel couples. Who wouldn't want a relationship as strong and loving as ours?"
"I think you have enough other stuff to do and Gracia is a saint for putting up with your insanity."
Instead of being offended, Hughes just smiled, his whole face lighting up. "I know. Maybe when Roy is Fuhrer, he'll name a day after her, or even a month. It's the least he could do."
"He's got to be Fuhrer first."
Hughes waved a hand. "It's only a matter of time. Ah, here we are." He pulled the car up to the curb of Roy's house, but didn't kill the motor.
"You're not coming in?"
"I don't think so. I'm overdue at my own home and I'd like to see the kids before they head off to school."
Which was nice because Ed didn't feel guilty enough to puke in the first place. "Okay." He opened the door and headed up the walk, hoping it was early enough not to have to worry about neighbors peeking from behind their curtains. If he was going to arrive ridiculously early in the morning only to leave a couple minutes later with a box full of his shit, he'd prefer to do it without an audience.
The door was unlocked when Ed tested it, which was just stupid on Roy's part. The man should know better. Inside, every light was on and the smell of coffee permeated the whole house. He found Roy slumped at the table, an empty mug at his elbow and dark, bruised shadows under his eyes.
"I didn't think you'd come home." His voice was rough, either from hours of shouting or not speaking at all.
Ed didn't feel like he could cross the space between them, like he was relegated to the threshold until Roy either welcomed him or banished him. "You told me to get out."
"I also told you to come back."
"Yeah, well, I've never been that great at following your stupid orders. I'm not your subordinate anymore, asshole. I can do what I want."
Roy faced Ed for the first time since he'd walked through the door and he looked... Ed couldn't think of any other word than broken. "Then tell me what you want."
It was as close to an invitation as Ed was likely to get, so he crossed the remaining space and collapsed into a chair across from Roy. With his elbows planted on the table, he leaned forward to rest his head in his hands. "You make it sound so simple because what I want, you can't give me."
Roy flinched back from his words. "Okay, then. I guess we're done."
"Fuck, sit back down and let me finish. This is what... this is exactly why we're no good. We never understand each other. Hughes thinks it's because we don't talk, but I think it's because we don't understand each other. I want to feel normal, I want to walk through that door every day and feel like this is mine, too. I want to not be such a fucking crazy person all the time. I want better control of my stupid mouth. I want to stop wondering when everything that feels good is going to go away because that's all it ever does. I want to know when I can expect everything to fall apart. I've done horrible things, things I should never have to stop paying for and this," he waved a hand around the empty kitchen. "It all feels like a temporary reprieve. I've done horrible things and I'm afraid if I'm actually happy, it's all going to be ripped away from me. How can you possibly help me with that?"
With a sigh, Roy reached across the table and took Ed's automail hand and wound their fingers together. "I don't believe the world works that way. I am not free of sin myself, but I choose not to live every day waiting for everything I love to be taken away. I think we all have far more choice in our own affairs than you do and it might help, just as a thought for the future, for you not to go sabotaging what you do have."
"Fuck! I told you I was sorry."
"No, I'm pretty sure you haven't."
Ed thought back over their conversation, both yesterday and today and realized he'd only thought it in his own head. "I am. I'm just—" It was hard to say out loud when it was something he'd barely admitted to himself. "I'm afraid of losing what little bit of you I do have."
"What 'little bit'? Are you insane?" Roy tugged on Ed's hand, pulling him across the table for a kiss that tasted of coffee, sugar and Roy. "You have everything of me. After everything I've given to you, the only things I have left for myself are my name, my clothes and my bid for Fuhrer. Everything else belongs to you. I'm the one standing here wondering if I'll ever get the other ninety percent of you that you keep hidden."
Ed was ready to contradict him—Roy's arguments always, always, always put him on the defensive—but when he thought about it for more than an angry second, he couldn't deny it. "So what do we do?" Ed didn't know how else to be. Too many years running from his past had left him wary of sharing anything with anyone except Al. When his enemies could take on the faces of his loved ones, only those he knew inside and out—only Al—got to see inside. And he was still too close to those battles for it to be an easy transition into a life where he didn't have to guard every word he said. "Look what happened when I didn't watch my mouth."
"Maes did some digging and it turns out this isn't the first story that reporter tried to publish without getting all his facts straight. This morning's papers should have it taken care of. As for the rest of it... " He shrugged. "We try. We call in to our respective works and tell them we're not coming in today. We go upstairs and get some sleep because it's been that kind of day. We try because it's all we can do."
Ed nodded. It wasn't a pretty answer, or even a terribly hopeful one, but it was workable, it was something to strive for, which was really all Ed had any practical knowledge of. He knew how to struggle for his goals, but he had no frame of reference for a happily ever after.