A Moment’s Hesitation

He'd made a vow three years ago never to hesitate, and he hadn't since that time. He scorned the idea of holding back, of throwing himself into anything less than whole-heartedly, of giving anything less than his full strength. He swore never to look back, never to regret, and he didn't.

But he hadn't seen this coming.

And... and Roy. He had been into it. He'd known what he was getting himself into, right? When he let Ed bully him into this fight. He might have been irritated at being manipulated this way, but that was only fair, wasn't it? That was what Roy had been doing to him for three years, after all. It was a little bit of payback. That was all.

But he hadn't meant to...

And he'd been laughing. Smirking and so casual as he drove Edward about the parade ground with just a snap of his fingers. Playing with him, like Ed was just a child, not a serious threat. While everyone in the audience oohed and aahed over the Colonel's magnificent performance and everybody in Central was there to see the Fullmetal Alchemist get his ass handed to him. Laughing at him.

So he'd seen an opening, and he'd gone for it, just like Roy's taunting in his ears had driven him to. One slash, and he'd turned Roy's famous weapon into a flurry of white and red confetti. The look on Roy's face, to find Ed so unexpectedly close – that consternation sent a thrill of victory through Ed, lighting up his veins, imagining how it would feel in just a moment when he finally smashed his fist into that smirking face the way he'd been longing to do for three years.

But he hadn't meant...

So he clapped his hands, and dropped to the ground, while Roy was still turning, and some sudden moment of insight made him change his plan; instead of forging himself a weapon, the ground around Roy leapt up in ribboned waves around him, wrapping close around his legs and up his arms, holding him still. Probably Roy would have some way of getting out of it in a moment – bastard always had something up his sleeve.

That was okay, it didn't have to last. It just had to hold Roy still for one minute, one second as he came up fast out of his crouch, feeling the grin stretch his face at the look of surprise on Roy's face, not the customary laughing grin, and he finally got in the one punch he'd been dreaming up, driven by three years of frustration and pain. And maybe it wasn't all Roy's fault, all of it, but the man was there.

But he hadn't...

And it all happened in an instant, when his metal fist connected with the elegant bones of Roy's face with a crack that was audible all the way across the parade ground; and the man's head snapped back, dark hair flying, as he jerked against the stone cocoon that held him fast; and there was something almost funny about the surprise on Roy's face, and a moment's comical flash of consternation that maybe Edward had hit a little harder than he'd meant to, after all.

And then...

And then it was too late for hesitating, or regret. Because the man in blue slumped against the rock, but didn't fall; his head held at a funny angle, black eyes still open, still faintly surprised. And the parade ground went suddenly, abruptly silent; and with the smoke still drifting about them, for a moment it could have been just the two of them in the world.

And this thing he'd made...

His shoulder began to hurt, distantly. "Hey," he whispered, and took a half step forward. His shoulders spasmed with something that felt like laughter, and wasn't that strange? It seemed so funny, all of a sudden. "Get up, you bastard. Our fight isn't finished yet..."

But it was.

His mouth hung open, and his hand – his real hand, not the inhuman one – reached out, shaking and couldn't quite close the gap between between them. That gap; the distance that had always lain between them, the lack of understanding. He'd never come this close before, in all the time he'd known the man; never tried to reach out and close that gap.

Now was too late.