|Price Paid For Precision
Author: KillerQueenHelekonla PM
Set after the end of the manga, so SPOLIERS ALERT! What if Truth didn't take Ed's Alchemy but something else...? Another of my friend's dA requests with some specifics: Recurring motif - the sun and/or doomsday; and these lines: "He never was the same after clown school." "I'm secretly a fangirl." "Where'd the unicorns go?" "I need to go to the toilet, but this is too exciting."Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Edward E. & Roy M. - Chapters: 8 - Words: 16,365 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 03-18-13 - Published: 07-02-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8277657
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Quitting Quite Quickly, Quelling Quiet Quintessential Queries With Quirky Questions.
Ed emerges into Not-Quite-Awake-But-Aware-Of-Things Land to note – though only vaguely, as one does when one has just partially emerged from the blissful unconsciousness of sleep – that he's snuggled up to someone. His brain wonders, for a few moments, if the last few months or weeks or days have been a dream, and that his current co-snuggler is Winry. Reality abruptly reminds him that unless Roy turned into his ex-wife last night, the Fuhrer is probably the one with their arms slung around Ed's waist (Ed's own are also wrapped around his companion's waist), their head resting on top of Ed's which is buried in their chest (that probably should have indicated to the Full Metal Alchemist that his bed mate is not female, but so sue him, he's still half-asleep), and their legs gently tangled with Ed's.
As more of his senses decide it's time that he should be waking up fully, he becomes aware that he's surrounded the – albeit slightly faded – smell of Roy's cologne, as well as the other man's own scent, like a warm cocoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, peppercorns, cloves, vanilla, saffron and musk. It's not altogether unpleasant, but somewhere in the back of his mind is a voice screaming at him. He ignores it – after all, they're not doing anything wrong. It was a cold night, and obviously the blanket wasn't warm enough. That's all. And it's not like anyone's going to know.
Click. A bright flash fills Ed's world, and it sure as hell ain't sunlight. It's gone as soon as it came, followed by several more of the same. Click. Click. Click. He sits up abruptly, rubbing his eyes, only to find Mei hovering near the end of the bed with a camera. Roy's not going to be pleased about this… Yet the shutter doesn't seem to have woken the Flame Alchemist up at all, the heavy sleeper merely latching onto Ed again, having been shaken off. Sending Mei a death glare (to which she giggles and skips off), Ed tries to wake Roy up so that they can get to work on time. Only the other man's not having any of it. After persistent shaking of his shoulders (meaning Ed gave up after the first try and thumped him in the leg) the Fuhrer finally comes back to reality, although not flawlessly.
"Where'd the unicorns go?" he mumbles, squinting all around the room for the remnants of his dream. Annoyed with how stubborn his co-snuggler was clinging to sleep and himself, Ed shoves Roy away and flings back the covers. The still half-asleep Flame Alchemist groans and covers his eyes with an arm. The fully-awake Full Metal Alchemist rolls his eyes.
"Roy, get up already."
"'S too early."
"It's seven-thirty! We both have work! Up!"
"Don't wanna." A petulant pout accompanies this statement, as well as another eye roll from Ed.
"I pity those who raised you. Up, or I'll make you." Ed leaves the room to get breakfast ready, but he doesn't miss the sulky huff or the thud as the Fuhrer's feet hit the floor. Mei's already in the kitchen, starting an omelette.
"So the two of you get along quite well, eh?" she asks with a smirk. "I deleted the photographs, by the way: I like my camera so the idea of you smashing it to bits was not exactly appealing." Ed thinks to himself that his eyes might fall out of his head if he doesn't stop rolling them, but like that'll stop him. He helps her make breakfast anyway, starting up the coffee maker and putting on toast.
"We're friends, Mei. The blanket I had on the bed obviously wasn't warm enough. I don't even remember hugging him or anything. It was harmless. The same thing used to happen when Al and I had to share a bed and it was a freezing cold night. We'd sleep on separate sides, but wake up snuggled together. It's perfectly harmless." Mei studies him for a second and sighs.
"You do not see it, do you?"
"Right. Because there's nothing to see! He's here because we're good friends and he needed some place to stay. Not to mention that I thought some human contact would be nice since my wife divorced me three days ago. He slept in my room because you guys needed his room and he'd have died on the couch overnight."
"Ed, why did Winry leave?"
"Because she started noticing that I wasn't in love with her anymore, we fought for about two weeks non-stop, and when we finally stopped fighting and talked it out, I decided I wasn't going to lie to her anymore."
"…at least you were honest." – An uncomfortable silence falls between them, which Mei breaks abruptly – "Why did you fall out of love with Winry, though?" He sighs.
"…Look, a lot of things happened at The Battle. And for some people, like Al and Winry and Riza, it was okay because they could be happy and safe again. But others like Roy and I… we had to do things that… changed us. And we didn't know it at the time, or for a long time after that, but it changed the way we felt about the people we were in love with too. I was so wrapped up in slowly getting over the shock of everything that happened and getting used to normality that I didn't notice it – I just assumed everything was the same as it was before in that aspect of my life. Roy was the same, I guess, only he never married the woman he thought he was in love with."
"Have you ever thought, Ed, that maybe you stopped liking women altogether?"
"Hang on – what? How'd you come to that conclusion?"
"Well on the face of it, yes, it is a bit of a naïve stretch. But just think about it: your heart was empty all that time, and maybe you did not know it, but surely you would have started falling for someone else at some point, right? But you did not, not even when you knew you had fallen out of love with Winry. It is obvious that your natural reflex to losing something is to replace or regain it somehow – the same as most people.
"So, based on that, when you lost your feelings for Winry, surely you should have started looking for someone else to fill the space by your side, even temporarily. And you did – Roy. He is doing the same thing with you, of course, in lieu of having affection Riza. And, yes, perhaps it does not stretch as far as romance itself, but regardless of how amorous or otherwise your feelings are for each other, you cannot deny that the both of you are filling the void, as it were." Ed doesn't like what she's insinuating, but he can't argue with her logic.
She's right – he said it himself: he and Roy were both looking for someone to brighten up a life otherwise filled with dark, threatening storm clouds with sunny smiles and compassion. He goes to say something, but Roy stumbles in, looking confused and staring at his feet.
"Was it you I was hugging in my sleep?" the Fuhrer asks, his confusion facing Ed when the Full Metal Alchemist greets him.
"What? Oh. Yes, it was. Blanket mustn't have been thick enough. It's not like anyone's going to know, anyway."
"Right. Nothing to worry about then?" Ed shakes his head confidently and asks if he'd prefer coffee or sugar this morning. Not a worry in the world…
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He's wrong, apparently: someone's been spying on Ed's house and saw them. Despite innumerable denials (official, off-the-record, friend-to-friend, just-between-you-and-me, you name it), rumours run rife through the military faster than school yard buzz, diva gossip and old lady chit-chat put together. Initially, the two Alchemists dismiss it: the truth will eventually prevail over scuttlebutt, they decide, and the gossipmongers will move one to some other "scandal".
For Roy, no one in his staff is whispering behind hands after two days, having decided that – whether they believe the two or not – there are far more interesting things to talk about than a possible relationship between Ed and Roy. The Fuhrer actually overhears one man talking about it: "It doesn't even matter. I mean, who really cares if they are together? Fuhrer Mustang is the best Fuhrer we've ever had and Colonel Elric is an all-round champion, hero, and saviour. I think they both deserve a little happiness after all they've done for us. Besides, I think it's about time people started being more broad-minded."
Ed's unit is not so quick. In fact, they all have it ingrained in their heads that the two Alchemists are definitely in love. Most of them, like Roy's staff, are simply happy for the two of them, but unfortunately, there's one man who isn't. One Private Bowman decides that Ed hasn't suffered enough in his life and immediately sets about fixing that. The private is narrow-minded about such things, and not even pay deductions succeed in dimming his "righteous" firing rage and hate.
In his frustration, Ed – who was initially quite laid-back as leader – starts becoming harsher and more pedantic about punishing Bowman for disobey orders or defying him in any way. And when the Private starts becoming verbally aggressive, Ed starts yelling back just as cruelly and loudly. It all keeps boiling to a head until, five weeks after the whole shemozzle started, Bowman makes the stupidest mistake of his life – he throws a punch at Ed, who responds in kind, only he gives as good as he gets and more. It turns into a full-on brawl which Colonel Elric quickly wins, proving to his staff – once and for all – that he was chosen for ability, not contacts.
Bowman ends up giving the Full Metal Alchemist a nasty bruise on the cheek and a bite mark on his left calf. Ed deals out two cracked ribs, one broken forearm, two black eyes, one hairline-fracture on the fibula, one fractured tibia, a dislocated jaw, and a bruised stomach. This is why he winds up sitting in front of Roy's office, mulling it all over. He'd come to love his job after the Battle: without his old worries and neuroses, he'd found that he quite liked the atmosphere. And in the space of five weeks, one idiotic moron has screwed it all up for him. He's met men like Bowman before, and he knows there are lots of them around, but it's just getting to him.
That, plus the added stress of the situation worsening (it was decided – for Roy's safety – that the two Alchemists would continue living together. When Bowman found out, he went ballistic, hence Ed's current predicament), makes him think he doesn't want to be in the army anymore. He keeps hearing comments and remembering past passing eavesdrops that drip into his ears like poison, ruining the image of his work place – and, indeed, his whole career – forever. He knows it's just paranoid; he knows it's silly; hell, he knows if it was someone else, he'd be rolling his eyes and acting snarky. But he can't stop it.
He feels constricted, almost claustrophobic, with what feels like the smallest distance between himself and them – the ones who judge, mock and scorn – as if they're all squished into a train compartment, and he's smack-bang in the middle. And they keep piling in, in droves every second longer he has to wait to be called into Roy's office. By the time he's standing before the Fuhrer, he almost feels like he's being suffocated.
"…Are you alright, Full Metal?" Roy's voice floats towards him, bringing him back to Earth. In the office, of course, they have to be more formal with each other, in order to maintain a purely professional relationship in the workplace. As Roy says, they can be friends all they like outside; but inside, they're professionals.
"Yes. Sorry, sir." The man surveys Ed over tented fingers, concern in his eyes, but says nothing more of it.
"According to the report, which I've already read, you attacked Private Bowman, causing him multiple injuries while you, yourself, escaped the scuffle relatively unscathed. Several of your staff members have reported that you have been verbally abusive toward him prior to this incident. Care to explain?" Ed keeps his composure and remains standing at attention.
"What my staff has failed to tell you is that not only did Bowman initiate any and all hostilities, but he resisted all forms of passive punishment – including deductions in pay. Furthermore, I feel that his behaviour had reached the point that I had no choice other than to go to the lengths that I did, as I prefer not to bother higher authorities with such trivialities."
"So, you're telling me that Bowman instigated both the verbal abuse and the fight? In other words, you claim self-defence?"
"Well, luckily for you, Private Bowman has a long history of violence and disrespect for authority, so I believe you. That doesn't excuse how badly you injured him, though. I realise he's been testing your patience a lot, and that he attacked first, but you put him in hospital, Full Metal. We can't have that."
"I know, sir. That's why I'm resigning." The words are out of Ed's mouth before he realises what he's said and he has to fight to keep composed as Roy begins spluttering. He never meant, stewing in his own thoughts, to resign, but it makes sense. After all, he can't keep working somewhere he feels suffocated.
"Ed, do you know what you're saying?" All formalities have officially been dropped. You're on your own, bud.
"Yes. I know you probably weren't going to suggest something that extreme, but I've been thinking, and it's what I believe is best for everyone, including me."
"But why go so far as to quit? There are lots of other options out there, and I want a reason as to why you're choosing this one!" Ed knows that Roy's just worried about him throwing his life away, but he's exhausted and a little infuriated at life itself. So he rants and rages, finally getting it all off his chest.
"I'm quitting because I'm tired, Roy. Very tired. Well, more like sick and tired, actually. I keep wondering to myself, why does life have to be so complicated? There are so many feelings out there that are thrown at you and taken away from you, and you're never ready for it. People who say they're ready for whatever life throws at them are bull-shitters, because how can you be ready? People like to think there's a plan in life, like someone's got it all figured out and we're all just playing out the scene. There's no fucking plan; there never has been. It's random. Everything's random. I don't get why people wanna believe there is. Because, really? People wanna believe there's some psychotic bastard controlling us all like puppets? That we don't get a choice in the matter? Bullshit.
"We all have a choice in what we do: some people like that just wanna blame other people for all the mistakes they make that have fucked up their lives and other people's lives too – I say some, because I know not all of them do. Most of them are okay, and I can deal with them. But the morons who are like that? I can't stand them. They go on about how nothing's their fault when things go wrong, but they never give whoever's apparently pulling their stings all the credit when things go right, do they? And then those idiots have the nerve to say that certain people are going to rot in hell or get punished for their beliefs or their sexuality or whatever the hell it is those poor people are being persecuted for. Surely if we're all just marionettes, they don't have a choice in how they are or what they believe, right? Or is that another exception? And it's another reason to start wars and kill and hurt people for no real reason too, right?
"They go on and on about what they believe this Almighty Puppet Master has told them, and add in bits about how they're supposed to kill, maim, traumatize, and generally completely fuck up other people's lives because that was included in their orders. Well you know what? Fuck them. I'm sick of that shit, so I'm done with the military because there are so many morons like that and I can't stand it anymore. Get mad at me all you like, but I'm done. I've seen too much of this shit already, and I've met that so-called Almighty Puppet Master. I can tell you now, He might know everything about it, but He doesn't have anything to do with our world, and He doesn't want to. He's got better things to think about and do, than talk to a bunch of sadistic, bloodthirsty, prejudiced, inconsiderate, apathetic, amoral, moronic bastards who just want to pretend He's told them to kill off a heap of people they don't happen to like, or to justify how much they hate a certain group of people by saying He hates them too.
"And I know you don't believe in that shit yourself: I know you were there too and that you met Him. How could I forget? It's what's brought us closer together. So I also know you agree with me, but you can't say it because you're surrounded by these morons. I am too, and I just can't take it anymore, Roy. I'm sick and tired of it. I don't wanna be here anymore, serving alongside and under these assholes. So I quit. I'm getting out of the military. I'm going to go work at the Library – I've always loved books, so it'll make me happy to be there. They already have a position lined up for me and everything. If you wanna discuss my decision later, I'm more than happy to talk about it at home, but I'm telling you now: nothing's going to change my mind. I'm out and that's that. See you at home." With that, he storms out of the office.
Halfway home, he realizes that he's probably made a huge mistake, and that he's really going to regret it all in the morning, especially the lie about having a job at the Library. He knows Roy knows he was lying, which makes it even worse, but right now, he couldn't care less. Even though it's still pouring down like a waterfall from the heavens, Ed could swear that he can feel the sun shining down on him through a gap in the clouds, because he realizes something else: he's free. Free from stress; free from worry; just plain free as a bird.
He practically skips the rest of the way, and Al accuses him of trilling the good news over the phone, but nothing seems to be able to put a dampener back on his day. That is, until the phone rings for him, and an all-too-familiar voice issues forth from the receiver.
"Um, hi, Ed. It's Winry, if you hadn't noticed. Look, could we talk…?"