It is forbidden to describe alchemy in more than allegorical terms. An alchemist keeps his journals in code for a reason. Ishbala preaches that alchemy is an evil art weilded by those who would wish to brandish the power of the Gods, however many people forget that once upon a time the God of Amestris made a similar decree, and alchemists only dared to write of their passion in archaic code- symbols and drawings of mystical beings. No magic incantations, only straight lines and circles drawn to perfection.
Edward Elric is an alchemist and so is Roy Mustang and although they may at times despise the dual art and science that has defined their lives, they cannot deny that they are nothing more than a sum of their parts, cannot deny that their lives are ruled and dictated by the murky, ancient laws of metaphysics and transformation. Those who become alchemists are not taught their abstract, ineffectual world view but are rather born with it. They seek alchemy out on their own, the teaching merely furthers to distance them from the psyche of the common mind.
Thus their relationship begins pressed between the pages of a textbook and progresses true to alchemical code. It follows ancient rules and code laid down before recorded time.
Their story is indeed allegorical. There's nothing solid or stable about it, nothing honest. It's not the kind of affection that can be held in one's hands or examined under the light. It's like sand or water, raw materials slipping through fingers onto the cold cement, words spoken in secret languages and imaginary code. Like ancient alchemy, they are forbidden to speak of it even to each other. It isn't a story about romance or passion, but rather a tale of grim inevitability; something inexplicable which somehow is the only option that makes sense.
"The Salamader doesn't breathe fire, you know." Ed says one day, something almost too casual in the way he leans over Roy's shoulders, "He's born in it."
"Are you trying to to imply that I don't understand the symbolism behind an array I created, Edward," Roy replies tautly, "Or are you simply attempting to lord intelligence over the rest of us by making vague, cryptic statements."
With a haughty huff, Ed throws himself in the seat next to Roy and shrugs, "I didn't know that. I've never been particularily good at designing arrays," the blonde claps his hands together lightly, mockingly, "Never had to be, remember?"
"And yet you had the great library of Von Hohenheim Elric at your disposal."
Ed snorts, "You wanna bet? I never went to school- I was lucky I could even make out half the shit my old man wrote in those things. To this day, I have no idea what rhyme or reason his code followed." Roy 'hmms' and Ed sinks back in his chair with a sigh, "Besides, Al and I only read up on Human Transmutation after we learned the basics. I figured I would never need anything else."
"That was certainly short-sighted of you."
"I was ten years old. I shouldn't have to answer for stuff I did when I was ten years old."
"You should tell yourself that once in a while, Edward."
The blonde bites his lips and doesn't say anything until Roy smooths out the paper he is drawing on and waves him over, "Tell me what you think of this array."
"I just told you I'm no good with that stuff."
"Edward, just look at it."
Edward grumbles and hoists himself out of his chair with a slow, heavy-limbed resistance. His arms are slung across the table like soggy noodles and he pouts in an all together not charming fashion, "You're off up there." he says after a moment, "You're using the wrong letters... hell, I think you might be using the wrong alphabet period and... fuck it, Mustang, do you even know what you're doing? These are mistakes not even an amatuer would make! It's almost like you're making these mistakes on..." and here he trails off and his disgust morphs into a glare.
"I thought you didn't know anything about it." Roy prods slyly.
"Well, not until I look at it anyways. I've got God knows how many years worth of that damn gate in my head. I don't even think I know what I know. If that makes sense."
"In which case, you do know."
"I... hate you." Ed retorts prolifically.
"So how do you know that when I designed my array, I didn't take into account the Salamander's role in ancient alchemy? I never claimed that the Salamander represented me, the 'firebreather' so to speak. The Salamander is born from flames, and thus represents the flames themselves, hence being juxtaposed with the actual flame-element in the array."
"I... just hate you."
"I'm bored." Edward states bluntly, stretching his arms outwards and threading his hands together behind his head. His feet are on the desk, the chair is tipped back and he's wearing that brilliant, daredevil grin that can only be described as destructive.
Well, of course he's bored, Roy says to himself. This kind of work hardly suits Edward. Reconstruction, political and social stability in the wake of the last Fuhrer and his brutal dictatorship (a brutality only felt by the nation's enemies and outcasts). Thatching houses burnt by war, building dams with alchemy, re-fertilizing soil. This is all child's play for someone as brilliant as Edward Elric and although Roy feels a sense of calm and fufillment from the deceptively menial work, he has yet to work out exactly what Edward is doing here.
He sits across from Edward- ignoring the fact that the blonde is clearly sitting in his chair- and begins thumbing through annualqreports with a sober resignation. When he looks up again, Edward is sitting on the table. Well, crawling across it really, eyebrow arched mischeviously.
"No," he clarifies, hooking his fngers underneath the collar of Roy's uniform, "I'm bored."
For all the boy's impatience, they come together slowly and awkwardly, movements weighed down by the flagrant irresponsibilty (depravity, even) of this action and their inability to ever take it back. But Roy resigns to this as well- a wet sliding of tongue and lips and teeth and inexperience and a characteristic selfish desire that feels more like need- because he had seen it coming. It only makes sense, of course, and he'd anticipated it for years. Planned the things he would say, the way he would gesture and chide and reject, however he'd never anticipated the string of events that would lead them here, nor had he counted on Edward Elric's uncanny ability to get exactly what he wanted where Roy Mustang was involved. And, well, if after all this time he finally wants me on top of it all, who am I to deny him?
They part as hesitantly and catiously as they had come together, with the knowledge that their relationship is a house of cards built on a thin line and the slightest misstep will bring the entire thing tumbling down. Edward's lower lip tembles and he laughs shakily, "Didn't think you'd say yes."
Havoc sometimes watches them work, following the chalk lines with guarded intrest despite the fact it might as well be a different language. One day, he snickers and says, "You know what they say about perfect circles, eh Colonel?" Havoc uses the old title and crosses his arms with a grin. Roy frowns.
Havoc rolls his cigarette back and forth between his lips and shakes his head, "They say that only the insane can draw one."
The ink is cool and wet against his back, but not unpleasant. He's stripped down to his uniform pants, sprawled belly down on the bed with Edward straddling his hips in a rather determined fashion. It is certainly a compromising position to be in (and certainly not what he'd expected when Ed had pinned him against the wall and whispered, "I want to draw arrays on your skin". He should know by now that Edward usually means these things literally).
The brush dips down the curve of his back and follows his spine. Despite himself, Roy lets out a low rumble of pleasure and closes his eyes.
For this, he recieves a light smack in the back of the head and Edward hisses, "This isn't foreplay, moron." sounding almost insulted, "Or some kind of massage." he dots something, loops something else and Roy opens his eyes, "When all alchemy was considered a forbidden art- an act against God," the blonde speaks slowly, focused on the array, "Alchemists would learn arrays this way. The code written into their skin again and again and again until their body knew the array even though their mind didn't."
Roy rolls his head to the side, stretching his neck muscles, "Mmm, fascinating." he drawls lazily.
"Y'know, Mustang, I like it when you listen to me." Edward mutters, pausing to squeeze Roy's shoulder threateningly.
"Oh, I'm listening." Roy assures, "You've been studying."
Above him, the younger man snorts in disgust, "It's creepy when you talk to me like I'm your kid."
"It's a popular convention, Edward, that most middle aged men 'hmm' and 'ha' along with their wive's ramblings as well as their children's."
"I'm not sure which is less flattering," Edward grumbles, leaning forwards in concentration. His loose hair ghosts against Roy's bare skin, "Do you know why alchemists would learn arrays this way?" he asks suddenly, "Why they would go through all of the trouble instead of simply committing them to memory and burning the paper they were written on?"
"I'm at a loss here, Edward," Roy yawns, "Because the average person tended to be illerate at that time in history?"
"Don't be a smart ass," the blonde scoffs, "They learned the arrays this way because in those days even knowing an array was a crime punishable by death. If they learned it this way, it would be their bodies learning it, not their minds. They would be able to pull off the array in extreme circumstance, or under certain triggers, however it would be impossible for them to write it out on paper during inquisitions."
Roy absorbs this information as the brush finally leaves his skin, "Ahhh. That's clever."
"We're going to learn arrays this way," Ed informs, blowing on the dark ink, "Although I'm willing to bet you weren't even paying attention to me."
"No, I wasn't."
"Well, what do you think about that?" Edward prods gently and shifts his position. The older man sighs and closes his eyes again.
"As long as you don't activate that array on my back, I have no particular qualms with the idea. It might be interesting."
"Hmph," and Edward's voice is supiciously smug, "I'd rather not activate this array. It has enough power in it to blow up the entire South Wing of the Central City headquarters."
And to this, Roy's eyes snap open and he twitches, jerking up and trying to turn around. However, Edward leaps forwards and pins him to the bed, laughing hysterically.
"That's not funny, Edward." Roy grumbles into his pillow.
"Oh, I wasn't joking," Ed snickers, licking his fingers and sliding them smoothly down Roy's spine. The dark man shivers and Ed just smiles against his shoulder, "There, I broke the array. It's completely useless now."
The moment Ed's muscles go lax, Roy springs and rolls until the blonde is under him, wrists pinned against the matress and an utterly amused look painted on his boyish face, "Go ahead." he says, laughter still thick in his voice. But Roy doesn't move- doesn't put his hands on that wiry body, or duck down for a kiss. He peers through his bangs, through his one good eye, at his young lover with a perplexment worthy of the most incomprehensible alchemical code ever written. Lowly, he asks:
"Why. Why even bother with this?"
Edward blinks in confusion and his expression falls flat, dereft of response for a long, poignant moment. He slides his wrists from Roy's gentle grasp and drags the older man down by his shoulders. "Because I want to go back. I want to know what it's all about, what the point is."
"The point of... alchemy?" Roy wonders into Ed's hair. The boy shakes his head.
"No. The point of... anything, really."
It isn't any kind of a relationship and Roy wonders if they make better friends than lovers, because he quite honestly feels more at home sitting beside Edward at the bar drinking than he ever does when they're in bed. Women still ask to see me, you know. he says, and Edward just scoffs and replies, Like I'm supposed to be threatened by that. That confidence is unnerving, Edward might as well have said, Stop trying because I know what makes you tick, old man.
There is a certain intimacy in sex and then there is a certain intimacy in eating, breathing and sleeping in unison for six months straight. But above all these intimacies is the baffling and violating confidence granted to the one who has decoded your alchemy journals, to the one who has seen inside your creative and scientific mind's eye and has deconstrcuted and analyzed the theories you have built your life around. Roy has never known his fellow alchemists to seekqout romantic relations with other alchemists and until now, he has never understood why. But now, without even uttering a word, he's laid his secrets bare and now his entire life is measured in terms of alchemy and Edward, Edward and alchemy to the point that Roy realizes he never wanted to be this close to anyone in his entire life.
He won't say the word 'Love'. They're much more practical than that, and both far too pragmatic for something so flighty and metaphorical. No, this is something that is all at once more liberating and more terrifying- it's science.
"You should go home, Edward. You have people waiting for you." Roy pours himself another drink. Glass half empty, glass half full. The glass overflowed ages ago and they're still trying to mop up the mess.
"I have work to do here."
"There's no obligation on your part. For all it was worth, you were never much of an officer."
"Hmph. From the sounds of it, I would almost guess that you want me gone."
Oh god yes yes but I would never breathe again, Roy shrugs, "Your brother must miss you. After all that work he did to bring you home it's not very thoughtful of you to spend all your time holed up in Central with an old man like me."
"This is Al's world. I want to make sure that it's fit for him to live in." and there's something almost wistful in his voice, reminescent of a young dreamer determined to break every God given law of alchemy for the sake of love.
Roy swirls his brandy and stares as it spirals to the bottom of his glass. For a long time he isn't sure what to say- Edward drinks his beer wordlessly, apparently content. After a moment, Roy inhales sharply and says, "Don't forget that you're still alive too, Edward."
The boy laughs harshly and shakes his head, "See. That's what I meant about you being too sentimental, old man."
It was once said that only the insane can draw a perfect circle.