A/N: Any dialogue from Ed belongs to Kikiko.

The More I Learn to Care for You

Chapter 11

Letters and Phone Calls

The office clocked ticked barely loud enough that it could only be heard when there was complete silence. Roy had long ago reached the point where he didn't even hear the clock as he worked, but today the ticking of the second hand brought his gaze up from his work to check the time every few minutes. He felt antsy—ready to be done with the day, despite the fact that he still had another hour before his scheduled time to leave.

With a sigh, he closed the folder and put it in the 'finished' pile that was starting to accumulate on his desk. The paperwork was the worst part of this job. He didn't mind the meetings or the reports he had to write himself, didn't mind the investigations or the myriad of other things he had to do, but the seemingly endless supply of paperwork bothered him.

Roy smiled ruefully and wondered if he would have joined the military if he'd known what he'd be doing everyday when the country wasn't at war. He'd definitely make a lot more money in the private sector doing almost the same line of work.

His smile faded as his eyes landed on the back of the nameplate on his desk. The one that used to read 'Colonel Roy Mustang' and now read 'Lieutenant Colonel Roy Mustang'. It had been two weeks since the trial—the ridiculously unfair trial.

Being demoted was humiliating. Men and women of his previous rank had suddenly become a little less friendly. Being sociable with those of lesser rank wasn't against any rules, but he was no longer 'one of them'. He was an outsider in their group and someone for whom they may one day find themselves responsible for.

Unfortunately, he didn't win any good graces with those of his newly reacquired rank. He'd once been their superior, someone who they needed to show respect to. But he'd fallen from that state of power. Their respect was strained at the most and they made it clear that he was also not one of them.

In a way, Roy preferred that. It gave him the push he needed to work hard to regain his position. The fuhrer had stated that he would review Roy's case in a year, and if all looked well, he would be re-promoted to a full colonel. Roy was determined to exceed whatever standard the fuhrer may have set for that.

So he worked hard, often coming in early, staying late, or simply taking his work home with him—except on Wednesdays. Wednesdays were reserved for his mandatory 'anger management' meetings. He went to the 'group meeting' straight after work, then met with an individual councilor. He'd met with the councilor on an individual basis on Saturdays as well, though if he was to continue after the first month, then they would meet every other Saturday.

Truth be told, if Roy hadn't been flanked by two guards, he probably would have walked out of the first group meeting within ten minutes. It had been a very uncomfortable experience. The group had been a relatively small one, about ten men—there was a separate group for women. The other soldiers were all of lower rank and Roy hadn't known any of them; but, unfortunately, they'd all known exactly who he was. There had been an uneasy silence when he'd entered the room and sat down.

The meeting had begun and there had been some talk and 'direction' from the group leader, then each of them sharing with the group how their week had been and what goals they had or had not stuck to concerning their 'anger problems'.

He'd been invited into the conversation, but had stubbornly declined to say anything. He wasn't like these other men. He didn't beat his girlfriend or blow up at every provocation. There was absolutely nothing he could have shared. At least, those were his thoughts until he'd met one-on-one with the councilor assigned to him.

The councilor—a sergeant in his mid-forties—had gone over the file he'd been given concerning the case Hakuro had put together. They'd talked briefly, casually getting to know each other, then the man had given him a book and said that he'd need to have it read by that Saturday when they met again.

So, reluctantly, Roy had read it. It was a fairly simple read, but one that provoked a lot of thought and self searching, and when he returned that Saturday, he'd been a little more receptive to discussing the subject of anger and himself.

Tonight would be his second group meeting and third individual consultation—something he wasn't exactly looking forward too, but felt a little more open to being there than he had before.

Again, Roy glanced up at the clock.

Forty-five minutes to go... He almost felt tempted to leave now, but he'd have to give an explanation to the guards outside his office door—another unpleasant punishment. Where he went, two guards accompanied him at all times. If he were to leave this office, even to use the restroom, they would follow. Four guards were posted at his apartment at night, just to be sure he didn't somehow sneak away. It was all very annoying, but at least it would only last for two more weeks...

Sitting back in his chair, Roy lifted his leg and rested it on his desk. His knee still bothered him a lot, but he was starting to wean himself from the bothersome crutch—if only for very short distances. His arm was healing up nicely though, and for that he was grateful. He was still on pain medication, but he only used it at night now.

While that was good, the best thing that had happened in the last two weeks was getting a letter from Ed—a thing half scribed by Alphonse, half scribbled on in Ed's less than stellar handwriting. He'd also used the paper for a few arrays—none of which worked, though all but one had been scratched out.

Smiling a little, Roy pulled the worn letter from his jacket pocket, unfolded it, and read, in Alphonse's neat handwriting:

Good morning Colonel Mustang,

Ed has asked me to help him with this letter. He'll be telling me what to write...

There was a small scribble, then a tear through the page.

Hey, so I'm just on the train now. I'm all settled into my cot and we'll be leaving in a few minutes. Everyone is being really helpful and it was good to hear you on the phone.

More scribbles, then in a shaky hand:

Al wouldn't write what I wanted so I fired him! Hes glaring at me from the other side of the sleeper cabin. HA! Serves him right! I don't talk like that. Im sure as hell not going to write like that! Ah I just stuck my tonge out at him. He didn't like that ether!

But it was good to hear you on the phone. I missed being able to seeing you. I hope we can talk alot more when I recover from my surgery. Ill get Al to fix the phone so Its in my room otherwise I'll have to go down to the kitchen each time I want to call. Fuck that!

Oh I don't feel so good. I'm gong to lay down for abit and pick this up later.

Everyones asleep and my drugs wore off long time ago. I can't sleep and Im thinking about you. I noticed your really skinny last time I saw you. Are you eating? I'll tell Hawkeye if your not! I cant believe I wanted to stop those drugs there all I want now. Oh I have to do two more days of this. This sucks! I wish you were here, thin I could make you suffer with me. Im nice like that haha!

Does Al really make good coffee?

I can see the lights of a passing city out the window. Not sure where we are, but Its pretty. You know what would be neat! If they could made cameras smaller so that I could take pictures to sent to you. Maybe I can come up with an array to do that.

Roy smirked slightly at three sloppily drawn arrays, two of which were crossed out.

Ok that one there is the good one. Copy that out and activate it and youll hopefully see a picture. Don't blame me if it doesn't work. I should get awards for this. Actually don't tell anyone. Im sure theyd fuck it up and used it for bad shit. Sorry its not very neat my writing sucks (as you know) but even more so since Its dark in here and I'm writing by moonlight which somehow makes me think of you.

I'm going to try to go back to sleep. Ill have Al send this from the trainstation.

Night Roy.

Roy fingered the crumpled letter and shook his head at the writing and at the spelling and punctuation errors. Poor kid must really be out of it... Folding the letter back up, Roy slipped it back in his jacket pocket.

He'd contemplated on whether or not he should respond back; worrying that he might encourage Ed, but also wanting to encourage him too. He'd finally settled on an official letter to the Fullmetal Alchemist from the Flame Alchemist. The best part was that he'd been able to write it on the military's time, using the military's stationary, and sending it through the military's mailroom. He felt slightly vindicated by that small misuse of the military's time and supplies.

Since then, Roy had watched his mailbox carefully; hoping, more desperately than he wanted to admit, for another letter. He missed Ed so much, and felt a certain amount of self loathing for that. He'd always prided himself on never becoming too attached, but now he kept wondering how long it would be before he caved in to Ed's pleadings. There had even been a few times that he'd picked up the phone with every intention on giving Ed a call, only to put the receiver back in the cradle without dialing.

The door to the room opened and one of the guards looked inside. "Sir, Lieutenant Hawkeye has informed us that Lieutenant Havoc has prepared the car a little early today. Do you want us to tell him to wait, or will you leave now?"

Roy glanced up at the clock. Only fifteen minutes early. That was permissible. Besides, he'd just spent the last forty-five minutes doing absolutely nothing, so he didn't feel too guilty. Everything important was finished and there wouldn't be any problems leaving what little was left for tomorrow.

Taking his leg down from the desk, Roy grabbed his crutch, stood up, and pulled on his coat before heading over toward the door. When he got there, Roy gave the guard a wry look before closing the door and heading down to the carport.

Turning on the light to his bedroom, Roy staggered tiredly in and flopped down on his bed where he stared dully up at the ceiling. He didn't know if he'd be able to handle another two weeks of these anger management meetings—and that was assuming he'd be able to convince them that he only needed one month of this anger management/therapy.

The group meeting had not gone very well. The group leader had decided he would talk today and had asked some very pointed and uncomfortable questions—subjects he'd rather not think about let alone discuss in a room full of people. Though he supposed the whole point of it was to actually get him to think on said subjects.

He'd gotten no relief when he'd had his one-on-one visit; where his councilor had simply picked the same subject back up and probed unmercifully. It had all left him feeling drained and a little depressed.

Closing his eyes, Roy instantly felt himself drifting off to sleep and forced himself to get up and at least undress himself before passing out. He sat up and carefully unbuttoned his jacket before getting up and hanging it neatly in the closet. His pants and shirt ended up in a heap by the wall as he crossed the room to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

Just as he walked out of the bathroom, the phone rang; startling him slightly. He glanced at the clock and wondered who would be calling him at this time in the evening. It was a little past eight o'clock, but it was rare that he got a call past six.

Limping over to the phone, Roy picked it up and said tiredly, "Mustang..."

"Hey... were you sleeping?" came the weak, yet very familiar voice on the other line. A small smile came unbidden to Roy's lips and he felt his spirits lift a little. He'd missed hearing Ed's voice.

"No, just getting home actually. How are you feeling?"

"Like hell warmed over," Ed complained, then asked with a lighter tone, "How about you?"

"Just another day in paradise," Roy said wryly.

Ed snorted into the phone, then said, "I got your letter—so cheap!" Roy could hear the grin on Ed's voice.

Roy moved closer to the bed and sat down to relieve the pressure on his knee. "Well, you know the State Alchemist's motto, Ed; 'For the People.' I was just letting the military be of service," he said with a smirk.

"Oh, was that what you were doing?" Ed asked sarcastically. "So did my array work, or was it a bust?"

"Bust," Roy said, then realized that this might not go over well with Ed so added, "Sorry," hoping that he sounded a little sympathetic, then quickly changed the subject. "Did the surgery go well?"

"Hm, oh well." Ed sighed. "The surgery was... not something I ever want to repeat. I got my arm back, but I can't really move it very well yet. Pinako says that's to be expected given all they had to do. It's up in the air—well, it'll take—no, you know what, it's a bit fucked up actually. I'm not sure if it'll be the same... only time will tell," Ed explained.

"I see," Roy said slowly, then paused, feeling worried that Ed might be right; that he might never be the same again. Guilt flared up inside of him and he said, "Well, they're very good mechanics. I'm sure you'll have a good chance at being in top shape soon." He hoped he sounded convincing; though whether he was trying to convince Ed or himself, Roy didn't know.

"You know, at the end, I've started to think about the beginning—about me; about you. I recognize more how much of a child I've been... How the fuck did you ever stand me? But, I do recognize something else. You feel guilty; even Al told me so. But I don't blame you, Roy. I really don't. So, don't take this on yourself."

Roy sat there, feeling a little blindsided by the sudden serious turn the conversation had gone. He'd just spent two hours dealing with his feelings and the consequences of anger, and Roy wasn't sure he was really in the right frame of mind to talk about his right now.

"Roy?" Ed asked, with a slight pause. "You still there? Did I freak you out? What? Don't like when I say mature stuff? Bastard..." The last was mumbled with a tone that almost sounded like fondness.

"Ah... no... that's not it..." he said uncomfortably.

"Then what? Was I wrong? Did I make an ass out of myself—not like that's anything new, or anything."

Roy pressed his lips together, trying to come up with a satisfactory answer. Ed didn't know about the anger management classes, didn't know about the guards, didn't know about the demotion, didn't even know about the trial—and that's how Roy wanted it. He knew Ed was bound to find out sooner or later that there had been a trial and that he'd been punished, but it wasn't something he wanted Ed to know just yet.

"I'm glad you don't blame me," he said softly.

"Why would you even think that I would?" Ed asked.

Sighing, Roy lay down on the bed, and said, "Because... I was driving. It was my fault we were arguing... I should have been paying more attention to the road. I should have tried harder to find someone to drive. I knew that I wasn't..." He trailed off, not wanting to turn the conversation into a pity party. Ed had to be in some state of denial to think that it wasn't Roy's fault...

"Yeah..." Ed said softly, then paused for a moment before continuing. "I know about making mistakes and blaming yourself, but you didn't want the crash to happen, so you don't—can't—take that on yourself. You'll go crazy... like I almost did before you found me all those years ago..." There was a pause, then a soft, "That changed my life, you know..."

What could he say to that? Roy didn't want to get into a deep conversation right now. He didn't want Ed to feel grateful to him, especially after all that Roy had done to him...

"You should know... it wasn't a selfless act." He felt pressure in his chest and it was hard to make the words come out right. "I got a great mark on my record for finding such a talented alchemist. I'm happy that my selfishness could change your life, but you were the one that really got yourself into the military. You proved yourself. You could have done it all without me..."

"Yeah, I know... But if you hadn't come along... I would have become so depressed; I'm sure I would have just given up." Ed gave a long yawn, then said, "Fuck, it's past my bedtime... What's today?"

"Wednesday," Roy said automatically. His current least favorite day of the week.

"Ah, right, I can't tell anymore. Can I call you again? Maybe tomorrow, if my damn fever will let up." Roy could hear creaking in the background.

"Sure," he said quietly, trying to hide the relief in his voice. As much as he wanted to talk to Ed, he didn't want to talk about what happened or about how he'd been helpful to Ed, or whether or not he was guilty.

"Okay, I'll write soon too and try not to be so messy this time. I have drugs now," Ed said in a pleased tone.

"Alright. I hope you recover soon..." Now that it was time to go, Roy was reluctant to let Ed go.

"What?" Ed asked warily. "Stop that! I'll have to smack you if you keep that up..."

That was just what he needed to push him to end the conversation. "Good night, Ed."

Ed snorted. "Yeah, night Roy."

Pulling the receiver away from his ear, Roy hung up the phone and closed his eyes. Images of Ed materialized in his mind and he held onto that as he quickly fell asleep.

Roy flopped down on the couch as he tore open the letter. It had been almost a week and a half since he'd heard from Ed and he was eager for any word from him.

Pulling out the letter, he grinned at the drawing of the flamel in the upper left corner. In brackets Ed wrote:

My fucking letter head, which I'll be ordering on the military's dime.

Ed's writing was a bit better before, which was promising. He continued to scan the letter.


To: Roy Mustang, Super cheap bastard of the military!

From: Edward Elric, more popular than Roy will ever be!

What the fuck is this? You sent a letter on the military's dime! Damn! If only I have thought about that I wouldn't have to spend so much. I'm using it, haha!

The surgery was done almost as soon as we got in the door. Al was a mess by that time, and had forgiven me for stealing my letter back. It felt like forever, but Pinako said it was only four hours. Then I slept and slept. During the whole thing through I was thinking about the barbeque at you're house. That was a good day, but I don't think I ever told you that before.

It was good to hear you on the phone the other day. I meant all that I said. I don't blame you. And you can't make me.


Roy eyed the coded message wryly before quickly figuring it out. With a sigh, he folded the letter and stared up at the ceiling. Why did Ed always bring stuff like that up? Why couldn't he just let it rest? Why couldn't he just accept the fact that they were over?

Why can't I accept the fact that we're over? Roy wondered.

Not really wanting to delve into such deep thoughts, Roy got up and moved into the kitchen. With a heavy sigh, he opened the bottle for his pain medication and took out the last tablet. There would be no more after this…

Grabbing a cup, Roy was about to fill it with water, when he decided suddenly to fill it with something a little stronger. No one was here to scold him and he sure as hell wasn't going to go anywhere with the soldiers guarding his apartment...

Popping the tablet in his mouth, Roy swallowed it with the strongest drink he had available, then filled the cup two more times before heading unsteadily to his personal desk. He was feeling really nice now. No pain at all...

Sitting down, he pulled out a piece of paper and began to write Ed back. After he was finished, Roy looked blearily at the paper, folded it, and stuffed it in an envelope before wandering over to the front door and opening it.

"Sir?" one of the guards said with a frown.

"Ah... right..." he said absently, he'd forgotten about them... "I just need to put this in the mail box."

"I'll take it for you, sir," the other guard said. Roy shrugged and handed it over. He was about to go inside when the guard said, "Uh... sir?" Roy glanced back at him, but didn't say anything. He was feeling really tired now and all he wanted to do was go to bed. The guard gave him a quizzical look and said, "There's no postage."

"I know," Roy said, smirking.

The guard looked at the envelope, then glanced back at him with a raised eyebrow. "The addresses...?"

"Just put it in the mailbox," Roy said.

"Yes, sir..." the guard said in confusion.

Turning, Roy bid them both a good night before heading back inside and passing out on the couch.

Roy opened the door to his apartment, then turned and leaned in the doorway. He glanced around, feeling reluctant to go inside and out of the warm spring weather. He shifted his grip on the cane in his hand and tapped it lightly against his foot. The doctor had said that he'd probably need to use the cane for at least six more months, if not longer. Over short distances, Roy didn't have many problems, but after a while his knee really began to bother him and had buckled under him a few times. Better to have the cane than to continue having problems like that.

He breathed in deeply then felt a smile grow on his face. Today he was free of the annoying guards. It was nice to be able to go where he wanted, when he wanted; he hadn't realized how wonderful of a thing it was until he didn't have that any longer. To celebrate his freedom, Roy had wandered around after work for a while, then stopped at a small restaurant and read the newspaper while having a leisurely dinner.

His anger management evaluation hadn't gone as well as he'd hoped. The councilor had been pleased with the progress he'd made, especially in the last week, but over all the man believed that Roy would really benefit from at least a few more months with them. The good news was that he didn't think Roy needed to come see him on a one-on-one basis every Saturday any longer. Individual sessions every Wednesday and every other Saturday would be the schedule now, along with the group session that Roy was beginning to feel only marginally more comfortable with.

The phone rang interrupting his thoughts. Closing the door, Roy made his way upstairs—thinking wearily that he should get a phone for the lower floor—then picked up the phone and said, "Mustang," as he sat on the bed.

"Humph! You had to pick out the one word in all that and make it perverted! And what the hell are you fucking thinking of—drinking!"

"Ed? Well, good evening to you too," he said in wry amusement.

"Tch... yeah, yeah... how's the bastard tonight? Miss me?" Ed asked saucily.

"I always miss you..." Roy murmured, then said with a touch of embarrassment, "You must have gotten my letter." By the time Roy had woken up the next morning, it had been too late to retrieve the letter from the mailbox and he'd had to endure the humiliation of knowing he'd have to own up to what he'd written. At least he couldn't remember everything he'd wrote.

"Yes, I got your letter. What goes through your head sometimes? Mixing pain killers with liquor? You're insane. I'll have to punish you," Ed said with a menacing tone, but his voice cracked, ruining the affect.

Roy cleared his throat. "I won't lie... I actually can't remember everything I put in the letter, but from what I do remember, I think I'd rather not know what all I said..." he said wryly. "Anyway, I wasn't drinking a lot. When I got out of the hospital I drank a lot more with a higher dose and I lived through it, but you know the lieutenant; she... talked me out of it... That night was just... sort of a fluke." He sighed, still feeling embarrassed about it. It wasn't like he had a drinking problem. Most of the time he drank moderately and responsibly, but that time right out of the hospital had been a dark time... That night really had just been a fluke.

"Okay, it better be!" Ed said, still trying to sound stern, then said in an apologetic tone, "Sorry I haven't been able to call... er... Winry... is such a bitch sometimes."

"I'm sure she has your best interest at heart..." Roy said, though he wasn't entirely convinced of that.

"No, she doesn't!" Ed insisted. "I swear her fucking goal in life is to make me as miserable as she can as fast as she can. It's like a fucking art form for her!"

"And I'm sure you're a perfect angel?" Roy asked in amusement. In a way, he could almost sympathize with the Rockbell girl. Ed wasn't exactly the epitome of calm serenity.

There was a long silence then he heard Ed's teeth click together. "Very fucking funny, bastard. How very fucking original and droll you are today. I'm laughing myself silly." Ed's voice was flat and un-amused.

Roy shifted the phone to the other ear and decided a change of subject was in order. "When are you returning to Central?" He missed Ed. He wanted to see him. Though, if Ed asked why, Roy was determined to say that he needed to know for work.

"That's up to the bitch..."

Roy could hear Winry in the background screeching, "I can hear you, Edward!"

"Tch, she stole the phone from me. She knows I hate milk. Why did she give it to me? It's not my fault it... fell on the floor..." Ed said grumpily.

Roy shook his head. "Well, Ed, you can choose how you react to your situation. You can keep thinking about how horrible your situation is and act like a shit head which will only make the situation more miserable or you can tell yourself that even though it's frustrating, you're going to make the best of it and choose to act pleasant."

"Huh... Can I speak to Roy please? I think I don't have the right house..."

Roy thought about what he'd just said and suddenly felt uncomfortable. Those anger management people really were getting to him... "Sorry..." he murmured. "How are you feeling?" Better to talk about Ed than him.

"Fine, except for certain irritants. I think if this goes on too long, I'll run away," Ed said with a hint of mischievousness.

"I have a feeling you wouldn't get too far," Roy grunted, thinking both of Ed's physical state and of Al and Winry. If Ed's brother and friend didn't stop him, then his injuries most likely would... Roy frowned, suddenly feeling overprotective and anxious. What if Ed did try to run off? What if he couldn't get help? Roy would never have been able to tell him...

"Says you! I happen to be doing very well. I've even walked up to see mom... And no one knew I had even left," Ed said proudly.

Roy didn't say anything for a few moments, then said, "Ed..." There was another uncomfortable pause as he tried to decide what to say. His overwhelming need to be with Ed was quickly overpowering the part of him who was determined to remain distant. "I'm... I'm sorry for being such an asshole..."

Pushing Ed away wasn't helping either of them and Ed didn't seem to get that they shouldn't be together, even after the shitty way Roy had treated him; before and after the accident.

"What brought that on?" Ed asked after a long pause, then continued hesitantly, "Did I make it sound like you were being one?"

Roy took a deep breath. "No... I just wanted—needed—to say it because..." His heart beat rapidly in his chest in nervous apprehension. "Well, I miss you..." There. He'd said it, and it was almost a relief to have done so. "And I've thought a lot about us lately... about how you wanted to stay friends even though... we're not really 'us' anymore..."

He let that hang there for a moment. Ed wanted them to still be 'us', but they weren't because of Roy. It was his fault that they weren't together, but it was for good reason! Yet... Roy wanted to be with Ed again. He needed Ed more than he'd thought possible. Could they really be 'us' again? He wanted it, but he was afraid of it too...

"I think I'd like that..." Roy said uncomfortably. "And since we both know what an ass I am, I just thought I'd apologize up front about it before we go any further." Just in case he did anything really stupid again.

"Roy..." Ed said warily, then a sigh. "I accept. And even if you said 'no' I'd still call or write or, when I get back, be waiting on your doorstep. I... I know you don't want to hear it, but I don't want this to be over. I miss you so much it hurts sometimes." Ed's voice was soft and filled with emotion. "I dreamed that you were with me the day I left the hospital. I would have sworn to anything that you were with me in the night. I could feel your warmth, your arm. I don't want that to stay only a dream. It... can't."

Roy gave a heavy sigh. "I never want to hurt you again... I thought... I thought I was in control; thought that I'd never do something like that to you..." His voice cracked slightly, but he continued on. "But I wasn't in control." Saying this to Ed was much easier after having admitted it to the councilor; yet, it was still difficult and the realization that he'd been a bomb ready to go off all that time, made him sickly ashamed of himself.

"I never was... I know now that I was just putting off the inevitable. I..." His voice became slightly husky and Roy didn't know how much more of this conversation he'd be able to take. "Care for you with all my heart... but... I'm afra—I don't want to hurt you again... I couldn't bear it..." His eyes stung and he blinked several times in an effort to make the stinging go away.

"A-are you crying?" Ed asked in a small voice.

Roy put his fingers to his eyes and said softly, "No..." He swallowed hard, trying to get a hold on himself, but it wasn't working. His hands were shaking and he felt a little bit sick to his stomach. How much further did he need to let Ed into his life—into the dark shadow that he preferred to keep hidden?

"Geez, Roy..." Ed said, sounding a little choked up. "Are you saying you lo—like me too? Not like friends, but more than friends?"

"I..." Roy began, feeling scared and a little out of breath. Yes, he loved Ed. He'd already come to that conclusion, but he couldn't say it. He just couldn't... "I... I have to go... I'm sorry..." And with that, he hung up the phone.

The sudden silence was loud in his ears as he stared at the phone, embarrassed both at his show of emotion and at having ended the conversation so quickly. Why did Ed do this to him? Why did Ed make him feel so much? Was it Ed that did this to him, or was it love? Why did he have to fall in love with Ed? Why did he have to fall in love at all?

Those self-searching questions were interrupted by the phone ringing. Out of habit, Roy lifted his hand to pick the phone up, then stopped himself. It was Ed, and he really didn't want to talk to Ed right now. He wanted to pull himself together; wanted to be more in control of his emotions before he turned into a pile of goo.

Ten rings. Twenty rings. Thirty rings. Forty rings. Fifty rings...

Roy reached down and was about to pull the plug on the phone when it stopped. A phantom ringing still sounded in his ears, but that eventually faded. He would call Ed tomorrow. That would give him enough time to decide what he wanted to say to any possible questions Ed might have for him. He'd be less emotional then too—hopefully.

Suddenly the doorbell rang and Roy frowned before heading down the stairs and pulling open the door. One of his neighbors—a friendly young married woman with two little children—stood there looking a little unsure.

"Can I help you?" he asked, then frowned when the phone began to ring again.

"Well..." she said timidly. "I just got a phone call from Ed..." There had been a few times Ed had kept an eye on her children while she ran an errand or two, yet it had never occurred to Roy that he might have her phone number. "He... asked me to come tell you to answer your phone..." She sounded both bewildered and bemused.

When Roy didn't say anything, she added, "He said that he'd give you five minutes before he called... Hawkeye?"

He nodded at the question in her voice to affirm that she got the name right. Ed would be a little shit like that... There was a fifty percent chance that Hawkeye would come over too—depending on her mood.

"Thank you for relaying the message," he said politely before shutting the door and heading back upstairs to the ringing phone. Throwing himself down on the bed, Roy snatched the phone and muttered irritably, "Insistent brat."

"You can't just leave like that! Roy! I mean, you have to tell me what you meant by that. Please!" Ed pleaded. That was enough to send Roy over the edge.

"Dammit, Ed," he said, feeling frustrated and trying to push the gnawing pain away. "What do you want me to say? Do you want me to beg you to come home to me because I can't bear being without your touch? Do you want me to tell you that I dream of you at night and see you in various rooms of my apartment when I'm awake? Do you want me to tell you that I'm in love with you? That I need you more than food or water or air; more than life itself?" The sudden passion throbbed in his veins, and he had to force himself to be quiet.

There was a long moment of silence then Ed said breathlessly, "Yes..."

Another long pause. "Then... you've already heard it..." Roy choked, feeling defeated and weary.

"Shit," Ed hissed. "I'm taking the train tomorrow. I need to see you!"

"No," Roy said quietly. He couldn't let Ed risk himself like that. "You're not well enough. I don't want you to chance hurting yourself."

"Yeah, but, you sound like someone just died. If you... love someone... like..." Ed's voice faded away, then, "Fucking hell—like I fucking love you! It shouldn't be like that! It should be happy and shit like Al and Winry! I need to see you. It'll be months yet before they'll let me leave, so I'll just sneak out like before. By the time they figure it out, I'll be well on my way. I can stay with you, and we can work this out. We can start new, take it slow."

Ed was babbling fervently, and when Roy found an opening, he snapped, "I said 'no'! You will not leave Rizembool! You have to recover—"

"Roy, I need to see you," Ed broke in insistently. "I'm fine, I can make it. I'm better—"

"Ed!" A small pause. "I... I'll come to you..." he said softly. "I told you, I couldn't bear it if I hurt you again, and if you got hurt coming to see me, it would be the same..."

"You will?" Ed asked doubtfully.

"Yes..." Roy said feeling a little unsure. He paused and thought on it. Was this the right decision? Ed would have to live with him while he recovered... But Roy decided that was what he wanted. If Ed was willing to accept him, even after all that had happened, then Roy wanted this. "Yes, I will," Roy said with a much stronger voice. "I'll..." It suddenly dawned on him that if he was going to go, then he'd have to go tonight! He had to be back by Wednesday! "I'll leave tonight."

"You will?" Ed asked again, this time in shock.

"Yes," Roy said hurriedly. "I..." He paused. His mind was suddenly racing with all the things he needed to do, and also with the realization that, if he wanted it, he'd have Ed back. Doubt suddenly pricked at him. Could this be real? Could Ed really want him back? "Do you... I... You... How do you..." Roy stammered, trying to say what it was he wanted to say, but unable to grasp a hold of the words he wanted to use. "About me...? Do you...?"

"Er... Do I love you back? I must admit that I'm confused about love, but I know I need you even though you piss me off, and push my buttons; but I need you, so yeah, I do. Will I get to see you on Sunday? For real? What about work? You'll get in trouble—but I can't say as I care as long as I get to see you. Get here fast."

Roy paused as he quickly formulated his excuse for going to Rizembool, then said, "I won't be able to stay long. I have to be back by Wednesday, but... talk to your brother. Tell him I'm coming, and tell him I want to take you with me when I leave." Pause. "That is... if you want to come back with me..." he added, feeling a little unsure.

"What?" Pause. "Yes!" Ed said quickly. "I want to go with you!" There was a rustling sound then Ed shouted, "Al! Get yer butt up here!" Then Ed's attention was back to Roy. "You sure it's okay? I mean—to stay with you? I get to see you everyday?"

"Yeah..." Roy said softly. "If you're willing to take the chance... I want to promise I'll never get angry again like I did that morning... but..." A pause. "But I can promise that I'll try very hard..."

"Come fast, Roy," Ed said, not seeming worried about what Roy was saying at all. "I'll be waiting."

Roy smiled, glad that Ed wasn't concerned. "Watch for me," he said in determination.

"Right!" Ed said, sounding determined. Roy could hear Al in the background wanting to know what was going on, but instead of listening, Roy hung up the phone. He stared at it for a moment as he replayed the last half hour in his mind, then picked it up and dialed Hawkeye's home phone number. There was a lot to do before he could leave and if he wanted to go tonight, then he'd better hurry.