The noise he kept hearing was not in his dream.
It was a loud, rough banging, which Roy's subconscious had immediately interpreted as the banging of a headboard against a wall. That made Roy smile into his pillow and arch into his mattress, a name sprang to mind, then several names and he could almost smell the undertones of lilacs in the perfume that would mar this pillowcases. Ah, sweet banging.
But the banging turned unexpected sour when the dulcet tones of wood striking sheetrock rhythmically were corrupted by the sound of a rough male voice accompanying them. He couldn't make out the actual words, but he thought he heard his name quite a few times. It was incessant and going on far longer than even fantasy images of his prowess would allow and that's what finally drug him up from sleep to a half bleary wakefulness.
No man could smack sheetrock that long and live to tell the tale.
He fumbled at his clock and stared at the face of it uncomprehending. There was no light in the room and no way to tell what the actual time was; he tried to guess at it and came up somewhere between 'way to early to be awake' o'clock and 'who the hell is that and I'm going to fry them for waking me up' o'clock. He kicked at the sheets for several minutes as he listened to the sounds of his front door beginning to give way under the assault and for good measure grabbed a white flint cloth glove off his bedside table before stumbling into the door fame trying to negotiate his way out of the room.
He stood for a moment at his front door, he leaned his forehead on it, (and each pound on the door sent vibrations all the way down his spine), as he worked the glove onto his hand. He knew who was outside the door and it didn't matter one bit; he was more than prepared to snap the hell out of him.
What fucking time was it?
He snatched the door open in time to keep another pound from occurring and fumbled to throw on his porch light, pawing at the wall beside the door frame.
"Good GOD, what the hell do you want at this time of the morning? Have you succeeded in waking up all the neighbors? Why the HELL is it you come here? Did you lose your key? Did Al finally throw you out? What do you want?!" He hoped his half awake squint was intimidating, but rather suspected it was the opposite.
Edward grinned at him, hair all in his eyes, helmet clutched under the arm he wasn't using to pound the door. He looked like he hadn't shaved for a week and Roy suspected that he smelled far worse up close then he did from the few feet apart in which they stood.
"I was in the neighborhood," Ed said cheerfully, "and I thought I would drop in on my old buddy and C.O., the Colonel..."
"It's General, get in here, every porch light in the neighborhood is on," Roy grabbed Ed by the shoulder of his leather jacket and yanked him inside, shutting the door behind him and managing to flip off his porch light. "If the cops come this time, Edward, I swear, I will have them arrest you."
"Fuck no you won't, you didn't last time," Ed shrugged off Roy's hand and started down the hall. He turned into the living room and tossed his helmet into the armchair. It promptly rolled into the floor with a loud clatter and Ed started taking off his jacket.
"Hold it," Roy said, following him in, "who said you were staying? Don't get comfortable, you're going home. Do you need coffee? Do you ever bathe anymore? Does Al know where you are?"
Ed halted in mid-shrug of dropping his jacket on the floor where he stood.
"Just let me sleep on your couch, tight-ass, fuck, I haven't worn out that gratitude card yet," Ed snorted, then let the jacket fall. "I'm fucking wiped, Al ain't my damn mother, yes make me coffee."
Roy stood for a few moments before turning and marching further down the hallway toward the kitchen, angrily working the glove off of his hand. Every time was the same argument and every time he ended up letting Edward stay.
Since his 'liberation' as Edward called it he'd gone out of his way to test every limit and boundary known to man. He was reckless, he was insatiable, he was incorrigible and was rapidly becoming certifiable. Roy knew that Ed had his wild time coming, but it had been going on for quite a while now and instead of burning itself out of his system, it only seemed to be intensifying.
Roy knew the reason Ed was here. Al would pitch a fit. If Edward showed up at their apartment looking like this...well that probably meant Ed hadn't been home in a few days. That probably meant Al was half way livid with anger and worry. Roy just couldn't understand it. He doubted anyone could. Did Edward really need to burn the candle at both ends the way he was now?
And why, for the love of god, did he always end up in Roy's house? That was really hard to figure out; but at least he had ended up here before the days of absence had worn on long enough to make Al called him in fear. Roy thunked around in the kitchen, turning on the stove and running water into the coffee pot.
Ed appeared in the doorway, slouched against it, folded his arms over his chest and sighed.
"So when do you plan to call Al? Do you enjoy doing this to him?" Roy said, getting coffee mugs from the drainer by his sink; fetching the sugar from the cabinet.
"Look, don't you worry about Al and me, ok? We're fine. Fuck, he's more than fine. You know he landed that big research contract, you know that, right? Hell you piratically gift wrapped it for him. He's set for the next five years if he's set for a day, and it's huge, he'll do great. They are fucking lucky to have him and they know it, should get you a lot of pats on the back. So don't you sweat what is going on in my family life, just butt the fuck out."
Roy shoved away from the counter and grabbed Ed by the shoulder again and spun him around. He gripped him by the back of his neck and the ass of his jeans and marched him to the front door, there he pinned him against the wall as Ed yelped and tried to struggle until he got the front door open.
Then he tossed Edward Elric out on his ass and slammed the door.
After a moment he tossed his helmet and leather jacket out, too, for good measure.
After going back to bed for a glorious hour and forty-five more minutes of sleep, (his alarm clock barely survived the encounter), Roy forced himself to his front door and prepared to go to work for the day. Already he was counting the hours until he could slip away to nap in an unoccupied conference room. So intent was he, on his image of getting to sleep at work, that it didn't register for a moment when his foot hit something on his front stoop. He flailed wildly and caught himself on the door jamb and slowly looked down, knowing was was going to be there.
"Ow, the fuck, watch where you're walking," Ed grumbled from under the blanket of his leather coat. He struggled to sit up as Roy continued to stare at him. "What was I suppose to do? You threw me the fuck out."
"Go home, for god sake Edward, go home," Roy growled, stepping around him and shutting the door behind him. "I know that piece of shit motorcycle puddling oil on my walk runs, get on it and take your sorry ass home," Roy turned then, righteous steam building, and started down said oil stained walk.
"Oh, hey, come on, let me in! I need to pee for god's sake! I'll do it right out here in the open, right in front of your house! The neighbors will see!" Ed called after him.
Roy stopped, turned nearly on his heel. He withdrew a glove from his pocket and slowly made a demonstration of putting it on. Ed's eyes widened slightly, he hastily raised his hands, palms toward each other, demonstrating his willingness to clap. Roy just extended his hand toward Ed's beat up, hobbled together black motorcycle and Ed went to his knees.
"NO! Ok fuck, I'll go home, lay off that, it's an antique!" Ed pleaded.
Roy worked his jaw, then nodded, then pointed at Ed once before turning without a word and heading toward his car parked at the curb.
"HEY, BASTARD," Ed yelled loud enough for Central command to hear, "When the fuck are you going to go out with me?"
That was another great mystery to Roy.
Go out with Edward where?
Roy stood stock still in astonishment. Here it was, nine hours later, and who was sitting on the front stoop of his house almost as if he hadn't moved from it in the first place? He looked up and down the street to make sure he was at the right house, and then Ed stood up, tried to smooth down his hair and put a hand on his hip and tilted his head and arched an eyebrow.
This came across as a challenge to Roy. He squared his jaw and started up the walk. He didn't even glance at the motorcycle as he passed it, although he felt the urge to kick it over. Ed unceremoniously wiped his nose on the sleeve with Roy got closer and tried to look self assured and calm in the chaos of himself.
Roy stopped a few feet away, said nothing, but just eyed him. Ed didn't like silences, he hated wasted air between himself and another person when it could be filled up with words.
"Yeah, so, I waited on you to get home, don't make anything of it like you're special. Also? I peed out back so the neighbors couldn't see," Ed said, wiping at his nose again.
Roy opened his mouth but for the life of him couldn't reply. All he could do is look at this sullen, ragged figure before him and wonder what the hell was going on. What was Edward doing with his life? Everyone around him spoke to him as if he should know just what was going on behind those golden eyes. That he has some secret privy to the inner working of Ed's brain. And maybe, at some point in the boy-now-young man's youth, he had; but apparent Edward had lost that mind and replaced it with this new one.
Ed even smiled when Roy stepped up past him on the stoop and keyed the door open. Roy ignored the muffled shout of outrage when he shut the door in Ed's face.
Dinner came and went and Roy peeked out the blinds again. He was still there, sitting on the front stoop, hugging his knees and quite frankly looking like he didn't have a friend in the world.
He was so amazingly persistent, so incredibly resilient and Roy felt himself weaken.
Another fifteen minutes passed and because Roy was a human after all, and he did care for Ed in ways even he didn't understand, he went and opened his front door. Ed whirled and looked up at him and the look on his face reminded Roy of people befriending a stray dog.
"DON'T speak, you'll screw this up," Roy warned. "Just go and take a shower and come into the kitchen when you are through."
Ed immediately clamped his jaw shut, scrambled to his feet and dashed past Roy into the house as if he was afraid Roy would change his mind. Roy heard the bathroom door slam and, satisfied, he went to make Ed some dinner.
Ed slunk into the kitchen some twenty minutes later. Hair wet and clinging to his shoulders, towel wrapped around his waist. Roy looked at him, then indicated a kitchen chair by turning his head to look at it slowly and Ed went over to it and sat.
"Can I talk now?" Ed started and Roy cut his eyes back to Ed's face and Ed went quiet.
Roy walked over with a bowl of soup and a couple of sandwiches perched on a plate and sat it in front of Ed. Ed suddenly didn't want to talk, he was much more interested in seeing how fast and far he could shove both sandwiches down his throat at once. The he lifted the bowl of soup and got it down in about three large gulps. He didn't ask for anything else, but Roy saw his eyes stray to the bag of bread still sitting on the counter.
"When's the last time you ate?" Roy said, folding his arms.
"I'm not fucking twelve anymore..." Ed started.
"WHEN is the last time you ate?" Roy said again.
"I'm not in the military, I'm not your subordinate anymore..." Ed continued, getting louder himself.
Roy walked over suddenly and leaned close and Edward physically pushed his chair back in surprise, eyes widening.
"If you can't handle the fact you are in my house and under my rules, I invite you to leave right now," Roy said, soft and low.
"I lost my wallet a couple of days ago," Ed finally said, slow and begrudgingly.
"And you didn't go home because...?" Roy said.
"I didn't want Al to bitch at me, ok? I just didn't want to deal with it," Ed glanced at the counter again.
Roy went to get the sandwich makings out again, bringing them all to the table and setting them in front of Ed. Ed bobbed his head in gratitude and started making another couple of sandwiches without looking at Roy.
"You're going to have to go home and patch things up with Al," Roy said, sitting down opposite Ed with a sigh. "He's probably worried sick, I'll call him tomorrow from the office."
"No," Ed said quickly, looking up, "I'll handle it, just let me handle it. I'll call him," he then dropped his gaze back down to the half made sandwich in his hand.
"See that you do," Roy said, watching Ed wolf a third and fourth sandwich.
Now was his chance. Ed seemed sufficiently cowed and willing to answer questions. Now is when he should launch into the lecture about how Ed was wasting his time and his life. How Ed was worrying his brother, how Ed was giving up all kinds of golden opportunities. He'd sewn his oats long enough, he was an adult now. It was time to settle down and take up a career and enjoy what he'd fought so hard to win. He'd won, there was no need to keep charging at life like he never knew if he'd see the next day.
He watched Ed toy with the idea of a fifth sandwich and give in.
He'd just let Ed sleep off his glut tonight, he could always talk to him in the morning.
The roar of the ancient motorcycle woke him just before the alarm clock went off.
Roy sat up and rubbed at his eyes, got up and trotted out to the living room to confirm what he'd heard.
He glanced out the front window and saw tail lights heading down the street, they disappeared behind the neighbor's hedge and Roy nodded.
Good. Ed was going home and patching things up with his brother and life could return to normal. That was settled.
Only when he got to the office he found things weren't as settled as he'd hoped they be. There, on top of his in box sat a note asking him to return the phone call of one Mr. Alphonse Elric. Roy toyed with the piece of paper. It must have come in late last night, after he'd left for home; but no, the time on it read this morning, just before he'd arrived.
He turned his desk phone toward him and dialed the number, fingered the edge of the little note until a familiar voice came over the line.
"Hello?" Alphonse Elric said, sounding a bit subdued and hopeful.
"Alphonse," Roy returned as way of greeting, "I just got into the office and I have your note. Did Ed make it home alright?" he asked.
"General, thanks for returning my call," Al seemed to give a sigh of relief. "You're seen Ed? Good. I admit I was getting a bit worried. I mean, I know he's perfectly capable of taking care of himself. I spent years on the road with him and I know how resourceful he is, but still, it's good to have an eye witness report on his whereabouts."
"He hasn't made it home yet?" Roy said. "He left pretty early this morning, I'm sure he would have been there by now. Then again, that motorcycle has seen better days, he might be pushing it home and that could take a while."
Alphonse was quiet for a moment, then he cleared his throat a little.
"I see he hasn't told you," Al said.
"Told me?" Roy inquired, starting to pull other things out of his inbox. "Something going on I should know about? He seemed alright if a bit smelly last night. Also, he lost his wallet, or so he said. He should really be more careful. Is he still going to those bars in mid-town? Seems to me he needs a better way to work off some of his energy."
"I've been telling him that for months, but you don't need to hear about my nagging," Al sighed.
"I keep looking for contracts I think will tempt him. The problem is he's so damn brilliant and I just don't think he'd go for desk work that comes along with a lot of these and field work is always snapped up first by those with seniority," Roy sighed, shuffled some papers around. "Do you think you could find him a position in your new project?"
"We talked about that," Al said tightly, "I don't think he'd appreciate being my employee, or at least that is the impression I got. I will never escape the stigma of being his 'little' brother. But that's neither here nor there, he wouldn't be happy on that job. Listen, General," Al took a deep breath, "he's been all sorts of out of control lately and well... for his own good and my sanity, at least for a while, I've kicked him out."
"Kicked him out as in...out of your apartment?" Roy wondered if his voice sounded as credulous as he felt.
"I know what it sounds like, but believe me, he needs it," Al made another sigh. "He gets on these tirades and while I can hazard what set him off this time, I don't always know what to do about them. He's just been crazy lately. He goes out, he stays gone for days, he comes home drunk and exhausted. He makes no effort to help me with the daily business of life, it's like he sees me as an intruder when I ask him where he's going or what he's doing. I really think... I really think he's jealous that I got this contract and I'm the head of this project. And, well, I think he's kind of jealous you gave it to me."
"Jealous?" Roy almost sputtered. "But he's turned down job offer after job offer. I have really gone out of my way to try to find him a good position. I don't see him making any real effort to find his own and I was trying to do him and you a favor, but he turns them down flat."
"I know," Al says. "Believe me, I've been doing the same thing, but he is just really being difficult and I can't figure out what he's looking for. Maybe I'm to close to the problem, maybe he needs to tell someone else, someone like..." Al trailed off for a moment. "I really don't want to pull you into anything, but do you think, when you see him again, you could ask him?"
"Ask him?" Roy echoed.
"As him what he wants. You know, if only he'd tell me, I'd do it," Al said.
To his surprise, Roy thought he would, too.
Now he waited.
He kept listening for the distant hum of a gravely bike motor. He kept himself from calling Al for the next couple of days, hoping Ed would wander in on his own.
Naturally, Ed was very unhelpful and Roy found himself thinking time again about driving around to all the little dives and seeing if there was a dingy black motorcycle in their parking lot.
Another night of waiting and that is just what he did.
He hadn't prowled in a moon's age. One after the other he patrolled the shady back streets of Central, stopping at each dimly lit and neon forsaken place where someone could walk into and crawl out of to the next one down the street. And just as he was going to call it a night, he struck pay dirt. He almost missed it, the bike was leaning haphazardly near a dumpster and almost looked like it belonged there. So he parked his car down the street and waited. And waited. He thumped the steering wheel and debated with himself.
Ed was a grown man. If he wanted to spend the night in a bar, well that was Ed's business and it was certainly none of Roy's.
If Ed wanted to pickle that incredible brain, well that was certainly his prerogative and Roy really didn't have a say in the matter.
Only...he'd worked hard to give that brain opportunities. He'd done outlandish and sometimes questionable things to get that brain all the right resources and leads. He'd nurtured that brain and supported that brain and watched that brain overcome incredible odd and surmount impossible goals. He had every right to see to it that brain remained in tact, he was invested in that brain and he would be damned if he let a brain he'd given years of his life to rot away on some cheap swill in a derelict building in an alley no sane man would be in after dark.
He opened the car door and got out.
Trying to see inside the building was like trying to see through mud. Roy groped his way to the bar and peered down the length of it. Ed's hair should stand out like a beacon in this gloom, and he saw no blonds sitting on what passed for bar stools. He pushed away from the bar cautiously, waving off the grunt of the bartender and moved further into the room against his own better judgment. A couple of ladies, (it didn't matter what they looked like, he was pretty certain they were female and he didn't know them and it just comforted him to think of them as ladies), spoke to him as he passed by, but he nodded them off as well.
It seemed that someone, besides Ed, had bad taste in motorcycles, but he didn't see a familiar figure anywhere and he started to turn to go. As he did so, a man seated in the back got up, and in doing so he revealed the man sitting at the table with him. A small man who's head of blond hair stuck out like a sore thumb in the miasma that floated in the bar just below the ceiling.
Now that he'd found him, how did he approach him? What was his excuse for being here? It seemed to Roy that Ed might get defensive, thinking Roy was checking up on him, (which is exactly what Roy was doing), and become belligerent, (well, it's not like that would be anything new). The man who had been sitting with Ed shoved his way to the bar and Roy heard him order two beers.
It didn't seem that Ed needed a wallet in order to get a drink.
Well of course not, in the right company Ed was pretty and he was...
Roy strode to the table and snorted loud enough for Ed to actually look up at him and squint. Roy put his hands on his hips and put on his best glower and Ed stared at him like he had two heads.
"Colonel?" Ed said, sounding surprised and only slightly slurred.
"It's General," Roy reminded him again. "Edward, I really want to know what you think you're doing?"
"Getting a drink?" Ed said, sounding slightly confused.
"That's not what I mean, look, I talked with Al a couple of days ago..." Roy hissed, getting closer, but Ed looked past Roy and sat up straighter. Roy half turned to see the man from before returning with two beer mugs in his hand. The man gave Roy an all over appraisal, then snorted and shoved past him, clanking the mugs onto the table and sloshing beer over his hand. He raised his beer soaked hand to his mouth and started to lick it clean, grinning at Ed and giving him the eyebrows.
Roy wasn't sure what his facial features were doing, but Ed kept shooting him nervous glances and when the man sat back down to Ed's right and leaned over and took Ed's ear into his mouth, Roy could honesty say he though he'd been transported to the land of No Fucking Way.
Roy also wasn't sure how his hands hand found their way into the man's coat or why there was so much yelling going on.
"GET YOUR MOUTH OFF OF HIM, HE'S A MINOR," Roy was certain that was his own voice.
"YOU FUCKING BASTARD, I HAVEN'T BEEN A MINOR FOR YEARS," that was Ed.
"GET YOUR OWN PIECE YOU OLD TROLL, THIS ONE IS MINE," who that was, Roy had no clue.
And then there were flying fists and Roy's jaw hurt but he kept on swinging and then someone half carried him out of the bar and dumped him in the parking lot and stood over him snarling like a rabid dog.
"YEAH OK BACK OFF, HE'S HAD ENOUGH," that was Ed again.
"What's happened?" Roy asked, feeling slightly dizzy.
"SHUT THE FUCK UP, HOW WILL I GET FREE BEER NOW?!" Ed screamed into his face.
"I'll buy you a beer," Roy said in order to get Ed to stop screaming.
"FUCK, I'm taking you home, where is the car?" Ed snarled.
Roy had to wonder, as Ed hauled him to his feet, just who was taking care of who here.
Ed drove the car and Roy sat in the passengers seat feeling more than a little stunned.
"Are you ok to drive? You were drinking..." Roy began.
"SHUT up," Ed hissed, and Roy fell silent.
The drove the rest of the way back to Roy's house that way. Roy remembered, once, when he'd gotten into a fight in grade school and his father had been dispatched to bring him home. He'd sat in the same ramrod straight position, fear tightening his spine and dread at actually getting home to see what sort of punishment his indiscretion would bring.
This felt exactly like that.
Ed parked the car next to the curb and got out. Roy waited for a moment, then got out to and stood looking at Ed who was glaring at him from the walk.
"You were checking up on me," Ed accused.
"I was," Roy admitted, after all, he'd been caught red handed.
"Funny thing, you. Throwing me out of your house one day, checking up on me the next," Ed growled.
"Well that's the way I work," Roy said, turning to start up the walk. "I don't have to justify my actions to you."
Ed charged after him, reached out and snagged the back of Roy's jacket, bringing him up just short of the front stoop. Roy stopped and turned to look at him, pulling his mask of indifference down to cover his embarrassment.
"Like hell you don't! What is it with you? Hot and cold, off and on, stop and go! What right do you think you have to come poking your nose into my business?! In case you haven't noticed there is nothing between us anymore! You're not responsible for me anymore! I don't answer to you anymore! You got that? I ain't your problem anymore!" Ed then took a step back, and another. He licked his lips and looked around. "You...you just back off, I don't know what's got into you," he mumbled. "I have to get back to my bike."
"That is where you're wrong," Roy said calmly. "If you're not my problem anymore, why do you keep bringing them to my doorstep? Why is it every time I turn around, there you are? You can't expect me not to get involved when you pull me in, however reluctantly, every inch of the way. Do you think you can come to me like this and not have me care? Is that what you think of me? Do you think that I can just have a front row seat to you throwing your life away, debasing yourself in dives for free drinks and not have me get involved? Ed, I think I'm stupid, because I'm looking at you right now and I'm realizing, you want me to be involved. You literally hand write the invitation to my involvement."
"That's a load of Roy Mustang patented bullshit," Ed snarled.
"Al told me what happened. Where the hell are you staying? I hope you aren't sleeping around to get a free bed," Roy sneered back.
"I ought to lay you out," Ed said lowly. "I ought to wipe that fucking, condescending look right off your smug bastard face. Don't think I can't do it, don't think I haven't dreamed about doing it," Ed took a deep breath, flexed his hands and rolled his head on his shoulders.
"Why do you keep coming to me?" Roy asked, steady and even. "Tell me Ed, what do you want?"
"Like it matters to you," Ed half spat. "Why do you care what I do? What is that to you?"
"Don't answer my question with a question, don't evade the issues, this isn't about me," Roy took a step forward and Ed took a step back. "I'm stable, I know what I want from life, I'm doing the best I can with what I have, what about you Ed? Can you say the same things?"
"Fuck you, fuck you, I don't have to answer any of this shit," Ed kept retreating and Roy kept advancing. Back down the walk they went, step by step.
"Is it my attention you want, Ed? You can have it, all you have to do is ask," Roy said softly.
"Oh fuck you to hell," Ed whispered, but he stopped retreating after that.
They just stood there, facing each other for a bit. Roy turned and went back up to the house, but Ed stayed where he was, near the end of the walk. Roy waited for him, eventually sitting on the stoop, but still Ed stayed where he was and only watched Roy in a wounded sort of way.
It was like trying to coax in a cat that had gone feral. It took patience and quite, it would take a great deal of kindness, too. He pulled his knees up and folded his arms across them, watching as Ed started to pace a bit, back and forth the width of the walk, (which wasn't much). He stopped and rubbed his face for a moment, then he would look at Roy again.
Finally Ed came to some sort of decision, he came half way up the walk and stopped as if afraid to get any closer in case he were to need to run.
"Ok, so you know what? You're still full of shit and I don't have the first clue why I'm playing your asinine game, but I'll bite. No, I don't want your attention, why the fuck would I want your attention? I'm not the groomable type, you got Al for that."
"Are you mad I got Al his job?" Roy asked. "I've tried to get jobs for you as well."
"What? No I ain't mad you got Al his job," Ed snorted, "what kind of brother do you think I am? Al is perfect for that job, he'll be great at it. It's an important position."
"Are you jealous?" Roy asked.
"You must be insane," Ed said, throwing his arms wide, "why would I be jealous?"
"It's a pretty prestigious position," Roy said, "it will get Al a lot of attention."
"Oh, and because I'm such an attention whore I have to have it all," Ed said, letting his arms drop.
"Are you being honest?" Roy said, unfolding his arms and then leaning back on his hands. "Think about it."
Ed stood and glared at him for a few more moments, but then he turned away. He retreated to his former position down at the end of the walk to mull this over. But Ed, if anything, was an honest soul and when he returned to his speaking platform,(which seemed to be the middle of the walk), he was a bit more somber.
"Ok, so tell me, why didn't you offer that position to me?" Ed asked.
Roy puffed out his cheeks and blew out his lips slowly. He looked up at the night sky a moment, then looked at Ed.
"You don't have the leadership potential your brother does," Roy said quite honestly, "and you don't have what it takes to inspire other people to work with you. You are very much a force of one, and that is not what the project needed. It needed someone who could manage a team of individuals and get them to work together, not someone who would regard them all as his personal lackeys while he got the glory work."
Ed charged up the walk, breathing hard, he stopped at Roy's feet and balled his fists.
"You know it's the truth," Roy said, not flinching and not backing down. "You prize your intelligence, and rightfully so, but I've seen you, time and again, push people away with your arrogance. I don't think you mean to, and I don't think you regard it as arrogance. But in all this time, you still haven't learned how to impart instead of lord over and that doesn't win you many friends. The labs are crazy about you, but only for solo projects. I'm afraid that is just the way it is, Ed."
"I'm good," Ed grated out, "I'm the best they could ever get," and he literally shook. "Fuck you, fuck you Roy Mustang," and he spun again and charged down the walk, made a sharp right and then broke into a run up the street.
What could Roy do but let him go? Ed was a grown man now.
Roy awoke to a pounding on his door. He tried to see what time it was, but couldn't make out the clock hands in the darkness. He sat up and swung his legs off the bed and sat there with his eyes closed trying to will the pounding away. He got up, fumbled for a glove out of habit and staggered down the entry way to the door. He snatched the door open before the next pound and groped for the light switch and squinted out into the darkness.
"Your problems delivered," Ed snarled. "Let me in, I have to pee."
Roy stood back and Ed shoved by him, he heard his boots on the hall floor and the slamming of the bathroom door. Roy stood there for a few moments before realizing he could shut the door and wait for Ed in the living room. So he shuffled off to there and sat on the couch.
He could hear Ed, coming back down the hall and tromping into the living room. He heard Ed sit down on the other end of the couch and he figured it might be good to pry his eyes open and try to pay attention.
"Ok, listen up, I'm only going to say this once. Yes, I want you to pay attention to me. Yes, I was jealous because I thought you liked Al better than me. Yes, I'm being a total jerk to Al and you and everyone who matters to me and I don't know why. Yes, Al threw me out but I could probably go back now and patch things up with no hard feelings. So, there, you have the whole thing. I came clean. Are you still awake?"
"Yes," Roy said, "but my eyelids refuse to obey my commands."
"Good," Ed said, "so we're all on the same page now."
"So why did you come here first? I would have though you'd go to Al and patch things up," Roy asked.
"Well you were the one telling me what an incredible fuck-up I've been of late and I thought you'd want the satisfaction of hearing me say you were right," Ed said wryly, "I know how much you love to hear that."
"You're right, I do," Roy grinned, eyes still closed.
Ed leaned back into the couch and sighed.
"Besides, I didn't want to wake Al up at 2 in the morning, that'd be a shitty thing to do," Ed said and yawned.
"No doubt," Roy mumbled and got to his feet. "You know where the spare blanket and pillows are, I'm going back to bed."
"Yeah, and hey, when are you going to let me take you out?" Ed said, and Roy stopped and half turned back to him, forcing his eyes open.
"I want to ask you something," Roy said, "because I think I'm interpreting something wrong. Every time you come over here you ask me that same question... are you asking me out on a date?"
"Well yeah," Ed said, "what are you? Slow?"
"You know what? You can take me out, tomorrow night, you, me, a few beers... I think I deserve it," Roy said, turning away and heading for the bedroom.
"You think you deserve me?" Ed called to him as he walked way. "I think you're right, because you, Roy Mustang, must be a fucking saint!" And Ed laughed and Roy heard him get up and head for the hall closet where the spare linens were kept.
"I will be after tomorrow night, I'm sure," Roy muttered to himself, going into his bedroom and shutting the door.