Warnings: Body swap, sexual tension, Ed's language
Author's Notes: Hi everyone! This is a bit of something relatively light-hearted written while a toothache prevented me from doing anything more. It is also a request!fic for a good friend oatmeal_queen. Sorry it's late, hun. Body-swap fic was something I thought I would never write, but I found myself loving the logistics. I hope I did it justice. Unbeta'd, so if you spot any typos, please let me know and I'll get them fixed. I'm actually very nervous about this piece, so I really hope that it's enjoyable!!
Under My Skin: Part One
Conciousness came back to Ed slowly, drifting into his head like early morning mist. His mouth tasted of dirt and the faintest hint of blood, which was never a good thing, and he checked his senses for clues while he waited for his memory to catch up.
He felt... odd. His right arm tingled in a way that probably meant the Automail was busted beyond repair, and his clothes seemed strange. The more he thought about it, the more subtly wrong everything felt.
Opening his eyes, Ed tried to make sense of what he could see. It was dark, and the room was brimming with gloomy silhouettes that gave nothing away. For a split second, the first rising wave of panic almost drowned him before he remembered where he was.
Some old coot of a State Alchemist had popped his clogs, and Mustang had sent Ed to the empty house to sort out the valuable, life-altering research from the crap. He had been rummaging through the strata of paperwork when his fingertips had touched something metallic and circular, like a plate. Ed had just tugged it free, both hands to the round edge, when Mustang had sauntered in.
He had probably wanted an update or something, but instead the idiot was just in time to get caught up in the shock wave of an array going off. The last thing Ed remembered was the faint look of resigned surprise on Mustang's face before the transmutation wiped the world to white and he had been out for the count.
With a grunt, Ed splayed his hands on the floor, pushing himself up to his knees and shaking his head to try and clear away the cobwebs. Fuck, he felt thick. Normally it took more than a bit of alchemy to slow him down, but now every thought was a creaking, groaning thing in the silence of his skull.
He should probably try and find Mustang, he decided. The smug git had been standing by the door when it happened, and he had been closer to the empty fireplace.
Reality tilted in alarmed confusion as Ed scowled across the room, at last putting his finger on one of the many things that was bothering him. How come he was all the way over here? The open doorway was just behind him, dark and ominous in the twilight, but he had definitely been about ten paces away from it when he had been knocked out. Had someone moved him? Had they taken Mustang in the process? What was going on?
Light, there had to be light: chase away the shadows and all that would be left was the truth. Staggering to his feet, Ed wobbled like a newborn foal, stumbling gracelessly to the wall and groping for the switch to illuminate the room.
As soon as he flicked it, a warm glow bloomed, filling each corner and leaving nothing hidden from view. Yet Ed was not looking at the slew of papers or the stacks of books that littered the floor. His gaze was fixed on his gloved hand, and the familiar, bright red array daubed neatly on its fabric.
Mustang's gloves were on his hands, yet they fit perfectly, as if they had been made to wrap around his fingers. Belatedly, he realised he was also dressed in the familiar blue and gold of the Amestrian military uniform. A long black coat covered most of it, but the fabric should have draped on the floor. Instead they fit perfectly and Ed wondered why someone would go to the trouble to make all of Mustang's clothes the right size for him.
'Someone's just fucking with your head,' he whispered to himself, shoving a hand through his hair. He stiffened in shock when he realised that there was no long, gold ponytail brushing at his shoulders, just short, artful spikes. Dragging down a tuft so that he could squint at it, he realised it was black, and the faint hope that this was just some kind of massive joke guttered like a candle. It seemed a bit extreme for one of Havoc or Breda's pranks, but what other explanation was there?
Looking around, his eyes fell on the mirror over the mantelpiece, and Ed could have sworn he felt his heart stop in his chest. He had wanted to see something, anything familiar in his appearance. The face in that frame was one he knew all right, he had glared at it over a desk often enough, but it was not the one he had been born with.
Mustang's eyes, dark blue and currently widened in almost comical surprise, stared back at him. That perfect, smug face that Ed had wanted to break more than once in his life was now the mask through which he was looking at the world, and Ed reeled with confusion.
This had to be some mistake, some delusion, because he was Ed Elric, and he should not be wearing Roy Mustang's face... or body, for that matter. Ed glanced towards the floor, grimacing when he noticed it seemed further away than usual. His right arm was real, and so was his left leg: flesh and blood, all of him, and he had never felt anything so fundamentally wrong in his life.
At last, he looked back to where he had been standing before, unable to stop the twitch of uncertainty as he saw the body he knew so well lying on the floor. So far it was motionless, Automail hand outstretched and almost, but not quite, touching the metal rim of the lifeless plate.
Ed stepped a little closer, trying to get some kind of grasp on this surreal twist of events. One nagging question would not leave him be, and he pulled a face as he glanced around the room once more. There was no one else there, so where had Mustang gone? Not his flesh and blood body, but the intolerable, annoying, baffling bastard that lived inside it?
There was a logical answer, but as soon as the thought crossed his mind Ed shuddered in horrified disgust. If he was in Mustang's skin, then there was every chance that they had simply switched places.
That realisation was enough to hammer home the truth about what had happened, and Ed felt violated through and through. Someone or something, some kind of transmutation, had ripped him out of his body and put him here instead. Alien blood pumped in his veins, and muscles that had lived a different life controlled his every movement and none of it was his.
Panic made spots of white bloom in the corner of his vision, and Ed took a deep breath, trying not to think about it as he forced himself to focus. 'Concentrate,' he hissed to himself, jolting in surprise when it was Roy's voice that emanated from his lips. Ed sounded just like him, articulate and well-spoken, except that Roy never came across as that angry.
It was enough to jerk Ed into action. First things first, wake up the body on the floor and find out if Mustang was in there. If so, then they could work out how to change things back.
If not... .
Ed swallowed, shaking his head. He could not think about that, because if that body was empty then that meant Mustang was gone. An alchemical accident was not about to take down Roy, least of all one Ed had a sneaking suspicion was his fault.
Stiffly, he moved forward, feeling like he was trying to walk on stilts as he approached the prone figure's side. His knees cracked as he bent down, and Ed grimaced at the sensation, rubbing at his right leg before reaching out a finger and poking doubtfully at the body's left shoulder. It was warm through the fabric of the black jacket, a gentle heat that spoke of life, and Ed let out a breath he had not realised he had been holding.
When there was no response to his prodding, he reached out and rolled the body over. He checked its pulse almost as something to keep his hands busy as he stared down at his own face. Somehow, he had never thought his nose looked quite like that, or that his jaw was that strong. He looked at his reflection with his self-perception tinting his vision and only saw a bit of his father, but now the bastard's likeness was stamped all over his face.
Shaking his anger aside, Ed grabbed at those mismatched shoulders, trying not to notice how clunky and cold the Automail felt even through the jacket, and gave them a hard shake. 'Hey, wake up. Come on, it was just a bit of alchemy.'
The body groaned, a groggy response of the barely concious, and Ed suddenly realised that if Mustang was in there, then he was going to get a worse shock than Ed had done. At least he had been given time to make his own conclusions, Roy was going to open his eyes and find himself kneeling at his side.
'Shit,' Ed muttered, but before he had a chance to move, dark lashes flickered open and gold eyes that reminded him more of Al than his dad gained their focus. He did not even know what to say. All the standard things seemed redundant, and he cleared his throat awkwardly before he asked, 'Mustang, that you?'
'Yes,' Mustang replied as if it were a stupid question. If he had been in the right body it would have sounded cool and condescending, as if it were reality's fault for being wrong. As it was, he said it in Ed's voice, and the effect was rather ruined by the obvious alarm at hearing himself speak in the wrong voice.
Ed watched as he went to press his hand to his forehead but, rather than flesh fingertips, he got steel. It had taken Ed months to learn how to use the automail properly, but it looked like those connections were tied in his body, rather than whatever part of him had been transposed. It still moved easily, but that did not do anything to ease Roy's blatant confusion.
'You're in my body,' Ed said, 'and I'm in yours.' He let out a sigh, hating the way it sounded like the world's worst joke. People did not swap bodies. Why would anyone want to? There was something almost perverse about it, and Ed gritted his teeth, trying to disregard the feeling that he was wearing someone else's dirty clothes.
'What –? How–?' Roy stopped, screwing up his eyes and opening them again as if he hoped things would look better the second time around. 'What happened?'
'How should I know?' Ed snapped irritably. 'It's that plate's fault. I didn't do anything to it, and it switched us around!''
Roy blinked at him, and Ed realised that he could see every emotion written clearly in that expression. Either Ed's body was not as good at concealing its feelings, or Roy was too stunned and disoriented to even try, and there was a lot there to hide. Fear and confusion, discomfort and an undeniable kind of curiosity. He was not just looking at Ed now, but analysing him in a critical way, and Ed wondered what Roy thought of his own body from the outside.
'That's –' Roy paused as if to collect his words, and when he spoke again he was undeniably Mustang, no matter what body he was in. 'Start at the beginning, Fullmetal. Tell me everything you can remember.'
Ed rolled his eyes at the command and held out a hand, gripping the automail palm and hauling Roy to his feet. He was not very stable. Normally, Ed would have left the git to fall flat on his face, except that, if he did that, then it would be Ed's nose that broke when he hit the floor. 'You sent me to this pit to sort out the mess. That's all I've been doing all day. Moving paper around and trying to find the fucking floor. I was just getting somewhere when you walked in.'
He nudged the plate with his toe, listening to it rasp on the bare floorboards before flipping it over with his boot. It rattled and rolled before finally coming to rest not far away. The silver polished surface winked in the lamp-light, but its shine was dulled by the intricate array etched in its surface. 'I pulled that out and it went off,' Ed muttered. 'If I'd known what was on it I would have left the stupid thing alone.'
Gingerly, he bent down, picking it up in one hand and examining the design. It was a complicated twist of lines and symbols, the culmination of years of research, and Ed grimaced as he realised it could take just that long to undo its effects.
Worse, there was not much there he recognised. A few elements whispered of things he remembered studying as a kid. There were one or two eerie echoes of human transmutation, yet Ed knew he had not been at the Gate. He felt violated, all right, but not to that extreme. Besides, he would remember its presence, and it would have asked a far worse price than this.
'I don't suppose that, if we activate it, it will just swap us back?' Roy asked hopefully, squinting at the array and rubbing absently at the automail arm like it was causing him pain. It shouldn't be, Ed thought to himself, but maybe it was just the shock to the brain. His arm and leg felt too warm, too weak, too light, and the contrast was nagging at the edge of his mind. If he stopped to think about it, it would drive him nuts. Besides, Mustang could not exactly be pleased to wake up a cripple.
Looking back at the plate, Ed shrugged, ignoring Roy's undignified sound of shock as he put both hands to its edge, touching the lines as firmly as he could. It was a stupid thing to do but, from where he was standing, things could not get that much worse. He was not sure what he expected to happen, but the only sensation he felt was a faint prickling across the skin of his hands, and that could just be the chafe of Roy's gloves against his hands.
An irritated growl rumbled in Ed's throat as he pulled the gloves off with his teeth, shoving them in the pocket of the long coat before replacing his hands on the plate. After a second, he shook his head and held it out to Roy. 'You try. I'm not getting anything.'
Roy reached out with his left hand, rather than his right and, as soon as his fingers closed on the edge, pain shot up Ed's arm. It was like being struck by a snake, and he recoiled instantly, shaking his wrist out in surprise as the plate clattered away. Roy must have felt the same thing, because he was rubbing at his left hand and glaring at the offending object in disgust.
He seemed to have forgotten the awkwardness of the metal arm in his shock, and Ed wished it was as easy for him. His hand had clenched into a fist, an automatic response to the pain, and he shuddered at the slide of sinew over bone. Roy must have noticed, because he grasped Ed's wrist gently, pulling it closer and nudging at curled fingers.
'Let me see, Ed.'
Gently, he tilted Ed's palm towards the light, the automail grasp too light to restrain him. The only sign of any injury was two faint red marks on the heel of his palm, already fading from sight. 'It did something,' he muttered, 'but fuck knows what. You hurt?'
'Only the same as you,' Roy said quietly. 'It took me by surprise. I was expecting the array to activate, not that, whatever that was.' He rubbed his thumb absently over the aching point on Ed's hand, and, this close, Ed was very aware of the shampoo and oil scent of him. Normally he would not have noticed it or paid it any attention, but now it was enough to make him weirdly light-headed.
A shiver that had nothing to do with horror trembled its way down his spine, and his mouth went dry as a familiar, subtle heat sparked beneath his skin. Ed licked his lips, jerking his eyes away from his own profile as he tried not to panic.
He knew this feeling. He was a teenage boy, for fuck's sake, and he knew the tell-tale signs of attraction well enough. He'd stood opposite Roy in the office and tried to hide his want enough over the past year to know what was happening, but that was when Roy looked like this: dark and smug behind his desk, not golden and familiar at his side.
Why was it happening now?
He went to pull his hand away, but he need not have bothered. Roy dropped it hurriedly, taking a faltering step back and running a hand through his hair. That only served to to loosen the ponytail further, and Ed made a fist again as his fingers itched to brush the tendrils back from Roy's face. This should not be happening. Roy was in the wrong body, and Ed was not a narcissist. There was nothing attractive to him about the body he had been born with, so why the hell was he reacting like this?
Roy had gone bright red with something that could have been embarrassment. The only way to stop that was to get angry, but he had no more idea how to control Ed's body than Ed did Roy's, and instead he turned away, pretending to glance around at the mess. 'There must be a way to undo what's happened. Can't you make sense of it?'
'Not with your stupid brain,' Ed muttered, raising an eyebrow as Roy bristled, visibly angered. Yet when he spun around there was a hint of alarm in his face, like he was tied to a team of wild horses he had no idea how to tame, and Ed could not stop the smirk crossing his lips. The bastard spent so much time pissing him off with just a few words, now he could have a taste of his own medicine.
Roy growled, arms folded and eyes almost spitting sparks. 'Not everyone can be a socially challenged genius, Ed, and if you're not good for working this out, then what use are you?'
Ed snarled, shocked by the flare of anger Roy's remark sent surging through him. It was not a physical, visceral thing burning through his muscles and darkening his vision with its rage. It was a cool, disdainful kind of fury, and Ed had to admit that he was surprised Roy had a temper at all. He always seemed so calm, but now it turned out that every time they fought there was something restrained there, snapping and snarling behind facades that Ed had neither the skill or inclination to use.
'Why don't do your own dirty work for once?' he demanded, and Roy's angry voice in his throat sent a thrill of exhilaration through him like an animal scenting freedom. 'And just because I don't fuck everyone I meet doesn't make me socially challenged. This body's probably diseased! If I catch anything from you I'll....'
'You'll what?' Roy yelled, his words shaking a little with his fury. 'Break my face? You couldn't even reach you're so short.'
'You're so short,' Ed said smugly before he realised what he had just said. 'I am not short you little....'
Over by the doorway, someone cleared their throat. It was a polite and somewhat baffled sound that had all the effect of a bucket of cold water, and Ed straightened up, crossing his arms and glaring petulantly at the three who stood at the entrance to the room, watching them in puzzlement.
'Are we interrupting something?' Hughes asked, one eyebrow lifted in amusement as his gaze settled on Ed. 'We could hear you out in the street. I can't remember the last time I heard you shouting, Roy. Not sober, anyway.'
Ed rolled his eyes and jerked his thumb towards his own body and the older man occupying it. 'That's Roy. I'm Ed.'
'Fullmetal stole my body,' Roy said coolly, as if such things happened everyday.
'I did not steal it!' Ed retorted. 'Why the fuck would I want it? Old, creaking, freakishly tall – '
'I am not old!'
It was obviously a sore spot for Roy, and Ed felt the smirk again. It seemed it was something that Roy's face liked to do without any control from the brain, and he had to admit it was entertaining to watch Roy splutter and snarl. He would never have done it in this body, but in Ed's it seemed like he did not have a choice.
'Sir, I know you don't want to do your paperwork,' Hawkeye said in a weary tone, 'but you could at least come up with a believable excuse.' Her brown eyes were boring into Ed like a drill, and he swallowed nervously as he flailed his hands.
'It's not an excuse! I'm Ed. That's the lazy shit who won't sign reports on time!'
'Yeah, pull the other one, sir, it's got bells on,' Havoc chuckled, rolling an unlit cigarette between his fingers.
'You promised to be back in thirty minutes when you left. That was three hours ago,' Hawkeye told him. 'You're just going to have to stay late and catch up, sir.'
'As entertaining as this is, I'm afraid Ed's telling the truth,' Roy said quietly. 'Maes, you know me better than anyone. How can you think that's me?'
Hughes looked between them, his grin less certain now as he tried to work out whether or not this was some kind of joke. 'Because that's your face and your body. Although, I admit, he's swearing like Ed.' He shook his head, spreading his hands wide. 'Prove it. There's got to be something that you know that Ed wouldn't.' When Roy screwed up his face, Hughes looked at Ed. 'Or vice versa? If you're Ed, then you're bound to know something he shouldn't.'
'Nothing I want to say out loud,' Ed muttered, making a tight, irritated sound when Hughes shrugged. 'Okay, like what?'
Havoc cleared his throat, and there was a definite snigger in there as he said, 'If you're really Ed, then tell me what happened when you woke up the day after your eighteenth birthday.' He raised his eyebrows, waiting patiently as Ed glared daggers at him.
'I found out that you and Breda have a death wish?' Ed scowled as Jean made a "carry on" gesture with his hands, trying to ignore the heat in his face as he glanced sideways at Roy before muttering, 'I woke up with a shitty hangover and, thanks to you two, a stupid tattoo.'
'Really?' Hughes asked as Hawkeye managed to give Havoc a disapproving glare for his behaviour. 'What of?'
'None of your business,' Ed snapped as Jean's chuckles became outright laughter. 'Are you satisfied now? I'm not Roy.'
Hawkeye looked between the two of them, her lips twisted in distrust. 'I know the lengths that the Brigadier-General will go to to get out of paperwork. Edward might have briefed you on that detail, sir.'
'Why would I ever tell Mustang that?' Ed demanded. He looked over at Roy, desperate for some kind of back up before Riza decided to shoot them both. 'Help me out here, will you?'
Roy shrugged, his left shoulder rising further than the automail right as he sighed in annoyance. 'Maes, the day before your wedding you had serious second thoughts about marrying Gracia. I told you that if you didn't go through with it, then I would marry her instead.' Roy raised golden eyebrows and gave a wry smile. 'You were so angry you almost broke my nose, but at least I was right. It made you realise that all your doubts were nothing but nerves. Remember?'
Hughes' mouth was hanging open a little, and the amusement was rapidly dying from his face. The doubt was not entirely gone, but now he was looking at the two of them with something like horror. 'What did you say to me just before you went to get a report from Ed this afternoon?' he asked intently.
Ed watched Roy give Hughes a glare. 'I made you swear you would not snoop through my desk like you did last time I left you in my office unsupervised.' Gold eyes slid Ed's way, and that painful blush began to tinge Roy's cheeks as he mumbled, 'You still haven't let me forget about what you found, and all the locks on my desk mysteriously fail when you are around.'
There was a moment of silence as Hughes stared at them both. 'God, you really have swapped bodies, haven't you?' He scrubbed a hand over his stubble, cheeks pale as he tried to adjust his mind to the unbelievable situation. 'Are either of you hurt? Are you both all right?'
'Just confused,' Roy replied, 'but if the military finds out about what happened that could change. This kind of alchemy would change the way we gather intelligence for the worse.'
'We would never have to worry about spies getting caught again,' Hughes replied, but his voice was not excited. It was full of dread. 'We could swap into bodies and go wherever we pleased. The military would tear itself apart to get their hands on that array.'
'And they would tear us apart trying to understand it,' Roy added. 'The military would abuse it; you know that. We can't let the top brass hear about this. Besides, there are a lot of people who would suggest that whatever happened falls into the realms of human transmutation, and we all know how well that would go down.'
Ed had not even thought about the repercussions of what had happened. He had been too focussed on the immediate personal confusion and he watched as the weight of what Roy said sank in to those around them.
Hughes took a deep breath, putting his hands on his hips. He studied the floorboards before giving a sharp nod, and even Ed knew it was a simple assurance that he would help them however he could. 'Then tell me what the plan is. I'm guessing you've already tried to reverse it?'
'We've tried the basics,' Roy said, shaking his head a little and looking over at Ed, his eyes glazed over with thought, 'but we could use some more time. Neither of us can be around headquarters like we are. The other officers will notice that something is wrong in no time. I'm no "Hero of the People" and Fullmetal has all the diplomatic skills of a battering ram.'
'Fuck off, Mustang.' Ed folded his arms, hating the way the uniform chafed at the collar and felt more like a straight-jacket than real clothing. 'What else are we meant to do? We can't just disappear.'
Roy pinched the bridge of his nose, heaving a sigh that, in the right body, would have sounded frustrated. Instead it came across as exhaustion, and Ed wondered what it must be like for him. Not that he felt sorry for the bastard or anything, it was just that, of the both of them, Ed suspected he had got the better deal.
'It's Friday,' Roy said at last, waving his right arm without thinking and wincing in discomfort as he tried to deal with the unusual bulk of the Automail. 'We have until Monday before people start asking questions. We'll take the plate back to my place and see what we can do in the time we have. If we're still drawing a blank by Sunday morning we'll have to work something else out.'
'Why your place?' Ed demanded. 'I'm already in the wrong body. Why do I have to spend the weekend in the wrong house, too?'
Roy looked at him. 'My house has a spare bedroom, whereas there's barely enough room for you and Alphonse in your flat.' He said it in a slow, speaking-to-idiots voice that Ed knew he had used himself in the past, and he felt the deep, low snarl of Roy's anger in his gut. Before he could point out that Al was in Risembool with Winry, Roy added, 'Besides, as I have told you many times before, Fullmetal, I am your commanding officer. That means that I give orders, and you follow them.'
'Funny, I'm the only one here in a Brigadier-General's uniform,' Ed pointed out, smirking as Roy clenched his jaw. 'Doesn't that mean I outrank you?'
'No!' Roy spat. 'There's more to being a general than stars on your shoulder.!' He dragged in a breath, visibly struggling to maintain control and when he spoke again, his voice was pleading. 'For once, can't you just do what I tell you?'
A flicker of guilt cut through Ed, and he was pretty sure that it was not a reaction of the body, but the mind. Rolling his eyes, he walked over to the plate, bending down to pick it up. 'Fine. I guess the sooner we get out of here, the sooner I can get back where I belong.' He made sure he was not touching any of the lines etched into the metal as he turned it over to face him, giving the array another, critical look before turning towards the door. 'Are you coming or not?'
'What about us, sir?' Hawkeye asked, her gaze swinging between the two of them as though she was not certain who to address.
'You might as well both head home and enjoy your weekend,' Roy replied tiredly. 'If I can't make it to the office on Monday morning, I'll let you know. Just keep what's happened under your hats. Don't tell anyone. Not even the others from work, all right?
Riza and Havoc both gave him a vaguely affronted look, as if Roy had insulted their intelligence and loyalty by reminding them to be discreet, but Ed knew it was a valid warning. Hawkeye could be trusted, but Jean gossiped like a fish-wife given the chance. 'Yes, sir.'
'I'll drive them back to Roy's,' Hughes added, holding out his hand for the keys and grinning when Jean deposited them in his palm. 'At least then they won't be out in the open confusing everyone.'
He turned towards the front door, opening it and leading them out into the gathering dark. Frost sprinkled the pavement, and the wind of winter's dying breaths gasped along the street. It would be spring soon but, for now, the cold still lingered. It did not affect Ed as much as he expected it to, but he saw a hard shudder rip through Roy and noticed the way he pressed a hand to the automail elbow.
Before today, weather like this had always made Ed feel old, and he had never realised how much of that was to do with the Automail. Roy's body was a little chilled by the touch of the air, but it was warm, comfortable and alive. Some winter days, Ed felt more like a corpse than a living thing, and now Roy was suffering a similar experience. Maybe that would make the bastard think twice the next time he sent Ed to Drachma.
He waited for Roy to scramble in the car, trying to stamp down on the soft bloom of pity as he watched Roy's attempts to hide the visible shivers that raced over his skin. He almost offered Roy the thick, military coat, but something stopped him. He hated it when anyone assumed that he was weak, would rather suffer than accept their help, and they normally had to shove their assistance down his throat before he would even consider taking it. While some of that rage might be his damn pride, he would bet anything that Roy was just the same, no matter what body he occupied.
Ed shrugged out of the coat, noticing the fluid way his shoulders moved -so different from the Automail. It stirred up memories, more than a decade old, of being a kid, whole and wild and unburdened by the cool kiss of steel. With a grunt, Ed pitched the recollections aside and balled up the black wool, throwing it carelessly into Roy's lap and settling in the seat at his side.
Roy's lips parted in protest, but he was cold enough to choke it back. He didn't put the coat on, but he huddled under it like it was a blanket as he muttered, 'How can you ever been warm enough wearing these clothes?' He jerked at the black jacket irritably, wrinkling his nose at it. 'If you wore a uniform, I wouldn't be suffering.'
'Yeah you would. I'd make sure of it.' Ed promised, folding his arms and scowling out of the window as Maes' choke of laughter was drowned out by the engine rumbling to life. The world skimmed by as the car picked up speed, and a heavy silence settled over them. The plate's cool weight felt strange against Ed's palms, and he tipped it back and forth as he stared at it unseeingly, trying to think over the increasing panic that was flowing into his mind.
Since he had woken up, he had been ignoring the truth about what had happened. It was easier to try and solve the problem than think about what it might mean in the long-run. Now, Ed took a deep breath, and forced himself to think the words, loud and clear, in the silence of his mind. He was trapped inside Mustang's body, and Roy was inhabiting the flesh and blood that Ed had been born into.
It sounded unreal and, if Ed had not been an alchemist, he would have laughed it off and said it was impossible. Yet he had seen himself the bitter twists of fate the Gate dealt out. In comparison to what had happened to him and Al when they were kids, this was a walk in the park. He and Roy were both whole, healthy and as sane as they had ever been. The only thing wrong was that they were not where they belonged.
To everyone else, they looked the same as always. Identified by their physical characteristics, he knew that everyone would think that he was Roy Mustang through and through. It was only when he opened his mouth they realised something was wrong. His mannerisms weren't right, his personality was incompatible with what everyone else expected, and suddenly Ed was facing an identity crisis.
He knew he was Ed Elric, but everyone else needed to be convinced. He was pretty sure even his own brother wouldn't believe him, and Ed couldn't help the frisson of relief that Al was away in Risembool. Maybe by the time he got back, this mess would all be sorted and Ed would never have to tell him what had happened – that he had been stuck in Roy's body and ordered to stay in Roy's house while they tried to work out what some crappy old array had done to them and how to reverse it.
A thought washed over him like cold sea water, and Ed stiffened as the enormity of what had happened drove itself further home. He was stuck in Roy's body, but that wasn't like living in someone else's house. A body had needs, it had to be looked after, and Ed almost groaned aloud as the logistics of that worked through his brain.
He would have to eat and drink, and that would inevitably mean he would have to use the bathroom eventually. He'd have to keep the bastard's body clean which meant brushing his teeth, shaving, taking a piss, going in the shower.... Ed closed his eyes, swallowing tightly as his emotions twisted themselves in a complicated knot. He had fantasised about seeing Roy naked enough times in the past, but he had never imagined seeing it through the fucker's own eyes.
A blush slammed into his face as he realised that Roy was going to have to do the same for Ed's body. It needed more than the Automail oiling, and Ed cringed as he shuffled lower in his seat. That was just what he needed, Roy looking over him with a critic's eye, seeing every scar and flaw. Could this get any more humiliating?
He barely noticed that Hughes was pulling the care to a halt, and Ed blinked himself back from his thoughts as he looked up at Mustang's town-house. To his mind, it looked alien, but his body felt safe and secure. Every unfamiliar instinct was at ease, and his hand skimmed automatically towards his pocket, tugging the keys loose before his brain could intercede.
Without a word he handed them to Roy, avoiding his gaze as he clambered out of the car, the plate still cool in his hand. The street was calm and quiet, spotted with street-lamps that glowed in the deepening twilight. A few cars were parked outside the neighbours, but no one was watching to see a young man with gold hair climb up the steps and slip the key into the lock.
'Will you be all right?' Hughes asked from where he stood by the car. 'I can't help with the alchemy, but if you need anything us mere mortals can handle, then just let me know.'
'Thanks, Maes,' Roy said, and there was real gratitude in his words. With Ed's voice and that tone, he sounded as young as he looked, not an angry bitter eighteen-going-on-eighty, but a teenager through and through. 'I think we're fine. You should get home to Gracia.
Roy's words obviously did not ease Hughes' concern, because he looked at them both, biting his lip hard enough to turn it white. 'You sure? I can stay here if you need me to. If nothing else I can make sure you don't kill each other.'
'Go home, Maes,' Roy replied softly. 'We might not even get the alchemy to work, but if we do there's a good chance of you getting caught in the backfire. I'm not going to risk that.'
Hughes looked like he wanted to argue, and he glanced towards Ed, no doubt searching his countenance for some clues. All Ed could do was shrug. He might have Roy's face, but that did not mean he knew what was going on in the bastard's head.
Finally, Hughes nodded, jingling the car keys as he promised, 'I'll call in tomorrow and make sure you're all right, and no, Roy, you can't talk me out of that.' He smiled, a shadowy whisper of his normal good nature. 'Goodnight, you two. Try and get some sleep, okay?'
There was not much hope of that, but Ed held his tongue as he Hughes got in the car and set off, giving the horn one quiet beep of farewell as he swung out of the street. Finally, he had no reason not to follow Roy into the house, and he braced himself, not sure what to expect.
As soon as he walked through the door, he felt like he had come home. Mentally, the environment was new to him, but physically he knew every corner of this house, not in his mind, but in his muscles. Taut nerves were soothed by the general feeling of security that lingered on the air, and a quick glance at Roy told Ed everything he needed to know.
This was Mustang's sanctuary.
His feet wanted to walk pathways they knew well. His throat was parched for a drink, and his skin longed for the hot kiss of a fire burning in the grate. Yet none of that was his to demand, and Ed was left standing awkwardly in the hallway while Roy's body strained like a dog on a leash, desperate to make itself at home.
'What now?' he asked, watching Roy walk through the hall. He was moving stiffly and still clung to the coat Ed had thrown at him like it was a security blanket. 'I don't even know where to start with this thing.' He waved the plate vaguely before following Roy into what turned out to be a joint living room and office. There were comfortable sofas arranged in front of the fire and a large desk off to the side, scattered with the daily paperwork of Roy's life, probably both professional and personal.
A clock ticked on the mantelpiece, muffled by the ceiling-to-floor book cases on either side of the fireplace. It was not the biggest collection Ed had ever seen, but he would bet anything that Roy would go for quality over quantity, and he narrowed his eyes, trying to read the titles from a distance. The knuckles of his right hand felt tense and cramped around the plate, as if there was something they thought they were meant to be doing, and it took Ed a couple of minutes to realise Roy was glaring at him.
'Light the damn fire,' he ordered, huffing out a sigh as he seemed to remember his manners. 'Please?'
That last bit was grudging at best, and Ed pulled a face before snapping his fingers like he had seen Mustang do a hundred times before. It was only as the spark flared to life that he realised how stupid he had been. He knew nothing about fire alchemy except the most basic of theories, and it took all of his concentration to shoot a small, concentrated flame into the grate rather than scorching Roy's wallpaper and setting the house alight.
The kindling caught first, and Ed let out a sigh of relief as the flames stayed in place when the array died away. He had always known that Roy's alchemy took more control than he ever let on, but he had not expected it to be so precise. Somehow, he suspected Roy had not wanted anyone to know, because he made an irritated sound before hunkering down in front of the fire, pulling off his plain white gloves and holding out his hands towards the flickering glow in the hearth.
'This is surreal,' Roy murmured, and Ed watched him flex the fingers of the Automail hand experimentally. His face was screwed up in concentration, like he was really having to think about it, and Ed bit back the urge to tell him that would only make it worse. It was like riding a bike, put too much thought into it and you were just going to fall off. 'How could this even happen?'
'You shouldn't let crazy old alchemists do research without checking up on what they're doing once in a while,' Ed pointed out, dumping the plate on Roy's desk and leaning back against it. The body he was in moved on its own accord, hands going behind him to rest on the wood's edge as he relaxed.
'You shouldn't reach into piles of paperwork and activate mysterious arrays!' Roy grumbled, getting to his feet and putting his hand on the mantel for balance. Ed narrowed his eyes at him, noticing that he looked a bit pale. Roy's skin was normally pasty, but Ed's was golden. Now it was a little queasy, and he winced in as he realised what the problem was.
Roy thought he was a demanding brat, but he was getting to see first hand what Ed's body could do. Ed had forgotten to eat lunch before all this happened, and now it looked like his body was making its demands incredibly clear. Eat something now, or feel like shit for days.
Without a word, Ed turned away, pushing his way out of the living room and walking across the hall. He had no idea where the kitchen was, but his feet took him there anyway, as if they had their own map. It was a neat little room, with a decent sized stove and too many cupboards which, he discovered, were mostly empty. In the end he settled for bread and butter, knowing that it would only be enough to shut Roy's borrowed stomach up for about an hour.
Wandering back to the living room, he shoved the make-shift meal under Roy's nose. 'Eat it, you'll feel better. With the Automail, that body needs a lot of food to keep going, and breakfast was the last thing it got.' He watched Roy give the snack a disdainful look, but his stomach was not so picky. Ed heard its roar from where he was standing, and he hid a smile as he watched Roy struggle to find some balance between good manners and satisfying his appetite.
The bread was gone in under a minute, and Roy wiped his mouth with his left hand, already looking brighter and more alert as he glanced towards the fire. 'Now I know why you always eat like you don't have time to chew,' he said, putting the plate on the hearth with a quiet clatter. ' When he looked back, his expression was one of mixed reprimand and guilt.
'I always thought Al was exaggerating when he said you forgot to eat, but I guess I was wrong. Worse, I know I don't have much food in. I meant to get some tonight, but... .' He waved a hand in mute explanation, indicating their current predicament. 'We should have asked Maes, but I didn't even think of it.'
Ed glanced at the clock's face. It was half seven in the evening. In the middle of the city, there were a few places that served customers that late, but in the suburbs there probably wouldn't have much luck. 'Isn't there anywhere around here still open?' he asked hopefully as Roy followed his gaze.
'It's Friday, isn't it?' Roy asked, giving a faint smile as Ed nodded his head. 'The shop at the end of the street stays open until eight. You should be able to get enough supplies from there to get us through the weekend.'
'Wait, what?' Ed asked. 'Why should I go?'
'Because, as far as anyone who sees you will know, you're me. If Roy Mustang visits his local shop, it won't raise any eyebrows, but what reason would the Fullmetal Alchemist have to be around here?' Roy shrugged with a hint of apology. 'It will raise less suspicion if you go then me, at least while I look like this. Besides, it's your stomach I'm feeding.'
It sounded like a pretty tenuous excuse to Ed, and he gave Roy a weak glare as he folded his arms, trying to work out what other reason Roy might have for wanting him to go the store. He was a lazy shit, Ed knew that much, but there was something else in Roy's expression, and a suspicion tickled the back of his mind.
The way Roy was standing confirmed it, his weight shifted entirely on his right hip and faint pain tightening the skin around his eyes. Ed knew that look and its cause, and he stifled a sigh as he said, 'Whatever, Mustang. Although, you know if your leg hurts, you can just say so. Of everyone in the world, I'm going to know what you're talking about.'
With a grunt that could have been acknowledgement, Roy threw the thick military coat at Ed. 'Wallet's in the pocket. There should be enough money in there to get what we need. Just – try not to talk to anyone, okay? I get on well with my neighbours, and I'd like it to stay that way.'
'Bite me,' Ed snarked, grabbing the coat and turning to stalk towards the door. 'Do something useful while I'm gone and look at that damn array. Not that I think you've got what it takes to figure it out.'
He did not hear Roy's reply, if there was one, as he grabbed the keys that Roy had left on the table by the door and stepped out onto the steps. The cool air caressed his face as he trotted down the steps, scuffing the stupid, military boots along the pavement. It was a petty thing to do, but the thought of Roy trying frantically to scrub them to a shine when he was done was enough to put a smile on his face.
Ed had always thought that Mustang could not get any worse, but he had been wrong. Ed's temper, rooted in the spit and fizz of hormones, combined with Roy's sharp, quick tongue to create something lethal, and what did Ed have? Nothing. He kicked at a loose stone on the pavement, watching it skitter away as he wandered along the street.
Switching bodies was bad enough, but Ed had not forgotten how he had reacted when Roy got too close. Since that moment, he had been trying hard to keep his distance. It was all just so confusing. There were too many questions fogging up his mind, and there was barely an answer to be found.
When he was a kid trying desperately to get his mother back, Ed had read more than his fair share of books, and not all of them had been on alchemy. He had needed to know about the body itself, and he could still remember some of the text next to the embarrassing anatomical diagrams about reproduction. He had almost skipped over it back then, but childish curiosity had got the better of him, and he'd given himself just a couple of minutes to read it.
The details were fuzzy, now, but he remembered the gist of what the book had been saying. Sometimes the body could react on its own, experiencing arousal without any concious intent. Ed knew that well enough. He'd paced around in front of Roy's desk trying to will away a hard-on so often that he knew his body had a mind of its own.
Ed did not find his own appearance remotely attractive. He'd never fantasised about sex with himself, and yet, physically, he had been stifled with desire when they stood too close. Was it a case of the flesh wanting what the brain did not? Did Roy's body want Ed's no matter whose mind rode inside?
With a shake of his head, Ed rounded his shoulders against the wind. That was a stupid thing to hope for. Mustang had never given any kind of sign that he thought of Ed as anything but a brat. Occasionally they managed something like respect, but even that was pretty rare. What was he meant to do? Believe Roy had been hiding the itch of want behind his masks all the time?
Masks that he didn't now have?
Ed hesitated as that thought struck him, and he looked back over his shoulder along the street. Now that he came to think about it, the bastard was excellent at hiding his feelings when he was in the right body, and Ed was eternally inept at reading people. Mustang could have been hiding anything, and Ed would never have known. It might seem stupid, but that didn't mean his idea was impossible.
He turned the thought over in his mind and, the more he looked at it, the more sure he became that it was a matter worth investigating. When Ed thought it was unrequited attraction it was easy to brush off the way he felt as a hormone addled crush and hope it would pass, but if Roy felt something – anything – for him, then he knew he could not let it go.
Ed's mouth twisted in a mirthless smile at that thought. Working out if Roy's body became aroused whenever it was within a foot of Ed's would be easy enough. It was doing it without causing terminal embarrassment to himself that would be the problem.
Another thought slipped through his mind, making his back stiffen in humiliation. It was easy to forget that Roy had as much knowledge of Ed's body as Ed did of Roy's. He was living inside skin and steel, and he would be getting first-hand experience of what happened to Ed's body whenever it was in the presence of Roy's.
Embarrassment washed over Ed in a crimson tide, and he clenched his hands into fists as he tried to control the heat in his face. The very thought of Mustang knowing about all that want and need was almost more than he could bear.
He was tempted to scurry back to his flat with its books and its peace and hide there forever, but that was impossible. He would have to face Roy sooner or later if he wanted his body back, but how was he meant to look at the fucker now?
Maybe Roy would not reach the same conclusion? Perhaps he would attribute it to being back in a teenage body again, adult in the eyes of the law but still getting to grips with its hormones. It was a vain hope, but it was all Ed had, and he clung to it like a lifeline.
Ed slipped his hands in his pockets, shoving his thoughts into silence as he dragged his mind back to the job. He had to get food, get back, untangle that array and out things back the way they were. Once that was done, he could walk out of the door and pretend that he had never known or noticed the way Roy's body behaved, and hopefully Roy would return the favour. Things would be the same as always, and life would go on.
Blinking himself back to reality, Ed realised that he was standing outside the shop. The windows were brightly lit, and he could see a few customers wandering around making their purchases. He had been hoping it would be empty, but it looked like he was out of luck.
Taking a deep breath, he nudged his way inside, trying not to feel too much like a wolf in sheep's clothing. The man behind the till gave him a friendly smile, and he forced his lips to return it as he grabbed a basket and sauntered among the shelves, pondering over what he and Roy might need.
Gradually, he began to stock up, getting as many essentials as possible. In the end, he was left at the back of the shop, scowling at the baffling array of milk. He was not even sure if they needed it. There was no way he would drink any of the stuff, no matter what this body wanted, and Ed doubted his stomach would react well to any that Roy decided to drink.
As he stood there dithering about it, he became aware of a presence standing behind him. Whoever it was appeared to be more interested in him than the milk, and panic flickered through Ed's mind as the scent of flowers hit him like a battering ram. Before he even turned around he knew he would find a girl standing there, and he was not disappointed.
She was exactly the kind of woman that Roy would like to be seen with, Ed was sure. Her hair was light brown and fell in waves to her shoulders, and her lips were painted bright red. She wore more make-up than he had ever seen on any girl in the military, and a flawless white suit that was begging to have coffee spilled down it.
He hoped against hope she was just someone Roy knew engaging in friendly conversation, but when would Mustang ever stay just "friendly" with a woman who looked like that? Besides, Ed's hopes drowned out entirely when she spoke, her voice a soft, sensuous purr that made several other men glance over before looking hurriedly away.
'Hello, Roy. I haven't seen you in a while.' She fiddled artfully with the necklace she wore, no doubt trying to bring even more attention to her ample chest. Havoc would have been a pile of goo on the floor if he'd been here, but Ed was trying desperately not to let his apathy to her physical charms show on his face.
He had no clue what to do, but Roy's muscles seemed to move on their own accord, bringing a choreographed smile to his face and making him turn fully towards her. He did not know her name, so a response was difficult, but Ed managed to rake his mind for the rare instances he had actually seen Mustang on the prowl. He did not want to encourage this woman, but he could not exactly pretend she was not there, either.
'It's been too long,' he agreed in what he hoped was not a too encouraging voice.
'I was beginning to worry that you would forget about me!' She laughed, but it was not about humour, and Ed tried to keep his disdain well-hidden. He could almost say she was as bad as Mustang, all masks, but at least Roy had something behind his. This woman looked as if there was nothing but an empty head behind her pretty face.
'I can promise you, that's not possible.' That reply came out of nowhere, like it had been on his tongue all along, but there was a tiny edge of mockery to it. Ed struggled not to wince as she stepped closer, near enough that if she rocked her weight forward she would be pressed against him. She had him cornered, and he clenched his teeth as she gave him a saccharine sweet smile.
'You are such a charmer, Roy,' she said, ignoring any ambiguity to his words and taking it as a compliment. 'We really should start meeting somewhere more –' She bit her lip, glancing away in a parody of shyness before looking at him again from under her lashes. '– intimate.' She flicked some imaginary fluff from the lapel of his coat and tugged at the fabric, pulling him just a fraction closer. The smile on her face was almost predatory, and Ed struggled not to panic as he tried to think of a suitable response.
However, it did not seem she needed one, because she glanced at his shopping with a pout on her mouth. 'I hope you're not buying for company,' she simpered. 'I would hate to think there was someone else special in your life.'
Something wicked cut across Ed's mind, and his mouth moved before he had a chance to think twice. 'Unfortunately, I'm afraid you're right. I have company over tonight, and I'm not sure when, or if, they'll be leaving.' It was true enough, and suitably vague that she could take whatever she wanted from that statement.
However, it was clear that Mustang's reputation helped make up her mind. All trace of flirtation disappeared from the woman's face, and her lips pulled back in a grimace. Yet it was a snarl with no claws to back it up, and she tossed her hair over her shoulder as she stepped away. She opened and closed her mouth like she did not know what to say, and Ed would have felt sorry for her if it was devastation, rather than anger on her face.
The abrupt beep of a car horn made her look around, and when she turned back her face was more composed and the smile was back in place. 'Well, when your guest has left, as I am sure she will, don't forget to look me up.' She smirked, and Ed was reminded of a cat playing with a mouse. 'I'll be waiting.'
She walked away with a swing in her hips and her high-heels tapping on the floor, but it was only when the bell above the shop door rang to announce her departure that Ed felt able to breathe again. How did Roy cope with it? How could he form any kind of relationship with someone like that? Did all his lovers treat it as some kind of game? Was it always about keeping score?
Ed had no idea how many people Roy had taken to his bed, and he knew his own tally would look paltry in comparison, but at least his lasted more than one night, and he never felt like he was someone's trophy to be shown off and bragged about. Whoever that woman had been, she was interested in Brigadier-General Mustang, Flame Alchemist and Hero of Ishbal, not Roy.
Still, now she was gone he felt a twinge guilt for his deception, not because he felt bad about giving her the cold shoulder, but because he had not had Roy's permission to do so. For all he knew, Roy might be actively pursuing her, although he had thought that Mustang would recognise a man-eater when he saw one. Maybe they had some weird kind of power-play going on?
With a sigh, Ed grabbed a bottle of milk and took the groceries to the till, paying for the food and bidding the shopkeeper a quiet goodnight as he headed back down the street. The two paper bags in his arms were awkward and heavy. Roy was not weak, not by any means, but Ed was sure his arms would not get tired so quickly if he were in his own body. He had to go slow and keep readjusting his load, but it gave him time to wonder about whether or not to tell Roy about what had happened.
The annoying truth was that Roy would find out about it sooner or later. If the bastard was not interested in her, then he would be grateful for Ed's comment, or at least not angered by it. If he wanted to pursue that woman, then he at least deserved to know the mess Ed had dumped him in, didn't he?
Something hot swamped Ed's mind, an oppressive hand that brushed every thought, and he swallowed as the jealousy made him scowl at the pavement. He had no right to stand between Roy and any woman. For fuck's sake, he had never drummed the courage to even think about staking a claim to Mustang, but that did not stop him feeling darkly satisfied that he had at least cooled one woman's ardour a little.
Roy deserved better than that anyway. He should go for someone nice; someone who would look after him and remind him not to hunch over his desk so much, not some vain doll who would probably be more trouble than she was worth.
His feet stamped angrily up the steps to the front door, not sure why he felt as furious as he did. Spitting curses, he tried to juggle the bags and the keys, and when the door opened before he'd even undone the lock, he could only glare at Roy in mute annoyance.
'Come in, Fullmetal,' he said wearily, too quiet for anyone passing in the street to hear, 'before you disturb the neighbours. Do you have to swear so much? If someone else hears you they're going to think I have some kind of mental illness.' He grabbed one of the bags out of Ed's hands, wandering through to the kitchen as he asked, 'What took you so long, anyway?'
Clenching his teeth, Ed dumped the shopping on the kitchen table. 'It's not my fault I got cornered by your latest piece of ass,' he muttered, looking up to see that Mustang had gone completely still. He was halfway through putting the bread in the cupboard, left arm outstretched towards the shelf, but he was looking at Ed with a funny expression on his face.
'Who was it?' Roy asked warily, his shoulders tense in a way that had to be making the Automail more uncomfortable.
'I don't know her name!' Ed snapped, banging a can of meat down on the table. 'All your memories are in there with you. She was –' He faltered for the right kind of word to describe her, 'A shark. Brown hair, shorter than you, a smirk and a temper when she doesn't get her way.'
'I'm going to need more to go on than that,' Roy said, and Ed did not miss the faintly smug edge to his tone, 'although the temper is something I've not seen before. What about her eyes, her perfume? You're meant to be observant, Fullmetal.'
'She stank of flowers.' Ed shut his eyes, trying to remember her better. 'Her eyes were probably brown, and she was wearing diamond earrings. Said you two should start meeting somewhere more "intimate".'
He snatched the bag from the empty table, screwing it up and pitching it into the bin. He hated the fact that he cared about whether Mustang wanted that woman or not. He hated the way his thoughts whined and whimpered, desolate and lonely in his head because Roy would probably always choose someone like her rather than a loud subordinate who could not even obey orders.
Except, now that he thought about it, Roy's body had not so much as warmed at her presence. There had been no hum of pleasure in his veins or bite of desire between his legs. It had been completely indifferent to her and going through the motions unconsciously, nothing more.
'Let me guess, she was wearing a low cut white suit and a shiny necklace, right?' Roy asked, looking over at Ed in pity. 'Georgia Parks, who is not and never will be my latest "piece of ass" as you so delightfully put it.' He appeared to be struck by an unpleasant thought, because he looked at Ed with pleading gold eyes. 'Tell me you didn't do anything to encourage her?'
Ed frowned, trying not to dwell on the surge of relief that swelled in his chest. 'I might have implied you had a long-term guest to deal with. She assumed it was a woman and left.' He was not sure how Roy would react, but he did not expect the inarticulate noise of surprised relief that shaped the air.
'Thank God for that,' Roy said with feeling, running a hand through his hair. 'Next time we need anything, I'll go out. My reputation is a bit more fragile than yours.'
Ed opened his mouth to argue, but Roy had already grabbed a snack and was heading back through to the living room. 'I've been looking at the plate; it seems familiar, like the alchemy is something I've seen before.' He grimaced, looking at Ed over his shoulder. 'Although it could be something you've seen before.' He shrugged, clearly frustrated by the disconnect caused by having Ed's higher intellectual capacity, but not the years of focussed study to enable it. 'Basically, I'm no closer to understanding what happened than when you left.'
He said it as if it was a painful confession, and Ed realised that was probably just the case. He was not the only person who had too much pride to willingly admit he could not solve a problem. Now, if anything Roy seemed to be struggling more, making an effort to hide his annoyance at himself and failing miserably as Ed's expressive face gave him away.
'You don't have to pout about it,' Ed muttered, taking off the thick coat and uniform jacket before brushing past Roy and moving towards the desk. The plate was well-lit by the lamps in the room, and it only served to enhance the intricacy of the design on the metal surface. Carefully, Ed traced the lines, keeping his fingers just far enough away so they would not touch.
Roy's intelligence, hard-wired into his brain, might not allow Ed to make the same leaps of deduction he had been able to when he was in his own body, but his memories were still with him. All those hours of reading lingered on, phantoms turning yellow with age, and he knew that the first step to understanding an array was to follow the line of the energy. Most alchemists forgot that all their skill and talent stemmed from the same fundamentals, and they lost themselves in the problem without taking the time to map what they were looking at.
Warmth at his side prickled at Ed's awareness, and he forced himself not to look up as Roy stepped closer, leaning on the desk to get a better view. He was propping his weight on his left hand, leaving the Automail hanging at his side, and a stolen sideways glance was enough for Ed to see that his face was still pinched with pain. His muscles were probably pulling every which way as Roy's concious mind tried to deal with the alien limb, and Ed clamped down on the sudden surge of protectiveness that went through him.
'It's got storage cells,' he said, clearing his throat as his voice came out sounding a little rough. 'Here and here.' Gesturing to the loops that would form ever-growing eddies in the design until the array reached a discharge capacity, Ed bit his lip. He had seen something like this before, drawn in clear, black ink on paper, and he rubbed at his forehead as he tried to remember the book.
'You all right?' Roy asked. It would have been nice to think he was genuinely concerned for Ed's welfare, but Ed suspected that Roy was just keen to get his body back in one piece.
Now he thought out it, he did feel a little strange, slow and sluggish, with a twinging headache that intensified to a throb whenever he paid attention to it. He knew a caffeine craving when he felt one, and considering how much of the stuff Roy drank, he was not surprised that this body was demanding its fix.
'Need coffee,' he muttered, flicking a hand at one of the bookshelves as he walked towards the kitchen. 'Do you have a copy of Bristow's Ideals in there? I think that's where I've seen something like this before.'
Without waiting for a reply, Ed put the kettle on the stove, barely paying attention as his mind got caught in the lines and curves of the array. He might not understand Roy's body, which was currently going through making the coffee on autopilot, but, given time, he could probably understand the alchemy that had landed him here.
At least, he hoped he could.
It was only as he was pouring the coffee that he realised he had made two cups. He guessed it was because he was so used to putting some together for Al in the morning, and he glared at them in annoyance. Still, Roy was not the only one hooked on coffee, and Ed would bet anything his body was eager for some of the brew.
He settled on leaving milk out of both cups. If Roy wanted that repulsive stuff in there, then he could come through and add it himself. Reaching out, Ed grabbed one by the handle and the other by main body of the cup, realising too late that his hand was flesh and bone, rather than heat resistant Automail. The pain was enough to make him reel in shock, and he dumped the cup back on the counter with a hissed curse, slopping some over the sides.
It was a minor scald, nothing too bad. More than anything it had been the shock of sensation that had cut through his mind like a knife. Since he had woken up in this body, he had been keenly aware of the chafe of his sleeve against his skin and the feel of things against his fingers, but they had been soft sensations, compared to the searing heat of the coffee.
Pulling a face to himself, Ed picked up the mugs more carefully this time and headed back to the living room. Nudging open the door with his foot, he stepped inside and looked towards where Roy was standing on tiptoe, left hand stretched towards the higher shelves that were completely beyond the reach of his current body.
It was impossible not to smile at the sight. Through these eyes, Ed could admit with more than a hint of despair that he was short, at least compared to Roy. His only consolation was that the bastard was getting a taste of how annoying the world could be.
Quietly, he set the mugs down on the desk and walked up behind Roy, reaching over his head and pulling the book down. Unfortunately, he did not think through how close that would leave their bodies, and Ed swallowed tightly as a warm back brushed against his chest, teasingly perfect through the fabric of the cotton shirt.
A powerful urge slammed through Ed, and he clenched his jaw as he tried not to give in to it. His fingertips wanted to sweep that gold ponytail aside, and his lips tingled with the need to press kisses to the nape that would be revealed. His spine wanted to arch forward and bring him closer the shorter form in front of him, and it took all of Ed's focus to keep his back rigid.
Roy had gone still. Ed could see that the tips of his ears had gone red, and his breathing had changed, becoming less steady as the metal right hand tightened on the bookshelf and the left dropped to his side. 'I could have reached it,' he said, his voice more low and hushed than normal.
'I know,' Ed replied quietly, almost shoving himself away and turning towards the desk as his entire body keened. It hated the distance and despised the feel of cool air rather than warm skin, but if he had stayed close it could only end in disaster. They had to focus on the array, had to figure it out, because Ed was not sure how much longer he could bear the strength of want that reverberated through Roy's body, low and carnal, whenever they were near one another.
Ed had always known the bastard's masks were good, but he had never realised that what lay beneath the surface was an exact reflection of the heat that tormented Ed almost without pause. Now, he could not deny that, and the array swam in front of his eyes as his thoughts ran riot. If Mustang's body had been screaming at him like this, then why had the fucker always kept his distance? Why had he never done anything about it?
The secrets to that were locked away inside Mustang's mind, the only thing that Ed did not have access to, and Ed sighed in frustration. It was all such a fucking mess, and there was no way out of it while he was stuck in Roy's body. They could neither move forward or step back, and there was no way he could survive being locked in a desire-laden, baffling stalemate forever.
With a massive effort, Ed bullied himself to concentrate on the array, plunging himself into the twisting lines and forgetting all about his surroundings. He was right about the storage cells, he was sure of that, but the rest of it was a mystery, one that lingered just beyond the reach of his comprehension. There had to be some way to reverse it, but Ed did not even know where to begin.
Time slipped away from him, measured out in cups of coffee and the occasional stilted moment of conversation. Roy sat by the fire surrounded by open books, flicking between one and the next in a futile search for something useful.
Ed did not hear him move until a hand touched his shoulder. It was gentle, but it still sent a bolt of something right through Ed, and he jolted in surprise, straightening up too fast. Almost immediately the muscles in his back began to protest, and he winced at the discomfort. 'Crap,' he muttered, rolling his shoulders and rubbing at the back of his stiff neck. 'You're too old for this.'
'If you sat in a chair like a normal person, it wouldn't be a problem,' Roy retorted wearily. 'It's gone midnight. Go to bed before you give my body a permanent hunch.'
He could argue, could say that was not the way he got things done, but the aching tiredness in Roy's body was enough to make him hold his tongue. It had been through a lot today, and those events had taken their toll. Besides, Ed's head was buzzing with alchemy, and he knew he would find no order among the chaos if he stood here all night, poring over books and the smooth, sweeping lines of the array.
With a sigh, he did as he was told, following Roy out into the hall and up the stairs, barely listening as Roy pointed along the corridor. 'Spare bedroom's up there. You use the bathroom, and I'll get you some pyjamas.'
Ed stared after him stupidly for a moment, waking up a little as an important fact made itself known. He really should not have drunk so much coffee, because now Roy's bladder was making it really clear that it could not survive the night. Going for a couple of days without showering might not be pleasant, but it was possible. Using the toilet was another matter completely, and Ed grimaced before shuffling into the bathroom.
It was neat and spotlessly clean, and Ed would bet anything that Roy had a maid to tidy up after him. A quick investigation of the cupboards also revealed a new toothbrush and fresh towels, and he pulled them off the shelf and placed them by the sink before squaring his shoulders and facing the toilet.
He really had to go, and he tried to keep his mind blank and his eyes averted as much as possible while he answered the call of nature, trying not to blush. Thinking about it in a purely biological sense made it a little easier, but a niggling little voice kept whispering that it was Roy's dick in his hand. He had dreamed about touching it before, but never for this purpose, or in these circumstances. One part of his mind was obsessed over the sheer weirdness of the situation, while another, darker part whispered, It's bigger than you thought. Imagine what it would feel like...
Hastily, Ed adjusted his clothing and pulled the flush, trying to ignore the burning heat in his face as he washed his hands. Murmurs of temptation curled through his head, begging him to touch the uncharted territory of Roy's physique while he had the chance, but Ed forced his mind away from that dangerous precipice. He might be in Roy's body, but that did not give him any right to do anything with it, no matter how much he wanted to.
Water splashed in the sink as he washed his face and brushed his teeth. When he was done, he opened the door and peered out into the corridor. There was no sign of Roy, although the light glowed from under the door to what he assumed was Roy's bedroom. His feet wanted to walk to it, and he had to force himself to carry on along the hallway to the spare room.
A single bed covered in a thick quilt and blanket stood in the middle of the room, and a small desk and wardrobe were against one wall. It looked like a room that was rarely used, and Ed flicked the bedside lamp on before reaching for the pyjamas that lay on the bed. After a moment of hesitation, he began to undo the shirt, reminding himself that it was just a human body, nothing more than anatomy. Just because it was Roy's did not make it anything special.
Ed almost believed himself, but when the cotton shirt whispered to the floor, a movement on the other side of the room caught his eye. He had not seen the full-length mirror before, but now he was offered a clear view of Roy's bare chest, broad shoulders and flat stomach. It was a thrilling sight, and Ed cleared his throat awkwardly, suspecting that he should look away but not quite able to do so.
Roy was in excellent shape for someone who spent most of his time behind a desk, although Ed did notice that it was more about looking good than functional strength. There was nothing disproportionate about his body, no ugly Automail or angry red scars, although one or two silver lines charted their way across pale flesh.
Before Ed could stop himself, his fingers reached out to touch them, tracing along the old injuries as he wondered what had caused them. Roy was a soldier, of course, so they could have happened in the line of fire, maybe when Roy first joined up? On their own accord the fingers moved, feeling firm muscle and warm skin.
Ed's eyes were drawn down the mirror's image towards the dark blue trousers that, rested just below the jut of his hip bones. They were normally held up a bit higher by the belt, but Ed had left that undone after using the bathroom, and now all he could think was that maybe Roy had the right to be so smug. After all, there was no denying the way he looked: practically perfect. Roy was the embodiment of everything Ed had wanted since he hit puberty.
Scrubbing his hands over his face, Ed turned away, kicking of the military boots and sitting on the bed to pull of his socks. The soft carpet felt strange under his left foot, and he wriggled his toes experimentally before undoing the trousers and pushing them off. Ed's hands lingered on the waistband of Roy's boxers, but in the end he decided to leave them on, choosing instead to drag on the pyjama pants and shirt before clambering into bed and switching off the light.
He expected to fall asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow, but instead Ed found himself staring at the ceiling, hyper-aware of the borrowed body in which he lay. Every position he tried felt uncomfortable, and the pyjama top pulled at him like a straight-jacket until he took it off and hurled it into the corner of the room with a snarl.
Flopping back onto the mattress he shifted uncomfortably, aware of the sulky twinge of muscles. Both body and mind knew they were not sleeping in their respective, familiar beds, and the result was that it was almost impossible to relax and drift off. He could hear the tick of Roy's watch where it still lay in the pocket of the uniform trousers, now discarded on the floor, and the sounds of the city at night kept tweaking at his ears. All the while his mind was balancing on a see-saw, trying to solve two problems at once: the array and Roy.
At some point, he fell into a shallow sleep, but the noises of the real world never seemed to fade away, and Ed's mind never really shut down. One hot, heavy dream after another fluttered through his head, each saturated with want. Phantom kisses whispered over his skin, and ghostly hands stroked across his body and down between his legs, inching him towards the edge of release. Roy's soft moan seemed loud in Ed's ears, and the unfamiliar noise was enough to drag him back to full awareness.
He was lying on his back with the blankets dragged low around his hips, but it was not the chilly night air that had caught his attention, it was the throbbing hardness between his legs. His right hand had slipped beneath his pants and boxers to curl its fingers around the hot length, and Ed stifled a whimper at the epicentre of pleasure that emanated from down there.
Even though part of Ed's mind knew he should not be touching Roy's body like this, he was helpless to stop himself, and he arched his hips as he stroked his palm along to the tip and back again, sending heat arcing along his nerves like lightning. Roy had probably done this hundreds of time, and that image did not help Ed's predicament one bit.
He was so hard it hurt, and Ed almost sobbed as he dragged his hand away, forcing his palm to press against that toned stomach instead. This whole episode was going to make his life difficult enough, but he would never be able to keep his distance from Roy again if he jerked off tonight. It was a line Ed refused to cross. Besides, even if he did give in to the need, how was he going to explain cum-stained boxers when the dawn broke over the horizon?
Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to think of something, anything, to take his mind off the pulsing erection trapped in his underwear. Chemical equations and alchemical theories ran through his head and, after what felt like agonising hours, his arousal ebbed to a sulky ember glowing in the pit of his stomach.
Now, the bed seemed more uncomfortable than ever, and Ed tossed and turned, beating his pillows into submission and sprawling across the mattress as he tried to find peaceful slumber. In the end, he gave up, swinging his legs over the edge and getting to his feet. If he could not sleep, then he might as well do something useful. The array was still waiting for him downstairs, and at least if he was focussing on alchemy then he was not thinking about Roy.
Normally when he got up in the middle of the night, he had to creep with extra care so that his mismatched footsteps would not disturb Al. This time he moved along the hall without the smallest sound, picking his way down the stairs and heading towards the living room door. The glow of the dying fire still shaped the darkness, and Ed tiptoed in, focussing on the desk and the plate that still lay on its surface.
'What are you doing awake?'
The question made him jump out of his skin, and he whipped around, his heart in his throat as he stared at the figure curled up on the sofa. Blankets draped over Roy's shoulders, and gold hair was a haphazard mess around his face. He looked exhausted, but the glare he was giving Ed was strongly reminiscent of Al: protective and caring to the point of ferocity.
'I couldn't sleep,' Ed replied roughly. 'That bed is the most uncomfortable thing I've ever lain on, and that's saying something.' He scratched his cheek to hide his ebbing shock at finding Roy downstairs. 'Besides, I could ask you the same thing. I thought you were tired?'
Roy ducked his head, shoving the loose blonde hair irritably behind his ear as he glared at the fire. For a minute, Ed thought his question would go ignored, but eventually Roy muttered his answer, head turned away like he was ashamed to meet Ed's eyes. 'I never realised how painful the Automail is. It stopped me getting to sleep.'
It was impossible not to feel sorry for him, which prickled at Ed's conscience, because he knew how much he hated being the object of other people's sympathy. Roy probably would not like it either, but Ed still remembered with vivid clarity the ghostly ache of an arm he no longer had. It had been intolerable in those first few months and, mentally, that was exactly where Roy was.
Moving closer, he gave Roy a gentle shove, rolling his eyes when all he got was a scowl for his efforts. 'Sit on the floor, and drop the blankets. I'll see if I can help.' When Roy hesitated, Ed lifted his eyebrow, something this face seemed to do almost instinctively. 'Unless you want to spend a sleepless night sulking about how much it hurts?'
To his surprise, Roy eventually obeyed, sitting on the floor as Ed sat on the couch behind him, positioning himself so that Roy was between his knees. It was not exactly a platonic position, but Ed forced himself to keep his voice light as he asked, 'Can you point to where it hurts?'
He expected Roy to point to the metal arm first, but instead his left hand went to his shoulder blade, touching shyly at the point of discomfort. He was still wearing Ed's black vest, but Ed did not need to see beneath the fabric to know he was touching at the scarred ridge at the bottom edge of the port. It was good, in a way, because that meant that there was a physical element to the pain, not just a psychological cause.
Gently, Ed pressed his fingertips to the thin fabric, rubbing the muscles beneath the same way that Winry used to do when he was still recovering. 'You've been compensating for the drag of the arm when you didn't have to,' he explained. 'You've made my back feel like knotted rope. I know the Automail's weird, but it works. You need to actually use it, or the whole thing will seize up and Winry will smash that skull in with a wrench.'
'Sorry,' Roy murmured, picking at the blankets that pooled around his waist with his left hand. 'I'm trying to get used to it, but –'
'But your brain's spazzing out about it,' Ed finished. 'I know. Is your leg all right?'
Roy nodded, his breath escaping in a contented sound as Ed began to knead his back with a bit more pressure, smoothing out spasms as best he could. It was almost impossible to ignore the intimacy of this situation and, no matter how much he told himself that he was doing it for the benefit of his body, Ed could not help but feel a flicker of satisfaction at Roy's obvious appreciation.
Within ten minutes, Roy was utterly relaxed, lolling back against the couch and almost purring, and Ed wondered how often anyone bothered to make sure he was comfortable like this. The fact that this body's back panged on occasion was evidence enough that Roy's muscles could benefit from the same treatment. Had no one ever done this for him before? Had they not treated him like something worth looking after?
Ed shook the thought aside, reluctantly drawing his hands away from the warmth of Roy's back. His palms itched with the desire to stay where they had been, to skim the planes and ridges of the smaller body sitting on the floor, but he could not. If he did, then he was not sure he would have the strength to stop Roy's body taking it all the way, and that would be too much of a strange twist in this already surreal mess of event.
An abrupt yawn swelled his chest, and when he opened his eyes again Roy was watching him with an uncertain expression on his face. Finally, Mustang spoke, his voice light and casual.'I've never been able to sleep in that spare bed. The mattress is like a slab of granite, and that body hates it.' He bit his lip, which Ed reminded himself never to do again when he was back in his own body; it made him look his age - young and vulnerable. 'You can sleep in the normal bed if you want. It's a double and, like this, I can't sleep on my usual side of the mattress anyway. It feels too strange.'
Ed's hesitated, unsure if this was a wise idea. He needed sleep, and this body wanted its own bed with an almost childish petulance, but sleeping next to Roy? It was bad enough if they got too close when fully dressed and standing up, but lying down and wrapped within the intimate warmth of a bed?
Indecision left him paralysed, but even as the panic welled through his mind, the decision was made for him. Roy's body was weary to the bone and had no qualms about making that clear. The joints ached, and every muscle felt like rusting metal, brittle and useless. Ed really did not have a choice.
'I could always take the couch?' he asked, knowing as soon as Roy smiled that it was not an option.
'You won't sleep any better than in the spare bedroom. I've tried it before.' He shook his head and got to his feet, gathering the blankets around his shoulders and heading towards the door. 'Come on. You complained enough about how stupid you feel in my body. Do you have any idea how much worse it will be if you don't get any sleep?'
Mutely, Ed gave in, following Roy out of the door and up the stairs, all the while trying not to think about the fact that he would be sleeping in Mustang's bed. Excuses rattled through his head, but he could not bring himself to voice them as he followed Roy across the threshold.
He had never allowed himself to imagine the inside of Mustang's bedroom before, and he had to admit he was surprised at how normal it was. Considering the man's reputation, he had expected some kind of kinky playground, but it echoed the same theme as the rest of the house: relaxed sanctuary, and he felt the tension seep from his muscles even as he examined his surroundings.
The bed stood square in front of a fireplace, bigger than a normal double and clearly designed with comfort in mind. There were bedside tables, a wardrobe, all the usual bedroom furniture. It was not what the room contained, thought, that put Ed at his ease, but the familiarity of this place on a basic level. His mind was curious, but his body felt like it had reached a true inner sanctum, where nothing could threaten it and everything was right with the world.
Roy had already clambered into bed and collapsed into the pillows with a soft sound of pleasure. He started off curled up but, within a minute, Ed's body assumed its natural sprawled sleeping position, and Ed snorted in disbelief. 'Are you going to share the bed or what?' he asked.
'Thought you were going to stand by the door all night,' Roy muttered sleepily, tucking in his left arm and at least giving Ed enough space to lie down. 'Not my fault what your body does.'
Ed was too tired to think of a response, and he muttered something bad-tempered and unintelligible as Roy's body curled up on its side like a peg finding the right shaped hole. This was where it belonged, and all the stress that had twisted him up like a wire vanished.
His last thought before dreams claimed him was that, despite everything, sharing this bed with Roy felt like the most natural thing in the world.
To Be Continued