Warning: I angst. A lot. There are some mentions of sex. And also, I twisted some of the plot a bit. Because I felt like it. Spoilers for the first season and the movie.

A world is born with a wail, with a sigh, with a smile.

No one tells him the rules. They are something he has to teach himself—something that cannot possibly be understood to its full potential if he is told secondhand. He has always been a quick learner, though, and he picks these rules up quite easily.

When he is three, Roy Mustang burns his hand from trying to touch the flames in the fireplace. He is a loud crier; a spoiled brat. Maids hush him and a lotion is applied to his scorched fingers, but despite that, his eyes are drawn to the flames, licking and curling, time and time again.

He creates his first flame when he is seven. And his life is set.

There is a woman. Her name is Marie, he thinks, but he can't be sure—she changes it on a regular basis.

He is absolutely smitten with her.

Her hair is golden, always well-kept. She is a hard worker, so she usually has it up in a high ponytail. The shorter locks always fall loose to frame her face, and when she laughs, her entire being shines. Her eyes are as warm as sunlight on a summer day.

To put it simply, she is breathtakingly beautiful.

They spend a good two years together. He knows that she's probably with him only because he's a lieutenant colonel and attractive and influential, but he'll take what he can get. Anything to be with her.

But one day, she disappears. He doesn't know to where or why, but he deduces enough when he sees the paper the next day with her wanted face on the front page.

He never sees her again, and he doesn't know what to do with the hole she leaves behind.

In the military, he learns even more. Rules upon rules are thrown onto him, suffocating and malicious.

The world is unfair. The world is unrelenting. He's pushing and shoving his way to the top, but it always feels like he's taking one step forward and two steps back. He can hear people talk behind his back: Roy Mustang is irresponsible. Roy Mustang is a womanizer. Roy Mustang is a coward.

He finds himself forgetting his goal, though, when he goes to Resembool. Recruiting alchemists has always been a simple task—but he finds something unexpected. Maybe it's supposed to be horrific, but it comes as a relief. For the rest of that day, the thoughts of being Führer slip his mind, and the weight of the world seems to be lifted from his shoulders. He will rule this country someday—just not today, and for the first time in a long time, he doesn't mind.

Roy finds another obsession, and for that, he is glad.

He swears, he sees some of her in him.

"That's the title that Führer Bradley has given you."

"That's a heavy name, don't you think?" Edward Elric grins, golden hair tied back in a casual braid and eyes shining. "I'll take that weight on my shoulders."

Roy catches himself just before he falls off the cliff.

The heart is a fickle thing. He knows that. He knows that.

He has always been attracted to dark hair and sultry eyes. It's a preference, and he simply can't help it. A beautiful woman is something he can always appreciate, even when the rest of the world turns on him.

Someone clears her throat. "Colonel."

He smiles cheerily. "Oh, hello, Lieutenant."

Riza Hawkeye's frown doesn't disappear. If anything, he thinks his smile, his words, his actions would melt her heart—but her heart is strong. Her heart is not like his. "There is someone here to see you."

"A visitor?" He's hoping it's that woman from the bar last night. She had quite nice hips…


Darn. None for him today.

He clears his throat and sits up straighter in his chair. "Hello, Fullmetal."

Dark hair and eyes are to his preference because it reminds him that he is not the worst yet. There is still quite a bit of distance left to sink before he has hit rock bottom, the very depths of hell. He never takes his women to bed, despite what others think—but he takes full advantage of flirting, fleeting kisses on the corners of her mouth, lingering hands on thighs. His heart is a terrible thing—with every corner he turns, he feels it breaking a little more.

Edward tosses a small package of papers onto his desk. "Here. The report on Lior."

The truth is, he likes lighter hair and eyes more, because it gives him something to aim for, something to run to when the weight on his shoulders become too much. But that has always been out of reach.

His heart is a fickle thing. He knows this. And he hates it.

It's wrong.

If there is a reason for him going straight to hell, this is it.

He watches him in the cafeteria. Riza follows his gaze knowingly, but says nothing, and he's glad for that. There is little purity left in Roy Mustang, but it's there—hidden deep in the back of his mind, where he keeps it locked away carefully. It's a weakness, he thinks—an obstacle that he has to overcome. Usually, it keeps quiet and stays out of sight. But sometimes, under the cloak of darkness, it slips through the bars it's kept behind and seeps into the rest of his mind. It takes hold of his soul. It plagues his body.

This little purity is: he just hopelessly, desperately wants to be loved.

"What are you looking at, Mustang?"

It's wrong, it's so wrong, but the thing is, he wants to be loved by him.

Roy Mustang is as they say. He is irresponsible. He is a womanizer. He is a coward.

But the one thing he is not, is a fool.

Eyes follow him when he pretends he's not looking. The eyes that remind him of the woman he loved once, long ago—warm like a ray of sunshine on a summer day. He doesn't know why these eyes follow him—but they do, and he basks in it. If nothing else at all, he has caught his attention.

And the thing is, he is so much more than Marie. Edward is so much more. His eyes aren't just warm. They're scalding. They're burning. White hot.

They bump into each other by accident (but that dark voice in the back of his mind whispers otherwise), and they stare at each other for a long moment. Roy almost wishes that he had eyes like his—large, warm, enveloping. And his hair—he doesn't do it justice. It would be very beautiful if it weren't braided back like that.

"What do you want?" Edward asks lazily. But his gaze is intense. Roy feels like he's on fire. The irony almost makes him laugh.

"I heard you're leaving Central soon," he says conversationally. You're leaving. Again.

"It's that time again." He rolls his shoulder—the one where flesh is connected to metal. Roy wonders again how much pain he's had to endure. Such a young child, but already matured into an adult. "Winry will be angry if I break it."

He laughs softly. "I don't doubt it."

And deep in the very depths of his mind, soul, heart, whatever (because Roy Mustang only feels as a whole, and there is not one thing that is separated), he wishes that Edward would just accomplish his task. Then maybe he would stay in Central, or return to Resembool—a place where Roy can locate him easily. So he can visit whenever he wants, whenever that hole (that large, gaping hole) aches too much, for too long.

"Brother!" Alphonse Elric's voice can be heard somewhere behind him, but he doesn't turn around. Edward's gaze is torn from him, and it's very difficult to remain nonchalant. "Major Armstrong said he'll accompany us! If you don't hurry, the train will leave without you!"

You're leaving me again.

"Well"—Edward looks at him, and he wishes, just wishes his heart weren't this way—"I'll see you around."

"Yes. Try not to kill yourself." When they walk past each other, their shoulders brush—and for the smallest of moments, both of them pause. It's almost unnoticeable, but Roy Mustang is not a fool. It is there.

But Edward Elric is not a fool either.

"Lieutenant, do you happen to know any lovely ladies that you could introduce me to?"

"I do not, but I do know some papers that are dying for your attention."

"Oh, you have quite the humor, don't you? I'm sure they won't mind someone else tending to them—"

"The papers, Colonel, unless you don't mind me telling Hughes that you are a closet homosexual, with your eyes set on Edward Elric."

"…Lieutenant, you are a very frightening woman."

"Thank you."

He wakes up earlier so he can visit the hospital before work.

The Fullmetal Alchemist is notorious for getting himself into fights, and this is the worst one yet. But maybe it's not that bad, because that means that he is anchored to one place, and Roy will always know where to find him.

He catches him just as he wakes up.

"Sleeping in, Fullmetal?" The clock reads nine-thirty—just half an hour before he's expected to be in the office. Edward hasn't yet tied his hair into its customary braid, so it's free, resting delicately on his shoulders and a little beyond that when he sits up.

"Al demands lots of it. What are you doing here anyway?"

"Just checking up on you. Scar's a monster, isn't he?"

"Nothing I can't handle." Roy looks pointedly at his shattered automail. "That was a slip. It won't happen again."

It's silent for the next few moments, and he has to struggle not to stare. There is no denying it: Edward is beautiful. Not in a feminine way—far from that, despite his hair. Roy cannot quite place his finger on it—it's not his body, or the way he spits out his insults—although, admittedly, both are bonuses.

"Lieutenant Hawkeye sends her regards," he says once the silence becomes too stifling. Edward is already braiding his hair. Roy wishes he wouldn't.

"Thanks. I send her mine too."

"I'll be sure to have her know." It's just then that Al enters the room with Winry, with a tray of breakfast balanced precariously on his head.

"Oh, Colonel! It's nice to see you!"

"Nice to see you too, Al. Where've you been?" Immediately, the tension dissipates—tension that he didn't know was there in the first place.

"Oh, here and there. Literally."

"I see that. Is it comfortable in that box?" He nods good morning to Winry, who carefully sets Al down on the floor and takes the breakfast off of his head, giving it to Edward.

"Comfortable, but I don't think it's very convenient."

"No, I don't believe it would be. Hopefully Ed's arm will be fixed soon—"

"I am not drinking that, you witch!" Promptly, both of their attentions snap towards Edward and Winry. It's something Roy's seen before—it's not a secret that the Fullmetal Alchemist despises milk to the very pits of hell. He watches them argue for the next minute or so, before checking his watch. There's still time, but it feels like he's lingering. And if anything, he hates lingering without a purpose. So he turns to leave.

He smiles at Al—a beautiful smile, the smile that catches the eyes all the ladies—"I'll visit again tomorrow."

"Please do!"

He feels Edward's eyes on his back as he leaves the room, burning a hole through his uniform and scalding his skin. And it's then that he knows.

It's his determination and headstrong nature that makes him beautiful.

Hughes' death hits him harder than anything.

He spends the first few days alone. He can't even talk to Riza, can't even talk to Jean. People only see him when he attends his funeral, but that's it. Once it's over, he's back in his room, not eating, not showering, not shaving. There is no more strength.

If Hughes is gone, what does he have left?

For once, he is glad that Ed isn't there to see him. How can he possibly face him in this state? It's unfair. He is weak. Compared to a kid fourteen years his junior, he is pathetic.

And then he thinks, Oh, God. Fourteen years my junior. I'm infatuated with a boy fourteen years my junior.

But that thought quickly slips past, and he drinks from his bottle of whiskey again.

It takes him one week before Riza knocks down the door to his room and pulls him to his feet by the collar, holding a gun to his head. He gives a grunt—the biggest response anyone's pulled out of him yet. So she takes it to herself for him to clean up and get back to work. She even prompts him by undressing him when he doesn't move at first.

When Ed returns to Central, Roy is scared out of his wits, although he is very careful to hide this. No one tells Ed of Hughes' death—and perhaps that's for the better. But the news reaches him soon enough.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he shouts, eyes flashing with anger.

But how could he tell him, when he couldn't even talk to Riza, when he couldn't even talk to Jean? He looks at him straight in the eye, feeling himself warm up. And he understands.

With Ed, he doesn't need to talk.

It if didn't come across as weird and downright creepy, he would've asked him out to dinner already.

Everyone knows that the Fullmetal Alchemist is a busy person, cracking codes and chasing criminals and saving the country. The latter is not exactly public knowledge, but it's as plain as day to Roy. If anything, he prides himself in the fact that Edward Elric entrusts him with the most precious secrets.

They do have lunch in the cafeteria together often, though, when he is in Central. Which is almost never.

"Mustang." His name almost comes out as a growl from his lips. He likes it, Roy decides.

"Yes, Fullmetal?"

"We need to talk."

There is a distinct pause in the stirring of his soup. "Then by all means, talk away."


"We are alone. Hardly anyone cares for our conversations." But his grip has tightened on his spoon and he can't look at him and what is he thinking about? Ed is so sporadic and unpredictable and unstable; a halogen, and he can't possibly read him.

"Roy." Being called by his first name startles him. It might even be the first time it's happened, he muses. Finally, he sighs, and puts down his spoon.

"Alright. The secondary library, perhaps?" That library is for the books that people rarely read anymore. It's more of a storage space than anything, and as far as his knowledge goes, it is usually empty.

And it would be a lie if he said that his heart isn't pounding in his ribcage. It would be a lie if he said that he isn't scared. Roy is rarely frightened of anything, but Edward Elric absolutely terrifies him beyond reason. No one has ever caught his attention and affection and heart in such a way in that iron grip—half of the time, he wants him to hold on tighter, and the other half, he's wishing he would just let go

Once the door closes behind them, Ed pulls him by the collar so their mouths come crashing together.


"I have a name, you know." It's a shame that it's so dark in the library, because he's sure Ed is blushing. But then again, he probably isn't doing much better. "But don't talk. Just—don't talk."

Roy is down with that.

It's there. It's there, and he knows it. Both of them know it.

It's a war from there on out. At times, Roy regrets having let Ed kiss him back in that library. He never knew that it was possible for someone to taste so sweet, so passionate, so full of drive. He fights a battle every time Ed walks into the room—has to force himself to look away, concentrate on what's in front of him and don't touch him don't touch him

"A little preoccupied, Mustang?"

But how could he possibly resist when he's right there all the time? Ed is everywhere. He used to be nowhere, but now he's everywhere.

Riza knows this. Riza sees this. And after so many years of working with her, Roy has just come to accept the fact that Riza knows all. She coughs discreetly—or maybe not so discreetly—when his eyes wander from his paperwork to Ed. He's usually busy with admiring his hair, but sometimes, his gaze drops down lower—

And that's when he knows he's gone too far.

There is one thing that Roy Mustang has above everything else: dignity. Having feelings for someone fourteen years younger than him—and a man, no less—is already crossing the line—but to be pushing it further, engaging in physical contact, thinking of—

No. No more thinking. From this moment on, all thinking will come to a halt in his mind.

Yes. Good idea.

"Colonel?" His gaze snaps onto his lieutenant, and he subconsciously releases a breath. "Is everything alright?"

"Just fine, Riza."

"Please call me Lieutenant when we are working, sir."

"Right. Of course." It's hard to remember that when he's not thinking. This will pose as a problem.

"Hey, Lieutenant Hawkeye."

"Hello, Ed. What brings you here today?"

"Oh, I was just passing by. Thought I'd drop in and say hi."

Another thing that Roy has picked up over the years is that Ed is the worst liar in all of history when his life is not at stake. He despairs.

"I see." Riza sounds knowing. And of course she does—she is knowing. That woman is crazy. Roy carefully keeps his eyes on the papers before him, signing contracts and writing reports. Yes. Writing reports is nice.

"You seem busy, Mustang."

It's only then that he looks up. "Well, yes. Being a colonel does that to you." He's swamped by those eyes—hot, scorching, sucking him in and oh God he can't breathe

Not thinking isn't going to work. So he does the next best thing:

He avoids him.

And avoiding someone isn't really that hard when he's not even in the same city as you, most of the time. Roy is satisfied with this, and returns to his regular daily routines. He ignores Riza's odd looks, and visits Hughes' grave once a week.

It is this week in particular that he confesses his sins and wrongdoings in all of their wrongness to his dead best friend and God, Edward Elric is really deteriorating his vocabulary.

"I'm going crazy, Hughes." He rubs his face with a hand. "Crazy, I tell you."

But something tells him he's been crazy from the start.

He can't forget. And he doesn't suppose that many can. When one kisses Edward Elric, it's not an experience that can easily be filed away. Because the truth is, when Ed kissed Roy back in the library, he felt on fire, alive, free—free from the rules of the world and the laws of Amestris and just capable of doing anything

All his life, Roy has appreciated rules and laws. They are there for a reason—they keep people in line and punish the wrong. He learned these rules dutifully as a child, but all Ed makes him want to do is break every single last one of them. He hates it, but he loves it. And as much as he doesn't want to admit it, the line between love and hate is smudged, like a transmutation circle that has been rained on for an evening. Maybe even more so.

Rules, he can almost hear Hughes telling him, smiling all the while, are made to be broken, Roy.

"But this is beyond rules," he tells the epitaph. "This is breaking morals and ethics."

Hughes laughs. And since when have you had morals and ethics?

He would've answered, but it's at that moment that he realizes that he's basically talking to himself. Frowning in distaste, he turns on his heels and walks away.

"You are not going to avoid me." Ed's eyes are fierce.

He resumes his default expression—the smirk—because he doesn't know what else to do. "And what gave you the impression that I was avoiding you, Fullmetal?" Darn. He has not been discreet at all.

"Because if I was some voluptuous woman, you would've taken me out to dinner by now. And probably back to your bed."

Of course, it is no one's knowledge that Roy never takes a woman to bed. But dinner—dinner, he can do.

And he finds himself offering before his mind can fathom what's happening. "I'll pick you up at eight, then."

Ed grins. "Will do."

The heart is a fickle thing, but Roy is finding it more and more difficult to hate with each passing day.

"Car dates", he likes to call them.

Both of them are far too busy to actually sit down once a week and have dinner—God knows where Ed will be the next day, let alone next week—so they settle for the next best thing.

Ed goes to many places. To visit influential people, to the library—everywhere. Sometimes, when Roy has time, he'll give him a ride. But both of them know it's more than that. It's an excuse for them to be together. Roy knows this, Ed knows this—hell, even Al knows this. The tension in the car is palpable even to a walking suit of armor.

"You go ahead first, Al. I have some things to discuss with the colonel."

Al has mastered the art of rolling eyes without actually having eyes. "Alright." Once he has left the car, Ed climbs into the passenger seat.

"Is something the matter, Fullmetal?"

Behind the tinted windows, no one would see anything. Ed knows this, and uses this to his advantage. Which doesn't do so well on Roy's part, because this is exactly what he's been avoiding. A little closer and he won't be able to turn away.

"I'm leaving Central in a few days." Ed looks out the window.

"Again," Roy adds.

"Again," he agrees. Roy can feel his heart clench, and he hates, he hates this. Why can't he have the same affection for Riza? Why is he so messed up? "I want to ask you a favor."

He looks at him. "A favor."

"Can you handle it?" He's taunting him. Ed knows that he hates being taunted. His superiority complex won't allow it.

He smirks. "We'll see, won't we?"

"I want one night."

And right then, the world stops.

His eyes narrow. "What are you talking about?"

"You know perfectly well what I'm talking about." Ed's eyes are hard, shining with that determination that Roy loves so much—but that doesn't stop the blush that creeps onto his cheeks. Roy knows he's no better.

He shakes his head. "No." It's wrong, it's so wrong.

"It'll be the last chance we have in a long while."


He has to refuse. He has to. If he gives himself even a moment to consider it, he'll give in. For both of their sakes, he can't let them do this.

"Why?" Ed's eyes narrow. "Is it because of our age difference?" Roy matches his expression. He can't lose. He can't lose.

I can be fixed, he almost thinks, but doesn't.

"You know that's not it," he says shortly, looking away. "Go. Your brother is waiting."

It's quiet for a long moment, and he hears the car door opening. "I'm leaving in two days' time. My train departs at nine in the morning." And suddenly, he is alone.

I can be happy, he does think, even as he tries not to.

And the truth is, Ed deserves so much more than him.

Roy denies it, and he'll continue to deny it even in the grave, but he is a monster. Most of civilization is, and even the Führer is a homunculus. But he has standards. He has standards, and he clearly doesn't meet them.

Ed deserves truth. Ed deserves respect. And above all, Ed deserves happiness.

And Roy can give him none of this.

He wonders what Ed thinks of him. Is he attractive? Is he charming? Is he everything he's ever wished for?

No, no, of course not. Nobody wants Roy Mustang.

"I have a dream," Riza tells him one day as they are walking down the halls.

"And that is?" He's only half listening, swamped by his own thoughts. His doubts, his imperfections, his monstrosity.

"To make yourself give you the credit you deserve." He looks at her then, raising an eyebrow.

"I don't deserve credit," he tells her.

She shakes her head. "That's the point. You've completely brainwashed yourself into thinking that you are nothing if you aren't the Führer. There's more to life than ruling the country, Roy. There's more to life than saving humanity. And I hope that one day, you'll realize that allowing yourself happiness is the first step to any journey."

He doesn't respond for a moment. Then: "Please call me Colonel when we are working."

She nods. "Of course. I apologize."

Roy has known Riza for so long that he knows that no matter what, she's always right. And so he smiles a little to himself, and mentally notes to take her out for dinner sometime.

"Who the hell—"

Before he knows it, it's two in the morning. Roy spent the last six hours telling himself to just go see him. Apologies are difficult for him, and admitting he's wrong is even harder. But he finally finds the courage, and two in the morning or not, he's not going to back down.

Ed blearily blinks the sleep from his eyes. "What the hell, Mustang?"

"I have a name, you know," he says coolly.

He knows it's going to hurt. Physically, emotionally, psychologically—it's going to hurt everywhere, in all ways. The best he can do is to keep his calm demeanor and hope that this will all turn out for the best, because it's just tonight that he realizes: he loves him, God, he loves him—

Ed stares at him dubiously. "Has anyone ever told you you're crazy?"

"Yes, once or twice." He reaches out and brushes his bangs out of his face. It's undone, and he loves it that way.

It's silent for a long time. "Would you like to come in?" Ed asks hesitantly. "I don't have tea, but there should be some coffee somewhere." Roy hears the underlying message. It won't be perfect, but it'll be enough.

He shakes his head, despite every fiber of his being screaming yes, oh God, yes. "When you come back," he says, smiling softly. "It doesn't matter if it's months from now or years from now. I'll be Führer then—and it will be perfect." He's on fire, with the way Ed is looking at him. For a moment, he is completely stripped of all of his burdens and sins, and he's a child, just a child, in all his innocence and purity.

"You don't have to be perfect to be loved, Roy." Please, please stay. "I'm hardly perfect myself."

Oh, but you are, he thinks. "You're a little full of yourself, aren't you, Fullmetal?" He shoves his hands in his pockets to hide the fact that they're clenching into fists. "You hardly know what love is."

He scoffs. "Excuse my rudeness, Colonel, but I doubt you do either."

This is true. But Roy isn't going to admit to that.

Ed opens the door wider and steps back. "Come in." And he really can't resist. Not that hair, not those lips, not those eyes. "Al is upstairs, though, so for his sake, please try to keep quiet."

"Right. He doesn't sleep, does he?"

"No. He just can't." The way he says it makes his heart clench.

He's quiet for a moment. "My place is empty." He's hesitant about this, and he's sure Ed can tell. No one's ever set foot in his home before, other than Riza—and really, Riza is an exception in all circumstances.

And before he knows it, they're back at his apartment where everything is neat and tidy, save for the alchemy notes scattered all over his desk. Even the Flame Alchemist has to study. "I'll have you know," he says quietly, closing the door behind him, "I have neither tea nor coffee." But Ed doesn't seem to mind, because once his eyes sweep their surroundings, he's already unbuttoning Roy's uniform and God he's just impatient and naïve and childish, isn't he—

But he supposes he's no better, because his movements are just as frantic and he's waited too long for this

Just one night, though. One night is what he promised Edward, and he will give no more than that. He repeats this like a mantra in his mind, because if he forgets it for even one moment, everything will burn up in disaster.

Kisses are clumsy and movements are frantic and Roy has never tasted anything so bittersweet and ow he grips hard with his automail and since when have I eroded down to this level?

A man is meant to be with a woman. That is how society is made, composed—two men together is almost like human transmutation. Taboo. Wrong.

But then again—humanity has always tried to go beyond the rules it's given.

The thing is, he hates being alone.

Weeks turn into months, and months are just far too long without him. He's working and fighting and hoping to overthrow the government—but one can only do so much when his most trusted crew has been torn apart.

And then one day, a boy—or a man, perhaps—he can't tell—approaches him. He looks so familiar and Roy would recognize that red cloak anywhere, but it's not him, not him—it's not the same gold hair or the same cheekbones and certainly not the same lips, and those eyes—those eyes are too soft to be his—

"Colonel?" The man smiles. "It's me. Alphonse Elric."

And it's then that he knows that something is terribly, terribly wrong.

Roy Mustang is the Flame Alchemist. Fire is his strength. He has killed countless of men—and even women and children—at the orders of the military. He's a man to be feared—clever and cunning and willing to use sinister methods to get what he wants.

But when he and Al sit down for some coffee, he has never felt so cold.

He counts. He counts everything, anything. The number of cobblestones he steps on, the reports he receives, how many times Riza tells him to concentrate on his work. But most of all, he counts the days.

On day four, he has his first glass of whiskey since Hughes' death.

On day seventeen, he takes his first woman to bed. She has wavy blonde hair and bright blue eyes—not quite the same—in fact, not the same at all—but she is beautiful and he cannot deny that. It is not her name he groans when he finishes, because he doesn't know her name—but he doesn't think she minds, because she's too busy digging her nails into his shoulder blades and throwing her head back to care.

On day eighteen, Riza asks what's going on.

On day thirty-two, she moves in with him. From then on, he takes his women to motels. (But he can't deny that they are never as good as him.)

Day seventy-nine has him cringing, because it's the anniversary of Hughes' death and he just hates not being enough.

On day one hundred fifty-three, he stops meeting new women altogether. They can't even fill a little bit of that hole that's eating him from the inside out. He's rotting, he can feel it—maggots and flies and all things disgusting. He tries to hold back his vomit.

It is on day two hundred that Riza finally starts to crack (and he can't understand where her willpower comes from—he completely fell apart on day one), and she punches his pretty little face in. He's always known that she has the strength to do so, but the thought that she would dare lay a finger on him has just never occurred, because didn't she promise that she would follow him to the very depths of hell? (He is there, he's definitely there—nothing can get worse than this.)

"I'm here," she whispers, voice shaking. "I'm right here."

He massages his jaw, wondering where his luck came from and maybe, maybe this isn't rock bottom after all. "I know."

Day three hundred seventy-one, and he has learned to block all the pain and all the hurt. It's day three hundred seventy-one and he is numb and rotting and so far gone and will he ever come back?

Day six hundred sixty-six, and he nearly stops counting altogether.

And finally, on day seven hundred forty-seven, a hole is torn open in the sky and Ed comes back—comes home, right into Roy's arms.

Except not really.

Central is being obliterated and people are destroying is home—and it's wrong, so wrong, all wrong—and he feels like he's being ripped to shreds because what is he supposed to feel when this country has been corrupted from the start?

But most importantly, he's back. Roy hasn't seen him yet, but he can feel it, down to his bones, shaking his heart and rattling in his trachea when he breathes it in. He's back. It doesn't matter that they can't be together or that they're still fourteen years apart or that they're both men because as long as he's here then there's a chance and a chance is all he needs—

In all honesty, Roy doesn't even know what he wants anymore.

But first things first: saving this country. Hot air balloons have never really been his thing, but he has a new appreciation for them when he sees Ed up in the sky with Al and honestly, it has never looked so right. The two brothers that have been through everything and who is Roy to interrupt them and take Ed for himself?

But Ed is so captivating. Ed is beautiful. Ed is amazing.

"That eye patch really doesn't suit you, you know." He almost smirks, because he falls into the routines so easily, even after two years of separation.

Your hair looks so much better tied up in that ponytail. You've grown.

He may not be Führer right now—in fact, he may never be the Führer—but Roy has grown, too. He's learned. And he's going to show Ed that—show Ed that he's more than just one night. He is a lifetime. He is forever.

Flames go up at the snap of his fingers, hot and scalding and explosive. Ed's nimble body moves in the air, and he's close, so close—he can hear his breathing and and and—

And suddenly, it's all over.

The silence is almost deafening, and he's ready for some whiskey or tea or even coffee, and a car date—

"I need to destroy the gate."

No. No.

He can't go. He can't leave again. Roy's been waiting for the day when Ed and Al would find their bodies and would settle down and live a happy life—they deserve happiness, and this is not happiness, dammit, this is pain, this is despair, this is the world crumbling down around them and God this is just not fair.

Al is screaming his defiance, but Roy wants to scream even more. He's so paralyzed, he can't bring himself to do anything.

Ed. Ed. Ed's kind smile. His battle-weary heart. He's never been fickle like Roy—always having his eyes set on one goal and heading towards it. But it's now that Roy realizes that he doesn't have a fickle heart anymore—Ed fixed that. He wants Ed and no one else and why do the gods above do this to him?

(Because there are no gods—just humans, and humans are disgusting, disgusting creatures.)

"I—I need to go with him." He's surprised that he's not the one choking out these words, considering how he's feeling. "Colonel—can you close the gate on this side?"

He stares at Al, feeling his throat close up. Then he smirks. Default. Automatic. "Of course. What do you take me for?"

I always let everything slip past my fingers.

And he can't even hate Ed for not saying goodbye. Neither of them can acknowledge it—this is the end, isn't it? There's no more after this. One night is really all they got.

The alchemy scorches his fingers, and he has to hold his tormented scream in. There's no use fretting about it now. There's nothing that can be done.

There's nothing that can be done.

A world ends with a tear, with a touch, with a whisper.

Roy knows the rules. The rules of the state, the rules of alchemy, and all of the rules beyond. Never to take what is not yours. Never to bite off more than you can chew. Never to overstep the line. Sometimes, he wishes he hadn't learnt these rules.

A world ends with a flash of gold, warmhotlove, and dark, slanted eyes closing in nostalgia. It ends without a goodbye, but with a soundless I'm sorry and I love you and I wish you would stay, oh please, please stay.

Riza cleans up their plates from dinner. "You deserve more credit, you know. You've survived so much."

A wistful sigh escapes him. "I know."

Her eyes soften. "I'm right here."

He looks at her, and a small smile pulls at his lips. "I know."

"If I built this fortress around your heart
Encircle you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill this chasm
And let me set the battlement on fire."

- Sting, from his song, Fortress Around Your Heart

A/N: Inspired by Iluxia's fic, 1923, The Only Fault. This, of course, does not compare to her fic's amazingness. Go read it. I am dead serious. (BTW—I like run-on sentences, yes?)

P.S. Riza has Roy whipped. Oh, I love Riza.