Warnings: Ed's language
Author's Notes: I think it's safe to say I have had a rather discouraging week. Disappointingly, the agent who was considering representing my original manuscript decided against it. To cheer myself up I had to write this little piece.
Roy shifted on the sofa, stretching out his legs as the fire roared and crackled in the grate. He loved evenings like this, peaceful and relaxing. At one time, he would have found them lonely, his only companion a golden spirit in the bottom of a glass, but things had changed.
He glanced at the young man sprawled inelegantly at his side, head rested on Roy's shoulder as he skimmed the broadsheet. If someone had told Roy a few years ago that he would find himself in a comfortable, serious relationship with Ed of all people, he would have thought they were mad. Yet Ed had happened to him, wild, glorious and unavoidable. It had started off so passionate that Roy had been certain it would burn out within weeks. They had both held so much back and then, almost the moment Ed handed in his pocket-watch, all that need burst forth. It was not a tidal wave, devastating but short lived; it was a river that charted its course through Roy's life and carved a hot canyon in his heart. For the first time in years he had found lasting happiness, and nights like this reminded him that he was a very lucky man.
'Hurry up and turn the page. What's taking you so long?' Ed's elbow poked Roy in the waist, but it was a lazy jab, and Roy obligingly shifted the paper in his hands; he was not really interested in the financial state of the country anyway.
'Not everyone devours the written word,' he said. 'It's not a race. You can enjoy what you read, you know.'
'Why bother? Most of it's just idiots telling other people what they want to hear.' The last word was stretched out on a yawn, and Roy sighed. Ed had been working hellish hours at the lab lately and was prone to falling asleep mid-sentence in the evenings. It was a good thing they lived together, or their sex life would have suffered from Ed's exhaustion. At least sharing a house made it easier to be spontaneous, and Roy did love taking advantage of the moment…
Clearly not this moment, though, because Ed had lifted his head to glare at a small article as if it had caused him personal offence. Amber eyes were narrowed furiously, and Roy frowned as he tried to work out what had caused Ed's abrupt change in mood.
'Don't scientists have anything better to do with their time?' Ed hissed, jabbing an Automail finger at a snippet of news and almost poking a hole in the page. 'What kind of crap research is that?'
Roy skimmed the headline, one eyebrow raised in consideration. 'Intelligent people have to be kept busy, or they cause trouble.' He shot a pointed look at Ed, who completely ignored it, lost as he was in the findings of the study. Despite his comment, Roy was half-inclined to agree with him. The world was rife with famine, disease, corruption and war, yet the latest scientific enquiry appeared to be focussing on human sleeping habits.
'It says that it's normally women who sleep on the left hand side of the bed,' Ed muttered. 'Who the fuck cares? I work my arse off all day in a lab trying to create medical alchemy arrays and someone's pretending this kind of thing's important.' He straightened up, leaving Roy's shoulder bereft of his warmth as he stretched his arms above his head. 'Bet it was an excuse to get laid. "Come back to my place. I need to see what side of the bed you sleep on." Like that'd work.' He shot Roy a wicked look, eyes alight with laughter as he smirked. 'Not that it matters. You're the one who sleeps on that side, anyway.'
Roy made a show of perusing the article again, pretending to frown in concern as he found the relevant passage. 'Actually, Edward, it's the left side as you're lying on your back on the mattress, not as you're standing in the doorway looking at the bed.' He twitched the paper, his voice going soft as he added, 'Isleep on the right.'
Ed went statue-still, frozen as if made from ice. Only the faint working of his jaw showed any sign of inner turmoil, and it was several seconds before he broke from his paralysis and snatched the paper out of Roy's hands to glare at the article. 'Liar, you're just saying that to piss me off...' His voice quietened as he carried on reading, his frown deepening to a scowl before he half-folded but mostly crushed the paper into a rough square and pitched it aside.
'It's a load of shit anyway.'
'Of course.' Roy did his best to keep a straight face. After all, just because Ed loved him did not mean Roy was safe from his incandescent wrath. 'I'm sure a large number of men would naturally gravitate to the left side of the bed out of choice.' He tried to keep the words clean and clinical, but Ed must have perceived something unsavoury in Roy's tone because his glare turned strong enough to cut glass.
'They're saying the left side is the girl's side. I am not a girl,' he snapped. The white sleeves of Ed's shirt were rolled up, and when he crossed his arms over his chest, one shone bright steel while muscles like rope tensed in the other. 'I'm not!'
'Ed –' Roy resisted the urge to sigh as he realised that a tiny human interest article had brought them back full-circle to this discussion, which they still seemed to have at least three times a year. 'I am intimately aware of your gender. No one's saying you're a girl.'
'Sure fuckin' sounds like it.'
Roy did not miss the sullen edge to those words, and he turned to face Ed fully, gaining some level of guidance from those familiar expressions of embarrassed anger and uncertainty. Roy had always been comfortable with his sexuality and ignored the stereotypes that others tried to impose upon them, but Ed could never help but snarl and snap at other people's ridiculous expectations.
Two men in a relationship did not fit the social norm, so of course one of them must be more feminine that the other. A glance at outward appearances, taking in everything from social standing to stature was normally enough for most people to place Ed as the submissive one. It was an assumption that was hazardous to the health of all involved.
To Roy, the notion was laughable; couldn't people see that Ed could snap him in two and barely break a sweat? Besides, no relationship was as clear cut as society liked to believe: such things were meant to be a meeting of equals. He understood that, and so did Ed, but where Roy was happy to let the rest of the world think what they wanted, Ed saw such comments or questions as an attack and responded as only he could: with fast, punishing violence. Roy had seen men twice Ed's size regret the occasional bigoted comment in a bar, but sometimes, like now, there was not anyone to punish. If Ed lashed out at everyone who tried to pigeon-hole them into some preset notion or normalcy, then he would never stop punching.
Deep-down, Ed knew that, but that did not mean the neurosis had faded. It lingered on like an old wound, and now it was open once more, hurting Ed all over again. 'The study is an insight into trends of human behaviour, that's all,' Roy murmured, trying to sound soothing.
'Yeah, but no one's blind enough to miss what it's implying. Fuckin' bastards.' Ed shifted, the furious set of his shoulders lifting in a shrug before he shook his head. 'Whatever. I'm going upstairs. You coming?'
Roy allowed himself a tiny frown. This was not following the script he was used to. Usually he had to listen to a rant about how society was stupid that could last up to half an hour – not all bad, because Ed was always beautiful, but angry he took Roy's breath away – yet this time none of that seemed forthcoming. This was too easy; Ed never let things go in a hurry. He clung to grudges like a drowning man to a life-raft, and Roy could not quite believe that he was happy to let the issue slide.
Still, what could Roy do except hope that, for once, Ed was tired enough to push the insinuations of the research aside? 'I'll lock up the house and be right up.'
Ed grunted in acknowledgement, flowing to his feet like a lithe predator at odds with his domestic surroundings. He crossed the room and slipped out of the door with hypnotic grace, and it was only when he was completely out of sight, footsteps making a steady beat on the stairs, that Roy set about putting the house to sleep.
He extinguished the fire and made sure the windows were shut, locking doors and stacking the dishes from dinner in the sink. Upstairs he could hear Ed going through his bathroom routine, and just as Roy switched off the kitchen light the hinges to their bedroom door squeaked in protest. No doubt by the time he got there, Ed would already be on the lazy edge of sleep, lax and trusting. Roy liked it the best when Ed was in that state, simply because he had never imagined it could be possible. Respect was one thing, but Ed held honest faith that Roy would never hurt him. It was humbling, and Roy smiled to himself as he climbed the stairs, avoiding the creaky step automatically before sauntering through to the bathroom.
His reflection ghosted across the mirror's pane, and Roy met the dark eyes of his counterpart image. Tousled hair and five o' clock shadow on his jaw did not make him look much like a brigadier-general in the Amestrian army, but appearances could be deceiving. Besides, he did not always have to look like a good toy soldier.
Roy examined his appearance with a critical eye. One thing about having a much younger lover was the painful awareness that time would wreak havoc on him long before it touched Ed's frame. Not yet, though. He was still young at thirty-five, still in his prime even if he had found a lone grey hair the other day. He had pulled it out without hesitation, certain that its presence was Ed's doing, anyway. All those years worrying about him on assignment, all that time wondering if the brat would ever allow himself to live to see eighteen...
Thank God those days were over.
Quickly, Roy set about washing his face and brushing his teeth. It had been a long day in the office, and tiredness pulled at his muscles. He could almost hear the bed calling his name. Even better, all things willing, nothing would drag him into work tomorrow. A glorious weekend stretched out ahead of him with Ed at his side. Now all he had to do was make Ed forget all about that stupid article in the paper.
Somehow that would probably be easier said than done.
Padding through to the bedroom, Roy was halfway through unbuttoning his shirt when he looked up at the bed and hesitated. The bedside lamps were lit, and they illuminated the hills and valleys of the blankets draped over Ed's body, huddled in a tense, angry lump on Roy's side of the bed.
'You sleep there.' A finger poked meaningfully at the fat pillows where Ed usually lay his head, and Roy closed his eyes as he reached for patience. He knew Ed's apparent indifference had been a ruse, and he really should have seen this coming.
Deep down Roy knew Ed was not trying to prove anything, not his dominance or masculinity; he was merely trying to satisfy the undeniable chip on his shoulder about supposed gender roles in a relationship. This was a facet of Ed's nature that had presented an obstacle more times than Roy cared to count, and even if it was tiresome Roy knew he would not change Ed's reactions. After all, they were part of his character, part of the man Roy loved – he just wished Ed would choose his moments better. Roy was never at his best when he was tired, and dealing with Ed when he was in this mood required the patience of a saint and an alert mind to go with it. Neither of those were currently at Roy's command.
'I don't want to sleep on that side of the bed,' he managed, aware that he sounded more than a little bit sulky.
'Why? Because it's what girls do?'
That was a loaded question; Roy could almost feel the steel jaws of it opening around him and ready to bite. 'No. It would just feel unnatural. I've slept on the side you're currently lying on for years.'
'Not moving,' Ed replied in the kind of voice that Roy knew meant business. They could argue about it all night, and Ed still would not change his mind. Of course, he could wrestle Ed over and claim his spot, but even on a good day there was still an odds on chance Roy would end up the loser.
With a deep sigh, Roy finished getting undressed, discarding shoes and clothes before slipping naked under the sheets. His bed was something he had invested a lot of money in, but it was getting old, and there was a distinct him-shaped hollow which Ed currently occupied. On this side, he felt like a big dog sleeping in a small basket: Ed had been in his life long enough to leave his own marks, probably helped by the weight of the Automail. There was a gold hair on the pillow, and the springs beneath his body did not support him as they should. Additionally, the room looked fundamentally wrong from this slightly altered perspective, and Roy clenched his jaw as he reached out to switched off the light.
'You're going to feel ridiculous about this tomorrow, you know,' he told Ed as he shifted around, trying to get comfortable. Ed did not reply as he turned out the lamp on his side, plunging the room into darkness. Moonlight from beyond the window drew strange silhouettes through the curtains, and as Roy's eyes adjusted he turned on his side, watching the tense line of Ed's back.
He was not relaxing, not at all, and Roy pulled the sheets up to hide his smirk as Ed rolled over to face him; he was distinctly pouting, clearly tired and harassed and probably regretting his decision to invade Roy's normal sleeping spot. He was probably as uncomfortable as Roy was, but Ed's stubbornness was a powerful force. He probably would not back down even if his life depended on it.
A sullen silence descended, and Roy forced his eyes closed, trying to relax his muscles and tempt sleep closer, as if it were a wild animal, distrustful and wary. It did not work. He felt subtly on edge; the mattress was lumpy, the blankets were wrong, and he rolled over and banged his head on the sharp corner of the bedside table that would not have been there if he had been allowed in his normal place. Ed lifted his head, probably to check Roy had not done himself serious harm, and when he saw Roy rubbing furiously at his temple he wordlessly settled himself once more.
Minutes ticked by, and Roy did everything he could to indicate how unsatisfied he was with Ed's immature decision. He tossed and turned, tugged at the blankets, punched his pillows and finally glared at his bed-mate. 'You can't be comfortable,' he said accusingly, briefly wondering if he could shove Ed out of bed. 'Please, Ed, just let me have my side back.'
The air stayed still, unstirred by any answer except Ed's irritated sigh. 'I fuckin' hate it,' he said at last. 'Every time I go anywhere people are always whispering about us, and they always look so smug like they've got it all figured out; they don't know shit about me, or you, but they still act like they've got all the answers.'
Roy reached out, stroking a steady hand through Ed's hair, still tied up in a ponytail and starting to come loose. 'It's human nature to fake it when they're met with something they don't understand or that makes them feel threatened somehow. Gay couples don't fit a socially accepted mold; we're being defiant – something you should be familiar with – and that makes them nervous.'
Ed gave a twitch of movement, sharp and jerky, like he had to move or his anger would drown him. 'It's not just about us,' he confessed quietly. 'I can deal with all the dumb "which one of you's the woman?" shit if I have to, but it's stupid the way people simplify things, like they're too blind to think for themselves. Studies like that just make it worse. Like gender's the only thing that decides what side of the bed you choose.'
Roy shuffled closer, feeling the creak of Ed's mood like ice underfoot. If he was careful, he could get them both to safety, but one wrong step and he'd probably end up spending the weekend sleeping on the couch.
Ed's intelligence meant he saw the world in a different way, and he loathed the narrow-mindedness that plagued society. Any time he came across an example, like the study downstairs, it dredged up all that repulsion anew. Roy knew that Ed's anger wasn't just about the research's faint suggestion that his normal sleeping spot was somehow feminine. In fact, that was probably a long way down the list of what was making Ed so tense and sullen in Roy's arms.
'So tell me then, why do you prefer this side?' He felt the weight of Ed's gaze on him, but did not look down into his lover's face.. 'It's an honest question, Ed, I'm curious.'
'Are you stupid or something? It's so I'm near the door.'
Roy frowned to himself. 'Why's that important?'
Ed sighed, a gust of air that ghosted across Roy's bare collarbone. When he spoke, it was at a slower pace than normal, as if Roy was being deliberately obtuse. 'Because if someone barges in I can take 'em down before they shoot your head off or something.'
His hand stilled over Ed's hair, cupping the back of his skull as gently as he could while something fierce and glorious twisted through Roy's veins. It was one thing to know that people looked out for his safety, but quite another to be told with such frankness that it was his well-being that at least had some influence over the smallest things in Ed's life. 'You're protecting me?'
Ed snorted against his chest. 'Well it's not like you go to bed in your fuckin' gloves, is it? You're practically defenceless and you sleep like the dead anyway.' He shifted – a shrug, Roy realised – before confessing, 'If the bed was the other way round, I'd probably still sleep on the left, though. This side feels weird, and I guess some fucker could always come in through the window.' There was a moment of silence as they both looked towards the curtain draped glass before Ed added, 'Could still save your arse if I had to.'
'I know you could.' Roy smiled to himself in the dark, nuzzling Ed's forehead with his nose and pressing a kiss to his temple. 'Thank you.'
His only response was the soft brush of lips against his throat, warm and comforting like a butterfly made of sunlight. Ed snuggled deeper into his arms, but he was still a long way from relaxed. 'Bet Hawkeye sleeps on the "man" side,' he said abruptly.
'Mmmm,' Roy mumbled in agreement, grunting as a rogue spring jabbed him in the back. 'There are probably lots of reasons why people sleep where they do. I prefer that side because –' He trailed off, trying to think of a concrete, logical reason why, even on those years that he had been mostly alone in this bed, he still slept there.
'I'm thinking.' Roy bit his lip, trying to work it out. He did not like to believe that the powerful force of his subconscious influenced his life this much, but the truth was it had never been a decision he made with any level of awareness. It was simply where his body naturally came to rest. 'I just do,' he said at last, somewhat put out by his lack of an answer. 'I always have, and I would quite like to sleep there tonight.'
The blankets whispered as Ed moved, propping himself up on his elbows. There was just enough light to see his expression, eyes ringed with tired shadows and the set of his jaw. It had been more than an hour since they had both got into bed, and sleep was still elusive. Roy felt mismatched and out of place, even though he was barely more than a foot from where he usually became lost in his dreams. Surely Ed felt the same way?
'Come here,' he said quietly, snagging Ed's wrist and giving him a gentle tug. Sometimes, the only way around Ed's nature was compromise.
A couple of nudges were enough to get him where Roy wanted him, and Ed let out a contented sound as their positions shifted. Now Ed's body was a heavy sprawl over Roy's, legs tangled together and skin-on-skin. It should have been uncomfortable – Ed was not light, especially with the Automail – but it was the best Roy had felt since he first clambered onto the mattress.
He smoothed his hand down the broad, warm expanse of Ed's back before reversing direction, steadily working loose the knots in Ed's muscles. 'I can't change the findings of that study, or the fact that society is always trying to take complex people down to some ridiculous common denominator,' he said quietly, taking a deep breath of Ed's shampoo and machine oil scent, 'but if it really makes you feel any better, I'll sleep on the left from now on.'
Roy felt Ed's cheek move against his skin and he knew his lover was smiling. If it had been a battle between the two of them, Roy's actions would have seemed like surrender, but there was no antagonism in the room. Keeping Ed happy was Roy's highest priority, and he could deal with sacrifices if he had to, even if he woke up with a sore back in the morning.
Ed moved, lifting up his head to look Roy in the eye. There was just enough light to make out the angle of his cheekbones and the softness in his gaze, and when he spoke his voice was a sexy hush. 'I love you, you know that? You're a fucker sometimes –'
Ed's fingers lightly pinched Roy's waist, and he smirked as he watched Ed reach up and take the band out of his hair, releasing the lopsided, tousled ponytail into a cascade of gold turned pale by night's touch. ' – I was going to say you put up with me pretty well, but maybe it's me who's putting up with you.' Ed scowled, but it was a short-lived thing, and Roy gave a quiet, contented hum as he lowered his face back down to Roy's chest, ear over his heartbeat like it was the only sound he needed to hear.
'How about we stay like this?' Ed whispered. 'Then if anyone asks – which they shouldn't, but the world's full of nosy fuckers – we just tell 'em we both sleep in the middle. That's what we end up doing anyway, most nights. Deal?'
Shuffling downwards, Roy cupped Ed's jaw in his hand and brushed a kiss over Ed's lips, feeling them part, pliant and honest, beneath his own as he dipped in for a taste. It was a lazy, sleepy display of affection, lost in the shadows of the night that furled around them, and Roy knew that tomorrow the banked passion between them would ignite anew. For now, though, they had this: the most perfect kind of understanding that he could ever have hoped to achieve.
Breaking back, he whispered his answer softly against Ed's mouth.