Warnings: none

Rating: G

Author's Notes: There was just one final goodbye that had to be made in Saffron Soul. I hope this short epilogue provides a worthy finishing touch. Thank you to everyone who has offered such vast support and helpful feedback during this long journey. There are no plans for a sequel at this time, but I'm sure there will be more FMA from me before long.

In the meantime, you can always follow my original writing at Gracebertram (dot) com

With everalsting gratitude and love,

B xxx

The Saffron Soul: Epilogue

Weak sunlight stroked the gravestones, giving cold grey rock an ethereal glow. Dew shone like scattered gems, cast upon the final resting places of the dead. The earth at Ed's feet was newly turned: a final veil between him and the young man who lay six feet under in a cheap pine box.

It had taken the police weeks to decide that Danner's silent victims had no stories left to tell. At last, they were free to be buried, and now Ed stood in the civilian cemetery, painfully aware of too many fresh graves amidst the placid peace. The city had paid for the burials, and somehow the simple headstones were all the more painful to see. Those with family had words of endearment, but Greg's was nothing but names and dates. Ed was the only person left to mourn him, and even as he wished there was more of an epitaph, Ed knew he would never have been able to think of the appropriate words.

He swallowed hard, dragging in a deep breath as he grappled with the sick swirl of his emotions. He knew he was expected to grieve, but the time for that had been weeks ago, and Danner had robbed him of the chance. Besides, Ed knew Greg better than that. He would want to be remembered, but not here, and not like this. More than anything Greg had taught Ed to focus on all the blessings of the present. He had dragged him out of lingering guilt and oppressive responsibility and taught him to be grateful for the now.

After all, you never knew when there would be no more life left to enjoy.

'I'm sorry,' Ed whispered, his voice cracked around the edges as his gaze took in the other graves of the people he had known: dearly or vaguely, they were still dead because of their relationship to him. He had not attended the funerals. It felt wrong, somehow, to ignore the ceremonies, but Ed had known he would not be welcome. Now, at least, there was no audience. No one watched him with accusing eyes, and he could try and lay his ragged memories to rest.

Danner had dealt a deathblow to many people. Roy's men had been keeping their superior officer up to date on all the developments during their leave of absence, and Roy did not hesitate to share it with Ed. Not superior to subordinate, but lover to lover: human and compassionate. He had told Ed about the mass grave, and the military had done what they could. Most of the bodies were unrecognisable, but Ed could guess that they were disciples. Perhaps they had disobeyed Danner or been victims of an experiment gone wrong. Or possibly they had been those that survived Edil Park and had been killed to keep the secrets of the priest's mistake.

Either way, the death toll kept rising. If Danner had still been alive, they would have put him against a wall for what he had done. Not even the military could turn a blind eye to his sins in the name of alchemy. Still, Ed knew he had done the right thing. Not for all those who had died — who deserved justice — but for himself. Danner had answered for his crimes, and the Gate would never release his soul. He was gone for good, and somehow Ed could not quite believe a bullet would have had the same effect. It would have killed him, sure enough, but he would have lived on in Ed's mind: blackness amidst the oil slick of his memories — a nightmare he had not destroyed with his own hands.

A sharp shake of his head scattered his thoughts, and he took a step back, smelling the fresh scent of the grass and the crisp air. It was easy to get caught up in the foetid shadows of death, but right now the world smelled like life, and Ed knew that Greg would have wanted him to enjoy it. He would have urged Ed to embrace the future, rather than lingering in the past, and it was that gentle coaxing — a whisper in the night — that allowed Ed to turn his back and begin the short journey back into the world of the living.

Emerald blades of grass left droplets on his boots as the sun stroked gentle warmth against his skin. A frail breeze whispered across his face, carrying with it the sounds of the city as he picked his way between the gravestones and back towards the bustle of Central.

The wrought iron gateway, with its broad, tree-lined boulevard beyond was like a no-man's land between two worlds. The tide of urban noise washed against the cemetery's tranquil shore, and though the heady rush of existence was only a short walk away, Ed could still feel the lingering sleep of the dead, untouched by any such urgency.

Roy was waiting exactly where Ed had left him, leaning against the trunk of one of the trees. He looked at ease like that, but Ed could see the alertness in his features. He guarded the road as if he was prepared to turn any would-be mourners away, but as soon as Ed stepped out of the gate, he turned like a dog catching a scent, focusing all his attention on Ed as the bond sang softly between them.

He did not reach out, but instead waited patiently beneath the shade of the tree's bower, giving Ed the freedom to choose his own course of action. It would be easy to feel guilty for wanting Roy's embrace — for leaving one lover's graveside for another's bed — but it was a burden Ed could bear. He needed Roy, and he was not afraid to admit it.

The shadows touched his cheek with a cool caress as he walked into the sheltering gloom, reaching out to catch Roy's hand in his grasp. Here, they were sheltered from the prying eyes of others, and Ed gripped Roy's fingers tight, squeezing hard and feeling Roy return it before he stepped forward into the living, breathing circle of Roy's embrace.

Spark and spice perfume tickled Ed's nose, and despite himself, he felt a weak smile curve his lips. It made him think of home — not four walls and roof, but Roy. It did not matter where they were or what was happening, being this close was like finding the perfect sanctuary. It made Ed feel completely safe, and over the past few weeks alone together, he had begun to feel as if he were thriving in that simple sense of security

New love affairs always seemed raw, full of the desperate urge to be close and to prove yourself worthy of the attention. With Roy, there was none of that. Ed didn't know if it was because of the bond, or if he and Roy had simply had the time to open their eyes and really see each other, but they had belief, not in their own strength, but in one another.

All the normal insecurities and questions were still there, but they were not the blight they could have been, and with every passing day, growing confidence dulled their bite. Besides, Roy's need was a mirror of his own — not just sex, but intimacy and companionship. Ed could see why they called it falling in love. It was unexpected and unstoppable, and even though he had cared for Greg and others in the past, none of it could compare to this.

'Do you want to stay a bit longer?' Roy asked quietly, his hand smoothing down Ed's neat ponytail and following the curve of his spine. He stroked Ed like he was a wild animal, beautiful but fierce, and the simple slide of his hand, even over clothes, was enough to smooth tension from Ed's muscles, melting it away like ice beneath the springtime sun.

Ed thought about it, glancing back over his shoulder at the cemetery for a moment before shaking his head. 'I don't need to stand by a gravestone to remember Greg,' he said, lifting his chin and meeting Roy's gaze unflinchingly. 'Let's go home.'

Roy nodded, a light smile flirting on his lips and admiration burning in his eyes. It was not just lust, though Ed could see a fair measure of that and feel its answer stirring within him. Roy somehow took all of his flaws — his stubbornness and worse — and turned it into something worth appreciation. When Roy looked at him like that it was as if the narrow horizons of Ed's world unfurled. All the things he had written off as impossible became things he could attain if he only tried that little bit harder, and he only hoped that he could do half of that for Roy.

With a deep breath, Ed stepped back and set off down the boulevard. Out here, in the public eye, they could not be seen displaying affection: not even something as innocent as holding hands. The world wasn't ready for that, and while Ed snarled inwardly at their stupidity, he knew that Roy would change the way people thought. It would be slow, but little victories added up. Besides, if public distance was the price to pay for what they could share in private, Ed could bear it.

Standing close enough to Roy that their shoulders brushed, he could feel the warmth of his body and the strength of his soul. It was rich in his voice, coating every word of gentle conversation they shared, and for the first time in his life, Ed felt as if he could stop and relish the moment.

For years, it was as if he had been driven onwards, pushing harder and faster towards some unattainable goal. He thought getting Al's body back would change that, but somehow the desperation never eased — until now.

He did not regret the path his life had taken. How could he, when all the shadow and fear had finally led him here, out into the sunshine at Roy's side? But now, for the first time, he realised he would never have to walk the road of his choices alone again. Roy would always be there to help him take the burden, just as he would remain steadfast — Roy's support in times of need.

Equivalent Exchange.

The End