Some days, Edward Elric was a being of grace; moving almost effortlessly through the world around him, borne on one leg of flesh and the other of metal. It was a privilege to watch him glide through the lengthy corridors of the base at Central City, clad now in the military blue, tossing an occasional wave to friends and coworkers as he went about his business. He moved like someone who belonged there, his head held high, even if the tips of his brilliant golden hair barely reached the epaulets of other military officers.
It was a privilege that Roy Mustang had to indulge from a distance. It was not that their relationship was entirely unknown; in fact it was probably the worst-kept secret on the military base. Fraternization was still a crime per the military rules of conduct - but until it became politically expedient, most soldiers simply did not care who was sleeping with whom. If it did not affect working relationships, what happened off-base stayed off-base.
Edward was seventeen now, as full of youth and virility as it seemed only teenagers could possess. He had awakened as a sexual creature, and his obliviousness at the consternation he caused had faded. He knew exactly how people would react to him, and he had started to use that confidence, that energy in a way that was startlingly familiar to Roy. Edward was learning how to get what he wanted.
Of course, occasionally that still blew up in his face. He was new to this, and while Roy had had a decade to perfect his technique, Edward was not satisfied at being second-best in anything.
Which was why, currently, Edward was sitting buck-ass naked in the showers on base, knees pressed to his chest under a stream of hot water. Roy had been directed to the showers by the offended party's superior officer, who was more amused by the debacle than offended. At least that was a relief, Roy had had to run interference on seventeen different court-martials on Edward in his career in the military ... thus far. (Granted, there had only been the threat of three since Edward returned with a living, breathing little brother in tow, the suit of armor banished forever. He had calmed down considerably and for that Roy was grateful, but some things about Edward Elric were never going to change - and this included his propensity for attracting trouble like a street lamp attracted moths.)
There were several different showers on base - Edward had chosen the furthest, and the smallest to go sulk in. There was no one in the locker room so Roy had the forethought to lock the door behind him before letting himself into the showers proper.
There was a wall of steam emitting from the furthest shower stall down on the left. Roy stopped at the partition, thought about removing his jacket and then decided against it, glancing down over the half-door to where he could see the top of a damp-blond head, light-colored locks stained a deep, cherry red in several places. "She dumped her drink on you, I gather?" Roy said by way of greeting.
Edward did not look up. "Come to gloat?"
"Idle curiosity, mostly." Roy had heard all about it, of course. Edward's rather abortive attempt at flirting had resulted in a drink thrown at his face. It just so happened that this drink happened to be a bright, cherry-red color. "Please, refresh me on why you're flirting with girls again? Because if I am not satisfying you, I would dearly like to know."
Edward s head shot up then, ears bright red. (Although Roy was unsure if their red was his blush or the stain of the drink.) "That's never been an issue."
Roy hooked his arms over the top of the partition, ignoring the dampness. The spray of the water did not reach where he was at unless the shower head was aimed at him. "Please, indulge me."
Edward ducked his head and stared at his knees. "Fuck off, Mustang. I shouldn't be doing this. I'm not you. I don't like manipulating people."
"Is that what you're trying to do?" Roy was genuinely amused by this. "Learn how to manipulate people? Because believe it or not, you've got a fair handle on that already."
"I shouldn't have to," Edward grumbled. There were chunks of red in his hair, he apparently had just turned the water on and sat down to sulk. "It feels dirty."
"It is part of being a politician, Ed," Roy said calmly. "And I would not peg you as one with designs on that sort of position." He was studying Edward, whose body language spoke volumes, curled up in on himself as he was. "So what are you really trying to accomplish?"
Edward sighed, a great exaggerated motion with his whole body. He rested his chin on his arms, and Roy wondered if Edward could make himself any smaller if he tried. "I'm just trying to learn how to be useful," he mumbled into his arms.
That took Roy by surprise. "Useful?"
He could not possibly mean useful to Roy, could he? Roy stared at the line of Edward's back, the musculature crossed with old, long-healed scars and realized yes, that is exactly what Edward meant. Edward had made no secret of his opinion of the military and yet he stayed in it. It had been a bitter struggle to get him to even report in and yet now he willingly wore the BDUs. It had certainly been a curiosity but it was not one Roy had meditated on. Edward was useful in his own way, a blunt instrument to be pointed in one direction and unleashed, and now?
Now he wanted to change, for Roy. He actually wanted to be useful to Roy.
Roy was staggered by this. He realized that Edward was looking at him and he had to double-check to make sure he had maintained his neutral expression, because very few people could spring surprises on Roy Mustang, and get under his skin the way that Edward Elric could. "You want to be useful to me?"
"Of course," Edward said. He was watching Roy warily, cataloging his reaction with all the subtlety of a coiled cobra. He knew he had triggered something, but he was unsure of what. "I mean, everyone else has been with you for a long time, back to the war even." His fingers tightened on his legs, and Roy heard the ball bearings in Edward's hands shift and adjust. "I want to be able to support and protect you the same way that everyone else does."
It was strange, the lump that was forming in Roy's throat. He was not one to be randomly taken to emotion like this, and he found it hard to swallow around it.
Edward got to his feet slowly. Roy tried not to stare at him and failed. Edward was bronze and gold, muscle and metal and scars and he looked nothing like the young innocent Roy had brought willfully into this military. But even that was not quite right, was it? Edward had been anything but innocent by then.
He was still watching Roy so intently. "I want to protect you," Edward said again, stronger this time, the red in his hair duller now, slightly washed from the constant stream of water. "If I have to change to do it I will." He stepped to the partition that Roy was leaning against. With Roy leaning and Edward flat-foot they were eye to eye. Roy wondered how he had lost control of this entire exchange when Edward put his arms over Roy's shoulders and kissed him.
Edward's automail hand was warm against the back of his head, dripping water down his collar and it was that which brought Roy back to reality. They could not do this at work, even with the door locked behind him anyone could jimmy the lock and they would be caught red-handed. Roy broke the kiss reluctantly and lifted his head, Edward's eyes too-bright and thoughtful. "Not here," Roy murmured, and after a moment of thought nodded his agreement.
Then Edward leaned forward, the only thing saving Roy from a thorough soaking being the partition between them. "So shower with me," Edward said softly.
How was he meant to turn down THAT?
Roy had checked the lock on the door, and as an added security turned the shower on next to Edward's. If they heard the door he could slip into the next stall - it would still look sketchy, but as long as they were not actually caught DOING anything, it should be fine.
Roy really should not be dicking around with his career like this. He had fought long and hard to get where he was today, it had cost him so much already. He had a long list of crimes he already had to be held accountable for - a small fact that he had not let Edward in on - and to falter because of this, because of this boy, on the threshold of manhood? He should put a stop to this.
Edward's head was tilted back, Roy's fingers massaging his scalp, working at the red stains of cherry and strawberry. Edward's unnatural golden eyes were closed, but his face was relaxed and he looked terrifyingly young. Roy remembered where he had been at seventeen, fresh-faced in the military academy, still mastering his alchemy, his whole life ahead of him.
Roy sighed deeply, and Edward opened his eyes. "I can't understand you, Ed," Roy said, his voice soft, almost masked by the water sputtering from the shower head. "I don't understand why you would want to stay here, in this broken military that will use you like it has so many others. You should get out while you still can."
Edward rested his head back against Roy's chest, and closed his eyes. "They would court-martial you if I went AWOL again." He said it so simply. "I could tender my resignation when my State Alchemist license expires next year, but - then what? The military is all I've known."
"You have your brother. And your mechanic friend."
Edward laughed dryly. "And be a third wheel to their little romantic nesting? What else is there for me, out there?" He looked forward at the wall.
"Boring." Edward snorted. "I can help people from here. I can get back out in the field and save lives. I can support you," Edward looked up at him, and Roy put his hands on Edward's shoulders. "Just like you supported me."
Roy tilted Edward's head up and covered Edward's mouth with his own. Edward sighed deeply into the kiss, and then smiled. "I thought you said not here," he murmured.
"I love you," Roy said, trying to keep the hitch of desperation out of his voice. Edward was still smiling up at him. "But stop flirting with girls. You're not any good at it."
"I'll get better," Edward said.
"You'll break hearts," Roy ran his hands through Edward's long, damp hair.
"Just like you."
Roy swallowed again, and then leaned forward, resting his forehead on the crown of Edward's head. "Please, Ed," he said. "I'm not a role model, don't try to be me."
Edward took Roy's hands and wrapped them around him, so he was comfortable in Roy's embrace. "I'll do whatever I have to," Edward's voice was deadly, lethally serious. "To make sure that you reach your goal."
Roy wrapped his arms tighter around this boy made of flesh and steel, washed warm by the unrelenting shower water and wondered silently what monster he had unleashed upon this military.
"Snapshots From Another Life" Prompt #14 of 25: 'Tease'