Warnings: End of series and movie spoilers
Summary: " But now, it's like . . . what's the point? Everybody's happy, so what's there for me to do?"
Notes: Originally for the steelandsparks anniversary contest.
Word count: 2597
Click . . . snap.
The sound greeted Roy when he opened his front door.
Click . . . snap. Click . . . snap. Click . . . snap.
Frowning, he followed the metallic sound through the living room, to the kitchen, to the open back door. A small figure was sitting framed in the doorway, hunched over with his golden ponytail hanging limp and heavy against his back.
Click . . . snap. Click. . . .
"Fullmetal? What are you doing here?" The last time he had seen his former subordinate had been just over a year ago, only weeks after he and his brother had traveled through the gate for the final time and returned to their rightful world.
The blond head moved a fraction, just enough to acknowledge his presence. "Nothing." Click . . . "Just . . ." snap. ". . . thinking."
"But what are you doing here?" Click. . . . "The last I heard from you, you were in—" snap. "—Resembool."
"Yeah." Click. . . . "But I didn't want to be there anymore." Snap. "So I left."
The older man finally stepped onto the porch. "Edward, what are you . . . doing. . . ."
The young man held a handgun in his lap, and was idly sliding the cartridge out and pushing it back in. Out and back. Out and back. Click . . . snap.
"Why are . . . where did you get that?"
Click. . . . "Your nightstand." Snap.
Which had been locked, Roy remembered. "Why are you playing with my gun?" He crouched down and then finally sat on the porch, carefully watching the other man. Edward's eyes never left the firearm.
"I'm just thinking." Click . . . snap. "I was wondering what it would feel like to be shot. I've been stabbed and slashed," click . . . "bruised and just generally beaten up," snap. "But whenever I've been shot at," click . . . "the bullet always hit my prosthetics instead of me." Snap. "So I was just wondering," click . . . "what it would feel like." Snap.
"Getting shot is no picnic, I can assure you." Click. . . . "Would you stop that?"
There was a pause where both of them stared at the handgun, Roy with apprehension, Edward with a dull, tired expression that just seemed wrong.
"It can't be worse than getting run through the chest."
Roy looked up to the young man's face, and found the amber eyes that a year ago had been bright and lively to be dull and glassy.
"Getting shot in the head probably wouldn't even hurt much, if the shot was aimed well. Your consciousness would be the first thing to go, so even if your nerves were still registering pain, you wouldn't be aware of it." He turned the gun over in his hands. "Not like when Envy split my heart. I stayed conscious for a surprisingly long time. Until my brain started suffocating from lack of blood flow, I guess."
The older man tried not to gape outright; not only at what had happened, but at the casual—no, the emotionless way the young man was talking about it. "When did—when did that happen?"
"In the underground city. Al brought me back with the Stone."
Another moment passed as Roy studied the downturned profile of the young man he had once known. His face was too thin, and his skin had lost much of the rich tanned color Roy remembered. There were bags under his eyes, and his hair hung limp and stringy around his face, unwashed and barely brushed. "Fullmetal—Edward . . . what are you doing here?"
He shrugged. "Couldn't think of anywhere else to go. Actually, I wasn't thinking much about it at all. The train stopped here at Central, so I got off. And I started walking. Eventually I ended up here."
He was still playing with the gun, turning it over in his hands and running his fingers along the edges. Roy's first instinct was to snatch it away, but he didn't know how Edward would react, so he held off. This was no longer the boy whose every move Roy could predict with considerable accuracy. "But . . . why? I thought you were happy in Resembool. You certainly seemed happy enough the last time I spoke with you." In fact, he had seemed outright excited at the prospect of having "no fucking crisis" to deal with for once.
"I thought I was, too, for a while. But . . . there's nothing for me there. I was a kid when I left. It's different, coming back as an adult. I helped Winry and Granny around the shop, and that was fine, for a while, but automail doesn't interest me, really. Not beyond my own. And even then I only care if it works or not. Al's happy, though." He smiled at that, the expression small and thin. "I think he and Winry might get together. Although he likes Rosé a lot, too. He doesn't need me around any more. Even Noah's happy." It took Roy a moment to realize he meant the girl who had gotten pulled through the gate along with the Elrics. "Who would've thought she and Rosé would actually hit it off so well. Dunno if I'd've been able to get along with my double like that. Can you imagine two of me running around?"
"I must say that's an alarming thought."
"Yeah." He was quiet for a moment. "But then, I got my double killed, so I never got a chance to find out. . . . So that's twice I've 'died.' . . . Don't they say the third time's the charm?" He slipped the gun into his left hand and tipped it back, pointing the barrel toward his face.
"Ed!" Roy grabbed for the gun, one hand on the barrel to angle it away, the other hand over Edward's. "Ed, don't. Just . . . don't. Please."
He didn't react, just stared at the older man's hands with the same dull, tired expression, and Roy finally pulled the gun out of his unresisting fingers.
"Ed, that's not the answer. I know it can be tempting, but that's never the answer." He set the handgun down on his other side, away from Edward, and looked at the blond with concern.
"It's not that I really want to die," Edward said after a long moment. "I just don't see much point in being alive."
"What about your brother? Maybe he doesn't 'need' you the way he used to, but wouldn't he be upset if you killed yourself? Wouldn't he miss you?"
"I know. . . . That's why I haven't done it yet." There was another pause, then he said, almost thoughtfully, "You don't call me 'Ed' like that very often."
"I—what? I suppose I don't. . . ."
"You always called me 'Fullmetal.' I don't mind it. But sometimes . . . it used to feel like you didn't even know my name."
Roy cleared his throat. "To be honest . . . I'm horrible with names. It was months before I could reliably remember yours, and by that time I was in the habit of using your title. It wasn't any sort of reflection on you," he attempted a smile to reassure him, "just one of my shortcomings. If it weren't for Hawkeye's discrete prompts I would have made a fool of myself on more than one occasion by forgetting some important general's name."
For just a moment, there was a flicker of a smile across the young man's face.
They sat in silence for a time. Edward watched the leaves blowing across the tiny back lawn. Roy watched Edward.
"Do you know what today is?"
"Hm?" Roy blinked at the sudden question. "It's . . . the third of October, isn't it? Why?"
He was silent a moment more, then said, "That's the day me and Al burned our house down, before we came to Central. I even scratched that date into the front of my watch. And a year ago today . . . we rebuilt our house. We'd been back from the other world for about a month or so, and it seemed the thing to do. Like it was the last loose end we had to tie up. And then . . . and then . . . there was nothing else."
The older man sighed, leaning back on his hands. "It's hard, loosing what you've spent so much of your life focused on. I know. I spent a lot of time drifting after the Fuhrer's death. Riza just about gave up on me."
Edward opened his mouth, then closed it. Roy waited. Finally the young man spoke again. "Ever since that day, when we burned our house, I've been working toward something. No, even before then, when Al and I were trying to get our mother back. And then, Al got his body back, but I was stuck in that other world, so I was focused on getting home. And then I did, but then we were back in that world, but that was okay, because I was focused on finding that crackpot and his bomb. And then we did, and somehow we not only fed that jackass and his bomb to the Gate, we managed to get ourselves dumped back here in the process. And I thought, this is great, because I never thought I'd get the chance to be home again. And Al's happy, 'cause he's home, and has his body and all his memories and everything. And Noah's happy now, 'cause she finally has a home, and nobody treats her like some kinda freak to be bought and sold. Winry and Granny are happy 'cause we're back and not part of the military anymore. Rosé is happy. You've gotten back into the military's good graces after helping save Central, and you've got Hawkeye, so you're happy." Roy cleared his throat again and shifted, but Edward went on without noticing. "The homonculi are gone, and everybody's happy 'bout that. And, y'know, this is what I wanted. This is why I worked so hard for so long. But now, it's like . . . what's the point? Everybody's happy, so what's there for me to do?"
"Ed. . . ." He put a hand on the young man's shoulder. "Most people don't . . . have a focus like that. They live life to live life."
"I don't . . . know if I can."
"It's not going to be easy, at first, but please—please, give it a chance." He squeezed his shoulder. "Alphonse wouldn't be the only one to miss you."
Edward's jaw worked, and he turned away, looking off to the side. "But I don't . . . I don't know how. I don't know what to do."
"You could always work for the state again. Parliament would be happy to have you, and civilian consultants aren't involved so much with the military any more. There's plenty of research projects going on right now that you could help out with. And there's still more work to be done helping rebuild the country. I think that's work you would be well suited to."
"Maybe. . . ."
Roy sighed again and rubbed the young man's shoulder. "You don't have to decide right now. But remember that you do have options. There are always options. Listen, why don't you stay here with me for a time while you figure things out. Okay?"
Much to his surprise, Edward shook his head, still looking away.
"No? Oh, come now," he said, smirking. "You don't hate me that much, do you? I promise, I'll go easy on the short jokes."
Ed turned back and glared at him, and Roy was startled to see a faint blush on his cheeks. "That's not it, asshole."
"Now you're sounding more like the Edward I remember."
The blond glared a moment more, then looked away.
"So what is it, then? You need to stay somewhere, and it doesn't sound like you want to go back to Resembool."
"It's—I don't—think you'd really want me here."
He raised an eyebrow. "I just offered, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but, I don't think—I never—never quite. . . ." Roy had to lean forward to make out the quiet mumble. "Never-quite-got-over-the-crush-I-had-
"The—a crush? Is that it?" The older man chuckled, partly at the thought that Edward, of all people, had a crush on him, but also in relief that the young man was finally starting to show some emotion, even if it was only embarrassment.
"You—shut up!" Edward glared again and punched his shoulder, hard. "It's not funny, you bastard!"
"Ow—no, it's not, I'm sorry." He winced and pulled back, rubbing his bruised shoulder. "It's just that this actually explains a lot about your behavior as a kid. I used to wonder why you never seemed to show any interest in girls." He chuckled again, shaking his head. "All right, so maybe moving in would not be such a good idea."
He muttered something that sounded like "fuck off" and started to get up.
"Fullmet—Ed, wait a minute." Roy grabbed his arm and tugged him back down. "Hey. Were you ever planning to tell me about this?"
He shook his head, greasy bangs swaying forward to hide his face.
"Why not? If the feelings have stayed around this long. . . ."
"Why would I? You like women. And then there's Hawkeye. . . ."
The older man sighed. "There's a lot you don't know. First off, Riza and I broke up a few months ago."
"Oh. I thought—oh. I'm . . . sorry."
"No, don't be. We realized we made better friends and comrades than we did lovers, that's all. We still care for each other and we always will. Just . . . not in that way."
"Second. . . ." He sighed and studied his companion's downturned profile again, then let go of his arm and cupped the back of his head, stroking the edge of one ear with his thumb. "Let's just say you shouldn't go assuming things are hopeless until you have all the information."
Edward stared at him, then looked out across the yard, confusion and uncertainty playing across his features. His expression was still tired, but it had lost the dull, emotionless look that had worried the older man so much. Roy considered a moment, then tugged the smaller man against his chest, wrapping both arms around him and holding him tight. "And don't go doing something stupid like trying to kill yourself. Promise me that. Ed? I want your word. No matter what happens, you'll look for some other way to deal with it."
The young man in his arms was silent and still. Then a flesh arm slowly moved around his back, and a steel hand came to rest hesitantly on his shoulder. ". . . I promise."
He let out his breath in a relieved sigh. "Thank you. I'm going to hold you to that."
"Don't worry." The blond sighed, turning into his shoulder and finally relaxing against the taller man's chest. "I always keep my word."
"I know you do." Roy pulled Edward closer and let him settle into a more comfortable position against him. He actually fit rather nicely in his arms. "I know you do."