Part I of II
Ed collided with his chest. Roy’s arms came up automatically in a reflex to shelter. He stared down at the bright gold head beneath his chin; their dreams always started with some kind of physical contact, but this had a desperate, almost frantic edge to it. “Ed—” he started, but the man in his arms shook his head and tried to burrow against him. All Roy could do was hold him.
The dream landscape around them felt like Ishval, but the streets were darker, narrower. Buildings loomed in on them, and from all sides he could see shadowy figures marching. Off in the distance he could hear artillery.
“Ed . . . please,” he tried again.
Ed shook his head again, but gentler this time. “Sorry, I haven’t—haven’t been sleeping well.” He pulled back just enough to look up at him. “I know it’s been a while . . . missed you.”
Roy brushed the hair out of his face and cupped his cheek. Their dream-selves were influenced by their memories of each other, but bits and pieces of reality would seep in. The tension in Ed’s frame, the haunted look in his eyes, and the tightness around his mouth didn’t speak well of his current waking life. “Never mind that. Please—what’s happening? I know I can’t do anything—but—”
Once more Ed shook his head. “It’s all gone to shit,” he said, his eyes going unfocused. “It’s all gone to shit and we can’t do anything but run. Please, just—just—”
Just let me be away from it for a while.
Roy kissed his forehead, the bridge of his nose, under his eye. “I’ve got you,” he whispered. “Here, at least, I’ve got you.”
Ed crumpled against him, and Roy sank down with him to the dirty, dusty street on which they stood. Marching figures menaced but he ignored them—he knew how the dreams worked by now.
“I’m glad you’re not in the middle of this with us,” Ed muttered. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But I just—” he huffed a laugh. “I wish you could be here telling me what to do. You were always good at that.”
Roy closed his eyes, and held him tight. This brief, intermittent contact they had could be maddening. But he held that frustration inside and said, “You mean to tell me that after all those times in my office, you didn’t internalize anything? I seem to remember you did a fairly decent Colonel Bastard impression back in the day.”
Ed huffed again. “Knew about that, did you.”
“Discretion was not your forte.”
“Yeah. I had to learn to care about shit like that. I had to learn real well.” He sighed. Too bad I didn’t pick up your strategizing, though. You always seemed to be two steps ahead of everything.”
Roy smiled into his hair. “I think I can confess to you now that much of that was an illusion created by some very fast thinking. And that you have always been good at.”
Roy woke clutching his pillow.
As soon as he’d gathered his wits he flicked on the light and picked up the journal and pen he always kept by the bed.
How many journals had he filled? He’d stopped counting.
Once he was done recording the fragments he’d been able to glean tonight about the man who held the other half of his soul, he paused. He stared at the pages, trying to will them to mean something other than what his gut told him. Flipping back half a year, he went over the sequence of dreams, dread making a cold pit in his stomach with every page.
He set the journal aside and got up, heading for the kitchen to make himself coffee and wait for the day to start.