[identity profile] tierfal.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] tierfallen
Title: Heartbeat
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Pairing: Roy/Ed
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 47,200 (12,300 this part)
Warnings: language; post-BH AU; emetophobic parties beware; depictions of anxiety and depression (including dark intrusive thoughts); very much unwanted touches
Summary: Ed makes the mistake of waiting on goddamn tenterhooks for something to change – and then, naturally, something does.
Author's Note: The last whining about post limits you'll see until… the next time I post fic. X'D


HEARTBEAT
PART 4 (2/2)

Miraculously, Roy seems to be significantly less shit at getting out of parking spots than at getting into them.  It’s good for Ed’s blood pressure, probably, but it hamstrings his hopes of poking more fun at Roy’s driving, so that’s sort of a mixed bag.

Roy walks him up to the front of his and Al’s apartment complex with one hand sort of hovering behind his back the whole time—low, near the small of it, like he’s about to reach out and tap the curve of Ed’s spine any second.

Only he doesn’t.  Just sort of—drops his hand to his side every time Ed turns a little and almost sees it raised there.

Which is a good thing, most likely.  Ed can’t quite tell if he’s actually sweating, or if it’s just the shuddering rhythm of the nerves rattling under his skin combined with the still-wet clothes, but he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s supposed to do at this point—does he invite Roy inside?  Or just upstairs?  Al’s almost definitely home, which is… well, a good thing, because it means nothing weird could happen even if Roy somehow mystically got the wrong idea of what Ed meant, but—does he expect that?  Does he want that?  Is the gesture important enough to follow through with?  Does it read as Fuck you, you’re gross if you don’t at least offer, or—?

“Well,” Roy says when they reach the door to the lobby, and Ed stands there racking his fucking brain for every scrap of social etiquette logic rule shit that might apply.  “I hope that wasn’t too excruciating.”

“Funny,” Ed says.  “I thought up ’til now that you were pretty good with words.”

Roy looks at him.

Ed looks back.

“Beg pardon?” Roy says.

“It wasn’t fucking excruciating at all,” Ed says.  “It was fun.”  That part came out easy—the rest sticks, and he has to swallow a couple times.  “It was really—nice.  It was a lot… a lot nicer than I thought it’d be.  I—liked it.  So—thanks.”

Roy’s smile starts out small and surprised, and then it breaks open into a giant, beaming grin that is so freaking lame

And really—cute, too, but that’s beside the point.

He shifts, and then he parts both arms a little, and his eyebrows rise—

“May I hug you?” he asks.

He is so lame.  He is so, so, so lame—

And Ed maybe kind of blinks at him for a second and then dives into that invitation before he can help himself—before there’s time to speak, or think, or second-guess, or wonder if anybody’s going to see.

And even though they’re both still extremely damp, and Roy smells a little bit like old moss and whatever sort of chemical thing they use to try to keep the fountain water clean, it’s just—

It’s fucking—

Great.

Roy’s chest is broad enough for Ed to press his cheek against, and his ear against Roy’s sternum lets the bastard’s heartbeat resonate right through both of them—and if it’s hard to tell if it speeds up in the first couple seconds after Ed slings both arms around his back.

Roy also smells a little bit like cologne—kind of sharp and just a sliver musky.  Ed’s gonna take a wild guess and assume it’s probably a fancy type, but whatever; he sort of likes it.  There’s not much of a chance to dwell on it, because Roy very gently lowers his head a little, and then he’s sort of—hiding his face in Ed’s hair, which is almost like—

Almost like pressing his lips against the top of Ed’s head.  Almost a kiss.  Almost something irrevocable.

And maybe, maybe, almost something good.

Al’s still the best hugger in Amestris, but he’s got some fucking competition here.  Roy holds Ed just tight enough that he doesn’t have a choice but to feel safe—ensconced, enveloped, with every slow breath that fills Roy’s chest pressing them just a little bit closer.

“Thank you,” Roy says, “for tonight.  I haven’t enjoyed a night out nearly so much in a very long time.”

Roy’s arms squeeze in around him gently just once, and then they loosen, and if Ed keeps clinging to Roy’s still-wet clothes, it’ll get weird, so he lets go.

Or he tries to—the automail doesn’t seem to want to fucking quit, and the fingers of it stay curled in the lapel of Roy’s coat even as they draw apart.

Roy’s hand brushes the side of his ribcage, and then it pauses, and then it ghosts up his chest, and Roy’s fingertips tuck his hair back behind his ear.  They smooth their way around the curve of it, and Ed’s whole face fucking tingles

And then they sweep down along the side of his neck and graze over where—

Verso—

Fucking—

Poisoned him with teeth and fucking tongue.

And a too-hot, half-humiliated flush stings Ed’s cheeks, but in the rush of it, a thought flicks to the forefront of his brain.

He has the power to change that.

Not fix it.  Not erase it.  Not expunge it.

But at least—at the very fucking least—to paper over it a little.  To offer himself a fucking alternative thought to hide in when he can’t run from that one anymore.

“Hey,” he says.  Somehow—by some fucking miracle of will and sightlines—he’s looking up into Roy’s stupid-gorgeous fucking eyes.  “Will you—”

He can fucking change it.  He can’t make it go away.  He can’t make it not have happened.  But he can make it less.

“Can you kiss me?” he asks.

Roy’s eyes widen, and his breath catches in his throat and then shudders back out slow.

He smiles, and the corners of his eyes crinkle up in that bowl-you-the-fuck-over way they do, and he lifts his hand and wraps it around Ed’s automail where it’s still fixed onto his shirt like a highly motivated insect.

A part of Ed wishes more than anything that he could feel that.

But a different part thinks it almost means more because he can’t.

Because Roy doesn’t care; because Roy doesn’t flinch away from cradling the insensible steel as gently as if it was fucking flesh and blood; because Roy—

“I am extremely confident,” Roy says, “that I can.  I think the question is whether I’d be able to stop before morning.”

“You’ve only got about another hour before I pass out standing up,” Ed says.  Constructing sentences is really fucking challenging with his pulse thundering through his ears like this.  “So I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem.”  He swallows.  “The problem…”

He swallows again.  And takes a breath.  And holds it.

And Roy fucking waits for him—quiet and soft-eyed and fucking receptive.

“The problem,” he forces out, “is—I don’t—know how.”

Roy has fucking mastered the unassuming, nonjudgemental, reassuring smile thing.  It’s good that the brass doesn’t know that; they’d tear him the fuck apart.

“It’s actually rather difficult to do poorly,” he says.

“I’m good at difficult,” Ed says.

“You’re also good at good,” Roy says.  He pauses, and his gaze darts to Ed’s mouth before it rises to his eyes again, and that makes him—fucking—shiver.  In a nice way, he thinks, but it’s hard to tell; it’s hard to know; so many of his goddamn systems are going wild all at once.  “It’s… it gets glorified as something sacred, and people let it get complicated, but at the core it’s really very simple.”  His hand lifts, and he slides the pad of his thumb over Ed’s cheekbone, and there’s fucking static electricity coursing in its wake—sizzling along the path of it; the trajectory tingle-burns— “Really I think the only important part is… close your eyes and don’t clench your jaw.”

“Right now?” Ed asks, sounding faint and vaguely stupid even to his own ears—what he can hear of his voice through his fucking heartbeat, anyway.

“When I kiss you,” Roy says.

“When’s that gonna be?” Ed asks.

Roy laughs, and either Ed’s high on pomegranates and ice cream, or the man is fucking magic, because somehow it doesn’t sound condescending.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Roy says.  He strokes Ed’s hair back again.  That seems like a weird fetish in the making.  “And whenever it looks like you’re not staring down a venomous snake and bracing yourself to get bitten.”

Fuck.

“I trust you,” Ed says, and maybe the words shake a little, or maybe that’s the whole fucking world.  “I do.  But it’s—this isn’t—it—”

“I wasn’t trying to criticize,” Roy says.  He seems to think that petting Ed’s hair is somehow going to stop Ed’s heart from banging right the fuck out of his chest.  It’s a nice idea, but Ed’s pretty sure those are entirely two different sets of nerves.  “I just don’t want you to go into this tensed up to hate it.”

“I’m not,” Ed says.  “This isn’t hate-tense; this is normal-tense.”

Roy looks at him.

He looks back.

“Relax,” Roy says.

“Oh, yes, sir,” Ed says.  “Right a-fucking-way, sir; I’ll just get on that.”

Roy’s eyes do the stupid crinkle thing again, and Ed’s insides twist, and wobble, and warm.

“Point taken,” Roy says.

“Just do it,” Ed says.  “You know how it goes with me and the fucking deep end.”

“I do,” Roy says.  “Are you sure?”

Ed glares at him.

Roy grins again.  “I know, I know.  Just—humor me.”

Ed’s heart is in his throat, and his guts are a writhing mess, and his head keeps going all light and floaty like it’s trying to get away, because it knows some bad shit’s coming.

But Roy’s obnoxiously sweet little smile keeps grounding him, and he’s tethered by the soft, soft, unobtrusive, tingle-trailing warmth of Roy’s fingertips threaded just a little ways into his hair, palm resting gently in against his cheek.

He may pass out, or explode, but that’s not the question Roy asked.

And the answer to that one is—

“I’m sure,” he says.  “I mean it.”

“All right, then,” Roy says—voice just above a whisper.

“All fuckin’ right,” Ed grinds out.

“Breathe,” Roy says.

“Fucking kiss me,” Ed says.

Roy half-laughs.  “All right, all right—all right.”  The pads of his thumbs graze down along Ed’s temples, and then both hands shift to cup his face on both sides, and that feels—good?  Foreign?  Terrifying?  Wonderful?  “Close your eyes.  Just for a second.”

Ed swallows.  His mouth is all fucking dry; his throat is worse—dry and sticky, chokingly arid and constricted all at once.  He fights in the deepest breath he can—the depth of which isn’t exactly worth writing home about—and looks up into Roy’s stupid, stupid, far-too-believable face.

The bastard’s going to charm the whole country with that stupid little smile.  They’ll never know what hit them.

Or maybe Roy won’t charm them with it, because he won’t ever share it.  Maybe this one—this specific one; this one in particular—is for Ed alone.

Ed drags another sliver of oxygen down through the wasteland behind his tongue, and he tilts his head back just a little and closes his eyes.

He feels fucking stupid for a second, standing there with his eyes shut, trying not to squeeze them tight enough to look like a kid playing hide-and-go-seek—or a kid playing hide-from-the-nightmares; hide-from-the-monsters; hide-from-the-truth.  Roy obviously hasn’t gone anywhere, since his hands are still laying against either side of Ed’s jaw, but—

It’s too bad they’re not out in the countryside, just this once.  There’d be actual crickets chirping in the sil—

A mouth—Roy Mustang’s fucking mouth—presses over his.

His first semi-conscious conclusion is just that it’s—warm.  Sort of strange.  But any sort of physical contact made fumbling around with your eyes closed probably would be, and it’s not bad-strange; just… odd.  Not nearly as fucking mystical as anybody made it out to be; his heart’s still beating fit to fucking burst, and the adrenaline coursing through him would be liable to kill a less habitually-reckless human being, but—

Roy parts his lips just slightly, and then there’s a give to it, and a slickness; their mouths don’t just shift together; they sort of—glide, but there’s still a little friction; and intermittently they fit perfectly before Roy changes the angle of it, and his mouth draws back and forth over Ed’s again.

It’s aimless and a little weird and not as wet as he’d sort of expected.  And—nice.  Close.  Undeniably fucking intimate and more than a touch surreal.

Roy’s kissing him.  Roy’s hands are cradling his face; they’re breathing in the same damn air—each other’s air, probably; that must be why his head’s gone light.  It has to do with the unwarranted recycling of gaseous molecules, not the way Roy’s fingertips trace through the wispy hairs just behind his ear while Roy’s mouth caresses his, and the darkness makes it just that much more imminent—just that much more intense—

All he has, in this moment, is his heartbeat and the mingling heat of their bodies and the rasp of his breath and the impossible soft-weight of Roy’s mouth.

And it’s good.

It’s good.

It doesn’t even really make sense—mashing your mouth against another person’s shouldn’t have an emotional impact; there’s something terribly fucking wrong with the whole of humanity, probably.  They’ve assigned so much meaning to this lip-meeting business that they’re all brainwashed; it’s ingrained in the whole species’ collective psyche that kissing someone should feel pleasurable and a little bit thrilling.

And it fucking does.

Ed hesitates and then tries to open his mouth just a fraction like Roy did—and it gets a little wetter at that point, as their mouths slide against each other, and sparks fly in his tormented brain as he tastes the inside of Roy’s lip.  That’s just—incredibly fucking personal; practically forbidden; that’s so far beyond the pale of platonic that it just fucking blows Ed’s mind a little bit—

And there’s just a touch of lingering sweetness from the milkshake, and that explodes the last little bastion of reason inside his spinning skull.

He hasn’t yet determined whether he’s stayed on the same planet or filtered through into a different universe by the time the heat of Roy’s mouth over his unseals and draws away.  Part of him’s not sure he wants to open his eyes—what the fuck might Roy be thinking?  That can’t have been any good for him, can it?—but instinct overpowers him, and he blinks until the weak light resolves into shadows, and the door beside him, and Roy.

Roy looks a little bit startled, and a lot fucking pleased.

Maybe Ed didn’t suck too much after all.

“Well, then,” Roy says, ever-so-slightly—too fast.  Too faint.  Almost—breathlessly.  “How was that?”

Ed swallows several of the things he could say, and also a nettly ball of nerves.  “You know all those rumors about you in the secretarial pool and shit?”

“No,” Roy says, starting to grin, the bastard.  “Sounds salacious.  Are they any good?”

“Yeah,” Ed says.  “Fucking legendary.”  He tries really hard to glare, but he’s not sure it’s working.  “And they don’t do you justice.”

Roy’s eyes glimmer.

And then he’s leaning in, and then he’s kissing Ed again, and it’s only natural to let his eyes slip shut—and this one’s deeper, harder, hotter—it resonates through him, trills down his back like tapping a xylophone hammer on the sections of his spine—sharp, sweet, impeccably precise—

And he shivers, and it’s all his stupid body’s stupid instincts—nothing to do with him; nothing anyone can prove—

Maybe he pushes himself up on his tiptoes just a bit to get a little more.

Roy draws back, and his breath is definitely coming fast this time, and that’s—Ed’s fault.  Ed’s doing.  Ed did that, caused that, made him feel that way.  Just by existing.  Well—existing and offering his mouth and shit.

That is fucking heady as all hell.

So is the heretofore unthinkable cast of pink in Roy’s cheeks.

This can’t possibly be happening, can it?  Any of it.

“You’re blushing,” Ed’s voice says, because apparently stating the obvious is part of this date gig now.

“Preposterous,” Roy says, and the rosy dusting along his cheekbones darkens, apparently just to spite him.  “I’m not even capable.”

Ed shouldn’t; he shouldn’t fucking dare

He reaches up, slowly, giving Roy ample opportunity to pull away, and touches the fingertips of his left hand to Roy’s traitor cheek.

“Uh huh,” he says.

“It’s just the cold,” Roy says, grinning broadly, and feeling the muscles in his face stretch is—weird.  Wonderful.  A swirl of both.  “In fact, you know—” Roy’s hand rises—just as cautiously as Ed’s did, maybe more—and lays it over Ed’s.  It’s fucking bizarre how well they fit together, how well Roy’s fingers wrap around and over his, how warm that is even when they’re still standing out here like a pair of morons in the dark.  “After the little jaunt we had in all that water—”

“Your idea,” Ed says.

“Conceded without contest,” Roy says, squeezing his hand and then releasing it so he can lower it again.  “But if I catch cold and tragically have to stay home Monday, I will leave Captain Hawkeye to an unconquerable pile of paperwork, and I’m not sure I will live to see Tuesday night.”

Ed is ninety percent sure Roy just said he should probably go now, but he errs on the side of noncommittal banter just to be safe.  “Yeah, I can think of funner ways to die.  Lots of them.”

“Billions,” Roy says.  “A vast universe of much more enjoyable invitations to self-destruction.”

Ed blinks at him.

“I’m worse when I’m nervous,” Roy says.  “They just come out like that.”

“You’re blushing again,” Ed says.

“I am not,” Roy says.

“Liar,” Ed says.  He gestures stupidly towards the door.  “So… yeah.  Guess this is g’night.”

“I guess so,” Roy says softly, and if he doesn’t stop smiling soon, he’s going to strain something.  “Goodnight, Edward.”  What a bastard.  “Thank you.”

“For what?” Ed says.  “You paid for all the expensive stuff.”

“For giving it a chance,” Roy says.  “For giving me a chance.”

Ed…

Has the guts to do this.  He does.  And he’s going to summon them or die trying.

“I’m not sure one chance was enough to gather data,” he says.  “So—y’know.  Maybe we should—do this again sometime.”

Roy is seriously going to hurt his face, and that is going to be a fucking shame.

“Ah, yes,” he says.  “For data.”

“Right,” Ed says.

“I think that’s a fine idea,” Roy says.

There’s a chance Ed’ll be in the hospital right next to him with a pulled cheek muscle or some shit.  “Okay.  Cool.”

“Excellent,” Roy says.  “Goodnight, Ed.”

“G’night,” Ed says again.  This is worse than trying to hang up the phone with Al.  “Drive safe.  If that’s even possible.”

Roy mimes a sword through the heart and then directs his pantomime stagger into a regular saunter back down the path.  He pauses at the sidewalk to wave.

Ed waves back.

This is so fucking stupid.

He feels like he just topped a mountain nobody’s ever seen the peak of before.

That wild, heart-pounding, adrenalized elation buoys him all the way back up to his and Al’s door.

His keys don’t seem to want to lie still in his fucking palm long enough for him to sort through them—why the hell does he have so many?  They’re clinking like mad against the automail even with the damp-ass glove still stretched out in between; he’s jittery enough without adding in weird auditory stimuli—

Shitfuckdamn, he’s got to get a grip.  He’s the Fullmetal fucking Alchemist.  He can handle keys.  All he has to do is stop thinking about the awful-wonderful flash of Roy’s grin in the stupid moonlight for two fucking seconds, and he’ll be fine.

He takes a deep breath—he’s long since lost count of how many of those this night required, but at least his lungs still seem to be working, and the motion alone still seems to carry some weight.  It steadies him enough that he can finally get his fucking fingers around the base of the apartment key, and then he fits it into the lock, and turns it, and—

“Brother!” Al calls from the living room—and then there’s a scuffing sound, followed by three footsteps, a squeak, and a colossal thump.

“Al!” Ed says, scrambling towards the source of it so fast his still-wet boot treads squeal shrilly on the hardwood.  “Are you—”

“Fine!” Al says, leaping to his feet right as Ed swings around the corner.  “I’m fine!”  He attempts to dust himself off while intently searching Ed’s face.  “How was it?”

“You sure you’re okay?” Ed says, pausing with his left arm half-outstretched.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Al says, faking a casual lean against the wall to demonstrate how okay he is.  “How was it?”

Ed takes a breath.

And tries not to smile too hard.

And manages, “It was—good.  Really good.  I was—I mean, I wasn’t expecting that.”

Al’s smile goes a little lopsided.  “You usually don’t expect good things, Brother.”  Then it tilts back to rights, and it widens, and it gets blinding.  “Oh, my gosh.  He kissed you, didn’t he?”

Ed’s face ignites.  “Why the hell would you think—that?”

“Because you look like there’s something you want to tell me,” Al says, “and also something you really don’t want me to have to hear.”

Ed gives his face up for lost.  Maybe ash is in this season.  Not that he’s ever given a flying, swimming, or ambulatory fuck what’s in during any season, but hey.  “Well—jeez, Al.”

“Jeez yourself,” Al says delightedly.  In another second he’s going to clasp his hands underneath his chin; Ed knows him.  “How was it?  Was it okay?”

The ash left over is going to catch fire, at this rate.  “I, uh—yeah.  It was—yeah.”

Al’s eyes light up so brightly that Ed almost doesn’t mind surrendering his face and possibly the rest of his body to the cataclysmic blaze.  And then—unsurprisingly—Al is flinging both arms around him and hugging him tightly, and that makes up for just about everything the world’s ever done wrong.

“I’m so happy for you, Brother!” Al says.  “That’s so wonderful, and he’s so wonderful, and I don’t have to murder him, and you look happy for the first time in—gosh, I don’t know, a while, heck—and…”  He pauses in squeezing the life out of Ed long enough to pat Ed’s back a little.  Then he pats Ed’s shoulders, and then he draws back to pat Ed’s chest.  “…and why are you all wet?”

“Long story,” Ed says.

“Well, why don’t you put on some dry clothes,” Al says, “and I’ll put on some tea, and you can sit your butt down and tell me all about it.”  His face falls suddenly—instantly replaced by an expression so stricken that Ed instinctively grabs onto his arm.  “I mean—if you want to.  You don’t have to, obviously.  If it’s private, or you just would rather n—”

“Put the water on,” Ed says.  “You got anything that’ll stop me from being so fucking wired, so I can actually sleep tonight?”

The grin returns, immense and triumphant, like a focused sunbeam.  “Do I.  What do you think I am, Brother, some kind of tea amateur?”

“I think you’re a nerd,” Ed says, fake-punching his arm and then stepping past him to start down the hall.  “Which is exactly how I like you.”

“Just for that,” Al says, “I expect all the gory details.”

Ed’s heart’s still tripping over itself, and he can’t be sure that all the violent blushing hasn’t done any permanent damage to his blood vessels, and there’s still a shitty little sting of reminiscence low on his neck where Verso touched him first.

But his cheeks kind of ache from all the smiling, and Al’s humming while he clangs around with the kettle, and Roy never once asked too much or pushed too far.  He hadn’t really dared to hope for that.

Maybe the balance is shifting at long, long fucking last.

Maybe it’s safe now to daydream about feeling all right.

And maybe’s a hell of a lot better than nothing.


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