Title: Moments In Time
Rating: M - Just to be on the safe side. I might change it later though
Pairing: Roy/Older Al
word count: 3043
Series: Post FMA Brotherhood
Warnings: Spoilery, angst, boylove
Summary: Sometimes life takes you to places you never thought you would go. For Al, finding his place in the world turns out to be harder than he first thought. Thank you to my beta Jazz_trousers, you are awesome and thank you for all the help!
Disclaimer: I dont own FMA, nor will I ever
Roy Mustang: 34
Central City, Late Spring, 1920
I had been so engrossed in my work for so long that it had become my life, my sole duty that I had promised to the men and women who pledged their loyalty to me. I would never complain about it, nor would I want to. This was the choice I had made, and I would see it through to the bitter end, no matter what the cost. Because I was a man of my word, and nothing would stop me from reaching my goal. Not even myself.
I can't remember the last time I had laughed, been on a date, or the last time I looked up from the stacks of paperwork that never seemed to disappear from my desk. More and more I felt my personal life slipping through my fingers until all there was left was lines upon lines of black written type against the stark whiteness of new paper, the slightly acrid smell of the ink in my fountain pen, the need for me to always be on my toes and know everything, and still say nothing, to play the games of the powerful and paranoid and somehow still come out on top. I tried time and again to create new relationships, to keep me from slipping between the cracks of myself, and relationships they were, but not the ones I used to have. Intel and secrets and plots and mind games. That's the relationships I built these days. Gathering information, making sure I knew everything about everyone, because if I had that, then my last step to get to the top would finally be accomplished.
Recently, more days than not I would end up sleeping on the couch in my office. I even had a spare change of clothes in the bottom drawer of my locked desk, accompanied by a small kit that held little things that Hawkeye had retrieved from my apartment. A razor, shaving cream, toothpaste and a toothbrush, a little black comb and a small vial of cologne. There really wasn't much point in heading home to an empty house when my life had become these four walls.
I could see Hawkeye was starting to worry about me. She never had to say it, but I could see it in her eyes. You need to sleep, they would say when she came in my office door in the mornings- and it was painfully clear to both of us that I hadn't left the room all night. You need to eat too, said the fleeting sharp look at my food when once again I had forgotten to eat my meager lunch that I rarely ate, and even rarer tasted.
In order to get real sleep without dreams of long ago wars and the haunted faces of children grown too soon plaguing me in the silence of night, I had taken up a habit of slipping a little something into my coffee cup. It didn't happen every night, but enough for me to make a habit of it. I found with enough alcohol the dreams became fuzzy, far away and easy to forget once a too bright sun dawned on my face through the office windows.
Somehow, out of my sight, my life had become a house of ice, cold and distant from the world around me. Ironic for the almighty Flame Alchemist. General Olivier would probably get a kick out of that comment, and so she should, even I laughed when the thought had crossed my mind. A bitter laugh that sounded far too biting and cold for it to even be called one.
But I had a duty to see this through! I had made a promise to the people of this country that it wouldn't become the warmongering place it had come to be known as, and I'd be damned if I didn't keep that promise- but belatedly I realized what upholding it would take from me. Equivalent exchange worked outside of Alchemy as well, because it seemed that for my country to gain the life it so deserved, I saw more and more I would need to give mine up.
The closer I got to my goal, the less my eyes strayed from my path, the more I tried to get there, the less I became myself. It was a horrible circle of energy I had been swirling in, and the loneliness I felt made me feel hollowed out from the inside, like parts of me had been scooped away. Was this how the Elric brother's Sensei felt? I didn't know. I could barely even remember her name anymore. The faces of family and friends blurred together, like the smear of fresh ink on paper, each word bleeding into the next.
And where was Maes?! He was supposed to be here with me, helping to push me to the top, keeping me from losing myself with his easy laugh, kind sincerity and sharp intelligence. He always managed to do that. I was becoming resentful that he had left- ...left all too soon. Out of all of us, he deserved to die an old man in his bed the most, with the fruits of his life surrounding him when he took his final breath, not gunned down in cold blood, alone, with no one hearing the last whispered words he spoke. In a fit of rage I had taken the picture of him and I that sat on my desk and hurled it at the bookshelf, seeing the shards of glass shatter and fall to the ground, while the tears I refused to shed on the outside streamed in icy rivulets down my soul.
And then the great brothers Elric had returned to Central, reminding me of everything I used to be, and everything I now wasn't. I didn't want to see them. How could I, when I had fallen so very far from what I was? I had little choice in the matter though, because once an Elric, always an Elric, and no matter how old those two got, they would find trouble like a pig would find dirt.
Ed was the same as always, loud and brash and utterly abrasive, but there was a maturity in him now that he never used to have. And then Al…
Somehow, while I wasn't looking, he had turned into a man, with strong morals and convictions, a bright, easy laugh and an even easier smile, and before I knew it I was falling into those butterscotch eyes and wanting to curl up like a contented housecat.
With Ed, there was always the flash fire of standing to close to the sun, burned to a crisp with sharp words and sharper weaponry, but with Al… He set me on a burner, built me up to a slow rolling boil, set everything from warm to warmer and then hot.
The thought unsettled me. I had known him since a child, broken and searching desperately for the body he had so painfully lost. These were not thoughts that I should have been entertaining. At all. But with each meeting I had with him, I would forget about the psychological chess games that always were waiting for me, forget about the empty house with too little food in the fridge and feel a real smile on my lips that at first felt almost alien, because it had been so damned long ago that I had cracked one. I could be myself, and better yet, I felt more like myself when in his presence than I had in years.
Maybe since the day he had left.
Central City, Late Spring, 1920
It didn't take long for trouble to find us. Or maybe it found brother, and I was just in the right place at the right time. He does have a habit of getting caught up in these kinds of things. An Alchemist wanted to take us down, prove once and for all the Elric brothers were not as invincible as we somehow came to be known for. If only they knew the real story. Since brother had given up his gift it was me that did most of the fighting with Alchemy, although brother was able to land the final blow and render the Alchemist unconscious. Once the smoke cleared and the enemy brought to justice we once again found ourselves put up in hospital.
Winry had to be called from the small apartment she and brother were sharing to take a look at Ed's leg, it got smashed up with a piece of rubble from the wall of some building, and she showed up with worry on her face and a wrench in her hand, ready to hug him, kiss him and brain him all at the same time. My injuries were far less severe. A bruise here, a few stitches there. Nothing too bad.
Since it was an Alchemist that picked the fight it was the General that came to take our statements, and hot on his heels was the ever present and always practical Hawkeye that wrote everything down. Roy's face was shuttered, every bit the commander and chief his title needed him to be.
"And who threw the first punch again?" He asked.
Ed winced when Winry tightened one of the bolts on his ankle joint and shifted his position on the small hospital cot. "What, you think it was us or something? Fuck Mustang! I never even saw that asshole before tonight."
"It looked as though he knew you. He even recognized Al, and not many people know him to look at him."
"I think it was brother he recognized first."
Mustang gave me a quick smile that was too full of sadness to really be called one, then turned to brother. "Truthfully I'm a little amazed Fullmetal," He let Ed's old title slip past his lips with an upward curve of a lip, like the nostalgia of it all was what brought his smile back, "you're back less than a month and already I have paperwork on my desk in regards to an entire city block being demolished."
"I thought you told me you were going to stay out of trouble." Winry said, wielding her wrench dangerously close to brother's bandaged head. He ducked, just barely missing the offending tool.
"I tried to! This one wasn't my fault!" He pleaded with both parties. "You better put that in your report Mustang!"
Winry huffed and went back to work on his leg and Mustang surprisingly didn't go in for another jab. He just nodded slowly.
"If you remember anything more about the incident," Hawkeye said as she flipped her notebook closed, "call the office and we'll make sure to add it to the report. You two get better."
Mustang shrugged back into his long black jacket and part of me was sad to see him go. "Don't worry, we will." I told her, and held the door open for both of them. "Thanks for coming down to see us Roy." I added softly as he walked by.
"I'm glad I could. Rest up, I'll see you soon." He pressed a comforting hand on my shoulder and squeezed before he left. I closed the door and turned back to find brother giving me a curious look.
"Since when did you ever call Mustang by his first name?" I was about to reply when Winry saved the day. She put her tools down with an audible thump and crossed her arms across her chest.
"Alright Ed, I've tuned up what I can, I'm gonna need you to take off your pants so I can get to the rest of it.
"I swear you take too much pleasure bossing me around." He replied but there was so much warmth in his words and his face that it was easy to see it wasn't an insult. I took that as my cue to leave and left the room.
There was someone still in the halls this late, leaning on the wall opposite the door I just stepped out of. It took me a moment to realize it was Roy. Hawkeye was nowhere to be seen, and he looked shaken and weary, guilty and subdued beyond anything I had ever seen on his face before. Dark smudges were under his eyes and deep lines cut into the lines around his mouth. When he saw me he tried to school his face into that mask he always hid behind, the pleasant one, but it looked brittle and wan.
"Are you ok?" I asked, resting a hand on his shoulder in concern.
His smile faded, changing over into surprise and disbelief. "Am I ok? Al, you nearly died tonight. You should be concerned with yourself not me."
"I think I've proven my own ability of worrying about more than one person at a time."
"Yes. I guess you have." His eyes cut away from me, staring cold black against the almost white tile of the hospital hallway. He was still so tense, and the shoulder under my hand was hard as wood.
"Talk to me." I said softly, but still giving him the possibility of stepping away from the question. He sighed and ran a slightly scarred hand through his hair.
"You only just got your body back a few years ago, and because of my negligence it was almost taken away again, this time with your life as well. I should have taken better care of the situation. Given you a detail so that you could have been safer."
"Roy, you can't protect us every step of the way. Besides, I'm smart enough to get out of situations like that. You even told me so yourself if I so remember."
He smiled again, a vain attempt to cover the guilt he most assuredly felt. "I know you can. But I still feel responsible-"
I placed a hand on his mouth to still the words, and the sentence died on my fingers. His eyes were pleading with me, begging me without words to understand. The look pained me, more than I wanted to admit and I slid my hand from his mouth into his hair, smoothing down the black mess and marveling at its softness and trying to sooth away the tension in his shoulders.
It wasn't enough I realized, I wanted more than just the simple touch of camaraderie from him, more than the squeeze of a shoulder or a clap on the back. My hand slid down to cup his cheek, feeling the soft sandpapery feel of almost stubble, and he ever so slightly moved into it, closing his eyes in bliss and breathing deep into the side of my thumb.
His eyes flew open, like all of a sudden he remembered himself and grabbed my wrist.
"Al…" He said quietly. A warning if there ever was one. But I was done with foolish warnings, and to tell the truth, I'd never been that good at listening to them, it must be in the genes. I came closer, enough to feel his breath on my lips, the warmth of his body against mine. Anticipation, fear and the need to no longer be alone burned through me.
"Will you let me?" I whispered, just loud enough for it to reach his ears, the words tickling against his lips.
"I don't know if I should."
He hesitated, breath caught in his throat and he bit his lip, but he never moved away from me. "Do I really need to tell you all the reasons? I'm over ten years your senior, you should be with someone who can give you everything you could ever want, and I don't know if I can do that. You deserve the best Al, and I'm not the best choice you can make."
"Are those all your reasons?" I asked sadly, a tightness in my chest and a burn in the back of my eyes at the loss I could already feel. I knew I could walk away from him if I needed to, and I would be able to carry on, but I wanted – no I needed to know the answer. He looked at me again, and the tension in his body came back full force, as if he was holding himself back with every ounce of strength he had.
"And because if I kiss you I don't know if I'll be able to stop."
No words had ever had such an effect on me, and each syllable crashed into my soul, ringing in the silence of the empty hallway.
I kissed him. Right there in the middle of the Central Hospital Intensive Care hallway, with humming fluorescent lights, once upon a time white tiles, and the black night outside streaming broken shadows across our faces. For the first time in years that hole inside me wasn't gnawing away, and something right clicked into place. I felt like Roy had figured me out, broken me down, and remade me right then and there into something new, something treasured and special and only for him.
His concern for not being able to stop kissing me was actually unfounded worry. After a few soft kisses a hoarse, sharp clearing of a throat broke our hold on each other to find a night nurse that gave us a mischievous smile, then opened brother's door to check on his progress.
I'm sure Roy's face was as red as mine, but he rested his head against my shoulder in order to keep his embarrassment at being caught to himself. "You're brother's going to kill me."
I could see it now, brother actually losing it and finally trying to kill Roy for real at the possibility that he and I were something more than friends. I hesitated. "Tell you what, I'll deal with brother."
Roy lifted his head and his eyes narrowed in suspicion. "And what will I have to do for this thrilling bout of heroism?"
"I thought that would be obvious. You're going to take me out to dinner."
He laughed again, and left me with another soft kiss before he slipped away into the night.