The idea of having a soulmate is that when you finally meet the one, you just know. Everything about them is just the perfect fit -- the perfect match from the way they move, talk, sound, smell, taste, and feel that there is no question whether or not you’re meant to be together because you just are. However, to make things easier -- or for Ed, a whole lot more of a pain in the ass -- fate has decided that once soulmates both become of age sometime during their 18th year, the name of their designated are tattooed on the inside of each other’s right wrists albeit only the two of them could see it. Not everyone has them, but there have been enough recorded cases that having a soulmate has been idealized and romanticized throughout Amestris, and perhaps the whole world.
For obvious reasons, Ed had forced himself to forget about the soulmates thing right after he lost Al's body together with half his limbs, including his right arm, to the gate when he was 11. Suddenly, he had his future planned for him and he didn’t have time to look for someone whose name he didn’t and wouldn't know. Perhaps, he thought, losing his arm meant that he just didn’t have one or that it didn’t matter if he had one because his life will be over once he sacrificed himself to get back Al’s body. He was a realist and did not lie to himself that everything will be alright.
Sometimes though, during nights when Al is feeling a little too uncomfortable in his metal suit of armor and needs to drown out the clanging noises with their voices, they get to talking about their future once they get their bodies back and if names would be inscribed in their wrists like they do in stories. Ed usually tries to dissuade the line of thought, or at least that line of thought in connection to himself. He tries to reason that they’ll never know until it happens anyway so why think about it now, but Al is a romantic with all is pocket books neatly lined up in the shelves in their room at Central so he talks and talks about how Ed will surely find a wonderful woman that will love him inspite of his height (“Who are you calling small?!) and how Al’s own soulmate will also have to like Ed despite of his height (“Goddamnit!”) because Ed’s his brother.
But overall, Ed has put the matter well at the back of his mind and it will have to be yanked out if it ever has to come out. There are all these adventures, arrays, mysteries, and promises that he has to go through, learn, solve, and fulfill and all of them are more worthy of his time than trying to find a soulmate that may or may not exist. Afterall, if they were in fact his soulmate, they would understand that it would be best that they stay away. Even when he sometimes found himself awake in bed and staring at the cracked walls wherever they’re staying at wishing for a brief, guilty moment that his back were a little bit warmer, he knew that he couldn’t inflict himself, his life, and all his problems to someone else. Even when, as he’d gotten older, the face of a stupidly admirable bastard kept popping up in his mind’s eye in just those moments he felt most vulnerable, he still didn’t give in to idea. He’s a fucked up little shit and he knew it.
That’s why when it all ended, when Al got his body back and Ed’s flesh arm was tingly and very much intact with a very familiar name written in incorrigible black on the inside of his wrist, he didn’t know exactly how to react. He was feeling exultant because he and Al just did what seemed almost like an impossible dream for so long but he wasn’t even able to savor it, his smile frozen and twitching at the corners with the hard pounding of his heart and the cool sweating of his palms that he can now feel on two hands. Anxiety gripped him as the truth of the matter sunk in slowly. What was at the back of his mind fought hard to be at the forefront with hesitant hope and a the promise of an impossible man with ‘Edward Elric’ newly marked on his wrist where, as Ed could guiltily testify, there was only blankness before.
Al was still looking shell-shocked in a good kind of way. With a relieved and somewhat dopey grin on his face as he took in his fully human body, he failed to notice the lacking enthusiasm from his brother. He gave out a startled laugh and Ed’s wide eyes fell on him, immediately tucking his right arm tightly at his side so that the name wouldn’t show, afraid that maybe the books were wrong and everyone would be able to see just who it is written there.
Letting out a shuddering breath, he shook himself and forced himself to temporarily forget about it and instead focus on the warm glow of happiness at seeing his brother as he was supposed to be albeit a bit too skinny. That could easily be remedied with a lot of good food starting with Winry’s apple pie.
When Al turned to look at him, Ed already had a gentle smile on his face which transformed into a fond grin when Al ran towards him and gave him a fierce hug that he could feel to his very bones.
“We did it!” Al exclaimed, voice wobbly in Ed’s ear and his hands clutching a little too tightly on his torn shirt.
“I know.” Ed replied in almost disbelief, clutching back and very, very thankful.
Soulmates could wait.
Roy Mustang waited impatiently for two of the most capable alchemists he knew-- one of them in his employ, for what it’s worth -- tapping a pen relentlessly on his tabletop. It has been two months since the news in the form of Alphonse’s letter arrived, telling them of the success of the brothers’ mission, the return of Al’s body and Ed’s arm, and their planned stay in Risembool for a while to, understandably, recuperate. But at the rate it was going, Roy doubted if they even planned to come back at all. With Ed having no urgent need of the military resources and with the military having lost its appeal if it ever had one for the short alchemist, he and his brother could have lost any compulsion to show up in his office even if it was just to give an official report in person when it could be done through mail.
Perhaps they would visit friends they inevitably made in their years as military dogs, but it didn’t give Roy a specific timeline.
He was getting impatient and his wrist had been itching. Part of it was very possibly because of the way he had been rubbing at the mark that had appeared on it a little more than 70 days ago. However, given how he had given up on it for almost a decade, he figured he could be excused. Given the name that appeared, it should be understandable.
Roy has always been a dreamer. Ever since he was young, he had seen the dirt underneath the glamour of being one of the most developed countries in the world. He had heard the cries of injustice over the boisterous noise of trade and the laughter of pot bellied dons. He had felt the cracking surface of the smiling faces who had to take care to keep smiling if they didn’t want the military looking at them a funny way. He has always been a dreamer because he thought he could do something about it.
He wanted to be a Fuhrer if only to change how the things were.
For that, he went into the institution he wished to change, became a soldier, and aimed for the tutelage of a powerful alchemist to be the dog of the military that would bite and bark his way to the top.
Along with his dreams of greatness, he had always looked on his wrist ever since he turned 18 hoping for a name to reveal someone who will be destined to stand at his side during what would undoubtedly be a long, arduous journey. For a man with a future like him, surely fate would have chosen a fitting partner.
When he turned 19 and his wrist remained blank even underneath the glove he started wearing, he figured he must have a soulmate that was younger and he had to wait for them to come of age.
At 20, when a lot of people his age accepted that they were just not one of the lucky ones, he looked on with certainty and a smile as Hughes showed off his invisible ink which he shared with the girl he just met at the local coffeeshop, chattering about meeting the love of his life and how Roy just have to believe that he too would find someone because mark or no mark, he was sure that Roy deserved to feel what he had been feeling since he met Gracia. .
At 21 Roy started sleeping around. Not as often as people like to gossip but just enough that if ever no name actually showed up, he was going to find someone regardless.
At 22 and at the height of the Ishvalan war, Roy only took people in bed for comfort and snapped his fingers to burn, burn, burn, wishing that he’d burn his own arm in the process so that he’ll never know the poor soul that would have to suffer having their soul connected to one that was charred black.
At 25, a war hero and a murderer, Roy Mustang was still a dreamer but he knew he would aim for the top as a lone dog who has risen above its master.
At 31 and for many years now, Roy had stopped checking his wrist, treating it as any old appendage despite the potential it once was viewed with. He was a bachelor with a few one night stands a year, a man who had very briefly considered Riza Hawkeye as a possible romantic interest with their kindred souls until he realized that he treasured their companionship too much, and a jaded military officer who looked at the Fullmetal Alchemist with barely restrained anger, concern, and appreciation, the unprecedented intensity of each each feeling baffling.
70 days ago, he understood why and it clicked.
Why it never appeared when he was 18.
Why it waited even after he turned 25.
Why it finally revealed itself when he was 31.
But after all those years believing that there was only one path for him, he was unsure of straying from where he had been going and to the road that just opened up for him.
It was tempting, very, like fiery gold eyes that look at him in defiance, like soft, yellow hair that he’d felt brush against his cheek one windy day at the training grounds, like a well-structured jaw resting on a cool, metal arm, and a well-toned body he fought to ignore even when covered in layers of loose fabric.
It was also very convincing like the rough grumble of a protest that would inevitably lead to a mission accomplished faster, a mind that looked at arrays and understood what each symbol stood for in seconds, and sarcastic remarks that backhanded compliments so hard they stung but are appreciated anyway.
However, Roy Mustang was a superior officer, a man twice as old, and a guardian who had watched Edward Elric grow into the man he was.
He had to wait.
He was impatient.
At three months, Roy was as frustrated as he’d ever been but feeling unworthy to be so, which made the whole thing even more frustrating.
“Are you alright, Sir?” Fuery asked hesitantly from his old station, possessive of it after it had been lost and reclaimed and braver to speak out about his concern for his boss.
Roy stopped his pacing. He took note of how Fuery asked about him specifically and not if there was anything wrong happening with the military in general which meant that his expressions must have revealed the more personal nature of his dilemma. With effort, he straightened his expression, released the slight bite he almost didn’t notice he had on his inner lip, and breathed out through his nose in a cathartic move.
From his peripheral, he could see Riza eyeing him critically, standing stiff with a sheaf of papers in front of her chest. From the lock of her jaw, he knew that he could not just brush this off even if it was Breda who called him out and not his ever reliable assistant.
“Actually…” he started “I’m heading out for a bit. Let me know if anything happens.”
Everyone let out a sigh of relief which Roy took as his cue to march out the door. He walked briskly through the busy corridors and down the many steps that led out to the plaza in Central which remained full of energy despite the dreary fall weather. Only when he’d passed through all the liveliness and into the more quiet parts of the city did he slow down and breathed deeply. He looked up at the heavy, slow-moving clouds and their aimlessness, feeling empathy with the way he felt with his current situation.
He continued walking, squinting up and mindlessly avoiding bumping the few who weren’t intimidated by his blue uniform.
A rumble. It was going to rain and now he was about to be useless as well.
Feeling a tad miserable, instead of rushing back to the office in a reasonable move, he found a bench at the sidewalk and sat languidly on it, his arms hanging off its back and his neck tilted upward and resting. His house was only a few blocks away now so he didn’t mind getting soaked. Maybe if he let it all come now, all the feelings and expectations and hopes that he had unwillingly cultivated would all wash away into the gutters never to come out because the odds are very much in favor of them never getting fulfilled.
White flashed against the lids of his closed eyes, the thunder deafening when it followed.
“-- I said oi!”
Roy blinked and was immediately blinded by another flash of lighting silhouetting a hunched figure towering over him.
When the strange dancing lights subsided and the figure turned into a very familiar man, he gasped. Roy’s heart thundered against his chest as the Ed’s voice rang in his ears.
“Bastard, what are you doing just sitting there? It’s about to rain!”
As he said that, the first heavy drop of water fell on Roy’s upturned face, its coolness rapidly warming on his skin. He wasn’t able to respond but Ed wasn’t having any of it, tugging on Roy’s wrist with his right hand.
This, more than anything, woke up Roy from whatever stupor he was in. He felt real fingers, uncovered by gloves, against his wrist which started tingling the same way it did the first time the name of the man in front of him appeared. Ed must have felt it too because there was a short moment when he faltered. Mullish as he ever was though, he just tightened his grip.
“Winry hasn’t finished her upgrade yet and my leg’s bitching at me so you better walk fast until we reach somewhere we can sit and has a roof.”
Ed’s voice was rough and forceful as usual but Roy could detect a slight tone of uncertainty that not even the increasing shush of the building rain could hide. He allowed himself to be tugged a couple more steps but when they reached a corner and Ed was moving in the wrong direction, he stopped and pulled back just enough to halt Ed’s steps but not to remove his hand on him.
“My house is this way.” Roy said gesturing with his head at the turn of the street to his right.
Ed’s eyes widened and Roy didn’t know what he was thinking right at that moment but there were a million thoughts running in his own head about what it could be.
The air was filled with static and Roy didn’t know if it was the rain…
...or because they were soulmates.
He inhaled sharply because there it was, acknowledged with the both of them standing in front of each other and deciding where to go.
Ed nodded stiffly. He began to let go of Roy to let him lead the way but Roy wasn’t about to just let him break contact so instead he grasped Ed’s hand tightly. “Follow me.” he said, unable to look back to see Ed’s reaction.
“Like I have any other choice.” Ed muttered with a shadow of his usual rebellious tone but he didn’t fight Roy’s hold on him.
They had escaped the worst of the rain when they reached Roy’s house but they were nonetheless sufficiently wet that they couldn’t get away without changing and not get sick.
“You’ve got clothes in there?” Roy asked, eyeing the bag on Ed’s shoulder.
“You can use the bathroom right over there.” he said, motioning at the door at the left of the spacious living room. “I’ll be changing upstairs. Just wait for me here when you finish.”
Roy pulled out a dry glove from his inner pocket and put it on. With a snap, the fire started in the fireplace.
“Show off,” He heard Ed accuse softly at his back. He smirked and sauntered up the stairs, momentarily forgetting the awkwardness between them at the reminder of their usual banter.
The clothes stuck to his skin, fighting to remain on but he managed to fight back well enough, not wanting to leave Ed alone for too long lest the man decided to leave. Bare and under the shower not unlike the rain outside but warmer and soothing, he tried not to imagine Ed naked in his downstairs bathroom. He swallowed hard and clenched his fists at his side because he had done a fine job ignoring whatever he felt for the man before and he would do just as well now.
He brought his right wrist up and studied it for the nth time since ‘Edward Elric’ found residence there in sharp cursive, making sure that it wouldn’t disappear with the water streaking on his wet skin.
Huffing, he resigned himself to facing this situation. He had been waiting months after all.
He dressed in another set of military uniform as he still had to go back to the office no matter what happens downstairs. With it, he wore all the dignity he could muster and a stone wall facade that no one should be able to breach easily.
He had sauntered going up but going down, his steps were measured and sure. He could hear the fire crackling and the random sound of things being shuffled and shoved against each other. Ed was probably fixing his bag.
He steeled himself as he reached the entryway that led to the living room before he turned and faced the man in the room.
He shouldn’t have bothered. The moment his eyes landed on the wet strands of loose hair draped and clinging on bared arms with Ed lounging comfortably in his black tank top and leather pants, he lost his breath and he felt his shoulders sag in defeat, making him lean against the doorframe.
“Ed…” he exhaled and the once insouciant form on the sofa immediately stiffened and turned to him.
Ed’s eyes were almost wild when they met his as if caught unprepared, unexpecting to be disturbed even when it should have been anticipated. That was, until Ed angrily collected himself, looked at the fire, and slouched back, softly mumbling something to himself.
Compared to Ed, he must have looked overdressed and uptight in his uniform but that didn’t matter because he’d almost always been this way in Ed’s presence and he should be used to it by now. Slowly, he made his way and sat on the armchair adjacent to the sofa.
“...Fluorine, Neon, Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminum…”
Roy blinked. “What…”
“Shut up!” Ed barked. “Just a bit more…Silicon, Phosphorous, Sulfur, Chlorine…”
“No really.” Roy deadpanned.
When he didn’t show any sign of starting a conversation any time soon, Roy decided to put things in his own hands.
“So…” he began.
Ed squawked from his seat. “What were you doing outside? Shouldn’t you be in your office?”
Roy paused. “ I should be,” he said, trying hard not to cringe and feel disappointed that maybe this conversation won’t be going where he thought it would go.
Ed squinted his eyes at him. “Why aren’t you then?”
Sighing, Roy rested his chin on the palm of his hand. Belatedly he realized that this put the name written on it right where Ed could see as sharp eyes flickered to them before nervously looking away.
“I was taking a break.”
“In the middle of the day?”
Ed scowled at him and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Roy couldn’t help but take it as the chance to actually look where the automail once was, gaze moving from the defined curve of the shoulder, the movement of the muscles at the biceps, the tucked in forearm, until it rest at the the curled hand and at the hidden wrist.
He wanted, needed to see it, regardless of how this whole thing ended up. He could not take his eyes away from it. “Why are you here, Edward?”
The name felt different on his lips. He’d said it countless times before in a myriad of different circumstances, but saying it for the first time in front of the man himself after having it inescapably tattooed by fate on his skin felt different-- like it was heavier and more powerful enough so that he had to bite his tongue afterwards.
Ed swallowed nervously in response, eyes also set on Roy’s wrist that was defiantly still in view.
“This is weird, isn’t?” he said still not tearing his eyes away from his name.
Roy hummed in acknowledgement, waiting for Ed to continue.
“You’re an old man and a bastard.”
Roy knew this and didn’t comment.
“I’m 18 and impulsive as fuck.”
A few seconds passed where Ed looked to be concentrating on phrasing the next words that would come out of his mouth. He rarely was this honest, especially about himself so it was understandable. Roy waited patiently.
“You don’t like me.”
“ What are y--” Roy started, startled into straightening in his seat but he was cut off by Ed’s louder voice and gold eyes meeting black.
“Not that way! Shut up and let me finish!”
“I-It doesn’t have to be romantic!” Ed stuttered out, words almost tripping in their haste to come out. Roy gritted his teeth. “I’ve read about this. I used to not to since I never thought I’d have to with the metal arm and all that. But now...There have been instances where s-soulmates chose to become good friends and be with other people instead.”
Roy, a man of politics and a professional bullshitter, fell into a rare moment of honest-to-god speechlessness as his jaw ached from the tension and his heart managed to cave in on itself all on its own. He had to discreetly bring his shoulders closer together just to be able to breathe through the sudden physical pain.
“And it’s not like I’m asking you to be a-a friend or something like that! But! We could...go on as per usual...is what I’m saying.”
Roy had been focusing so much on the top of Ed’s head that when the younger man actually looked up and met his eyes, the the clash of two intensities meeting woke up a thrumming in him. He wanted so much to keep looking, to pull the other man closer so that he could study all the burning flecks of gold, a fire he would also like to know, but he had to restrain himself. All the impatience he’d been feeling culminated to a trembling in his muscles as he yearned to give himself the chance.
But the chance wasn’t his to give.
“Is that what you want?” His throat was strained and it hurt to speak.
Ed didn’t make a sound as if mesmerized with what he was seeing on Roy’s face. Whatever it was, Roy hoped he kept on looking.
“You really are brat. A little shit.” he growled.
Blinking fast and rising to the bait, Ed stood up to try and loom over him with a practiced snarl.
“Who are you calling li----!”
“I like you. I might even love you.”
“...ttle.” What started out as a protest ended in a soft note of surprise and a warm flush of color on tan skin.
Roy reached out and brought Ed’s wrist in front of him, studying his name written in neat loops and flourishes.
“This really is weird, isn’t?” he asked. “I’m old and a bastard. You’re 18 and impulsive. A pain in the ass really,” he brought the wrist closer. Whispering to it, he closed his eyes. “But I like you that way.”
Roy brought Ed’s wrist to his lips and kissed it, his chapped lips scraping against the soft flesh. Ed made a choking sound.
Roy let go in and instead placed his hands palms down on his thighs in a show of submission and restraint. “I wouldn’t have done anything about it. You’re 13 years younger than me and you work for me. But here we are.” he said a little ruefully. “It’s still up to you.”
The silence that followed sounded noisy with the continued thumping in Roy’s ears, the seeming loudness of their breaths, the creaking of the leather of the sofa, the hush of the rain managing to penetrate the thick walls, and the sound of rubbing skin as Ed clenched and unclenched his hands.
Ed felt like he was balancing on a rail, feeling pulled to the front and pushed back by the laws of gravity and physics. Anytime, he could fall to any direction, and anywhere he lands would cost him something-- pain, doubts, regrets or time, commitment, and responsibilities he’s unsure he’d be able to fulfill, all paired with an unhealthy dose of insecurity.
Roy, his soulmate, was waiting for him to fall.
With a shout of frustration, he decided to stop making him do so.
Ed fell forward, his one wobbly knee keeping him on his feet while the other one rested just at the side of Roy’s left thigh. His hands gripped the arms of the chair and his forehead bumped painfully against Roy’s, their damp skin unable to protect them from the ‘thunk’ of skulls meeting.
They both grimaced.
“It doesn’t have to be romantic...” Ed insisted, glaring at Roy for old time’s sake. “...but i want it to be.”
Arms enveloped him and Ed found himself pulled to sit on Roy’s lap. He blushed, finding their position a bit too suggestive but Roy just rested his head on his shoulder, nuzzling his neck and breathing a sigh of relief. Slowly, Ed raised his arms to hug him back.
“Bastard, what now?” Ed asked, his body boneless in against the older man, the talk seeming to have zapped him of all his energy. Roy felt soft against him too, all the tension and nervousness having wrought their damage.
“First...I have to get back to the office.”
Ed pulled back, astonished. “What?!”
Roy chuckled, brushing away a wet strand that clung ridiculously at Ed’s warm cheek. He’d always wanted to do that. “I am about to be promoted and I can’t slack off now. Also…” he paused as he kissed the growing furrow on Ed’s forehead, earning him a smack on the head. “...I have to file a personal leave. I believe we have a lot of things to discuss.”
“...Yeah. Alright.” Ed agreed, pushing back and standing up. Indeed, even if they finally acknowledged being soulmates, that didn’t mean that there was nothing left to talk about. There was the matter of how they were going to go ahead with their...relationship. A high-ranking military officer in a romantic affair with a man almost half his age did have a lot of potential repercussions, which was one of the reasons why Ed found it difficult to accept their connection in the first place.
He felt nervous but...if Roy was willing to try…
“I’m coming with you.” Ed declared, reaching to get his jacket from his back and slipping it on.
“Oh? Finally filing that report?” Roy asked with a brow raised.
Ed shrugged. “That and I’m filing my resignation.”
Roy could not say that he was shocked but he wasn’t expecting to hear it just at that moment.
“You won’t be the boss of me anymore, and at least that would be one thing off our backs, yeah?”
Roy frowned. “If you’re only doing it because of that…”
Ed walked confidently to the door, slapping Roy’s arm as he passed. Roy followed silently behind.
“Nah. No offense but you know I was only using the military’s resources to help get my brother back. I’ve talked with Al and we’ll both be researching alchemy instead. It has a lot of applications outside of warfare and I’m sure we’ll earn money off it somehow. I’ll leave the politics to you.”
Roy chuckled behind him feeling a weight lift of his chest. “I understand.”
“And just so you know, just because I won’t be doing your work for you anymore doesn’t mean that you could take it easy. I still owe your stingy ass money and I won’t be the kind of asshole to forget a debt just because were p-partners now or something. Also, can I stay in your house? This trip was really sudden because Winry and Al wouldn’t get off my back about...”
Roy only had one umbrella so he and Ed had to huddle close and share but it was more than okay. Roy was warmer this way with Ed’s side firmly tucked against him and his sincere but embarrassed chatter drowning out the noise.