Fullmetal moves the same way asleep as he does awake: sharp, quick motions that are interspersed with stretches of near-deathly stillness, which are the closest he comes to pliable. When he has a nightmare, one of the truly bad ones, not even Alphonse can get close enough to wake him without risking a clip from the automail arm. Roy is used to that, and does not push his luck; even if they are an open secret, a bruised jaw would be more than he cares to explain.
It is the moments right after waking that things are strange, when Fullmetal’s yellow eyes open dark and misty. For a brief space, he’s only Edward, because Fullmetal is never so soft, and if Roy touches his shoulder, he will lean quietly back and relax. Roy has it timed down to the second. Sometimes he pulls away first, content to let the mood linger–other times he’ll remain, and let the argument that follows wake him up.
If he let himself question it, he might admit that it confuses him, in some obscure way, to see Edward completely soft-eyed and quiet. A man like Edward Elric, wounded so early and constantly in life, should always have an edge to him–the fact that it vanishes, even for a heartbeat, is strange to Roy. He prefers Fullmetal, awake and aware and sharp-tongued, over Edward, who moves slowly and never says anything. The Fullmetal Alchemist is not a separate entity from Edward Elric, like concealing gloves that may be put on and taken off at will–but Fullmetal is Edward completely in a way that is not true in reverse.
Tonight, there is a strange sort of stillness in the bedroom, which is still more Roy’s than anything shared. He walks from the bathroom on light feet, but is considerate enough to rest his weight against a squeaky spot on the floor. Fullmetal is seated on the edge of the bed, leaning back and resting his weight on his automail arm. His suit lies discarded in a messy heap on the ground, and his long hair is haphazardly combed free of its dress ponytail.
“It’s a father’s place to get maudlin on a night like this, Fullmetal,” Roy says, as he lays his towel across the head of a chair. “You should be happy tonight.”
The blond head tilts back, and for a moment, Roy feels as though he’s talking to Edward, not Fullmetal. For a moment, the distinction gives him pause–but no, there’s a glint in those yellow eyes and the younger man shrugs and straightens again. “What’re you talking about, Colonel? Of course I’m happy. Al’s finally gotten everything he deserves.”
A smile is in his voice, but it’s tinged with a strange melancholia that’s out of character for Fullmetal, even at the lowest point through the years. Roy frowns as he sits down on the opposite side of the bed. “Fullmetal?”
“I’m thinking, that’s all.” Fullmetal turns away slightly, and the line of his back is neither inviting nor repelling. On the sheets, his automail hand opens and closes, flexing like slow thought. “You know, when we were kids, Mom always thought I’d be the one who’d marry Winry. She used to tease me about it–but I always knew that Al would get there first.”
“Even that long ago?” Roy slides closer, and to his surprise, Fullmetal actually sways back a fraction, the line of his bare back warming the distance to Roy’s arm. “That’s early to be so certain of something.”
Fullmetal shrugs. “I know Al,” he says. “Even in that suit of armor, he never lost sight of other things. That’s how he’s always been, and Winry was never stupid enough to forget that.” He shifts his weight and leans forward, holding out both hands, turning them to face palms-up, then closes his fingers slowly. “Some things can’t be understood by thinking them out, so I lost my chances as they came.”
“All of them?” Roy asks quietly. The whole conversation feels awkward and strange to him, a dream that’s too solid to not be real. He’s halfway tempted to check the time, and see if perhaps it’s actually early morning, with the smell of Edward’s hair letting him imagine fanciful things. On a whim, he reaches out to warm flesh, and there’s the shock of it against his fingers, the smooth curve of Fullmetal’s left shoulder. “Are you so sure of that, Fullmetal?”
“Careful, Colonel.” He sees Fullmetal’s mouth twitch, and there’s that elusive smile, the one that even his brother’s new bride rarely sees. Fullmetal does not lean back, but a subtle tension leaves his shoulder; he no longer looks ready to spring off and disappear down the hall and out of the house. “I might start thinking you mean something.”
Roy himself smiles, a quick motion. “I always mean something, Fullmetal,” he says. “My meaning, however, may not always be what you think.”
Fullmetal snorts, but there’s less challenge than a certain dry amusement. The way he smiles is still oddly reminiscent of Edward alone, as though too wrapped in sleep to recognize the rest of the world. For a moment, Roy wants to say something more, to put his heel on this off-balance moment and end it there; instead, he remains perfectly still and waits.
At last Fullmetal reaches up, pulls Roy’s hand from his shoulder, and in the process their fingers tangle. Despite the differences in their heights, Fullmetal’s hands are broad and strong, almost the same size as Roy’s own. They do not clutch nor cling, and a single halfhearted tug could easily free Roy from their net.
Perhaps, he thinks, that’s why he remains.
“Besides,” Fullmetal says abruptly, and now his eyes are flashing awake and aware, “I was never interested in marrying a girl who knows how my arm and leg work better than I do. Do you know what she’d do to me, if we ever had a fight?” He effects a mock shudder, exaggerated in a sleepy sort of way. “Al can handle her; he’s better at dealing with girls.”
It earns him a chuckle from Roy, who rotates their linked hands idly from side to side. “Your fanclub will be crushed.”
“They’ll live,” Fullmetal says, with derisive finality. Like an afterthought, he tugs at Roy’s hand, pulling the other man forward, even as he leans back. “I’ll let you handle the more persistent ones.”
He leans his chin into soft gold hair; even clean and still slightly damp, it carries the smell of old blood and steel. “They don’t stand a chance,” he says, without any real heat or implication, but Fullmetal turns his head and raises an eyebrow regardless.
“It’s you saying things like that which worries me,” he says, and then drops gracelessly back, so that he settles against Roy’s chest, then closes his eyes. “Good night,” he adds, without moving, and goes still. Roy waits and counts the seconds until Fullmetal’s breathing smoothes out into the easy beats of sleep. Fullmetal’s head is heavy against his shoulder, and in his relaxed face is the shadowy precursor that will be Edward, in the morning.
Roy smiles, and shifts their weight.
“Good night,” he says.