Title: Progress, As Usual
Prompt Set: 100.4 (table HERE)
Prompt: 074 – right
Word Count: 1600
Summary: It was amazing how much could change in just five years.
Warnings: UST, language
Notes: Another fic fitting into the same universe as Wandering Kind. This one takes place shortly after Bridging the Gap, but can easily be read as a standalone. Again, an AU of the first anime, assuming Al got his body back and Ed still has his automail. Unbeta'd, so feel free to point out any glaring errors! ^^ I'll make a chronological masterlist for this universe in the morning.
ETA: There is now a masterlist for this universe, detailing the order of the fics within it. It can be found HERE.
Fullmetal's boots were on his desk, the young man himself relaxed into the chair across from where Roy sat, safe and blocked behind the desk.
"So, really," Ed was saying, "it isn't my fault at all that the embassy blew up, y'know? S'not like I chose for those terrorists to hole up in there, and what else could I have done? Nothing, that's what—"
He'd been spewing a steady stream of nonsense since plopping down in front of Roy. Roy nodded at random intervals and studied the dirt clumped in the crevices on the soles of Ed's boots.
"You agree, right?"
Roy's head snapped up. Ed was staring at him, patiently questioning. What was he supposed to be agreeing with? "Of course," Roy answered smoothly. It didn't occur to him that he should have asked Ed to repeat himself before agreeing until a pardoning form was being shoved in his face and Ed was saying, "So the ten thousand cenz debt is gone? Mustang, I kinda like you today!"
Well, shit. Roy, grumbling, grabbed the form and signed it. "General Mustang," he corrected. That ten thousand cenz would have to come from somewhere, he knew. He'd have to make a note to shift the budget…
"Whatever," Ed said flippantly. "You're still the same old bastard to me." There was almost a hint of fondness in his tone—Roy chose to ignore it, chose to focus his attention on the pen in his hand rather than the answering warmth spreading in his chest.
There was nothing pleasant about being called a bastard. He knew this. The trouble was that the rest of him, those stupid all-too-human parts, hadn't quite caught up to his mind.
Ed reached over and tugged the corner of the paper, eyeing Roy pointedly. "You're done signing it," he said. "Move your hand."
Huffing, Roy let Ed slide the form away. "You realize," he said, resting his chin on steepled fingers, "that you can't continue this."
Ed, distracted by the get-out-of-jail-free card in his hands, barely gave a Roy a glance. "What's that?"
"Edward," Roy sighed. "You've single-handedly drained the department budget down to a minimum—an all time minimum. And that's not even touching the damage you caused when we were still stationed East—"
"Okay, okay, look," Ed said, "you're lookin' at this all wrong. Sure, you're spending some extra money, but for the labor you're getting, it ain't half bad."
Roy was not impressed. "Fullmetal," he said, teeth grinding together. "Let it me put this in a way you can better understand—" Ed scowled. "If you continue to be a leech on the alchemy program, you'll be put up for review—and likely removed. No amount of talent surpasses the importance of balanced finances."
"Hakuro's on your ass again, isn't he?" Ed asked, and it was Roy's turn to scowl.
"Don't do it again," he said evasively. "Now go, out of my office. I have quite a bit to deal with now, thanks to someone."
"Well, let me know where the asshole is, and I'll knock him one for you!"
"Just go," Roy growled, brandishing his pen at Ed who, snickering, left the office, hands in his pockets and a grin on his face.
As soon as the door closed behind him, Roy put his face in his hands and muttered aloud, "This has got to stop."
Days like these, he missed Hughes the most.
"Cecilia," Havoc guessed, moving a pawn forward on the board. "Red hair? Big tits?"
"I told you," Roy said, moving his bishop to take the forsaken piece. "I'm not seeing anyone."
Havoc cussed and moved another pawn, this one away from the cluster of Roy's pieces. "You sure?"
"I think I would know."
"Well, you've just been off," Havoc said. "Kinda like—well, remember that time you were seeing that chick from West HQ? The secretary? And then you found out she had three kids?"
"I'd wiped it from my mind until this moment." Roy scowled. "What's your point?"
"You're doing it again," Havoc said, letting out a triumphant ha! when he managed to capture one of Roy's pawns. "You know, you get all—weirdly focused."
"Weirdly focused?" Roy echoed. "No, I don't believe I do know."
"You actually do your work," Havoc said shrewdly. "For one. And then you don't do anything else. You don't go out, you don't yell at Hayate when he chews on your office couch—"
"I always yell at that damn dog," Roy muttered. "Lieutenant, I believe you're mistaken."
"I'm not," Havoc insisted. "You're just not telling me what I'm not mistaken about!"
A moment of silence, then, "You've completely ceased making sense, you realize," and Havoc raked a hand through his hair, frustrated.
"I ran out of cigarettes," he admitted, then scowled at Roy's answering grin. "But that doesn't mean I'm wrong! Because I'm not."
"Your perception's been skewed by disproportionate nicotine intake," Roy assured him. "Why don't you run and get yourself a new pack?"
"You know," Havoc said, "that's really suspicious, chief."
"Fine," Roy said flatly, "then get back to work."
"Just kidding!" Havoc said quickly, jumping to his feet. "You know I was just kidding, right? Chief?"
"Work," Roy said. "Now."
If Havoc noticed he was distracted, then that meant the rest of his men had as well. Likely, they were all gossiping about Roy and whatever woman he was seeing—or was unable to see. The more he thought about, the darker his mood became, until finally he took to just seething behind his desk.
Every single problem he was currently facing in his life could, in one way or another, be traced back to Fullmetal. That he should find himself unable to think of anyone else wasn't that surprising.
The real trouble was in the fact that he didn’t want to think of anyone else.
He'd gone home that night to flip through his black book and read down a list of names he didn't care to remember. What was the point in calling a woman only to spend the night not thinking of her, Roy wanted to know. He wasn't one to lie to himself.
He just wished he was.
Tossing the book aside for the umpteenth time since he'd planted himself on the sofa with every intention of not moving until the next morning, Roy leaned his head back, tossing an arm over his eyes. It had to be late.
It was one of those nights that seemed to have no other purpose aside from being a disruption in the normal routine. The usual home, eat, read, bed wasn't doing it for him. Roy felt restless, too awake, driven to be out, to be somewhere.
Again, he looked at the book. Did it really matter? So long as he had someone with him, was it important who?
Of course it was. Scowling at the turn of his thoughts, Roy figured, fuck it, and got to his feet. It was midnight, and there was an entire world out his front door. No sense in driving himself out of his mind indoors.
The interesting thing about Central's downtown area was that it was an overall pleasant place to be at night. There was a park and there was a sidewalk and Roy could spend the entire night just walking, doing nothing but staring at the scenery. Once upon a time, of course, he wouldn't have been alone. Hughes enjoyed a nighttime walk just as much—
more so, really.
It was amazing how much could change in just five years.
"Oi! Mustang, is that you?"
Roy spun around at the sound of a familiar voice—"Fullmetal," he said, surprised. "What are you doing out so late?"
Ed huffed, hands shoved in his pockets as he jogged over. "Walkin'," he said. "What's it look like?"
"Standing," Roy said, just to be contrary. Ed rolled his eyes.
"What're you doing out here, then?" Ed snorted. "No date tonight?"
Something in Roy's stomach flopped, a sickening feeling dropping straight through the bottom. "No," he said honestly. "No date."
Strange, how just those two words could completely shift the atmosphere. Ed went from his usual blustering to something else, something new. He wouldn't meet Roy's eyes. "Too bad for you," Ed said.
"It doesn't bother me," Roy said, and meant it. "I haven't been out in months. Too much to do." He shrugged.
For a long moment, Ed just stood there, staring at Roy's feet. Then, "I don't have anything to do either. Got bored, listenin' to Al babbling at Winry on the phone."
"Ah," Roy said. "Isn't it fun, being the third wheel? I had to endure a lot of the when—Hughes got married." The name caught in his throat, and Roy blinked away the moment, the feel of something still raw being irritated.
"Yeah," Ed said. "I bet he was unbearable."
"He usually was."
There it was, after midnight, the city sleeping around them, and somehow they'd still managed to find each other. Roy almost wanted to laugh. But instead, he looked at the diner across the street, the waitress in the window pouring coffee for a late-night customer, and said, "Hungry?"
Ed looked confused. Then, following Roy's gaze, snorted. "Why not? S'not like I got anywhere to be."
Roy let Ed lead the way across the street, let the younger man, still a month shy of eighteen, hold the door for him, looking more amused than the moment called for.
Perhaps the night wouldn't be wasted after all.