Roy: I wasn't sure how effective my cover was when I was having difficulty maintaining it. Sitting behind my desk, I was supposed to be actually grading papers but my jittery nerves had made that impossible. So now, I was just pretending to grade papers and praying that no one that could see deeper than the surface would feel the need to peek into my classroom. My masks were failing me right now, but I was alone. I could force them up the minute I had company. My stomach churned with a strange mix of worry, shame, and lust, but I was doing my best to ignore it. When the knock sounded at the doorway, it startled me. Obviously, I had been expecting him, but apparently I had managed to get lost enough in my thoughts that it was a sharp intrusion. I forced myself to actually grade a paper as I replied, "Come on in." Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly, I echoed in my brain, mocking myself. The door creaked open slowly and I let my attention move toward the door. Shyly, he stuck his head into my classroom, as though to ask, 'Are you too busy right now?' I couldn't keep the smile off of my lips as I beckoned him into the room. He obeyed quietly, his backpack over one strong shoulder and his coat slung over the other arm. I tried hard not to completely lose it when he closed the door behind him. "Hey, Ed," I greeted. "What part of the paper was giving you trouble?" "…There are a few things," he told me as he slung his coat over a chair, set his backpack on the desk, and opened it. "I wrote them down in my notebook, 'cause I was pretty sure I wouldn't remember them again until I was staring at the paper and panicking," he added wryly as he dug through his bag. I assumed the notebook was the objective, since he hadn't had one out when he came into the room. When he moved his long blond braid to his other shoulder and began to flip through a notebook, what else could he have been looking for than the notes he'd mentioned. He approached my desk with a confident stride, but his less-than-confident demeanor seemed to mock the confidence in his step. Abruptly, he began to blush like a middle-school girl caught with a romance novel at reading time. "And this is the wrong notebook," he mumbled, hurrying to flip it closed. Of course, everyone knows that when someone closes something that makes them blush that way, it always seems to take forever for the book to close. Not for the person observing. I had to strain forward to sate my curiosity. Of course, what I glimpsed on the lineless page of what had to be a sketchbook only gave me more questions for my troubles. The sketch was sensual and provocative, a half-naked man wearing nothing more than a pair of jeans and a lusty gaze. Of course, the real kicker was that I recognized the man in the sketch. It was me. What in the hell does this mean?
Ed: I knew the moment he saw the sketch. His expression went blank as his masks shifted. Unfortunately for me, his blank mask always made me feel uncomfortable. Even more unfortunately for me, the heavy silence made me want to fill it. "I… I hope that you don't mind me drawing you… Your features are very striking and they make me want to draw them." I gave him a weak smile. "I'm infamously weak against the will of my muses." He remained silent. I imagined he was still trying to find the right words to address an incredibly surreal situation –I knew I was still struggling to! I decided to press a little more. "If it bothers you, I can try to stop…" "You say that like you have no choice, like you've been drawing me forever," he commented finally. "Oh, well, 'choice' and 'inspiration' are words I try not to use together in the same sentence, sensei. And it's not been forever, per say… just around three months or so. Since the beginning of the school year." I could have told him about the dreams, about my feelings, but I dismissed the notion out of hand. Even if there was a chance he did return my feelings (see: "ice cube's chance in hell"), I was still way too messed around by my past to view a 'normal' relationship with anything but contempt, which my failed relationship with Ross only reiterated. He nodded slowly, processing what I had said but thankfully unaware of the thoughts in my head. I think it had more to do with the fact he was still looking at the sketchbook than any clever way I might have masked it. "May I see them?" he asked me. I swallowed hard. My precious sketchbook was more like a diary than anything else I kept. Handing it to him was easy: the hard part soon followed. I wondered if I should have pulled some of them out and not let him see them. Still, I wanted to hand him an umbrella explanation for the collection of sketches. "I tried several things: changing expressions, clothes, poses… It helps me understand people better. More often than not, the way someone holds themselves or their body language or the expression you see for only an instant can tell you more about how someone truly feels than the words they have to say." I felt like I had said too much, so I just shut up and let him process it as he would. The attentive way his obsidian eyes lingered on each drawing made me feel a little uncomfortable. He went clear through the book slowly, looking at the images that weren't of him as well. It wasn't as though I could complain: I had basically handed the man the inner workings of my mind. To complain that it was too intimate would be a dead giveaway. "Hm. Slacks and a dress shirt, a suit, casual clothes, a tux, and a variety of shirtless poses," he mused, completely overlooking the drawings that hadn't been of him. "One could come to believe that you had a crush on me, Edward." Amusement danced in his eyes and I wanted to die. Oh, fuck me! If you ask him, he might, retorted the smart-ass voice in my head.
Roy: Teasing was in my nature. It might have been cruel to tease him this way, but I really couldn't help myself. Teasing him was almost imperative, and because I wanted him it was more severe than the way I might tease anyone else. In reality, his fixation on me as a model for his art probably had no bearing one way or the other. It was probably just his brain recognizing something he found beautiful –especially since there were images of his brother, Winry, some autumn leaves, a snow-covered landscape, and one of the young female teachers mixed in among the others. Yet I said the words because I wanted to see his visceral reaction to the insinuation. In reality, I really did want him to want me, but I knew that I could tell a lot just by observing his reactions. His blush was almost as charming as the stutter that followed. "C-clothing, expressions and poses are nothing but context!" he defended. "Whether or not what you implied is true is not the issue here." Unfortunately, such a charming reaction was drenched in ambiguity. He hadn't denied it –and there was a lot more information to glean from a denial than a non-answer. If I really wanted an answer, I would have to take a risk to find it, and I wasn't sure how much rope I could use before I actually managed to hang myself with it. He carefully pulled the sketchbook from my hands and retreated to the desk where he'd left his bag. I studied his profile as he looked through it once and swore under his breath before repeating his search from the other end of the stack. The next notebook he pulled out was presumably the correct one, the one that he'd written his questions in. He flipped through it, finding the exact page this time before even approaching my desk again. He looked over his own list of questions before looking at me. "Basically, it seems that I don't remember the difference between APA and MLA formats," he told me with a wry, charming honesty. I had to wonder: did he always make himself the butt of the joke? Where did that attitude come from?
Ed: He hadn't pressed me for something closer to a real answer. I was pretty sure he had been teasing me, but I didn't react well when teasing was too close to reality for me. I was glad I hadn't snapped at him, at least. Besides, he also hadn't forbid me to draw him, which would have been a lot harder for me than it sounded. Carefully and precisely, he explained the differences between MLA and APA to me all over again. At one point, he even went so far as to take over my notebook and draw a table to help me remember the parallels between the two. Of course, all I could focus on at that moment was his elegant yet neat handwriting and the way his hand moved at he wrote. I had just slid my notebook back into my backpack and zipped it, thinking about walking home alone, when I heard him say my name. "Ed?" "Yeah?" I returned. "How old are you?" he asked, eyeing me quizzically. My first reaction was shock, because he'd had me in his class for three months but hadn't asked it earlier. My second reaction was anger, since I assumed that –like always– the question was based on my height. Somehow, I managed to shove away the anger as it began to haze my vision in red. "I'm 18. What does it matter?" His jaw dropped in undisguised astonishment. "Are you serious? You're so bright and you're an outstanding student. Why, by all things holy, why are you a year behind?"
Roy: Golden eyes met my gaze, then suddenly seemed to became very interested in the pattern of the floor-tiles. Words didn't seem even cross his mind, because slowly, with unintentional sensuality, he pulled off his black gloves one by one and let them drop to the floor before shrugging out of his red hooded jacket. Beneath that, he wore a black tank-top that clung and stretched across the well-tone muscles of his abdomen. It was about then that I noticed his shoulder, where tanned skin joined with the silver gleam of metal. The contrast of skin and cloth and metal was incredibly striking. Next, he methodically removed his black boots and pushed up the legs of his black leather pants until they were over his knees. The contrast of his toned, tanned calf and his full-metal calf was astounding and astonishing. He had strange, almost futuristic-looking full-metal prosthetics that replaced his right arm and his left leg. "What happened to you?" I couldn't help but ask. He glanced up, those haunting golden eyes finding mine once more. "When I was fourteen, my family was driving home from a weekend trip to the beach. My father was driving and my mother was beside him in the passenger seat, navigating when he needed her to. My brother Alphonse and I were in the backseat, Al behind Mom and me behind Dad. It was about three in the morning –it had been a school vacation, and we were racing to get back home on Sunday so Al and I would be ready to return to school on Monday– and Mom had fallen asleep, as had Al. Dad started to fall asleep, drifting into on-coming traffic before I could wake him. "There was a car pulling out into the intersection and turning, coming straight at us. Dad was panicking, but there was nothing that he could do nothing. All I could do was unbuckle my seatbelt and use my body to protect Alphonse, curing myself around him as best I could." He took a moment to catch his breath, grimacing. "The collision crushed the car, killing Mom on impact and completely severing my arm and leg. Al was unhurt –at least I saved him that. Dad walked away from the accident without a scratch, but that was probably worse than anything. He couldn't deal with losing Mom: he completely fell apart. He heard her voice in his ear, saw her everywhere. Losing the love of his life drove him insane." His whole body trembled as he recalled it. "It was either commit him or let him kill himself. We had to supervise him constantly, because we couldn't put him in an institution until I turned 18. Well, I'm sure there was some way we could have managed it, but they would have taken Al from me. We're family and the only thing that either of us really had left was each other. I wasn't about to let anyone take him from me." My mind when completely blank and my body responded on instinct alone. I didn't even register standing or walking to him, but I pulled him into my arms, wishing so desperately to leech away what had to be four years full of pain. I was aware that it was impossible, really I was, but that didn't stop me from wishing that I could.
Ed: The words stopped coming when his arms wrapped around me. I wasn't sure why. Probably because my story seemed to hurt him as much as recounting it hurt me. The car crash had decimated my life and who I had believed myself to be. My notion of self and life were coming back together slowly, healing much like my arm and leg after what had felt like thousands of surgeries, a year of painful physical therapy, and the aches of body-parts that were now long gone. Someone had once said that pain was part of learning who you are, but sometimes it felt like pain defined my being. But I had overcome it, always. Because I had to. Because Al needed me. Because Dad needed me. Never because I wanted to or because I needed it: always for someone else. Yet it was like all of the strength leeched out of me when his arms wrapped around me. His need to comfort me, even years after all of the pain, broke the damn inside me and released all of the tears that I had the ability to release. My arms found their way around him as well as the tears began to overflow all the barriers I built for them. I cried for Alphonse and for myself, that we'd been orphaned by that accident even though our father's body had still been there. I wept for the pain of losing my limbs, for the endless surgeries, for the hours and hours of pain that came with one single session of physical therapy. Yet mostly, I found myself crying for the way that those strong arms felt around me, the heat of a body pressed against mine with no intention but to try to offer me comfort. It had been far too long since someone other than my brother, Winry, or Winry's cranky grandmother had just held me, with no ulterior motives or desires. But this man… Amazingly enough, though all I really knew about him was that he taught high school English and loved it, that he was an impeccable dresser, that he was incredibly attractive, and that he tended to mask whatever he was feeling, he comforted me by simply being there. He went out of his way to sooth me, his hand sliding up and down my back, his warm voice murmuring soft comforts into my ear. In his arms, I felt something that I hadn't felt for a long time: I felt like I was safe and protected. Somehow, I felt more loved and cared for than I had ever felt in the last four years from one simple hug. You are so in way over your head, kiddo, and you know it. Oh, shut the hell up, I returned. It may have been the truth, but I could pretend to be an ostrich with the best of them.
Roy: I knew this wasn't the time to dwell on the way he felt in my arms, but I honestly couldn't help myself. Holding him felt like coming him, like after years of wondering I had somehow found my way back. His tears soaked through my shirt as he sobbed silently. I didn't like that he was so quiet when he cried: it made me feel like he'd had a reason to hide his tears from someone close to him. After all that I knew he'd gone through, I didn't want to even contemplate what would have led to that particular habit. His trust in me seemed astounding. I honestly would never have sobbed into the arms of one of my high school teachers: I would never have trusted them enough. Maybe he felt it, too: that feeling of wholeness that came when he was in my arms. It was the only reason I could think of for him to do this. When his tears slowed and the sobs subsided some, he didn't withdraw from me. It surprised me, but I was okay with it. Even the strongest of people needed help from time to time, and sometimes, a hug was the best help one could receive. And holy Shiva, this boy was strong: he'd lost so much, yet he pulled through for the people who needed him. "Are you alright?" I inquired softly. Then I instantly regretted asking that question. Stupidest fucking thing you could have said, Roy, I chided myself harshly. Unaware of my instantaneous regret of the words that had escaped me, he nodded against my chest. "It feels good," he mumbled. "What does?" I asked gently. Well, curiosity may have killed the cat, but I'm not a feline. "To be held, just like this, by someone who's not just after sex," he replied wryly. "It's been a damn long time." There was something there, beneath what he said. Something dark. Something that worried me desperately. Something that might have been the reason he was so drawn to the innocence in a child. Okay, this time curiosity might kill me. Maybe I am a cat, after all. "What do you mean, Ed?" I prodded softly. My instincts practically screamed at me. I was damn sure not going to like the answer to this question. He laughed hollowly and refused to meet my gaze. Suddenly, I saw starkly that the reason this young man was as jaded as I was mirrored mine: he had been taught that trust was something to be broken over and over again by someone that he thought he could trust. But even I couldn't have imagined his story. "Alphonse is all that I have. I had to keep him with me. I couldn't let anyone take him from me. I looked for jobs first: really, I did. But a fifteen year old doesn't really have many options when he had no money to start with. So I did what a lot of people do when desperate times call for desperate measures: I went downtown and made the acquaintance of a woman named Amanda. The first thing she wanted was to see me naked. The way she nodded at me, as though noting every attribute, made me absolutely sick, but I had known what I was getting into." He gave me a crooked smile that horrified me in its emptiness. "I know firsthand that a lot of men will pay a lot of money to play with a broken toy. Some of them liked me because I was young, but most of them liked me because I was desperate enough that I let Manda disconnect the ports of my prosthetics." Wide, glassy eyes looked at me. "These prosthetics are attached to my nerve endings. To say that the pain is hellacious is the worst understatement that I have ever heard. It's pretty much the same as loosing the limbs all over again. And they did it to me over and over and over again." He gave me another vacant smile. "Desperation is an ugly thing, after all. I was absolutely disgusted by the whole situation, yet quite unable to escape it. I had to take care of Al, after all." I dragged him back against my chest and refused to let him go. "Damn it all, wasn't there someone you could have asked for help instead of taking all of that onto your shoulders?" I demanded gruffly. I hadn't even known him, yet I would have moved heaven and earth to help him, even taken him into my own home. No one should ever have their innocence torn away because of something as stupid as money! "Granny Pinaco, Winry's grandmother –you might have met her around September? She's my physical therapist. She and Winry make the kind of prosthesis I use and they do all the adjustments when I grow. Anyway, she noticed the tool marks on them, and she knew I wasn't stupid enough to do it myself. She figured it all out and she got me out of that life." This time, his weak smile had more life to it. "Apparently, I really scared her. She doesn't like to take her eyes off of me now. I know she's scared that I'll go back to that kind of life, but I… Just knowing that I have someone so close to me that would give anything to keep me safe keeps me from getting that desperate ever." His tears renewed themselves. All I could do was hold onto him and stroke his hair while I murmured unintelligible words of comfort in his ear. I was so glad that he had Winry's grandmother. The next time I saw the woman, I swore I would lift the small woman up and kiss her! In the meantime, all I could really do was let him cry until the tears dispersed once more. I knew too much about him to ever let him be alone again. The kid was stuck with me, no matter what. He nuzzled into me and I felt his lips brush against my chest. What in the hell…?