Pairing: Ed/Rose primarily, though in somewhat unorthodox manifestations. Hints of other pairings throughout (Including a few Roy/Ed scented jokes in this chapter)
Genre: Slight AU, Drama, Gen, Un-Romance
Warnings: Language, Violence, Non-graphic descriptions of sex between teenagers, Teen pregnancy, Mentions of rape
Summary: It's funny how such a huge mistake can be made so easily. Ed and Rose find themselves connected inextricably through a sin they share.
Other Notes: This fic has been on and off production for over two years, starting as a drabble to fill in a dare-like challenge, and quickly taking on a story of its own. Sprouting as it did from a drabble, this story is meant to flow as a singular piece, but noting the size it has grown to, I have cut it into three parts for the convenience of the reader.
Special thanks: To lady_tigerfish, my futa lover and incredibly tardy editor, tobu_ishi, who is an equally ADD beta reader and I love her all the same, and a third beta reader whose name escapes me and whose notes I seem to have lost at the moment, but she was also a tremendous help in revising this monster. If her LJ name is recalled, please to mentioning it here, so I may give proper credit. Any spelling errors remaining after their scouring of this fic are of my own doing.
Thanks to my F-List who encouraged me and laughed along with me at the silliness of all the time I spent on this.
Also, special thanks to the individual on fanficrants with whom I first jokingly pitched the crack theory "What if Ed was Rose's Babydaddy?", and who encouraged me to try to make that crack theory into a serious fic. I don't remember your name (it was two and a half years ago. WHUT!) but you are an inspiration. I salute you.
Without further ado (this was supposed to NOT take forever to introduce) I present my baby and petverse, "By Any Other Name".
Her first time was supposed to be with Cain, on their wedding night, the setting decked with flowers and bridal lace and all those fanciful trimmings, but very clearly that little fantasy hadn't gone quite as planned. As far as Rose knew, these things weren't done without a marriage, or at least a betrothal, and her former hopes for its magical occurrance had been enough to keep her hoping, helplessly romantic. It had always been safe fairy tale for a young woman to hold delicately close to her, or so she was lead to believe, the pleasant sounding idealism of 'giving herself' to her eternal one and only, never to be hurt or disappointed. Secretly, fear of giving in to sinful desires had eaten at her for as long as she had set those standards. Truth be told, this was almost exactly how she had feared it would take place. Rushed, uneasy, unstable, stupid.
Oh, stupid! It was so stupid of her- of them. It was irresponsible, it was sinful, it was all of those detestable things that she had feared becoming in straying from her steadfast path of chastity.
But at the very least... it hadn't been desperate. Edward wouldn't have stayed if her plea had been one that begged his presence out of pity; that wasn't his brand of compassion. She had simply asked him to stay. She listened, intrigued, horrified, saddened, to Alphonse's testimony of their lives, and she had taken his empty metal wrist, telling him to find his big brother, wherever he had walked off to, bring him back. The sun was setting, they needed to rest, they had just kicked up dust everywhere and made a mess of everything she had ever believed in; they at least owed her to stay for the night. They at least owed her a little more understanding, a little companionship while she sorted things out, before she could move on as she was. Equivalent exchange. All she wanted was someone to talk to.
More than just talking had taken place between herself and the elder Elric before she knew it, and it wasn't as though she didn't think about it; she thought the whole way through about what they were doing, from the moment when she thought it seemed appropriate to kiss him in a way of comfort, nothing more, to when he returned it and she supposed that even if he was human after all, he was wiser than she was and he probably knew what he was doing. And it wasn't until the encounter was over (Somewhat painful, somewhat awkward, somewhat... different from the gasping and blushing and sacred coupling she had always dreamt of) that she read the regret in his eyes.
They were level in their indiscretion. They were level in their remorse, as they lie, facing away from each other in her small bed. So funny how such a significant mistake had been so quick, so easy to take place; felt so right from the beginning. They each had excuses, lamely piled up for the lack of judgment, all of them weak against the fact that they were still responsible; that they had still sinned, against entirely different gods.
'Oh, God forgive me.' That was her plea, hitched on a repeating round to the darkness.
His mantra was near the same.
'Al, forgive me. Oh, please, let Al forgive me...'
They must have slept some; neither was sure. They were finally able to bring themselves to face each other again just before morning broke, all awkward smiles and broken attempts at beginning sentences. He looked away from her as she dressed, and she did the same for him, both feeling more childish than they had before they had done what they had always been told was a key measure of adulthood. She only peeked from the corner of her eye, to catch glimpses of the scar tissue blossoming out from beneath the plates of his automail, rooting out in to small white wisps against his tanned shoulders. There was something about the scars that made her heart ache even when she had tried to convince herself that he was a heretic; an enemy of her God. Even when she had feared him, she had seen the mar of flesh, desired to reach out and touch, kiss, bless, accept, forgive. The scars didn't look particularly painful. But the feeling about them was. She knew now, why they had given off such an eerie sense. Not because of the sin that had borne them, but because of the sinner's guilt that preserved their pain, long after the blood ceased to flow.
She offered to brush his hair.
He agreed, surprised and still a little shaken, but he sat obediently on the wooden chair beside her dresser and let her run her brush through the wild blond knots. It felt strangely normal, after encountering such unfamiliarity and not knowing what to do with it; they had avoided touching, retreating from the risk of confusing their mistake for some kind of romance. And yet, this simple platonic task felt so much more intimate. Simple and familiar.
His eyes felt heavy at the pleasant contact, light even strokes over his scalp, carefully avoiding his ears. They fluttered open again when she began talking.
"You're blessed, you know."
He made a sort of face at that term. It didn't translate contempt or anger at the implication of the word 'blessed' being applied to him, but more a vulnerable shadow of doubt- that if a higher power did exist, it certainly was not in the intent to extend any sort of salvation to him.
"Oh?" was all he said.
"To have him with you," She continued, gathering his smoothed hair in to three pieces, "Someone to always be with you. To constantly support you. To really love you. You two are so lucky to have eachother."
"Everybody has someone," He contested, having a hard time talking when he couldn't face her, as she was still braiding his hair, "I mean- like- with you, everyone in this town likes you, it seems. You have a home and a community. You're not all alone, at least."
Her fingers slowed as she shook her head,
"They're nice, but they don't... understand. When it came to being fooled, they knew just as little as I did... even less. How am I supposed to figure things out if I can't even trust the judgments of those who I've known my entire life?"
"You can figure things out on your own. You're not stupid, Rose. I know you're not. You just messed up once. We all do. It's just a matter of whether you keep going."
"On my own..." She repeated doubtfully, fixing a tie at the end of his braid, "But- is it so wrong? To need- to want to need somebody else?"
He almost answered that. Out of strict principle, he would have told her 'yes'. For the sake of rightness in a black and white sense, if what he had showed her could be construed as purely correct.
The world had been beyond black and white for a long time for him. Even if it hadn't been, it would have been impossible for him to truthfully tell her with any conviction at all that it was wrong to need someone; not while he still had any memory of what it was like to love Al. Or mother...
He smiled, a rarely seen soft and vulnerable smile.
For just that point in time, the world seemed suspiciously close to 'alright' for the first time in a long while.
They left without ceremony the next morning. No promises or long farewells, just a quick 'thanks and take care', and a ride hitched on a delivery truck. And then they were gone, before they could see the Cornello imposter return to the temple ruins, lifting the spirits of her people once again on false pretenses. And she watched, somberly, understanding now that there was little she could do to change the hearts of those who desired to live on in lies, but to live outside of those lies herself. She turned and walked away, knowing well that she was walking alone.
"Do you still think about her, Brother?" Al asked, out of the blue. Ed had to set his book down and roll on his side from the library table on which he was comfortably reclined (Having decided the chair was too boring a position to study in all the time).
"Who?" responded indicated brother, raising an eyebrow.
"Miss Rose. I know you were worried about her. That, and you two-..." The armor plating didn't need the ability to blush to illustrate the shy embarassment the trailed off sentence entailed. As much as the brothers tried not to keep secrets, there were some things that just couldn't come properly to words, even when they were understood.
Edward blushed enough for the both of them, as much as he tried to hide it, and he put up the best mask of normality as he could, scratching the side of his face with nervousness as he tried to make his response sound casual.
"Well... sometimes. That was a lot she had to get through, you know. But I think she can make it on her own without resorting to the mistakes we made. I'm sure she will..." The speech sounded stiff and starched, unnatural even if his sentiment had been sincere.
"Do you want to see her again?" Al asked. They both knew what the question truly meant.
'Do you love her, Brother?'
And although it had been a cheery sounding question, Ed sat up and somberly leaned toward his younger brother, pulling the armor shoulders towards his with one arm in the ghost of a hug.
"Maybe someday, when you're restored. Only then." He said. They both knew what this response meant.
'I'm sorry. I'll never put anyone before you again.'
There had been a time at which Rose, still idealistic and naiive, had held her own virginity at such a high value that she might have seen its early loss as a matter of relief when put in to perspective with what ensued.
Had she looked upon herself from outside, had she not understood it for what it was, she might have lamely tried to paint a picture of a bright side (A bright side! Imagine that!) that at least it had not been her first time they had taken.
There had been times when her entire view of the world had been built up with 'at least's. They were her defense, her excuse, her entire foundation of support for moving along with her life. At least Cain was still alive. At least she was still alive. At least the false priest had given them hope; had at least given money and sustenace, and-
There were no more at leasts, she decided finally, ashamed and abandoned, hidden in a ruined building away from sight, unfit for the rest of humanity to see, filthy and soiled in many ways. She almost wanted to scream at herself for how ridiculous it sounded when she first began to make excuses- 'At least Edward was my first. At least they never took that away.' It sounded childish and romantic, almost petty for her to even consider it. She had tried again, to make light excuses to be grateful for her lot- 'At least they didn't beat me too badly', 'At least they only held me for a few days', 'At least they didn't kill me...' At this she broke down and sobbed, pulling violently at her hair, punishing herself for even thinking that to be a blessing.
'At least I didn't die'? She wished she had.
There was no solace to be had. They made her worthless, and they left her to live with it. They used her, not as a woman, not as a human being- not even a living thing; just a hollow vessel, a statistic, a war tactic as old as cruelty itself. That was where they had hurt her. There was no permanence to the bruises on her arms, to the scrapes on her back or the blood on her thighs. They healed. They washed away.
She scarred by what they made of her- a whim of what they desired her to be. Nothing more than a thing to be used.
Nothing would have changed that, had they taken her first time or her hundredth; it wasnt sex. It wasn't her.
It was what they made her.
She was nothing.
She had nothing.
Not the courage to take her own life. Not a voice to speak of what had been done.
For a time, she even forgot that she had her own legs.
It wasn't uncommon among Roy Mustang's repertoire of remarks to give Edward grief about sexual inexperience, typically after a shot being made at the Colonel's own reputable lascivousness by the flustered young alchemist. 'Jealous' and 'virgin' made their niche in his verbal armory, right alongside though in lesser priority to the more oft heard 'small', 'loudmouthed' and 'irresponsible', and they became simply more nonsense accusations for Edward to weather through in their ceremonial banter. As such, it was not uncommon for Edward to grow flustered and weary and respond to such attacks with a short, sharp "Oh shut up, shit-colonel; you don't know anything!".
However on one such occasion of those words being spat out as usual while Edward pressed his forehead against the car window, there was a rift of sorts beneath it, noticable only on a delicate frequency, such that while Edward wasn't always the picture of emotional subtlety, he didn't need to wear a sign around his neck for the man in the seat in front of him to pick up that something else belied the too-quick objection. Though Edward's mind was an enigma in its own right, Mustang himself had been a young man not so long ago, and he could at least spot a bit of adolescent denial when he saw it.
Naturally, he smoothly ignored it.
And of course, the opportunity of investigation presented itself (or more, the Colonel, being a man of proaction siezed it) when an unusually irritated Edward picked up his lunch tray, complaining of the noise and inability to concentrate in the cafeteria. Roy subsequently declared his need to finish up some work before an afternoon conference and excused himself, insisting on Alphonse remaining to finish the conversation he had become engrossed in with Sergeant Major Fuery.
Like clockwork, Edward turned to the bootsteps behind him and inquired,
"Why the hell are you following me?"
"I too happen to find the enjoyment of cafeteria meatloaf is greatly enhanced in a quieter setting. We share some good tastes at least, Fullmetal. Care to join me in my office? I can't imagine you were planning to eat in a broom closet."
Edward being the genius he was, of course had not taken the time to think of where he had planned to move his meal, and now contemplated his predicament, finally responding with a simple "Tch."
And since this was not an obvious denial, it was taken as the closest entity to agreement.
Ed had settled with his tray clanking noisily on the coffee table in front of the comfortable black couch once they made it to Roy's office, and the Colonel himself, sensing impending unease, opted to lean against his desk on the opposite end and began to poke at the contents of his own tray. Not quite at peace with fulfilling perfectly typical requirements of conversation, he skipped over the subject of the day's weather to make some other unremarkable small-talk.
"Carrots. Can you believe they served steamed carrots with today's meal? It is practically a natural imperative that meat loaf be served with green beans. An odd culinary decision indeed."
"Hmph." Edward responded with notable disinterest around a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
Roy sighed. Edward was not an ideal subject for bush beating. Bluntness would probably be the most effective tactic, unbecoming as it was, but the young Elric did have a tendency for having the most excellent reactions at times, so...
"So, Fullmetal. You're not a virgin after all, are you?"
Edward promptly choked and spit mashed potatoes across his spot at the coffee table. The tremor was brief, but most wonderful to behold, in a rather cruelly humorous way, and it left Edward incriminatingly stiff and red in the face, avoiding eye contact for dear life. Just as expected. Roy smirked.
"Ah, then, who is the lucky lady?" he moved to ask, smiling satisfiedly to himself, "Or..." he paused to glare devilishly from the corner of his eye, "Man... perhaps?" Once again, Edward was expectedly jolted by this last small dig, enough at least to glare back and spit out,
"No thank you, it seems the honors have been done already," Mustang replied cooly, having a sip of iced tea, and he could feel Edward's eyes burning at having had his words twisted, but really, he had walked right in to that one, "You seem upset by the subject. Care to talk about it?"
Edward turned back and vented, stabbing his fork into the remains of his square of meat loaf,
"Not really. Especially not to you. Everything's a damn joke to you. Whatever I say, you'd never leave me alone about it; I just know."
He was taking this a little more seriously than anticipated. Mustang began to realize that this conversation would probably consist of more than the little proverbial nudge on the shoulder he had supposed it would be, if it became a conversation at all past this point.
"Is that so...?" He muttered, rethinking his plan of action, "Do you really think me so tactless?"
"You've had no problem mocking me on the subject up until now."
"I wish you would have a little more faith, Fullmetal. After all, do I make light of the purpose behind your having automail? Do I tease your brother for the way his body is? If it really does bother you personally, you just have to say it and I won't mention it."
Silence ensued for a moment.
"Are you certain you don't want to-"
"It doesn't matter anyway. It was a mistake."
"The first time often is, I'm afraid. I can assure you you aren't the first young person to rush into things."
"It's not the same! The rest of the world doesn't have what I do at stake! I shouldn't have even been thinking about...that in the first place!"
"Why so hard on yourself?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
Roy waited expectantly, summoning no answer in turn. Ed buried his face in his gloved palm,
"Ugh, you wouldn't get it," He growled exasperatedly, "I just... I don't have time. I don't have time and I don't have the right."
"Is this something to do with Alphonse?"
Edward's eyebrow twitched but he said nothing, resting his chin on his folded knuckles. Roy felt he was on to something.
"Honestly, you can't go around denying yourself things on his account. That's no way to live, even in apology. You don't deny yourself food just because he can't have it, do you?"
"That's completely different, and as a matter of fact, it was a really hard thing to deal with."
"Oh?" Roy raised an eyebrow in fascination and stepped towards the couch, testing the waters of a new proximity. The idea of an Edward who was not greatly enthusiastic about food was a curious one to say the least.
"While I was going through rehab- I was still really guilty about eating foods I liked. Took a whole year for Al and Winry to force me into them again. Sometimes I still-"
"You take everything so heavily."
"Not heavily enough, apparently. I never wanted to let down on the promises I made... to myself even. But I did on at least one..."
"What caused the rift in judgment then? Was it just your body getting the better of you? I would have thought you wer-"
"No, it wasn't that. I had control up until I... I almost decided to lose it." Ed's tone was growing softer, more brittle and grated and Roy had to lean in closer, now on the arm of the sofa, his lunch tray discarded upon his desk.
"And why was that?" he guided.
"It's stupid." Ed muttered, finding something awfully fascinating with the condensation on his juice glass.
"Whatever it is, I can assure you that I have heard worse."
Edward exhaled deeply, sliding his thumbs against one another, stewing over his response for what seemed like minutes, even hours, before he finally confessed, "I didn't want... I didn't want her to think I loved her... or anything like that..."
For a brief and rare shining moment, one Edward might have reveled in if he hadn't been preoccupied with avoiding eye contact, the Colonel found himself without words. That was... certainly not an expected answer. He sorted out his response, trying to make some sort of sense out of what he had been told.
"Fullmetal, you do realize that most women assume just the opposite when it comes to-"
"No- I mean, yes, yes I get that," Ed protested in broken retort, "But- it's just that. It's just we were talking, and that's all but for a second it seemed like she almost- really got everything... you know? Like she really understood... and- I don't know how many times I've ever been more scared, so-"
"So you slept with her to pretend there was nothing deeper?" Roy reiterated for clarity from what he could gather, plainly raising an eyebrow.
"I told you, it's just stupid and I was panicking, and- shit, why am I even telling you?" Ed retreated in the midst of his excuses, pressing his hands harder against his face as if that would make him disappear, "You wouldn't get it. Not at all."
"No, no..." Roy pressed, "I think I understand. You always have had a way of pushing others away from yourself at crucial points. Though I must admit, this is a new method to be sure." He ventured to take a seat, settling his hand on his chin and speaking again as the thought came to mind, "That mechanic of yours-"
"It wasn't her, so don't get any ideas." Ed snapped shortly.
"I assumed nothing." The Colonel responded holding his hands up in gesture of innocence, "I was just about to remark on how your interactions with her serve as an example to how you do that with most people. Even in small unimportant moments, I have seen the way she reaches out in vain. It must have been quite a slip for someone to get through to you. God knows I can't get there and probably never will. You even hold your brother at arms' length from time to time."
Edward looked markedly uncomfortable at this supposition and frowned, busying himself by forking a carrot and chewing off the end.
"Penitence is about more than just suffering alone, Edward," Mustang said, noting the way the Edward grimaced at the use of his given name, "More often than not, that kind of self punishment is only detrimental to your cause," He allowed a moment to observe Edward's reactions, trying to see if he was receptive in the least, "You may not want to accept this, but I understand the sentiment more than you know. I know better than to expect a full change from you, but... at least keep that in mind, if you ever feel threatened by someone else's good intentions."
For the first time in the conversation, Ed's eyes met his superior's, and a certain equilibrium was reached, even if only for a moment; an absorbtion of what was said, understanding, retreat, and acceptance. There might have even been a whisper of a smile, however microscopic, on Ed's part.
"And, if you must continue with any form of avoidance," Mustang continued smirking smugly, "Stick to fighting in my case, please. A sexual relationship would only hurt our careers."
The rug was pulled out from beneath what had almost been a 'moment' and Ed quickly reverted to the familiar territory of yelling irritably.
"Sick! You fucking perverted bastard!" Ed shoved his tray to the side for his host to clean up for himself and stamped towards the door, "God, I'm never talking to you again!"
Mustang calmly shuffled the trays and called towards his exiting guest,
"So I'll be seeing you again in a month as planned?"
"Very well. I shall harass you as usual and in return I expect no less. No one ever needs to know what we talked about."
It was something to think about. All he could really venture to see, spilling down her back, as she lie facing away from him, breaths small and hardly noticable.
He wondered if she was sleeping, or pretending.
It was almost pink, wasn't it? How was that possible? Or natural? Certainly he'd never seen that feature on anyone from Amestris.
What a dumb thought to have at a time like this.
Should be something important. Significant.
The only other thoughts readily available were floodgates of guilt that he wasn't sure he was quite ready to handle.
It wasn't a big deal, was it? People did these things all the time. Just a part of growing up. Just a risk everyone usually ends up taking, right? He didn't stray off the steady path he'd set for himself that often, did he? This was just one time; one little slip-up. Not even that great of an offense to his dedication.
Funny coincidence, her having pink hair. Was she born with it, or had she grown to fit her name?
No, that was silly. Names don't change biology.
Her name- Rose. Like the flower.
Maybe they changed a person inside, though. She wasn't quite weak, but she was...
She had fierce streaks within her; he could tell that much. Even in all her distress and confusion, those thorns were apparent.
'A rose by any other name...'
Damn... some sort of old novelist wrote that, didn't he? Now he was thinking literature. That was going to bug him until he remembered it...
Maybe if his name hadn't been Edward, he wouldn't have guarded his family so fiercely. That was a scary thought. And Alphonse-
Alphonse... Alphonse, Alphonse, Alphonse, oh God, Alphonse! What the hell was he thinking? He was supposed to be protecting Alphonse! He was supposed to be using his every waking breath for Alphonse. And now- this? Oh, he'd done it this time. A detour, but a dangerous one. Where the hell did he get the idea that he even had time for this? What had driven him to even... want it? What if this turned out to mean something? What if he made an commitment he'd never intended? No, no, no, no, no, he couldn't think about that!
Maybe it was just red...
On to Part 2