Series: Brotherhood/the manga
Word Count: 2,334
Summary: There are no goodbyes.
Warnings: some language, sexual references, Ling being… well, Ling, a bit of sap.
Notes: They made me do it. *LOL*
“You’re really terrible at this whole ‘convalescing’ thing, you know? Can’t even stay indoors when you should.”
The heavily-accented words roll smoothly off a rather talented tongue (Ed knows quite well at this point just what that tongue is capable of), and just the sound of his voice makes Ed’s insides seize up—no point in hoping, but what is the use of hoping when it isn’t necessary, when there’s solid proof that he is here, just behind him?
He doesn’t look over his shoulder even though he aches to do just that, to confirm that he isn’t suffering from some auditory hallucination (he and whatever the hell they gave him for pain don’t get along so well, after all) or worse yet, dreaming. Instead, he swallows past the sudden lump in his throat and replies, “They’ve given me permission to come out here, to look at the flowers. Fresh air and all. Al’s taking a nap anyway.” All in all, he sounds very casual, very laid-back, very nonchalant.
It’s all a charade, though: his stomach is in all sorts of complicated knots, and Ling is still standing behind him, waiting and doing that weird-ass slow-breathing thing. Well, at least he isn’t the only one who’s a bundle of nerves right now.
Ed wants to tell Ling to have a seat on the small bench beside him—not much room, but that’s okay, because they’ve been much closer before, with nothing but skin and heat between them.
Instead, he says this: “Figured you’d be halfway to Xing by now, since you’ve got important business to attend to.” He says it without a hint of accusation, and says it without a hint of bitterness; there’s no room for either of those things… not here, and not now.
Ling draws a breath, as if to reply, but Ed’s not finished yet. He has to ask (because he’s stupid, because he’s uncertain, because he just wants to hear Ling say it, and because even though he had a part in rebuilding their world, part of it is crumbling under his feet right now), and so he does. “What’re you doing here, anyway?”
Ling moves to fill the empty space beside him and they are shoulder-to-shoulder when Ling replies: “I am here because I wanted to see you.” Simple. Direct. Effective.
Ed glances sidelong at the prince, who looks more than a little tired and worn-down; he fervently hopes that Ling will have the opportunity to sleep for about fifty years (give or take a few of those said years) when he arrives home. Leave it up to Ling, however, to somehow manage to look amazing even when he looks like absolute hell.
“You look like shit,” Ed informs, smiling weakly.
Ling rolls his eyes. “You look quite dashing as well, Ed,” he replies before lifting a hand to push fingers through Ed’s hair, tangling them in his messily-done braid. Those fingers against Ed’s scalp feel very nice, and Ed leans into the contact.
“So I’m kind of under the impression that I’m either hallucinating, or dreaming,” Ed tells Ling, perhaps for no other reason than to delay the inevitable. “I really didn’t think you’d come find me here, and--”
He is interrupted by a sharp pinch to the side, and he yelps and jerks away, nearly toppling off the end of the bench in the process. He narrows his eyes at Ling, and then pinches him right back, because fair is fair (or something like that).
“What the hell was that for?” he demands to know immediately thereafter, his scowl still very-much present on his face.
Ling laughs while he rubs at his own side, where Ed pinched him in retaliation. “I thought it was something you do when someone thinks they’re dreaming? You pinch them so they’ll know that they aren’t dreaming.”
“Coulda did something better than pinching,” Ed grumbles. “Sheesh, are you sure Greed isn’t still in there somewhere? Or have you just picked up some of his jackass-ishness?”
Ling’s smile isn’t a full one; his eyes betray him, too: his heart is heavy with the weight of loss, and Ed immediately feels a pang of regret for even mentioning that damned homunculus. He wants to say, sorry, but the word gets stuck in his throat, but it’s okay, because the apology proves to be unnecessary when the prince says: “I might’ve picked up a thing or two.” His smile widens a little, into something much more familiar, something much more like him, and then he leans in close.
There is something akin to a conspiring look in his eyes (this, too, is familiar). “I suppose I could have done something like this instead,” he tells Ed, before leaning in even further and closing the distance between them, kissing Ed slowly and sweetly. He nips gently at Ed’s bottom lip as he pulls back, and Ed is left gazing at him – utterly dumbfounded – for a moment.
“Would that have been better?” Ling murmurs, and Ed feels the heat rise to his cheeks (damn prince).
“Maybe,” Ed replies, gaze sliding elsewhere, to the little daisies at his left.
For several seconds, there is nothing but Ling’s goofy smile and his even breathing, and the tangled, jumbled words running around in Ed’s mind, refusing to brave the treacherous journey from mind to vocal cords to tongue to open air.
He tries Ling’s breathing thing—that weird exercise that Ling swears helps in every situation, but all it does is make Ed’s lungs burn. “What now?” he manages to get out, and it’s the one question that he doesn’t want to ask, the one question that he planned on not asking, no matter what, because he already knows the answer.
He and Ling were two warriors who simply happened to travel the same path, for a time. Now they are at a crossroads, and this is where their journey together comes to an end. Ed has longed for this day for certain reasons, and he has dreaded it for others. He can’t quite explain this to Ling, but at the sound of the other teen’s sigh, he thinks that maybe he doesn’t have to try.
“… We do what we are meant to do,” Ling eventually replies. “I am meant to become emperor, to protect my people… and that is what I will do. Home—I have missed it.”
Ed makes a soft sound of agreement; no matter how many times he’s tried to deny that he has a home at all to return to, Resembool is waiting for him. He’s missed home, too. “You’ll have servants waiting on you every second of every day. They’ll probably wipe your ass for you after you take a dump.”
Ling laughs at Ed’s vulgarity, his fingers freeing themselves from Ed’s hair so that he can instead brush them soothingly and hypnotically against the back of Ed’s neck. “Not every second of every day. I do get to have some privacy every now and again, you know. But enough about that—what are you going to do once you’re discharged from the hospital?”
Ed shrugs, at a bit of a loss. “I haven’t really thought about it,” he says. “The plan was for me and Al to get our bodies back, and I honestly hadn’t considered what we would do afterwards.” He thinks of his little brother, and how he’ll get stronger with each passing day, and he can’t help the smile that forms on his lips. Perhaps, for now, he doesn’t really have to have a plan: just this much is enough.
(Minus, of course, the nagging certainty that he is about to lose--)
“Well then,” Ling begins jovially, interrupting Ed’s rather pessimistic train of thought, “I suppose you could come to the palace with me~. You can be the ‘favored concubine’. All the other concubines will call you ‘The Golden One’. I think it’s a very appropriate title.”
Ed glares flatly at the prince. “Yeah, I can totally see that happening, Ling.”
Ling frowns as if affronted. “I suppose – if you make it worth my while – I could promote you all the way to first wife, but I think we’d have some explaining to do at that point.”
Ed splutters and gently shoves Ling. “You are such a dumbass sometimes,” he tells the prince as he shakes his head. “So hopeless and inappropriate, and--”
“Irresistible,” Ling supplies unhelpfully.
Ed rolls his eyes. “Egotistical.” Although ‘irresistible’ is pretty damn accurate too. Not that he’ll tell Ling that, or anything. The damn prince’s head is already inflated quite enough.
“Maybe just a bit,” Ling admits, though he doesn’t sound embarrassed over it in the least. “You don’t mind too much, though, do you?”
Ed snorts. “I suppose if I did, I never would have let myself get into all those… situations with you, huh?”
“Oh, is that what we’re going to call them now?” Ling’s voice is now something between a low drawl and a deep purr, and it would probably sound ridiculous if Ed tried to do it, but Ling makes it work, and Ed knows this because Ling’s voice sends little shivers down his spine and ignites tiny sparks of heat that pool somewhere in his lower belly.
He shakes his head and nudges Ling again. “Don’t start. We’re outside of a hospital in broad daylight… I don’t see anyone right now but that doesn’t mean that somebody won’t show up.”
“Too bad,” Ling states, and he actually does sound somewhat disappointed, the pervert (not to say that Ed isn’t disappointed). “We could’ve made it quick~.” He smirks then and winks, but the smirk fades quickly and he is serious again, pulling Ed close and holding him within the circle of his arms. “… This is enough.”
Ed closes his eyes and tilts his head back a bit, nuzzling at Ling’s throat and inhaling his scent, allowing himself several moments to linger in the familiar embrace. His lips part but no sound comes out and he frowns. Of all the times to become speechless.
Ling breaks the silence: “I’m going to miss you, you know. The palace gates will be open to you at any time—all you’ll have to do is send some form of correspondence so I’ll know to expect you. I’ll have to tell the guards and all, so that they don’t think you’re some foreign assassin.” There is a pause. “Although one would question why an Amestrian would desire to assassinate the Emperor of Xing.”
Something tightens painfully within Ed’s chest. The words that didn’t want to come to him earlier are all but flooding to him now, desperate to get out in the open. Right now, he could tell Ling a thousand things, among those being: I wish we had more time; I wish you didn’t have to go; I wish I could come with you; can’t you stay just a while longer?; I wish it didn’t have to be this way.
I think I might be falling for you, you squinty-eyed bastard is a statement of truth and an accusation that sits on the tip of his tongue, burning him and making him hurt because sometimes an epiphany can be a complete bitch; sometimes, lessons have to be learned the hard way, and sometimes one stumbles into love at the most inopportune of moments.
Not wanting to sound like some lovesick puppy, Ed bites all of the sappy things back and instead says this: “So I guess this is it, huh?”
Ling draws back slightly, the look in his eyes solemn. “Lan Fan and Mei are waiting for me, and I imagine a nurse or some other medical professional might soon wonder why you haven’t yet returned. I shall take my leave now, Ed.”
Before Ling can pull away entirely, Ed tightens his hold on him and pulls him in for another kiss, all but smashing their lips together—it is raw and painful and full of everything that Ed feels and yet cannot bring himself to say.
Ling kisses him back with just as much fervor, hands cupping Ed’s cheeks, holding him in place. The kiss speaks of passion and need and sadness and desire and rightness more than words ever could, and when they eventually break apart, both of them are more than a little ruffled and both of them are breathing somewhat heavily.
“No regrets,” Ling whispers against Ed’s half-parted lips. “And no goodbyes. Remember this, Ed: Threads of an unraveled tapestry can be woven anew, and the reincarnation can be even more beautiful than the original.”
Ed almost laughs—leave it to Ling to spout off some funky-ass metaphor before going away. He understands, though, and he nods. “No regrets. No goodbyes. I’ll see you later, then.” He smiles and he means it.
Ling stands and returns the smile. “The future Emperor of Xing sincerely hopes that you mean that.”
“I do.” It’s as momentous as a vow taken in front of thousands of witnesses. They must go their separate ways now, but there is a promise between them as of this moment that their paths will cross yet again in the future.
He watches silently as Ling retreats, knowing that for every step that the prince takes, another thread snaps. But it’s all right—his heart doesn’t feel as heavy as it did earlier.
He remembers reading something once, in a old dusty book that was tucked away amongst his father’s research materials: East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.
Well, they’ve proven that particular statement to be incorrect once already. They’ll do it again.
“Threads of an unraveled tapestry can be woven anew, and the reincarnation can be even more beautiful than the original.”
Ed doesn’t consider himself to be skilled at all when it comes to the art of sewing.
He smiles to himself and thinks, Guess it’s about damn time that I learned.
I hope this makes as much sense to you guys as it did to me when I thought of the idea. They’re saps, they really are. XD
Oh, the phrase ‘East is Ease and West is West, and never the twain shall meet’ is credited to Rudyard Kipling.