Title: Sunny Side Up
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Noa and Edward.
Setting: First anime. Part of my Tiesverse continuity.
Summary: Edward is not a good cook, but Noa doesn't mind that.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Purely self-indulgent OTP fluff, written for the prompts "Together" at Fan Flashworks, and "Home Cooking" at Genprompt Bingo. This is my (slightly belated) annual Ed/Noa Valentine's Day fic.
Pots and pans rattled as they tipped forward out of the uppermost kitchen cabinet, tumbling into a free fall. Noa gasped and spread her arms, making an attempt to catch them all against her hands; but the lid to a pot merrily slipped loose and disappeared over her shoulder, clattering to the floor with a loud bang.
Of course the pans would all be on the highest shelf. When it had only been Edward and Alphonse in the house, it was Al who did nearly all of the cooking—and he was taller than his brother even when he wasn't using his armor.
Red-faced, the young woman shoved the errant cookware back into the cabinet. She stretched upward on tiptoe to pry loose the frying pan she wanted from the middle of the stack. Once she had it, she set it carefully on the stove, and then made sure there would be no further avalanche before she picked up the fallen lid and put it away.
She could only hope the noise hadn't disturbed anyone else. Not Ed or Al… and definitely not Izumi Curtis, who was also staying for a while at the Elric brothers' home in Central.
The teacher's stated purpose was to give Noa some instruction in alchemy. However, she also had her own ideas about getting Noa's currently weak and undernourished body back in condition. In her present state, Noa wasn't sure how she was surviving the relentless physical regimen Miss Izumi inflicted on her; or for that matter, the amount of food the woman insisted she eat. Especially when eating solid food still felt strange to her.
Not that she was ungrateful for the efforts to help her regain her strength—or for the wide assortment of foods Izumi prepared. Some of it was a bit richer and heavier than Noa would have preferred just now, but she was enjoying the chance to explore a variety of tastes again.
In fact, that was part of the reason why Noa was in the kitchen at three o'clock in the morning.
Over a week after her passage through the Gate, her reclaimed human body was still thoroughly confused by… well, everything, it seemed. As much as she now loved basking in the sunlight of her new world, it was hard to undo seven years of being a nocturnal creature. She still found herself waking often in the night, and when she did, it was hard to go back to sleep. Then she would lie there, her too-alert mind crowding with so many thoughts.
About the unresolved threat she had pursued into this world. About her ambition to become a State Alchemist. About her future… and about Edward.
If she let herself dwell on all of these things, sleep would never return to her, so she tried to think happier, less important thoughts instead. She made mental lists of things to look forward to: transmutations she was eager to practice, places from Ed's memories that she wanted to see with her own eyes, half-forgotten foods she had yet to taste again.
When she got to thinking about the last subject, her stomach responded sometimes. A vague memory of some flavor from her youth would stir, and she would suddenly have a craving to find out if it was really the way she remembered it.
On this particular night, her straying mind had turned its thoughts to eggs, and refused to let go until she made her way down to the stove.
With a small sigh, Noa poured a splash of oil into the frying pan, and turned on the burner underneath it to let it heat. She was just reaching for the handle of the icebox when a soft, drowsy voice halted her.
"Is everything alright in here?"
Noa's cheeks colored as she looked up at the doorway. Edward was standing there in his shorts and a sleeveless shirt, golden eyes half-lidded with sleepiness but politely inquisitive.
She knew he was tired. He and Alphonse had not escaped Izumi's slave-driving attentions, either.
"I'm so sorry," she apologized in a rush. "I didn't mean to wake you up."
"No—it's fine, you didn't. Uh, not exactly. I was half-awake. …I'd been doing some thinking." Ed sounded slightly awkward, as his own face grew pink. Obviously fishing for a change of subject, he glanced at the pan on the stove. "Are you hungry?"
A pained smile crossed Noa's lips. "It's still hard for me to tell sometimes. As a dhampir, I knew when I needed blood, but hunger for real food can be so much more… subtle."
Ed laughed. "It didn't seem all that subtle to me when I got it back. I think I nearly cleared out Pinako's whole pantry." He rested his hands on his hips and shrugged. "But you're down here at the stove, so you must want something."
"Well… I was going to fry an egg. I haven't had one since my family used to trade for them with farmers we passed in our travels. I wanted to see if my memory is really anything like the way they taste."
Noa turned back to the icebox; but suddenly Ed was beside her. His left hand fell very gently onto her bare forearm.
"Let me do it."
Surprised, Noa blinked at him. He was smiling, but his eyes were serious.
"Ed, are you sure you—?"
"Come on. I know I can't cook like Izumi or Al, but I've got this. You oughta be resting while you can—before Teacher puts you through the wringer again all day."
From the shy earnestness in his voice, she realized that he wanted to do this trivial thing for her, even if he wasn't very good at it. He wanted to show her even the smallest kindness he could, because he cared.
Because he loved her.
Feeling a surge of happiness so intense that she didn't quite know what to do with it, Noa smiled. "Alright."
She shivered with an unfamiliar pleasure as Ed's hand slipped lightly down her arm to grasp her fingers. He led her over to the kitchen table and pulled out a chair for her. Once she was seated, he shuffled back to the icebox and pulled open the door, steel fingers scratching the back of his neck as he sleepily glanced over the contents.
After many years of being used to silence within her chest, the sudden rapid beat of Noa's heart was almost alarming.
Taking in a deep breath, she forced herself to sit still. Her eyes never left Ed all the while, absorbing every small detail of his appearance, every slight movement he made. The glint of his automail under the kitchen's bright light, the wisp of gold hair that had worked loose from his braid; the flutter of long eyelashes, the easy flex of lean muscles in his arm, as he raised his left hand to cover a yawn.
Noa didn't think she would ever get her fill of just seeing him in front of her, safe and solid and real. Of hearing his voice, feeling his presence. She had believed her journey through the Gate would cost her life, rather than giving her the chance to spend her life with the young man she loved. Even now, it was like a dream to think that she could stay with him in his world, fight for their mutual causes at his side, share his joys and hurts, and perhaps…
And perhaps even become his mate.
Hunters thought about such bonds in much more basic terms than other people did. When their lives were so dangerous and uncertain, many of those who fell in love chose never to exchange official vows, never to call each other husband or wife—as if that would somehow make the pain of bereavement less sharp, or allow the survivor to move on more easily. Yet lovers was conversely too simple and casual a word, at least for dhampirs, whose intimacy was so powerfully enhanced by their sharing of blood and memories. Mate was truly the most suitable name for a connection as primal as their own deepest natures, existing outside of society's conventions, but stronger than any union mere legality could recognize.
That was still the way Noa thought of it. Her perspective was shaped by the memories of other dhampirs, even though she herself had given the subject very little consideration—never expecting that she would know love of that kind. Undeath may have healed the brutal wounds that ended her first life, but she still shied away from letting anyone touch the invisible scars left behind.
Only the final, gold-and-silver vision of her dying second sight could soothe those scars… and now she was watching that vision in the flesh, as he mundanely prepared her a later-than-midnight snack.
Ed's automail hand reached into the icebox, and emerged with an egg cradled carefully between unfeeling metal fingers. He transferred the egg to his left hand, and then selected a second one. Shoving the icebox door shut with his automail foot, he carried the two eggs to the stove, and deftly proceeded to crack them into the now softly-sizzling pan.
It fascinated Noa to watch the grace Ed imbued the movements of his automail with. She recalled from his memories that after he received his nerveless artificial limbs, Pinako Rockbell had made him gather the eggs from her henhouse every day for weeks, until he learned how to handle those most fragile of objects without feeling them in his grasp. Due in part to that unorthodox physical therapy, Ed's inhumanly strong steel hand was capable of being just as gentle as his hand of flesh.
In Ed's reassuring touches and tentative caresses, Noa had already experienced that gentleness firsthand. It made little difference whether his contact came through skin or steel. All that mattered was that she felt the love behind it.
Realizing she was growing warm at the thought of Ed's touch, Noa hastily reined in her thoughts.
The aroma of the frying eggs was beginning to fill the kitchen. Ed lingered patiently over the stove, poking a spatula into the pan now and then. His eyes were a little more open at this point, but his expression remained more absently peaceful than it usually seemed by day.
At times it was difficult to remember that he had also gone through the adjustment Noa was experiencing, albeit to a somewhat milder degree. Only a week of living with dhampir instincts had left indelible imprints in his mind as well, long after his body was restored to humanity. Even if he hadn't admitted that to her, she felt sure she would have sensed and seen it in him. It was visible in his keen, tense reactions to unexpected sounds, the ease with which he moved in darkness… and the way his lips were drawn to her neck when they embraced. They both wished to be reserved and gentle with one another, at this early stage of their relationship, but their sincere affection was tangled with the lingering remnants of urges that were not quite human.
Noa thought she wouldn't really mind that someday, at the right time—but that time was not yet. For now it was a rather awkward distraction to overcome, in the moments when all they meant to do was give one another comfort and support.
Having apparently decided the eggs were well enough cooked, Ed turned off the burner. He took down a single plate from the cabinet, shoveled the eggs onto it, and retrieved two forks from the silverware drawer. Then he brought over their very early breakfast, setting the plate in front of Noa as he took a seat across the corner of the table from her.
One glance at the food was enough to assure Noa that Ed had not underestimated his cooking skills. The two eggs had run together, forming a double-yolked blob that was overdone around the edges but still oozing at its dual centers. Nevertheless, she smiled at him gratefully as she quickly reached for the salt—taking care to sprinkle both eggs liberally, obscuring the actual flavor of his handiwork before he could take a bite. She didn't want him to become embarrassed and apologetic when he tasted it.
"Thank you," she said softly, laying her right hand over his left one on the tabletop.
Ed blushed and ducked his head, automail fingers grasping his fork to dig in. He frowned immediately at his first mouthful of egg—but by that time, Noa made sure she was already applying herself to the meal with a deliberate enthusiasm. It wouldn't fool Ed, but it was still an important, unspoken expression of the fact that she loved him for trying anyway.
He must have recognized that meaning, because he rested his chin on his automail fist and simply watched her eat. From the corner of her eye, she could see his wryly touched expression.
With the help of the salt, at least, she didn't think his effort was so bad after all; but then, that may only have been because she really didn't remember what fried eggs were supposed to taste like.
Perhaps for the mere sake of sharing their little meal, Ed did take a few more bites. However, he was content to let Noa finish half of his egg as well as her own—and she was pleased to eat it. Even if it wasn't cooked very well, she found that she was more hungry than she realized, and soon the plate was empty.
As usual, Edward did not shy away from his failure. He was blushing apologetically when Noa raised her eyes to his. "I'm sorry about that. You deserved better for your first egg after so long. Maybe I should have let you do it."
Shaking her head with a smile, Noa did not respond in words. Instead, she leaned forward and kissed him, tasting the salt still on his lips.
This time it was his hand that found hers on the table. With a faint groan he stumbled to his feet, raising her up with him, so that he could pull her close. His automail arm wrapped tight around her waist, needily trapping her against his lean warm body.
If anyone else tried to hold her that way, Noa might have accidentally hurt them in her impulse to escape—but not so with Ed.
The kiss deepened for a moment, but then Ed broke it off abruptly. Without loosening his hold on her, he bent his head over her shoulder. He set his teeth lightly at the base of her neck, releasing a soft growl… and Noa felt her entire body react to him like an electric shock. Her breath caught, her knees buckling, and for a brief moment his arms were the only thing physically holding her up.
Noa decided then that she didn't care if that swoop of primal excitement he could awaken in her was not human. Perhaps instincts she couldn't quite control were the only thing that could let her feel such desire without fear.
Managing to steady herself quickly, she squeezed his ribs and hummed a breathy sound of approval close to his ear. When he eased his grip and drew back just a little, she looked up into amber eyes that sparkled with a knowing affection.
Of course he knew what those instincts of hers would respond to, because he shared them himself—and he didn't shy away from them, at least when they were alone together. In turn, she didn't have to be embarrassed to let him explore the small corners of her being that did not and may never feel entirely human again. It wasn't something terrible, but a special bond they would never have known if they hadn't survived the same darkness.
"Are you going back to bed now?" he asked her.
"Hmm… I'm not sure." Smiling wanly, Noa brushed her nose along the length of Ed's jawline. "When I wake up at night, it's still so hard to get to sleep again."
Ed's left hand rose from her waist. Finding her own hand on his shoulder, he grasped it, to give it a light pull as he stepped back—causing her a moment of disappointment at the sudden separation of his warm body from hers. "Come on."
He led her quietly from the kitchen to the living room. Without releasing her hand, he dropped down onto the sofa, to half-recline on the throw pillows piled against its arm. Then he gave her fingers another tug, nodding to the inviting hollow he had purposely left alongside him.
The feeling of barely-containable happiness returned as Noa sank down at Ed's side, resting her head on his chest. He slipped his arms around her, loosely enough that she didn't feel restrained… but just tight enough to remind her that she wasn't alone.
In a very short time, the steady beat of Ed's heart underneath her cheek had lulled Noa to sleep.
2017 Jordanna Morgan