A/N: I recommend you read this with "You and Me" by Lifehouse playing in the background on repeat. After all, it's that song that got this started. Alongside a whole lot of Royai fanart. (grins)

Disclaimer: Full Metal Alchemist (c) Hiromu-sensei.


Lilies & Ash

-ººº-

It is precisely 1733 hours in the evening.

The sounds of scraping chairs, rustling papers, last minute scribbles echo through the room – the typical audio signs of staff preparing to go on home.

From one particular desk, no such sound is made. The noise coming from this desk is calm, smooth, unhurried. Ink from the pen continues to flow on paper at a steady pace. The person writing sits unmoving, only her wrist shifting slightly now and again.

The others know perfectly well enough not to question. Goodbyes and 'see you tomorrow's are called out to which the writer replies an equivalent. All without pausing or looking up. The others merely exchange looks, smile resignedly and go out, wondering what to make for dinner tonight or where to go for a drink.

Soon, the place is empty and silent except for the quiet creaking of the fan overhead and the faint scribbling of a pen. The smell of ink, paper and coffee still hovers in the air as it always does. The end tail of men's cologne also hangs in the atmosphere of the room.

As the scent enters her nose, she is reminded of how he used to wear scents to hide the smell of ashes. He still wears cologne but complains of how he still stinks of dust and cinders. She has no heart and she believes, no right to tell him that the smell is noticeable by no one but himself for the memory of the scent is in his mind. All she can do is say no, she doesn't smell it.

And he will smile and nod, saying he will take her word for it.

She herself wears a faint perfume, subtle that no one can tell but enough to keep the damp smell of sweat under. She doesn't like to be caught wearing perfume, for some reason. It's a habit from long ago. She doesn't think a proper soldier should bother about smells and stinks…

But when the smell of blood and death hangs about your memory, it is perhaps a defensive mechanism. To bury the memories, you hide the evidence.

So she wears a perfume smelling of lilies.

It surprises her no longer why he keeps drifting into her thoughts every now and again, interrupting her concentration. She has accepted it as normal and natural to have thoughts of him float through her head several times during the day. More so in the night when she looks out her window and drinks her warm tea.

She rather enjoys it really although she will have to be killed first before she admits it. (1)

Her writing is ended by a last full stop. A signature later, the piece of paper is settled on a pile and she sets the pen on the desk. Leaning back in her chair, she looks over to the door.

He has been out to meetings a lot nowadays and most times she had followed. She would have trailed after him today as well but at his stern insistence, the kind which she knows better than to breezily ignore, she has stayed behind to keep an eye on things.

She wonders about him, wondering if he is harbouring feelings behind that calm, sarcastic façade (although sometimes one can never be sure if what he says is a subtle jab or sincere words or even both). Feelings that would have no place in a suave, ambitious colonel of the military. She knows all too well what the slight frown means, the definition of a brow wrinkling just by that much, the meaning behind the quirk of a corner of his lips.

And… loathe as she is to admit it… her wondering can sometimes blur into worry.

A colonel… a high ranking officer of the military is a target for assassins, people who hated the government with righteous, burning fury. She has known this obvious fact since the minute she began her career. It is no wonder that she worries. Is he safe? Is he on his way back to his home, intact? Will he be harmed while driving back from his last meeting of the day?

Her worry is slowly pushed back. She can imagine his bemused smile and his reassuring voice, saying that he is a year away from turning thirty. Surely he can be trusted to walk alone? Especially with the power he wields in his hands? And besides, he will add with a sort of leer, such concern of hers was, well, while appreciated, it was also intriguing. He had no idea that she loved him that much-

She can afford to imagine him going around town by himself at that point.

Ah well, she thinks as she heaves a tiny sigh. She might as well have a cup of tea while she is here. As she washes a mug and places a teabag within, something in her silently chides her for hanging around unnecessarily. Almost as if she's wa…

Of course not. She is merely indulging herself in a mug of tea before she heads home. It will only take a few minutes. Nothing more.

A familiar companion wakes from his nap as she walks back in, mug in hand. She smiles a little, giving him a reassuring pat as she sits herself back down on her chair. Looking at her curiously for a little more, he seems to decide on something.

Her smile grows a little more as he places his head back down for another nap.

And she leans back in her chair, sipping her warm tea.

-ººº-

She is in a peaceful, dark place.

It is curious how the dark can sometimes be so comforting… so quiet and soothing. Perhaps it brings back the feelings a child has when he or she snuggles into the warm comforters of a bed to settle in for a night's sleep, still able to see Mom or Dad's smile through the darkness, able to see them bend over and as they tuck them in, feel their kiss goodnight on their cheek, a reassuring, silent promise that all is alright with the world and just go to sleep… all is well and that they love you…

Soft eyelashes flutter open. Dimness fills her sight and it takes thirty seconds for her mind to click back. She had fallen asleep at her desk. The dark mug she had used sits by her elbow, the remaining tea cold.

Around her shoulders… she sits up slowly, fingering the familiar coat with her gloved fingers. And she turns.

The smile facing her is a little hesitant with a touch of anxiety in it as well as a teasing kind of affection for the most part.

Her copper eyes search his dark ones and find fatigue, hints of frustration and disappointment… results of the mentally torturing day he has had. But the one she cannot identify is that curious, unrecognizable gaze that he is giving her, overwhelming every other frustration he must feel.

He says nothing, merely reaching to adjust his coat around her shoulders a little more. And he still smiles, never lifting his eyes from her.

She doesn't realize a tinge of light red has painted her cheekbones although she feels the flush of heat. She wants to say something… but her lips will not move for some odd reason. So she continuously meets his gaze, questioning.

Languorously and glowing a little in the dark, one white-gloved hand rises and pushes away a stray strand of golden hair from her cheek, tucking it behind her ear. He tilts his head slightly to one side, his eyes flickering all over her face.

Were she in a normal state of mind, she would have felt a sense of irritation and impatience with this kind of scrutiny. But… like a snake would hold one withits hypnotic gaze, so did he hold hers. She allows herself to do the same thing as he does:roam his face with her eyes. She picks out the tiny, near invisible line that has emerged on his forehead from one too many frowns. His thin eyebrows hidden behind the bangs of dark hair… and those eyes of his that annoy her with their smugness, inspire her with their determination…

And surprise her with their gentility at this point in time.

His gloved hand still lingers near her ear, barely touching her skin before he begins to withdraw it with a small breath… a small breath of regret.

But her hand moves without warning, catching his wrist. And she breaks her gaze from his face to slowly pull the white glove off his hand, exposing the skin beneath. She takes his hand, awkwardly since at the back of her mind, she wonders what on earth she's doing. But ignoring her inner voices, she presses his palm against her cheek and closes her eyes. The calluses and rough skin are not gentle but they are real and solid.

Like the man who's eyes soften some more at her awkward, and perhaps rather strange way of saying something she cannot openly express.

This is a dream, she knows as she continues to feel her taisa's bare hand against her skin. A dream in the midst of having fallen asleep after a cup of tea.

But if this is a dream, then at least she can make it one she will remember for a long time to come.

-ººº-

She rouses, blinking her eyes open.

it was a dream.

A twinge of disappointment at being right pricks her for a moment before fading. It doesn't matter, she realizes and she smiles slightly. It felt real. And sometimes, that is enough.

Then she realizes that she has been covered by cloth… a dark coat to be specific. And she is holding onto something.

She turns.

The smile, hesitant, anxious but filled with a teasing affection for the most part greets her. It comes alongside eyes that are filled with that same unrecognizable gaze that covers over his frustrations.

What she holds onto is inevitably his own bare hand. She has held it up to her cheek, just like in her dream. She makes to let go but gently, he stops her and holds firm.

He turns to look at her cheek and caresses her soft skin with the back of his fingers, just grazing her cheek lightly up and down. He looks back up at her, the same smile has turned less teasing and more affectionate. It tells her something she cannot put into words.

She returns the smile, hesitant at first before widening into something he will remember for a long time. Such beauty is hard to forget, you see.

And Black Hayate's nose twitches, noting the mingling of the faint aroma of lilies and the scent of faded ash.

The End.


-

(1) Dead people, as a general rule, don't talk and therefore, don't divulge secrets. (Although like certain rules are, it's really more of a general guideline considering the circumstances…)

A/N: Wrote this from 17:33 to 21:37 – 4 hours and 4 minutes. Heh. Pure and utter SYAP, this was. Then again, sugar once in a while is a good thing. (smile) And on a side note, I took liberties with Hawkeye wearing perfume. Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading this.