Once, there existed two continents, separated by an ocean. Among the continents, there were three kingdoms. The western continent was ruled entirely by the Kingdom of Ishbala, while the eastern continent was divided by two kingdoms. To the north laid the Kingdom of Amestris. To the south, the Kingdom of Shambala. For a while, the three kingdoms existed in harmony among one another. However, it wasn't long before differences and religion began to play a larger role in each of the kingdoms, and war was declared.
Because of the war, Shambala and Amestris forged an alliance, and, despite their differences, worked together to defeat Ishbala.
However, Ishbala was a large kingdom, and they were desperate to win.
It was a tough battle for Shambala and Amestris. Desperate for men to fight, Amestris sent their youngest prince onto the battle field, and Shambala even went as far as to send out their only prince, and heir to the throne. The two princes were strong in battle, and the prince of Shambala was particularly intelligent.
During the battle, the two met in battle and through the fighting, forged a friendship, both of them ignorant to the other's social status.
But, one day, the two got wind that the King of Shambala had been assassinated by an Ishbalan spy. The prince was heartbroken, but he collected himself and told his friend: "I'm afraid I must leave the battle, and return to my home."
The other prince responded: "Listen, I understand your king has just died, but the fight is not over. I doubt he would want you to give up."
"You don't understand, my dear friend. The king is my father, and I am the only heir to the throne. I must return, and lead my kingdom to reclaim peace."
The prince was shocked by the news, but quickly composed himself. He revealed to his friend that he too was a prince, the youngest prince of Amestris. Before they parted ways, the two agreed that they would let their respective lands know of their meeting. The two men had noticed a divide among the troops, and they hoped that the knowledge of their friendship would help ensure the people that the alliance was strong, and that they could trust in their companions.
They were right.
The new king returned home, and the peoples' opinions of the violent Amestrisans changed, once they discovered that their king's best friend was prince to the kingdom.
The people of Amestris' opinion for the peaceable Shambalans also improved when they heard the news.
With this new bright outlook, the two kingdoms defeated the Ishbalans.
However, no spoils of war were taken. The Kingdom of Shambala didn't think it was necessary to take more from Ishbala, after so many lives had already been lost. The Kingdom of Amestris didn't hold such idealistic views, but they agreed not to take any spoils, out of fear of hurting the alliance.
Unfortunately, the war had cost both continents a great deal, and because of the generosity of the Shambalans, both Amestris and Shambala suffered from a lack of food and money. Because of the generous attitude of the people, Shambala did well though. The people helped each other out in their time of need and only took what was absolutely necessary. It wasn't long before prosperity started to rise. Amestris on the other hand, wasn't as generous. Many people didn't feel obliged to help their neighbors and only thought of themselves. Instead of working hard, the country simply took away from the slaves to feed their people.
This brings us to the largest difference between Shambala and Amestris. While Shambala was a peaceful land with no discrimination, Amestris was home to slavery. However, slavery wasn't determined by social status, heritage, or skin color. Instead, it was determined by the color of your hair. The only people who were slaves, were blonds.
But, because of the war, many slaves were thrown out of their owners' homes and if luck was on their side, they might start a peaceful life of their own, free of slavery. The only place in Amestris that continued to have slaves was the palace, where the King of Amestris lived with his two sons.
Edward yawned as he walked down the halls of the palace. He was to report to the Grand Dining Room to help set up for breakfast. He was going to arrive a bit early, but he didn't care. He hadn't been able to sleep, something he wasn't accustomed to. Aru and Winry were still asleep, so, not knowing what else to do with himself, he wrote a brief note (his writing skills weren't that good) explaining that he had gone to work early, then stuck it the pocket of his brother's day clothes, where he would find it.
He started to raise his hand to wave when he saw Natalie, a young girl who stayed in the same sleeping chambers as himself, Aru and Winry, appear around the corner, but quickly lowered it when he saw the guard behind her.
He tried to keep his gaze firmly on the ground as they passed, but he couldn't help but give a quick glace. The quick helpless grin Natalie gave him caused a pain to whelm up in his chest, but he ignored it and fixed his gaze on the ground again.
Edward froze in his tracks and slowly turned around. His heart sank. The guard pushing Natalie along had stopped and was now regarding him.
"You know where the bathing chambers are?"
"Good. Abandon whatever duties you have now and go draw up the prince's bath."
Ed blinked. "With all due respect sir, isn't that a woma-
"I just gave you an order, now shut up and go!" The guard turned back around and pushed Natalie roughly in the back. "Move it wench. I don't have all day to deal with you."
The two continued down the hall, leaving Ed to stand there and register his order.
Draw the prince's bath? What the hell? That was a girl's job! He wasn't a girl dammit!
He muttered darkly under his breath and continued down the hall, changing his straight route to include a turn down the next corridor to the right, toward the bathing chambers.
Once he calmed down he began to think about the order more clearly. Natalie was the one to usually draw the princes' bathes, he knew because he had heard her confiding about it to Winry before. Though, he wasn't paying much attention, so all he knew was that one prince was a jerk, and the other a 'gentleman' as she put it. Edward didn't really know himself, he'd never seen either prince, despite belonging to the palace for 11 years.
Bringing his mind back on topic, he came to the conclusion that Natalie had done something to get herself in trouble while drawing one of the princes' bathes, probably nothing but hey, it was impossible to be a slave with perfect behavior. She has then been dragged away to be punished for her wrong doings and now they lacked someone to draw the remaining prince's bath. So, the guard dragging Natalie away had sent the first slave he saw, Edward, to go draw the prince's bath, so that he wouldn't have to go all the way down to the slave's chambers to wake some girl up to do it.
Ed nodded to himself, pleased with his conclusion. It wasn't that the guard had mistaken him for a girl, he was just being lazy.
Edward walked into the bathing chambers and stood uncertainly next to a maid folding towels. The maid looked up, finally taking notice of him. "Oh!" she exclaimed, putting down the towel she had in her hands. "You must be the replacement sent to draw the prince's bath. Chris sure was speedy about getting another slave."
Ed smiled lightly to himself. He had been right, the guard, now identified as Chris, had just been lazy.
The maid looked him up and down then shook her head. "He certainly could have picked better though. You have a pretty face honey, but I'm afraid those limbs just won't do."
Ed ignored the insult to his metal limbs, he was used to it, but his cheeks burned from the name 'honey' that the woman had given him, and even more so for the comment she made about his face.
The maid sighed and turned around to rummage through a closet. When she faced Ed again, she was holding a long, light pink dress. "Here, put this on. This should cover that horrible arm and leg of yours."
Edward started to get the feeling that this maid thought he was a girl. . .
For the second time that day he was interrupted. "Oh, don't fret sweetheart. Just don't use your right hand. The prince will never know."
"Ah, ma'am, you don't-
And again. Interrupted. "Oh, oh! I'm sorry dear! You must be shy! I wouldn't want to undress in front of anyone either, with an arm and leg like that. Don't worry. You go ahead and put that on and I'll just turn myself around. Promise I won't look."
The maid handed him to dress and, true to her word, promptly turned around.
"Ahh. . ." Ed sighed, staring at the garment in his hands. An order was an order. . .besides, if they let his keep the dress, maybe he could give it to Winry or something. That might make her happy. . .
And so, Edward swallowed his pride and threw off the rags he was wearing. (All the while making sure the maid was staying true to her word not to look.) He pulled the frilly pink dress over his head, and after deciding the extremely uncomfortable outfit was as comfortable as it was ever going to get, announce he was finished.
The maid turned around and clapped her hands together. "Aw, you look adorable. Now, let me just fix your hair up a bit. . ."
The maid stepped behind him and pulled the old rubber band out of hair and took out his braid. "Hand me that brush would you doll?"
Ed gritted his teeth, getting tired of her cutesy nicknames for him, but kept his mouth shut and obediently handed her the dark pink brush lying on the counter next to the towels she had been folding.
The woman took it from him and ran it through his hair until she was satisfied. She walked back to the counter and set it down, then examined him.
Judging from the large smile that spread across her face, Ed guessed she was pleased with what she saw.
"Much better." she said. "Good to get those nasty limbs out of the way. Now, take these. . ." She handed him a fluffy white towel, a bottle of shampoo, and a bar of soap. "And remember, the hot water tab is on the right, cold on the left. The young prince typically prefers extra hot baths, but make sure it's not scorching."
Ed blinked, then nodded a little uncertainly.
The maid rolled her eyes. "Well, don't just stand there." She grabbed his shoulders and pushed him gently in the direction of a door on the right side of the room. "Right through there. Go on now."
Edward nodded and went into the next room, being careful with his steps. How could women wear these things and like it? He could barely walk in the damn thing.
He sat down next to the tub, glad that the danger of tripping was now passed, and examined it.
'I didn't know tubs this big existed.' he thought, looking at the beautiful tub before him. He sighed, the reality of his situation starting to dawn on him a bit.
Here he was, in a frilly pink dress, about to draw a bath for some stupid pompous prince that he'd never even seen before.
He turned on the water and adjusted it to his liking. Who cared about what the prince liked, it was just a bath. His tastes in temperature would have to do.
Once the tub was full, he turned off the water tabs and dried his hands on the dress.
Then he sat and he waited.
About half a minute later he decided that the prince was taking too long and if he didn't do something, he'd die. Of boredom.
He shifted a bit, looking at the tub out of the corner of his eye. He leaned over the side and peered in, taking notice of how clean the water was.
He'd never seen water that clean before. . .
He put his hands on the edge of the tub to support himself as he leaned down closer to the water.
It even smelled clean. . .
He reached into the tub and cupped some of the water into his palm, then watched it seep through his fingers, and return to the bath with a gentle splash. He smiled and leaned in further, now cupping the water with both hands, and watching it run out. He cupped the water again and this time let it go, the resulting splash it made got his face a little wet. He laughed and cupped the water once more, this time holding it and looking at his distorted reflection.
'I wish I could show Aru this. He would appreciate water as clear as this. . .' thought Ed, as he stared as his reflection, dreaming of a land where he and his brother could be happier, and drink and bathe in water as clean as this whenever they wished. . .
"But that could never happen. . ." he whispered. He let the water seep once more out of his hands and back into the tub.
Edward snapped his attention to the left and upon seeing the towel clad man in the doorway, promptly turned a light shade of red and placed his right hand in his lap, then placed his left on top of it.
He would be fine, he just needed to breathe. Breathe, focus, and respond.
"Hello, sir. Your bath is ready."
He mentally kicked himself for pointing out the obvious. Such an act of stupidity would surely result in. . .
"Yes, thank you."
The man strode toward him until he was at Ed's side. Already tall, the prince seemed to tower over the short, kneeling Edward.
Ed bit the inside of his cheek. He didn't like tall people.
"You can turn around if you want to."
Edward blinked twice. ". . .eh?"
The prince smiled in an amused way that irked Ed to no end.
"The maid in the other room said you were 'adorably shy', so I thought you'd be more comfortable if you kept your back turned while I bathed. Or perhaps if you're too embarrassed, you'd like to leave?"
Ed blushed in embarrassment and scooted around in a circle until his back was facing the prince. "I'll stay" he muttered. "Sir." he added on after a pause.
He heard the prince chuckle. "Very well." Following this statement was the sound of a towel dropping next to him and someone entering the water.
Edward's cheeks flared. 'Why am I getting so flustered? It's not like I haven't seen people naked before. We all have to change in front of each other in the slave's chambers. . .'
'It's because he's a stranger! I'm such an idiot! There's some strange man I've never met before taking a bath behind me!' he thought, answering his own musings. 'And I'm in a dress! I should have left when he offered and just taken the beating. Anything would be better than this. . .'
"Hey, are you okay?"
Edward jumped slightly, the prince's voice startling him. He quickly nodded his head without turning around.
"You sure? You seem awfully tense. . ."
"I'm fine." Ed said quietly. He didn't want to talk to this stranger. He just wanted to return to the slave chambers. Wait for Aru and Winry to return from work, then talk to them until they all had to leave to do other duties. That was what he wanted to do. That was all.
'She's got a lovely voice.'
Roy tried to scold himself for such thoughts. He was supposed to be comforting this poor girl. She was acting like a hare trapped by hunters.
But no, hard as he tried, his actions held the underlying greed of wanting to hear this girl's voice more clearly. It sounded so lovely, but so far, all she'd done was whisper and mumble.
He sighed. Maybe if he kept talking to her, she would loosen up? It was kinda awkward taking a bath with a tense, frightened, teenage girl about a foot or two away from you.
"Are you new around here? The palace I mean?"
The girl shifted. "No, sir."
Roy's eyebrows rose in surprise. He was sure she'd say 'yes.'
"Really? How long have you been here?"
A pause. Then a soft reply: "11 years."
Now Roy was really surprised. 11 years?
"How come I've never seen you around?"
The girl turned her head a bit so she could look at his face and Roy couldn't help but stare into the one eye visible to him. Never in his life had he'd seen gold eyes before.
"There are plenty of slaves belonging to the palace that you've never seen, sir."
Roy's eyes narrowed. He didn't know about this. "Why?"
The girl didn't say anything.
The girl flinched when he said this, though he had no idea why, but nonetheless she answered him.
"I'm not certain sir."
A silence fell between them as Roy considered her words. Plenty of slaves he'd never seen? How could that be? He lived here! He'd had to have seen all of them at least once. . .
He blinked as his vision was suddenly penetrated by a transparent bottle, filled with a gel-like substance.
"You'll want to wash your hair, sir."
He turned to his left and saw that the girl was now facing him, and it was she who was holding the bottle out in front of him.
"Yes, I would. Thank you." he took the bottle from her and she immediately placed her hand back on her lap.
'She's as tense as ever, but hopefully the fact that she's facing me means she's not as frightened as before.' Roy thought, as he poured some of the bottle's contents into his hand and created a lather.
"So. . ." Roy racked his brains for something to talk about as he washed his hair. ". . .why isn't the usual girl here? Natalie. Don't think I'm complaining, I'm just curious."
The girl adverted her eyes and shrugged. "I'm not sure sir. I wasn't given any details, I was just told to come here in her stead."
Roy sighed. Every answer this girl gave was so. . .mechanical.
The girl set a bar on the tub's ledge. "You'll be needing this too, sir."
Roy nodded. "Hand me that bucket over there, would you?" he said, pointing to a bucket in the corner.
The girl looked to where he was pointing, then stood up and walked over. Before she reached the bucket though, she tripped, nearly falling on her face. However, she managed to save herself, and picked up the bucket, bringing it back to him more slowly and carefully.
"Are you alright?" he asked, smirking in amusement.
She made a light grunting sound, then nodded and handed him the wooden bucket.
He took it from her and filled it with water from the tub, then dumped it over his head, rinsing out the shampoo. "I'm guessing that dress is what made you trip? It seems to be a bit large for you."
If he hadn't known better, he would have sworn the timid young girl was glaring at him after that comment.
He took the soap off the ledge and started to wash his upper body. "You don't have to wear it if you don't want to."
The girl blinked. Once. Twice. Then he heard her gasp, and watched her eyes become as wide as saucers.
She started to shake her head a bit rapidly.
It took Roy a few moments to realize what conclusion she had come to and he smacked his forehead, getting soap on it in the process.
"No, no. I'm not asking you to strip. I just meant, next time. You can wear your normal clothes next time, whatever you're comfortable in." he said, trying to calm her down.
She sighed and put her hands over her heart, then said in a surprisingly strong voice: "Gods! For a moment I thought you meant you want-" She stopped talking and sat up rigid, clasping her hands over her mouth and staring at him with wide eyes.
Roy raised an eyebrow. "Go on. You can finish." he said, trying to prompt her along.
She shook her head, then bowed down so deeply her forehead touched the floor. "I shouldn't have spoken to you in such a casual manner, sir. Please forgive me for stepping outside my boundaries."
Roy sighed. This was perhaps the most uptight slave he'd ever met!
"It's okay. I don't mind. In fact, I prefer your casual speak, so go ahead and get up. You don't have to bow to me. Especially when I'm in such a lowly state." he said, referencing his lack of clothing.
She sat up straight once more, and nodded. "Yes sir."
Roy shook his head. This girl was impossible. . ."Anyway. As I was saying, tomorrow when you come, you can wear whatever you want. No need to wear some frilly dress that's too big for you just because a maid told you too." He stopped and furrowed his eyebrows in thought. "Are you even going to be here tomorrow?"
The young slave got a comical look on her face that made Roy bite his cheek to keep from laughing. She shrugged uncertainly. "I haven't been informed about whether I'm to report here tomorrow or not sir."
Roy nodded, not quite sure what had caused her to have that look, but he brushed it aside.
"Hmm, well, anyway, what were you doing when I-
A feminine voice that he recognized as the maid's came from the door, interrupting him."Your highness! Your father is summoning you! Prince Roy?"
Roy sighed loudly. "Yes, yes, tell him I'm coming. Thank you." He stood up, the slave girl made a slight squeaking noise as he did so and clenched her eyes shut, and picked up the towel next to her. He wrapped it around his waist, not bothering to dry himself. "Sorry about that, I wasn't thinking. You can open your eyes now."
Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked up at him. Again, Roy was struck by how odd her eye color was, but he didn't have time to think about that now.
"I'm afraid I must go see my father. I hope to get the chance to talk to you again." He turned to walk away, but the girl grabbed his hand, holding him back. He turned back around, surprised.
She bit her bottom lip, then reached for a washcloth lying by the tub and dipped it in the tub. Roy raised an eyebrow as she wrung out the water then stood up. "Listen, I don't really have time to-" he stopped mid-sentence when she stood on her tiptoes, placing her left hand on his shoulder to support herself. Then she wiped his forehead off, her right hand oddly concealed by the cloth as she did so.
Roy's cheeks turned the faintest shade of pink. "What are you. . .?"
She let go of his shoulder then stepped back and touched her forehead with her left hand. "Soap. From when you smacked yourself. . ."
Roy blinked and touched his forehead, then it dawned on him. He had gotten soap on his forehead when he had smacked himself for making the girl think she had to strip. She had just been washing it off for him. He smiled gently. "Thank you."
She nodded. "You're most welcome sir."
"Prince Roy! Your father will grow impatient if you-
"I'm coming!" Roy yelled toward the door. He muttered darkly under his breath then turned back to the slave. "I'm afraid I must go, but before I do, would you mind telling me your name?"
Edward bit his bottom lip. If he told his real name, then the prince would know he was a boy, but if he didn't. . .
"Elric. Elric Edo." he said, picking the first thing to come to mind. Edo was a bit of a nickname for him, the same way 'Aru' was a bit of a nickname for Al. Their mother had been raised by a Shambalan, and as a result, had a bit of an accent. She had always called Edward and Alphonse, Edo and Aru. Nowadays, they called each other Edo and Aru, as did Winry and their other chamber-mates, who were simply mimicking them.
He bit down on his lip again. 'I hope it sounds feminine enough. . .'
The prince nodded. "Elric Edo. I'll remember that." He then turned around and walked out the door.
Edward could faintly hear him conversing with the maid, and imagined he could make out what they were saying if he listened well enough, but he didn't bother. It wasn't any of his business.
He sighed and walked back to the tub, reaching in and pulling out the drain, watching the water disappear down the hole in a slight vortex.
He put the rest of the room back into order, then grabbed the towel the prince had originally brought with him and left the room.
"I swear, for a prince, he certainly doesn't care about fashion."
Ed blinked as he exited the room, only to find the maid from earlier hustling about, muttering to herself. When she caught sight of him she sailed over and gripped his shoulders, pushing him toward the counter she had been at when she met him.
"I tell you, that prince has NO sense of fashion. At all! Look at this dear." She let go of his shoulders and pulled open a cabinet overtop the counter. She reached inside and pulled out something red, which she threw at Ed.
Ed, surprised at the sudden action, barely managed to catch the piece of material. He fingered it, it felt nice under his fingers, but he didn't know what it was.
"Take a look at it. It's pure silk, and absolutely beautiful."
Edward held the material out in front of him, revealing it to be a shirt. A very ugly shirt. He cringed.
"I know! I cringed too when I though of what the king will say! Can you imagine, not wearing this? I told the prince to wear it, but no! He picked that dreadful blue one." She huffed and took the shirt from Ed, folding it and putting it back in the cabinet. "His majesty will probably faint when he sees that dreadful thing Prince Roy is wearing." She mumbled a bit to herself and started putting things on the counter away. She grabbed the towel Ed had slung over his arm and tossed it in a bin to be washed later.
Ed just stood there and watched, waiting patiently.
Finally she seemed to notice he was still there. "Dear? Is there something I can help you with?" She gasped as realization played across her feature. Her hand formed a fist and she brought it down into her open palm. "You need your clothes back, don't you? Oh, I'm sorry sweetheart. I just got so wrapped up with things, I wasn't even thinking. Hold on, I'll find them for you." She began digging through another cabinet and quickly found his clothes. "Here you are."she said, handing them to Ed. "Oh right, you're shy." She turned her back to him. "Just hand me the dress when you're done."
"Yes ma'am." Ed said, slightly disappointed. Though, now that he thought about it, Winry probably wouldn't have wanted it anyway. Natalie or Sofia might have though.
He pulled the garment over his head and held it out with his metal arm so the maid would see it, but not his body. She took it without turning around and placed it in the same bin the towel had been thrown in earlier.
Edward slipped on his clothes, which consisted of an off-white, almost tan, baggy, T-shirt and loose shorts of the same color. "Okay, I'll be leaving now miss." he said, turning to head out into the hallway.
But, before he even got a foot through the door, he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.
"Hold on. Before you go, I just wanted to tell you'll need to report here earlier tomorrow. There are two princes after all. Be here around sunrise to prepare."
The color drained from Ed's face, and he made the same comical face he made when the prince had brought up coming back the next day. Luckily, he wasn't facing the maid, and she couldn't see his expression.
"I didn't realize I was coming back tomorrow. . ."
"Of course you are hon. Somebody has to draw the princes' bathes. Now run along. I'm sure you have other duties to do." She gently nudged him out the door, closing it behind him.
Edward stood in the hallway, blinking. "Heh, hehe, I have to come back." He made a tiny whimpering noise, then hung his head and walked back to the slave chambers.
Tomorrow would be hell. Not only did he have to deal with this 'Prince Roy' from today again, but he'd have to deal with another prince as well.
He sighed heavily, slumping his shoulders. "And the worse part is, I have to pretend to be a girl. . .again." he mumbled darkly as he turned the corner.
The allure to bang his head against the palace wall was surprisingly strong as he thought 'I just had to wake up early today!'
Well, what did you think minna-san? I apoligize for any mistakes and OOCness. It's hard to keep people in character in an AU setting where so much is different. But, for all you freaking out about Edo being shy, don't worry. He's actually just being uptight. :) So don't freak.
Well, I know this story isn't very good, but I'm writing it for fun and my friends have been supportive of it, so I decided to post it. Leave a review and let me know what you think, okay? Ja ne!