A/N – Just a reminder, in case you have skipped to the last chapter of this story. I have posted the last chapter and this epilogue together, so there are actually two new installments. Other than that, I thought it might be nice to end the story where it began, on a more light-hearted note.
Epilogue – Mistletoe Reprise
- One Year Later -
The Fullmetal Alchemist sniggered to himself.
This was too perfect.
Falman insisted it wouldn't work. He told him that they had already done a similar prank before. Then the silver-haired officer had enumerated the various drawbacks. The Colonel wouldn't fall for it again. The Lieutenant wouldn't fall for it again. It had ended badly last time. The logistics were far too nuanced for a flawless outcome. It wasn't going to work. It was madness. It was only going to result in the crispification of everyone in the office.
But all of the protestations didn't mean Falman wasn't going to watch what Edward Elric intended to do. None of the other officers could pretend they weren't at least a little interested, so they had all allowed it with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Plus, the Colonel deserved what he got for making them work four days before Christmas. Again.
The way Edward figured, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be the Colonel burning down his own office, and possibly trying to murder him. And that would still be highly entertaining. As if that conceited human blowtorch could ever actually murder him. The best thing that could happen of course would be humiliation the Colonel could not live down. And the look on his face when the trap that he should have seen coming finally dawned on him. Oh yes. This was going to be legendary.
The fact that Hughes had money on the outcome only sweetened the deal.
The genius of Edward's plan was transmutation. Last year, Colonel Mustang's subordinates had attached a sprig of mistletoe to the ceiling above his desk with tape and banked on the fact that the Colonel wouldn't even bother looking up until they called his attention to it. This year, Edward figured the Colonel would be more on his guard and more likely to inspect his ceiling for signs of tampering.
Which was why he had cleverly inscribed a barely visible transmutation circle beneath the Colonel's chair, to be activated when he placed his pompous ass on it. The activated transmutation circle would trigger another barely visible circle on the ceiling above the desk and cause the mistletoe to appear. It was actually an impressively technical bit of alchemy, far trickier than most skilled alchemists could accomplish. And he, Edward Elric, was going to use it on a prank. Well, he and Alphonse really. Somebody had to be tall enough to reach the ceiling.
His brother clanked nervously beside him. "Don't you think he will suspect something when he sees us here?"
"He might," Edward shrugged and pointed at the other officers who were hard at work. "But they are all sworn to secrecy. And so are you if you want to keep that cat. Just act casual."
The hollow suit of armor meowed in answer.
"I'll try," Alphonse muttered. "But only because I don't want you to put Lily back in the snow."
He pulled a tiny white kitten from inside his hollow chest and cradled it close to the fearsome features of his helm. The kitten purred and rubbed its face against the armor.
Edward wanted to point out that his brother would probably have the easiest time keeping his cool because ostensibly a suit of armor could not convey emotions, but he figured Christmas was not the time to remind his brother about his lack of a face. He was still in such a good mood about the cat too.
Their first warning of the approach of their intended target was the kitten suddenly perking up and squeezing into a gap in Alphonse's armor.
Moment's later a black and white Shiba Inu came trotting into the office heralding the approach of First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye. Immediately, the dog's ears perked up and zeroed in on the suit of armor that was emitting mews of distress. Tail wagging enthusiastically, he started to jump up to investigate the armor for the source of the noise and the smell. Alphonse yelped, and tried to shoo him away, but the dog would only be called off by his master.
"Black Hayate, here," she commanded.
The dog obeyed with a whine of disappointment. Hawkeye swept into the room like the spirit of law and order, not a wrinkle in her uniform, not a hair out of place. All heads visibly bent closer to their work. She scrutinized the men like a bird of prey watching for signs of weakness. When they met with her approval she greeted the Elric brothers with a warm smile and assured them the Colonel would be along shortly if they'd like to take a seat. Then she straightened her stack of papers and walked over to the Colonel's desk, Hayate trailing close to her heels.
Alphonse graciously accepted a seat, looking at Edward as plaintively as a suit of armor could look. His initial objection to the entire plan had been his liking for the Lieutenant. Eventually Edward had been able to talk him into it with the promise of a kitten, but his hesitations were still there. He didn't want to play tricks on her, especially when she smiled prettily at them. Edward rolled his eyes. There was just no helping his little brother's soft spot for women and cats.
Edward remained standing with his arms crossed. The smiles of women did not dissuade him. He was made of sterner stuff. He had a mission.
Colonel Mustang was instantly suspicious when he arrived a few minutes later and saw them. Edward was delighted to see his eyes rake warily over the ceiling before he took a single step into the room. His brow furrowed.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.
"Are we not allowed to wish our favorite Colonel a merry Christmas?" Edward's smile was overly saccharine.
Colonel Mustang examined them both closely with narrowed eyes. "Do whatever you have planned and then get out."
"Sheesh, so harsh. It's like you don't trust me or something," Edward frowned and held up a small bag filled with wrapped presents, each no bigger than a deck of cards. "We are just distributing gifts."
The Colonel raised an eyebrow. "Is one of your gifts that cat inside Alphonse? Because I don't want it."
"What, no, not Lily," Alphonse took her out and held her close. "She's mine. Ed's letting me keep her."
"Fascinating. If you cause any explosions in this office today Edward, I will kill you."
He crossed the room and sat down at his desk. Edward suppressed a malicious grin when he saw the mistletoe appear. The other officers didn't look up. Havoc started having a coughing fit and had to bury his face in his hands. A bead of sweat appeared on Fury's brow. Lily meowed.
Edward started to walk around the room distributing his small packages, which happened to actually be decks of cards, only looking at the Colonel out of the corners of his eyes. He noticed to his annoyance that Alphonse was doing rather too much looking, but luckily, the Colonel and his lieutenant were both immersed in the intricacies of an expense report, and Black Hayate was busy watching the every movement of the suit of armor with the cat in it.
When at last he approached the Colonel's desk, the two officers looked up at him in tandem—Hawkeye's face was pleasant and incurious, the Colonel's was annoyed and dismissive. Edward felt a pang of guilt for doing this to the Colonel's nicest subordinate, but it didn't last long.
"For you Colonel Mustang, I thought I might try something more creative." He let himself look up at the ceiling for the first time.
The Colonel followed his eyes up to the little white-berried plant suspended neatly in place, tied with a dainty red ribbon. Edward allowed himself a malevolent chuckle when he saw the look of naked surprise and recognition take hold on the Colonel's face. But it was short lived. He quickly pulled down his mask of composure.
"Very festive, Fullmetal. Though hardly original."
Mustang looked at Hawkeye. Her inscrutable expression betrayed nothing to Edward, but it seemed to mean something to the Colonel. He stood up in one fluid motion. Then, with an intensity of purpose that Edward had never seen before, Colonel Mustang clasped his lieutenant's wrist in one hand and drew her closer—eliciting a gasping sound he had never heard her make before—until they were face to face. From the smoldering look that passed between them, Edward had the distinct impression that everyone else in the room had faded into non-existence.
His evil grin of triumph died.
He couldn't believe what he was seeing. He glanced around at Mustang's subordinates, but they were all equally slack-jawed. Breda was in the middle of filling an inkwell, but it was now overflowing all over his desk. Fury's face had turned as white as a sheet, and he looked as though he might faint.
Mustang's other hand slid up the side of Hawkeye's neck, cradling her face, then the line of her jaw, pulling her mouth closer to his own . . .
"Oh. My. God."
But not even Havoc's strangled cry of utter disbelief could interrupt them. Everyone in the office was frozen between horror and anticipation. It was like looking directly at a solar eclipse, but they could not look away.
He kissed her.
And she responded. The unbendable Lieutenant Hawkeye allowed herself to be pulled tighter against him and dug her fingernails into the epaulettes on his shoulders when what began as a touch escalated. Quickly.
Edward wasn't an expert on kissing, but he was pretty damn sure there had to be tongue involved in what they were doing. He didn't want to think about it. But dammit all, he was thinking about it.
After what seemed like forever, they broke apart, met each other's eyes for just a moment, and then it was all over. Hawkeye smoothed her hair demurely and turned back to her expense report without a word. Her face had the faintest rosy flush, but she otherwise she was as taciturn as ever. Mustang inhaled sharply, as if pulling himself out of a trance. He smoothed his hands out on his desk, and rearranged his face into a satiated smirk that he directed at Edward.
"Thank you, Fullmetal. It was nice to have an excuse to do that."
Edward couldn't have been more stunned if the Colonel had stood up and kicked him in the head. He needed to somehow unsee the last few minutes. Bleach his eyes. Bleach his brain. Maybe drink some bleach. It was too much.
"That! That was . . . You weren't supposed to actually—" He heard himself shrieking, but somehow he couldn't seem to stop the shrillness. "Ugh. Get a room if you're going to do that."
"I was just following tradition," Mustang spread his hands. "I thought that was your general idea with the stunt."
Edward growled inarticulately. When Havoc had described last year's Christmas prank on the Colonel to him, it sounded a lot more hilarious and entertaining. The kind of hilarious and entertaining that needed to be revisited and possibly become a yearly tradition. Because it would be funny to see the Colonel splutter and bluster about rules and propriety, maybe turn the color of a tomato, and definitely lose that stupid cat-ate-the-canary smirk. The smirk was on in full force now.
Edward looked around at the other witnesses for support. Lieutenant Havoc—who had been only too thrilled with the plan this morning—appeared stuck in a catatonic trance, with his mouth hanging open, and his eyes threatening to expand out of the confines of his face. Rather like a freshly hooked salmon. Fury and Falman were similarly speechless. Fury's face was now the color of old cottage cheese, and Falman was rubbing the bridge of his nose with his eyes squeezed tightly shut. Clearly, they would be no help.
Breda cleared his throat. "Hell, I'm just gonna ask because nobody else will. Is that kissing thing something you two do now?"
Mustang raised an eyebrow enigmatically. Edward thought Hawkeye should be given some sort of medal for how impassive her face remained throughout the exchange. She flipped over the page she was reading, reached down to scratch Black Hayate's head, and didn't even look up.
"It is not." Havoc seemed to have finally found his voice, but he was no less wide eyed. "People who have resolved their sexual tension do not kiss like that."
"Maybe in your experience," Breda muttered.
"What's that supposed to mean!?" Havoc fumed. "Just because you've never gotten past second base before—"
"Hey!" Edward stomped his foot. "Could you please stop talking about this in front of my little brother?!"
Breda ignored them both. "I have too gotten to second base before! You're problem is you just can't get past second base! It's all tits this, and boobs that. Look at me, I'm Havoc and I like busty women."
Edward knew Mustang was beside himself with joy over everything that was happening. It was unbearable to have everything backfire so spectacularly while the Colonel just sat there and watched with sardonic amusement.
"Alphonse, why don't you take Lily and play outside for awhile," he commanded. "We are surrounded by idiots in here."
"But Ed, I want to know what they're talking about. What's second base?"
"It's a baseball term." Edward was beginning to feel a vein on his temple throb. "Merry Christmas, Colonel. I hope you're happy."
With that Edward proceeded to haul his little brother bodily from the room, no easy feet considering his brother was a giant suit of armor that weighed as much as a refrigerator. Alphonse was also very keen on hearing the end of Breda and Havoc's argument which had devolved into a serious debate over the merits of breasts versus various other feminine attributes. It was sure to lead to all manner of uncomfortable questions later.
Where he had finally detached his brother's strong metal grip from the doorframe and relocated him into the hallway successfully, Edward poked his head back into the room. Havoc and Breda were finally settling back into their respective seats under the watchful and predatory gaze of a pistol-wielding Lieutenant Hawkeye who had prowled over to stand behind their chairs. Mustang was already immersed in a stack of papers, propping his chin on his hand and tapping his pencil impatiently.
In the newly formed silence that fell on the room, the whispered conversation between Falman and Fury was audible for the first time.
"That's true, you can't really tell if anything has changed between them," Falman was saying to the junior officer. "But still, it is an observable fact that he's been watching her backside all morning. Same as usual."
He seemed to realize only too late that nobody else was talking anymore. The sounds of office doors closing in the hallway and the faint electrical hum of the heater were the only noises. He shut his mouth and gulped. Slowly, ever so slowly, Hawkeye's amber eyes moved across the room until they rested on the Colonel who at least had the good grace not to look away. He grinned at her wolfishly.
"I know what I like, Lieutenant."
Edward decided that the look on her face was almost worth every misfortune that had come out of his bungled mistletoe caper. She couldn't seem to decide if she was angry, flattered or amused, and it resulted in the most peculiar series of facial twitches. He would cherish it always. And as for Mustang, he wouldn't let him forget that little admission either. Not ever.
He took his opportunity to exit before anyone else made another comment and rejoined the sulking suit of armor in the hallway. Alphonse was holding his kitten and brooding.
He was feeling more charitable, so he gave that cat a pat on the head. "Cheer up little brother. It wasn't a total loss."
"Is it more stuff I'm too young to know about?"
"Nah, I think I'll tell you about it, so you can ask the Colonel questions later. In fact, I think you should ask him to tell you about second base too," Edward chuckled. "Yeah, as long as I can be there to watch."
"Okay, but why is it funny?"
"I just is. You'll see." Edward stopped and frowned. "Although I guess I owe Hughes some money, don't I?"
He sighed as he started down the hallway, absently swinging his silver pocket watch. His brother lumbered after him, clanking with every step. How had Hughes known they would actually do it? Did he know, or was he just betting on the most interesting outcome? Whatever the case, he wasn't going to pay him today. Today he was going to think on everything he had seen and learned.
Did this mean those two were a 'couple' now? Somehow, Edward didn't think so. Havoc could be right about some things, occasionally. Of course, Havoc had called what he saw sexual tension. Edward felt more inclined to call it skin-curdling, eyeball-scaring lust that nobody asked to see. In fact, he would use those exact words if he was ever forced to endure a similar scenario again. Disgusting.
"You're supposed to kiss under the mistletoe, not try to devour each other," he muttered to himself as they descended the steps outside headquarters and joined the foot-traffic on the sidewalk.
"I thought it was very nice," Alphonse chimed in. "And I think you are exaggerating what happened because the subject makes you uncomfortable. You thought he'd be too scared, because you'd be too scared if that happened to you."
Edward gaped at him for a moment.
"I should never have let you see any of that," he muttered, but he couldn't help but smile at his precocious brother. "You are corrupted."
He would never admit it out loud, but he was happy to see that the Colonel had finally acknowledged what everybody knew about his feelings for his lieutenant. It was obvious in the way he looked at her, the way he spoke to her—the way his eyes became all serious and focused whenever she was talking. Even the way, he never let himself touch her for too long, as if he was afraid she might burn him. It was almost like he wasn't a complete asshole when he was with her, and that was saying something. Hawkeye was harder for Ed to interpret. In truth, women were more mysterious creatures to him. But even she might as well have been wearing a sign.
Surely, their enemies already knew, as well. Long before today.
It was a chilling thought. There were implications there that couldn't be dwelt upon. Resembol flashed in Edward's mind. Blue eyes, like the cornflowers that grew wild in the uncultivated fields. What would they do to her, if they wanted to hurt him?
It was hard to know what was right. If everybody already knew he loved her, and there was nothing that could reverse that, would loving her be wrong? Maybe if he acknowledged what she was, he could at least protect her. Maybe they could have moments. Maybe it would turn out to be worth it in the end. Or maybe not. Maybe claiming his weakness would be his downfall. Maybe he was risking too much.
But for now, it was as simple as a man and a woman sharing a fleeting kiss beneath an alchemized twig of poisonous white berries.
Thank you all.