A/N: Good Gods, it's an update! -Gasps and dies of shock - Okay, in my defense, I did warn you last time that I was going to have a hard time getting chapters up for the next few months. But really! It's been a month and a half, and that's absurd. I rather underestimated the degree to which Physics would completely and utterly kick my ass; between that class, Calculus, and the incredibly boring Econ of doom, I've barely had time to sleep, let alone do anything even approaching fun. So no chance to write, and when I did have time, I was too tired to think of anything, plus my brain kept getting attacked by oneshot plot bunnies (they need to make special shotguns for plot bunnies, they really do), all of which added up to me starting this chapter ages ago and then never ever finishing it. Gomen!!! But I finally managed to sit down and wrestle this chapter into submission, so here you have it. The final part of the four - part "Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?" bit of The Dance Lesson. Which means the party is finally about to end - about time, considering they've been there since November! I would like to take a moment to stop and reflect that this story was SUPPOSED to be a ONE-SHOT! And now it is a massive, evil creation that has completely taken over my life. Heh. Anyway, to make up for depriving you for so long, I offer lots and lots and lots of fluff in this chapter. You have no idea how hard it was to restrain my psychotic yaoi muse, Maude; she kept insisting that Ed and Roy absolutely had to have "kinky-outside-at-the-party-where-anyone-could-catch-us sex." Alas, they are not sleeping together in this chapter, and probably not for another three or so chapters yet. Sigh. Such is life. ENJOY!
Disclaimer: If I owned FMA, I would have been able to BUY shirts with yaoi on them, instead of having a big t-shirt making party for Roy's birthday. For the record, I made: a RoyEd shirt that has upside down kissing and says "If I know what love is, it is because of you," a shirt with Ed kicking someone's ass that says "Who are you calling short?" a Hughes shirt that says "What would Hughes Do?" and a shirt with ANBU Kakashi that says "Lost on the Road of Life (that one made my aunt look at me funny. I think she thinks I'm going to go emo on them)". Fun-ness!
Previous Chapter: Since I left you a month ago on a cliffhanger, I thought I'd refresh your memory.
"Why?! What's stopping me? Why can't I love you?" Ed challenged him, and the sight of those golden eyes filled with hurt and fury was too much for Roy.
"You can't love me…because you're too good for me. Because you're too perfect. Because you're too beautiful. Because I want you too much." He paused then, his voice barely a whisper, his dark eyes stubbornly refusing to meet Ed's. "You can't love me…because I love you, and I don't deserve that."
Chapter 10: Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? – Part 4
'How dare he?' was the first thought that entered Ed's head after Mustang's unexpected confession. How dare he stand there looking so beautiful and saying what Ed had wished so much he would, without meaning a word? What gave him the right to make Ed feel like this over and over, after he'd already sworn he wouldn't ever again? How could the bastard do this to him?
Ed stood next to the door, back to the glassed-in panes, hands clenched at his sides. Roy stood in the middle of the small courtyard, illuminated by the golden glow of the lamps, his expression a mix of assumed insouciance and poorly concealed expectancy. Ed knew Roy was waiting for him to say something, hopefully something along the lines of 'I never knew you felt that way, I love you too, let's go out and have kinky office sex.' Suddenly he couldn't stand it, couldn't stand that man having the nerve to stand there as if he had the right to expect anything of Ed after what he'd done. All he could think was 'How dare he?' It was an overwhelming thought, accompanied by waves of anger so strong that Ed couldn't contain it.
"How dare you!" he shouted. "I can't believe you can stand there and say that with a straight face after what I told you! Just how screwed up are you?"
Mustang blinked at him, and the wounded look was almost enough to convince Ed he might have been mistaken. Almost.
"I just told you I loved you, Ed. I didn't realize you'd be so offended by the idea."
All Ed's misgivings vanished as he heard the slight edge of smug sarcasm. Of course Mustang couldn't be telling the truth; he never had before, so why should now be any different? This was all just a game to him, just like always.
"I don't want to hear it, bastard!" Ed said.
Mustang's voice was puzzled as he replied, "Don't want to hear what? That I love you? It's the truth."
'Just shut up, bastard. I told you, I don't want to hear it! I don't want to stand here and listen to this crap about you being in love with me when I know you've said the same thing to a thousand girls whose names you couldn't even remember the next day!"
Mustang's voice was so low and flat that if Ed didn't know better, he would have thought the man was embarrassed, or even pleading with him.
"Give me some credit, Ed. I never tell those girls I love them; I don't want to promise them things I'm not willing to give." His voice trailed off for a moment, as though he had to prepare himself, although Ed didn't know why, because the bastard didn't mean any of it. "You're the only person I've ever wanted to say those words to."
The very small shreds of dignity he had left kept Ed from putting his hands over his ears and chanting "I can't hear you," but it was a close thing.
"Stop trying to lie to me, damnit! Stop trying to convince me you really mean this stuff, because I don't buy it!"
Ed could see Mustang was getting frustrated, and he wished the man would hurry up and snap and admit that this wasn't real, that he didn't really love him, that he was just saying those things to screw with him.
"Ed, damnit, what can I say to make you believe me? This isn't just a game to me. I mean it. I love you."
Ed wasn't sure how much more of this he could handle, and a distant corner of his mind asked why he hadn't just fled this conversation through the door at his back.
"I don't care if you mean it or not! You don't even know what love is! I'm not going to let you keep jerking me around! I refuse to walk into your office tomorrow morning to have you tell me this was another mistake!" Ed stared resolutely at the ground. "I'm not going to let you hurt me again."
The sharp sound of flesh striking flesh echoed in the small courtyard. Ed felt the gash on his cheek beginning to bleed sluggishly again. Instinctively, he brought his fist up in an answering blow, only to find his wrist seized in a grip so tight he felt nails digging into his skin. This pain and the dull throb of his face, however, quickly faded from his awareness; he was far more occupied by the face shouting at his an inch away from his own. The fact that it was Mustang, legendary King of Cold Emotionless Bastards, actually losing control like that was almost as shocking, and as painful, as the words he was shouting.
"Would you just grow the hell up, Edward! You're acting like a damn spoiled child! Do you think you're the only one in this who has any feelings? Do you think you're the only one who's gotten hurt? Or did you forget about those lovely posters of me that you plastered all over Central? How did you think I was going to feel when I saw those? Do you have any idea how damn hard it is for me to stand here and tell you how I feel about you after what you did to me?! But I'm doing it, damnit, because I love you, because I've always loved you, because there's never been anybody but you, no matter how thoroughly screwed up that is. If I've ever known what love is, it's because of you!"
The tirade ended abruptly, and Roy flung aside his arm as if he were disgusted by it. Ed took a step back, eyes wide and blank with shock. He didn't let his hand drop; instead, he raised it slowly to his face, running his fingers lightly down the cheek where Roy had struck him.
Roy flushed. "I'm sorry Ed, I –"
"Don't, Mustang," Ed cut him off, surprising both of them. "Don't apologize. I… I deserved that. I was acting like an ass."
"Ed…" Roy said, and trailed off. Ed didn't think he'd ever seen the older man at a loss for words before. Slumping back against the door with a sigh, Ed realized that he didn't really know what to say either. He was getting really, extremely sick of these awkward silences.
He looked up at Roy and laughed ruefully. "We are dysfunctional, aren't we?" he asked. "We can't even admit we're in love without nearly killing each other. What is wrong with us?"
Roy shook his head. "I really don't know, Ed." They both lapsed back into silence to contemplate that for a moment.
"What if it's too late?" Ed asked Roy suddenly.
Roy blinked at him. "What?"
"Even if I do believe that you're in love with me, what if it's too late? What if we've already gone too far to go back? You hurt me and I hurt you, and I don't know if we can forgive each other. I mean, it's not the kind of thing you can just forget. Have you considered that we may have already made too many mistakes? Have you thought that we've already lost our chance to have this?"
"I don't want it to be too late, Ed, or I would have let you leave. As insane as it seems, I really want to give us a chance. What do you want?"
Ed wondered how he was supposed to answer a question like that. The words came to his lips and died again as he realized he didn't know what he wanted – he was lost in wanting this, wanting Mustang, wanting to be with him, but also wanting to leave, wanting to run away, not wanting to open up, not wanting to get hurt – and he didn't know what the answer was supposed to be, damnit!
Then he looked at Mustang again, and it suddenly seemed very clear. Impulsivity had always been his strong suit, and it served him well now.
"Oh, hell," he swore. "Damnit, Roy, I want you. Bastard."
This time Ed didn't wait for Roy to kiss him. He placed both hands on the taller man's shoulders and lifted his face slightly to touch his lips to Roy's. He stiffened for a second under Ed's hands, but then Ed felt his arms wrap around him, and the kiss deepened, became Roy kissing him as well as him kissing Roy, and it was perfect.
Ed pulled back from the kiss when he tasted a salty dampness on Roy's lips; raising one hand, he traced the line down Roy's face, and looked up at him questioningly.
"Oh no," Roy said. "It's raining."
Ed looked up. The sky was cloudless, as it had been all day. He could even see a handful of stars, despite the lights of the city. "Roy, it's not –"
"No. It's raining." Roy answered, wiping a hand down his face. "This is rain."
"Okay," said Ed, smiling, and returned to the kiss.
Several minutes later, Ed let out a sharp yelp, raising his hand to massage his shoulder, which was now burning painfully.
"Ow! Jerk. Not so hard. You're going to make me start bleeding again."
Roy pulled away sharply, eyes narrowing in suspicion. "You told me you weren't hurt."
Ed rolled his eyes. "I'm fine. My automail took most of it; he barely nicked me. I bandaged it before you came out here."
Ed tried not to twitch at the finger that traced over the bandaged gash on his shoulder.
"I think tomorrow I'm going to visit that man and have a conversation with him about the advisability of bringing weapons to diplomatic events and using them on State Alchemists. He needs to be taught the error of his ways," Roy said with a cold smile.
Ed glared at him. "What, bastard, so now I can't defend myself? I kicked that guy's ass, remember? I don't need you to protect me."
Roy smirked at him and leaned closer. Ed shivered slightly; Roy's fingers had still been resting on his shoulder, and now he trailed them down Ed's chest, tracing small circles on the red fabric.
"I bet you're very strong," Roy whispered in his ear.
To Ed's credit, after he squeaked in surprise, turned scarlet, and shoved Roy away, he also hit him hard in the back of the head with his right hand. He then turned and walked to the door in as dignified a manner as he could considering that he was still blushing bright red.
"Where are you going?" Roy asked him, sounding hurt.
"I'm going back inside," said Ed. "You are a pervert. If I stay out here any longer, you aren't going to let me go back at all, are you?"
Roy grinned. "Absolutely not."
"I'm not going to stick around and let you molest me, you know! Besides, people are probably worried about me, after that dramatic exit. They probably think I'm lying out here dying of blood loss."
"Let them worry."
Ed turned and glared at him. "Easy for you to say. You're not the one that's going to get caught being molested by a superior officer when they come looking for me."
Roy blanched. "You know, maybe going back in is a good idea, Ed." He quickly made his way across the courtyard to follow Ed through the door.
Except that Ed's hand paused over the door handle, and instead of leaving the courtyard for the ballroom he merely stood there, frozen.
"Ed, what are you doing?" Roy asked. "I thought we were going back in."
Ed flushed a darker shade of red. "I don't want you to go back in there," he said. "You're going to go back to your date and I'm going to go back to mine, and it'll be like this never happened, and then tomorrow morning you'll call me into your office and say you were just drunk again." He scuffed a booted foot against the ground. "If you leave I'm going to lose you again, and then I'd have to kill you."
Ed felt a warm breath ghost across his ear. "I assure you, Edward, you will not get rid of me that easily."
"Swear it," He said. "Swear that tomorrow we won't pretend this never happened. Swear that this won't be all I ever get. Swear."
Ed felt a hand tighten around his. "You are mine, Ed. I'm not giving you up now. I'm not letting anyone else have you but me. I swear. "
Ed grinned. "You're a possessive bastard. Think you'll be able to remember that when you're dancing with whatever cheap whore of a diplomat they paired you off with?"
"Don't remind me," Roy said wryly. "You have no idea how tempted I was to set her dress on fire…"
"I know what you mean," Ed said. "Mine is probably going to kill me when I go back in there. Or maybe just blackmail me into being her slave for the rest of my life."
"Do I want to know?"
"It's a long story," Ed answered. He looked (not up! A voice in his mind insisted) at Roy. "I'd rather dance with you. Even if you are horrible at it."
"At least I'm tall enough to see over the tops of my partner's boots," Roy retorted.
Ed twitched, but refused to give in to the temptation of letting loose a string of incoherent insults. He knew Roy was just trying to get him worked up. Roy had probably already forgotten that they had both agreed that it was too dangerous out here, that there was too much risk of being caught. He knew if he let himself get drawn into a fight, they'd still be out here after the party was already over. As tempting as that idea was, however, they really did need to return – they were probably in trouble already for ignoring their duty, and he really didn't want anyone, particularly his date, to come looking for him.
Ed groaned. "We need to go back in, Roy."
Roy nodded glumly. "At least I can think about you when I'm dancing with that Xingian stick insect from Hell. Are we going, then?"
Ed kissed him once more, very lightly. "See you tomorrow, then?" he asked.
"Tomorrow, Ed," Roy replied, and turned the handle of the door.
Roy's passage down the corridors the next day drew a great deal of attention. Most likely, it was because the colonel looked…happy. Not smug and self-satisfied, not like one of his schemes had worked, not like something bad had happened to a superior officer, not like he was amusing himself by imagining how he was going to torture his subordinates that day, but actually happy. It was…odd, to say the least.
Roy, needless to say, did not notice the many stares directed at him as he walked to his office. He did, however, notice when he opened the door and every head immediately snapped toward him. He subordinates once again had that suspicious look that suggested they'd been talking about him and didn't want him to know about it. He ignored it, waiting patiently for someone (most likely Hawkeye) to say something (most likely threats relating to how much work he had to do).
No one, to his irritation, said a word. They merely stared at him.
"Just what about me is so interesting?" He snapped finally. Whatever spell they had been under, his words seemed to break it, because he immediately heard Havoc snigger.
"Did you meet someone at the party last night?" The lieutenant asked.
"Why would you say that?" Roy asked.
"Because you look like you got –" Hawkeye clamped a hand over the man's mouth. Glaring at the blonde, she said, "He means that you look unusually happy, sir."
"Oh," said Mustang. He beamed brightly at Havoc before crushing his hopes of hearing the details of the colonel's love life with the remark, "My private life is none of your business, lieutenant."
He was reasonably sure that as he passed them walking across the room to his office door, he heard a voice mutter "but he does look like he got –" before being cut off in a pained yelp.
There was a piece of paper taped to his door. Roy blinked in surprise.
"Lieutenant Hawkeye, why is there a piece of paper taped to my door?" he asked dumbly.
"I don't know, sir," she replied. "It was there when I got here this morning. Someone must have come in early this morning and left it. We were waiting for you to get here to open it." Which explained the impression he'd had that they'd been talking about him.
Mustang peeled the paper off the door. On closer examination, it proved to be a single piece of thick white paper, folded in half. His name was scrawled across the outside. Roy felt his stomach lurch in fear. There could be no mistaking that untidy, awkwardly left-handed scrawl. The letter was from Ed.
After a moment's thought, Roy concluded that if he was going to find out that Ed realized he'd made a horrible mistake and never wanted to see him again – and why else would Ed leave a letter for him on his door – he probably wanted to do it in the privacy of his office. Holding the letter delicately between two fingers, as if it might explode if he weren't careful, he opened his door.
Roy's first muddled thought as he crossed the threshold of his office and saw the vivid blue glow of a transmutation circle was that it was an assassination attempt. This idea had to be rejected, though, as the light faded and he was not dead, or even in pain, and didn't seem to be missing any key parts. In fact, for a second he thought the transmutation had failed and accomplished nothing. Then he looked up.
His office was filled with flowers. Every surface – desk, walls, floor, ceiling, everything – was covered in a riot of blooms. And they really were blooming, too; they weren't cut flowers that someone had piled up in the room, but appeared to be alive, growing out of the woodwork and bursting into flower.
He saw huge purple horns, and round blood red blossoms; white flowers that looked like teardrops and pink flowers that curled and twisted on their stems. Every space that wasn't dominated by the larger flowers was crowded with sprays of tiny blossoms in pink, gold, white, and purple. The mingled scent was sweet, and almost overpowering, strong enough that it left him almost giddy for a moment before he adjusted and began to pick out the scents of individual flowers; the red ones had a heavy, dark fragrance, while the white blooms lingered as a delicate, haunting scent and the pink flowers filled the air with a wholesome sweetness.
The alchemist in him noted clinically that the transmutation circle must have taken several hours to draw up. The rest of him didn't particularly care, being too busy being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the spectacle.
It was then that he remembered the letter he still held in one hand, and standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by flowers, he carefully unfolded it. There were not as many words as he had expected; in fact, it couldn't even be called a letter in the traditional sense.
Yellow Acacia – secret love
Ambrosia – your love is reciprocated
Red Camellia – you're a flame in my heart
Gladiolus – I really am sincere
Buttercup – childishness
Asphodel – regret
Purple Hyacinth – I am sorry, please forgive me
Snowdrop – hope
Amaranth – unfading love
Viscaria – will you dance with me?
Notes: Kudos to anyone who picked up on the rain scene, which is from Hughes' funeral in the anime AND the manga. It is one of my favorite scenes of all time, because it is just so sad and beautiful; I had to include it somewhere. But, since I refuse to kill Hughes and always will, I decided to tweak it a little. I love it! And the Flower symbolism thing was inspired by JAG's lovely story "Enter the Victorians," although I used quite different flowers than she did.
A/N: Cheers to JAG, who convinced me that I should change Roy from Responible Soldier Roy to Total Pervert Roy. No promises on when I will have Chapter 11 done, although this week and next week should be a bit less stressful, so I might be able to get some work (aka writing) done. We'll see. The next chapter will probably be a bit of a breather, though, before we move into complicated relationship territory in the form of date the first. Just to let you know. Now please, please, please review, wonderful people! I will give you eternal lasting love, and maybe a cookie!