By His Side
Soft footsteps dutifully trail behind the swift ones of the emperor. He knows, very well, whose they are; their sound has become familiar to him and has turned into a constant companion to his own over the years. He has come to expect that sound of the delicate padding of feet moving in rhythm with his, that comforting feeling of her chi washing over him, to always be there – he has come to expect her to always be there.
"Lan Fan," he says. His strides suddenly stop, and hers follow suit.
"Yes Your Highness."
He waits a moment, turning around to face his aide, the light evening breeze the only thing filling the silence between them.
"Lan Fan," he addresses, "why don't you walk beside me?"
"Why, Your Highness? Because it is my duty to protect you; how am I to watch your back when I am walking in line with you?"
A jocular sigh escapes his lips, imitating frustration. "Relax Lan Fan, and just walk with me. I don't want to hear any of this needing to be two paces behind; I want you next to me."
"I…Yes My Lord."
The silence between them returns as they continue their evening stroll; the air around them, however, has become tense. Lan Fan can feel the uneasiness floating about, radiating off the man to her left, and it startles her. Onyx eyes turn upward to gaze at his profile; in a single glace, she can see by his furrowed brows that something is amiss – something is bothering him and it worries her.
"Your Highness, is anything the matter?"
A small smile plays on his lips as he stops and turns his head toward her. "You really know me well, Lan Fan. You're still the only one who's able to read my thoughts and feelings with a single glance."
She doesn't respond to his comment – she feels that he is talking more to himself than to her – but instead waits for him to continue.
"Lan Fan," he finally says, "what do you suppose is more important, happiness or duty?"
"Happiness or duty, Your Highness?" she wonders aloud. "Well, I would assume that it depends on the circumstance…but I suppose something done out of duty may lead to happiness on some occasion."
She looks into his eyes, seeking discernment, whether he approved of her answer, but gets none. Instead, he seems distant; his eyes peer forward, focusing on something behind her, into the quickly darkening sky. How she wishes that she could really read his thoughts, just so that she could give him a sufficient reply, a reply that would put him at ease. Unfortunately, however, she cannot, and so she must pry those thoughts out from his mind and bring them out into the open where she can see them and do something to alleviate them.
"Is…is there a reason why you ask, Your Highness?" Lan Fan hesitantly questions.
"Should I decide who I spend my life with out of duty…or happiness…? Should I spend my life with fifty wives, handpicked by the clansmen, or the one woman I love?"
"My Lord, isn't there a way to fulfill both duty and happiness?"
He doesn't mull over her response nor does he consider her words; instead, he gives a quick retaliation as though he had already considered (and ruled out) her suggestion. "I can't do that. I cannot have my wife sharing the place by my side with women from the other clans; it just doesn't belong to them."
"But then…" the guard quietly mumbles to herself, her voice just above a whisper. "…Who…?"
Before she even has the time to wonder how he had heard her, and even before her honed reflexes can react, his soft lips brush against hers. Reflexively, she does not pull away, but eases her into it as he does. Inwardly, she knows that this is wrong and improper, but her mind draws a blank as the sudden euphoric feeling clouds her rational mind.
When they pull apart, their faces are flushed, cheeks tinged a scarlet red. Lan Fan does not meet his gaze, but instead finds herself looking at the wooden floor beneath her feet.
"I…My…My apologies. I…I am merely a guard; it was not my place to–"
"Don't say that." His arms wrap around her in a tight embrace as his words cut hers off. "Don't say things like that Lan Fan," he whispers into her hair. "You risked your life to save mine time and time again; if it weren't for you, I would be dead, many times over." One of his hands finds her automail arm; his fingers intertwine with her metallic ones and he squeezes her substitution hand tight. "You've don't your duty exceptionally, and now, I just want you to be happy."
"But My Lord, I'm already–"
"Lan Fan, Your place is right here. Please, promise me you will always stay by my side."
"I…Well, of course–"
"Lan Fan, become my wife."
She instantly steps back and looks up at him, her eyes wide and mouth agape with surprise. "What? I…Well– but…" she stutters, her cheeks burning.
"I only want you by my side, no other."
"But…but what about your reputation? What will the clansmen say?"
"I don't care about that. I just think it's time for us to be happy," he says, his hand finding the side of her face, her thumb wiping away her tears before they can fall. "So what do you say, Lan Fan?"
A smile graces her face – a beautiful smile, he thinks, that he could never live without – and her arms encircle him as she buries her face in his chest before he can see the tears trail down her cheeks.
"Yes," she replies.
This was the first Fullmetal Alchemist piece that I have ever written, and the first that I have posted here on fanfiction. To be honest, I haven't done much writing in a while (aside from essays and various papers for school), so I feel a bit rusty, but I hope you enjoyed the read nonetheless. Any feedback and constructive criticism is welcomed! Thanks for reading!