Title -Reasons of the Heart
Disclaimer- Arakawa owns all
Timeline/Spoilers- Set in Roy's childhood, spoilers if you don't know who raised him
Summary- Someone has wormed into her heart.
One last dance, that's all she had to make it through, Chris reminded herself. She had wanted to leave the city of Brilliance two days ago, having gathered the information she needed, but there was always a risk when one hobnobbed with the rich and powerful. There was inevitably a ball, a gala, some foolish fete to attend and she ended up invited. Experience taught her that suddenly disappearing before the big event created more of stir than was healthy for her.
So here she was, eyeing up the buffet table, planning which food to blame her ill-timed stomachache on. It was that or blame the champagne flute she had in hand. Naturally, she would take a few more turns on the dance floor with the Areugian duke, Absolon Rey, who had invited her here. That accomplished she would feign an illness to make her early exit. Society women – or pretenders like herself – were only beautiful so long as they weren't spewing pate for distance. Chris had syrup of ipecac in her purse, in a perfume bottle, just in case Absolon proved to be on the persistent side. Seeing the Duke heading her way, Chris allowed the server to put a few artfully arrange canapés on her plate to help set the stage.
"Ah, Christelle," he cooed, resting a hand in the small of her back. "You are looking lovely tonight." Absolon's eyes fixated on the pendant she wore, a heart carved from quartz, a smoky colored, cheap token of affection that she should have known better than to wear. She had gotten so used to it hanging around her neck that she looked right past it when she got ready for the evening.
Her bodice was more cleavage than fabric so she couldn't hide it. Instead she affected a girlish giggle though the blush was real, only not for the reasons Absolon probably thought. That shifted his gaze from necklace to her jiggling breasts. "Thank you, your lordship."
He waved a hand. "I've told you to call me Absolon," he replied, taking her plate. "Turn around for me, let me see your fabulous dress."
Surrendering the appetizers, Chris did a slow spin for him. Her dress, right, her ass was more like it. Sapphire blue silk did look fine on her though, maybe not for too many more years, but tonight she'd give the younger girls in her band of spies a run for their money. Absolon wasn't really a bad guy. He hadn't openly asked for, or tried to force her into, sex, but she knew he wanted it. That was part of the game. She had gotten very good at getting what she wanted without having to go that far. Besides, Absolon was an old man. He probably only had equipment that worked sporadically. Then again, she'd met some old ones randier than goats.
"Exquisite. Will you do me the honors of this dance?" Absolon held out a hand to her.
She took it. His skin was soft under her fingers, a royal's hand, a hand that never had to work. In her spiked heels, Chris was nearly his height, but he didn't seem to mind. Of course, dancing with his gaze firmly planted in her abundant cleavage with that stupid pendant lodged in it, Absolon probably didn't notice anything at all.
Chris danced several waltzes with the duke before noticing it was time for her to start making her excuses. The band switched to a faster song and Chris took that as her chance. Absolon wasn't fond of dancing to those. "I'm sorry, my lord, but I think I might have had a little too much to eat or maybe a little too much sparkling wine."
"Oh my, you do look a little flushed," he replied, brushing his fingers across her cheek. "Do you want to go sit down? Or would you like me to send for my car to take you home?"
"I hope you won't think awfully of me if I go home now, Absolon." She flashed a coy smile at him. "I'm staying at the Imperial Arms Hotel if it wouldn't be too much trouble for your driver to take me there."
"Yes, yes, I remember and it won't be a problem."
Giving him a kiss for his troubles, Chris let Absolon fuss over her until the servants fetched the driver for him. She left the fretting duke at the party, whining a bit in the car to strengthen her story as the driver took her to the hotel. Chris gave it several minutes, her bags already packed. She changed out of her party clothes and pulled on something much more sedate for traveling, tucking the pendant under her shirt. Chris took off her auburn wig, carefully stowing it in a hat box. Her wigs were expensive, real hair so not to be easily spotted. In her experience, men rarely noticed if cuffs and collars didn't match but auburn was as light as she went. She looked awful blond.
Catching a cab to the station, Chris boarded a train, heading to Hanersville. From that little town, a friend of hers would drive her across the border at a remote point. Once back in Amestris, it would be a long train ride back to Central. As the train pulled away, Chris tried to get comfortable in her seat. What she really wanted was some sleep, but she wouldn't relax enough for that until she got back across the border. Instead, she took one of the books she had in put in her purse and tried to read.
Eventually, she pulled the pendant back out from its hiding spot, tired of the heart's point sticking her. Most people would probably just dismiss it as the costume jewelry that it was and never think twice about it. Chris smoothed a finger over it. It was, of course, cheap costume jewelry, but it was the thought behind it that made her love it. She would, however, have to be more careful in the future.
"Did you get it?" Fern asked when Chris finally made it into her bar.
She nodded, weary. How was it traveling could exhaust someone so thoroughly? Chris peeled out of her jacket and put it on the table. She took hold of the golden coat liner and pulled. "The military maps are printed on the other side of the fabric. I'll give it to General Armstrong tomorrow." Philip Gargantos Armstrong was a strange little man, but at least he was fiercely devoted to his wife and not at all handsy with her like some generals she could name. He also paid well. "Where's my boy?"
Fern snorted. "That brat you mean." She beckoned her boss to follow her. The younger spy cum babysitter led the way into the bar area.
Chris broke out into a wide smile when her seven year old nephew popped up from the table and all but flew into her arms. Roy kissed her cheek, and she hugged him until he started wiggling and whining about how it was girlie to hug. She patted his head. "I am a girl so you'll just have to put up with me. Have you been good?"
"They're making me work!" Roy replied, horrified by the prospect.
"He's a godsend that way," Fern agreed. "All the broken glassware and plates, we just hand over to him and he fixes them right up with his alchemy. Well, if you can stop him from putting his own special touches on them. This boy isn't right in the head."
Chris knew all too well her nephew's vivid imagination.
"Hey, it's cool!" Roy wagged a finger at her. "And that's all I get to do. I'm slave labor!"
Fern snorted. "Where did you even learn a word like that?"
"It's true." Roy looked up at his aunt, nodding solemnly. "It is."
Chris laughed. "I'm sure it is, but it's not too bad, fixing things with alchemy right?"
"Drunks break a lot of stuff." Roy pouted.
"I agree." Chris sat down at the table where he'd been busy reading a book, probably more alchemy knowing him. "Did you miss me?"
Roy leaned against her chair. "I always miss you. Hey, you have on my necklace." He tapped the quartz heart. "You wore it! You must really like it."
Chris ran a finger over her nephew's birthday gift. "I do. I told you I'd wear it."
"Cool!" Roy sat next to her. "Did you have a big adventure? Can you tell me about it?"
"A little," she replied. He was far too young yet to know about the spying, but there were things she got to do in Areugo that were perfectly safe for him to know. "Let's go get a treat."
"Ice cream?" Roy interrupted hopefully.
"Sure, ice cream."
"And a donut. No two donuts." He held up two fingers.
"Now, you're pushing it. I just have to go lock something up." Chris got up and picked up her jacket. "Fern, I'm taking Roy-boy out for ice cream. We'll be back later."
"No problem," Fern replied.
"Okay, I'll go lock this up and we'll go for ice cream then I'll tell you about my adventure."
"Yay." Roy bounced toward the door.
Chris reminded herself to go find him some kind of outdoor activity to burn away his energy. Left to his own devices, Roy would just read alchemy books all day then erupt into bursts of energy that weren't always in his best interests. She watched the boy, smiling to herself. This was why she worked so hard. She hadn't planned on motherhood and hadn't been ready when it was thrust upon her. That said, her precocious, enthusiastic nephew had become her heart, no the heart of her whole operation. Her girls adored him. He was the only reason she'd ever need to carry on. She'd give him the world if she could, but right now, he'd settle for ice cream. Locking the jacket away, Chris ushered him outside, laughing as he jogged down to the corner, not even waiting for her. The world would wait.
Ice Cream was another matter.