I wish I owned Fullmetal Alchemist.
Fu could see it. Really, you'd have to be an idiot not to.
He knew since the first moment she had pinned him down, right in the middle of the sunligt orchard on the palace training grounds. They smiled at each other, and laughed, and resumed their conversation as if nothing had happened. He remembered how he used to shout at them for distracting each other, and punish them on the days he found them playing hooky by the lake, giggling and smirking at the way his mustache twitched in anger. It had been black then. He saw how inseparable they were, how Lan Fan always tried to avoid sulking when Young Master was unable to attend training, and how Young Master outright complained every time he had to leave her side.
He watched them grow older, and the ability to distinguish between social classes manifested itself in their child's minds. He saw how they attempted to restrain themselves, to eradicate that deep affection and loyalty implanted inside them, helped along by Young Master's pompous family conventions, and Lan Fan's growing sense of honor and duty. Observed quietly from the sidelines as they took turns glancing as mournfully as a child could after one another when their backs were turned, and wondered how such immature beings could harbor such real emotions. He saw them attempt to avoid each other after encounters that challenged the relationship between master and servant, prince and bodyguard, royal and peasant. He saw them endeavor to become detached, to maintain a perfectly balanced mentality when around one another. He saw them fail amazingly.
He saw little things, insignificant things really, that meant so much to him, who had lived and endured what was consuming them body and soul as they grew together in honor and strict protocol. He had watched from afar that day when they escorted Young Master to visit his mother in the palace, and she had said something in passing about his fifty wives each bearing him a child once be became Emperor, and Lan Fan had lost her grip on the windowsill and gave a tiny gasp, and believed no one to have noticed after she regained her balance. He was there that night one of her classmates confessed to her by the lake, under the full moon and the twinkling stars, and their voices carried on the soft breeze to their location in the arena, where he had to tighten his grip on his jian because the Young Master had begun to spar with newfound malice.
He saw his granddaughter sob into the prince's shirt the day of her fifteenth birthday, the day they were attacked by assassins of the Wang clan, and for the first time she sunk her kunai into a man's heart, and collapsed with him as he fell to the ground. She had been absolutely traumatized by what she had done, and remained catatonic at his side, shaking, until Young Master knelt beside her and took her hands in his, and blessed them for protecting him, for demonstrating such love and loyalty for the Twelfth Prince of Xing, and for protecting their owner from harm, because what would he ever do without her? And she buried her head in his chest and cried, and he stroked her hair and gazed at her so intently it felt intrusive to watch.
By then, Fu was certain of it.
Servitude is not a light matter in Xing. Vassals are redeemed for their loyalty and fidelity to their masters, and are taught that the highest honor they can attain is to die for their lords without hesitation. Yet never had he encountered a subordinate with such amazing allegiance to her master, such dedication, such conviction that one day the Young Lord would be Emperor. He was there that night they were camping at the base of the mountains, on a return trip from a faraway city, and their whispers carried out the tent flap to Fu's perked ears, voices saying things about how he was going to turn this kingdom around, how the people wouldn't be oppressed if he could help it, how the royal family would regress into a normal one once the harem was dissolved. He heard about how Lan Fan was so lucky because she would be able to do what she wanted, marry whoever she wanted, and live accordingly to whatsoever she desired. He heard about how the Young Master was being ridiculous, about how she would never leave his side until the day she died, about how he was stuck with her for life, because on no account would she ever dare to leave the future emperor alone by himself, he might fall off a cliff while not watching where he was going.
He watched them mournfully, because in a perfect world, where duty didn't exist, where maidens were free to wear beautiful dresses and be spoiled by their grandfathers, where youths were concerned only with their stomachs and their hearts opposed to kingdoms and wars, there the two might have a chance to be happy. Where princes and servants existed not, where death and suffering was peaceful, not honorable, and where all loved and were loved. There, those children who were so much like adults would be able to love as they pleased, where hindrances were obsolete. He remained vigilant while he was away during the escapade in Amestris, where Young Master supposedly refused to leave Lan Fan's side while she lay bedridden, recuperating from her wound, how he apparently thought about her constantly when he had to leave, how the decision to share his body with the homunculus was mostly because of the guilt he felt for her severing her own arm for his sake. Young Master had always been noble, but it was Fu's clandestine belief that this went several steps beyond his enthusiasm to serve his subjects.
He saw the first time the Young Master scraped his first battle wound from a fight he picked with one of the Shitong clan's leaders, back in Xing. It was a gash, of no menacing proportions, cut cleanly along his ribcage. It was on that day that his granddaughter first screamed "Ling!" and both Fu and Young Master turned so suddenly they were left reeling from its G-force, and Young Master's eyes shone as he watched her inspect the cut, and Fu knew from the absence of his usual snores that the prince was lying awake that night, resulting in his tardiness to training the next day. The fools. Yet, he couldn't find it in his heart to chastise them, and he saw in their eyes that each was well aware of the utter impossibility, the sheer lunacy of it all. He saw it in the way the Young Master watched her face on the rare occasion she allowed herself to sleep, and in the way Lan Fan refused to be in his presence without the protection of her guardian's mask. They seemed to know, to the very depths of their souls they seemed aware, that it was out of reach, forbidden to them, and yet they couldn't seem to stop themselves.
Fu saw it all. He only wished that they could, too.
There's not enough LingFan in the world, so I made some! Be sure to keep an eye out for more!