Fullmetal Alchemist Fan Fiction ❯ Underneath it All ❯ Beautiful Distortion ( Chapter 5 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Disclaimer : Nothing but what the plot bunnies deposit in my mind belongs to me and my only profit being the reviews of my dear readers.

Underneath It All
Chapter 05: Beautiful Distortion
Sunday morning rolled around and Ed woke to the smell of pancakes and bacon. As he sat up and stretched, a long yawn worked its way past his lips. When he swung his feet out of bed and they came in contact with coolness of his bedroom floor he marveled at the dual sensation. Even though it's been years since he had regained his left leg the awe still had yet to wear thin with him. In the recesses of his mind he often wondered if it ever would.
The eight years he spent without the limb had definitely left its mark.
The thought of the recovered limb brought his mind around to the conversation he had with Mustang the day before. The fact that he had shared so much with the man caused a wave of awkwardness to wash over the blond alchemist. He ended up rolling his eyes at the memory of his own actions and words as he made his way to the bathroom. He couldn't help but wonder what made him dump the woes of his world onto Mustang of all people.
With a shrug of his shoulders he pushed the thought out of his mind and proceeded to brush his teeth. He could think on this later… breakfast was waiting and so was Al.
When Ed entered the kitchen Al greeted him with a smile and motioned for him to have a seat. Before Ed could sit down comfortably, Al had a plate piled full of eggs, pancakes and bacon in front of him; no sooner than the thank you passed his lips did Ed start digging in.
Al moved away from the table and laughed quietly as he opened the fridge. When he pulled out the milk and started filling a glass Ed's eyes narrowed in suspicion and his defenses went on high alert.
“Relax, Brother. It's for me. I have absolutely no desire to start the last day of my weekend off by fighting with you over your crappy diet.”
Somewhat taken aback by his Brother's words-and tone-Ed just sat there in silence with his mouth agape. When Alphonse turned around but refused to meet his eyes Ed realized something was wrong, he just didn't know what that something was. When he parted his lips to ask, Al simply put up his free hand and said, “And no, I don't want to talk to you about it.”
“You don't want to talk at all or just not to me?” Ed asked, already suspecting the answer.
Al took the last swig of his milk like he was kicking back a shot of scotch. Once it was drained he sat the now empty glass down-none too softly-on the counter and turned to stare out the kitchen window. Ed flinched at the harsh sound and just stared at his usually mild-mannered brother in disbelief. It was not often that Al got bent out of shape about something and when he did it could be rather frightening.
Ed's breakfast had lost its appeal but he began to poke at the cooling food nevertheless. He was trying to find a way to break the silence that had enveloped the room when Alphonse did it for him. “I sorry for snapping at you Brother, I didn't mean to take my frustration out on you.” It was obvious to Ed by the way Al was drumming his fingers on the counter that his brother had more to say but was trying to find the right words.
“Al I don't mean to pry but you know you can talk to me about anything right?”
“Yes and no …that's only true to a point Brother.”
Ed's face morphed through a series of expressions before it settled on a mixture between hurt and angry. “And exactly what do you mean by that?” he asked as he pushed away from the table, his food forgotten, and folded his arms across his chest.
Al sighed loudly. “Despite all you do know Brother, and the vast things you've experienced even you have to admit there are still some subjects you know next to nothing about.”

“Like what? And when you answer that, please tell me what the hell it has to do with this conversation. I'm lost over here!” Ed replied at a volume a bit louder than necessary.
Al whirled around to face his brother and pointed an accusing finger at him. “Fine, do you really want to know what's bothering me? I'll tell you. I'm frustrated Brother, sexually frustrated, I haven't had sex since Kara and I broke up four months ago and it's starting to grate on my nerves!”
It took a few seconds before Ed's brain could process what Al had shouted, but when it did his cheeks turned an impressive shade of crimson and he looked away.
“Thank you for proving my point Brother.” Al said before he started to leave the kitchen. As he stormed past his brother Ed grabbed onto his sleeve effectively halting his march. “Hey, just because I don't have a lot of experience with something doesn't mean I can't listen.”
Al's shoulders slumped when he heard this but he stood his ground. “I know you mean well Brother but I've known you all my life and this is a subject you have always avoided like the plague.”
“I do not!” Ed shouted.
“You do too!!” Al yelled in returned, and after he did he took a good look at Ed, assessed the tension in his own body and came to a decision. “Look this is a stupid thing to fight over, so why don't we just drop it ok?”
“Fine by me,” Ed whispered as he put his anger in check, “but can I ask you one more question?”
Al was leery of this but he nodded anyway, he figured he brought all of this on himself by having an attitude first thing in the morning. A few moments passed and Ed was still silent. Al arched an eyebrow at his brother and finally Ed spoke. “What makes you think that …why did you say I avoid that subject?”
Al threw his arms up in the air in frustration. He couldn't believe this. “Because you can't even say the word Brother, and don't try to deny it!” Al said as he turned on his heels and headed for the side door that led out to the porch.
“Are you trying to say I'm a prude?” Ed said as he jumped to his feet and followed his brother.
“Yes, I am! Most of the time you've got a stick wedged so far up your behind I'm surprised you don't walk funny!” Al bellowed as he flung open the door and stepped onto the porch, “and until yesterday I was pretty sure you were actually going to die a virgin!”
Ed had a scathing reply to that on the tip of his tongue but it died there when he looked out into the driveway and spotted the face of Roy Mustang.
When his brother stopped cold and went silent Al knew something had gone awry. Ed never let him get the last word in. All he had to do was follow his brother's line of vision and the reason for Ed's silence stood in the middle of the driveway clutching a bag from the local pastry shop.
* * *

Roy Mustang had left his house early enough to stop at Mama Sandy's pastry shop and still get to the Elrics well before nine-thirty. He knew both of them had quite the sweet tooth and would probably enjoy just about anything he could find there. Not having any clue as to what they would like specifically he picked up a variety and was on his way.
When he arrived at the Elric residence he barely pulled into the driveway and parked the car. He didn't know what Alphonse had planned for the day and if the younger Elric needed to leave before he and Ed were on their way he had plenty of room to pull around him.
As he stepped out of the car he could hear the muffled sound of conversation from inside. When he rounded the corner of the house the voices got a bit louder and he smiled as he figured the two young prodigies where probably engaged in a debate over some little known alchemical theory. As he passed under an open window he heard, “Are you trying to say I'm a prude?” and a response of, “Yes I am. Most of the time you've got a stick wedged so far up your behind I'm surprised you don't walk funny!” confused Roy stopped his approach and contemplated what he had just heard. He didn't get much time to do so because mere seconds later the side door swung open and an angry looking Alphonse marched out and said, “And until yesterday I was pretty sure you were actually going to die a virgin!” an equally pissed looking Ed was hot on his heels and it looked like he was about to shout something when he caught sight of Roy standing there. Al soon followed Ed's eyes to the man in the driveway.
As both Elric brothers stood there staring at him Roy felt the need to say something, but what does one say when they accidentally end up privy to a conversation like this one?
“Uh… I brought doughnuts.” Roy said humbly as he held up the bag of glazed treats.
Al lowered his head and pinched the bridge of his nose with the fingers on his left hand. When he looked up at his brother there was definite regret on Al's face. Ed probably would have gotten an apology if he had stayed around long enough for Al to give it voice; but the blond alchemist glared at his brother and walked back into the house as soon as Al lifted his head. The resounding slam of the door was enough to make the other two men cringe.
When the thud of angry footsteps faded away Al kicked the side of the house in frustration and cursed loudly. Roy's eyebrows shot up at this because in all the years he had known the Elric brothers he had never heard the younger one use any sort profanity. Roy felt no need to ask what the problem was; an idiot could figure that out. The issue now was getting past the awkwardness of the situation.
“Is this a bad time?” Roy asked despite the obviousness of the answer to that question.
Al's face screwed up and he looked at Roy like he was crazy for asking. Al's features soon returned to normal and he waved the General up on the porch. Roy flashed the young man what he hoped was a comforting smile as he walked up the steps.
“Just how much of that conversation did you hear?”
“I came in around the point in time which someone was asking about being a prude.” Roy replied with a lighthearted tone that didn't seem to make the younger Elric anymore at ease. In fact his brow furrowed even deeper. Roy put a reassuring hand on Al's shoulder and said, “Don't worry about it Alphonse, it's really not that big of a deal.”
“Yeah I know that, it's Brother that I'm concerned about.” Al replied as he shot a worried glance at the door that led to the kitchen.
Roy was at a loss. He had no idea how to deal with a pissed off, angry Ed…he wasn't even sure he wanted to try; but one look at the remorseful face of Alphonse made copping out not an option. With an inward sigh Roy started devising a plan.
“Has Ed eaten yet?” Roy asked.
“He started to but then I snapped at him…that's how this whole convoluted mess kicked off.” Al explained while looking more downtrodden every second. “This is all my fault. He got up in a perfectly good mood for once and I let my crankiness ruin it, and if that wasn't bad enough I storm outside shouting about his private life only to find his commanding officer standing in our driveway.”
“It'll be fine Al; Ed can never stay mad at you for long.”
“I'm not so sure this time, I know if our positions were reversed I would be livid.” The young professor said as he slowly made his way toward the door, ready to face the music. “You don't understand General, Brother is a very private person.”
When they opened the door they found themselves quite literally facing the music. A very high tempo concerto was coming from the back of the house. Roy wasn't sure what this meant but he had a feeling it wasn't good.
One look at Alphonse told him he was right; the young man looked beside himself and near tears. Roy figured there was more to this than what it appeared to be so he asked. “Is there a particular reason why Ed venting in this manner disturbs you? It actually seems like a rather calm, productive way to deal with anger.” Roy said as he eyed the young man in front of him. “It's a lot better than all of the screaming and shouting your brother used to do.”
“I agree with that wholeheartedly; but to answer your question I'll just say this, for one he usually only does this when he's been pushed to the point of wanting to hurt someone or break something, which hasn't happened in years. And two, to be perfectly honest these little sessions usually only happened after he had to report to you.”
That was not exactly what Roy expected to hear. This information was not comforting to the man in the least.
“Here,” Roy said as he shoved the bag of pastries into Al's hands. “Go heat up whatever you and Ed were eating we'll be out in a few minutes.” Al looked at the man like he had promised to bring him the moon. As Roy shooed Al off back toward the kitchen he started to think getting the young man the moon might be easier than calming Ed down.
Roy remembered the way to the music room Al had showed him on his last visit, yet he took his time getting there. His plan was sketchy at best but it was the only thing he had to work with so it was going to have to do.
His plan: Find a way to leave Ed no logical course of action but to suck it up and be done with the matter.
When he entered the room the music came to a sudden stop.
“Save the speech General, I have no desire to hear it.”
“Ok, fine. Then let's go eat the doughnuts and be on our way.”
Ed made a low disgusted noise in the back of his throat and started to play again. Ed was not going to make this easy, but he was not the only person that could be bullheaded when they wanted to. If Edward Elric wanted a challenge then Roy Mustang was going to give him one.
“Tell me what purpose it would serve for you to sit in here sulking while your little brother is out there worrying about you.”
“He's a big boy, he'll get over it.” Ed quipped back, but Roy could tell the `little brother' remark got under his skin some. “I'm sure you will both get over this in due time, but feel free to call me impatient for wanting it done in haste.”
Ed's head snapped to the side and he shot Roy a look that could have melted steel. Mustang suddenly got the feeling he might have pushed the envelope a bit too far with the sarcasm. Looking for an out he decided to just be brutally honest and see where that took him. Whatever he was going to do he needed to do it quickly.
“Look Ed, it's really not a big deal.”
A sour note rang out of the piano. “It's so nice to hear you know how I should feel about this.”
The music continued on.
Roy hadn't realized the blond musician would take his statement in that manner. Roy wasn't trying to tell him how to feel, he was simply trying to remove the awkwardness. He was now completely at a loss as to what to do. When Ed stopped playing this time Roy was convinced he was doing so because he needed both hands to choke him. Mustang prepared himself for the lecture of a lifetime and a possible beating but all that came out of the eldest Elric was an exaggerated sigh.
When Ed looked over at him this time all of the previous anger had drained out of him and was replaced by a look of weariness. “I appreciate you trying to help Mustang but it's really not necessary. We're brothers, we fight at times but at the end of the day we will still be brothers.” Ed slid off the piano bench, stood and leaned against the baby grand. “I'm not as embarrassed by the whole thing as you probably think. What I'm really upset about is the fact that Al assumes things about me instead of asking me about them.”
A quite voice from the doorway whispered, “I kinda just realized that.”
When Roy and Ed looked toward the door there stood Al and guilt was draped over him like a blanket. To Roy's surprise Ed flashed his brother a genuine smile and replied, “It'll be fine, Al. And don't take all the blame for that, I don't exactly go out of my way to share my thoughts either.”
Roy watched as a small smile drifted across Al's face. After seeing this, the smile on Ed's face got bigger and he approached his brother and slung his arm around his shoulder. “Come on, let's go find that bag from Sandy's the General brought with him.”
Without further ado and just like that the two of them walked out of the music room like nothing had happened. Roy just stood there by the piano blinking in disbelief. It was not that he was unhappy with the turn of events, quite the contrary, he was thrilled. He was just in awe of how quickly their emotions shifted and things switched back to normal.
“Are you coming Roy?” Ed yelled from a few rooms away. Roy shrugged his shoulders and headed for the kitchen.
* * *

After a very nice breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, pancakes and doughnuts the two alchemists were on their way to Hayden. Roy noticed that Ed was unusually quiet and the few times he stole a glance at the blond he looked lost in thought. Not caring for the idea of riding in silence for the next hour or so Roy spoke up. “What's on your mind Ed?”
“Just questioning my decisions and pondering life, as per usual.”
“Sorry, I don't really follow.”
Ed drummed his gloved automail fingers on the window for a moment or two before explaining. Roy smiled at the fact that Ed had remembered the conversation from the night before and had covered his automail. He was determined to open Ed's eyes about how others perceived him and the sooner that happened, the better. Abruptly the drumming stopped and Roy once again glanced in Ed's direction. The Lieutenant Colonel was staring out the window and what Roy could see of his expression left the older alchemist curious.
“Just because I said I wasn't as embarrassed as you thought I was didn't mean I wasn't embarrassed at all.” Ed finally answered.
Ed's comment caused a grin to slide across Roy's face as they passed out of Central City limits. “Well, fear not my young friend; the matter will never be brought up again unless you speak of it. Sound like a deal to you?”
“Sounds like a great deal to me!” Ed beamed as he adjusted in the seat so he was no longer turned toward the window. “Now please find something to talk about, the silence is killing me!”
The General couldn't help but chuckle at this. When he settled down he asked Ed about one of the experiments he had in his laboratory and the conversation continued on from there.
The trip passed rather quickly and before they knew it they were inside the small township of Hayden. The fair itself was easy enough to find so Roy parked the car in the first available space he saw. The two got out and soon started to enjoy the festivities.
From the moment they walked onto the fairgrounds Roy noticed that they were turning heads. He smirked at this and as they passed by a small group of blatant admirers Roy leaned down and whispered in Ed's ear, “Don't make it obvious but glance to your left.” Ed started for a moment before glancing over his left shoulder and spotting a small group of people giving moony-eyed looks in their direction. Ed's face scrunched up in consternation as he looked over at Mustang.
“In case you're confused Ed, that's what admiration looks like when plastered across someone's face.” Ed backed away from his superior officer and gave him a playful punch to the arm. “It'll take more than a couple of odd looks from a group of misguided souls to convince me my dear General.”
“Suit yourself.” Roy said.
Ignoring Mustang's remark Ed moved on to the closest game and presented his pass. Several minutes and five rings on a bottle later, Ed found himself the proud winner of an oversized stuffed Panda. Ed had this huge grin on his face as it was handed to him and this prompted Roy to ask him a question.
“Not that you can't be, but why so happy over the Panda?”
“Because I know Elysia's going to love it, she's obsessed with Pandas.”
“That she is.” Roy said after a moment of reflection. “You want to go put that in the car?”
“Sure,” Ed replied, “I really don't want to carry this thing around all day, and while we're on the subject of Elysia, when is her doting Father going to be back in town?”
“I'm supposed to pick him up at the train station at ten o'clock Tuesday night.”
* * *

As the two alchemists moved around the fairgrounds Roy noticed the small group of admirers was never far behind. Roy felt that it was only a matter of time before they made a move. Normally he would have just approached them in order to get the ball rolling, but that was not going to happen today. It wouldn't prove his point to Ed if he was the one to do the approaching. Roy was going to have to be willing to wait, and he was sure it was going to be worth it.
After several games and a couple of rides Ed's noisy stomach told the pair it was lunchtime. The duo decided on a lunch that consisted of corndogs and fries. Not something that was normally on their menu, but considering the atmosphere it was fitting-and surprisingly tasty. While they ate Roy noticed that their little group of followers had come to the outdoor food court as well. He could tell they were hesitant about making a move toward them but from the way they were pointing and giggling they were going to do it and soon.
The General looked up from his own meal to Ed and noted that the blond alchemist was completely absorbed in his repast. After not so much as a grunt of acknowledgement from the young musician, Roy went back to eating. He had just taken a bite of his corndog when the sound of shouting reached his ears. He and Ed looked up in the direction of the shout at the same time and their eyes fell upon the group that had been shadowing them since they arrived. When nothing more came of it they both resumed eating. It wasn't ten minutes later that a deep rich voice was heard from Roy's left. When he turned toward the sound of the voice he was looking into a set of sea green eyes.
* * *

“For crying out loud Aggie, someone would think you've never seen a man
before.” a young lady with brown hair said to the redheaded woman beside her as she folded her arms across her chest with a huff.

“You are just as eager to make move as we are Gail, so you can quit acting.”
“You two are impossible!” Aggie shouted and in return she received two sets of heated glares from her friends as the two men they were watching stopped eating their lunch and looked at them curiously before returning to their meal.
“Would you two settle down? If you keep this up they're likely to get up and leave.” The guy with them growled out in a hushed voice.
“It wouldn't make any difference to me if they did Preston.” Gail mumbled as she turned her back to her two friends.
“Come on Aggie,” Preston said as he grabbed the girl's wrist and started pulling her away from the angry brunette, “looks like the odds of us not spending the day alone just got better. There's one for you and one for me.”
Aggie just sighed and allowed herself to be pulled along.
* * *

The rather handsome man with the exceptional green eyes now had his hand extended to Roy in greeting. “The names Preston,” he began, “and you are?”
“Roy and my friend's name is Ed. Nice to meet you.”
“Same here, and this is my friend Aggie,” Preston answered as he flashed Roy a charming smile (that rivaled Roy's own) as he motioned toward the redhead beside him and she waved timidly in response. Roy had to admit-even if it was just inwardly-that he was drawn in by that charm. “What brings you guys here to Hayden? Are you passing through or just visiting?”
Ed looked at Roy then at the two people now standing beside their table and slid over. Ed didn't even get the chance to extend the invitation before Preston sat down. Roy did the same for Aggie and she uttered a quiet thanks before taking her seat. “Is it that obvious that we're not from here?” Ed asked of Preston with a laugh.
“Well when you live in a town as small as this one new faces really stick out.”
"True,” Ed responded right before he popped the last of his fries in his mouth, “new faces do tend to do that.”
“Especially those that are..unforgettable.” Preston stated as he held Ed's golden eyes with equally stunning green ones. Roy watched as the ears of the blond alchemist tuned pink as the full implication of that statement settled around him.
Oh, he's good, Roy thought as he looked over at the green-eyed, dark haired smooth talker. Under normal circumstances Roy would make an effort to scare the young man off, but this was far from normal circumstances and he felt one of these two would be just that he needed to prove his point from yesterday to Ed. He glanced to the young lady sitting beside him and said, “I was just about to go get something to drink, would you care to join me?” Her eyes brightened and a very genuine smiled slid across her face. “I would love to.” She replied. When they stood up, Roy extended his arm to Aggie and off they went.
When they reached the tent that was selling various sorts of drinks he asked the young woman what she would like. “Nothing for me.” She responded but her eyes lingered on the vat of lemonade an elderly lady was stirring.
“Have something,” Roy said, “I insist.” She rubbed her chin thoughtfully for a moment before she pointed at the lemonade she had been eyeing since they reached the tent. “That looks really good.”
“Do you think your friend Preston would like some as well?” Roy asked as he waved the little old lady over in their direction.
“I don't see why not. If he doesn't like it I'm sure it will not go to waste.” Roy chuckled at her statement and promptly ordered four glasses.
When they made their way back to the table where Ed and Preston were waiting the pair was laughing pretty hard at something. He looked over at Aggie and she simply rolled her eyes and said, “Preston is a great story teller, no doubt your friend has fallen victim to an embellished version of one of his many tales.”
Her tone might have been exasperated but amusement twinkled in her eyes. When they sat the drinks down Ed began filling them in on what had them laughing so hard. Between Ed's recall of the tale and Preston's interjections the foursome was in stitches by the time the lemonade was gone.
When the laughter died down Aggie asked them what their plans were for the day. When they said they were just going to enjoy the festival and the play she nodded and looked at her friend. Preston wasted no time producing four slips of paper from his shirt pocket and began waving them in the air. Ed looked over at Roy and when Roy simply shrugged his shoulders he looked at the man beside him for an answer.
“What are those?” Ed ventured to ask since it appeared Preston was not going to volunteer the information. “Four passes for the Hayden Countryside Tour.” He answered proudly. As soon as the words passed his lips his friend Aggie leaned across the table and snatched one of the slips of paper out of his hand and stared at it wide-eyed. “Where did you get these!?” she shouted.
“I'll never tell.” He said as a devious look claimed his features.
“Would the two of you like to join us for the tour?” Preston asked as he looked over at Ed, who in turn looked at Roy. When they didn't give an immediate answer Aggie added, “It's a really nice carriage ride and the tour guides tell the greatest stories and share pieces of the town's history along the way.”
This raised Roy's interest in this tour quite a bit and Ed's as well if the look of intrigue on his face was genuine. “Sounds like fun to me.” Ed said as he began gather up the mess he had made eating lunch. “What do you think Roy?”
“You can count me in. When and where does it start?”
“The next tour is due to start at two o'clock and it begins at that clock tower in the middle of town.” Preston said as he pointed toward what was easily the tallest structure in Hayden. “How about we plan on meeting you guys there a few minutes before two?” He asked as he slid off the bench and got to his feet. When both of the alchemists nodded in affirmation Preston and Aggie smiled broadly at this.
Ed started to get up with the tray of trash he had gathered when a pair of tanned hands relived him of his burden. “Allow me,” Preston said as he winked at the blond. “Aggie and I have a few things to take care of before two so we will have to be going now anyway.”
The young woman shot him a puzzled look but quickly recovered and nodded in agreement and stood up. “It was nice to meet both of you and I'm looking forward to seeing you for the tour.”
“The pleasure was all ours.” Roy replied and he watched as a light blush colored the woman's cheeks as she walked around the table to join her friend. Roy and Ed waved as the two disappeared into the crowd. Soon as they were out of sight and Roy turned his gaze to Ed.
“Not one word Mustang.” Ed growled though clenched teeth.
“What makes you think I was going to say anything?” Roy asked feigning innocence.
“You always get that shit eating grin on your face when you think you've made your point and are about to rub it in.”
“But haven't I made my point?”
“I guess,” Ed muttered as a far off look settled over his face.
Roy looked at his companion in worry; something seemed to be distressing the blond alchemist. He thought that the events of the past hour or so would have done wonders to lift the young man's spirits but now this seems to not be the case. The General was greatly confused by this and he aimed to find out the cause.
“Is something the matter Ed?”
“Yes…no…well it's more than a little overwhelming that's all.”
Roy simply stared at him in question.
“That guy was hitting on me wasn't he?”
Roy almost fell off his bench at Ed's questioning understatement. That Preston guy couldn't have hit on him any harder without getting physical. The fact that Ed was still confused by what the deal was had Mustang absolutely floored. “Yes Ed, he was definitely hitting on you.”
Ed's eyebrows knitted together and he glared at the General. Taken aback by this Roy asked him why he was looking at him like that. Ed's features relaxed but the intensity never left his gaze.
“I told you before I was a social idiot, so there's no need to rub it in. Not everyone can tell the difference between a really friendly person and someone trying to put the moves on them!” Ed exclaimed as he stood up and started walking away from a startled Roy.
Once Roy regained his senses he followed his blond companion. He noticed Ed seemed to be a bit frustrated at him so he figured he would approach him in a non-threatening, less cocky manner. Wiping the smile off his face Roy caught up to Ed and asked, “What is your real question about all of this Ed? Maybe if you tell me I can answer you more clearly.”
“Well how exactly do you tell the difference?”
Roy thought about it for a moment and he started listing off things like body language, facial expressions and proximity. When Ed still looked bewildered he started giving examples from Ed's encounter with Preston, hoping that this would make it all come together for him. Roy started off with Preston's compliment about Ed's face being unforgettable. Then he moved onto his all but sitting on top of Ed on the bench, the wink, the flirting. Hell, even the request to spend more of the day with him during this tour thing that was apparently a big deal around here judging by Aggie's reaction to Preston having the tickets.
“And to wrap it all up,” Roy said as he looked over at Ed as they made their way toward the Ferris wheel and got in line, “the man even took your garbage away for you.”
The Major General was expecting some sort of response from the younger alchemist but Ed still looked as dazed and confused as he did when the conversation began. When it was their turn to get on, the blond man was still silent and lost in thought. They got in the blue cart labeled number five and the silence and suspense was killing Roy. The cart slowly brought them around as more people got on and when they started going in slow full rotations Ed finally spoke, and what he said explained it all.
“But what are you suppose to do if everyone acts that way around you. How do you tell the difference then?” Ed asked in a defeated tone that said he was more than tired of being confused. Roy just looked at the blond incredulously. If what Ed was alluding to was indeed the case, no wonder he had gotten everything all mixed up. If the only people that ever acted normal around him were the gang in the office and his brother then that explained a whole lot…actually it would explain everything.
“Let me get this straight.” Roy began as he looked over at Ed just as the wind picked up and flipped the man's long braid over his left shoulder. Roy wondered for a moment what Ed looked like with his hair down, he almost wished he could see it. He swiftly shook that stray thought from his mind as he continued, “Everyone acts like this around you?”
“Basically, I just figured they were going out of their way to try and make me comfortable in my own skin or they realized who I was and figured they had to be nice.” Ed replied as he looked out over the rail of the cart they were in down at the town below. “That or they were just being nice to the unfortunate amputee.” He added dejectedly.
Mustang could feel the carefree mood slipping away and he sought to quell that as fast as he could. “Well now that you know that's not the case how do you feel?” Roy inquired hopefully. The wistful look that had taken over Ed's visage melted away and his eyes brightened. A muted laugh escaped the young man's throat and he replied, “Whole.”
That one word was music to Roy's ears. He flashed a smile in Ed's direction, leaned back in his seat and enjoyed the ride.
* * *

By the time two o'clock approached four more toys had joined the panda in the back seat of Roy's car and the duo made their way to the clock tower. When they neared the clock they spotted Preston and Aggie right away. The pair had changed clothes and they were both looking well groomed. Ed realized that this was probably done to appear more attractive and was suddenly hit with a case of nerves which slowed his pace.
There were definite perks to being in the dark about some things and now that he no longer was, his mind was in turmoil. Roy noted Ed's change in pace and slowed his down to match. He looked at the golden eyed alchemist and whispered, “Don't say anything about the change of clothes unless it's a compliment.”
Stunned that Roy knew what he was thinking Ed whispered back, “How did you…”
“Don't worry about it,” Roy interjected as they approached hearing range, “Just follow my lead.”
Ed shook his head thankfully and did just that.
* * *

The carriage ride was wonderful and a lot more entertaining than either of the alchemists expected. They said their goodbyes to their newfound friends with plans of heading for the stage to get a good seat for the play that was due to start in less than thirty minutes. As they started to walk away Preston called Ed's name and when the blond turned around the green-eyed man was right behind him and caught him unexpected embrace.
“Thanks to you, today has been the best one I've had in a while.” He said as he reluctantly let the shorter man out of his arms. Ed tried not to flush but the heat overtook his face anyway. Preston handed him a piece of paper and when Ed unfolded it there, in perfect script, was a name, address and phone number. When Ed looked up he noticed Preston was sporting a blush of his own while nervously rubbing the back of his neck with his right hand. “Just in case you want to keep in touch.” He mumbled. “The phone number rings at the print shop I run on the edge of town.”
Ed smiled and said, “I think I'll do just that.” This answer seemed to make the other man's day and he apologized for holding them up and told them they'd better get going if they wanted to get decent seats for the play. When they started on their way again Roy asked what Ed was grinning about. When Ed handed him the slip of paper Roy simply nodded and smirked. When Ed saw this he snatched the paper out of Roy's hand and stuffed it in his pants pocket, muttering “Smug bastard.”
That old declaration made Roy laugh on and off all the way to the stage.
* * *

When the play was over Roy noted the time and sighed when he realized they would have to be going soon if they were going to get back to Central around dinnertime. He almost hated to leave. He was having a great time and was really enjoying Ed's company. When his eyes fell on his companion he noted Ed was looking at the Ferris wheel. “Want to ride that one more time before we hit the road?” Roy asked.
“You bet old man,” Ed said as he bounced off in the direction of the ride, “Last one there has to buy the other lunch on Tuesday.”
They arrived at the ride out of breath. Roy had come really close to catching Ed but he had a feeling Ed was holding back. They were in the midst of rehashing the day's events when their turn to board came up. When the attendant steadied the blue cart Ed looked at the number and asked Roy. “Hey, weren't we in cart five the last time?”
“Indeed we were what a coincidence.” Roy answered as he climbed in behind Ed. Roy was looking at the small town below and talking about what the tour guide had said to them concerning the town hall when he heard a few grunts coming from Ed's side of the cart. Curious to see what would cause the young man to make those noises, Roy turned around just as Ed freed the last of his hair from its braid.
Between the motion of the ride and the breeze that was blowing, Ed's blond tresses where flowing to the side like a golden river. Roy watched as Ed leaned his head back, stretched his arms out across the top of his seat and lost himself in the moment. Before long Ed started humming a familiar and somewhat silly traveling tune. Without much thought Roy joined Ed in his humming of the tune. When Ed heard this his head shot up and his eyes snapped open. Roy said nothing he simply started to hum louder, a few minutes later they were both singing and when they reached the end of the song they just looked at each other and just about died laughing.
With his hair flowing in the breeze and a look of pure unadulterated joy on his face, Edward Elric appeared carefree in a way Roy had never seen him look before. For once Ed was wearing a completely unguarded expression and the General decided he wanted to see this on the young man's face more often.
When the ride came to a halt Ed moved to get off first and as Roy followed him he got a good look at exactly how long Ed's hair really was. The tips of the blond mane in front of him were just an inch or so away from touching the waistband of Ed's pants. As they walked away from the ride Roy realized he had gotten his earlier wish and for whatever reason that brought a smile to his face. Just then Ed looked over at the older alchemist and asked him why the big grin. Roy shrugged his shoulders, but said nothing. Ed quirked an eyebrow at this but kept silent as well. As they passed the lemonade vendor they each got one for the road and headed for the car.
The ride back to central was filled with commentary on the day's events and conversation. When they reached Central Ed asked Roy if he could just drop him off at Havoc's house. When they approached the First Lieutenant's Roy could tell Ed was excited about his upcoming visit with the man. Roy asked him what they had planned and Ed said Jean hadn't really said so he figured it was just going to be dinner. Mustang shot Ed a sidelong smirk and the younger man sank down in his seat, looked out the window and said, “Get your mind out of the gutter Mustang.”
Roy laughed for what seemed like the hundredth time that day noting how nice it felt to be in such a good mood. He made a mental reminder to have more days like this as they pulled in front of Jean's house. The house was dark and for a moment Ed thought the other blond might have given up on him and turned in early. That thought was washed away as the porch light was flipped on and the front door opened to reveal Jean standing in the entryway. Ed waved at the man and when he waved back Ed said his goodbyes and thanks to Roy and all but bounded out of the vehicle and toward the house.
Once Ed was inside Jean gave a small salute to Roy and shut the door.
* * *

Roy stopped for takeout on his way home and once he got there he ate his dinner and settled down in his study to do a little reading. Just as he was about to call it a night the phone rang. He looked at the clock and it was close to eleven thirty. Wondering who it could possibly be at this hour and if he needed to be alarmed he answered the phone, “Mustang residence.”
“Hello Major General. Sorry to disturb you so late.”
“Yes sir.”
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes and no…is Brother still with you?”
“No, I dropped him off at Havoc's around seven. Is there a problem?” Roy asked now amused at the younger Elrics assumed dilemma.
“Well it's just late that's all.” Al replied sheepishly. “I knew he was stopping over there for dinner but it's not like Brother not to back by now.”
Roy was having a hard time keeping the amusement out of his voice. He and Ed had talked a little about the things that had led up to the argument he had walked in on this morning between the two siblings. Ed hadn't went into a lot of detail but Roy could read between the lines well enough to see what the eldest Elric was getting at. Roy had ascertained that Ed felt compelled to “save” himself in a sense and the lack of intimacy in his life had led his sibling to think of him as a prude. Roy didn't know why Ed felt the need to “save” himself-he knew for a fact the young man was not religious-but he didn't think the time was right to ask. He figured all would be revealed in due time and left it at that.
At the moment he had a worried Al on his hands and he wanted to calm the young man's fears but at the same time he couldn't let this golden opportunity pass him by. So with a smile in his voice he replied with, “Worry not Alphonse. Jean is probably working his way toward removing that stick you said your brother had lodged somewhere.”
“What do you mean by…”
The ensuing silence spoke volumes and Roy would have paid to see the realization dawn on Al's face. After what was surely an uncomfortable silence for the youngest Elric Al responded with a meek, “I see…sorry to bother you General.”
“It was no bother at all Alphonse, have a good night.”
“You do the same.” was all that was said before a soft click was heard. By the time Roy hung up the phone his shoulders were shaking with barely suppressed laughter. He was sure his statement had given Al more than enough to think about…along with some vivid imagery he could have probably done without.