Fullmetal Alchemist Fan Fiction ❯ Underneath it All ❯ Hazy Clarity ( Chapter 9 )

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

YAY an update!! First off I would like to dedicate this chapter to my two greatest supporters, ehxhfdl14 and Vexed_Wench!
The second thing I would like to say is a HUGE thank you to all of you for not giving up on me or this fic since it has been quite while between updates.
As always please read and review feel free to let me know what you think about the direction I have taken the plot in.
Thanks with hugs and love to you all! -- OnyxLight--
Chapter 09 Hazy Clarity
When Ed woke the next morning, he found himself alone in bed. He was confused for a moment until the sound of the shower running registered in his ears. Looking over at the open window, Ed noted the sunny and clear weather outside. He was eager to add to the faint noises of activity was going on below them. He stretched his somewhat stiff body, got out of bed, and grabbed the brochure detailing the goings-on of the convention. Ed knew it was his overly academic brain at work when he realized that he was really quite excited about seeing some of the things that were going to be on display.
Edward wondered if he would find anything that would be of interest to Jean, since his birthday was coming up in just three weeks after Ed's own birthday; his own birthday was less than a couple of months away itself. That reminded Ed that he still had yet to talk to Roy about the surprise party they were throwing for Jean. Everyone had such a great time pulling one over him for the housewarming that they figured they'd really get him on his birthday.
Ed himself never worried about being surprised on his birthday, for the past few years since he and Elysia shared a birth date, Maes and Gracia always threw them a small joint gathering. It tickled the little girl pink that she shared a birthday with her big brother; and the shared celebration was also perfect for Ed since he didn't like to make a big deal for his birthday like Al preferred to. Al probably wouldn't mind if his birthday was published grandly across the front page of The Central Press.
Just as Ed flipped over the brochure to look at the hand-drawn map of the city on the back, a long, loud squeak announced Roy's exit from the bathroom. Ed looked up and snorted the sight that greeted him. Roy was fully dressed, but his hair was not yet dry and tendrils of wet hair were plastered onto Roy's forehead.
“I'm wondering what you're finding so hilarious.” Roy called out, right before he started to vigorously run a towel through his hair to rid it of excess water.
“You- you soggy bastard, you look like a freaking waterlogged rat.”
“I'll have you know that a mere rat could never look this good.” was Roy's retort.
Ed laughed. “You're full of yourself, you know that?”
* * *
Once Ed showered and got dressed, he reentered the room, sat down in front of the mirror, and started brushing his hair. Roy stood a little ways behind and watched as the brush slid through the blond mane. He didn't remember envying an inanimate object so much in his life. Ed then gathered his hair at the nape of his neck and started braiding it. Halfway through, the blond undid it all and started over. Less than halfway through this go around found Ed muttering a few obscenities as he undid his work and went to start over yet again.
“Why don't you let me give that a try?”
Ed glanced over his shoulder at Roy and simply held out the hairbrush behind him, sighing in defeat. Roy happily took the brush and started to groom Ed's hair, noting that it did indeed feel as nice as it looked.
“You know,” Ed began as he caught Roy's eyes in the mirror, “its times like these I'm tempted to cut it.”
Roy's eye grew wide as he stopped in mid stroke. “Don't you dare!”
“Figures. That's what Al and Jean say every time I even toy with the idea. Do you guys realize it hadn't been cut in years? I mean, I've had it trimmed, but never actually cut.”
“How soon we forget the bubble gum incident of two years past.” Roy teased as he resumed brushing.
Roy watched in the mirror as Ed's face scrunched up in an effort to remember, and he soon heard a soft exclamation from the alchemist sitting before him. Ed had just remembered when one of the younger kids fell asleep on him, and how he later found the kid's gum tangled in the lower portion of his ponytail. The only reason Roy knew of that story was because Ed had come to the office the following day in an inexplicably foul mood. Then Al had come in at lunchtime and explained to everyone about having to cut the gum out of his brother's hair…and how badly Ed had reacted to it.
“You know you love your hair as much as the rest of us do, and I know for a fact that you would never actually cut it.”
“Eh, yeah. Riza did threaten me subtly the last time I said `that' in her presence. I guess after all these years of having long hair I would look strange if I cut it.” Ed thought aloud, and Roy nodded in agreement. “By the way, you wouldn't happen to know how to do that fancy braid Gracia can do by any chance?”
“The herringbone braid. As a matter of fact, I do. Who do you think taught it to her in the first place?”
The obvious shock on Ed's face had Roy smirking as he started the intricate braid. In the meantime, Ed quickly regained his composure and changed the subject to somewhat more familiar territory. “So, has anyone told you anything about the surprise party we're throwing for Jean's birthday?”
“Fuery said something about it last week but he didn't get to tell me much before Jean popped up.”
With a grin Ed launched into great detail about how the party was supposed to go. Everyone was to get together at the Elric household under the pretense of celebrating Riza's return from her two weeks of training. Riza was even going to make sure she came on an evening train so the office could rationalize having the party so late on a Friday night. The party would start at nine, carrying on past midnight to make it into Jean's actual birthday. The cake, presents and other festivities would be hidden in the guest room, since the place was mostly deserted as it seemed to be in a state of wreck half the time. The room was planned to be cleaned out and turned into a party room just for the occasion.
Ed was practically glowing just talking about it.
The blond went on to say how he was going to do most of the food- with Gracia's help, of course- and how the band guys were going to be there so there would be music throughout the night. Breda was making the punch as usual, while Sciezska and Falman were handling the decorations.
In other words, everyone was pitching in.
“Think you'd be able to make it?” Ed asked as Roy finished off the braid.
“Wouldn't miss it for the world.”
* * *
Once they finally made it downtown, there was more than enough going on to keep both of them entertained. Roy noted that Ed was acting rather like a kid in a candy store. The General was actually pretty excited himself, and they both ended up buying a few things as they walked around the cobbled streets of Grinstead. A man and his daughter promoting some kind of fruit juicer were located at one of the last stalls they stopped at. The two alchemists watched as the girl put half a sliced lemon in the little metal gadget and with one good squeeze. A hefty portion of the liquid the lemon had to offer flowed out of the lemon and into the pitcher she was holding it over.
Roy noticed Ed's expression as he remarked, “Gracia would love that thing!”
“I think so, it does look easier than doing it by hand and all.”
Ed nodded as he approached the man and inquired on the price of his juicer. After a short conversation with the man, Ed returned with two of the juicers. After that, it was almost noon and the duo had wandered into the city's center to grab lunch. Ed insisted Roy choose where they ate at so they found themselves eating at an outdoor café serving grilled chicken and pasta for lunch.
They were in heaven.
Near the end of their meal, a couple of people came through the food court hanging up posters on all the posts and poles. Curious, Roy walked over to the closest one and read it. When he got back to his seat, he resumed eating without saying a word about the posters' details to his companion. This was done on purpose, mind you, Roy was well aware of the fact that the blond had a curious streak a mile wide.
“…Well?!” Ed said after several minutes of watching Roy eat and waiting on some bit of information. “Well, what?” Roy asked with a sly grin on his face as he twirled the last of his pasta on his fork.
“You know damn well what I'm referring to, you smirking bastard!”
Roy got a good laugh out of that and replied, “It said that tonight is one of the last two nights of the band contest.”
“There's a band contest?”
“I didn't know, either.”
“So what time is the show?”
“Seven-thirty; and before you even ask, yes, I'm interested in going as well.”
A huge grin spread across Ed's face as he wolfed down the last of his chicken. Roy sat there across from Ed a bit lost in thought. Over the past few months he'd noticed that Ed had not completely done away with all of his previous personality traits. He could still be loud when excited. He could still manage to royally piss off the wrong people with as little as three words and he still swore in such a way that made even Roy shake his head. Still, it seemed that the young man had finally learned when and when not to be so “himself”. Roy hadn't realized he was staring at Ed until his companion looked up at him. “What is it? Do I have sauce on my face?”
“I was just sitting here thinking about how much you've changed over the years but still managed to stay the same.”
Ed tilted his head to the side and looked at Roy in a way that reminded the General of the face he'd made at the time they ran into each other when Ed was on his way home from the music store. Roy explained his statement, and Ed's faintly flushed pink before he said, “Well, I guess I just realized that there's a time and place for everything.”
“A lesson we all must learn.”
“Yeah, well for me to be such a quick study with most things I sure as hell took my time getting that one through my skull. Looking back on it though, I realized that I could be a bit much at times.”
“And that would be the understatement of the year, Mr. Elric.” Roy said as he attempted to gather their dishes in a stack.
“Humph. Bastard.” Ed retorted, no real malice behind his words.
“Don't ever change Edward, don't ever change.”
After they finished lunch, they wandered down the crowded streets of the city to check out some more of the gadgets on display. Some were incredibly impressive while others were… different, to say the least. After wandering a while, the two noticed that there was an immense tent near the city's courthouse that seemed to have gathered a rather large crowd. With curiosity getting the best of both of them, they slowly began making their way towards the attraction. As they closed in, music started wafting out of the tent. It wasn't just a few instruments they heard either, it sounded more like a small orchestra at the very least.
When the two managed to make their way to the front, what they saw floored them. There wasn't an orchestra or even a band; just two men behind what looked like very small, flat pianos. Upon seeing this, Ed turned and gave Roy a hard look of disbelief. He didn't have to say it out loud for Roy to know that the young alchemist was having a hard time believing the sounds they had heard came out of those two miniature pianos.
Without meaning to, Ed gave the equipment and the men promoting it quite the questioning look. The older gentleman noticed the stare and motioned towards Ed. “You look skeptical, lad. Feel free to come on over here and try it for yourself.”
Ed looked uncertain, and Roy nudged him forward. Ed glared at him and Roy made a shooing motion with his hands. The blond stepped forward and was let in the inner circle of the tent by a short brunette lady neither of them had noticed beforehand. She smiled at Ed and led him to a third unoccupied piano-like… thing.
“Herb calls it a `synthesizer',” She explained as she found Ed a stool to sit on. “It can mimic the sounds of most instruments, all in one.” She proceeded to give Ed a short lesson on how all of the keys and controls worked. Roy could see Ed's expression shift several times and until it finally settled on amazement.
“Do you know how to play?” The older man asked of Ed.
“A little.” Ed responded with a sly grin and a wink in Roy's direction.
“You play something you know and we'll follow your lead, then.”
“If you insist.” Ed replied and Roy watched as Ed readied himself behind his synthesizer.
Roy couldn't help but think that the two men had no idea what they had gotten themselves into by inviting Ed to play. Over the past few months, Roy has watched Ed sit and compose complex works of music while stuffing his face and holding a conversation all at once.
Ed finally started playing and the various sounds that the synthesizer generated were simply amazing. Before long, Ed was really getting into the swing of things and the two other men were struggling to keep up.
When they stopped playing, the crowd around the tent clapped and cheered. All three men stood and bowed to the enraptured audience. Ed went to leave the tent and the younger of the two men stopped him. “You sure you wouldn't be interested in one of these, sir? You seem like the sort that would get a lot of use out of this.”
Ed stroked his chin thoughtfully. “It sounded great… and it's small enough to haul in a car… hmm. So, how much is it?”
When the man gave the price both Ed and Roy almost exclaimed out loud. The expense for the “synthesizer” was easily as much as a person would spend on a used automobile. Ed told both of the men that he thought that their invention was truly, truly worth the price they were asking but it was not in his budget right now. They nodded in understanding but gave both Ed and Roy a business card in case they were to ever change their minds.
* * *
When evening came, the pair made their way into the park where everything was set up for the contest. The stage was fairly large, the outdoor lighting was on, and people were milling around everywhere.
Soon after they arrived, a short balding man walked out on stage and grabbed one of the microphones. He named off all the bands that were playing that night then proceeded to call the names of the bands in the top five positions in the contest. Then without further ado, he introduced the first band to take the stage and the concert got underway.
The first band played a jazzy little tune that had the entire audience bobbing their heads and tapping their toes. The second group onstage played an upbeat dance song that had everyone, including Ed and Roy, dancing around the park. When the third band took the stage, they toned it down quite a bit by playing a slow song. People all around started to couple off and sway with the music.
By that time, the sun had long since set and a soft glow was being cast over the park. When Roy looked at Ed the blond's eyes were fixed on the stage, seemingly lost in thought. Probably thinking about and missing Jean, Roy mused to himself. He wanted to ask Ed to dance- but wait, no, he didn't. It was obvious why Roy wanted to but the reason he was holding back was nowhere near as cut and dry. He was really not sure how the blond would react to the offer. Discarding the idea, Roy turned his back to the stage and focused on the lyrics of the song.
It's undeniable... that we should be together...
It's unbelievable how I used to say that I'd fall never
The basis you need to know, if you don't know just how I feel,
Then let me show you now that I'm for real...
If all things in time, time will reveal...
Roy felt a soft tap on his shoulder and when he turned around Ed had his hand extended out to him. It looked like an invitation to dance but Roy didn't want to make an ass out of himself by jumping to conclusions. He gave Ed a questioning look only to have the blond shake his head and chuckle in response. Before Roy could open his mouth to respond, Ed grabbed Roy's wrist, pulled him close, and wrapped his arms around his neck. Roy realized he must have given Ed a strange look when Edward told him, “Humor me. I don't get to dance much, you know.”
One... you're like a dream come true...
Two... just wanna be with you...
Three... it's plain to see... that you're the only one for me...

Four... repeat steps one through three...
Five... make you fall in love with me...
If ever I believe my work is done... then I start back at one
Roy quietly wondered why was it that the blond didn't get to dance often. If he were mine, I'd have him out on a dance floor every chance I got, Roy thought as he guided them around in slow circles. Ed moved in a bit closer and laid his head on Roy's chest, and Roy wrapped his arms around Ed's waist. Between their closeness and the song playing, Roy was having a hard time keeping a hold on his emotions.
“Yes.” Roy whispered around the lump that had formed in his throat.
“Thanks for being here for me these past couple of days. I know I've been hell to deal with.”
“It wasn't a problem Edward, you've been just fine.”
So incredible... the way things work themselves out...
And all emotional, once you know what it's all about hey...
And undesirable... for us to be apart...never would
have made it very far...
`Cause you know you've got the keys to my heart
Roy couldn't help but think how close the lyrics were to how he was feeling at the moment. He really hadn't realized how much of a loner he'd become in his personal life until Ed came crashing into it. He had come to spend most of his evenings in front of the hearth in his den reading, and most of his weekends were spent with either Maes or alone with his thoughts. Not that there was anything wrong with not being incredibly social anymore; it was just that things were so different now that Ed had made himself a spot in his life. Now, he went out to pubs as well as to lunch with the rest of the office. He participated in all sorts of military activities, courtesy of Ed singing him up for whatever he was involved in, and now he was on a spontaneous ten day road trip.
Say farewell to the dark of night... I see the coming of the sun...
I feel like a little child... whose life has just begun...
You came and breathed new life into this lonely heart of mine...
You threw out the lifeline... just in the
nick of time...
When the lead singer sang out that last line, Roy felt as if truer words had never been spoken. He knew it was going to be hard letting go of this person in front of him when the song ended. The tightening of his chest Roy got from just holding Ed in his arms confirmed the Flame Alchemist's worst fear. A simple attraction had turned into something much more.
Roy Mustang was in love with Edward Elric, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do to change it.
The song came to a close mere moments after Roy's realization hit him and when the audience started to clap Roy stumbled away from Ed. His knees were weak, his palms were sweating, and his heart was racing as if he'd spent the last few minutes running for his life instead of slow dancing. He took one look at Ed as the blond applauded for the band with the rest of the crowd, and Roy thought he might be ill. His nerves were shot, and his stomach lurched like he'd been punched in the gut. He made his way over to a nearby bench, sat down and tried to pull himself together.
When Ed noticed a shaken Roy sitting on a bench looking like warmed-over death, he rushed to the man's side.
“What happened? Roy, what's the matter?”
“It's…it's nothing. It's nothing. I'm fine.” Roy rasped out in-between deep breaths. As ridiculous as it seemed to Roy, he felt like he could pass out at any moment.
“Like hell it's nothing, I've seen `nothing' Roy, and this ain't it. You look like shit.”
“Thanks.” Roy said as he glared up at the blond standing over him.
“Oh, quit being such an ass. You know what I mean.” Ed protested as he took a seat beside Roy on the bench, “Do you want to call it a night and head back to the Inn?”
Only if I get to do more than just sleep beside you, Roy subconsciously thought as he looked into golden eyes filled with concern. “No… I think I'll be alright. I just had a dizzy spell.”
Ed scrutinized Roy, suspicious of his companion's answer.
“Really, Ed. I'm fine.” Roy said as he put on the most convincing “normal” face he could muster. It must have done the trick because Ed's features soon relaxed. After making sure that Roy was really not sick after all, Ed went off in search of a cold drink for Roy.
When he returned, he had a glass of lemonade for the both of them. Roy took his and drank it eagerly. He hadn't realized how dry his throat was until the ice cold drink hit it.
“Slow down there, Chief,” Ed said as he sat slowly sipping his own drink. “If you don't take it easy you might choke. You think it was the food from earlier that made you sick? Lunch was great, but the greasy sausage dogs we had for dinner might've been bad.”
Roy simply nodded, not wanting to verbally confirm nor deny anything. The two of them sat in silence as one of the remaining bands took the stage. Roy didn't catch the name of the next-to-last group, but they were all decked out in green and sounded superb. When he glanced at Ed he was nodding his head to the beat. Roy let out a low laugh and Ed whipped his head around to face Roy. “What?!”
“You just can't sit still, can you?”
Ed folded his arms across his chest and huffed, “Can too!”
Roy simply laughed harder. He sat and watched as his companion tried ardently to hold still; but inevitably, his foot or his finger would start tapping. When he stopped that then it was his body rocked to the rhythm. Roy couldn't stand it any longer and finally said, “There's nothing wrong with you moving about, Ed. Dance, bob and wiggle or whatever all you want, it doesn't bother me. It's not like you've ever been known for being quiet and still.”
“Bastard.” Ed mumbled.
“Tell me I'm wrong.” Roy replied.
Ed grinned broadly at Roy's remark before his expression melted into a cocky smirk. “So does this mean anytime I need a dance partner I can drag you out on the floor?”
Roy gave him a smile and a nod. Even after Roy's nerves settled, Ed kept insisting they needed to call it a night. Roy finally agreed. He felt more than a little drained, even if it was just emotionally.
The first electric synthesizer was invented in 1876 by Elisha Gray, who is best known for his development of a telephone prototype.[2][3] Robert Moog created a revolutionary synthesizer which was used by Wendy Carlos's Switched-On Bach (1968) a popular recording which introduced many musicians to the sound of synthesizers. In the 1970s, the development of miniaturized solid-state components allowed synthesizers to become self-contained, portable instruments, which made them easier to use in live performances. By the early 1980s, companies such as Yamaha began selling compact, modestly priced synthesizers such as the DX7, and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) was developed, which made it easier to integrate and synchronize synthesizers with other electronic instruments.