(NEW NOTE at the bottom. Please read!)
Hisashiburi. Happy Eid to the Muslims! May we all forgive each other's faults and celebrate on this joyous occasion. I would like to show my gratitude to the Reviewers last chapter:
Spockie, FullmetalKeyblade-13, PKS, fullmetal'sgirl92, Fullmetal komusume, Xaiko, mrawgirl09, aquastreak243, IontheFonMaster, MARYLOVER, VermillionValentine, Ally Plz, Hikari Rio, mimifoxlove, Mina Hikari, Egypt Mesi, PyschoB, Amaya Zorifuki (thanks for the mistletoe info), kitsuneluvuh and terracannon876.
Plus, those of you who have put me on FAVS and ALERTS! (why haven't you talked to me yet?)
Usually after I finish the chapter, I read through the whole chapter again and edit and re-edit it. I'm tired already and I have a sore throat. I'll just post the damn thing up and let you guys read it.
On Christmas day when Roy groggily opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was not the ceiling of his room but Maes Hughes' face grinning down at him.
Roy literally tried to jump out of bed but got tangled in his sheets instead and ended up falling off the side, managing to utter a strangled cry:
"Good to see you well, Roy!" said Hughes, taking no note of the fact that Roy was wrestling his way out of his sheets on the floor. Instead, the bespectacled man lifted up a hand in greeting as if it was normal for him to waltz into another man's bedroom and stare at them while they slept. "About time you're up," he continued breezily. "I was wondering if I should wake you up myself. Course, last time that happened, you kicked me right in the face..."
Roy, finally exhausted in wrenching his arms out of the tangled bed sheet wrapped around his body, glared up at the man above him. "What are you doing here? Why are you wearing... wearing that?"
Because he couldn't point at whatever he was addressing, Roy merely nudged his head towards the direction of Hughes' attire. Indeed, Hughes was wearing a woolly hand-knitted jumper with what seemed to be Elicia's smiling face stitched on the front.
"Good, isn't it?" Hughes seemed delighted at the acknowledgement. "Gracia made it for me. Isn't it cute? She even got Elicia's dimples! Can you see them?" he gushed lovingly, pointing at the chubby face on his jumper.
"Very nice," grumbled Roy and with mustered effort, he managed to throw off his bed sheets and shakily get on his feet. Just as he thought about telling Edward off for letting Hughes into his room, a pile of clothes was shoved into his arms and Hughes' voice floated towards him from behind the mound:
"What are you still standing around for? No time to lose! Take a quick shower – just a quick one – put these on and hurry downstairs!"
"Maes, what are you talking abou–"
"No time to talk. Just go, go, go, go!"
He felt Hughes push him towards the direction of his bathroom but he planted his feet onto the carpeted floor on the last second, stopping himself from moving. "Wait, wait. Why are you here again? Why am I being told to hurry up? What's going on?"
From the corner of his eye, Hughes merely grinned again. "You have guests downstairs. You mustn't keep them waiting!"
"Guests? What guests?"
"Just get ready quick!" Roy was surprised at the amount of force Hughes used to shove him all the way to the bathroom.
When Roy staggered down the steps, showered and dressed, and stepped into the living room, he nearly turned around to run back upstairs. What was once his living room had now become spacious, sparkling and incredibly festive. A magnificent Christmas tree was shoved into the corner and wrapped presents and a hamper or two had been planted near its base. The walls were lined with colourful tinsel and indoor Christmas lights blinking red and green. In the middle of the room, a long wooden table had been set in which several plates of mouth-watering food were placed. Hughes was just crossing the room, heading to the front door. Seeing the smiling bespectacled man, Roy's shock finally died down and was replaced with anger. He took another step forward and opened his mouth to speak.
Something had collided against his funny bone, sending a sharp pain up his elbow. Then a voice snapped from nearby:
"What the hell? Get out of the way! This is hot stuff I'm carrying!"
Edward had passed him, carrying an enormous steaming plate of grilled turkey, in which he carefully set down on the dining table and without sparing another glance at Roy, rushed back into the kitchen.
"Roy!" Hughes' voice sounded from the door. "Look who's arrived!"
A small group of people suddenly poured into the room. Roy recognised faces from the office – Havoc, Fuery, Breda and Farman cradling bottles of wine, boxes of crackers and wrapped presents; Winry Rockbell waltzed into the room wearing a yellow dress and reindeer antlers with twinkling lights, an enormous man wearing a Santa Claus costume hat followed behind her, the bushy white beard fluttering from the man's hearty laughing and there, with a persocom dog at her heels was...
"Good evening, sir," Riza Hawkeye, having caught Roy's flabbergasted stare, made her way over to him in order to deposit a small woven basket into his arms. Roy couldn't stop looking at his secretary. This was the first time in his life that he was seeing her in something that was not a work suit, namely a pretty violet button-up blouse and matching long skirt with an oriental design, complete with beret. Her blonde hair was loose and curling softly over one shoulder. She looked so different yet the same in some way. Perhaps it was the way she stood, posture rigid and professional as always. Or maybe it was her eyes – still watchful for any mistakes she could spot.
Seeing that Roy hadn't so much uttered a word at her greeting, Hawkeye brushed past him and murmured, "It's Christmas, sir. We all need a time to let our hair down."
It was only when Hughes sidled up to him, a gigantic knowing grin on his face that Roy snapped out of his astonishment of Riza Hawkeye's attire and blushed violently at his behaviour. Shaking his embarrassment off, he then rounded on his best friend, a muscle ticking in his temple.
"Oh, don't be like that," Hughes said, laughing and slapped Roy on the back. "This was supposed to be a surprise after all. We just wanted to–"
Hughes' words were cut off when the doorbell rang again and he left Roy's side to answer it. Rolling his eyes, Roy was about to tell himself that he was getting even more annoyed when the bespectacled man's voice floated into the living room again:
"GRACIA! ELICIA! YOU MADE IT!"
"That the fruitcake Hawkeye was talking about?" said a voice by his side.
Roy turned to find Edward, standing near his elbow, eyeing the basket in his arms. Now that he could see the other up close, he realised that Edward was wearing a red knitted hoody jumper with the letter 'E' on the front. Roy raised an eyebrow. It seemed that Gracia Hughes must have been quite busy over the holidays. Fortunately for him, Hughes' voice reminded him of his predicament and he became irritable once more.
Edward, without waiting for an answer, made a grab for the basket but Roy wrenched it out of reach and seized the blonde's wrist.
"Edward, what the hell have you done to my house?" the growl in Roy's voice was apparent and the persocom merely scowled at the man's behaviour.
"Nothing, we just spiced it up a bit. We didn't do any damage," Edward snapped and tried to pull his arm back but couldn't.
"I never asked you to hold a party at my house while I was ill," Roy continued speaking through gritted teeth. "Do you know why? It is too troublesome having people doing who-knows-what to your things, it gets really messy and darn it, I don't like cleaning up after people–"
"Okay, okay, I'll be the one cleaning up," Edward cut in, a grimace on his face. After giving his arm another tug but to no avail, Edward suddenly sighed exasperatedly – something Roy found very odd for the persocom to do – before the golden eyes glared up into his.
"Look," said Edward firmly. "It was Hughes' idea. I was the one who took it up. I mean, why not, right? You've been looking obnoxiously down in the dumps for the past few days. I thought this would at least cheer you up a bit."
Roy blinked, suddenly recalling the same words he delivered to Edward on that so-called birthday party. When he opened his mouth to reply, he found that he couldn't because the whole idea of Edward trying to make him feel better drove the words out of his head. Something warm and pleasant blossomed in his chest – he felt moved, touched, grateful... just like the time when Edward kept vigilant by his bedside when he was ill.
His grip slackened, releasing Edward's arm from his grasp. The persocom looked surprised at this and, as he watched the expression of astonishment on his user's face, he began to shift uncomfortably on the spot. Edward spoke again and this time, his words were hesitant, uncertain, sounding almost embarrassed: "Well, you've been stuck in bed, being an ass all the time so I just thought – hey, don't – don't look at me like that. I'm only doing it because of that birthday you gave me. So now we're even, Mustang."
Fortunately, the sound of the doorbell ringing for the third time roused them out of their situation. As Hughes rushed to answer the door again, Edward snatched the basket from Roy's hands and fled into the kitchen, leaving him standing there by the foot of the stairs. Roy shook his head, trying to compose himself again and made his way to Hughes, who was ushering his secretary, Scieszka, clad in a green blouse and long black skirt, her mousy hair tousled from the cold wind and her glasses slightly askew, and a fair-haired man and a dark-haired woman he did not know into the crowded living room.
"Make yourselves at home!" Hughes told them before he settled next to Roy and grinned at him again.
"He wants to make up with you," the bespectacled man informed him and Roy knew exactly who the subject of the statement was. "Isn't that great, Roy?"
Roy sighed and scratched his uncombed hair. "Edward. Why did you put Edward through all this?"
"I didn't," Hughes replied. "He wanted to do it all. We just helped him out. I get the feeling that persocom is something, Roy. I mean, I wish Elicia were able to decide to do things like this for me on her own."
Roy realised that something else was bugging him as he watched some of his guests help Edward set the table. He bit his lip at the thought, uncertain of how to voice it until Hughes, by some weird coincidence, decided to speak out those very notions:
"Do you notice that Edward is learning to care about you?"
Indeed, that was what had risen in his consciousness and now hearing it from Hughes shocked him even more. Roy looked at Edward ordering a flustered Fuery on where to put Hawkeye's fruitcake on the table before blowing a stray lock of blonde from his face. The persocom caught his gaze and Roy glanced away quickly only to find–
"Mr. Mustang!" gushed a deep, rumbling voice behind them and before he knew it, he was crushed into an embrace by the large man in the Santa Claus costume. Roy, arms flailing wildly at his sides, managed to push his face away from the gigantic chest and saw the pink sparkles glinting all around them.
"Armstr–" Roy tried to speak but Armstrong suddenly burst into tears and squeezed him harder.
"Mr. Edward is absolutely remarkable, sir! The commitment he holds in order to complete his tasks for this day, the determination I see in his eyes, the concern he feels for you! Why, it simply moves me so, so much!" At this point, Roy was now yelling as Armstrong's grip was too much for him to withstand and that he was sure that his ribs would crack at any moment. The large man seemed oblivious to Roy's struggles as he was far too distracted in showering Roy with his tears and sparkles.
"Oh, thank you for purchasing such a brilliant, brilliant persocom, Mr. Mustang!"
An uneasy Hughes, seeing that Roy's face was beginning to turn purple, finally decided that he should interfere.
Edward had never dreamed that he would find himself sitting at the dining room table with everyone else. Never had he experienced the nature of sitting down with a group of people who ate and chatted so merrily with one another. He sat there, unmoving and unsure of what to do as he couldn't eat anyway, and drank in the sights and sounds of how eagerly Farman and Breda were eating the food, the way Hawkeye delicately sipped her glass of wine, how Winry giggled at a joke Havoc was making, how Hughes was ranting on about Elicia to a displeased Mustang. The blonde eyed his empty plate and wondered absently how fruitcake tasted like. He sighed.
"Edward?" asked a soft, feminine voice beside him. The blonde startled at the gentleness contained in the voice and blinked at the smiling woman beside him. It was Gracia Hughes.
"Is everything alright?" she asked again when she got his attention. Edward nodded dumbly and thinking that he should ask, muttered, "Do I look troubled to you?"
Gracia merely smiled at his words, "Not really. But do you think it strange to be here? I mean, we're all eating and everything and you..."
"Oh, n-no!" he stammered out, waving his hands in a flustered way. "The whole thing is new for me. You know... I've read about these Christmas dinners in books but to experience it in real life..."
Gracia chuckled mellifluously. "So how do you find it 'in real life'?" she asked kindly, her green eyes twinkling like her husband's.
Edward looked at the sight before him, at the diners who chattered on, laughed, boasted and ate and it seemed that all of them – even Mustang – had this sort of brightness shining in their faces. Edward couldn't explain it but the fact that everyone was here, together like this, made him feel closer to each of them in such a way that he could never imagine. Realising this, Edward tried to fight back a smile but failed.
"Really great," he answered. He startled when Gracia suddenly reached over and touched a stray lock of gold hair that had fallen onto his face. Edward's mouth dropped open only to shut quickly when Gracia stroked the strand back into his forehead. He found himself unconsciously leaning into the touch. A familiar spark ignited in him and a feeling of solace washed over him as he stared at Gracia, baffled at his reaction to her touch. What was this–?
"How do you find my present, Edward?" Gracia drew her hand back and regarded him kindly.
Edward found himself speechless at first, still bewildered at what had happened to him, before he realised she had asked him a simple question.
"Oh, you mean the hoody?" Edward plucked the front of his knitted attire and then smiled widely. "It's really nice, Mrs. Hughes! It must have taken you so long to make this!"
"Oooh, it took a while," Gracia giggled, a small blush on her face, seemingly flattered at his comment. She picked up her fork and began cutting a small portion of turkey. As Edward watched her slowly chew it, he couldn't help but shyly ask her, "How's the turkey I roasted?"
She hesitated for a while before swallowing and then she turned and smiled again, "It tastes wonderful, Edward."
Edward, his arms full of dirty plates, passed Hughes and Havoc, red-faced and obviously drunk, as they clinked their glasses together and downed their drinks. Havoc, after emerging from his glass, hiccupped twice before picking up the half-empty wine bottle and poured another round of drinks. Hughes raised his glass again.
"To my cute little Elicia!"
"To beautiful women!"
Shaking his head, Edward came across the small group of women gossiping near the window. Gracia Hughes was just telling a story about Mrs. Who-Knows-Who's husband secretly meeting some other woman and how Mrs. Who-Knows-Who was planning to kill him for the clandestine affair. Hughes' secretary, Scieszka, had her hand over her mouth in horror, Hawkeye was listening with a stern expression on her face and the dark-haired woman who came with Scieszka was shaking her head disapprovingly at what she was hearing.
"That can't have been right," she was saying. Her voice was deep but had a musical ring to it.
"Oh, it's what that Mrs. Baron's been prattling on about, Maria," Gracia waved her hand, looking amused at Scieszka's reaction to the story. The mousy-haired woman suddenly blushed and quickly lowered her hand from her mouth and spoke in a flustered voice:
"Well, I've read in a number of novels how wives who know their husbands are having affairs really do go mad with jealousy and resort to all sorts of things! Like in Roxas Boulevard by Diana Jonson, when the actress Mrs. Rachel Ashlee Winterborne the Third found–"
Edward flinched and veered away from the sight of Armstrong, who had just ripped off his Santa Clause outfit in order to flash his muscles at a frightened Fuery and the blonde man who had accompanied the dark-haired woman. Doing so, the persocom spotted Winry talking to Elicia somewhere near the Christmas tree. He cried out when Breda unexpectedly knocked into him. The short man was carrying a small plate of Hawkeye's fruitcake in his hand.
"Careful!" Farman steadied the small tower of plates in Edward's arms and regarded the blonde worriedly. "Do you need some help with that?"
"No thanks," the persocom huffed and nudged his head at Breda, who was spooning a large forkful of cake into his mouth. "Just tell him to look while he eats. He might actually do some damage here, like crash into people who're cleaning up!"
"Hey, sorry already," Breda grumbled and was escorted back to the dining table by Farman. Edward scowled at the two of them, glanced at his plates and marched into the kitchen, where Roy Mustang stood by the sink, rinsing a couple of spoons under the running tap.
"Here," Edward dumped the plates onto the counter, which was laden with dirty dishes and cutlery, before heading back outside. Getting no response from the dark-haired man, Edward paused at the kitchen door and stared at him. Mustang seemed deep in thought, eyes fixed on the spoons he was washing. Edward watched the expression for a while, trying to decipher it before he noticed that the corner of Mustang's lip was turned downwards. Mustang was – it definitely seemed to be – displeased at the fact that there were piles of dishes to wash and put away and the fact that he had to face the mess in the living room once his guests left the house. Edward sighed.
"Hey, you okay?" the blonde found himself asking before blinking in surprise at his own action. Mustang raised his head to look at him, eyebrows raised.
"Yes, I'm fine," the dark-haired man said slowly, also seemingly surprised by the question. He placed the clean spoons on the drying rack and picked up a dirty plate.
"Mustang," Edward said as he lingered by the doorway. "Why don't you go and enjoy yourself out there? I'll stay here and clean up."
He saw Mustang pause in his actions before those dark eyes regarded him at the door. "You sure about that?"
"Yeah," he said, smirking and something caught his eye from the living room. He turned away from the kitchen in order to watch Breda take out a couple of colourful boxes from a large shopping bag. What could those be...?
Roy rinsed his hands and with a last glance at the pile of dishes on the counter, rolled down his sleeves and buttoned them, walked to the door and as he was going through the doorframe, passing Edward who was standing there, golden eyes fixed on the party before them and then–
"Wha–?" Roy stopped because he couldn't move any further. Something was holding him back, pulling his sleeve and when he tugged it, Edward yelled at him again.
"Stop doing that!"
It was only when he turned around that he realised the buttons of his sleeve were caught in Edward's hair. Edward was bending at an awkward angle and glowering at him with bright golden eyes. The persocom began to struggle, grappling at Roy's sleeve to untangle themselves from their situation. Roy found himself trapped against the wooden doorframe and a squirming Edward.
"I don't believe this," Roy heard Edward mutter as he attempted to separate them but was unsuccessful.
"Let me do it," Roy, surprised that he was more composed than Edward was, pushed the persocom's fingers away and carefully began to disentangle Edward's blonde locks from his sleeve buttons. Edward stayed silent as he waited for the other to finish the work. Once freed, the persocom pulled away from him and glared up at the amused expression on Roy's face, all before his eyes strayed even higher and something in his face changed.
Roy unconsciously looked up at the top of the doorframe they were standing under.
There, hanging innocently above them, was a sprig of mistletoe.
Roy's eyes widened with shock. When did a sprig of mistletoe end up in his house? Who put it there? How – it must be – oh, Hughes...
Suppressing a groan, Roy was just about to reach up and pull the damn thing off before his gaze fell on Edward and he was shocked again to find the blonde looking at him, that golden gaze unmoving, looking at him as if he was wondering, waiting, as if he was expectingsomething, something to happen right now...
It was at that moment, right then, right now, that Roy recalled something. Something on the night when he had asked Edward to stay with him and Edward had grumbled under his breath as he threw himself on the floor and leaned against the bedside table and the glow of the lamp illuminated his face and Roy... Roy couldn't stop looking at him that time because he had never noticed how Edward looked really nice that night...
And Roy was stepping closer to Edward, leaning down to Edward's face without really knowing why. And Edward moved too, albeit slowly, uncertainly – his hand reached out for him, his expression shy, unsure but somewhat eager to find out–
Roy and Edward jumped away from each other at the noise and the sound of laughter resonated from the living room. Several women had also screamed in surprise at the noise and Roy heard the dark-haired woman yell angrily: "Denny Bloch! You idiot!"
"We only pulled one of the crackers–" a man's voice tried to explain but it was drowned by the woman's yells.
Roy gasped for air as he leaned against the wall of the kitchen, clutching his heart in which he found was beating fast and loud in his ears. He realised that Edward had disappeared from the kitchen – it seemed that the blonde had supposedly forgotten the fact that he volunteered to wash the dishes. Roy stared across the room where he spotted his reflection on a darkened window and noticed that his cheeks were bright red and that he felt somewhat light-headed all of a sudden. He reached up and covered his face.
"What just happened?" he whispered through his fingers.
Edward fled the kitchen the moment he glimpsed Mustang's reddening face as the latter panted against the kitchen wall. The persocom returned to the party, determined not to look back at the kitchen, at the sprig of mistletoe that hung there, at what nearly happened between them. He tried not to think about the surprise he felt when Roy Mustang stepped closer to him, bent his face down so that their gazes were levelled and Edward had responded to this, wanted to know how kissing must feel like.
But he never expected to feel something else when that unexpected noise jolted them into consciousness. A rush of some overwhelming emotion – so much of it – flooded through him: Embarrassment? Shock? Horror? What was it? What was it? It was this that had made him bolt from the kitchen. It was this that had told him something. Something that was changing between himself and Mustang and he wasn't certain if he wanted to find out.
The blonde quickly swerved away from the guests and squeezed himself into a shady spot between the curtained windows and the Christmas tree. He smoothed back his tousled hair and sighed, tried to press down the feeling he was overwhelmed with. He made the mistake of glancing at the kitchen where he could still make out a dark-haired man's outline from beyond the doorway.
"Oh, hi there!" a young man's voice snapped him out of his reverie and Edward startled when he found the two guests – the blonde man and the dark-haired woman – standing just beside him. The woman was gazing at him curiously.
"You must be Mr. Mustang's persocom," she said as she tilted her head to get a better look at him. "Amazing. You look very human."
"Yeah, so I've been told," Edward answered uneasily. The blonde man suddenly seized his metal hand and shook it.
"Pleased to meet you, I'm Denny Bloch," he said with a toothy grin and gestured at the woman next to him. "This is my partner, the lovely Maria Ross."
"Work partner," Maria Ross reminded him and held out her own hand to shake Edward's. Up close, Edward noticed that there was a mole under her right eye. "We work in the Central Police Department, Investigations Unit. Mr. Hughes was kind enough to invite us. I've known him since we were kids."
"I see. Well, my name is Edward," Edward introduced himself before he found himself bombarded with Denny Bloch's questions.
"Which company made you, Edward? Is it Hinoba? I've always heard that the East City division's got these high-tech and sophisticated laboratories where they test out their newest products. Ever heard of the PS-3000 Microchip? Just add it to any device and it will–"
"Alright, settle down," Denny Bloch's words were cut off when Maria Ross cuffed him in the ribs. "The poor boy doesn't need to listen to any of that." She sighed and looked at Edward apologetically, "I'm sorry. Despite being in the Force for a year, Denny is still considered rookie material. Can't stop talking."
"I am not rookie material," whined Denny. "It's just that you guys keep treating me like a kid, is all."
Edward looked at the two adults who towered over him curiously. They didn't seem to look much like police officers. Still, he wondered how they worked so he decided to ask them.
"What sort of work we do?" Maria Ross echoed his question and he nodded in affirmation. She looked uneasy for a moment before she covered it up with a smile. "Well, at the moment we're put on paperwork duty. We sort out through this year's crime cases and file them. Not much work really. I can't tell you any more than that. Everything is confidential."
Denny Bloch must have seen the look of disappointment on Edward's face because he clapped his hand on Maria Ross' shoulder and laughed, "Oh don't be like that, Maria. I think it's okay to tell the kid a thing or two. Mr. Hughes said Edward likes to learn new things."
"Denny–" Maria shrugged the hand off her shoulder and turned to glare at her partner but Denny Bloch was already speaking to Edward, his blue eyes bright and excited:
"There are these two cases that Maria can't stop talking about in the office. Always rants about it to me anyway. You heard of Creator? Gilleroy Creator? Genius who makes security software programs? A couple of months ago, they found his house and his body all blown up. Initially, it was thought to be a gas leak but some people – like Maria, for instance – thinks it's a murder. Either way, not many people want to get into this further. I heard Creator wasn't such a friendly guy anyway. Did you know that the name 'Gilleroy Creator' is actually a pseudonym? Not his real name!"
"Denny–" Maria tried to interrupt but the blonde man was too engrossed in delivering his story to a wide-eyed Edward.
"And then there's the case of the mysterious disappearance of the pharmacist, Nash Tringham. Gone a few days after Creator's reported death. Vanished from Xenotime, his hometown, and left his two sons in charge of his lab. I mean, what sort of dad leaves his poor kids like that? Of course, Maria is convinced it's a case of kidnapping. The other guys say it isn't because they've run through Tringham's past records and found that he had dealings with shady guys before. It's most likely he's just on the run from them, I guess. Left his kids so they wouldn't get involved. Oh yes, Maria also thinks that the Creator case and Tringham case are connected in some way–"
"That's enough!" Maria suddenly slapped Denny upside the head and he cried out and clutched his head. "These files are confidential and you go around blabbing them to civilians! You should be ashamed of yourself, Denny Bloch!" Edward's eyes widened with shock when Maria seized Denny's ear, twisted it and the blonde man cried out in pain.
"Ow, ow! Okay, I'm sorry! Won't do it again!"
"Of course you won't," Maria growled and turned to Edward with a smile. "I'm sorry about all this, Edward. I think it best that we leave now before Denny accidentally spills out everything he knows to you all. Police business, you should understand."
"Y-Yeah, not at all," stammered Edward and he gulped at the sight of the teary Denny whose ear was still in Maria's grasp.
"It was lovely meeting you, Edward," Maria shook Edward's hand and with some difficulty, let Denny do the same as well without letting his ear go.
"Yeah, take care," wheezed Denny and together, the two individuals left Edward's side in order to fetch their coats.
Edward leaned against the heavy curtains, Denny Bloch's voice replaying in his mind – Nash Tringham? Gilleroy Creator? He shook his head. Like what Maria Ross said, police business should be left to the police. He had his own search to do, a much more personal one: why was he here? Why was he made this way? For what purpose was he created? He now accepted the fact that he was not made to be another Scar, another weapon. He wanted to find another reason, a better reason for his very existence.
"Roy! What the hell are you doing cooped up in there! Come and have a drink with us!"
Hughes' voice made Edward look up. The persocom managed to see the red faced Hughes drag a frowning Mustang by the arm out of the kitchen, shove a used wine glass into his hand and Havoc, slightly cross-eyed and supporting an unlit cigarette in his mouth, poured Mustang a glass of wine.
"To Edward!" Hughes hollered to Edward's surprise as he raised his glass.
"To Edward!" echoed Havoc and Mustang before they clinked their glasses together and downed their drinks.
The moment Mustang lowered his glass, his eye caught Edward's and Edward unconsciously smiled because it was strange having someone toast their drink to you. Mustang, who seemed to understand this, smiled back at him before Hughes announced that they'd have another round.
The moment Roy opened his eyes, he was hit with a pounding headache. He groaned and tried to sit up, finding himself in his bedroom. He was still in the clothes he wore the night before, except that there was a rather large wine stain on the front of his shirt. There was a glass of water sitting on his bedside table and he seized it, tipped it back and let the cool liquid quench his thirst.
He couldn't remember most of the events of last night. He could, however, recall Hughes toasting everything in sight and Havoc refilling his wine glass every time it was emptied. He must have gotten drunk enough to collapse. Then Edward must have dragged him upstairs.
Roy stumbled out of bed, tripping over his feet and seeing his vision blur for a moment before he reached out and grabbed the bed post. Blinking his bleary eyes, his sight returned and he found himself staring at a small square package that lay at the foot of his bed.
"What...?" he managed to say but stopped. Sitting back down and shaking the grogginess from his head, he quickly unwrapped the package and pulled out a pair of pristine white gloves. He stared at them in wonder, rubbed his fingers over the soft material. Looking down, he saw a card inside the box scribbled with the untidy scrawl of a kindergartner:
For R. Mustang,
Merry Christmas. From, Edward.
For a full thirty seconds, Roy Mustang never turned his gaze away from the little piece of card addressed to him. He was struck with disbelief at first, disbelief that such terrible handwriting had found its way on a blank sheet of card, that the simple message written on it made him blush darkly, made his heart soar with delight. Clutching the gloves, Roy bolted from bed, tripped over his feet again, steadied and flew down the stairs.
The living room was a mess. The Christmas tree had been pulled down, spilling pine needles and loose baubles all over the floor. A number of boxes lay open around the room, stuffed with tinsel, Christmas lights and ornaments. The dining table had been moved back inside the kitchen. Edward was there, throwing objects into one of the open boxes. He looked exhausted, his hair was tangled in his braid, his knitted hoody wrinkled and he was muttering incoherently under his breath.
"Edward?" Roy stepped into the room, avoiding the mess on the floor.
"Had a good sleep?" grumbled Edward and the blonde looked over his shoulder at him and smirked. "Hm, doesn't look like it. You look like shit. Must be the drinks, eh?"
Roy was suddenly hit with a feeling of unease and alarm. "I didn't do anything stupid last night while I was drunk, did I?"
Edward's smirk merely widened as he turned back to his work. "Not much. Apart from you dancing an Irish jiggle naked on the dining table– just kidding, just kidding!" Edward laughed when he saw Roy's face drain in colour. "You were right about one thing though. Cleaning up sucks, big time. I don't think I want to hold another goddamn party anymore."
Roy glanced around the room, "Have you been at it all night?"
"You mean all morning," Edward corrected him and he straightened up from his work and kicked a stray bauble away with his boot. "Those guys wouldn't leave unless I force them too. I think it was almost four in the morning when I kicked the last one out– Hey, what are you doing?"
Roy had moved from his spot at the foot of the stairs and was picking up the ornaments from the floor and putting them in one of the empty boxes. "I'm helping you clean up, that's what I'm doing."
"I already told you, I'll be the one who'll..." Edward's words faded when his gaze landed on something in Roy's hand. "Oh, you found them."
Indeed, Roy was clutching the white gloves that Edward had given him. He held them up to Edward with a smile. "Thank you for these. I never expected you of all people to give me a present."
"Well, they were on sale," Edward mumbled, actually sounding embarrassed. "I have a matching pair. It's two for the price of one. I thought I should just give the extra pair to you."
They suddenly lapsed into a brief, awkward silence. Roy felt some memory nagging him, trying to get him to remember something but in his alcohol-induced stupor, he was unable to recall it. He realised that something had changed between himself and Edward and the more he stared at Edward, stared into those golden eyes, the more he felt the need to reach out to him, touch him and tell him, Thank you. Thank you for giving me this gift. No, that wasn't it. Thank you for being here with me now. No, it wasn't that too. It was something like: I feel something for–
"Ouch!" something sharp had pierced Roy's finger and he realised that he had unconsciously tightened his grip on one of the baubles he was holding and his skin had caught the sharp end of a hook. The sudden movement broke their moment and Edward turned away and resumed the workload. Roy, after quickly stuffing the white gloves into his pocket and tossing the bauble into a random box, called Edward:
"You should go and charge up, Ed. I'll continue the work. Believe me, you look like shit too."
At this, Edward laughed before he stood up and swept the debris from his pants. The blonde then picked his way across the room and sprinted upstairs without another look. Roy had been watching the other's expression from the corner of his eye, noted the way Edward's lips pursed, the way his eyebrows furrowed. It was the expression someone usually had when they were blushing with embarrassment. There were no pink tints on Edward's cheeks though – but Roy knew the look well enough to know what he was seeing.
Roy turned back to the work in hand, trying to see past the mess he was in. Tossing another set of ornaments into the box, he shifted a bit and felt something under his foot. Leaning down, he picked up the object.
It was a squashed sprig of mistletoe, its white leaves dented and the red berries gone.
Suddenly, a rush of memories, as clear as day, hit him then. They had been standing under the mistletoe... Edward and himself... Roy had leaned down and Edward had reached out for him, ready to...
Realisation dawned on him again. Something had changed between Roy and Edward, he knew that. But whatever it was, whatever this change was, he was not sure if he wanted to find out.
Fighting back the blush on his face, Roy tossed the sprig into the box and turned away.
Roy and Ed's relationship have gone to a new level. What will happen next? Originally, there wasn't going to be a near-kiss scene here. But a reviewer from last chapter brought up the idea so I decided – why not? Let's try it out and see! The result? Confusion. Roy is beginning to see Edward a little differently now. I also notice they seem tender (?) with each other? Roy saying 'Thank you' more often? Edward helpfully putting a glass of water by the bedside table for Roy when he wakes up with a hangover?
The Christmas party scene was a nightmare to write. I also found Maria Ross and Denny Bloch somewhat difficult to portray. Gilleroy Creator is mentioned again. Why hasn't Ed picked up on this yet? Oh well.
Well, my dear Readers. I would very much like to know what you think of this chapter. Was it okay? Was the hair-tangling a silly excuse for Ed to look up and see the mistletoe? How can Roy not recognise Armstrong in that Santa Claus suit? Why did Ed react when Gracia touched him? Don't you think the fact that I made Hughes and Ed wear knitted attire remind you of Harry Potter? Was there very little dialogue with the other characters like Winry, Elicia and Fuery? Oh my gosh - a mentioning of the Tringham brothers! Is Roy really horrified at the fact that Edward can't write properly? Is Roy in denial at his growing affection/feelings for Edward? Do you think Edward might feel something for Roy too? Aich, how can you tell? =D
I've given you something to think about so give me your thoughts! I'd love to hear some of your little theories on this. Go and press the little button there! Until next chapter~!
ANOTHER NOTE (29/09/09) = Hi guys. Just want to let you know that I've revised the chapters of this story and posted them all up again. There won't be many changes except for a few facts and grammar mistakes that don't add up. However, it is the Prologue that I've done most revisions on because the content in there doesn't match up with the rest of the story so I had to change it to match the intended plotline. There are also other bits in the story which I had to change because I found out that some of the content was redundant. So I recommend you to read the whole story again if you can, especially that of the Prologue chapter.
I apologise in advance if it makes your reading confusing/inconvenient. You don't have to read it all again if you don't want to, although it's best if you do want to understand this story a little better. Cheers.