Chapter 1: His Reason
"So, Fullmetal," he began, sending a serious glance at the young alchemist. "Who are you taking to the ball this weekend?"
Edward's golden eyes went wide. "Uh, do I really have to go to that…?"
"Of course! All officers and state alchemists must be present." His superior's dark eyes fell on his own. "You didn't forget, did you, Fullmetal?"
"Forget? No! I was just making sure!"
"Alright then. Who's the lucky young lady?" He smiled deviously. "Will it be Miss Rockbell?"
"Why do you automatically assume it'll be her?" Edward asked cautiously.
"Well, if you must know, it's for three basic reasons." He began to count them off with his fingers as he spoke. "One, she is your best girl friend. Two, she will probably be the only one willing to go with you, even if you ask this late. And the third, and simplest reason of all, you have a crush on her, don't you, Elric?"
The young alchemist felt the warmth crawl onto his face at the last comment.
But when he was about to refute said comment, his superior raised his hand to stop him. "It's alright, you've already given me your answer. Either way, you better ask her soon, before it's too late and she can't go with you."
"What if I don't wanna ask her? Maybe I want to go alone."
"Oh." The colonel pretended to think for a moment, before replying. "Well, then do as you wish, be all lonely and dateless. It's your call."
Edward wasn't sure what to do then. To ask her and prove him right or to not ask her and be ridiculed by Mustang for not having the guts to do so.
He had fallen into the bastard's stupid trap. And it wouldn't be the first time, dammit.
However, from the look in the his dark eyes, Mustang already had something up his sleeve. With a snap of the Flame Alchemist's fingers, Edward's automail was wrecked, along with his favorite coat. Small bits of smoke escaped his charred 'mail as he looked at it with horror and shock. Fuck! Winry's gonna kill me!
"What the hell, Mustang!" he growled.
"I apologize, my fingers must have slipped," he said with a smirk. "Looks like you'll have to go to your mechanic for repairs."
His shock was replaced by complete embarassment. "Wait…what?"
"Hm. I guess I'll be seeing you and Miss Rockbell at the ball, Fullmetal." The colonel patted his subordinate's back as he walked towards the exit. "You better thank me later."
"Huh…?" He was left confused and frustrated. Again.
It was at times like these that Ed just couldn't understand Roy Mustang's reasoning.
Chapter 2: Invitation
She wonders if his invitation is worth her trouble.
"Just what did you do to make the colonel this angry, Ed?" she wondered aloud as she inspected what was left of the seared automail.
"He wasn't angry! He did it because—" He seemed to catch himself. "Never mind."
"Because what?" He'd unwillingly sparked her curiosity.
"Nothing," was his short reply.
The two teenagers fell silent once more. They didn't want another argument like before, when she first saw him walk through the front door with a burnt and tarnished 'mail. She made a point of welcoming him with her wrench before he took his fourth step inside, forcing the tool to collide with his skull in record time.
The minutes seemed to pass by like hours in Winry's quiet workshop, where only the soft clatter of her tools could be heard.
However, it made her feel kind of awkward—nothing was more normal to her than arguing with Ed about stupid, petty things.
"Hm?" She looked up from the metallic prosthetic, only to be surprised by a flushed Edward looking back at her.
"Will you…" he inhaled deeply. "Will you go to the Officers' Ball… with me?"
She gasped softly in shock, which seemed to make him even more fllushed and uncomfortable by the manner in which he averted her gaze.
"It's okay if you don't…" he whispered quickly.
"I'll go with you." She wasn't sure how those words had actually gotten past her lips, but they had.
"I said, I'll go with you," she repeated, more confident and assertive than the first time.
A pair of wide, golden eyes stared back at her. He was dumbfounded for a moment, before regaining composure and sending a smile her way that clearly said 'Thanks.'
She returned the gesture with a brighter smile. She guessed she was doing him a great favor by accepting but to her, it didn't matter why—she was happy to help him any time. And she was also happy to go to a dance with him.
"There's a catch though," he said nervously, derailing her train of thought.
"Okay, what is it?"
"First, promise you won't hit me or get mad." He shifted in his seat, giving her a serious look.
"Is there a reason for me to get mad?" Her voice had an edgy tone. It was a warning tone that she was sure he knew well.
"I guess it depends…" he thought aloud.
"Ed." Annoyance was slowly beginning to take hold of her.
"Promise me first!" he pleaded.
She stared him down with an icy blue gaze before giving in. "Fine! I promise! What's the catch?"
"The ball's this weekend!" he spat out quickly, reflexively placing his flesh arm in front of himself for protection against any tool she might send flying his way.
A flare of anger rose within her at this new, and important, knowledge. She gripped the wrench in her overalls instinctively, but stopped, knowing full well that a promise was a promise. And a promise, she wouldn't break.
"You idiot…" She let out a huff strong enough to blow her bangs out of place. "And you asked me today?"
"Heh, yeah." Ed looked up at her with an innocent smile. "Sorry?"
She gave him an eyeroll. "You're lucky you're my best friend." And handsome too. She shook that last thought out of her mind as she tried to focus back on the task at hand: fixing his automail. Winry figured if she focused on his invitation and the problems that would soon accompany it, they wouldn't be able to make it to said ball because of the concussion her partner would have courtesy of her wrench.
"I know I am," she barely heard him whisper, causing a small smile to escape her lips in satisfaction.
Who knew? Maybe accepting his invitation would be worth all the trouble.
Chapter 3: Learning
They are both learning together.
Happy EdWin Day! 503! xD
"So just put your right hand on my waist give me your left hand here."
He did as she instructed, placing his automail hand on her waist and holding her warm hand inside his own flesh one, feeling slightly awkward while doing so. "Like this?"
"Yeah," she smiled sweetly, trying to ease his tension.
Unfortunately, her smile had the opposite effect, making him feel slightly nervous instead, especially while being so close.
"I don't need to learn how to dance, Al!"
"Then what are you gonna do at the ball, Brother?" Alphonse challenged.
"Beats me," he said nonchalantly.
He shrugged. "She can go dance all she wants."
"With who?" Crimson eyes stared him down, making fear bubble inside him. "Brother, you invited her to the ball! If all you were going to do was sit there, then why'd you ask her in the first place?"
Sweat ran down his face. "Uh…"
Al pointed a gloved finger at his face. "See, Ed? This is why I always tell you to think things through." His plates rattled as he crossed his arms. "And you ask why Winry gets mad at you all the time…" he said in exasperation as he walked away, leaving Ed to his own thoughts.
"Just keep moving side to side, Ed, it's easy." She lead him as they took a few steps together.
"Gotcha." He nodded and followed, quickly learning how to stay in rhythm. "It is kinda easy."
"Oh, and another thing," she began.
Ed looked up to ask, "What?"
She smiled as she made eye contact with him. "Don't look down."
"Oh, right." He smiled back, feeling more comfortable and confident now. Dancing with her wasn't so bad.
Actually, it was kind of nice.
As their laughter died down, they noticed exactly how entangled they really were, and also realized how much they did not mind.
He didn't mind having her so close anymore; her warm hands on his shoulders, her body pressed up to his—he was sure her scent would cling onto his clothes for the rest of the day—and her eyes, a bright blue that could only be seen during the summer days in Resembool, when the sun is about to set, looked back at him in a way he wasn't able to explain. All he knew was that he liked it.
She thought the same. A warm arm and a cooler one had found their place around her waist, both strong and unmoving. She could feel his heart beat speed up and slow down under her hands at some points during the dance lesson and wondered the reason why—was it the dance or was it her who caused it? Though, she secretly hoped it was her. His eyes, topaz as ever, seemed soft and bright as they looked down—down? Had he really grown a bit?—at her. And she hoped that she could see this easy going side of him more often, along with the smile that seemed to accompany him, instead of his usual abstruse self.
Both enjoyed the other's company, yet neither voiced their thoughts. They were too afraid of what the other's reactions could be.
Alphonse gave his brother a ruby look of utter surprise. He wasn't sure if he'd heard correctly or if his armor's resonance had caused a mix up of words. "Brother, you did what?"
Ed's blush only deepened as he looked down at his boots and whispered his answer. "I, uh… I kissed her, Al."
A gasp echoed loudly through the younger brother's armor at this new learned fact.
Chapter 4: Do You Want to Know a Secret?
Alphonse shares a secret with her.
"I don't know how your brother can fall asleep on these things," she pouted, a bit jealous of the sleeping boy next to her. "These seats are so uncomfortable."
Alphonse nodded. "Brother can sleep anywhere."
"I guess so," she agreed. "Must be all that traveling you both do."
"Yeah," Alphonse replied. With a single glance, he noticed the way her azure eyes softened as they watched over his brother, along with the small hint of a smile on her lips. "Winry? You really care about Brother, don't you?"
The question caught her by surprise, he could tell by her expression. "Of course, I care about both of you very much," she answered carefully. "You're my best friends, my family."
"That's not what I meant," he chided softly. "And you know it." His ruby eyes lingered on hers for a moment, assuring her that he was no fool. He could see right through her façade.
She let out a sigh of defeat, along with a light blush, as a reply.
Al felt himself smile, and although the armor didn't quite show it, he knew Winry could see it too. "Brother cares about you too, you know. A lot."
She raised an eyebrow. "What?" The disbelief was obvious in her mumble. "You're not serious, Al… are you?"
If he could roll his eyes, he would have. "I knew Brother was clueless and dense, but you too?" His sigh resonated throughout his armor. "Look Winry, he may not see it yet, but he sure can feel it. He's starting to figure out how he feels… especially after what happened between you two."
The look of surprise on her face was priceless. "He… he told you?"
"Well, yeah," he said innocently. "Brother tells me everything."
A shade of scarlet began to crawl onto her face, making her embarassment evident.
"You can't be too surprised." His sly tone resounded through the armor.
"It's just, I thought he wouldn't say anything." She pondered on the subject. "It seemed to me like he was ignoring what happened—like he was ignoring the… the kiss…" Winry clarified, almost dragging the words out of her mouth. "I mean, it was an accident after all, so… it's not like I expected anything to change." She glanced down at her intertwined hands.
"Winry." Al took one of her hands in his gloved one. "He hasn't been ignoring it." His chuckle echoed inside him. "It's driving him insane."
She gasped quietly, taking in the information Al had just given her.
"He doesn't know what to do. He's never been in a situation like this," he explained. "And he thought you were mad at him for it too."
"But I'm not!" The words left her lips in a hurry.
"I'm not the one that needs to know," he answered quietly and pointed at his sleeping brother. "He does. I'm simply trying to help, but Brother… he can be real difficult."
She smiled knowingly. "He's a handful, alright."
"Yeah, but because he's got the wrong idea, he doesn't want to bring the subject up. That's why I wanted to tell you." He met her eyes once more. "This is something both of you need to solve on your own. But, unlike Brother, I know that you see things more clearly. Plus, you'll definitely be able to knock some sense into Ed."
She glanced at his brother again, thoughtful this time. "I see."
"Since Brother can't seem to talk to you, will you talk to him?" He sighed. "He's driving me crazy."
She smiled but was unsure, he could feel it, even in this body. "Alright. I'll talk to him at the dance."
Al felt relief flood through him. "Good." I just hope he listens. For your sake.
Chapter 5: Lessons
He still had a few lessons to learn.
"I can't believe I'm stuck with you for a whole day."
"Careful what you say, Fullmetal. I'll dump you on the side of the road."
He turned to look out the window. "Go ahead. I think that be better than being with you, Colonel."
The older man sent a glare in his direction before turning his attention back to the road. "Once we find our outfits for Saturday, we'll finally be out of each other's hair. So, just this time,cooperate. " He let out a smirk. "Don't you want to look good and impress her?"
It was Ed's turn to glare. "Shut up," he growled.
"What? I am simply stating a fact," he taunted. "After all, you admitted to having a crush on Miss Rockbell."
He felt heat rush to his cheeks. "I-I never said that!"
"But you never denied it either, Fullmetal," he said, the devious smile back in place. "And your reaction to the accusation is answer enough."
The young man was unable to speak, no matter how desperately he tried.
"But don't worry," the colonel began. "I'll help you win her over." The dark haired man gave him a knowing look. "Wooing women is just one of my many talents."
Ed could only gape at his commanding officer in response.
- Lesson One -
"Hmph. You're just like a girl," he said, readjusting his fingers on his garment bag for the millionth time. The bastard simply shrugged the comment away and tried on a new coat. Again. Seriously, just how many suits did he have to try on?
"You really should try to be more patient, Elric. That is lesson number one on women." He stuck his fore finger in the air for emphasis. "What if you had a girlfriend that you had to wait for? Would you really be rushing her?" he challenged, glancing at Ed's reflection in the mirror.
He scowled back.
"Speaking about girls, I wonder how the Lieutenant and Miss Rockbell are doing. Do you think they've picked out their dresses?" the colonel pondered aloud.
"I dunno," the young man answered, his eyes straying to the streets of Central, wondering where Winry was. He desperately wanted to talk to her, if only the words could make it past his lips. "Maybe."
"Well, let's go find out, Fullmetal."
- Lesson Two -
"We're buying flowers."
"Flowers?" His golden brows furrowed in confusion. "What do we need flowers for?"
Mustang smirked. "This, Fullmetal, is lesson number two. Always buy a beautiful woman, beautiful flowers."
Edward wasn't sure if the colonel was right, but decided to toy with the idea anyway. Yes, Winry was beautiful, but she was also unique, unlike any other girl he'd ever met. He knew she loved anything made out of metal but…flowers?
But, it was still worth a shot, right?
"So, which ones do you think she'll like?" the colonel asked nonchalantly as they arrived to an old lady's cart of flowers.
He blankly stared at all the colorful flowers, unsure of which to choose. "I don't know. Winry's always been a fan of metal so the only gifts I've ever given her were tools not flowers…" he trailed off, scratching his head in thought.
"Young man, if it helps, roses are usually good for any occasion along with the many kinds of chrysanthemum," the old lady suggested and pointed at the flowers. "I can almost guarantee your girlfriend will love them."
Mustang chuckled while he gave her an embarrassed smile. "She's not my girlfriend."
"Ah, so you wanna declare yourself to her then? You should've started there," she commented with a grin and eyed her cart before picking out a handful of daisies. "There's something in your eyes young man," the old lady began as she wrapped the delicate flowers into a bouquet. "There's something that tells me your love is pure and innocent," she handed him the bouquet, "just like these daisies."
He felt himself blush at her revelation.
How could everyone see through him? Was it written on his face? In his eyes?
Were his feelings a tangible being walking beside him, attracting everyone's attention?
It sure as hell seemed like it.
- Lesson Three -
"That damn colonel, leaving me here waiting…" he mumbled.
He looked up at the call of his name. "Winry?" he asked, confused. "I thought you were still with the lieutenant."
"I was, until she dropped me off here and told me to wait for her…" she explained. "I don't even know where she went!"
And remember lesson number three, Fullmetal, it's the most important. No matter what, make her happy. You'll be happy when she's happy, it's as simple as that.
So, always make sure she's happy.
Ed's eyes went wide as he realized the bastard's plan, but noticed her eyes lingering on him and composed himself. Still, he felt a bit nervous under her gaze.
"That's a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Are you going to take them to Mr. Hughes?"
He raised his brows as he remembered the bouquet in his hand. "Uh, no. Actually," he took a deep breath, "they're…for… you."
She gasped as he handed her the flowers. "Edward…"
The young man gulped at the mention of his name in uncertainty.
"Thanks." She gave him a beautiful smile that did little to calm his heart. She glance at the bouquet once more before embracing him, letting her cheek rest on his shoulder. "They really are beautiful."
"I'm glad you like them," he smiled, a slight blush forming on his face as he brought his arms around her figure.
She pulled away just enough to see his face, moving his bangs out of the way with her free hand.
He watched her. Noticing her rosy cheeks, he wondered if they matched his own. But, when he met her eyes, his mind went blank. He couldn't focus on anything other than the girl standing in front of him, caressing the curve of his jaw. Ed leaned into the touch—leaning closer to her—until their foreheads touched. His heartbeat picked up as he leaned in some more, this time in search of her lips.
She kissed the corner of his mouth first though—just a soft peck—and smiled at his confused expression.
His brain, still trying to catch up with his heart, wasn't entirely aware of the situation. "Winry?"
"I really love these daisies, Ed." She wore a gleaming smile as she took his automail hand, glancing at it before meeting his eyes again. "Thank you."
He also glanced at their interlaced hands with a smile of his own and figured that perhaps Mustang was right.
As long as she was happy, nothing else mattered.
Chapter 6: Bit By Bit
He's willing to learn, bit by bit, by her side.
"Winry, you…you look…"
Amazing…? Stunning…? Fascinating…? Dammit, just say it, Elric!
The dress was a light blue chiffon gown, fitted to her curvaceous figure but loose as it fell below her hips. The asymmetrical hem dress, with small ruffles, ended just above her knee before dipping a bit lower.
It made her look even more beautiful than usual.
He tried once more, clearing his throat. "You're beautiful," he finally said, feeling the heat rise onto his cheeks.
Compliments weren't exactly his specialty, but if the pink that also crawled onto her face was any indication, he'd say he hit it right on the mark. "Thanks, Ed," she smiled.
Edward offered her a hand as she walked down the steps, just as the colonel had suggested. He hated taking the bastard's advice, but he had no argument against it. Ed knew next to nothing about girls—just another thing he had no time for after making his brother his main priority. For him, love was a completely foreign subject and because of that, it seemed he would have no other choice than to listen to whatever the colonel had to say.
"Lieutenant," Mustang said smoothly as he took Hawkeye's hand in his.
"Colonel," she replied calmly and let him lead her to the vehicle.
"You look stunning as always," he complimented—expertly, Ed noted—as he opened the car door and led her into the front seat.
Be a gentleman, he repeated Mustang's words in his head. Make her feel happy and comfortable.
He walked Winry to the Colonel's car, her hand in his, but couldn't say a word. Seeming to feel the opposite of comfortable—they'd never been in a situation like this before—both simply smiled at the other instead.
How had he done it before? He didn't have a damn clue. "Thanks for coming with me," he tried again, this time managing actual words. "I don't know what I'd do at that place without you or Al."
She smiled a brilliant smile. "You'd be fine. So, where's Al? Back in the room?"
He could feel the tension begin to melt away, very slowly. "No, he went to the library. Said he wanted to do research." As much as he wanted to spend time with Winry, Ed still missed having his brother around. Especially tonight.
"Oh." She wished Al was there too, the way her face fell a bit gave it all away. "It would've been nice if he'd come with us," she said, voicing the obvious.
"Yeah," he agreed. Ed hoped they would fall into their usual habits, perhaps start a banter or two before the evening was over. Maybe then they'd finally be able to talk about themand then…do other things? Maybe?
Mustang must have sensed some of the uneasiness, as he decided to intervene with a few more flattering words of his own. "Ah, Miss Rockbell, it's a pleasure to see you again." The bastard took her other hand in his own and gave her a charming smile, one that sparked a small ember of wrath within Edward. "You look quite amazing tonight."
"Uh, thank you, Colonel Mustang," Winry replied, slightly embarrassed, yet Mustang smiled confidently, making his own stomach churn.
Since when did the bastard have to be so touchy? And how can she possibly be this cute?
"Tch." The quiet click of his tongue was the only sign of his otherwise suppressed annoyance. So, maybe he wasn't as good as the colonel. Maybe he couldn't tell her just how beautiful she really was as swiftly or how much he really wanted to hold her hand from now on or how much he actually enjoyed their surprise little kiss after dancing that day, and how he hoped it wouldn't be the last, but like hell was he going to give up. It was clear he had a lot to learn, but he was willing to learn everything with her. Everything, bit by bit.
He just wanted to know when he could start said learning.
But beginnings…they weren't always so simple.
"Fullmetal." He looked up at the call of his name. "Make sure you take care of her tonight," the bastard finished with an insinuating smile.
His brows furrowed. "Of course, I will." He gave her a sideways glance and a small smile. "I'll be right by her side," Ed whispered. "Always."
Chapter 7: The Only Ones
He tugged at his tie for what seemed to be the millionth time during the night. The sweltering heat inside his suit was courtesy of the hundreds of sweaty—and smelly—people dancing inside the cramped ballroom along with him.
At least Winry didn't seem uncomfortable. She danced the time away with a bright smile on her face. And her dress obviously allowed her proper ventilation unlike his outfit…
The rest of their night was fun and considerably less awkward than it had been in the beginning. They talked, began a small argument—which, he lost but wouldn't admit it—and later, after dinner, began to dance. At first he didn't really like the upbeat music, but seeing her dance and enjoy it… he simply couldn't keep himself from dancing alongside her. But as they danced their time away, he wanted nothing more than to hold her close, even if only a little while, and hoped for at least one slow song before the ball was over.
"Phew, it's hot in here," she said close to his ear so she could be heard above the music.
"Tell me about it," he replied as he tugged at his tie again. "I think my automail's heating up too."
A quick look of concern crossed her features, before disappearing into a smile. "You wanna go outside for a bit?"
He mentally smacked himself for not asking her that before. It was the perfect excuse to be alone. "Sure."
She gave him a sweet grin and took his hand, leading him out of the crowd. He intertwined his fingers with hers, earning a surprised glance from her azure gaze, to which he replied with a content grin of his own.
Outside, the cool breeze hit them quietly, relieving the heat they had felt inside the ballroom. He stood still for a second, taking in a breath of fresh air before he saw her looking up at the sky, where the stars shined bright in the cloudless night.
He saw his chance, and wrapped his arms around her from behind causing her to yelp quietly in surprise once more. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he apologized gently in her ear.
"No, no. It's okay, Ed," she said, placing her hands on his arms. "I just…I wasn't expecting it." She craned her neck to look at him with a smile that made his heart melt.
"Yeah," he looked down at her a bit shyly, "I'm kinda new at this."
She reached up to kiss his lips lightly, "Me too."
This time, he was the one taken aback by her, and his raised brows and wide eyes gave him away instantly. "Winry…"
She turned in his arms, facing him. "You wanna learn together?" she smiled, getting closer.
"I'd like that," he managed to whisper, before his lips connected with hers. He let his eyes flutter close at the contact and cupped her cheek with his flesh hand, relishing in the feel of her soft, warm skin under his fingertips. He only wished he could someday feel the softness with a flesh right hand as well.
He reluctantly let go once they parted, sighing as he met her eyes with a shy grin. "I've been wanting to try that again for a while," he confessed.
"Well, you could've done it whenever you wanted," she laughed, snaking her arms around his neck.
"Yeah, but I wanted to do it at the right moment." He also chuckled as he stroked the small of her back with cold metal fingers.
She smiled again. "I know," she replied.
He leaned in once more, with a crooked smile in place, before they noticed the music from inside the ballroom change, and both turned to look in the direction of the room.
"Finally! I thought the orchestra would never play a slow piece…" she said, voicing her thoughts.
"Exactly!" he agreed. "Winry," he cleared his throat as he glanced back at her and offered her a hand. "Can I have this dance?"
She giggled softly before replying. "Of course, Edward," she answered, placing her hand in his. "You can have as many dances as you'd like."
He showed off his pearly whites in a broad grin that emanated his joy and brought her closer to his chest. "Then I'll have all of them," he whispered as he leaned his forehead to hers.
They both began to sway slowly from side to side, letting their eyelids close shut while they gave into the moment.
To Ed it was only him and her. The whole world was something separate from them, it was something that didn't exist when they were together—when they were the only ones.