Authors: a_big_apple, sky_dark and bob_fish
Characters: Roy/Ed, Al/Riza, ensemble
Rating: NC-17 overall, this chapter R
Word count: 8673 this chapter
Summary: Welcome to the Central City Charity Dance-off. Where Roy sees an opportunity to take his relationship with Ed public via a classy tango, Ed sees an exciting new venue for brotherly oneupmanship. Will Ed invent breakdancing several decades too early? Will Roy's back survive the experience? How itchy can Riza's trigger finger possibly get? Join us for an epic tale of determination, sweat and very frilly shirts.
Notes: Set in sky_dark's Better Living Through Alchemy 'verse, which is a few years post-anime #1 and very, very AU on the ending. The song 'I Just Want To Make Love To You', is side B of Etta James’ famous single 'At Last'.
It was all his subordinates’ fault.
Fuery started it, with his clipboard and his earnest puppy eyes and his do-gooding nature. Then Breda, snorting with unabashed skepticism. And Falman, pointing out that Roy wasn’t entirely ungraceful, and he meant well, but the qualifier didn’t help matters.
The last straw was Havoc, looking over Fuery’s shoulder. “Maybe you shouldn’t, Boss, look at this—the other Elrics are signed up. You’d never have a chance against them. Good thing for them Sarah’s out of town that weekend though, we could kick their butts.”
Well, Roy supposed as he put his and Ed’s names down, it is for charity.
The more Roy thought about it though, the better it seemed—Ed would look incredible in ballroom dance attire, Roy would finally have a reason to pass along some of his more refined social skills, and they made a very striking pair—surely that would count for something. They weren’t in the public eye as a couple very much, Roy had been meaning to remedy that.
He just had to convince Ed that the Central Citywide Charity Dance-Off was the way to do it.
Ed paused with the car door open and one foot inside, ducking down to take a sniff, then shot Roy a suspicious look.
“You picked up dinner.”
“I left work a little early,” Roy casually replied.
Ed threw himself into the passenger seat. “Slacker. Is…” –he sniffed again— “…noodles and meat sauce supposed to impress me? We have it all the time.”
“True, and the last time I surprised you with upscale carryout, you complained that it wasn’t noodles and meat sauce.”
Ed poked his face in the food bag. “Is that the new roasted garlic loaf they just started doing?”
“Well…okay. As long as you’re not trying to pull anything.”
After dinner, while Ed lounged on the couch grading tests with RD sprawled across his ankles, Roy took two wine glasses down from the top shelf of the cabinet (the lower shelves were filled with plates and coffee mugs, the kinds of things Ed might want to reach when Roy wasn’t there) and picked out a bottle of wine. Not the best wine he had to hand, but the one that would best suit Ed’s palate.
“Shaping young alchemic minds must be thirsty work,” Roy murmured, wafting one of the filled glasses under Ed’s nose. The Professor looked up at him over the tops of his glasses and raised an eyebrow.
“What did you do, Roy?”
“I poured my lover a glass of wine. I know the concept of romance is still foreign to you in spite of my best efforts, but I hope I’m still allowed to indulge in it every so often.”
“When I finish grading these you’re gonna tell me what’s fucking going on.” But he took the wine, and had no trouble draining the glass.
Carefully, Roy told himself. This has to be done carefully. When Ed was done with the wine and finishing up the last test, Roy went to the phonograph. Something simple to start … a rhumba, maybe? Ah. He pulled out their favorite song, the one he’d gotten Ed to dance to at Al and Riza’s wedding, and turned it to the B side. Perfect.
Ed jumped at the first blast of the trumpets, dislodging RD and sending him skittering down the hall in a confused tizzy. He looked from the phonograph to Roy’s carefully casual expression, put his papers and red pen down on the coffee table, set his glasses on top of them, and straightened up to pin Roy with his most skeptical look.
I don’t want you
to be no slave
I don’t want you
to work all day
But I want you to be true
and I just wanna make love to you
Smooth and jazzy, an easy rhythm, that voice that made them both a little goopy. “Dance with me,” Roy asked with a winning smile, holding out a hand. Ed stared at the offering, mouth working as he argued with himself, but the wine and the noodles had done their intended job—he slid a cool metal hand into Roy’s, and let himself be pulled to his feet.
Love to you
Love to you
Roy drew him closer than was strictly necessary, a firm hand in the middle of his back; Ed had danced enough times with him here in their living room that he fell into an approximation of the proper frame without being told. Ed was easy to lead, though he didn’t think so—flexible, naturally athletic, and had a fair sense of timing when he wasn’t concentrating on it. Roy gently guided him backward, sideways, forward again; Ed looked down at their feet, then up at Roy. “What are you doing?”
“Just do what I do,” Roy murmured, letting a little heat into his expression. He didn’t have to fake it, either; Ed in his arms, looking studious in his vest and trousers, was still enough to make him start to sweat.
“Roy, you know I can’t—”
“Shh, just stay close to me. Just feel it. It’s like sparring, just slower.”
“Slower and I don’t kick your ass, you mean?” But Ed closed his eyes, letting Roy guide him.
All I wanna do is
make your bread
Just to make sure
you’re well fed
I don’t want you
sad and blue
And I just wanna make love to you
“Quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow,” Roy murmured as they danced, pulling Ed close enough that he could feel the shifting of Roy’s hips, follow it with his own.
Love to you
Love to you
We might win, Roy thought to himself as Ed looked up at him again, a little flush across his cheeks, if we could make it through a whole dance without stripping each other right there on the floor.
Ed improvised a little flourish, a quick gyration that brought his cock very sharply to Roy’s attention. Roy’s cock was paying attention, too.
“We’re still gonna have that conversation,” Ed husked, nosing his way into Roy’s unbuttoned collar. “After you fuck me senseless.”
“Whatever you say,” Roy choked out, and slid his hand from Ed’s shoulder blade down the trim line of his waist to the firm, glorious curve of his ass.
So far, the lesson had been a complete success.
Afterwards, Roy drew Ed, pliable in satisfaction as usual, in against his chest. They lay like that for a while, drifting back down together, their breaths slowing. Finally Ed stirred and pressed a kiss to Roy's shoulder. "That was a good one," he muttered, gravelly and spent.
"I certainly got that impression," said Roy softly, playing with relaxed automail fingertips. Ed had made it noisy, howling and pulling at the comforter until Roy was sure he'd rip it. Roy should really remember to call up that guy about getting some better soundproofing installed.
"Can still hear that song in my head," Ed said. He started to hum it, very quietly under his breath. After a few moments, Roy joined him.
This was a good moment, an ideal moment even. Ed was relaxed, Ed was happy, Ed was less likely to kick his butt when he was half-asleep. Roy scritched the back of his head, and Ed made a little rumbly noise. "You know," Roy said, "You're a really good dancer. You always undervalue yourself at anything that's not alchemy or fighting, but really - you're a natural."
"You think?" Ed was so blissed out that he wasn't even immediately resistant to this idea.
"I do." Roy put his lips to the shell of Ed's ear. "I'd love for you to dance with me in public sometime." Ed wriggled in that charming, half-resistant way. "We did agree, didn't we? We're public enough by rumor, by consensus even." Roy dropped his voice even further. "Yes?"
"Yeah." Ed looked up at him, eyes soft. He stroked a hand through Roy's sweaty bangs, thumbed the edge of his lip. "You're mine. 'Bout time I just - hey wait."
"I know what's going on now," continued Ed, with sudden fire in his eyes. He came up on his elbows and jabbed a steel finger at Roy's nose.. "You signed us up for the Central City Dance-off thing, didn't you?"
Double damn. "How do you know about that?"
"Al. He and Riza signed up, he won't shut up about it, he - wait, is this some weird Mustang-Hawkeye competitive thing?" Ed's eyes narrowed. "Do you guys have a bet on?"
"Absolutely not!" Mind you, it was certainly an idea: he was fairly sure he could needle Riza into accepting a wager - and the look on her face if she had to hand over the money would be absolutely priceless.
"But you signed us up? You didn't? Oh, fuck, you did, didn't you?" Ed's eyes were widening in panic. Ed's panic usually led to Ed's anger, and Ed's anger usually led to Roy sleeping on the couch (at least until 1am, when he'd sneak into bed and Ed would grumble but inevitably let him spoon up anyway).
"I - " Roy sighed. It was calculated, but Ed knew it was calculated, so he might as well play his best hand. "Riza keeps telling me, Alphonse is such a marvelous dancer, you know, I'm sure she's expecting them to win, and you know she's secretly a little competitive, and …"
One of the advantages of being (practically) married to someone is that sometimes, it doesn't matter how obvious your strategy is, you both know it will still work.
Ed looked at him for a long moment, and Roy watched the instinct to brotherly competition build behind his eyes. He tried not to grin.
Finally, Ed just rolled his face into a pillow, and yelled, "Dammit! Every. Freaking. Time."
"Is that a yes?"
Ed nodded violently into the pillow, and Roy showed him his appreciation by molding to his back.
Alphonse never missed a deadline. Whether it be professionally or personally, Alphonse Elric would have himself be known as punctual. Punctuality was a very overlooked virtue, and it was not to be confused with anal, no matter what his elder brother said.
His wife, also a practitioner of punctuality, looked up as he crossed the threshold of her office and nodded to him in her brisk and pleased with him manner. He felt that swell in his chest because he was certain he was in the slim top 5% of ever receiving a pleased nod from her. He had a leather portfolio under his arm, but this one was devoid of architectural drafts and instead held carefully selected sheet music.
“I took the liberty of stopping by Baritone's Music Emporium on the way over,” he said, coming to a stop at the front of her desk, back at attention as though he were still enlisted and she still his C.O., (and well really, she was still his C.O., and she would be until his last breath), “but as of yet I haven't made it by the library or a dance studio that might have an sufficient library of its own.”
“It can be our weekend project,” she said, neatening her desk, standing to move around the desk and over to him. “We'll discuss the most likely candidates during lunch. I'll pick up the phone book from one of the secretaries on the way out. Have you heard? The General has signed up for this competition as well.”
“Really? That is news,” Al said, turning to fall into step behind her, she paused until he came abreast and gave her a sheepish grin. “Old habits,” he said with a light shrug, she smiled at him. “And just who will he have as a dance partner? You're obviously spoken for and I'm not sure who else he could approach without Ed suffering a fit of some sort.”
“Your brother's name was on the sign up form as the General's partner,” Riza responded lightly. “I find myself quite surprised, because as you know, even though their relationship is common knowledge and somewhat accepted, Edward still has this aura of awkward embarrassment he exudes when anything questioning his manhood comes into play. This of course being Ed's own unique and individual definition of the term, you realize...” Her words and forward momentum trailed to a stop when she realized her husband had come to a halt a few yards back.
“Brother is going to compete?” Al said, in an almost hypnotized way. He had the leather portfolio pulled to his chest now and he gave it a rub, rather lovingly, and cocked an eyebrow at his wife.
Riza allowed herself a tiny exasperated noise.
“Please don't go there,” she said.
“I'm not,” Alphonse protested, all innocence. “But you know I'm going to have to go there. Ed will surely know that you and I are going to be on the roster. I promise not to start anything, but please please let me plan something for when he does start something.”
“It's this sort of circular Elric logic that makes things start in the first place,” Riza chided lightly. “Really, Alphonse, this is a charity event. Don't you credit your brother with the maturity to realize it for what it is and not a new and intriguing way to try to play genius one-upmanship yet again?”
“Riza,” Al said, giving his own little noise, “this is brother you're speaking about.”
“Pardon me for ever giving either of you the benefit of the doubt,” she said with a little huff, and then continued walking. Al trotted to catch up to her.
The Professor realized he had a shadow. He skidded to a halt, turned half way around and leveled a gaze that could sear through iron down the hall. Seth made a small 'eep' sound and got pinned in place, unable to save himself. The Professor's eyebrows telegraphed a dire threat but he cleared his throat, looked around and let Seth go, a small mercy in itself.
“Why are you following me?” the professor asked the boy bluntly. “I'm busy.”
“It was nothing,” Seth said, voice too thin and high to be the truth, “we're both just walking the same way!”
“Oh, you have business in the arts department?” the professor asked.
Seth trembled. For in truth, yes, he had business with the arts department. But he could never, never tell anyone about his business with the arts department for fear of his life. For it was the law of the playground that boys did not dance. Not unless they were forced to; and even then, they had to affect a bored and nonchalant attitude. And then it was only an excuse to get their hands on a girl (and Seth still wasn't clear on why that was important), but worst of the worst, they especially didn't dance ballet.
So that meant that Seth, if found out, was dead. Very, very, unforgivably dead. At least his death would come from the hands of his idol and not from Daniel, who was likely to want him to linger a while before giving the final blow.
“I have a class,” Seth said, barely above a whisper.
“You take arts?” the professor said, sounding surprised. “Well, alright then, go to class.” Then he gave Seth another look and continued down the hall. Seth stood froze in indecision and the professor stopped after a few more feet and looked back at him.
“Well? Get to class,” the professor said, and seemed to be waiting for Seth to scurry away. But the problem was the professor seemed to be heading for the same destination as Seth himself, and to avoid being accused of following the professor then, Seth jerked to life, scrambled down the hall, past the professor and disappeared through a doorway about half way down.
Now it was Ed's turn to start sweating it out. Ed was pretty sure that Seth had just gone into Mrs. Gutenmeir's room. Ed was on his way to speak to Mrs. Gutenmeir and doing it at a time where he was sure he wouldn't be spotted. The law of the playground dictated that a teacher, no matter how cool that teacher might be, could not be seen consorting with the enemy, such as the arts teacher. Because why they had such classes in a boy's school was anyone’s guess. And Daniel made sure that Ed knew the boundaries of coolness from the start.
That naturally meant that if Ed was to step into Mrs. Gutenmeir's room, then Seth would possibly rat him out. Ed didn't want his regime of terror to have any weaknesses and being seen with the arts teacher was in definite violation of the contract he'd inadvertently signed by being cool. He was starting to think cool was too complicated for him to maintain and then of course the other side of his brain that screamed for acceptance broke into hysterical tears. It took a few moments of reassurance to calm it down. Well if Seth was there he'd just have to wait for a better time.
Why was Seth in the arts department? Could it be that Seth was breaking the unspoken rule of the playground himself? Did blackmail cancel out blackmail? The Roy part of his brain seemed to swell with pride at this thought. It gave Ed's infant manipulative streak a little prod to get it out and visible to the growing thought process. Should he risk it? And what was this anyways? It was just one teacher going to talk to another teacher who sometimes wore a tutu and did twirly things. But she was a girl, it was allowed.
Why was he even having this conversation with himself? He was not thirteen.
He really didn't want to give up his cool; but some things like wanting to make stupid generals proud of him demanded risk. So he took a deep breath, went down the hall and turned into the doorway that Seth had turned into mere moments earlier.
“500 cenz says he hasn’t even told Ed yet,” Breda drawled, propping his feet up on his desk.
“I don’t know, he did seem to be…”
“Prancing?” Havoc suggested, and Fuery waggled his head back and forth as though he didn’t quite want to agree aloud, but thought the assessment wasn’t far off.
“I was going to say ‘satisfied,’ but either way, I’m putting money on Ed actually agreeing.”
“The General has been with Edward a long time, I’m sure he knows all the best ways to convince him,” Falman mused, and Breda pulled a magnificent face.
“I don’t even wanna think about that.”
“I’m sure Falman meant convincing arguments, not…” Fuery offered, though his face blanched as he trailed off.
“Yes, naturally,” Falman reassured him, eyes widening to a point where they were nearly open—they all tried to avoid Fuery fainting during work hours, it always got back to Colonel Hawkeye, and that was never a good thing—but Fuery seemed to still be in control, and the moment of panic passed.
“The boss is pretty competitive,” Havoc mused, twirling a pencil between his fingers. “With Al in the running, he’ll probably be working the General as hard as he—aw, crap,” he groaned as Fuery tumbled from his chair.
Breda glared at him across the table. “Now look what you did. Go take him to the bathroom and splash some water on his face, will ya? It’s your fault this time.”
“But I did it last time!”
“It was your fault then, too!”
“All right, all right,” Havoc grumbled. “Come on, Kain, on your feet…”
Roy stared into the mirror, turning this way and that. The new eye really did make him look younger, and he’d stayed fairly trim—nothing compared to Ed, the man was some kind of god, but even so. He twisted to the side, eying his profile, and finding it satisfactory. I can still be sexy. And sexy is how we’re going to win this thing.
Riza and Alphonse will certainly choose something technically difficult, something that requires precision and skill. We won’t match them that way, we’ll have to take the emotional appeal approach…perhaps a mambo? Or a paso doble, the drama would certainly suit Edward…hmmm, or a tango. I haven’t danced a tango in a decade, at least.
It was surprisingly easy to imagine Ed in his arms, one leg wrapped around his body in a gaucho...he let his eyes unfocus and just felt that familiar body leaning into his, sliding into an ocho, grapevining along the bathroom tiles and then sliding down into a lunge, his imagination providing the weight of an automail leg hooked over his thigh. His knees barely twinged—maybe he really could do the dance justice, with some practice—
His balance was gone in the blink of an eye; scrambling to find it again, his shoe slid in a little puddle near the sinks and the General, who a moment ago had been at the height of his own imaginary grace and suavity, went sprawling onto the hard tiles with a painful wrench and an undignified yelp.
Havoc propped the woozy Fuery up against the wall, sighing. “Should I get you some ice, sir?”
Roy pressed his forehead into the floor and let out a slow, calming breath. “Please do. And call Edward, would you? Tell him I’m taking the rest of the day off.” Then he twisted his face enough to look up at Havoc, leaning over him with eyes that were clearly calculating how to best relate this story to the rest of the office. “If you tell anyone about this—” Roy started, hoping against hope.
“I’ll be sure to tell them how dashing you looked dancing all by yourself, sir.”
Perfect. Just perfect.
Ed announced himself by clearing his throat and rapping on the door of the arts department once with his automail hand. Seth was now staring at him in a fashion akin to the way a cow stared down a coming train, and then Seth seemed to be trying to summon the ability to turn invisible. Ed gave him a slight raise of the eyebrow but said nothing. Mrs. Gutenmeir turned to him then, and seemed surprised to see him there.
“Professor Elric,” she said with her slight, unplaceable accent, “this is a surprise.”
Ed squirmed a little. While he'd never taken to the time to get to know the woman any better than just another faculty member, it seemed his infamy was very much in effect. Seth was still in the thralls of being caught in the arts department willingly and Ed made a pointed effort not to look at him so he wouldn't be any more uncomfortable.
“I thought I would ... ” Ed began, but in the same token Seth didn't want to be caught, well, neither did he. “I was wondering if you had a moment, maybe after class?” Ed ventured. “There was something I wanted to discuss with you.”
Now the tension reached a rather interesting peak. Seth seemed apoplectic and slightly pale. Ed could see him out of the corner of his eye because his lack of color also gave him a pallid glow. Just as Seth seemed to be reaching critical mass and possibly about to explode, Boyd, also one of Ed's alchemy students and resident football player, appeared in the doorway. He stopped to take in the situation. First he looked at Ed, then at Seth, then at Mrs. Gutenmeir, then at Ed again, as if he was trying to work through some complicated puzzle.
“Are we having dance class today?” Boyd asked, and Seth made a little wet noise, like the sizzling of a fuse that was put out just in time. Ed decided to not to make any comment at all for fear of doing something traumatizing to Seth, even if he wasn't sure what that might be.
“Yes, of course Boyd,” Mrs. Gutenmeir said and made a vague gesture. “You take Seth with you to the dressing room and get ready. I must speak to the Professor a moment.”
Boyd gave a little shrug and nodded, walked past Ed and over to Seth. Then he took Seth by the collar and sort of dragged him off to a door at the back of the room and went through it. Ed watched them go for a moment before feeling eyes on the back of his neck. He turned back to Mrs. Gutenmeir, and all at once couldn't think of a word to say. It was very unlike him, this sudden lack of verbosity, and she was looking him with her dark eyes, side of her mouth pulled down a little.
“It isn't like you to come and be social,” she said. “It is the talk of the break room, this lack of niceties you exude so it permeates the very air around you and keeps everyone at bay.” She moved then, a subtle shift and glide closer, and Ed almost backed up a step. But he took a breath and squared his jaw and gave her a little bow of his head in acknowledgment.
“I know I'm not the most approachable person you'll meet,” he offered by way of an apology. “I've never had to be civil with large groups of people for long periods of time. I'm, uh, working on it?”
“The boys think highly of you, however,” she sniffed and waved her hand. “So that I can commend you with. So what is it you want with, Mr. Famous Alchemist? I'm only the arts instructor. While I think that the art of alchemy must involve a fair amount of creativity, it seems to be crudely curtailed by the science it implies.”
Ed ought to know how to deal with intelligent and aggressive women by now. In fact, intelligent and aggressive women seemed to be the only women he'd ever dealt with in his life. But Mrs. Gutenmeir, with her accent and her dark eyes, olive skin and dark hair, (a different dark than Roy, and, if he were honest with himself, at first Roy was intimidating), was a little beyond his ken. So, in his usual fashion of blundering head first without really having a plan of action, (or looking where he was going) he blurted out: “I need to learn to dance.”
That stopped her in her tracks. She narrowed her eyes a bit, and the side of her mouth that had been pulled down in a frown tilted up, just a little.
“My next period is free,” she informed him. Then she looked him up and down, as if assessing his dance-worthiness. Ed shifted a bit uncomfortably under her scrutiny. What? He could dance, he'd just never really danced. Mostly, when he was younger, Roy just dragged him around the living room rubbing on him. He liked it, sure, and it was supposed to be a dance. So he had learnt to dance by osmosis, so what? It was still dancing!
“The uh, the only other thing I have today is study hall,” Ed got out. “That is uh, later in the afternoon, so I could come next period, if that is all right with you, and maybe you could just give me the basics. I'm a very quick study and so you know, as long as I know what to expect I'm sure I can pick this up easily enough.”
His attention was caught by the door at the back of the room opening again. Boyd came out dressed in what looked like a one piece, skin tight grey over all body stretchy thing and a kind of scarf tied around the middle almost like a skirt. Ed wasn't going to call it a skirt because Boyd alone made about two of Ed and Ed would get in trouble if he hurt a student, even in self defense. Not that he thought Boyd would do anything even bordering on physical; come to think of it he was the most non-aggressive tank sized football player Ed had ever met; but there was no sense in testing the boundaries. Seth, on the other hand, was doing a good job of being invisible by not being in the room.
Ed turned slowly to look at Mrs. Gutenmeir.
“That isn't mandatory for lessons ... is it?” he asked.
Mrs. Gutenmeir kept her slight, mysterious little grin and gave a shrug.
For a while their lunch was spent in silent contemplation of the sheet music; Riza had learned piano as a girl, after being told by a well-meaning busybody in town that she had the hands for it, and though now her hands were mostly put to use at the shooting range, she remembered enough of the basics to get a sense of the options. Now and then in her concentration she hummed a few bars to herself, or bobbed her head to some internal rhythm, and on any other day Alphonse would have found it utterly charming in its novelty.
However, today was not any other day. His brother, his "I'm a genius and can do anything and everything with perfect ease" brother, his "I'm not gay even though I'm married to Roy Mustang and we are both all man thank you very much" brother, his "WHO'S SO SHORT HE COULD STAND IN AS A WOMAN FOR A DANCE PARTNER" brother, was competing in the dance-off.
Al had a pretty good idea of how the General had convinced Ed, as well--there were parts of it he just didn't want to think about too much, because well his brother and his pirate and he loved them both but didn't need to contemplate their sometimes manipulative sex life, but there was a key aspect that he did understand. Ed would never agree to dance in public, probably in some kind of costume, with Roy, unless he knew he’d be competing against Al. Sibling rivalry was obviously the main motivator, and Al knew his brother would put his considerable drive and determination into winning.
He'd just have to work extra hard to make sure he came out on top in this latest round of Elric vs. Elric. Naturally, the first step would be choosing the right music--from which, he realized suddenly, he'd allowed himself to be distracted.
Though music was not Al's particular forte, he was of course a genius, and reading the rise and fall of notes on the page was really all about math. Tempo would matter; something challenging, upbeat, grand! Something to make the audience gasp with the swiftness of their feet, their turns, their lifts--
"I quite like this one, Alphonse, what do you think?" Riza passed a thin sheaf of music across the table to him, careful of her meal half-eaten and his cleaned plate in between.
Al skimmed his eyes over the first page. "I think it could work, if we keep it at a lively pace," he said casually, trying to keep all trace of competitive spirit out of his voice—and failing, if Riza’s raised eyebrow was any indication.
“You do realize I’ll be dancing in heels?”
He gave her his most innocent and winning smile. “I have every confidence in your ability with them.”
“Perhaps you should try wearing them,” she suggested mildly, and though they were married now and did all sorts of amazing and delightful things that married people do with each other, when she used that tone of voice he was still fifteen and awed by her commanding aura.
“We can always adjust the tempo, of course,” he answered quickly. “It’s a very nice piece, though if there’s another you like better, we could do that instead. Why don’t I take a look in that telephone book you brought for local dance studios? I can make a list for the weekend, and arrange them by distance from home.”
“An excellent suggestion,” his wife replied.
“Tell me what sort of dance you wish to perform,” she said to him, standing close.
“The kind that will win a competition,” he replied, wondering if taking a step back would be rude.
“So I see, you want to dance a dance of romance. Romance is the thing if you want to impress,” she said, gliding even closer.
“It that a requirement? I was thinking more in terms of athletic ability?” he said, cocking an eyebrow.
“That is not how you get noticed. There is plenty to notice about you, but you must use it wisely,” she said. “It is clear you need many hands-on lessons. I will lead until you are ready.”
Then she did the most amazing thing. She grabbed his automail hand. The next amazing thing was she wrapped her arm around his waist, and Ed had to give her credit, she felt stronger than she looked. But the zenith of all the amazing things was that she used the arm she had around his waist to draw him right up against her body.
Right up against her, and her ... her bosom was pressed against his chest.
“I'm not sure I'm ready for romance,” Ed gasped, holding his other hand back and away from their bodies in case he accidentally touched her, like he wasn't touching her enough.
“Don't be absurd, a sturdy, good-looking boy like you must be ready for anything,” she purred in her strange accent, and then her hand slid down to settle against his lower back.
“Oh, I usually am,” Ed assured her, breathless and starting to move in strange ways. He kept trying to suck his stomach through his spine and he kept trying to lean out as far as he could from her as she kept a vicious grip around him.
“Look at me,” she commanded and he was helpless but to obey; his gaze fixing on hers. Her eyes were dark, almost like the Bastard’s, and in a way, that helped.
“When you dance the dance of romance, you must dance from your heart, your soul and your stomach. The eyes, those are the windows of the soul and you must keep them fixed on your partner. The body will find its rhythm when the souls meet,” she said, her voice dropping to a husky timbre.
“Where does the stomach figure in?” Ed heard himself ask pitifully, trapped by her gaze and her intent.
“You will feel when it is right,” she said. “You keep it there, especially if you are a man, so other things won't be to much of a distraction,” and when she said that, her almost-Mustang black eyes staring into his, he knew instantly what the distraction she was talking about would be. Oh, the hell it was to be male and unable to hide his more intimate thoughts from the world. He swore he could almost feel his automail sweat from where she gripped it firmly with her other hand.
“And now,” she gave him a savage tug and his body plastered to the front of hers, “you feel it, see? There in your stomach. It bubbles up and floods your other senses, and you move.”
And they did, a quick long step, Ed stepping back, her leg against the outside of his, pressed close. His stomach was signaling that yes, the feeling was there but it was sort of hard to handle and it might get away and if it did that could be bad because the next stop down the road was a place where excitement was hard to hide. Then she stepped again, and again and she advanced and he retreated but he couldn't get away, and before he knew it they'd made a circuit of the room and he couldn't tear his eyes away from hers and wait... was that a hand on his ass?
“You are a natural,” she said to him and he just noticed how red her lips were. They hadn’t been that red earlier, were they? He didn't remember. But they were red and shiny and that had to be a hand on his ass; and he started to object but being called a natural was like a compliment, wasn't it? It was, he was pretty sure of it and of course, Ed being Ed, getting a compliment about being good at something the very first time he ever tried it only fed into his own personal mantra of how awesome he was at everything. He was a genius after all. He was sure she knew that, but in case she didn't ...
“I'm a genius,” he said, staring into her eyes, “so everything comes naturally to me.”
That hand on his ass was squeezing, wasn't it?
“So it's said,” she countered, moving them around the room again. Ed was learning that so far, in dancing, he went backward in a circle and had his ass groped. It was suspiciously like being at home with Roy on a Sunday afternoon when Roy got the inevitable hots like he did every Sunday.
“So is this pretty much it?” Because really, what else could there be to dancing? He'd seen some dancing in his time, but he'd never paid attention. Apparently he didn't have to because he was a natural and Roy better be damn well happy he got that confirmed. Still, there did seem to be something missing. “I mean, I seem to remember there should be music and sometimes I think I saw people like twirl, or something, I'm not sure.” This was when Mrs. Gutenmeir backed him into the wall by the door.
“I think it's the only lesson I want to teach you,” she said, very close to his ear and then his ear seemed to be in her mouth and the hand not on his ass was on his crotch, and well he was pretty damn sure this wasn't part of any dance he'd ever seen. Or maybe he just hadn’t been allowed to see those dances because he was underage, although Ed never had really felt he was underage for anything and while all this speculation about just what was and wasn't dance specific in Mrs. Gutenmeir's whole demonstration was going through his head what she had her hand on now definitely wasn't in any lesson he'd ever had except from Roy Mustang.
“I HAVE TO GO NOW,” Ed said loudly, trying hard to press his ass and her hand through the wall behind him. “YOU'RE MARRIED AND I AM TOO, OR WELL, I MIGHT AS WELL BE AND I HAVE TO GO NOW,” he said again, even louder and grabbed the doorjamb beside him as leverage to tug himself free. She made a sound like a frustrated growl, and as he managed to slide from between her and the wall, she kept a grip on his vest. After a moment she released him, seemed to smooth herself over without touching anything and lifted her chin and one of her eyebrows.
“Come back tomorrow for lesson two,” she told him and he gaped at her, then threw himself out the door into the hall.
He looked left and right, panting slightly and then restrained himself from running down to the end and ducked into the boy's room. He stood with his back to the door, as if to hold it closed and listened for sounds of pursuit. After a few moments he felt safe enough to go over to the sink and turn on the water to splash some in his face. He lifted his head to look at himself in the mirror. Well, that wasn't exactly what he's been expecting. It seemed this dancing competition was going to be a monumental event of firsts for him all the way around. Just because it seemed she had ulterior motives it didn't negate the fact that she told him he was a natural. That he was sure of; but of the lesson itself; there was no way he could do anything like that in front of an audience with the General. If being with her like that did this to him, just imagine that had been Roy. Then imagine being carted off to jail with public indecency being the least of the charges again them. No, they definitely couldn't dance like that, which meant of course here he was again at square one. When he could be acceptable in public again, it seemed there was only one thing he could do to learn to dance.
Study it on his own. Which meant, naturally, him being a natural and all, he'd have to come up with his own style of dance. But it was always best to base any new and innovative techniques in tradition. That way they would be more easily accepted. So, he would just have to stop at the library on the way home. With new insight and determination he strode out of the boys room and back into the land of being an adult. It was always best to have a course of action after all. He'd better get an early start as well, because what if Al was coming to this conclusion, too? There would be no good books left.
Ed had endured a crush before during his career as the youngest and newest teacher in the academy. He realized now what a tame and simple one it had been. There were still times she would smile at him or say something to him, and with this new perspective it made him feel a little guilty and a little sad. But not sad enough not to use it to get out of study hall. He stopped in the doorway of Miss Bloom's office and gave her his best smile.
Roy's way home involved a detour, and a dance equipment shop, and a really rather dashing and really rather expensive pair of Aerugan dress shoes in supple, shiny black leather. The sales assistant informed him that he would be able to tango for hours in these once he'd broken them in, and then attempted to sell him a pair of spangly high heels for his lovely dance partner.
The plan for the afternoon was a pot of coffee, radio and newspaper, the rare pleasure of being in the house alone, perhaps a few rounds of crunches if he could manage to stop RD jumping on his chest. He really needed to be in good shape for this thing, not that he was carrying extra weight around the middle, of course not, for sure; but when you're dancing next to Ed, every little helps.
After depositing coat and shopping bag in the hall, Roy was very surprised to find the man himself in the living room. Ed's feet were propped up on the arm of the sofa (no boots, Roy had won that one), his glasses were perched on his nose, and he was surrounded by books and scribbling frantically in his notebook. Alchemy research? No, one book had a dust cover with a cartoon of a couple waltzing and giving each other the eye.
Ed looked up, pushed the glasses up his nose and gave him a grumpy, scholarly frown. "You're home early."
"You're home early. What about the young minds?"
"What about the peanut gallery?"
"I left Havoc in charge of the office."
"I got Miss Bloom to take study hall for me."
"What terrible slackers we are," said Roy. He came around the sofa and moved a couple of the larger books so he could perch on the edge. Then he picked up Ed's notebook. Ed's grip tightened on it. Roy gave him a plaintive look and tugged again.
Ed frowned. "I'm not going to have sex with you. I'm researching."
"So I see." Roy peered over the top of the book. "Is there strictly speaking any need to write research on dance moves in alchemy code?"
"Yes," said Ed, as if this was a very obvious thing, "Al doesn't know the latest version."
Roy tutted. "Besides the question, which we'll leave, of whether you're taking this slightly too seriously, it's not like he couldn't figure it out."
"Yes, but this will slow him down long enough for me to work out my next move."
"I'm sure your brother wouldn't do anything so sneaky and underhand as to steal your notebooks. And by the way, I don't agree that we don't have time to have sex, you just think we don't have time because you're anxious."
Ed just shook his head, as if none of this was even worth replying too. "Anyway," he said, "I booked us rehearsal space at a dance studio from six to nine, so you should get moving. I already packed your bag but you might want to look at it, you don't really have any sparring gear so I just did the best I could."
"Oh," said Roy. Well, that answered the question about whether Ed would compromise on an afternoon quickie.
“Again!” Ed yelled. “Come on, harder, Roy!”
Ordinarily, Roy rather enjoyed Ed topping from the bottom. He was rapidly discovering that it wasn’t quite as fun in the dance studio as it was in the bedroom.
Ed launched himself into Roy’s arms, arms splayed gracefully, and Roy – bent his knees, caught him and swung him back. This time, he just about managed not to stagger.
“Now, lift!” bellowed his new sergeant major as Roy’s arms strained from dipping what felt like several tons of muscle and steel.
Roy managed to lift him about six inches. Oh, well. At least it was more than last time.
He’d imagined he’d be taking the lead here; but apparently, Ed had decided the best way to handle the unfamiliar world of dance was to turn it into the familiar world of advanced martial arts. Familiar to Ed, that was. And Roy’s pride made him keep trying, because he should be up to this, dammit! He was relatively young, he was physically fit, perhaps not to Ed’s admittedly insane standards, but he could handle this and more importantly he could show Ed that he could handle this.
“Right, let’s go again,” said Ed.
“I thought that was a bit better than the last one,” said Roy, piqued at the lack of praise.
“We need to get you handling basic dips tonight if we want to move onto aerials this week,” said Ed, ignoring him completely. “I think a move like the Rolling Pin Dip would look pretty badass, and we could stick in a couple of back flips” – Ed flipping around Roy’s arm like it was a gymnastics bar – “a Swan Drop” - Roy holding Ed poised upside down – “and you know, some other good stuff. We should look through the book together.” Ed pointed at Roy’s new nemesis: a book of ballroom dance moves lying open on the bench.
“I told you, lifts are illegal in professional ballroom dancing competitions.”
“You told me they’d probably be more relaxed ‘cause it’s for charity and all.”
Well, yes, because Ed had implied Roy was making excuses due to not being limber enough. Roy mentally cursed his own ego. “But I still think it’s bad form to have a routine that’s full of lifts, I say we should make an effort to adhere to the spirit of ballroom dancing rules if not the letter.”
“And I say I don’t want to lose to someone with more kickass moves, just because you were being a stuffed shirt about this.”
“Ed –“ Roy tried, “Look, it’s more than that. You can’t just jumble a bunch of random athletic moves together and call it a routine, that’s not quite how ballroom dancing works.”
“How does it work, then?” said Ed, “Other than groping, you mean groping, don’t you?”
“No,” said Roy with great dignity, “I mean that it has a rhythm, it has a story to it.”
Ed cocked his head and raised a skeptical eyebrow. Where was all this resistance coming from, anyway?
“It’s about feeling,” Roy continued. He faced Ed, took his hands and drew them into a starting pose. “Like music, right? How about,” Roy lowered his voice and fixed Ed with his eyes, “we work on something a little less – martial for a while?” He moved up against Ed and slid one hand down to the small of his back. “I know that as a genius, love, you firmly believe you can become an expert on any subject within a week, but when it comes to dancing, I have many years’ experience under my belt.” Roy began to tap out a tempo against Ed’s back with his fingers. He began to move - quick quick slow, quick quick slow - and Ed followed his steps. “You were really showing some promise at the tango. I think we should take that further,” he murmured into the shell of Ed’s ear.
And then, out of nowhere Ed jerked back suddenly and twisted, and then Roy had his arms around empty air and Ed was standing a foot away with his arms folded. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Further in your book means further towards humping in the middle of the dance floor, and we’re not in the living room, there are going to be people. People do not want to see you grabbing my ass! There is no public demand for that sort of thing! You wouldn’t catch Al ass-grabbing when he dances!”
“But, Ed, the tango is a very respected –“
“No humping dances!” Ed pointed a finger at Roy’s nose. “You’d better put all that sexy stuff out of your mind right now, because it’s just going to distract you from practicing to dance properly. We are not going to win this thing with sexy stuff!”
Roy opened his mouth to disagree, but then Ed launched himself forward once more, and it was once again time to concentrate on not staggering and falling over.
In this way, the three hours somehow passed surprisingly quickly. Roy suddenly found that it was nine, and he was sitting on a bench dabbing his face with a towel and wondering how the hell things had come to this pass, while Ed threw things into a kit bag with seemingly the same amount of energy he’d had three hours ago.
“Right!” said Ed. “We’d better head straight home to bed, we’ve got an early start tomorrow.”
“We have?” asked Roy. This sounded ominous.
“Yep. We’re booked in tomorrow at 6:00am for an hour. I think we need to work on your flexibility and core strength, so I’m going through some basic training moves with you. Stretches, getting you in touch with your centre of gravity.” Ed illustrated his point by bringing one foot up, locking it against his thigh, and moving through a series of fluid arm movements. Ordinarily, Roy would have been turned on. Right now, he was terrified.
“Do we really need to book out the studio just to do stretches?” Roy managed.
"Yes, we do. It’s to stop you complaining that Mrs Hennessy next door can see you in the back yard standing on one leg waving a stick.” Ed spread his arms for balance, straightened his bent leg, and then swung it smoothly forward and up until it pointed to the ceiling, flush against his chest. These were not moves for ordinary mortals.
“But – six o’ clock?” Roy tried again.
“It's okay,” said Ed, waving a hand dismissively, “you get used to it after the first couple of weeks."
Roy turned his most appealing look on Ed. Ed didn’t even notice. His eyes were glazed with obsession, looking far beyond Roy, at the road to victory over younger brothers.
“Ed?” tried Roy one last time.
He didn’t seem to hear.
This dance-off thing was really, really not going as planned.
Onward to Chapter Two!