The Flower Princess and the Alchemist @bloodpokemon101
First Kiss, Right or Wrong?

(A/N: Here's chapter forty of 'The Flower Princess and the Alchemist'! Is this it? Are Edward and Orihime finally a couple? Find out! Enjoy! I would also like to add the fact that this is where the story really starts diverging from canon.

Loveable Otaku: Thanks for the review! I'm so glad you are enjoying the Ed/Orihime pairing! The more I write, the more I fall in love with it to. It's slowly becoming my second favorite Orihime pairing, right behind Ichigo/Orihime. Though, does anyone catch the allusions to Tanabata?

djmegamouth: Thanks for reviewing! Ed and Al would find out about Hollows, eventually, once they become more spiritual aware and drop the notion that ghosts don't exist. But I think there's a misconception I need to clear. Hollows have never once actively attacked Ed or Al. They have never gone looking for them. It's really all just a coincidence. They just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus, the fact that they travel with some with high amounts of spirit energy [Orihime]. The first time a Hollow attacked was due to the Philosopher's Stone. The second was due to Nina's growing spirit energy. The time in Dublith was due to Orihime's high amounts of spirit energy and Sammy the cat. See the pattern here? Ed and Al just so happens to be traveling with someone that attracts these Hollow attacks.

sacke110: Thanks for the review! You are the first one to comment about Edward and Orihime finally kissing! *squee* I can't stop squealing! This is one of the chapters I'm going to go back and reread over and over again just to enjoy the kiss scene as much as I want. But, anyway, it's not that Ed dismissed Orihime's sad expression. He just thought he was overthinking it. Remember, the chapter before the last one Orihime was being secretive and keeping him at a distance [for good reason], and he was afraid that she was doing it again, keeping him at a distance. He was just being paranoid.

Jose19: Thanks for reviewing! Well, Ichigo is the main issue in this Edward/Orihime/Ichigo love triangle. Of course, Orihime won't easily dismiss her feelings for Ichigo. He's not just her first crush, but her first love as well.)

First Kiss, Right or Wrong?

Both Edward and Orihime decided to take a break from all the dancing. They sat on the bench outside of the building. All the city lights looked very pretty at night. It wasn't that dark out though, so they could still see part of the roadway and citizens going home for the day.

"Thank you for coming with me, Eddie," Orihime said, gratefully with bright smile on her face. "I had a great time!"

With a light blush on his face, Edward tried acting coolly by scratching the side of his face. "Yeah, well…" He crossed his arms. "I didn't want you going alone."

"No, thank you, really," Orihime reaffirmed, gray eyes shining with sincerity. "I never went dancing before. I mean, I was asked a few times, but just never went because I was, uh, waiting for Ichigo." She gripped the end of her yellow dress tightly. The breeze was whipping the ends of her ponytail about. Her face was dusted slightly pink as there was small, joyful smile on her lips. "Thank you for showing me a great time! I'm glad you came with me!"

Ed's face turned slightly darker as he sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. "Think nothing of it. I just don't want wasting your life away, that's all. If you want to do something, you should just do it."

"Oh!" the ginger haired girl brightened up, a light bulb shining above her head as if remembering something. She took out her dark pink purse and dug her hand inside.

"What's that?" the blond alchemist asked, curiously as he watched her pull out something wrapped in a blue handkerchief. She opened it up to reveal delicious cookies inside. Edward's mouth instantly drooled once the yummy aroma of the cookies reached his nose.

"I made cookies for you as a gift for coming with me," Orihime explained, smiling. "You're welcome to have some, if you like."

Edward didn't need to be told twice as he snatched one and popped it in his mouth, humming in delight, the softness of the cookie melting in his mouth.

Orihime softly smiled at Ed's delighted, pleased expression. It was always a nice feeling when someone enjoys her cooking. She took a bite of her own cookie, absolutely loving the texture and taste.

Both young teenagers stayed in relatively silence, just enjoying Orihime's cookies and the quiet night air. When they both reached for the last cookie, their hands instantly touched, sending a jolt of shock through their entire beings.

Edward glanced, his face flushed a deep scarlet red, not realizing how close their faces were. He could make out the smooth skin of Orihime's heart shaped face. Her enchanting, gray eyes shining as bright as the moon under the starry night sky. The light was making the lovely gray turning into a mesmerizing sliver. They were just alluring and captivating as ever. They were hypnotically beautiful. There was so many emotions behind those eyes. Such tender and care, warm and joy... It was so ridiculously easy to get lost in them. It never fully registered to him just how much attractively dazzling her eyes were.

Ed involuntarily leaned in closer.

Orihime was simply lost in Edward's own divine, golden orbs. They were so majestic and powerful. The determination in them, reminded her so much of Ichigo. She simply couldn't look away! She didn't want to look away! She was entrapped, completely under a spell. Such fiery determination with small glimmer of tender warmth beneath it… They were as bright as the sun. Ablazed with the intensity of a burning inferno. They were hot. They were captivating. They were beautiful. Like the sun.

Orihime subconsciously leaned in closer.

Their hands unconsciously interlocked as they were completely locked in each other's eyes. Their faces were flushed slightly red, the throbbing of their heartbeats pounded against their ears in a symphony of music. The electric jolt of adrenaline coursed through their entire bodies, sending butterflies to flutter around in their stomach.

The world around them completely disappeared. It was just the two of them and this moment as they leaned in every so agonizingly closer. More and more, perfectly drawn to one another, like two magnets. They could feel their hot breaths slapping against the other's skin. They could hear the faint sound of soft music playing. However, they were not sure if it was real or just their imagination. The tension in the atmosphere becoming intoxicating as they leaned in, slowly nearing the gap centimeter by centimeter.

Until finally…

Their lips touched.

The instant their lips touched, they both felt a jolt of electricity crackling like fireworks throughout their beings. It was just a simple touch, but their lips burned. Their entire beings became inflamed with intense passion. They felt anything like it before.

Their lips molded together in perfect unison. Sparks were flying. Fireworks exploded. A feeling of a blissfully euphoric sensation coursed through them. The nerves in their skin were lit with fire. The butterflies in their stomachs wouldn't stop swirling, creating a constant sense of enraptured desire flowing inside them.

The feeling was too good. Too intense. Too intoxicating! They never wanted to stop this passionate heartfelt feeling! They were addicted to the sudden jolts of ecstatic and impassioned electrifying impulses that pricked against the nerves of their skin! Their minds were floating blissfully on a bed of clouds. Any sense of reason or logic were contentedly and pleasantly thrown out the window they and just let their bodies take over, doing what feels right and natural.

The kiss, despite being awkward, showing how inexperienced the two of them were, was full of fiery passion and hungry eagerness to make up for it, sending sparks of electricity coursing through their entire being, making their bodies fill tingling and melt under the intense fire.

Their lips pressed together perfectly, trying to get more of this heated pleasurable sensation that was keeping them locked together, unwilling to let go, not wanting to lose this burning feeling of intensity.

Orihime hands smoothly gasped the back of his neck, fingers brushing against his ponytail.

Wait! Ponytail?

Ichigo doesn't have a ponytail.

Ichigo's hair isn't long enough for a ponytail.



…...OH, NO!

Edward yelped in surprise as he was pushed onto the ground. He grunted in annoyance, glancing up, but when he did, he was shocked and left utterly baffled and dumbstruck at what he saw. His heart aching at the sight, the painful sting of rejection hitting him full force.

Orihime stared at Ed, horrified, her hands covering her mouth in shock, her gray eyes burning with fresh, hot tears. Her expression was that of utter shock, unspeakable horror, and frightfully mortified as if she just committed a heinous crime. It was truly a heartbreaking sight. "I… I-I wasn't supposed to…! This wasn't supposed to…! I shouldn't have…!" Her muffled voice cracked as she sobbed, uncontrollably.

What had she done?!

She kissed Edward!


Her first kiss was with Ed! The one she was supposed to have, that she was saving up for Ichigo, was with Ed instead!

"I'm sorry!" Orihime took a step back before running away, leaving a stunned Ed behind.

Edward watched helplessly as the auburn haired girl ran away from him in sheer distress, horrid distraught, and heartbreaking sadness. He could only sit on his ass planted unceremoniously on the ground completely frozen when she abruptly shoved him away, his golden eyes staring, hopelessly as she disappeared into the night. His mind was blank. He didn't know what to say. All he knew was that he felt stupid. So utterly stupid for kissing Orihime.

Then, as if it didn't hit him, what transpired just mere moments ago slapped him across the face. His eyes widened in panic and his entire face and ear turned a deep crimson shade of red. A sound of a kettle whistling as steam blew from his ear. His heart was thundering inside his chest in rapid beats, getting ready to burst at any second.

He kissed her!

He really kissed her!


What the hell was he thinking?! He... He didn't mean to kiss her! He was just caught up in the moment! She was just so…! And she was right there…! Then…! Then it just...happened! He desperately wanted to blame his impulsive action on stupid teenage hormones. How could he do something so stupid?

As panicked and incredibly embarrassed and flustered as Edward felt, there was deep, painful sting in his heart. An overwhelming sense of sadness and hurt that struck deep within the very depths of his core. His heart ached and burned. It felt like it was breaking. This pain was different and exceedingly more powerful than what any physical injury could produce. This was an agonizing lingering sensation of throbbing torment and gut wrenching affliction that repeatedly and remorselessly stabbed him in the heart with an invisible knife.

He didn't know what to make of this strange and painful feeling. What to do to calm the burning ache in his heart. He felt as if he was drowning in the dark depths of a cold, unforgiving sea. This hurt… This distress… This angst and dejection… He didn't know why he was feeling so much pain agony, and sadness. All Ed knows is that...she...she...

A heavy lump made its way inside his throat that was difficult to swallow deep. His throat burned and ached and was now becoming a little sore.

Orihime rejected him.

He didn't know why it hurt so much? Why that heart rending revelation caused him so much pain? The only thing he could feel and hear was the sound of his heart shattering like glass and falling to the cold ground into many tiny pieces with a soft 'clink'.

She rejected him.

Orihime ran and ran, her feet taking her as far away from Ed as possible, despite her muscles beginning to burn. The sorrowful and regretful tears kept pouring from her eyes in large crystal streamlines of rivers.

She was confused. Confused and disgusted with herself. She betrayed her feelings for Ichigo! Ichigo was the only person she loved. The only man she would ever love. So, why did she do it? Why did she kiss Edward? She had to get away from Ed! She wouldn't dare to show her face around him for now!




Why did Orihime have to go and kiss Ed?! She wouldn't been feeling this sickening sense of guilt and remorse if she didn't do the unthinkable, if she didn't commit such a heinous act.

Now, all she felt was pain of her guilt, the condemnation of betraying her heart, and the anguish of thinking about what to do. She can't show her face to Ed! If she saw him, all the pain, disgust, and confusion she was feeling would be too overwhelming to bare. The fact that her heart soared and yearned for more during the kiss for some strange, unexplainable reason made her confusion all the more painful because she couldn't make out what could be the purpose for her to feel that way. She was just!

How could a simple mistake caused her so much grief and leave her in a state of chaos and disarray? There's no way she could show her face to Ichigo now! She felt absolutely sick to her stomach, the nausea building up inside her made her want to throw up and empty her bowels. Her legs collapsed underneath her. Her throat ached and burned. Her heart twisted and throbbed painfully. It pulled her at two different directions. One blissfully happy and with a lingering fuzzy and giddy feeling. The other full of agonizing guilt and heart crushing misery. What was she supposed to do? She shouldn't...feel this way. This magnitude of guilt and distress was killing her.

Her shame was washing over her in waves, drowning her in her own sadness and remorse. Each teardrop splashing against the pavement was a cruel reminder that this was reality. What happened back there was not a dream, a work of fiction, nor something her mind conjured up to play tricks on her. Her hands shook and fisted against the ground when struck that there was no redos. What's done was done, and she would have to live with that mortifying and regretful actuality. At this point, all she could do was cry her eyes out.

Orihime shouldn't have kissed Ed! That was a terrible mistake!

She was a horrible woman!

"You poor, poor man!" a woman's voice cooed, soothingly.

The room was brightly lit and had a welcoming atmosphere. The luminescent moon shone through the open window, casting it in a mystifying and ominous light. The pleasant and relaxing scent of lavender filled the room. The walls and floors were painted in a flawless pearl white. The room was mostly vacant and bare, holding very few possessions. All that in it was a creamy white couch and a silvery gray colored, large bookcase filled to the brim with an extensive variety of books. Some old and worn out and others new and fresh.

The woman scooted closer to the distressed man, and gently placed a palm on his cheek, making him look at her with defeated, green eyes. A small, comforting smile spread across the woman's face. Her smile was so calm and serene that it could melt away even the tiniest of troubles. It's no wonder people sought her out for comfort and support. However, there was an underlying glimmer of mockery and malice under the woman's sickening sweet smile. Most people were too far gone in their own angst, misery, and depression to even notice it. Others tend to not care, accepting and craving any sort of comfort and affection. If they couldn't turn and confide in her to help them with their problems, who else could they seek solace and help from?

She nearly closed the distance between, gently stroking the man's brown locks with her fingers. "Yes, I can understand how you feel," she spoke in a sickly soothing voice. "People can be so cruel sometimes. You gave them the best years of your life and this is how they repay you? By kicking you to the curve over a simple mistake? How horrible! There are indeed some truly awful people out there in this world."

"It's not fair!" the man screamed in despair into his hands. "I've been hard working and earnest. I turn in all my paperwork and assignments in a timely manner. But the minute I run a day late on a deadline, they fire me just like that." He balled his hand into a fist and furiously pounded his thigh multiple times. "Those bastards!" he snarled, bitterly. "I'll never forgive them for throwing me away like trash!"

"And you don't have to," the woman whispered, gently and sweetly, rubbing reposeful circles on the distraught man's back. Her right palm tenderly placed itself on the man's cheeks, making him look at her once more. He never noticed how close their faces are. Her enchanting lavender scent was wafting through his nose. Her orangish red eyes stared at him, lovely. "I might not be able to do much," the dark blonde haired woman started, her tone laced with such tender and warmth. "But, at least, allow me to soothe some of your pain."

She closed the gap between them by pressing her lips against the man's. The man was shocked and surprised at first, but immediately gave into the kiss. The feeling of being comforted and then kissed by a beautiful woman was wonderful and alleviating. At this very moment it felt as if all his troubles were washing away in the ocean's breeze. He knew that this was just a short term reassurance to his problems, but for now he could just enjoy being in the embrace of a sexy woman.

Although, something didn't feel right. The woman's lips were too cold. It lacked any sign of the warmth, care, and commiseration she openly displayed. He could feel something ominous and heavy engulfing his entire being. A sense of dread shot through him. He felt something white hot and burning inside him. The burning sensation only lasted for a split second before it immediately went away. The man calmly gave himself into the kiss, letting himself relax into the lovely and tender feeling.

The dark blonde haired woman deepened the kiss, smirking she felt the man's skin shrivel up like a prune. Her kiss was draining this man of his energy, of his life force, and transferring it over to her. She broke the kiss, a malicious and seductive smirk making its way onto her lips. The man's skin sunken into his bones and he keeled over, falling to the ground in a loud heap, dead to the world.

The woman felt refreshed and rejuvenated, satisfyingly rubbing her belly. The anguish and despair of men always tasted so sweet. She climbed up off the couch and stretched her limbs. She better make herself something to eat for a late dinner. She stared at the now dead corpse. She would clean it up later.

After finding each other once they've cooled down somewhat, Edward and Orihime rented a taxi to drop them home. After all, they couldn't go home without one. Although, the incident that happened earlier left them feeling extremely awkward and unable to look each other in the eye. Whenever they did make eye contact, they would instantaneously, feeling incredibly embarrassed with large, red blushes across the bridge of their respective noses.

Luckily, the cab arrived before the strained silence became unbearable. They each took a spot on the backseat of the car. Still refusing to even give gaze at one another or make a simple conversation, they both opted to just mindlessly staring out the their respective windows as the driver took them home.

Whenever Orihime's mind drifted back to the kiss, she would feel all warm and fuzzy, yet, at the same time, sad and guilty. These contrasting feelings left her in a swarm of disarray. Though there was one thing she knew for sure, and it's the fact that she betrayed her own feelings for Ichigo. By kissing Edward, she 'cheated' on her love for him and her own heart.

Her fingers went up and lightly touched her lips. The lingering tingly sensation was still there. The soft and warm feeling of her first kiss still remained. A slew of thoughts coursed through the forefront of her mind. Some happy and some sad. Her heart felt conflicted. She didn't know what to make of the kiss. She didn't even know why she kissed him in the first place. All she knew was that she shouldn't have done it. She shouldn't have kissed Ed when she promised that Ichigo would be her first kiss. People only get one first kiss, and now hers was gone. Taken away from her without a single thought and driven by merely passion and instinct. That very wistful thought made her heart constrict with hurt and guilt. She was caught up in the heat of the moment...and…

Orihime bowed her head, slightly, a gloomy shadow casting over her eyes. Still that warm, lingering feeling on her lips remained. A slightly strange and bizzare longing to be kissed once more crossed her mind momentarily. And when it did, her heart twisted in knots of bewilderment and disorder, painfully pulling her in two different directions.

That was just it! The truth is… She liked it! She liked the fact that she was kissed by Edward and she kissed him in return. Additionally, the indication that she didn't mind the kiss, that she even liked and enjoyed it, made her feel all the more guilty. She wasn't supposed to like it! She wasn't supposed to enjoy it! Because… Because Edward wasn't the man she loved. She loved Ichigo! She would always love Ichigo! Ichigo was the man she gave her heart to! How could she think about kissing anyone else besides her beloved Ichigo? What she did was unforgivable! How could she kiss someone who wasn't the man she loved? She betrayed her heart, her feelings for Ichigo, and that's something she can't forgive herself for.

A first kiss should be special, only taken by a person someone loves. It would be something remembered for the rest of their lives. It was supposed to be a beautiful and everlasting moment unique to that individual. It was intended to be sacred and cherished forever. A person only gets one first kiss. There are no redos or do overs. Once it's gone, that's it. They are stuck with that shocking and regretful realization for the rest of their lives. She was so ashamed of herself. If she could turn back time, she would've stopped herself from making a mistake she would soon regret.

The auburn haired girl felt her eyes burn once more. She guessed she still had some tears left to shed. She was overflowing with emotion. She could almost drown in them. She willed herself not to cry. At least, not now. Not in front of Ed.

Orihime was unaware of the pair of golden orbs watching her. Edward observed the various expressions that formed on her countenance. His mind couldn't stop thinking about that kiss. His face would heat up when he would remember the all too familiar feeling of Orihime's lips pressed against his. Her lips were invitingly warm and incredibly soft just like the rest of her.

There were few things that kind of freaked him out when thinking about the kiss. That was his first kiss! Just imagining that caused his heart to hammer wildly in his chest. He wondered how people are normally supposed to feel after having their first kiss. Was it natural to feel this tenderly warm sensation erupting inside him? This pleasant and contented happiness coursing through him? This captivatingly fuzzy sense of yearning fluttering around in the pit of his stomach? And this overall presence of longing for more? This intense desire to crave for another kiss? To kiss her until he was satisfied. Until her lips were left red and slightly swollen from his mark. His hands felt like they were shaking with giddy anxiety tickling underneath the skin of his palms. The wonderful tingling sensation on his lips still remained. He could taste the cookies they ate earlier combined with the taste of apples. A sweet and delectable flavor.

And that was what freaked him out. He shouldn't be feeling this way. It wasn't like he had any feelings for Orihime. Hell, she wasn't even his girlfriend! That kiss was a fluke. Just a spur of the moment. Ed desperately wanted to keep telling himself that, wanted to find some way to justify his reason for kissing her, but somewhere in the back of his mind was mocking him for lying to himself. That he did harbor such feelings for Orihime. It was plain as day and etched inside his heart. Ridiculing and taunting him for trying to hide it from not only the world, but from himself as well.

Because… Because if he didn't, it wouldn't have hurt so much to see that single teardrop fall from the side of her face when she lightly touched her fingers to her lips. He wouldn't have felt this painful ping inside his heart and the stinging sense of rejection.

If he didn't love her, then he wouldn't be feeling this...heartbroken.

They finally arrived at the Hughes' household. Orihime nervously shifted from one leg to the other, fidgeting with the purse in her hands. "So, uh, I'll see you tomorrow?" she smiled, but the question came out awkward and forced.

Ed wasn't faring much better with that awkwardly embarrassed and somewhat dispirited expression on his face. "Yeah. See you tomorrow," he nodded dumbly.

The auburn haired girl robotically bobbed her head. When her gray eyes made contact with his golden orbs, she inwardly gasped at being reminded that she offered her first kiss to Ed instead of Ichigo. She swiftly averted her eyes away in shame, a tinge of guilt striking at her heart.

The blond alchemist felt a pang of hurt when she flinched and looked away. The look of sadness and regret could be seen in her gray orbs. A saddened frown took shape across his lips. Was kissing him really that bad? Was it something to be considered a mistake? Sure, he himself felt embarrassed by it, but was it something to be horribly ashamed about? That tormented sting of rejection bitterly clawed at his heart.

"Uh, goodnight," Ed finally spoke, quickly, trying to hide the pain and hurt he was currently feeling. He swiftly reentered the cab before Orihime could respond. All he knew was that he needed to keep his distance away from her for a while, or else this torturous achiness in his heart won't go away.

The healer gave a half hearted wave as she watched the driver revved up the engine and take off down the street.

She listlessly climbed up the stairs. Her mind wondered for half a second if anyone was awake this late at night. She didn't want to disturb them if they were sleeping. Although, how else would she be able to gather her stuff? She left her pink bag with Ms. Gracia.

Steely herself, she softly yet loudly knocked on the door. She waited patiently and quietly for someone to answer. This night away from Ed to sort out her confusion might be just what she needed. She stood there with bated breath, nervously fidgeted from one foot to the other.

At last, the door opened to reveal that it was Winry. Her hair was undone from its usual ponytail, cascading down her back. She was dressed in loose fitting, dark green pajamas. She was weary and looked as if she had just gotten out of back to answer the door as she tiredly rubbed her eyes. A loud yawn escaped her.

"Oh? Hi, Orihime," the blonde mechanic greeted her auburn haired friend with a friendly smile. Even her voice sounded drowsy.

Orihime returned the smile with a beaming one of her own. For now, she merely wanted to forget that incidental kiss happened. At least, until she had a clearer grasp on her thoughts and feelings. Her mind was too jumbled up as is. "Sorry to wake you up, Winry," she said, apologetically, making her way into the house.

Even though she was worn out, a strange glint shone in her bright blue orbs. "So…?" she drawled out, cheekily, shutting the door closed. "How was the dance?"

"Huh?" the ginger haired girl stared at her blonde friend in confusion as she started taking off her shoes.

"The dance. How was it?" Winry egged on, the sly smile still plastered on her countenance.

In response, the healer stiffened a little. She was glad her back was turned to her, so Winry couldn't discern the disconsolate and pensive expression on her facial features at the moment. "The dance was great!" she quietly exclaimed, brightly. "I had a lot of fun!"

"So, nothing happened between you and Ed?"

Oh, something definitely did happen between her and Ed, but Orihime wasn't ready to disclose that sensitive information. "Nope, nothing at all!"

Winry breathed out a disappointed sigh. "Well, I'm going to go back to sleep." She let out another tired yawn. "Goodnight, Orihime."

"Goodnight, Winry," the ginger haired girl responded, heading to the bathroom to change.

As soon as Orihime entered the bathroom, her smile transformed into an unhappy frown. She sighed, dejectedly to herself, placing a hand over her confused yet still fast beating heart. She hoped a good night's sleep would clear her head.

"Welcome back, brother!" Alphonse happily greeted Ed as he returned to the hotel room they both shared while they were staying here in Central.

Edward just made a small grunt in response.

"Uh, did something happen, brother?" Al asked, his hollow tone laced with worry and concern.

"Nothing happened, Al!" he snapped in return, his face contorted into an angry scowl.

"Okay, brother! You don't have to yell at me!" the suit of armor huffed.

Ed deeply exhale from his nose. He was using anger to hide the pain he was feeling inside, and projected that anger onto his little brother and that wasn't right. He ran a frustrated hand through the back of his head. "Sorry, Al. I just… I have a lot on my mind, okay? I need to be alone right now."

"Did something happen between you and Orihime?" the younger Elric questioned, slowly and gently in fear of upsetting his older brother, if he made one slip up. He could tell that whatever happened left Ed in a foul mood.

The blond alchemist stiffened slightly at his brother's question, hands clenched in his pocket. He bitterly bit the inside of his lip to mask the hurtful pang he was feeling inside his chest. He shot his brother a nonchalant smirk. "Nothing happened between us, Al. Stop worrying, okay?"

"But, brother-"

Ed quickly dismissed him, casually waving him off. "I'm tired, Al," he emphasized with a short yawn. "I'm going to bed. It's been a long night."

Alphonse looked like he wanted to question Ed some more, but reluctantly decided not to. It was pretty late into the night. "Goodnight, brother," he merely said instead, however, there was an underlying hint of acquiesce and disconcerting in his tone.

He tentatively observed as his brother headed to his bedroom. Al knew his brother was deeply troubled by something, perhaps even disheartened. Ed tries to hide his true feelings behind a nonchalant boisterous and a blithe confident mask, but the soul bonded armor knew his older brother well enough to read the emotions hiding behind plain sight. After all, Ed is his brother. No one understood him better than he did. And the expression on Ed's face, even if it lasted for a brief moment, was something he had never seen before. That, in itself, scared him a little because he did not know what to do or what to say.

His golden orbs held a glimmer of hurt and sadness. No, hurt and sadness was too simple a term to describe the emotions. He appeared absolutely devastated and hopelessly crushed. He wore a distressingly depressed expression on his countenance. Such pain and anguish was unbearable to see plastered onto his brother's face. He didn't know how else to describe the overarching emotion that Ed expressed for that short moment. He looked like someone…

Well, he looked like someone who just had his heart stomped on.

Edward leaned precariously against the closed door. A deep, troubled sigh escaped from him. He was deeply afflicted. His emotions were going haywire. The agony in his chest would not go away. Orihime's shameful, guilt stricken, and regretful expression would not leave his thoughts. It was torturous to recall it. He bit his lip and his automail hand reached up and clenched his aching heart. Why was his heart filled with so much pain and agony that it felt like it was cracking under the tormented pressure? The fact that she wholeheartedly regretted kissing him hurts the most. Why?

Because she would never be his.

He ignored the vindictive taunting voice inside his head, and threw it back and sighed again. The voice was just spewing meaningless drivel. He didn't understand why he was currently in so much affliction. But… But it wasn't because of that. He was sure of it. He just greatly hoped he'd feel better by morning.

How does it feel to be rejected?

Shut up! He angrily gritted his teeth and threw himself onto his bed. He viciously yelled at the voice inside his head, gleefully laughing at him and taunting him with its cruel and carefully calculated words. He was acutely aware of how much it hurts. It hurts like a bitch! He never knew he could feel this hollow and empty inside. How a simple, unpleasant action could cause him to feel so much suffering inside. That it was possible to rip a hole within his heart. A feeling of bitter and unrelenting darkness swallowing him up. Yet, all he could do was curl up and let the corruptible and depraved claws slash away at his core as he hopelessly stood there, despairingly unable to do anything to stop it, and a look of utter defeat on his face. But why though? He...doesn't understand it. This agonizing pain. He wanted it to stop! He weakly gripped his pillow, his face pressed against it, dejectedly. He never knew he could be so vulnerable. There was no reason to feel this way. After all, he doesn't have any feelings for Orihime.

He doesn't...have any feelings for her.


Orihime woke up the next morning, tired and exhausted. Her dreams were haunted by imagines of Ichigo's 'death'. Those nightmares still plagued her thoughts from time to time. Fortunately, thanks to Edward, Alphonse, and the others those horrific dreams happened less and less frequently and it disappeared altogether. She believed she was done with those nightmares. That she was finally strong enough to overcome them. Guess she was wrong. She was still too weak.

She clenched the blanket, tightly. So tightly, in fact, that her knuckles started turning white. It all happened because she betrayed him. She was well aware that she was forced into, that she was psychologically manipulated into it, but the simple fact remained was that she betrayed her beloved Ichigo.

Her guilty conscious conjured up the many scenarios she could have done differently. Maybe, despite the difference in power, she should fought Ulquiorra that day. She knew she wouldn't have survived the fight, but, at least, she would have peace of mind knowing she died for a noble cause, that she died trying to protect Ichigo and all her friends.

Plus, it's not like she would never see them again. She would just end up in the Soul Society after she died. Her friends could come visit her wandering spirit whenever they dropped by. Or, after a decade or two of training to become a Soul Reaper, she could go visit them and see how they are all doing after her passing. She could imagine all of them grown up, finished with the rest of their high school years and have gotten their degrees at a local college or a well known university, getting decent to high paying jobs, and happily married to someone they truly love with a family and kids. Of course, this would mean her chances with Ichigo would be shot down, but if he was happy, then she was happy. Everything she did was for his happiness.

The ginger haired girl pondered, cursed, and blamed herself for what happened that day. If she had done anything differently, anything at all, then Ichigo wouldn't have 'died'. Ichigo wouldn't have transformed into a monstrous Hollow. Ichigo wouldn't have attacked Uryu. Ichigo wouldn't have been so guilt ridden and depressed before he confronted Aizen. And Ichigo wouldn't have to suffer through the loss of his powers.

Orihime could feel her eyes burning with hot, fresh tears. She didn't realize she was crying until she witnessed a few drops staining the blanket and making the spots it hits wet. Everything was her fault. Her fault for being so weak.

Now, once again she was tortured by those same nightmares. However, they were a hundred times worse. Her mind was plagued by dangerous what ifs. What if Ichigo had never Hollowfied? What if Ulquiorra had damaged him so much that he couldn't Hollowfy? What if Ichigo really did die that day? There were so many things that could've gone wrong or made the situation worse.

Whenever the auburn haired girl thinks about, thinks about what if Ichigo really did die, her mind because numb and her heart starts to panic and go into overdrive. After all, she had no one to blame but herself. She could feel the cold sweat dripping down her body. Her chest felt constricted and she had trouble breathing. The room around her started to spin and become distorted. A sense of lightheadedness become to arise from the depths of her cranium. Her stomach began to twist up in knots and a pile of bile started to build up inside. A sense of anxiety overwhelmed her and left a disgustingly revolting queasiness of a bitterly sour sensation of putrid acid boiling inside the pit of her stomach. She suddenly felt sick and nauseous. The taste of ash and rotten food in her mouth made her feel even more nauseated.

It's all her fault. Everything was her fault. If she hadn't gotten in the way, if she hadn't been so weak, then none of that would have happened. Ichigo wouldn't have lost his powers. He wouldn't be so depressed and lost. He wouldn't have… He wouldn't have...

That's why she was plagued by those nightmares again. It was a cruel reminder that she shouldn't forget the sin she committed. She shouldn't forget the pain she put Ichigo through. She had gotten too cozy over these past few months, and that kiss last night was just the final catalyst to bring it all back to fruition. How dare she be happy when she was the one that caused Ichigo to suffer and become miserable in the first place?

It's her fault! All of it is her fault!

Orihime heard a quiet knock on the door. She quickly took a few gulps of air to forcibly calm herself down. She furiously wiped away the remaining tears that stained her face. She couldn't allow anyone to see her like this. So weak and vulnerable. They should only be permitted to encounter and observe the cheerful and happy Orihime. After all, no one wants to view the broken side of her. The pieces that are ripped and smashed and pounded into dust until nothing remains. She hated that side of her. It was just a vicious reminder of how weak she was and how she was still weak. She would never allow anyone to see the side of herself that she so utterly despises. It was simple enough for her to lock that aspect of herself deep inside the recesses of her heart, so that it would never see the light of day. No one should bare eyes to it. Ever.

The door slowly opened to reveal Garcia. The matriarch gazed at her with a sweet smile, her kind, green eyes shining, vibrantly. "Good morning, Orihime!" she greeted the younger girl, kindly, stepping inside the room.

"Good morning, Ms. Gracia," Orihime smiled.

The brown haired woman's smile immediately transformed into a worried frown when she saw the drenched covered state the ginger haired girl. Her maternal instincts kicked in. "Orihime!" She rushed to the side of her bed. "What's wrong? You're absolutely covered in sweat!"

The younger woman merely laughed. "Oh, it's nothing, Ms. Gracia," she replied, trying to keep her voice steady and cheerful. There was no way she could tell the woman about her nightmares. "I was probably just sweating from all the dancing last night."

"Well, alright," Gracia accepted. "You should probably go take a shower and clean yourself up then."

Orihime gasped as if she realized something important. "That's right! I need to hurry up and get ready. I bet Eddie and Al are waiting for me back at the hotel." She hurriedly scurried out of the bed.

"There's no need to be in a hurry, Orihime," the brown haired woman advised. "I'm sure Ed and Al would understand if you return late. After all, you just got back from the dance. You must be tired."

"I know, but…" A modest, fond smile formed on the ginger haired girl's face. "I usually make breakfast for Eddie." Having someone to cook for made her feel giddy with happiness. Her hand began to feel all tingling and there were butterflies swarming inside her stomach. She chalked it up to just to the anticipation and excitement of cooking for Ed. She knew he liked her food and that made her incredibly happy. Additionally, last night was the first time he admitted to liking her cooking and the first time someone encourage her to take up her dream in culinary. She had never felt so exhilarated, so ecstatic in her entire life! Not even Ichigo had praised her like that. Now, with renewed and vigor confidence, the ginger haired girl euphorically and delightfully enjoys cooking even more. All thanks to Ed.

Gracia softly giggled to herself at the expression and the reddening of her cheeks on the younger woman's countenance as she fantasized making breakfast for Edward. "Orihime, you're blushing."

Orihime emitted a small squeal that was a mixture of shock, surprise, and fluster. "I am?!" She hastily hid her face behind her hands in embarrassment. "I-I'm going to go get cleaned up and dressed now!"

The matriarch smiled fondly at the disappearing girl. She understood the implications of that expression all too well because she had experienced it herself once upon a time. The way her gray eyes glimmered with the faintest of tender warmth and adoring attachment. The quiet, fleeting feelings of intense yearning. The impassioned excitement of just seeing that one person one longs for. The primal and blissful sense of contentment of just being by the person's side. The endearingly flustered way her face turned a soft and tender hue of pink when her thoughts drifted towards him. Those are all the telltale signs of a girl falling in love.

She wondered if Orihime had realized it herself yet. Realized that she had fallen for Edward. She giggled to herself once. Guess, Orihime had an excellent time at the dance last night.

Gracia wiped away some imaginary dust from her light green dress. She better hurry and start preparing breakfast for everyone. She had four mouths to feed.

"No! I want to come!" Nina shouted in protest, her face twisting into a rebellious frown.

The five group of females were gathered around the dining table eating breakfast Ms. Gracia so graciously offered them. It was a simple meal that consisted of toast, ham and cheese omelette, bacon, and eggs.

"Mind your manners at the table, Nina," Gracia lightly scolded the brown haired girl.

"Sorry," she said, apologetically before gazing back at Orihime with a displeased pout. "Why can't I come, Big Sis Ori?"

Orihime just shot the young girl an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, Nina, but Eddie said you shouldn't come. It's way too dangerous for you to travel with us. He thinks it'll be safer if you stay here with Ms. Gracia and Elicia."

"That's not fair!" the seven year old whined. "How long are you planning to stay here then?"

The ginger haired girl placed a finger under her chin, pondering for a moment. "I don't really know. Until decides to leave Central, I guess."

Nina's pout transformed into an eager smile. "Then can we play together before you have to leave?"

Orihime smiled at girl. "Of course!"

"What about me?" Elicia chimed in. "I want to play, too!"

"Don't worry, Elicia, you can join in, too."

The youngest girl cheered in happiness and excitement, and everyone around the table cheerily laughed.

This was nice. This enjoyable, relaxing atmosphere is just what Orihime needed to calm her nerves. She could forget all about the tragic nightmare she had last night. All her troubles and worries would vanish in this pleasurable moment. Just being here, surrounded by all her friends, made it so much easier for her to relax and enjoy herself. To be the happy and cheerful Orihime she is and always will be.

Everyone was busy listening to Winry eagerly rant on about how her apprenticeship under Mr. Garfiel was proceeding. Orihime listened to her animatedly talk about her great it was working under him with great interest. It was fascinating to hear her discuss about all the new mechanical and engineering techniques she learned while watching him work with patients.

She excitedly talked about how she had to do a quick maintenance for a guy's automail leg. He lost his leg during a train crash almost twenty years ago. Apparently, he had forgotten to oil it up regularly because he was so busy helping the newspaper company he was working for, and they needed him to write a report on the mysterious deaths happening along the southern borders of Amestris. Once he caught him in his work, the world around him disappears. The interior metal started to rust over and every step he took produced a tiny, creak coming from the rusty gears meshing together in an unsettling and squeaky manner. The blonde mechanic had to replace them and the drive screws that kept them from smashing into each other.

However, the instant 'mysterious deaths' were uttered from Winry's mouth, Orihime was completely lost from the rest of the conversation. Mysterious deaths? Must be from Hollow attacks. So the public has finally taken notice of the rise in Hollow attacks. She contemplated if that was a good or a bad thing. She honestly doesn't know what to make of the situation. Normal people aren't supposed to know about Hollows. That much she was sure. Plus, as long as they don't possess any significant amount of spirit energy of their own, then they would forever remain in the dark, only able to draw rapt suspicion and speculation that would soon turn into morbid superstition.

On the down side, that would make Hollow hunting for her a lot tougher. She would now have to be more aware of her surroundings, making sure they are no civilians on some childish dare or someone thinking they are being brave when they are really just being foolishly recklessly to try and investigate Hollow sightings. She would have to be a great more inconspicuous and discreet when dealing with Hollows from now on. Darn! Now, she really wished she had one of those memory wipers that Soul Reapers carry around. It would make her job a heck of a lot more easier!

"Orihime? Orihime!"

The auburn haired girl immediately at the sound of a feminine voice calling her name in great urgency. She jolted out of her troubling musings and her heart almost leapt out of her chest in surprise.

"W-what?!" she barely managed to squeak out, gray eyes wide open and startled.

"Something the matter, dear?" Gracia asked in worry, tilting her head, slightly. "You were zoning out."

"Oh!" A sheepish laugh vibrated from the back of her throat. "Sorry. I...I guess I was thinking about what Eddie's and Al's next course of action would be." It wasn't a total lie. A part of her was remotely curious about what the Elric brothers were planning on doing now. The only reason they traveled to Dublith in the first place was to meet their teacher and have Ms. Izumi provide them clues on how they could return to normal. Truthfully, she doesn't know how much information they were able to extract from her, if any at all, because she was busy spending the few days they were staying in Dublith tracking down a Hollow and helping Sammy pass on. Then all of a sudden they wanted to head to Central to gather more information on the Homunculi and the Philosopher's Stone, and that was it and here they are. She wondered if they discovered any new data on the Homunculi's plans, or if they were doing that now. She should probably be there to help. But… That would mean…

...Facing Ed.

Would she be able to face Edward again after what happened last night? Would she be able to talk to him like normal like the kiss they shared never happened? Last night, she ran away from him with regretful tears streaming down her face. Could anyone blame her? She was surprised, confused, conflicted, and terribly guilty, but, at the same time, she felt undeniably warm, happy, content, and so light as if she was walking on air. Why was that? The kiss didn't mean anything, right? They were both caught up in the heat of the moment. So, why does her heart skip a beat just by thinking about it? Why could she fondly remember the softness of his lips pressed against hers or the warm touch of his fingers enlaced with hers? Why did recalling it cause her face to heat up and that fuzzy sensation in her stomach to return? Even now, her lips get all pleasantly tingly just thinking about last night's kiss. Why is that?

The kiss wasn't bad. It was...good. Really good. That's why she couldn't stop. In all honesty, she didn't want to stop. She only stopped when she realized she was kissing the wrong person. At that instant, time became frozen. Everything came to a standstill. Her heart seized. For a second, she felt fearful and horrified inside. A sinfully wicked blackhole had opened up to remind her of her 'infidelity'. The malicious reality awoke inside her, and readily and cruelly reminded her of who she was kissing. And it wasn't the person she loved. Then, at that moment, a sickening sense of guilt overtook her, causing her to cry and ran away.

She could still feel the spark, the sensation of pure bliss and excitement that engulfed her. The tiny specks of exhilaration that sent electrifying impulses throughout her body. It was like kissing someone that a person loves. But she doesn't love Edward. She loves Ichigo. Then why did kissing Ed feel so right? Like she belonged in that warm and feathery light feeling of his embrace. The distinct smell of spice and oil still penetrated her nose.

The kiss was so wrong because it felt so right. It was everything a first kiss should feel like. Warm. Heart throbbing. Sweet. Blissful. Ecstatic. Yet, most of all, filled with love. And that's what she felt. Love. She poured all her love into that kiss thinking it was with someone else. The problem was…

It wasn't really with the person she loved.

The sound of fingers snapping sprung Orihime from her guilty and confusing thoughts. She squealed in surprise and then her body was suddenly rocking backwards. The next thing she knew, the chair creaked as it fell over, taking her with it, and they both crash unceremoniously to the ground.

"Orihime!" Winry shouted her name, tone laced with shock and concern.

Ms. Gracia hurriedly ran to her side, her motherly instincts kicking in. "Oh, dear! Are you alright?" She diligently checked her for any injuries or bruises.

The auburn haired girl moaned in pain, tenderly rubbing the back of her head. "Ow! My head!" She shuffled away from the collapsed chair. "Sorry, Ms. Gracia," she muttered, climbing up to her feet and dusting herself off.

"It's alright, Orihime," Gracia gently reassured her as the ginger haired girl proceeded to prop the chair back up in its normal position.

"Big Sis, are you hurt?" Nina asked, worriedly, the two little girls staring at her with concerned eyes.

Orihime grinned, reassuringly at the two kids. "Don't worry, I'm fine," she laughed heartily.

"You have been distracted quite a lot this morning," Winry chimed, her brows scrunched up in concern and confusion. "Something on your mind?" she asked, her facial features etched into suspicion and there was a hint of sly smile curving across her lips.

"No!" the auburn haired girl responded, quickly. A little too quickly.

An ecstatic grin broke out on the blonde mechanic's face. "Something did happen last night!" she announced, gleefully as if it were some grand discovery. She resisted the urge to squeal, barely able to contain her excitement. "What happened?"

The auburn haired girl willed herself not to blush with all her might. There was no way she could tell them that she and Ed kissed at the dance last night. She would die of embarrassment! Plus, she doesn't know how Ed would feel if she notified Winry and Gracia of the romantic now turned incredibly awkward moment between them. Unfortunately, her efforts proved futile as she could feel her face began to heat up.

This was bad! She needed a distraction. Anything to get out of this hole of humiliation and embarrassment she was currently finding herself in.

"Um, uh, I have to go see Eddie and Al now!" she shouted, swiftly and highly flustered. She hurriedly stuffed the remains of her food in her mouth. She had enough courteous though to clean up after herself. She dumped her empty plate in the sink and was preparing to wash them.

"You don't have to worry about doing the dishes, Orihime," Gracia announced, her voice stopping the younger woman from cleaning. "I'll get them later."

"Okay!" Orihime happily nodded her head. She turned off the water tap, and wiped her hands using a nearby clean rag. "Thanks for letting me spend the night here, Ms. Gracia!" she gratefully thanked the brown haired woman for her hospitality.

Gracia smiled, welcomingly. "It was to see again, Orihime. You are welcomed back any time."

"Wait for me, Orihime!" Winry proclaimed, hurriedly emptying her plate.

"I'm coming, too!" Nina shouted, climbing out of the chair. She didn't want to be left behind. She quickly shuffled her feet until her hands clenched onto Orihime's gray skirt. She buried her face into the older girl's waist. "Take me with you, Big Sis Ori!" she squalled, pleadingly.

Orihime, and the rest of the girls in the room, were quite surprised. They have never seen Nina be this stubborn and headstrong about wanting something.

"You know," Winry started in half amusement, causing the ginger haired girl's gray orbs to glance in her direction. "Nina was like this when I told her I would be seeing you, Ed, and Al at Central that time when Ed called me from the hospital. The kid sure and be rebellious and stubborn when she wants something." She softly ruffled the brown haired girl's hair. "Never did really play with her that time. Guess, she's getting a little impatient and lonely without you."

"Nina's so attached to you, Orihime," Gracia smiled sweetly. "Why don't you take Nina with you, if you are going to see the boys?"

At this point, Nina was staring up at Orihime with pouty lips and wide and blue, pleading eyes that were beginning to water. Ah! Not the puppy dog face! There's no way the auburn haired healer can say 'no' to that. Especially, when the little girl looked so cute.

Her lips curved up into a U shape. She carefully bent down to the brown haired girl's level. She tenderly and lovingly patted the girl's head. "Nina, did you miss me that much?" she asked, warmly and quite touched.

"Uh, huh." Nina slowly bobbed her head, still staring at the older girl with begging eyes.

Orihime grinned and brought the small girl into a warm hug. "Alright. You can come, Nina."

A bright smile spread across Nina's face and her blue eyes lit up with joy and happiness. "Really?" she beamed with cheerfulness in her delighted tone. "Yay!" she happily cheered, excitedly and gleefully returning Orihime's hug.

"But first we have to tell Eddie, okay? As long as we're here in Central, it's fine. Though, when we leave, he might not let you come with me."

"Don't worry, I'll pout at him until he says 'yes'! Big Brother Ed would have to let me come!" Nina exclaimed, determinedly, causing the older females to giggle.

"We better get going now," Winry advised. The auburn haired girl nodded and rose up on her feet, her hand clasping onto Nina's tiny ones. "It was very good to see you again, Ms. Gracia."

"It was good to see you girls doing so well. Say 'hi' to the boys for me," Gracia replied, waving goodbye to them as the blonde mechanic opened the door.

"Bye, Ms. Gracia! Bye, Elicia!" Orihime said, bidding them both farewell.

"Thank you for letting me stay!" Nina chirped.

Gracia smiled. "My pleasure! It was nice for Elicia to have a big sister around."

"Big sis, bye bye!" Elicia waved, tearfully. "Come back soon, kay?"

"I will!" Nina replied.

After waving one last goodbye, the three girls left the Hughes' house.

"Okay, Orihime. Tell me what happened between you and Ed last night."

Winry was slyly interrogating Orihime about what happened during her last night's dance with Edward. Her lips were curled up into a teasing grin and her face screwed into a shrewd and impish expression. In response, Orihime was becoming increasingly flustered, adamantly refusing to indulge into such sensitive and embarrassing topic.

"N-nothing, Winry!" she cried, self consciously. "We just had a lot of fun. That's all."

Nina were staring at the two older girls, confusingly, wondering what they were talking about, her hand still holding on tight to Orihime's.

"Aw!" the blonde mechanic whined. "I know something happened. Tell me!" She light heartedly nudged the older girl. "I won't say anything."

Orihime was becoming progressively tight lipped. As much as she liked Winry, she was determined not to make a conversation about a topic she's not sure about and gratify the blonde mechanic's thirst for juicy gossip and idle chit chat. She hasn't even grasp her own feelings on the matter. She didn't know why such a thing happened. It just did. And now, she was wondering if she should regret it or not. After all, it was her first kiss. Something she's been saving up for Ichigo.

"I-I'll tell you later, Winry," Orihime finally responded, uneasily.

The aforementioned mechanic just scowled and crossed her arms in a huff. "Fine," she said, indignantly.

"We're here!" the ginger haired girl announced.

The three girls made it to the hotel the Elric brothers were staying at. They climbed up the steps, and Orihime pushed open the door, leading them inside. Winry strolled up to the receptionist's desk, requesting info on Ed's and Al's room. The ginger haired girl stood back in the lobby with Nina.

Now that she was here, her heart wouldn't stop pounding. This was it. She was going to see Ed. She could feel the beads of anticipation and nervousness sliding down the side of her face. Was she really ready for this? What should say to him after she finally sees him? Should she just mutter a casual 'hi' and that it's it? Or go for a more hearty 'good morning'? Or perhaps a simple nod would suffice?

Oh, god. Look at her! Thinking about ways just to simply greet Ed. She's never been this nervous about seeing him. Not to mention, the awkwardness between them would be unpalatable. Besides, would Edward even want to see her right now? She was sure he needed time to sort his own thoughts and feelings about last night's kiss. That simple thought caused her to lightly bite the inside of her lip, a feeling of unease coursing through her. That's right. What if Ed didn't want to see her right now? They didn't exactly leave on the best of terms with her running away and crying tears of guilt and regret, and the awkward goodbye they had afterwards.

But… She missed him. She wanted to see him. That's why she came. She wanted to see his face and hear his voice.

Wait…! Why was her heart pounding so much? And she could feel her face began to heat up. Why did the basic notion of seeing Ed again make her legs turn to jello and butterflies to flutter in her chest? She was just here to rejoin Ed and Al. That was no reason to stir up these confusing emotions within. Oh, she felt so silly. And nervous. And anxious. And unready.

Okay, maybe this was a bad idea. She should probably just leave or make reservations to stay at different room to avoid seeing him. Ed or Al could come get her once they find another lead and are ready to take off.

The auburn haired girl felt a small tug on her arm. Snapping out of her distressing and unpleasant musings, her confused gray eyes glanced down at the little girl, who had worried expression screwed onto her features.

"Big Sis Ori, is something wrong?" she asked in a tiny, innocent voice.

Orihime smiled warmly. Just catching a glimpse of Nina's worrisome face and hearing her concern for her was enough to calm her down. "Nothing's wrong, Nina. I'm okay," she said, softly, tenderly squeezed the girl's hand to assure that there was nothing to worry about.

A happy and pleased grin now graced the brown haired girl's lips. "Okay!" She cutely snuggled against the older girl's arm.

"Orihime! Nina!" Winry called out to the two of them. "I got Ed's and Al's room number. Let's go."

"Coming!" the ginger haired girl cried back, hurriedly jogging after as she walked up the staircase, tugging Nina along.

Orihime and Nina followed Winry as the latter searched for the boys' room number.

"Three o' eight. Three o' nine. Three ten. Ah! Here it is!" She loudly and impatiently knocked at the door. "Ed! Al!" she shouted, hoping they could hear her through the closed door. "Open up! It's us!"

The three girls waited for one of them to open the door. Orihime nervously shifted from one foot to another. Her stomach was tying up in knots. She reached a tentative hand up to clenched her racing heart. This was it. There was no turning back now. She anxiously swallowed down a small lump that was forming in the back of her throat. She took in a deep breath to relax herself.

"Stay calm," Orihime inwardly assured herself. "Just try to act normal. And if Ed's mad, I'll apologize." But that notion seemed easier said than done.

Finally, the door quietly squeaked open to reveal Alphonse.

Nina's blue eyes immediately brightened up in child like joy and flung herself at Al, only reaching up to the thigh of his armor leg. "Big Brother Al!" she cried, happily.

Orihime could plainly see Al's growing, red eyes dimming into a U shape, an indicator that he was smiling. "Good morning, Nina!" His gauntlet hand softly patted the little girl's head. His pleasant gaze then shot towards his childhood friend and female companion. "Morning, Winry, Orihime."

"Morning, Al!" the auburn haired girl responded in her usual bubbly and cheerful tone.

"Hi, Al," Winry smiled, stepping inside the room. She glanced around the room, her blue eyes searching for something or someone. "Where's Ed? Is he still asleep?"

"Uh, brother's in his room," Al answered, hesitantly. His voice sounded unsure and a little...disquieted. "He hasn't come out room all morning. Brother...has been acting...strange since he came back last night," the suit of armor uttered, voicing almosting squeaking with dismay and perturbed, trying to find the right words for his older brother's odd behavior. "I don't know how to explain it. You should've seen the look on his face last night. It's an expression I have never seen Ed wear before. He looked...crushed." Al bent his head down in melancholic sadness. "I don't know how else to explain it, but brother's been acting pretty down since last night."

Orihime could feel her heart twisting inside her chest. A pang of guilt and regret coiling within her. So, Ed was upset about last night. She wholly and despairingly wondered which part he was upset about. The kiss or her selfishly running when he was probably just as alarmed, baffled, and unnerved as she was?

She immediately started forming a series of apologizes in her head, but none of them sounded natural and genuine enough. They all sounded like a rehearsal from a play. She didn't want Edward to think she was being rude and insincere, and give her more of a reason to be mad at her. She didn't have time to contemplate the situation any further as the door quietly creaked open to reveal a disheveled Ed.

Edward's hair was down and not tied in its usual braid and there were small, almost indistinguishable bags under his eyes, indicating he didn't get much sleep. His countenance was screwed into a deep scowl as he glared at his younger brother. "I wasn't crushed, Al!" he clipped, aggravatedly. He must've heard what his brother said. His golden gaze landed on the four people occupying the living room. However, when his eyes landed on Orihime, the latter saw an emotion flash across them before almost disappearing completely. It was so fast that it just left the healer confused and bewildered. She couldn't make it out what kind of emotion it was because a single one. It was whirlwind swirling in the depths of golden pools before being disintegrated completely.

But somehow she knew… She knew that whatever it was, it was directed at her and only her.

"I'm heading to Central Command," he stated. Even his voice sounded hollow, lacking the usual arrogance and self assurance to his tone.

Orihime tried to crack a smile, but didn't know how cheery and unperturbed it was. "Don't you want to have breakfast?"

"No thanks. I can find something to eat on the way back." Ed strolled past her, avoiding glancing in her direction.

"Brother, you should really clean yourself up first," Al advised.

"Al's right," Winry agreed. "You can't go out looking like that."

Ed merely grunted, not in the mood to argue, and headed to the bathroom.

Winry's gaze landed on Al, a flash of worry sparking in her eyes. "You are right, Al. I never seen Ed so...gloomy before." Her flickered towards Orihime. "What happened between the two of you last night?" Her tone wasn't accusatory. Just a dear friend concerned about another friend.

Orihime shyly and self conscious chewed her bottom lip. She doesn't know how to answer that. She honestly didn't want to answer that, but she understood she was to blame for Ed's sour and disheartened mood. She never should have kissed him last night.

Though she did not want to divulge into the discussion, so simply offered a tight smile to hide her unease. "We had a good time at the dance. I admit it was a bit of a rocky start at the beginning, but everything worked out."

Al and Winry shared a look. Something definitely happened. Orihime and Edward seem way too awkward around each other. In their short interaction, it's obvious that Ed's trying to avoid her, and Orihime's appeared more fidgety and apprehensive around him.

Thankfully, she was saved from further questioning when Ed reemerged. This time properly dressed and ready. "Al, you coming?" he blandly called to his younger brother, walking straight for the front door.

"Uh, r-right, brother." Al muttered out, tentatively. "I'm coming."

Orihime opened her mouth, wanting to say something, anything, but the words died in her throat. There was nothing she could say. What could she say? The back of her throat grew dry and hoarse as time passed. The blood in her veins were becoming erratic and hot. Her thumping with anxiety. Her gray orbs stared, helplessly as Ed and Al walked out the door. Once the door closed, a short, defeated gasp quietly escaped her and her eyes burned with unshed tears, but she willed herself not to cry. It would be pouring out all shame and guilt she's been feeling since last night, if she did.

Nina was confused, but even her small, childlike mind knew something was wrong. Everyone seemed tense, nervous, and edge, especially Big Brother Ed and Big Sis Ori. Although, she couldn't understand why. She couldn't comprehend the reason big sis and big bro were fighting, but still… It made her sad.

She doesn't want to witness anybody fighting. They should all be happy and cheerful and get along like everything's fine and dandy. So, why? Why were big bro and big sis fighting? Did they not like each other anymore? But how could she get them to make up?

"Nina?" she heard Big Sis Ori call her name. Her blue gaze shifted to her direction. "You want to come with me to the store? There are some things I need to buy at the grocery so I could start preparing for lunch later."

The little brown haired girl instantly discerned that big sis's smile was fake. She was hurt. She was in pain. She couldn't decipher why she inherently knew. Big Sis Ori just felt...weird. Her usual warm, serene, and comforting aura became slightly cloudy. It was fluctuating with the sense of unhappiness. Nina's lips almost became to tremble. Nevertheless, she couldn't be sad. If she were sad, it would just make big sis even sadder.

The only thing the little girl could do was offer a solemn nod and a conflicted, half hearted 'yeah'.

"If you two are going to the store, then let me come with you," Winry suggested. "There's nothing I could do by sitting here. Besides, there's Ms. Gracia's apple pie recipe I've been practicing. Not to tote my own horn, but I have gotten really good at baking it," she finished, proudly.

Orihime beamed. "Really? I would love to try it!"

Nina smiled, pleasantly when she sensed some of Big Sis Ori's happiness returning.

The stroll from hotel to Central Command was brisk and quite tentative and awkward. An uneasy silence floated between the two brothers. Alphonse couldn't help but notice the sluggish way Edward walked, lacking his usual confident stride. Al wanted to say something. This dejected Ed was extremely worrisome. Yeah, Ed was known to sulk or get incredibly angry for a while. But this Ed… This despondent and depressed Ed was all new to him. He was at a loss of how to approach or talk to his older brother. But he knew he had to say something to release Ed from his gloomy and dour funk.

"Hey, brother?" the suit of armor started off, slowly.

"I wonder if Hughes has found anything out about the Philosopher's Stone or Lab Five," Edward contemplated, almost startling Al because that inquiry was so abrupt.

"That's right," Al perked up. "We never had the chance to see Hughes yesterday."

"I want to exchange information as soon as possible, so we could plan our next move."

The younger Elric breathed out a silent sigh of relief. It seemed his brother was returning back to his old self. That was good. Guess, he was worrying for nothing.

Central Command eventually came into, and the brothers strolled through the front door. It was just as busy as ever with soldiers hurrying up and down the hall, completing paperwork, checking files, or just trying to enter their station. Nothing but the hues of white walls and the scurrying of blue uniforms.

Ed's golden gaze spotted a familiar blonde woman in that same blue uniform. He quirked a half surprised, half confused eyebrow. "Lieutenant Hawkeye?" he called out to the woman. "Is that you?"

Hawkeye's bronze eyes shifted when she recognized that gruff yet slightly high pitched voice. She peered over and her lips curled into a slight smile. "Hey, boys," she greeted the Elric brothers in a moderately warm and welcoming tone, being mindful to stay professional. "It's been a long time."

The eldest Elric grinned until his altered into a one of comical dread and then aggravated annoyance. "If lieutenant's here, that means-"

"Thanks for waiting!"

Ed gutteraled out a sound of utter repulsion and distaste. He really didn't have time for the colonel right now. "Yep, the colonel," he flared through his nostrils, his irritation already rising.

Roy hummed in surprise when his dark eyes landed on his blond subordinate and his metal, younger brother. "Oh, hey there, Fullmetal," he said, casually.

"Colonel Mustang, what are you doing here in Central?" Ed questioned. He could feel the veins in his forehead throbbing.

"Didn't you hear?" he smirked, his arrogance making its way in his tone. "I was transferred here over a month ago."

"Great," the blond alchemist tsked. The sarcasm in his voice did not go unnoticed, but it was ignored.

"And what about you?" the colonel inquired, curiously. "What brings you to Central."

Ed breathed out, deeply. "We are just here to exchange some information. Where is Lieutenant Colonel Hughes?"

When Hughes's name was uttered out, both military personnel became frozen and stiff. The Elric brothers, however, remained oblivious to their woeful uneasiness and the dreaded glint of mournful distraught and grief in their eyes.

"We haven't seen him in a while," Alphonse pitched in.

Hawkeye was conflicted about what to say. How could she tell the boys that Lieutenant Colonel Hughes is no more? If they found out he died and that died because of them, they would be crushed and devastated. They would no doubt blame themselves and would be racked with guilt and regret. She honestly doesn't know how to reveal such a dreadful and tragic news to the brothers. Ed may be in the military, but, fundamentally, he is still just a kid. And his little brother, Al, is no different. They were both just children forced to grow up early and as swiftly as possible. Young adolescents who's ability to enjoy their youth are far and in between. Maybe the colonel would know what to say to them.

"Lieutenant Colonel Hughes," Mustang started, then paused as if he was trying to get his thoughts together. "Hughes retired from the military."

The expressions of the three faces around showed varying degrees of emotions. Hawkeye had the look of utter shock and disbelief, but had enough self control to keep her emotions tight lipped. Ed, on the other, appeared wistful, somewhat sad, and disappointed. Al only made a slight gasp of resignation and acquiescence.

"Wish we could have been there," Al spoke first, sighing.

"We could have gotten him a nice retirement," Ed interjected.

Al brightened at that idea. "Maybe we still can."

Mustang coughed in his hand, grabbing the brothers' attentions. "You could do that later," he said, though there was a fraction of hesitance in his tone. His dark eyes shifted towards Ed. "You came at the right time, Fullmetal. I have a mission for you."

Edward let out an irritated groan at that. He hated getting missions. Each one took his time away, time he could be spending figuring out ways to restore his and Al's bodies back to normal. Though, he understood this was his job. He was a dog of the military. This was the toll to be the military's lapdog in exchange for private and restricted research materials and steady funds. He accepted all that, but that doesn't mean he had to like it.

He sighed in defeat, seeing no point in arguing. He could receive information from Hughes later. "What's the mission?"

Mustang jerked his head. "Follow me to my office for the debriefing."

As Hawkeye obediently followed behind her superior's back, questions ran through her head. Why did the colonel lie to the two boys? Didn't he realize that lying would just make it all the more heart wrenching when they eventually found out the truth? He couldn't keep Hughes's death a secret forever. Was he trying to preserve their innocence for just a little longer?

She shook her head. Sometimes the colonel losing all sense of rational when it comes to those. It's rather foolish yet incredibly admirable. It's what endears her to him. It's way she follows him. Because she knows he's the man who would change the country. And until he reaches the top, she would protect him and watch his back every step of the way.

The first thing Edward saw when he stepped into Mustang's office was the four familiar faces of his distinctive crew. The chubby yet surprisingly smart Second Lieutenant Heymans Breda. He was leisurely sitting in his chair, doing some paperwork that Mustang most likely put off. Master Sergeant Fuery was busy tinkering with a radio and some walkie talkies. Despite his introverted and kindhearted nature, he always loved playing with machines. Ed wondered if it he wanted to be an automail engineer once. Warrant Officer Vato Falman has always been an overly polite and awkward fellow. He was currently shuffling through some files, diligently. With his great memorization skills, it should be an easy feat for him to remember and recite most of the contains written within the files. And lastly, there was Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc. Ed remembered how he made flirtatious comment that lacked in good taste regarding her when he first laid eyes on her. He scowled at the memory. Second Lieutenant has always been a hopeless romantic. However, he couldn't keep a girlfriend to save his life.

Edward pondered the last time he saw Mustang's crew, as they are primarily dubbed. He hasn't seen the gang since the Shou Tucker incident. That was several months ago. Phew, time sure does fly fast when one is on the go. It felt kind of good to see the gang again.

The blond alchemist's mind drifted off, wondering what kind of mission was Mustang assigning him to do. It's been a pretty long time since he was tasked with one. Honestly, with all the stress he's built up lately, he was eager to pummel some criminal's ass. Just to relieve some pent up stress. Although, going on a mission would mean talking to Orihime sooner than he would like.

Ed wasn't sure if he's able to speak to her just yet. He stayed up all night, tossing and turning in his bed, his mind racing. Just seeing her face again this morning just made all the pain from the night before come rushing back to him. When he saw her, his lips dried, suddenly. His heart became constricted. Any manner of peace he finally managed to achieve was gone in an instant. As cowardly as it was to admit, he wasn't ready to see her. He needed more time to sort out his feelings. The images of her saddened, horrified, and regretful face flashed before his eyes.


Orihime stared at Ed, horrified, her hands covering her mouth in shock, her gray eyes burning with fresh, hot tears. Her expression was that of utter shock, unspeakable horror, and frightfully mortified as if she just committed a heinous crime. It was truly a heartbreaking sight. "I… I-I wasn't supposed to…! This wasn't supposed to…! I shouldn't have…!" Her muffled voice cracked as she sobbed, uncontrollably.

What had she done?!

She kissed Edward!


Her first kiss was with Ed! The one she was supposed to have, that she was saving up for Ichigo, was with Ed instead!

"I'm sorry!" Orihime took a step back before running away, leaving a stunned Ed behind.


Ed clenched his fist. That harsh stinging in his heart returning. It wasn't as sharp as it initially was, but the dull pang was still present. Seeing her face, it hurts. It hurts in ways he couldn't understand. Last night was a cruel and mocking of something he couldn't have. He had her friendship, however, over time, that did not satisfy him enough anymore. He wanted more than just companionship. He desired to be close to her. How close? He does not know He just… Ugh! It was hard to clarify it. The only way he could justify this strange phenomenon was that Orihime was up there in the stars. Bright, beautiful, a brilliant light that guides people in the darkest of nights, yet reaching her was like trying to actually touch the stars, and everyone knows that is physically and scientifically impossible. And, no matter how hard he tried, he could never reach her. Never catch her and hold her in his arms. The human arms could only reach so far, after all.

That's how Ed felt. Though, he could not fathom what that feeling meant.

Or he doesn't want to acknowledge it.

Shut up! He screamed at the demon in his head. He gritted his teeth so hard, it might crack under the pressure. This monster has been tormenting him ever since he got to the hotel he was staying at last night. It was the reason he barely gotten any sleep the other night. This dark presence has been terrorizing him ever since Orihime ran off on him. He desperately wanted to call out her name, but his voice died in his windpipe. So now it was ridiculing him for his weakness. Even at this moment, it was sadistically taunting for his inability to face her. Or, more accurately, his unwillingness to.

That's because he afraid.

At the point, Ed kept his mouth shut. He knew that voice was right. Deep down, he was afraid. Afraid of having to confront Orihime. Afraid of hearing her answer. Her answer to what? He did not know, but he was scared, nonetheless.

But she has already given him an answer. He was just scared to admit.

Edward's expression turned defeated and sullen. All the previous fight he had now was gone. The thumbing in his heart almost seized, becoming stone cold. He was surprised at himself. How could one girl leave him in such an emotional wreck? If he closed his eyes, he could vividly imagine her sweet voice, her beautiful, auburn hair, her energetic, gray eyes, her kind smile, and her all around comforting and warm aura.

Lately, as time went on, his thoughts drifted more and more towards Orihime. If he wasn't about his baby brother or figuring out ways and ideas on how they could get their bodies back, then it almost always filters towards Orihime. The emotional toll of it combined with the stress of last night was beginning to exhaust him. This why he was more than happy to take this mission. Whatever it was. He needed something to relieve his stress, to vent his anger. God's know, he doesn't have the heart to get, well, too angry at Orihime. With her sensitive nature, she would be reduced to tears. She had the tendency to cry even more than Winry. Plus, he would never want to do anything that would upset or make her cry. Seeing Orihime crying would be far worse than this pain in his chest.


Oh, great. He clicked his tongue. His imagination was playing tricks on him. He could actually hear her voice. The melodious sound of her tone as his name echoed from her lips were music to his ears. He could clearly picture Orihime walking leisurely down a grassy plain, admiring the view. So full of life and energy. She would happily call out his name, beckoning him over, setting the picnic basket she was holding down on the ground. A cool breeze would ruffle her auburn hair and she would gingerly use her hand to push the strands back from obstructing her face. The skirt of her yellow summer dress gently flowing with the balmy wind. She would appear so beautiful and serene. A half grin would form on his countenance as he peacefully stalked towards her. Her warm, calm, gentle, and soothing presence always making him forget the world around and his troubles, and just enjoy the moment. She would place the blanket under the cool shade of the tree. Grabbing the basket, she would delightful pull out all her unusual yet impossibly delicious meals, and he would graciously devour them like a starved person who hasn't eaten in days. She would smile, pleased, joining him the feasting, but in a much more reserved and delicate manner. They would just relax there enjoying the peace and quiet, watching the calm and pleasant scenery before them.

Sigh. Such wish fulfillment.


Okay, enough with hallucinations. Was this another way for the demon to mock him and demean him?

Wait a minute…! Orihime never calls him 'Fullmetal'.


He was jerked out his musings and was faced with collective eyes of concerned faces. He could view Al's shoulders tense up in worry and the colonel's exasperated yet troubled, scrutinizing gaze.

"Fullmetal? Were you even listening?" Edward could hear the slight annoyance in Mustang's tone, but his dark gaze held a shimmer of worry in them. He held the paper, Ed's mission file, out in his hand.

"Eh, sorry," Ed said, dully. "Can you repeat that?"

Mustang's nose twitched and a perturbed eyebrow rose to his hairline. Did Fullmetal just apologize to him? Even if it was bland and almost unresponsive, it was still an apology. He's known Fullmetal for years. He was his superior. Nevertheless, if there was one trait of Fullmetal's he was immensely aware of it was his prideful and obstinate nature. A person would have to either literally or figuratively beat him over the head before he admitted he was wrong, more so take him apologize. Something was up.

The colonel proved his elbows upon his desk and folded his fingers together, so they were covering the bottom half of his face. "Is something on your mind, Fullmetal?" he inquired.

Edward's golden eyes broadened, flummoxed and caught off guard, his face heating up. Finally, he expression relaxed into his typical scowl. "N-nothing! It's none of your business, colonel!" he snapped, but his usual heat was mostly dowsed out.

At this point, Mustang and the rest of his team knew something was definitely wrong with Ed. Even Al was troubled and disquietingly wary of his older brother's subdued and dejectedly half hearted responses. Ed was way too...despondent and melancholic. Where was his standard boisterous and hotheaded self? Could he be having an off day?

"What's the matter, chief?" Havoc spoke up, lighting up a cigarette.

"You look like something the cat dragged in," Breda observed.

"Is he perhaps sick?" Fallman wondered.

"Maybe he's tired," Fuery piped in.

The crew started pondering reasons for Ed's strange behavior. Each one becoming more ridiculous and outlandish than the last.

Breda rubbed the bottom of his chin with his forefinger and thumb, thoughtfully, observing the blond alchemist more closely. "You know, your face right now looks similar to Havoc's stupid and defeated expression on his face everytime he gets shot down by a girl," the chubby second lieutenant quipped, throwing a sly smirk at the aforementioned person's way.

"Hey!" the blond second lieutenant yelled, indignantly.

Hawkeye was apparently the only one in the room who noticed Ed's hand twitch when Breda mentioned Havoc getting dumped by girls, despite trying to keep a steely expression on his facial features. Being an ace sniper made her very acutely observant of the situation around her. Did Edward's current state have to do with a girl?

"Edward," the female lieutenant decided to speak up. "Does this have something to do with a girl?" she asked, straightforward and to the point. She had always candid and plain spoken person. That's why the colonel values her so much as his second in command.

Once that inquiry was uttered out the sniper's mouth, the whole room froze.

"WHAT?!" Surprised and astonished cries echoed around the room. A few soldiers were startled by the outcry.

Edward, on his part, appeared as if he had caught red handed. Eyes wide, a blush creeping under the bridge of his nose, and an embarrassed expression on his face.

Al tilted his head towards his brother, a concerned, anxious, and breath vibrating through his empty, metal shell.

A spark of amusement shone in Mustang's dark orbs. "This is about a girl? I didn't know you had a crush, Fullmetal," he smirked, not hiding his levity.

Ed scowled, angrily, his embarrassment increasing. "No, it's not!" he loudly denied.

The colonel's smirk grew because the blond alchemist's hasty denial wasn't fooling him. Not with that terribly hidden bashful look on his face.

"I never thought I would see the day that the chief would take interest in the opposite sex," Havoc mused.

"Edward is a young man," Hawkeye prompted, coolly. "It's only natural."

"Phew," Breda blew out a relieved breath. "I was kind of worried there for a second. I thought thebig guy was asexual or something. He seemed steadfast from taking an interest in girls."

"You have girl troubles, brother?" Al asked, innocently, though it was used to hide his contradictory tone. On one hand, he found amusement in his brother's currently humorous plight, but, on the other hand, this further confirms his worry and anxiety that something did happen between him and Orihime. Something bad enough to put him in this despairingly depressed mood.

"Could you guys stop talking about me like I'm not here!" Ed yelled, furiously. Could he be even more embarrassed and humiliated?

"Sounds like you need some dating advice, Ed" Fuery uttered.

The four men in Mustang's shot looks at each other before nodding when coming to some kind of agreement.

"I think it's best if you step outside, first lieutenant," the blond second lieutenant advised. "This is a conversation between men."

"Oh? Are you implying that I'm not as capable as a man in this kind type of situation, second lieutenant?" Hawkeye questioned sharply, her eyes narrowing.

Havoc realized his mistake and almost broke out into a sweat at the sniper's cold glare.

"No, no! I was just saying that the chief needed to have a guy talk," he quickly corrected, trying to rectify his earlier wording.

Her gaze softened, if only slightly, losing her deadly daggers, satisfied with the explanation. "C'mon, Alphonse. Let's step outside," she urged. She knew Ed would not be inclined to listen, if his baby brother is hanging around. He would want to remain aggressive and stubbornly headstrong when his brother's around.

Al was confused, but complied, nonetheless. The metal of his armored body clanged as he stood up from the couch, and followed the female officer out the door.

"Come on, chief," Havoc pressed, once he heard the door shut closed. "Tell us all about her."

Ed growled, feeling incredibly annoyed. "I told you, it's nothing! Why are you guys so damn insistent on this?"

"She had to be something to bring the great Fullmetal Alchemist in here weeping like a baby," Mustang smirked.

The blond alchemist shoot threatening daggers at his commanding officer. "I was not crying, you bastard!"

The colonel dramatically threw his head. "My mistake. Incorrect terminology. I meant to say you've been carrying around a cloud of depression ever since you entered my office, Fullmetal. That's not like you."

Ed's face faltered. His mind drifted back to Orihime. "I'm not...depressed," he said, weakly as if it was trying to convince himself rather than Mustang.

Havoc whistled, dramatically. "Must be serious. Chief, you want some advice about girls, right?"

Edward frowned, contemplating his options. He honestly wanted to say 'no', just take his mission objective, and be on his way. However, with the current awkwardness ensuing between him and Orihime and his inability of not knowing how to deal with it, he weighed his choices. If he was being frank, Mustang and his team were the closest to guy friends he had that he could discuss this sort of topic about.

Ed blushed, already feeling the edges of humiliation and embarrassment creeping up inside him for want he's about utter out of his mouth. His golden eyes shifted away from the men, too self conscious and awkward to meet their gazes. "W-what does it mean when a girl runs away from you crying.

He did not know why he ask that. Guess, he was searching for confirmation or reassurance for his fears. He could already feel his pride taking a small blow for talking to Mustang, of all people, about this matter. But he doesn't know who else to turn to. Al was irrefutably out the question, being just as clueless about girls as he was. And unfortunately, he didn't really have many guy friends his age. He didn't have any, in fact.

There was absolute silence. It was so quiet a person could hear Mustang's pin drop with a silent 'clatter'. Then a collective of shocked gasps sounded throughout the office. Havoc's cigarette comically dropped from his ridiculously opened mouth. Mustang's dark eyes widened slightly, surprised that Ed come right out and admit with barely any fight. Fuery's glasses were tilted across his face, showing his appallment. Fallman gaped at Ed as if he had grown a second head. Breda was stockstill from the staggering confession of what the blond alchemist just spewed out.

The quiet stillness lasted longer than it should. Edward was growing increasingly annoyed by the perpetual silence. Although, he was also becoming more anxious as the minutes passed by.

Fuery was the one to finally speak up. "Y-you have a girlfriend, Edward?" he asked, slowly with a shaking finger directed the aforementioned alchemist.

Ed turned deeply red faced. "She's not my girlfriend!" he shouted, heatedly, causing the radio specialist to flinch. His face faltered a bit. "I'm...I'm just looking for some advice, okay?" he muttered, his voice low.

"So, let me get this straight…," Havoc started, pulling out another cigarette. "You like this girl. But because you don't know how to talk to her, you unintentionally said something that made her cry." He flicked on a lighter and lit it up. "And now you are looking for a way to make it up to her." He placed the cigarette between his lips and inhaled and exhaled a poof of tobacco. "Is that about right?"

"I never said I liked her!" the blond alchemist shouted, furiously. "By the way, I didn't make her cry! I would never do that! I...I just want to know what to do to cheer her up. And what does it mean when a girl cries and runs away from you?

"If she ran away from you, then doesn't that mean she has no interest in you?" Fallman pondered, reflectively.

Ed heard a pin drop inside him. A defeated air of hopelessness and desolation exuded from him. The officers were left shockingly stunned by how quickly he was left eerily depressed.

"This is bad," Breda whistled. "You have it bad for this girl, big guy."

"I remember my first crush." Havoc crossed his arms, nodding, sagely. "I was exactly your age, chief. Her name was Vannessa Gibson. She was sweet, kind, and beautiful. I was so nervous to talk to her. One day, I finally gathered the courage to ask her. And she said… She said…" He paused his lips forming into a reversed 'U'. "She said I wasn't her type and rejected me!" he cried, melodramatically, wallowing in pity with comedic tears pouring out his eyes.

The chubby second lieutenant quietly and comfortingly patted his fellow melancholic officer on the back.

"You obviously lack any charisma or charm," Mustang inputted. "You need to, at least, try to keep a girl for more than one date, Havoc."

"Nobody asked for your advice, colonel!" the blond second lieutenant roared, angrily shaking his fist at his superior.

"Well, what does she like, Edward?" Fuery asked. "Maybe start with that."

Ed rose a brow, pondering the idea for a moment. Orihime really enjoyed eating, even more than he did. Additionally, she admitted to wanting to open up her own bakery one day when she grows up. She took great joy in experimenting with new recipes and trying out meals she had never tasted before. Maybe he should take her out to small restaurant or a cafe. He definitely could not cook for the life of him, so that was the only option he had.

"I guess I could try that," he finally replied, taking the advice into consideration. There more thing he wanted to ask, but...he...doesn't exactly know how to word it.

He opened his mouth, getting ready to speak. "I… I… I…" He clamped his mouth shut. No matter how hard he tried, he could not get the words out. Deep down, he wanted to know… He wanted to know…

"I like Ichigo."

A dull ache drummed in his heart. Why does it hurt so much hearing Orihime saying something that? Confessing that she's in love with someone else? He just wanted this pain to stop. It was killing him! Perhaps, once he leaves the office, he should take a leisurely stroll around Central to relax himself and clear his head before heading to the hotel. Besides, she's there and he still couldn't bring himself to face her right now.

In the end, Edward merely just shook his head. "Uh, nevermind." His golden gaze landed on the colonel. The usual hard intensity in his eyes were returning. "What's my mission?"

Orihime was beginning to become worried. The sun was starting to set over the axis, creating a reddish orange hue in the sky. Ed and Al still haven't come back yet. She was already done preparing lunch, but when the brothers didn't show up, her, Winry, Nina decided to just eat and she'd saved Ed's portion by boxing it up and stuffing it inside the fridge.

As the hours passed by, the auburn haired girl was becoming agitated with worry. To calm her worries, she thought about meal plans and box lunches she could make in the off chance that the reason for the boys' absence was because Edward was assigned another mission. She needed to make sure they had preprepared food on the ready. She hasn't cooked in quite a while, and she was quite enjoying herself.

Chicken, broccoli, and cheese casserole.

Fried potatoes with red bean paste.

Yakisoba with beef, fried apples, and her special red sweet and sour sauce. The sauce was made from red beans, parsley, mushrooms, onions, garlic, cream cheese, green and yellow peppers, and honey mustard along with mace, salt, pepper, paprika, and rosemary to spice up the flavor.

Pork, chicken, mushroom, and mashed lemon and orange fried rice.

Takoyaki with honey and mayonnaise.

Chicken, carrot, and creamy mushroom stew.

Broccoli, red beans, lettuce, carrots, and shrimp for a shrimp salad.

Shrimp rice balls wrapped in seaweed.

Baked apple, strawberry jam, honey, and butter bread.

And finally red bean and chocolate cookies, green tea and honey flavored dangos, and some melon pans stuffed with strawberry jam for dessert.

She made sure to have a mixture of both Western and Japanese foods.

The ginger haired finished cooking and boxing the meals, thanks from an enthusiastic Nina's help. The foods should be able to last two weeks or so. The sun had set a long time ago, darkening the skies. She could feel the peaks of exhaustion hit her after doing nothing but diligent cook meals for hours on end. Winry retired for the night quite some time ago, taking a sleeping Nina with her.

With nothing left to do, she unceremoniously threw herself onto the couch. She was still waiting for Ed and Al to return. She was so tired. Her body felt so weak and numb and her muscles ached a bit. What could be taking Ed and Al so long to come back? She twisted her body around, so she was laying on her back.

Her mind drifted back to her friends back home. She hadn't thought about Karakura Town in such a long time. She had gotten rather cozy staying here in Amestris. But still, the ginger haired girl was already betting that, by now, her friends have already taking note of her absence, if Chad and Uryu haven't told them already.

To keep her mind occupied, she thought about everything she would miss due to her unexpected absence. The first that came to mind was school. There was no doubt that she's been gone for, at least, a semester. That means, if she were to return, she may likely be held back a year for missing so much schoolwork.

Just reflecting on that, Orihime's face turned a light shade of pink. She tossed herself onto her right side. How embarrassing! It also made her a little sad just thinking about it. That means she won't be in the same class as Tatsuki, Ichigo, and the rest of her friends. She would be a year behind everyone, despite being the same age.

Even more than that, she felt awful. Everyone must be worried sick about her. She desperately wished that somehow, someway she could send them a letter or something of the sort reassuring all of them that she was already. She hadn't been harmed or hurt in any way. She was perfectly fine, and even happy. She was having a great time traveling with Ed and Al. She even went to a ballroom dance with Ed. It was so fun! Then she…

Her internal musings ceased before she could bring that up. Her expression twisted into a regretful sorrow. Even though, she deeply wished to make amends with Edward, she still hasn't gotten over the fact that she betrayed her own feelings towards Ichigo.

But still, even now, it still made her heart skip a beat. She could still feel the sensation of fireworks cracking in her body. Her nerves were becoming all prickled with the electrifying ecstasy flutter through her. Her lips tingled with a desperate, warm longing to reexperience that feeling once more. If she was honest with herself and had forgo any bias opinion, she finally figured out the one word to describe the kiss. It was… It was… Magical.

No, that isn't right. She shouldn't think like that. It was wrong to kiss Ed. End of story.


She wondered if she finally gathered up the courage to confess her love to Ichigo, then by be able to kiss him, at last, would it be just as magical? Captivating? Enchanting? Maybe even more? Would it make her heart flutter? Would her entire being be ablazed with firecrackers? Would it ultimately be a kiss she could forever engrave inside her heart? A delightful ecstatic feeling she would cherish as long as she lived? Would kissing the man she loved fundamentally be better than the kiss she shared with Edward?

Orihime sighed and slowly flipped on her other side. She wondered what her beloved strawberry was doing? Knowing him, he would blame himself for her absence. That caused her feel horrible. She was always such a burden on him. She would never forget that she was the reason that Ichigo lost his powers, and she would the reason he would blame himself for her disappearance. Again. She could feel her eyes burning with fresh tears.

She vigorously shook her head, laying back on her back, quickly wiping away the tears with the back of her hand. No, she couldn't think like that! Never with all the negative thoughts! She needed to think positive! She smiled to herself. After she'd finally reconciled with Ed, she hoped everything would return to normal.

Her vision was becoming blurry, and her eyelids were heavy.

Despite the kiss, she still prayed that she and Ed would remain friends.

Edward had just left a small cafe, his stomach quite full. His mood was slowly returning, and Alphonse seemed very pleased and happy that his brother was back to being his usual pigheaded self.

"What now, brother? Should we go back to the hotel?" Al asked. "I'm sure Winry, Orihime, and Nina must be worried. It's getting late."

Edward paused at the mention of Orihime's name. He inhaled, deeply. After thinking it over all day, agonizing where his relationship with Orihime now stands, he was ready to face her. He finally gathered the courage! He could not afford to be a coward any longer! Not when Orihime was trying to make an effort.

He threw his brother a small grin. "Let's head back. I'm getting kind of tired anyway. Not to mention, we would be leaving tomorrow for another mission. We have to tell Orihime that."

"Yeah," Al nodded his head. "What do you think about the mission though, brother? Don't you think it's kind of strange? Mysterious disappearances? Even the soldiers that were sent to investigate never came back. What do you think is going on?"

Ed frowned. "That's what I like to know." He glared at the mission folder in his hand. "Guess, we won't find out till we investigate."

The suit of armor produced a noise of agreement as the two continued walking down the path to the library. The streets were becoming more and more empty as families retired for the night or went off to work late night shifts. The sound of Ed's footsteps coming to a sudden halt caused him to stop, looking at him in confusion.

"Why did you stop, brother?" Al questioned, curiously. He glanced over to witness Ed staring at a nearby bakery shop.

Edward was contemplated to himself if he should buy Orihime some sweets.

"I want to open up my own bakery."

A ghost of a smile formed on his lips. Despite how the night ended, he had a wonderful time with Orihime. She told him more about herself, more than she previously had. He enjoyed talking to her, listening to her, and laughing along with her. It was the first time he got to witness a more vulnerable side to her. At the end of the day, he felt that he was closer to her than ever before. And, more importantly, he remembered fondly that her dream was to open up a bakery one day.

He turned towards his younger brother. "I'm going to make a quick stop, Al," he announced, making his way in the bakery's direction.

Al cranes his head into a smile and followed after him.

Edward entered his hotel room with Alphonse in tow, carefully holding a small, white box in hand.

"I don't see Winry or Nina anywhere," Al observed, glancing around the room.

"The lights are still on though," Ed mused, setting the box down on the table. He paused when he spotted another container on the table, two in fact, with a small note attached. His ears perked at the sound of soft snoring very close by. He glanced over to see Orihime soundly asleep. His features softened when he gazed upon her peaceful face. She always looked so beautiful and serene when she sleeps.

"She must've tired herself out waiting for us to return," Al commented.

"Yeah," Ed nodded in agreement. His golden orbs drifted to the box and the note. He opened the note and read its contents. It merely said 'Happy Birthday, Eddie' in small, carefully neat letters. There was even a smiley face on the bottom left corner.

A small grin formed on his lips. He remembered telling her that his birthday passed a little over a week ago, and yet she still decided to do something nice for him. She was always thinking about him, always thinking about ways to make him happy. It warmed his heart to see how much she cared about him.

The blond alchemist reached over uncovered the boxed container to observe what she made for him. In an instant, a delicious smell of Orihime's cooking waft through his nose. The mouthwatering food decorated beautifully. There was rice, meat, salad, and bread all assorted very nicely. Ed just ate, but always had room for one of Orihime's scrumptious meals. Her cooking was the best!

He opened up the other box to view that what lay inside was a small cake. His eyes widened and his cheeks warmed. He could tell just by looking that Orihime baked it specifically for him. It was a tangy orange cake decorated in orange and dark purple frosting. The words 'H.B. Eddie' were written prettily in red frosting. He instantly knew that H.B. stood for 'Happy Birthday'.

"Orihime probably spent all day cooking for you," Al commented.

"Yeah, she's always thinking of me," Ed replied, softly. There was a warm tenderness that shone in his golden as he gazed upon the auburn haired healer once more. He could only imagine how hard she worked to just to cook all of this.

"She's always thinking about all of us," the suit of armor replied. "Orihime's always been a caring and compassionate person."

The blond alchemist nodded in silent agreement and stretched his arms out to lift her up from the couch, bridle style, being careful not to wake her up. He couldn't allow her to sleep on the couch like that. She'd catch a cold.

"I'm going to take her to bed," he informed his brother, walking in the direction of his room. He carefully maneuvered his hand, so he could open the door without jostling her awake. He gently placed her on the bed and covered her up with the blanket.

Edward couldn't help but to stare at her a little longer, admiring her features. He tenderly brushed a stray hair away from her face. He held the strand of hair between his fingers, loving the softness of it. Her hair was enriched with the intoxicating smell of strawberries. He loved her scent, and her unique auburn hair. He always thought it was beautiful, even when they first met. His stubborn pride refused to let him say it out loud. He recalled the way her gray eyes glowed when he finally told her he liked her hair. Her face contorted in awe as if she couldn't believe what she had just heard. Until her cheeks finally flushed red and that modest, radiant smile that he loved so much graced her lips. The overall happiness that exuded from her caused her to glow in a stunningly breathtaking light.

Edward's ears perked when he heard Orihime mumble something under her breath. Was she talking in her sleep? He wondered what she was dreaming about. It must be a very pleasant dream with that tiny, smile on her countenance was any indication.

Well, he better leave and let her rest. He yawned and stretched his arms. With Orihime occupying the bed, guess he'd be sleeping on the couch tonight. He pondered if there was an extra blanket or anything hotel he could use to cover himself up in the hotel. Or would he have to resort to using his red coat?

The blond alchemist paused as he started making it his way towards the door. Orihime's muttering was getting louder until he could actually make out some of the words. Words that he wished now more than ever that he didn't hear. Words that he had the misfortune of hearing. Words that left him completely numb with pain.


Ed slowly turned to a blissfully sleeping Orihime, a look of heartbreaking despair and utter devastation plastered on his face. Even though the words were mostly incoherent, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what she was saying. So, even in her sleep, she still thinks about him?

"I love you, Ichigo."

He could feel his heart crack, a splinter forming at the base. Not enough to split it in two, but enough to leave an emotional scar. Those words replayed in his head over and over again like a cruel symphony.

She's in love with Ichigo. He knew that. He was made aware of that. But this was as close as he's gotten to her admitting her feelings outright. hurts. It hurts so bad. He clenched his fist so tightly that his flesh knuckles were starting to turn white. His bangs shadowed his face.

The dull ache in his heart was returning with a vengeance. Claws viciously tore away at his heart. Something painful, dark, and foreboding began to ease up inside him. A stormy torrent of anguish gripped at the deepest recesses of his soul. He used his metal hand to clench the spot on his shirt where his heart lay. That sadistic, mocking voice was back, gleefully relishing at the torturous affliction he was experiencing.

Why can't she...think of him like that?

Why does she always...think of him?

For once, Ed had no counter to that. No words to say back to the demon. No rebuttal to offer. Its malicious remarks were like daggers to his heart. So painful and cruel.

He bit his bottom lip so hard he drew blood.

If he'd never met Orihime, he wouldn't feel this agony.

If he'd never knew Orihime was in love with Ichigo, he wouldn't know this pain.

If he'd never kissed Orihime, then his heart wouldn't be laying in shattered pieces.

(A/N: That's the end of chapter forty! I hope you enjoy! This was a long one. I decided to just have this chapter focusing on the aftermath of this kiss and the emotional impact it left on both Orihime and Edward.

For Orihime's part, she started out believing the kiss was a terrible mistake, feeling both guilty and confused. Guilty because she thinks she 'cheated' on her love for Ichigo, but confused that she actually liked the kiss and that, deep down, she's longing for another one. I tried to make her agonize over the fact that it was her first kiss. Her first kiss that she shared with Edward, not Ichigo. I tried to portray the fact that kissing Ed was a real intimate moment for her. The way she goes around agonizing over it almost makes it feel like she lost her virginity to the guy. In Japan, kissing is a really intimate action. It's as intimate as sex is in the West, and I tried to present that. Orihime may be a fictional character, but she is still Japanese, so I believe she would still hold some Japanese customs and cultures in mind. Yet, I also tried to downplay it a little for the Western readers. I didn't want her angst to come off as whining for some of them. Though, at the end, Orihime had mostly gotten over it. She realized that there's nothing that she could do that would change the fact she kissed Ed. It happened and she's just got to live with it. The only thing that she's hoping is that it wouldn't affect their friendship down the line.

Edward, on the other hand, wow, it doesn't take a genius to know what he's feeling. Ed thinks differently, to say the least. He may not say it, he might even deny it to everyone, including himself, but we all know that Ed wants a relationship upgrade. He wants Orihime to be his girlfriend and for them to start dating, but he's too prideful and in denial to admit it. Orihime did, in fact, reject him, and now he's experience his first heartbreak. Honestly, it was hard for me to portray that. I never read a fanfic with a brokenhearted Ed before. I never read a story where he gets dumped by someone he was developing feelings for. At least one that didn't OOC the crap out of him by turning him into an insufferable asshole. *cough* Plus, there was no Ed/Winry love triangle in the anime, so we honestly never get to experience a jealous Ed or a heartbroken one canonically. The reason why he avoids Orihime was because, subconsciously, he was afraid of being rejected. Yes, Orihime's rejection should have been obvious when she pushed him away during the kiss and ran away in tears, all while implying it was a mistake. However, hearing her actually say she rejects his feelings would be so much worse than her actions because it would only confirm his fears. At least, for the time being, he could delude himself with the fact that he might still have a chance. That Orihime's actions wasn't a rejection of his feelings, and that she was just shocked, scared, and horrified. I always added him getting some love advice from Mustang and his crew as a bit of humor. It was amusing to see Mustang and the others give him tips about girls. But, uh oh, Edward is starting to realize that, no matter what, Orihime's heart would always belong to Ichigo, and that he's hurt and jealous because of it. Because he would always remain second best. Unrequited love is painful. And maybe Edward's thinking Orihime rejected him because of Ichigo. After all, how could she love him when she's already in love with someone else?

Well, anyway, leave in comments, suggestions, or questions in a review, and thanks for reading!)

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