The Flower Princess and the Alchemist @bloodpokemon101
A Dying Secret Which Cannot Be Revealed

(A/N: Here's chapter forty seven! Enjoy!

Quelthias: Thanks for reviewing! You ask a lot of important questions. Unfortunately, I can't answer some of them because they could potentially spoil future chapters. But, yeah, Envy could try fool Ed, but he could never fool Orihime. There are a lot reasons why she's afraid and uncertain about being more up with Edward about Hollows, spirits, and other supernatural stuff, and some of it would explain in this chapter. Although, Hughes being a Soul Reaper is not a bad idea, it would be impossible. Not because it can't, but because of how long it take for one to become a Soul Reaper. For memory serves me right, it usually, on average, takes years or decades of training and studying for candidates that might graduate. Key word, might. And I don't know how many times candidates are allowed to take the graduation test. Whatever that is. I never believed Ed was lactose intolerent, seeing as his perfectly fine and actually enjoys eating cheese and ice cream. He even stated once that he adores milk in soup. I just think he hates milk. Pure milk. Plain and simple. There are some foods I simply hate, and I'm not allergic to anything. At least, not that I know of. And I'm sure there are some things you would never eat or drink either.

Shadow cat 181: Thanks for reviewing. Actually... You know what? I'll keep my mouth shut to avoid spoilers. Just don't get upset, if it's not what you think.

LightJakRises: Thanks for the review! Yeah, I thought it'd be out of character for him to keep that a secret from Orihime at first, but then I thought...he kept the truth of Winry's parents' murder a secret from Winry until it blew up horrifically in his face. If there's one flaw about Ed and, by extension, Al is that their way of 'protecting' people is keeping them at arm's distance and as ignorant as possible from any pain, physical or emotional, wanting them to live in ignorant bliss. And with Orihime's emotional breakdown a few chapters ago and still fresh in his mind, can you blame him for wanting to protect her from something that could potentiall shatter her? Thanks for enjoying the Ed/Orihime. Heh. Nobody knows what they like until they try it. I didn't know I was going to like Ed/Orihime so much until I started writing this!

TheEmeraldMage: Thanks for the review! Yeah, I wanted to establish that the relationship between the homunculi and mod souls are purely opportunistic. I also fear for Chloe's mental state, if Lust ever dies [not spoiling if she will or not]. This what makes writing and/or reading gray on gray mortality and scenarios so complicated and potentially tear jerker. For example, we all know the heroes would rejoice with Lust's death. After all, it's one less enemy they have to face. However, they would probably be ignorant of the mental trauma and the effect it could cause someone else, which might unintentionally lead them to creating their own villain seeking revenge for the death of their loved one. It's never ending cycle, and this how wars are started [well, one of the reasons] and the cycle of hate and revenge begins. Evidently, I never enjoyed Al's talk about not wanting his body back because of few, some major, bumps in the road. Almost like he's forgotten the reason he and Ed started the journey, and suffered through blood, sweat, and tears. Hey, if you are going to do something serious and potentially life changing, don't do it half heartedly.

Since I have people okay with Trisha having spiritual powers [which Ed and Al would inherit later on], I'm going with it headlong. So, in the sequel, expect to see an entire flashback arc or two [maybe three] about Trisha's family, her life and circumstances, how she met and fell in love with Hohenheim, and why she decided to keep her sons ignorant about part of their true heritage.)


A Dying Secret Which Cannot Be Revealed

After a few more minutes, Orihime's crying ceased, turning into short sniffles. Edward silently watched her in concern as she separated from, and took a proper seat on the couch, wiping the rest of her tears away.

"I'm sorry you had to wake up to see me like that, Eddie," she finally spoke, softly, her throat feeling somewhat dry and sore from all the crying.

"Why were you crying, Orihime?" Edward asked, concerned.

The auburn haired girl inwardly grimaced, reprimanding herself for breaking down like that. She turned away from him, too shy and ashamed of herself to see him eye to eye. "It's...nothing," she answered, quietly.

Ed frowned, deeply, not liking the way she practically dismissed him. He reached out for her hand, cool metal against warm flesh, and tugged it with enough force to grab her attention, golden eyes piercing intently into silvery orbs. "You can't lie to me, Orihime," he scolded her in a lightly stern tone, not enough to startle or scare her, but enough to show her how serious and concerned he was. "We have known each other for a long time now, Orihime, and I know when you aren't being completely honest with me. Besides, you wouldn't be crying like that over nothing." He gently tightened his grip around her hand. "I told you that you can lean on me more, right?" he prompted in that uncharacteristically tender voice of his.

She fought back a whimper, using her hair to shadow her upper face. As much as she truly appreciated the sentiment, but that's exactly the problem. She shouldn't rely on him more than she already is. She didn't want to burden him. She shouldn't burden him with her problems! She fisted the fabric of her gray skirt, the hand trembling a bit in frustration. Why? Why was she always showing him her weak, pathetic side?

Besides, the auburn haired healer can't tell him about Hollows. She can't put him into that kind of danger. And even if she could, she doesn't know if she's allowed to. Plus, she should be focusing on getting stronger. Worse, if she told him, she would just be admitting to how weak and useless she is.

Maybe she should subtly change the subject somehow.

"Eddie, do you...remember the dance?" Orihime asked, tentatively.

Yellow eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Yeah, I remember. What about it?"

It wasn't exactly what she was weeping and being distraught about moments ago, but it was something that has been plaguing her mind lately. After all, the dance was when her feelings for the blond alchemist started to become weird and confusing.

She tried to hide her blushing face. "D-do y-you recall afterwards?" she squeaked out, nervously, slightly fidgeting in her seat. "Y-you know? When we were eating the cookies?"

Edward blinked several times, utterly puzzled. What does the dance party have to do with her crying? And does she mean the time they were eating cookies together? The only thing that happened that comes to mind is…

His entire face turned a crimson shade of red.

The kiss! That was when they first kissed! How could it have slipped his mind? Not only that, but what does it have to do with anything?

He could clearly recollect the soft, pleasant feeling of her lips brushing against his. The sweet and savory taste of her mouth… The intoxicating, strawberry scent of her hair… He remembered everything. The way his nerves electrified with impassioned, ecstatic jolts of spellbinding, heartfelt pleasure. His entire being was alight with fireworks. He loved every moment of it! It was his first kiss and it was...wonderful! Magnificently beautiful! Hypnotically enticing!

But what does it have to do with anything?!

"Wh-what does that have to do with anything?!" Ed stammered, feeling incredibly flustered and embarrassed, nearly jumping a foot away from her.

Orihime nibbled at her bottom lip, feeling equally embarrassed. But this was something she wanted to get off her chest for a long while now. Everything has been so confusing for lately after the dance. Her mind's been rendered into an incoherent, jumbled mess. Her heart was in disarray with so many conflicting emotions. Emotions that made her both pleasantly happy and intolerably sad at the same time. Emotions that...that she couldn't...fully comprehend. And all pertains to the blond alchemist before her. Even being alone and close to up like this fills her insides up with the oddly calming sensation of gratifying content. It was almost like being in his presence was enough for her.

It was nothing like the explosion of passion she feels for Ichigo. It was a dull, quiet, lingering sensation, and that made it all the more difficult to resist or ignore because the faint throbbing prickled her skin with a strange desire and longing. She couldn't describe it into words… It was like a warm breeze that swooshed inside her. This feeling was like gentle ocean waves lightly brushing up against her skin. The touch was so light, tepid, cozy, and soft. It was wonderful. She doesn't understand it. All she knows is that she wants Edward by her side.

The auburn haired girl doesn't necessarily comprehend why she feels that way. Peculiarly, her chest hurts and aches whenever she's away from him too long. It was so strange and unusual. She never felt this way around Ichigo. Sure, her chest constricts with pain whenever she witnesses her beloved strawberry getting hurt, but feeling like this because Ichigo isn't near her? It never happens. Perhaps it's because she's so used to Edward's presence. The most she's ever spent separated from him after meeting him and joining him and Al on their journey is just a few hours or a few days at most.

Unlike with him, Ichigo was always out and about, leaving her behind. As much as it hurts and saddens her, she has grown accustomed to the orange haired Soul Reaper being close yet so far away. They're classmates and friends and they've been on many adventures together, however, whenever Ichigo goes off into battle, she's constantly left behind. She guessed she had so used to that arrangement, it doesn't really affect her as much. Maybe she's become desensitized to that feeling of being disregarded and excluded in times of intense battle. As long as Ichigo came back to her alive and safe, it was enough for her. It would make sense. After all, she wasn't much of a fighter. Her strong points lay within her healing capabilities. There was no reason for a healer to be on the battlefield. Conversely, that's exactly why she desires to become stronger! She longs to join Ichigo in battle. She doesn't want to be watching over his shadow anymore!

Ed, on the other hand, she's overwhelmed with this intense longing she's parted from him for far too long. She has become overly sensitive to his presence. She could count on a single hand how many times she's been separated from him, excluding when she goes Hollow hunting. Was it terrible for her to be feeling this way? It must be because overt awareness of the blond alchemist's company seems like she's clingy! For crying out, she can't go anywhere now without desperately clenching his signature red coat tightly against her body! All because she fears being anywhere close to the color white!

Feeling immeasurably shy and self conscious and mortified, the auburn haired girl covered her face with her hands, mumbling something incoherently.

Ed strained his ears to listen, but still couldn't hear her. "What was that?" he inquired.

She uncrossed her few of her fingers to timidly peek at him. "I said, how did you feel about it?"

At that instant, the blond boy felt his heart being pierced with a pair of arrows labeled inquietude and discomfiture. "How do I feel? Why…? Why do you want to know?"

"Because… Because…," she started, her voice low and meeky. Her mouth clamped shut. Why couldn't she get the words out? Why now of all time was she feeling this way? She understood it was an embarrassing subject, however, she doesn't get this rapt sensation of pure nervousness and inhibited bashfulness. Why was her heart hammering so much in her chest right now? Why was the palms of her hands tingling with agitation? Why was she feeling so anxious, uncertain, and...scared of his answer to her unrevealed question? So many whys. It was hard to keep track of them all.

"Nevermind!" the auburn haired girl squealed, her shyness and self consciousness reaching maximum overdrive. She buried her face in one of the couch's pillows. "Forget it. It's… It's embarrassing."

Ed silently observed the flustered girl. Her deeply reddened face was covered by the pillow. She refused to look at him with red, puffy eyes. She was laying on her side, knees pressed up to her chest, and her long, auburn hair displayed about. She was so obviously feeling excruciatingly embarrassed and mortified by this topic.

He felt like kicking himself. Didn't he say that she should rely on him more? Here she was agonizing about pouring out what was causing her so much distress, and what does he do? Tries to side step or decline the question because he's too embarrassed about it. He mentally slapped himself repeatedly for being so awkward and spazzing out when she was just as embarrassed as him, if not more so. Yet, she was trying her hardest to convey her overwrought feelings to him.

The truth was… There were times his mind drifted back to the kiss. There was never a week that has gone by that he could ever forget. It's one of the most precious memories that's been buried deep in his heart, despite the...unfavorable aftermath. It was after that is when he started to feel bitterly jealous, distressingly hurt, and deeply depressed.

All he could think about was Orihime's rejection, the fiendish, savage, green eyed monster that maliciously and sadistically clawed away at his heart until it was shattered into anguished pieces of harrowingly sadness, agonizing pain, and bitterness. All he could think of...was how envious he was of Ichigo for possessing something he couldn't. Orihime's heart. That was until he was able to reevaluate and reaffirm his feelings for the auburn haired girl before him, and reach a sense of acceptance and tolerance. He has come accustomed to his jealousy of Orihime's bond with Ichigo.

Ed's golden orbs glanced at the rose stud earrings glimmering between the strands of her auburn hair. He felt the corner of his lips tugged upwards into a slight smile. A tinge of pride would always surge and pull at his heartstrings whenever he gazes upon the gifts he bought her.

Truth be told, Orihime's startling inquiries about his thoughts and feelings on the kiss helped him to recall the entire dance party, and he realized… Aren't there moments he had seen sides of Orihime Ichigo never experienced? He remembered her admitting to him that it was her first time she ever danced with somebody. He remembered feeling jealous, but also a bit angry and upset that she resigned herself to never dancing with anyone except Ichigo. He didn't want her wasting a potential wonderful experience over something that may or may not happen in the future.

Fortunately, it got Ed reminiscing about that night. A sense of happiness and pride surge inside him. Orihime had experienced her first dance! With him! Why did that make him feel so damn elated? Because...all this time...until recently...he's been feeling painfully envious and heartbreakingly depressed over Orihime's and Ichigo's bond, relentlessly agonizing over it. So much so that he never realized that there may have been sides to her that her unrequited first love has yet to witness.

He was there to experience Orihime's first dance with her. He was the one to show her how the joys and wonders of a dance party. Sure, the beginning began off with a rough start with annoying idiots and stuck up perverts, but, afterwards, it was one of the greatest, most magical nights he ever had! And he was hoping the auburn haired girl felt the same way.

All this time, Ed's been severely stewing and torturously tormenting himself over something intangible. Though Orihime's love for Ichigo greatly bothers him and he can't help but to feel extremely jealous, he reluctantly understood where his place was. But there may have been things about the auburn haired girl that Ichigo has never seen or known, and that made him happy to an extent.

He gazed at her with a gentle and warm expression, near affectionate. His golden orbs noticed her closed eyes and the light rise and fall of her chest. Her soft snores were barely audible. She fell asleep. She must've been tired. Carrying what must've been dozens and dozens and dozens of pounds of groceries from the store all the way to the hotel had to have drained her of almost all her energy, and cooking dinner and all that crying only added to her fatigue. No wonder she's tired and sleepy.

He frowned, sadly when he distinguished the dried tears on her face. Some of her hair was obscuring her face. He tenderly swept it aside, smilingly to himself, faintly and adoringly all the while. Her hair was just as soft and beautiful as always. The velvety, silky smoothness of each strand running between his fingertips was invitingly delightful. He could never get tired of it. The distinct, intoxicating strawberry scent of her hair always left him entrancingly bewitched and highly addicted.

Being in her presence like this… It was invariably pleasantly soothing and wonderfully comforting. This tranquil peace was something he would gladly welcome with open arms every time. This was the girl he wanted to treasure and protect with his life! He doesn't grasp the full extent of his feelings for her. All he knew was that they were strong. Very strong. Her sunny, serene aura… Her beautiful, radiant smiles… Her bright, cheery, kind disposition… He wanted to protect all of it!

When Edward retracted his hand with the intention of getting off the couch, he turned his head back around, eyes wide with surprise when he saw that Orihime was awake. Her dainty fingers lightly clasped around his black jacket.

"Sorry. Did I wake you?" he asked, quietly.

"Not at all," she answered, sleepily. "Has Al come back with Winry and Nina?"

Blond brows knitted together in confusion. Now that she mentions it, he hasn't seen his younger brother since he woke up from his light slumber. Where did Al go?

"No, I haven't seen them."

Did Al go outside? Ed was aware of his brother's tendencies to go off by himself in the middle of night. It makes sense. What else could Al do, if he couldn't sleep? A shimmer of guilt washed inside him. This is why he was determined to get his dear, little brother his body back. So, he could enjoy all the perks, limitations, and joys of being a regular human again. He wanted Al to regain the things that they took for granted, such as eating and sleep.

Edward was snapped out of his guilt ridden musings by soft mutterings. He glanced at the drowsy Orihime, puzzled and alert. Her eyelids looked like they were getting heavy. She was starting to doze off. It was taking all her willpower to keep her eyes open.

"What did you say, Orihime?" Ed whispered in a low, tender voice.

Her cheeks tinted a light shade of pink. Face half pressed into the pillow, she glanced at him, shyly. "Can I hold your hand, Eddie?" she repeated her question, her tone light and timid.

It was his turn to blush at the unexpected request. "Um, yeah, sure," he replied, awkwardly, holding his hand back out. When she carefully and slowly laced her hand around his, he felt a shiver of euphoric rapture run through the cells of his hand and arm at the contact. She held their conjoined hands close to her. Feeling her warm breath against his skin wasn't doing already racing heart any favors.

"Eddie… Your hand… It's warm," she commented with meek delirium. She trailed a pattern on the back off his hand with the pads of her thumb. "It's nice. Really nice."

The blond alchemist remained silent, deciding to stay tight lipped in fear that his voice would sound awkwardly high pitched and mortifyingly spazzy, if he spoke. He turned his face away, so his bangs would hide his embarrassed, red faced countenance. If he said something, he would sound like a complete and utter idiot.

He also had similar thoughts. Her hand was so much smaller than his. Her fingers were so slender and dainty. Her lightly pale hand was incredibly soft and delicate and warm, however, he could feel the calluses on her hand. Makes sense. She may not look it, but the healer does practice martial arts, which explains the enforced toughness.

"Eddie?" Orihime's light and lethargic voice snapped Ed's attention back to her. Her eyes were drooping. She was seconds away from drifting off to dreamland. She gently squeezed his hand to reassure herself that he was still there. She smiled, happily to herself, letting out a few giggles. "Did you know, Eddie?" she started, her tone drowsy and tired yet nostalgically beatific. "That my brother used to hold my hand like this whenever I would get too scared to sleep alone at night?"

Edward, for his part, was genuinely surprised and a little happy. Orihime rarely talks about her family. She had only ever talked about her family only a couple of times. All he had gathered in those very few times was that the auburn haired girl was raised by her older brother when he ran away with her, taking care of her until he died in a car accident several years ago. She had said that her parents were very abusive people, or so her brother claims. She had admitted that she was too young to remember them. She had only been three at the time when they fled from them. Her openly talking about her brother like this makes him feel closer to her. It made his heart swell with adoring delight and uplifting joy. He squeezed her hand back to let her know he was listening.

"When I was a little girl my brother would hold my hand like this whenever I got scared from nightmares," the healer reminisced sighing in bliss. "Sometimes I would wake up screaming and crying from a bad dream. Sora would come rushing in, and hold my hand to comfort me and calm me down until I'm able to go back to sleep."

Ed grinned, softly. His heart fluttered as he beared witness to Orihime's sunny smile. She looked so happy talking about her brother like this. Sometimes he forgets that Orihime is an orphan like him and Al. It was nice to hear her talk about her family like this to him. It feels like it symbolizes her trust and closeness to him.

"Eddie, you aren't going to die, are you?"

The blond alchemist froze, his entire body going rigid. He gauged her, wide eyed and mouth agape, indicating his outright shock and alarm at the sudden query. Where did that come from? He was utterly baffled and confused. The question had completely caught him off guard.

Her expression turned sad and solemn. "You will survive and get yours and Al's body back, right?"

Her timid and fearful modulation caused a wedge inside his heart. Was that what she was crying about? She was scared that he would get himself killed on this journey?

His countenance softened, his astonishment vanishing into one of understanding. His lips tilted upward in a tiny grin, and he tenderly kneaded her hand, trying to soothe her of her fears and worries. "I'm right here, Orihime," he assured her. "I'm not going to die. You're so silly for worrying over something like that. I'm going to survive this, Orihime, and I'm going to get Al's body back! You'll see! And once we return to normal, you'll be waiting for us with a feast and the biggest, brightest, happiest smiles I have ever seen!" he grinned, goofily, strongly declaring his determination to see his goal till the end in that confidently buoyant way of his. In a way that was rather endearing instead of annoying.

Orihime smiled at the reassurance. "You promise?" Her voice was very low and somnolent. It was taking all her willpower to keep herself awake.

How could he resist her with that wholesomely cute expression on her face. "I promise." He had absolutely no plans to die on this journey! He will make it through, and he will return Al to normal! Plus, at that moment, he felt compelled to say or agree to anything, if it would get her to smile.

Some of the heaviness in her heart was somewhat lifted. She was acutely aware that what he was thinking wasn't what she was cogitating. However, it was so strange in the way it managed to relieve some of her doubts and worries. Just hearing him proclaiming he wouldn't die, no matter what with such strong resolve and conviction in his voice was enough to inspirit her.

He was going to survive! Ed was going to survive! She would make sure of it because she would protect him from any Hollow attacks! He doesn't need to worry about soul sucking monsters because she would deal with any and all who threaten him!

She spoke one last time, her barely, barely audible tone oozed with obvious drowsiness and laced with an undertone of captivated elation. The grip on her hand tightened in a caring manner. "That all...sounds really...nice. Eddie...I'm so glad...we're friends. I want to...stay by you...until...the very...end," After that, she finally drifted off to the sleeping world.

All the blood in Edward's veins rushed to face. His heart burst inside his chest. She wants to stay with him? Forever? He forcefully pushed his romanticized delusion in the back of his. There's no way she meant it in that way. But, damn, was it hard not to think about.

He means...how could he not? His heart started beating so rapidly in his chest. His fleshy palm was becoming sweaty with anticipated desire. There were hearts and stars hovering over his head. A sense of yearning overflowed him. It felt like a ray of heavenly light blasted him with an entrancingly amorous glow.

His golden eyes lingered on her soft looking, pink lips longer than necessary. A burning, aching sensation of enamored impulse ignited his heart. The nerves in his body wouldn't stop tingling. He immediately turned his head away when his ruminations entered very, very, very dangerous territory. Damn, hormones!

Orihime's soft snores vibrated through the silent room. She was so cute. Edward stared at her sleeping face. He regarded her with longing, golden eyes. Thinking about what the future entails...with her by his side caused sparks of exhilaration to course inside him.

He smiled, warmly. Any hardship they would face from now on would be bearable as long as he had her by his side.

He instantly froze when he heard giggling in the background. A blond brow twitched, and a surge of annoyance flowed inside him. He didn't dare twist his head around because if he did, he was absolutely sure the throbbing vein would burst.

What the hell were Al and Winry doing? Don't fucking tell him…! They were secretly spying on them this entire time?! How the hell did they get in? Was he so distracted and lost in his own world that he didn't hear the door open? Or was the door open this whole time, and he was just now noticing?

The blond alchemist could feel his face flush with anger and embarrassment. He doesn't need to see them to catch a glimpse of their amusing facial expressions and teasing smirks.

Fuming, his whole body shook, and a dark aura was seething from him. Fortunately, he was incredibly mindful enough not to accidentally crush Orihime's hand in his suppressed rage.

Naively oblivious or childishly ingenuous to Ed's rising volcanic temper, Nina was the first to step inside the room through the already opened door. She strolled across the room and circled around the couch, eyeing both snoozing auburn haired healer and the fuming blond alchemist with curious, brown eyes.

"Big Brother Ed, do you like Big Sis Ori?" she asked, innocently.

At the moment, Edward died of humiliation.

He never let go of her hand.


"Wh-wh-what is this?"

Orihime stared at the horrifyingly invasive magazine laid before her, sheer disbelief and mortification colored her red faced expression. The silverware in her hands shook in, an aura of abashed misery exuded from her. Her plate of red bean, honey, and cream cheese rice omelette stuffed with peanut butter and mushrooms was completely forgotten as she gazed, bug eyed at the crushingly degrading and severely ignominious opened mag.

(FLASHBACK)

When she woke up from the couch this morning, which was embarrassing enough on its own as she recalled what transpired the night before, she never imagined this.

Besides the initial shy discomfort, everything was going pretty well this morning. It was going as it normally would. She threw off and gently folded the blank somebody placed on her as she slept the night away. It wasn't her plan to doze off on the couch, and she missed dinner, too. She felt kind of dismayed and grossed out that passed out in her dirty school uniform with sweat and grim sticking to her. She wanted to take a shower last night, but fatigue beat her to death with sleep.

That's why the first thing the auburn haired girl did when she woke up was immediately leave Ed and Al's room with a flushed face, and head into the one she shared with Nina and Winry. Willing her heart to stop pounding so madly in her chest, she silently maneuvered her way towards the bathroom and promptly closed the door behind her.

Luckily for her, she didn't see Winry and Nina. That must mean they were still sleeping. It was about seven thirty in morning.

Stay by his side? She covered her burning face with her hands. What was she thinking when she said that? She must've been delirious and sleep deprived when she conveyed that to Edward. What she told him wasn't a complete lie. It was the honest truth, actually. She strongly felt that way. She doesn't know why… She just…

She just...

She just wants...be with him. She made that promise, didn't she? That she would help Ed get their bodies back, no matter what!

However, did she have to confess that outloud? Just remembering it is so embarrassing! She gripped the bathroom, tightly, threw her head back and groaned, miserably.

The auburn haired forcibly pushed the thoughts of last night away. What's done is done? Hopefully, Ed won't take anything she said too seriously. She was half asleep, after all. Although, when did the concept of him believing she was being insincere sadden and disappoint her. The feeling wasn't lasting. It was just there for a split second before disappearing. But still left an ephemeral sensation of yearning.

She grasped her chest, where her fast beating heart lay. She stayed like that, willing to calm down. Once it did, the healer shredded off her school uniform. She made a mental note to wash it later. Perhaps she should do everyone else's laundry, too.

She turned on the showerhead and switched the numb until it was spraying comfortably hot water. She stepped into the tub, and sighed in absolutely bliss as she felt the water pelt against her naked flesh. It was so warm and soothing, melting all the tension in her muscles away.

She needed this! She really needed this! She gently scrubbed all the sweat and grime from her hair and body. After she was done showering, she grabbed a nearby towel, wrapped it around herself, and stepped out, feeling fully refreshed and rejuvenated.

Orihime took her sweet time getting ready, reminding herself that she needed to slow down and relax. Stressing out like this wasn't doing her any favors.

She stalked into the room she shared with Nina. Her body shivered as the cool air touched the uncovered parts of her skin. Fortunately, when she entered Nina was sound asleep, and she was thankful for that.

She got dressed in a dark gray t-shirt, a midnight blue crop top jacket with elbow length sleeves, a pair of black pants with dark pink stripes at the side, and calf length, red, flat boots adorned her feet. She left the room, feeling refreshed and raring to go.

There were plenty of things the auburn haired girl needed to do and get started. Ed attracting Hollows was something to worry about. She had a vague idea of what to do about it. She wanted to make him a protective charm. Honestly, she had no idea if it would work, or if it's possible. But she could worry about it later.

Right now, it was time for breakfast!


Afterwards, Orihime strolled back into the boys' room, and, after an awkward 'hello' and 'good morning' to Ed and Al due to being shy and self conscious over what transpired last night, began making breakfast. Winry stormed into the room with Nina in tow, and, after a casual chit chat, angrily and indignantly informed them that she had something urgent to tell them.

Edward visibly tensed. Did the news of Hughes's suspect become public already? He prayed that wasn't the reason Winry was becoming frantic. And luckily for him, it wasn't. But when the mechanic brought out that damnable magazine, his blood boiled in rage. Due to his emotional distress over this new development of the Hughes incident, he forgot all about that dawn thing!

Orihime picked up with the mag, staring at in confusion then her face flushed a bright crimson red in absolute horror and extreme embarrassment.

And here they are.

(END OF FLASHBACK)

Gray eyes couldn't stop staring at the outrageously mortifying picture in front her. The picture of her and Ed!

The picture of her kissing Edward on the cheek!

Her hands trembled as she held the magazine. Who…? How…? Where…? So many incoherent thoughts entered her mind at once. Roaring flickers of the ultimate humiliation began to stab and pierced at her heart.

Who took this picture? How did they take it without either of her or Ed noticing them, or hearing the sound of a camera flashing? Or were they so lost in the moment that they didn't realize that there was a stalker just around the corner? Why were they being followed in the first place?

She dropped the mag back on the table, resisting the urge to hug her body in comfort. She steeled what little composure she had, and used her willpower to spare herself of looking weak and break into tears in front of Ed. She was greatly disturbed and horrifically mortified by this picture! Not only did she do something so embarrassing, but it was there for the whole world to see! These were not even censored pics!

She covered her countenance with her hands, dejectedly. This was so unsettlingly perturbing. Her name and face was plastered all over the page, something she never consented to. They even implied that Edward was her boyfriend! Based purely on this...embarrassing misunderstanding. Though she couldn't fault anyone who has read this article and believed her and Ed to be an item, given the romantic subtext in the image.

When she modeled for the fashion magazine it was different. She understood what she was getting herself into at the time. She agreed to be a model, and have pictures featured in last month's issue of Central Times Fashion. Elizabeth fully disclosed her of what to expect when modeling. She had gone over it in detail, and, with a few negotiations and adjustments, the auburn haired girl consented.

Then a harsh realization hit her and her eyes flew up like a lightbulb had been switched on inside her brain. Was this the reason the paparazzi bombarded her with intrusively uncomfortable questions regarding her relationship with Edward? She recalled the way they twisted her words around and made her sound so callously cold, horribly awful, and nastily shallow.

Orihime's shoulders slumped. Her heart deflated. It's bad enough they blatantly and callously disregarded her feelings in the matter, but now they are dragging Ed into it, too. Was this a sign? Was this a reminder of worse to come?

Tears pricked the corner of her eyes. Why is she always burdening him with her problems?

Edward's expression soured when he saw the fresh tears beginning to form in the corner of her eyes. Another initiative to beat the publisher of this magazine and creepy stalker who took the picture and sent it to make a quick buck senseless. Nobody makes Orihime cry and gets away with it! NOBODY!

On pure instinct and vexation, the blond alchemist furiously slammed his hands on the table. His metal hand produced a loud and clear audible 'clang' when it hit the wooden surface with a force of a freight train. He stood up from his seat and wrathfully stomped his way over to the door, only to stop when he felt some grab his automail wrist.

His golden orbs glanced over at the person who halted his wildly livid warpath. When his gaze landed on the auburn haired girl's extremely upset ones, he was puzzled, but also even more enraged.

"Why?" he breathed out, hotly. He did his best to reign in his growing temper, and tried not to explode on her. Why was she stopping him? These assholes invaded her privacy, their privacy, slighted her, embarrassed her, humiliated her, disrespected her, and made her cry all to make easy money, and she was stopping her from beating these creepy bastards to a bloody pulp? Why?!

"It's…okay. Really...it's...fine." Orihime tried to reassure him that she was fine, that she wasn't bothered by this, but her quivering voice only revealed how incredibly distraught she was over this whole ordeal.

"It's not fine! Like hell it is!" Ed hissed. There was no way in fucking hell that this was fine! She was still recoiling from the suffering Amelia put her through, and now she has to deal with this crap?! He eyed the way she fidgeted with the fabric of her pants and chewed on her bottom lip. A nervous tic he's become accustomed to. She was slightly trembling, desperately willing herself to keep her tears at bay.

Her grip on his wrist tightened as she sadly shook her head, pleading with him to calm down. Letting out a resigned sigh, he reluctantly complied with the older girl's wishes, and sulkily took his seat, incensedly glaring at the offending magazine that was busy tormenting the both of them with utter humiliation for having part of their private lives exposed for all to see.

"This is going to be a problem," Winry pronounced, wearily glancing at the distressed healer and seething alchemist. She felt slightly guilty for bringing it up, and causing her to become this troubled and upset. She knew. She was acutely aware that this would be Ed's and Orihime's reactions, but seeing it was extremely more painful than thinking of it.

Nina stared at the article in a childlike mixture of fascination, wonder, and confusion. Her innocent mind couldn't fathom how dire the situation. The heavy implications of what the magazine entails. The scandals that could come from it. Her initial thoughts were about how sweet and adorable the two of them were in the picture, and wondering if big sis and big brother secretly really like each other.

However, she frowned, not liking the way Big Sis Ori's usual warm aura became clouded in sadness. Although, she couldn't understand what was going on, she sensed how bad it was given the tense atmosphere. The healer was so upset, and Big Brother Ed was so furious.

She eyeballed the way the blond alchemist was trembling in restrained burning rage, and his fists, automail and human, shaking in maddening incandescent. Smoke was practically steaming from his ears, and he gritted his teeth so hard they might crack under the pressure. He glared, lividly, his golden eyes ablaze, at the mag as if he wanted to burn the thing through sheer force of anger and will.

Big Sis Ori was extremely pale, her face as white as sheet. Her silvery gray orbs wouldn't stop staring at the offendingly embarrassing picture. Her eyes glistened as she anguishly struggled to hold back her tears. She gave it her all not to breakdown into a heaping mess of groaning dismay and haunting embarrassment. The disbelief and shame blanketed her cheery, sunny disposition.

Her little heart ached for her surrogate big sister. Orihime was hurting again. She was suffering, extremely distraught, and in pain. These people were hurting her again. And worst of all, there's nothing Nina could do about it. There's nothing she could do to help her.

Again.

The brown haired girl lamented her uselessness and powerlessness in times like this. After all, she was just a dumb, naive kid. She rarely knows what's going on. And even if she does, she is too weak and inadequate to be of any help. She was too young to provide any sense of noteworthy competence. Whether in combat when Big Sis Ori fights those ghost monsters, or when it comes to serious or emotional matters like this because they were too adult and/or complicated for her innocent, young mind to understand. If only she was stronger and more reliable, then Big Sis Ori would not have to stress and overexert herself so much. If only she wasn't so impuissant.

She tightly clenched the hem of her dress. Nina just wished that somehow, someway she could be of some use. For once, she just wished she wasn't so weak and impotent. She was so small. So powerless. And it was frustrating!

"Do you think someone's spying on us? On Orihime?" Alphonse interjected, concerned, taking a careful glance at his brother and friend.

"Who would want to spy on Orihime?" Winry questioned, deeply disturbed by the prospect.

"A damn pervert! That's who!" Ed snarled.

The auburn haired girl couldn't focus on the going discussion. Her stomach was tied up in knots. A dark, murky sea of nausea and anxiety began to overwhelm her. The uneasy, sickening taste in her mouth was noisomely unpalatable. The implications of this matter caused an unpleasant sensation of mocking dread to fill her.

Pushing her unfinished plate of rice omelette aside, Orihime gilded her chair back, producing a slight creaking sound as it skidded across the floor. She averted her eyes away from everyone's concerned and worried gazes. Whether it was from shame or embarrassment she doesn't know. All she wanted was to be alone right now. She wasn't in the mood to eat anymore. She lost all her appetite. She felt she'd eventually puke it out if she ate anymore. Not when her stomach was feeling this queasy with stress and sadness.

"I'm going back to my room," she spoke, trying to keep her voice as even as possible without a hint of abashment and dejection leaking from it. However, her tone did crack a bit, hot with stinging humiliation, and she quietly walked off and left the room without another word.

"Big Sis Ori…," Nina called out, worriedly.

She shot her a large, reassuring smile, but the little girl instantly knew it was fake. "Don't worry, Nina, I'm fine. I-I just need some time alone right now."

Edward frowned, deeply witnessing Orihime's departure. His heart ached at that pained smile and his inability to do anything, and his boiling rage increased ten fold. These would pay dearly for greatly upsetting Orihime causing her so much grief.

He tightly clenched his fists until his knuckles turned white. It's his fault this happened. He should've been more aware of his surroundings. If he was, he would've caught that creepy, perverted stalker in the act, and beat them senseless.

Everyone stared down at the miserable mag and wretched pic in solemn silence. Each one of them wondering what to do next, how were they going to fix this? They needed some way to get rid of these magazines, and stop them from circulating. Though the sad, haunting truth of the matter is that it may not keep people from gossiping.

The blond alchemist couldn't take it anymore. He could feel his temper rising to dangerous levels the longer he gazed at the magazine. Plus, he was worried about Orihime.

He roughly scooched his chair back, and climbed off it, heading towards the door.

"Brother? Where are you going?" Al asked, concerned.

"I'm going to check up on Orihime," was Ed's curt reply with barely veiled aggravation before he, too, left, almost slamming the door shut behind him.

The three left all watched with somber expressions after observing their two friends' distress. The once happy atmosphere has now completely vanished. Winry was starting to show remnants of regret for showing Ed and Orihime the gossipy magazine.

"Maybe I shouldn't have-," the blonde mechanic asseverated, her tone full of guilt and remorse, only to be cut off by the armored Elric.

"It's not your fault, Winry," Al assuaged her. "Brother and Orihime… We all would've found out sooner or later. Thanks for telling us that this was going on. I'm sure Ed and Orihime appreciate it as well." He breathed out a deep, nonexistent sigh, picking up the mag off the table. "Maybe we can ask the colonel if he could do something about this," he suggested, somewhat hopefully.

"Do you think he could help?" Nina asked, buoyantly, though there was a hint of wariness in her tone.

If he could, the suit of armor would've shot her a half heartened smile. "I don't know, Nina," he answered, honestly. "But it couldn't hurt to ask. Though Ed might be against it, and too stubborn and prideful to seek out the colonel for help," he said, wryly.

"Maybe not," Winry responded, almost cheekily. "Not if it involves Orihime."

They both acutely understood how crazy Ed is about Orihime. Literally, romantically, and figuratively.

The brown haired girl tilted her head, confusingly at the non verbal communication going on between the two older teens. Although, the reassurance of how to alleviate the auburn haired healer's distraught plight caused her optimism to go up slightly. She opened her mouth, only to be interrupted by a loud knock on the door.

They all looked at each other, puzzled. Who was at the door? They knew he couldn't be Edward because he would have used his key. Conversely, there is a slight possibility that he may have left his keys behind in his fit of displeasure and vexation.

Alphonse was the first to respond after a second round of knocks resounded throughout the room. "I'll get it."


Orihime was disheveling sprawled across her bed, her face buried in her pillow. She was swallowed up in her own anguish torrent of crushing despair and horrifyingly perturbed. The ignominious stigma that was going to come from this would be terribly painful. This dark cloud of misery and shame wouldn't leave her. Her improper conduct she displayed in the image would surely have people talking, if they weren't already.

Disheartened, she clenched her pillow tighter, submerging her countenance further in it. Her eyes began to burn with fresh, melancholic tears. No doubt the embarrassing photo would already have people thinking unkindly of her. They might think that she's that kind of girl. A loose, bad girl.

She sniffled. She promised her brother that she would become a bad girl. Granted, she doesn't know what that means exactly. Whenever she questioned him or had inquiries about it, he would turn a deep, blushing red and hastily avoid the topic as much as possible, claiming that she was too young to understand and it was better for her not to know. All he said was not to be 'loose' like their mother. When asked about he meant by being 'loose' all he was willing to spew out, rather awkwardly, that it's a bad girl who goes on many dates with many different guys at the same time.

However, all of that doesn't matter. This whole indecent and uncomfortable fiasco wouldn't be a big deal, if it just involved her. Key word, 'if'. Of course she would have minded, but she wouldn't have minded as much if Ed was excluded from the equation. If it was all on her, all the scandals and embarrassment was on her, she could take it. She may be upset, but she could take it.

But Edward… This is just another burden she is added onto him. She slightly sobbed into her pillow. Why does she always cause him problems lately? She was once again reminded of how much of a pathetic baggage she is. Recently, all she does is trouble Ed. Every time she resolves herself to become stronger, something comes along to throw a wrench in her optimistic plans for improvement or to cruelly make her recall how weak and useless she is.

However, that wasn't the reason she felt so sad and guilty.

She desperately squeezed her pillow as if it would absorb all the distressingly self loathing and agonizing self condemnation she harbored into its feathery sheets. She was practically drowning in her gut wrenching guilt and harrowing torment. Her remorseful heart felt constricted inside her chest. So much so that she could barely breathe.

"Eddie…," she silently moaned out in heartbreaking anguish.

Edward was becoming more spiritually aware. This turn of events was utterly horrible! Does this mean that the blond alchemist won't return to his normal life? That was the whole point of Ed's and Al's journey, right? To regain what they lost, and go back to their normal, ordinary life in Resembool?

Ed may be ignorantly oblivious or just in plain denial, but something must be done. Giving the blond alchemist's down to earth personality and scientific rationale, she was guessing it was the latter. Either way something must be done to keep him safe. Sooner or later, and she hopes this never happens, if his spiritual energy keeps increasing like Nina's, then he'd be in constant danger from Hollow attacks. That means he would never return to the normal life he wanted, and it was all her fault for being so weak and pathetic!

The auburn haired girl had already decided that her best course of action was to create a protective charm, and have him wear without him noticing its purpose was to safeguard him from Hollow attacks. Conversely though, would that be enough to keep him safe? Plus, he may eventually start becoming inquisitive and suspicious. She wasn't dumb enough to think he won't catch on someday. After all, behind his brash, rude, boisterous, and impatient exterior, Ed was surprisingly observant, cunningly preceptive, and absurdly sharp witted. She should know. She's been with him for over half a year. She's been traveling with Ed and Al since late last summer.

Besides, how would she even begin to make a defensive barrier spirit charm for him? She had never done this type of thing before. Sure, she had seen some Soul Reapers produce protective force fields around their loved ones or people in need of safekeeping from danger. At any rate, she was not quite sure whether they were self taught, or if it was something they teach at the Soul Reaper Academy that a few rare Soul Reapers use. And another problem she had was that Soul Reaper's perform kido spells. She wasn't a Soul Reaper, so she can't do kido. She had to figure out an alternative. But how?

Maybe she should just come clean? As much as she was hesitant to, fearing the consequences, Orihime was beginning to believe that it was time to unveil the truth to him. For Ed's sake. The blond alchemist could hear spirits, then it would be long before he's able to see them like Nina. And if that happens… The pit of her stomach twisted, painfully at the mere prospect of how much danger Edward would be in, if that were to happen. She should probably warn him of the new, unfamiliar risks and threats to his life.

However, would he believe her? Or would he look at her and label her as a delusional freak? It wouldn't surprise her, if he ended up thinking like that about her. These are essentially ghosts or spirit beings she's talking about. It's incredibly understandable for normal people to find tales and stories of ghosts, grim reapers, and demons to be a bunch of rubbish and nonsense, mostly used to tell scary stories. After all, ordinary humans can't see them. If they developed the ability to notice and detect spirits, then that means they aren't normal. At least, not anymore.

"Then let me ask you this… Are you keeping Ed and Al in the dark because of some rule? Or are you keeping them in the dark out of a misguided attempt not to burden them with your problems?"

A soft knock on her door snapped Orihime out of her awfully conflicted and dolorously melancholic musings.

"Orihime? It's me." Edward's faint, worried voice resounded through the door. "Can I come in?"

The healer sat up on her bed, desperately rubbing her face and eyes, trying to get rid of any stray tears. No doubt her countenance was caked ugly with dried tears and puffy red orbs. She wanted to make herself as presentable as possible. Although, she didn't want to keep him waiting any longer, or else he'd start to worry more.

"Yes. Come in," she finally answered, her tone coming out small and squeaky, surprising her. She must be kind of hoarse from all the weeping.

The door slowly creaked up, and she was somewhat surprised. When she said to come in, she meant she'll let him in. She must've been so upset and woefully wallowing in her unpleasantly unhappy thoughts that she forgot to lock the door.

Ed peeked his head inside before quietly stepping inside the room after discerning she was in it. He frowned, sadly when he took note of her tear stained face. "Are you okay?" he asked, concerned, taking a seat beside her on the bed.

The auburn haired girl sniffled. "I-I'm okay. It's fine." She glanced at him through her eyelashes. "What about you?" she inquired, timidly. The faint traces of shameful embarrassment would never go away.

His golden gaze measured her, confusingly. "What'd you mean?"

She nervously twiddled with the fabric of her pants, shyly nibbled the bottom of her lip. "Because the magazine and the picture and...and…" A swirl of torment and afflicted emotions erupted inside her like the crashing of wildly dissonant ocean waves. "This is my fault. Because I acted so impulsively," she mumbled, remorsefully. "I-I didn't know something like this could happen. I'm sorry, Eddie."

"It isn't your fault, Orihime!" Ed argued, heatedly. "It's my fault for not being more vigilant." His golden eyes flashed with anger and guilt. Anger towards the people who took the photo and published the magazine, and guilt from his inability to prevent it. A renewed vigor of vengeful rage boiled inside him with the scorching intensity of a bubbling lava. These people humiliated Orihime and made her cry!

She shook her head, eyes downcast. "That's not what I meant," she replied, soberly. "You always seem to be in trouble whenever you are around me. Like the time with Amelia," she whispered, her tone filled with nothing but displeasurable contrite and overwrought discontent. She was so frustrated with her incompetence and her inability to protect him when it really matters. "Now this," she sighed, dejectedly, an elbow on her knee and her hand covering her face in desolation. "I'm sorry. I keep causing you trouble, Eddie."

Edward frowned, gently patting her, doing his best to console her. It was easy to discern that she was visibly distraught. "You don't cause me trouble, Orihime," he assured her in that uncharacteristically tender voice of his. That gentle, caring voice that always manages to warm her heart for reasons she can't yet fathom. Yet it was filled with an overtone of hot intensity, and his golden eyes piercing, brightly at her with pleasant warmth. "Besides, don't you know how many times you've saved our necks? If it wasn't for you, we probably would've been dead a long time ago."

He removed his hand from her back to awkwardly rub the back of his head, his cheeks were dusted a light shade of pink. "And if you want to know the truth, it was you who gave me the strength to overcome Amelia's cruel machinations."

After all, it was knowing that Orihime was in danger that allowed him to break free from that bitch's control. That woman forced him to face the reality of his jealousy towards Ichigo. Jealous of Ichigo for having a piece of Orihime's heart. Envious of what he possessed. That was an undeniable truth. Compared to Ichigo, he would always remain second fiddle. He could never break the strong bond between them. As long as Ichigo was around, there was no room for him in the kind and gentle girl's heart. Why would there be?

When that repulsive, psychotic hag kissed him, he felt nothing but disgusting coldness. When his whole body was frozen, paralyzed with terrifying anguish over his relationship with Orihime… Agonizingly brokenhearted over his placement in the love triangle between him, Orihime, and Ichigo. When he thought all hope was lost, images of the auburn haired healer flashed before his eyes.

Then the blond alchemist recalled his awkwardly bold and ungracefully steadfast declaration. His face deeply flushed as he pointed a resolute finger at her. He promised that he would be the one to protect her. Witnessing how battered and injured she was when she bravely defended him and his younger brother from Scar's attacks. He promised himself that would never descry a heavily wounded Orihime again. Yet time after time after time he's continuously failed to keep that promise. That one solemn vow.

But still though… Still though… He genially recognized he cared more about the healer than his own hurt feelings of petty bitterness. Once he registered that, his devastatingly tormented emotions blossomed into besotted contentment that manifested in his chest. He firmly acknowledged how important Orihime was to him. How precious she was, and how much he deeply cared about her. The gloomily murky, soul crushingly despairing darkness that plagued his heart, repeatedly shattering it, mercilessly and viciously, breaking one fragment at a time. It was fantastically cleared away by the attractively warm, breathtakingly brilliant rays of the sun bursting through distressingly anguished filled dark depths of his soul. The sunny rays of her soft, beautiful smiles.

He wanted to protect her. With all his heart and soul. That was the reason he was able to break free from Amelia's control.

Gray orbs widened in stunned surprise. "Me? How?" How could she of all people give him strength when she was useless the whole time? All she could do was cry and scream for help. She wasn't particularly good or helpful in a situation where it mattered most, where her experience and expertise would prove the most beneficial and valuable was completely worthless in the end, which was pathetic. She was the one who was supposed to protect him. Not the other way around. It should never be the other way around!

That didn't stop the rapid beating of her heart. She turned her head away to hide her flushed face. Doesn't he know how unfair he was? Trying to kill or melt away her resolve with kindness? Doesn't he realize he's inadvertently putting cracks and dents in her forces? He was being so...unfair!

"Cute." Though he couldn't view it clearly, Ed observed the side of her face turning as red as her hair. She was so fucking adorable! Especially when she is shy! He could stare at the side of her countenance all day, and never get tired of it.

The auburn haired girl had inquired him on how she gave him strength. How wasn't a phrase he couldn't smash into one word. Yes, he wanted to protect her, but he also wanted to protect Al and Nina at the time, too. That's like summing Orihime up in one word. It was magnificently impossible. She may seem deceptively simple on the surface, but the healer is wonderfully complex.

She was kind and compassionate. Brave and courageous. Altruistic and considerate. Mild mannered. Ditzy. Airheaded. Passionate in her cooking. And surprisingly stubborn when she wants to be. She was all of that and more. So much more. Merely being in her presence has the uncanny knack of putting his very soul at ease. Her comforting, serene aura unfailingly warms him.

Feeling his face burning, he covered the bottom half of it with his metal hand. He just...really cared about her, alright? Al and Winry would be upset, if something happened to her. Nina would be upset, if something happened to her. He would be upset, if something happened to her. She was one of the most important people in his life, and he'd be damned if he lost her.

Orihime appreciated Edward's praises and concerns. She really did. She truly appreciated it. But… But...

"You ruined my life! YOU KILLED ME, ORIHIME!"

She can't…! She just can't! She can't go through that again! She can't watch someone she holds very near and dear to her heart get gravely injured because of her! Whether physically or emotionally, no one deserves to get hurt because of her!

She had to do this! She had to make him understand!

"A-anyway…! That's not the point," the healer exclaimed, abruptly, doing her absolute hardest to steel her voice. She chewed on her bottom lip, somewhat hard. Because of her, his life was in danger. If he gets hurt because of her, she'd never be able to forgive herself. She can't live with herself, if that happened. She doesn't want a repeat of that horrible feeling of someone close to her nearly dying because of her and her weakness.

She was sure this rumor about the two of them being romantically involved was spreading around. It won't be long before it becomes a huge inconvenience for him. It only serves as a forewarning for worse to come in the long run. As long as Ed's spirit energy slowly yet steadily keeps increasing, he'd be in constant danger. She had to make him understand as subtly as possible.

"You can't be seen with me right now. If you are, it'll only cause more problems for you, Eddie," Orihime cried out in dispirited shame and exasperated discouragement. She hopelessly covered her face behind her half balled fists. "I'll only be an embarrassment for you."

Oh, no! What's wrong with her? She was on the verge of tears again. Why was she becoming so emotional over this? This incident is just adding to the list of troubles she's causing for the blond alchemist. If she wasn't so impulsive in that moment, then none of this would happen.

The auburn haired girl frantically shook her head. She mustered up all the courage she could gather, shifting her body around until she was fully facing him, gray eyes gazing fiercely into his golden orbs. "People like Amelia, Eddie," she spoke, seriously, in a very earnestly grave tone. "I want you to stay away from them!" She had to do this! She had to make him understand!

Edward furrowed his yellow brows in puzzlement. "Why should I?" he queried in a tone that was near dubious.

"Because it's too dangerous to get yourself involved, Eddie! With Amelia, you were just lucky. But what about next time?" She instantly shut her mouth, astounded by her own outburst. Her emotions were going haywire, and she was beginning to become worked up. This was so unlike her.

The blond alchemist for his part could only scowl in displeasure. He was so acutely and scarily familiar with that secretive tone in her voice. So distinctly aware of the way she carefully tries to be discreet in her wording that he's able to detect it at a moment's notice. She was pushing him away again. She was trying to distance herself away from him. Well, he won't have it.

"Tell me why I should?" he implored her, his golden eyes burning intensely. Leaving him in the dark was one thing, but now she's explicitly telling him not to get himself involved in some mysterious mess he doesn't understand? Why? "If you worried about what happened with Amelia, I won't let it happen again. I'm not the type of moron to fall for the same trick twice."

If the healer was worried about him… He was grateful for her concerns, but he can take care of himself. He'd be more careful and alert next time. He's been getting his ass kicked a lot lately. The unpleasant feeling left a really bad, acidic taste in his mouth. He recalled Eria coldly mocking him for his naivete, and maybe she was right. He was extremely naive and ignorant to believe he could take on opponents he had no understanding or concept of.

Although, Ed would never forget the weird sensation he felt at the time. The odd image of shimmering heat waves. The outline of some...obscured beast materialized in his vision. He vaguely wondered if it was real, or if it was a hallucination his stressed out and exhausted brain conjured up due to pain and blood loss? Nonetheless, there was no denying what he felt… The unspeakable feeling of rough and scaly pressing down his back, unrelentingly ruthless… The excruciating pain...was completely real. Too real for it to just be a figment of his imagination. It was eerily and uncannily reminiscent of the time he got slashed by some mysterious apparition.

He was a scientist and an alchemist. A state certified alchemist. He was not going to say ghosts were real or something unbelievably ludicrous like that. He was a man of logic and reasoning. There must be something he was missing. Something about their bizarrely enigmatic alchemy he just wasn't grasping.

Mysterious disappearances… Unknown, indiscernible entities… Artificial souls… Not to mention an arcane, elusive organization that's probably keeping all this classified and confidential away from public eyes.

Alchemists are those who pursue the truth. There must be hints or clues to all this somewhere. Maybe it's another dark, underground military clandestine act that's being kept hidden away from the general populace. Same with the human chimeras. Which means the higher ups know something about all this.

He mentally shook his head. That wouldn't make any sense. Because if it was a carefully guarded secret, how does Orihime know about it? Orihime isn't affiliated with the Amestrian Military. Not like him. There must be something else. Something so dark and sinister that the military doesn't even know about. There's a whole bunch of shrouded mysteries that needed to be uncovered.

The blond alchemist already informed the colonel days ago about all these freakishly surreal occurrences. Mustang may be a creep and an asshole, but the guy's trustworthy. Ed made sure to notify the colonel of all of what happened with the mod souls. He made sure to send in his latest report about Amelia and the strange disappearances, too. He would surely use his wits, intelligence, and connections to look into any sinfully atrocious, diabolically surreptitious activities running through the country. A shady organization that's somehow connected to these abnormally baffling incidents.

This isn't something him and Al could do alone anymore. This may be self preservation kicking in, however, they need all the help they can get. After all, how many times have they've been near death these past couple of months?

A part of him was still hesitant though. What if the same thing that happens to Hughes happens again to someone else? What if-?

"It's not just Amelia. You were in danger because of me. Like the time with mod souls, and the time with the incident with Reo… You were only in danger because you were with me, Eddie!" Orihime's frightfully urgent cries snapped him out of his thoughts. She was somewhat startled by her own outburst, and glanced down onto her lap, feeling regretful for yelling at him like that.

The healer was desperate now. Desperate for him to comprehend the subtle and silent pleading of her words. These whirlwind of depressingly repentant and inexplicably unsettling feelings were making her emotional. Too emotional.

She just wanted Edward safe! That's all she wanted! She ruined Nina's chance at an ordinary life. She doesn't want to ruin his, too!

And now, he was trying to set his sights on the existence of Hollows? All because this Eria girl clued him in on their existence? So, there are other people who see and fight spirits like her? If so, where were they? Were they hiding somewhere in secret? How many were there that possessed the awareness and powers to battle Hollows?

She was beginning to think that she was the only one in this world. This world was roaming with dead ghosts and Hollows, and No Soul Reapers to keep everything safe and in order. Or maybe she was the fool for considering she was the only one in the world who knew about Hollows. After all, she came to the false conclusion that Hollows don't exist in this world, and look at what happened. She was caught by complete surprise, and Ed was horrible injured in the she didn't heal him, he would've died! Perhaps, it was her conceited and distorted judgement that caused everything to turn out this way.

The auburn haired girl hopelessly wracked her brain for any ideas or how to convince Edward not to pursue this any further. What the blond alchemist was doing was beyond dangerous. It was likely to get himself killed! She had to convince him somehow, someway to stop this. Because… Because...once he gets involved, he could never turn back. This was the mystical doors of fate that could only be opened once, but once it's unlocked it could never be reopened, and that person is trapped on the other side of the decidedly transcendent pathway. Forever.

It was better for Ed if he'd lived in blissful ignorance. Continuously nescient to all the supernatural stuff that has been happening lately. This would be a mistake he could neither undo nor recover from. A misguided sense of judgement that could never be resolved. It was not the same as fixing the ginormous wrongdoings of his failed Human Transmutation by trying to restore his and Al's bodies back to their original state. With this… There's no turning. Not now. Not ever! How could Orihime convey that to Ed in a way he could hopefully and reasonably apprehend?

However, a big part of her was keenly aware that her warnings were falling on deaf ears. And it would continue to go unheeded. This was Ed she was talking about. He was headstrong and stubborn to a fault. A few cryptic words wasn't enough to sate his curiosity. Once he sets his mind on something, he was determined to see it through to the end. He would pursue this with reckless abandon. He was nearly infamous for being very obstinate in what he wants.

She would not be capable of bearing the thought of him getting hurt because of her weakness. Her heart wouldn't be able to take it! She had to protect him! No matter what! She can't drag him into this problem. She doesn't want to go through that pain and helplessness again.

"Orihime… You know something about this. Don't you?" Ed's query drew her attention. It was less of a question, and more of a statement. A sharply bittersweet statement to reaffirm his suspicions. He was aware that his tone was accusatory, but she was being more desperately anxious and fretfully tightlipped than usual. The way she flinched and her refusal to look at him in the eyes proved his suspicions right.

Despite the imputation tone, his voice sounded disgruntled and weary. Normally, he'd snap at her with anger and frustration. But at this point...he had grown obnoxiously used to being kept in the dark from all her secrets. Of her reserved and unforthcoming nature. He was more sad and hurt than anything. Guess, he hasn't gotten to the point where Orihime trusts him completely and wholeheartedly.

After all, who was he to complain about hiding secrets when he was keeping one from her? An earth shattering secret that could possibly break her heart.

She let out a loud, inaudible gasp. Was she that obvious? The silence surrounding them grew thick. She self consciously twiddled her feet together. Her anxious fingers played with the ends of her auburn hair.

"Listen, Eddie," Orihime murmured in a quiet tone. "You should just stay away from sightings. If you think these incidents would give you a clue on ways to return your bodies back to normal, then I assure you that you're falsely mistaken."

Ed's brows creased in upsetting discontent and lips tilted downward, evidently disrelished by her subjectively flimsy justification. "I'm not going to ask you why you know this, or how you can be so sure," he . "You probably won't tell me anyway. Presumably, you don't trust me enough-"

"Who says I don't trust you?" the healer blurted, abruptly. She was horrified. Was that the impression he was getting from her? She hurt… Correction… She was hurting Ed's feelings. She didn't mean to.

She stopped playing with her hair, opting instead to tightly clench her fists into her black pants. She felt incredibly guilty for hurting him. She was unintentionally causing him pain because she couldn't get the words out correctly.

"It's… It's not that I don't trust you… Because I do! I really do!" Orihime articulated, genuinely candid and earnestly benevolent in her declaration, her gray eyes sincerely pleading for him to understand. "I do trust you, Eddie." Her voice lowered in volume, becoming almost soft and inaudible, her expression sorrowfully sullen. "I just… I just…" She glanced away, unable to meet his eyes any longer. If she continued staring into his eyes, she would lose all her mental resolve and self control. She would more than likely break down again.

She was a coward. She knew she was. But she was...she was just so scared! His life was changing. What if he hates and blames her for it? If he does, she would not despise him for it.

Ichigo stood before her in broken form, glaring down at her. The way he looked the moment Ulquiorra blew a hole in his chest His body beaten and damaged. The only piece of his shihakusho covering his waist and legs laid in a tattered mess. The only difference was that his skin was pure white and he wore his transformed Hollowfied mask.

His black eyes were almost lifeless yet they were shooting her an accusatory glare. "You did this to me." His voice was cold. So icy cold. "Because of you…! Because of you, I ended up in this mess! Because of you, I lost my powers! You ruined my life! YOU KILLED ME, ORIHIME!"

The auburn haired girl was keenly aware that the awful experience was just a horrifically realistic illusion. Nevertheless, she can't help but wonder if that were Ichigo's true thoughts. After all, it was weak, pathetic self that cost him his powers. This past year, she always wanted to ask him about it, but she's been too terrified of the answer.

"Because this is my burden to deal with," she said, softly, her tone steeled with cold, strong resolve.

She internally chants that to herself, encouraging herself to stay positive and optimistic. Yes, this is the best course of action. However her heart twisted and ached inside her chest at the possibility. At the possibility of him developing an intense dislike for her.

She was so surprised at herself. Why would Edward's opinion of her affect her so much? Normally, she wouldn't be this bothered by people's opinion of her. Except...maybe...her close friends. She would not phased by things like this. With a carefree smile on her countenance, she would continue on with her life.

Unfortunately, with Ed, she can't shake the feeling of trembling trepidation and dreadfully foreboding fear running through her. Her stomach began turning with nausea. The uneasy nervousness was making her queasy, however, she did her absolute best not to show it. The unnervingly tight lump in her throat wouldn't go away. She did some positive mental exercises to help alleviate the amount of apprehensive stress she was enduring.

But was it just her or was it getting more and more difficult to breath? She could vaguely hear somebody calling her name. Although, it oddly sounded like a muted, droning noise to her. It wasn't until she felt cool steel tenderly placed around her hand did she snap out of it.

A daunting disquietude marred his facial features as his golden orbs gazing at her in utter concern. "Are you okay, Orihime?"

"U-uh, yeah… Yeah. I-I'm alright," the healer answered. Although, she doggedly insisted she was fine, but the quivering in her voice said otherwise. And judging by Ed's frown, he was not very convinced either. She had a lot less self control around her emotions than she previously thought.

"You shouldn't involve yourself any longer, Eddie," she repeated, changing the subject and continuing from the last one. "It's my burden to deal with. Not yours."

"No!" the blond alchemist refused, his expectant, golden eyes burning with intensity. She opened her protest, but he pressed on, effectively stopping her. "Orihime! Do you really expect me to let you deal with these...freaks alone?"

Like hell he was doing that! Like hell he was ever doing that!

Ed doesn't understand what this is about… Doesn't understand what makes her say of this all of a sudden… Though something about the conversation sounded vaguely familiar. It was an odd sensation of deja vu. Although, this is the first time he has seen Orihime this fearfully panicked and alarmingly desperate, and that worries him greatly. How could she expect him not to trouble and concern himself with this when she's like this? It was...disconcerting to say the least.

"But… But you can't!" she argued, weakly. "There's no reason for you to!"

The grip he had on her hand, tightened. Despite the unfeelingness of his automail hand, he could keenly pick up the subdued trembling of hers. "Didn't I say I'll always protect you?" The ardent conviction and tender assurance in his eyes caught her off guard. "I think that's enough of a damn good reason!" His golden eyes were ablaze with a determined desire to keep her safe. The way it burned with the white hot ferocity as the blazing sun kept her frozen and tongue tied. She wanted to rebuttal, but no words would come out.

The auburn haired girl mentally and firmly willed all her nerves together to herself to keep her lips from quivering. Edward was being totally unfair. Completely unreasonable. He was too kind. He was just...too kind. He was breaking all her steadfast willpower.

Ed continued with fierce persistence. "Remember when you said that we live in two different worlds?" he asked, faintly, staring at her, intently. She could only nod her head, numbly. "I don't know what you meant by that, and perhaps I'll never fully understand. But I'm starting to get the feeling that it has something to do with once going on now."

Orihime looked away, shyly. She didn't trust her voice to come out naturally, if she did answer him. If she had gazed into his intense, sun colored eyes any longer, she would spill her guts out. Something she can't afford to do.

Unfortunately or fortunately, her pointedly was all the answer he needed.

"I see," the blond alchemist spoke in a tone laced with . "Listen. I'm not going to force you to tell me what's going on. Not when it's making you this uncomfortable and distressed." He grinned at her in that cheeky, boyish way of his. "So, instead I'll just have to stick by you, Orihime!"

"Stop! Just stop!" she internally begged him. Because…! Because she isn't deserving of such kindness. Not her. Not someone who's as weak and useless as her. With such simple words that held heartfelt conviction and silent assurance, it was forcibly breaking down all her walls.

A vehemently yearning urge to embrace, to be comforted, to feel safe and secure in his presence was destructively overwhelming. To be soothed by his spicy, oily aroma was profoundly appealing right now. She had to aggressively squash that feeling down. That aching sentiment would get in the way of her better judgement. She can't indulge herself with such whims and wishes. To be protected was...it was just wrong. So wrong! Her need to be protected is what almost killed Ichigo!

Was she really willing to selfishly put Ed into that kind of fate? No! She couldn't! She can't put Ed through that! The thought of him getting hurt because of her was devastatingly unbearable!

Maybe he doesn't have a clear picture of what he is getting into. Of what is happening to him. Ideally, she should paint a more accurate description of what he's getting into.

"Eddie, you're changing, aren't you?"

The auburn haired healer's puzzling left the blond haired alchemist stumped and perplexed. She sat up straighter, offering him a bitter smile.

"Don't you feel weird or strange, Eddie?" she asked, timidly.

His blond brows furrowed in innocent confusion. "Weird? Weird like how?" He stared down at himself, almost expecting to witness some oddly shaped mark on his clothes or skin, or for something freaky to pop out of the confines of his clothes. "I don't feel any different," he responded, but his reply was slow with uncertainty.

She ruefully shook her head. "That's not what I meant. I… I… I'm not talking about a physical sense or your appearance. You'll start to feel… I don't know how to put this… different. Your senses will change. You will start seeing things and hearing things and smelling things that...that aren't there."

Ed was beyond bewildered now. Her warnings were so vague and cryptic. He doesn't get it. He fried and wired his brain to identify her somewhat incomprehensible, cautious message, but came up short. Not surprisingly.

"That's why you stay away from all this...'freaky' supernatural stuff. If you keep getting yourself involved, Eddie, you'll change. You won't be the same person anymore. I know you don't if you understand what I'm saying or if you think I'm crazy, but believe me when I say this," she mumbled, gentle voice grave and solemn. "This is my burden to deal with. My duty and obligation. It has nothing to do with you, Eddie, and you don't have to concern yourself with me."

"Don't say that!" Edward almost bellowed, heatedly. His vehement outrage greatly surprised her. Now, he was furious. This was the anger and frustration that was so despondently subdued and sluggishly dull before. The raging fierceness and powerful, indescribable emotions in his golden orbs left her stunned and dumbstruck. It was as if his eyes burned, hotly and wildly with the fuming potency of an intense, warming sun. She couldn't...look...away.

The metal hand gripping hers, tightened, but more in a reposeful way than a hurtful one. "Don't say things like 'it's my burden to deal with' or 'I'll be fine by myself'! Don't give me that kind of bullshit! Don't treat me like I'm some ignorant fool who doesn't know the severity of what's going on! Do you seriously expect me to greet you with dumb smile like I'm some kind of clueless, self absorbed idiot whenever you get hurt?! And don't look at me with that pained expression on your face, and tell me not to concern myself when I know...we both know another freak like Amelia could be after you! Don't disregard me like I'm some kind of naive stranger!"

His eyes softened, considerably, showing that uncharacteristic warm tenderness he always possessed. "You are right," he said, softly. "I don't understand any of this. I don't know what the hell is going on anymore. Funny, I only started this journey, so I could figure out a way to return Al back to normal. Now, look at the crazy shit storm I've been pulled into. It's quite ironic, isn't it?" he grinned, pleasantly. "But it's because of this journey that I met you, Orihime. If there's one thing I'm grateful for, it's that."

Orihime remained silent, too overcome with emotion. She was so...happy. Just so happy. Her heart won't stop beating with elation.

"A long time ago, you made me a promise, right?" Edward resumed, kindly. "That you'll stay by my side until I get our bodies back? Now, here's my promise to you. No matter what happens, I'll always be by your side, Orihime."

The dam inside cracked a little, causing a tiny leak to burst out.

"Why?" The question was so low and soft, merely a light whisper. However, it held so much power that it conveyed everything she was feeling. Happiness. Hopefulness. Anxiety. Uneasiness. Fear. Uncertainty. But, most of all, a strong desire to believe in him. Believe in his words. All wrapped in one, small package.

"Because…" Ed clamped his mouth shut, realizing that the answer wasn't so simple. It wasn't an answer he could put into a few, easy words. It was more, way more complex than that. It was an intricate, tangled web of complicated reasonings, feelings, and emotions that it was impossible to narrow down. Narrowing it down won't do the answer any justice. There were so many because.

Because she was his friend, a very important friend. Because he wanted to protect her, to keep her safe from harm. Because he wanted to see her happy. Because there were many, many, many, many, many, many, many more sides to her he hoped to discover, see, and experience. And sides he wanted to continue coming into contact with. A happy Orihime. Sad Orihime. Laughing Orihime. Scared Orihime. Shy Orihime. Embarrassed Orihime. Blushing Orihime. Angry Orihime. Insecure Orihime. Surprised Orihime. Disappointed Orihime. Plucky Orihime. Amused Orihime. Horrified Orihime. Awkward Orihime. A jealous Orihime. An infatuated Orihime. And a satisfied Orihime.

He wanted to experience them all! He had never felt this strongly about anyone before! There are sides he has seen of her, and sides he longed to uncover. It was strange, but in a pleasant way. Something that makes his heart jittery, and his stomach to have that weird, fluttering sensation. He doesn't fully grasp why. He just… He just wanted to be with her!

But, most importantly, he couldn't stand to see her sad and upset. He wanted to see her smile. She's much prettier...much, much more beautiful when she's smiling.

"Because it hurts me seeing you this hurt."

She produced a tiny, tearful smile. Returning a warm smile of his own, Ed tenderly placed his flesh hand against her cheek, warmly, and tenderly wiped a stray tear away.

The precise moment their eyes met, they froze, now acutely aware of their close proximity. They were totally entranced, unable to look away. Not wanting to look away. They got lost in each other's eyes, trapped under a spell. Bewitching, silvery orbs staring into alluring, golden ones. Then some powerful, magnetic, unknown force was compelling them forward before they could consciously react.

The instant their lips touched, hearts exploded. Sparks of fireworks electrified their nerves. They promptly closed their eyes, lost in the heart stopping sensation. The kiss was short, sweet, and chaste. Just a meeting of the lips.

They drew back, breaths very slightly raspy, deep blushes on their faces, and silver and gold eyes glazed over in a yearning desire. The savory taste of their breakfast lingered. Before they knew it, their lips became tangled in pleasant, fulfilling bliss once again. Their hands shifted until their fingers intertwined. Cool metal against warm flesh.

This is just like the last time. The whole world around them disappeared. It was just the two of them and this magical moment, and the feeling of lips moving together in perfect harmony.

They kissed. Again. Again. And again.

It's almost as if all their pent up ardent tension was finally being released.

Ed was kissing Orihime.

And Orihime was kissing Ed.

Feelings that were hard to convey between words were pouring through the kiss. This passionate, alluring feeling was setting their nerves on fire. It was like they couldn't control themselves anymore, and just letting their bodies do whatever it wants, expressing the feelings and emotions they couldn't express otherwise.

Orihime, for her part, was blissfully becoming enveloped in this sweet and delicate and heartfelt kiss. The tingling sensation she felt against her lips drew a path via the course of her body. This was so much different from when they first kissed. Back then, they were acting out of pure passion and instinct. It was a longing kiss full of intense affection and tender desire.

She could feel Ed's anonymously strong emotions pouring inside her, making her heart flutter. The feelings of doubts and guilt she had last time were no longer present. She knew who this was and who she was kissing. This was not the case of mistaken identity, not when the blond alchemist's spicy, somewhat oily scent invaded her nose. This was not Ichigo. This was not the man she loved, and yet...and yet…that didn't stop her heart from beating so much in captivating delight and dizzying rapture. Why?

Her mind was telling her that this was wrong, but her heart...her heart was stranded on a cloud of bliss. It was like she was trapped under a mesmerizingly entrancing spell.

She was...flying. But also...she was drowning. She was falling...falling...falling into an unknown abyss.

This just added to the array of mixed emotions within the auburn haired healer. "Eddie, help me," she internally pleaded, feeling so completely. "Help me. Help me understand, Eddie. Why? Why do I feel this way?" Why are these conflicting emotions of affection and confusion flowing through her? Why does her heart feel so drawn to him? Why does it burn? So many whys.

How fortuitous it was. For her to be kissed by the same boy. A boy who wasn't her dearly beloved. A boy she had powerful, pleasant, uncertain, jumbled feelings for. A boy...who was a year younger than her. Twice.

Her free hand trailed across the sheet of the bed until her fingers clasped onto the bottom hem of his jacket, gripping it, desperately, unsure if she should push him away or hold him close. This was wrong. She shouldn't be doing this. This was so wrong!

But… But it...it felt...so right!

Edward, on the other hand, was seeing stars. His heart shot up and erupted into millions of tiny fireworks. He was kissing Orihime again! And she isn't...she isn't resisting this time? She was letting it happen? It wasn't one of Amelia's tricks either. This was the real deal! The real Orihime!

When their lips touched he was initially expecting to get rejected again. For her to scumble away, heartbreakingly mortified and frightfully shocked. For her to run away from him in utter, crestfallen horror. And yet, she did none of that. She was kissing him back with equal fervor! His heart swelled with enraptured happiness.

Orihime's lips were warm and inviting. Unlike Amelia's kiss, which was cold and unfeeling. Her kiss, in comparison, was shy and tender. Everything about it screamed Orihime. This was better, a hundred times better than that she demon's. The slight saltiness of her sweet lips didn't retract from this pleasurable sensation. This was a taste of heaven! Pure, unadulterated heaven!

Was this all a dream? A blissful, euphoric dream?

No, the healer's lips felt too invitingly soft, too irrefutably real, too enchantingly wonderful for anything his dream could conjure. There was no denying that this was the real Orihime he was kissing. No someone's tricks or a figment of his imagination. She was very much real, and he couldn't rejoice more.

Their lips molded together in perfect congruence. Granted they were far from being experienced kissers, but it was less awkward this time around than it was the first time at the dance. Gentle and heartfelt. He just couldn't get enough of the sweet taste of her lips. That matched with the intoxicating, strawberry scent of her hair was simply, tantalizingly irresistible!

He wanted more, more, more! He wanted to completely devour her!

His human hand tenderly and lightly gliding up the back of her neck. His thumb caressing her smooth cheek and jawline, and his fingers gently running through her soft and silky auburn hair. He tilted her head back ever so slightly, so he could get a better ankle, pressing his lips harder against hers.

Edward heard a soft sigh escape from her as she gave into his sweet, enticing demands. A feeling akin to male pride swelled inside him. He deepened the kiss, trying to draw out another wondrous sound from her. He wanted to hear another delightfully, rich filled sound from her. The melodious sound that was reminiscent of soft bells to him.

His wet appendage slithered out, tracing across her bottom lip, pleading for access. After some hesitation and consideration, her mouth parted, shyly granting him permission. Just as he was about to begin exploring places he's only dreamed of...

A loud, erratic knock resounded through the hotel room.


(A/N: That's the end of chapter forty seven! Did you guys enjoy it! There are so many things to discuss about this chapter. But first… I finally got around to reading and finishing the FMA manga. Hooray! There's a few things I want to say about it though. I prefer the anime over the manga. Sorry, manga readers, but I'm an anime watcher. Not saying the manga was bad. I just like the anime better. Perhaps, it's because it becomes harder to understand what is going on in the latter half. This is why...when it comes to action anime, I'd rather watch it than read it. But it was interesting to see small scenes and character interactions that were in neither 2003 FMA nor Brotherhood. Although, is it just me or does Edward seem a lot more angrier and quick tempered in the manga? To the point where it feels like he's extremely close to having an aneurysm. Winry's tsundere tendencies were played up to psychopathic levels, making it uncomfortable sometimes. I like tsunderes, but I have my limits. Makes me wonder… Were psychotic tsunderes a precursors to yanderes? Because the way Winry acts feels like a step or two away from a borderline yandere. The only thing she's missing is the crazy obsession. Or is she a yangire? But I did enjoy Al. I enjoyed how Al was treated as more than Ed's conscience by having him doing his own thing earlier on than just following his brother around.

By the way, I also read the pilot Fullmetal Alchemist manga. Ed is more of an anti hero there than he ever was in the anime, even the 2003 version. This is an Ed that wasn't afraid to kill people to get what he wants. The Ed I have known has always been adverse to taking another person's life. In the 2003 version, it took him accidentally killing Greed for him to treat killing bad people as a last resort or something inevitable. So… This Ed… This pilot Ed...caught me completely by surprise. This is the most anti heroic version of Ed I have ever seen. Makes me wonder, what happened to the pilot Ed to make him that way, and why did Arakawa decide to drop Ed's anti heroism in the actual version of Fullmetal Alchemist? So many questions because of so many potential.

Well, enough of that. Back to the points of this chapter. Yes, Orihime and Edward kissed again! Are they together now? As the author, I want to say 'yes'. This is their official kiss, showcasing their relationship upgrade. However, for the characters themselves… It's...uh...kind of complicated. This is their 'more than friends' moment, but they would be too awkward and shy to confront each other to confirm the status of their relationship. Does that make sense? Is there such a thing as being a couple, but keeping the romantic relationship a secret from other people and each other? I mean, it's gone to the point where they say they like each other, but it's too early for them to say they love each other. Tell me in a review.

Orihime was a lot more emotional and hysterical when it came to convincing Ed to drop all this supernatural stuff. Normally, she would never bring it up for discussion unless Ed brings it up first. Guess, it goes to show how scared and desperate she is. This really shows how big an impact Amelia's illusions had an affect on her. I know I may have discussed this before, but I would say it again. If it wasn't obvious, Orihime is clearly suffering from PTSD. She feels guilty and depressed sometimes. She experiences extreme anxiety and sometimes has anxiety attacks. She's exceedingly panicky when she's reminded of what happened to Ichigo could happen to Ed. She feels unworthy, like she's completely worthless, and avoids anything that reminds her of the trauma. Her low self esteem is practically nonexistent now. And she has nightmarish flashbacks about her trauma. Will she ever get better? Well, that's for the story to tell. Although, I will say she won't get over it in just a few chapters with the power of love and friendship like most shonen anime tend to treat psychological traumas and problems. I want to treat Orihime's PTSD as realistically as possible, so there may be a few ups and downs to her recovery.

I always wanted to showcase how this kiss is different from the last kiss, especially regarding Orihime's thoughts and feelings on the matter. It's precisely telling that Orihime doesn't regard Ed as Ichigo's replacement anymore. She's not making the same mistake of mistaken identity as she did last time. It goes to show how far her feelings for Ed have developed to be able to make her own clear distinction between him and Ichigo. Though she won't deny they share some similarities, she's been with Ed long enough to know there are clear cut differences between the two and that Edward's his own person. She has feelings for both, but in subtly, distinctively different ways. If that or any of this makes sense.

Anyway, I think that's it! Leave any comments, suggestions, and questions in a review, and thanks for reading!)

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