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spinny roses

And Return to Nothing

chapter 3.

Thump. "Roy, I doubt this is what you called me over..." Whump giggle. "Oh, fine..."

Edward's hands started twisting the blanket.

"You know, if I must."

Fabric started to rip under Edward's hands.

"But isn't there some little kid you were talking about?"

That was it. Edward threw the door to his room open. "Who's tiny like a bug and has to be seen with a magnifying glass?!" he yelled, nearly frothing at the mouth.

An older woman blinked at him, her makeup smeared. "Roy, is this cutie him?" she whispered as Mustang started to wipe the bright red lipstick off his cheek and the edge of his mouth.

Edward just blinked a few times. The woman was probably a good ten years older than Mustang, with bright makeup that used to be applied neatly and very lightly. She obviously colored her hair blonde, but gray still peaked through where the dye didn't take as well. Expertly, the woman wiped her lipstick off where it had smeared to and smiled at him. "Who're you?" he finally asked, making the words as blunt as possible.

Mustang glared at him. "This is Lady," he explained as he tried to wipe off the red spot on the collar of his blue jacket. "She is the manager of one of the best pleasure houses near here."

"You're always so nice," Lady laughed. "I take it you're Edward?"

He nodded. "Um... ye-wait a minute!" The boy glared at the distracted Mustang. "Is she who you were talking about last night?"

The Lt. Colonel looked up from his cleaning. Slowly, he started to laugh, whispering something to Lady around the snickers. She hid her smile behind her hand, giggling as well. "I think you'll surprise me more than I realized," Mustang finally said. "Lady, what lipstick are you using now? It's not coming off."

"Then wash it," she snapped. "Fire and water may not mix, but you'll be fine." Lady rolled her eyes, turning her attention back to Edward. "Roy mentioned you would need a teacher in certain areas. Though your observation and memory skills aren't that bad," she mused, one fingernail tapping her lips.

Edward's cheeks started to heat up. "O-oh."

She shook her head. "Roy, I swear, if he's not old enough..."

"I want you to teach him your nonsexual skills," he interrupted. "The others he can pick up on later, but the others will help him more."

Edward looked between the two of them, then clenched his fists. "Which will help me fix Al faster?" he blurted out, desperate.

Lady frowned, confused. Before she could ask, Mustang said smoothly, "I'd rather not be up on child prostitution charges so early."

Edward set his teeth. "But you will be anyway."

"Actually," Lady interrupted, "learning how to be good company is useful. Not everyone that buys a whore wants just sex. And considering what circles Roy's in, knowing how to serve wine and listen well will get you more than slamming your hips together wildly."

"Though that does have its merits," Mustang noted.

"Later."

Face flushed a deep red, Edward turned his head to the floor. "That was blunt," he muttered.

"And you are too," Lady pointed out. "Roy, take care of your jacket. The kid's probably starving by now. You have porridge downstairs, right?" At Roy's nod, she smiled. "Great. Let's go, Edward." She grabbed Edward's arm, pulling him downstairs.

"H-hey! Wait! I still have my pajamas on..."

"Oh, you're fine," she said dismissingly. "Though, it looks like Roy thought you'd be a bit bigger. We'll have to have your clothing altered or some clothes made." Lady let go of his arm once they reached the bottom of the stairs. "So, how old are you? Nine? Ten?"

This time, a little bit of spit started flying as a vein pulsed on his forehead. "I'm twelve!"

Lady rolled her lips under her teeth. "Oh crap. There are some scary pedophiles out there that would love someone like you."

The blood started to drain from Edward's face, and he stared up at her with frightened eyes. "O-oh," he finally got out. "Do you have to be so blunt about this?"

She shook her head. "Sorry. It's just... with your eyes, I forget sometimes that you don't know as much as he does."

"He?"

Lady pushed a bit of hair behind her ear. "You have the same kind of eyes as Roy." She looked over at him, studying his face. "The eyes that say you've seen more than someone your age should have seen."

Edward looked away, uncomfortable. "You were right, before. I'm hungry."

"Of course, of course. Come on." She led the way into the kitchen, one hand to her mouth. A small series of coughs started and ended quickly. "Ugh. I hope this passes. Okay, food." Lady picked up two bowls, placing them on the table. "Go ahead. Sit."

Edward sat after a few minutes, watching her. "Do you need any help?"

Instead of answering, she picked up the pot and started serving. "I do have to wonder what your skills are like," Lady mused, her arm trembling slightly. "After all, Roy didn't tell me anything. He shouldn't ask me unless you already have some skills."

Edward shifted in his seat. "Let me do that."

A trilling laugh started from her throat. "Pay attention."

"I am," he said, exasperated as he stood. "I can do that too." The boy snatched the ladle from her hands, and started to take the pot from her.

"Fine." She handed the pot over, sitting down. "Serve me."

Edward frowned in concentration, and started to do what she had done. His arm moved awkwardly as he started to dump the porridge into the bowl. A little bit of it spilled onto the table. "Damn."

Lady pursed her lips. "Not that bad, considering." She turned slightly, dumping the porridge back into the pot. "Try again."

He stuck his tongue out at her back, but proceeded to try again. This time, Lady guided his hand, helping him pour the porridge slower. "Huh."

She nodded. "Exactly like that." And she dumped the contents of her bowl back into the pot. "Try again, this time without my help."

Edward poured the porridge one last time, noticing that he didn't slop any this time. "Hey, it worked."

"Very good." She smiled at him. "Spoon, spoon... I forgot spoons." Lady got up, getting two spoons. "Why don't you put that big pot back and come eat?"

Relieved, Edward put the pot back onto the stove and went back to the table. "It smells good."

"Unlike the acid he calls coffee, Roy can actually make food like porridge and soup," Lady told him wryly. "Well, that was your first lesson. You didn't do half bad. Serving's a skill many of my early clients had me doing. They viewed me as a servant of sorts."

"Oh." How could he really respond to that? "That doesn't seem that bad."

Lady let out one of her trilling laughs. "Until they thought the kitchen was a good place to have sex with me, it wasn't that bad."

"Would you stop being so blunt?" Edward pleaded, a note of horror in his voice.

She looked at him, understanding in her eyes. "It's scary, isn't it? If you're scared, talk to Roy. He knows better than to get you badly hurt while furthering his own goals."

"It... it's not that." He waved his hand, not looking at her. "It's just so... I... I miss Al so much..."

"Al?"

Edward shook his head. "No one. Nothing. Never mind." He sighed, playing with his spoon. "I mean, if I have to, I will. I guess it is kind of scary... in general, you know. To... well, do that."

Lady smiled. "Yes, at first, it is scary. I didn't understand what the big deal was, but he was getting so much out of it... but you'll learn quickly why people like me have made a business out of it."

"O-okay." He finished off his porridge in record time, not really wanting to talk more about it.

Lady stood, and walked over to him. Without saying anything, she cupped his cheek and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. Then, with a laugh, she wiped the lipstick mark off his skin. "You're a good kid. Why someone like you decided to follow Roy will always be a mystery."

He shrugged, his shoulders falling a little. "Eh."

With a sigh, Lady looked over him. "We really need to get your clothes altered. Being well dressed helps..." She broke off, this time in a full fledged coughing fit.

Edward stood, alarmed. "Are you okay?"

She waved him off. "It's okay," she said, her coughs slowing. "Just a cold." Lady started rummaging through the cabinets. "Where is Roy hiding it this time...?"

"What are you looking for?"

Lady frowned, pushing something out of the way. "Aha!" A bottle of wine was pulled out. With an expert motion, she pulled the cork out and proceeded to drink straight from the bottle.

"Lady..." The Lt. Colonel walked into the kitchen, a definite dark spot on the collar of his jacket. "I thought you've stopped stealing my alcohol."

Without taking a breath, she just waved her hand at him. A few more gulps later, and Lady pulled the bottle from her lips with a loud gasp. "Oh, that's better."

Edward just looked between the two of them, knowing his face was screwed up in an "Oh, of course" look.

Carefully, Mustang took the bottle from Lady's fingers. "And how much is left this time?"

She frowned, looking at it. "Half a bottle?"

"You've been coughing again."

"It's nothing," she snapped. "Edward, go get dressed. We're going out to get you clothed."

Edward fled the kitchen, then stopped as he heard Lady and Mustang talking. He shifted on his feet, thinking about whether or not to listen in. Finally, he crept back to the opening to the kitchen.

"You worry too much about me." Lady sounded almost amused. "It's nothing. I promise. But I do want to talk about his other training. If you plan on having him pleasing both men and women, he's going to have to learn..."

"I know where you're going with that," Mustang interrupted. "And absolutely not."

"Roy, you like pretty things. I've seen you chase after both men and women. And Edward is extremely pretty. Then what's the damn difference?"

"I didn't get him for my own pleasure," Mustang told her, voice flat. "Pretty or not."

"He's just going to grow into a pretty adult, Roy. You won't be able to hold out on that forever."

"That will happen when it happens." Mustang raised his voice. "Edward, stop listening in and go get dressed."

Edward jumped, and rushed up the stairs. He heard Lady start laughing as he reached the door to his room, and he quickly entered and closed the door. For a few minutes, he just looked down at the floor, trying to process what he just heard. Then, with a nod, he picked up a random shirt and pants from his closet, and got dressed. And then Edward started back downstairs to face the idea of shopping with Lady.