Title: Several Years Late
Summary: "Shit, how was I supposed to know how you'd react? I was a kid."
Notes: (Long over-due) sequel to Chocolate-Covered Coffee Beans (a White Day fic)
Ed sat down at the edge of the deck, grateful to turn his back on the party for a while. He knew this "first barbecue of spring" bit everyone was tossing around was just an excuse because he wouldn't let them throw him a "welcome home (holy-shit-you're-alive)" party. He appreciated the sentiment—he was just as glad to finally be home for good as they were to have him back—but there was only so much revelry he could take. Al was still enjoying himself, though, so Ed didn't mind sticking around. He just needed to get away from the commotion.
He finished off the last of the beer that had been pressed on him ("You're old enough to drink now, right boss?"), and kicked his feet in the wet grass. Home. Not some weird, almost-but-really-wrong place with strangers hiding behind familiar faces. Actually home. It still didn't seem real.
He didn't bother to acknowledge the footsteps behind him. If he ignored whoever it was trying to pull him back into the party, they would give up soon enough.
Then something dropped into his lap.
"The hell—?" The small bag crinkled as he picked it up. Ed squinted to make out the contents in the dim light. "Chocolates? What—?"
Mustang settled down beside him without so much as a by-your-leave. Ed scowled. "It's an old tradition. Not practiced much nowadays."
He punched his shoulder. "No. Smart-mouth." Mustang shook his head, as he sipped his own drink and rolled his eyes. (Eye. Ed still wasn't used to the eye patch.) "No," he started again. "It used to be tradition that . . . those who received gifts on Valentine's Day . . . would return the favor a month later."
Ed blinked and actually looked at him properly. The other man smiling at him, with a soft, unguarded expression that he'd seen only a few times before.
"I never got the chance," he continued, gesturing to the bag of candy. "So—several years late and only one of the four I owe you: happy White Day."
Ed pressed a hand to his face. He felt like laughing and crying both. "Shit. I can't believe . . . you. . . ." The memories were still vivid: coming up with excuses to justify the stupid gift; having a harder time each year pretending it was anything other than what it was; Al finally calling him on it and all but shaming him into giving what turned out to be the last gift in person. And the dread. He'd been certain the gesture would be thrown in his face somehow—who'd ever heard of a guy giving a valentine to another guy? The simple thank you and chaste kiss he'd received instead had meant more to him than he'd wanted to admit, even to himself. "You know, I was so sure you were gonna laugh at me, back then. I felt like such an idiot."
Mustang made a wounded sound. "Did you really think so little of me? Don't answer that; I don't think my pride could take it."
Ed did laugh now. "Egotistical ass. What do you think?" he punched his arm. "You were horrible to me! Always ragging on me—fuck knows why I went to so much trouble for a stupid holiday. . . ." He sobered slightly, admitting, "Well . . . maybe you weren't so bad where it counted. I guess. Shit, how was I supposed to know how you'd react? I was a kid. I'd never given anyone a real valentine before."
He hoped the darkness hid his blush. "Shut up."
Mustang was chuckling, but it was a warm sound. It made Ed feel like an awkward teenager with a burgeoning, stubborn crush all over again.
Mustang pulled him into a one-armed hug and—to Ed's immense surprise—kissed his temple. "By the way—welcome home."
"You've said that already," Ed mumbled. Try as he might he couldn't keep the stupid grin off his face.
"It's worth repeating."