Series: Brotherhood/the manga
Word Count: 6,789
Characters: Ed/Winry, Al/Mei, Roy/Riza, Ling/Lan Fan (more emphasis on the Elrics, though, admittedly)
Summary: Love, affection, tenderness—it can be quiet and subtle, and sometimes, it can be anything but.
Warnings: Spoilers for the ending of Brotherhood/the manga, fluff ahoy, mild angst in places, time-skips (which are obvious), and some language.
Notes: Little snapshots of some of our favorite characters’ lives after The Promised Day. Based on prompt 58, “Tender”, written for prompt 74: Past Prompts at fma_fic_contest. Won third place.
Edward is almost afraid to accept the reality of this moment—he’s waited years for this; he’s beaten the odds (no, they’ve beaten the odds), and now that he’s actually standing face-to-face with his brother again, he can hardly believe it.
There are no arms reaching for him and pulling him through the doors, away from Al (like last time), but he’s tense anyway, trying to ready himself for a repeat of a confrontation that he hopes will not come.
There are a thousand things he wants to say (“We’ve got to get some food in you—you look like a skeleton;” “I’ve missed you;” “I’m proud of you;” “I told you I’d be back for you;” “I’m so glad you’re all right.”) but he can’t quite force the words past the lump that’s suddenly in his throat. All he manages is a hoarse, near-disbelieving whisper: “Hey.”
His brother might be skinny and pale and weak-looking, but his eyes are bright with equal parts fierce joy and sheer determination, and his voice is strong—a stark contrast to Ed’s, and not a whisper at all: “Hello, Brother. I knew you’d be back.”
There’s a sort of quiet tenderness in his words, and the slightest hint of a catch in his voice. At least Ed can say that he isn’t the only emotional one, here.
They share similar lopsided grins and, to Ed, it feels like his world has just quietly re-centered itself.
Everything’s right again.
(Or will be, once Al actually gets some meat on his bones.)
Her hands are shaking as she unwraps the bandages, and she knows that he can feel the nervous excitement radiating off of her in waves, though he makes no mention of it. Perhaps it’s his way of letting her hold onto some feigned semblance of that thing called composure.
She doesn’t let herself think – what if? – until the bandages are completely removed and his eyes are fully opened, but completely unfocused. Even though the blow that she feels at this isn’t physical, it is crushing all the same. She calculates, running through scenarios in her head, telling herself that it’ll be all right even though she doesn’t really know if it will be.
He’s always been strong, independent, and stubborn. She’s certain that he wouldn’t take kindly to relying on another individual to assist him in performing normal, every-day activities for the rest of his life.
Perhaps Marcoh made a mistake, she thinks. Perhaps we should go see him again, or perhaps there’s no hope now. I can--
“Lieutenant,” he whispers, and her train of thought is broken, though her hands are shaking more violently now. Her gaze returns to his face—more importantly, his eyes, which are now focused on her.
“It’s good to see you,” he continues, and there is just a hint of a gentle smile playing on his lips.
Riza releases a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. Her eyes sting and her sight is a little blurry, but she supposes that much is inevitable and can be forgiven. Her return smile is almost as wobbly as her reply: “It’s good to see you too, Sir.”
They’ve had plenty of visitors since the start of their hospital stay (no Winry, but he has his reasons for not telling her that they are back just yet; the stupid Colonel even made it an order for military personnel to keep their safe return mostly under wraps so as not to spoil the surprise). Edward appreciates all of the concern and the well-wishes and the congratulations and the smiles and the happiness, but what he would appreciate more than anything right now is a little rest and relaxation.
What’s that saying, though? There is no rest for the weary?
He’s been eyeing the milk carton on his lunch tray for a couple of minutes (his and Al’s room is gloriously silent for the time being) like it is the pure essence of ultimate evil, and Alphonse is snickering at him.
The glare that he aims at his brother isn’t at all menacing, and he doesn’t put much effort into making it look that way. “What?”
Al shakes his head. “Nothing, really… it’s just that… after all we’ve been through, all the horrors that we’ve seen, you still act like milk is the worst of them all.”
“It is!” Edward insists, and maybe he’s pouting just a little.
“You should drink it though,” Alphonse says. “It is good for you.”
Edward glances sidelong at his little brother—at the way his cheekbones still seem to jut out; Al almost resembles a twig that could easily be snapped in two, and it kicks his protective, big-brother instinct up a notch or two.
“Al,” he begins, a bit seriously this time, “I think you need it more than I do.”
Calcium, he thinks, helps keep bones strong.
“THE BOND YOU BROTHERS SHARE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I HAVE EVER SEEN!”
Ed’s lost count of their visitors at this point. Distantly, he wonders if Armstrong just damaged their hospital room’s door beyond repair, and he wonders if the Major has ever heard of toning things down just a little. Expecting the man to speak softly would probably be the equivalent of expecting the grass to turn blue and the sky to turn green.
But Edward plasters on a smile nonetheless, because he knows that Armstrong means well; he’s also afraid that if he doesn’t smile and give Armstrong permission to stay, he’ll hurt the man’s feelings—for him to be so large and formidable, he certainly is tender-hearted.
(Enthusiasm is sometimes very much overrated, though, Edward has to admit to himself.)
Edward has just managed to doze off when a whisper of cloth against cloth and the slight creak and dip of the mattress demands his attention. He opens his eyes and gasps, nearly falling off his bed in scramble to put some distance between himself and the twelfth prince of Xing.
“Careful,” Ling tells him, radiating calmness and smugness, “you might tear your stitches.”
From the other bed, Alphonse is once again laughing. Ed thinks it’s good to know that his little brother is highly amused by his torment.
“You’ve got to stop that ninja-bullshit,” Edward huffs, pointing an accusatory finger at Ling. “It’s not cool.”
Ling clicks his tongue. “Tut tut—I’ll be out of your hair in a few moments, and then you’ll regret being so horrible to me. You’ll miss me once I’ve gone back home~.”
Ed rolls his eyes and tries to ignore the little lurch of disappointment at Ling’s announcement of his departure. “Yeah, right,” he says aloud, even though his non-verbalized thought process is quite different.
Ling has become a comrade, after all. A friend. Family.
Ling reaches over and snatches a piece of bread from Ed’s lunch tray, and Edward barely manages to hold back his near-snarl of protest (he was going to eat that after his nap, damnit!). Ling all but inhales the thing, and Edward wonders if the man even paused to chew it first.
“You will,” Ling says, very matter-of-factly.
“… Maybe a little,” Edward admits after a long moment, muttering the words under his breath, like a little kid that’s just admitted to eating cookies before dinner—it’s not something that he particularly wants to say out loud, but he says it all the same.
There is a companionable silence, and then: “You should drink your milk. Al’s going to be taller than you, you know.”
This earns another shout of laughter from Alphonse, and earns a glare and a long-suffering sigh from Edward.
Ling’s just lucky that Ed’s wounds are still healing and, as such, are quite sore. This is the only factor keeping him from smothering the prince with his pillow, honestly.
In spite of all the times he’s ran this scenario through his head, he still feels butterflies fluttering around in his stomach. It’s mildly unsettling, and he knows that Alphonse can sense that something is just a little off.
Al (who looks much healthier now and yet has to travel with a cane due to muscle deterioration) smacks Edward’s automail leg with his cane, and Ed’s eyes widen.
“That would’ve hurt if--”
“But it didn’t~,” Al interrupts in a sing-song voice, and then grows more serious. “Brother, stop worrying so much. She’s missed you too, you know.”
Edward feels himself blush and briefly turns away. “It’s not about that. It’s just… y’know, maybe we should have called or something after all. Even after all this time, you never know how she’s going to act about surprises.”
Alphonse sympathetically pats him on the shoulder. “I suppose we’ll see for ourselves in a few moments, huh?”
His little brother’s resolve doesn’t dispel the butterflies in his stomach, however. He wonders if Winry’s welcoming will include wrench-throwing, and he cringes—he knows firsthand that Winry will occasionally forgo ‘tender love and care’ in favor of ‘tough love’. Perhaps it’s one of the qualities that she inherited from Pinako.
It’s now or never, though, and when he knocks on Granny Pinako’s door, he sucks in a deep breath, and he waits.
Much to Ed’s relief, their reunion does not involve wrench-throwing. He watches the emotions flicker in her eyes and on her face: confusion, disbelief, hope, amazement, and pure joy. It’s the latter emotion that he focuses on the most.
He does feel a bit guilty, however, when Winry asks, “How many times have I told you to call before you come home?” She says more, but the vast majority of her words are unable to be understood because she is sobbing at this point.
Between one breath and the next, she has all but tackled them, and the ground is neither soft nor very forgiving, but Edward can’t really say he minds—he’s got one arm around his brother and one arm around Winry, and even though he’s certain his back will hurt like hell for this later, he’s perfectly content right now.
“I told you the next time I made you cry, it would be because you’re happy,” he murmurs into her hair, and he feels more of her tears fall onto the skin of his neck. He’s proud of himself, in a sense, for keeping his promise to her.
“Welcome home,” she whispers, and Edward smiles widely, pulling both Al and Winry closer to himself.
Ed doesn’t need a thousand people cheering and waving and screaming, welcoming him home with smiles and applause and praise.
He’s got all the reception he’s ever needed or wanted, right here.
“Do you regret it?” Alphonse (sans his cane) asks Edward years later, while they’re waiting for Alphonse’s train to arrive—he’s heading East, and Ed is heading West. They’ll be apart, but Alphonse knows in his heart that they are undeniably, irrevocably connected. Physical distance means very little: stretches of land and water, that’s all it is.
Unsurprisingly, Edward’s reply is a question: “Regret what?” It’s not like Al actually expected his older brother to automatically understand what he means, though it would make things a lot easier if that were the case; Al wouldn’t have to explain himself.
As it is, though, an explanation is clearly required. Al clears his throat, hesitates, and then blurts, “You lost your ability to do alchemy when you came for me at The Gate. You lost your leg before that, years ago, for me. I just… do you regret any of it?”
“Regret?” Ed asks, and then repeats it—a faint whisper. Suddenly, there is a flash of anger in his eyes, and for the briefest of moments, Al is actually alarmed. But then, the anger is gone, replaced with a look of pure – if not slightly exasperated – affection.
“You’re my brother,” Edward tells him, as if it is a detail that Al could somehow forget. “I would do anything for you… give anything to make sure you’re safe. I don’t regret anything.”
There is a brief pause, and then Edward continues, jokingly: “Well… except for maybe telling you to cut your hair. I kind of liked it when it was long, you know?” He tenderly ruffles Alphonse’s short locks, and Al is reminded of a time when they were younger—a time before their entire world had shifted and been thrown into chaos.
He reaches out to give his older brother a quick hug. “I’ll be back as soon as possible,” he promises. “Maybe by then you’ll have grown some balls and popped the question.”
Edward’s eyes get as big as saucers for a moment (he is obviously taken aback by Al’s boldness) and then he laughs, long and loud. “I could say the same to you, you know.”
All this really establishes is that they’re both big chickens (at least it’s an honestly inherited trait, right?), but Al hopes that when they’re all together again, he and his brother will at least have taken great leaps in the direction of making honest men out of themselves, so to speak.
He boards the train, his heart feeling both heavy and light at the same time. The larger part of him wishes that he could stay with his brother—travel with him just like they did before, but they’ve already made their minds up, haven’t they?
Al is about to tell his brother that he’ll miss him (as sappy and corny as it is to say), but Ed beats him to the punch: “Take care of yourself; if you come home a wreck, I’ll kick your ass!”
Of course, his brother won’t let him leave while wearing a frown. Edward’s always been exceptionally good at making him smile.
He’s all ready to leave less than a week after Al’s departure, and they’re sitting on the bench, side-by-side. There is no awkward silence, and there is no worry over not knowing what to say.
She rattles on at him about taking care of his automail leg, even though she knows it’s not necessary. He’s always taken good care of her handiwork… or he’s always at least tried his best to do so. He doesn’t need another lecture, but she’s doing it anyway. She’s about seventy percent sure that he isn’t listening to a damn word that she’s saying.
She lectures him because her constant chatter leaves no room for silence to settle in—no room for that dreaded uncertainty to work its way somewhere in between them. She doesn’t give herself time to think about how far he’ll be away from her or how long he’ll be gone this time. She can think about that when he’s on the train and can’t see the sadness in her eyes; she won’t let herself break down until he’s well out of eyesight.
The train comes to a stop and her lecture comes to an end; it’s only now that she feels her stomach twist itself into knots. It’s only now that she has to force herself to refrain from grabbing the sleeve of his jacket and begging him to stay.
And then, there it is: that awkward silence. He’s doing nothing but standing there, looking at her and blushing, pointing at her with a shaking index finger.
“It’s a promise. I’ll give you half of my life if you give me half of yours!”
For a moment, she is in a state of mixed confusion and disbelief, and then everything just falls into place and clicks. Of course he has to reference his silly alchemy, the big doofus.
Does he not realize that he’s already had all of her from the very beginning? “Half of it? I’ll give you all of it, Ed.” There is an instant of perfect lucidity in which she believes she’s said too much (she is blushing now, too), and she rapidly starts backpedaling, calling out different, random percentages while he does nothing but chortle at her and give her some stupid shit-faced grin.
He holds her close for a moment that doesn’t last nearly long enough. She can smell the scent of clean laundry and leather and Edward, and she honestly doesn’t want to let him go.
But she does, because she knows he’ll be back.
Winry’s not quite sure what sort of emotion can be found in her eyes at this moment (she hasn’t found a name for it), but she’s awfully certain that it isn’t sadness.
They’ve lived together for a couple of years now, and Riza knows quite well at this point that Roy is anything but a romantic. He’s a sly flirt; he’s ridiculously good in bed… but he’s not a romantic at heart. She has never expected him to be; she has never demanded it of him. The Roy Mustang that she fell in love with is typically anything but an expert in romance, though he did convince several young, naïve girls that he wrote the book on love in days gone by. Boy, did he sucker those poor young ladies in.
That is neither here nor now however, and it is the ‘now’ that Riza Hawkeye is concerned with, because right now, her favorite set of curtains in their whole apartment just happens to be on fire.
Roy might not be very adept at romance, but that doesn’t keep him from trying.
They manage to put the fire out before any other damage can be done; Riza bans Roy from buying candles ever again, and then informs him in no uncertain terms that he will be going shopping tomorrow and finding an exact duplicate of her now-charred favorite set of curtains, whether he likes it or not.
She wants to question why Roy bothered with the candles since it’s not really his thing, but without further delay, he leads her to the table, where he has a nice dinner set out for the two of them.
Roy Mustang does not cook. Much to her surprise, the food isn’t burnt to a crisp—however, it’s not exactly edible, either. One of these days, she’ll have to show him a thing or two about how to properly season food.
“I know I didn’t do any of that right,” he tells her later, when they are cleaning up the kitchen. She just smiles softly at him and assures him that this is something that they aren’t used to.
Her curiosity is further piqued when he tells her, “I was hoping that we could have plenty of time to get used to it.”
He is kneeling. There’s a box cupped in his hands and there’s a ring inside and it is beautiful (at least he got something right), and Riza’s heart is pounding so hard and so fast that she can’t even breathe.
In the end, she tells him sure, but only because he’d be hopeless without her.
(She doesn’t tell him that she’d be hopeless without him, too.)
When Alphonse proposes to Mei, there’s nothing flamboyant (or flammable) or goofy about it—he doesn’t mention equivalent exchange, nor does he make dinner for her. He doesn’t beat around the bush or drop a thousand hints. He doesn’t tell her the thousands upon thousands of reasons as to why he’s grown to love her. He does not paint her a picture or write her a sonnet or perform some incredible feat to prove his love to her. He does not permanently carve their names into her favorite cherry blossom tree with alchemy, because he doesn’t need a visual reminder of the fact that he loves her, and he knows that she doesn’t need it, either.
He simply takes a walk with her in the moonlight, linking his fingers through hers as he explains to her that he believes he’s learned all that he can here in Xing, and that he believes it’s time to return home.
She seems crestfallen until he tugs her closer, murmuring against her forehead that he has every intention of taking her back with him.
He asks her to be his wife, she accepts, and Al sweetly brushes a few stray locks of hair away from her face. His kiss is brief, but full of emotion—tender and innocent and soft.
Now—to go home. Al thinks a bit of overjoyed bragging is in order.
Far away from flaming curtains and sweet kisses and terrible, questionable marriage proposals, Emperor Ling Yao sits alone on the floor of his balcony with his legs crossed and arms folded; his eyes are closed and he is lost in concentration.
Even after all of these years, he can’t quite get used to the lack of another voice in his head—he can’t quite accept that Greed is no longer part of himself. It’s kind of funny how one can grow to miss the constant banter inside one’s own mind.
“My Lord?” her voice is soft, and her touch is even softer; her fingers brush against his own and he opens his eyes. “What’s wrong?” she asks him.
He merely shakes his head and pulls her close to himself (‘protocol’ and ‘standards’ and ‘decency’ be damned), stroking her hair. “It’s nothing at all, Lan Fan,” he whispers, partly because he doesn’t want her to worry.
Mostly, he just doesn’t know how to explain to her that the silence is sometimes unbearably loud.
A couple more years slip away easily and effortlessly, for the most part. Both sets of Elrics learn the ups and downs of marriage, but hold onto the ups, because it’s the ups that matter most of all.
A new member is welcomed into the fold in the fall: Michael Elric is nearly the spitting image of his father, though upon closer inspection, it is revealed that he does have Winry’s nose.
“You’ll have to watch this one,” Alphonse warns with a smile as he brushes his knuckles over his little nephew’s forehead—he already has a head full of hair, and it’s the same shade as Edward’s.
“We’ll have to make sure Uncle Al and Aunt Mei help out a lot,” Winry pipes up, and Al and Mei share a look before smiling and nodding.
Edward is still admittedly somewhat overwhelmed at the newness of all of this: he’s a father now, and his heart swells with pride and with happiness as he repeats this fact to himself over and over again. I’m a father, a father, a father….
He smiles at the way his wife and his brother fuss over his son, and he realizes all of a sudden that he must add another ‘favorite’ to his list.
Prior to the birth of his and Winry’s son, Al and Winry were the two most important people in the whole world to him.
Now, he doesn’t have two, but three.
“Come hold your son,” Winry invites, and Edward is all too happy to accept the invitation, hands reaching for Michael and cradling him, holding him close.
He remembers that his mother once told him that he would never understand how truly wonderful being a parent is until he had children of his own.
Without a doubt, he understands now.
The news that Edward Elric has settled down and started a family is news that can’t exactly be ignored, no matter how many times Roy tells himself that it’s really not his business at all. The kid – who most assuredly isn’t a kid anymore – had been his subordinate; he’d annoyed Roy to no end, and he’d done it on purpose too, Roy knows. He’d done it just to see how many buttons he could press—how many nerves he could fray.
Edward isn’t Roy’s subordinate anymore. Neither he nor Al is tied to the military at this point, so Roy should have no reason to travel this far with Riza in tow. There’s no real reason for him to be standing here on Edward and Winry’s doorstep, knocking on their door.
Maybe he doesn’t really need a reason, though.
It would appear that they already have company, though, because it’s Alphonse who answers the door. Mustang knows that it’s him, even without having seen him in human form before now. He looks a lot like his brother.
“We were wondering if we’d ever see you again,” Alphonse says excitedly, looking from Roy to Riza and back again. “A lot’s happened, you know. We’re married now!” There is a pause, and then he elaborates: “Not me and Brother, of course. Mei and I are married. Brother and Winry are married, and I’m an uncle now, too!” He’s beaming and he looks a little ridiculous, but Mustang supposes that Al has every right to grin like a fool.
Roy’s return smile is not as large, but it’s every bit as meaningful. He shows Alphonse his ring finger, and then, almost reverently, he presses a hand to Riza’s belly. She hasn’t begun to show yet, but that will come with time. “We’re expecting, too.”
If possible (and it is), Alphonse’s smile widens all the more. “Come in,” he invites, stepping aside.
Roy and Riza enter the quaint little house, and Roy is not at all surprised to find baby things scattered pretty much everywhere. He’d been through this when Hughes and Gracia had had Elicia, so this much, at least, is not at all unfamiliar to him.
They find the rest of the family in the living room. Winry is cradling the baby in her arms and Edward is hovering over both of them, cooing to their son and flashing silly little smiles at his wife—he has that ‘puppy dog’ look in his eyes.
Ed used to tease Hughes about his devotion to his family. He used to get a little exasperated when Hughes would constantly show him pictures of his wife and child. Now, it would seem, Ed’s turned out to be a little like him, in a sense.
It makes Mustang’s heart ache, just a little.
There’s another woman in the room as well, near one of the corners, but she is observing father and mother and son with as much happiness on her face as Alphonse had shown moments before. This must be Mei, Mustang thinks, and his supposition is confirmed when Alphonse moves to stand beside her, looping an arm around her waist.
“We have company,” Alphonse announces, and when Edward turns around to look at Roy, obvious shock is scrawled all over his face, but then he’s all smiles again.
“Welcome to our humble abode, Brigadier General,” Ed says. He doesn’t salute, but – even more uncharacteristically – he moves forward and offers his hand. After a brief hesitation, Roy takes the offered hand. He can’t recall a time when he’s ever shook Edward’s hand before.
“Fullmetal,” he acknowledges, and then winces, trying to backpedal. “Sorry. Old habits, and all.”
Edward’s still smiling—he seemingly understands. “It’s all right, but it’s just ‘Ed’ now.” His gaze then averts to Riza. “You might still be his subordinate, but I bet you’re the one who’s really in charge, right?” Of course, he’s noticed the wedding bands already—he’s always been very observant.
Riza chuckles. “Winry’s taught you well, hasn’t she?”
Ed semi-shrugs. “I’ve figured out that, with a woman, you either learn quick or you drown.”
“You make me sound terrible,” Winry protests, making a sour face at her husband.
Edward’s smile is as innocent-looking as he can make it (which… isn’t all that innocent at all; Roy knows this from experience). He trots back over to her, brushing a kiss to her forehead before taking their son into his arms and unceremoniously depositing him into Mustang’s arms instead.
Mustang looks uncertainly at the infant, and the baby blinks sleepily at him.
“You could use some practice before our own child is born, Sir,” Riza says, reasonably, with emphasis on ‘Sir’.
The room goes quiet save for the cooing of the newest addition to the Elric family, and then Edward is laughing again. “You really have been busy, Mustang.”
And there the damn kid goes again, pushing his buttons.
Roy glances down at the baby in his arms, cradling the little creature against himself. It’s awkward and it’s… really, it’s not so bad. He could retort with a comeback in response to Edward’s earlier jab, but he doesn’t. “What’s his name?”
“Michael,” Winry replies, and now she’s beaming too.
“It’s a good name,” Roy says, returning her smile. This is a family, he tells himself. That kid’s turned out to be quite the family man.
“Now that that’s out of the way…” Edward trails off, stepping close to Mustang, scrutinizing him. “… What the hell curled up and died under your nose?”
Kid’s pushing even more buttons, now.
Ah, to be reminded of the good old days.
Ling hopes that he’s called the correct household and he waits, Lan Fan’s head pillowed against his shoulder. He doesn’t see how she’s comfortable this way, but she refuses to move, and he doesn’t want to lose contact with her, really—not even long enough for her to reposition herself so that she’s more comfortable.
The voice that answers is obviously Edward’s, and Ling nearly breathes a sigh of relief; he doesn’t talk much at all on the phone, so it’s not his fault that he doesn’t know much about them, really.
The voice is also sleepy-sounding, and Ling feels a pang of guilt. He’s forgotten about time differences and such. He rushes headlong into initiating conversation: “So, I heard that you’re tied down now and you’re a father and that Al actually is taller than you.”
There is a long pause, and Ling worries that Ed may have hung up, but then: “What the hell? Do you have spies over here or something, hovering around my house?”
“I’m the Emperor of Xing,” Ling tells him haughtily, as if his title explains everything. “I just know things.”
He can practically hear Edward roll his eyes over the phone. “Didn’t I tell you that you’ve got to stop that ninja shit?”
“I’m the Emperor of Xing,” Ling repeats, even more forcefully this time, as if repeating it in a harsher tone of voice will make Edward understand and acknowledge just who and what he now is.
“Yeah, yeah,” Edward says, very unconcernedly. “Emperor and all—I knew you would be. You’re a stubborn bastard; always have been since the moment we met.”
“Before then,” Lan Fan says, and Ling knows that Edward has heard her when the other man chuckles.
“Did I wake you?” Ling asks concernedly, his demeanor changing. “I know there’s a time difference and all—I just didn’t think much about it before calling--”
“Didn’t think about it at all,” Lan Fan interjects, and then adds a quick, “my Lord,” to the end of it. Even now, she is constantly reminding him of the difference in their roles. He wishes that she wouldn’t.
He combs the fingers of his free hand through her hair, almost absently, and listens as Ed replies: “No—Michael was just awake, anyway. Dirty diaper, so don’t worry about it.”
“What’s he like?” Ling asks, curious. “Your son. Does he look like you?”
There is another pause, and Ling can practically feel that sense of fatherly joy emanating from Ed through the phone. It’s not exactly something that he’s familiar with—the fact that his father had twelve sons and he was the last meant that the former Emperor had very little time to spend with each of them, separately. The fact that Ling had been born last meant that his father had had even less time for him.
But that is old news; an old wound that still hasn’t fully healed.
“Everybody says he looks just like me,” Edward tells him. “But he looks like Winry, too. He’s got her nose and her lips, but that’s all I can really tell so far. Guess he needs to get bigger.”
Ling swears that he can hear Winry say, “Don’t wish for him to grow up too fast,” in the background. It makes him smile.
“Bet Al’s taller than you.” It’s a change of subject, but Ling knows that it isn’t anything that Ed isn’t used to, when it comes to him. “I bet you still don’t drink your milk, do you?”
Ed harrumphs into the phone. “Skinny, smug bastard.” Ling can tell that he doesn’t mean it—he can hear the smile in Ed’s voice.
“Hey, you’re talking to the Emperor of Xing, you know.” Their banter is light and teasing and familiar, and Ling realizes that he’s missed it. Almost everything here is all business, and it’s only when he’s with Lan Fan that he’s able to let his guard down.
Now, here he is, joking around with an old friend. Perhaps he should pick up the phone more often. Perhaps he should have done so before now.
“I know,” Edward assures him. “You keep shoving that fact in my face every chance you get. So tell me, Emperor of Xing, when are you going to tie the knot with Lan Fan?”
Ling knows exactly what Ed is talking about, and he almost hates himself for blushing over it. He plays dumb, even though he knows Ed will see right through his guise. “What knot? I don’t intend to tie anybody in a knot. I’m sorry—I don’t understand your use of language much. I have to go now, goodbye.”
He hastily hangs up the phone, though not before hearing the former Fullmetal Alchemist burst into ear-splitting laughter. If his and Winry’s son had gone back to sleep, surely he’s awake again now.
Ling has every intention of calling the blonde later and chewing him out for saying that sort of thing with Lan Fan right here with him. He’s still blushing, and he’s tense, and so is she. She hasn’t moved, but she’s fidgeting like she wants to.
“My Lord,” she begins, her voice pained, and it kills him, “you know that this… we keep it a secret. But you know that there’s no way we can… think of our status. You’d be a laughingstock. You would lose the peoples’ respect. We can’t.”
He tilts her chin up, forcing her to look at him. There are tears in her eyes, and he doesn’t like that, either.
He pulls her as close to himself as he possibly can, and his sudden, fierce resolve shocks the both of them: “Like hell we can’t.”
Riza is now seven months into her pregnancy, and sleep is one of those precious commodities that neither she nor Roy can seem to get much of these days. She can never seem to get comfortable, and she constantly wriggles around in bed, moving from one position to another. The constant shifting never fails to wake Roy, but he can’t bring himself to become annoyed with her over it. The fact that she is uncomfortable isn’t her fault at all.
It’s nearly three in the morning, and it’s beginning to look like the only individual in their apartment that will sleep decently tonight is Black Hayate, who is curled up on the floor near the bed, completely oblivious to the humans’ suffering.
“You awake?” Riza asks softly, and Roy replies with an equally-quiet, “Yes.” He rolls over and all but has to dig through the mountain of pillows on their bed (he’ll never understand why she needs so damn many of them) to get to her. She is resting on her left side, facing him. She looks very tired.
He brushes his fingers against her cheek and she leans into the caress, smiling thinly. He asks if she’s feeling okay. She nods. “I just can’t seem to sleep is all; I keep waking up and having to move around and—oh, hold on a minute.”
She shifts again, sliding off of the bed and all but waddling to the bathroom. Roy knows it’s not ‘morning sickness’ (which, he has learned, doesn’t necessarily happen in the morning at all), because that ended several months ago. However, their growing baby pressing against Riza’s bladder means that trips to the bathroom are quite frequent.
“Better?” he queries as she settles back into bed, facing him once again.
“Yeah,” she replies. “Sorry… doesn’t look like we’re going to get much sleep again, does it?”
“It’s okay,” he assures her. “Not like we haven’t gone without sleep before.”
“Baby’s awake too,” Riza informs, taking one of his hands in both of hers and pressing his palm against the swell of her belly. Sure enough, their baby is kicking; it makes him smile, because he knows that, while in the womb, a kicking baby is a sure sign of a healthy baby.
“Definitely awake,” Roy agrees. He pats his wife’s swollen stomach. “Give your mom a break—she’s tired.” He’s teasing, of course, and Riza understands.
“I don’t mind,” she tells him, lashes fluttering closed. For a moment, he thinks that she might be dozing, until she speaks again, eyes still closed: “What do you want to name him if it’s a boy? I figure it’s only fair—I picked out a girl’s name, after all.”
He answers without thought, without hesitation: “Maes.”
She opens her eyes again, and he knows that she can see the pain of loss in his own (he doesn’t bother to try to hide it away from her now). Her gaze softens, and she leans in for a kiss. “I like that,” she whispers.
Roy does, too.
They’ve made this into a tradition, sort of: Every Sunday morning, Ed and Al (with various other accompanying family members) visit their parents’ (and, more recently, Pinako’s) graves, rain or shine.
Today it is sunny, and Michael is distracted by some odd-looking bug that he’s found on the ground, a few feet away from the graves. Edward lets his son have his fun—he was young once, too, after all.
It’s just the three of them today—Ed and Al and Michael. Winry is feeding Amanda (their six-month-old daughter), and Mei is at home, resting. Her and Al’s firstborn is due to be born within a couple of weeks, and Alphonse has insisted that she rest as much as possible. No sense in waddling like a duck up a huge-ass hill if you don’t have to.
Everything’s turned out all right, after all, Ed supposes. He and Al are as close as ever, and they have their own families. Ed has learned that he’s not useless without alchemy, after all. Roy still somehow manages his career as Brigadier General and has time left over to spend with Riza (who has since retired from military life, though Roy constantly says that the military hasn’t – and probably never will – leave her) and their beautiful, bouncing baby boy, Maes. Ling and Lan Fan are married as well, with two children of their own: a boy (Li) and a girl (Jun). Ed hears from him on a regular basis, and wonders just how high their phone bill is, though he supposes the Emperor of Xing doesn’t really have to worry about that sort of thing.
Edward is lost in his own thoughts, but is suddenly jostled out of them when he swears he hears voices that are neither his brother’s nor his son’s:
“They’re all right, sweetheart.”
“Of course they are. They’re our boys, aren’t they?”
They are tender whispers carried on the wind. Ed literally jumps, looking around for the source, but finding none. He gazes once more at his father’s and mother’s graves, and scratches his head.
“Brother? Are you all right?” Alphonse looks concerned.
Edward nods rapidly, not wanting his brother to worry. “I’m fine. Just thought I heard something is all. Guess I must be going a little crazy.”
“You were already that,” Alphonse says, and Edward feigns a malicious glare, aiming it at his little brother. “Maybe you’re getting a little hard of hearing, old man,” Al continues.
“Old man?!” Edward stamps his automail foot. “I’ll bet this old man can still kick your ass!”
Michael, no longer fascinated by the strange, many-legged bug, comes to stand beside Al. “You shouldn’t say that word, Daddy. It’s a bad word.”
“Yes, it is,” Edward agrees seriously, and then amends his previous statement: “I was just saying that I can still kick your Uncle Al’s butt, that’s all.”
“You’ll have to catch me first, old man,” Al teases before hoisting Michael up and over one shoulder, causing the little boy to shriek with laughter. With Michael in tow, Al begins jogging back down the hill, in the direction of home.
Home, Edward thinks, and smiles. How good it is to be here.
Once I got the idea for this, I just ran with it, guys. I sat at the computer typing like a maniac for hours at a time. When I wasn't at work, this is what I was working on. *LOL* I hope someone liked it!