Ed forgot how much of a hassle planning a vacation was.
He first had to call several hotels and inns at South City to see if there were any rooms available, only to find out almost all of them were full due to the carnival. Luckily he booked a room for the family at an inn called The Sleepy Bear. He and Winry also talked about the budget for the trip as most of the money would go towards the train tickets, hotel, and food. Ed was certain there would be more than enough for everyone to spend on something fun, but he agreed with his wife that they shouldn't get too carried away. There was then the packing and which stuff they needed. The two one night argued over how many clothes and which ones they should bring. Besides clothes they decided on books, snacks, and other essentials. He never liked packing as it often took him a while to organize and make sure everything fit inside the luggage.
Two weeks after the family decided on the carnival, the trip was finally set. Everyone including Joseph went to Rush Valley's Train Station and today it was fairly more busy than usual. Ed saw around five people boarding the train to South City and several more waiting on benches, either waiting on another train or someone else. Today was fairly warm, so everyone outside wore light clothing. He and Winry were trying to calm the kids down before going to the train.
"Jane, Esther, stay still!" Ed said as his daughters were leaping around.
"Carnival, carnival!" Jane said cheerfully, not paying attention to what their father had said.
Winry wiggled a finger at them and said, "If you two don't do as you're told, we're leaving the train station."
That made both sisters stopped and hung their heads down. Ed sighed in relief, glad that had them quiet for now.
"Have you ever gone to a carnival before, Joseph?" Henry asked.
"A few times, yes. My favorite game is 'The Duck Shoot', where you have to shoot ducks while they're rotating. The more you hit your targets, the better the prize you get."
"Cool! What else?"
"Well, carnivals have lots of rides, so it's best to not go on them when you have a full stomach or else you'll throw up."
Henry nodded. "Don't eat a lot before going on rides. Got it!"
An amused smile graced Winry's lips. Facing Joseph, she said, "I'm sure you're excited to go see your family again."
"Very much so." Joseph let out a chuckle. "I can't wait to eat my mom's cooking again. She makes the best peach cobbler ever!"
"Sounds great," Ed said and gave a smile of his own. He then asked, "When is your train arriving?"
"It won't be here for another hour or so, but at least I brought a book to read," Joseph said and had a small smile pulled on his lips.
Ed made an acknowledged sound. He grew to liking his wife's apprentice the more they spoke. His children also enjoyed Joseph's company very much and got along with him nicely. Ed was happy he decided to visit his family at East City.
"Here's the phone number of our room so you can call us when you make it to East City," he said and handed him the piece of paper with the number scribbled on it.
"I will for sure," Joseph said as he accepted the paper and nodded. He folded it in half, putting it on the pocket of his pants. Right after, Ed heard the conductor announcing loudly the train to South City would leave in five minutes.
"Let's go, let's go, or else we'll miss the train!" Esther said when she tugged the sleeve of Ed's shirt.
Joseph laughed at Ether's excitement. He watched Ed and Winry gather the children and waved. "You guys have fun on your trip! Win me something, okay?"
Winry waved back, smiling. "We'll try! You have fun, too!"
It was time for everyone to leave now. The family stepped inside the train and went to their seats. As the train was pulling out, he saw Henry climbed onto his seat to look out of the window and wave his hand.
"Bye, Joseph!" he shouted.
Some hours passed by, the whole time the children kept asking if they were there yet every ten minutes. They still bounced up and down when it was their bedtime and Ed wasn't sure if they would go to sleep at this rate. He knew the children were very excited, but this was getting ridiculous.
"Are we there yet?" Henry asked for what seemed like the hundredth time.
Ed rubbed his forehead, feeling another headache coming in. "Again, no."
"We don't get to South City until tomorrow," Winry said, sounding just as drained and irritated. "Right now it's time for you guys to go sleep."
"But we're not tired!" Esther said and folded her arms against her arms.
"I don't want to hear any complaints. Bed this instant, all of you."
The kids whined, but nonetheless they reluctantly did as they were told. Henry and Esther slept on the seat with their heads on a pillow while Jane rested on Ed's lap and a blanket covering her. He smiled down on her, a finger caressing her cheek.
"Did you let Ms. Hughes know we're coming to South City before we left?" Ed asked and glanced at Winry, who was reading a book. That got her attention, as she immediately took her eyes from it to gaze at him.
"I did, yes," she said and smiled brightly. "I let her know we'll be there Thursday night the latest. She and Elicia are already seeing their relatives."
"That's great to hear." Ed knew how much she wanted to see those two again, and he felt the same way, too. They had been very generous to him and Al back when they traveled around Amestris, so the brothers tried to come visit them whenever they get the chance. "I can't wait to see them."
They were quiet a moment until Winry said, "I wonder if we'll run into Fuhrer Mustang and Riza at the carnival, also."
Upon hearing that, Ed snorted. "I doubt it. It would be funny to see Mustang embarrassing himself during one of the games." He already imagined him doing badly tossing rings.
"Ed," Winry warned while glaring at him.
"What? Admit it, that would be hilarious."
Winry responded by rolling her eyes. She then said, "I still think we should pay them a visit someday."
This time Ed's face softened. Both men had their fair share of bickering throughout the years, but there was no denying he owed him for everything he, along with Riza, had done for him and his brother. He remembered a few years ago smiling proudly the announcement of Mustang officially Fuhrer of Amestris. As long as he continued making the country a better place and still moving it forward to a democracy, he would keep supporting him no matter what.
"You're right, we should," he said. Not long after, he closed his eyes and fell asleep. Ed was woken up by his kids a few hours later to ask once more if they were there yet.
In the evening next day the train reached its destination. When the conductor announced they would be at South City within a few minutes, Ed and Winry prepared to get the carryon luggage. The train eventually stopped and they joined the crowd in filing orderly off the car before making it to the platform. South City's Train Station was much larger than the one at Rush Valley as there were many people rushing to board and get off the other trains. Although it had been a while since Ed last stepped foot here, it didn't surprise him the place would be this lively. He went down about ten cars to the luggage car, picking their stuff up out of the rows of luggage while his family waited behind him.
As they headed toward the exit, everyone held hands so that no one would get lost. The children kept jumping up and down, unable to contain their excitement.
"Is everyone still holding hands?" Winry asked. She was in front, so Ed glanced over his shoulder to see the kids not letting go of each other's hands. He made an affirmed "yes" sound for her.
"I have to pee!" Jane suddenly said and that caused everyone to halt.
"Right now?" Ed asked and gave his youngest child a raised eyebrow. When Jane nodded, he let out a defeated sigh. The family then went to search for a bathroom before they continued further through the train station.
Everyone managed to get a taxi cab that could fit (and allowed) all of them inside and their luggage in the trunk. Ed sat in the front with the driver while Winry and the kids at the back—Jane had to sit on her mother's lap.
"So you guys are going to the summer carnival too, huh?" the cab driver asked during the ride.
"We're here for a family vacation," Winry said.
"Ah, I see. Most of the passengers I've driven so far said they're also here for that festival. It gets busy this time of year besides The Promised Day celebrations."
Ed nodded in silence. Back when Fuhrer Grumman took over the country, he insisted on the Promised Day to be remembered and Mustang continued with the yearly celebration after he retired. He went to the celebrations at Central with his family shortly after Esther was born, everyone enjoying the fireworks display. Mostly likely there would be another display in the carnival.
"Will you be going to the carnival this year?" Esther asked.
The cab driver chuckled. "Perhaps. I always checked it out every year."
"Wow, all the buildings are huge!" Jane said in awe as she pointed out the window. Ed chuckled, thought seeing his daughter experience South City the first time was cute.
The rest of the ride the children asked the driver what were some of his favorite events and he mentioned the games along with live performances. A little while later the cab stopped at their inn and the family got off to get their luggage out of the trunk. Taking a quick look, Ed noted that the building was five stories tall and had a sign shaped like a bear with the words "The Sleepy Bear" written on it.
After checking in with the clerk at the reception area, they took the elevator to the second floor where their room was. Everyone stepped inside as soon as they made it there and Ed heard his children shouted in joy. A polished desk, with a matching chair, sat between two queen sized beds that Ed thought should fit everyone—Jane can sleep with him and Winry in one of the beds. The warm lighting from the lamps gave the spacious room a cozy ambiance. Henry and Esther wasted no time climbing onto the nearest bed and bouncing.
"Hey, no jumping on the bed you two!" Winry said in a sharp tone and that made the siblings stopped. Ed couldn't help but laughed.
"You heard what your mother said."
Henry and Esther gave disappointed sounds and immediately sat down. Their shoulders slumped.
"Mommy, I'm hungry!" Jane whined.
"We'll get something to eat in a few minutes," Winry assured, smiling at her. "Let me call Ms. Hughes first to let her know we're here, okay?"
Jane nodded and followed her mother to the other bed. While Winry was making the call, Ed sat down between Henry and Esther.
"You guys are excited for tomorrow?" he asked as he threw his arms around their shoulders.
"Yes! Very!" Esther said and beamed.
"You know when the fireworks will come?" Henry asked.
"I'm not sure, but we'll find out soon enough."
The next morning everyone woke up to the phone ringing. Winry picked it up and was happy to find out it was Joseph, telling her he made it safe to East City and that his parents were thrilled to see him. She told him that was great to hear and that everyone was going to the fair very soon. After they finished their short chat, Winry let her family know Joseph was fine. They then ate breakfast at the hotel before leaving for the fair.
The event was supposed to be just at the edge of South City and a short walking distance from The Sleepy Bear. As everyone headed there, they passed by several people going to the same direction. She was reminded of the night before when the cab driver told them many people traveled to the city for the fair.
"Are all of these people going to the carnival too?" Jane asked during the walk.
"I believe so," Winry said and squeezed her youngest daughter's hand more firmly.
It was another few moments until they finally reached their destination. Everyone paused to observe their surroundings in amazement. Many vendors lined up with a variety of games for everyone to play while several others were selling food and various items. Winry caught a glimpse of a father winning a large teddy bear for his two children and they cheered. Somewhere loud, cheerful music could be heard.
"Wow, this looks awesome!" Henry said, a huge grin on his face.
"Let's have a look around, shall we?" Ed said while smiling at his son.
The first hour they looked around a few booths and bought some things. Jane wanted a handmade necklace while Henry and Esther each had cotton candy. There was also one vendor offering beef on a stick that everyone tried—Winry loved the spicy flavor in it. They eventually stopped at a stand where a game of pitching the ball at the bottles was held at. She and Ed watched their two oldest children going against one another.
"I remember how Al and I would spar against one another to see who's stronger," Ed said, resting his elbow on the table. He mentioned that as their friendly competition against one another was similar to when he and Al practiced combat fighting together, Winry assumed.
"And me telling you to not ruin your automail." She smirked and that made him laugh.
"At least you don't have to worry about that anymore." Ed's face then softened. "In all seriousness, though, they're already starting to be like Al and me."
Winry hummed in agreement. Like the brothers, Esther and Henry may have their disagreement at times, but they do care for one another. She brought her attention back to the game and saw Henry able to knock out a pyramid of six bottles. The vender shouted "six bottles!" before handing him a large stuffed dragon. Henry held his prize up high and cheered.
"I want a dragon, too!" Esther narrowed her eyes at her brother.
"I won it fair and square!" A smug expression stretched across his face.
"Henry's right," Ed said and placed a hand on her shoulder. Esther huffed, crossing her arms against her chest.
A slight frown tugged at Winry's lips; she never liked seeing her children upset. She was about to say something, but left her mouth open when she heard a familiar voice.
Winry twisted her body around to see Ms. Hughes and Elicia waving at them. She couldn't help but notice Elicia was slighter taller than her mother now. Sometimes Winry forgot she was a teenager now and would need to get used to that. Releasing a joyful laugh, she jumped out of her seat to give Ms. Hughes and her daughter a warm hug. Ed and the children joined in soon after; he greeted them the same way.
"My, your kids are all grown up, especially Jane," Ms. Hughes told Winry and Ed. She then kneeled down to look straight at Jane. "You probably don't remember me, but I held you once when you were a baby. It was back when I visited Rush Valley long ago. I hope we can become friends, though."
Jane stared curiously at Ms. Hughes. A moment later, she smiled. "Sure!"
Ms. Hughes giggled at that response and patted Jane's head. Smiling at the scene, Winry believed the two would get along just fine.
"You mind if I look at the program?" Ed suddenly asked Elicia, pointing to the brochure she had been holding.
Grinning, Elicia said, "Nope, go right ahead!" and handed him the brochure. Ed read through it and seconds later Winry saw his eyes perk up in interest.
"It says here there's going to be an alchemist show coming within an hour."
Curious, Winry leaned her head over Ed's shoulder to read the brochure herself. "Your father's right," she confirmed.
Both siblings gave out excited gasps and then Esther asked eagerly, "Can we go, can we go?"
Taking a moment to think, Winry knew this was something the whole family would enjoy. She wasn't interested much in the more advanced details of alchemy like Ed and the kids, but appreciated those who were very talented in that field.
"We can go to that together," she finally said, smiling down at her children.
"All right!" Henry said, pumping his first in the air. Esther and Jane stretched her arms wide and cheered.
"I think Ms. Hughes and Elicia should join us," Ed said and grinned.
"That's a great idea!" Ms Hughes praised. She turned to face her daughter and asked, "Are you okay with that?"
Elicia nodded. "Fine by me! We should start heading there now or else the stands will be full."
Everyone did what Elicia suggested and immediately headed to where the alchemist show was going to be held. Once they reached there, the stands began filling up. In front of the crowd was an open dirt area wide enough for the alchemists to perform their skills. Winry and the others sat on the second row.
"So cool!" Henry said.
"I bet Al would love this," Winry said, a part of her wishing he were here. Her husband grunted in acknowledgement.
"Is he still teaching at Central City?" Elicia asked. Around two years ago Al took a teaching position as a lecturer at the university there and he enjoyed it very much; Winry was proud of him for how much he had accomplished.
"He is, yeah," Ed said. "His students are fascinated by his travels out east and alkahestry."
"That's wonderful," Gracia said as her face softened.
As the group turned silent, Winry saw several more people coming up to the stands. She assumed they were rushing to the event now.
"Winry, Winry Rockbell?"
Not expecting that, Winry flinched. She looked up and in front of her was an older lady with an automail left arm. Alongside her was a gentleman that she assumed to be her husband. It was likely the lady might be a former client if she knew her, but Winry wasn't able to remember her and she was usually good at recognizing her clients.
"Yes, that's me," she said, still unsure how to respond.
"You probably don't remember us as it's been so long, but I'm Daria and this is my husband, Norman. I lost my arm from a carriage accident and I went to you and Garfiel to get a new one."
So she knew Garfiel also. Winry left Garifel's shop after she finished her apprenticeship and stay at Resembool to help out her grandmother. It wasn't until several years later that she decided to move to Rush Valley and have her own shop there. That meant it had been over a decade since they last met—indeed it had been a long time. Winry couldn't recall any other clients named Daria nor being involved in a carriage accident (car accidents, yes, but not carriage). Wait a minute, she started to sound familiar now…
A grin stretched across Daria's face. Letting out a short laugh, Winry rose out of her seat to embrace her. After they let go, she and Daria faced everyone.
"Everybody, this is Daria. She was one of my clients back when I was under Garfiel's apprenticeship." Winry next pointed her finger to each one as she continued speaking. "This is my husband, Edward, and our children, Henry, Esther, and Jane. And this is Ms. Gracia Hughes and her daughter, Elicia."
Everyone greeted her with a wave and saying hello to her. Daria offered them a warm smile.
"My, what a lovely family you have," Norman said, his expression similar to his wife.
"Why thank you," Winry said in gratitude before she sat back down beside Ed.
"I admit, I didn't expect to see you here," Daria said. Afterward, she and her husband sat down between Ed and Ms. Hughes.
"Me neither. My family and I are on vacation." She paused, remembering what Daria planned to do after she had her automail arm. "The last time we met, you said you were going to Xing for an archeological trip."
"She did and the expedition was finished long ago," Norman said and chuckled.
"Oh, you're an archeologist?" Ed asked Daria in great interest.
"I'm an archeological professor now at South City University, so I take trips with my students sometimes." All of a sudden, Daria's eyes flew wide and she looked at Ed carefully. "Wait, you're Edward Elric, correct?"
Winry watched as her husband blinked and then smirked. It shouldn't surprise her as everyone had heard of him—and Alphonse—at least.
"Of course!" he said in a haughty tone. She held herself from rolling her eyes.
"Also, your father was the late Van Hohenheim, yes?"
This time Ed stiffened. Winry was aware that Ed hadn't mentioned his father to many people. Usually other alchemists and some folks at Resembool, including her grandmother, knew Hohenheim personally. That question caught her off guard too as the odds of a client of hers knowing Ed's father was very rare.
"She meant our grandpa, right?" Henry asked while tugging his father's shirt. Behind him, his siblings looked on in slight interest.
Ed gazed down at his son and said, "That's right, Henry." He then looked back at Daria. "And yes, Van Hohenheim was my father."
"I asked because my father actually knew Hohenheim long ago."
A shocked expression spread across Ed's face. He asked instantly, "Are you sure?"
"I am. I still have my father's journals from his travels at my home and he mentions him often."
"How does your and Ed's father knew each other?" Winry asked. She too wanted to know more about this.
"Daria's family came from Aerugo," Norman answered, "and her father was an archeologist. He was looking into famous sites relating to alchemy and stumbled upon Hohenheim during one of his journeys."
When Ed didn't immediately respond, Winry believed he was digesting everything he found out so far. Even she was feeling the same way.
"Considering Hoenheim lived a very long time and traveled a lot, it shouldn't surprise me he stayed there for a while," Ed said at last in a low voice. "He didn't say much about his adventures as he was absent pretty much the whole time. It's complicated."
Winry frowned. That was also something Ed didn't want to talk about much. He had come to terms with his father for a while now, but he still wished he was there for him and Alphonse during their younger years. She could sympathize that.
"I see." Daria nodded in understanding. Facing Winry, she said, "It would be wonderful Winry if you and your family come over to our house for lunch. I'm willing to discuss over my father and Hohenheim's adventures."
"I want to hear more tales of Grandpa!" Esther said in enthusiasm.
"Me too, me too!" Henry followed next.
"And me!" Jane added in last, beaming.
Norman burst in laughter. "Looks like your kids are excited."
Pondering over Daria's offer, Winry thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up. Since the plan was to stay over South City for three days, that might be the only chance to do so. Clearly her children wanted to go, but she wasn't sure if Ed was fine with it.
"I'm okay with it if Ed is," Winry said as she gazed at him, waiting for his response.
"Sure," Ed said and smiled a little. "It would be great to know more what Hohenheim had been up to at Aerugo."
Grinning, Daria said, "Wonderful!" She then took out a pen and a piece of paper out from her bag, scribbling something down. "The house is at Grove Lane, a few blocks from the military academy. Be there by one."
Daria handed Winry the paper; the address 2355 Grove Lane was written on it. A taxi should easily take her and the family there. Winry offered Daria a smile.
"Thank you. We'll be there, for sure."
"You and your daughter are invited too, Ms. Hughes," Norman said. "The more, the merrier!"
"Thanks for the generous offer, but Elicia and I already have plans for tomorrow." Behind Ms. Hughes, her daughter nodded in agreement.
"That's too bad," Daria said, sounding disappointed. "Perhaps next time."
"The show is about to start!" Esther said fervently while pointing her finger at the field and that brought everyone's attention over there.
"Hello, and welcome to The Amazing Amestrian Alchemist Show," the announcer said in front of the crowd, microphone in hand, "where several alchemists from around the world will perform their spectacular skills to you! I promise you all will be amazed! Up first is Conrad the mystifying metal alchemist all the way from Creta!"
After the announcer stepped aside, a young man entered the field. He started off immediately by punching on the ground and creating a large sandstorm. Everyone applauded and cheered.
During the performance, Winry wondered how the upcoming lunch would go tomorrow. For certain the kids would enjoy stories of Hohenheim and that gave Ed, as he mentioned already, a chance to know a little more of his father. So far this vacation went on an unexpected but good turn.