The thought occurred while watching FMA... considering how young the boys were when their dad left and their mother died, there might be a serious gap in their education... Rated T just to be safe for the topic and a little swearing.
It was a routine pit stop for Edward and Alphonse Elric. They were back in the capitol so Ed could make a report to his superiors and to do a little research before they headed out on the next stage of their quest.
As they walked toward the library, Al said, "Look, brother—there are Lieutenant Havoc and Colonel Mustang."
Ed looked up. Sure enough, there were his fellow soldiers: two men who had become trusted friends to the Elric brothers.
"Good morning, Colonel," Al greeted them in his friendly way. "Hello, Lieutenant."
"Good morning, Alphonse," Mustang answered. "Staying long, Fullmetal?"
"Probably not," said Ed. "Just checking in. I think we're on the verge of a breakthrough. But we'll be here at least until tomorrow."
"Good. You should have dinner with me and my men in my office tonight. We'll be discussing some important things, and some of it will be relevant to you."
"Aw, Colonel," Havoc put in, "You don't mean tonight!"
"Yes… I told you yesterday."
"But I have a date tonight."
"Really? That poor girl… what was her name, Ellie? …she's agreed to see you again?"
"Ellie? No, no. This is Jenna. We met last week, and just by chance I happened to run into her this morning…"
The colonel rubbed his forehead. "I swear, Havoc, you're with a different girl every night."
"What can I say—I'm good with the ladies."
"If that's true, then why isn't it ever the same girl twice in a row?"
"Aw, come on Colonel… don't be like that. Jenna's a nice girl. I think she could be the one!"
Ed could feel a vein pulsing on his head. He'd had all he could take. "Lieutenant, you really should stop messing around and take this more seriously!"
All eyes were on Ed. Mustang looked amused, Havoc surprised, and Al… well, it was hard to tell. Maybe Al was curious—it seemed like it from the tilt of his metal head.
"I just mean you could mess up somebody's plans, you know? You need to be careful."
Mustang frowned. "Mess up someone's plans?"
"You know what I mean," Ed said, crossing his arms. He could feel a blush coming on. He hated feeling out of his depth. "When people aren't careful, they sometimes have kids when they're not ready." Ed was a little reassured when he saw Al give a small nod in his peripheral vision.
Havoc's confused look disappeared. "Oh, don't worry about that, Ed." He laughed and slapped Ed on the shoulder. "With my luck I'll never be in danger of things going that far, and even if they did, you can bet I'd use protection."
Ed blinked. "Protection?" he repeated quietly. What, like romance body guards…? It sounded silly, but he didn't want to show that he didn't understand by asking what Havoc meant.
"Trust me, I'm being responsible," Havoc added.
Mustang was giving him kind of a funny look (that annoyed Ed considerably). "Well, we have things to see to… you'll come tonight, won't you, Fullmetal?"
"We can do that, can't we, brother?" asked Al.
"Sure, I don't see why not," Ed said, slowly regaining his composure.
"Good," said Mustang. "And you'll be there too, Havoc."
"Come on, Colonel… can't you just fill me in after? I'll fill you in after."
Mustang began walking away, Havoc following. "No. And what makes you think I'd want to be filled in on your stupid date anyway?"
Al laughed. "Do you think Havoc will ever keep a girl friend?"
"Who knows? Come on, we have things to do, too."
That night the Elrics did come to Mustang's office to dine and listen to the discussion of military matters. Al remained silent, sitting on the floor behind Ed's chair, and Ed made very few comments, though he seemed to listen intently.
He's a sharp kid, Mustang thought. There's probably no need to be concerned. Still, I won't feel right if I don't make sure.
When everything of import had been discussed, Havoc spoke up. "Colonel, may I have permission to leave now? Please? Sir?"
Mustang gave him a severe glare, but he couldn't maintain it for long; it melted into a condescending smile. "Fine, Havoc. Go catch the rest of your date."
"Yes, sir!" Havoc saluted and hurried from the room.
Gradually, the other officers took their leave.
"Well, I think we'll be going too," Ed said, pushing his chair back.
"Hold on, Fullmetal," Mustang said quickly. "There's something I need to discuss with you." He looked across at his first lieutenant, Hawkeye. "Lieutenant, you can keep Alphonse entertained for a few minutes, can't you?"
Hawkeye looked at him in surprise as Al began to protest.
"Oh, I don't need entertaining. I'm a good waiter. I mean, I'm good at waiting for things. I wait for brother to eat and sleep and stuff all the time—there's no need to go to any trouble."
But Hawkeye didn't spare a glance for Al. She continued to look at Mustang.
It's not urgent, but it's for the best, he thought, looking into his lieutenant's eyes.
Hawkeye blinked slowly, and he could swear she was telling him that she trusted his judgment. "It's no trouble at all, Alphonse," she said, turning to the younger Elric at last. "Come on. I'd like to hear what you and Edward have been up to lately."
Mustang waited until he and Ed were the only ones in the room. Then he moved to the chair across from him.
"What's this about?" Ed asked, looking innocent but sounding a little suspicious.
"Maybe nothing. It's just something you said this morning to Lieutenant Havoc. About plans getting ruined. People having kids when they're not ready."
Ed looked surprised, then embarrassed. "Wh… what about it?" he asked, eyes boring holes in the table.
"It just seemed like an odd way of putting things. And a little odd for you to be lecturing someone older and more experienced than yourself on a subject like that."
"You think I spoke out of turn?"
"That's not what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Then what is it?"
Mustang tugged at the collar of his military coat. This was bound to be awkward, whether his suspicion was correct or not. "Listen… I know you were very young when your mother died. And you were even younger when your father left, is that right?"
"Well, I'm just wondering—did anyone ever give you the talk?"
Ed looked up then, eyeing Mustang as if he were trying to find some clue on his face. "What do you mean?"
Damn. "I mean… 'the talk.' The talk that most fathers give their sons…"
Outwardly at least, Ed seemed to relax a little. He put his arms behind his head and leaned back in his chair. "Nope. Whatever most dads tell their sons about life or growing up or being a man or whatever—my father left before he did much of that. I hardly remember any conversations with him. Everything I've learned about life has come from my mom or from experience."
Mustang's suspicions were seeming more and more likely to be correct. "So, was it your mother that told you that people who aren't careful sometimes have kids when they're not ready?"
"Yeah. I was pretty little then. This lady Mom knew was going to have a baby, and everyone seemed like they felt sorry for her. I didn't get it, and that's what she told me."
"Is that all she told you on the subject?"
Ed scowled at him. "Say, what is this, Colonel? What aren't you telling me? Is it something about me and Al? 'Cause if you know anything we should know… if you have some clue or something about getting our bodies back…"
Mustang shook his head. "No, it's nothing like that. It's just that… most boys your age know a little more than that about how and why people have children."
"Who says that's all I know?" Ed's cheeks were getting pink.
"Fine, tell me what you do know."
"Why should I?"
"I'm just trying to help."
"Because…" Believe me, kid, I haven't been looking forward to this conversation! Mustang sighed. "If you haven't had the talk then someone needs to give it to you."
"And you think you're so qualified?"
"I didn't say any such thing."
"You may be my superior officer, but you're not my father."
He wasn't sure why, but that irked Mustang more than a little. "I'm well aware—and trust me, I don't have time to be professionally ambitious and take responsibility for you all the time. I doubt anyone could handle both jobs! But I think you're a good kid and it's a shame to leave a gap like that in your education. You don't have to get it here, but you should get it. And soon, if you plan to keep that girl friend of yours."
Ed's face went a deep shade of red. "What girl friend?" he demanded.
"Oh, for the love of—I'm not going to sit here and argue with you! I'm trying to do you a good turn. Are you going to cooperate or not?"
Ed's gaze was back on the table. Mustang could practically see smoke rising from its surface. "Maybe," Ed said through gritted teeth.
"Just tell me what your mother told you. That will give me a starting point."
Sullenly, Ed began to relate the story…
The boys were at Winry's house, which was a common occurrence. Trisha was asking Granny for help with some baking.
"I want to take a basket over to Corinne," Trisha said. "The baby will be here soon, and she and her mother will have their hands full."
Edward hadn't paid much attention to the grown-ups' conversation up to this point; he was busy showing Winry the toy horse he had made with alchemy and making it prance between rows of blocks on the floor.
"Poor, foolish girl," Granny murmured, shaking her head. "To raise a child at her age—she's hardly more than a child herself."
"It's not what she planned," said Trisha, "but we have to make the best of things."
Ed looked up, full of curiosity. "Mom… doesn't Corinne want to have a baby?"
Trisha smiled down at him. "Maybe she does, but she didn't plan to have one so soon. Sometimes people have a baby because they want to raise a family in their home and they have a good place and lots of love to do it… but sometimes, if people aren't careful, they have a baby when they're not ready yet. That's what happened to Corinne."
Ed was intrigued. He mulled over his mothers words.
"Were you ready when I was born?" Al asked.
"Yeah—were you ready when I was born?" Ed echoed.
Trisha laughed. "I was so happy when each of you was born. I knew that not everything would be easy, but your father and I were ready to love and care for you."
"Are Corinne and her baby's father going to love the baby?" asked Al.
Ed shoved him. "What a dumb question!" he exclaimed. But honestly, he wasn't sure what the answer was.
"It's all right," Trisha said. "The trouble is, Jacques has left town and Corinne hasn't heard from him for a long time."
"Like our dad," Ed growled, glaring at the floor.
"It's different. Your dad left because he believed he had to, and he's coming back eventually. Corinne doesn't know if Jacques will ever come back. He wasn't ready to be a father, and he left her to be a mother all by herself."
"That's not fair," said Al.
Granny put her hands on her hips, looking at the wide-eyed children. "I don't know if they're old enough for all this, Trisha."
"They'll understand soon enough," Trisha answered. She smiled and petted Ed's head. "In the meantime, we need to support Corinne and let her know she has friends she can depend on."
"Right," said Winry. "Everyone needs friends."
"Aw, I don't," Ed said, crossing his arms and looking at no one.
"I have Mom and Al and you and Granny. I don't need any friends."
"Silly, I'm your friend!" Winry shoved Ed and he nearly fell over.
Trisha laughed. "All right, you three. I think you should play outside for a while. Granny and I will be busy in the kitchen."
"OK." The children hurried outside, and they soon forgot about the conversation.
"…And that's it?" Mustang asked. "That's all she ever told you about it?"
"That's all she had time for, OK!" Ed exclaimed angrily. "She wasn't around when I was old enough to study human anatomy and cell division and crap like that!"
Mustang felt a little relieved at that. Cell division. Good. Maybe he does know. "So, you understand how the process works…"
"What, how kids develop? Sure, a sperm and an egg fuse and cell division starts, and the embryo attaches to the uterus, and…" Ed was listing things very rapidly.
"Wait, hold it," Mustang said, holding up a hand. "What about before that?"
Mustang cleared his throat. "How, er… how do you think the sperm gets to the egg?"
Ed sat frozen, mouth hanging open, for a good five seconds. "Well, you know…. The sperm is from the father."
"I mean, everyone knows men produce sperm."
"And it just… well, it…" Ed licked his lips. Finally, he exclaimed, "Well, how should I know, dumbass?!"
"Edward, calm down."
"Why the hell are you asking me all this? I'm a state alchemist, you hear me? I got nothing to prove!"
"Ed!" Mustang half rose from his seat so he could lean over the table and put his hands on Ed's shoulders. "I said calm down—that's an order!"
The effort to contain himself was so great that Ed trembled and seethed, eyes fixed on the abused tabletop once more. "I'm calm," he growled.
"Are you sure?"
Mustang didn't let go until he felt Ed begin to relax. Then he sank back into his chair and let out a long, slow breath. "OK. I'm going to explain this efficiently and clearly, and then if you don't want to, we don't ever have to talk about it again. Understand?"
Ed crossed his arms tightly and turned his scalding glare on the ceiling this time. "Fine."
"Wow," Hawkeye said when Al finished talking, "it sounds like you and Ed have been just about everywhere."
"Yeah," Al said with a little laugh, "but there are still a few places we need to check out…"
Suddenly they both heard an unearthly scream coming from Mustang's office.
Al jumped, causing his metal limbs to rattle loudly. "Brother!" he exclaimed.
Hawkeye led the way to the colonel's office door. "Colonel?" she called, reaching for the door handle.
The door opened and Mustang peeked out. He was smiling, but he looked flushed and uncomfortable.
"Uh, we're gonna need another minute, Lieutenant," he said pleasantly.
"Is Edward all right?" Al asked.
Mustang chuckled. "Oh, he'll be just fine. Soon. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow… but soon."
From inside the office they heard Ed's voice ask in a squeaky snarl, "Necessary, you say? How the hell is that necessary? Why would anyone DO that?!"
"Ahem… gotta go." Mustang shut the door.
Hawkeye bit her lip. She wondered what on earth her superior had decided to discuss with Ed that the latter found so disturbing. For his age, the Fullmetal Alchemist had been through so much; she wouldn't have thought something could shock him so deeply.
"You think Ed's OK?" Al asked, concern distinct in his voice.
Hawkeye pasted on a smile. "I'm sure he'll be fine. The colonel knows what he's doing." I think, she added silently.
Back in the office, Ed was starting to calm down… marginally.
"You're serious…" Ed said faintly.
Mustang scowled. "You think I'd make up something like that?"
"Well, no, but… Well, it's just stupid! Who came up with this plan?"
"Couldn't we just like… split or something? You know, like cells do. That type of reproduction makes so much more sense!"
At least the kid wasn't in denial anymore, but this wasn't much better. "It may not make sense to you now, but you're not used to the idea…"
"Ugh, I don't wanna get used to it!" Ed grimaced. "I… I think I might hurl."
"Not in my office!" Mustang warned. No good deed goes unpunished.
"Well, it would be your own fault, wouldn't it?!" Ed moaned and shifted in his seat. His gaze at the table was watery now instead of scathing. "I… I just can't believe it. I mean, I figured I'd get married someday and have a family… I didn't count on some crap like this. This changes everything."
"What? Come on, you can't give up on the idea of having a family just because…"
"I can't believe you're OK with this idea!"
Mustang rolled his eyes. "I've had a few years to get used to it. You will, too."
"Like hell, I will." Ed's head drooped toward the table. "This sucks."
Maybe he was done yelling now. Mustang began to relax. "It'll be all right," he said.
"Yeah, sure…" Ed looked up suddenly. "Hey, we could always adopt kids."
"I'm just saying, if I got married, my wife and I could adopt kids, and then we could avoid all that… nasty stuff."
Mustang didn't know whether to be critical or just laugh. He pressed his lips together to prevent a hasty reaction. Then he said, "I suppose you could… I'd be interested to hear what your wife had to say about it, though."
"Eh, I'll deal with that when the time comes," Ed said dismissively. His confidence seemed to be returning. "I just don't think there's any need to assume that I'll have to do this stuff."
"Count yourself lucky that your parents didn't feel that way," Mustang muttered.
Ed's eyes slowly widened.
Oh, crap. I shouldn't have said that.
Realization was covering Ed's face quickly now—the realization that his parents had to have participated in this "nasty" practice at least twice, or he and Al wouldn't exist.
"Oh, SICK! Why did you have to tell me all this?!"
"Calm down, Fullmetal!"
There was a knock at the door.
"Yes?" Mustang called.
Hawkeye poked her head into the room. "Everything OK, Colonel?"
"Everything's fine… we'll just need another minute." Mustang gave her an attempt at a reassuring smile.
"Carry on, Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir." She closed the door again.
Mustang turned back to the wilted boy slumped over the conference table. "Now, look: you don't have to be crippled by this—just put it out of your mind and think it over a little at a time later on. You can review the information at your own pace and give yourself a chance to get used to it."
"Easy for you to say," Ed moaned. "You're the one who sprang this on me all at once for no reason…"
"Most boys your age know about this. I was trying to do you a favor."
"Yeah, well next time I want a favor, I'll ask for it! No, better yet: next time I want a favor, I'll ask Hawkeye or someone else who doesn't think it's their job to play the parent to me. Al and I are just fine on our own, you hear me?"
"I hear you," Mustang grumbled. "I think the whole floor heard you."
"Good!" Ed shoved his chair back. "Are we done here?"
Mustang stood. "You're dismissed." He saluted stiffly and Ed returned the gesture with haste.
Flinging the door open, Ed called, "Al! We're leaving."
"Oh, OK, brother," Mustang heard Al's higher voice saying. "Where are we going?"
Mustang sat down again and sighed.
"May I ask what that was about?" Hawkeye said quietly, coming to stand by his elbow.
"You don't want to know… let's just say it was an unfortunately necessary discussion that shouldn't be a problem in future."
He was sure she was very curious, but for Ed's sake if nothing else, he couldn't tell her. At least not for a long time.
Ed wasn't saying anything. Al was dying to ask him what the colonel had talked to him about, but he knew better. Finally, his silence was rewarded.
"Al, do you remember mom talking about where kids come from?"
This was the last thing Al had expected. "You mean how babies are born?"
"No, I mean why they're born in the first place."
"Um… I remember she talked about it a little when Corinne had her baby."
"Yeah, but she didn't tell us how the baby got inside her, right?"
"That's what I thought."
They walked without talking until Al couldn't take it anymore.
"Why were you asking about that?"
"Mm… no reason. OK, there's a reason, but… I can't tell you right now."
"You're not old enough. Anyway, it can wait."
Al was more curious than ever, but he detected finality in Ed's tone. He wouldn't say any more on the subject right now, and he wasn't going to tell Al what Mustang had talked to him about, either. "Brother," he said quietly, "you will tell me eventually, right? If the colonel told you something important, you wouldn't keep me in the dark?"
"You're right, I wouldn't. And I'll tell you about what Mustang said eventually... I promise. Just not right now."
About two weeks later, Ed came to visit Mustang in his office.
"Hello, Fullmetal," Mustang said. "I heard you were back in Central. What can I do for you?"
Ed approached Mustang's desk slowly. "Well… I wanted to apologize, actually. For the way I acted the last time I was in this office."
Mustang started to speak, but Ed cut him off.
"Let me finish! I… I don't remember everything I said, but I think I said some rude stuff and I get now that you were just trying to help, so… I'm sorry."
Mustang waited a moment to be sure Ed was done before answering, "That's all right."
"That's it? 'That's all right'?"
"Yes… was there anything else?"
Ed blinked. "Um, no… thanks." He went to the door and opened it. He paused and looked back.
Mustang returned his gaze questioningly.
"Actually… the last time I was here…"
Ed glanced out the door and then came back toward the desk. "Well, you remember when Al and I met you and Havoc near the library? Havoc said something about… 'using protection.'"
"Well… what… does that… mean exactly?" Ed was turning red again.
Mustang managed to keep his expression neutral. He activated his intercom. "Lieutenant?"
"Yes, Colonel," Hawkeye's voice answered.
"Please hold all my calls until further notice. The Fullmetal Alchemist and I have something important to discuss, and I don't want to be interrupted."
"Thank you." Mustang looked at Ed again. "Close the door and have a seat."
When Ed's back was turned, the tiniest of smiles crossed Mustang's face, but it was gone by the time Ed faced him again.
There you have it! Now you can all relax knowing that Ed's education is complete. xD
(Kids, if you have questions about this, talk to your parents or another adult that you know is responsible and trustworthy. It'll be OK, honest. Parents, for heaven's sake, don't leave this conversation for your child's school to take care of. You are the parent. Be the grown-up!)