Ed's head hurt so badly, he wondered how bad the car wreck was on the way home. He couldn't remember it but from the way he hurt it had to be awful. "Winry?" he muttered, rolling over on the bed. His stomach roiled and he had to clench his jaw to keep from vomiting.
"She's at the Hugheses," Al responded, a strange petulant tone to his voice.
"You don't have to scream at me, Al," Ed moaned, putting his hands over his face. His automail felt like it weighed tons. "What happened to us?"
"Nothing happened, Brother," Alphonse said in that same tone.
"Then why do I feel so awful?" Ed tried to open his eyes. It was a struggle. "And how did I get home?"
"You don't remember?" Al crossed to the door, hearing someone knocking. It sounded like gunshots on the door.
"Al, do you have to clank so much? My head's killing me!" Ed sat up and the room tilted. His automail was whining so loudly, he was sure he was coming apart. Surely there was an accident. What wasn't Al telling him?
"It's not my fault I clank!"
Ed glanced at his brother, surprised at the angry tone. Ed couldn't help the look of shock on his face to not only see Mustang on his doorstep but that the Colonel was out of uniform, simply wearing black slacks and a white shirt. He was carrying a box.
"Hello, Alphonse. Good afternoon, Edward," he said coming inside.
"Afternoon?" Ed asked puzzled. "Why aren't you in uniform?"
"I wisely took a day off," Mustang replied, putting the box on the table.
"He just woke up and doesn't remember how he got home, sir," Al said, giving the impression he was glaring at Ed.
"Why are you mad at me, Al?" Ed knew that tone of voice but he didn't know what he had done wrong.
"Why? You really have no idea what you did, do you?" Al said, going back to his bed, purposely making as much noise as possible or so Ed would swear.
"What did I do?" Ed asked as Mustang started rustling around in the box. The sound was like having a sturdy brush scouring his brain.
"You called me a talking garbage can," Al said in a tone that suggested he'd be pouting if he had lips.
"I did not!" Ed winced at the loudness of his own outrage.
"Actually, Fullmetal, yes, you did and it got worse from there," Mustang replied almost cheerfully.
"But why would I call you a garbage can, Al?" Ed loosened his ponytail, hoping it would help with his thumping head. It didn't.
"You were drunk." Al sat on the bed.
Ed's eyes widened. "No, I wasn't. I only took two wine glasses."
Mustang's head snapped up. "I knew it had to be you stealing my wine, little thief." He took something out of the bag. Ed felt too awful to protest being called little.
"It was the punch," Al said. "They forgot to tell you it was alcoholic. How much did you drink?"
"Bunches. So did Winry." Ed scrubbed a hand over his face, wondering why it felt like his tongue was too thick.
"That punch was a lot stronger than the wine. Kicked you in the butt but good," Mustang said, laughter hiding in his tone.
It sounded like the Colonel was getting far too much amusement out of his misery. If Ed were feeling better, he'd say something about it. He wondered if Winry was in as bad a shape as he was. "What happened to Winry?"
"Hawkeye got her home. Don't worry, Gracia will take good care of her. Winry was having the time of her life at the ball." Mustang looked up from his task and gave Ed a sly look. "How much of it do you remember, Fullmetal?"
Ed's brow knit as he tried to fill in the holes in his mind. "I remember her dancing with King Bradley and all that great food. I remember us going into the solarium…and that's about it. How'd I get here?"
"I brought you home and put you to bed," Mustang replied, taking the lid off a small pot that was in the box.
Ed looked down at his undershirt and boxers, his eyes taking over his face.
"I took off just the boots and the coat, Ed. Al must have done the rest," Mustang answered the unasked question.
"I had no choice," Al said, sounding a little surly.
"You said something about something worse than me calling Al a garbage can," Ed said hesitantly.
"You pulled off Al's head and tried to puke in him," Mustang replied, rolling his eyes.
"No way," Ed said, shaking his head vehemently and instantly regretting it. His bile rose but he thought it was as much to do with what Mustang had just said as it was his killer headache.
"Yes, Brother, you did," Al said in a tone that Ed knew he deserved if he had done that.
He hung his head. "Al…I'm so sorry. I don't…I had no idea what I was doing." How could he have done something so horrible to his younger brother? As if Al's life wasn't bad enough, he had to go and do something like that.
"I know that but you're not much of a fun drunk, Brother."
"All a matter of perspective, Alphonse," Mustang said with a wicked grin. "Ed was quite a fun drunk until the end there. He was dancing and laughing."
"I was not laughing," Ed replied as if the idea were ludicrous.
"Oh yes, you were. It's how we knew there was something wrong," Mustang shot back with a smirk.
"You were laughing and talking in your sleep all night, Brother," Al put in, crossing his arms. "As if getting vomit all over me wasn't enough, you didn't shut up either."
"Well…that's not so bad, right, the laughing?" Ed said, letting his loosened hair hang over his face. He stank. He really must have thrown up.
"No, that's fine. I was a little disturbed when you said I was cute though." Mustang showed all his teeth.
Ed flopped back on the bed. "No…"
"Oh yes. You were dancing on a table at one point." Mustang seemed to be really enjoying this. Ed wanted to punch him. "And you really need to not put your hands on Hawkeye's backside, Edward."
"I didn't! She put her hand on mine! I remember that! I didn't do any of those other things." Ed covered his head with a pillow. "I would never dance on the tables."
"Like you didn't get sick on me, Brother?" Al tapped his fingers against his chest.
"Al, please, that's like being shot in the temple," Ed moaned.
"Welcome to your first hangover, kid." Mustang laughed. "I brought you a little something to eat since I knew you'd miss out on mess hall. Home made." Mustang put the bowl of gray oatmeal on Ed's nightstand.
Ed sat up, peered at it and made a face. "I'm not hungry."
"You need to eat, Brother."
"Listen to Alphonse, Fullmetal." Mustang went back over to his bag. "And some poached eggs with a cream sauce just filled with these wonderful hot peppers that I like."
"Uh, no." Ed stomach's turned at the mere thought.
Mustang took the lid off the little skillet he had put in the box and proudly displayed the poached eggs that glistened and jiggled loosely surrounded by the pungent cream sauce. Ed went green, his face twisting up as he gagged loudly. He slid off the bed and tore off down the hall toward the communal showers and rest room.
"I wouldn't have thought he could throw up more," Al remarked, correctly discerning the need for Ed's flight.
Mustang laughed. "You'd be surprised." He took up the fork and helped himself to the poached egg.
Al turned towards Mustang. "Is tormenting him fair, sir?"
"No, but it is amusing," Mustang replied. "You want him to learn his lesson well, don't you, Alphonse? You don't want a repeat of last night."
Al hesitated. "No, but I don't want to have to fish him out if he falls in down there, either. Brother didn't look so good."
"Hangovers won't kill you, Alphonse," Mustang said, polished off the one egg quickly. He repackaged the oatmeal, knowing Ed wouldn't eat it and Riza would hit him if he forgot her bowl. "And Fullmetal's head is somewhat hard. Reinforcing a lesson is a good thing."
"I hate you," Ed said, stumbling back in, still green around the gills. He fell into bed.
"Sure you don't want any eggs? You need to get your strength back," Mustang said, shoving the skillet at him.
Ed burrowed under the covers, face first.
"I'll take that as a no." Mustang packaged up his stuff. "Gracia is making a dinner for us tonight, Edward. Alphonse, try to make sure he's somewhat alive by the time the car comes for you at sun down."
"That's not easy since I clank too loudly," Al remarked, still smarting over that comment.
Mustang shrugged his shoulders. "Beat your chest and stomp your feet. Remember, lessons learned. Go wild."
"I'll keep it in mind, sir."
Would Al purposely mistreat him? It sounded like that to Ed. "You're both being mean," Ed mumbled under the covers.
Mustang laughed. "Alphonse, I'll send up some chicken soup from the corner store. Edward should be able to handle that. And maybe you might want to get some water into him. That'll help and some headache powder."
"Thank you, sir," Al said and shut the door after Mustang left. "Are you going to ever getting drunk again, Brother?"
"I'm not going to survive this time so no." Ed said, cocooning up in the covers more.
"Good." Al picked up a book and tried to be quiet. He wasn't quite as able to torment Ed as Mustang appeared to be. Ed was snoring before the soup arrived.
Winry was surprised to see Ed with his hair down and in a bit of a disarray when he arrived with Mustang and Al at the Hugheses. He was very pale with dark circles under his eyes practically all the way down to his lips. Gracia tsked when she saw him. "Poor Ed, you look awful." She gave him a little hug. "Come sit on the couch."
"Colonel Mustang's been teasing me all day," he whined as Gracia led him to the sofa.
Gracia slapped Mustang's arm as she sailed by. "Really, Roy."
"What? I went over and made sure he didn't die. I even brought him a homemade by me breakfast. How is that teasing?" Roy protested. "I was there ten minutes, which is hardly all day."
"You were laughing at me." Ed pouted.
"Sorry, Fullmetal but to everyone who isn't Al, it is funny," Roy replied, a broad predatory grin on his face.
"It wasn't funny," Al said, looking around the room. "Mrs. Hughes, where's Elicia?"
"She's playing over at her friend, Verbena's house," Gracia replied. "She'll sleep over."
"I feel bad about that, ma'am. I know you sent her over there because I didn't feel so good," Winry said, a hint of blush on her cheeks as she sat next to Ed.
"Nonsense. I don't know about her daddy, but sometimes I need a little break. Elicia loves playing with Verbena." Gracia glanced over at her husband who shrugged sheepishly.
"How are you doing, Winry?" Ed asked, letting his head droop back.
"I'm feeling better than you look." Winry ran a hand through his loose hair.
"Even my hair hurts," Ed whined.
"You can see what he looks like under all that hair?" Mustang asked, smirking as he plopped down on a chair.
"That might constitute teasing, Roy," Hughes said, with a little smile and Mustang waved him off.
"See? He's being mean." Ed moped, putting his head on Winry's shoulder.
"Mean would have been leaving you unconscious under a ballroom table, especially considering what you did with a certain lieutenant." Roy wagged a finger.
"I did not grab Hawkeye's butt," Ed said hotly, jumping up. He flopped back holding his aching head.
"You don't remember so how would you know?" Hawkeye asked, coming out of the kitchen.
"I remember you touching mine," Ed shot back. He remembered it felt pretty good.
"That's not something you'd be likely to forget," Mustang smirked. "You didn't cop a feel. You weren't dancing on tables. You didn't say I'm cute or that Maes is insane."
"No, I probably said that about Hughes." Ed shrugged. "I've said that to his face." He waved lethargically at the lieutenant colonel.
"He has," Hughes said, smiling.
"You didn't try to start a snowball fight in Winry's snow arena," Roy continued, his dark eyes twinkling.
"If you wrecked that machine, Edward…" Winry warned, pinching his side. Ed yelped.
"I didn't do any of this," Ed said, weakly.
"I heard what you did to Al. Is that true?" Winry pinched him again.
"Yes," Al said, still very irritated as he played with Elicia's kitten. "He was still throwing up this afternoon."
"I'm sorry, Al." Ed's shoulders slumped. "What can I do to make it up to you?"
Al held up the kitten.
"Al, you can not have a kitten," Ed said, firmly. "Who's going to take care of it when we're gone? Tell him, Mustang."
"Leave me out of this. You exploded all over your brother. He's chosen his compensation. Deal," Mustang replied.
"Did you even help Al out or did you just leave him?" Ed snapped and Winry clamped a hand over his mouth saying, 'Softly, Ed.'
"I got you home and into bed. Told Alphonse how to care for you. Offered to hose him off if necessary then got out of there," Mustang replied, stretching out loose limbed in the chair.
"Colonels tend to know when it's time for a strategic retreat," Hughes offered. Hawkeye and Gracia rolled their eyes collectively as Winry tried to smother a giggle
"Let Al have his kitten, Ed," Winry said, patting Ed's thigh. If he felt good, he'd be excited by that.
"We're never home," Ed reiterated. "Al, can't you think of anything else?"
"I'll have to think on it," Al said wearily.
"Sorry," Ed murmured. "I wish you could have seen Winry last night, Al. She was beautiful. I didn't forget that."
Winry smiled at him. "Thank you, Ed."
"You should tell Al the story about your necklace," Ed said, knowing his brother would appreciate it.
Levering herself off the sofa, Winry said, "I'll go get it so Al can see. I'm a little more mobile than you, Ed."
"That's because you didn't steal my wine on top of all the punch," Mustang said, narrowing his eyes at Ed.
"The poached eggs for lunch was sheer malice, wasn't it?" Ed asked, glaring at the colonel.
"Poached eggs?" Gracia asked. "That is teasing, Roy. Leave the poor boy alone. Go, into the kitchen with you. Maes, you two check on the roast duck, why don't you?"
"Don't worry kids, when you see all the photos, you'll find it was all worth it, hangover and all," Hughes said, grabbing Mustang's arm and dragging him into the other room.
"Sometimes that man is just…" Hawkeye shook her head. "He teases you because he likes you, Edward."
"He could like me a little less then," Ed grumbled, rubbing his painful scalp.
Hawkeye laughed and retreated into the kitchen followed by Gracia. Winry went and got her necklace. She sat beside Ed and put it on.
"Winry, it's very beautiful," Al said, leaning in for a good look at the silver and jeweled stars.
Ed rested back against the couch listening to Winry tell Al why she had picked it and to his brother's sweet remarks. He felt guilty all over again. Al was probably the one who deserved Winry but just the same, some part of him was not willing to let her go, even if Al had his body back. They'd fight, maybe, and this time he planned on winning for a change. When Winry took off the necklace, Ed nodded at the kitchen then whispered. "I thought Mustang couldn't see Hawkeye in public."
"It's sort of private here, I guess. Gracia explained it as she invited a friend to dinner. Maes did the same. Who knew it would be those two?" Winry shrugged. "It's sort of sad."
"For her," Ed said, rolling his eyes. "I heard his alchemic journals are coded with all his girlfriends names."
"I'll go out on a limb and say yours isn't coded that way." Winry smirked.
"No, it's, hey! What's that supposed to mean?" Ed roared then instantly regretted it. He put a hand to his forehead.
"Brother doesn't have girlfriends, Winry, except you, I guess," Al said with a shrug. "Or maybe Psiren."
"Who's Psiren?" A dangerous hint of something seeped into Winry's voice, her blue eyes pinioning Ed.
Ed glared at his brother, not buying into the innocent tone in which that name had been brought up. "She was not my girlfriend. She was a lot older than me and you're the one who liked her, Al." At the moment, he was regretting sharing the exciting revelation of how a boob felt with his younger brother all those many months ago. If Al wanted to make him pay…
"That didn't answer my question," Winry said, tapping his knee.
"She was an alchemist and thief and I didn't like her," Ed said, resisting the urge to kick his brother for bringing this up. He'd never survive the echo.
"You meet the most interesting people, boys," Winry said, taking off the necklace and putting it back in its case. "I should probably help with dinner." She started to get up but didn't quite make it. Getting the necklace had worn her out.
"I think Mrs. Hughes just wants you and Brother to rest, Winry," Al said, letting the kitten wander off.
"You're probably right." Winry leaned against Ed's shoulder. "Is it me or is the hum of your automail unusually loud?"
"I think all the dancing broke it," Ed said, worriedly. "The whine is killing me."
"It sounds the same, Brother. I think that's just your head," Al replied. "Everything seems too loud and a lot of memories just melted away."
Ed snorted. "Too many. I know I had fun. I just wish I could remember more."
"I know," Winry said, linking her pinkie under his.
Ed leaned in and whispered. "I remember that I liked being with you." He glanced over at Al and decided he couldn't say more in front of his brother. It wasn't fair.
"So did I." She smiled softly.
"Kids, soup's on," Gracia called from the other room.
"I hope she didn't go through too much trouble. I'm not sure if I can even eat," Ed said, struggling to get to his feet.
Contrary to his concerns, both Ed and Winry made it through the hearty bread soup and some of the duck, only half paying attention to the swirl of conversation that the adults and Al were involved in. Mrs. Hughes shooed them away when they tried to help clean up. She came out into the living room several minutes later with two steaming mugs.
"Tea, it'll settle your stomachs," she said then grabbed some afghans out of the window seat's hidden compartment. She draped one around Ed and then Winry. "It's cold in here, Maes."
"It's starting to snow," Hawkeye said, pointing to the window.
"Well, we can fix part of the problem," Hughes said, stacking wood and kindling in the fireplace then stepped back.
Mustang took his glove out of a pocket and had a fire started with a snap. "We'll be in the other room playing games," he said to Ed, Al and Winry. "We could probably get you some cards or something." He glanced at the window and the snow coming down and exchanged a look with Hawkeye. " It's probably not good to drive home in this."
"You can feel free to raid the library, if you're bored," Hughes added as his wife went to retrieve a deck of cards for the kids.
"Colonel, sir, how much of all of what you said Ed did was true?" Al asked as Mustang started for the other room.
Mustang turned around with an evil grin. "So much that he'll never know which he didn't."
Riza grabbed Mustang and propelled him along, leaving Ed sputtering in place, too tired and sick to even get free of the afghan.
Winry looked at the fireplace from her place on the love seat then back at Mustang's retreating form. She nodded at him then pointed at the fireplace. "That was neat."
"He's an annoying bastard but he's handy sometimes," Ed replied.
Al went to go for the books. When they were alone, Winry got off the loveseat and curled up next to Ed. She sipped her fragrant tea then said, "It really was a fun night."
Ed nodded, his eyes on the door his brother had gone through. "It was. I wanted you to know, I do remember kissing you, Winry. It was….I liked that the best."
"Oh, Ed." She leaned in and kissed him again. He smiled under her lips. "That was the best part," she added then popped back over onto the love seat, hearing Al approaching. "Find anything good to read, Al?"
"I hope so," he replied. "Do you and Ed want me to go read in the other room?"
"Don't be silly, Al. Stay with us," she said, hearing something in Al's voice that hurt just a little. She glanced over at Ed, surprised he hadn't responded fast and furious but he was already nodding on the couch, the teacup dangerously close to spilling out of his hand. "Al!" She pointed.
Al scooped the cup out of Ed's fingers then tucked his brother's arm under the afghan. Ed just murmured and burrowed into the couch. Winry smiled, feeling tears in her eyes at the display of brotherly affection. "Poor Ed. The punch really did him in," she said, hoping her voice wouldn't crack. "You're good to him, Al."
"Edward just needs a little looking after sometimes. Usually it's because he's too focused and forgets to take care of himself. This is the first time he accidentally poisoned himself that I'm aware of," Al replied, finishing the tucking in.
"He was worried about you, you know," Winry said, not sure if she should. "He didn't want you to be upset that he went with me."
"I know. I told him I wanted him to go with you, Winry. I want my brother to be happy and you make him feel that way. That's the best thing I could hope for," Al said, softly.
Winry set her cup down and getting up, she went over and hugged Al, kissing his metal cheek. "I know you can't feel that, Al, but one day you will again. Until then, I want you to know you're the best brother and friend anyone could ever want."
Al's big hand brushed her back. "Thank you, Winry." He looked away for a moment and she wondered if he was uncomfortable. His head swung back her way. "You should take it easy, too, Winry. If you feel anything like Brother does…"
"Thanks, Al, I will." Winry curled up on the love seat again. Sleep claimed her almost as quickly as it had come for Ed.
Al was deep into his book when Ed woke back up, muttering Winry's name. Turning to his brother, he said, "She's sleeping, Ed. Go back to sleep. The snow got deep. I think we'll be here for awhile." Al pulled the afghan up against his brother's cheek as Ed's eyes shut again. "Sleep and dream of her, Brother."