Friends in a Bucket
Bold Note: This Fic is dedicated to aka Arashi, my 200th reviewer. Yay for 200 ! Whee!
Author's note: Somehow I always write about young Ed in my drabbles... (sweatdrop)
The title's weird for this one too, I know. I was thinking of the awesome phrase 'angst in a bucket', said by Sadina Saphrite about chapter 7 of Array of Sacrifice. Except there wasn't angst. But I liked the phrase. So I wrote it anyway. Deal with it, sensibility!
This drabble was originally meant to be put in Array of Sacrifice (my multichaptered FMA fic). However... it got a bit long. And off-track. And weird. So, since I was supposed to do a drabble anyway, I thought I'd just use it. The second part is totally not related to the first, but that's probably because I didn't initially mean to put them together, and I did a craptastic job on the second part anyway.
Actually, you can all just skip the second part. It sucks. ;;
Maybe I'll fix it someday...
Warning: Nonsensical fluff, cussing, Edward... and mucus.
Note - Misleading title. There is no bucket.
"Ed, honey, go play over there for a little," she asked of him gently.
His face scrunched up into the most serious and 'adult-like' expression he could as he nodded and declared importantly, "I'll draw," before tugging on her skirt one last time in a silent reminder that he was her 'little man' and not to let his teacher yell at her like she did at him (the meanie, he'd only told her he thought homework was stupid and she shouldn't give Al so much).
She ruffled his hair. "That's my little man," she said obligingly, and she watched with a smile as he nodded in satisfaction and set off on his little mission, back straight and stiff as he tried to walk 'like a grown-up'.
"He's a brilliant child. You must be proud," a soft voice said behind her.
Trisha Elric turned to look at her old schoolteacher. "I'm always proud of my sons, Mrs. Pettle," she replied, then smiled sincerely. "But yes, I am very proud of him." She looked over at him, studiously scribbling on a piece of construction paper with a red crayon. "…He reminds me of his father."
"Hohenheim?" she harrumphed, though out of politeness she didn't utter aloud her own rather low opinion of the man – Trisha knew it well enough without her doing so, in any case. "There are likenesses, I'll admit."
"He looks more like his father every day," she said wistfully. "We have so few pictures, but sometimes when I look at Edward I can't help but see him. He's even interested in alchemy."
Mrs. Pettle shook her head in admonishment. "That is a fool's hobby."
Trisha laughed softly. "It makes him happy. Who am I to deny him that?" She sighed a little, then paused. "And… it comforts me that in a way, he wants to be like his father."
The elderly teacher sat behind her desk and chuckled dryly, pushing her glasses further up her beaky nose. "Oh, but I sincerely doubt that is your son's intention," she said wryly. "Despite the few similarities, I can assure you that Edward is an entire world unto himself."
"Is that what you wanted to talk to me about, Mrs. Pettle? Is he causing trouble at school?"
She gestured dismissively. "Not much more than any other little boy his age. No, I called you here for a different reason." Mrs. Pettle leaned forward, dropping her stern schoolteacher tone and adopting a more matronly one. "Edward is… having trouble making new emotional attachments. He has difficulty connecting with his classmates."
Trisha's eyes widened. "Edward doesn't have friends?'
Mrs. Pettle sighed. "He is a charmer. He is amusing. He has acquaintances, children he talks to. He is sincere. He is even admired. But… he does not let anyone in. He only spends time with the familiar – his brother and Winry Rockbell. Edward does not feel a need to expand his world, and as a result his bonds are few and lacking, overindulged and romanticized."
"That's… a little harsh, isn't it? For a child so young…"
The old teacher's already-wrinkled forehead wrinkled further. "Mrs. Elric, I have done this since before you were born. I should think I know a thing or two."
"Of… of course. What do you think I should do?"
"For now, nothing. It does not affect his performance in school, and this could simply be a phase. However, I doubt it, and this could pose a danger to his emotional stability."
Mrs. Pettle paused for a moment. "Imagine that your world is a plate, balancing on a tall tripod. Quite understandably, the legs of the tripod are the most important, most dear things to you.
"For now, the tripod is stable. However," here she entwined her fingers and rested her chin on them, "think of what happens should one leg be taken away. The entire thing collapses. Your world is broken."
"Mrs. Pettle, I hardly think-"
"Mrs. Elric, most people do not have their plates resting on a tripod. Some do not trust their world to anyone or anything but themselves. Most have tables with many short legs that are close to the ground. Even should one break off, the table is still standing. And should more than one break off, the plate is close to the ground. It will not shatter that easily."
The younger woman stiffened almost imperceptibly. "What are you saying?"
"Trisha, I realize this may be very presumptuous of me. But out of concern for the boy I must inform you that Edward's world has precious little to hold it up." Her sharp eyes stared at the other woman from beyond the glasses. "For the sake of your son, you need to take care-"
Trisha stood from her seat, and although she smiled as gently and brightly as she did when she had first met her teacher all those years ago, there was a flash in her eye that was not unlike Edward's at his most stubborn. "Thank you, Teacher. I'll keep it in mind."
She was holding Edward's hand, watching him cheerfully point out to her a fat cow or a pretty flower. It was a nice day out, bright and warm, but she couldn't help feeling chills as she remembered Mrs. Pettle's warning.
"Edward," she said suddenly, and he looked at her attentively. "Are you lonely?"
"…Do you have someone important?"
Her son frowned up at her, clearly not understanding this line of questioning. "I have you." He considered for a moment, then added, "And Al, when he's not stealing my toys."
She hid her amusement. "I meant in school."
"Oh. Yeah, Al."
"Aside from Al. Do you have any friends?"
He shrugged. "Winry's mad because I wouldn't play house with her."
"There isn't anyone else?"
She stopped walking, letting go of his hand. "Friends are very important, Edward."
"I don't need any," he declared rebelliously as he turned to face her.
She crouched down on one knee and took his precious face in her hands, rubbing away at a smear of dirt under his eye with her thumb. "Do you know why friends are important, Ed?"
She said something she read in a book a long, long time ago, something that had been the only thing to pull a little girl through the dreary days and shrieking nights. "Friends are the family you choose for yourself."
Edward crossed his arms and wrinkled his forehead as if wondering whether his beloved mother was going out of her mind. "I don't need another family."
Trisha smiled. "Of course you don't," she asserted, "but it's always good to have other people care about you. The more people that care about you, the better a person you become. And the more people you care about, the bigger your heart is."
"I don't want my heart to get any bigger. It'll explode."
His mother laughed.
"Hearts don't explode, Ed."
"Mine will," he said resolutely.
He looked so serious that she couldn't help but laugh again.
"One day, Ed, you will have the best friends anyone could wish for. And no matter how hard you try, you won't be able to get rid of them, they will like you so much."
He scowled. "That's just annoying. They should go away when I tell them."
She smiled. "They won't."
He scowled harder. "They should."
"They like you too much. And you know what?" she asked teasingly.
She said it in a loud stage whisper.
"You'll like them too."
He started shaking his head, but she stopped him and tweaked his nose.
"And I promise – nothing will explode."
"Dammit, this is ridiculous..."
"Stop complaining. At least you're not the one carrying a fifty-pound teddy bear."
"No, just a fucking metal ROCKING HORSE!! Why'd we have to do this again?"
"It's her birthday, Fullmetal. Try to keep up."
"I knew that. I meant, why am I going? Shouldn't her party be full of, like, kids her own age?"
Vicious smile. "Oh, no birthday party is complete without the presence of the great Hero of the People."
He narrowed his eyes. "...You just don't want to be alone with Hughes, do you?"
Smug smirk. "Bingo."
"You bastard. You could have gotten Lieutenant Hawkeye to come along. Or any of the other guys back at the office."
"They have work to do, so they're coming later in the evening."
A wry glance. "...They refused to help you carry the gifts, didn't they."
"Aren't you the fucking Flame Alchemist? What about your gloves? Couldn't you, like, threaten to barbecue 'em or something?"
"...Riza had a gun."
The two were silent for a while, the only sound around them being the soft crush of snow under their feet. The wind shuddered their way up their spine, and the gloves they both wore were of absolutely no help whatsoever.
"Goddamn it, how come you roped me into this, then? I knew I shouldn't have left Al at the hotel, he wouldn't let me get bullied around like this..."
"He'd probably join in. Now shut up, we're almost there."
"Crap. I hope they're serving soup, I'm freezing."
"It's a birthday party, not a nursing home."
They slowly made their way up the steps, struggling with burdens that were constantly slipping from numb fingers. Ed was having a particularly hard time of it.
"Smile, Fullmetal," Mustang suddenly snapped the order. "Pretend you're happy and ecstatic to be here."
"Like hell I will."
"She's four years old. Make with the happy, or so help me I swear I'll send you off to the most distant, backwater human settlement I can think of." He paused. "And that will be after I burn you to a crisp, you understand."
"At least it'll be warmer..."
Mustang sighed. "Fine, squirt, I'm going ahead. Stay here and be miserable." With a sudden, suspicious burst of energy the colonel jumped up the stairs and weaved around iced puddles and made his way to the door.
Ed stared after him desperately. "Wait, where are you-"
"Fuck this, fuck Mustang, fuck Riza and her gun..." Ed grumbled viciously under his breath as he hauled the box up the last step. He then proceeded to unceremoniously kick it closer to the doorway, putting his hands up his armpits for warmth. "That bastard... who was he calling a squirt..."
There were noises coming from inside, warm and happy family noises, and he stopped just in front of the door, suddenly looking lost. What was he doing here? He didn't belong- he didn't have time-
He shook those thoughts away and picked up Elysia's gift. "Okay, smile and look happy, smile and look happy..." he gritted his teeth together and tried to force something resembling a smile on his face. Ed opened the door.
He stood in the doorway and stared at them, mouth gaping ajar. Everyone was there - Breda, Ross, Farman, Fury, Broche, Schiezka, Elysia, Al... even Armstrong was there, weeping exorbitantly into tissues kindly provided by Mrs. Hughes.
Hughes beamed at him and pulled him inside, closing the door after him. "Now now, no cursing in front of my little girl, Ed. That's not a very brotherly thing to do."
He felt lost again. "But... what... what's this for?"
Hughes raised an eyebrow. "Are you seriously asking me that?"
"Huh?" Edward blinked as the burden on his arms suddenly lifted.
"Reckon you held this long enough, boss."
He stared at the blonde man. "Lieutenant? I thought you were at the office..."
Havoc just grinned, disappearing into the living room.
"We came here early," a woman's voice came from behind his shoulder. "Hughes didn't want to chance the two of you arriving earlier than you were supposed to."
"Hawkeye? You're here?"
She smiled gently. "I wouldn't miss it, Edward."
Ed wrinkled his forehead. "Miss? Miss what?"
Mustang suddenly entered from the kitchen, gracefully chowing down on an apple.
"Oh," he remarked idly, "You finally made it."
Ed lit up with fury, which was fortunate on his part as it finally loosened his tongue. "You bastard - what the hell was that for, leaving me alone to freeze my ass off- you bastard - see if I do anything for you ever again -"
The older man stared at him blankly. "What are you babbling about? Someone had to tell them to get ready."
"...Wait, what..." He was suddenly pulled up by thick metal arms and carried to the living room.
"Al?Put me down! I'm not a frickin' doll!"
"Brother, you idiot! Don't tell me you forgot your own birthday!"
He stilled his struggles. "My birthday?"
"Afraid so, squirt," the Great Bastard said, slapping his shoulder as Al finally dropped him unto the couch. "One year older, one inch shorter..."
"WHO'RE YOU CALLING SO SMALL HE COULD BE SNEEZED OUT OF A SQUIRREL'S NOSE?"
Mustang blinked. "That was unusually disgusting, Fullmetal."
"Fuck you, Mustang," he grumbled sullenly, wiping his nose with a red sleeve. "I think I caught a cold."
"It's like they say - you win some, you lose some, Brother."
"Yeah, but - but -" He narrowed his eyes. "Al..." he said, "were you in on this? The let's-make-Ed-freeze-to-death scheme?"
Mustang smirked evilly. "He was the one who planned it."
Ed slowly turned his head to look at his brother.
That was creepy. The armor scooted back, panicked. "He's lying! He was the one who thought it'd be funny!"
Same creepy head turn. "Mustang..."
"Hughes came up with it!"
Hughes smiled nervously. "Now now, let's not point fingers..."
Ed put his head in his arms. "I hate all of you..."
As they argued among themselves, Elysia made her way into Ed's lap.
"Happy birthday, Ed!" she beamed.
"...Thanks. You too."
"Happy birthday, Ed! Happy happy birthday!"
He blinked down at her. "Uh..."
She stopped and stared up at him, and seemed to wait impatiently for something, but he didn't know what she wanted.
"What is it, Elysia?"
"Are you happy yet? Daddy said that if I said happy birthday to you enough times, you'd be happy."
He glanced over at Hughes, who was currently trying to escape Al and Mustang for some reason. "He said that?"
Elysia squealed as her father grabbed her and used her as a human shield. "You wouldn't hurt a child, would you? Roy?"
"Elysia?" Roy asked. "What do you think? Can you be brave?"
The little girl nodded, wide-eyed. "Okay."
Hughes suddenly grabbed hold of Ed's collar and hauled him up in front of him defensively, letting go of Elysia in the process.
"Damn it, Hughes, leave me alone!" Ed struggled, trying to pull away.
He was ignored, and instead held a bit tighter. "What about him? You wouldn't hurt the birthday boy, would you? Right? Al?"
The two looked at each other.
"I think we'll manage," Roy said.
Al nodded, a suspicious glint of mischief in his eyeholes.
Betrayed by my own family... Ed thought glumly.
"Not in the house!" Hughes suddenly cried out. "...At the very least, outside." He promptly sprinted to the door, carrying the boy with him.
As the cold wind struck him, Edward gave up.
"I hate you."
"Ed'll be all right, won't he, Colonel?" Al asked hesitantly.
"Oh, there's no harm in a little birthday celebration," he answered. "...Mustang?Where's Ed?" "What's going on?" "Men, Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes has kidnapped Fullmetal. We must get him back at all costs." He surveyed them. "Are you up to the task?" They snapped to attention. "Yes sir!" The Flame pulled on his gloves and smirked.
"Let the fun begin."
"Oh, there's no harm in a little birthday celebration," he answered.
"What's going on?"
"Men, Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes has kidnapped Fullmetal. We must get him back at all costs." He surveyed them. "Are you up to the task?"
They snapped to attention. "Yes sir!"
The Flame pulled on his gloves and smirked.
"Let the fun begin."
"Let the fun begin."
A/N: Don't hate me, please...