Country Living

D M Evans

Disclaimer - not mine, all characters belong to Hiromu Arakawa et al, Square Enix and funimition. I don't make a profit

Timeline – Manga verse, future fic

Pairing – none, implied Ed/Winry

Rating – Pg

Summary – Restored to his body, Al's looking forward to starting to live again

Author's Note – This was written for the picfor1000 challenge where you needed exactly 1000 words inspired by a picture. Here's my picture. Thanks to evillittledog and mjules for the beta. I was thrilled, this story was only three words over in its first draft and for me writing something this short is a challenge.

"What is that cat doing in here?" Ed roared, pointing at the slender feline nestled into a corner.

Al thought a better question would be why had his brother bought a house with walls the color of the sky then realized it had to have been Winry's influence. Ed, of course, wanted to make her happy, as if she were actually going to be living with them. Not that Al would have minded. Freshly returned to his body, he wished he had the strength to forge his own path and let Ed do a little non-restricted growing of his own. However, he was still suffering the ravages of being years behind that Gate, slender enough to give the cat a run for its money and he had all the physical endurance of a wet napkin in a wind storm. Al hadn't argued when Ed said they were moving back to Resembol. He'd leave path forging until he recovered.

Of course, none of that did a wit to answer Ed's question. A further better question would be had the cat grown organically right out of the wooden flooring of what would become the brothers' living room. Its white fur blended seamlessly in with the white baseboards, making it look like a feline-shaped cloud against the sky of the wall.

"A mouse jumped out of the closet at me," Winry said "when I was hanging up Al's clothes. This cat's been mooching off everyone so I put her in here to eat that damn mouse."

"You couldn't get a trap?" Ed asked wearily.

"Cats are better," Winry replied.

As those two fell into their familiar arguing, Al slowly approached the cat. Whoever had painted their new house had been sloppy, blue smears on the pine floor. Either he or Ed could alchemize those away later. Al had his eyes on the prize, something he had been coveting for years; a cat. Hoping not to frighten her, he stooped down, holding out a hand.

Little muscles bunched under her fur and she was in his arms before he could even try to call her. Al straightened, the cat head butting under his chin. Scratching under her chin, Al put his face down into her fur. Homeless scrounger or not, she seemed clean enough. Her purring was deafening.

"I'm keeping her," Al broke into Ed and Winry's bickering.

Both of them stared as if they had forgotten he was around. "You can't," Ed said.

"Yes, I can. We're not moving around any more, Brother. We're staying here until I get stronger and you know what would make me heal faster." Al gently squeezed the feline. "A cat."

Ed rolled his eyes. "Just don't call it something stupid like Snowball."

Al ignored his brother's usual rudeness as he carried the cat to his new room. "You can start mousing in here."

XXX

Hearing someone at the door, Al set aside the alchemic text Mustang had given him as a going away present.

"Hey bean, hurry up and answer the door." Pinako's voice floated in from the other side.

Al opened the door to see Winry there with a big stock pot in her towel-wrapped hands while Pinako carried a pie. "The bean is napping."

"I heard that," Ed shouted from upstairs.

"What is all this?" Al gestured to the pot as Winry bustled past him into the kitchen.

"We made stew for your first dinner in your new house," she said, "and Mrs. Hughes' apple pie."

Al's eyes lit up. "Perfect. Thank you. You didn't have to."

Pinako put the pie on the counter and slapped him lightly. "We wanted to, boy."

Before Al could answer, Ed shrieked and his stream of inventive cursing was followed by a feline scolding. Ed came into the room, his hair mussed. "She did it to me again. This time she dropped out of the transom."

"The cat has been sneak attacking, Ed." Al couldn't hide his grin. "I think I'm going to call her Ghost."

"I'm going to call her dead," Ed retorted. "Ooo, pie!"

"Not until you eat dinner." Winry wagged a finger at him. "You do have plates, right?"

Al nodded and got the table set. Granny's stew was as good as he remembered it being, maybe even better. Al couldn't help himself when it came to savoring all the sensations he had been denied so long. They all sojourned to the small porch to have their pie. As he looked out over the grassy knolls, Al thought it was entirely possible he might stay in Resembool even after his strength returned, though he'd make a trip to Central just to tell Gracia how much he liked her pie recipe. "Thanks for doing this," he said to the Rockbell women, polishing off his pie.

"Yeah, it was nice," Ed said.

"We're just happy to have you home," Winry said.

"And now that you're staying put for a little while, let my granddaughter fix that automail of yours, shrimp. I think you've actually grown. You're lopsided." Pinako grinned.

Al ignored Ed's predictable fit, wishing they had been able to retrieve his limbs for him but that hadn't happened. Still, with Winry around, Ed would be fine. He set the plate aside and patted his lap. Ghost leapt up on him, curling up on herself. She rested her head in his hand so he could scratch her.

"Me she attacks. You she loves on. What's up with that?" Ed grumbled.

"The cat can tell a pure heart from a wicked one," Pinako offered and the arguing started right up again.

Al listened to it with half an ear as he scratched Ghost's chin. The arguing was like the cadence of a mountain stream to him, soft and comforting. It meant Ed was relaxed and he wanted that for his brother. Family, friends, some time to just unwind, what more could he want? Sighing contently, Al smiled over at Winry. "It feels so good to be home."