For Athena.
Happy birthday, my friend.


Thirteen-year-old Edward Elric stuffed his hands in his pocket and walked slowly down a sidewalk in the main part of Central. The sun shone brilliantly, making the whole city seem to light up. The smell of cut grass wafted around him in the early spring air and he scratched at his nose to make the slight itchiness he felt go away. It felt great to have winter gone, but he always ended up getting watery eyes and sneezing in the spring.

Turning the corner, Ed saw Central City's park and smiled a small, yet sad, smile. Young children were running barefoot over the lawn, playing ball or throwing Frisbees. They were calling to each other and laughing happily.

He could almost see himself playing there, though not with those children, but with Al and Winry, and all their other friends... They'd have so much fun, and then they'd return home and their mother would be there... she was always there... She always had a smile for them...

He missed her so much... missed the good times when they'd all been together and so happy... But then, he knew that his mother had been sad on the inside. She'd longed to have his father return. She'd waited in vain...

Ed swallowed hard and began crossing the street toward the park. Sometimes he hated his father because he'd left them and he'd caused his mother so much pain. Al hated it when he said bad things about their father, but Al was too young to remember...

Suddenly he stopped walking when he caught sight of three familiar faces. Maes Hughes was running around trying to get various shots of his one-year-old daughter playing on the grass as Gracia Hughes sat on the park bench and laughed.

Ed gave a small smile. It was rather funny; the way Hughes took so many pictures of his daughter, and the way he showed them off. Suddenly his smile faded and his eyes pricked with unwanted tears.

Elysia Hughes would never grow up wondering if her father loved her.

He felt jealously stab him painfully in his chest and he tried to push it away. He was fine without a father. What did he care if his father was gone? He didn't need him—didn't need any father.

Yet the pain remained.

Maes Hughes was a good man. He was fun, but could be serious; goofy, but could also be relied on. Most importantly, he loved his family... He loved them and would never abandon them...

A lump formed in his throat and his eyes began to sting fiercely as he suddenly realized he wanted nothing more than to be in those photographs. He wanted a father who loved him and was proud of him... Even if it would be embarrassing to have his picture thrust into people's faces, he'd know that he was precious to his father... He'd know that he was cared for and worth something in his father's eyes—not something that could just be abandoned on a whim.

After a moment, Hughes caught sight of Ed and called him over. He had the strongest urge to join him; but instead, he merely waved and walked on quickly. A tear trickled down his cheek and he roughly scrubbed it away. It didn't do any good to wish for something that wasn't. His father was gone and Maes Hughes wasn't his father. No matter how many of Hughes's pictures he was in, he wasn't Hughes's son, and he never would be.

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