It occurred to him that he really hated Central; with its narrow streets constantly packed with civilians who elbowed and chastised him if his speed didn't suit their own, tall buildings, all the same shade of gray, standing so high above the streets they blocked any possible view of the starless sky, and, in certain cases, less-than-enjoyable company. Yet here he was, walking alone on the crowded path to eventually reach the enormous structure where his least-favorite company was sure to be found: At the end of this small, morning journey lay all the aspects of the city he despised in one convenient location. But, despite his vexation, he went to this place every day, for it was given a name that would make him go no matter what his feelings:


Heaving a sigh that was lost to the din of footsteps and conversation, Edward continued to walk, allowing his feet to move out of necessity rather than desire. His back was slumped, his eyes glazed with obvious dread, and his hands were jammed into the pockets of a pair of tight black pants: Even with all these outward signs of discontent, no one around him inquired about his condition. Not that he would've answered, but, he admitted with the smallest hint of a smile, perhaps he missed the needlessly-worried questions he'd always received from a certain voice. That one, small, echoing voice that sounded much too young for its owner's appearance.

That voice belonged to his younger brother who, weather living within steel or flesh, had always stood beside him, even on the busiest of sidewalks. The pair had traveled together for years, sharing every experience, joyful or otherwise, but now they'd become separated. Alphonse had gone back to their hometown of Risembool, understandably wanting to arrive at a permanent resting place after so many years of tents and hotels. Most likely, though, he was in Rush Valley by now, helping their friend Winry-or, as both himself and Alphonse had said, a bit more where the younger was concerned-"revolutionize the automail industry!" Al had been reluctant to leave his brother behind, just as Edward had been to be left, but they'd still ended up residing in different homes in distant towns.

"But why!?" Edward inwardly shouted, staring daggers at the cement below his boots. He hated Central, he hated being separated from his family, and he hated staring at the General's mocking grin every time he entered Headquarters.

So why did he allow himself to see and do all the things he so abhorred on a daily basis!?

The grimace tracing his lips was joined by a small grunt of anger, his hands clenching awkwardly in the tight pocket of fabric.

Why was he in this damned city? Why hadn't he gone to be with his brother and friend? Why was he still part of the military anyway? Why was he even bothering to go in if the General would only be waiting to piss him off at every turn? Why-?

Something warm touched his wrist.

Edward gasped, freezing where he stood.

The warmth wound about his wrist, gently pulling his hand from its place at his side as it relaxed the tense muscles. Then, it spread between each of his fingers, coming to a stop a few inches from his knuckles.

Becauseā€¦she lived here.

The warmth's pressure increased, cradling his palm.

Because she couldn't leave with him, and he couldn't bring himself to go without her.

Following the pressure was a small tug to his arm. "Hey," asked the tug with silent concern, "are you ok?"

Because he needed a job to help pay for the house, and though the pay wasn't extravagant, he knew that, combined, two-people's military salary generated more than enough to get by. Not to mention he still had millions of sens stored at the bank, even after subtracting the share he gave to Al and Winry, left over from his days as a State Alchemist.

Edward turned, seeing as he did so a pair of familiar brown eyes, heated with the warmth of her smiling lips until they appeared as smooth and sweet as the candy whose color they matched. For a long moment he gazed at them, feeling his head tilting ever-so-slightly as he took in the sight; after some time, they disappeared from view, only to have their essence found anew in the soft kiss she gave his forehead.

Because the sarcasm found in his commander's grin was nothing to the compassion he saw in hers. Because even with the glare of streetlamps, he always could see the moonlight shining down upon her as she slept peacefully beside him. Because even within the shouts and complaints of strangers, her voice could always be heard. Because all the seemingly-horrible problems with this city became no more than petty annoyances, their frivolity more apparent with every kiss they shared, and every clasp of their hands.

"Yeah," he answered wordlessly with a squeeze to her hand, smiling back up at her as they began to move once more. "I'm just fine. No question about it."