Edward jerked his head up as a bird flew overhead. He wanted to chase it. He wanted to catch it. Yes. He could do it. It was just a little bird and he could get it. He could catch it and bite it. Bite it! He could—
A hand rested on Ed's shoulder suddenly, reminding him of where he was. Reminding him of what he was. Embarrassed, Edward sat back in his wheelchair and sighed. He was doing better—he really, really was—but it was still taking him a long time to be in his right mind again.
Ed had been human—completely human—for over a week now. There was nothing of the dog remaining in him, but sometimes he couldn't help but feel the way a dog would feel when he saw small animals to chase or other dogs to fight with. Mustang told him that his remaining dog behavior was purely psychological, most likely from sharing a dog's mind for so long, and would probably fade in time.
It was a rainy Wednesday afternoon at Central's large, bustling train station. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes was pushing Ed across the platform in a wheelchair and Alphonse was walking next to him, carrying Ed's luggage. Colonel Mustang was walking on Ed's other side, one of his bandaged hands still gripping Ed's shoulder nonchalantly.
"I'm okay," Ed told him and the hand disappeared, dropping immediately to the Colonel's side.
Edward and Alphonse were heading to Resembool where Ed was going to undergo automail surgery again in a few days' time. He was certainly not looking forward to that. He felt much better now than he had in a very long time and wasn't too fond of the idea of being in nearly unbearable pain again... Still, it needed to be done and the sooner the better.
"You know," Mustang began airily, "I think I'm going to miss having a dog."
Ed snorted, pretending to be irritated. "The only dog I see around here is you, Mustang."
The colonel gave a quiet laugh and didn't say anything else. Mustang had been kind and supportive through all of this, not something that Edward ever would have expected from him. The first few days after that last big transmutation that had nearly killed them both, things had been a little awkward between them. Ed's mind had been able to analyze everything that had happened to him with a human understanding, and in that same vein was able to fully appreciate all that Mustang had done for him over the past few weeks. He was both grateful and confused.
Mustang didn't seem to know how to act around him at first. Mustang and Edward-the-human had never really been close, but as a dog he'd never wanted to leave Mustang's side... They eventually worked out their social anxieties with one another, though.
Not wanting to make Ed-the-human uncomfortable, Mustang had been sleeping on the couch nearly every night and letting Edward have the bed to himself. There were a few times, though, when Edward woke up in the middle of the night from a bad dream with Mustang by his side.
These dreams were pretty frequent and Mustang often shook him awake saying that he'd been screaming in his sleep. On those nights Ed pressed himself against Mustang's chest and cried for hours. Sometimes, Mustang would cry, too... although he'd always try to act like he wasn't... and the he would hold him tight, not saying anything, just trying to make him feel safe. And Ed did feel safe in Mustang's arms. He felt loved and protected... he felt like nothing could ever hurt him again when he was in Mustang's arms...
God, he didn't want to leave...
Hughes brought the wheelchair to a halt on the platform and Al handed a man their tickets and climbed onto the train to put away the luggage. Mustang leaned over and took Ed's arm, helping him stand on his one unsteady leg. Even the small effort of standing made Ed pant a little with exertion. It was so frustrating how weak he was now. He was getting better daily and he'd even gained a couple pounds over the past two weeks, but he was still exhausted all the time and he looked even worse than he felt. Winry was going to have a fit when she saw him...
"Come on, I'll help you up," Mustang said gruffly, guiding Ed toward the steps that led up into the train. He, too, was weak and tired. He was trying to hide it, but he was probably just as fatigued as Ed was. He was pale and his eyes were red and shadowed with grey half-circles underneath. He'd probably be happy to have Ed out of his hair now so that he could get a decent night's sleep for once and not have to worry about holding a crying kid in the middle of the night...
Edward's eyes stung as tears started to form, but he was still holding on to Mustang with his only hand and couldn't wipe them away without drawing attention to them. He tried to blink them back quickly, but Mustang noticed them before they could be erased. The man froze, then sighed.
"Maes, could you give us a second?" he said over his shoulder softly. Hughes gave some sort of gentle reply and Ed heard his footsteps as they faded into the distance. He kept his eyes down, ashamed of his weakness even as he leaned forward against Mustang's chest, instinctively seeking comfort. The man bent down and enveloped him, more than willing these days to give him what he asked for.
Mustang maintained that this, too, would pass as Ed got better. As a dog, he had been very clingy to Mustang and he could remember following him all around the house, just wanting to be close to him... and now, as much as he fought to suppress those feelings, Ed was still terrified at the thought of leaving him.
"I don't want to go..." Ed mumbled, the words sounding unspeakably childish, even to his own ears.
"I know, but you have to," he replied with quiet kindness, "...Besides, it'll be good for you to get out a little, you lazy little punk."
Ed gave a tearful little laugh and pulled away. He was right; it would be good for him. If he was going to get over these impulses, he had to get away from Mustang for a while... no matter how much he desperately just wanted to go back home with him. Mustang smiled down at him warmly, then made him turn around and helped him up onto the train.
Alphonse was already there waiting and he led him to their seats and Ed quickly wiped his face again while his back was turned. He sat down in the familiar seats of the train and suddenly felt a little more at ease. This was going to be okay. Everything would be fine. It was going to take a long time for everything to be normal again, but things would be normal again, eventually. He'd have his automail again soon and after he'd healed for several weeks, he could come back to Central and everything would be okay. No sweat.
Edward started as someone rapped on the widow next to him. It was Mustang. Al stood and opened the window.
"I almost forgot something," Mustang said loudly over the train's departure-signaling whistle. "Give me your hand."
"Why?" Ed asked skeptically.
"Just do it."
Ed sighed with false annoyance and stuck his hand out the window. Mustang took it and pulled it close. And then, to Ed's shock, he leaned in and bit him hard on the arm.
"OW!" Ed exclaimed, jerking his arm back, "What the hell is wrong with you?!"
Mustang grinned wolfishly. "Payback. I owed you for this," he said, raising his own arm and rolling up his sleeve to reveal the scars that Ed had given him back in the lab. Ed rolled his eyes and looked down at his new bite-wound. Mustang hadn't broken skin, but he had still left painful indentions where his teeth had pressed into his flesh.
"...Bet you gave me rabies..." Ed muttered, wiping a spot of Mustang's saliva from his arm with a grimace.
"If I have rabies, it's only because you gave it to me first," he shot back, eyes twinkling.
Ed scowled at him and Mustang gave him an insufferable smile in response. After a beat, though, he sobered himself.
"Call me when you get there," he said seriously.
"We will," Al said when Ed's throat had become to tight for him to answer. Mustang smiled again, sadly this time, and stepped back as the train started moving.
Ed sat back in his seat and closed his eyes, unable to watch as his harsh, beloved protector grew smaller and smaller and finally disappeared over the horizon.
Roy felt Maes come up from behind him and halt at his side, but neither of them said anything as they watched the train wind its way eastward. Even after it was gone from sight, they continued to stand there, motionless and silent until Maes suddenly sighed and pulled something out of his pocket, holding it out for Roy to take. Roy glanced at it.
"I'm not crying," he rasped when he saw that it was a handkerchief.
"Of course you aren't," he replied amiably, still holding it out.
After a moment, Roy finally gave in and took it, briefly pressing it to his over-moist eyes before they could spill over. "Thanks," he mumbled, handing it back.
"Don't mention it."
The pair turned and started walking back toward Maes' car, turning up the collars of their jackets against the frigid drizzle.
"Do you just want to go home?" Maes asked, watching Roy sidelong as they walked.
To what? Roy almost asked, but instead he just shrugged, swallowing hard. No, he did not want to go home. It was going to seem so empty...
"You can always come over to my place for a few drinks. Gracia has been missing you. She worries. You know how she is..."
Roy smirked in spite of himself. Gracia was a darling woman with more common sense than Roy and Maes put together. She was a very soothing person to be around and Roy couldn't help but think that chatting with her and Maes over a glass of fine scotch did sound appealing. He really just didn't want to be alone right now, and they were both good company... Even little Elysia was good for a few laughs...
Roy suddenly realized with a pang that he really did want to see Elysia. It had been months since he'd seen her. To be honest, Roy didn't really enjoy the company of children and Elysia seemed to pick up on that and be very shy around him... but the thought of just being in the same room as Maes' daughter seemed comforting... Because maybe, if he saw Maes playing with her and keeping her safe, then perhaps it would distract him from his desperate yearning to do the same thing for Edward. Maybe Roy could live vicariously through Maes, just for a moment, and know the heart-swelling joy of being a father.
God, how pathetic was that?
"I suppose I do still need to thank her for that soup. That's only polite..." Roy mumbled, feigning reluctance.
Maes chuckled, unfooled by Roy's half-hearted ruse.
Ed was safe. He really was... Roy just had to keep telling himself that. Alphonse would take care of him until they made their way back to Central and then life could go on as it always did. The world could keep spinning.
"You know, maybe this isn't the best time to bring it up..." Maes began, getting into the car, "But I was thinking of getting Elysia a puppy..."
Roy rolled his eyes and got in next to him, knowing that he was in for an earful of excited babbling about Elysia and her approaching birthday. The same day as Ed's birthday. He sat back and listened as Maes gushed about his child, his love for her radiating off of him like a fever. This typically annoyed Roy to no end, especially when Maes called him at night to regale him with whatever cute thing that Elysia had done that day...
Now, though... for whatever reason... Roy didn't mind hearing it this time and just sat back and listened.
((A/N: That's it! A big thanks to everyone who critiqued me and thanks even more to those of you who did fanart for this fic. I love you all and I really appreciate that you took the time to read this.