A Better Fate

Disclaimer – not mine. All rights belong to Ms Arakawa

Rating – FRT

Pairings – Ed/Winry (naturally), Roy/Riza (and a few other minor ones that crop up along the way)

Time line/Spoilers – Consider it spoilery up to the latest manga chapter without having any real direct spoilers. It's future fic, just a few weeks after the final showdown

Summary – Having finally achieved most his goals, Ed has only one thing on his mind: showing Winry how he feels.

Fire and Ice prompts - Hot: Rising steam Cold: Hazy shade of winter. I chose Cold (though hot makes a guest appearance) Thanks to SJ Smith for the beta

Chapter One

kisses are a better fate than wisdom. e.e. cummings

"Damn house," Ed muttered, trundling down the lushly carpeted hall. He had gotten lost in Armstrong Manor looking for Al's room. He was fairly sure he had never been in the wing he had just found himself in, even though he had been living in the house for nearly three weeks. The problem was he tried to get there from outside on a side of the house he had spent no time in. Ed couldn't let the bastard hear about it or he'd be teased into oblivion.

Fairly sure this was the room he was looking for, Ed tossed open the door. Heat boiled out. He hesitated, staring in at Colonel – no General - Shit sitting next to Al's bed, both of them hovering over a game board set up on a bed tray. "What are you doing here?" He grumbled, stomping in. An instant sweat popped out all over him from the blazing fireplace that gave so much added heat to the room, not that the scorching steam heat rattling in the pipes wasn't hot enough. The Bastard had a sheen of sweat on his face but Al, nearly invisible under the thick comforters tucked up under his armpits, still shivered a little. Ed didn't care about the heat. Al might be too thin, too cold and barely able to move but that would change. Ed had no doubts, couldn't even begin to allow himself to think of doubt.

"You were taking a nap so I started teaching Al how to play Go. He's getting pretty good at it." Roy gestured to the little white and black tiles.

"You're not supposed to be tiring him out."

"Brother, he's not," Al protested, though Ed thought he looked damn tired. "I'm so bored. The general has been keeping me company so I don't go crazy. He even brought me lunch." Al lifted his chin to point out the food tray on the floor by the door then gave Ed a sheepish look. "I do need you to do something he couldn't." Roy helped him set the game aside and Al held out an arm to Ed. "Help me to the bathroom."

"I could have done that, Al," Roy protested.

"You still have stitches in your shoulder and if I made you pull them, Hawkeye might shoot me." Al grinned.

Ed pushed past Mustang, needlessly rough. "Al's not your concern." Slipping an arm around his brother, he tried not to wince when Al pinched him viciously for being rude. Ed wasn't thrilled about being nursemaid but Al was his sibling and he'd be damned if he'd let his baby brother owe the bastard anything. The fact that they already did echoed in his head as he helped Al into the master bath then let him have some privacy. He sat on the window seat, the coolest place in the room. "I still don't get why you have this house."

"Olivia gave it to me." Smirking, Mustang tapped his chest. "She thought I was worthy."

Snorting, Ed asked, "Of what?" Roy favored him with a smarmy grin and Ed shuddered. Taking what he knew of Mustang's reputation, he applied it to Olivia Armstrong. "You perverted freak."

Mustang's smile grew. "I said nothing. The only perverted thing here is your mind."

Ed sucked in a deep breath to help fuel the string of invectives he was planning to call the shit but he heard Al calling for him so he went in to help his brother. He had to guide Al back to the bed slowly. His  muscles wasted, Al had trouble coordinating his movements.

"Before you put Alphonse back to bed, I wanted to show him something." Roy pulled the wheelchair out of the corner.

"I want to walk," Al protested.

"It's downstairs," Roy explained and Al's determination melted.

"I don't want my brother overexerting himself," Ed protested, figuring if Mustang wanted Al in the chair that meant it was too far for him to be of much help with that bum shoulder. Al was right, Mustang still had in his stitches in his shoulder. The man had nearly lost his arm.

"Ed, I want to get out of this room." Al's skeletal hand flailed for the edge of the wheelchair and the bastard let Ed struggle to push it. Figures, since it didn't want to roll on the carpeted floor. Ed and Mustang had to help Al down the stairs to the second wheelchair waiting on the first floor.

"Where are we going?" Ed asked, realizing once again he was in a part of the house he'd never ever seen. He hadn't really done any exploring. Mostly he just went from his bedroom to Al's and to the kitchen and living room with occasional sojourns to the alchemy lab.  "I don't feel like taking a tour when there are things to do, like going to see Winry. She hasn't seen Al yet, you know." Frustration laced through his voice.

"I do and we agreed it wasn't safe yet. Father and the homunculi are gone, well, except for Greed, but he seems to pose no immediate threat. If anything, he's friendly," Roy said, his shoes clattering on the hard wood flooring of this never-before-seen-by-Ed hallway. "We'll discuss the situation with Miss Rockbell once we get there."

"Where?" Ed huffed impatiently.

"Down those steps. I found it this morning after Armstrong asked me about how I liked it." Roy gestured to a curving staircase. "We'll have to help Al walk once we're down there, since I don't want to try and wrestle the wheelchair."

"I don't want to go down there, period." Ed glared down the steps.

"I do," Al said, trying to hoist himself up.

Ed sighed. Al was always too curious for his own good. If the bastard fell or worse, Al did, it would be Ed who caught hell from Hawkeye.  "Can't we just wait until Armstrong gets here? He could carry you both down." He screwed up his nose. "Or she could."

"We're nearly there," Roy protested.

It took some doing to get Al down to the subterranean level. Something mineral-like tickled Ed's nose. It felt warmer than it should for being underground and in winter. Roy led them around a corner into a room with columns and mosaics decorating it. A table was set off to one side in an inviting nook. The source of the minerally smell proved to be hot springs, tapped into a long pool.

"Wow!" Al cried, expressing Ed's exact thought. "This is amazing."

"It really is," Ed admitted reluctantly.

"I thought this would warm you up nicely, Al." Roy tugged on the hem of Al's shirt.

"He doesn't have a suit," Ed protested, grabbing Mustang's wrist.

"We're all men, Edward. Unless you have some piece of automail I don't know about, there's nothing here we haven't seen before," Roy said, taking off Al's shirt.

Ed resisted kicking him but only because he was fairly sure Al would fall, too. "Do you want to get in, Al?"

"Sure." Al didn't have to shimmy out of his pants; they nearly fell off, revealing every boney knob his brother had.

"Go on, Ed." Roy steadied Al who had already started to shiver. "Automail can soak, right?"

Ed nodded, stripping quickly then he got into the water first. Reclining 'chairs' had been worked into the walls of the pool. It would be easy to set Al in one. He held out his arms and they maneuvered Al into the water.

His brother sank up to his neck with a happy sigh. "This is the best I've felt since I've been back," Al all but purred, his eyes shutting.

Ed envied him. Al got to miss Mustang getting naked. The steam rising off the water couldn't obscure that view. Ed just whined loudly. "I could have lived my life without seeing that. We don't need you here, bastard."

Roy expertly ignored him, lounging back in the water indolently, careful not to dip his stitched-up shoulder in. "I happen to want a soak."

Ed settled in then glared at Mustang. "You said we'd talk about it, so talk. We want to see Winry. I hate hiding out like this."

"She knows you're safe. She knows Al is back." Roy waved him off, his eyes slotting. "We can't be sure anyone is safe, not until most of the Bradley supporters are gone. Things are settling. You'll get to see her again, Fullmetal. For now, she's safe and that's more important, right?"

Ed grumbled something, hating when the man was right.

"However, I have been talking with Armstrong and we think we have the major threats dealt with, at least the ones from within. The fact that some of the Ishbalans actually helped overthrow Bradley is a good sign." Roy sank as low as he dared, a contented noise bubbling up out of him. "We're starting to rebuild and I was hoping for your help, both of you."

"Al isn't a soldier."  Ed didn't like where this was going and he'd be damned if Mustang manipulated Al.

"If you let me finish." Mustang lowered that cool, dark gaze on Ed. "We need heroes. That's you two, like it or not. Take it from the last poster hero Amestris had, it rather sucks." The bitterness in Mustang's voice sent a shudder through Ed. He wondered if there really were posters of Roy after the Ishbalan war. "I'll push your resignation through if I can, Edward, but expect resistance. Until that time, I'll do what I always have, try to shield you as much as I can."

"What's this have to do with Winry?" Ed knew that Roy had a point about keeping her in Resembool nice and safe but he wasn't about to let it drop.

"Brother." Al poked him with a bony finger. "I think he's saying if we're safer now, Winry can know where we are."

"Exactly and not just Winry. If I don't heed Mrs. Curtis and Gracia's demands to see you soon, they'll tear me limb from limb. That Mrs. Curtis is very loud on the phone." Roy grimaced and Ed gleefully entertained the lovely image of Izumi shredding Roy. "I'll arrange for Miss Rockbell to come here, Edward, but first, you and I have work to do. Tomorrow, first thing at the train station."

"I can't leave Al."

"Did I ask you to?" Mustang shot him a tart look. "Riza will look out for Alphonse. We'll only be gone an hour or so."

"Don't fuss, Ed." Al reached up a hand and dribbled the hot water over his own head. "I'll be fine. I'll have Miss Hawkeye make me tea and give me some books. I'll survive." His eyes shut and he slipped down until his chin kissed the surface of the hot water.

"You think things with the Ishbalans can be fixed now?" Ed mumbled, thinking about things he had learned, wondering if Roy knew about the things Hawkeye had shared.

"We stand a chance."

"Do you?" Ed didn't want the bastard to know but there were things he respected about him and Hawkeye's words haunted Ed. "Hawkeye is afraid they might make you into a war criminal to appease the Ishbalans." Ed watched the misery march into the man's black eyes.

"It could happen. I'd surely be executed if it did."

Al's eyes flew open and he nearly went under. Ed hastily helped his brother, kicking himself. He had never confided Hawkeye's fears to Al and now was the wrong time. "Oh, that's not right," Al cried, horrified.

"If it happens, you boys take care of Riza for me. Promise me that." The grim look on Mustang's face knotted Ed's gut.

Al shook his head. "No, not until we have to. There are other ways."

Ed couldn't handle the distressed expression on his brother's gaunt face. "Let's talk about something better."

"All right, what are your plans for when Miss Rockbell arrives?" Roy affably changed the subject, the corners of his mouth quirking up.

"What do you mean?" Ed hoped he could play off the blush as being due to the heat of the water.

"Don't be dense. You need a plan," Roy insisted, ticking things off on his fingers. "Dinner and a movie, flowers, candy."

"New tool set," Al offered.

"I don't need your help with Winry," Ed huffed. He wagged a finger at them. "Either of you."

Al glanced at Roy, a knowing smile on his face. "He needs it."

"I know. From what little I've observed and been told, Miss Rockbell is much like Riza. She'll kill a clueless lad like Fullmetal here." Roy's smirk was only slightly less irritating than Al's grin.

"Bite me, bastard." Ed kicked at him.

"No metal parts!" Roy slid off the seat, nearly going under.

"Brother, don't make him get his stitches wet."

"I'm going to hold him under until he's blue." Ed feinted at the man.

"Well, if you don't want help, Edward, I'll be very happy to point and laugh when you screw up."

"He is supposed to be charming and debonair, Brother." Al nodded to Roy. "You might want to listen."

"I'll ask Havoc first." Ed waved him off. "He'd probably like a visit."

"But wasn't he infamous for messing it up?" Al's eyes twinkled. "Ask Armstrong. I'm sure he has all sorts of family…" Al barked out a laugh, echoed by Mustang, "secrets for it."

"I'll ask Mustang first. I fear that last alternative." Ed held up his hands. "No more talk about Winry. And you." He stabbed a finger at Roy. "Go away. It's creepy having you naked in a bath with us."

"Public bathing is normal in Xing. Did you know that?" Roy arched an eyebrow at him.

"Then go invite Greed."

"Relax, Edward. Yes, I prefer blondes but I do have a height requirement." Mustang slashed his hand above his head.

Al just sighed as aquatic war waged around him. "I just don't want to be there when Riza sees the state of your stitches, sir!"


Ed gazed at the haze enveloping the whole train station. It was just warm enough to allow a nearby stream to puff fog but cold and damp enough to make his ports ache and parts of him wanted to crawl up inside to get warm. If Mustang was cold, the jerk didn't show it. Oh no, nothing bothered him. "I can't believe Riza promised to paddle me if she caught me." Ed watched his breath crystallize. "I can't believe you wanted her to paddle you for popping your stitches."

"Never underestimate the effect of a strong woman paddling you, Fullmetal," Roy hissed lowly so the few fools on the platform couldn't overhear.

"Freak." Ed made a face. "Why the hell did we have to get here so early? Where are we going?"

"Patience, Edward." Roy tugged his thick coat tighter. So he was cold. "I'm currently occupying Olivia's room with the biggest, most comfortable bed I've ever seen. I wouldn't have gotten up this early if it weren't important."

"The General's room?" Ed wrinkled his nose. "Why? I thought you were in Armstrong's."

"Being in Alex Louis' room wouldn't have the same effect," Roy replied mysteriously.

"What? Oh, never mind." Ed had a sudden flash of Mustang trying to talk Riza into sex on every surface in the room. It wasn't like they were fooling anyone or, at least not Bradley, no more than he and Winry had. Ed tried to imagine him and Winry in the roles he had just cast Mustang in. He felt his face flush. He had imagined sex with Winry before, usually in his own private moments, not like this. He'd better stop before things decided to wake up and brave the cold. "Pervert."

"It's you who keeps thinking naughty things, Fullmetal. I almost fear bringing that sweet young lady here some day."

"Don't tempt me." Ed nodded to the light cutting the fog while he made shoving motions.

"I'd take you under the train with me."

A big, cocky grin spread over Ed's face. "You'd try."

"If it helps, this is our train," Mustang said as a few other brave souls exited the station out into the hazy winter morning.

Ed stomped his foot, trying to get a little feeling into it. "This had better be good. I'm hungry."

"No, you're crabby," Roy countered, actually looking like he might be losing patience. "I need coffee the next time I have to deal with you in the morning. I can  not wait for Alphonse to get well. He's more amenable than you."

"Once he's well,  you aren't getting near him again." Ed could only imagine what lures this man would use if he thought Al was useful to him.

"I've got him addicted to Go. He'll be back to play me." Roy smirked as the train came to a stop.

'Too bad,' Ed thought, considering again throwing him onto the tracks. "So, killing you really is my only recourse."

Roy just rubbed his fingers together in response. It was a hollow threat since he had on winter gloves, though Ed wouldn't be shocked if the man had his array gloves on under them. The man's attention swiveled to the people disembarking into the fog. Ed wondered how long he'd have to stand here, freezing his boy bits off, until they could board. Why couldn't Mustang wait inside like a sane man? Mustang nudged him and started moving forward. Head down, keeping his face from the wind, Ed shambled along.

 Suddenly, his head snapped up, hearing his name called in a tone far too high and sweet to be coming from the bastard. Ed's jaw dropped, seeing Winry running across the platform. Her arms were around his neck, nearly knocking him down in his surprise. Ed squeezed her as tight as he dared. It was hard to feel her form under her thick coat. When he let her go, he saw Mustang out of the corner of his eye as the man helped Granny off the train. He'd worry about Granny later. Winry demanded every iota of his attention.

Ed ran his gloved hands over Winry's reddening cheeks, wishing he could feel her smooth skin, wishing for an insane moment that he had Mustang's silver tongue. He never knew what to say, even if this was his best and oldest friend. Ever since they grew up, things had been awkward. It was more than just the normal boy-girl crap. He had lied to Winry, or at least kept things from her, disappeared for months at a time. Ed felt his eyes sting and he'd be damned if he cried now. He had been strong for so long. He wanted badly to kiss Winry but not with Mustang and Granny standing there. They'd critique him.  He settled for whispering, "It's done, Winry. We can come home."

The fact he didn't  have a home to go to hit Ed like a sledge. Winry seemed to read his distress, taking his hand. He thought for a moment she was going to kiss him then caught her looking askance. She seemed to share his paranoia about the adults.  "Home is waiting for you," she said, squeezing his hand. "Al, how is he?"

"You'll see real soon," Ed promised then nodded at Pinako. "She dragged you along, too, mini-granny."

"And the hound." Pinako jerked a thumb to the end of the train. "She's in a crate. Go get her, boy."

"Hello to you, too, hag." Ed smiled as he said it. He stomp his way to the baggage cars while Mustang swished the ladies off inside. "Damn bastard, going in where it's warm, leave me to do all the work like usual," he grumbled without much heat. Bastard or not, Mustang had surprised him good. Just wait until Al saw. Ed grinned at that, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he waited for the porters. It didn't really matter they had no house, their true home had found them.


"I still can't believe you're here." Al tried to get Den to come up from the foot of the bed so he could pet her. Winry sat between the brothers on the bed, letting Al lean against her shoulder. The stifling room was hot, crowded, too, with Pinako in Mustang's usual chair near the bed. Mustang had let Riza have the window seat while he sat at her feet, leaning against it.  Ed expected the two of them to leave soon.

"It was a long trip." Winry looked up at the ceiling, painted to look like the tops of an arboreal forest with a starry night crowning them. "That is amazing. This whole place is unbelievable."

"The artwork amassed by the Armstrongs is astounding," Roy agreed. "Tell her about the time you walked into a wall, Edward." The smirk that bloomed on the man's face made Ed want to throttle him. "He thought it was an opening to the outside gardens, it's so well painted."

"Shut the hell up!" Ed nearly tossed himself out of the bed but Winry had him by his shirt.

"Edward, do I have to remind you of our conversation last night?" Riza quirked up an eyebrow at him.

"What did you do?" Winry tapped the pillow next to her and he settled back against it.

"He and Mr. Mustang were wrestling in the hot springs." Al's gold eyes gleamed. "There are natural springs in one portion of the basement. I want to go back later. Ed popped some of Mr. Mustang's stitches."

"Bean, you can't treat stitches like that," Pinako scolded gently.

"It really hurt." Mustang pouted and Riza nudged him with her heel, hard.

"I'm sure you were asking for it," Riza said sternly. "Though knowing Edward, he went too far."

"Mr. Mustang said brother was too short for him to date," Al supplied, the sly look in his eyes stirring conflicting feelings in Ed. One, that he was so glad his brother  hadeyes again and secondly, that if Al was well, he'd make him pay for that comment.

"Don't ask how it all got started," Ed growled, leaning over to take a tea cup off the night stand. He handed it to Winry then picked up his own. The tea had been forgotten in the hellos and now, in the heat of Al's room, it wasn't really needed but it would be soothing.

"This is very good, spicy," Winry said, sipping the peppery tea.

"From my private collection. Hawkeye was kind enough to bring it here for me while I was recuperating. They've had their hands full with me and Alphonse."  Roy smiled at Winry. Ed hated how true that was. He wanted his brother healthy and whole and he wasn't sure if that would ever happen. Al could have suffered permanent damage from his time across the gate. What if his muscles never recovered? He didn't want to see Al have to have amputations and replacements, even if  Granny and Winry were the best.

"You will be giving this house back once everyone is well though, right?" Winry fretted. "Mr. Armstrong is such a nice man. You can't keep his house."

Roy buried his fingers in the thick carpet. "I'll let him move back in once the insanity is truly done. He'll never even notice me off in my own corner of this estate. We all could claim a room and it would take him a year or more to find us."

"He's not kidding. This place is crazy." Ed sniffed.

"Once the danger is past, Strongarm's parents will return," Riza said. "And the General will have to find his own place, though he'll be utterly spoiled by then."

"Can you blame me?" Roy leaned his head against her knee. Ed wondered if he would ever see those two this free with each other again. Was this his future with Winry? If he was made a national hero, would he always be afraid to be around her, putting her in danger?

"Is the danger past?" Pinako asked sensibly. Ed saw that Al was half asleep against Winry. He should shoo everyone out of the room so his brother could sleep but Al would probably get mad.

"Not yet, not entirely," Riza replied, the regret evident in her tone.

"But enough that we're already rebuilding some things." Roy straightened. "And to that end, I'll want some thoughts from you, Miss Rockbell, and the brothers."

Winry's brow knit. "Please, call me Winry. What sort of thoughts?"

Ed was curious about that but more wary than anything. He was not about to let his brother and Winry get used.

"Right now, Olivia is in charge and it's likely to stay that way. She makes a good rallying point. While most of our work will be repairing the country and all the relationships, we thought it would be good to have something to take people's minds off of things, a place they could relax," Mustang explained. "I was put in charge of that and I remembered the amusement parks from when I was young. Much of them were closed down and forgotten, a lot of their metal taken away to use for the military. There was a big one here in Central."

"We've heard of them. Winry used to bug our Mom to take us to one," Ed said.

"It closed before she ever got the chance," Al muttered, stirring a bit.

"I want to open the one in Central. It can't be done all at once. I'll take you there, let you see what's left and the schematics. Help me decide what will be the easiest to restore first. We'd like to get parts of it open by spring. It would be good to help relax the tension everyone's feeling," Roy said enthusiastically.

"That sounds like so much fun," Winry matched his enthusiasm.

"It sounds like work to me," Ed grumbled. It did sound like fun but he couldn't afford to let Mustang know that.

"Fine, Edward. Alphonse and Winry can help me. I'll assign you sewer duty. If all the drama with Father proved anything, it's that we don't need giant underground passages honeycombing the city. You can deal with that," Roy replied blithely.

Ed flashed him an obscene gesture while Pinako laughed. He was pretty sure he heard Al trying to smother a giggle himself.

"Well, I think it's exciting," Winry said, covering her own smile with her tea cup.

"And I think it's time we left Al get some rest," Riza said, nudging Mustang to his feet. "Though I'm sure he'll fight to have you stay with him a little longer, Winry." 

Al's eyes glittered at that.

"You think about it," Roy said, letting Riza chivvy him out. "I want at least one roller coaster."

"I'll tie you to the tracks," Ed promised. "That'll be fun." He waited a moment giving them a moment to leave then excused himself. He caught up to the pair before they made it to the end of the corridor. "Mustang, you surprised me today." Roy glanced back at him. "But you didn't bring them here just for that reason nor to just see Al."

"No, not just for those reasons," Mustang admitted.

"Was someone after Winry?" His fingers curled into tight balls.

Roy's smile was humorless. "Not any more."

A blinding wave of fury washed over Ed, leaving him shaking. "You should have told me."

"No, I shouldn't. Your brother needed you. He can't protect himself yet and make no mistakes, Edward, you are targets." There was nothing but grimness to be seen on Mustang's usually smug face. Worry had frittered away his arrogance. "You needed to feel safe. I had Winry and Dr Rockbell under close guard."

"You still should have told me. This is Winry we're talking about," Ed barked, knowing how much he was betraying about his feelings to a man capable of using such information.

A hint of a smile touched Mustang's face, as Riza came over and put her hands on Ed's shoulders. "He knows that, Edward."

"You're only a few months younger than I was when I passed my State Alchemy exam, Edward. They took me and made me a killer.  To deal with the forces after us, having to kill is the reality. You might even be willing to do it to protect her but…for all you've been through, you're still barely more than a boy, Edward." The sadness in the older alchemist's eyes took Ed by surprise, chilling him almost as much as the news about Winry. "I worked hard to keep you away from the worst of the conflicts. I'd rather not turn you into a killer now. I know what it did to me."

His throat tightening, Ed just nodded. He knew Mustang had protected him, though all too often he took it as the alchemist concealing things. "Yeah, thanks. I'm going to get back to Winry."

"By all means. Edward, take her around the house, give her the tour. This is a place you two can be alone in forever before you're even missed, if you know what I mean." The smug smirk returned.

Ed flushed to the tips of his toes from the feel of it. "I try never to know what you mean." He stomped back into the room, ignoring the bastard's laugh, which ended in a yelp.  Edward sent a silent thanks back to Hawkeye.

X                                 X                                 X

"Next time you lead me around the house, let's bring a snack for when we get lost." Winry laughed. "I think all of Resembool would fit in here."

"Or leave a trail of crumbs." Ed slouched, hating the reminder of his failure. "No one needs a house this big."

"It is a bit much." Winry looked askance at him. "Ed, how are you really doing? You keep saying fine but…"

"I am fine."

She ran a hand over his metal arm. "You didn't get your limbs back," her voice pitched low. Ed stared at a stupid painting of tomatoes and corn on a table. Who the hell painted food? It had been bitterly disappointing that Greed had been wrong about him being able to get his limbs back. "And your father died bringing Al back. You might have been mad at him but…"

Ed  held up a hand. "I don't want to talk about him, Winry." He really didn't. It hurt more than he thought it would to see Hohenheim die. "He wanted to join Mom." Ed didn't add that he didn't believe in heaven or god and that he didn't think that would happen. Winry already knew how he felt about that stuff. "It's okay…later, we can talk about that later. Right now, I just want to talk about happy things. You're here, finally. I want it to be happy."

Winry's eyes told him that she didn't believe that he was fine or happy but was willing to let it go for now. She pointed. "I hear voices."

"Yeah, I think we're almost back to the living room…or the one we're using," he said wryly.

"Why is Mr. Mustang living here?"

"General Armstrong gave him the house. He used it to hide out a strike force. Afterwards, it was a good place to hide out me and Al, and him, for that matter. You almost ended up with another patient…heck still could. Who knows how much use he'll have of that arm."

"Especially with you pulling his stitches," she said tartly.

Ed sighed. He had been thinking about kissing Winry but offending her professional ethics didn't make for the right timing. He should have done it on the tour of the house but then he was afraid that they'd get really distracted and Mustang would torment him about it, especially since the man had put certain ideas into Ed's head as to what this visit should be about. Then they had gotten lost and the man would assume they had been somewhere making out. Maybe if he looked appropriately disappointed when they walked into the living room, Mustang would know he failed. Damn, that wasn't any better but at least it wouldn't take any acting skills. 

He figured telling Winry that his attack on Mustang was entirely justifiable but doubted she'd believe him. He stepped into the living room and stopped dead, Winry careening into him. He hadn't been expecting to see Mustang lounging on the thick, long, spiraling sheep wool rug in front of the fireplace, his books shoved to one side so Riza could sit next to him. Their faces were veiled by her loose hair as she leaned over him, so obviously kissing. Figures, Mustang had no problems making his feelings known.  Mustang didn't get so uptight in the presence of the woman he loved that he started spouting off about the huge collection of antique weapons the Armstrongs had, which is what Ed had done instead of pulling Winry into his arms and kissing her. Well, at least he didn't start babbling the periodic table this time. Even Kimbley, the definition of insane, thought he was nuts.

Ed cupped his metal fingers over his eyes, ignoring Winry trying to haul him out of the room. "My brother is right there you know," Ed said loudly, pointing to the couch where Al had been installed under the thickest comforter Ed had ever seen. Al had a thin book on his chest.

"And he's sleeping," Roy huffed as Riza sat back.

"Not any more." Al stirred slightly. "Probably woke up Granny, too, with that bellow."

Riza unfolded from her position, getting up slowly. Ed considered the look on her face, a silent plea to not share this intimate moment with anyone. They had obviously trusted Al should he have woken up. Ed noticed Winry's slight nod, as if she too understood. "Did you enjoy your tour, Winry?"

Winry grinned and flopped onto another of the oversized stuffed couches. Ed thought the cushion would eat her. She ran her hand over the crushed green velvet, making it shimmer almost gold in the firelight. "It's just astounding. Ed got lost."

"Yes, I'm sure it's all…unfamiliar territory to him." Roy smirked.

Ed bristled. If Winry caught the innuendo, she didn't let it show. "Oh, shut up and while you're at it, quit blackmailing poor Hawkeye or whatever it is you're doing to make her be nice to you." He ignored the muttered 'oh, brother, and Edwards,' directed his way.

Mustang just laughed. "I think you'll find that Hawkeye stays with me for the same reasons Winry stays with you."


"He means you're a lot a like you, brother." The biggest shit-eating grin Ed had ever seen on Al's face slithered across it.

"Take that back!" Ed roared.

"Fullmetal, just go sit with Winry and enjoy the fire. I have something to tell you." Roy gestured to the second couch. "Hawkeye, go get Edward his step stool so he can actually get up on Armstrong's furniture."

"WHO ARE YOU CALLING SMALLER THAN A BABY?" Ed lunged for the smirking bastard and ended up with his face planted somewhere nice and soft.

Hawkeye pushed him back out of her cleavage then pointed to the couch. "Go, sit, stay." She turned to Mustang. "No sounds from you."

Face burning, Ed protested, "I'm not the dog!" His eyes widened as the tiny revolver came out of her pocket. Ed scurried onto the couch next to Winry. "Is she always armed? At least Winry just has wrenches."

"It pays to listen to the ladies, Edward. I'll have Hawkeye mentor Winry in the care and feeding of small animals."

The gun swiveled to Roy. "Those sounded like noises."

"Don't worry, Mr. Mustang. I know how to handle Edward." Winry's eyes narrowed at Ed. "It takes quick reflexes."

Roy chuckled.

"What the hell did you want to tell us?" Ed grumbled then settled a bit, feeling Winry press against his side. He blinked. Could it be she actually liked him back? He had always thought so but then they'd get into one of their rip roaring fights and he'd doubt he knew anything at all. Did the bastard and Hawkeye fight like that in private? No, Mustang was totally under her thumb. When she said jump, he set records. Would he get like that with Winry when he got old like the other alchemist?

"Alphonse, did your mother ever wash out his potty mouth?" Roy turned to the bedridden young man.

"It never helped but I am curious, what did you have to say?" Al replied diplomatically.

"There was something I've always wanted to do ever since I was young: throw a party to remember. Now's my chance." Roy's eyes gleamed.

Ed snorted. "You have to be kidding."

"Well, yes and no. We're having a huge party, in just a few days. We've earned it. Granted, there'll be soldiers around just to be sure we're safe since we are still targets and we'd be all together at once." Roy shrugged.  "But look at everything that's happened, what we have survived. It's time to celebrate."

"A party?" Ed groaned.

"That sounds like fun," Al cried in an act of brotherly betrayal.

"What do we need to do to help?" Winry looked just as excited.

"Oh, nothing, you just visit with the brothers. I have it well in hand," Roy replied. "However, you can help me think up of a signal to say the hot springs are occupied, short of alchemically making a wall there. I can just see it now. Shortmetal will wander down there, interrupt and start screaming, 'You bastard! I've been blinded for life, you pervert! It's disgusting that you even do that at all but to inflict it on the innocent'!" Roy had to struggle to pitch his deep voice higher to do a decent impression of Ed.

Ed snorted. "What? It's true. I've already had to see you naked once in this life. I don't want to repeat it. We'll think of a signal... do we have to be at this party?"

Roy pinched the bridge of his nose and Winry huffed in Ed's ear. "Edward, I'm not even answering that, you foolish boy."

Ed squirmed, knowing he had asked a very stupid question. "Better question, do you have to be there?"

"Oh yes, to torment your every moment."

"I figured." Ed slumped down, half eaten by green velvet. He listened with a half an ear to Mustang's grand plans. Winry and Al were excited and if it made them happy, Ed couldn't really hate the idea, no matter who had it.