I can't believe this. I bet no one is happier about this than I am. What did this take? One year and a half and the saddest part is that this chapter has been pretty much the same the whole time. I hope I haven't lost all of my reviewers during this long hiatus.
Now, thank you to all of my reviewers. The encouraging comments and friendly words kept me going with this chapter. Special thanks to Dzem for being a support, Fullmetal224 for all the fun that kep me going back to and extra-special thanks to Hyperthia for our long conversations that have unfortunately stopped due to lack of time.
Now, everyone may be wondering what took my time. I could make up excuses about school and work (which in a way are true) but the main reason why this chapter wasn't finished earlier is that everytime I began to write, I started listening to Sailor War.
I hope you enjoy!
Setting sun painted the sky with different shades of orange and red. People were hurrying to their homes, eager to see their families and eat some decent food they had missed because of their work. Yellow and red leaves covered the pavement, once in a while being sent flying by the sweeping wind. The air was chilly and froze the lungs of someone who dared to breathe in too deeply. All in all, autumn had really struck now.
In a big, two storey house the two ladies of the Hughes's household were getting ready for bed. Gracia sat on the couch, clad in her red night gown. In her lap she held her two and a half year old daughter. The child had on her white pajamas which were decorated with sunflowers and stars.
The woman brushed Elysia's hair with a purple comb, making sure she got every knot open. Her left hand softly caressed the hair strands over which the comb had moved a moment ago.
"Now," she said softly while still going on with her task, "we'll go and brush our teeth. Then I'll read you a bedtime story."
"Can't Daddy tell me one?" The girl looked at her mother with her big, green eyes. Gracia felt her heart sunk by the disappointed tone on her daughter's voice.
"I'm afraid not. He has to look after your brother."
It wasn't literally true. Maes was now having dinner; Edward was sleeping peacefully in his room and didn't need immediate attention. The man had said he would be sleeping in the boy's room on the spare bed that was originally meant for Alphonse.
Elysia lowered her gaze to the floor and Gracia noticed that the lower lip began to quiver. The woman hugged the little girl close to herself in an attempt to wipe the sadness away. They had both missed Maes dearly during his stay at hospital. Elysia had had hard time trying to understand the reason for her father's absence from home; the girl had found questions for every explanation Gracia had come up with.
"How about I'll tell you two stories?" She said as her last resort.
Elysia sniffed and shook her head. "Three."
In a response, Gracia shook her head in turn but kissed the girls temple. Three stories would keep Elysia up too late.
"Let's agree on this: I'll read you two stories and sleep with you until you fall asleep."
The idea of being near to her mother lit a smile on Elysia's face and the little girl nodded eagerly. Gracia let the girl go and set her onto the floor. The woman watched her run to the hallway but soon the noise of tiny feet thumping to the floor vanished and was replaced by an excited cry.
"Nii-san, you're awake!"
racia rose to her feet and heard steps from the kitchen also; Maes must have heard the exclamation. She was sure they shared the same thoughts. Edward shouldn't be out of bed yet. On arriving at the house, they had taken the boy's temperature and agreed on complete bed rest. Edward had had no say in the matter.
Before she arrived to the hallway, Edward walked past her. The boy's steps were slow and his gaze was focused on something in front of him. Without caring about anyone else and their calls, Edward made his way to the coat rack and front door.
Maes was the first to go near the boy. As Edward took his red scarf from the pocket of his red winter jacket, the man took a hold of his automail shoulder to turn the boy's gaze to him.
"Edward, you can't go out," he said although he knew the boy wouldn't understand a word he was saying. The yellow eyes were unfocused and empty.
The boy tried to tie the scarf around his neck but failed miserably since Hughes's arm got in the way. The red cloth dropped from his shoulders but the boy didn't notice.
"I have to go home."
Hughes blinked at the desperate tone in the boy's voice.
"What do you mean 'home'?" He asked, placing his palms on Edward's scarlet cheeks to check the temperature.
"Home where Mom and Al are."
Hughes removed his hands from the boy's face: the fever had risen again. He assumed this was the fluctuation Havoc had talked about.
"Okay, be a good boy now," Hughes encouraged the boy as he wrapped his left arm around the boy's shoulders and forced him to lean into his touch. As his right arm found its position under the boy's knees, Hughes picked Edward up and began to carry him to the guest room.
"No," Edward shook his head but made no other movement, Hughes made sure of that. He pressed the boy's body against himself so that the boy couldn't move his limbs. Yet, that didn't hinder the boy's mouth from working.
"I need to go home. Mom is worried and Al is lonely. I want to go home," the boy went on saying those words like they were a magic spell that could change the world to his liking. Hughes shushed the child, trying to silence the quiet voice from which the fever and drowsiness had taken strength.
On stepping into the guest room, the man set the child into a sitting position on the bed and then laid him down onto the mattress. The flat surface underneath seemed to worsen the hallucination.
"I need to go home," Edward kept saying and was now turning his head from side to side. His limbs were also moving but in a different way. The flesh limbs grasped the air slowly and moved in a natural way for someone who was half asleep. The artificial limbs, automails, moved in the rhythm of spasms but, thankfully, the movement was very slight. Hughes remembered reading that the nerves could mistake the warmth caused by fever to nerve stimulations but that happened rarely.
To make himself feel useful, the man began to unbutton the boy's pajama top. Gracia had insisted on giving the boy fresh pajamas and put the one worn at Havoc's place to proper wash. For once, Hughes had disagreed with his wife and had tried to convince her that a simple outfit, a t-shirt and boxers, would be the best for boy. The feverish body would keep Edward warm enough on its own.
Soon the sweaty, dark blue pajama top was open. Hughes put his arm under the boy's back and lifted the body slightly off the bed, supporting the head with his shoulder. He tugged the outfit off the boy and threw it to the end of the bed.
Before starting to work with the trousers, Hughes decided to try to make the fever lower. On putting his hands under the boy's armpits, the man pulled the mixed metal-flesh body forward on the bed so that the boy's head was resting on the pillow. After making sure the fluffy cushion supported the boy's neck properly, Hughes knelt next to the boy's head and began to prepare a cold cloth for the forehead.
Gracia had earlier brought a basin full of cold water and some wash clothes to help to bring the fever down. Although it had been hours ago, the water was still relatively cold and would do more good than harm. Hughes picked up the earlier cloth by the bed; Edward had obviously dropped it on rising up from the bed. The man lowered it onto the desk beside the bed; since he had so many fresh ones, why use an already dirty pad?
The white cloth absorbed moisture and turned limp and chilly to touch. Hughes scrunched the wrapper in his hands to get the extra liquid from it. Some spilt onto the hard-wood floor but he didn't care. He assumed he would need to perform the same motion couple of times more as the night came.
When he thought the piece of first-aid equipment was satisfying enough, he folded it up into the form of a rectangle and placed it over the boy's brow. The cloth was a bit too big for the teenager; the gables came in touch with the boy's ears. Hughes gently moved some of the hair strands from the way of the wrapper and the still open eyes. Edward had stopped most of the motions on receiving the cold pad but his mouth was still working.
"You just can't be quiet," The dark-haired man shook his head amused and positioned his hands on both sides of the boy's face, covering the scarlet cheeks. The damp skin seemed to calm the child a bit as Edward leaned into Hughes's right hand and his eyes closed halfway.
The man encouraged the boy by talking in a softer tone.
"That's it, kiddo," He used the playful nickname he had given the boy. "Just go back to sleep. I'll take care of you."
It took a minute of soft words and caressing of the cheek but eventually, Edward closed his eyes and his breathing quieted down to that of someone in a relaxed state. Hughes kept his position a bit longer in case Edward decided not to fall asleep but the effort wasn't needed. The fever had taken a lot of the boy's energy and sleep was the exact thing his body yearned to fight the illness.
The man knew he ought to get the boy undressed but he couldn't bare himself to tear his eyes away from the sight. No matter what Hughes always told to his comrades, he didn't think his wife was the most beautiful sight on Earth. Sure, Gracia was the most beautiful woman he had ever known and pleasure to his eyes and other body parts but the most beautiful sight was this; a sleeping child. It was as simple as that.
Hughes had always thought himself to be special to have three so beautiful children in his life. Elysia was always cheerful and had inherited most of her looks from her mother. The man had no doubt she was going to grow up to be just like the woman he adored. Edward was, Hughes had noticed, exceptionally good looking for a teenager. The man had sometimes eyed the boys of Edward's age group but up to this day had not found a soul as elegant and perfect as his boy was. Of course Edward had his faults both in his body and character, but those never got as much attention as the good traits in him. Alphonse was a beautiful soul, always kind and polite and Hughes was sure that his looks had been and would be just as distinguishable as Edward's. On the day the younger Elric got his body back, Edward was sure to get a rival.
He was pulled away from his day dreaming by mumbling. Edward had placed his automail arm over his stomach instead of chest to gather cold from it but avoid being choked to death. Hughes gently moved the automail beside the boy.
"I'm sure you don't want to end up sick," he muttered under his breath and pulled the boy's pajama bottom off. The cloth was easy to remove but boxers nearly came off as well. The man took a hold of the hem and pulled the boy's underwear higher up so that his private areas weren't exposed. Hughes was sure Edward would be embarrassed if he knew anyone had to remove his clothing for him but the situation couldn't be helped. The boy would get sicker if he slept in damp clothes.
As he was satisfied with the boy's outfit, Hughes prepared another cold cloth and began to cool down other body areas. He began the task from head since he assumed that way to be the most hygienic. He wiped the scarlet cheeks with small circles and continued the movement as he trailed his hand to the neck. Hughes made sure the big arteries in the torso were cooled properly.
He used the same way to wipe sweat from the boy's chest but didn't use as much strength as before; He didn't want to halt proper breathing. Still, it was the easiest area to cool down.
Edward began to talk again but this time he could make out some words. The boy's voice was higher than usually as he kept talking. Hughes was pleased to hear that Edward no longer repeated the 'home' mantra, but seemed to be having a very strange dream. The boy would keep pauses between his lines as if there were more people than him in it. The man couldn't help wondering what Edward's dreams were like. Judging by the tone, this one was calm, maybe a pleasant stroll in the garden.
As he kept cooling off the body, Hughes smiled at himself; Edward deserved some rest without nightmares.
Edward slept peacefully but at midnight a worse torture came up: cough.
Hughes rubbed the child's cover clad back unconsciously; he needed to do something to feel useful. Edward was barely getting any sleep from his cough that caused him to either drink or nearly choke every ten minutes. The man wasn't able to leave the room at all and was now feeling tiredness as a woozy feeling in the head. His doctor wouldn't be happy; the otherwise kind older man had given him strict instructions to get enough rest and lead a healthy life. Hughes snorted: how could he lead a healthy life when his little boy was suffering?
Suddenly Edward let out a tiny cough and the dark haired man leaned forward and rubbed the back with a bit more force. The boy was lying on his left side to get his breathing flow better but so far it had brought only a bit of relief.
The man wrapped his left arm across the boy's head, both to lift it and keep the hair out of the way. His free hand took the glass from the bedside table.
"Come on," Hughes brought it to the boy's lips, making a tiny slip slide against the mouth; Edward stayed in his daze and the water slid down his jaw line.
The man frowned in worry; the boy's lips were dry and the skin felt as hot as a stove.
"Kiddo," he used the nickname that always got Edward's attention. This time was no different since the kid half opened his eyes and positioned his hands to support his body weight.
"You have to drink," Hughes kept the hands in place, adding authority into his voice. The boy opened his mouth and gulped down a mouthful of water. "Your body temperature needs to be lowered and it won't happen if you dehydrate."
The man wasn't satisfied and forced the boy to drink more. Edward became more and more conscious as each gulp poured down his sore throat. Finally, he had enough strength to force the glass away.
Hughes did as the boy wished and set the water filled item onto the bedside table.
"That's a good boy," he made his contentment clear and helped the boy lay down. He supported the boy's shoulders by wrapping an arm around them and carefully lowered the burning body onto the mattress. On his head meeting the pillow, Edward snuggled closer to the comforter and sighed contently.
As Hughes made sure the boy was lying so that he could breathe properly, Gracia stepped into the room, making sure she wouldn't disturb the boy. She opened the door slowly, as if to test the atmosphere there. First she saw that the room was almost dark; only the reading lamp was on. Then she saw her husband sitting on the bed, rubbing the small back in circles. His expression was thoughtful and the gaze of his yellow-green eyes was directed in the small boy sleeping on the bed.
"I called Havoc," the woman whispered to her husband, glancing at the boy on the bed. "He said Edward had hallucinations at nights."
"I don't know if I ought to be relieved or worried," The man said, his eyes not leaving the.
"How is he doing?"
The man turned his eyes onto her and ran a hand through his hair and stood up in frustration.
"Not better, not worse- the same," he whispered, straightening the covers on the boy although there was no need for such a thing. Edward was lying under a heavy blanket, breathing in small gasps. His face was covered in sweat, the cheeks were scarlet.
The woman walked closer and took her husband's place. Leaning over the thin frame, she put a hand on the sweaty forehead to test the temperature herself. Her eyes laid on her husband's appearance. The dark eyes were unfocused and the man rubbed his face to keep himself composed.
"You should get some sleep," Gracia whispered as she gently stroked the patient's cheek, trying to fade out the silent muttering. The words of concern started Hughes back to his senses. The man shook his head, trying to hide the pain.
"No, I'm just fine," he slumped into a simple chair next to the bed; all the sitting had made his legs partially numb.
"Maes, you're healing too. You need your rest."
"I said I'm fine, okay."
He didn't mean to snap but his voice got louder without him noticing it. The look in Gracia's eyes was not that of fear but of irritation. She was a strong woman; a few bitter words couldn't make her turn her head away. Instead, her face melt to the look of understanding.
"It is about it, isn't it?"
The man didn't answer but from the hard concentration on his face, Gracia knew she had hit the right spot.
"Edward forgave you."
"You didn't see it, Gracia," Hughes shook his head, his eyes on the sleeping boy. Gracia still caressed the burning skin with her cool hand the same way she used to calm baby Elicia down.
They were both so beautiful.
"You didn't see the look on his face; those eyes filled with fear."
"Maes, don't trouble yourself with it. We all lose our temper once in a while; we are only human. You aren't a violent person."
"I know that. It's just that I-"
His voice quieted away, his mouth couldn't find the words.
Gracia noticed the dilemma her husband was dealing with in his mind and gave him a reassuring smile.
"You love him."
She understood; they shared the same feeling. Hughes bit his lower lip to keep his emotions in check.
"More than life itself. I love him and Alphonse and Elysia all the same way. Yet, I still was able to-"
"You didn't want to. That's the point," The tone in the woman's voice was now harder; she needed to get this through to him. Still, stubborn as he was, Hughes wasn't about to let the issue lie.
"I keep telling Edward that I care for him the same way I care for Elysia and yet I snapped. He didn't even do anything wrong!"
Gracia nodded; she had never heard what had really happened between the two. Maes didn't have clear memories of the night; the spur of adrenaline had been so strong it had drowned all the voices. Yet, she knew her husband well enough to know that the only thing that could have made her loved one act in the slightest violent way was to see his loved ones in danger. Edward was a handful even for her, and she couldn't even recall the times she had sworn to what-ever Higher Power there was that the boy had been sent to them as a punishment. Not even her sweet words and calm attitude could get through the boy's thick skin.
"Maes, we have no experience of raising a teenager. We only have a baby girl and the methods we use with her don't apply with Edward! Of course there are going to be hardships and tears but you can't tell me there hasn't been a lot of laughter also."
"He cries because he misses his mother. He cries because he feels alone. He cries because he is going through an emotional rollercoaster," Hughes shook his head, a sad smile appearing onto his face. "I always keep telling him it will pass with time; he needs to let his sorrow out. Sometimes when he yells at you, you can tell he is feeling bad inside and needs a hug. Still, despite all that is happening, he manages to cheer me up every day."
Happy to see her life partner's mood improve, Gracia opened her mouth to share her memories of the boy in question but didn't get the chance because a sudden kick on the thigh interrupted her. Hearing his wife let out a sound of pain, Hughes stood up from the chair and hurried to the bedside, making sure it wasn't the automail that had hit her.
"My, my, aren't you having one vivid dream there," The man cooed as he leaned over the trashing boy and pressed the boy's arms with his hands keeping the body in place while Gracia nursed her injury. He didn't want Edward to fall out of the bed or end up hurting himself. Kneeling beside the struggling frame, the man kept avoiding the trashing limps and shook the boy a bit, trying to wake him up.
Finally, Edward's eyes snapped open but the look in them was far from coherent.
"Well, hello there," Gracia whispered in case speaking out loud hurt the boy's head. Edward propped his head up on the pillow, trying to keep his eyes on the woman and open. "Did you have a good dream?"
"No," the boy shook his head, words a bit slurred. "A wolf kept trailing me."
"What a bad wolf," Hughes shook his head, joining the weird talk. "What did you do to it?"
"The sheets are all soaked up," Gracia touched the said cloth and guided her hand onto the boy's pajama. "So are his night clothes."
"I tried to get him sweat the fever away."
"It might have worked but he will just get sicker if he stays damp."
The man nodded in agreement, aware of the fact that the next stage had to be taken. As he cautiously got up the bed, making sure he didn't bump into Edward's legs, he looked at his wife in the eyes. The woman nodded understanding the wordless message and left the room.
As Hughes peeled the duvet off the boy, talking to him softly, he saw more light lit in the hallway. The boy seemed to sense what was going to happen since he started to refuse. The man whispered some soothing words, noting the youngster it was the only treatment they had yet to try.
He carried the boy to the bedroom in the bundle, trying not to care of the intense heat of the small body. Gracia was on her knees beside the bathtub that was filling with water. Her hand checked the temperature of the life-giving liquid and the other hand turned the cold water tap into more force.
"I think it's ready now," Gracia said as she dried her hands into the hand-drying towel. Concern filled her heart as her husband lowered their son onto the cold floor, and unbuttoned the smelly pajama shirt. The boy's body was pale due to autumn time that didn't allow much sunlight and not wearing many clothes. The light brown tan he had gained from their holiday in the summer was now long gone.
Hughes pushed the boy's upper body up from the blanket with his hands. Edward's head hung limply, the blond locks touching the floor. He positioned the body again and slid his arms under the boy's armpits so that he was now resting against his chest.
Gracia bent the boy's feet and, taking a stern hold of the knees. Without a word, the pair stood up and lifted their own remits. The woman gently placed the feet into the water as Hughes lowered the rest of the body in rhythm of the action. He kept his gaze on the boy's face, seeking for any reaction. Despite the fact that there was no sound, Hughes could feel the muscles become tenser as more flesh met the water.
At last the boy was in a proper bathing position. The surface reached the boy's torso and Hughes kept his hands under the boy's occiput, making sure no water got into Edward airways.
A whimper escaped the boy's mouth.
"I know it's cold, kiddo, but this is the best for you."
Meanwhile, Gracia had taken Elysia's bathing toys out of the closet. The brown basket contained various little buckets, some animal shaped sandpit moulds, couple of ships and a yellow bathing duck.
"Close your eyes and nose," Gracia advised as she chose red bucket and filled it with the bath water. Edward, awakened by the chilly water, did as he was told and a miniature waterfall traveled through his hair and drops ran down his cheek.
Filling the bucket again, Gracia locked her eyes on the ones of her husband, shaking her head with a gentle smile on her face.
"You don't need to do everything by yourself."
The words were merely a whisper and were meant for Maes only. The man in question turned his gaze away and watched as another downward wave hit Edward. The routine began there without any further agreements. Gracia did the work, Maes was the one supporting the creation, giving his silent support: healing Edward was like their family life.
They could do this together.
"A dream," Hughes read the hint in the crossword. He and Edward were lying on the Hughes's master bed. The boy was wearing his blue- striped pajamas and a wardrobe; the man wore a purple shirt and black slacks. Hughes had drawn his left arm around the boy, whose head was lying against the man's shoulder. The man's left arm held the magazine and right hand a pen.
Edward chewed his lower lip as he thought of the puzzler.
"No, only," the man counted the amount, popping his pencil on every square there was, leaving a pebble mark," seven letters."
The boy became quiet and relaxed again into the human touch. The boy's breathing made the man's skin tickle even through the fabric and the slight fever warmed him up.
Two days ago Edward had come to his senses and from the morning of that day the sickness had slowly but surely began to fade. Fever had lowered considerably and the boy was coherent enough to have conversations and take care of his needs. Still, his throat was still sore, voice was down to the level where he had to whisper and on top of everything, his nose was running. Every few seconds there was a blow into a disposable tissue and Hughes was only waiting for the time Edward's nose would start bleeding.
The boy's eyes scanned the list of words, trying to find something he would know. He had never been the one for brain puzzlers but Hughes loved them. The man was the one who sorted the crosswords in the morning paper or at least tried to. Despite the fact that he wasn't the biggest fan of those, Edward had familiarized himself with the Hughes's second to favorite past time and had come to a conclusion: The crosswords in the morning paper were for geniuses. Of course, he was a child prodigy and he was sure Hughes's intelligence was above average but those traits hadn't gifted them with any mental capability to make any sense into those results of drunk scribbling.
The after effects of the autumn flue raised their heads and Edward let out a yawn, covering his mouth with his flesh hand. Maybe nap wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. He had all the preconditions for it; Hughes was warm as a radiator and the man's shoulder played the part of a pillow very well.
Yep, he was too comfortable to move anywhere for a while.
Before closing his eyes for good, his eyes found something that had to be shared. Hughes felt his heart jump in his chest as, out of nowhere, a flesh forefinger pointed out to the words and a high voice screamed into his ear:
"Look, there is my name!"
"Where?" Hughes' eyes looked around and then met the exact word: "Alchemist Edward –"
"Elric. Write Elric onto it."
"I know your name."
The rest of the words were too difficult. Hughes put the magazine away and yawned. The boy was also feeling weary. He had not been outside for days and the lack of fresh air was really affecting him.
Edward turned his head to the right, trying to find a better position. He breathed in through his mouth a few times: he could feel how all the glue was still in his throat, making the air turn into a gurgling sound. The boy brought his elbow in front of his mouth and let out a few wet coughs.
"I think it's time for your medicine."
Edward whined: "No, I don't like it."
"Medicine is not supposed to be tasty, candy is for that."
"Havoc had something that tasted very good."
"It doesn't seem to have had much effect."
Edward squint his eyes at the man but let the issue lay and neither Hughes brought it up again. They continued to lay on the bed, not able to sleep but too weary to stand up.
Edward wrapped the wardrobe tighter around his body. Gracia had insisted on cleaning the room now that Edward was well enough to leave the bed. The pair heard the woman sing quietly as she tried to make the room more suitable to stay in. The sudden lack of warmth hadn't affected his body at first but now he was feeling exhausted. The bones in his feet felt to have turned into ice and his back hurt.
Without a word, Hughes rose up to his hands and knees and pulled the covers from Gracia's side and sprayed them over the boy. The fluffy red duvet hid the boy under its protective cover and offered some much needed comfort.
"Are you warmer now?" He asked as Edward squirmed on the bed, trying to tie the cloth around himself as tightly as possible. The boy answered by giving the man a nod; he felt like he was lying inside a tight-fitting yet squashy sleeping bag.
"You know," Hughes tried to start a conversation, lying back onto the bed. His right arm was crossed behind his neck and his gaze was on the roof as if eyeing it in case anything was out of place.
"Havoc called us after you fainted."
"Havoc called you?" He repeated the point of the man's sentence and his mouth. He should have guessed the man would call the Hughes's the minute he noticed something was off.
"I got really worried when I heard about it."
The tone in Hughes's voice drew him the boy guard. He couldn't remember if he had ever heard Hughes sound so… remorseful.
"Edward, I understand why you wanted to leave, I really do. It was the right decision for you to make but I-"
"Hughes, please, stop bringing it up," The child whispered from his hand-made cave. "We promised to start all over again."
"I know," Hughes shook his head; he remembered the agreement they had reached. Yet, those hospital times were so distant to him that he had hoped Edward had already forgotten about it. Hughes was more than happy and relieved to have the little boy he was so fond of living under his roof again but every time he looked at Edward, he saw the look of terror. He knew that deep down inside Edward was feeling the same way; they were only playing house. There was still too much between them. After something so unreal and unexpected, they couldn't just go back to normal even though they wanted it so badly. It would take time to regain the trust.
As Edward looked at him with those big, sincere eyes, Hughes felt even more depressed. How could Edward stand being so close to him? If his father had hit him, he would have developed remorse for the man. Yet, here the boy was just like he had always been. The boy was close to his body, probably closer than he could be without them moving into next stage; a thought at which he shuddered.
He rubbed the flesh shoulder; an act of love he had missed.
"I want to talk things over."
"But I don't. I'm not afraid of you; I want to stay here for good or," the boy shrugged," until I get my next assignment."
Hughes couldn't help a smile on hearing the honest words. Maybe the conversation would have gone on longer had the God not decided to make Edward cough his lungs out. Fast as if time would run out, Hughes peeled the tight cocoon inside of which Edward was resting and rubbed the boy's back with circles. Leaning his chest into his skinny thighs, the boy coughed into his fist and grimaced as salty slime filled his mouth. The Major next to him noticed the disgusted appearance and snatched a handkerchief from the box on Edward's left side.
"Damn that Havoc!" The mucus was spit out and the moist handkerchief thrown to a garbage bag. "This must be lung cancer!"
"Ed, I was about your age when I had this same kind of sickness. I had all the same symptoms: high fever and a cough that seemed not to go away. However, once I recovered, I've been right as rain for over ten years!"
"I only wish you're right," the boy sighed as he lay down onto the mattress once again. Yet, the position didn't feel quite right. Hughes lifted his eye brow as Edward squirmed on the bed as if he had just landed on anthill.
"Has it been bothering you much?" He stroke up another topic, crossing his arms across his chest. Edward froze still; he hadn't realized his movements were so discernible.
"A bit," The boy shrugged and bit his lower lip, "Only when I think about it."
He thought although he knew it wasn't good for him. Hughes had told him not to care about it and go on with his life like it wasn't even reality. Every time he thought about it he wished he was in a nightmare and would wake up to a life without another sorrow to bear.
His whole body shook as he thought about his situation.
"Creepy, isn't it?"Hughes nodded, sensing the boy's mental state. Edward only shrugged again and pulled the covers over himself, relaxing into welcome warmth,
They were quiet for a while, just enjoying the moment.
"You know," Edward started to fiddle the blanket with his fingers. "I might need new medication."
Hughes sat up, mattress bending under his weight. Concern written all over his face, the man squint his eyes. "What do you mean?"
"I've had two panic attacks in less than a month. It's not healthy."
The man shook his head and lay down again. "Ed, there is no need to be worried. That phase in your life was so hectic it affected everyone."
Edward nodded but still he wasn't sure. It felt like Hughes was only trying to assure both of them.
The man seemed to read the boy's mind and immediately continued his explanation.
"What you need right now is clear day routines," the father lifted his hand the way he remembered the instructor had done in the First Aid class. "The medication is only a precaution. The most important thing is that you make sure your life is-"
Hughes turned his dark brown eyes on the boy, harsh look in his face.
"No," he turned down the boy's mostly humorous suggestion. He could tell a joke but when it came to the health of his children, there was no room for anything but serious actions. "You need to avoid things you know to cause the attack. For example, you're allergic to milk so you avoid drinking milk. It really isn't that much more difficult."
"Hughes," Edward began to talk and after a series of coughs was able to continue. "Milk allergy and Panic Disorder are different. Panic happens in my head, there isn't really much I can do to avoid it."
His heart sunk a bit as Hughes sighed at the realization.
"It really hurts me to see you hurt, kiddo."
"How about I promise to try and keep myself calm and you make sure I keep that promise?"
Smiling at the suggestion, Hughes slid his arm under Edward's shoulder blades, drawing the covered body closer. The boy relaxed at the touch and listened to the man's heart beat.
"You're a good kid, Edo. A nuisance, yes, but in a good kind of way."
Annoyed at the wound disregard, Edward punched the man slightly with his flesh hand onto his chest. Soon enough, a larger hand smacked the still bedridden child on his upper arm. Forcing his body into half-lying position, Edward gathered his strength and gave Hughes even harder hit to the same spot. At the impact, the man sat up, wide eyes fixed on the wall in front of them.
Thrown out form his comfortable position, Edward got up to his knees from his heap on the bed and looked at Hughes, eyes yearning for explanation.
"What?" The boy said, worried he had hurt the man.
"Fantasy!" Hughes cried and snatched the magazine, shaking his head at his stupidity. "Way too easy!"
Day by day, Edward got most of his energy back. Finally, four days after the day he had come to his senses, he got out the first time. Still, even though the boy was running around as if nothing had happened, Gracia insisted on him staying mostly indoors. September rains had started and the last thing she wanted was the boy getting his feet wet.
The following day, Hughes and Edward went to market to fill their kitchen closets while Gracia stayed at home. She had some house work to do and on top of that, Elysia had gotten a slight flue and was sleeping in her room. Edward had no doubt contaminated her and the boy felt sorry for it; by spending two weeks lying down, he had finally began to value the time he spent awake.
The boy stopped where he was and lifted his head to meet the yellow-green eyes of his un-official guardian.
"What?" He asked innocently, lifting the yellow package even higher. "It's just some flow."
"You know what happens when you start baking," Hughes took the carriage and placed it back to the shelf. "Now, get some carrots."
The boy stuck his tongue out but nevertheless wandered to the vegetable area. The market was full of people, after all, it was the busiest time of the day. Trolleys full of goods passed each other and the whole place was very crowded.
Hughes checked the shopping list once more, pushing the trolley forward. The boy came back and dropped a plastic bag to the iron shelter.
"Hey," the man scolded the boy playfully, noticing the sulky expression. "What's the matter now?"
"Gracia always encourages me to make food but you just halt me."
"Edward, last time you cooked you burned your hand."
"And when you baked those chocolate cookies-"
"Elysia kept me busy, she didn't-"
"-you let them burn and the whole kitchen reeked of smoke for a week."
Feeling his throat itching again, Edward slipped his automail hand into the pocket of his famous red jacket and fished out a small box of mints. Gracia had bought them for him the other day and it had been in frequent use. At first he had been too taken by the wonderful aroma to pay attention to the prescription and had spent the evening paying visits to the bath room. After some stomach medicine, a tall glass of water and a good night sleep his instinct to protect himself had woken up again and now he only sucked the almost-candies when his throat was really bothering him.
They got off the grocery section quite easily and without many disagreements. As they queued up for the cahs desk, Edward slowly began to move his legs every five seconds. Hughes noticed this and studied the face for any warning.
"You feeling dizzy?"¨
The boy got started by the question and shook his head, giving him a grinning face.
"No, I'm just fine."
Then he licked his lips.
Hughes kept his eye on the boy; usually, for those suffering from Panic Disorder, all places with lot of people were difficult. Most of the time all went smoothly in Edward's case but once in a while, the attacks came out of the blue.
The boy was licking his lips and swallowing frantically and the orbs of his eyes were almost covered by black. Hughes watched the scene carefully, pity filling his heart. He took a step forward and grabbed the boy's left shoulder by his right hand, squeezing it slightly.
"You can go outside, I'll meet you there. Don't push yourself too hard."
The boy looked at his eyes like a wild animal but then hurried outside, yet didn't run.
Hughes inspected what the boy was doing but at the same time concentrated on packing the goods into the plastic bags. Edward was leaning against the light lamp, facing the street, at least looking a lot calmer than before.
The man pushed his glasses higher and started to add in the vegetables.
Meanwhile, Edward tried to get his breathing down to normal. He wandered his gaze in the scenery of shops and people going by, trying to find something stable to concentrate on. Sweat emitted from his skin onto his brow and he could heel his armpits had gotten wetter and not from just normal perspiration activity.
Desperately, he unzipped his winter jacket a bit to cool his body off. Now that he was outside and breathing in fresh air, the panic began to fade and the feeling was replaced by embarrassment. How could he be so weak? He was supposed to be a Fullmetal Alchemist, a human weapon, and yet he couldn't even control his emotions.
Hughes had told him time and time again that Panic Disorder was not something he ought to be ashamed about. It was a condition he had to live with, it was no different than migraine or diabetes: it was based on his system and its tendency to react. Edward pressed his eyes with his gloved fingers, both to punish himself for his weakness and to block the disturbing thoughts.
Doctors had given him advice on ways to prevent and tend the attacks. The Hughes's had taken the orders seriously, an action for which Edward was secretly grateful. Most importantly, no one brought the subject up.
Still, despite all the effort Hughes, Gracia and Havoc had made to assure the boy that the Disorder would probably go away as he grew up and that many teenagers suffered from similar symptoms, Edward didn't find peace. He had checked the available information on receiving diagnosis and had found a description of Panic Disorder from a book on mental diseases.
He, Edward Elric, was mentally ill.
Removing his hands from his eyes, Edward took in a deep breath and let out a cloud of carbon-dioxide that represented all of his grief. He was fucked up already, so why worry over it.
The first glance in front of him and there it was. A person he hadn't seen in a week.
"What's he doing here?" The boy wondered out loud, snatching his clock that was hanging from the belt. It was only 2 PM, Havoc was supposed to be at work by all he knew. Every normal citizen ought to be working this early in the day; that was the reason Hughes had decided to go to the market at this hour.
Havoc couldn't be sick, Edward was sure of that. Despite the fact that the man smoked like a chimney, his immune system was iron. It was usually Mustang that brought in all the viruses. Besides, a black button-up shirt and matching black trousers weren't exactly sick day clothes.
Edward's eyes widened as the realization hit him: Havoc was with a woman. The boy was stunned by the appearance of Havoc's date. She sure was a beautiful woman: long golden hair and blue eyes. Skin was milky-white and the professional make-up just added to her beauty. She was wearing a red winter jacket and something black covered her legs. Edward wasn't sure if it were trousers or just a long skirt, it was difficult to see from afar.
"What are you looking at?"
Edward could only point his finger to the cafeteria and look at his un-official guardian with wide eyes. Hughes's gaze followed the direction; he was curious to find out what had taken away the boy's tongue. On seeing the couple Edward pointed at, his eyes widened.
"Is that Havoc?" He inquired, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Our Havoc?"
Hughes shook his head, a proud smile appearing onto his face.
"Wow, quite a catch, might I say?"
Edward nodded; he didn't really understand the concept of feminine beauty but, by what he knew, Mary presented every man's dream. Sure, she didn't have the same warm looks as Gracia and his mother but he supposed it was the point. Havoc's date was beautiful enough and made Edward feel a not-so-uncomfortable tingling in his crotch.
Suddenly, Havoc turned his gaze to the window and now the trio was having an eye-contact. Edward raised his hand and waved excitedly. Havoc merely just waved his hand, clearly not pleased to see him.
Hughes noticed the sheepish expression on the Second Lieutenant's face and decided to retreat. He lifted one of the grocery bags from the ground and forced the plastic handle of it between the boy's flesh fingers before the boy had a chance to protest. Supporting the sudden weight, Edward set his furious eyes to Hughes; he really wanted to see how things would go for his friend.
"Havoc's on a date, it's not our business what he does."
"I just waved at him."
Hughes lifted his hands in the sign of giving up and took his share of the goods, shaking his head mentally exhausted.
"We're going to have a long talk about discretion when we get back home."
"It's my turn," Edward muttered to himself and threw the dice. He hopped his player three steps forward and gave the number indicator to Hughes.
Since Edward had not grown in a family with both parents, he loved the entertainment Hughes and Gracia came up with. Usually, on Saturdays, before the lunch, the family would play a board game to spend some quality time with each other. The boy always felt moved when being a part of these situations. Times like these made him think of his mother and, though he wouldn't admit it to anyone, his long gone father. Edward had no idea where the man was or what he was doing or whether he was even alive. He knew these questions would probably haunt him for the rest of his life but he tried to ignore them. He was happy now; with the Hughes's he felt loved and satisfied.
The ringing of the phone interrupted the game and all of the occupants felt their mood worsen.
Hughes stood up, stretching his arms high to the sky. "I'll go get it."
"Daddy, please come quick," Elysia looked at her father pleadingly. Hughes smiled and ruffled the girl's hair.
"I will, sweetie; you can play my turns while I'm on the phone, okay."
The girl nodded; she was proud that she had been given such an important assignment. Edward watched the man go to the living room and his thoughts began to wander again.
Hughes had offered him his services to find his father. Edward snorted in his mind; yeah, like that would have any effect. The military had been trying to hunt Hohenheim down for years. All honor to Hughes's intelligence and skills but it was very much unlikely the older Elric was ever going to be found. The man had probably moved to another country, or had drawn himself away from any kind of social contacts. There was even the slightest chance that Hohenheim had changed his name and was leading a new life somewhere else.
Edward clenched his automail hand into a fist; running away was the best answer to the problems, wasn't it?
"What do you mean you made a mistake?"
The ones remaining around the table got startled by the sudden raise in the voice. Gracia stood up and walked to the door that led to the living room.
"Maes," Gracia pleaded," you're on sick leave."
"This concerns the whole nation, Gracia," the man covered the receiver.
Edward got interested also. He got off his seat and soon felt a thug on his trouser leg. Elysia had gotten scared of her father's sudden mood change and wanted some comfort from her sibling. The boy picked the two-year-old up, bouncing her some to calm her down.
"Oh, you didn't understand the writing. Listen, that's the same kind of writing style you'll have to bear for many years in your life, even after I've retired. If you can't figure it out, you're not going to last for long."
Edward's eyes widened; he had never seen Hughes this mad. Usually the man was kind and polite to everyone: he had a good reputation among the cadets. Hughes was the kind of man who didn't yell but gave reasonable answers and corrected the mistakes with his experience. After all, the man always told Edward, one can only learn by making mistakes. The boy thought that was one of the reasons Hughes had such high hopes for him.
Now, while watching the scene, Edward assumed Hughes had changed his motto.
"I don't want to hear explanations, it's the actions we need. We need him arrested; the whole city is in danger, including you. So, if you care a shit about your life, you'll be more careful and you'll check everything before rushing and making the Military seem even worse in citizen's eyes. Good day!"
With that phrase, Hughes ended the phone call and slammed the receiver down. As he turned around, he saw Edward looking at him with an amazed gaze.
The man sighed but then gave a weak smile.
"I was good, wasn't I?"
"You were incredible!" Edward praised the Major as he picked his daughter up from the boy's arms. "Where did you learn that?"
"In the academy. There was a course called "How to be a believable commanding officer" and the most important thing was yelling."
Hughes sat Elysia back onto her seat and noticed Edward was still looking at him with those dreamy eyes. The kid was actually buying everything he said!
The man waved his hand lazily: "Just kidding, I have temperament also. It just can't be raised as easily as yours."
"Obviously," Edward nodded and then got the indirect insult aimed at him. "Hey!"
Hughes just ruffled the boy's bangs until they were out of order. Then he set his eyes on the game board again.
"Hey, I'm leading!"
Edward tried to get his hair back in somewhat presentable order and began to think of the words Hughes had said. The man had mentioned that Central was in danger, or so he assumed since Hughes had not mentioned the name of the place. Yet, as far as Edward knew, Hughes's cases only covered the crimes happening in his home town.
It seemed like someone had gotten out of jail; some dangerous prisoner was on the loose. Edward knew this wasn't the best place to start questioning man about the phone call since Hughes would never tell Gracia anything related to work. On top of all, Edward didn't know whether he was only imagining things, it seemed like Hughes gaze traveled in him more than was normal.
Edward took the dice on his turn and threw it. Something was going on and he was going to find out what it was.
The opportunity to affect the running events came the next day.
"Then the three bears came to the house. They walked to the table to look at their porridges."
Edward and Elysia were lying on the girl's soft bed. The boy had a fairy tale book in his hands which he kept reading with a smooth voice that calmed the girl down. Sniffing and licking some of the snot from her upper lip, Elysia curled closer to her brother, pressing her head onto his automail shoulder. She didn't care of the cold metal; Niisan was there and that was all that mattered.
"The Father Bear said: "Someone has been eating my porridge!""
The girl got startled by the statement. In her opinion, Edward was the best story teller in the world. He could change his voice so well and play various different characters. On playing a threatening bear, he lowered his voice and added volume to it. On playing Mother Bear, he kept his voice gentle but curious. It was the same way Elysia's mother used when she noticed someone had eaten chocolate from her candy box.
"Edward! Elysia! Come downstairs!" Hughes's voice carried from the bottom of the stairs.
"And the Three Bears ate Goldilocks. The end!" Edward ended the story abruptly, pressing the impact by slamming the book shut.
Elysia got up to her knees and pressed her hands on both sides of her waist and gave the boy a challenging look.
"That's not how it ends!"
Edward placed the book down on the girl's white wooden night table and fast as a lightning grabbed his so-called sister by her middle and hoisted her over his shoulder.
"That happens in Niisan's world."
He slapped the girl's bottom a few times to emphasize his point and made his way to the living room. With each step Edward took down the stairs, Elysia giggled uncontrollably, enjoying the effect of gravity. Her short arms wailed around and tried to grab the air.
She loved to be the young one because it meant everyone would pick her up: her parents, brothers and uncles. Everyone was always ready to give her the sensation of being able to fly. Moreover, she loved the tender holds; it was one of the things that made her feel important. To her, kisses and hugs were the best things in the world along with sweets and kitties.
"Mommy, look!" Elysia called out; she wanted to have audience as she entered the living room with style. Against her and Edward's wishes, the usually calm woman was not pleased with the show they were putting on.
"Don't tear her about like that," Gracia snapped and snatched her daughter from the boy despite the girl's protests. "She hasn't eaten anything today and seeing the way you handle her, I'm not surprised."
Without saying another world, the woman walked to the kitchen, obviously to try to give the child her medicine.
Hughes was lying on the couch and dressed in blue button up shirt and jeans.
"What do you want now?" The boy asked and leaned his body into the door frame. Hughes shifted a bit in his place and twisted his neck to look at the boy.
"Does it always have to be something?" The man gave an answer Edward had been expecting. It was probably Hughes's nature that he kept yearning for social contact.
The youngest State Alchemist pinched the bridge of his nose, his voice frustrated and yet apologetic.
"Look, I'm awfully busy. This whole sickness and working as Mustang's mail boy has caused me to fall far behind my schedule."
"You have a schedule?" Hughes blinked incredulously.
"I and Al agreed on both of us doing research but on different things. I'm very behind in my own area; I have no idea how I'm going to catch up."
"You'll figure something out, kiddo, I know you will. You're a bright boy."
Hughes's voice was filled with such honesty Edward rarely heard from the man. Sure, Hughes kept giving away compliments like they were candy but there was always explicit tone change in his voice when he said something that he meant form the bottom of his heart.
"Besides, if you need any extra help," the man gave Edward his signature two finger salute," you know where to find me."
The simple gesture was all that was needed to relieve some of Edward's stress.
"In the meantime, I need you to go to my office and fetch a green folder from the top drawer in my desk."
Edward feet took him to the said destination like they had a will of their own. It was a good thing since the instructions demanded much of his energy.
Hughes's office was in the basement as a separate room. It wasn't any bigger than any other room in the house but it was clear Gracia had no access there. As Edward opened the door and took a quick glance around, he had to shake his head; even his bedroom was cleaner than this area.
The bookshelf was full of documents and those that didn't have room in it ended up in piles onto the floor. Separate papers were everywhere and maps had been opened and left lying around. It was nearly impossible to walk in the room without stepping on anything important. Edward didn't wonder why Hughes spent so much time at work even when being at home.
The only lamp was on the desk. Searching through various sharp objects and minding his fingers the boy finally came across the switch and lighted up the room. The dim light didn't give the room any more hospitality. In fact, it reminded Edward of the interrogation rooms he had visited the time he had been helping Hughes in Investigations.
The boy knew that, for some odd reason, Hughes had it easier to think when it was dark. He couldn't even count the times he had been woken up by the parents talking in their room with Hughes writing up something important and Gracia trying to make her husband forget about work. Now, as Edward squint his eyes to try and find what he was looking for, he thought the man would be lucky if he still had his sight when retiring.
After five minutes of search, the file in question had been found with a scream of triumph and the boy practically jumped back to the living room, glancing through the papers to get some idea of the work Hughes was referring to. His disappointment was grave when he found the file to contain documents about office supplies.
"Is this it?"
Hughes stretched his hand to take the file. He checked the name and nodded.
"Now," the man gave the folder back to the boy and put his hands behind his neck, making himself comfortable. "Go and take that to Headquarters to that sorry excuse of an officer."
Surprised by the phlegmatic response, Edward opposed the decision: "Why won't you take it?"
"I'm on paid sick leave. Why would I miss any second of it by doing work?"
Startled at the uncharacteristically self-indulgent response, the boy stormed to the coat rack and snatched his red winter jacket after a reminder from Gracia about the chilly autumn air and his recovery time. As he was about to leave, a voice came from behind him.
"I'll treat you to ice cream," Hughes said while leaning onto the door frame. "Any flavor you like."
Edward only nod repeatedly and shut the door.
"It's nice to have you back, kid."
Edward grinned at himself for Havoc's words as he rummaged through the drawers. On his arrival, the boy had realized the doors to the Investigation Department were locked and since no one had come to open, he had had to go to Mustang's office and ask Falman for a spare key. The elderly man had been quite reluctant at the request; after all, that section of the Headquarters contained valuable and confidential information not for every-man's eyes. Even after Havoc had offered to go with the boy and thus make sure the young alchemist would keep his hands from everything that was not for him to know Falman had had thoughts but after many promises and some charming skills from Havoc, the man had eventually agreed but with a deadline by which the key had to returned.
Havoc fished a cigarette box from his pocket and took out a tobacco that was next in order.
"Things get pretty boring when you're not around to make a mess."
The man followed the boy's actions with his eyes and breathed in some smoke. As he exhaled through his mouth and nostrils, the strong smell got to the boy's lungs, irritating the still sore tissues. Taking his hands from between the files he was inspecting, Edward drew his left palm in front of his mouth and began to cough. It was the same kind of hacking Havoc remembered hearing during the time Edward had been his patient. He made an attempt to crouch down to rub the jacket-clad back but Edward raised his right hand, indicating him to back off.
"Sorry, but I already have difficulties breathing," the boy managed to breath out as he took in big gulps of air, trying to settle the cough down.
"I understand," the man nodded, once again slipping a hand into his pocket. He placed a box of breath mints on the table, answering the boy's curious glance by a nod.
Havoc straightened up, giving the child one last concerned look before he trudged off to wait for the child outside.
Yet, as Havoc was about to disappear from his sight, Edward suddenly remembered the scene he had witnessed the other day.
"Who was that woman I saw you with?"
At the question, Havoc literally stopped in his track. The man turned around with a smile on his face.
"Just a friend of mine," he teased, perfecting the carefree appearance by shrugging. Edward, however, took none of it. He knew Havoc was only joking and felt somewhat betrayed not to have been told about the latest encounters in his closest friend's love life.
"Don't lie to me," the boy crossed his arms, putting on his best sneaky smile. "You looked like you could eat her instead of that mousse."
It took a moment for Havoc to give a proper answer. Standing there like that, the boy looked ready for a modeling shot. The man had sometimes played with an idea of making Edward a photographing model. The boy had distinct features and he assumed Hughes's obsession had given the boy lots of practice.
"Fine, if you really insist," he finally gave in but couldn't help inhaling the toxic gas again. "Her name is Mary and we're dating."
"Is she a model?"
You bet she could be, Havoc replied in his mind. Edward was not the first to make the mistake; Breda had assumed the same as he had shown him her picture. Havoc really though such a beautiful woman was just wasting her talent when not embarking on an exciting journey in the model world. Mary could make a fortune just by letting advertisers use her eyes as bait.
"No she is a really intelligent woman. Works as a lawyer and thus earns more than I do."
"Hey, you can become a stay-at-home dad!"
Havoc laughed at the spontaneous idea, trudging out of the room.
"Yeah, forget all about your career! From shooting criminals to changing diapers."
Edward laughed at the joke and continued to search for the right spot.
Many people didn't know it but Havoc wasn't only interested in looks. Sure, the bachelor appreciated outer beauty and superficial needs but most of all, he wanted to find a soul mate. When he was living with Havoc, Edward had had many meaningful discussions with the man and not just about him and his issues regarding Hughes but also about Havoc and his desires. The man had sort of made him his confident, the one to whom he could reveal his insecurity and need for a partner.
Havoc was a good man; there was no doubt about it. If Edward were to choose with whom of the office men he would share his life with, he would choose his friend in a heartbeat. It wasn't as though Breda and company weren't nice and smart and altogether wonderful people but Havoc had something unexplainable in him. That special trait attracted people from various ages, social classes and backgrounds.
While pondering about his friend, something oddly familiar passed his vision. Trailing back with his forefinger stretched out, the boy pushed the fore files away to take a proper look at the mystery in front of him.
It was simple white map but on the nametag it clearly read Edward Elric.
The boy's eyes widened in interest and he hesitated. Falman had strictly told him not to look at anything but to return the file Hughes had given him. Otherwise he would be in lot of trouble for disobeying Military Regulations.
Still, the curiosity got the best of him and he took the file. He opened it and leafed through the papers. He found his physical tests, State Alchemist Exam results and some random reports from more important missions. Then he found one note that was clearly written by Hughes. The man seemed to have pondered his words very carefully: the handwriting was not of the usual flying, impossible to read style but one of smooth letters.
Edward checked once more that Havoc was not near and began to read.
26th August, 1915
The boy frowned; by that time, he had been living with Havoc.
His eyes scanned the sentences and his brain processed the new found information. As he got further, rage set in and his flesh hand began to shake.
I am a bad girl, leaving a cliffhanger. Want to bet it takes three years to write the next chapter XD
Also, some promotion for my other stories:
Father's love need more love, and Aftermath portrays how Edward deals with Nina's death and Barry the Chopper incident (I ought to update that next). And Stick to Your Status is a short humor fic.
I have also done some minor changes to the earlier chapters. It's mostly about correcting some spelling mistakes and some other faults that have been irritating me or made me laugh when I read the chapters again. Never trust my grammar to be perfect.
Reviews... they will be read with a sincere heart.