Bad Day

By Hyperthia

Chapter II

"Pinky Promises"

"You go after him, right now."

"I don't think it'd do anybody any good…" Mustang said defensively.

"Then what do you suggest you do about it?"

"I-I don't know…?"

"Let me help you decide…"

CLICK!

"You know what, Lieutenant," Mustang said with his hands in the air, "I think I'm going to go after Fullmetal."

"Good choice," said Riza, replacing her gun in its holster.

The dark, murky skies floated heavily over the city, washing it in a chilly bite. Mustang readjusted his black overcoat and walked out of headquarters, grouchily scuffing his shoes as he ambled along. Before he left, he told Havoc to take one of the military cars out on the roads, and to pick up Ed if he saw him anywhere. Havoc gave him some antibacterial wipes and bandages to bring along for Ed's cheek. Mustang had to wonder how Ed had scraped up his face like that; when he had asked the boy about it, he received a rather vague answer. Mustang scanned the area outside of the building quickly, searching the crowds for the telltale red and gold figure. There was no sign of the midget—Fullmetal anywhere near the building.

Mustang walked the perimeter once with no luck. And then, for good measure, he rounded the area again, this time prying through the bushes and looking up trees. He even took a peak in the air vents. Edward couldn't have gotten very far; it had only been about a few minutes since he ran off- or limped off to be more accurate. He could have just begun to walk home.

Mustang glanced across the street and, lo and behold, a giant suit of armor was right there, buying some produce from one of the stands.

"Alphonse!" Mustang called, and Alphonse turned to meet his gaze.

"Oh, hello Colonel!" Alphonse chirped, waving enthusiastically and nearly taking some poor old man's head off. Alphonse quickly paid for the vegetables in his arms and walked toward Mustang. "Isn't my brother supposed to be with you right now?" he asked, glancing around Mustang as if he expected Edward to be there.

"Hey, uh, about that," said Mustang "you wouldn't happen to know where your brother's favorite hiding spot is, right?"

"What do you mean?" asked Alphonse, sounding worried. "He didn't make it to the office?"

"I'm sure he's fine," Mustang began to explain quickly, trying to ease Alphonse's concern. "He got mad at me and took off. What else is new? I've been looking for him but he seems to have gotten a good ways from headquarters."

"Oh, I see," said Alphonse. "What happened?"

"I guess he was having a bad day, and I was pretty hard on him," Mustang sighed. "And I teased him about his height." Alphonse gasped at this and examined Mustang worriedly.

"A-are you injured?" he asked, seeming more concerned for the Colonel's well being than for his brother's.

"No, no, I'm fine," said Mustang. "I just wanted to give you a heads up. I'm going to keep trying to find your brother but if he goes back to your place, call Hawkeye and let her know. You have the number there, right?"

"Yes, sir. I've got it at home," said Alphonse. "But can't I help you look for him?"

"I need to talk to him," said Roy. Al seemed confused for a moment so Roy clarified. "I mean, I need to talk to him alone. If you could just go to your place and call Hawkeye if he's there, that would be helpful enough. Other than that, do you know if Ed has a favorite hangout or… I dunno, a hiding spot?"

"No, not really," Al thought for a moment longer. "Sometimes he'll go for walks in the neighborhoods and downtown area, but I don't know where. He likes to go alone when he's stressed."

"I'll, uh, keep that in mind," Mustang said. That hint was helpful to some degree, but Mustang still had a potentially long search ahead of him.

After a brief goodbye, Mustang and Alphonse parted ways. Mustang shoved his hands into his pockets and took another calculating glance at his surroundings.

If I were just less than five feet tall, where would I go? He thought to himself. Well, of course he'd go somewhere small that he could squeeze into. But was Edward really the type of person to hide when he was upset? Mustang hoped not; that would just make his time even more difficult. Of course, he couldn't exactly imagine how Edward must have felt at the moment. The more Mustang thought about it, the more he berated himself for not reading Ed's body language correctly. He, the king of reading emotions and manipulating them, should've been able to see that Edward was having a bad day. But he got too caught up in the enjoyment of making fun of the kid.

Then again, Edward had always put up with the short jokes pretty well. Aside from throwing tantrums and maybe punching a few people… Okay, never mind; he had never taken the insults very well, but never ever had the boy actually cried about it! That just made Mustang feel even worse. It wasn't as if it was the first time he had made a child cry, but he certainly hated the feeling it brought him afterward. Edward wasn't some crybaby though, and that confused him. It worried him a bit, as well. The only two times he had seen Edward cry were after Nina died, and after the 'Barry the Chopper' incident. Those were some pretty good reasons to cry, but this morning… He had to wonder exactly how this morning had gone for Edward before he came into the office.

Mustang slowly scanned the main streets. It was quite busy and the crowds made it more difficult to search for the short boy. He paced down the sidewalks, pushing past the shoppers and tourists and scanning all the benches, cafes, and windows. Every time he came upon a bookstore, he would walk inside and quietly search the aisles and study tables. Each place he searched, in the downtown, brought no luck and he was beginning to get frustrated. He had been searching for at least thirty minutes, and there was no sign of Edward. Mustang was at a complete loss and soon, he found himself checking under every rock.

He continued to walk for another ten minutes, stopping to check the roads for any signs of Havoc driving around, but he didn't see anything. Soon Mustang decided to wander the streets and neighborhoods that separated the Elrics apartment from the office. He only hoped that he'd find the boy soon. If he didn't, then Riza would go apeshit on him. He shivered at the mere thought.

Nope, he thought to himself, I can't go back to the office without finding Fullmetal first. With that motivation in mind, he continued to float around the neighborhood blocks, scanning all the bus stops and trees. He found a payphone, and called both Hawkeye and Alphonse, only to hear that Edward was still nowhere to be found. Well, at least he now knew all his searching would not be in vain.

He continued walking, able to keep a quick pace seeing as the trees had lost a good portion of their leaves; it would make it more difficult for Edward to hide in one. That is, if he could even climb one in the injured condition that he was in.

He passed through several streets with no luck, whatsoever. He couldn't fathom all the places that Edward could have gone off too. Edward was, as much the boy hated to admit it, very small and could fit almost anywhere. Mustang wouldn't be surprised if he had already passed him by, while searching. But he wouldn't consider that until he had searched the entire city first.

If this lasts for too much longer, I'll have to get a search party together, Roy thought glumly, kicking at a few leaves as he walked past a small, private school.

"You're lying!" said the voice of a young girl.

"Am not!" said a boy.

Mustang let their little argument filter through him, as he walked past a group of middle-school children, who appeared to be having a heavy debate. They were, by the looks of them, about the same age as Ed, maybe a little older. They were all definitely taller than him.

"So you expect me to believe that the Fullmetal Alchemist came by today?" said the voice of a very skeptical-sounding boy. Mustang slowed his pace, and moved to listen from behind a tall hedge.

"Yeah, he was here this morning around nine, while we were ditching class," said another boy, "and we took him down!"

"Yeah right! He's in the military; there's no way you could have!"

Mustang stepped closer from behind the hedge to get a better listen. Around nine, huh? he thought, Fullmetal would've been on his way to the office about then.

"You better believe it!" shouted the same boy. "The little runt was so easy to rile up! It was so funny!"

"Hell, you should've seen him," another boy said in a jeering tone. "He's not all that cool. He was using a crutch and everything!"

Mustang sighed. They must have been telling the truth, then; not many people would have known that Edward was currently using a crutch to get from Point A to Point B.

"I heard he has fake limbs," said another girl, "like his real limbs got ripped off or something, and now he has robot limbs!"

"Eeeww! That's so gross!" another girl squealed. Mustang was beginning to get pissed.

"Yeah, and he fell flat on his face before we left," said the same boy, "he's not so cool, after all. He's just a lame cripple!" Some of the children began to giggle, while the three boys, who were telling the story, laughed proudly.

At this point, Mustang was seething on the inside. He had never heard anyone talk so poorly of Edward. He never even imagined that anyone would. It was sort of an unspoken rule that no one says anything demeaning in reference to his limbs. That included calling them 'gross,' inferring that he is handicapped because of them, or calling him a cripple. A cripple, of all things! Edward was anything but crippled. These little punks had no idea what Edward had been through, or how he had ended up with those limbs. Mustang felt a protective fire well up inside of him, and he had no inhibitions about what he was going to do next.

Stepping out from behind the hedge, Mustang made his face as blank as possible and readjusted his black coat. He walked closer to the group of children, who were giggling madly and sitting around three smug-looking boys. Clearing his throat loudly, Mustang made himself known to the group. The giggling stopped, and they all looked up at Mustang's intimidating figure. Good. He had their full attention.

"You three," Mustang pointed at the three boys, who suddenly looked alarmed; Mustang made sure that they'd be able to see his uniform under his coat. "Get over here!"

The three boys obeyed quietly, while their other friends remained seated and watched. The perpetrators came and stood before Mustang, looking how they should look: terrified.

Without a word, Mustang snapped his gloved hand, releasing three balls of flames. They shot directly at the boys' feet, making them jump and cower away from him.

"What was that for?" the tallest one cried, his voice cracking to a comical pitch.

"From now on," Mustang said in an even tone, "I advise that you don't skip your classes."

He raised his hand once again, poised to snap. He glared menacingly down at the boys, who screamed and took off running toward the schoolhouse. The other kids, who still sat on the grass nearby, all burst into hysterics and pointed at the once-proud boys, who were now screaming like little girls.

Mustang nodded once in satisfaction, before turning back down the street. He was still seething inside, and was now scowling on the outside. Those little punks, he thought angrily, they got what they had coming to them. He had always thought children at that age were quite horrible. That was why he was such a disciplinarian when it came to Edward. The kid was hotheaded, bratty, abrasive, and could be pretty mean if he wanted to be. Mustang had always imagined that Edward would be the bully, not the other way around. He had never imagined that Edward would or even could get bullied. The more he thought about it, though, the more it made sense. Edward was short, skinny, and he didn't have many friends, now that Mustang thought about it. Ed was just too busy obsessing over alchemy and being a bookworm. He was also so easy to wind up that it was entertaining. Mustang mentally slapped himself; he, himself, had been a bully to the poor kid. He had always known it, in the back of his mind but he never really thought about it that way.

Mustang turned down a random street, still too peeved to even notice where he was going. After passing a few houses though, he realized that he was on Alder Avenue, a historical street. The homes, which he walked by, dated back almost a hundred years and were kept in great condition. Most of them had wraparound porches, and they all had spider web-like mouldings around the brims of their awnings. Their windows glowed with the life they contained, and Mustang could even see some of their families moving around inside.

He continued to stroll along, glancing around him at the picturesque homes that lined the avenue. Alder trees lined the sidewalks- hence the name of the street. Birch and maple trees dotted the front lawns, shedding their leaves on the ground below. All the homes, that Mustang passed, seemed to be well kept and in almost mint condition… All except for one house.

This house stood out from all the others because it, unlike the other houses, was deserted, alone, and beginning to fall apart. Mustang could tell that it used to be a pure white, but nearly all the paint had peeled off, revealing its grey-toned, wooden panels. A few windows, Mustang could tell, had been busted in and then boarded up. The few windows that were still intact appeared to be covered by a grimy film from the inside. There was also quite a bit of vulgar graffiti decorating the base walls of the structure. The house had been abandoned for quite some time. It had been left to the abuse and torment of the outside world. At the front of the walkway to the porch, behind a black iron gate, was a well-sized picket sign that read: "Please help us restore this home!" Underneath that tagline was some information on the neighborhood's history. Underneath all of that was a little box full of business cards for the non-profit organization that was so-desperately trying to save this house. Mustang picked one up, looked at it, shrugged and threw it back in the box.

He moseyed on up the walkway and up the stairs to the porch, which wrapped all the way around the house. It must have been quite an attractive little home back in the day, and just by peeking through one of the less visually obstructed windows, Mustang could see that it still offered a lot of potential. The inside of the house, despite being covered in dust and other matter, was actually quite beautiful. The dark wood floors, flower-papered walls, and intricate crown mouldings all told an elaborate tale of this home's history. It was indeed, a little rough around the edges, but it still held the capacity to be great. All it really needed was for someone to reinforce its foundations, repaint it, rewire it, and overall care for it. It just needed some love.

Deciding to come off his little detour and get back to looking for Edward, Mustang turned and walked down the steps of the porch. But as he was doing so, he caught an object out of the corner of his eye. Turning his head, he grabbed onto the railing and peered over the stairs to the ground below. A crutch lay, innocently, upon the leaf-covered grass near the edge of the house's foundation.

Mustang hurriedly descended the steps and walked around to where the crutch was. It was definitely Ed's; he recognized the size and design from earlier. He held onto one of the steps for support and got down on one knee to look underneath. Sure enough, he could spot the small figure of Edward, all huddled up and hugging his knees. He appeared to be fast asleep.

Mustang sighed in mixed relief and exasperation. A constricted feeling in his chest, which he hadn't been aware of before, loosened and eventually disappeared. He was glad to have found Edward, but was still annoyed that he had had to find him at all. He also hated himself for being partly responsible for the boy's crummy day. Most of all, he was still pissed at those three little shits, who picked on Ed. It was strange mix of feelings, but he pushed it to the back of his mind so he could focus on the next step.

"Fullmetal," he called. "Fullmetal, wake up!"

Edward stirred a bit, before lifting his head and blinking tiredly, while taking in his surroundings. It took a while for him to realize where he was and why he was there. Then, he looked up toward the voice and was very surprised to see the colonel looking back at him. In response, he jumped in fright and ended up hitting his head on the wood above him.

"Ow," he muttered, rubbing the top of his head and blushing from ear to ear.

"I've been looking everywhere for you," Mustang said, sounding quite irritated. "What're you doing in there?"

Edward paused, unsure of his answer. He finally sighed deeply. "I just…" he began shakily, "thought that if I put myself away, then nothing else bad would happen today."

"Are you hurt?" asked Mustang, knowing that he really didn't have to ask; Ed was obviously in pain. Edward blinked hard a few times before slowly shaking his head.

"Well, you can come out now," Mustang said, but Edward only shook his head again. "Nothing bad is going to happen." Edward shook his head once more.

"Fullmetal," Mustang said in an almost frightening tone, "come out of there." Edward looked up at him, but he made no indication of listening.

"Fine," said Mustang, "If you just want to stay in there and hang out with the spiders, then—"

Faster than Mustang could say 'arachnophobia,' Edward scurried out from beneath the steps and sat cross-legged by Mustang's feet, trembling from the cold and looking quite sheepish. Mustang nearly teased Ed for his apparent dislike of their eight-legged friends, but he bit it back and forced it out of his mind. Now was not the time for that. Mustang removed his black overcoat and draped it over Ed's shoulders, earning him a rather bewildered look from the boy.

"Can you stand?" asked Mustang.

Edward paused again before nodding his head almost imperceptibly. He slowly got to his feet, bringing Mustang's long coat up with him. As soon as he put weight on his left leg though, he nearly toppled over and Mustang had to catch him just before he could fall. He steadied him on his feet and gently guided him toward the porch steps, smiling inwardly when he saw that his long coat dragged behind Edward as he walked along. Once they made it to the steps, Mustang lifted Edward and sat him on the top step. Edward made neither protest nor response; he just crossed his legs and sat indian style, looking down and letting his hands fidget nervously around his ankles. Now that Edward was in the light, Mustang could see that his cheek had stopped bleeding. It was, however, caked with dried blood and dirt.

Mustang grabbed the crutch off the ground and leaned it up against the stairs before taking a seat on the top step next to Edward. The boy remained completely silent, while Mustang took out one of the aluminum packs with an antiseptic wipe inside.

"Look up here," Mustang ordered.

Edward barely tilted his head upward, so that his eyes were still hidden. Tired of Ed's withdrawn attitude, Mustang gripped his face with one hand and scrubbed at the wound with the other. Despite the rough treatment, Edward didn't show any indication of feeling pain other than his eyes tearing up a bit. He refused to meet Mustang's eyes but directed his gaze up and over the man's head. Once the wound was cleaned, Mustang covered it with a white, gauze bandage. Edward tilted his head down again, hiding his face behind his bangs.

"Are you mad at me?" he asked after a long pause, catching Mustang by surprise.

"Huh?" Mustang asked.

"You just look angry," Edward explained, glancing up at Mustang for a moment before looking down again. Only then, did Mustang pay attention to the muscles in his own face. He was indeed scowling, and he must have looked the way he felt inside. He forced his features to soften, and he rubbed at the tension in his brow.

"No. No, I'm not mad at you," said Mustang, "I'm irritated that you ran off, but I'm not mad."

"Sorry you had to come look for me," Edward deadpanned.

"What are you being so apologetic for?" asked Mustang. "I didn't have to come after you."

"Oh come off it," Edward said, his voice a bit more firm. "I'll bet Hawkeye had to aim her gun at you."

Mustang blinked; Ed was dead on target. Mustang let it rest at that, and cleared his throat before speaking again.

"So…" he began lamely, not sure how to go about this conversation. Finally, he decided to just cut to the chase. "What happened this morning?"

Edward shifted awkwardly, his hands wringing at the leather material around his ankles. "Nothing really," he finally muttered.

"Really now?" Mustang asked with sarcasm in his voice. "That would explain why you always run away when I tease you about your height."

Edward glared at Mustang. "I don't wanna talk about it."

"Okay, let me start over," Mustang sighed then cleared his throat. "I'm sorry I made fun of your height. I didn't mean any harm by it. I was doing it to make my day more entertaining, and I didn't think about how it made you feel."

Edward looked up at him with a look that spoke of forgiveness, but he still didn't seem like he was going to tell Mustang anything. Mustang couldn't blame him; it must have been humiliating for the Fullmetal Alchemist to be taken down by three boys his age, who had no training in martial arts and no skill in alchemy whatsoever. Mustang had decided that it wasn't a good idea to tell Edward that he had already heard the gist of what happened. It was also probably not a good idea to let Edward know that he used his flames to scare the boys. For one thing, he had been angry at the time, and had lost his cool. Second, Edward would probably just be more embarrassed if he knew that Mustang had gone after the bullies for him.

Mustang still felt like pushing the subject though; he wasn't going to allow Ed to go home still feeling the way he did. Without him even realizing it, Mustang's mouth began to move and he made a confession that no one, except Maes, knew about.

"When I was your age, in middle school, I got teased a lot."

Edward snapped his head up at Mustang, looking perplexed and curious.

Damn, Mustang thought, mentally slapping himself. No one was supposed to know about that! If Maes hadn't gone to the same middle school as him, not even he would know! I hope Edward doesn't ask

"What for?"

That…

Mustang considered telling Ed to drop the subject, but ended up deciding to be honest about it. Perhaps if he told him about his own childhood trauma, then Ed would let him in on his. Equivalent Exchange, right?

Mustang sighed. "Promise not to laugh?" he asked. Edward seemed to think about it, for a moment, before he finally nodded. "Alright, and you better not tell anyone," he ordered firmly.

Edward held out his pinky finger. "I pinky promise I won't laugh or tell anyone," he declared. Mustang smirked and hooked his own pinky around Ed's, sealing the deal.

"Okay, then," said Mustang, "when I was in middle school, I was the 'fat kid.' Got made fun of all the time."

He half-expected Edward to laugh at him, but the boy simply looked up at him. He obviously took pinky promises very seriously. "That must've… sucked," he finally supplied.

"It did suck," Mustang admitted. "Kids at your age tend to be pretty terrible to the underdogs."

Edward sighed and looked down at his feet before looking back up at Mustang. He held up his pinky for Mustang to take again. "Promise not to laugh or tell anyone?" he asked, almost hesitantly.

"You bet," said Mustang, taking Ed's pinky in his once again.

Edward took a deep breath. "Today really sucked," he began. "First, the bus driver tried to get me to sit in the handicapped section of the bus. That's why I chose to walk to the office."

Edward paused, seeming hesitant to continue. Mustang nodded, encouraging him to go on and, once Ed regained his bearings, he spoke up again. "I had a run-in with some kids this morning… at that middle school a few blocks over. Then I got this." He indicated the bandage on his cheek with his index finger.

"Did they push you?" asked Mustang.

Edward looked up slightly, as if going over the event in his head. "No," he finally said, shaking his head. "My bad leg gave out and I fell…" he finished shakily, staring down at his lap. Mustang couldn't help but feel sorry for Ed; he just looked so irrevocably sad at the moment.

"I didn't even fight back," Edward grumbled, looking angry at himself. "I wasn't thinking clearly. If I'd just used my alchemy, they'd be stuck to the sidewalk right now!"

"Did they hit you at all?" Mustang asked. Edward looked thoughtful again, before slowly shaking his head. So the boys hadn't actually hit him; they had teased and tormented him, but they didn't directly injure him.

"You know what I think?" said Mustang. Edward looked back up at him, curiosity beaming from his eyes. "I think the reason you didn't fight them was because, deep down, you knew it wouldn't be worth it to hurt them. They're stupid, punk-assed jerks, but they're not criminals. You're too good of a person to waste your time, beating up every single person who steps out-of-line with you."

"But, if it was Alphonse that they were picking on…" Ed countered.

"That's different," said Mustang, "if they had picked on your brother or any other innocent person, you would shown them the door. I wouldn't doubt that for a second."

"I'm still trying to figure out what you're saying," Edward said slowly, scratching at his chin and looking confused as ever.

"What I'm trying to get at here…" Mustang stammered, trying to get a grasp on his words and stop rambling. "What I'm trying to say is that you're a good kid. It doesn't matter what anyone else says."

"How did you get through it," asked Edward. "You know… the teasing."

"It was hard to deal with," Mustang admitted, "I couldn't even tell my parents about it. But I had my best friend there with me. Maes helped me a lot," Mustang paused, a nostalgic look crossing over his face. "Then, something changed when I got out of middle school," he continued, "I just… grew up."

Edward stared blankly at him, clearly not knowing what to make of what he was hearing. Was Mustang really saying all this? Confessing his childhood trauma to Edward?

"You can't hide who you are right now," said Mustang. "Chances are, you will be tormented for that precise reason. Just know that when people make fun of you for something, it's because they are insecure with themselves. They, for whatever reason, feel the need to take it out on those who don't deserve it." Mustang paused again to take a deep breath. "Just know that… whenever you need anyone, you've got all those people, back at the office, who care about you and your brother. And you've got me."

Edward's lips twitched briefly, and he tried to cover it up by turning to face the street. Mustang turned too, looking at the scenery before them. The skies had gotten slightly darker while they had been sitting there and all around them, the houses' windows glowed a warm gold. A light, chilly breeze picked up and blew a few golden leaves across the lawn, catching on Ed and Mustang's hair as well.

"I'll do everything I can," Mustang said suddenly, startling Edward out of his daze, "to make sure you and Alphonse reach your goal, and get your bodies back…" Mustang held his pinky out in front of him for Edward to take. "I promise."

Edward stared at the digit for a moment before wrapping his own pinky around it.

"And, for what it's worth," Mustang said, chuckling a bit, "you're not that short."

For the first time in a while, Edward smiled. A true and genuine smile. He tightened his grip around Mustang's pinky, shaking it once before letting go and facing the front again. At that moment, they saw a familiar black car turn the corner, and they could see Havoc's grinning face from behind the windshield. He pulled up in front of the house, turned off the engine and stepped out.

"Hey, Chief!" he called, smiling and sounding relieved. "I'm glad you're alive! You had us all worried there!" He approached the two, who were still sitting on the steps.

Edward glared, playfully, before shrugging out of Mustang's black coat, pulling himself up to his feet, and grabbing his crutch. "I'm not some little kid, Havoc. 'Least I don't act like one!"

"Hey!" Havoc cried in dismay, nearly losing his cigarette. "What are you implying?"

Edward just laughed out loud, before positioning the crutch under his arm. He ambled his way down the footpath toward the car, finding that his underarm didn't hurt as badly as it had before and there was some extra bounce in his step.

Havoc looked up at the decrepit house before him and whistled lowly. "Wow…" he said, "Ummm… interesting house."

Mustang turned and gazed up at it. "Yeah," he said softly, "looks like it could be pretty nice, though."

Havoc shrugged before turning to walk back to the car, where Edward was waiting for him to unlock the doors. Mustang slipped his coat on and followed behind him, enjoying the coolness of the breeze on his face.

He stopped just short of the front gate, his peripherals catching the picket sign, reading, "Please help us restore this home!"

Mustang looked back at the old home. Yes, it was a beautiful home once. It may be a bit rough around the edges now, but it held a lot of potential and it could be beautiful again. All it needed was to be cared about.

Mustang looked from the house, to Edward, then back to the sign. He reached into the little box that held the business cards. He pulled one out, looked at it, and smiled as he tucked it into his coat pocket.

He turned and walked off the lot and to the car, noticing that Edward was standing outside the doors to the back seat of the car.

"Ed," he said, catching the boy's attention, "You can ride up front with Havoc and I."

Edward looked incredulously up at him. "Really?"

"Yeah," said Mustang, opening the door when Havoc finally unlocked it. "I think you're tall enough."

Edward smiled again and climbed into the front seat to sit between Havoc and Mustang.

"Colonel?" he said as Mustang reached out to close the car door.

"Yeah?" Mustang asked.

"Thanks…" said Edward, looking down shyly at his lap, "for coming after me."

Mustang grinned. "No problem, Squirt!"

"Hey!" Edward squawked, glaring up at Mustang, though, despite the short jab, he was still smiling.

"Oh, I'm just teasing you," Mustang laughed, ruffling Edward's bangs.

The End