Disclaimer: I do not own FullMetal Alchemist.
Some fluff, because I've just read chp 102 of the manga and feel in need of happy sappyness. You have been warned, so no flames. Set in my 'Restitution' universe. Takes place one night during the week Mustang is stuck at the Elric's house due to injuries.
Roy Mustang the Flame Alchemist, former Brigadier General and unwitting time-traveller, sighed and carefully turned over a page in his note-book. Though it was late, the alchemist could still see by the last light of the summer sun shining through the small bedroom window, which was taking its time to dip beyond the hills in the distance.
The long days of summer had in fact been the cause of an argument earlier. Ed and Al had not been happy when their mother had told them it was time for bed. The sun had still been reasonably high in the sky and Ed especially had been adamant that going to bed when it was still light outside made no sense at all. However, the boys' mother had put her foot down and the two children had been packed off to bed.
Soon after, Trisha had also retired, explaining that she felt worn out from the long day she'd had, leaving only the temporarily crippled soldier awake. Or at least that was what Mustang had thought. A quiet creaking sound from the hallway indicated that this wasn't the case.
Putting down the note book, Mustang pushed himself up on his crutch and slowly made his way to the bedroom door as quietly as possible. It was already slightly ajar, so he just edged it open a little more and looked out into the dark hallway to see what had been making the noise.
The hallway was empty.
Mustang blinked and looked out again, just to be sure.
Nope. Nada. Nothi-
The quiet whisper startled Mustang and he looked down. He'd been peeking out, and just below him, two blond haired heads that barely came up to his waist were peeking in. Effectively, he hadn't seen them, because he was in the way.
"We can't sleep. Can you tell us a story?" Ed whispered hopefully, tugging at the dark-haired man's trousers.
Mustang stared, his brain temporarily shorting out from the huge increase in bizarreness. Edward Elric's six-year-old self was asking him to tell a bedtime story. He tried to fit this thought into his brain in a way that made sense. It didn't work. The words 'FullMetal wants a bedtime story' kept reverberating around in his skull and causing traffic delays on the pathways of his brain.
A story? He didn't know any children's stories. At least, not any without sparkly fairies and princesses in them, which he suspected would not interest the two boys. Ah, the terrible consequences of growing up in a house full of foster-sisters.
Well. . . actually that's not quite true, he thought, I guess I do know some stories they might like. Provided I leave out certain details. Still though. . .
"Didn't Trisha tell you a story?" Mustang asked, his voice echoing in the silent hallway. He was instantly sshh'd at by the two young boys.
"Mom forgot 'cos she was tired," Al explained in a whisper.
"An' now she's asleep," Ed added, also whispering. "we don't wanna wake her. But we can't sleep without a story. Please?"
Mustang weighed his options. He could tell the boys he didn't know any stories and send them back to bed, which would let him temporarily spare his brain the effort of dealing with the utter strangeness of his situation. But, they likely wouldn't be able to go to sleep easily, meaning they'd be cranky and irritable in the morning, which would cause stress for Trisha. Or, he could tell them a quick story and hopefully they'd go back to sleep quickly and be in a good mood come morning, giving Trisha a full night's rest; something that was to be encouraged whenever possible.
He sighed. "Alright then," he began and then lowered his voice as he was promptly shushed and reminded that 'Mom's tired/asleep. Don' wake her up.'
"Alright," he said again, whispering this time. "Come in. Just one story, okay? Then you two have to go back to bed."
The two blond heads nodded fervently and then Ed dashed past the injured soldier to clamber up onto the chair in the corner, while Al elected to hug Mustang's knees before letting go and climbing onto the end of the bed. Mustang sighed inwardly as he limped his way across the room and sat back on the bed next to Al. I'm going to regret this. I know it.
"Once upon a time," Mustang said, deciding to go with the traditional opening. "There was a little alchemist, with a very big temper, who lived in a house with his younger brother."
Al pulled on Mustang's sleeve. "What were they called?" the five-year-old asked in a whisper.
Mustang paused. He hadn't considered that part when he'd started and now the two boys were looking at him expectantly. "Uhm. . . Kain and Jean," he said quickly.
"Those are weird names!" Ed opined. "Which was which, Mister Roy?"
"Jean was the older brother," Mustang replied, grinning despite himself. "He was shorter than his younger brother Kain, but he was a brilliant alchemist. He didn't even need circles."
"That's not right!" Ed said authoritatively. "Can't do alchemy without circles. It wouldn't work. Right Al?"
"Right!" Al agreed as his brother slipped off the chair and pulled himself up on the bedspread beside Mustang. The younger boy looked up at the dark-eyed man. "Was Kain an alchemist too?"
"Oh yes!" Mustang told him. "He was an excellent alchemist, but unlike his brother he had to use circles."
"Everybody has to use circles," Ed insisted. "Otherwise it doesn't work."
Mustang smiled and shook his head slightly. "Ed, it's a story. It doesn't have to be like real life, okay?"
"Okay," Ed agreed, shivering and shuffling closer to the soldier for warmth. On his other side, Al did the same.
As two sets of small hands clung to his shirt and a small head rested against either side of him, Mustang shook his head again. And the bizarreness goes up a notch, he thought. Clearing his throat, he continued with the 'story'.
"Now, Jean and Kain were very good alchemists. But one day, they tried something that wasn't supposed to be possible."
"Did it work?" Ed breathed, his eyes wide.
Mustang smiled sadly at the child's innocence. "No Ed, it didn't. Some things can't be done, not even with alchemy, no matter how much you want it."
"So what happened?" Al whispered, also fascinated by the story.
Mustang sighed. "They'd tried to do the impossible, to break one of the most basic laws of alchemy. There's a spirit that governs the laws and it didn't like the fact that Jean and Kain tried to break the rules, so it punished them by taking away something from each of them."
Ed rubbed his eyes and yawned. "What'd it take?"
"Jean lost his leg," Mustang told him, "and Kain's entire body was lost."
"His whole body?" Al asked sceptically. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. Kain nearly died. But Jean was tough little boy and at the last second, he pulled his brother's soul back from the spirit and sealed it to a suit of armour by giving away his arm."
Ed's eyes, which had been slowly closing, jerked open. "What happened then, Mister Roy?" he demanded, gripping the man's sleeve tightly.
"Well, they decided to go looking for a way to fix things. But first E- er Jean, needed a new arm and leg, so he went to his friend. . . uh, Riza."
"Riza?" Ed asked. "Why do they all have funny names?"
Mustang sighed and slapped his forehead. Ed cocked his head in curiosity. "Why did you hit yourself Mister Roy?"
"Eh, never mind. Anyway, Riza was a brilliant automail mechanic. So she made Jean the best automail in Amestris."
"The best?" the boys whispered in unison.
"The best!" Mustang declared, only just remembering to whisper himself. "Of course, Jean was a headstrong little guy. He used to get into so much trouble, Riza was always repairing it for him. Anyway, once he had a new arm and leg, Jean and Kain headed to Central on the train to meet with an alchemist who thought he might be able to help them. But they had some bad luck. There were evil men hiding on the train."
There were twin 'oohs' from the two boys. At the back of his mind, Mustang wondered if there had been a time in all those short years, when Ed had hung on his every word like this. He knew there was one occasion, but he couldn't bring it to mind.
"Now," Mustang continued. "While they were on the train, waiting to get to Central, Jean fell asleep and while he was sleeping the evil men captured an important General who was also on the train. Then they went to capture everybody else on the train so that no one could make trouble."
"Why did they want a General?" Ed interrupted.
"Well, uh, so that the army would pay them a lot of money to give him back," Mustang invented, thinking it best not to go into a detailed explanation of partisan politics.
Al's eyes brightened. "Can you get lots of money for a General, Mister Roy?"
Mustang stared. Was Al thinking. . . "No Al," he said firmly. "You only get a lot of trouble."
"Aww. . ."
"Anyway," Mustang continued quickly, lest he accidentally inspire master criminals, "when the evil men came to the carriage that Jean and Kain were in Jean was still asleep. And then. . ." He paused.
"Then what? Then what?" the boys demanded excitedly.
"One of the bad men said that Jean. . . was short!"
This was supposed to be a one-shot, but. . .