And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make
"Distribute your weight!" Breda barked, "I'm not picking you up when you fall flat on your ass! Lean to the left!"
"That'll make it worse!" Ross argued. "Push yourself up! Then you can realign your balance!"
"Honest to god, you have the biceps of a fourteen-year-old girl! What have you been doing all those hours in the gym, lifting weights with your teeth?"
"Maybe he was sitting back on his ass smoking the extra cigarettes I saw you sneak him! There's a reason he has to ration them, you know!"
Havoc's jaw shook as violently as his arms as he forced his right leg forward. "Sssssshut the hell up, you bassssstardssssss!"
After the show, Heinkel's small daughters immediately attached themselves to the wide folds of Yoki's pants.
"Mr. Clown, can you trip over your big feet again? That was my favorite part!"
"No, stick your head inside Daddy's mouth again!"
"Please fall into the pie!"
"I want to see the squirting flower!"
Yoki attempted to walk away, but they were standing on his shoes.
"Now listen here, I used to be the overseer of a mine! I saved the whole country from a military conspiracy! I ran over a homunculus with my car! I will not be treated disrespectfully by you children-"
Both girls stuck out their bottom lips.
"Oh, fine," Yoki sighed, reaffixing his nose.
"Winry, dearest, I'm going to miss you so much," Garfiel blew his nose loudly into a lace-hemmed handkerchief. "I don't know how the shop survived out here before you came to the Valley!"
"Mr. Garfiel, she's only moving down the street," Paninya piped up.
"I'll call!" Winry offered, patting her former employer's shoulder. "I'll walk down to borrow a jointed nut spinner or a hex bolt!"
"I suppose," Garfiel sniffed with a proud smile, daintily dabbing the corners of his eyes. "But darling, promise me two things: one, that you won't run me out of business, and two, when your cute blond alchemist comes to visit, let me know if he brought any friends."
"And here," Miles pointed to a large lot in the west corner, "is where we can develop housing. The structure needs some work, but the pipelines are all intact. I'd like to get everyone out of the tents and into new buildings before the end of month, so we don't have to fight off the storm season."
"This is an old fuel station," now Miles' finger moved south to a building leaning on its left side, "Most of the oil ignited in the attacks, but the pumps still work. Once the railroad is built, we can renovate it. But for now, the old framework needs to be completely undone."
He rolled up his sleeves. "Let's get to work."
"Well," Olivier said with a flourish of her pen, "that does it. You are now the heir to the Armstrong residence and fortune, in the case of my demise. I don't have any confidence in your ability to honor the family name, but at least now I can be spared from thoughts of Mustang occupying the Master Bedroom."
"Oh Sister," Alex cried, picking her up in a bone-crushing embrace, "I am not concerned with furthering our family's traditions! I am just overjoyed with the knowledge that you have set aside our differences and welcomed me fully into you heart!"
"Don't push it," Olivier growled.
Elicia put on her best pouting face.
"Please, Mom, please please please! I'll walk him and feed him and clean up after him and he can sleep in my bed!" Right on cue, the tiny black puppy snuggled against her shoulder and licked her ear. It was the epitome of cute.
Gracia was determined to resist.
"But sweetie, I'm not sure if we're allowed to have dogs in the building. And pets are a lot of hard work…" Elicia's eyes began to fill with tears.
Even their landlord was swayed after watching the puppy fall asleep in the girl's arms.
"Sugar, Delta, Jackson, Three, Four, Nine," he repeated. "Now after you've confirmed the code, you…"
The new recruits stared at him like sheep in the face of an oncoming train. One slowly raised his hand.
"Er, connect the lines?"
Fuery sighed. "That's incorrect. You check the code, then check to see if the requested line is in use. Then you connect the lines," he instructed, demonstrating the steps as he spoke.
The clock chimed 1400 and he dismissed the group, pulling off his headphones. Sergeant Jakonski chuckled.
"They've got you on training, eh, Second Lieutenant?"
Fuery rolled his eyes. "They'll let anyone into the military these days."
On the day of the Jennings' wedding, with one hundred cuts of pork and steak to be delivered across town by noon, both she and Sig were confined to bed with a nasty cold.
"Don't worry, Mrs. Curtis," Mason reassured her, after forcibly leading her out of the shop for the fourth time. "It'll all be taken care of. I've got Mr. Brown's truck and the meat's all packed and ready. You shouldn't be around the food, anyway. Now go home and rest."
Izumi dug her slipper heels into the floor, refusing to budge. "But make sure you don't forget to pack extra ice—"
"—for the filet, I know." He smiled, and Izumi let herself be pushed to the door.
"You're a good kid," she conceded, ruffling his hair.
"Sector 331 is clear," he reported, then hung up the service phone. The two privates on duty started on their way to the next checkpoint.
Then he remembered—
"Cover!" The privates hurled themselves towards the fort as he lept in the way, cutting off the projectile just before it burst on the walkway.
"Maintenance never clears this sector properly," he warned, sweeping aside the shattered ice with his boot. "Watch yourselves, men."
The privates peeled themselves away from the wall, looking awed.
"Thanks, Captain Falman."
He nodded, leading the way.
She had never been particularly religious, but Pinako makes the trek out to the graveyard to honor them all the same. Sometimes she found herself chiding the spirit of her son, for not taking care of the pesky weeds that always seem to spring back regardless of the caretaker's efforts. Sometimes she spoke of the boys to Trisha, reciting lines from a letter Al sent or passing on the rare telephone call from Ed.
She always took a full bottle of liquor; gin, whisky, beer. The out-of-town folks gave her scornful looks while the locals merely dismissed it, but she carried on the tradition all the same.
"I took a swig; it's a long walk for an old woman like me," she huffed, setting the bottle in front of the gravestone. "You were damn lucky that you never aged, Hohenheim. I have a lot of complaints you're going to hear when I join you."
Lan Fan kept looking straight ahead. "Your Highness, everything is gold here."
"Aww come on, be a sport! There's no fun if you don't try!"
She sighed, neatly hopping to the centermost rafter.
"The table centerpiece vases."
"The carpet tassels."
"Ooh, nice one! But no."
"The hairpin on Lord Jao Bei's wife's braid."
"Would I be that cruel?"
Lan Fan slipped back behind the throne, crouching in the shadow of a gilded urn.
"With all due respect, Highness, you are supposed to be observing the ceremony."
"But it's so boring," the Emperor sighed, leaning his chin on his hand. "And I'm starving! …You were right about the hairpin, though."
She handed him his overcoat as they walked down the north stairs to the car.
"Congratulations on your promotion, sir. Two ranks within three years is a quite a feat."
"A feat and a bother," Mustang pronounced dramatically. "I lose track of how high up I am. Just the other day I signed a tax approval as 'Lieutenant Colonel'."
"I'm sure you'll adjust, sir," she replied plainly. "Promotions will put you in a good light. Remember that the Fuhrer makes his decision next week."
"Yes, yes, I know. Promotions are always favorable. But since I'm to marry Grumman's granddaughter next month, the competition haven't a chance."
"Sir, please don't jinx our chances," Hawkeye chided, opening the car door.
Ed sat in the corner with his son on his lap while Winry paid the photographer, bounced the baby, and combed her hair at the same time.
"Hey, now, why the long face?"
"Don't want to smile," the toddler griped, crossing his tiny arms.
"Aww come on now, won't you smile for Mom? It'll make her happy," Ed coaxed, as Winry dragged Al into the frame and dismissed Mei's misgivings that they weren't properly dressed, because, "Elric family portraits require all Elrics to be present!"
"Alright kid, I'll make a deal with you," Ed finally yielded. "Equivalent exchange. If you smile for this picture, then I'll smile for this picture."
His son turned to look at him, eyes wide. "Really?"
"All right, come together!" Winry called, waving them over. Ed picked up the boy and took his place between Al and Mei. The photographer adjusted his lens.
"Everyone ready? On one…two…three…"
Ed exchanged a look with his son, and they both turned to the camera, grinning.