by. Poisoned Scarlet
Chapter 10: Heal
She sat up, grunting at the endless pricks of pain that attack her stomach in response. The bandage reached around her shoulder, covering her breasts in the process, although Riza thought using that much bandage was completely unnecessary.
Her injury wasn't as bad as it seemed.
Despite the fountain of blood that had poured from the bullet wound, once the wound was cleaned and thoroughly examined by former-Coroner Dr. Knox, she was told that the bullet had actually managed to go straight through her and must've ended up somewhere else; probably in the wall or floor, although Riza was not concerned with those technical details.
There was a lot of medical jargon her drug-muddled mind barely managed to comprehend but the end-result was the same: she was one lucky lady, she had lost a lot of blood, she had regained it now through transfusion, she was out of the woods for now, and that wound was going to cause her a helluva lot of pain for the next few weeks.
It had only been four days and Roy had yet to leave her alone. She was touched when she found him sitting in a chair by her bedside, snoring lightly with his arms crossed over his chest, head lolled back in a position that would no doubt get him a kink.
But it didn't take her a long time for her fondness to grow into annoyance when he awoke and opened his big mouth.
"Go to work. You're probably behind in your reports as we speak."
She was happy to say Dr. Knox allowed her to keep her gun even though it roused awful feelings. She usually held it in her hand during long nights, stroking the black metal with her thumb and wondering how she had survived such a point-blank shot without any major repercussions.
Riza sharply looked up when the door clicked open, revealing weary coal black eyes matched with a grim smile of greeting. Roy shut the door behind him, one hand casually inside his pocket while the other held a brown sack of something she couldn't begin to identify.
"Sir, what're you doing here?" Riza flicked her eyes to the clock, knowing full-well he still had four more hours to go before he could leave the overbearing atmosphere of his office. "Your work had better be done if you're here on unofficial business."
Strict and severe, no-nonsense and demanding...
She wasn't about to change, even if she did admit to looking pitiful and pathetic lying in bed awkwardly on her side, resiting grunts of pain because her stomach felt as if someone was taking pleasure in stabbing her their fingers in it.
"Not even a 'hello'? How rude of you, Major." Roy lightly joked, hooking his foot around the foot of the chair and bringing it toward him. He flipped it around, sitting backwards on it with his chin resting atop the backrest. "I thought you would like this."
Riza raised a brow in question but took the sack. It was a little heavy, and she thought she heard the familiar clink of a fork hitting plastic, but when she looked up to ask him he was gazing out the window, pointedly ignoring her.
It was food.
But that was not what made it so surprising: it was the fact that it was her favourite dessert, strawberry cheesecake, along with one of those chocolate muffin she bought if morning hunger became too much of a distraction at work.
"I recall you mentioning about cheesecake during lunch once." Roy answered her silent question. "I hope that wasn't just a fleeting comment."
A small smile broke her face, her fingers digging into the crinkling brown bag as she tried to keep her face from softening too much. She was already bedridden, the last thing she needed was to look like some drugged up flake since she was aware that her smiles tended to look lopsided and strange.
She wasn't very used to smiling.
Unbeknownst to her, Roy starved for her smile. It was rare, something to be cherished, and when he saw her chocolate ruby eyes light up, a slight tug lift her lips, his chest constricted with that familiar sense of overwhelmed relief. His eyes were used to her stony expression but his dreams were alive with her rare smile, even rarer grin, and rang with her tinkling laugh that he had only heard less than ten times in his entire life.
And just as fast as it appeared, it disappeared.
Her face was once again smooth and controlled.
Her eyes, though, to his ever-sweet relief and joy, were still alive. They were always alive with something – be it annoyance, humor, wrath, thoughtfulness, happiness. But they always shone, always glowed, even if she tried to hide it.
He had become an expert in those muddled red eyes of hers and Mustang privately prided himself in being able to know exactly what she was feeling and thinking with a mere glance into her expressive eyes.
It was what saved him from being shot in the leg when he pissed her off.
"Thank you. This was very thoughtful of you, Roy..." She trailed off, overlooking her mistake of using his name instead of his rank. Her fingers hurt from digging them into the bag so much but she didn't know what to do, so she offered what little words she could.
"How's your wound doing?"
"Better. There shouldn't be any massive drawbacks from the injury." Riza was relieved. Being taken out of the military because of a simple gunshot wound that damaged her too much internally would be have been tragic.
Roy was silent for a second. "I see... I hate to say this so soon, but would you agree to return Monday?"
"Monday?" Monday was in one day and she had technically barely begun to recuperate. Riza furrowed a brow. Was there something urgent that needed to be fixed? Either way, she was a sitting duck – she couldn't move, much less walk.
"Yes, Monday." Roy straightened, alerting Riza that he was about to brief her on the assignment. He always straightened and hardened his eyes whenever he briefed them for assignments. "The assignment is particularly simple. You will be posted at the Rockbell Household until further notice."
Riza's eyes widened in realization once she digested his words. "Guard?" She rasped. "I will be guarding the Rockbell's?" It didn't sound bad, honestly, but her wound...
A smile ghosted Roy's lips at her brightened ruby eyes. "Until further notice, yes. I have spoken with Dr. Knox and although you are due for a few more weeks in the hospital, he gave me the green-light to move you to another place for recuperation. On Monday, you will be transferred to the Rockbell household first thing in the morning – Mrs. Rockbell has absolutely no problem sheltering you until you are well enough to return to work."
Riza pressed her lips together. "I believe it would be more appropriate to stay here in the hospital, don't you think? My wounds are still fresh." She pretended not to see the way he barely restrained a flinch at the mention of her wound.
"I know." Roy shifted to his weight to the right. "However, you were never one to remain sedentary for so long and you will be recuperating... just somewhere that is less – clinical." He meant less depressing, Riza knew.
White always depressed him.
It reminded him of how tainted he actually was.
That was the reason he disliked hospitals and clinics and ripped off the white plaster of his apartment to be replace with paneled wood when he first moved in.
"But I am technically working, right?"
Roy shrugged. "If you see it that way." He didn't expect any more issues to arise, not since he was also positioning a few officers around the building to aid her.
Riza just smiled wearily. "Has Mrs. Rockbell consented? She doesn't like military personnel invading her home..."
Roy smirked. "Of course she consented. It's difficult to reject such a charming woman like you." He grinned, making Riza roll her eyes at his obvious suck up.
"Get out. Your break has been over for the past four minutes."
Roy sighed, although his eyes twinkled with warmth. "...Yes, Riza. Be ready to leave tomorrow early in the morning. I'll see you soon." He heaved himself up, pushing the chair back in its place.
Right before he exited the room, she asked, a little timidly: "Should I expect you here tomorrow for my relocation?"
Mustang just slipped his hand into his pocket, hiding his smile from her. "You shouldn't expect anything less." And left, knowing her warm chocolate-ruby eyes followed him until the door shut behind him.
They've been at it since they left the Fort.
And, although praised for his patience, there was only so much he could take before he had to put a stop to it.
Alphonse nervously glanced at the pair that sat in the back seat through the rear view mirror, stubbornly ignoring each other. They had already arrived in Central however the driver was filling up the gas tank all the way to prevent further delay once they entered Central Command.
But Al had a feeling everything would only get more complicated, by the way Edward resolutely stared out the window and Winry tried her luck glaring holes into the back of the drivers seat. Al could only imagine how nerve-wracking it must be for the driver, who had to put up with her glare for hours...
"Look! A doggy!" Eddie squealed, pointing excitedly out the window.
The only one who remained normal was Eddie...
But even he couldn't bring both adults out of their bitter moods.
"Major Elric, would you like anything from the convenience store?" The soldier asked, sensing the discomfort within the vehicle and wanting nothing to do with it.
"No, thanks." Edward muttered, sinking deeper into the seat with Eddie bouncing happily on his lap. "Al?"
"Yes!" Al quickly agreed, motioning the driver to stay where he was. The soldier silently conceded, watching the sibling quickly get out of the car and open up one of the back doors. He plucked Eddie off Edward's lap, ignoring the man's alarmed gasp, and shut the door before Ed could snatch the little boy back; the one thing that had protected him from Winry's expectant and venomous glare.
Shit. Ed paled, watching Al send him a look through the misty window. A look he knew far too well and wished he didn't. The soldier was beckoned to follow the younger brother into the store and soon Ed could no longer see them from his place.
He nervously glanced to his left, his grim emotions resurfacing at the sight of Winry's turned away body.
She didn't even make an effort to look at him.
He was starting to feel worse.
It went on like this for exactly two minutes before Edward couldn't take the silence anymore. He awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck. He could confront her or avoid her and he preferred avoiding her. She couldn't ignore him forever, could she? Somehow, Ed knew she could. "Uh, I have to go...buy something... I'll be back in a bit." He moved to open the door when a sneering huff from Winry paused him.
He narrowed his eyes. It didn't sound like it was 'okay'. Nothing seemed okay that day. "... Do you want anything?"
"No." She still didn't face him. "I don't need anything from a convenience store right now."
He read between the lines against his will. Ed tapped a finger on his knee and asked, very slowly: "... But you need something from somewhere else, right?" He was digging his grave – what was it with him and diving into dangerous, possibly fatal, situations?
He blamed the military and joining it at the age of twelve...it couldn't be healthy for a boy to join such stone-hard society at such a feeble age.
"I guess you have gotten a little smarter during your absence." She sharply side-glanced him. "But just a little. You're still the dumb, clueless, Ed I've known since we were children!"
Anger flashed through his eyes. "The hells that supposed to mean? I wasn't dumb when we were kids! Hell, I was smarter than the average highschooler at that age!"
"Academically." Winry smartly replied. "Emotionally, you were as mature as a five year old. Still are."
"Alright, what the hells your problem?" He demanded. He didn't want to confront her but now she was just asking for it. "You've been silent throughout this entire ride and you haven't once looked at me! And now you're insulting me?"
"I don't have a problem!" Winry snapped. "You have a problem, though!"
Ed scowled. "I don't have a problem."
"Yes! You do!" Winry finally turned to look at him, her oceanic blue eyes storming with what she had been harboring inside. "Ever since that accident at the Fort, you haven't let go of Eddie!"
"So, what? Is it wrong for me to hold my own son?" Ed argued.
"That's not what I'm saying and you know it, Ed!" Winry replied, heatedly. "Something happened back there and you're too much of a big-headed idiot to tell me about it!"
Ed grimly looked away. He wished she would just drop it already. "You're still going on about that? Look, Winry, that's old news now and—!"
"It's not old news – stop trying to make it out like something that isn't important when it clearly is!" Winry shouted, authoritatively. It was enough to shut him up automatically. Perhaps all those years stuck in the military had drilled in obedience a little too deeply. "Edward, whether you want to or not, you're going to have to tell me some things, especially things that affect you like this. You haven't let go Eddie once since we left the Fort... and you've been staring out the window or pretending to sleep for nearly the whole ride..." Winry dropped her voice. "You haven't gotten a wink of sleep, have you?"
Ed hesitated and didn't speak.
Winry's eyes softened a little at his guilty but hard face. "You don't have to keep it in, Ed... I know it's going to be hard to trust me again but... I just want you to know that I'm here for you and you can tell me anything." She hesitantly reached out for his hand, the tips of her fingers touching his ice-cold skin. "It'll be like before." She forced a smile on. "You'll be laughing about whatever is eating up at you soon... right?"
Edward didn't reply.
He stared at her hand.
She felt warm – far warmer than him. But then again, she had always been warm. Even on the coldest night, back before the war had ripped them apart, she had always been able to warm him – even with his ice-cold automail. She was just someone with the inherent ability to warm...
His fingers twitched and slowly his hand turned to grab hers.
The war had done a lot of things, destroyed a lot of families, lives, but he couldn't allow it to destroy this link to his past; this last shred of family he had.
A small smile graced Winry's face.
Edward stared hard at their hands. He didn't want to ruin her good mood with what had really been eating at him all this time. But this was enough, he thought; just preparing himself to tell her soon should be enough. "... Right."
Winry sighed in relief.
Her fingers clutched around his flesh ones – not his automail ones – and she felt comforted by the fact that he had responded with his flesh hand and not the metal hand. He had pulled that trick on her once or twice before – where he'd hold her hand with his automail, an indicator that he had blocked out her words, chose not to hear them, and felt nothing, just like that metal arm of his.
She wouldn't press into what was eating him up – not yet, at least.
As long as he told her, when he was ready, it was enough...
Winry squeezed his hand.
It would be enough for now.
"Don't move – your stitches'll open up and then you'll be a bleedin' mess!" Pinako scolded, tapping the tip of her pipe on top of Riza's head to keep her from squirming. "Be a good soldier now and listen to me!"
Riza grunted in cooperation, resisting the urge to turn on her side as her backside was starting to feel numb. She had never been the type of person to sleep on her back and since sleeping on her stomach or side was almost impossible considering how new the injury was, she was unable to do anything more than bear it and hope that her body kicked into overdrive to heal the sore wound.
"Quit your squirming!"
"Sorry..." Riza muttered, slightly annoyed with herself. She just had to sit still for a few hours! Eventually the pain would became nothing more than an irksome burn in the back of her mind; a burn she had enough years of experience to ignore to the point of forgetting about it.
"How long do you plan on staying here?" Pinako asked, fixing her single bun on the back of her head.
"Not too long." Riza answered. "I'm assuming it'll be between two to six months. The Brigadier General hasn't disclosed that information to me yet."
"Tch." Pinako scoffed, patting her bun down. "Arrogant, good-for-nothin', General withholding information again, eh?"
A small smile grazed her lips. She could say that again. "Yes."
"Doesn't it bother you sometimes?"
"Not always." Riza replied, watching the old woman hobble over to the curtains and peer through them. "Brigadier Mustang has his reasons for withholding information from me and I'm no one to say otherwise."
"Ah, yes, the military and their ranks system." Pinako murmured, tsking in disdain. "Only good for making each other feel bad, that's what I think!"
"Why would you say that?" Riza asked, curious. She tried to sit up but flinched, deciding against it. The last thing she needed was for her stitches to really tear. Something told her Pinako wouldn't be as kind as the doctors at the hospital had been – then again, she had been under the aid of anesthesia when they sewed her up...
"Well, you have no voice in the military." Pinako elaborated. "You're just another dog ready to head into the brawl at the command of your master."
Riza said nothing.
It was a harsh way to put it but Riza had no reason to rebuke it. The woman had lost a child to war, to the military, because they had plucked them from their peaceful town and dropped them straight into the cross-fire with no way to escape.
She did not know the absolute details since Winry didn't bring her parents up very often – if at all – but she did have reason to believe that it was the military's doing that they had died, albeit honorably, in the heat of battle, or saving lives, as they had been trained medical doctors...
A distant knocking brought her out of her muse.
"Ah, that must be Breda." Pinako said, with a small smile.
"Heymans is here?" Riza echoed, puzzled. She hadn't seen him for a while but why was he here, of all places?
"Well, he did say he'd be here when they arrived." Pinako explained vaguely, hobbling out of the bedroom. "You stay put, dear, I'll handle it. Don't move around, too, or else!" Pinako sternly told her, her eyes falling on her stomach.
Riza placed a hand over her wound self-consciously.
She hated being treated so delicately for a simple bullet wound.
"Riza, how you holding up?" Heymans asked, appearing in the doorway a few minutes later. Riza felt a smile tug on her lips. "The General told me you're going to be guarding the Rockbell's in place of me. I'm trembling in pants already!" He joked.
The sound of a safety releasing and the chilling cah-chink of a gun loading made him freeze by the door, a smug Riza aiming two fully-loaded hand guns in his direction. He was awfully aware that she had a twenty-twenty rate and hardly missed a shot – if at all.
"You were saying?"
Heymans gulped. He grinned weakly. "Good to have you back, Riza."
Riza gasped, lowering her two guns when she saw her superior walk through the door, chin held high as always. His dark eyes twinkled in amusement at their small discussion.
"General, sir!" Riza scrambled to put her prized possessions back in their place. Aiming guns at another comrade in the presence of her superior was definitely not advisable...and she had to keep her professionalism in front of Pinako.
"Relax." Roy rose one hand, chuckling when she merely ignored it and saluted respectfully. "How was the transfer?"
Riza smiled wryly. Of course he wouldn't let her handle this like protocol stated. "A little painful..."
Roy sighed. "I told them to go easy on you!"
"They did." Riza offered, placing a hand on her wounded abdomen. "It's just me..."
"She won't quit squirming!" Pinako elaborated, coming up beside Roy and shaking her head at the sheepish girl. "I told her that if she keeps moving around like that, her stitches'll open up again and she'll be back to square one!"
Roy rose a brow at Riza in question.
"Pardon me, sir," was all she mumbled.
"What are you doing here, General?" Pinako eyed Roy distastefully.
"I'm here as the welcoming committee for Fullmetal." Roy smirked. "He should be here any minute now..."
"What time will they be arriving?" Riza queried, adding: "Oh. Do they know of Pinako's good health?"
Roy merely shrugged. "Maybe."
"Hey, hey!" Heymans interrupted, rushing back to the door frame. "They're here! The car just parked outside!"
"Good! I want to see my granddaughter for myself!" Pinako huffed, making her way past the two men.
"Hold up there, granny!" Heymans quickly stopped her in her tracks. "None of them know that you're still alive, might I remind you?"
"Yes, I'm well aware of that." Pinako glared. "Which is why I was going out to show 'em I'm not ready to kick the bucket just yet! Now if you would excuse me—!"
"How about you wait up here while we greet them downstairs?" Roy suggested, a plan formulating in his head. "It would certainly come as a pleasant surprise for both the twerp and your lovely granddaughter to see you are in spectacular health."
Pinako frowned, feeling cornered by both men. She glanced over at Riza, who smiled wearily at her comrades relentlessness.
"Alright then." Pinako placed the pipe back on her lips. "Go ahead, you good for nothin'..." She trailed off, grumbling back to Riza's side.
"Well, sir." Heymans grinned at him. "Ready when you are."
Roy nodded, sparing one last glance at Riza before turning heel to head downstairs. "Let's go before the squirt causes a scene."
She wasn't thrilled about being back in Central and was even more miserable due to the fact that Edward had reverted to keeping secrets. But even if she managed to overcome that obstacle, the fact that she was back in Central City still dampened her mood considerably.
Even if being in the city meant everything was slowly going back to normal.
Ed and Al appeared relieved to be away from the icy north but Winry wanted to be anywhere but Central. She guessed it was better than Rush Valley – at least she would not have to face the place where her dear grandmother had passed away – but she had a feeling she would be returning to that accursed town soon...
It was uneventful.
Ed, Al and Eddie were the only ones who had something of a good time – such as greeting some of their old friends, the little boy content in the company of his father and uncle – as the brothers had to be debriefed by the Fuhrer himself. She had sat out in the waiting room for the majority of it, watching Eddie play by himself with whatever he could get his hands on or gently rocking him to sleep on her lap when he grew tired of being awake.
All that had been on her mind in those five hours was her grandmother.
How would she explain to Eddie his granny was dead? Did he even understand the concept of death yet? He had never been exposed to it, although she could grimly say he was involved with the military through her.
How would she deal with it, actually? There had been too much going on, too many distractions, back at Briggs and Drachma that she hadn't the time to dwell on her deceased grandmother for long periods of time. But now that the danger was long past, and, now that she was finally regaining some sense of normalcy, she was doomed to grieve for her precious grandmother... right?
Her second mother, essentially.
She already lost her parents, now her granny?
Winry bit her lip and stared at her lap, careful not to allow any of the brimming tears in her eyes to fall.
They would be leaving directly to Rush Valley to meet with Brigadier General Mustang – Ed had confirmed it, and her stomach had dropped to her ankles when it sunk in.
What that man was doing in Rush Valley she didn't have a clue – all she cared about was avoiding the haunting home where she had lost the last piece of her past.
Now she was technically the only Rockbell.
It was her duty to continue to legacy, and she squeezed the sleeping boy in her arms as if to reassure herself that if something happened to her, her bloodline would live on through her son...
"Winry!" Alphonse cheerfully called. "We're leaving! Come on, brother is getting impatient!"
Winry was startled back, and she forced on a weak smile as she stood from the bench she had taken seat on. She put all her focus on adjusting Eddie in her arms as she walked. "Okay, I'm going..."
"Are you okay?" Al asked, concerned. "You look... tired." He nervously added.
Winry smiled wearily. "I just didn't sleep well in the car, that's all. Don't worry about it."
"Well, it's only a two hour ride to Rush Valley by car so we should arrive there before six." Al offered in comfort. "Then you could sleep in your room.."
Winry paled. "Room..?"
"Yes, Fuhrer Grumman informed Ed and I that General Mustang set up accommodations for us in Rush Valley! Isn't that nice of him? You get to live in the town you've always wanted!" Al smiled, only to have it fade when Winry didn't react to the news.
"Yeah, that was very... nice of him..." Winry shakily laughed, quickly ducking away from Al. She heard his footsteps behind her but she didn't dare look back; only forward, the only way she could look from now as she stifled her grief and soldiered on toward the car that would take her to the place where her granny passed away by the hands of a Drachma operative.
The card ride was glum and silent.
They both knew all about granny's death but Alphonse was trying his hardest to maintain a positive disposition – even though she sometimes saw sorrow flit his eyes whenever they landed on her.
It would be the hardest on her, they probably thought.
And Winry wouldn't deny it – they were probably right.
"You okay?" Ed asked, quietly.
"Mmhmm." Winry didn't look at him as she said this. She felt his hand touch hers hesitantly, and she took it tightly. "I'll be fine."
She wasn't but the last thing she wanted to do was dampen the mood even more than it already was.
New house, new life.
She could live with that motto.
Winry gazed at the house emptily, holding hands with her son as he picked at the button of his shirt boredly. It was a pretty big complex, and Winry absently wondered what floor they would be on, when the entrance door to the complex swung open and out swaggered Roy Mustang wearing his most charming smile on his face.
"General Mustang!" Alphonse exclaimed, garnering Ed's attention.
Ed smirked at the general, who returned the sentiment with a hint of the cockiness Edward hadn't seen in years. "Well, if it isn't Colonel Bastard." He paused. "Or is General Bastard now?"
"Watch your mouth, pipsqueak, I can court-martial you for that." He also paused, mocking him. "Or should I say, giant, now?"
Ed glared. "Only you could make a compliment sound like an insult."
"Oh, but I wasn't complimenting you, Full Metal." He grinned, ignoring Ed's snap in favour of walking to Winry, who tensed with each step he took.
"Miss Rockbell, we do apologize for the rather unsightly turn of events. It was our duty to protect you and your son, after all." Roy stated, his eyes losing their spark for an instant. "And we're terribly sorry about..."
She just nodded stiffly – not trusting herself to speak.
She might say something she will regret later.
"But we do have some rather good news." His sparkle was back, as he turned on his heel and motioned them to follow him with his finger. "Come along."
Winry saw Heymans, Alphonse and Ed abruptly cut their conversation when they noticed they were heading into the complex. Winry picked up her son, more out of the fact that she did not know what to with her hands and holding him seemed to have the effect of soothing her grieving heart.
They were on the third floor, it seemed, and Winry wondered if she could get Edward to relocate them somewhere else – somewhere far, far away from this haunted place – when a familiar and heartbreaking sound caught her attention.
"... goin' to get here!"
"I want to see my granddaughter and grandson already!"
Tears beading the corners of her eyes, her heart lunging in hope, Winry all but flew past the General to reach the door she had heard her grandmothers voice come from. There was a twist in her gut, a doubt that viciously told her she was hearing things. But she was so sure – she could not have imagined her grandmothers voice with such clarity...
"G-Granny?" Winry croaked, standing by the door frame weakly. There she was – like nothing had every happened; completely healed, unhurt. She still had her pipe in her mouth, that free-spirited glint in her eyes, and that same grin on her face whenever someone dear came to visit. She was breathing and alive. "Granny, is that..." really you?
"What?" Pinako smiled warmly, turning to her. "Are you just going to stand there all day or are you going to come say hello to your grandmother?"
Tears skid down her cheeks as she scrambled to her granny and fell on her knees, bringing her into her arms as Eddie wiggled down from the tight embrace. His own eyes began to water a little at his mothers loud cries but the mistiness in his eyes quickly disappeared when he felt someone else pick him up: Alphonse.
"Come on, lets give them some space, Ed." Al soothingly said, bouncing him on his hip and easing away from the tearful reunion. "Your mommy and granny are just have a little moment."
"Okay.." He said, nodding in understanding. He looked for his father, who stood by the door frame with a relieved smile on his face. His eyes were a little misty themselves but Eddie saw that his dad did a better job at hiding it than his mom did, who had still to let go of his granny and quiet her wails.
"I guess you did something right, huh?" Eddie heard his father tell Roy, who just huffed as if offended.
"Amestris offers only the best military protection services, Full Metal, I'd say you should have expected it."
Ed shot him an annoyed look. "Don't ruin it, Colonel Bastard."
"That's General to you."
"So you admit you're a bastard? 'Bout time..." He grinned slyly.
Roy glared. "You might not be as short as you were before, Full Metal, but now you're a freak—!"
"Ed, General, come on!" Alphonse sighed, waving Ed over to greet their surrogate grandmother Pinako. "Stop bickering with the General and say hello to granny, Ed!"
"Coming! Geez..." Ed walked over, and nearly stumbled when Pinako airily commented: "You've gotten quite tall now, Edward, almost like a giant..."
"What're you trying to say, old hag?" Ed growled, squatting down to glare evenly in her eyes. "I'm tall, not a giant."
Pinako flicked him on the forehead with her pipe. "Isn't it just funny how a few years ago, you were complaining about being too short and now you're gonna' be complaining about being too tall?" She took a draw of smoke, exhaling: "Make up your mind already, Edward, you can only get taller from here on out! Let's hope you stop growing; any taller, and I'd have to choose out a new groom for my granddaughter..."
"What?" Ed gawked, eye twitching in disbelief. "Argh! I'm gonna'—!"
"Ed! Respect my granny!" Winry barked.
"But I didn't even—!"
"Ed, you heard her." Al warned.
"Full Metal, just shut up already."
"You shut up, you shitty Colonel!"
"Hahaha!" Eddie laughed happily, clapping his hands as he repeated: "Shitty! Shitty!"
"ED!" Winry snapped in outrage, covering her sons ears with her hands immediately. Al sighed at his brothers loose lips while Pinako stifled a snicker by taking a draw of smoke from her pipe. "SHUT UP! I will not have Eddie repeating all the horrible words you've picked up from your travels!"
Ed opened his mouth to retort when Roy interjected: "You heard her, Full Metal, be a good father and shut your trap."
"I...I give up." Ed groaned, rubbing his eyes out in exasperation. Were they all out to get him today? He sure felt like they were.
Heymans came up beside him and clapped him on his back, adding cheerfully: "Welcome to the family life, chief!"
Ed dryly looked at him. "Heymans?"
He only chuckled, pushing him forward good-naturedly. "I've got some good and bad news for everyone!" He announced to them, grabbing their attention. "Good news: Major Riza Hawkeye is gonna' be your guard for the next couple of months!"
"Oh! Riza's here?" Winy asked, hopefully. Eddie snapped his head up at the sound of her name, a small but bright smile growing on his face.
Heymans smiled, a little wearily. "Yes. But here's the bad news: she's currently handicap due to an accident in Central Command." He pointed to his stomach, adding: "Got shot clean in the stomach."
Winry gasped. "I-is she okay? She'll be fine, right?" She looked from Heymans to Roy worriedly, her eyes resting on Roy when he nodded confidently.
"A bullet isn't enough to slow Riza down." He affirmed. "She's a tough girl. She'll pull through."
"Sir?" A distant voice rang dully. Winry took a few steps to a narrow hall, toward a room with a cracked open door. "Please stop making me out as if I'm in surgery – it's embarrassing."
"Riza...?" Winry whispered hesitantly, pushing the door open to find her lying in bed; healthy, had it not been for the visible bandages that she could pick out. She looked no worse for wear – a little pale, but it was nothing a little sunlight and a good, hot, meal could not fix.
"Welcome home, Winry." Riza warmly greeted her, wincing a little when the girl ran to her and threw her arms over her neck. She patted her back in comfort, deciding moving in for the time-being had been one of Roy's more bright ideas – even if he said she was 'guarding' them. "Welcome home..."
One month had been enough time to regularize their life.
Edward would have called it perfect had it not been for the fact that Mustang came over every other day to check up on Riza and never failed to point out that he had grown a little too much and now appeared like a giant.
He knew he was just joking, though.
Or at least he had better be – Ed was just about ready to slam his face into a wall if he continued with his merciless teases about his height.
"Ed!" Alphonse called, desperately. He turned his head, expecting his brother to tell him something, only to find that he was actually calling his son, who sneakily avoided any attempts at being caught. "No—come back here!"
"Alphonse! Did you get him yet?" Winry's voice came from down the hall, muffled by the walls.
"No! Not yet!"
"What're you doing?" Ed asked lazily, sitting on the couch with a book on his lap.
"Trying to catch him, what does it look like I'm doing, brother?" Al snapped, irritated with his offspring. Eddie had totally demolished whatever ideas he had of starting a family – since Edward as his brother, Al could only imagine his own kid inheriting some of his brothers lesser traits.
It made him shudder at the thought of one of his children inheriting Edward's temper.
"Eddie." Ed called boredly, whistling to catch his attention. "C'mere for a second, I have something to show you..."
The little boy avoided his uncle as he ran to him, clutching onto his legs with a giant grin.
"What is it, what is it?" He asked, excitedly.
"It's..." Ed trailed off, motioning his brother to catch him now while he was distracted. "...Alphonse!"
Eddie gasped and squealed when his uncle grabbed him from under his arms and lifted him up into his arms. "Come on, Eddie, it's time for your bath." He wearily smiled at him, as he whined to be put back down and promised to take a bath... later.
Pinako's home cooking drifted in from the kitchen and Ed could vaguely hear Riza reprimanding Roy for something or the other in the room she occupied.
The familial sounds were welcomed, even when Al yelped and the ground shook with his fall.
He snorted in laughter when Eddie came running back out, grinning triumphantly.
"ED! CATCH EDDIE!" Winry shrieked from down the hall.
"Uh huh..." He watched as the little boy ran to his grandmother, clad in only his underwear. "Sure..." He went back to his book, not even bothering with trying to catch the child. He had tried once and frankly tired himself out sore.
But the tiresome activities were welcomed.
He was finally home.
Ed smiled, watching as his brother darted into the living room and tries to catch his troublesome nephew, who giggled giddily at being able to escape the clutches of his uncle again, and then watched Winry laugh heartily at their cat-and-mouse game when she came out of Riza's bedroom.
She noticed his staring and smiled brightly, jerking a thumb to her right. "Hey, Ed, you look a little bored. How about you come help me bring up the boxes from the car downstairs? Al said he'd bathe Eddie today so we can finally unpack our things."
Ed groaned in return. He had been hoping to avoid that. He heaved a sigh as he stood. "Fine. You better help me, too, though – I'm not carrying everything upstairs!" He warned, tossing his book beside him on the sofa.
Winry rolled her eyes at his whining. "Whatever, just get over here and help me already!" She disappeared out the door, leaving it open for him to follow.
Eddie streaked past him, Al hot on his trail.
He chuckled when he heard Al swear, no doubt having hit his elbow somewhere by the way he was trying to suppress colorful adjectives.
"Ed! Come on!" Winry poked her head back inside, frowning. "I want to unload all of our stuff already!"
"You sure you shouldn't help him?" He smiled when Al hooted triumphantly, having finally caught his troublesome son.
Winry giggled. "He likes children, right? Well, he has to learn that not all of them are as angelic as he makes them out to be!"
Ed snickered. "Yeah, alright."
Despite the tumbles he knew he would face in the future, he was home after such a long absence. He was with his new family and reunited with his friends.
He had a place where he belonged to now – for good.
And, for now, that was enough.
Authors Note: I absolutely hated how long I took to update this. Don't get me wrong, I didn't intent to take this long to update, but I tend to write when I have inspiration, and I kept getting nothing for this story. I'd open up the document and leave it out for hours sometimes. But I'd only end up writing one or two paragraphs before giving up and turning in for the night.
But, finally, I got the inspiration to finish it! And I can honestly say that I will first finish a story (completely) before posting it because I've always had trouble ending them (out of attachment to it or otherwise, I'm not entirely sure...).
It was a riot to write this, though, and I hope you all enjoyed the fanfiction :D
Review, because this story is finally complete.