A.N. Wow, this is quite short compared to what I've been writing lately. But I miss writing little humorous family fics. I just haven't been getting much inspiration for stories like that. Until now, that is. I was watching a particular deleted scene from Firefly and I HAD to write something involving Nina and Ed. I distinctly remember doing something like this when I was little. Like, kindergarten little. Now I just laugh at how cute and naïve I was, and I finally understand why my mom couldn't stop laughing.
Does it count as a Valentine's Day fic if it's five days late?
A Special Kind Of Love
The bedroom door creaked open and Ed raised his head from the alchemy texts when Nina poked her head in, squinting in the faint light of the desk lamp. "Hey, it's late. You should be in bed."
"Cou'nt sle'p," Nina mumbled. She shuffled a little closer, looking far too adorable for her own good in her footie pajamas and her hair was loose and wavy from being in braids all day. "An' I'm hungry."
Ed pursed his lips. He set his pencil down and massaged the neck muscles that were threatening to give him a headache. He was a midnight snacker himself—as indicated by the half-eaten sandwich and lukewarm coffee beside his scribbled notes—so he could sympathize. But if he walked away from his studying now to get her something to eat then he knew there was no way he would be able to settle back into it.
He glanced across the room where Al lay on his bed and toyed with the notion of making his brother feed her. But Al hadn't budged since Nina walked in and seemed perfectly content to keep feigning sleep. Ed could just hear his reproving words despite the stubborn silence. You should have gone to sleep hours ago anyway, Brother, so this is the perfect excuse to leave the books behind for the night. There's still plenty of time before the exam. Don't worry so much, we'll do just fine...
Maybe he was more tired than he thought. Al's voice sounded far too clear in his head. Ed rubbed his aching eyes in defeat. "Alright, come here. You can have the rest of my sandwich, but after that it's bedtime."
Nina brightened. She tiptoed with exaggerated care across the carpet toward him, shooting furtive looks at Al's bed.
"Don't worry, you won't wake him up," Ed assured her, biting back a laugh. "He's a deep sleeper."
Nina didn't look wholly convinced, but she still sped up and took the plate from him. She plopped down on the ground with her legs crossed and munched on the sandwich quite happily, and Ed returned to his research, hoping that would occupy her for a bit. If he could just get through this chapter, and maybe the next one after that, he'd feel like he accomplished something today.
Ed sighed and once again wrenched his eyes away from the complex arrays. "What is it, Nina?"
Nina set the empty plate aside and licked the crumbs from her fingers before looking up at him again. Ed expected to be hit with one of her usual childish inquiries about the alchemy exam or why Al wore armor or whether she could have a cookie instead. But the question she eventually asked him was the last one Ed expected.
"Why do people get married?"
"Huh?" Ed said in surprise. "That's a pretty heavy question. Why are you asking?"
"Because I wanna know! Please? Why do people get married?"
"Um...for a lot of reasons I guess," Ed said slowly, his mind drawing a blank. She just had to ask him this now. Relationships weren't exactly his area of expertise in the first place, and after a solid day of studying his mind was so full of alchemy that it was all he could do to think straight, let alone come up with a halfway decent answer.
Nina tilted her head, the picture of inquisitiveness. "Like what?"
"W-Well, uh," Ed stammered. "Usually people get married because they love each other..."
"Is that the only reason?"
Ed tapped his pencil on the desk and racked his brains for an explanation that would satisfy Nina's curious nature without going over her head. She was only four, for crying out loud! She shouldn't even be thinking about this complicated adult stuff. Her little mind should be as innocent and pure as the child growing in Gracia's belly...
Aha! A stroke of inspiration!
"Of course it's not the only reason," Ed said confidently. "Take Mr. and Mrs. Hughes for example. They first got married because they love each other, but also because they wanted to be parents. That's what they're doing right now. When Mrs. Hughes' baby is born, the three of them will be a family. Just like you and your dad."
"Ohh," Nina said in understanding, eyes going wide. "So people get married cause they wanna be a mommies and daddies. Right?"
"Yeah, exactly!" Ed said in relief. "You understand now?"
Nina nodded, brow furrowed. "Uh huh, I think so."
"Good," Ed said, satisfied as he turned back to his books. It had been an interesting distraction, but he really needed to commit this hypothesis to memory. With any luck if he crammed enough random knowledge into his head, some of it would stick and help him out during the alchemy exam. He groped around for the coffee and brought the mug to his lips, hoping a dose of stimulating caffeine would bolster his resources.
He blinked when he felt two arms coil around his leg possessively. Nina rested her head on his knee, beaming. "Okay, then! When I grow up, I wanna marry you, Big Brother."
Ed choked and snorted half the coffee up his nose. He slammed the mug back down and banged on his chest until he got his breathing back under control, not even noticing that most of his notes had been blotted out by the spilled liquid. And little Nina was still smiling quite ingenuously while he struggled to gather his wits. "Y-You want to what now?"
"I said," Nina told him imperiously, "that I wanna marry you. I love you, Big Brother, and you said people get married when they love each other. You said."
"Well yeah, but..."
"I'll be Mrs. Elric, and you can be Mr. Elric!" Nina crowed in delight. "And then we can play together all the time! And we can live together and kiss and have babies and everything, and we'll be just like Mr. and Mrs. Hughes!"
By the time Nina was through with her rant of bliss, Ed was quite flabbergasted and giving serious consideration to passing out. His brother's armor quivered suspiciously, and Ed gritted his teeth when realized Al was on the verge of laughing hysterically at his expense. He cleared his throat. "Uh, Nina. That's...I'm flattered really, but...but we can't get married."
"Sure we can!"
"No, we really can't!" Ed said in slight panic. "I-I mean you're only...and I'm like...that's just a damn big age gap! And we're not even old enough anyway, so you see we can't..."
Nina's face fell and her bottom lip quivered. "You don't love me, Big Brother?"
Ed balked. "No, that's not what I meant at all—!"
"I'd be a good wife," Nina cried, pressing her hands together pleadingly. "And a good mommy. I would!"
"I'm sure you would," Ed said as gently as he could. He hooked his hands under her arms and lifted her to his lap. Nina snuggled against his chest, and he stroked her hair in what he hoped was a soothing way. "In fact, I know you would. You'd be a wonderful mother. But just because we care about each other doesn't mean we should get married. Marriage is meant for people who are in love. It's...a special kind of love."
Nina wiped her nose. "There's different kinds of love?"
"Definitely," Ed said fervently, hoping to distract her. "There's family love, like with you and your dad or me and Al. And then there's the love you feel for your friends..."
"What about Alexander?" Nina inquired. "I love him too."
"Yeah, I guess that counts. But you wouldn't marry Alexander, would you?"
She wrinkled her nose at him. "His kisses are gross."
"I'll say!" Ed chuckled. He could certainly testify to that. "So what I'm trying to say is that the love that Hughes and Gracia share...it's very, very different. They don't love anyone else the way they love each other. You can have lots of friends and family, but you only marry one special person."
"Hm," Nina mused, looking more confused than ever. "But how do I know if I love someone 'specially or not?"
"You'll know when you're older. 'Til then, you've got to stay single. Don't go marrying anybody else!"
"So when I'm all grown up, I'll know if I should marry you?" Nina asked him hopefully.
Ed winced, and she was looking at him so expectantly that he felt color rising to his cheeks for absolutely no reason at all. "Well, ah...it's just that if I become your husband then I can't be your big brother anymore. You still want me to be your big brother, right?"
She almost seemed on the verge of crying again when he said that. Nina nibbled her lip and thought it over for a whole minute before she gave in and hugged him tight. "Please stay my big brother?"
"I will," Ed promised, squeezing her a little before he set her on her feet. "Now get back to bed, alright? I don't want to get in trouble for keeping you up."
"Kiss goodnight, kiss goodnight!"
"Alright, alright!" Ed griped good-naturedly as she hopped up and down until he grabbed her shoulders and brought her back to earth. He leaned over to kiss her on the forehead, like he had done so many times. But at the very last moment Nina stood up on her tiptoes, grabbed his braid and pecked him right on the lips with a loud smacking noise. She was gone before he could react, giggling madly as she rushed out the door and retreated to her room. Ed snapped out of his stunned daze when he heard her door slam and Al ceased all attempts at reigning in his mirth, laughing so hard that he sounded like he was crying.
"Did...I just get seduced by a four-year-old?" Ed said in a strained voice.
"Sure looks like it," Al snickered, sitting upright. "I wonder what Mr. Tucker would think..."
"Shut up!" Ed snapped and whirled back around to continue with his studying. But he kept reading the same sentence over and over again, too distracted by the crumbs lingering on his lips. He wiped his mouth and shook his head crossly. Nina kissed him all the time. She kissed everyone all the time. There was nothing special about it.
"You know," Al said pensively, "eight years isn't that big a difference."
"Al, she's four."
"But when she's eighteen and you're twenty-six, I bet it won't seem like such a bad thing," Al pointed out, sounding far too smug for Ed's liking. "Lots of women marry men much older than them and it works out. It makes you wonder, doesn't it? What she'll be like when she's grown up?"
"She'll be a little vixen, is what she'll be," Ed muttered under his breath. He gave up trying to read and snapped the books shut and flicked off the light. He crawled into his bed and tried not to dwell on what Al had said or the fantasy future Nina had outlined for the two of them. It was just too weird to contemplate.
"I guess...it really wouldn't be such a bad thing," Ed murmured, touching his lips. "Once she's older, I mean."
He hadn't meant for Al to hear him, but he did anyway. "Sure. And until then, don't go marrying anybody else."
Ed chucked his pillow across the room.