Flowers of Antimony
by Lady Norbert
A/N: Back to Ed. Why, no, actually, that cliffhanger's not getting resolved just yet. ^_^ Hang in there, it's coming.
Chapter Seven: Vital Air
Vital Air: Oxygen.
Ed grimaces, and laughs, as first Izumi and then Sig pull him into bear hugs. The wedding is just sixteen days off (not that Ed is counting) and they have come early, even arriving ahead of Mustang, and the first half hour or so is spent in introduction and noisy congratulation. It is so good to see them both again, at a time when nobody has been kidnapped and the world does not need saving.
The plans are coming down to the wire. Somehow they've worked out a menu with food enough to feed around 300 guests, which is more than they are actually expecting but Al has warned Ed about Jerso and Zampano's appetites. Ed is impatient for their arrival, having not seen his little brother in more than a year now. Mr. Garfiel has returned to Rush Valley, to distribute Winry's automail to his demanding clientele, but should be returning in a few days with Paninya and the LeCoultes.
"Colonel Mustang is on his way, then?" asks Izumi, having settled down with a cup of coffee and a slice of Winry's pie. She loves Winry already, Ed can see that in the way the two women interact, and it makes him really happy. Of course, the idea of anybody not loving Winry - or Teacher, for that matter - is incomprehensible to him.
"General Mustang," he corrects her, smirking. "Yeah, should be here any time now, with Colonel Hawkeye in tow."
"And Al's in Central?"
"Should be soon, if he's not already. Apparently they're having some big fancy welcoming party for Ling." Ed shrugs. "Y'know, I know he's the Emperor, and I know he was a prince when I first met him, but he's Ling. I can't get used to thinking of him any other way."
Granny Pinako has Sig breaking up firewood; she's promised to make stew for supper. "Going to be enough mouths to feed, that's certain, what with four extra in the house tonight," she says. "Stew goes a long way. And food always tastes better with company."
Mustang has decided to come a little earlier than planned. Ed supposes there are reasons. Come to think of it, Mustang might even have explained what those reasons were when he called to tell Ed when they will reach Resembool. Ed just didn't pay close enough attention to remember what they are. He grasps the salient point, which is that Mustang and Hawkeye will arrive almost a full week sooner than he originally expected them, and he figures that's all that matters.
Izumi is a help to Granny in the kitchen, despite almost universal insistence that she is a guest and should be relaxing. "I'm a housewife," she reminds them, as if they can forget. So while Granny makes the stew (and tells Izumi that it's still the only way Ed will ingest milk), Izumi busies herself with teaching Winry how to make her own mother's sweet roll recipe.
The women thus occupied, Ed and Sig head down to the train station to welcome the arriving military personnel. For Ed, this begins with a crash to the ground. Black Hayate has accompanied his mistress to Resembool, and is not shy about expressing his delight at meeting Edward again.
"Bad dog," says Hawkeye mildly, and he immediately backs off. Ed just chuckles, and Sig picks him up and dusts him off.
"So remind me why you decided to come early?" he asks. "Not that it matters, I'm just wondering why I have to look at you longer than you first said."
"The soldiers who are going to be erecting the encampment will be arriving in a few days, like we had initially planned," Mustang says. "But the tents themselves are being sent a little ahead of schedule."
"Which is to say...what, exactly?" Ed looks to Hawkeye for clarification.
"A clerical error caused the tents to be requisitioned sooner than expected. They'll be arriving tomorrow and we have to be here to receive them," she translates.
"Clerical error, huh? Sure, sure, I get it." Ed is laughing quietly. "Fine. Winry's grandma is making stew; I guess you're staying in the house tonight."
"Hey, clerical errors happen!" Mustang protests.
"To other people - not to Colonel Hawkeye! C'mon, Hayate, let's go introduce you to Den." The dog barks affirmatively, and Ed falls in step beside Sig, letting the two officers trail behind them. He acts as though he can't hear the muttering, but he and Sig keep glancing at each other and trying not to snicker.
"I told you that story would sound ridiculous."
"Hey, this is the closest thing either one of us has had to a vacation in years. Can you blame me for tacking on a few extra days?"
"No, sir, but wouldn't it have been better to request the leave officially?"
"We're on official business. That makes it official. And I officially plan to sleep in at least once before the rest of the crew arrives."
After supper, Winry shows the guests around the house. Ed tries, and fails spectacularly, to sneak along when she lets Izumi and Hawkeye look at her wedding dress. He's saved from a wrench to the head, however, by indignance from another source. Mustang, who is not even attempting to see the gown, is instead perusing the collage of photographs Winry has posted on the old board in the hallway, and his shout of annoyance can be heard throughout the entire house.
"Who drew this ridiculous-looking mustache on my picture!"
Ed, whose snickering gives him away, decides that the combined ire of commanding officer and wife-to-be is a force too formidable to be reckoned with. He therefore escapes through the window, hiding up on the roof and amusing himself by listening to everyone else soothe the animosity.
"He's just excited, Winry."
"I know he is, but how many times do I have to tell him no?"
"Really, sir, it's not that awful."
"You're lying, Colonel."
"Only because I care, sir."
Ed laughs, and sighs, and stretches out on the rooftop with his arms folded behind his head. The stars are out in full force, and he maps out constellations with his eyes. For some reason, they make him think of his parents.
You're getting a real kick out of all this, aren't you? he muses with a smile. I'll just bet you are, old man. I hope that...wherever you two are...you're together. You deserve that much, at least.
"How long do you think you can hide up here?"
Ed sits up, startled, but relaxes when he sees Sig. "Hopefully long enough for them to stop wanting to hurt me. I'm really pretty allergic to wrenches and fire."
Sig chuckles, and hauls himself up onto the roof. Ed is slightly fearful that it might not hold them both, but nothing worse than a few creaks happen. "Beautiful view up here."
"Yeah." Ed grins. "Al and I were up here the day we decided to go our separate ways. We were saying that you could just about see forever, and we both agreed that we wanted to know what was out there."
"Did you expect to be back so soon?"
"Well..." Ed feels like a sap for admitting this; on the other hand, he's never known any man more in love with a woman than Sig. "The world out there is fascinating, don't get me wrong. And I do want to see more of it and study more. But the truth is...the world under this roof is a pretty good place to be too."
"Home is always good. And you were away from home for a long time on your quest," Sig points out sagely. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to put down some roots."
"Sometimes I feel like I've got roots all over the place," the younger man confesses. "Like everywhere I've gone, I've left part of myself behind."
"You did. But you also brought something back." Sig grins. "Take Dublith, for instance. You boys left part of yourselves there, and you took part of us with you when you went away. Isn't that what you alchemists call equivalent exchange?"
"Huh." Ed stares up into the sky, musing. "Well...when you put it that way...it doesn't sound too bad."