Title- Prickly

Author- D M Evans

Disclaimer - Arakawa owns them

Timeline/Spoilers - post series

Summary - Al brings home the perfect stray for Ed

XXX

It's that time of the month," Ed sighed, looking out the kitchen door in Granny's house.

Granny glanced over from where she was making bread.

Winry didn't look up from the schematics she had all over the table, cramming for her journeyman test, as she said, "No, you're about a week too early."

"Huh?" Ed turned back around then realized what he said, turning as red as his favorite coat. "No! Not that. I don't want to know about that!"

"So what are you babbling about, shrimp?" Granny went back to her bread.

Ed ignored the jibe, returning his attention to the door. "We've been here three months now while Al's recovering his strength and has he missed out on bringing home a stray at least once a month?"

This time Winry did look up at him. "What does he have this time?"

"I can't tell."

"Then how do you know he has a stray?"

"For one, it's Alphonse, for another he's got his arms like this." Ed mimed carrying something close to his chest. "He's already brought back three cats and that puppy you gave to Mr. Black."

"You know Al loves animals and for years he couldn't have one. You should let him keep a few of them, Ed," Winry said, rolling up her schematics as if she planned on ignoring them so she could coo over whatever stray Al had.

"Are there not two cats here, somewhere lurking, waiting to send me to my death?" Ed rolled his eyes. "There'd be three if that little girl hadn't put up flyers looking for her lost cat."

"Be nice to your brother, Edward," Pinako said, kneading the dough.

When was he anything but? He knew Al wanted to go to Xing when he was fully recovered. He couldn't do that if he built a zoo in the Rockbell home first. "What do you have now?" Ed called when his brother was close to the house.

"Look. It's getting close to fall and he's too thin. He won't make it." Al held out his hands, limping up the back steps. In them was a curled up hedgehog.

"Al! That's not even a pet."

"I knew someone who had one once," Al argued and Ed had no idea who that could have been. "And I didn't say it was a pet. I said he was too thin for hibernating. We could keep him for the winter."

"What is it?" Winry got up to take a peek. "Aww, it's cute."

Ed rolled his eyes again. Just what he needed, a hedge pig. "What do we know about taking care of a hedgehog? Besides, how do you even know it's too thin?"

"I read." Al shrugged. "We can get a bunny cage and make him a little cave to hide in. He'll sleep all winter any how."

Granny lifted her chin, trying to see, since she couldn't stop what she was doing. "Looks like he's scared."

"A little. I'll take him into the living room."

Ed and Winry followed Al in and Al sat on the floor. The hedgehog remained in his tight ball for a few moments before uncurling. It slowly ambled about, studying its strange new surroundings.

"That is the most adorable thing ever," Winry said.

"Until the cats see it," Ed muttered, but there were no cats in sight.

Den, however, rounded the corner. Her brown eyes lit up seeing the moving 'ball' and swooped down on the hedgehog, ignoring the horrified chorus of 'Den! No!' Den's jaws closed over the hedgehog then the dog yelped, dropping the creature. Den skittered off, nearly careening into a wall. Winry ran after her dog while Al lurched forward to check out his newest foundling.

"Is it okay?" Ed asked, knowing Al would be devastated if it wasn't.

Al nodded. "He's fine. I think I better transmute a cage for him now though."

"Probably for the best. I'll go check on Den."

XXX

Ed pushed slivers of apple into the cage for Spike. "I guess he is a cute critter, aren't you Spike?"

"We're not calling the hedgehog Spike, Brother." Al sighed, pulling another spine out of Den's mouth while Winry supervised.

"It's a perfect name," Ed insisted, opening the cage and scooping the hedgehog up. It felt like a gumball from the gum tree Granny had out back. "I think it likes me."

"Figures, the only animal Brother bonds with is the prickly one." Al snorted, extracting another quill.

"You wanted me to be happy about you bringing in every stray. I'm happy about this one."

"Yes, don't argue, Al." Winry shook her head as Ed put the little creature down on the floor, figuring he could keep Den from getting it if she hadn't learned her painful lesson yet.

Den took one look at the hedgehog as it moved and tried to hide behind Al. Ed flashed a wide evil grin. The hedgehog was going to be one of the best strays Al ever brought home.

"I think you're right, Al. He bonded with the prickly pet. I suspect he sees himself in it." Winry laughed.

"Ignore them, Spike. You're cool when you're not maiming the dog." Ed squatted down and offered the hedgehog more apple. It came right up to him. Maybe a house full of animals, his brother in the flesh and getting better every day and being back with Winry again wasn't the worst way to spend the upcoming cooler months. For the first time since he was a kid, Ed finally felt at home.