A/N...so...hey there. sorry this took so long, and sorry if it's crap 'cause i'm a little out of practice, but here's a new chapter! And now i'm going to go hide with my shame...

10) When Ed woke curled up on the ground next to his mother's gravestone, his thoughts went immediately to the time when she had just died, and he and Al slept in that very spot every night. Al, he remembered, would always be the one to remember to bring something to keep them warm, and Ed would wake up with an old blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Almost instinctively, he turned to see if Al had somehow remembered, and froze when he saw the familiar blue military jacket. Ed did the only thing he could do—he stood and immediately stomped the jacket into the mud.

"You think this is funny, don't you?"

(No one answers, because no one is there. The only thing left is a gravestone and some flowers that have already begun wilting from the time he put them there last night.)

"Well, I don't. And the sass that's going on right now is definitely not appreciated. Not at all, Mom."

(Somewhere, Trisha is watching and grinning behind her hand, too much of a lady to openly laugh while her son is scowling at the universe for throwing him another curveball.)

"It really isn't funny. I don't care what you say; it'll always be spectacularly not-funny. The most not-fun thing in existence, and there are a lot of not-fun things out there. Seriously."

(By now Trisha must be shaking her head at him, and, well. Okay, maybe it is kind of funny. But only a little. Just a little. He won't give away anymore than that.)

"Did you even hear that? I sounded nine. Look what you've reduced me to! You should be ashamed, Mom. What kind of mother does that?!"

(In his hands, a worn military jacket crumples between clumsy metal fingers that twitch sporadically, and really, he knows better than to try and lie to his mother.)

"Okay, so it's a little funny."

(Maybe he should explain.)

(It starts on a Thursday, which is a day meant only to take up space between Wednesday and the weekend. It could have started on any other day, and some people might argue that it started on a Monday, but he will always say it started on a Thursday, if he says it at all. From now on, Thursdays will be frowned upon. Or laughed at. He's not quite sure which one, yet, but he's getting off topic, it's time to tell a story.)

"How adverse is your…extended family to the military? Still extremely?"

"How adverse are you to water? Still extremely?"

"Extremely, then."

(Ed is seventeen and high on life-maybe not life, but definitely open air and the country side and potentially returning home for a few days-and not even Mustang can drag him down. They might have stayed in tents for the past three night, and they might be running low on rations and they might have finally killed the half-dozen rogue alchemists they were sent to eliminate (two months ago, seriously) but they might be closer to Resembool than the nearest military check point and they might be headed home soon, and Ed might be excited about it. Might.)

"You do realize running won't get you there any faster, right?"

"Do you understand the concept of running, Colonel? It makes you go faster."

"Do you understand the concept of pulling stitches, Fullmetal? It makes you go slower."

"Details, Mustang. Details."

(And okay, he's seventeen and high on life, but maybe he's a little high on pain pills too.)

"That. Is a fucking huge cloud. Look at it."

(Okay, maybe a lot high. But you can't blame him, a whole day and a half of his life have now been lost to daze of mind-numbing agony that follows having a tree shove itself through your side because some jacked-up alchemist thought it would work. Clearly it didn't, but it had been a near thing, from what he'd heard. The way Fury told it, he was babbling nonsense and asking for Al and Mustang had to remind him that Al was in Xing with his girlfriend, he wasn't there right now, just hold on Ed.)

(Or something like that. Ed doesn't remember a lot.)

"If I didn't know you better, I'd say you were excited, Chief."

"You don't know me better."



"Play nicely or I'll have to put you in time-out."

(The only problem with traveling alongside a group of soldiers that act younger than you is that fights break out over who gets the last energy bar (Ed) and who gets to sleep on the only pillow (Riza) and who doesn't have to cook that night (Mustang, always Mustang). The only way Ed gets through it is by reminding himself that in a week there will be fresh food and warm beds and bathrooms so he doesn't have to smell three days of forest on everyone. But mostly the food.)

"Fullmetal? You keeping up back there?"


"I'll take that as a no."

"…would probably be a good idea…"


"…wha-? Why 'm I upside down?"

"Go to sleep, kid."

(If Ed thinks about it too hard-and he really doesn't want to, because when he does, his head hurts and that makes it a bitch to do alchemy, and thanks but no thanks on the not being able to get his ass out of trouble at a moment's notice. He'll keep his life, if you don't mind-he wonders why Mustang's been so nice lately. It's confusing, because his whole life the Colonel's been very up-front about what a bastard he is and ever since a few months ago he's been…well, not softer, (because when has the Colonel ever been soft, seriously, this is Mustang he's talking about here) but certainly kinder to Ed. Longer breaks when Al's home. Shorter assignments so he isn't away so long. Not as many short jokes around the office (Ed won't say they've gone completely and really, he wasn't expecting them to) and Ed can't figure out why. The only way he knows how to deal with it is to proceed like he does with everything else and ignore it until it goes away. It should work beautifully.)

(It doesn't.)

"You know, you really didn't have to throw yourself in front of a bullet for me. It was kind of pointless. I had a wall ready and everything, look!"

"Jesus, Fullmetal, can't you ever just say thanks for saving my life, it really means a lot to me?"


"…You. Are a child."

"Well, so are you."

(That was a month and a half ago and well…Ed's never dealt well with guns being pointed at him and apparently, Mustang's a die-hard for pointless heroics (literally), so the whole day had ended in Ed secretly freaking the fuck out and forcing it out of his system by snapping at Mustang for trying to save his life. He clearly had a handle on this, no matter what Al said.)

(But back to the headliner.)

"Do you recognize anything?"


"…Are you sure you know where you're going?"


"Are you even sure where you are?"




(They're something like twenty miles from Resembool, only they're not sure which twenty miles they need to be crossing and Breda's getting antsy. Ed is too, because home is so close he can feel it ringing in his bones and prosthetic limbs but he can't see it.)

"Maybe we should ask for directions."

"I know where I'm going!"

"Oh, really? Because it kind of looks to me like we're lost!"

"Do you want to guide this tour, Mustang?"

"Probably do it a damn lot better than you."


(It doesn't help that Mustang's being a pompous ass about it when not two hours ago he was carrying Ed on his back because his side had decided to poke a sleeping bear and had paid the consequences. Maybe he's just confused because he's still a little high. (But another part of him wonders if maybe he's a little confused because this is the first time a father's cared for him.) Most of the time he tells that part to shut up.)

"Wait. I recognize this…Hey! The train station!"

(And if Ed thought he was high on life earlier, nothing compares to seeing the run down train station and dusty road that leads home. He can literally feel the life thrumming in his bones like he can feel the alchemy coursing through his veins after a transmutation, buzzing with energy and restless movement that can't be stopped. Ed surges forward, ignoring warnings about injuries and the dangers of straining them and practically drags the rest along behind him. He's going home.)

"…I thought you said you were welcome here, Fullmetal."

"I am!"

"Yeah, tell that to the wrench sticking out of your forehead."


"Dammit, you do not need another concussion right now."

(And really, the only reason Winry threw the wrench at him is because it's kind of a habit since he only comes home with a military escort when he's broken his automail. Again. (Which is a bit unfair if you ask him, but no one ever does.))

"So. Seventeen now, eh, Ed?"

"Yeah, I'm all grown up now, Granny! Can't call me a shrimp anymore!"

(If there was one good thing about turning seventeen it was the growth spurt that accompanied it. He now saw eye to eye with Mustang and didn't have to crane his head as much to talk to Falman. Armstrong was still a giant, but then again, everyone already knew that. And yes, he's proud of his new height but dammit, there's a story trying to be told and it's waited long enough.)

(Fast forward maybe three hours, past an automail check up that Winry insisted on despite Ed's assurances that nothing was wrong and a fantastic battle over who would shower first (Riza won) and you land somewhere around dinner time where everyone was trying to pack into Pinako's tiny kitchen until Breda suggested they all eat out on the porch.)

"…and so Al's in the tree and Ed's on the ground yelling at him for trying to save the cat, and all the while the cat had already climbed down on its own, and…"

"…you've got Havoc hiding behind a wall near Mustang, who's crouched next to an overturned car, and there's Ed, in the middle of the street, screaming about…"

"…done with dinner? I think Granny made a pie. I'll be right back…"

"…delicious! Best pie I've had, hands down!"

"You say that about every pie, Breda."

"Shove off, Ed."

(It's kind of like this. Ed really likes his family, (both of them) and it kind of makes him happy that they can both get along. Maybe Pinako's not still extremely adverse to the military and maybe Mustang's behaving like a regular human being with manners and respect and maybe, just maybe, Ed's a little bit content with life where he hadn't been the previous seven years. It's kind of like that.)

"Don't think you can skip out of helping with the dishes, young man!"

"Of course not, Granny! Who do you take me for, Mustang?"

"No need to be disrespectful, Ed."


(It's still kind of like that half an hour later with his hands red and raw from scrubbing dishes, sitting on the floor next to Den and listening to the radio with everyone else. But (why does there have to be a but, he was happy here, there was nothing wrong here) he's home and home used to be the burnt out shell of a house and home still means trekking out at night when everyone else is headed to bed and home still means laying flowers on her grave.)

"Hi Mom. I'm home again."

(Home means talking to her like she's still there, telling her everything she already knows because he misses having a mom. It means being a kid again.)

"All grown up now. Seventeen and all that. Did you see Al finally ask Mei out? God, we've been waiting for that for months, and when he finally does, he manages to 'forget to tell us' about it…"

(No one knows how he spends his nights in Resembool, rambling to a headstone in the moonlight about nothing and everything except Al, because Al used to spend his nights in Resembool rambling to a headstone about nothing and everything with him. Ed used to have to be brave for him. Now that he's alone he doesn't have to.)

"It's really hard Mom, and I know you know that but that's the first time I've said it out loud because you're not allowed to say it's hard in the military, right? It's your job and you do it and you can't complain because somewhere else someone is doing something that destroys them even worse than it's destroying you and they aren't complaining, so how can you? And everyone gets how fucking hard it is, but no one talks about it…"

(Sometimes, Ed wishes his mother was still here. (Don't say, no shit, every kid want his dead mother back. Don't say that to him, who tried to bring his mother back from the dead and nearly damned himself and his brother. Don't say that to him, because that's not what he means.) He doesn't want his mother back all the time, he understands that dead people stay dead, but he wants her back when everything's getting a little over his head and he doesn't know how to deal. He just wants to be able to ask someone for help without being judged.)

"And Jesus, Mom, what's up with Mustang? He's acting like my dad or something. It's freaking me out. Like, he actually cares about what happens to me on missions and makes sure I'm eating right and checks in on me now and then, even though I'm pretty sure that's Riza's fault. There's no way Bastard Colonel Mustang actually cares what happens to me."

(Aren't mothers supposed to be good with advice? Shouldn't she know what to do when he's got the chance at another father that he wouldn't really mind?)

"...It wouldn't be that bad if me and Al had someone looking out for us."

(He ignores the voice in his head that sounds a lot like his mother telling him that Mustang's always looked out for them and that if Ed doesn't mind so much he should stop pretending like he does.)

"But he'll be annoying about it! And what if he's just being nice for a joke and doesn't really care about me. You know what, that bastard can shove it, I don't want to play games anymore."

(He's pouting now, and somewhere, his mother is laughing at him and he might resent her a little bit for that but he doesn't really. He could never resent her. And then she's singing him lullabies tucked into the whistle of the wind and other murmurings of the night and Ed really, really misses his mother.)

"This isn't funny."

(It may seem like he's already said this bit before, right at the beginning of telling the story, but he hasn't. This is the prologue to where everyone stumbled in. This is the part he doesn't want to talk about, except how he really does.)

"You knew this would happen, didn't you? It's all a big joke to you, and I'm telling you right now, it's not funny."

(It's not funny, because there's something warm and blue draped across his shoulders, and after months of falling asleep by his mother's grave, he expects it to be one of Al's blankets again. It should be one of Al's blankets again. He should be snoring next to his little tiny human brother under a blanket that he forgot to bring in the middle of April. Instead, he's snoozing under a blue and gold jacket he remembers seeing upside down a day ago and it shouldn't make him feel loved.)

(Instead, he runs away from it and straight towards anger.)

"This isn't funny, Mustang! I didn't ask for a father! Leave me alone!"

(He doesn't want to be left alone. He's tired of being abandoned. But mimicking his brother? Lending him his coat?)

"You don't get to play games with me, Mustang! This is what I think of these stupid. Fucking. Games."

(The jacket's on the ground, painted with muddy footprints and suddenly, Ed's had enough.)

"They aren't games, are they?"

(The wind whispers to him, and if Ed listens close enough, he can hear his mother's voice.)

"He's serious, isn't he? He actually cares."

(And just like that, all the anger floods out of Ed. When he's honest with himself (and that's not as often as it should be) he knows that anger left a while ago. Ed grins.)

"You're laughing at me now."

(No answer. But that might be because whoever he's talking to died a long time ago.)

"You think this is funny, don't you?"

(The sun shines a little brighter, warming up his face and drying the mud that clings to the jacket he holds tight between his fingers.)

"Well, I don't."

(But he does.)

"And the sass that's going on right now is definitely not appreciated. Not at all, Mom."

(Except it is.)

"It really isn't funny. I don't care what you say, it'll always be spectacularly not-funny. The most not-fun thing in existence, and there are a lot of not-fun things out there. Seriously."

(He's just being immature now. Trying to win a battle he really wants to lose. Grinning through it all.)

"Did you even hear that? I sounded nine. Look what you've reduced me to! You should be ashamed, Mom. What kind of mother does that?!"

(The kind of mother that wants the best for her son does that. The kind of mother that knows what's right does that. His mother does that.)

"Okay, so it's a little funny."

(The jacket dangles from his fingers when he trudges back home, sleeves almost touching the ground but kept carefully out of reach.)