“Go home, Fullmetal,” ordered General Mustang. “You've done enough.” He picked up a pen and began filling out the report on his desk.
“Oh c’mon, General! I got the job done, didn't I?” countered Ed. “And stop calling me ‘Fullmetal’.”
Sighing, Roy pushed aside his paperwork and looked up at the seething blond, his onyx eyes connecting with molten gold.
“Yet you still managed to cause havoc,” he pointed out. “I had hoped you’d keep the damage to a minimum. How shortsighted of me.” He smiled and picked up his pen, silently dismissing the young man as he turned his attention back to the forms.
Ed could feel steam hissing out of his ears.
Leaning his head against the window, Edward recounted snippets of the annoyingly frustrating argument he had had with Mustang hours before he and Alphonse boarded a train back to Resembool. A scowl appeared when he thought of the bastard’s smug smile and the look in his dark eye, telling him that he knew how to royally tick him off—which Roy did, of course. Fucker. If Ed had had a nice, tall glass of ice cold milk at that moment, he would've thrown the gross stuff in the General’s face. In the blond’s biased opinion, the old man would have deserved it. Ed let out a huff. “Asshole,” he grumbled under his breath. He crossed his arms and sank down in the brown, leather bench seat. “Total bullshit.”
Next to Ed sat Alphonse, who was currently trying to read the book about medicinal plants in his lap. But it was no use. The only thing the poor boy managed to do—while his older brother continued to piss himself off—was read the same paragraph over and over again. Upon hearing Edward’s string of whispered expletives, Al snapped the book shut and shifted in the seat to face his sibling.
“Are you going to mope the entire ride home, brother?” sighed Al.
“Huh? What are ya talking about? I’m just sitting here looking out the window,” Ed scoffed, waving an arm in the direction of the suddenly interesting blur of trees.
Narrowing his amber gaze at the stubborn older boy, Alphonse opened the book and flopped back against the seat, his blond fringe falling in his eyes. “It’s your fault, you know,” he remarked, flipping the pages in search of the place where he left off.
Ed whipped his head to the side and stared at Al. A slight grimace graced his features when his long, sunny-colored ponytail snagged in its hair tie. “Um...Say that again?” he requested, quirking an eyebrow.
“You blew up part of your lab,” the younger Elric nonchalantly stated, turning a page.
“It blew up because one of those bombs Mustang will never use—but asked me to make anyway—exploded,” excused Ed. He crossed his arms and slumped in his spot on the seat.
“I know you finished those bombs weeks ago. Your lab blew up because you were bored,” insisted Alphonse. “You started experimenting with different chemicals to entertain yourself.” He glared over at Ed, who was intently staring out the window. In its reflection, their golden eyes connected. “I know you know how dangerous it is to mess around because you have nothing else to do. General Mustang has the right to be mad. I wouldn't be surprised if he fires you. Then you won't have a lab to blow up and you won’t have access to the library.”
Ed’s jaw dropped and he blinked at the scolding tone in his brother’s voice. Whose side was the little twerp on?
“And you know what, brother?” continued Al. “I'm mad. After everything we’ve been through, I thought you would calm down a bit. You can't just keep blowing stuff up because you feel like it.”
At the rate Edward was going, Alphonse was positive he would have a heart attack worrying over him—or worse, get gray hair. How did he end up with such a stubborn brother? Sure, he loved him. But holy moly! Al finally had his body back. He would like to keep it alive, thank you very much.
“Anyway, you better cheer up before we arrive in Resembool. It’s Winry’s birthday tomorrow and she’ll smack you with her wrench if you show up with a sour attitude,” he added, turning his attention back to the book.
“Yeah, yeah. I know,” muttered the older Elric, leaning his head against the window. He let out a huff of air, fogging up the window before drawing stick figures—particularly ones with Roy Mustang wearing devil horns.
“You're not excited?” questioned Alphonse, his eyebrows lifting in surprise.
“No. I am,” answered Ed. “It’s just—”
“—that stupid pen. She keeps talking about it. She think it’s gonna work and if it doesn't, I’m gonna get the life beaten out of me. It almost happened the last time Winry smacked me with her wrench,” he paused to huff more warm air against the cool glass. “Plus, her pen’s supposedly been ‘working’ for three years now. Ya think she woulda tried it when she turned seventeen.”
“Between traveling and doing odd jobs for the General, we’ve been gone. Maybe she’s waiting for us to return home before trying it out.”
“Yeah, except nothing’s gonna happen.”
“Oh, come on, brother. It could work! Just imagine: you and Winry, soulmates,” mused Al, his tone whimsical. Sparkles shined in his golden eyes. He found the idea romantic and deep down, he hoped the legend was true.
Edward finished his mural in which The Ol’ Bastard died in the fiery pits of hell before turning to glance at Alphonse with raised eyebrows. “You actually believe in that lame superstition, legend thing?”
“Sure, why not?” said Al, shrugging. “There's more to life than science, you know.”
“I’m pretty sure the stories about those so-called soulmate pens are meant to stop us from having sex before marriage.”
“Brother!” the younger blond hissed between gritted teeth, his cheeks blossoming a shade of scarlet. He slumped down in the seat and covered his face with the open book.
A sly, lopsided smile graced Ed’s features. “C’mon Al,” he teased, nudging the boy in the shoulder. “What did you think was gonna happen after you find your soulmate? You wait until you're seventeen, then write on the back of your hand with that special pen given to you by your parents. And BAM! You’re soulmates. The End.”
“You get married—”
“—and have sex.”
“Could you say that any louder?!”
Smirking, Ed cupped his hands around his lips, “AND HAVE—ow!”
“Will you stop talking?” groaned Al, smacking his idiotic brother in the forehead with the book. “If you keep going, Winry won’t get the chance to kill you with her wrench. I’ll do it. Right now. With this book,” he warned, lifting it above Edward in preparation to strike again if he so much as began his next word with the letter ‘s’.
“Geez,” mumbled Ed, rubbing the new sore spot on his face.
“Anyway,” continued Alphonse, leaning back against the seat, “if it’s so lame, then why do you still carry yours around instead of storing it?”
“‘Cause mom gave it to me.”
“And you're not even the tiniest bit curious about whether or not it works?”
Edward decided to ignore the fact that Alphonse just called him “tiny.” He really wasn't in the mood to get clobbered over the head again. He’ll get the little punk back later.
“You know what they say, Al: curiosity killed the cat,” he remarked dryly. He folded his arms over his chest and propped his legs on the other seat facing them before crossing his ankles.
“That’s never stopped us before.”
“Yeah, you got a point,” chuckled Ed. “If you believe in the legend, why haven't you tried the one Hohenheim left you?” After the second time he ditched us.
A pink hue dusted the younger blond’s cheeks. “Well, May isn't quite seventeen yet. Even if she’s not my soulmate, I’d like to entertain the idea that she could be because I plan on asking her to marry me eventually—whether we’re soulmates or not,” he stated. Upon noticing the amusement dazzling in Ed’s eyes, his cheeks darkened.
“That’s why it's a dumbass legend. If we do have one, we have no idea who they are. We might not even meet them or love them after we write on the backs of our hands and the instant bonding thing that supposedly happens that lets you feel what the other person’s feeling.” He clapped a hand on Al’s shoulder. “I say ya forget the lame pen and go for May.”
“If I do, that wouldn't stop whoever my potential soulmate is from writing on their hand first.”
“Like I said: even if you have one, you might not find or love them. If you love May, don’t let some bullshit story tell you any different.”
“Alright, brother. If you say so,” sighed Al.
“Well, duh. We know I'm always right.” Missing the severe eye-roll thrown his way, Ed lifted his arms and stretched. “I’m gonna take a nap. Wake me up when we get to the station,” he yawned, patting a hand over his mouth.
“You can’t go to sleep, now.”
“Because we’re here, you idiot,” said Alphonse. He closed his book and tucked it in the carry-on bag resting between his feet.
At that moment, the loud sound of the train’s whistle announced its arrival. With its engines blowing white clouds of steam against the tracks and its brakes screeching, the locomotive crawled to a stop next to the boarding gate. Those who had reached their destination clambered out the door, their luggage in tow.
“Aw, man,” whined Ed. Putting his feet down, he stood up, then reached for his bag on the overhead.
“Stop being such a big baby,” chided the younger blond. “You can have your nap when we get to Granny’s.”
Outside of the open, green-shuttered windows, the sound of Den barking floated in the wind that gently blew through Winry’s hair. Upon hearing a familiar laugh in the distance, that bark changed into one that conveyed the excitement of finally seeing a beloved friend who stayed away much too long.
Putting down her tools and taking off her goggles, Winry grabbed a green handkerchief and wiped the oil from her hands before tossing it onto her workbench. The young woman got up from her chair and ran out of the house onto the front porch. Standing next to the green railing, she placed her palms on the wood and looked into the sunset; in the short distance she could see two young men headed in her direction with an elated Den dancing around their legs.
“Hey guys!” called Winry, cheerfully waving at her two childhood friends.
“Hi, Winry!” shouted Alphonse. He began jogging toward the Rockbell home, his bag swaying against his back. Edward followed closely behind him.
“Hey, Win—ugh!” yelped Ed as he tumbled to the ground; Den had run through his legs, forcing him to trip and fall. Grunting, he quickly stood and grabbed his bag after he dusted the dirt from his dark olive slacks. Judging from the lack of attention over the mishap, his accident remained unseen. Well, mostly unseen.
“Are you alright, Ed?” asked Winry, struggling to hold back a laugh as she watched the sulking and grumbling Elric limp after his brother. She moved from her spot on the porch and skipped down the stone steps.
“Don't worry. He’ll survive,” piped up Al, smiling brightly.
Once the two brothers were standing before her at the bottom of the porch steps, she yanked them into a fierce hug, which served as a chokehold as well.
“I've missed you guys so much,” she sniffed, tightening her arms around their necks. It was so tight, in fact, that the boys’ heads were centimeters away from being cheek-to-cheek.
“We missed you, too, Win...ry,” wheezed Ed, suffocating under the young mechanic’s embrace. He could feel Alphonse nodding in agreement.
“If you've missed me so much,” she began, taking a step back to glare at the brothers, “then why haven't you called or written?”
Seeing the thunderstorm brewing behind Winry’s eyes, the boys looked at each other. Not good. Ed rubbed the back of his neck while Alphonse looked at the ground, shuffling his feet from side to side.
“Well, we've...uh...been kinda busy, ya know? Traveling and stuff,” explained Edward. He visibly cringed under Rockbell’s scrutiny.
“That is no excuse, and you know it!” seethed Winry, bolts of electricity flashing behind her darkening glare. She lifted her arm and swung it at the two morons. Alphonse ducked, but unfortunately for Ed, he was smacked in the head with the wrench she had been hiding in her pants pocket. The poor soul crumbled to the ground.
“Brother!” exclaimed Al, dropping to his knees. He frantically shook the dying Elric’s shoulders, who appeared to have stars circling above his head. Al took that as a good sign. That meant he was alive, right?
Groaning, the older blond gingerly pushed himself up into a sitting position. “I’m alright,” Edward assured him. Scowling, he gazed up at the blonde. “Are ya ever gonna stop trying to kill me?”
“Nope!” promised Winry, emphasizing the ‘p’ with a pop of her lips. She twirled her trusty dusty wrench between her fingers. “Anyway, are you guys hungry? Granny’s not here right now, but there's stew waiting for you,” she added, watching as Alphonse struggled to lift his recovering brother to his feet.
“Where is she?” asked Alphonse. Once he was sure the older Elric wouldn't tip over, he picked up both luggage bags and swung them over his shoulder.
“She’s out for a night out of town with the girls,” replied the young woman. She turned around to walk back into the yellow house, beckoning the boys to follow.
“Since when does Granny Pinako have a nightlife?” Al asked, stepping across the threshold. He put down their bags then shrugged out of his tan jacket, hanging it on the hook next to the door.
“Actually, I think she has a boyfriend. But I’m not too sure.” Catching the “yuck” expression on the blonds’ faces, she rolled her blue eyes.
“So…” began Al.
“It’s on the stove,” said Winry, grinning at a drooling Alphonse.
He flashed Winry a wide smile and hurried over to the tantalizing food, practically leaving a trail of fire in his wake. Al filled two bowls to the brim with stew, then carefully placed them on the kitchen table and sat down before proceeding to shovel the grub into his mouth at record speed.
Rockbell blinked. “I’m pretty sure he eats more than you do, now,” she muttered to Ed.
“Basically,” agreed the older Elric.
“Aren't you going to eat?”
“Eh, no. I’m sleepy. I’ll get some if Al leaves some for us lowly folk.”
“Oh?” Winry squeaked with surprise. “Well, that’s a first.”
“I know right?” remarked Ed, walking toward the the food bulldozer known as Alphonse Elric. He pulled out chair on the other side of the table and sat down. “Aren’t ya gonna save room for some pie?”
Seeing that the two young men were engrossed in a conversation, Winry took the opportunity to slip away and tiptoe to her room—quickly walking over to her bed. Crouching down, the blonde reached underneath for a box and pulled it close to her knees. She opened the lid and retrieved yet another box that was smaller, thinner, and longer in size—the ink pen. Winry snatched up the writing utensil, then placed both boxes under her bed before returning to the kitchen. The mechanic stood with her back against the wall and peeked over her shoulder around the corner.
“It’s not my fault Winry’s pie is so amazing. You've had it all to yourself for years. Go get your own,” chirped Al, taking another large, heaping bite of homemade pie-goodness.
Chest swelling with pride, Winry beamed. Although she was thrilled the smarter of the two Elrics was immensely enjoying her dessert, there were more important matters literally at hand—other than the need to buy more baking ingredients, of course.
According to her mother, Sarah, whatever she writes on the back of her hand would appear on her soulmate’s, and they would instantaneously bond on an emotional level. She would be able to feel what they were doing at that moment, too. Once again, the scheming blonde glanced around the wall to see what Edward, in particular, was doing: he was simply sitting there, watching his sibling devour the food before him; she briefly wondered where Alphonse put it all.
Turning her attention back to the pen, she examined it. The casing was sleek and slate-gray in color with intricate designs of scarlet roses wrapping around its length. Rockbell nervously chewed on her lip and placed its tip against the back of her left hand. Here goes nothing, she thought before scribbling against her skin. Winry put her both hands down and leaned against the wall, waiting for something to happen. Seconds passed and...nothing. She frowned. Did it not work? Her frowned deepened as time went on and she began to feel a bit heartbroken by the whole endeavour. Was it just a legend after—
Winry let out a tiny gasp and her blue eyes widened. An electrifying warmth washed over her entire body, causing goosebumps to prickle along her skin and the light blond hairs on her arms to stand on end. The drawing on her left hand burned as she felt a connection being formed. As quickly as the sensation began, it ended.
“What?” she breathed, her heart pounding in her chest. She looked down at her hand—the mark was gone.
Before she could give another thought as to what had passed, an odd taste settled in her mouth. Winry smacked her lips together. It tasted sweet...like sugar and cinnamon, maybe? Weird. Shaking away the odd feelings from her body, the young woman stood up and tucked the pen into her pocket. She walked around the wall to head back to the boys.
“Brother…” began Al, tugging on his shirt collar.
“Did it get really hot in here?” the youngest Elric asked, scratching at the back of his left hand. A bright, feverish blush bloomed on his cheeks.
“No, not really. Maybe you're turning into an old woman. Hot flashes and stuff,” remarked Ed. He ducked when his brother threw a chunk of pie at him.
Hearing their words, Winry stopped dead in her tracks. Did Al just say what she thought he said? If possible, her eyes expanded even further.
The sound of rolling thunder protruding from her belly ceased their conversation. Her face flushed with mortification and she placed a hand over her stomach in an attempt to silence its growling.
Edward looked at her with raised eyebrows. “Someone’s hungry.”
“I can't believe I’m saying it, but I am too,” remarked Al. He cut another slice of pie, then placed it on the plate he slid across the table toward the stunned young woman. “At least I managed to save you a slice of pie.”
A bit of the red dusting Rockbell’s cheeks drained. P...pie?
The boy took another bite and moaned. “You're wonderful at baking. I don't think I could get enough of this. I love the sugar and cinnamon,” drooled Alphonse, marveling in the pie’s delectableness. He honestly believed it could change a person’s life with just one bite.
S...sugar and c...cinnamon? Winry Rockbell blanched.
Lost in thought, General Roy Mustang sat in a dimly lit bar, drinking another round of scotch—or was it whiskey? He lost track ages ago, but it didn't matter. The goal was to drive himself into oblivion; he was nearly there.
“You need to slow down, sir.”
Riza Hawkeye’s words floated in his mind and he huffed a quiet laugh. His subordinate began telling him that months ago, and her advice increased in frequency more often than not. Closing his eyes, he took another sip of the alcohol, relishing in the sting left behind as it traveled down his throat.
“Settle down, Roy. Get that pen I gave you and find your soulmate!”
It was another thing he was advised to do so by his friend Maes Hughes before the man was murdered. The sound of his jovial laughter echoed in his ears. Beneath Roy's gloves, his knuckles cracked. He had always insisted that there was no such thing, and if it did, no one in their right mind would want a man such as he.
However, that train of thought never deterred Hughes.
“They're out there, waiting for you. Just try it. How do you think I found Gracia? Without the pen, I wouldn't have met her and you know what? I wouldn't have our darling Elicia!”
Years have passed, but he hadn't managed to shake off the pain and emptiness brought on by the Ishval Civil War; losing Maes. Not even the victory at Promise Day brought him any sort of relief. He still saw blood behind his eyes each time he closed it, his nose burned of skin and his ears screeched with dreams.
“I want you to be happy, Roy. Do it for yourself, and for me.”
The raven-haired man felt a sudden weight press against his shoulder; it jostled him out of his stupor. He looked over to find a tall woman, with long, light blond hair and bright green eyes. Seeing as he had developed a penchant for blondes over the years, this woman was quite the catch.
“Hello,” he greeted the gorgeous stranger, his voice smooth and his grin charmingly roguish. Roy’s smile widened as he took in the woman’s appearance and the obvious signals she was sending him.
Before Roy knew it, he was stumbling into his apartment in the arms of the woman whose name he’ll never remember. Clothes fell to the floor and they found themselves in bed, the General fiercely laying into the nameless blonde’s body in hopes of forgetting the daily hell he somehow managed to endure.
Caught between the bliss of ignorance and self-loathing provided by the woman beneath him, Mustang hadn't noticed that the hand clutching the headboard of his bed began to sear with a burning message.
Sprawled on his back with an arm beneath his head and ankles crossed, Edward stared up at the dark ceiling in his bedroom. The moonlight filtering in from the curtains shined into the room; it cast an ethereal glow across his furrowed brow.
As the day wore on, Winry had become increasingly more awkward and shy. The girl was quiet even during the tune-up she performed on his automail leg. Normally, the mechanic would talk nonstop to the point where he would want to bash his head against the wall before forcing himself into a coma by her wrench. There wasn't so much as a peep from her until it was time to say goodnight.
Alphonse didn't help either. The little, snot-nosed brat droned on and on about the beauty of one’s soulmate and how they were bound for eternity. Ed insisted it was a load of shit—which earned him glares that damned him to hell. That ride, Al promised, would begin with the crack to the head that he had threatened to employ while they were on the train home.
Then the youngest Elric poked at him, worming his way into Edward’s mind to the point where his curiosity piqued in such a way, he considered the victory of proving his brother wrong.
So there he was, relaxing in bed with the pen twiddling between his fingers. A sliver of light caught the apple red casing, flickering over the thin, branch-like spiral wrapped around its shell; emerald green leaves attached, hugging close to the vibrant red. With a sigh, he looked at his left hand, then at the writing utensil. He mentally shrugged. Why the hell not? Edward pressed the tip of the pen on the back of his hand and wrote, “Hey?”
The blond laid there staring at his messy handwriting. Time moved on, yet his words stared back at him. Nothing.
His lips twitched into a slow, victorious smile. Ha. He totally knew it, and come tomorrow morning, Alphonse would, too.
Edward let out a quiet chuckle. “Whatta crock of—"
Suddenly, Elric’s words caught in his throat. His golden eyes widened and he gasped, arching off the bed as a pleasure unlike anything he’d ever felt before cascaded along his body and set his nerves on fire. He couldn't stop the loud cry of ecstasy that spilled from his lips as his entire form stiffened and what was, embarrassingly, a climax gave way.
The sweating blond, who was now unexpectedly basking in the heavenly afterglow of the best orgasm he had ever experienced, shot up in his bed and covered his mouth with his burning hand to stifle the heavy pants heaving in his chest.
What the hell was that?!
Panicking, the pleasantly satiated Edward Elric scrambled out of bed. Instead of standing, his legs missed the target known as the floor and he face planted on the carpet. He groaned.
“Brother?” called Al, knocking on the door.
“Oh. Shit,” muttered Ed, pushing his tingling body up from the floor. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit…”
“I’m coming, Al,” replied Ed, his voice husky and laced with a wanton need that was recently quenched. His face quickly scrunched up. Ew. Wrong choice of words. He slowly walked to the door. Opening it just a crack, he peeked through the small gap. “What’s up?”
“Are you alright? I heard you scream,” answered Al, his brow furrowed and eyes filled with concern over his awkwardly-looking brother, whose cheeks were flushed an odd shade of red. “Did you have a nightmare?”
More like an awake, wet dream. “Yeah, I’m alright. Go back to bed. I’ll see ya in the morning, ‘kay?”
“If you have any more bad dreams, wake me?”
“Sure will. Goodnight!” said Edward, politely closing his the door in his brother’s face. Thankfully the sound of the younger blond’s footsteps retreated.
Edward flipped over and leaned against the door. Stunned beyond measure, he slid to the carpet and pulled his knees to his chest. He refused to admit it, but he couldn't believe it. A part of him wished he still had his automail arm so he could punch himself in the face. He looked down at his hand and saw that the message had disappeared. A tiny whimper formed on his lips.
He was in deep shit.