Their shoes clacked along the wooden planks of the pier, buckles polished shiny and white stockings perfectly ironed, hands clasped behind their backs. Russell had been outfitted in some spare clothing from one of the Captain's officers until he was able to retrieve his own. Captain Elric was lenient about what his sailors wore but insisted that everything, at least, be well turned out and clean. He'd already witnessed a dressing down one morning when a deckhand had appeared on deck in a wrinkled and dirty jacket.
Russell hadn't set foot on land – though they had only been a mile or so out – for almost a week. The surprise attack by the Envy had left the ship a little worse for wear and the crew had repaired as much as they could with supplies on hand.
Nevertheless, they needed to return to a larger port soon for materials that were not available at the moment.
And Russell would be sailing out with them.
He smiled to himself at the thought as he and the Captain stepped onto the main dirt thoroughfare of the village. Who knew that his own destiny would include serving as a ship's surgeon aboard one of the most successful privateers in the Amestris navy?
The only thing left for him to do before they weighed anchor and left with the tide was for him to make a short trip ashore to his clinic.
He'd kept in contact with his brother, letting him know the situation so he wouldn't worry overmuch, but he still wanted to talk to him in person before he left. Who knew how long it would be before he returned?
The village on the island of Xenotime was small, most of the houses were located close to the docks on the south side of the island since the majority of the residents were fishermen but there was also a small community on the northern side that housed a few miners and their families. There wasn't much left to mine but most of those families had lived there for generations and weren't inclined to move.
The clinic was located off the main road near the edge of the village just in front of a small wooded area. As they approached, Russell found himself waving to a few of the women who were about doing chores or minding children.
Russell turned to the Captain and noticed the other man was looking at him questioningly.
“Small village, everyone knows everyone else here,” he commented.
“Here I was thinking you were just very well-known,” Edward replied.
“There is that, as well,” Russell admitted, ducking his head slightly. “My brother and I are the only two doctors here.”
“Tell me more about him,” Edward said, curiously polite and Russell smiled, looking out at the road in front of them.
“We received our medical training at the same time,” Russell began, “spent many years on Central Island. He's more of a general practitioner, which is much more suited to a small island such as this than a full surgeon.”
“I see,” Edward said, “not much work for you, then?”
Russell nodded. It was something he'd felt himself over the years. He had been invited to stay at the Central Hospital but had refused the position, missing the place where he had lived all his life but once they had set up here, Russell had started to question that decision.
“There it is,” Russell pointed out with a nod of his head. It was something he was quite proud of, one of the few two-storied buildings in the village. There was a spacious four room clinic on the ground floor and upstairs was the living space: two bedrooms and a large, brightly-lit sitting room and kitchen.
They approached the house and Russell saw that the door was propped open but before they could step inside, a woman ran out in a rush of skirts and threw her arms around his neck in a familiar hug.
“Russell, oh it is so good to see you home safe and sound,” she exclaimed happily, leaning back to look at him, “and so well dressed too! Come inside, I've got some lemonade and cookies --” she broke off abruptly, finally catching sight of his companion.
“Pardon me,” Russell said, “Captain Elric, I'd like you to meet my sister-in-law Elisa Tringham. Elisa, this is Captain Edward Elric of the Trisha .”
“So honored to meet you,” Elisa said holding out her hand, looking slightly breathless as Edward placed a light brush of lips across her knuckles.
“My pleasure,” Edward said genially, flashing her a bright smile. Russell's breath caught for just a moment before he turned and gestured them inside.
“Is Fletcher around?” he asked, removing his hat before taking Edward's and hanging them both on the rack in the corner. “I'd like to talk to both of you, if you're not busy.”
“Oh yes, he's just outside chopping wood, I'll get him,” she replied hurriedly before disappearing through a back door.
“Make yourself at home,” Russell told Edward.
As he sank into one of the armchairs, Edward commented, “she's a sweet girl, where did they meet?”
Russell moved toward the side table, pouring two glasses of lemonade and passing one over to Edward. “Childhood sweethearts,” Russell said with a faint smile, “they've known each other for most of their lives. Married soon after we returned from Central and he immediately trained her to be a midwife.”
“Brother!” came a voice from the doorway and Russell turned with a grin. They crossed the room in two steps, clasping hands.
Introductions were made all around and Fletcher made sure that Russell was doing well and Russell made sure that the clinic was running smoothly. Elisa passed around some of her delicious cookies before they all made themselves comfortable.
“How long will you be visiting, Captain?” Fletcher asked as they all settled in.
“We sail tomorrow morning with the tide,” Edward said, “we still have repairs to finish.”
Russell took a sip from his glass before speaking.
“That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about,” he said, turning to face Fletcher and Elisa, “I've been graciously offered the position of ship's surgeon by the Captain here.”
Elisa let out a small gasp and Russell saw her smiling behind her hand. Fletcher turned to him and said, “I thought it might be something like that.”
His brother always did know him better than anyone. Although the Captain... he mentally shook his head. Now was not the time to let his thoughts stray down that path.
“Did you accept?” Elisa asked excitedly.
Russell nodded and Elisa said, “oh that will be so wonderful, traveling to distant lands, adventure, intrigue, sword fights...” she sighed softly, trailing off and Russell gave a quick glance over at Edward and was surprised to see an amused reaction.
“Those were the very same thoughts that found me on a ship myself,” Edward told her, “haven't regretted a day of it.” This last was directed toward Russell and their eyes locked for a moment before they turned back to the conversation.
Elisa had started rattling off things things he should take. “I'll help you pack, of course,” she said and Russell felt a bit overwhelmed by her enthusiasm.
Fletcher laid a hand over hers then and gave her a meaningful look and Elisa said, “oh, I nearly forgot, in all this excitement...”
“We have some news for you as well,” Fletcher said and it was then that Russell noticed the nervous habit his brother had of rubbing his fingers together. Fletcher looked over at Elisa once again who beamed at him before he turned back to Russell.
“You're going to be an Uncle,” he said with a faint sheepish smile on his face.
Russell was silent for a moment, taking in the small glances between the two of them, happiness fairly radiating off of them. He jumped up then and drew Fletcher into a hug and then Elisa, saying all the while, “that is wonderful news!” and “So happy for you” before everyone settled down again.
“We were going to tell you sooner but then you were gone for a week,” Elisa explained, “and we wanted to tell you in person...”
Russell faintly registered the dazed smile on his face as he looked happily at his brother and sister-in-law. A little niece or nephew! If their own parents had been here now he knew they would be so happy as well.
Russell was startled out of his thoughts by a firm clap on his shoulder and was surprised to find that Fletcher and Elisa had left the room and Edward was looking at him with amusement.
“One would think that you were the one about to be a father,” Edward commented and Russell blinked up at him from where he was sitting. “Let's go,” Edward added in a softer voice offering his hand, “they've gone upstairs to start getting your things together.”
Russell clasped Edward's hand gratefully as the other man pulled him to his feet and they both hesitated for a moment before Edward leaned in and said with a mischievous glint in his eye, “congratulations, Uncle.”
Russell fully snapped out of his daze then and gave a small laugh, squeezing Edward's hand gently before letting go. “Uncle,” he mused to himself as they headed into the back room, “I'm not sure if I can handle anymore good news today.”
They ended up staying for the rest of the afternoon and into supper, alternately catching up on the local gossip and telling the tale of their encounter with the Envy .
It was such a pleasant evening, especially with Edward's thigh pressed lightly against his own throughout the night and the cool summer's breeze drifting in from the garden, that Russell almost hesitated in leaving. But eventually, they all made long good-byes, Elisa always coming back for one more hug and Fletcher still with the lingering look of pride on his face every time he looked at her.
Finally, Russell found Fletcher for one last handshake and said, softly, “I'm giving you the clinic.”
“But why?” he asked, “it's yours as much as mine.”
“You already run it more efficiently than I ever could,” Russell told him, smiling in pride, “I was always going to give it to you, it just happened sooner than I thought.”
“I don't know if I...” Fletcher began and Russell laid a reassuring hand on his brother's shoulder, squeezing gently.
“Think of it as a gift, for the new baby,” he insisted, “and I promise to write as much as I can though visits will be far between.”
Fletcher paused for a short moment and then nodded, almost as though to himself. “You were always meant for bigger things than this,” Fletcher told him, “I've known that for a while now.”
Russell smiled softly in reply, “so have I,” he said finally before turning and setting off down the road with Edward. The stopped for one last wave before the night disguised them completely.
“I like your family,” Edward told him later that night as he shrugged off his coat, “I'm glad I got to meet them.”
“I'm glad you did too,” Russell replied, loosening his cravat while staring out of the aft cabin windows at the sea.
“Having doubts?” Edward asked quietly, moving closer. Russell turned to face him.
“Never those,” Russell replied reaching out to run his hand lightly along the loosened collar of Edward's shirt, “just thinking how much I will miss them.”
Edward grinned then, the grin that always made Russell catch his breath and wonder why such a man as this had chosen him . Edward covered Russell's hand lightly where is had come to rest on the vee of bare skin peeking through his shirt.
“If you get to miss them too much,” Edward said, “we can always come back for a visit.”
“You would do that?” Russell asked, unsure and surprised.
“You're part of my crew now,” Edward assured him, “and I would do anything for any one of them,” Edward paused and drew Russell's hand toward his lips, placing a light kiss on the back of his hand, eyes never leaving his, “especially you.”