"You're going to be late if you don't stop messing with your tie."
Edward picked at the stubborn knot in his tie one last time before he huffed and dropped his hands to his sides, scowling at his reflection in the (somewhat dusty) floor-length mirror. From her place leaning against the doorway of their bedroom, Winry hid a smile behind her hand. Ed would never admit it, but she could tell he was nervous, and she found it terribly endearing.
He had been preparing for this day for months now, and his sudden fussing over his wardrobe this morning showed it. He had settled eventually on what he called a “formal” outfit; a pressed white shirt with a black tie and vest, black slacks, and his long brown coat. Basically, his normal travel clothes with the addition of a tie.
Winry let out a sigh that was supposed to be exasperated, but ended up being more fond than anything else.
"Stop worrying, you look fine. In fact, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you look like a gentleman."
“A gentleman? Oh, how dare you,” Edward deadpanned.
She hid another smile. In her opinion, 'fine' was an understatement. In the soft morning sunlight, his long hair shined liquid gold. His eyes were equally as bright when he turned to look into her own. Because he was lightly scowling, it wasn't hard to see the faint lines of age around his eyes and mouth that only served to make him look more wise and alluring. Winry's heart fluttered in her chest.
Winry would never admit it out loud to him (because lord knows he doesn't need an ego boost), but in this moment, he looked breathtakingly handsome.
"You look like an old man," she teased.
Ed scoffed at her as if he was offended, but was betrayed by the small smile cracking his scowl. He turned back to the mirror, looking contemplative. A beat of comfortable silence passed in which the only noise was the soft chirping of birds and a distant wind chime. Particles of dust, visible because of the bright rays of sunlight, swirled slowly in the air.
Ed hummed quietly.
"I look like my old man."
His smile returned, but this time it was twinged with sadness. Although Ed never talked about the death of his father, Winry could tell he felt the loss sometimes. It crept up on him like an old wound; a familiar ache that dulls into the background unless you focus on it. Her heart sunk in sympathy.
She pushed off against the doorway and crossed the room to hug him from behind. She buried her face into the space between his shoulder blades and breathed in the scent of his coat, trying to convey as much love as possible into her voice when she said,
"He would be so proud of you, Ed. I know I am."
He hummed in response and rested his hands over hers, expressing gentle gratitude. They stood in an embrace, enjoying each other's comfort and the warm morning sun at their backs.
Lucas chose that moment to loudly announce his discomfort from his nursery down the hall. Winry laughed and stepped away from Ed.
“I had better go tend to the drama king.”
Ed turned around to face her while whining, “I thought I was the drama king.”
Winry's eyebrows shot up. “Where do you think he gets it from? He takes after you.” She gestured to his mussed clothing with a smirk.
Ed’s face scrunched in irritation and his hands rose to tug at his tie yet again. “Oh come on. It's not that bad, is it?” His nerves were back.
“No, its not. You look pretty nice, actually,” Winry assured, speaking softly to convey her sincerity. Ed relaxed minutely as he turned back to the mirror with a flourish.
“I still think I'm going to ditch the tie, though,” He announced.
“If you want to.”
Lucas cried out loudly again, protesting at being ignored. Winry sighed, then stepped toward Ed and rose to her tiptoes to kiss his cheek before leaving the room to tend to Lucas.
From the hallway, she called out behind her, “Have a good day, and please don't scare the students too much.”
“I can't do both!” Ed replied cheekily.
Her laugh rang through the hall joyfully.
Edward yawned. Again.
He thought that his nerves would be enough to distract him from the ungodly hour of the morning. But the instant he sat down on the train to East City he felt lethargy creeping up on him. He cursed his past self for thinking that a morning class would be more efficient. The prospect of waking up so early looked good on paper. But in reality, it fucking sucked.
He longed for another coffee. His first one had gone lukewarm almost ten minutes ago.
He sighed and checked his watch. Sluggishly, he realized they were less than five minutes out. He felt his lethargy bleed out of him and quickly be replaced by the light anxiety that had been his companion for the past few days.
Not for the first time, he questioned if he was actually doing this. Him. A teacher. In a fancy college. No, not a teacher, a professor. In a fancy college. Teaching snot-nosed brats about alchemy when he himself couldn't transmute a single hairpin to save his life. In a fancy college.
He mentally retraced the events leading to this, trying to make sense of it.
He and Winry had just settled down into a routine after the craziness of having a baby. In the days leading up to the birth, Ed had still been jet lagged from traveling back and forth from Drachma and Creta, acting as a representative of the Amerstrian government and neutral third-party official negotiating terms of an updated alliance pledge between the two countries. Ed had originally been in the area for alchemy research purposes only, but at Mustang’s request (aka order), he donned his Official Diplomat CoatTM and got to work diplomatting. The disputes during the meetings ran longer than originally expected. Like, several weeks longer than expected. Ed had nearly missed his own son’s birth as a result.
If that had been the case, Ed was pretty sure he would have marched right into Mustang’s office and strangled him on the spot, Führer or no. And then Winry would be a widow, because Hawkeye would (naturally) want to avenge her husband and leader, and no one who Hawkeye wants to kill has any semblance of hope left to live, of course.
Anyway, they had settled into a routine for the past six months Ed had been home, and he had started growing restless. He was unaccustomed to staying in one place for so long. Not to say that he didn’t enjoy spending time with his family- because he did, he enjoyed every second of Winry’s loving banter and Lucas’ boundless energy- but he needed a change. He adores Winry and Lucas to the ends of the earth, but he was going to go crazy if he didn’t have anything to do.
(Taking another extended trip was out of the question. On the day she told him she was pregnant, Ed made a promise to Winry and to himself that he would stay put for a couple years after the baby was born. He refused to miss out on his child’s first few years of life. Travel could wait.)
Winry had urged him to find a hobby and insisted that no, Ed, alchemy research does not count!
He had tried, really, but his interest always turned back to alchemy.
That’s when Mustang, of all people, offhandedly suggested a teaching job at the newly-built East City University when he and Hawkeye visited them for dinner (which was a thing they started to do pretty regularly, much to Ed’s mostly fake exasperation).
Ed had laughed before he remembered that Mustang wasn't capable of being funny, and therefore realized it wasn’t a joke. He was completely serious. And judging by the look Hawkeye- Riza, he still has trouble addressing her as Riza- gave Winry, the three of them had discussed this behind his back.
Mustang elaborated that the class in question was Advanced Alchemical Theory, and therefore little to no transmutation would be required of the professor.
Riza pointed out how Ed was suited perfectly for teaching future state alchemists because of his alchemical, military, and diplomatic backgrounds.
Winry then added that this could be a learning opportunity for him in regards to his hesitancy towards children, and in turn, provide experience that he could use for being a better father to his son.
Ed stayed silent through their points. They changed the subject to something more
boring mundane shortly afterwards, but Ed still stayed silent. In truth, he was blindsided by the idea.
Him, Teaching. His gut reaction was to reject the notion, but it stayed with him for days afterwards. The more he thought about it, the less it made sense in the context of his personality, and the more compelling the idea became.
Because, deep down, Edward is an alchemy nut- and while he’ll always have researching, it’s hardly the most rewarding aspect of alchemy. But teaching... Teaching can be a medium through which his research and experience can be shared. He could see it being used to make a difference. He could have a say in guiding future alchemists to be better.
Four days later, while he was feeding a sleepy Lucas wrapped in his arms and Winry worked on some automail something-or-other, he realized suddenly that he wanted that. He wanted to teach alchemy. He announced it to Winry then and there. She was overjoyed.
Then came the relatively quick process of getting a teacher’s license and the other necessary credentials. It went by much faster than usual, and Ed was certain it was because 1) the University was desperate to get the national celebrity Edward Elric on their teaching staff, and 2) Mustang pulled some strings. The University was bending over backwards to accommodate his every need, assuring him that he will have every possible resource available. He was even allowed to choose the class size (small, he doesn’t want to have to fight for control over the students) as well as majorly change the curriculum to fit his liking (which he takes full advantage of and makes the class material more internationally focused, and in his opinion, much less boring). Just a few advantages of being the savior of, like, the whole world.
Also at his request, they changed his name in the paperwork to Edward Rockbell so he knows that the students signing up for his class are there for the class, not for his celebrity status.
So, that was that. It was all arranged, and he had a pretty good idea what he was doing.
However, some part of his shitty mind didn’t seem to get with the program. There he was, sitting on the train to East City, holding a lukewarm coffee and practically shaking with nerves. All while second guessing everything he’s done in the past few months.
Distantly, he heard the conductor announce their arrival and felt the train screech to a halt. Passengers all around him began to collect their bags and exit, and the noise turned into a dull roar in Ed’s ears.
He took a deep breath, and then another. He stood up swiftly, willing his confidence to return.
He could do this.
He survived crossing through the gate and facing Truth multiple times.
He became the youngest state alchemist in the nation’s history.
He helped overthrow a corrupt government conceived and run by powerful homunculi.
He punched God in the face and saved the world.
He could do this.