The thing was, Winry had no faith in him. Still. After all these years.
They’d added on to the house and built a shed. There was no reason he should only be allowed to do the wiring in the shed. He could have handled the house. He knew what he was doing. She hadn’t needed to call an electrician and make that face.
Whatever, though. By the time he was finished, the shed would have outlets everywhere and could double as a workshop, so that’d be useful. She’d see.
He was pretty sure these wires went together. It was blue and red, right? Or was it red and red? How had he done the last part, again?
“Papa, Papa, Papa!”
“Huh? What’s up, Sara?”
Sara, just four. She was pretty little still, but she was getting to be a real help with stuff around the house. You’d turn to look for a screwdriver or something and she’d be right there holding it. It was…
Well, it was pretty much the most adorable thing Ed had ever seen in his life, but he wasn’t going to come out and say that and start sounding exactly like Hughes.
“Papa,” she said in a worryingly awed tone of voice. “The sparks are blue.”
He turned with a sinking feeling, and noted that the sparks were, indeed, blue. Meaning that whichever way he’d wired those wires, it had been the wrong way. More unfortunate still, they were sparking directly above several cans of gasoline, one of which, for reasons unknown, he had left open.
“Your mother,” he said, seizing Sara, “is going to kill me.”
“What’re we gonna do?”
He bolted out the door with Sara in his arms (she was laughing; this was totally the kind of thing she went in for) and saw, without any real sense of surprise, that Mustang and Hawkeye were walking his way.
Obviously, right? Because they made it a habit to be there for all the most embarrassing moments in his life.
“Mustang, catch!” He tossed Sara to Mustang, who was closer (she shrieked with glee). Mustang caught her like a pro, turned away, hunched over, and ran for the hills, all in one smooth move. With Hawkeye one step behind him.
Soldiers, they were so well trained.
Ed hit the ground just as the shed blew.
When his ears stopped ringing, he looked up to find Mustang standing over him, clapping and looking like grim, humorless death. Ed sat up, frantic-father impulse kicking in, but everything was fine. Hawkeye had Sara, they were both okay. Sara was thrilled, too. Explosions and Aunt Riza all in the same day. Didn’t get much better than that.
Both the kids loved Aunt Riza. It was kind of scary.
“Papa,” Sara said. “Let’s do it again.”
“I think that was enough for one day, kid.”
She made a disappointed noise.
Ed stood up and dusted off. The shed…no, there was no shed. There was only smoking ground zero, and he was going to have to rebuild the whole damn thing. Maybe he should do some actual research on how to wire a building before he tried to wire it the next time. But hey, at least nothing was on fire. Mustang could be so useful.
“You know how to put out electrical fires?” Ed asked, impressed.
“Once the building exploded, it wasn’t just an electrical fire anymore,” Mustang pointed out, still with the grimness. “But in answer to your question, yes. I made sure to learn when you were around thirteen. I didn’t think it would come in handy when you were in your late twenties—”
“Mid-twenties,” Ed insisted. He was still closer to the middle than he was to the end. He was.
“Late twenties,” Mustang repeated. Bastard. “With a home and a family, Edward—”
“God, shut up, you’re not the wife of me. Speaking of whom, we’d better get in there so she can kill me with a wrench and get it out of her system. What’re you two doing here, anyway? Isn’t it our turn to visit you?”
“Assuming you survive the coming talk with your wife, I’ll tell you then.”
“It’s good to see you, Edward,” Hawkeye said, but she was giving him this disapproving look.
“Hey,” he replied, basically at a loss. “Good to see you, too. Nice timing.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. Sigh.
Oh, and there was Winry at the door, wiping automail oil off her hands with a rag, rivaling Mustang’s look of grim death. This was gonna be awesome. And Sig was peering around her legs and grinning. There was nothing like having your own crazy grin reflected right back at you.
“Boom,” Sig said. So young to be so eloquent.
“You’re a traitor to your gender, kid,” Ed informed him. “Winry, I admit I was wrong. I was wrong, I know it, please don’t kill me. I’ll rebuild the shed.”
“Yes,” she said. “You will. And you’ll do it on your own, because you’re clearly a danger to our children.”
“Hey, which one of us was it that picked Sig’s last science project?”
She stopped wiping her hands. “That was an accident.”
“This was an accident.”
“I didn’t think it would explode!”
“Neither did I.”
“Your home life,” Mustang murmured.
“You know what, Mustang? You can talk when you have kids. Until then, seriously, I don’t wanna hear it.”
Winry laughed at that, which was a good sign. If she was laughing, Ed was almost in the clear. She’d never liked that shed anyway—always said it wasn’t square. Which, looking back on it, was probably why she’d let Ed try to rewire it.
They made it to the kitchen table (which was where all the living went on in the house) without Ed getting brained with anything. So far so good. Then Winry dragged Hawkeye off to the workroom, babbling something enthusiastic about laser sights. So that left Ed and Mustang at the kitchen table with Sig, who was building…a metal thing of some kind. Sara, meanwhile, was wandering around being mildly destructive (nothing that couldn’t be fixed later), and occasionally poking at her brother or checking in with Ed.
“You owe me 520 cenz,” Mustang said.
“Oh yeah?” Ed leaned his elbows on the table. “Old man sick or something?”
“No, just retiring. He says he plans to enjoy his golden years.”
“Fair enough. He’s like older than my shitty excuse for a father was, isn’t he?”
“Don’t say the s-word!” sing-songed two childish voices. Mustang had the gall to laugh.
“My bad,” Ed told the kids. “You shut up,” he told Mustang. “So he retired and made you fuhrer? Congratulations, I guess.”
“You guess?” Mustang made a face at him. “Thank you for your unwavering support, Edward. But no. He made the position elective. Which is what you wanted, isn’t it?”
“So you’re running against somebody.” Well, that definitely made it more interesting. “Oh, hang on. Hang on. Are you running against General Armstrong?”
“Guy tells me the funniest sh—stuff I’ve heard all year, and then he says don’t laugh. Mustang, this is gonna be fantastic. Hey, Winry! Did you hear about this?”
She peered around the doorframe. “About the election?” she grinned the maniac’s grin Ed loved best. “Oh, I heard.”
“I had a question for both of you, actually,” Mustang said. Ed and Winry exchanged a look, and Winry came to sit beside Ed. Hawkeye sat beside Mustang.
“So ask,” Winry said, eyebrows raised.
Sara chose this moment to run between all their legs under the table while making a zooming noise. Kids. Keeping it in perspective.
“I’d like to talk to Alphonse, too,” Mustang said, “but he’s…”
Doing whatever the hell he wants. Which was exactly what he ought to be doing, as far as Ed was concerned. If Al wanted to prance all over the world with a couple of hulking chimeras, eating weird food and learning weird languages and sleeping with Xingian princesses, hey, he had the right. “We’ll tell him when he gets back. Spit it out, Mustang.”
“The current ambassador to Xing is retiring when Fuhrer President Grumman does. I’d like you and Alphonse to take over from him, if you’re willing.”
“Counting your chickens, huh?” Ed asked.
“General Armstrong will probably make you the same offer.”
Ed seriously doubted that, but it was nice Mustang thought so. He’d apparently never witnessed that bug-beneath-my-shoe look Armstrong liked to give Ed whenever she saw him. Or maybe he thought that was the only expression she had, since she looked at him the exact same way.
Ed turned to Winry, and she frowned back. Now was that a thoughtful frown or a no fucking way frown? Were ambassadorships covered in his 60 or 85 or whatever percent? He guessed he’d find out.
“Six months on, six months off,” he suggested. “Switching off with Al. But then we’d never see him.”
“We could do eight months and eight months with overlap,” Winry said, which meant it had been a thoughtful frown, after all. “That way we’d see more of him than we do now.”
“I could finish my paper,” Ed said. “I needed to do some research in the east, anyway.”
“There’s still no automail industry to speak of in Xing. Mei says it’s been a problem for Lan Fan. A lot of possibilities.”
“The kids could learn Xingian.”
At this point, they both knew they were going to do it. If Mustang got elected, God help them, Ed was going to be one half the Ambassador to Xing. Which would only work because they knew Ling so well; Ed, unlike Al, was not one of nature’s diplomats. He hoped everybody knew he was gonna be pissing off career politicians left, right, and center.
Well, of course they knew. Mustang and Hawkeye would’ve accounted for it and figured out how to turn it to their advantage; they were creepy that way.
So yeah, Ed and Winry both knew they’d do it. But they’d agreed a while back that it was a bad idea to give in to Mustang right away—it only encouraged him.
“Of course, I’d have to learn Xingian too,” Ed griped.
“So would I,” Winry chimed in. “And I’m busy. And I’d have to find someone to handle my customers while we’re away.”
“I suck at diplomacy, anyway, Mustang. What’re you thinking?”
“We’ll have to discuss it with Al. He may not like the idea.”
They scowled and crossed their arms in sync. Hawkeye had to look away so she wouldn’t laugh and blow the effect.
“I’m only asking you to think about it,” Mustang said. “We’ll discuss the details as they come up. After all, I may not be elected.”
He obviously didn’t believe that. Arrogant jerk, Ed almost hoped General Armstrong crushed him. “You said I’d get offered the job either way.”
“If I’m not elected, it won’t be my responsibility to convince you.”
Ed had to laugh at Mustang’s smirk. He was such an asshole.
“Do the other embassy kids go to Xingian schools or Amestrian schools?” Winry asked.
“Amestrian schools,” Hawkeye said. “But there’s been some discussion over the wisdom of that.”
Winry nodded thoughtfully.
“Why can’t they just go to school with Ling’s kids?” Ed asked. It was a reasonable question. He didn’t get why everybody in the room including Sig was staring at him like that. “What?”
“The imperial family is considered sacred, Edward,” Mustang said. “Imperial children are seen as deities.”
“Okay. But actually they’re just kids.”
“You know that, I know that, Ling Yao knows that. But you have to consider what it would look like to the rest of the country.”
“…Uh, no I don’t.”
“Diplomacy,” Winry said incredulously to Hawkeye. “Are you sure about this?”
“The Emperor has been heard to say that he misses bluntness.” Hawkeye was smiling, probably at Ling’s future pain. On account of Ed.
“Careful what you wish for,” Winry sighed.
“You think I can’t do it?” Ed asked, no messing around. Hawkeye and Mustang thought he could, but Winry knew him better. If she thought he couldn’t handle it…well, he really didn’t want to throw them into a fucking war by opening his mouth. A war with Ling, how stupid would that be?
“You can do it,” Winry said with offhand confidence. Ed grinned. “You’re not going to like it, though. And Ling’s going to like it even less.” She leaned into him and frowned at the table. “It’ll probably be good for him, though. And maybe for you.”
He put an arm around her waist and pulled her closer. “Thanks,” he said.
“I think for putting up with me, mainly.”
“Hmph.” She tugged gently away and pushed away from the table. “I want Riza to test out these sights. Then food?”
“You’re gonna be shooting at things out back?”
“Keep the kids inside. Riza, I want you to tell me if you think these will be more helpful for people who are really good, or for people who don’t know what they’re doing. I mean, if you’re good, will they be a help at all, or will they be pointless? If you’re terrible, will you be too terrible to use them?”
“Even for an expert, it would certainly help to have a visual cue, particularly if you’re using different models of weapons…”
They wandered off to Winry’s workroom, and Ed smiled after them. Child-rearing, politics, and shooting people, all in the same conversation. They were something else, those two.
Mustang was smiling after them too, or at least he was as much as his defective, smirk-prone face could do things like smile. The eternal puzzle of Mustang.
“Okay, explain it to me again,” Ed said. “Why haven’t you married her yet?”
Mustang scowled, which came way more naturally to that face. Sad, Mustang. Sad. “You sound like the fuhrer. And I think we’ve had this conversation every time I’ve seen you since you were—what? Eighteen?”
Ed shrugged. “I gotta keep trying. It’s this crazy hope I have that maybe someday you’ll give me a reason that makes some kind of sense. Or, hey, the same reason two times running. I’d settle for that.”
Mustang’s eyes slid over to Sig and stayed there, which caused Ed to turn and look at Sig, which meant that he noticed what it was, exactly, that Sig was working on.
“Yeah, I know what you just did there, you fu—freaking manipulative jerk,” he told Mustang. And then, “Sig, is that a rocket launcher?”
Sig blinked and gave him his own look of false innocence. “Maybe?”
“Kid, you don’t have a stash of rockets or grenades or anything, do you?”
“Um, I thought maybe I could make some.”
“Where’d you even see one of those things?”
“Mama has this magazine! And it has the coolest armor ever, and I’m gonna build some of my own someday an’ I’m gonna walk around in it an’ I’ll be taller than the shed—”
“There is no shed,” Mustang murmured. It should be illegal, the amount of shit people gave Ed in his own damn house.
“The new shed!” Sig went on with undimmed enthusiasm. You just couldn’t keep the kid down.
“Okay, that’s cool,” Ed said. “But why don’t you make armor parts, then, not rocket launchers? Rocket launchers are dangerous, and your mom and I are bad enough without help.”
Sig looked sadly down at his half-finished scary weapon. “But Papa—”
“When your mom gets back in, ask her if you can make something else out of it,” Ed suggested. “Something that won’t blow stuff up.” Winry and Hawkeye between them could probably come up with all kinds of cool, non-exploding, rocket launcher-shaped stuff. Right?
“Okayyy,” Sig said reluctantly. “…Can I work on it til then?”
Ed sighed. “Just don’t shoot anything with it,” he said. Sig went happily back to work.
“Does your daughter also build deadly weapons?” Mustang asked, amused.
“Nah, she’s the alchemist in the family. Hey, Sara, you want to show your Uncle Roy an array?”
She put her hands behind her back and decided to be randomly shy. Ed firmly reminded himself that he was not allowed to coo, swoon, or otherwise act like Hughes. “C’mon, he won’t laugh. I think he’s forgotten how.”
“I know how to laugh, Edward.”
“Yeah? Last time I saw you laugh, you were laughing at my pain, and I was fourteen. Face it, you have a problem.” He pulled Sara up onto his lap and put paper and pencil in front of her. She did fine as long as she didn’t think people were paying attention to her.
“I laughed today!”
Wow, this was apparently really getting to him. “At my pain. And that was technically a snicker, Mustang.”
“Maybe you just—”
Sara interrupted whatever lying argument was coming next by touching her hands to the array she’d drawn and making a thing.
It was a little paper daisy, each of the petals carefully formed. Way more detail than any little kid ought to be able to manage. At least she wasn’t putting veins in the leaves yet, cuz that would be out and out disturbing.
“Edward, this is…” Mustang trailed off and stared with his mouth open.
Ed’s daughter had made Roy Mustang speechless. It was hard work not to sound like Hughes.
“I know, right? She’s got so much control now, it makes you scared for the future.”
“She’s going to be worse than you.”
“Nah, she’s gonna be better.” Ed set her down on the floor. “I hear your Aunt Riza at the back door, kid. Go show her. But then you gotta come right back, because they’re playing with guns. You don’t want to get shot.” She nodded and ran off. “So, you staying for dinner?”
“We should head back—”
“By which I mean, you’re staying for dinner. Next train isn’t until eight, anyway.”
“I remember a time when you would have been pushing me out the door, Edward.”
“Everybody loves Hawkeye, see.” Okay, that was kind of a dick thing to say. “And I guess I’ve gotten used to having you around. Which is weird. I pretend it ain’t so.”
Mustang smirked and shook his head.
He and Hawkeye stayed for dinner. They all talked about random shit, who was up to what, had Havoc finally snapped and brained Breda, that kind of thing. Hawkeye helped Sig tinker with his former rocket launcher and Winry encouraged her. Mustang taught Sara arrays that he refused to let Ed see. Ed had a feeling he wasn’t going to like these arrays when he found out the hard way what they were. The food was obviously awesome.
Basically, it was a good time. Strangely good company. The kids didn’t scream, fight, or cry for the whole evening, which was magic in itself. It even made bearable the part where Hawkeye bullied them into coming to Central for some kind of, whatever, pre-election bullshit that Ed didn’t care about at all, not at all, not even a little.
He did care about getting shot by Hawkeye, though.
“Next month, then,” Ed said when they were all standing on the doorstep.
Mustang nodded and waved. The kids danced gleefully around Hawkeye, and Winry hugged her. Weird, no matter how many times Ed watched it happen. Hawkeye, for God’s sake. Hawkeye was not huggable.
The kids ran along to keep them company as far as the train station. Off they all went, abandoning Ed to his fate and not even looking back. Cruel, that’s what they were. And these jokers wanted him to help them run the country?
“So,” Winry said. “About the shed.”