Chapter 1: Parting Gift
First Lt. Riza Hawkeye was standing outside Colonel Roy Mustang's office. There had been no sound coming from inside for a while and she was beginning to worry that maybe he and one of the other occupants in the room had gotten into a fight and killed each other. And, with their background, it wouldn't surprise her.
She still didn't get what was so important. Why had the Colonel summoned them? She wouldn't ask; it wasn't her place to. Still...she was a bit curious. He had dismissed her, saying it was nothing. But they had been so far away. Perhaps another mission? Edward Elric and his brother Al were doing a good job so far with the missions the Flame Alchemist had given them. Removing the high priest from Lior who had been using the people. Stopping the red water in Xerotime.
She just hoped that whatever the Colonel had planned was going to be good for them, as it usually was. She had faith in her commander, no matter how much of a pain he could be sometimes.
Still...it was a little too silent in there. Perhaps she should politely check in...?
She barely moved a muscle when a voice boomed above all of the other noise in Headquarters, making some stop in their tracks and turn their heads toward it.
"YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?!"
Lt. Hawkeye sighed, half in relief, half in annoyance.
At least they didn't kill each other.
Colonel Roy Mustang hid a smile as the blond alchemist in front of him shouted at him. He waited until the teen stopped venting, and then spoke.
"I want you to go on vacation."
"YOU HAD ME COME SIXTY MILES TO TELL ME I LOOK LIKE I NEED A VACATION?!"
Colonel Mustang leaned back in his chair, smirking, folding his hands on top of his desk. He could practically see the vein popping out of the kid's head. He knew this was going to be tough, but he still knew what methods of persuasion worked best.
"I don't think you understand, Full Metal," he started. "I didn't say you looked like you need a vacation. I'm ordering you to."
He could see Ed contemplating on whether to go against his orders. It wouldn't be the first time. Thankfully, Al spoke up.
"Where is it?" the boy in the suit of armor asked, curiosity in his voice. Ed gave him a sideways glare.
Colonel Mustang smirked at him. Hook, line and sinker. "Kedalton. All expenses paid."
That got both of the young Elrics' attention. Kedalton was a small yet beautiful town. Peaceful, a paradise, with every luxury imaginable. Also, it was once a large part of alchemical history and offered some mystery as to exactly what kind of research and discoveries were made in that small town. However, not many people ever visited Kedalton; it was so far from any town the train ride could cost thousands, which most could not afford.
He could see the spark in the older Elric's eyes at the mention of the town, but also saw the internal battle in his eyes.
Finally, the boy shook his head. "We can't right now. We have our mission. We can take a vacation later."
"You do realize that this is a direct order?" asked the Colonel. "And who knows, you might find an ancient alchemical secret to growing taller."
Immediately, Edward's face got red with anger. "WHO'RE YOU CALLING AN ANT YOU WANT TO STEP ON?!"
"He didn't say that, Brother!" Al said. A slight pause, then he continued. "Nii-san, we might find something there about the Philosopher's Stone. It is worth going there."
Ed sighed. The Colonel could tell he was giving in, albeit reluctantly. "Thanks for siding with Colonel McSparky, Al," the fifteen-year-old muttered through gritted teeth. Again, he offered a sigh, before meeting the Flame Alchemist's eyes.
"Fine, give me the tickets."
Mustang smirked again, before sliding a small stack of tickets toward him. Ed swiped it from him, smiling widely. He knew that Full Metal would be happy to go to the town. Like a kid in a candy store. No, more like owning the candy store.
"Thank you, Colonel Mustang, I'll be sure to send you a postcard and--"
"That's not all, Full Metal," Roy started, causing confusion on both brothers' part.
He smirked. "Bring your mechanic along with you."
"Winry?" Al asked, confused.
He nodded. "I did give you a third ticket."
"Why?" Ed asked, looking down, as if checking to make sure he was not getting pranked.
"You three need a break. And, if you're wondering, it was an order as well. Besides, you'll never know what will happen--"
"ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT I WILL MAKE A MOVE ON MY CHILDHOOD FRIEND?!"
"He didn't say that, Brother."
Colonel Mustang smirked again. "Interesting. You get just as upset when someone mentions your mechanic as you do when someone mentions your height. Let me know how it goes, Full Metal, and be sure to...fill me on on the details."
And before the blonde could get the chance to retaliate the innuendo (and most likely make a mess of the office) his younger brother dragged him out of the room, kicking and screaming, with a long string of profanities trailing behind.
He looked to his 2IC standing outside the door, guarding it, who glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Their eyes met.
"Come in, First Lieutenant," he told her, and she was almost immediately inside the room, the door closed. He handed her a slip of paper.
"Here. Do not under any circumstances let anyone know about this, understood?"
"Yes, sir," the female replied.
It was good to have such a loyal subordinate, and a loyal friend.
The train ride was to be long. After playing cards with Al (and losing each time since Al caught onto his cheating) for a good two hours, Ed leaned back, looking out the window.
He rested his metal elbow on the window ledge, resting his chin on the metal gloved fingers. His eyes clouded over as he thought of the previous mission. The battle in Laboratory 5 was, on their part, reckless. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Ed knew that they really shouldn't've gone. But, nonetheless, he had to find out...and he did.
He was closer than ever to finding the Philosopher's Stone.
And here they were going on vacation.
Still, he supposed it wouldn't hurt to go to Kedalton. After all, it was once a great place of alchemical research. Perhaps there was something of use to them, pertaining to the Philosopher's Stone there. Maybe that was Mustang's intention after all to send them. Still...why was Winry's coming with them so important? Besides the Colonel's implications (and downright immature ones) there had to be a reason for her to come.
A small pressure on his shoulder brought him out of his trance. He looked to his left, and saw a mess of blond hair on his shoulder. Winry sighed as her eyes closed, beginning to fall into a peaceful slumber. Ed watched her, noting her breathing becoming heavier as she succumbed to sleep.
Somewhere in his mind, he wanted to move a strand of her hair gently behind her ear. But he wouldn't. He would keep telling himself the reason was that it was ludicrous to even think such things, and that Mustang's suggestions had gotten the best of his teenage hormones, but really, somwhere in the back of his mind and deep down in his heart he knew he didn't want to for fear of waking her or worse making her move away from him.
Instead, he turned back out the window, resuming his thought. Who was he kidding, anyway? She needed a vacation as much as he did. Besides, it would be one less 'mission' she would worry over. He knew that she worried over the boys every day, and he wished that he could take her with them to stop her from worrying. But of course, those feelings were rivalled (and often outmatched) by the feeling of just wanting to keep her safe. He could never put her in danger again.
That whole fiasco years ago with Barry the Chopper made him realize just how dangerous this was, and that the closer one was to Ed, the farther they should be from him.
But, while the boys were off doing research, it would be nice for her to actually get a vacation. Perhaps there were enough stores that she could do her shopping...? He inwardly cringed at how expensive it would've been had the boys taken her there (of course, he would never stay mad at her, and he would always buy whatever for her anyway) but was then reminded that it was all expenses paid.
He remembered their last conversation, when he had made the phone call from his hotel shortly after the conversation with Mustang.
"Hello?" answered the familiar blonde, a loud ensemble of noises in the background.
"Winry? It's Ed--"
"DON'T TELL ME YOU'VE BROKEN YOUR AUTO-MAIL AGAIN, EDWARD!" the girl shouted at him on the phone.
He let out a sigh. He wished he had. At least, for the moment.
"No, no, it's not that, Win. It's not broken! In fact, it's as good as new!" he told her, trying the next tactic: flattery.
He examined a small dent from his last fight. All right, so he lied. Maybe not as good as new, but, still...
"Good as new, huh? I don't believe it."
"No, no, promise! I haven't gotten into a single fight since last time," he lied.
"So, what is it this time, Ed?" the blonde asked, irritation and frustration at being inturrupted at some important task evident in her voice.
"Well, I was thinking--"
"Don't hurt yourself--"
"That maybe...I dunno, you could use a little vacation. Relax a little, you know?"
"Right now? Ed, you're not serious--"
"Course I am. Come on. All expenses paid." Hook, line and sinker, he thought.
"I don't know..."
"Is that your boyfriend, Miss Rockbell?" asked a male voice.
"HE IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND AND NEVER WILL BE AND IF YOU ASK THAT ONE MORE TIME, I WILL STICK THIS SO FAR UP YOUR--"
"Okay, okay...does that mean you're single?" asked the man.
"NOW IS NOT THE TIME OR PLACE FOR THAT!" Winry shouted at him, and Ed could hear a loud bang. Perhaps a wrench to the head? He was lucky that it was not him on the table right now.
"Winry...?" Ed asked, cautiously when there was silence on the line.
"..." A sigh from her. "Where is it?"
"All the way out there?" he heard her skepticism in her voice, but behind that a wide smile. "All right, fine. When and where are we meeting?"
"Head to Central at the next train. I'll be there." Ed told her, happy that the conversation had gone so smoothly...
"I don't think I'll be able to see you in the crowd," Winry teased.
"WHO'RE CALLING A PEA YOU CAN'T SEE WITH A TELESCOPE?!"
"I didn't say that," she laughed. Promptly, they said their goodbyes to meet up in Central Train Station.
The train came to a stop, waking Ed. He had not realized he had fallen asleep. Checking his watch, he saw that another two hours had passed by.
The scenery outside the window was a large plain of grass. Was this Kedalton?
Wherever it was, they had finally arrived.
He looked over to the blonde resting on his shoulder. She was sleeping so peacefully. He didn't want to wake her, could bear the thought of stirring her from her sleep. He was about to when he felt something moving in his real hand. Something squirming and warm.
He looked down in alarm, and saw that it was Winry's hand in his, their fingers intertwined. When had that happened?
He smiled at the scene. It was so comfortable, the two of them. Though they were only childhood friends, they fit together so well. He didn't want to break away from this, and a part of him loved the warmth of her hand in his.
He used his other arm to do what he had wanted to before, to bring it and gently wake her by brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.
However, as he moved to try to shift to do it, the turn made Winry crash into his chest, uncomfortably as the fall didn't break her slumber.
Coming to his senses, Ed grabbed her firmly by the shoulders and pushed her back, gently shaking her awake. Her eyes slitted open, fluttering before looking at him.
"We're here," he told her, and then stood up. Al was already getting some of their luggage (mostly Winry's) from the overhead compartment nearby. Ed was glad that his little brother had not witnessed the scene, since Al would tease Ed later.
He walked over, followed by Winry as they walked out the door. There were no more passengers besides the three, and the train had to make an extra journey to the town of Kedalton since no one ever really came all the way out there.
The three walked for a few minutes through the grass, until finally they approached a large valley. Looking down, they saw a beautiful sight.
It was a paradise, that was for sure. A small town, bustling with people. It had large buildings, small buildings, with many roads. Trees surrounded the outskirts of the town in a forest, almost as if protecting it. A beautiful river ran behind it, small enough to be theirs.
Walking down the valley, they saw some people looking at them, curiously. They looked at them the same way the people had looked at Ed and Al in the Youswell Mine--at least, before the people there found out that Ed was a State Alchemist.
"We have tourists!" shouted one little boy estatically, and after that many people were paying even more attention to them.
One person in particular, however, noticed the chain sticking out of Ed's pocket.
"Hi, there," one man started, cheerily. "Welcome to Kedalton. What can we do for you?"
"Where's a hotel?" Edward asked. "We've had a very long trip here."
"I'm sure," the man agreed. "Hotel's right about...there. Two blocks ahead, three buildings to the right. Enjoy your stay here."
"Thank you," Al said as Edward started going toward the Hotel and Winry followed after him. He bowed before catching up to the two.
As they headed for the hotel, however, Winry called out. "Ed, look out!"
Ed had not known what had happened. He turned around, though, and saw a masked hooded person, wearing all black.
The person laughed, behind their cover, and held up something silver and shiny.
"COME BACK HERE WITH THAT!" Ed shouted, chasing after the person.
The person just laughed. "You'll have to catch me first."
And with that, they ran off, Ed right on their heels. A vacation, now an adventure.
A/N: well, that's that. It's not my best, but it'll get better. I promise.