"Brother," Alphonse said, voice soft with horror, "I think that Winry's going to kill you."

And if Ed were honest with himself, he would admit that it presented a fairly good possibility—because the girl had her tools with her, and she would be returning soon with the part for an invention that had just half-exploded.

But the Fullmetal Alchemist most certainly was not willing to acknowledge that a slow death by wrench was as terrifying as he actually found it. And so the boy scowled instead, folded his arms over his chest, and attempted to look annoyed. "Over what? Not my fault her crappy boat-thing blows up when you touch it. If anything, I ought to ask her what she planned on doing with it." Golden eyes narrowed, Ed waved his flesh arm for emphasis. "I mean, it's fine for me to get the shit burned out of me, but what if it'd happened to Elysia?"

"You ought to have more faith in Winry, brother," Al pointed out carefully. "She did say she hadn't finished."

"Yeah, well—"

"And that we shouldn't touch it before she got back." Bronze eyes searched the older boy's face, and Ed sighed, slumping in defeat.

"Alright, fine—I fucked up Elysia's birthday present." The boy's gaze trailed to the section of the lake some fifteen feet out, where the small toy vessel guttered and sparked, turning slowly in a circle. "But it can't be that hard to fix, right?"

"Brother, no." The look on Alphonse's face was anxious this time; since he'd regained his body, the younger Elric had needed to relearn precisely how painful it was to get on Winry's bad side, and the newly-instilled fear was intervening on his brother's behalf. "Don't you remember what happened last time you tried to transmute something of Winry's?"

"Yeah, well—" Absently, Ed cast about for something to use, grinned wildly when his gaze settled upon the reeds that grew near the edge of the lake. "—this time, she won't find out. I'll just make it look how it did before and leave the gears alone."

Hands came together, one metal and one flesh, and an instant later the plants were enveloped in a shivery burst of blue-white lightning. They slithered apart, wove together, flattened, lengthened… stopped.

"There," Edward crowed, and flashed a toothy grin.

Al looked dubiously at the makeshift bridge that now stretched across the water; it was supported by the stalks that rose from the lake's surface, presumably still attached in the mud below. "…are you sure it'll hold you?"

"Al, really," the boy replied, and stepped up onto the edge of the starchy green structure. "I made a human body. I think I can handle a bridge."

Almost, he was right.

Because he'd reached the little toy boat and snatched it up in one hand, was just turning to come back when the plants finally gave with a tear under the weight of his automail leg.

Alphonse heard the yelp from the shore, eyes growing huge at the spray of water that flew up as the older boy hit the surface and sank.

The water where he'd fallen sloshed uneasily before smoothing itself out, making a glassy surface broken only by the reeds.

And bubbles. Which were rising somewhat rapidly.

"Brother!" Al called, panic in the word—because whatever other impossibilities the Fullmetal Alchemist could achieve, he could most certainly not swim with the weight of two steel limbs.

A second more and the younger boy had waded in, gulped a breath of air, and ducked under.

"Guh," Ed declared weakly, and flopped backwards onto the grass, clothes streaming.

"Are you sure you're alright, brother?" Alphonse was asking again. Not that it was entirely necessary to pet the other boy's hair as he said it, but Ed certainly didn't seem to be complaining.

"You're looking at a doomed man," came the response, tone one of resigned martyrdom. "Doomed. That boat's at the bottom of the lake collecting mud, Al."

"Well, she won't kill you until tomorrow, at least," the younger boy pointed out helpfully. "By the time she gets back, the shops will all be closed, and I'm sure she'll make you pay for the parts you ruined first."

"Not helping," Ed accused, opening a single golden eye to peer up at his brother's face.

But Al was pushing on regardless, expression transforming to an interesting mixture of warmth and mischief that stirred something low in his Ed's belly. "Besides, brother," the boy said, tone coy. "Tomorrow's your birthday, too. And I have to give you your present."

"Oh?" The other eye opened to join the first, and an eyebrow climbed toward Ed's scalp, showing an interest. "And what might that be?"

Al laughed softly. "Can't ruin the surprise," he answered, tone light.

"Tease." And the smaller boy stuck his tongue out—started slightly when Al took it as an invitation to assault him with the feel of warm lips and a wet, wanting mouth.

By the time they pulled apart, Ed's breathing had crept just a hair faster.

"But I will say," Al told him quietly, and with just a hint of promise. "That I went food shopping. And bought strawberries."

Whatever conclusion Ed might have drawn from that was severed neatly in two, however, by the sound of Winry's exasperated tone making its way toward them. "Honestly, you two, I leave for half an hour and you're all over ea—"

The silence began abruptly, and it lasted for the space of five seconds. During that time, both boys reflected that there really was a lot they'd wanted to live for.

"Where," Winry asked carefully, voice shaking with rage. "Is the boat?"

Elysia's mommy had been teaching her about something called ‘etiquette'.

And even if she didn't understand it completely, the child knew enough to realize that it would've been a bad question to ask—the sort of question that made her mommy turn red a little, and laugh.

But Uncle Ed and Uncle Al were stronger than anyone else she knew—and Elysia couldn't help but wonder. So she asked them anyway—asked if it was a really big fight, and what the man that beat them up looked like.

And then Elysia learned that not only her mommy turned red when she asked not-etiquette questions; her uncles did, too.

What she didn't understand was why Aunt Winry only smiled bigger and leaned down to give her a birthday hug.