It seemed like it was the millionth time she'd stepped off a train, but it was really only the 56th time. Just like all the other times, she had a mission statement in her suitcase, but she also had a scrap of paper in her pocket ? "He was born there", were the only four words written on it.
Her commanding officer had given it to her as an afterthought, and stated firmly that she was NOT giving Alicia this mission because she was curious about Edward Elric, but because she was the only State Alchemist open at the moment.
For a while, she wandered around what passed for a town (basically a grocery store and a tools store), and then started walking. Halfway, there was a kindly farmer who spotted her lost look (and her uniform), and let her ride on the back of his horse drawn wagon. She grew rather quiet and relaxed as the man stopped at homes and stores making deliveries. After a little while, she fell asleep.
When she awoke, it was to the farmer's wrinkled face, smiling apologetically. "It's almost sunset, miss, and I didn't really know where you were going, so I brought you to Winry's, if you're here for information, she's the one to ask, as she still gets mail from Central these days. I think she'll also let you stay there for tonight, if she hasn't got other guests, and there's always an inn down the road."
She gave a smile to him in return and got off, her suitcase suddenly heavy in her hand. She wasn't sure if Winry was the first or last name of the owner of the house, a two-story with a balcony, painted tan or perhaps something lighter. She turned back to wave at the nice farmer, and then knocked on the door.
After what seemed like a long transition, it opened. And out stared the face of?
The man started, brown eyes going wide. "I'm sorry — are you looking for Edward Elric?" He looked over his shoulder, where a patter of steps announced the arrival of his wife. "You might want to ask Winry here."
Heart still beating double-time and mind whirling around questions without answers, she was quickly hustled in, where the blonde woman with blue eyes (strong eyes, Alicia noticed — definitely independent and strong, and probably no nonsense) slammed an iron kettle on the stove and an extra bowl on the table. "I'm sorry, we were about to eat. You're welcome to join us."
Alicia's eyes jumped away from the man and back to her, and then gave a nervous glance back to the man, who was now cutting carrots and looking frightened at the continued stare Alicia was giving him.
Winry laughed, and added, "No, he's not Edward Elric." Alicia's head spun up to look at her, and caught a flash of...something...before Winry was smiling again. "Notice his eyes, Miss Hughes? They're brown. Edward had gold."
Dinner was a silent affair. Alicia did not stare at the man any longer, though her mind still whirled. After dinner, she stared pointedly at her empty plate until her mind came up with a suggestion to put it in the sink. But she was saved from getting up as the man took it, with a small, nice smile that was definitely not Edward Elric's. Winry watched from across the table, her smile sad.
I apologize. You're not the first one to point at my husband, or the first one to salute to him. I don't think he was ready for all the mistaking he'd get when he married me. So many people think he's Edward, even after all these years; the military kept it quiet that he died, but the news seeped out into the public after a while. There've been so many different accounts of how he died that I've given up trying to keep them all straight in my head. I'm sure Edward would have had a grand time imagining the many deaths he died by during the war. Still, though, a lot of people think he's still alive, in hiding somewhere, keeping it down low. The war left everyone desperate for some sort of savior, some sort of hero — but Edward's time was already up.
I suppose the reason he looks like Edward is one of the reasons I married him. But even more than that, he's a good man, and far more agreeable than Edward ever was, and I knew he'd take care of me. Edward, from the moment he heard that Roy Mustang talking about him becoming a State Alchemist, he had his heart set on it. Not only does it let him get out of these backwater boonies, he could also search for the Philosopher's Stone. This little place didn't suit him even from the beginning; he needed more excitement than this.
Perhaps Alphonse could have stayed if the bond between the brothers hadn't been as strong as it had been...but that's all wishful thinking now. I still don't know what to make of their passing — sometimes I feel as if I could forget them for leaving me here in Rizen Pool, and other times I can't do anything but think about how we used to be, playing together all the time. One way or the other, all of us in this community haven't ever forgotten how such a famous person came from here.
Tea? Here's a cup.
I think Edward was just destined for larger things. It was only Alphonse's misfortune that he followed Edward wherever he went, which included the war. But maybe I could be wrong; perhaps Alphonse would have been too antsy to stay in Rizen Pool either. And there was no other way he could regain his body without his brother's help — Alphonse was smart by himself, but it would have been faster and more effective if he went with Edward, which he did.
I think it was something unsaid between the two of them that they would always stick with each other. They were each other's favorite playmates when they were young, so I guess it wasn't surprising that Alphonse followed Edward into the army, even if he was never really enlisted. And of course, Roy Mustang turned a blind eye to Edward's constant escort.
Auntie Pinako and I, we both knew that Edward had made up his mind. Still, I didn't think he'd change that much. There was an incident where he solved the case of this serial killer who'd been going around killing girls; well, that man had kidnapped me, and Edward had come after me alone. It might sound rather fairy-tale like, where a handsome knight comes to rescue a damsel in distress ? but it wasn't like that at all. Ed was completely terrified. He'd never been on a mission, and this one wasn't even assigned to him. He'd never had to fight for his life before ? alchemy had always been a game to him and Alphonse. And that was when I realized he'd changed, and that the distance between us would only become greater with time.
He saw me off at the train station, telling me that he could never come back and live at Rizen Pool, but a little part of me told me that already. I knew that I could never reach him again. That life-threatening situation made him see that he might have just doomed himself by becoming a State Alchemist, because he would probably be fighting for his life many times in the future.
Still, I wrote them as much as I could, and worried about them even though that wouldn't help them at all. Edward, and Alphonse would come to experience the same danger by following his brother, were simply different now. Un-normal. Once in a while there'd be an incredibly predatory look in his eyes — not determination, but something animalistically instinctual. In his searching for the Philosopher's Stone, he had put a wall between him and me, because he was doing something that I could never help him with, as much as I wanted to. He was going somewhere I couldn't follow.
All I could do was patch him up when he came to me, or when he called for repairs because he couldn't move from where he was. He was getting into trouble all the time because of his missions, though that wasn't his fault. I understood that there was no other way to give Alphonse back his body but to find the Philosopher's Stone, and to take the opportunity to become a State Alchemist.
That doesn't make it any more comforting that I ended up not being able to talk to them because they were simply too different, or that I couldn't do anything but stand aside and let them do what they wanted, or that they died far away from here. I guess it was inevitable — but that doesn't make me any less remorseful.
In the end, it was all business between us. And once in a while, we'd mention something we used to do when we were kids, and we'd get all nostalgic together, but we all knew Edward was no child, and that he couldn't spend the rest of his days reminiscing when he had his purpose to fulfill. I just wasn't part of the picture anymore — I guess it hurt that I pushed out so fast and suddenly, and it didn't help that I was rather hurt in the process. In hindsight, it was inevitable. But Edward's always been so special among regular, boring people like me that you never quite forget him after you've met him. I guess that's why my husband is my husband today. More tea? I may only be a rural automail mechanic, but I CAN do some house chores.
I guess I wasn't surprised when the two of them died. Edward's search for the Philosopher's Stone had taken him to the army, and then to all that business with Scar and the Homunculus, then the Miner's Strike, and then off to war. Heh, I guess it was kind of sweet for Alphonse to follow him the entire time, but I think Alphonse wanted to be there when his brother found the Stone for him.
But maybe it was also desperation, because they were the last ones in their family, and Alphonse wanted something familiar, even if they were constantly going to unfamiliar places. The bond between them was strong, even when Alphonse doubted his brother's intentions. It was strange; during that time, Alphonse automatically assumed he was worse than anyone else because he had no body — I thought that was very true, even though I didn't want to admit it to him or to myself or to Edward, who probably would have had a fit and told me to never come back.
It's not that way, though, because when you look at it, a human is only worth what he does, and what makes him do things? Emotions, right? And Alphonse never lost feeling emotions even when he was stuck in that suit of armor. All the way to the end, he never stopped feeling — so, to me, he was always human.
So why are you here? I mean, people have come here to find out what kind of circumstances Ed grew up in, but you don't seem that way...I see. That's sad, because Edward probably would have been glad to hear that his father's been confirmed dead. Heh, he'd want to dance on that man's grave, he never liked Hohenheim for leaving the family. Yes, of course we'll pass the news on...