The knock came just as she was finally getting the three of them to settle, sending the boys into yet another fit of convulsive laughter. Her granddaughter stamped her foot and screamed at them, convinced they were making yet another joke at her expense, but more likely than not they were just giggling because, as they had been for the better part of the last fifeteen minutes. Pinako shook her head slightly and bit down on her pipette, momentarily exasperated. Life with the Elric brothers was never easy, and at the moment it had simply become a tad overwhelming.
The knock came again, more insistent this time; an insistent, sharp rap that practically ordered her to march. Pinako scowled and shuffled toward the shop door as deliberately as she thought she could get away with, not at all sorry for keeping her company waiting. Customers paid her for the right to wear Rockbell automail, not to lead her around like some dumb, rope-trick mule. It was that sort of attitude, people said, that had kept her out of the big-time. Well, to hell with that. She might live out in the boondocks, but at least she didn't spend all day with her lips glued to someone's ass.
"Yeah, I'm coming!" She growled through the door, fumbling her way through the deadbolt. Habit made her rise up on tip-toe and peer through the viewhole, and when she saw who was standing there, she was rather glad she had.
"Children, go upstairs and play." She called over her shoulder. "Right now."
More inexplicable giggling (even Winry this time). It would be nice if she were young enough to remember what that sort of insanity was like, but to her adult ears it was starting to grate.
"NOW!" She ordered, and the laughter stopped like a knife had sliced through it. The Elrics shared a brief look and then slunk away as one, still operating on that strange sibling-frequency that made strangers swear they were twins. Winry simply stared back at her, looking wide-eyed and remorseful.
"Gramma, I'm sorry—"
"Go on, hon, it's alright." Pinako urged, a little softer this time. "I didn't mean to snap...Gramma's just got some business to take care of, that's all."
Winry nodded but didn't look much happier. She trudged toward the staircase slowly, and only took the steps two at a time, as opposed to her usual boisterous three. Funny, how the child took things so seriously these days...like the whole world was ending if the boys had a fight. Pinako made a note to spend some more time with her, once she got a moment's break.
Not today, though. Today, she had the feeling, was just going to be one thing after another.
She undid the chain lock and pulled open the door, still chewing hard on the end of her pipe. The young man came in first, a freckle-faced brunette who was the spitting image of Charles from Kitterling Market. In fact, if she didn't know better, she could have sworn it was his son. He smiled and tipped his hat to her in a very suave fashion, but there was something about his expression that she didn't quite like, something about his grin that gave her room for pause. Too cheesy to be sincere, and far too many TEETH...he looked like he could swallow her whole, and possibly wanted to. She arched an eyebrow at him and the smile disappeared immediately, turned into a sullen expression that removed all trace of gentility from his face. A hired man, then. Possibly a thug. He swiveled to the left and took position by the door, as if guarding against non-existant robbers.
The lady entered then, wrapped in shawls and fine blankets; expensive looking pearls sewed discretely into her scarf. It was too hot out for gray, but the old woman was wearing it anyways, dressed head to toe in what was probably quite expensive wool. She inclined her head slightly, as if acknowledging some invisible fanfare, and swept across the threshold so smoothly that it rather appeared she was floating. Pinako swallowed hard and resisted the urge to stand up straighter. After all these years, aged as she was, the woman still had a talent for making an entrance.
The heady perfume was a little different now, Pinako noted, and there were hundreds of new wrinkles; but underneath it all she was still the same old Dante, with glittering eyes far too sharp to belong to a woman of such superficially advanced age. Then again, there was probably no one on earth who knew how old Dante really was—excepting one person, and he was long gone.
"What are you doing here?" she asked finally, trying to focus her eyes on anything but the woman's face, how the same it looked. "He's not here, if that's what you're wanting."
"No," Dante frowned. "I came to see you, actually..."
"Bullshit." Pinako spat. "Try the other one, it's got bells on."
She reached into her pocket and pulled out her tobac tin, more to annoy her visitor than anything else. Her hands were shaking a little as she loaded the barrel, but in the end she managed to light it without dropping any.
Dante sighed and shook her head, as Pinako knew she would.
"I see you still haven't given up that particular vice." She began, the old disapproval creeping into her voice.
"I see you haven't given up being a busy-body."
The young man snickered wickedly, and Dante shot him a venemous look.
"I do wish you wouldn't." The other woman continued. "It's so hard on a body."
"I don't know. It got rid of you, didn't it?"
Pinako inhaled deeply, held the smoke in until it burned.
"I know why you came, Dante, and he's not here. His wife is dead. There's nothing left."
"It's over, Dante." She said, and this time the smoke made her cough, heart yammering loudly in her chest.