“Hey, Winry!” Edward shouted, as he and Alphonse galloped up the Rockbells’ front steps with newly-transmuted tin animals in hand. “Come see what we made!”
The door promptly banged open, and Winry appeared—but she didn’t look excited. Actually, she looked a little angry.
“Shh, quiet!” she snapped. “We’ve got a new patient sleeping upstairs!”
The admonishment rankled a scowl out of Ed, but Al was sobered by the news. “Is it anybody from the village?”
Winry’s gaze fell. “It’s… It’s Mr. Duncan. They brought him back from the East this morning.”
Both brothers winced. Jobe Duncan had gone off to fight in Ishbal several months earlier, but in civilian life, he ran the local hardware store. As such, he was a very close acquaintance of the Rockbells. It was no wonder Winry was more upset about their patient than usual.
Ed raised his glance sharply from his folded arms. “So what is it this time?”
“His right leg,” Winry murmured. “He got a bad infection. We’ve gotta make sure he’s over it before Granny starts her work on him.”
As if in response to being mentioned, Pinako’s voice called from upstairs, and Winry shrugged ruefully. “I can’t come play now. I’ve gotta help Granny. See you later.”
She disappeared into the house, and the brothers looked at each other somberly.
It wasn’t the first time this had happened. Whenever a new patient came from the front lines, Winry was too busy to play. Too busy trying to be just like her mom and dad and grandmother.
She was only a kid, like them. Why wouldn’t she act like it?
And Edward was suddenly angry. Not at her, exactly… but at the work that was more important to her than himself and Al.
“Stupid automail.” Ed turned from the door, kicking at the wooden boards of the porch. “Stupid metal arms and legs. Why does anybody want ’em, anyway? They’re not even real.”
A concerned look crossed Al’s face as he followed Ed down the steps. “But Aunt Pinako says it helps people get back their normal lives again. That’s a good thing, right?”
“What’s normal about dragging around a big chunk of metal? It’s just one step above a crutch. It can’t feel anything. It’s fake.”
At the bottom of the steps, Ed abruptly paused.
“You know, if automail keeps Winry too busy to play with us… maybe we’ll just have to put her out of business.”
Al’s eyes widened anxiously. “Huh?”
“Listen, we both know alchemy could do anything—if grownups were just smart enough to figure out how to use it. I’ll bet it could even give people back arms and legs of real flesh and blood, instead of Pinako’s fake metal junk.” Ed set his jaw fiercely and started off across the grass, heading for their own house. “Maybe someday, when we’ve learned enough, we’ll be the ones to prove it’s possible.”
The younger Elric shivered slightly. “I dunno, Ed. Wouldn’t that be human transmutation? Dad’s books all say—”
“You can’t always believe what you read in books. I told you, grownups will say things can’t be done just because they don’t know how… But I do wanna read those biological alchemy books on the top shelf in the study now.”
“But Mom told us not to mess with those!”
“Come on, it’ll be fine. She won’t know. ” Ed ruffled Al’s hair, giving him a confident smile. “I’m just curious anyway. It can’t hurt to learn more about it. Wouldn’t it be great if we discovered how to do something new with alchemy—something that would really help people?”
Al bit his lip. “I guess…”
“That’s right. And someday, we’ll show Winry she’s just wasting her time with nuts and bolts.” Ed strode ahead of Al, his golden eyes shining with hot-blooded determination.
“I’ll tell you one thing, Al… I’d never let ’em stick one of those fake arms or legs on me. Not in a million years…”
© 2010 Jordanna Morgan