Elysia Hughes was at lunch in school when she overheard it.
"I can't believe she works at the military hospital." It was an offhand comment one table over, nothing more. Elysia recognized the speaker's voice - she was the daughter of a cardiology doctor at Central General, and that was about all Elysia knew about the other girl.
Nonetheless, the comment struck her.
She turned around in her chair and asked, "Who?"
"Your friend, Dr. Rockbell."
Elysia was confused. "But she loves it there. And she's really good at what she does, too."
The girl blinked, and the friend she had been talking to looked away nervously. "You do know her parents died in the War, right?"
She nodded, and admitted, "We talk about our fathers all the time."
"Well, my cousins say they were killed by our military."
Elysia couldn't think clearly for a moment.
It fit. It shouldn't be possible, but it fit...
It can't have been Daddy, she reminded herself. Daddy was never in Ishbal, not even after the fighting ended.
It was bare comfort. Any of the veterans she knew, and there were many, could have...
No. She couldn't believe that of most of them. "Our military?"
"And Dad said it's true. So any one she treats could be the one, anyone at all who served in Ishbal. And she wanted to work there."
The conversation stuck with Elysia for days.
She'd never had to worry about such things herself. Her father's killer had been a monster - a real, literal monster - and had been destroyed.
Elysia had never met her father's killer. She never would.
But if what she'd been told was true, Winry did have to face that possibility. Constantly.
It was sick, Elysia finally decided a week later. Really sick.
And besides that, she realized, there was the chance that whoever gave the order to kill Winry's parents could also be one of her patients. If there had been orders, and Elysia suspected there had been.
Elysia didn't have to worry about anything like that, either. 'Uncle' Roy had taken care of that during the Revolution - he and the Elric brothers she only faintly remembered.
She had already understood that she was lucky to still have her mother, since Winry didn't, but this went far beyond that difference between them. Winry had never even stressed that Elysia still had a mother, and she certainly hadn't mentioned that her parents' killer could still be out there, much less around her.
Elysia thought it probably wasn't someone she herself knew. Her father's coworkers and military friends were all kind-hearted, even the gruff ones. Elysia couldn't believe any of them could have killed two doctors in cold blood.
And how could the kind man and woman Winry talked about have ever given a reason for someone to kill them in hot blood?
Winry and Elysia were sitting together in the Hughes' living room another week later, chatting about the world while Elysia's mother had some quiet time alone with a romance novel in the kitchen.
"Someone at school said something, and I'd like to ask you if it's true."
Winry didn't hesitate. "Go ahead."
Elysia felt bad about it, suddenly and intensely. The last five times she'd said that, it had been about guys and the things that happened between men and women.
(That was slightly inaccurate. The last two questions had been about things that happened between men and between women, respectively. But they had both been very much the same type of question.)
"Someone said your parents were killed by the military."
Winry nodded. "That's right. And it's not a big secret."
"She said something else, too."
"That any of your patients could be the one who did it. Of the war veterans, I mean."
Winry shook her head. "No. Not a chance. He's not ever going to be one of my patients."
It took a moment for what Winry'd said to really sink in. Elysia felt her eyes widen. "You know who did it?"
Winry smiled at her, very weakly. "Yes, I know. He's told me exactly what happened on that day. And he's told me that the monster who gave the orders is already dead, and has been for years."
She reached out and put a hand on Elysia's shoulder.
"And it was nothing at all like what happened to your father."
It had been one of the most stressful days Winry had endured that year.
She'd had to talk about knowing just who killed her parents without giving the younger woman the slightest hint that it was her beloved 'Uncle' Roy, best friend of her own murdered father.
Gracia saw her to the door after shooing Elysia off to her homework.
"I've got a train ticket to Risembool in the morning. I'd better get home and get some sleep if I'm going to meet Roy at the station on time."
Gracia relaxed a little. "It's nice of him to inspect your grandmother's fireplace every year. And do that other odd work for her."
She couldn't help but smile. "Yes, it is." She laughed a little, thinking of how things usually went between Roy and her grandmother - which was generally not at all how two people with their mutual past should act together. He's practically an honorary Rockbell by now, really.
"I couldn't help but overhear."
Winry nodded. She'd expected as much.
"You really know who did it?"
There was fear in Gracia's eyes. Winry hated that she'd put it there.
"Yes. He confessed. Both to me and to Grandmother."
"It's okay. Believe me, it's a lot less bad than I thought it was when I was Elysia's age."
Was I really only a few months older than her when I found out?
The world went a little blurry.
"Well, if you ever do need someone to talk to, please remember I'm here."
Winry gave her a firm hug. "Thank you."