Al sometimes wondered how he’d wound up in Rush Valley. Well, Ed was here, and Winry, too – with her finishing up her apprenticeship to Mr. Garfiel and studying for her journeyman license, she needed to be here in the South. It was okay; at least Paninya was here, and she was always up for teasing him into a better mood (“She likes you,” Winry said, then followed it up with, “hope Mei isn’t the jealous sort,” making Al blush and stammer). Whatever the reason, he was here, and had been for long enough to be known as kind of a fixture – one of ‘Winry’s boys’ - and therefore, tolerable.
But there were some things he was still getting used to, like that particular noise. That horrible, ear-grating sound. It sounded like a cat in heat. Or maybe one being skinned alive, Al wasn’t sure. He shuddered, sticking a finger in either of his ears. “What is that?” he half-shouted.
“Hmm?” Winry glanced up from her current project, squinting at him closely.
“That sound!” Al took a step in the direction it was coming from, pointing. “Is someone dying?”
“Oh. That.” Setting down a pair of needle nose pliers, Winry pulled her bandana off, wiping her face clean and shaking the piece of fabric out before tying it back over her head. “That’s Mr. Garfiel singing.”
“Seriously?” Al asked, horrified.
Winry nodded, her expression solemn.
“Winry, that’s not singing!” Al yelped. “That’s…that’s abuse of vocal cords! Worse, it’s abuse to my eardrums! How can you stand it?”
“Huh?” she asked, cocking her head.
“How. Can. You. Stand. It?!”
“Oh!” Winry pinched something in her ear, pulling out a wad of cotton and waving it him. “Ear plugs.” Promptly stuffing it back in, she pointed across the room with her pliers. “There’s more in that drawer. Feel free.”
Al scurried across the room, scrabbling in the indicated drawer. “Winry!” he whined. “There isn’t any more cotton!” Turning around, he managed to catch sight of an evil grin evaporating from her face. “You planned that! You’re just as evil as Brother always said! An abuser!” Al shook his finger at her.
“Huh?” Winry cupped her hand around her ear and grinned, letting him know she couldn’t really hear his complaints, either.
Well, fine. It wasn’t like he had to make any points hanging around here – that was Ed’s job. Al knew where to find Paninya, and had some money for a couple of cool drinks that she’d probably appreciate right about now. And maybe they’d continue that discussion they’d been having, and later, make a few noises of their own.
Maybe right outside of Winry’s door.