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Only Divine Right

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     It's not loneliness that causes her to pull out the old photo album. Pinako Rockbell does not get lonely, not when there are people tramping into and out of the house day in and day out for automail maintenance. No, it's boredom that leads her to tug the old bound book from the shelf and flip it open after lunch.

      The book starts during her early life at Rush Valley – any pictures of her as a child were still at her mother's house when the old woman passed on herself and Pinako thinks the boxes are shoved in the attic somewhere – and the first few pages of pictures cover a relatively long period of months: one of her and the customer who received the honor of bearing her first custom automail, one of her and her master when he released her from her apprenticeship, an obligatory one of her and her mother when the woman came out for the short ceremony. It's only a couple pages in before he appears.

      Her and Hohenheim, sitting around the bar, only a couple weeks after they'd met. It seems funny now, when she looks back, at the way her life had taken off once she'd met him; she'd settled nicely into her business, had a partner who swore at every opportunity he was moving to the mountains to escape her, had a few friends who thought a woman doing automail something of a novelty to have around, but it wasn't until Hohenheim came into her life that she'd really started to live.

      She was outgoing, but he attracted people naturally. She was an automail expert, but he was an expert in practically everything else. She was growing more confident and (in the eyes of several other mechanics) prettier every day, but he… stayed the same.

      That had been a fun period of her life; she made a name for herself, had done her father's name proud by making half of Rush Valley learn to fear it.

      It had been inevitable that things had slowed down – she met her future husband, and whether it was rebellion or passion that had led to her following him back to the little town of Risembool, she'll never know, but she moved, and their automail prospered, and she was happy, being settled. She and Hohenheim mostly lost touch; he came to the wedding and drifted off again, keeping in touch with the occasional letter when he could track down a stamp. Urey had been born not long after, and Hohenheim had sent several gifts for the boy even as her letter with pictures of her son had been returned due to the vacancy of the address.

      He reappeared after her husband's death, months after the funeral was over and the mourners all gone and the house large and seemingly empty. Urey had been at school at the time and Pinako herself hadn't been doing much besides automail and keeping the house.

      And Hohenheim had come up the long walk and tapped on the door, and there he was, that old familiar face, and just like that he not only neatly reinserted himself into her life, he provided that same spark as before. Suddenly Urey was bringing a girl home and there was a wedding to plan and people to look after again – and somewhere along the line Hohenheim had been introduced to the Elric girl and Pinako had also been expecting what could be considered her first grandchild. All in the span of several years. All as soon as he had returned to her.

      She doesn't like to think about what had happened when he'd left again. Doesn't like to think about the guilt (for helping Hohenheim meet Trisha) and the curiosity (what had she missed?) she's felt for years, only exacerbated as Trisha grew frail and the boys took up alchemy.

      It's hard not to think about it though, as she flips through the album and gazes at the pictures of Ed and Al – fully flesh and bright, handsome little boys, who look exactly like their father. Little boys who – once they get through this journey; if there's anything Pinako is sure of anymore it's that they'll be successful – will grow up to be bright and handsome young men, and then what? She has to wonder: Hohenheim had to have been a child once, and Ed and Al are just as mixed up in that alchemy as he is. Will Winry grow grey and wrinkled and hunched while Ed and Al stay young and golden? Will they inspire that same spark, changing other people's lives while they stay the same?

      She wonders if she should warn Winry before dismissing the idea. The girl will shrug away the concerns the same as Pinako had; she's never turned Hohenheim away, not once in all the years she's known him, and she couldn't now because she still owes him Trisha's message.

      That's when Den starts to growl and the door opens, and standing there like she herself had summoned him, is Hohenheim.

      "Pinako," he says, the same perplexed tone she knows is his forte, that she knows he uses to win people over, "Where has my house gone?"

      And Pinako can't help wondering what's going to happen now.