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30 June 2008 @ 11:44 pm
Divergence Redux: Porcelain  
Title: Porcelain
Author: Lyra
Rating:
PG
Pairing:
Hints of past Winry/Edward, Winry/Other
Spoilers: End of Conqueror of Shambala
Synopsis:
Nearly twenty years after the disappearance of the Elric brothers, the military catches up with Winry Rockbell.

Author's Notes: This story is a part of the Divergence universe, though familiarity with Divergence is not necessary. Thank you to those who have wanted to know a little bit of how Winry's life progressed while Edward found Sara, and thank you to evil_little_dog and cornerofmadness for their stalwart support as I dragged each reluctant word out of Winry.

Porcelain

It was an oppressively hot day even by Rush Valley standards, when even the most dedicated automail engineers left their workshops to seek refuge in the relative cool of dimmed and shuttered storefronts. The blond man, clad in heavy military blues, winced as he stepped out of the train depot’s shadow and offered up a silent prayer that he wouldn’t succumb to heat stroke as he took the main street into Rush Valley.

As the man wound his way through the streets, he noted wryly that the heat had driven even the most enthusiastic merchants indoors, that for once there were no people crying out to him, declaring the superiority of one mechanic over another. Not that he needed any advice of the sort; his sure steps led him away from the main thoroughfare, past the large buildings and their bright façades, and down a side street lined with modest but well-kept buildings.

Without hesitation, he stopped in front of a shop with a green awning out front and the words “S. Belle Automail” in painted script on the door, and entered, blinking rapidly at the sharp transition from desert sunlight to shadowed interior. As his eyes adjusted, the fuzzy lines of the room resolved themselves into an open waiting room with scattered chairs and benches divided from the workshop beyond by a partition.

The door swung shut behind the man with the tinkling of a bell and a woman appeared, having descended the stairs tucked behind the workshop partition. The beginnings of a smile froze on her face as she turned to greet her visitor, and her eyes darkened at the sight of military blue. “Are you lost?” she asked calmly, the barest hint of hostility in her voice.

“No, ma’am,” the man answered, fighting the urge to tug at his sleeves as she glared at him. He fell silent and regarded the woman, the proprietor of the shop. She wore the grease-stained coveralls of a mechanic despite the baking temperatures, and her short, ash-blond hair was held out of her face by a scrap of green cloth. Though the man knew she was only a few years his senior, the blue eyes that bore into him seemed much older, and commanded respect as surely as that of any hardened general.

“This is a place of business,” she finally said, breaking the silence. “I suggest you find somewhere else to loiter.”

The man heaved an inward sigh and reached into his pocket for the papers he’d brought. “I’m here to speak with you about automail, ma’am,” he explained, offering the envelope. “Another wave of skirmishes have broke out in the East—”

“You want Holmes’ Automail Emporium,” she interrupted curtly, waving at the door. “They would never pass up a chance to profit from military foolishness.”

His hand tightened involuntarily around the envelope, and the man took a step forward. “Ma’am,” he said, heat audible in his voice. “I was sent from Central with specific instructions to speak with you about this commission.” Hastily, he ripped open the envelope and pulled out several sheets of thick paper. Thrusting them at her, he pointed to the words “S. Belle Automail” clearly legible on the page. “I am here on the President’s orders, ma’am,” he said, pointing again, this time to the scrawled signature at the bottom of the page.

Her eyes darkened as she recognized the name. “I will not work for the military,” she growled, all but slamming the parcel of papers he offered back to his chest. “I will not accept his guilt, his pity. And you can tell that meddlesome excuse for a—”

The soft tinkling of the bell as the door opened stopped her in mid-tirade, and the man turned involuntarily to see who had entered.

The intruder was a child, with the long limbs of one at the edge of adolescence. His pale blue eyes took in the scene, and he frowned upon recognizing the military uniform the man wore. “We don’t work for the military,” he said, determination in his voice. “Do we, Mom?”

A soft chuckle came from behind the man, and he turned back to the blond woman. “No, we don’t,” she answered, a pleased smile at her lips. “I was just telling this gentleman that myself.” Her expression softened as she shifted her attention to the boy. “Go on upstairs, Eddie. I’ll join you for lunch as soon as I’m finished here.”

The military man’s sharp breath caught the woman’s attention, and she met his gaze evenly, as if daring him to comment. “Are you sure you don’t want me to walk him to the train station instead?” the boy asked, folding his arms across his chest with a facsimile of a scowl on his face. At his mother’s insistent nod at the staircase, he dropped his arms and crossed the room, shooting the man a dark look as he did so.

Silence stretched between the man and the shop’s proprietress as the child’s footsteps on the stairs faded. Finally, the man took a few steps back and sat down on one of the benches lining the wall. “So you named him Edward,” he said conversationally. “I’m sure his father would have been thrilled.”

The woman flinched involuntarily, wisps of hair flying into her eyes. She pushed them out of the way before fixing the man with a stare cold enough to freeze the air between them. “What I choose to name my son is my business. I suggest you mind your own.”

“You are my business, ma’am,” he replied, anger threatening the carefully neutral tone he had been using. Fixing his eyes at a point directly above the woman’s head, he continued, “The President has made that clear time and again. Maybe it would be best for the sanity of all those involved for you to at least make the trip to Central to speak with him. I believe his repeated overtures are due to your skill and not to any lingering sense of guilt over the past, though you are of course welcome to call him meddlesome to his face.”

Sensing movement out of the corner of his field of vision, the man forced himself not to flinch when he saw that the woman had a white knuckled grip on a large torque wrench from the counter. He took a deep breath and stood up again, dropping the military precision he had adopted since the train pulled into Rush Valley. “And your son is my responsibility, since I am his only living relation, beside yourself, who knows of his existence.”

The man wondered for a brief moment if he had overstepped his bounds when he saw her face and fought the urge to duck and cover. Her aim was too good to miss from close quarters, but he knew he deserved it if she did choose to let loose. For a long minute, she merely stood there, one hand braced on the counter, the other gripping the wrench. She finally drew a long, audible breath. “I am not a military dog to be called to heel,” she said, a glacial calm punctuating every word. “I suggest you remind your master of that.” With great deliberation, she relinquished her grip on the wrench and let go of the countertop. “Now, if we’re finished here, Major, I’d like to return to my business and my son.”

“Winry…” As the discarded name slipped through the air like a phantom breeze, the military man’s heart froze. The woman before him had paled beneath her desert bronzed skin, and he had the fleeting thought that the years had turned the mercurial, vibrant woman of his memory to a flawless copy rendered in painted porcelain. “Can we forget about the uniform, just for a minute?” he asked, anger giving way to weary concern in his voice as he stepped back and sank back onto one of the benches lining the wall. Settled, he raised his eyes to meet hers again, heartened to find her expression softening as he raised a hand to undo the buttons of his woolen jacket.

“I can’t believe you wore that thing here,” she said, her gaze attracted to the movement of his hands. As he shrugged out of the oppressive coat, she crossed the room and joined him on the bench, just out of arm’s reach. “Edward was grateful they never made him wear it.”

The man smiled weakly as he folded the coat and left it folded next to him. “Wearing the uniform’s part of my duty,” he answered. “And I know I’m lucky mine is only the weight of a sweat-drenched wool coat.” He shook his head, as if physically shaking away any more thoughts along that line. “You seem well, as does your son. He’s going to be a tall one.”

She nodded, her eyes drifting involuntarily up towards the second floor. “Hard to believe it’s been more than ten years,” she agreed, before turning back to her visitor, the hint of a wistful smile on her lips. “How is your brother?”

His eyes dropped to the floor, and silence stretched between them before he responded. “His wife is pregnant. The baby should be coming by the end of the month.”

A brittle laugh greeted the news. “It’s easier to predict the next time we get rain than when babies come,” she said, dusting off her hands as she stood back up. “I hope they find the baby a joy.”

“He deserves to know that his child has an older brother, Winry.” The hand on her wrist stilled her movement, and the blonde woman turned back to her visitor, placing her own, calloused fingers on his.

“That woman’s been gone more than ten years; Sara Belle’s the one running this shop,” she said carefully. When he did not withdraw his hand, she continued. “And your brother doesn’t need to know about Edward; it will just make him feel guilty. He will have enough on his mind and hands without the appearance of a long lost son.” She shook her head as the younger man opened his mouth to speak and sat down next to him, breathing a deep sigh as she did so. For a long minute, neither spoke, and the man simply looked at her profile in the dim, filtered light.

“We were a mistake from the beginning, you know,” she finally said. “We were young and hurting, both of us looking for someone out of reach. We weren’t happy together, and I think your brother will say the same thing if you ask him. From what you’ve told me, he’s happy now, with his alchemy school and his wife. If I hadn’t left when I did, he would have stayed with me because of Eddie, and every day we would both be reminded of what we had lost, what we both wanted and couldn’t have. It’s better this way.”

“But are you happy?” The question was asked so softly that the man blinked in surprise when she actually answered.

“I’m… content.” She waved a hand, the gesture encompassing the shop and all that it contained within its walls. “I have my son, my work, and my memories.” Cornflower blue eyes flickered over to the back wall of the shop, where the man noticed for the first time a collage of photographs pinned to the wall. He squinted in the dim light, but could not make out individual faces on any of the slips of paper. “I have their pictures,” she continued quietly, “physical reminders that they lived, that they were here and shared their lives with me for a time. That’s more than they have of me, wherever they are now.”

Even in the dim light, he could see the sudden shine in her eyes, the beginnings of rare tears, and squeezed her hand in silent comfort. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, eyes dry again when she opened them. “Isn’t it time you caught the train back to Central?” she asked, detaching herself and standing. “Staying longer won’t change my mind, and I’m sure it won’t make the bastard’s reaction any better.”

He stood and chuckled at her words. “You’re probably right,” he agreed, “but you can’t blame me for wanting to spend more time without the coat on.” His words earned him a laugh, and he gave her a warm smile. “I think he’s finally given up on sending you letters, so I’ll be back in a couple of months; I hope you’ll have better insults for the president by then.”

Her answering smile was warm, though he could see a sense of brittleness around the edges of her lips as she spoke. “I’ll see you then, Fletcher.”

 
 
crime is for the iron nerved ✞raunchdressing on July 1st, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
x.x;; I thought Divergence was heartwrenching. This is so sad for everybody involved 8(
Lyra Ngalia: xkcd heartlyrangalia on July 1st, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
Being left behind might have been worse than being stranded. Still, Winry's making a life for herself with what she's got, so that's something. Thanks for reading!
syolen: EdWin-hold me tightsyolen on July 1st, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
This is so sad for everyone !
Great job on this ! :)
Lyra Ngalia: HP Puffs crazylyrangalia on July 1st, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it! Sorry it took so long; Winry was amazingly reticent when it came to telling me about what happened after the boys left (not that I blame her given how it ended up).

Thanks for reading still!
mar: edxwinambivalentlight on July 1st, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC)
*cough* Wow, impressive. XD I'm curious to see what else you will post later.
And while I'm at it, let me go take a look at Divergence.
Lyra Ngalia: text wickedlyrangalia on July 2nd, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed this, and I hope you like Divergence. People have told me it's a long, well-researched stomp on Ed's heart.
Barking at the windevil_little_dog on July 10th, 2008 05:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's a good summary of it.
cornerofmadnesscornerofmadness on July 3rd, 2008 02:57 am (UTC)
and i was just wondering if i remembered to send you my beta....

still love this
Lyra Ngalia: HP Puffs crazylyrangalia on July 3rd, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
*grin* Yes you did. I was just a lazy bum and couldn't get off my ass to post it. But since you helped me figure out the sequel to this, figured I should post before I get the sequel done. *laugh*

Glad you liked (and I'm going through the backlog of fic).
cornerofmadnesscornerofmadness on July 3rd, 2008 03:23 am (UTC)
oh you're gonna blame ME are you :-)

i'm sure i have some to post myself
dreamer1789: ed&al_against_moviedreamer1789 on July 3rd, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
What a way to blast-start the sequel! XD Damn, I want to hug Winry to death now. That was a great chapter, neat style too.
You do know that no doubt future chapters will need a blazing neon pink tissue warning, right? 'Cause this one was ok, but knowing Divergence and all... ;)
Lyra Ngalia: FMA moonlyrangalia on July 4th, 2008 06:01 am (UTC)
I know! I was heartbroken when Winry's story started to take shape, and I couldn't believe how she evolved without the Elrics around. *hugs her*

As for the blazing neon pink tissue warning, I thought the mere mention of it being in the Div-verse would make that clear! :D
dreamer1789: winrydreamer1789 on July 4th, 2008 07:38 am (UTC)
Lol, indeed the mention of it being Divergence is warning enough for those who know it - I was more thinking about the innocent souls who are new to the scene, it happens. ;) Lol, as for me, the moment I read it being Div I had two reactions: 1) AWESOME (& 'that was fast'), 2) 'Where is my "I hate BONES"-badge?' XD

Anyway, looking forward to more evolved!Winry. ^^
Barking at the windevil_little_dog on July 10th, 2008 11:19 am (UTC)
'Where is my "I hate BONES"-badge?'

Ooo, I want one of those!
Barking at the windevil_little_dog on July 10th, 2008 05:13 am (UTC)
...and it takes me this long to get here. I can see the changes - it's easier to figure things out now. That Winry can still laugh is a good sign.

As far as the sequel goes, I think this is enough of a stomping of Winry's heart but I do so want to see the reactions in the next part. Even if it'll make me cry, too.
Lyra Ngalia: xkcd heartlyrangalia on July 10th, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
*grin* You have an excuse. How was your vacation?

Yeah, Winry can still laugh (or laugh again, depending on who you ask), but she's so...fragile that it hurts to write her. The whole time I wrote this I wondered if something Fletcher says is going to breach that shell and she'll fall apart on me.
*sniffle*

As for the sequel... all I can say is Eddie is way chattier than his mom. I think this is a good thing.
Barking at the windevil_little_dog on July 10th, 2008 11:19 am (UTC)
Winry does seem fragile, which is sad. I suppose all the things she's been handed might make her that way. She's strong enough, though, that if Fletcher did breach that shell, she'd probably wait until he was far gone for the breakdown.

Eddie is chattier...well, somehow, that's not surprising.

The vacation is still ongoing. Sadly, it sucks when you have no money to go anywhere or do anything, even the important thing, like take your dogs to the vet which is one of the things you planned for your vacation. *frown*

treeflamingo: denialtreeflamingo on July 12th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC)
Oh, for the love of Pete! And here I was thinking that Ed had gotten the short end of your imaginary stick. *sigh* If you make me cry while reading Winry's half of Divergence, I'm going to be... well, I'm going to impressed and probably grateful for the experience, but I'm going to pretend to be very angry with you!

This was perfect, as usual. Excruciating. Your writing is sharp, you know that? All your sentences are precise, all your paragraphs are edged, all your stories stick under the skin like needles.
Lyra Ngalia: text wickedlyrangalia on July 12th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC)
It's kind of hard to say who got the worse end of the deal, isn't it? As for the other half of Winry's Div... Well, we'll see if anyone ends up crying.

*blush* You're so flattering! I feel all warm and fuzzy now. And I'm really glad you enjoyed it. :)
The Magdalen Writing: Booksnebroadwe on August 15th, 2008 11:17 pm (UTC)
Nice. I like this glimpse into Winry's future; she sounds rather like Pinako here, which is a logical development. That it was Russell she hooked up with blindsided me, which in this case is a good thing; it's a fascinating idea, which I'm looking forward to seeing worked out. I'm a little surprised that Winry harbors so much resentment toward Roy and that she decided to leave her name behind (which leads me to wonder whether those two elements are connected in some way ...). And poor Fletcher, caught in the middle of two different but equally tricky relationships. A good start to this series!

Two nitpicks:
the blue eyes that bore into him seemed much older, and commanded respect as surely as that of any hardened general. For that, read those (referring back to plural eyes).

Then there's the phrase a facsimile of a scowl. I can't figure out how to read that. A facsimile is a copy, but a copy of a scowl comes out to ... a scowl. Is there a word missing here (if a facsimile of his mother's scowl is meant)?
Lyra Ngalia: text wickedlyrangalia on August 16th, 2008 12:26 am (UTC)
You know, I didn't intentionally set out making Winry sound like Pinako, but now that you mention it, I can see it. As for Russell, yeah, I was hoping it would blindside people. It hit me like a ton of bricks, but as I thought more about it, it did become more interesting, more fascinating. I'm first to admit it's kind of a stretch of coincidence, but I'm not going to let that stop me from telling an interesting story. :D

As for Roy, let me know if Lily of the Valley clarifies it any. It doesn't spell out all the reasons for Winry running off, but it does have some.

A good start to this series!
Don't say that! Eddie is already demanding a third chapter (maybe more).

On the two nitpicks:
1) Gotcha. Will fix when I have a moment.
2) I was trying to evoke the image of little kids trying to mimic grown-up expressions, but I think "facsimile" ended up too strong, too exact a word choice. Eh, live, learn, edit.

Always a pleasure to get your opinion on these things!
nichokiu on January 3rd, 2009 01:05 pm (UTC)
I just finished your Divergence fic (late I know- I just found it today :( ) and came across this addition. You write like a goddess Lyra, so much emotion packed so succintly, forcing the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. A true standing ovation on your fanfics Lyra, I for one will be another one of your many fans visiting your pages for more fics in the future :))
Lyra Ngalia: XKCD boomdeyadalyrangalia on January 5th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm blushing hard here right now. :)