Lyra Ngalia (lyrangalia) wrote in lyric_nonsense,
Lyra Ngalia

Divergence Redux: Lily of the Valley

Title: Lily of the Valley
Author: Lyra
Hints of past Winry/Edward, Winry/Other
Spoilers: End of Conqueror of Shambala
After a tragic accident, Eddie Rockbell finds himself unraveling the mystery that was his mother.

Author's Notes: This story is a sequel to Porcelain, which puts it firmly in the Divergence universe. While familiarity with the Divergence universe is not necessary, this story will NOT make sense without having read Porcelain. As always, thanks to everyone who read Div, loved it, and badgered me to write about Winry. And massive thanks go to evil_little_dog   and cornerofmadness   for their willingness to put up with my complaining, and for evil_little_dog  's betaing. *tips hat*

Lily of the Valley

My mother died this afternoon, working to save the lives of those she cared about. Two of her patients had been working with a group to salvage supplies at one of the old mines outside Rush Valley when the roof of the mine shaft collapsed. Big James had come for her immediately, knowing that she would help all the injured involved, unlike some of the other automail mechanics in town.

With Big James’ help, they had managed to dig out the tunnel quickly, and my mother had set about surveying the damage. She insisted on staying with the injured until they could all be moved out into safety, but, just as they were about to move the last worker, the reinforcements they’d used to keep the ceiling stable gave way, burying my mother, Big James and the injured man. Big James had tried to keep my mother safe, sheltering her as best he could with his body, but despite her strength of will, my mother was only human, only flesh and blood.

He’s sitting in the shop now, his right arm and leg splinted and bandaged while the remains of his left leg rested on the workshop table. I promised him earlier that I would have him back on his feet before morning, but I don’t think he heard me. He hasn’t moved from his seat since they brought him back. He buried his face in his bruised and bloody left hand, and every so often I heard a shuddering sob rip from the big man’s chest. “I’m sorry, Eddie,” he said, his voice thick with tears. “I shouldn’t have asked Sara to come help.”

My hands paused over the remnants of his automail, the new wiring tangled in my fingers. “She would never have stayed here knowing there were people hurt,” I said. “She would have beaten you over the head for standing in her way.”

Big James looked up and met my eyes; I dropped mine back to my work almost immediately, not wanting to see the pain and grief in his reddened eyes. “You’re probably right about that,” he agreed with a weak, thready laugh. “Look at me sitting here bawling when you’re working your fingers to the bone. How are you holding up, Eddie?”

I looked up again, though this time my hands continued to twist the wires into place as I considered the question. Ever since they brought the news of her death, I’ve felt… numb, as if this is all happening to someone else. The knowledge is simply there, a cold lump sitting inside. There’s no grief, no anger. Not yet, anyway. I shook my head, ignoring the growing certainty that when my mother’s death finally sinks in, I will end up like Big James, bawling in a corner for hours. “I’m coping,” I finally said, offering Big James what I hope to be a reassuring smile. “Keeping busy.”

He didn’t say a word, though something like a mixture of pride and pity flickered over his face. I return to my work, and some time later I hear the door open, and Big James’ son comes in. I’d offered Big James one of the patient rooms for the night, but there was no way he would have been able to make it up the stairs on only one bad leg, so Aaron came to take his father home.

As his son shouldered his weight and helped him to the door, Big James paused and looked at me over his shoulder. “You’re family, Eddie,” he said quietly. “If you need anything, just let us know.”


It’s been two days since my mother’s death, and I can’t remember how many hours I’ve slept. I’ve spent most of my time working on Big James’ replacement leg, finding a certain comfort in the familiar work. It’s just about done; once I hook up the porting cables and check that everything’s properly connected, Big James will have his leg back.

There was a knock at the door, and I dragged the back of my hand over my eyes before answering. “Come in,” I called, though the words are thick and barely intelligible even to my own ears.

The door opened, and a curly red head appeared. I recognized my visitor immediately and offered her a smile. “Morning, Penny.” Penny is my best friend, just as her mother Paninya was my mother’s best friend. “Does Aunt ‘Ninya need something?”

Penny came in and let the door swing shut behind her, a frown on her bronzed face. “I came by to check on you, Eddie,” she said as she raised her arm to show me the covered basket in her hand. “You look terrible. When was the last time you ate or slept?”

The question brought me up short, and I blinked in surprise as I tried to answer it. “Aaron brought me some soup last night,” I said. “And I’ve been working on Big James’ replacement leg. He’ll get it today.”

The frown deepened and Penny took hold of my wrists, guiding my hands away from the automail. “Aaron brought you food when he came to take Big James home,” she said, tugging at my arm and nodding upstairs. “And that was two days ago. You need to get cleaned up and rested, Eddie. There are some things we need to talk to you about soon, but they can wait until you’ve gotten some sleep.”

My feet felt like lead weights as Penny pushed me up the stairs of the house, and it took all of my concentration to keep myself from tripping on the steps. “It wasn’t that long ago, Penny,” I tried to protest, but my brain’s fuzzy, as if the automail had been the only thing keeping me going and now I was out of gas. My best friend didn’t say anything, simply steered me down the hall and to the bathroom.

“Splash some water on your face, Eddie,” she ordered, all but shoving me into the room. “I’m going to put out some breakfast in your room, and you’re going to eat it and go to sleep. We’ll talk more when you’re rested.”

By now, everything below my knees felt like lead weights, and I had to use all of my fast-fading concentration to keep myself upright at the sink. I ran some water, throwing it in the general direction of my face. Some of it got there, though most of it has ended up on my shirt, and I felt a little bit more alert. I stumbled out of the bathroom again, against all odds making it back to my room without pitching face-first onto the worn wooden floors.

Penny had unpacked the basket and arranged the contents on my bedside table: a loaf of bread, some cheese, some of her mother’s preserves, and a bottle of lemonade, its chilled surface slick with condensation. “Sit down,” my friend commanded, waving a hand at my bed as she poured lemonade into a glass. “And don’t bother telling me you’re fine, Eddie. You look like dea—” Penny’s face paled, and she glanced sideways at me as she pressed the glass into my hand.

I bit back the irritation that initially arose and took a sip from the glass instead. “Not saying it won’t bring her back, Penny,” I said as I obeyed her order and sat down on my bed, the tart-sweet taste of lemonade lingering on my tongue. “And I’m fine. She would want me to help other people, not sit in the shop crying.” Penny gave me a skeptical look but said nothing, instead breaking the loaf of bread and handing me half.

The homey, comforting smell of fresh baked bread rose in the air, and my stomach grumbled, proving that Penny had been right about Aaron’s soup being more than just a night ago. I ripped a chunk off with my teeth and chewed while tucking bits of cheese and preserves into the rest of the loaf for an improvised sandwich. Penny watched me eat for a while, her hands unconsciously turning a bite of bread into fine crumbs as she did so.

I finally surfaced for air and noticed the ruined bread in a fine dusting on her lap. “Can I have the rest of that if you’re not going to eat?” I asked, pointing at remainder of the loaf. Now that my stomach wasn’t in imminent danger of imploding, I notice how… worried Penny looked, despite the irritated grin she shot at me as she handed me the rest of the loaf.

“Ravenous wolf packs eat neater,” she griped, but there’s no heat in the words.

I shrugged it off and continued chewing. “You going to tell me what’s got you worried, Penny?” I mumbled around the mouthful of bread and cheese.

She jumped, surprised, and shook her head. “You’re exhausted, Eddie. There are decisions that need to be made about your,” her voice shook, but she squared her shoulders and kept going. That’s my Penny. “About your mom. And there are a lot of emotional people around. I just want to make sure you’re well-rested and thinking clearly when you have to talk to everyone.”

I opened my mouth to reply but a face-splitting yawn interrupted me. “Sorry,” I muttered. “Guess I’m a little tired.” My best friend gave me a smile as she reached over and took the sandwich out of my hand.

“You’re exhausted,” she corrected while pushing at my shoulders, forcing me to lean back. “Go to sleep. Big James can do without his leg for a couple more hours, and I’ll bring more food by tonight.”

Another yawn escaped me, and I blinked slowly; the lead-weight sensation seemed to have spread all the way up to my eyeballs. “You put something into my lemonade,” I accused. What came out barely qualified as language, but Penny seemed to understand. She shook her head and pulled the blanket over my shoulders.

My eyes slid shut, and the last thing I heard was her voice murmuring, as if from very far away. “Good night, Eddie.”


When I came to, my mouth felt drier than the air outside. I rose, making a few futile swallowing noises as I did so, and someone out of my range of vision pressed a glass of water to my lips. Indignation at the invalid treatment died on my tongue as I tasted the cool liquid and guzzled greedily. “Thanks,” I grumbled out, turning to face my nurse.

Aunt Paninya nodded at me, her laugh lines deepening with her smile. “Feeling better, Eddie?” she asked, her voice hushed. Only then did I notice that there was a third person in my room: Penny, curled up on a little collapsible cot dragged from one of the patient rooms.

I drew a hand over my face as I blinked the sleep out of my eyes. “Yeah, guess I needed that,” I admitted grudgingly. “But Penny didn’t have to go and put sleeping pills in my lemonade.”

Eyebrows climbing in her dark face, Aunt Paninya tsked at me. “You think Penny would stoop to those tricks?” she asked, then caught herself. “Okay, she might. But I promise she didn’t put anything into your drink, Eddie. You were visibly exhausted.”

The light filtering into my room was bright afternoon sunshine, and I vaguely remembered that it had been early morning when Penny came in. “I guess I just needed a couple of hours to rest,” I allowed. “But that hardly counts as exhausted, Aunt ‘Ninya.”

She shook her head again, though this time with a low chuckle. “‘A couple of hours,’ Eddie?” she repeated affectionately. “You’ve been asleep for a day and a half.” I gaped at her, swinging my legs over the side of my bed as I did so.

“I should get Big James his leg before I do anything else,” I said. “And Penny said there was something about Mo—” My mouth stumbles over the word even as I lever myself out of bed and towards the door. “About my mother that needs to be taken care of.”

“Eddie.” The sound of my name stopped me cold, and I turned to look at Aunt Paninya. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed motion as Penny stirred from sleep. Her mother met my gaze and continued, her voice serious. “Penny and I finished the check-out on Big James’ automail yesterday and attached it, don’t worry.” A flash of annoyance flooded me; it was my work, dammit. “Eddie, I’ve been wearing automail since before you were born, I know what to look for in the final check-out of a part.” She tapped her leg pointedly and I felt most of the annoyance fade away. She was right, I knew, and I should simply be grateful for the help.

She continued talking, and I could hear the grief in her voice as she spoke. My mother and Aunt Paninya had been friends for as long as I’d been alive, probably longer. “As for your mother, there’s some disagreement over where she should be laid to rest. There are a lot of people here in town who have strong feelings on the subject. I’m doing my best to keep them from overwhelming you, but it is your decision, and I think you should hear both sides of the argument.”

I swallowed hard, past the lump that rose unexpectedly in my throat, and nodded. “Thank you.” I rubbed my hand against my face again and frowned. Penny said I’d been working for two days, and Aunt Paninya said I’d been asleep for another day and a half. No wonder my face felt disgusting and furry. I coughed and offered Penny a smile as she sat up. “I think I should get cleaned up first.” I was pleased by how calm and in control my voice sounded. “I’ll meet with whoever you think I should talk to in the workshop in an hour?”

Aunt Paninya seemed ready to protest, but Penny rose and nodded in agreement. “Mom, this needs to be settled,” she said gently, moving from her little cot to put a hand on her mom’s shoulder. Turning back to me, she added, “Remember to shave, Eddie. We’ll take care of everything.”


I stood under the shower for a long time, letting the cool water, courtesy of my mother’s underground cistern, sluice over me. Normally we monitored the water level of the cistern carefully, but with three days of disuse and the fact that I was now the only one left in the house, I figured the cistern could handle a long shower. When I finally stepped out and wrapped the towel around my waist, my fingers were wrinkly, though my face felt cleaner and lighter without the stubble.

By the time I had dressed and made my way down to the shop’s main room, a small crowd had already gathered. Aunt Paninya and Penny sat against the wall with the door, and on the opposite walls sat Master Garfiel and Big James, both glaring at each other. They all looked up as I walked down the stairs, and I met Penny’s worried smile with a nod.

“Master Garfiel,” I said politely. The big man’s frilly apron was tear-stained, and his forelock of grey hair bobbed as he nodded in acknowledgement. He had been my mother’s teacher here after her old teacher died and her death had taken a toll. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy, and he carried himself as if in pain.

I turned away, uncomfortable in the open display of so much grief, and gave Big James the once over. “How’s the leg feeling?” I asked him, keeping an eye out for any unusual bulges or motions that would mean swelling at the port.

Catching my eye, Big James moved his leg in a wide half-circle obligatorily. “Feels great,” he answered gruffly, his voice thick. “You do good work, Eddie.” The unspoken ‘like your mom did’ hung in the air, and I tried my best to ignore it.

“So,” I said as I hopped up on the counter, “are we waiting for anyone else?”

Aunt Paninya shook her head and opened her mouth to speak, but Master Garfiel beat her to the punch. “Eddie,” he began, hands twisting around the frilly apron. “There are a couple of things that need to be decided before your mother can be laid to rest.”

I nodded, forcing my face into a semblance of dutiful concern as I turned to the man who had been both surrogate uncle and father to my mother. Despite the rest, I still felt strangely numb, as if everything happening in front of me happened to a different person, despite the fact that the words were coming out of my mouth. “So I’ve heard. What do you think needs to be decided, Master Garfiel?”

An uncomfortable silence greeted my question, and no one would meet my eye. I fought down the bite of annoyance with a deeply drawn breath and waited. Silence stretched uncomfortably until Penny looked up, daring to meet my eyes. “What name goes on her tombstone, for one,” she remarked quietly.

The simplicity of the question caught me off-guard, and I blinked in surprise. “Winry Rockbell, of course,” I answered. “What else would it be?”

“Sara Belle,” Master Garfiel answered. “She gave up the Rockbell name when she came back, gave up all the old connections. We should respect that.”

His words stuck in my brain, and I wondered what he meant by ‘when she came back.’ Back from what? Still, this didn’t seem like the place to ask; the sooner we get all this done, the better. “She kept the Rockbell name for me, sir,” I reminded him. “I know everyone here used the name she chose out of respect for her, but it wasn’t her. She may have called herself Sara Belle, but from what I hear, she never acted any differently than when people called her Winry Rockbell. And I won’t take the name she gave me away from her.”

My eyes swept the room, and I made sure to meet everyone’s gaze as I did so. They all nodded, with varying degrees of approval and acceptance, and only then did I relax, realizing for the first time how tightly clenched my jaw had been. “You are your mother’s son,” Aunt Paninya murmured, the words barely carrying to my ears.

Something deep inside me twinged at the words. Yes, I’ve always know that I was my mother’s son, but who had been my father? My mother had never spoken of him, and I had learned not to ask as a child. And now it seems I’ve lost all opportunity to. I coughed, mentally pulling myself off that path, and spoke again, “That can’t be the only reason you all came to talk to me. What else?”

This time Big James took the initiative. “Where will we lay your mother to rest, Eddie?” he asked.

“Rush Valley, where else?” The words came unbidden to my lips, and as soon as they came out, I felt I had missed something important, the way Aunt Paninya and Master Garfiel’s heads jerked up.

“Your mother was born in Resembool, Eddie,” Aunt Paninya said, her voice neutral. “It is sometimes customary to bring the bo—” She coughed. “To bring the deceased back to their hometown.” Having grown up with Penny, I knew well all of Aunt Paninya’s tones of voice; there was little inflection this time, as if she were simply stating a fact. She was not going to let her own prejudices colour this decision for me, and for that I was grateful.

Her words sank in slowly, and I realized with a start that I had never seen my mother’s birthplace, though some part of me knew she’d grown up in some sleepy little sheep town far away. The idea of taking her home made a certain bit of sense, but the greater part of me rebelled against it; I’d never known the place and didn’t want my first experience with her childhood home to be her funeral. I opened my mouth to deny it, but Master Garfiel’s words stopped me.

“Her family is buried there.” His voice was low, and his eyes held a faraway quality to them. “Your great-grandmother, Pinako Rockbell, died in Resembool before you were born. Two generations of Rockbells are both buried in the little cemetery.” He brushed away a tear and met my eyes. “Your mother spent so much of her life alone. She should at least rest with family.”

Big James jumped up, suddenly defensive. “We’ve been her family!” he insisted. “We’ve been here for Sara, for Winry, which is more than you can say for those so-called boys she called family.” One hand gestured towards me, and I was confused until I realized he had not been waving at me but at the wall behind me. I looked over, at the collage of yellowed pictures she took care of so carefully. I had known the names of the two amber-eyed youths from the moment I could speak: Alphonse Elric and his brother Edward, the Fullmetal Alchemist. “If you want her to rest with family, have her buried here. She was one of us! We shouldn’t exile her just because some blood relatives are buried there.”

The sound of thumping interrupted Big James, and it took everyone a few seconds to realize that the noise didn’t come from his angry gesturing but from outside. “Who the hell is that?” I barely recognized the question as having come from my own mouth, it had been so snarled. I guess I was angry.

Penny rose from her seat, shaking her head at me. I forced myself to sit back on the counter and take deep breaths as she stuck her head out the door. “This is really not a good time—” I could hear her begin to whoever was outside. She suddenly stopped, and waved frantically for her mother.

I hopped off the counter and headed for the door, but Aunt Paninya waved me back down. “Sit,” she commanded, her voice steely. “Penny and I will take care of it.” My reaction was pure reflex, and I sat back down obediently, feeling the faint flush of blood rise in my face.

The door closed behind her, and I exchanged glances with Big James and Master Garfiel. Muffled shouts made their way through the wooden walls, and I felt myself smile when Big James hunched his shoulders and ran one hand warily over his dark hair as the yelling got louder. Big James had once gotten a spectacular demonstration of my mother’s throwing arm and Aunt Paninya’s left hook when he’d made the mistake of stumbling in for his automail fitting filled to the brim with whiskey. I strained to make out words, but got nothing but noise until the door suddenly flew open, the crack of wood on wood ringing through the room.

Aunt Paninya’s outraged squawk made me jump to my feet, and I noticed out of the corners of my eyes that the older men did the same. “I’m sorry,” an unfamiliar voice said as a man walked through the doorway. “But I’m here concerning Ms. Rockbell.” He stopped, a few strides into the room, and blinked. Perhaps it was due to the abrupt transition from the bright outdoors to the relative dimness of the shop, but I’d like to think it had more to do with the sudden looming presence of Master Garfiel and Big James. There was a momentary pause before the man collected his wits and introduced himself. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but my name is Roy Mustang. I was a friend of Miss Rockbell’s once.”


My jaw dropped at his announcement, and Big James’ did, too. Master Garfiel merely grunted and returned to his seat. The man, the former President of Amestris, was about my height, though he carried a lot more on his frame than I did. He had salt and pepper hair and wore a dark blue suit that reminded me of a military uniform. I straightened to meet his eye, momentarily surprised by the fact that he wore an eyepatch over one. Movement at the door caught my attention, and I nearly jumped at the familiar figure that walked in.

“Ms. Elisabeth!” The ash blonde woman who followed the former President in was a familiar face, though this time her hair was pulled up and she didn’t wear her glasses. I frowned; her next maintenance tune-up wasn’t for a couple more months. “Are you having leg troubles?” I asked, the presence of a patient drawing my attention away from the mystery of the former head of state.

She shook her head, and I noticed, a little sadly, that her hair was definitely more ash than blonde now than when I’d first met her. “We need to talk later, Eddie,” she said, dipping her head slightly at the man she accompanied.

I turned my attention back to Mustang, who seemed unfazed by Master Garfiel’s glare. “What do you want, Mustang?” Master Garfiel asked tiredly. “You know how Winry felt about you, and I hope you have enough respect for her memory to honor her wishes.”

Mustang stiffened, and Ms. Elisabeth put a warning hand on his shoulder. I watched with interest as the man drew a deep breath before answering. “I’m here because I hope to honor her wishes.” To me, his words sounded rehearsed, as if each had been chosen with deliberation. “I would like your permission to have Ms. Rockbell interred in a private cemetery in Central, between the memorials for the Elric brothers.”

“No!” The word flew out of my mouth before I could stop it, and I felt the entire room’s eyes on me. “You have no right to decide where to bury her,” I continued, tightening my hands into fists to stop their shaking. “I won’t have her in Central.”

Mustang’s dark eyes blinked and turned to Master Garfiel as my own dropped to the floor. Feeling a hand on my shoulder, I looked up to find Master Garfiel, Big James, Penny, Aunt Paninya, and Ms. Elisabeth regarding me with sad sympathy, while Roy Mustang simply seemed confused. “I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve met,” he said, offering a hand. “Were you Miss Rockbell’s apprentice?

I stared at his hand, but made no move to take it. “Her apprentice?” I echoed, bewildered. “I’m her son.”

Behind the ex-president, Ms. Elisabeth winced, but I only had a second for concern before Mustang spoke again. “She had a son,” he said, his voice disbelieving. He processed the knowledge for a few seconds then raised his head, turning to my patient. “You knew she had a son and never told me.” There was no accusation in his voice, only hurt, and it cut through me as nothing else had, draining away my anger.

“My name is Edward,” I offered, raising my hand belatedly. “But everyone calls me Eddie.”

That got me a sad smile, and I had the distinct and mildly uncomfortable feeling that there was something important in my statement, something that I didn’t know. Still, there was nothing for it, and if the former president of Amestris wanted to move my mother’s body to Central, he was going to have another thing coming.


The silence that fell in their wake grew awkward, and Ms. Elisabeth soon led former President Mustang out, making some excuse about finding accommodations. Big James and Master Garfiel followed, and a part of me wondered if they were going to harass Mustang for coming. All I knew for certain was I didn’t want to know either way.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and glanced up from my survey of the floor, straight into Penny’s dark eyes. “Will you come over for dinner tonight, Eddie?” she asked, a concerned frown on her face.

“You can’t just bury yourself in work and pretend none of this is happening,” Aunt Paninya added. I merely stared at her, and she shook her head, continuing in a softer voice, “I hated it when your mother did that, and we’d get into fights about it. I don’t want to deal with you that way, Eddie.”

Shaking my head, I offered them a resigned shrug. “I’ll try to come for dinner,” I told Penny, then turned to her mother. “Aunt ‘Ninya, I appreciate your concern…”

“But you’re a big boy and can take care of yourself,” she finished for me, a wistful smile touching her lips. She pulled me against her and hugged me tightly, muttering something against my shoulder. I couldn’t make out what she said, and the tears I saw in her eyes when she pulled away stopped me from asking. Penny said nothing, only waved to me as mother and daughter made their way to the door.

With everyone gone, the front room suddenly seemed a lot bigger and emptier. I stood silent for a while, frozen in place by my lack of immediate purpose, before making my way around the perimeter. I swept away imaginary dust as I did so, picking up stray bits of trash and fasteners that I would not have given a second glance to a week before. The fallen tack trapped in a crevice by the back wall stopped me. I picked it up and swept my eyes over the small collage of yellowed photographs, trying to figure out which of the many little squares had lost its pin.

As my eyes roamed over the pictures, I couldn’t help but pick out my mother in them. There she was, a tiny, blanket wrapped bundle cradled in the arms of a smiling, if exhausted looking, blonde with a tiny, grey-haired woman standing proudly next to her. That would be my grandmother and great-grandmother; I suspect my grandfather took the picture. In another, she stood on a wooden chair, leaning over a table as she blew out the candles on a cake. I counted the candles to figure out that it had been taken on her third birthday. Another picture from the same day showed her gleefully rubbing a handful of cake into the hair of a dark blond boy. There she was again, a smiling girl with bright blue eyes, standing between two boys. I recognized one as the boy from the previous picture by his amber eyes and the other had wheat-coloured hair. Judging by their resemblance, I figured he was the blond’s brother.

I continued staring at the photographs, watching as my mother literally grew up before my eyes, though after a while I noticed that she had slipped out of the photos, leaving room first for two somber young men, the amber-eyed boy and his brother. Later still, as they grew up, it became the fierce amber-eyed boy and a tall suit of blue-grey armour.

I knew their names, of course. For as long as I could remember, my mother had lulled me to sleep with tales of Edward and Alphonse Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist and his brother. But, studying the fading pictures as if noticing the people contained for the first time, I marveled at how little my mother had told me about them. She’d named me after one of the brothers, yet never spoke of how she’d met them or when or why. And I had never thought to ask, despite the quiet display to her friendship with them on the wall I walked past every single day.

A knock on the door forced my attention away from the wall. “Come in,” I called. Normally, people walked into the shop, allowing the bell on the door to announce their presence, but word spread quickly through Rush Valley, especially when it concerned one of the town’s top mechanics, and now no one dared to approach the door. I hoped it would all stop after the funeral; this was no way to run a business.

“Eddie? Are you busy?” a low, feminine voice asked. I turned away from the wall to smile at the woman who had entered.

“Not at all,” I assured her, waving to the empty room. “All of my customers are avoiding me like I either have the plague or am liable to break like a porcelain plate. What can I do for you, Ms. Elisabeth?”

The blonde woman gave me a faint smile as she crossed the room, stopping about arm’s length away as she, too, became caught by the pictures that had claimed my attention. “I came to apologize, Eddie,” she said, her eyes forward. “I’ve been less than truthful all these years.”

I must have made some sort of noise, because she turned to face me, a worried sort of frown on her lips. A thousand thoughts ran through my brain, but only two words made it to my mouth. “About what?”

She sighed and turned back to the wall, as if it would be too hard to talk if she had to look me in the eye as well. “My name isn’t Elisabeth Pekoe, it’s Riza Hawkeye. I’m Roy Mustang’s wife.”

The words came out in a rush, and I had to swallow my first reaction until she finished. “So, I suppose you didn’t really lose the leg in a car accident?”

The question seemed to amuse her, and she shook her head, her hand reaching down to brush at the hidden docking port. “Kind of,” she allowed. “It was a shoddy assassination attempt. They were driving by, hoping to get a clean shot at me as I got out of the car. They missed the vital stuff but got my kneecap. Security and I managed to get shots in and they ended up running their car into a tree.”

A chuckle slipped out of me of its own volition, and I clapped my hand over my mouth in chagrin. She gave me a sidelong glance and grinned. “Why did you lie? Did you think my mother wouldn’t treat you if she knew you were Mustang’s wife?” I asked. “She’d never deny treatment to anyone for a reason like that.”

Ms. Elisabeth, I mean, Riza, shook her head. “I know it seemed like your mother hated Roy, but they’ve always had a cordial relationship based on mutual trust and respect.” My surprise and disbelief must have shown on my face, because Riza put a hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye. “They did,” she insisted. “Winry and Roy were friends, but Roy always felt responsible for what happened.” She gestured to the pictures on the wall. “Between that and Ishbal, Roy believed he owed your mother a great debt. Your mother thought otherwise and thought he was trying to interfere with her life. They had a falling out, but your mother never hated Roy.”

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I turned my attention back to the wall. “I can believe that my mother wouldn’t take kindly to people interfering with her life. She’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever known.” The words came out of me before I knew it, and I wondered what was wrong with me. I’ve always been a calm person, someone who thought before he spoke, but today I’d managed to lose my temper at someone knocking on the door and blurt out my innermost feelings to a patient I didn’t really know. “But I’m starting to think there was more to my mother, that there were things she never told me. Like why she kept these pictures here.”

Riza squeezed my shoulder. “If there’s anything I can do, Eddie, please let me know. If you just want to talk about her, or ask about…” her hand fell to her side as she trailed off. “Roy and I are staying at the Hotel Augustine. The front desk knows to patch you through at any time.” Without another word, she crossed the room and slipped out the door, leaving me alone again.


That night, I had dinner with Penny and her parents, just like I’d told her I would. I wasn’t very good company, but they didn’t mind. I suspected Penny was just glad I showed up and she didn’t find me passed out in the shop. I didn’t stay long, thanking them with mechanical words before escaping the warm concern of my surrogate family for the cool silence of an empty Rush Valley night.

The sky was clear, and on the mostly residential street it was silent. I filled my lungs with the sharp night air and looked around me. My intention had been to go straight home, but under the inky black sky, with the stars picked out like crystal overhead, the idea of being surrounded by walls just seemed wrong. I had no plan in mind; my feet moved on their own, carrying me forward as I tried to lose myself in the simple beauty of the sky wheeling above me.

I don’t know how long I walked, but by the time I grew curious about my surroundings, my fingers were numb. I found myself standing on the sidewalk in a relatively quiet part of town. It wasn’t as silent as it had been on Penny’s street, but the still-open restaurants and shops did their business at a low rumble. Above me loomed the limestone clad façade of the Hotel Augustine. It shouldn’t surprise me that the former president would rent his room at the nicest hotel in Rush Valley, but I shivered uncomfortably when I realized that my subconscious mind had led me there.

Riza’s parting words echoed in my ears, but I still regarded the wide wooden doors with suspicion. It was one thing to phone late; it was another to go knocking on her hotel room door. An inattentive couple bumped into me, making me stumble, and I brought my attention back to the sidewalk. Something must have just gotten out because the street was starting to fill with busily chatting people. More to avoid the impending crush than anything, I ducked through the door and found myself in the lobby of the Hotel Augustine.

The rich plush carpet muffled my footsteps, and I straightened quickly. A quick glance around filled me with relief; no one seemed to have taken any notice of one disheveled idiot waltzing through. To my left was a wide wooden counter, where two men stood at attention, speaking in hushed voices to the patrons who approached. To my right was a long low wall, beyond which people were eating and drinking in what appeared to be a café or restaurant. I turned to the left and fell into line behind a red-headed man with his arm in a sling. Even in the diffuse lighting of the lobby, I could tell the skin of his neck was bright red, scorched by the desert sun.

I listened halfheartedly as he complained to the man behind the counter about something or another, pillows or iced drinks or whatever rich out-of-towners wanted to make their stay in the desert less hot and sandy. The man sent him on his way with a combination of patience and boredom I supposed only came about by long practice. I stepped up then, suddenly self-conscious, and opened my mouth. “I, uh, have a message for Riza Hawkeye,” I told him. “Um, I suppose she’s listed under Mrs. Mustang or something.”

The way the man’s eyes swept from my head to toe made me think he was a step away from ringing for someone to escort me out. “May I ask who is delivering the message?” he asked, regardless of his intentions.

“Eddie Rockbell,” I answered immediately. When he began flipping through a notebook on his side of the counter, I added, “Or Edward Belle.” The man gave me another look, this one complete with raised eyebrow, and I swallowed hard, doing my best to appear trustworthy. He must have found something in the notebook, because he nodded curtly.

“Would you like me to telephone Madam Hawkeye to announce your presence?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No, thank you. Could I just have her room number?” His eyebrows climbed, but I ignored it. Maybe that kind of thing didn’t happen in hotels, but I still wasn’t sure I wanted to talk to Riza.

“Yes sir, if you insist,” came his answer. “I must protest that this is highly unusual, but the lady had specified that you were to be allowed.” He jotted down something on a scrap of paper and slid it across the polished counter. I muttered some sort of thanks and palmed the paper before getting out of the way of the counter.

I still wasn’t sure I wanted to go knock on Riza’s door, so I stood in a corner of the lobby, staring at the scrap of paper. The sound of a familiar voice made me look up, searching for its owner, and I looked around the lobby until my eyes fell on Roy Mustang, standing at the same counter where I’d been not too long ago.

“Any messages from the last train through?” I heard him ask the man. The man shook his head then said something I couldn’t catch before he waved a hand in my general direction. I tried to duck behind a potted plant, but too little too late. He’d spotted me with a look of surprise on his face. After thanking the man, he made his way towards me, and I noticed for the first time that he walked stiffly, the walk of a man whose body no longer worked quite as well as it used to.

“Looking for my wife, are you?” he asked as he approached. Something on my face must have shown something I didn’t know, because his own expression softened and he nodded to the café, still open despite the steady trickle of departing customers. “Come and have a drink with me.” It was a request but, coming from a voice used to issuing commands, I didn’t think it would be wise to decline. So, still confused, I followed him to the café.


He led me past the café and through a pair of double doors near the back to a quieter room, its walls paneled in dark wood. “Oh, I thought you meant coffee,” I said as he took a seat at the polished bar, gesturing for me to take the seat next to him.

Mustang gave me an amused once over as I sat down. “You look old enough to drink something stronger than coffee,” he remarked. “And I think you need it, the way you showed up here.” The bartender had noticed us by this point, placing circles of cork in front of us expectantly, and Mustang looked up. “Just a beer for me, and for my friend here…”

“Gin and tonic,” I interrupted before he could order. Mustang blinked in surprise, but the bartender only nodded. “And a shaker of salt, please.” When he’d gone, I raised my eyebrows at the man with me. “I’m twenty-three years old, Mr. Mustang,” I told him, the only explanation I was willing to give.

He got a faraway look on his face at my words. “Old enough for something stronger than coffee,” he repeated, with a sad sort of laugh. His hand curled around the mug the bartender had unobtrusively set down in front of him, and he looked down at the dark frothy brew. “I wonder if things would have ended differently if they had been old enough for something stronger than coffee.”

There was nothing I could say to that, so I kept silent as the bartender set my glass and requested salt shaker down. I tasted the drink before adding a small dash of salt. The movement must have caught Mustang’s eye, because he raised his head to me again. “Interesting choice,” he remarked.

I shrugged, taking another sip of the drink. It burned a little going down, and I was glad of it. “It takes the edge off the tonic.” That got me another amused sort of look, and I felt irritation rise. “Why did you bring me here?”

Mustang took a long pull from his beer and shrugged. “You came looking for my wife because you wanted to talk to someone. She hasn’t slept well since we heard the news, so I’d rather you didn’t wake her.” His hand tightened around his mug. “Riza and your mother were close friends and she could answer a lot of your questions, but I hope you can content yourself by talking to me. She needs the rest.”

“I don’t want to be a bother. I’m not even sure why I came.” I made to stand up, but Mustang’s hand on my shoulder stopped me.

“Edw— Eddie, you came because you need someone to talk to. Your mother was a very special person; she meant a lot to me, and I always promised to do everything in my power for her and her loved ones.” I relaxed a little, and he must have felt it in the muscles of my shoulder because he dropped his hand and took another drink of his beer.

I stared at him, unable to reconcile the man in front of me with the one whose name had been met with some vitriol in my home. “Why did my mother hate you so much?” I couldn’t help but ask.

The expression on his face made me regret the question as soon as I asked it even as it piqued my curiosity. I couldn’t have hurt the man more than if I’d hit him over the head with the barstool. He took another drink and asked hoarsely, “What do you know about your grandparents?”

“They were doctors who died during the Ishbal War,” I answered, puzzled. “She said they helped everyone regardless of which side they were on. That’s why my mother helped everyone who came through our door.”

The older man stared at his bare hands, no longer wrapped around the mug but placed flat on the slick wood. “Your mother’s parents were ordered by the Amestris army to stop rendering aid to the Ishbalan enemy,” he said, every word coming out strained. “I was the one who carried out the order to kill them for disobeying.”

He took a deep, shuddering breath afterwards, and I covered up my shock with gin and tonic even though I barely noticed the burn as it slid down my throat. My mouth worked, but no sound came out. As if sensing my dilemma, he turned back to me. “And the man you’re named after? Your mother’s best friend disappeared, and I ran away because I couldn’t stand seeing how much it hurt her to live without him. By some miracle he came home, and what did I do? I let him go again, this time taking his brother with him. I didn’t even try to stop them from leaving her.” He laughed, a harsh brittle sound that had nothing to do with alcohol and everything to do with guilt. “Your mother had every reason to hate me.”

It was painful to look at him, to see the bitterness and anger on his face. In a sudden flash of clarity, I realized that I had never seen such loathing in my mother’s eyes. Anger yes, but never hate. I tossed back the rest of the gin and tonic and felt it burn its way down to my stomach before gesturing to the bartender for another. “But she didn’t.” His entire body shuddered at the words. “She didn’t hate you for any of it,” I repeated, hearing the wonder in my own voice.

Mustang drained his mug and, when the bartender touched it in silent inquiry, shook his head, pointing to the dark brown bottles on the shelf. He didn’t speak again until the bartender had refreshed my drink and brought him a glass of amber liquid. “No, she forgave me,” he agreed, draining the glass in one fluid, well-practiced motion. “Your mother was one of the most generous and forgiving women I’ve ever known.”

Maybe it was the gin, but I thought I understood Mustang’s reason for coming to Rush Valley. “That’s why you want to have her buried in Central. Because you think she deserves the honor.”

He started to nod but something changed his mind, and he watched the bartender pour another measure of whiskey into his glass. “No, not just that.” Another shot, another gesture. “I couldn’t bring them back for her when she was alive. The least I can do is to have her buried with them.” His voice cracked, and I wondered if I should stop the bartender from pouring.

I toyed with my own glass, mulling over how to put my thoughts into words. “Mr. Mustang,” I began carefully, “I respect your wish for my mother, but I don’t want her buried in Central, all alone next to two empty graves.” Something rose in my throat, and I poured gin and tonic on it, swallowing hard. “She’s been alone for too many years; please let her rest in peace with family.” My words must have stunned him since he looked like he just took a particularly harsh blow to the stomach. “Can’t you just have memorials for the Elric brothers erected in Resembool? It was their home, too.”

He said nothing and his expression became introspective. I finished my drink and set the glass back on the bar, shaking my head as the bartender reached for it. “I should go sir, but I hope you understand my reasons.” I reached into my back pocket for money, but Mustang roused himself, waving a hand in my direction.

“I’ll take care of it, son,” he said hoarsely. He looked up and met my eyes for a brief moment. Something he saw made him smile faintly. “You’re strong, like her. She never let anyone bully her into something she didn’t want to do.”

The lump rose again, and I wished I hadn’t finished that last drink. “Thank you, sir,” I choked out. Before I could lose my composure completely, I made my way out of the Hotel Augustine, letting my feet carry me home as soon as they could.


When the former president did something, he did it quickly. Mustang accepted my decision and, by the next day, had papers and train tickets waiting. We set the service for four days hence to give me time to settle things in Resembool, and I closed up the shop for a week. Aunt Paninya and Penny offered to come with me, but I declined, insisting they come out for the service at the same time as Big James, Master Garfiel, and the rest of our clients. I suspected the time alone, or almost alone, was going to be good for me, letting me learn something about my mother before facing her burial.

The train pulled out of Rush Valley at sunset and would make it into Risembool by the early morning. Mustang and his wife had both retired to the sleeping car and I knew I should follow their example, but sleep eluded me. I sat on the hard bench and felt the train rumble around me, watched the telephone poles zip by at regular intervals, and yet none of it lulled me to sleep. All I could think of was how I was one pole closer to Resembool, how in hours I would lay eyes on my mother’s birthplace for the first time.

I didn’t want my first glimpse of Resembool to be her funeral, but I had grown to accept Master Garfiel’s wisdom, especially given the alternative was Central. Still, acceptance did little to dispel the nervous anticipation in my stomach, so I stared out the window, seeing little but stars in the sky and the difference in blackness that denoted sky and land.

“You should sleep, Eddie.” Someone slipped into the seat next to me and I turned, not at all surprised to see Riza.

I shrugged. “I know. Can’t.”

She gave me a sympathetic smile. “Thinking about Winry?”

A little bit of tension that I didn’t even realize was present leaked out of my shoulders and I shook my head. “Wondering about Resembool, about what my mother left behind that she never took me back there to visit. Maybe it was too full of bad memories; maybe I shouldn’t have agreed to bring her back here.”

Riza’s hand caught mine in a firm grip. “You’re doing the right thing bringing her back, Eddie.” I opened my mouth to respond, but she continued, “Your mother always wanted to come home to Resembool, but she couldn’t stand the thought of living in her old house. She told me if she did, she would always be watching the road for the Elric brothers. But she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in Resembool except that house.” She squeezed my hand before letting it go. “So she left. Maybe it was for the best, but she missed it.”

“I wish I’d known it the way she had.” The melancholy thought that had been rolling in my mind the past few days slipped out, and I drummed my head against the glass window. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that.”

“Something still on your mind?” she asked. “Roy told me you talked, but he’s not the easiest person to talk to.”

I shook my head but spoke nonetheless. “I’m realizing how little I knew about my mother. I didn’t know how my grandparents died, or why she left Resembool.” I shrugged. “I can’t help but wonder what else I don’t know about her.”

“A dear friend of mine once told me that when we have children, we begin to see ourselves differently, as the person we’ve known our entire lives and as the person our children see.” Riza’s voice was sad, and I remained quiet, though curious. “You knew your mother as well as any child could know a parent, I think. There are some things that we don’t want our children to know, but I think your mother would want you to know why she never brought you back here.”

“Does it have something to do with those pictures she kept on the wall?” I interrupted.

The corners of Riza’s mouth turned up a little at the question. “Smart boy,” she said. “Your mother told you stories of the Fullmetal Alchemist and his brother, didn’t she?”

“ ‘Those two boys loved their mother so much that they had to try bringing her back,’ ” I quoted. “She told me those stories at bedtime every night.” My hand clenched involuntarily, and I forced the words through my suddenly tightening throat. “I think I finally understand how they felt.”

Riza’s hand touched mine again. “She never told you that she grew up with them, did she?” I shook my head; I’d guessed as much from the photographs, but it was hard to judge how close she had been just by a handful of pictures. “She did, in Resembool. She played with them, chased after them and, after their mother died, took care of them.” She shook her head, and I could hear the sadness and the edge of new tears in her voice. “Your mother made Edward’s automail limbs and cared deeply for both brothers. What nobody realized until Edward had disappeared was how much she loved him.”

I gaped, open-mouthed, at her words and she gave me a sad smile. “Yes, that’s why she named you after him.” She waved a hand in front of us and continued, “She stayed in Resembool after that, for Alphonse and her grandmother. I think she had hopes that Al would find a way to bring his brother back and wanted to be where he’d left her when it happened.”

“But it never did.” We both knew that was true and there was no point in saying it, but I still felt like I needed to.

“No,” Riza agreed. “Ed came back, though how and why… I think only the alchemists know, if anyone. But he left again, this time taking his brother with him. Roy told me that Ed still felt like he needed to save the world. Winry somehow knew the boys wouldn’t be coming back, but she stayed in Resembool for her grandmother.” She looked out the window, as if collecting her thoughts, before speaking again. “After Pinako Rockbell died, Roy had Edward declared legally dead so that Winry could access his pension as his next of kin. I saw her in Central that year, collecting his things. She disappeared after that and, about thirteen years ago, Roy found her hiding in Rush Valley.”

Riza ran her free hand over her knee as she spoke, and I suspected she thought of the carefully crafted replacement limb she wore. “My rehabilitation was difficult, and your mother would talk to me to keep my mind off the pain. I asked her once if she hated Resembool because of the brothers. She said no, that she still loved her hometown, but that if she went home she would, on some level, always be hoping for the brothers to come back.” She squeezed my hand again, and I couldn’t help but squeeze back. “She said she’d rather make a new life for herself with her son, somewhere where he could be happy instead of wondering why his mother never stopped staring out at the road.”

I forced my eyes closed and swallowed hard. Almost a week ago, I’d lost my mother, the woman who had nursed every cough and bandaged every scraped knee, but as I spoke to her friends, the enormity of her loss started to become clearer. She had been more than just a mother; she had been a woman who had loved, lost, forgiven, and remained strong throughout it all. Warm arms held me, and I opened my eyes to find my vision clouded by Riza’s pale hair. For a second, I allowed myself to remember how my mother would hug me, how I would laugh when her hair tickled my nose.

My arms tightened around Riza’s. “Thank you,” I murmured, the words so quiet I wasn’t sure she’d heard them.

She pulled away gently, and rested a hand on my head. “Try to get some rest, Eddie. It’s going to be a long couple of days.”


The couple of days leading up to my mother’s funeral were a long, hectic, sheep-scented blur. Mustang and Riza were a constant presence, and I strongly suspected I would have fallen over from exhaustion if they hadn’t intervened for me with the well-meaning neighbors, the stone carver, the undertaker, the repairmen, and all the other people who were indispensable for the arrangement of a funeral. Somehow, in those short days, we managed to make the long vacant house, my house, fit for human habitation, and get headstones and flowers ordered as well as the priest scheduled for the funeral.

The day of the funeral dawned flawlessly: clear blue skies, warm sunlight, an entire train’s worth of people from Rush Valley marching down the road to the big yellow house, as well as a venerable army from Central, and all those well-meaning neighbors. I didn’t remember much about the service itself, only that the priest said meaningless words over the coffin, and a lot of people cried. Some part of me thought I should have paid more respect, but the greater part of me knew that the funeral was only a ceremony. Her body would be buried, but her strength, her knowledge, her life, those things I would carry with me, as would all those who knew her, who loved her.

Still, it had been hard, listening to the shovels pile dirt over that coffin. For a brief moment, I panicked, thinking that my mother had died being buried, that she shouldn’t have to experience it again. But that moment passed as I balled my hands into fists, reminding myself that what was left in the box, in the hole, wasn’t really my mother. There was more crying, and I did what was expected of me, shaking hands and accepting murmured condolences as people left.

I stood there a long time and Penny and her mother were content to wait for me before Mustang and Riza dragged them away, with the reminder that they would all be waiting for me at the house. I stood at my mother’s grave for a long time, staring blindly at the small mountain of flowers that threaten to bury the simple headstone. At some point, I fell to my knees, crushing flowers beneath me but not really caring about it, and rested my hands on the cool, smooth stone.

The lump I’d been swallowing around for days finally worked its way out of my throat, ripping a sob out along with it. My eyes burned with falling tears, and for a long moment, all I could do was cry, slumped boneless against my mother’s grave. “Mom…” I felt like a child all over again, as if by calling for her long enough, she’d come and make the nightmares go away.

I don’t know how long I stayed there, but the sun was starting to dip below the horizon by the time I dried my eyes and stood up. My throat felt like sandpaper, and my head pounded as I turned away and began the walk back to the house. I wouldn’t have noticed him if he hadn’t coughed but he did, and I jumped in surprise to find a tall blond man standing quietly a respectful distance away. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude,” he said, coming forward. The way he approached reminded me of the way one would approach a wild animal: slow, deliberate, without any quick motions.

“It’s alright,” I answered, my voice hoarse.

He came close enough for me to see that his eyes were grey, and he gestured at my mother’s grave sadly. “I intended to be here for the funeral,” he explained. “But my train was delayed. I hope you don’t mind if I pay my respects?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. My mother was never one to turn away a friend.” I brushed my hand against my pants, knocking off most of the dirt, before extending it. “My name is Edward.”

The man’s eyes widened, but he recovered and offered me a faint smile as he took my hand. “Nice to meet you, Edward. I’m Russell.”

And now just a tiny bit of egg pimping...
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Tags: divergence, fanfiction, fullmetal alchemist
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