Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in it's world for a while and annoy the canon characters.
Author's note: This series is based on some little orphan plot bunnies which wouldn't stop nibbling on my ears until I wrote little oneshots around them. The premise of this one is simple: What if someone interrupted Ed and Al before they attempted human transmuation?
I. Just You Wait ('Till Your Father Gets Home)
"Water, thirty-five liters. Carbon, twenty kilograms. Ammonia four liters. Lime one point five kilograms."
Thunder grumbled in the far distance over the Hollow Hills. A violent summer storm was approaching Risembool.
"Phosphorus, eight- hundred grams. Sodium, two- hundred fifty grams. Potassium, one- hundred grams. Sulphur, eighty grams. Flouride seven point five grams. Iron, five grams. Silicon, three grams."
Ten year old Edward Elric let his tongue slip out one side of his mouth as he concentrated on drawing the runes in the transmuation circle. They had to be absolutely perfect. If just one was off by the slightest degree, the result would be a disastrous rebound.
Edward did not want that to happen.
For his sake.
For his little brother's sake.
He drew the last rune.
Inside the next half hour their mother would be alive again, healthy and happy and basking in the love of her two boys who risked their souls to bring her back to life. Thunder rumbled again, this time much closer.
"Ready, Al?" Edward pulled a small knife from a back pocket of his shorts and flipped the blade open. He studied the gleaming metal for a moment before he drew the sharp metal across a finger tip and hissed between his teeth at the pain. The skin leapt aside and bright pearls of blood welled up in the narrow cut and dripped onto the pile in the gigantic metal pan.
"Our blood for her blood, it's a fair trade, right?" He extended the knife towards his little brother, but Alphonse didn't stick his finger out.
"Um, brother? Are you sure we should do this?" Alphonse's round face was tight with concern and there was a small unhappy note to his words.
Edward narrowed his gold eyes and glared so hard Alphonse actually took a step back from him.
"Al, all the calculations are perfect, We have all the ingredients for one adult human body, down to Mom's fingernails and eyelashes, including some of our blood. Nothing could go wrong. What could go wrong?"
Alphonse started at a faint sound he thought he heard coming from outside the closed door of their father's study. It sounded like the outside door had just opened. Maybe the rising wind outside had pushed it open, but maybe someone was coming. He hoped it was Granny Pinako, she would stop this. He wished with all his heart it was her. Thunder boomed almost directly over their heads and he jumped a few inches into the air.
"AL!" Edward covered the few feet between them in three strides and held out the knife, but Alphonse didn't move. He reached and grabbed his little brother's left hand and slashed at it with the blade, perhaps with more force than he intended. Alphonse gasped out a sharp cry of pain, but Edward ignored his outburst.
"Don't wimp out on me now!"
He held Alphonse's hand over the pan and squeezed the finger slightly until several drips joined his blood on the pile. Alphonse whimpered and yanked his hand back the second Edward released his grip. He turned away, mumbling something under his breath and Edward's scowl deepened.
"Where are you going?"
"To find something to wrap my finger." Alphonse rummaged throuigh the drawers of his father's desk until he found an old handkerchief, softened by many launderings. He wrapped it three times around the finger before clumsily tying a double knot with the other hand.
"AL! Get over here!"
Alphonse froze in the middle of tying the second knot because he could have sworn he heard footsteps. If only Brother would shut up for two miinutes...
Edward growled deep in his throat, a sign his patience was wearing down to a bare nub. Alphonse finished tying the knot and turned around to return glare for glare. "Brother, you're mean..."
"Stop being such a baby, Alphonse." Edward's tone and use of his brother's full name signalled his was becoming really angry and would resort to punching Al's arm very soon. "Mom will bandage your finger up nice later." He paused briefly in his tirade before he smiled at Alphonse, sighed, and let his body relax. "The sooner we start, the sooner we'll see her smile again, and I can't wait."
"Yeah," Alphonse pushed back his annoyance and smiled back in anticipation. "You're right, Brother. I can't wait either."
"Aren't I always right, Al?" Edward chuckled and poked Alphonse's ribs with his elbow after he walked back to the array.
The two knelt down at the outer chalk line. "Let's do this Al."
The were on the verge of rocking forward and slapping their palms down when the door knob rattled. The brothers froze, and Alphonse held his breath. Was this deliverance?
Edward sat back on his haunches, irritation and bewilderment fighting for control on his mobile young face. "What the hell?"
The lock of the study door suddenly gave way and the door swung open, banging hard against the wall just as a bolt of lighting arced through the night sky. It up the room as bright as day for a brief moment. Alphonse could barely remember the man who stood there and frowned down at them, eyeglasses glinting in the dim lamplight. Thunder boomed and the heavens gave their all.
His mother had shown him pictures and he recognized his and Brother's father. He gulped audibly which caused Edward to throw a sharp look at him.
They were in BIG trouble now.
Winry Rockball cautiouslyi eased her bedcovers back and smiled to see the morning sunlight flooding into her bedroom.. She slid out of bed, walked to the window, raised the blinds and pushed up the sash. Fresh air, bird song and the scent of the world washed clean poured in.
She poked her head out of the window and sniffed the air. Onlhy a few high, puffy white clouds rode in beautiful blue sky as if nature herself was apologizing for the tantrum she'd thrown last night. Last nights storn that brought thunder so loud Winry hid under the sheets and sobbed with fear seemed a million years ago. It was going to be a gorgeous day.
Although it was late in Septemberr, the weather was mild and and there would be no school because today was Fuhrer Bradley's birthday. Endless hours of play with the Elrilc brothers stretched out before her, full of possibilities for innocent childhood fun. Winry was so lost in throught, she didn't hear her bedroom door open and claws come clicking across the wooden floor towards her until something cold and wet touched her bare leg and made her gasp.
"Den!" The young mutt's mouth opened into a big doggy smile after Winry turned around to smile at her, then bent down to hug the furry neck. Den's tongue licked at the dried tear tracks on the girl's face and her tail wagged hard enough to ruffle the bottom of Winry's sleep shirt. The enticing aroma of bacon and eggs drifted in through the open bedroom door and Winry endured a few more tongue laps before she affectionately ruffled Den's ears.
"Ready for breakfast, girl?" Den replied with a short soft bark of approval.
Granny had also put an apple pie into the oven. The aroma of apples and cinnamon filled the kitchen while Winry ate bacon, eggs and home baked bread spead with strawberry jam while slipping the occasional tidbit to Den under the table. After she finished, she helped Granny wash the breakfast dishes and then went upstairs to splash water on her face, brush her hair and dress in a blue-and-white striped short-sleeved shirt and matching shorts of solid blue. She slid her feet into red leather sandals and clattered downstairs back to the kitchen in time to see Granny take the pie out of the oven.
Once it cooled, Pinako cut three generous slices of the pie, wrapped them in cloth napkins and placed them into a small wicker basket along with a jug of homemade peach juice and three cups. She closed the baskets lid. "There you are, Winry dear. Don't let Edward hog the pie." Pinako handed the basket to her with a big smile around the ever present pipe clenched between her teeth.
"I won't, Granny. Ed acts like a jerk sometimes, but I can handle him." WInry took the basket and skpped out the door with Den righit at her heels. "Bye, Granny!"
Pinako waved back, wincing only slightly when the screen door slammed. Winry was singing a song she'd heard on the radio and Pinako listened to it slowly fade away as her granddaughter moved out of earshot. She headed for her favorite chair to relax and read the morning paper before that days automail paitients came for their appointments.
Winry skipped along the road towards the village of Risembool until she reached the bottom of their hill, the steepest rise in the countryside. They could see for miles and miles from its crest. On a clear day even New Optain was faintly visible in the distance. It shimmered like a mirage, like a dream of adventure.
The Rain River curled around the opposite side of the hill and just behond that was the lone set of train tracks which stretched straight off into the horizon to the provincial capitol of East City. Edward used to brag that one day he'd ride that train all the way to Central and never come back to 'boring old Risembool'.
What good times they'd had upon that hill.
Winry's face was bright with anticipation as she trudged up the steep slope to the top. The sun was rising higher and the air was getting hotter so she was sweating by the time she got to the shade of the lone oak tree which stood like a sentinel high above just harvested fields. WInry expected the brothers to be already there and probably squabbling due to boredom. They would be so happy to see what she'd brought for a pre-lunch snack.
But the soft grass underneath the tree was bare when she finally got there.
No matter. Edward probably wanted to see how high the rain-swollen river had gotten. Maybe he, Al and some of the other boys were making paper boats to sail in the increased current or even starting a mudball fight. Boys...
Winry leaned against the solid comforting bulk of the trees trunk and slid down, then settled in to wait for them, like she often did. Den, her tongue lolling out of her mouth flopped down next to Winry and promptly went to sleep.
Two and a half hours.
Winry ate her slice of pie slowly while feeling growiong annoyance with the brothers. Where were they? She wiped an errant drip of peach juice off her chin with the back of her hand, re-packed the jug, glass and now empty napkin back into the basket and stood up. Den was instantly awake and she stood up too, tail waving and brown eyes expectant. After she wiped stray blades of grass of the seat of her shorts, Winry walked back town the hill, then turned back up the road, towards the Elric house.
Two little boys were in BIG trouble.
Under a full head of self-righteous steam, Winry walked up the lane which led to the front door of Ed and Al's house, feeling more angry with each step. She'd half considered going home to see if the brothers were there and pestering Granny, but she was sure her grandmother would have steered them towards the hill.
How DARE they make me wait? They are SO in for it!
Winry wished she'd brought her new wrench with her to hit them with, that would teach them, but then a little voice niggled at the back of her head. What if they're sick? The thought made Winry stop dead in her tracks and a feeling of sick dread turned that piece of pie into a heavy weight in her stomach.
What if... they tried to use alchemy to bring their mom back?
Both Ed and Al were alchemy freaks and they'd been really cagey about their activities in the past few weeks, as if they were planning something. Winry broke into a dead run, the dropped the basket somewhere along the way and she heard the jug of peach juice shatter, but she didn't care. Fear leant wings to her feet, even Den felt it and abandoned the intriguing basket to race after then alongisde her mistress. Both of them covered the final few yards to the Elric house in a blur.
The house was silent, the windows black and empty like staring eyes. Winry tugged on the front door,but it was stubbornly locked and she banged on it with the flat of her hand, "Ed! Al! Are you two in there?!" Fresh tears ran easily down her flushed cheeks.
Winry clattered back down the front steps and raced around with Den to the back of the house. A key was hidden behind a loose stone block on the back porch. If something was really wrong, she could use the phone in the kitchen to call for help. She rounded the last corner and juddered to a halt. Den raced past her, then stopped and looked back, confusion on her face.
Sheets were hanging haphazrdly on the clothes line and she could hear faint mutterings that sounded like Ed and Al's voices. Oh, thank the gods they're all right! A strong, sudden gust of wind blew one of the sheets almost vertical and then Winry saw two pairs of feet-one in red shoes, th e other in blue leather sandals-standing on two wooden boxes.
"Ed! Al!" Winry sobbed with relief as she ran forward around the clothesline and what she saw nearly made her burst out laughing.
Edward and Alphonse both wore long smock aprons which reached down almost to their toes. Edward wore green gingham check with darker green ruffles and bunnies appliqued on the skirt. Alphonse was in dusky pink with black rulffles and kitten faces embroidered on the bib. Colorful handkerchiefs were knotted around their heads while they hung bedsheets on the line. Or tried to anyways.
Both were making rather a hash of the job and a loud giggle forced its way past Winry's lips and Den gave a doggy smile as if even she was amused. Edward scowled back at her, but Alphonse, his mouth full of clothespins gave her a smile and wiggle of his eyebrows.
"You two make such pretty maids!" Winry tittered, her hands were over her mouth but they couldn't hold the laughter back.
"Shut up, Winry!" Edward snapped just before the wind gusted in his direction and enfolded a wet sheet about his head, "Glub! Ack!"
He flailed around in an attempt to get it off, but he only managed to unbalance the box which tipped over and dropped him right on his backside. "OW! Dammit!" His reddened face screwed up in pain, Edward sat on the ground and rubbed one butt cheek.
Winry's face paled. She stopped laughing and ran over to help Edward up. With a disgusted look, he shook her hands off and then pushed her back. "Leave me alone!"
Alplhonse spit the pins out of his mouth and admonished, "She's only trying to help, Brother! Don't be so rude!" He hopped off his own box and helped Winry back to her feet. Edward stalked off to the large oak tree that stood at the edge of the back yard. Allphonse brushed blades of grass off Winry's shorts. "Are you all right, Winry?"
"I'm fine, Al. But - what is going on?" Winry turned the box Edward had been using back upright and sat down. "You two never showed up on the hill and Granny baked a nice apple pie for us. I brought a piece for each of us and some peach juice and - oh!"
Alphonse had sat down on his box...or he tried to. The minute his shorts clad bottom touched the wood, he jumped back up while uttering a sharp squeak of pain.
"Al, I'm sorry, but I dropped the basket while I was running. I got worried about you two and what is wrong with you?"
"My bottom hurts," he shrugged, trying to be nonchalant. "It's nothing."
"Did you fall down the stairs, or something?"
"No... um," Alphonse hesitated and bit his lip before he looked over at Edward. But his brother was too busy sulking as he leaned against the tree. His back was to them and his posture was stiff with anger.
But Alphonse still pitched his voice lower. "Brother and I were going to bring Mom back to life last night, but someone came."
"AL! You didn't!" Winry was horrified, but also curious. "Who came?"
"Dad. He came home, after all these years. He was really mad and told us to stop right away. But Brother jumped up and smarted off to him. Dad's face got really dark and I thought he was going to kill Brother for what he said."
"Wha-what happened?" And why can't you sit down without pain?"
"Well, Winry. It's like this, both of us got a spanking, so um-our butts really hurt, so much we can't sit down. We had to eat our breakfast standing up and dad is a really lousy cook to boot!"
Winry was incredulous. Edward was ten and Alphonse was nine, both were too old to be spanked. Edward certainly wouldn't stand for treatment like that. "Your DAD spanked you?!"
"No, not Dad. He clapped his hands and those two old suits of armor in his study started moving. They grabbed us, put us over their knees and spanked each of us ten times. Then Dad sent us to bed. Without any supper!" Alphonse's lower lip stuck out as if not the spanking, but no supper was the true injustice.
The back door creaked open just at that moment and all three children started and looked over. Standing on the threshold was one of those old suits of armor, the really scary one with all the spikes on the shoulders. But it also wore a frilly purple smockapron and carried a basket of wet laundry. Its eyes gleamed red and a hollow voice boomed from the helmet. Winry shuddered despite the heat of the day as a crop of goosebumps raced up her arms.
"Edward! Alphonse! Those sheets won't hang themselves, so get back to work! The next load is finished and you have to hang all of it before you get lunch!"
"We gotta go, Winry. Part of our punishment is to do all the chores Mom used to do for us."
"O.K. Bye Al, bye Ed." She called to the older brother who was grumpily returning to the clothesline. Winry began to turn away, but acting on a sudden impulse, she spun around and hugged Alphonse. Then she hugged Edward who was surpsied enough to stop scowling for a moment. "Ill see you later, k?"
"Sorry, Winry, we can't." Edward mumbled softly, his head hanging.
Winry trudged back to the Rockbell house, basket in hand, later that afternoon as the sun began to drop behind the peaks of the Hollow Hills. Pinako was sitting on the porch and smoking her pipe, feet up on a hassock after that day'a automail surgeries and check-ups were completed. All the paitents were resting comfortably and Pinako considered it was time Winry began learning about the messier aspects of automail grafting. Just then she saw her granddaughter return, looking sad and beaten down.
"H'm?" she leaned forward and watched Winry walk slowly up the path to the house. Den walked next to her, the dog's head was down, but she suddenly looked right at Pinako and whined, as if she was passing on a private worry to the old woman. The dog looked confused . Pinako was concerned, had Edward been mean to her again? When Winry reached the porch, she climbed up just two steps before she sat down, setting the basket beside her. She turned a frown in her grandmother's direction.
"I'm sorry, Granny, but I dropped the basket and broke the jug while I was running." She had looked downward while she said it and Pinako saw a few tears spatter onto the wooden step.
Pinako tut-tutted. "That's all right dear, I have lots of jugs like that. But whey didn't you ask the Elrics to fix it for you with alchemyi?"
"They can't, Granny! They've been forbidden to use alchemy, it's part of their punishment!"
Forbidden? Punsihment? "Winry, dear, who forbade them to use alchemy?"
"Their dad! He came home last night and caught them doing some alchemy they weren't supposed to!"
"Hmmm..." the old woman scratched her chin and considered, but she couldn't keep the grin from snaking across her face. Her old drinking buddy was back in town, and about time too. "Winry, let's go inside and you tell me the whole story while we fix supper."
Winry did so while she peeled potatoes and chopped carrots to help her grandmother. Pianko was amused by Hohenheim's idea of discipline, although she thought the frilly aprons were punishment enough for two red-blooded Amestrian boys. They sat down to eat their evening meal, double-sauced meat loaf with sides of steamed carrots and mashed potatoes. But just before Winry dug her fork in, she paused and blurted out in a near wail, "And it gets worse Granny!"
They've been grounded for the rest of the year!"