Author: onceuponachildhood PM
The Pantheress of Riesembool and her past; the makings of a legend- and the makings of a woman. .:oneshot, some language:.Rated: Fiction T - English - Pinako R. - Words: 5,052 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 9 - Published: 06-02-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6018913
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Summary: The Pantheress of Riesembool and her past; the makings of a legend- and the makings of a woman. .:Effing long oneshot:.
Other: Inspired by Dominic's strange fear of Pinako. I mean, what'd the hell she do to make a grown man quiver in fear? That got me to wondering about the rest of Pinako's past. And so this was born.
Her mother is off to do a delivery, her father is out helping a neighbor repair his barn, and Pinako is left at home with one of the patients. He is asleep on the couch; his stump of a leg is still healing and it saps much of his energy. She tiptoes into the room to get a closer look. He snores slightly, the only other noise in the room as she examines the stump. The skin is slightly puckered around the stitches. She stares at the wound in wonder until she realizes that the snoring has stopped. The man is partially propped up, wryly smiling at her.
She makes a soft noise of apology and steps back. He chuckles- a soothing sound that chases away Pinako's embarrassment. "Interested in my leg?"
She wrings her fingers a bit but does not look away from him. "It's healing well," she murmurs. "Papa told me to keep an eye out for any signs of infelection."
It takes him a moment to realize that she means infection, and then he is impressed. "So you're helping your papa, are you?" She nods. "Quite a big task for someone so little," he comments.
She all but bristles. "I'm not little!" Her tone is indignant and he's sure that she's going to stamp her foot on the floor. "I'm a big girl! I'm four years old!" He chuckles again (and Pinako has no idea what's so funny) and ruffles her hair fondly.
She watches her papa carve out a strong shin, a muscular calf, and a broad foot. He sands down delicate toes and fits a flexible joint. His hands trace along the work, checking for any knots or impurities. He stands and turns to the door, only to find his little girl staring at the prosthetic in awe. "Pinako?"
Her eyes are focused on the leg even as she speaks. "That's amazing, Papa." She takes a step into the workshop. "It that for a patient?"
She takes another step in. "Do you think," another step, "that I could learn?" She takes another step, and then her fingers are right beside her father's, tracing along the contours of the prosthetic. "I wanna do what you do, Papa."
His daughter has always been smart. "And what is it I do, sweetie?"
Her nose wrinkles, as if she finds the question idiotic. "Easy. You help people live."
He gapes at her as she takes the leg from his hands, carefully testing the joint.
"I heard that some boys were making fun of you at school today."
Pinako doesn't even look up from her plate at her mother's statement. "Yep."
Mr. Rockbell does look up from his dinner, glancing from his calmly eating daughter to his concerned wife. Frowning, the woman continues. "You didn't think we should know?"
"Not really," the girl replies. Her legs swing above the floor; she is small and slight and so very, very unique. "Not like I care what they think."
"It's true, Papa!" She sets her fork down with enough firmness to be mistaken for a slam. "They're only mad because we had a race at recess today, and I won." Content with her explanation, she slides down from her chair. "They can't catch up, and it makes them angry."
She hums as she rushes up to her room and leaves her parents baffled at the table.
Pinako blinks, standing unsurely in the doorway. Her father struggles to keep a patient in the bed, sweat beading on both their foreheads. "Lay back down!" Her father's voice is stern. "You'll only rip open the wounds on the port!"
"I don't care!" The patient shrieks back; his struggles already have blood dripping from his shoulder. "It hurts! It hurts! Let go of me!"
"Lay back down!" Her father pushes and pushes, but the frightened patient will not do as he is told. Usually her mother helps, but Dr. Rockbell is out buying groceries.
With all the conviction a six-year-old can muster, she marches right over to the patient's side and smacks him soundly across the face. Both of the men freeze as she draws her hand back; her little brows furrow. "Papa said for you to lay back down, mister, so you'd better lay your ass right back in that bed!" When he doesn't move, her hands find their way to her hips. "You'll only make it hurt worse, idiot; get back in the bed."
The patient, eyes widened at the little girl, merely nods. "Of course. Right." Face pale, he lies back in the bed and closes his eyes.
Satisfied, Pinako nods once and marches right back out of the room.
"Where in the world did you hear a word like that, sweetie?" "Mama always talks back to the patients. She said that they need a 'firm hand', whatever that means."
"Mama always talks back to the patients. She said that they need a 'firm hand', whatever that means."
Not everyone is brave enough or hardy enough for automail. Pinako knows this, and she sets about learning to make prosthetics as well as her much-cherished automail. They'll never have the same motion, she warns patients, or the same mobility, but they'll also never be as painful.
"Why can't it be both?" She looks up at one of her patients from the floor as she makes sure his leg lines up right. "Why can't automail be pain-free, or why can't prosthetics have better range of motion?"
Pinako sighs, hauling herself to her feet. "Because nothing in this world is free, Mr. Dobson." He blinks; Pinako rages and shouts and laughs, but she never sounds so weary. "You'd do well to remember that."
He is silent until she pronounces his leg complete and he praises her for all her work. She bats his hand away from her head when he tries to ruffle her hair. She tells him she's not a child anymore and moves onto her next job with an energy that makes him suddenly feel very old.
There is a steadfastness in her legs as she runs- Pinako is fast, faster than most of the boys in the schoolyard, the boys who tell her that she can't do anything because she is a female. One of those boys is lying in a field, bleeding; before he could get to safety, a tractor had gotten to him.
I'll bet, she thinks bitterly as she sinks to her knees at his side, that now he's glad I can run fast. She slings her pack off her back and digs out her emergency first aid (bandages and alcohol and even a needle and thread for really bad wounds).
The leg is all but shredded, still attached by a few strands of skin and tissue. Pinako digs out her knife, readying the boy for his emergency care. He'll need prosthetics if not automail, and she immerses herself in her work.
She is thirteen, covered in blood and wheat and dust, as she carefully saves yet another life.
It rains terribly for days during flu season. Flash floods crop up out of nowhere, and suddenly the Rockbells find themselves up to their elbows in wounded or sick people.
Her parents are out on call (because her dear, sweet mother is the only doctor for nearly forty miles) and the people of Riesembool have only one person to turn to for the sick. They show up in small clusters; bleeding and soaking wet. Pinako ushers them in, all the while loudly complaining that she's not a doctor.
She stitches wounds and tends to fevers until she thinks she may collapse, takes a deep draft of her coffee, and then begins the process all over again. She works until she can see the sun's rays peeking through the curtains. There is a knock at the door- word has just arrived that the Rockbell couple were on a bridge when it collapsed and their bodies haven't been found.
Pinako clenches her fingers around her mug. Seventeen is too young for this, she decides mentally before standing once more. Behind the newcomer she can see a new wave of patients and she sets her shoulders.
She is a Rockbell, dammit, and she will persevere.
A young woman stretches comfortably out on the couch, gesturing as she speaks. She is a ray of sunshine among the usually depressed patients, and Pinako is grateful. "And then I told him that if he didn't give me back the shovel, I was going to make him dig his own grave with it."
Pinako laughs, screwdriver in hand as she tightens a loose joint. "So then what happened?"
"Obviously, the brat tossed the shovel my way and made a run for it." She sighs. "So I took the damn thing down the hillside and started digging at the entrance of the cave." There is a moment of silence as the young woman swallows, rubbing her forehead with her remaining hand. "I never saw the stupid cougar coming."
"Crap happens sometimes." There is a clunk as Pinako turns the arm over.
"Yeah." The woman turns her head to look at her stump, then closes her eyes and grins. "But I'm still alive."
Her patients give her small gifts along the way, especially after they learn just how little she charges for her work when compared to most mechanics. Baskets of fruit and fresh-baked bread find their way to her doorstep. The truly bold places things right on her table and in her cabinets.
A particularly robust man with a prosthetic foot hands her a small package on his way out the door. "You're eighteen, right?" She confirms it questioningly and he laughs. "Good, good, then enjoy the gift."
It's a pipe, and quite a fine-crafted one at that. It's not overly fancy or ornate, but incredibly sturdy in its design. She turns it over in her hands, feeling along the wood with curiosity.
"Taking up smoking?"
She glances up. One of her patients- this one with actual automail- is leaning in the doorway. "It was a gift," she says.
The question goes unanswered, but her patient doesn't seem to mind. "Nobody would blame you. Yours is a stressful line of work. I suppose it's up to you, though." He turns to go, hobbling carefully to avoid too much weight on his still-healing port. "Besides," he shoots back over his shoulder, voice mischievous, "Smoking is a man's pastime."
Pinako was never one to back down from a challenge.
In the East area, there is no better place for automail or for prosthetics than the Rockbell shop. Word spread quickly and despite living in such a small town, Pinako finds herself overwhelmed- both with customers and with fellow mechanics looking for work or apprenticeships. She sends many of the customers away and almost all of the potential apprentices. She doesn't have time to mess around with men who think themselves better than her, nor the patience.
One, however, catches her eye. It's not his looks (though he is a strapping young man) and it's not his credentials (he has none to speak of). It is his desire to learn, to make automail, that truly gives her pause. He's about her age, she thinks, and incredibly far from home. (Nineteen and making his way in the world; she knows how that feels.)
"You came from the West area?" Her tone is incredulous. "You came all the way from the West area to learn how to make automail from me?"
He nods. "Your talent for automail is known in all the mechanic circles."
She absentmindedly bites down on her pipe. "So you came for my talent?"
"No," he corrects quickly, "it's just that I want- I want to make automail." His eyes shine as he speaks. "I want to make the best. I want to make good quality automail; I don't want to make anything less than perfect."
She stares at him a long while before she throws her head back and laughs. He blinks, ignoring the flush that rises on his face. "Nothing less than perfect, you said?" She shakes her head, still chuckling. "I suppose I'll have to take you on if only to correct your way of thinking."
It is only a month after her apprentice Dominic settles in that one of the kids from town bursts through her door. "Pinako!" The girl shouts as she tears through the house, finding the Rockbell in the basement. "Pinako! There's-" she falters as she takes in Dominic's form before continuing, "-there's a stranger in the middle of town. He's just collapsed!"
No time is wasted as Pinako slings a bag over her shoulder. "Lead the way," she instructs the child. "We'll follow."
Pinako smirks at the male. "You're my apprentice, Dominic, which means you do the same work I do. Get your ass moving."
It is a stranger in the middle of the town; Pinako's never seen him before, but she feels like she's seen someone like him somewhere. Sighing, she kneels next to his prone form and check his pulse. His respirations are next. He's alive, that's for sure, but he's not responding. "Hey," she speaks as she checks him over for injuries. "Anyone home in there?"
His eyes open wide, just for a moment, and Pinako is startled at the golden hue. "No home… not anymore…"
His eyes close again, and she pops the side of his face with her hand. "Alright, now, no going to sleep just yet." He cracks his eyes open to look at her. "Can you stand?"
"I think so," he replies, actually lucid this time.
Internally, she sighs in relief; she has no desire to break out a stretcher for someone with no injuries. "Do you think you can walk?" He takes a deep breath before nodding. "Alright. Dominic!" Her head is turned and she shouts for the young man. He comes over, clearly not happy with the situation. "We're going to have to help him back to the shop."
This time he doesn't even question her. Instead he helps the stranger to his feet and kindly takes on most of the weight. Pinako takes the other side, heaving nearly all the rest. The man between then does his best to put one foot in front of the other as they make their way up the hill.
In time she learns the man's name (Van Hohenheim rolls strangely well off the tongue) and that he has a penchant for strong drink (so does she, though she's not even twenty). She learns that like many of her patients, he has nightmares of the most violent kind- though his wounds are of the mind, not the body, they're wounds all the same.
He stays with her while in town. Hohenheim has a strange tendency to vanish for days before finding his way back to her liquor cabinet. Pinako is well-adjusted to the whims of troubled minds and shows no surprise when she finds him after about the fifth time. He sits at her dining table and stares into his glass of whiskey. She says nothing, instead sitting across from his and pouring herself a generous helping.
"You're surprisingly understanding, for someone for so young."
Pinako looks up at his words. Hohenheim may look no older than forty but his eyes are much, much older. She puffs thoughtfully at her pipe. "You're surprisingly not, for someone so old." He's surprised at her forwardness, and she knows it. "Age has nothing to do with it, Van." She takes a drink- somehow without removing her pipe- and frowns. "You're leaving for good this time, aren't you?" He says nothing. The silence speaks for him. "Well, then," she decides, "I suppose we'll have to give you a proper send-off, hm?"
He blinks, his eyes shifting from his glass to her face.
"We'll get some of the guys together, make it a real party." Before he protests, she grins. "I've been itching to have a bonfire, after all; the kids'll love it."
Her twenty-first birthday comes and goes with no real celebration- instead she is splattered in blood and quickly dishing out orders to Dominic. Their newest automail installation has gone badly; the woman whom they are operating on has a reaction to the morphine. Swearing colorfully, Pinako switches out the pain medications and keeps an eye on the patient's breathing. She refuses to lose a patient over something so stupid. All the while, she is still installing the port to the woman's shoulder. There is no point in risking death twice, and so they have to get it done the first time.
Pinako only leaves the patient's side when the woman is finally strong enough to speak. "First thing I'm gonna do," she rasps, "is go find me a big warm bed and a big warm body." Pinako listens as she checks over the woman's health. "When the rehab's done," she continues, "I'm gonna show the world I'm still alive."
There is a certain awareness, now, of the men around her. They've asked her before (for dates, for beautiful nights, for a lifetime) and she finds herself agreeing to the second quite readily. I am a woman, she tells herself in the mirror, and there is no shame in my needs.
It is a small town, so people talk. When Pinako goes to get the groceries she walks with her head high and her pipe firmly in place. She has made herself a place in a man's industry; who would deny her the right to her lifestyle? People talk, they always will, but Pinako is a woman of her own choosing and it will take more than petty gossip to shame her.
There is the thrill of seduction and the pride of her craftsmanship; Pinako has her patients and she has her conquests. They don't overlap often but she is not ashamed of a lame lover.
"Losing a leg or an arm never diminishes the libido," she tells a young patient, a boy of twelve that she has her heart set on enlightening (perhaps even embarrassing) after he admits not knowing what, exactly, sex is.
To the latter, she succeeds. Brilliantly.
Dominic walks in, once, to see her using a riding crop in a manner he'd never even considered. He leaves the very next day, thanking her for everything.
He doesn't admit that she terrifies him, but her laughter as he departs says it all.
An automail patient comes back. He is uninjured, unharmed, and needs no work done. He shows up with eyes twinkling and a good-natured taunt on his tongue. "Still going on with men's work, Pinako?"
She checks his automail over with a quick glance- arm is fine, leg may need a bit of polishing- before she grins right back at him. "I ain't done men's work my whole life!" She calls back, puffing on her pipe as if to prove her point. He notices the familiar appendage and laughs.
It's late evening when she knocks on his door, entering with two glasses and a bottle of whiskey in her arms. He blinks at her in surprise as she sets the glasses on the desk with a sort of knowing look. He opens his mouth to say something, anything, but she saves him the trouble. "A real gentleman like you shouldn't have any problem keeping a gal company for the night, right?"
He stands, taking the bottle of whiskey from his hands. "Not at all," he murmurs, "if you think you can keep up, that is." She laughs, grabbing onto the front of his shirt.
When he leaves she studies the patterns on the bruises along her hip. Automail fingers leave perfect little marks, fingerprints that will last for a few more weeks after. There is a niggling in the back of her mind that she should feel something, that she should miss him; instead, she accepts that the bruises are there and goes about her day.
"You're a disgrace to our town," a voice calls after her, but she doesn't falter. "Honestly, Pinako, what would your mother say?"
This does give her pause, and she turns in the doorway. Her fingers tighten ever-so-slightly around her bags of produce. "I wouldn't know," the Rockbell answers, "but she sure as hell wouldn't give a damn about what you think." She nearly calls the woman out on the affair everyone knows about, but she decides that she is better than that.
The gossips are the ones left dumbfounded as she walks out with her shoulders set proudly.
There is something different about this one, Pinako thinks as he strokes her hair. She ponders what it is as his heart beats steadily beneath her cheek. She shifts to burrow against his side and away from the cool morning air. There is the feel of flesh against the back of her knee; she realizes that he's using his stump to play with her leg.
"G'morning," he murmurs against the crown of her head. "Breakfast first, or round two?"
She chuckles. "More like round three."
"Maybe four," he adds, and she grins. They're always quiet afterwards, ready to leave as soon as she lets go. This one, however, merely pushes his sandy hair off his forehead and looks down at her. "Breakfast can wait, right?"
She grins wider, eyes closing, and carefully tugs the sheets over them.
Surgeries are always tough, but to do two legs at once leaves Pinako an exhausted lump of muscle and bone. She stumbles from the bathroom wearing nothing but a large men's shirt and climbs into the bed with a sigh.
She wakes the next morning to bright blue eyes, sandy hair, and breakfast on a tray. "Your latest patient is doing well, Dr. Rockbell," he speaks in a chipper tone, smile wide, "and you deserve to rest."
The smile never falters, but it does grow sad for a second. "If you never take care of yourself and wither away, who would I have to so thoroughly put me in my place if I'm wrong?" She blinks. "Who would the children come to when they want toys fashioned out of spare automail parts?" She doesn't speak. "Who would-?"
"Who would shut you up when you talk too much?" Pinako fills in, reaching up to press her lips to his cheek. "Thanks for breakfast. Where's my pipe?"
She agrees to marry him if she keeps her last name- she is a Rockbell woman down to her very core and she will not let this go.
He smiles, toying with the ends of her hair. "Not a problem," he replies. "I'd be a hell of a stupid man to let a gal like you go over a name."
Laughing joyfully, she tugs him to his feet and clasps his hand. They run for the house, feet pounding on the ground. She's faster (she's always been faster) but she's built his leg strong and he is able to keep up until they reach the bottom of the hill and he trips her.
On the ground, legs tangled together, Pinako looks at this man and realizes that he is different. She loves him.
She's so stunned by her own revelation that all she can think to do is kiss him senseless.
She is too young to be burying her husband; a feverish illness sweeps through Riesembool during the winter and she loses seven patients by spring.
Seven too many, she tells herself somberly. She watches the casket make its descent and rests her hand on her abdomen. She is too young to be burying her husband, and she is far too young to raise a child by herself. Tears roll down her cheeks but she doesn't make a sound.
She may be too young but there's a life slowly growing inside of her that says otherwise.
She trudges back up to her- empty, lonely- house with a defiant set to her shoulders. She is not much older than seventeen in the grand scheme of things and she knows she is stronger than when her parents died (twenty-eight seemed so old back then). Keeping her breath steady, she wipes the tears from her cheeks and walks in the door.
Sitting at the table, his expression morose, is Hohenheim. She blinks once, twice, before sitting across from him. Her pipe is in her front pocket; she pulls it out and places it between her lips. The weight is familiar and gives her a bit of strength.
"So what brings you back to Riesembool?"
His glass is empty, Pinako notices, but she doesn't point it out. "Out of everywhere I've been," his voice is softer than she remembered, "it is my favorite place."
Pinako understands. The land around them is soothing in its quietness. She hopes that she can use this to her advantage. "How long are you planning on staying?"
"Not much longer than before," he replies, still staring at his empty glass.
She frowns. Pinako is not without her pride, but she is above all else a practical woman. It will not be practical to be alone. "Maybe you could extend your stay?" Perhaps it's the question that makes him look up. Perhaps it is the edge of tears in her voice. "I'm pregnant, Van." He stares blankly, as if to say it's not his. "I'm pregnant and my husband just died." Understanding dawns in his expression. "At least for the first year, I'm going to need help."
Hohenheim looks back down to his empty glass before he nods. "I don't know how much help I'll be."
"It's enough," Pinako states with conviction. She hasn't felt so self-assured in ages. "It's enough."
There is a knock at the door and Pinako opens it to find an unfamiliar face. "Hello there," the woman says. She is dark-haired and has a kind face, and there is a basket clutched in her hands. "I know this is supposed to be the other way around, but my husband and I just moved into the house across the hill."
Pinako knows the one. She used to race there and back, leaping across the grass as if she were flying. Now, she is very much grounded. "Well come in," the Rockbell suggests, stepping back. "No need to be a stranger."
"I've heard a lot about you," the woman admits, "from the townsfolk." Pinako doesn't pause in her search for teacups, but she does fight back a scowl. "But I figured that it was all quite a bit of petty gossip and felt I should meet you myself." There is a pause, and then the woman laughs. "Though I hope that your talent for automail isn't just gossip."
"It's not," cuts in a familiar voice. An older man hobbles in, a pained smile on his face. "Sorry for intruding, ladies, but the front door was open."
"That would have been Hohenheim," Pinako replies with a laugh. She snags an extra teacup before setting the kettle on the stove. "Here for repairs, Mr. Dobson?"
He rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. "I think I might've messed up the joint."
"It's the joint," she agreed, not looking away from the cabinet. "I can hear the metal grating." She finds what she's looking for and tugs it from the shelf, setting a small package of cookies onto a plate.
Her new neighbor watches the exchange with avid interest. Dobson grabs a chair and makes himself comfortable. "You just take your time, squirt, and fix my leg when you have a moment. No need to strain."
"Right, right, not good for the baby." Her tone is irritated, but Pinako smiles. "Do you have any idea how many times I hear that a day?"
"Mine and my late husband's first," Pinako replies.
Her new neighbor smiles sadly. "My dear Mr. Elric and I are having our first too." Her hands rests lightly on her abdomen; now that she's looking, Pinako can see a baby bump. Their eyes meet and simple as that, Pinako doesn't feel quite so alone.
A/N: So, uh, can you say it with me? Damn, what an overly-long oneshot.
I like long oneshots, whenever I can crank them out. They're engaging.
So I had a strange desire to write Pinako's past. I was going to add in Urey's and Trisha's pasts, but that's been done enough times already. Pinako's childhood/past? Not so much. And believe it or not, it was really fun. I have a feeling that I might write more Pinako in the future.