Title: Poor Little Rich Girl
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Edward, Nina, Alphonse, Tucker.
Setting: General. During the Elrics' stay at the Tucker mansion.
Summary: Nina becomes curious about Ed and Al's place of origin.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt "rich and poor" at Genprompt Bingo.
"Little Big Brother, where did you come from?" Nina asked spontaneously from the floor beside the desk, where she was sprawled on the carpet with an open book in front of her.
Bemused, Edward Elric turned his gaze from his own alchemy book, and looked down at the little girl. For a moment he was not quite sure what she meant by the question; but then he saw the pages she was leafing through. The preschool primer on geography took the guise of a colorful picture-book, depicting various sorts of environments around the world in which different cultures lived.
"Well… Al and I are from a place called Resembool," he replied, slipping down from the desk chair to sit beside her. He reached out with his flesh hand, turning the pages. Near the middle of the book, he found an illustration that was not the Elrics' birthplace, but close enough: green pastures dotted with livestock, rolling hills, and quaint farmhouses, spread out beneath a wide blue sky. He tapped the picture with an automail finger. "It's a lot like that. A little village in the country."
Nina sat up, leaning over the picture to better study it. Wide blue eyes stared down at it with interest, and then up at Ed, reflecting a child's meticulous effort of thought.
"Were you poor?" she asked ingenuously.
Taken aback, the young alchemist blinked. "What?"
"When Daddy read me this book, he said people who live in the country are poor. He said it's best to live in the city."
Ed frowned. In recent days, he had begun to perceive that Shou Tucker was quite attached to his wealthy lifestyle, and concerned about losing it—perhaps because he had nothing to show yet for his impending State recertification. Enjoying his status was fair enough, but Ed couldn't say he liked the suggestion that Tucker looked down on those who didn't share it.
Before he could respond, the answer came from Alphonse, who sat polishing the outer surfaces of his armor. "Oh no, Nina, we weren't poor at all. We may not have lived in a house like this one, but we had everything we wanted."
That much was true enough, at least the way things had turned out. Ed only learned the facts of their family's finances after their mother died. It seemed their father had put away a considerable amount of money—although where it came from, Ed didn't know, and he had a faint suspicion he wouldn't care to. After Hohenheim went away, Mother used it for herself and her sons to live on, while remaining at home to devote herself to them full-time. Ed knew those funds would have eventually run out, and Mother would have needed to seek work… but her life was cut short by illness instead, leaving the boys to inherit what was left. Most of that was long gone by this point, used to pay for their alchemy training with Izumi Curtis, and then Ed's automail limbs.
Now, as a newly commissioned State Alchemist, Ed's pay would be quite generous. His first financial priority was to repay the portion of Al's inheritance which, along with his own, had gone toward his automail. After that… Well, he had never given it much thought, preoccupied as he was by higher goals that no amount of money could buy.
However, he was sure he would never care about the obvious displays of wealth Tucker enjoyed. Al's words were true in a very different sense as well. When they were little, the young wants they had enjoyed their fill of were humble. Fields to run and play in, ponds to splash in, bright starry skies to lie gazing up at; good playmates to romp with, and their mother's love to embrace them when they came home. In Resembool, the brothers had learned to find contentment in simple things, and that lesson was still a part of them.
It was a cruel irony that all they wanted now, and what seemed most beyond their reach, was the simplest desire the human heart could have: merely to touch one another again, with their own rightful flesh and blood.
Ed pried himself away from that unhappy thought, and smiled tentatively at Nina.
"Maybe your father wouldn't like the country—but I'll bet you'd love it," he remarked. "You and Alexander would have lots of fun playing in the grass and fresh air… And in the springtime, there are fields that are nothing but flowers. And you don't need a swimming pool in summer! There are real ponds and streams you can just jump right into."
"And the neighbors have all kinds of animals," Al chimed in, as Nina's eyes grew increasingly wide with rapt interest. "Sheep and goats and cows, and baby chickens and ducks, and lots of other dogs—and cats too! It's like being able to visit a petting zoo every day."
The thought of adorable critters was the clincher. Nina squirmed and whimpered with longing. "Aww, I wanna see all that!"
A very pleasant inspiration came to Ed then, and he smiled at her. "Then someday we'll have to make that happen, when we have the time to go back there ourselves. It may not be until you're a little older," he cautioned the girl quickly, with the uncertainty of the future in mind. Already it had occurred to him that he and Al might be kept too busy on their quest until the very day they succeeded, and could return home with their bodies once again restored. "…But we'll do it, alright. We'd love to show you everything."
In the midst of Nina's squeals of delight at the prospect, there was a tap on the door, and Shou Tucker poked his head into the room.
"Oh, there you are, Nina… Boys, I thought I'd let you know that I'm back from my errand. I'll be in my lab downstairs now."
Briefly Ed wondered how long it had been since Tucker slept. The man looked weary, but at the same time rather restless, with his thinning hair disheveled and his eyes red-rimmed behind his glasses. In the last few days, when he was home at all, he kept himself constantly shut up in his basement laboratory. He probably hadn't been eating, either. Since yesterday, he had neglected even to attend to Nina's meals, leaving Ed and Al to do it. Ed was tempted to speak up about Tucker's carelessness… but he did have a certain sympathy for the intensity with which the man was attacking his research. It was a feeling he knew all too well, himself.
For Nina's part, at the first sight of her father, she bolted up from the floor and rushed to attach herself to his leg. "Daddy! I haven't seen you all day… Will you play with me?"
Tucker sighed and twisted his leg out of Nina's embrace, giving her a cursory, distracted pat on the head. "Maybe later, Nina. I have some very urgent work to do right now. Play with the boys here, or with Alexander…" His voice trailed off as he moved toward the stairs.
Nina's face fell. She took a few steps back into the room, and plopped down gloomily on her backside, her gaze downcast.
Ed exchanged a glance with Al, knowing they felt a shared dismay at her loneliness—and Ed somberly reflected that it was really Shou Tucker who was poor, without even realizing it. A near-recluse in this empty house he prized, he paid almost no notice to the one genuine treasure he had: the one person in his life who adored him.
"Come on, Nina," Edward said gently, offering her a warm smile as he draped his flesh arm over her shoulders. "We've got plenty more stories to tell you about Resembool."
© 2014 Jordanna Morgan