A Boy Named Ed
Ed knew he was different. It wasn't just that he was smarter than the other kids or even that he had automail. No, it had more to do with the way his mom would occasionally look at him, like she was looking at somebody else. It was the way his mechanic cried the day she met him. It was the way his dad would sometimes slip – and call him Fullmetal.
A.N. Yes, it's another one of 'those' stories. You'll see what I mean. Hopefully I'll be able to provide a different twist on it though. No pairings other than Royai though it's not a main focus (btw can someone explain that abbreviation to me? How does Roy/Hawkeye or Roy/Riza get shipped as Royai?). Mostly Parental RoyEd with some EdRiza. A bit of nostalgic EdWin but it's not romantic for obvious reasons. Brotherly fluff will come later though I'm not saying anything more on that for now. Somewhat inspired by Jordanna Morgan's wonderful story Reawakening. Do read it. I'm not promising anything about updates. Please review. I do like to get feedback and encouragement does help me update faster.
Disclaimer: Ed, Al, and all their friends are the property of Hiromu Arakawa. I do not own them, but am grateful for the opportunity to use them in the unleashing of my own imagination.
Rating: This story is rated K+
Chapter 1, in which Winry receives a letter
October 17, 1926
Dear Ms. Rockbell
My name is Edward Mustang. I am eleven years old and I am a first year at Central Academy in Central City, Amestris. I live in Central City with my father, General Roy Mustang, and my mother, Lieutenant Colonel Riza Mustang.
I am writing you today to inquire about having automail fitted for my left leg and right arm. I know that I am young and the procedure is normally withheld until age fifteen, but I have given this much thought and consideration and I believe that I am ready to undergo the surgery. I lost both limbs as an infant and was fitted with rudimentary prosthetics at age two. These have served me well in my youth but my abilities are limited. With the greater range of motion and control that is offered by automotive prostheses, I know that I will be able to pursue a greater variety of extra-curricular activities which will benefit my growth and learning.
My research has shown that Rockbell Prosthetic Limb Outfitters provides some of the highest quality automail in the country. My parents have already agreed to support this endeavor and are willing to cover the costs. I understand that there will be a few years of rehabilitation and physical therapy after the surgery and have already made arrangements to continue my education from home when required. I agree to follow the guidelines for rehabilitation so as to ensure the best possible recovery. I also agree to follow a proper maintenance schedule and to appear for refitting as needed.
I hope that you will find this proposal agreeable and I look forward to meeting you at your earliest convenience.
Edward Maes Mustang
Winry looked up from the wrinkled letter and eyed the clock anxiously.
The train was scheduled to arrive at noon, though it had likely been delayed. Then, there was also the three mile walk from the station with luggage and an eleven year old boy with a prosthetic leg. She sighed, forcing herself to be patient. But her nerves had been high since she received the letter – almost a month ago now. It had taken that long to get everything prepared and for the Mustangs to arrange time off for their trip.
Winry had busied herself with building and rebuilding new automail for the boy. She wanted it to be perfect; he deserved that much and it was the least she could do. When she wasn't working or cleaning or cooking, she found herself sitting down to re-read the letter for the hundredth time.
If it hadn't been written so distinctly by his hand, she would doubt it was the letter of a child. The wording was professional – concise and polite. But then, with Roy and Riza Mustang as parents, she could hardly be surprised. She'd been shocked to receive the letter as it was, although she'd known it would come eventually. Roy had promised that when the time was right his son would receive only the best prosthetics. Still, she assumed that Roy would contact her directly, or else Riza would. To receive a letter from Ed…
Winry blinked back her tears and refolded the paper along the worn creases before tucking it back into an old photo album on her desk. They would be here soon and it wouldn't do to let Ed see her crying; he wouldn't understand.
She stood up and moved to the kitchen so she could check on dinner. She knew the Mustangs would be hungry after their trip and Ed would need the nourishment for his surgery.
She had made stew.
She stirred the pot slowly and then replaced the lid, her thoughts drifting back to the last time such a meal had been made in her house. Granny Pinako had passed away four years ago, but even she had stopped making stew long before then. It was like some unspoken agreement. Stew was special. It was for him.
A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts and Winry forced herself to take a deep breath, willing her heart to stop pounding.
They were here.
The walk to from the kitchen to the front door seemed to take forever. When she got there, she froze with her hand on the doorknob. She could hear voices outside and, like a blast from her past, she was twelve again and it wasn't the Mustangs standing outside her door; it was the Elrics, her neighbors, her classmates, her best friends. She could just open the door and they'd be there – Edward and Alphonse…
"This place is really nice. Hey Dad, do you think we could go exploring sometime while we're here?"
"We'll see, Ed."
"I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to see all of Resembool after you get your automail. I want you rest tonight though, so you're ready for your surgery tomorrow."
"I know, Mom."
Mom… Dad… Ed… that's right. He's not my Ed… not anymore. Winry wiped one hand across her eyes and did her best to smile. Then she turned the knob and opened the door.
The family that greeted her was quite the sight to behold. Roy Mustang, in civilian clothes – Winry couldn't remember ever seeing him out of uniform, Riza either – was carrying two large suitcases. He looked up as the door opened and greeted her with a nod. "Hello, Ms. Rockbell."
Riza was also carrying a suitcase and she smiled brightly at the younger woman. "Winry, it's good to see you again."
"Huh?" a small voice asked. "Oh, that's right. You guys have met before. Dad says you used to do automail repairs for another State Alchemist." The young boy looked up at Winry, expectantly. He carried a small backpack, slung casually over his left shoulder while his right arm hung limply by his side.
The body-powered prosthetic was attached to his shoulder by a special harness containing the cables which allowed for limited movement in the arm. Winry knew from studying his file, that he could easily lift the arm and open and close the artificial hand in a pincer motion. It was enough to allow him to pick up and hold small objects but it could not offer him the same fine motor skills that automail would provide.
His leg was designed with special springs that would compress and release when he shifted his weight, simulating a natural gait. It work well for getting him from place to place, but he would never be able to run on it. Automail would fix that.
Suddenly, the boy lifted his left hand into her line of sight, forcing her to focus on him and not on his prosthetics. She saw his golden eyes – free from torment or grief, his hair –cut short but still framing his face, his smile – so innocent and pure, untouched. And then she heard his voice.
"I'm Edward Mustang, but you can call me Ed. It's a pleasure to finally meet you Ms. Rockbell."
She couldn't stop the tears this time.
Collapsing to her knees before him, Winry wrapped the boy in a sudden embrace and sobbed against his shoulder. His back pack slid off of his arm and fell to the floor. He left it there, stunned and unsure of how to respond. "Um… Ms. Rockbell?"
And then his mother was there, ushering the distraught woman into the house. Ed stayed frozen in his spot, not sure what just happened. After a moment, his father cleared his throat. "Let's go inside. I'm sure they don't expect us to stand out here on the deck."
Ed nodded and picked up his bag, following his dad inside. "Dad? What was that all about? Why was she crying? Did I say something wrong?"
Roy sighed and put their suitcases down next to the stairs. He'd let Winry show them their rooms later. "No, son. It wasn't anything you said. You just reminded her of someone she used to know."
Ed frowned. He'd heard that before. It seemed to be a stock answer at this point. People were always doing weird things around him – not crying – well, mostly not crying, anyway. He hated it when people cried, especially girls – but weird stuff – a lot of staring and whispering. And when he asked why, he always got the same answer. He reminded them of someone they used to know. He'd learned not to pry beyond that though, especially not with his dad – that just made Dad act weird and quiet and… pensive. Mom was a bit odd about it too, but she at least tried to answer his questions – even if her other answers weren't any less vague than the first.
He'd pieced together enough. There was someone Mom and Dad used to work with – one of Dad's subordinates probably cause Dad's whole team seemed to be in on the secret, and now apparently Ms, Rockbell too – who had died or gone missing or something. There actually might have been two people, because sometimes Mom would say 'they' when trying to explain, not that that made any sense. But apparently Ed somehow looked like or acted like this mysterious dead person, or gone person, or not here person, and whenever he did something a certain way or said something he thought was totally casual but apparently wasn't, he got really weird reactions. It happened so often that he was rather used to it by now – at least from Mom and Dad and the team. But getting it from someone he'd only just met really threw him off.
Shaking his head, Ed didn't voice his thoughts. He didn't want to spoil their trip but making his dad act weird too. Ms. Rockbell was bad enough. Instead, he looked casually around the room he was now standing in. They were going to be staying here for a few weeks at least, so he might as well get familiar with the space.
The living room was pretty typical – a couch, a book shelf, a desk. Over the desk hung a cork board on which several photographs were pinned. Ed moved closer for a better look. Most of the photos showed Ms. Rockwell and a short, older woman or just Ms. Rockbell alone, working on automail or posing in a pretty outfit. One picture showed Ms. Rockbell with a bunch of other people, most of whom had sported automail – probably her customers. The last picture was of a little girl, a smiling couple, and the same old lady from before. Ed could only guess that the girl was Ms. Rockbell when she was young and the man and woman were her parents.
He smiled. They looked happy together.
There were also some empty spots on the corkboard – quite a few of them actually – where the lack of sun bleaching on the cork showed there had been other pictures there once, recently. He wondered what was in those pictures and why Ms. Rockbell decided to take them down.
Before he could think any further on it, however, he was distracted by the most amazing scent. His stomach growled and he realized that he hadn't eaten anything since the little sandwiches his mom had packed for the train ride. She should have known that wouldn't be enough to keep him until dinner.
He followed his nose into the kitchen where he saw his father standing over the stove, stirring something. His dad must've slipped in there while he was looking at the pictures. Sneaking closer, he inhaled deeply and hummed his satisfaction.
"Mmmm… smells delicious. What is it?"
Roy looked over his shoulder at the boy and opened his mouth to answer but someone else beat him to it.
"It's stew. My grandmother's recipe."
Ed turned to see Ms. Rockbell and his mother entering the kitchen behind him. She wasn't crying anymore, to his great relief. He smile widely. "Awesome! Whoever invented stew was genius. It has vegetables in it and everything and it still tastes good!"
Ms. Rockbell nodded slowly, chewing on her lower lip. She hesitated for a moment before replying. "Mm-hmm. It has milk in it too, you know?"
"Oh, yeah? I didn't know that. Cool." Ed shrugged, still grinning. As long as she wasn't crying, everything was good. And hopefully they'd eat soon. He was starving. He didn't see Winry's stunned expression as he turned to peer at the pot on the stove.
"You… do you like milk, Ed?"
Ed blinked and shrugged again. "It's alright. Mom makes me drink it. Gotta drink lots of milk to have strong bones, right?" A thought struck him as he remembered why they were there. He turned to look at the mechanic again, suddenly excited. "I bet it'll help me heal up faster after my surgery tomorrow, too."
Winry nodded, her nerves relaxing as she fell into discussing the topic she was most comfortable with. "That's right. You'll need lots of good food to keep up you strength during recovery and afterwards too. Automail is heavier than other prosthetics. You'll need to eat right and exercise to build up your muscles."
Ed hopped a bit on his right leg, his energy and excitement revealing his age. "This is gonna be so cool! Wait till I show the kids at school. I won't just be the bookworm anymore. I'll be able to do sports and everything."
Winry laughed. "Well, it'll take a little while to get to that point and the physical therapy won't be easy. But yes, I'm sure that within three years you'll be running around and kicking balls with the other boys your age."
"Three years, huh?" Ed considered for a moment and then grinned with determination in his eyes. "I'll do it in one."
Winry struggled not to react badly to the statement. It was just too familiar. She tried to respond but her throat had stopped working. Thankfully, Roy stepped in, standing behind the boy and placing a hand on his shoulder.
"Not so fast, Hotshot. We agreed to take it slow and follow the approved rehabilitation guidelines. If Ms. Rockbell says three years, then you'll take three years."
"But Dad…" Ed whined leaning his head back to look up at his father with a pleading look in his eyes.
Watching this, Winry suddenly felt all of her tension give way to laughter. Never in her life had she imagined those two standing so close without any awkwardness at all. And when Ed said those two words… she couldn't help herself. It was just so… domestic.
Beside her, Riza was also hiding a smile, though doing her best not to laugh. She'd faced plenty of moments like this; especially as Ed grew older and more similar to the young alchemist they'd once known.
Roy simply rolled his eyes at the women, but didn't move his hand. This was his son – a fact that simultaneously brought great joy and bittersweet pain – and he would never be ashamed or embarrassed by his actions towards the boy. They were a family. He'd stopped caring what people thought a long time ago. Besides, Winry didn't mean any harm. If he was honest with himself, he'd have to admit that the irony was rather hilarious, considering…
"What's so funny, Ms. Rockbell?" Ed asked, frowning and crossing his arms. It was a bit of an awkward move with the prosthetic but he'd gotten pretty good at it over the years – just another thing he looked forward to doing easily with automail.
Winry took a deep breath to calm herself and smiled. "Nothing. I'm sorry. And please, Ed, call me Winry." She looked up at the older man who was smirking behind his son. "You too, Roy. I think we've known each other long enough to skip the formalities."
Roy nodded. "Of course, Winry."
Ed was still annoyed at being laughed at but he rolled his eyes and chalked it up to grownups acting weird again – at least she wasn't crying this time. "Anyway, back to the automail. Will it really take three whole years to do the rehabilitation, Ms. Roc – I mean, Winry?"
Winry offered a smile of conciliation. "Well, three years is the average. The implants need time to heal and your muscles will need to strengthen. Since you're so young and still growing, there will be some extra stress on your bones. Eating well will certainly help, as will exercise so long as you don't push yourself too hard and overdo it. If you follow all of the rules and don't put any unnecessary strain on your ports, you may be able to complete the rehabilitation in two years. One year would be pushing it, unless you'd like to be spitting blood, as Granny Pinako used to say."
Ed sighed heavily, but nodded. "Two years then." He looked up and met Winry's eyes, then those of his mother and father. That same fire of determination was back and Winry couldn't help but feel a painful tug in her chest at the sight.
The boy smirked – a look that was less Ed and more Roy, Winry noted – and lifted both arms in an exaggerated fist pump. "What are we waiting for? Tomorrow is way too far away. Let's get started tonight!"
It was Riza's turn to step forward. "Edward," she was the only one who ever called him by his full name when he wasn't in trouble. "We just got off the train a few hours ago. You need to rest before the surgery."
"But I'm not tired at all. I slept on the train." Ed argued petulantly.
Winry shook her head. "No, your mother is right, Ed. Even if you slept the whole way to Resembool, and you don't feel tired, your body will still be feeling the stress of travel. You don't need any extra stress before the operation. It could cause complications. Besides, my assistant won't be here until tomorrow and I can't do the procedure without him." That was true. After Pinako died, Winry had struggled to manage the shop on her own. She did okay for awhile on just repairs, until a new customer came to be fitted for the first time. Winry had then admitted defeat and made a trip down to Rush Valley to find herself an apprentice.
Jason was actually one of her former customers in Rush Valley. He had an automail foot and had been studying to become a doctor but he also loved machinery and when Winry came looking, he jumped at the chance. He turned out to be a great assistant, especially during surgery because of background in medicine.
Unfortunately, this information didn't seem to convince Ed that waiting another day was necessary. She could practically see the gears working in his head, trying to come up with a loophole and she recognized that attitude well enough to know that she'd have to distract him quickly to keep him from arguing further. Luckily, she knew the perfect distraction.
Smirking, she walked over to the cupboard and pulled out four bowls. "Besides, you'll want to eat a lot tonight to prepare your body for tomorrow. After all, you won't be able to eat anything until after the surgery."
Ed blinked and Winry knew she'd caught him – hook, line, and sinker. "Wait, what? What do you mean I can't eat anything?"
Winry filled up the bowls one-by-one and handed them to Roy to place on the table. "You heard me, Ed. Your stomach needs to be mostly empty tomorrow to keep you from getting sick during the surgery. The medication and the pain have a tendency to turn a patient's stomach and we really don't need that kind of mess during an operation."
Ed blanched. "B-but… not anything?!"
"Not one bite, Shrimp." Roy replied with a grin.
Winry braced herself for the rant she knew was coming off of that remark, but nothing happened. Ed groaned dramatically and lowered himself into a chair while clutching his stomach. "I'm gonna die of starvation."
Roy rolled his eyes and set the last bowl down in front of the boy before taking his own seat behind another bowl. "You're not gonna die, Ed. That's why we're eating now. There's plenty of stew and I think I saw an apple pie in the ice box."
Winry gasped as she and Riza both sat down as well. "That was supposed to be a surprise!"
Ed looked up, excited at the thought of pie – and food in general. "A surprise for me? Thanks, Ms. Winry!"
Winry smiled. "You're welcome, Ed. I hope you enjoy it."
Ed grinned. "Oh, I will and you can bet I'll be eating three servings of this stew as well. I need to stock up now if I can't eat tomorrow."
Riza chuckled and picked up her spoon. "We might as well get started then." Looking up she noted that her son had already begun, as had her husband – it was always a competition between those two.
Ed took a few bites before he paused, chewing slowly. He swallowed and looked up at his father, across the table. "Hey, Dad?"
Roy wiped his mouth on his napkin and met his son's gaze. "Yes, Ed?"
The boy smirked. "Don't call me shrimp, old man."
Winry laughed out loud. So much was different… but some things would never change.