The Joys of Growing

By Toby-Chan

Chapter 1

(Note: 'z.z.z.' indicates a scene change)

"Finally made it!" The blonde twelve year old declared, wearily stretching her limbs, as she exited the train, "If I didn't know better, I'd have thought they were taking a longer route this time." She blinked, and took a deep breath. This was no time for pouting about a train ride. She was getting her chance to see her favorite Elrics, and she had to remain happy.

... At least as happy as her stomach would allow. She blamed the ache on what must have been some spoiled food off of the snack trolly on the train. She should have known better than to try an unknown confection on a speeding vehicle.

She inhaled once again, with the scent of the station swirling around her, a scent that should have comforted the borderlining obsessive junior mechanic, but somehow, even gas fumes from the most advanced new engines out there couldn't ease her jitters, and she found herself absntmindedly pining for the country air of Rizenbul.

The bustle of passers by jolted her briefly back to reality, and she did her best to shake off her apprehensions, and get moving.

"Let's see..." She unfolded a crinkled piece of notebook paper, with ripped edges, showing how it had been messily and carelessly torn from it's book. She squinted a bit, as she walked and tried to interpret the squiggly pen lines that must have translated as a map in some alchemic language. The illustrated streets, and sidewalks were decorated with some recognizeable symbols, and charicatures of people, compliments of Edward's ever-so developed sense of art. It was kind of cute, in a way, that in spite of all the neatness required in drawing transmutation circles and alchemic formulas, Ed was still doodling as sloppily as the day he turned five.

"Hmm..." She scrunched her nose in thought a bit, heavy luggage in one hand, map in the other, "This...," She gazed at an anthropomorpic smiling flower scribbled on a square , "Must be the flower shop." She looked up once again, siting that she had the proper direction, based on the corner florist where she now stood.

"Then... looks like I'm taking a right on... cow?" She paced in the indicated direction of the map, to discover a meat market that had been represented by a happy looking cow doodle. Ed could have a rather morbid sense of humor sometimes.

She continued her faithful journey, through the flock of birds (Gardens), past the french-looking chef's hat (Bakery), and over the troll (A bridge- probably Ed's most creative analogy), and finally found the brick building, where Ed and Al were temporarily renting a flat. (It was illustrated by small victory-sign holding Elric brothers, and a scrawled out portrait of Winry, wrench in hand.)

She ascended the stairs, and found the room number, gently knocking. No response. Knocked louder. No response.

"Edo! Al! I'm coming in!" She called, cracking open the door. She was greeted by a mess of papers, books, discarded wrappers, and Lord-Knows-What in the far corner.

"Geez." She moaned, tapping her toe, "For a temporary home, those boys sure can mess things up." She scanned the sea of corruption again, before landing on a note in the middle of the floor.

"Eh?" She picked it up.

-Winry, We are down at headquarters. Make yourself at home. Signed,-

There was a tiny minimalist Edward doodle with it's tongue stuck out in lieu of a signature at the bottom of the page.

"What, they think I'm gonna just get comfortable in a dump like this?" Winry sighed, noting once again that her stomach was hurting. She grew more irritated by the second. What was this? They just expected her to stick around there and wait for them? Maybe tidy up for them while she was at it? Maybe they wanted her to just wait and greet them when they came home, and declare 'Hi, how was your day?' like a housewife in a book... Or maybe they wanted her to cook dinner... and just do the women's work for them. They didn't need an automail mechanic at all! They just wanted a she-slave How DARE they? Stupid, mindless, insnsitive sexist JERKS!!!

The girl didn't realize that she'd already clenched her fist and wrung the life out of the note she'd been left.

"Make fun of me, will they?" She left her suitcase and slammed the door, turning on her heel, "Well maybe I'll just pay them a visit! TO HEADQUARTERS!!!"

z.z.z

"I'm telling you colonel, all I need is a few days off. I can't finish my report without my automail in place. After my mechanic gets the repairs done, I'll be good as new and have my writing hand back."

"You write with your left hand, FullMetal."

"Shut up!"

"If you're going to lie, at least do it properly; at minimum, believably. Perhaps you should work up a sympathetic story."

"You wouldn't believe me anyway." Ed gave one of his signature sulk/sarcasm faces, to the undefeatable prodigy that was Colonel Mustang. Mustang, of course, was already cooking up his own story,

"How about, 'Oh Colonel! Please have mercy! I have to go work at the orphanage to cook for little children, because it was my late grandmother's dying wish to have me be helpful to others.' "

"That's pretty lame."

"Or perhaps, "Kind and handsome Colonel, surely you would give me a few days off to perfect my pathetic alchemy skills."

"I wouldn't say go as far to say 'kind and handsome'... Hey! Who's pathetic?!"

"Or maybe, "I have a near homicidal girlfriend waiting at home for me who just might beat me up like the lame girly-man I am if I don't spend some more time with her-"

This comment was punctuated by a just-as-described-homicidal blonde girl slamming the door to Roy's office open. Both Flame and Fullmetal (And FullMetal's little brother who had been quietly sitting out the verbal sparring in the corner) turned their heads in shock and fear.

"W-Winry?" Al was the first to speak.

"Al!" Winry was snapped out of her rage-streak at the very sound of her childhood friend's voice. Of course, being snapped out of a homicidal intent also caused a momentary lapse in memory... what was she doing there...? There had to be some reason... something to do with... cooking... and a messy apartment...?

"Um..." She covered the silence by breaking into a standard Winry-ish cheer, "I just came here to gret you guys, and walk you home. Eh heh heh heh!..." She scratched the back of her head.

"...Shouldn't we be the ones greeting you?"

The comment caused a brief rebound into her previous fit of rage.

"Well maybe if you had greeted me at the station, like gentleman, then I wouldn't have had to!" She snapped shortly, and stared at the golden haired boy, who smirked apologetically.

"Sorry, Winry. Al and I just had to, uh, discuss something with the stupid colonel." Roy interrupted,

"Yes, indeed. FullMetal here had a poor starving kitten to attend to."

"Would you shut up?"

"Kitten-?..." Winry confusedly repeated, when her eyes strayed to the limp automail hanging at Ed's side, and all other thoughts were immediately replaced.

"Ed! What on earth did you do to your automail?" She shrieked, rushing to pick up the metal arm and examine the damage, with a blushing Ed, and Al, and an amused Roy watching.

"You said it was only a minor problem!" Ed scratched the back of his head with his remaining arm.

"Well, it was..."

"This is terrible! Your screws for F-7 to F-13 are missing, this plate has a dent in it. And... Good Lord, Edward! What did you do to this ligament connector?"

Ed smiled and blushed guiltily, trying to act as though he admitted he'd known what he'd done wrong when he was really wondering what on earth a ligament connector was supposed to do.

"Ah- Um... so... Winry... how have you been?" Alphonse timidly asked, trying to make small talk as Winry went about her examination, and wondered when this had turned from a meeting into a check-up.

"Ugh, Terrible." Winry said, coastering once again between her hot and cold phases, as she flipped the mechanical arm from side to side, inspecting each screw with a critical eye.

"First, I was almost late for the train because I slept in. Then, it was the loooongest ride I'd ever been on. Then I got some bad food on the train which is making me sick as we speak, and I had to go to your messy neandrathal cave only to find you not there-!" She punctuated this last statement unintentionally by twisting Ed's Automail and causing a yelp to emit from the young state alchemist.

She finally sighed,

"As I thought. This is worse than I planned for. You're going to have to wait for a few days while I order a new part for you."

"Aw, man, Winry!"

"Don't 'Aw man', me. It was your fault for being irresponsible. You'll just have to go back to using circles for your alchemy. It'll be good practice for you." She tinkered a bit before continuing, "Oh yeah. And Granny says hi, and she also says she hopes you're being a good boy over here."

Roy chuckled a bit from where he sat,

"Looks like all of your situations came true... save for the orphans."

"Hn?" Winry asked, not looking up from her work, "Orphans? What orphans?"

Ed breathed exasperatedly and waved the subject away,

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

z.z.z

The three walked down the cobblestone street, each with their own topic of conversation that they were simultaneously trying to edge in. It was like a sudden relapse into young childhood, that they were together again. Yet even with her merry demeanor, Winry felt a little dampened by her stomach ache that should have been gone by now.

"Nngh." She groaned, favoring her stomach.

"Are you okay, Winry?" Alphonse inquired, noting the girl's slightly twisted expression.

"I'm FINE!" She snapped just as suddenly as she returned to her cheery self. An odd... almost bipolar reaction, Ed noticed, mentally checking it off, as he continued walking with his hands behind his head. Al, on the other hand, put another little concern into his worry bank.

Winry suddenly paused as if by instinct, and did a double take at the flashy store window she'd just passed.

"Wooooooow!" She declared, with a sparkle in her eye, pressing her face against the window, and speaking with an affection that was usually reserved only for the finest sparkly tools.

The brothers looked at eachother with a bit of confusion, and forlornment. Since when was Winry so fond of sweets?

"That chocolate looks really good right now..." She mused, her features melting into an almost cat-like saccharine appearance.

"Didn't you say you had a stomach ache?" Ed piped. He was met with a glare that could have melted steel.

"Winry wants chocolates; Winry gets chocolates."

Both were frozen in mortification, that not only might this suddenly static Winry decide to leave them abandoned and unrepaired, but also that she might cause either of them serious bodily harm.

"Well... I guess if you want some..." Ed said, cautiously approaching her.

"It's the least you could do, for making me wait," She chided.

"Fine. Let's get some chocolate."

"Thank you Ed!" Winry cried, with a quick tackle hug, "You're the best!"

z.z.z

"Honestly," Ed moaned, to his brother, "It's enough that she wanted chocolate, but did she have to get the most expensive kind?"

"I can hear you over there." Winry called from her end of the room, as she turned to face them with half a block of chocolate hanging from her mouth, "You should be grateful. I'm your mechanic. I need brain food!"

"I thought fish was your declared brain food," Ed argued, a slight irritation surfacing.

"And do you guys have fish? Do you even have any food besides fast food in here? Honestly, this place makes our trash dump look clean."

"Nobody said you had to stay here." Ed said, turning on his chair and crossing his arms.

Winry pouted and bit her lip, seeming on the verge of tears,

"Not a very nice thing to say!" She yelled, fists stuck firmly to her hips, "I'm just trying to help you."

Al watched them ricochet back and forth, and wondered if this was what people called a 'lover's quarrel'.

"Fine then! You don't want me around?"

"I didn't say that, Winry. You're overreacting!"

"Am not!" She turned and stomped away.

"Wait! Where are you going!"

"To the bathroom. I feel sick."

She slammed and locked the bathroom door, leaving a guilty Edward and a confused Alphonse. She stayed in there, crying, Al assumed, for a good long time, as the brothers both tried to be quiet and act normal, hoping maybe Winry would get over it and come out.

She didn't. In fact, they almost forgot she was there, in all her silence, until the air was sliced with a piercing scream.

"EEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!" came the shrill cry. Both brothers stood up, altert, rushing to the door, to see what was the matter.

"Winry! Winry, what's the matter?" Ed yelled, pounding on the door, with a worried brother behind him. "Don't come in!" She shrieked just as shrilly. Ed stood, perplexed backing away from the door,

"Winry... what is it?"

"Nothing!" came the response.

It certainly didn't sound like nothing...

The door unlocked with a click, and Winry's mortified face popped out. She looked at the brothers, bit her lip, then dashed to a folded blanket on the sofa. She swiftly picked it up, and rushed back to the bathroom, where the door was clicked and locked shut again. Through the door, came her muffled declaration,

"I'm sleeping in here tonight!"

o.

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A/N: Okies, like it? Hate it? Want some chocolate now? This is just the first chapter, so hold on. It may be a while before I update (Ask any fan of my other multi-chapter fics), so as a reviewer, you can do your part by inspiring me. I have a vague idea of where this is going, but I would ever so greatly appreciate suggestions. I'm planning this as a three-shot, but who knows? But please. Your feedback is very important to me! Love!