A WEDDING DAY TRIPTYCH 3: BIRTH DAY
Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in its world and annoy the canon characters for jollies.
Warning: bad language, and cutesy talk about babies
Author's note: Third in an unofficial series after A Wedding Night Triptych, & Honeymoon, First anime-verse
Beta: moi. Not because I wanted to, but because I couldn't find a suitable beta. Constructive crit is greatly appreciated, but flames will be used to light my charcoal grill.
When the mailman brought that day's post to the Rockbell-Elric home, Winry practically tore it out of his hand before he could even get "Hello, Mrs. Elric" all the way out. She just nodded in a distracted manner and mumbled something that sounded like "Hi" and "Bye" all at the same time before she spun on one heel and walked back towards the house, scattering discarded envelopes over the grass as she sorted through them.
As luck would have it, the letter she wanted as at the very bottom of the fistful she'd started with. Winry stared at the return address on the upper left corner of the envelope without really seeing it, before she flipped it over and began to tear it open. Then she stopped and let her eyes shift over to her left. Thank the postal gods she had gotten to the mail first for the last few days before Edward did.
He wouldn't have missed the significance of that particular return address, and knowing him, the sneaky little bastard wouldn't have hesitated to steam the letter open and read it first. But right now, he was rather distracted in sparring with Alphonse, and Winry paused to admire her husband as he dashed forward, kicked, thrust, and parried before performing a neat series of back flips to take him out of Alphonse's reach. She admired his energy, the way his tanned skin moved over toned muscles that bunched and flowed like water, how his hair swung with his movements, and...
Winry gulped down the huge lump in her throat before she turned away and hurried into the house at a near-run. She paused just long enough to throw the front door open, walk through the living room under full steam, race up the steps to their bedroom, and slam that door shut. She leaned against the cool wood and panted because the steps had suddenly seemed much steeper than before.
She took one step into the room before she stopped and whirled about to face the door. Her right hand trembled as she reached out and threw the dead bolt she'd installed underneath the knob. Winry had put it there soon after they returned from their honeymoon so no one would accidentally walk in on them while they were being "intimate". Only then did Winry rush with short, quick steps over to the desk by the window. Technically, it was Edward's desk and the surface overflowed with alchemy books, back issues of Popular Alchemy and Alchemy Insider magazines, letters from other alchemists and random sheets of paper covered with notes and doodles, the products of his prodigious research.
She pulled a short gold colored chain to switch on the green shaded reading lamp on one corner of the desk before she resumed tearing the envelope open. Winry pulled out the single folded sheet of paper which was inside, but her knees threatened to buckle before she could unfold it. She had to pause and pull out the chair which fitted neatly into a recess at the front of the desk.
The chair was on wheels, so it yielded readily to her touch and she collapsed gratefully onto its cushioned seat. She blew out the breath she'd been holding, unfolded the letter and quickly scanned the few lines typed on it. Winry read it several times over, to commit the contents to memory before she let it fall and join its fellows scattered on the desks surface. She rested her elbows on the desk and cupped her rounded chin on her hands, sighing once or twice in the next few minutes. Her heart fluttered in her chest like a frightened sparrow and she took several deep breaths to calm herself.
Life, as she knew it was changed forever.
She'd better tell Edward.
Edward was using the outside shower to wash the sweat away after his sparring session and Winry sucked in her breath at the sight of him. Water droplets sparkled like prisms in the sunshine, spraying and dancing over his skin and hair. He'd stripped down to his blue boxers and the water had soaked the thin cotton through, molding the wet material to the curves of his buttocks and thighs. Edward turned around just then, as if he knew she was there and he smiled hugely when he saw Winry. But her eyes were still on his boxers because the outline of his manhood showed clearly under the sodden cloth.
She jumped guiltily and gulped hard when he scolded "Winry!" in a voice that pretended to be shocked, but was secretly pleased to be the object of her attention. She felt the heat of her blush as it darkened her face from hairline to chin and made her blue eyes sparkle. This made Edward chuckle in response, a deep, manly sound which seemed to come directly from his heart and promise delights greater than simply gawking at his nearly naked body. Winry responded to his amusement by blushing even harder, so she clenched her fists and attempted to summon righteous anger (pretend he just messed up his automail again) in a bid to regain control over her feelings.
Edward turned off the spray of water. "Win?" he enfolded her hands in his, one warm and slightly callused, the other cold and hard. "What's wrong?"
Her husband had an uncanny ability to cut right to the chase, so Winry looked up directly into his yellow eyes. She had to fight to keep her own eyes dry and wide open, although moisture brimmed along the lower lids. "Ed, we're - um - I mean, I got the results from, ah-"
"Yes, dear, spit it out."
Shit, I'd better just say it.
She should have expected Edward's reaction. He hesitated for only two heartbeats before he whooped, flung his wet arms around her still relatively narrow wait and lifted her high in the air, The racket attracted the attention of not only Den, but also Alphonse and Pinako.
Winry's secret was out.
Alphonse was the first one to broach the subject of possible baby names and he made the first suggestion:" Hohenheim", after his and Edward's father. Edward's face first blanched, and then reddened. They'd made a sort of shaky truce during his first years trapped on the other side of the Gate, and he'd forgiven Hohenheim – eventually - but it was still too soon to use that name and he vetoed it. But when Alphonse not-so-innocently suggested "Roy", Edward expression collapsed completely and he leapt to his feet in a minor rage.
"No son of mine will be named for General Bastard!" He blustered with much arm waving and angry glares, all show to intimidate Alphonse. Of course, Alphonse had done it on purpose, but that was his cue to blush and withdraw into himself like a startled turtle. But he didn't retreat until one final suggestion: "Alex".
Even Winry narrowed her eyes at this one. The Strong Arm Alchemist would be most honored to have a child named for him, yet Edward leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and tried to imagine it. No, that wouldn't do. He shook his head harder for emphasis. Having been on the receiving end of more than one of Alex Louis Armstrong's spine-cracking hugs was enough. "Are you kidding, Al? He'll scare the poor kid to death!"
Pinako hadn't said much throughout the entire exchange; instead she just sucked thoughtfully on her pipe and waited for a chance to get a word in edgewise. But she finally spoke up to nip in the bud the minor riot which threatened to break out at the kitchen table. "What if the baby is a girl?"
The sound of three voices talking at once stopped as if cut off by a knife.
"A – wha, what - a girl?" Edward's brain briefly short circuited at the thought and crimson spread over his face a moment later. He'd hadn't considered that scenario at all. Should Winry birth a girl, only one name would do for his daughter.
He blurted the name out without a second thought, but when that thought finally hit him, Edward stopped talking and gawped like a guppy out of water. He'd forgotten Winry might want to name a baby girl after her mother, Sara. He hung his head and Alphonse said "Sorry, Winry" in a low, unhappy voice before he shot a fierce look at Edward which spoke you idiot! in large red letters. He reinforced the sentiment by punching Edward's left shoulder and muttering the words under his breath, just in case his older brother hadn't heard the telepathic rebuke.
Winry didn't seem upset and she just smiled indulgently at both of them. "I might give birth to twins, did either of you think of that?"
Neither had and the brothers, plus her grandmother, all stared dumbfounded at her like owls in the daytime.
Seven and a half months later...
Her water broke on a blustery winter day while she sat on a wooden stool and was in the middle of making adjustments to Edward's arm. One minute she was poking "under the hood" with a screwdriver, the next Winry was looking up in shock, and then down in surprise at the gush of warm liquid which darkened the fabrics of her coveralls, ran down her legs and dripped onto the floor. A mild contraction hit her next and she uttered a startled "ooh!", dropped the screwdriver, and bent forward as far as her swollen belly would allow. Unfortunately, Edward wasn't wearing his arm at the moment and he wasn't even in her work room. Winry tried to climb down from the high stool, but a sudden wave of vertigo made her vision fuzz out for a moment, she gasped and clutched the sides of the stool, which rocked ominously from side to side.
Fortunately, Den was in the work room and sleeping on an old rug along the far wall. She knew something was up with her mistress and had followed her closely for the past few days, alerted by some kind of blip on her canine radar. Den came instantly out of her dream of chasing automail cats at the first sound of trickling water; she was up on her paws and trotting over to Winry when the first contraction doubled her over. The dog whined and licked her hand when Winry whimpered in pain. "Den, get Ed - ow!" The old dog understood and raced out of the workroom, barking loudly enough to rouse the dead.
"Thanks for helping me finish this Al. Do you think Winry will like it?" Edward was outwardly relaxed, but his voice betrayed his anxiety over the sheet-draped object he and Alphonse had just brought up from the basement. They heard Den barking just as they reached the kitchen floor and set their burden down. It was large and unwieldy as well as heavy so both were huffing and puffing when they stood straight up to stretch the kinks out of their backs. Edward had finished the job last night, and it was a good thing too because Winry had demanded his arm half an hour after breakfast, which meant he would need help carrying it up two flights of stairs to the newly decorated nursery.
She found her mistress's mate standing in the kitchen with his brother, and she barked to get their attention. Both scowled and told her to be quiet, so she stopped barking and commenced whining. "Den, what is wrong with you? You'll wake Winry and Granny up, now shush!" She turned around and stared at the stairway, then looked back at them before she barked once. Come ON, you stupid humans! The two kept giving her blank looks, so she trotted over to Edward, grabbed some pants material between her teeth, and tugged hard. She released his pant leg when he yelled, sat down and whined some more. "What is it Den, is it Winry?" The brother asked and Den gave him a big doggy smile as a reward. I knew the smart one would understand! Den barked once more before she ran to the stairs and raced up them, pounding footsteps from behind told her the mate and his brother were following.
Like Den, Pinako also had a feeling Winry's time was near, which is why she'd lain down on her bed for a nap. Soon enough, naps would become luxury items, so it was no surprise she was annoyed when Den began barking. She was the one who suggested Winry take some time off for a nap between lunch and breakfast, because it was best to catch all the "shut eye" she could before the baby came. She'd seen Winry go into her and Edward's bedroom and shut the door before she retired to her own room, but she hadn't known her granddaughter had risen after a mere half hour and bullied Edward into removing his arm. The barking had ceased for a time, but now it resumed and was getting closer, plus Pinako could hear running footsteps. She sat up in her bed and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes before she put her glasses back on. It's time for me to get to work.
Despite her best attempts to dismount gracefully, the stool wobbled and finally fell backwards with a crash, depositing Winry onto her backside with an abrupt and painful thump. She was still holding Edward's arm in her left hand where she'd grabbed it in the panic of falling. She gritted her teeth against another contraction, gripped the arm tightly, and waved it around, as if auto mail could ease the pain. Dammit! Not now, baby! She was crying softly and trying to get up when Den charged back into the work room with Edward and Alphonse close behind. "You're gonna need this, Ed!" she handed the arm to her husband who took it with a bemused smile, worried more about his wife than his automail. Sparks danced when he re-attached it and she heard him grunt in pain.
It would be an understatement to say he was shocked to discover Winry laying on the floor and struggling like a beached whale. After she handed the arm over to Edward, Alphonse helped his guide the plug into the shoulder socket and shielded his eyes from the sparks that flared. Edward clutched his shoulder, gritted his teeth, and muttered curse words under his breath, words he wouldn't dare say after his child was born. He wouldn't be much use until the nerves finished re-connecting, so Alphonse walked around him, put his hands under Winry's arms and braced himself to give her a chance to get her feet underneath her. Something clenched in his chest when she bent over and groaned as a third contraction hit. Getting her downstairs to the birthing room was going to be a trial; he bent down slightly to support her weight as they left the work room and turned right towards the stairway. Den whined behind him, but she stayed with Edward and licked his sweaty face.
He hissed between his teeth and pressed his back hard against the wall as he rode the waves of pain, the fingers of his left hand massaging the skin around the port in an automatic reflex. But he'd re-attached that arm often enough to know it was dangerous to rush his nervous system, it needed a certain amount of time to get used to the suddenness of connection. "Agh, Den, stop it!" Edward sputtered after the dog's errant tongue lapped across his parted lips. Den whined again and pressed her furry body hard against him, before she slumped to the floor so her head was in his lap. Edward relaxed as best he could, letting his muscles go slack and his joints loose, until the pain subsided to just random tremors through his limbs. Once he felt he would be able to stand, Edward straightened his legs and rose up; using the wall to guide him until he was fully upright. Den had also stood up, her tail waving as if encouraging him. His auto mail fingers twitched spasmodically and he took one tentative step forward, and then another until he was out in the hall and heading for the stairs, Den walking slowly next to him.
He was also sweating, his shoulder muscles screaming with fatigue by the time they finally made the birthing room, a temporarily re-named area of the recovery room where patients slept off the morphine after their automail surgeries. He gently set Winry down on a bed and helped her scramble up and back until her head rested on a pillow. "Thanks for the help, Al, I can- uh!" Winry stiffened when a contraction seized her, she'd been holding his hand yet, and the strength of her grip squeezed a soft cry of pain from him. The contraction passed quickly, "Sorry, Al". Winry gasped and relaxed her grip softening until he was able to retrieve his hand. "It's all right, Winry" he assured in a distracted manner, although it really wasn't; his hand was red and marked with pressure lines from her fingers. Granny Pinako walked in with an armful of towels which she set on a bedside table, "The midwife is on her way, Alphonse. Get the tub ready." Al nodded obediently, "Right away, Granny." He went to a nearby closet and got the birthing tub, a galvanized steel affair about eight feet wide with sides about sixteen inches high. It was heavy and unwieldy and he had to roll it out to a spot on the floor next to he bed. He felt so helpless when Winry cried out in pain. She would have to give birth herself; but there were other things he could do to help the process, and he got right to work.
He'd just made it to the kitchen when someone knocked once on the door. It opened before he could take a step towards it to reveal the muscular forms of the village midwife and her assistant. This woman had grown up on a farm until her teens when she was apprenticed to the former midwife, who'd passed on a decade ago. Her name was Mrs. Treadle, although Edward wasn't sure there'd even been a Mr. Treadle; if there had, the marriage hadn't lasted long. The assistant was a teenage girl known to him only as Greta; she had long dark hair in pigtails which cascaded down her back almost to her knees. Both wore matching long gingham dresses with short sleeves, the material loose and billowing, comfortable clothes for the job of helping mothers bring their babies into the world. Their hair was covered with cloth kerchiefs knotted tightly; he could see random ends of Mrs. Treadle's iron gray hair poking between folds in the cloth. The assistant carried two cloth bags with wooden handles, the bags soft sides bulging with the outlines of unknown items and Edward shuddered, he didn't want to know what they contained. Mrs. Treadle nodded once in acknowledgment and Edward nodded back, his lips pressed tightly together with worry about Winry.
She'd never known such pain before. As a child, Winry Rockbell-Elric had collected her share of bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes in the course of play. When she was eight, she'd even fallen out of a tree and broken her left arm. That pain was sharp and stabbing, but it paled in comparison with the screaming agony of labor. Winry curled up as best she could around her swollen belly and tried to ride out the pain so she didn't feel the hands rubbing her back at first. After the contraction faded, she looked back to meet her husband's eyes, narrowed in concentration, the skin around them pulled tight with concern. His hands kept moving, strong fingers working on the knots in muscles coiled in anticipation of the next contraction. She knew he was probably feeling helpless right now because his one major part had ended nine months ago, the rest was up to Winry and Mother Nature. She closed her teeth on the pillow to bite back another scream.
She remembered the ordeal of her own pregnancy and labor to birth Winry's father, Daniel, almost fifty years ago. Things were far different then, her husband, Yuki, was banished from the birthing room the minute the midwife arrived. Pinako had labored and given birth in an all-female environment, and she didn't see her husband until the day after their son was born. He'd been all awkward smiles and fumbling words from behind a massive bouquet of roses he'd brought from the village florist. So happy to be the father of a healthy son, but so saddened she'd had to suffer. Yuki had vowed then and there never to make Pinako go through pregnancy and childbirth again. She was relieved by those words at that moment, but if she'd known his remaining time on earth was fated to be so short, Pinako would have gladly had another child. When the door opened, she gave Mrs. Treadle and Greta a large smile of greeting, then beamed in further approval when Edward entered soon after and went straight to Winry's side. She briefly considered ordering him to help Alphonse fill the birthing tub, but held her tongue just in time. Edward would prefer to be at his wife's side.
Mrs Treadle and Greta
Both the midwife and her assistant judged the usefulness of men in the birthing room to be on a par with tits on a bull, but the Elric brothers were doing their best to stay out of the way. Mrs. Treadle was very familiar with the brothers as she'd assisted at the births of both of them. Like most first babies, Edward's was difficult, he'd screamed at full volume the moment he was born until he fell asleep. Alphonse was a little easier; he cried some but quieted right down once he was breastfed, which was what he'd wanted in the first place. She opened one of the wooden handled cloth bags and removed the tools of her trade, laying them side by side on a clean towel she unrolled on top of a side table. "Mr. Elric, please remove Winry's clothes, she will wear this until the baby is born." Mrs. Treadle's voice was no nonsense and brooked no argument when she held up the sleeveless short-skirted dress made of unbleached muslin for the couple to see. "It's more practical for water births," Greta piped up in an astonishingly high soprano voice. She stopped speaking, opened her mouth as if to say something more. Then she snapped it shut again and moved closer to the bed to take Winry's clothes as they were handed over.
It took some work getting the coveralls shrugged down the sweaty skin because the material insisted on sticking. Even with the panel of elasticized material around her stomach, he had to gently roll the coveralls down to her pregnancy-swollen ankles which presented yet another complication. Her panties were soaked with sweat and uterine fluids. Edward looked over his shoulder once at Alphonse, but the suddenly bashful boy was pretending to inspect the birthing tub for leaks and resolutely kept his head down, but the edges of his ears were flaming red. Edward smiled before he turned back to carefully pull the bandeau up and over Winry's head. He took the large sponge Greta handed to him and dabbed cool water on his wife's face and neck, and then down her body before drying her with a towel. Then he supported her in a sitting position so Greta could slip the shapeless dress over Winry's head. Another contraction hit just as he laid her back down and he let her crush his left hand with her grip. The fine bones of his hand ground together with painful crunches, but he bore it without complaint.
Another sixteen hours later...
Edward and Alphonse
Two males, one man and one teenage boy sat next to each other on the hallway floor, Den laid between them, her head on her paws. The brother's knees were drawn up, crossed arms over those and chins resting on their hands. Edward was clutching his bangs and scowling, but he clenched his hands tighter whenever another scream issued through the thick wooden door next to them. For ten long hours, he and Alphonse had walked Winry up and down the hallway, their strong arms supporting her, especially when the pain of contractions made her knees buckle. After every few laps, they'd take her back to the bed so Mrs. Treadle could measure how far she'd dilated. "Not enough, not yet" she'd said time and time again, so Winry had to stand up and walk another few laps. Only when his wife was completely exhausted was she allowed to stay on the bed where Edward fed her ice chips and dabbed her forehead while Alphonse massaged her aching feet. Then, Mrs. Treadle had summarily banished them from the room when she decided Winry was ready to begin the really serious work of pushing her baby out. That, and the door slamming so fast it hit their backsides were the twin injustices that stuck in Edward's craw.
The old woman had lain down on the couch overnight, although she slept only fitfully through the lonely hours. But after just a few hours of half-remembered dreams she decided any more seeking after the velvet arms of Morpheus was a lost cause. She sat up and smacked her lips together and blinked her eyelids which were gummy with sleep. Pinako still wore the same clothes from yesterday and she distinctly felt like moldy bread, but she would bathe later because there was work to do. She went into the kitchen and lit a burner, filled the coffeepot with water and then ground beans in an old hand cranked grinder before setting it over the heat. Then she got a tray out of a lower cupboard and set it on the kitchen table, Pinako wasn't a sentimental woman and the thought that just over seven months ago they'd discussed baby names here never occurred to her. She was about to fetch the step stool so she could reach the coffee cups in a higher cupboard when Alphonse suddenly walked up behind her. "Let me, Granny, I need something to do." he mumbled in a sleepy voice while he stretched his long arms to fetch what she needed.
She missed Edward and she had protested the ouster of her husband, but the midwife's word was law, as Greta informed her. She lay back and whimpered from the resentment at Mrs. Treadle's high-handed treatment as much as the labor pains. The midwife pretty much ignored her patient's petulant attitude to concentrate on measuring the degree of dilation, a highly humiliating- in Winry's opinion - procedure which involved sticking her hand up inside the birth canal. Winry just wanted it to be over because her entire midsection was one giant undifferentiated battleground of aching muscles that spasmed with sharp pains every few minutes. Mrs. Treadle telling her some first-time labors could last forty hours or longer wasn't helping.
Mrs. Treadle and Greta
Greta clicked the stop watch button before she turned slightly to Mrs. Treadle and inclined her head slightly. "Contraction are two minutes apart, Mrs. Winry, it's time for the birth. Your husband will be allowed in to re-heat the water and support you." Mrs. Treadle's voice was crisp, with a no-nonsense air to it, as if her words alone could hold Winry up. In her experience, this is when many first-time mothers 'hit the wall'; exhausted and fearful of yet more pain, when they began often to wail "I don't want to have a baby!" The husband came in, yawning and stretching, his eyes at half mast from lack of sleep, and his jaw stubbly. He listened to Mrs. Treadle's instructions while swaying slightly but he seemed to understand. The hand clap was little more than a soft tok followed by a flare of reddish light, and suddenly the water was steaming slightly.
He was gratified to see the way his wife's blue eyes lit up like a theater marquee after he re-entered the room. The midwife was telling him something, but he listened with only half an ear because most of his available attention was focused on Winry. Her face was pale and sweating, marked with the strain of hours of painful labor, and a fresh wave of guilt washed over him. He re-heated the water with care, warm, yet not too hot that it would be uncomfortable for Winry. He helped her off the bed and into the tub before he knelt down, automail arm behind her back to hold her up. Her body shuddered as a contraction began to build, "I'm here, Win, lean on me." he whispered softly in her ear, a whisper quickly drowned out by Winry's scream of pain. Mrs. Treadle exhorted her to push as hard as she could this time. The swells of Edward's guilt were at high tide and they lapped against his conscience like hungry sharks.
The pain tore through her pelvic area and Winry knew she couldn't take much more. She squeezed Edward's left hand in a crushing grip while she pushed against and through the agony of yet another contraction. Something shifted inside her, with a terrible, ripping pain and a queer sliding sensation. There was a rush of blood and fluids and something splashed into the water. Mrs. Treadle stabbed both hands down and came up with something pink and wriggling, something that wailed loud enough to make her eardrums throb. The sound was horrible and wonderful all at the same time, it filled the room and overwhelmed her senses until she started to cry. Edward whispered something in her ear, something gentle and loving, but she couldn't hear him, because all her attention was on it. No, not an it, a baby; her baby; their baby.
It's A Girl!
Alphonse could barely contain his excitement, he couldn't seem to get settled in the high-backed wing chair and he wriggled around, trying to get comfortable. But one knee jiggled impatiently, and he sat stiffly upright, even after his bottom had sunk into the over-stuffed cushion. The chair was very cozy and he easily could have sat back and fallen deeply asleep, but someone important was coming.
"Are you ready, Alphonse?" Greta came soft footing across the wooden floor towards him, a blanket wrapped bundle in her arms. A living bundle that squirmed and made subtle noises while waving a chubby pink fist in the air. Alphonse's eyes and mouth widened as far as they could while his arms came up to receive the small package which seemed to weigh almost nothing and tons at the same time.
His newly born niece; she was not even an hour old in the world and still unnamed. Her eyes were open and she stared hard at her uncle, like he stared back at her. "Hi, there," Alphonse cooed softly at her, the words little more than a brief puff of warm air. The baby girl's little pink lips, like some exotic sea creature puckered and a bubble formed, then popped between them, making Alphonse chuckle.
The unaccustomed sound made her eyes, an indeterminate muddy color that could be blue, could be brown, could be yellow, or it could be a mixture of all three, narrow. Alphonse felt a brief surge of alarm at the thought she might begin to cry, "It's all right, baby, it's all right!" he whispered frantically and uttered shushing noises. The baby's mouth worked as if she was trying on new expressions for size. She settled for pursing her lips and uttering a series of grunts.
Alphonse smiled when he heard rumbling sounds coming from the region of his niece's bottom. She's farting! He thought with glee and he clamped his lips together to keep from laughing out loud. But his expression changed when a suspicious warmth spread just above the same hand, followed closely by an appalling stench that made his eyes water.
He glanced up quickly at Greta, and by her expression, the apprentice midwife seemed to be enjoying his discomfiture. "The medical term is meconium, the baby's first stool. Sometimes the baby produces it while it's still in the womb, although it generally comes immediately after birth."
This was too much information for Alphonse, who could feel his cheeks heating up with embarrassment. The baby was uncomfortable too and she began to cry, a thin sounding wail which brought an alerted Den on the run. She sniffed curiously at the infant, whose tirade hitched only momentarily before doubling in strength. The old dog looked up at Alphonse and whined in confusion. He suddenly rocked sideways when Greta slapped his shoulder with enough force to knock him down.
"C'mon over here, boy, I'll show you how to change a diaper."
The changing of diapers, Alphonse reflected, was an unpleasant task, but his niece seemed to be a lot happier and she now slumbered contentedly in the crib after he'd moved it to the living room, closer to the fireplace. He and Pinako knocked together a quick supper from an icebox full of assorted leftovers. Mrs. Treadle and Greta had joined them after they ensured Winry had expelled the afterbirth, and they'd also given her a sponge bath. Now changed into a fresh nightgown, an exhausted Winry and her equally tired husband slept together in the same bed she had given birth in. The midwife and her apprentice had left soon after eating, they needed to rest and prepare supplies for the next mother to be.
With dishes done and any remaining leftovers returned to the icebox, Alphonse and Pinako sat in the living room, content with their private thoughts, while a vigilant Den lay snoozing next to the crib. Pinako surmised she'd accepted the new pack member and was instinctively protecting the "pup", a theory that somehow made perfect sense to Alphonse. Through the west-facing window, he could see the early spring sun, like a giant red ball, just touching the horizon. The trees were barely starting to unfurl new green leaves, and hardy spring crocuses opened in the flower bed when the air warmed during the afternoon. But it was still chilly in the mornings and evenings, requiring Alphonse to wear a warm coat whenever he ventured outside at those times. But spring could not be halted in its tracks and strange as it seemed to him, the Spring Lamb Festival was less than two weeks away.
Lambing, calving and foaling was already in full swing at farms around the village, plus a few babies besides Winry's had arrived in the past few weeks. A startling thought, like a bolt of lightning, suddenly came unbidden to Alphonse's mind and switched on the little light bulb in his brain. Not wanting to sound like a dewy-eyed idiot in front of Pinako, he considered his words with care before he spoke them.. From his seat on the couch, he glanced over at the old woman, now a great-grandmother, who moved slowly back and forth on a bentwood rocker and sucked on her pipe.
"Granny?" Uncertain of himself, he paused for a moment; then plunged on, now certain she was listening. "Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, right? He glanced over at her again, she was still rocking and smoking, and emboldened, he continued. "So, we need a name for the baby, a good name that symbolizes spring, so, would, um -" he bit his lip. "April would be a good name for her, wouldn't it?"
Pinako didn't answer at first; she drew on her pipe before she pulled it out of her mouth and blew a smoke ring that lazily floated towards the ceiling. "April Elric-Rockbell. It sounds like a good name, Alphonse."
The boy squeezed his eyes shut, concentrated hard,and tilted his face upwards. "April Patricia Sara Pinako, uh - Izumi Riza Olivia Maria, er - Schieska Rose Elric-Rockbell."
"That's a powerful lot of names, Alphonse. Are you sure those won't be too much for a little thing like her?"
"Well, I know Brother would like to honor all the strong women in his life; you - and they, taught him to grow up strong himself, and, ehrm - ." Alphonse bit his lip and red dots stained his cheeks, but Pinako held her tongue and let him finish his thought. "I know it's a lot of names, and they might not fit on the birth certificate, but I think she'll grow into them. She's both an Elric AND a Rockbell, after all!"
Pinako took another puff off her pipe and her eyeglasses flashed when she tilted her face back and watched the smoke waft up to the ceiling. "You have good intentions and your heart is in the right place, Alphonse. But Edward and Winry might want to save some of those names for her little sisters."
Alphonse goggled at her in amazement, as if Pinako had suddenly sprouted another head and a pair of wings and then flown around the room. Little sisters? He hadn't thought of that.
Author's note: This story is dedicated to my great-niece, Kaiya Rose who was born September 23rd, 2009, about 3:30 PM.