A/N: Let's head off to an alternate FMA universe! So some of it may be crack and out-of-character. But I'll try to keep the characters as…well, in-character as possible.
Consider this as an early Halloween piece! Approximately four months early, to be exact… XD I wrote this for a contest. Hurrah.
Welcome to Trissamé.
The blond woman raised her eyebrows as she read the sign over her head. She was relatively new to this town, and for some strange reason, that name seemed to ring a bell. Where did she hear this name before? She couldn't put her finger on it…
"New to this town, are you? I've never seen you around."
She turned around and saw a man standing behind her. He was good-looking, she noted, with black hair and light green eyes behind rectangular glasses. In one hand was the hat he had taken off in greeting, and he was smiling. His smile was more than just friendly – it exuded a warm aura and was most definitely not one of those big fat smirks perverts wore before they started doing what they loved to do…
"I'm just here to…visit my grandfather," she replied, returning the smile and hefting her two suitcases. "Grumman, do you know him?"
The man nodded. "Ah, yes, he lives just next door to my knife shop. By the way, you can call me Hughes. And I'm sorry, I have a wife. Her name is Gracia, and we have a cute little daughter named Elysia. I bet you're itching to know more about them, are you?"
"Umm…pleased to meet you…Mr. Hughes," she replied. There was something familiar about this man as well…
"Oh, don't be so formal," said Hughes, shaking his head and taking one of her suitcases. "In which inn will you be staying? I bet you'll be staying in the one my wife runs, huh? She runs the best one in Trissamé! And you would be…"
"I'm Riza Hawkeye," the woman introduced herself.
Hughes nodded. "I see. I suppose it's because of those guns you have, right?" He eyed the two pistols she had in her belt.
"I can carry that myself, thank you," said Riza, taking her luggage back from him. "But you could show me the way to the inn you were talking about. I can't saddle my grandfather with more work. Besides, I have the money to rent a room for a few days or so."
Hughes grinned sheepishly. "All right, then. This way! It's not too far away from here, not much of a walk."
Riza nodded as she followed him down the lane, carrying her luggage and shaking her head whenever Hughes offered to take her things. Her sense of déjà vu was climbing as she passed through houses, shops, carriages, and other random things. Nobody was shouting, but there was a lot of talk going around, and some of the townspeople chanced a glimpse of this newcomer. One of the men, with hair that was either a very light brown or a dark shade of blond and bright blue eyes, waved to Hughes before lighting a cheroot.
"Hey, Hughes, who's the cute chick?"
Riza blushed at his comment, but managed to just smile demurely and wave. Somehow I know this guy…
"This is Riza Hawkeye, Jean. She'll be staying in town for a while to visit her grandfather. I bet you can't wait to ask her out, huh?"
Both Riza and Jean glared at Hughes.
"Well…I guess I'll be showing her to Gracia's inn," said Hughes, sounding extremely apologetic. "The Gracious Angel. She named it herself! Isn't it such a lovely, heavenly name?"
"Yeah, yeah, it sure is," said Jean absently, exhaling some smoke. "See ya."
Hughes went on, Riza keeping up quite well even as he jogged through the streets, waving every now and then to some people around. Apparently the guy was popular, and judging from how excitedly he trudged, they were getting closer. He also claims to have never seen me before…but why do I feel as though I've met him before I came to this town…Trissamé? Even the name…
"Here we are! Told you it wasn't that far!"
Riza glanced up at the building that loomed before her. It had three floors, and had a huge sign that screamed The Gracious Angel in big, curling capitals splashed with soft pastel colors. The walls and pretty much everything else seemed simpler, which was a relief. More homey than flashy – it was a good combination for an inn. She went inside with Hughes, and a smiling woman – obviously Gracia, from the way Hughes ran towards her and gathered her up into a big hug – greeted them from the reception desk.
She could feel even more of that déjà vu now.
When the two of them finally let go of each other and the owner of the inn went back to her post behind the desk, Gracia spoke. "Welcome to The Gracious Angel. Hope you enjoy your stay! Will this be a room for one, miss?"
"Yes," said Riza. "Umm…" She wanted to ask this Gracia if they had met, but didn't want to sound too uncouth, or even paranoid.
"And your name is…?"
"Riza Hawkeye. Thank you…Gracia."
"You must be new in town. Never heard of anyone around here with that name," said Gracia, more to herself than to Hughes or to Riza while writing Riza's name in a record book. "You'll be taking room one-oh-one. Take the stairs, turn left, and the last door down that corridor would be your room." She glanced down and said softly, "Elysia, we'll play later. Mommy has a customer."
"Daddy will play with you!" Hughes, suddenly quiet, was back to his rather outgoing self again. He went to the desk, bent over, and lifted a little girl onto his shoulders. The girl and Gracia both had the same light, dusty-brown hair and green eyes. Obviously, she could be none other than Elysia.
Elysia giggled as she rode on top of her father and they started cantering about the dining hall just beside the staircase. Something told Riza she must have seen this scene more than just once…but the question was, where…
Riza blinked, and found herself staring again at Gracia holding out a key. Riza took it. "Thanks. And no need to summon a bellhop. I can carry my own things."
As she took her luggage and headed for the stairs, Gracia glanced at Hughes as he went back to her desk and gently sat Elysia on it.
"She's quite a strange character, that Miss Hawkeye."
"She's new; you can't blame her for that, Gracia. Well, I'll be off to work now. Those knives don't make themselves, you know. Daddy will be back later to play some more, all right?"
"See you later."
"Yes, Riza? You do not like the muffins I bought for you? Maybe it's a little stuffy in my summer home in Trissamé?"
Riza shifted uneasily in her seat and faced Grumman, who was moving his black queen forward on the chessboard. "Well…that's just it. Since when have you had a summer home in Trissamé? And for some reason, even though I haven't been in it, since I never even knew such a place existed, its name seems familiar to me, like I've heard it before some time ago. Maybe even heard it more than just once."
Grumman watched her move a white bishop a few black squares back. "And why do you think that?"
"I don't know," she replied. "And the people around here…it's the same thing…I don't know who to turn to right now, Grandfather…"
"Check." A black bishop threatened Riza's king. "Don't you worry; I think you've just been overworking. Try to relax a bit…that's why I invited you here. So you can focus on other things besides work. And…I know this'll sound a little clichéd, but follow your heart once in a while. Your mind and aim can't always rule you, can they?"
Riza wanted badly to complain to Grumman about her ominous feelings about the town, but she knew better than to start ranting like a kid. Besides, it was only her first day – maybe things would straighten out later on. After all, there were more serious matters to attend to.
Like keeping her king safe.
"So, I see you're back from visiting your grandfather. How is old Grumman these days? He used to be the sheriff of this town till he retired not too long ago. The new guy – who's not as new as he used to be, frankly – is Bradley. I think it's about time we need another new sheriff, but he's holding on pretty tight."
That night, after coming home from visiting her grandfather, Riza had dinner with the Hughes family, not to mention a few other customers, one of which included a blond-haired teenage girl with several holes in her ears and big, bright blue eyes.
"I came here to see Edward."
"The boy with the prosthetic arm?" asked Hughes, reaching out for the fish course. "His nose was buried in a huge science book the last time I saw him. I think he's probably researching for a way to make his arm better. And his leg. He's got an artificial arm and leg."
The girl raised her eyebrows. "He doesn't need that – he has me to fix everything for him!"
Hughes shrugged. "Well, he probably still longs for the normal life. And his younger brother's in bad shape too these days…maybe he's not looking for a way to ease his situation, but Alphonse's. I haven't seen Al around for a real long time. I do hope he's doing well."
Déjà vu, thought Riza to herself. If this isn't déjà vu, I don't know what is. A boy named Edward with prosthetic limbs and a younger brother named Alphonse that he's putting first before himself? A girl who claimed to be able to fix Edward's artificial arm and leg? Add Hughes and his family and that man Jean…
"You mean there's a new story that's going around?" the girl sitting across from Riza asked incredulously, snapping Riza out of her trance.
"Story?" Riza repeated.
Hughes grinned, reaching out to wipe Elysia's chin with his napkin. "I think you two deserve to hear it. It's been going around lately that another couple has seen him."
"Maybe I'll start from the beginning," he said, eyeing Riza. "I'm guessing you never heard anything about the vampire that supposedly lurks around the outskirts of Trissamé, only coming out at night and by a rush of fire?"
While Gracia took Elysia away, possibly off to bed (and so she wouldn't be spooked by ghost stories), Riza and the girl – who later introduced herself as Winry – and some other curious diners stayed behind to hear Hughes tell his story. In fact, he was now standing up, and the lights in The Gracious Angel's main hall dimmed abruptly.
"Let's hear it," said Winry eagerly.