All the Flowers Growing Wild
S J Smith
Disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I ever been, Hiromu Arakawa. Drat it all.
Summary: The flowers always smelled sweetest at the end of summer.
Rating: Let's go with teen for now.
A.N.: Thanks to D. M. Evans for the edits and attagirls on this story.
A.N. 2: Timeline, what timeline – because this takes place shortly after the whole incident with Scar and Father – but prior to the Brothers Elric actually leaving Central to go north.
Counting Flowers on the Wall
The shirring sound was soothing; a soft, continuous noise that drowned out almost everything else. The grindstone whirred and the pedal made a light drumming noise beneath the motion of his foot. He could almost do this by just listening to the sound, knowing at the instant when the blade was honed to perfection. This blade still needed a little work but it was close, oh, it was so close.
An intruding sound caught his ear and he frowned slightly, shaking it off the way a horse twitched it skin to shake off a fly. The blade was nearly ready to use. He could almost feel its completion.
"Please, help me?"
He raised the blade from the grindstone, face set in a rictus of irritation. Certain things weren't to be rushed. He was a master, didn't anyone understand that? No, no, they didn't. That wasn't something anyone understood and he knew it. Someday they would. Someday.
Rising to his feet, he moved through the curtain and into the next room, putting on his public face like pulling on a mask. "How may I help you?" he asked, turning the knife so the blade glittered in the light of the setting sun.
The little flower stared at him, her pretty red petals all in disarray. Dew fell from her eyes and her mouth gaped at him, opening and closing like a little bird's. "No," she whispered, trying to back up, her leaves stretched above her head, bowing her stalk. "No no no no…."
He smiled. "Such a pretty flower," and raised the blade. The flowers always smelled sweetest at the end of summer, he thought, shearing off the head.
It was always easy to find Edward Elric – just follow the sounds of the argument. Roy whistled silently to himself as he walked along the corridor, the noise level increasing as he approached the hospital room where the brothers Elric were supposedly recovering. From the sheer volume, he doubted Edward was resting quietly. He only hoped that Alphonse was able to ignore his brother. Then again, Alphonse might be the only reason that Edward was still actually in the hospital.
"…ready to get out of here!"
"Brother." Even Alphonse's voice had an exasperated sigh to it and Roy wondered how long Edward had been carrying on this time.
"I'm not feverish. The doctor said I was healing nicely." Edward sounded petulant – never a surprise.
Roy chose that time to open the door, sweeping into the room with a bright smile. "That's good to know, because I have an assignment for you."
"Assignment?" Edward snarled at Roy's appearance, "I don't get to heal first?"
"I just heard you. 'The doctor said I was healing nicely.'" Roy nodded politely at Alphonse, who, despite having no eyes, still managed to give the impression of rolling them.
"You were listening at the door? You bastard!" Fist clenching, Edward rose partially out of the bed only to fall back, wrapping his arm around his stomach.
"Brother!" Alphonse helped Edward settle back into bed, fussing over his brother until Edward huffed loudly.
"Hmm, maybe it is too soon." With an aggravated sigh, Roy set the flowers on the small table. "I suppose you'll need to heal up a little more." He adjusted the bouquet, giving it a critical look. "And you'll need time with your mechanic."
Edward's jaw tightened. "I'm okay," he bit out. Clenching his automail hand, he looked down at it. "We're both okay."
Roy nodded, understanding Edward's reluctance regarding his mechanic. The girl was his hostage, effectively the collar that kept Fullmetal under control. The brothers gave off an aura of dismay at the reminder of their friend. Considering the pair, Roy nodded to himself. "I think you need some time off, Fullmetal." That brought the boy's head up, his eyes wide. "Consider yourself on leave for the next three weeks."
"Three weeks?" Alphonse's helmet creaked as he turned to Roy.
"Three. I'm sure you can find something to occupy your time." Roy gestured at the window. "Go pick some flowers." He tapped the pot meaningfully. "Get some sun."
"…sun." Edward blinked, a dazed expression on his face.
"I'll make sure he does, sir." Alphonse nodded in agreement, somehow putting across that he got the message Roy didn't say out loud.
Roy tried not to think about how a featureless helmet could convey that much. "Good." He smirked, tucking his right hand into his pocket, waving his left as he started for the door. "You two have a good time. Send me a card."
"We will, sir," Alphonse called over his brother's voice.
Roy let the door close behind him, over the vehement, rising protests of the eldest brother that he didn't need a vacation, he was just fine. "I hope you will."
Edward sagged at the heat, letting out a whine of protest. "Whose idea was it to come here? I feel like I'm roasting."
"It's a nice, sunny place," Alphonse replied, following his brother off the train platform, "like Colonel Mustang said." The note with a pair of tickets hidden inside the flower pot had ordered them to the small city of Conway. Edward grumbled, head hanging down, shoulders slumped. "Brother, you should watch where you're going. You'll run into someone."
"Yeah, yeah." Edward waved off the suggestion with his free hand, glancing over his shoulder. "I just want to drop this off at the hotel," he jiggled his suitcase in emphasis, "and get something to eat." A prodigious yawn split his face, muffling the rest of his sentence so Alphonse couldn't understand it.
"Of course you want something to eat." The bright, clear voice jerked Edward halfway around, nearly sending him crashing into the young woman in front of him.
"Winry?" Edward staggered a little, staring at her.
"Don't look so surprised." She tipped her head to the side, giving Alphonse a grin. "Hello, Al."
"Hi, Winry." Alphonse responded, pleased to see her, even if he was confused.
Edward dropped his suitcase to grab her shoulders. "What are you doing here?"
Winry deliberately looked from one hand to the other then at Edward. "Your grip is weak, Ed. How long has this been a problem?"
"It – I – gah!" He flung his hands in the air, taking a step back. "You're not supposed to be here, Winry!"
"Who says?" She crossed her arms, brows knitting together. "I was told to meet you both here, today."
"You were?" Alphonse had to pitch his voice to carry over his brother's jumbled exclamations.
"I'm going to kill that bastard." Edward's snarl rang out clearly in the station, making a young mother, carrying her child, turn toward him.
"Brother!" Alphonse's chiding voice did nothing to stop the woman from backing slowly away from the trio. "Remember that people can hear you."
"I don't care." Edward stomped his foot like a little kid. "That bastard sent us on leave and got you a ticket, didn't he?"
"And what if he did?" Winry gave an aggravated huff. "I thought it was a nice gesture. Especially if you weren't going to come to me to have your automail fixed. Do you know how that looks to my other customers?"
"Customer? I'm a customer now?" Edward turned sharp teeth and narrowed eyes her way.
"Of course you're a customer!" Winry's gesture toward his automail nearly clipped Edward's nose.
"Watch it!" He jerked back out of range, a fierce expression on his face.
Alphonse, wishing he could roll his eyes, headed for the pay telephone booth. "I'll be right back," he said, as if the two combatants would even hear it. Glad he'd stuck some change in the pouch on his leg, Alphonse dialed a familiar number. "Yes, I need to be connected to Colonel Mustang's office. Yes, I can hold." He waited for a few minutes more, finally hearing a familiar voice. "First Lieutenant Hawkeye? Yes, it's Alphonse. Please tell the Colonel fifteen seconds for the betting pool. Yes, ma'am. Seconds. What? Yes, they're still arguing. I should go break them up. Brother's turning bright red. What? Oh…forty-five seconds. Wait, there was a second wager? You're kidding! Why wasn't I told? That's not fair!"
Alphonse wished he could scowl at the receiver and the calm answer that came through the lines, "…and forty-six for your reaction. That's the trifecta. I hope your leave is relaxing, Alphonse, but somehow, with your brother involved, I don't see how that will happen. Goodbye."
Understanding completely his brother's desire to slam receivers down, Alphonse indulged himself, turning around to see Edward and Winry, nose to nose, arms waving, fingers pointing and voices escalating. Somehow, Alphonse thought it was going to be a very long three weeks.