Title: The Beatings Will Continue

Author: S J Smith

Rating: Teen

Characters: Alex Louis Armstrong, Edward Elric, Winry Rockbell, Pinako Rockbell, Alphonse Elric.

Summary: Concerned about Edward and Winry's relationship, Alex Louis speaks out.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything except the things I've bought FMA related – which certainly don't include any copyrights.

Word Count: Appx. 1,375

A.N.: Thanks to D. M. Evans for editing.

I deliberately did not go back and re-read chapter 15 or watch the corresponding episode of Brotherhood before reading this as I wanted to try to look at it with a fresh eye. Still, you might see some recognizable phrases or quotes and I do give credit to Arakawa and the translators for those.

Major Alex Louis Armstrong couldn't believe it when the wrench sailed through the air, flung with complete precision from the balcony of the two story house. Edward Elric screeched as the tool hit him in the head, falling to the ground and moaning while the girl – the young woman – on the balcony scolded Edward Elric for not calling before he returned.

Neither Alphonse Elric, nor the old woman, made a comment about the physical abuse as Edward Elric sat up, engaging in a screaming match with the girl, who laughed at him before spinning around and vanishing inside the house in a swirl of wheat blond hair.

Climbing to his feet, Edward Elric groaned, rubbing his head. "I think she's trying to kill me."

"She did tell us to call, Brother," Alphonse Elric said, not sounding at all concerned that his brother had been struck by a wrench.

"Yeah, yeah." Leaning over, Edward Elric picked up the tool. "Might as well go get this over with. C'mon, Major."

Alex Louis hid his concern in lifting the box containing Alphonse Elric. How could such a lovely girl be so violent?

It was more of the same upon their entry into the house. Edward Elric removed his jackets, accepting a cup of coffee from Mrs. Rockbell. The young Miss Rockbell trembled and screeched at the sight of the remains of his automail arm, turning and flinging the wrench Edward Elric had so thoughtfully returned to her. Her aim was unerring, the tool crashing into Edward Elric's skull. Edward Elric glared over the rim of his coffee cup, plucking the wrench from his head with two fingers and dropping it on the floor before explaining of their need to travel to Central City to investigate the Central City library. "How long will it take for my arm and leg, Granny?"

The older woman straightened from her place next to the loaner leg she'd just given Edward Elric. Her fingers stroked the bowl of her pipe, a wicked gleam in her eyes. "Three days."

"Three days?" Miss Rockbell sighed. "That's going to mean a lot of overnighters!"

"I'm sorry," Edward Elric told her as he toddled up on his loaner leg – then sprawled under Miss Rockbell's sudden thump of his shoulder.

"Oops." She grinned at Edward Elric's discomfort. "Maybe I should be the one who's sorry." Swinging around, she carried the automail leg to a work table, setting it down there. "I'll get started on your arm now." Without further comment, she disappeared through a doorway.

Edward Elric grumbled something as Alex Louis helped right him, dusting him off. "She's such a violent woman!"

Alex Louis couldn't help but agree.

Two cords of wood later, Alex Louis returned to the house. Miss Rockbell was engaged with Alphonse Elric at a table set up in the living area as she worked on measuring wiring for Edward Elric's automail arm. Edward Elric was no where to be seen. Deciding this would be his best chance to question Mrs. Rockbell regarding her granddaughter, Alex Louis poured himself some coffee and approached the older woman as she cooked dinner for them all. He made some small talk, as he had been coached to do for years as an Armstrong, working his way toward the subject.

Finally, judging the time to be right, he stroked his moustache, and asked, "Mrs. Rockbell. May I ask you a serious question?"

"Of course, Major." She nodded toward a string of garlic, hanging from the ceiling. "If you'll just fetch me down one of those, I'll put it in the stew."

"Certainly." He plucked the bulb, handing it to her. "I'm afraid this may be a difficult subject, but, your granddaughter."

"Yes?" Mrs. Rockbell took a heavy butcher's blade, smashing a few cloves of garlic to release them from their paper, then chopping them up rapidly before sweeping them into the cooking pot.

Alex Louis twitched his moustache. "She seems to have a tendency toward violence."

"Mm. It runs in the family, I'm afraid." Mrs. Rockbell sounded more amused than anything.

That didn't bode well for the Elric brothers. Alex Louis had heard the near reverence Edward had used, speaking of these two women. Did he not understand violence only begat violence?

Mrs. Rockbell pushed her glasses back up her nose using her forearm, her narrow gaze turning to Alex Louis. "You're worried about Ed, aren't you? Trust me, you have no need to be."

"But Mrs. Rockbell - "

She fixed him with a sly smile. "Major, I know you're looking out for those boys. I do appreciate that. But I don't think you've actually seen what's going on here."

His eyes widened. "But I saw bruises. Blood! A lump! He should have a concussion!"

"Oh, Major." Mrs. Rockbell chuckled. "That's their way of flirting. I know it seems extreme from your point of view, but believe me, Winry would never do anything to actually hurt Ed. When Ed gets back from his walk, I think you'll see he's not even bruised from Winry's wrench. Besides," her expression became amazingly stern, so sharp Alex Louis felt almost threatened. "Do you actually believe, if Ed was in any danger from Winry, Alphonse or I wouldn't have taken action? Do you think that we would let Winry abuse Edward?"

"I," Alex Louis shifted his weight, unable to meet Mrs. Rockbell's eyes. "I suppose not."

"No." She grinned again, reminding Alex Louis of a very content, very large, very dangerous cat. "It's just a way of showing their unresolved sexual tension, Major. They'll get over it, eventually. Surely it's no worse than the stories the boys told us of their teacher flinging them over buildings and starving them while they were in her care."

"Or First Lieutenant Hawkeye shooting at her puppy," Alex Louis mused.

"There. You see?" Mrs. Rockbell tipped some stew meat in with the fragrant herbs. "I think you're getting it."

Alex Louis bowed his head. "You have given me much to think on, Mrs. Rockbell."

"I suppose so. Just remember," her narrow eyes twinkled, "things aren't always what they seem in Amestris."

A few mornings later, the brothers Elric stood with him outside the Rockbell home. Alex Louis thanked Mrs. Rockbell for her hospitality, while the boys said goodbye to the dog.

"Where's Winry?" Alphonse Elric asked.

"Still asleep from the all-nighters. I could wake her," Mrs. Rockbell offered.

"No, let her sleep. It'll keep her from nagging me about my automail," Edward Elric made a face at the idea. "Thanks again, Granny." He held up his automail arm.

"You boys come back to Rezembool for a good meal some time," Mrs. Pinako said, sucking her pipe stem.

"Yeah, like we'd want to come all the way back here for a meal!"

"Edward Elric!" Alex Louis thought he understood now why Miss Rockbell smacked the boy. "That is not the way to speak to the woman who gives you a place to come home to!"

His eyes wide, Edward Elric stared up at Alex Louis. Before he could collect his obviously scattered thoughts enough to retort, a familiar voice called. "Ed, Al!" The brothers turned, as did Alex Louis, spotting Miss Rockbell leaning on the balcony railing, her hair tangled from sleep, still in her nightclothes. "See you later!"

Edward Elric frowned slightly, his gaze sliding sideways. "Yeah." He raised his hand as he turned toward the dirt road that led to the train station. "See you later."

Alex Louis prided himself on his ability to read others. He had failed terribly in regard to Miss Rockbell, but Alphonse Elric practically glowed with delight.

"That's so cute, Brother."

"Would you shut up?"

"Winry waking up to say goodbye to you!"

"She said goodbye to both of us!" Edward Elric snarled, kicking at his brother. The chestplate rang, even as Alphonse Elric skipped to one side.

Alphonse Elric chuckled, dodging a second blow. "But she put an emphasis on your name!"

"She did not!" Edward Elric howled, his hair standing nearly on end.

Alex Louis followed the squabbling brothers, stroking his chin. It seemed Mrs. Rockbell might have a point. There seemed to be something between Edward Elric and his mechanic. This would prove a very interesting trip to Central City. "So, Edward Elric," he boomed, "just how long has Miss Rockbell been striking you about the head and shoulders?"