AN This story...this beautiful, lovely story...it started from an idea that came to me months ago, but didn't really go anywhere. And then, I started watching Brotherhood and BOOM!, my brain exploded, this thing took off, and I was left in a fangirly, obsessive and rather hoarse state over FMA until the anime ended...and then left in a vegetative depression in the wake of such incredible awesomeness. THUS THIS WAS BOOOOOOORN!
Anyways, this story takes place in the present, in a high school and revolves around music. It takes off in Resembool, and then we'll head on over to Central for the rest of our fun hijinks.
Winry frowned at her glass, wondering how things had fallen apart so quickly. At first, she hadn't even realized she'd been tilting, Winry had only seen the crater her parents' deaths had left in her life. But then she started getting older, realizing that bad things would continue to happen, to everyone, not just the bad or mean people in the world. Saints were hit with stones just as often as criminals were caught by bullets.
With this realization came her grandmother's cancer. Pinako Rockbell, a renowned mechanic and wonderful grandmother, had died at age eighty-two, leaving her granddaughter all alone. Pinako Rockbell had done a very good job of hiding the truth from Winry. She'd really just thought it was some mild illness, up until her grandmother started throwing up violently. When she asked the doctor who had come to check on her grandmother, he looked at her strangely.
"Winry, it's cancer. People vomit blood when they have cancer in the lining of their stomach."
That's when Winry noticed the way things had started to list to the side. Things just...weren't the same afterwards. She knew Pinako had only been trying to save her from the constant heart ache, but in this instance, Winry would much rather have been told in the beginning. But she'd cope. Winry had been told, and she'd help her grandmother in any ways she could.
If Pinako had had her way, she would have seen Winry out of college and into a sound marriage before telling her going, and that was what was going to happen, but apparently cancer didn't care about what an old lady wanted.
Before she knew it, her only remaining relative was laying next to her parents, leaving Winry all alone in that house. Alone except for the mocking, happy memories and a workshop full of automail.
And yet, when her world was shattered and falling into oblivion, her only real friend, a woman named Harry, was refusing to sell her alcohol.
"Kid, fix your face. It'll get stuck like that, and then what?" Winry was sitting at the bar Harry owned, staring into a cup of a regrettably virgin drink. Harry was a staunch law abiding citizen, much to Winry's chagrin. She didn't need a clean record and a sober system. What she needed was a bottle of vodka and a few dozen things to vent her anger on.
"And then I'll look how I feel?"
"No, you'll look like crap, feel like crap and turn into an old biddy besides. No guy wants to kiss a woman who's moody, depressed and wrinkled. That's just too much for anyone. Plus, I don't let little angst-muffins hang around my bar."
Winry cracked a smile at the term 'angst-muffin', thinking it was only something Harry would come up with. The smile was a little too fleeting to be real, but she had worn it frightfully often since her grandma had passed. Winry just couldn't help herself, no matter how much she knew that her late family would hate to see her so depressed.
"Kid...how have you been?" Harry asked, frowning as she polished a glass, and Winry decided to watch her rag spin round and round rather than meet her eyes. It was getting late, almost ten thirty, and she knew that she had better get going or else the creeps would come out to play, which worried Winry, even when she had a decent sized wrench in her hand.
She sighed, putting her head in her hand.
"My family's dead, I've been spending my vacant hours at a bar instead of behind my work desk and I have been fighting depression. Frankly, I've been doing awful."
There was silence, except for the slight squeak as Harry ran her cloth around the glass once more, setting it down between them.
"Winry..." the bartender started, the sighed, stopped talking and decided to look around the bar that had become so familiar to Winry. The Grape Vine, a small, quiet place that had been so cleverly named by a second generation drunk years back. Still, it was clean, it was warm, and it didn't hold a single trace of Winry's family, which was good.
"I just...I want to forget it all," Winry whispered softly, closing her eyes against the prickle of tears. "I'm tired of feeling so down, you know?"
"Booze isn't going to make that any better," Harry said casually, wiping off a section of the counter between them. Winry made a face at her, stopping immediately when the woman looked back up. "Honestly, what would your parents say if I let you become a drunk? There's no one else to take care of you, 'cept me, and don't give me that speech," she said, stopping all of Winry's protests before they even left her mouth. "Yeah, I know, you're Miss Independent of, what was it? Fifteen years! Ding ding ding, we have a lucky winner. You're officially old enough to be carted off to an orphanage for three years, unless someone of age can vouch for you! And guess what? That person is me."
Harry was a good friend of the Rockbell's, and had gotten pretty close with Winry after her parents died. When Pinako passed, it was her job to make sure that Winry kept eating, going to school and made sure the light bills were being paid. Winry was pretty sure Pinako had made Harry swear that she'd take care of Winry, in case the woman's sense of honor suddenly failed. Her grandmother probably knew that Winry would stop caring if she wasn't around.
Winry sighed, looking around the Grape Wine, glad that it was empty except for her and a man in the corner, nursing beer he'd been working on for a few hours and listening intently to the radio. She didn't like losing her composure in front of a tavern full of people. They all thought that she was tough little Winry, who ate bolts for breakfast and was doing perfectly fine since her grandmother died. To them, the only reason she had started coming to the Grape Vine was because she didn't have anyone left to tell her not to.
"...You've got, what, three years of school left?"
"Yeah." Winry looked back at Harry, wondering what this was about.
"And you're not allowed any inheritance until you're eighteen, right?"
"Mm-hm. I'm surviving off of the monthly allowance the bank sends me. I had to learn real quick how to budget things, or else the lights would get cut or I wouldn't have enough food or whatever. It's getting better, though. I'm just glad school started. Now I have a reason to go out of the house."
Harry nodded put away a shelf of cups.
"Do you still remember how to play the piano?"
Winry blinked, nodded. Her parents had made her go to piano lessons since she was five, but when they died, she had lost all the desire to continue, and Pinako hadn't had the heart to make her keep going. She had kept playing, for a while, but when Winry had learned of her grandmother's cancer, she quit. There wasn't any room for her wasting time on a piano when there were chores that needed to be done.
"Winry...your grandmother, before she died, she told me that...you have another option. You can stay here...or you can go to St. Bradley's School of Music, in Central."
Harry didn't look at her as she said this, and Winry just stared at her for a few seconds, blinking as she tried to make sense of this. St. Bradley's was a prestigious music school, where rich people sent their children to keep up appearances, make new allies, learn more about their enemies, this that and the other. In other words, it was not a place for Winry.
"What?" she finally asked, and Harry sighed, looking at her.
"Kid, you're killing yourself out here. There's no light in your eyes, your humor's gone, and you're withering away. You need to do something different, you need to...get away, just for a little bit."
"Harry, this is my home! I'm not going to run away because I...because I'm not strong enough to handle this!" Winry slammed her hand down on the bar, making the man in the corner look around. After a moment, he turned back to face the wall, not wanting to get involved.
"You said you wanted to forget it all, right? Then just take a break."
"In Central? Where the spoiled and pampered play? Not likely! Even if I did chose to go, how am I ever going to fit in there? I'm from the middle of nowhere, and I'm not some musical genius! I can't...play music from just glancing at the score! I can't conjure up a tune that makes everyone swoon! I'm just good at mechanics, and a fat lot of good that's going to do me."
"There's more automail in Central," Harry pointed out. "Expensive stuff, too. I'm sure you can find someone to take you in-"
"It's not about the automail, Harry!" Winry jumped down from her stool, more anger flaring in her than she'd felt in a long time. She thought Harry knew how she felt, knew that Winry couldn't just ditch Resembool like a bad sock, ditch her family like they didn't matter! Winry also had the problem of not knowing anything about Central. She'd only been there once or twice, and that was when she was a kid, passing through the train station. She would have no idea about what to do once she got there.
"Look, I'm not saying that you have to go. It's just an option, one that your granny made, not me. Just...take the packet. She gave it to me, just in case." Harry hurried into the back room, coming out a moment later.
"Here," she said, sliding a folder over to Winry. She glared at it, folded her arms.
"Oh, and Pinako wanted me to mention this." Harry closed her eyes, tilting her head back, trying to remember. "If you go...your room and board will be mostly covered by a scholarship, but...but everything else will be covered by a fund she set up with the school." The woman clicked her fingers, smiling a little. "Apparently, your wee grandma did quite a lot with St. Bradley's, favors, deals, sponsoring, stuff like that. And you won't be as 'outclassed' as you think. Come on, kid. Your parents are two top-class doctors, and your grandma is a ridiculously famous automail mechanic."
"Was. She was an automail mechanic."
"Still famous, though. You know they're naming a new model after her?"
"Yeah, I heard. The Rockbell T-15, the most compact and heavy duty automail yet. Briggs' stuff won't have a thing on her." Winry gave a rather watery chuckle, then bit her lips to keep back the tears.
They stood in silence, Harry looking at her in that 'Go ahead and do what your grandma wants' kind of way, until Winry sighed, snatching up the folder.
"Fine, I'll look at the stupid thing! But-"
"No promises. That's alright with me. Your grandma just wanted you to know that there was always another option. But, if you decide to go, you have to stay there. No skipping out a few months in. You go for keeps, until you're done with high school."
Winry pursed her lips, waving as she walked out of the bar, pulling her coat close. Of course she would have to stay for three years, that was just typical. But still...Winry was interested.
She'd never admit it to anyone, but she was kind of glad that her grandma had known her so well. Winry would never have just walked out on her hometown, even if she was in such a terrible state. But this way...when given a back door, of sorts... She'd consider it, at least. Her opinions on St. Bradley's still stood, of course, not much could change that, but it was a way out.
After stumbling down the road to her house, Winry rummaged around in her pocket, trying to find her key. She quickly unlocked the door, wishing it wasn't so cold as she shimmied on the doormat, trying to keep warm. Winry flicked on a light as she entered her house, dropping down in a chair. Winry looked balefully at the kitchen, wondering how it managed to feel so empty. Even though the relics of her grandmother were still there, it didn't feel Pinako had ever crossed the threshold. And without her strong presence...the whole place felt hollow.
She dropped the folder from St. Bradley's on the table, frowning at it a few moments before sighing and opening it.
Her first conclusion of the place seemed to have been correct. The pamphlet she picked up portrayed manicured grounds, what was practically a castle that boasted a million classes, lecture halls and other rooms and an army of beaming faculty. The dorms looked promising though, like a place that she could actually live in. Winry continued to glance over the papers her grandmother had assembled, which, upon further inspection, showed that St. Bradley's wasn't just a playground for the rich. It had a record of exceptional students, and had high requirements for graduating. She wasn't too worried about her grades, she'd always been a hard worker, and Winry always thought that it was much harder to fail a class than pass it.
Food wouldn't be a problem, as it was covered by the school, but the music...that might be a problem for her. Since St. Bradley's focused on music, each student needed to 'major' on a specific instrument, piano, trumpet, percussion, what ever suited her fancy, but she also had to take a variety of other lessons on theory, musical history and other general knowledge classes along with her usual studies.
Just about every musical instrument known to man was taught in the school, but she wasn't too sure as to what she would do. The piano standards were much higher than other instruments, and was one of the few instruments that actually required an audition to enter into the program. Only the best would be taken in, it seemed. The problem for Winry though, was that she didn't know how to play anything else. Sure, she was good at the piano, but she hadn't played in ages, and her education would pale immensely when compared to the tutoring St. Bradley's students would have received.
There was always voice, though. Winry enjoyed singing, and from what she guessed, it was one of the easier courses, as it didn't require muscle memory, a certain body type, and no other nit picky things that were always part of the instrument package. But of course, that was easier in the St. Bradley's sense.
Finally, when her eyes were stinging and facts about the grounds, library hours and how the staff was always willing to help!, she stumbled across a flier, folded in half on bright yellow paper.
Garfeil Autoshop-there for all your mechanical needs! boasted the front, in large, bold letters. Interested, she glanced down the page, then smiled, pleased that her grandmother had thrown in the last little detail to clinch the deal.
Includes automail tailoring and engineering.
Winry stood up, flicked off the light and hobbled to her room. Pinako hadn't really needed to include the flier, Winry was tempted enough as it was. But her grandmother had tossed the automail in as a gift, something to sweeten her time there.
AN Ah, it was kind of awkward kicking this off. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with writing for FMA yet...but I shall be soon! Now, tell me what you think, and what you expect from this story. I have so much planned, I can hardly even say.