To Call Your Name
A/N: THIS IS A TRANSITION CHAPTER! So, expect it to be lighter on plot. Half of its existence as a chapter at all is because people were so excited about how Greed was going to raise Ed.
Many months had passed since Ed and the chimera had escaped from the Fifth Laboratory and met Greed, and he honestly hadn't been this happy in years. As an avid pupil, Ed's ability to learn new skills from his unusual family never reached its limit. Swordfighting, stealing, spying – in all of these and more, the young alchemist showed talent. Greed, in his commitment to shaping Ed after his own example, taught the boy more subtle arts, ways to help a guy get what he wanted. The uncle and nephew would sometimes station themselves at outdoor cafés and charm any young ladies who chanced to walk by. Before long, Ed could use his innocent appearance to attract more giggles and blushing faces than his mentor. If Al or Winry could see him now, they might not even recognize him; he had adopted a liking for black and leather, pierced his left ear, and grown out a small portion of his hair so he could wear it in a tiny braid at the back of his head under a shorter top layer. Aside from externals, living with Greed had imbued in him a sort of wildness, what would earn him the stereotype of a "bad boy" from most people, but amongst the chimera and their Homunculus leader, Ed felt right at home doing as he pleased. It was simply what he had been taught.
Their motely gang never stopped for too long in one place, but Ed took advantage of every moment, picking up even more talents from strangers in the towns through which they passed. In one small city, the small blonde met a travelling musician who showed him the basics of piano. After that encounter, music became a whole new language to Ed, allowing him to express feelings that needed no words. In another village, he picked up some handy acrobatic skills from a circus performer. All in all, Greed said his nephew was growing into a fine young man. He even started calling Ed his trump card, especially after the small blonde managed to take on the entire rest of the gang and hold his own.
"What can I say?" he would exclaim, thumping his protégé on the back. "He's a chip off the old block."
Of course, as happy as his life was, Ed still had to deal with the nightmares that haunted him. They almost always involved Al, as if his younger brother was haunting him in order to torment him. But, Al wasn't the kind of boy to do such a thing, so Ed had to accept that these nightly visions were just products of his own guilt bubbling up like poison in a witch's cauldron. If he was in possession of a voice, his terrors would have kept most of the gang from sleeping; even as it was, his tossing and turning usually brought Dolcetto, who had become a sort of older brother to the small blonde, to his bedside.
"It's okay, pup," he would say soothingly, patting Ed on the shoulder as the child took shuddering gasps upon emerging from a nightmare. "We wouldn't let anything happen to ya."
Ed would give Dolcetto a reassuring smile as indication that he was okay, and then he would try to fall asleep again without revisiting his inner demons.
"Say," proposed Greed one afternoon in the summer of 1914, "I think it's time we moved on to our next locale."
[Any reason in particular?] Ed's fingers inquired.
"Just… a change in the wind, I suppose."
[In other words, your whim.]
Greed grinned down at his nephew. "Man, I just can't get anything past you anymore, can I?"
"He is a sharp pup," agreed Dolcetto.
"So, where are we headed, Greed?" asked Darius, crossing his beefy arms.
After an awkward pause, the Homunculus admitted, "No idea."
An audible groan came from the collected gang, accompanied by mutterings like, "Remind me again why we agreed to follow this guy," or "Does he even have a brain under all that spiked-up hair?"
[Hey!] snapped Ed, getting everyone attention by slamming his fist on a table. [The first person to suggest mutiny answers to me!]
"You heard the pup," Greed smirked. "I've picked up news of good things about the South this time of year; I'll see what I can dig up on our way down."
"Well, at least that's some form of plan, however loose it may be," Martel sighed.
"Right, everyone," marshaled Roa. "Time to start packing up!"
As the gang shuffled off, Greed pulled Ed into a playful side-hug. "You, little one, are a gem."
[Aw, it was nothing,] Ed shrugged, pretending to be embarrassed by the praise. Greed ruffled his nephew's hair and even landed a brief tickling attack that left the boy in silent squeals. Even though Ed begged for mercy, he secretly enjoyed the way Greed teased him. That man never would have acted this way around him; he had always been cold and distant. It was funny how, even though Ed still missed his little brother terribly, he had developed a love almost as strong for the family that had taken him in and kept him safe from Greed's Homunculi siblings.
"You daydreaming about something, Ed?" asked Greed nonchalantly.
The boy blinked and looked up at his uncle. [I guess I was, sorry.]
"No need to apologize," said the Homunculus with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Come on, pup. We might as well pitch in, too."
Nodding, Ed fell into step behind Greed, excited for their adventures in the South.
[So, what's the name of this place?] Ed's nimble hands asked as he and Dolcetto roamed the streets of a bustling town. [There are automail shops and mechanics everywhere!]
"It's called Rush Valley," answered the canine chimera. "And you shouldn't be surprised about the automail paraphernalia – the whole town's dedicated to the craft."
[Oh, I see.] Ed let the rest of his thoughts stay in his head: It sounds like a place Winry would have loved to go. I wonder where she is, if she's okay. Al and I never did find out…
He'd wondered about it plenty of times before. As Ed mulled over this puzzle, Dolcetto bought the supplies they had been sent out to purchase and signaled that it was time to head back to the others. Just as Ed started after his friend, someone carrying a large and heavy crate nearly ran into him.
"Oh, dear! Sorry about that." The rich, cheerful voice was soon followed by a girl's face peeking around the far edge of the crate. One look at her, and Ed's jaw just about fell off. That blonde hair, those big blue eyes…
Not wanting to mistake the girl for his childhood friend just because he'd been thinking about her, Ed decided to wait and observe. He awkwardly pointed to the crate to show he wanted to carry it for her.
"Thanks," the girl beamed, letting him take the weight of her burden. "If you could just set it down by that door, I'd really appreciate it."
Ed let her see one of his more charming smiles as he went to complete the simple task, and a little pink rose to her cheeks. Maybe she wasn't Winry after all; Edward had never known her to get embarrassed so easily. Ah, well. I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. After depositing the crate, he straightened and turned to find the girl holding out her hand to him.
"Thanks again. If you ever need a good mechanic, just let me know. The name's Winry Rockbell."
Ed's heart practically leapt into his mouth as he was seized by a sudden urge to tackle-hug his childhood friend. But, a realization stopped him: she hadn't recognized him. It honestly made him feel a little insulted; was he really so different from the rowdy, arrogant brat who'd played with her, who'd been almost like a brother to her? Deciding to have sweet payback for this unintentional offense, he remained pleasantly stone-faced as he shook her hand. She flushed again at his touch, which forced Ed to admit that Winry was capable of being flustered. Maybe it was a side effect of puberty; she'd gotten lots of good out of it. Ed had to exert considerable self-control in order not to let his gaze drift down to her… rather full chest.
"Well, uh…" Winry seemed indecisive about whether she wanted to release his hand or not. Finally, she asked, "What's your name, by the way?"
Here was an opportune moment for Ed to test how well she knew him, even if he had gotten a little more devil-may-care. In any case, he couldn't give her a normal answer, so he just squared his shoulders and grinned at her the way he always did when he'd won one of their childish games.
"What? You don't want to tell me?"
The smile slowly slid off of Ed's face as disappointment hit him again. Winry, what's with you? Why can't you see that it's me?
"Hey, pup!" Dolcetto called from across the square. "Come on!"
Ed reluctantly let go of Winry's hand and headed in the direction of his friend. The canine chimera had a sort of sagely, know-it-all expression on his face, as if to say, "I shouldn't be surprised."
"I swear," he groaned, "Greed's womanizing has rubbed off on you way too much." Maybe it was his "dogged" sense of loyalty, but Dolcetto had never like how the Homunculus kept instilling philandering tendencies into the small blonde.
[I wasn't womanizing,] protested Ed.
Dolcetto puffed out his chest indignantly, like a dog about to howl at the moon. "Sure you weren't because Edward Elric's never flirted with a cute girl before."
[Don't be so loud about it, dammit!]
"Regardless, we're putting this town behind us in a few hours, so there's no point in you leaving another trail of little broken hearts, got it?"
As Ed grumpily followed Dolcetto, he glanced back at Winry. Had the wind sent the chimera's words to her, carried his name to her ears? Her eyes had narrowed a little, as if she was studying his face carefully. He gave her one last smile and wave in farewell, and he could have sworn he saw joy light up her eyes and her lips form his name before she was lost in the crowd.
A/N: I'm nearing the end of one of my big crossover fics, and I'm about halfway through one of my other big crossover fics, so the time will soon be at hand when I can really get back to updating this story regularly.
For those of you who haven't seen my drawings of Ed for this story (and thus, don't have a visual for his hairdo), think Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet. That was my inspiration for his hairstyle.
My EdWin sense is tingling…