Hey not to self-promote or anything but I just got a Tumblr, so if you feel like checking that out... fieree . tumblr . com

To the guest who was concerned about Winry being OOC: Thank you so much for the review! I love receiving this type of feedback and am always trying my best to make sure my characters are in-character. Actually, though, I'm kind of trying to make Winry out to be a bit more timid, or at least seeming that way to her peers, to have a larger contrast between "school-Winry" and "at home-Winry". In addition, while Winry is an incredibly strong and determined character, she gets insecure like everyone else, and various time throughout the series she is shown as more timid and reserved. But I promise, she's not taking any of Macie's crap in this chapter.

Thank you SO much to Mcat9905 for Beta-ing this for me! And thanks to everyone for reading!

She'd been dreading Friday with a passion all week. Everyone else in the class was chatting excitedly about the half day- their only one all year, because rising freshmen were coming in to take the placement exam. Of course, Macie was shooting Winry death glares at every possible opportunity, but Winry did her best at feigning indifference.

The seconds were trudging by as if wading through molasses. Biology was a breeze as always, English she could muddle through, but she was pretty sure that by the end of Social Studies she was going to be slamming her face repeatedly into her desk.

The bell rang (she wasn't sure if she should feel relief or apprehension) and a wave of students practically flew through the doors. Winry waited just outside for Macie to exit. It was noon right now, and the next train ran at 12:30- a bit tight, but they could make it.

The girl flounced out of the doors, practically dead last, and scanned the crowd for Winry, shooting her a sour glare before coming closer.

"I still can't believe Ms. Beech made me partner with you." Winry couldn't help but roll her eyes.

"The feeling's mutual, trust me, but we need to get over it and just finish this freaking presentation. C'mon, the train leaves in a half hour."

In that short amount of time, Macie covered just about every topic to "Do you have, like, electricity and stuff?" to "How long is this train ride going to be, anyway?" to "You know you're paying for my ticket, right?" and everything in between. They finally made it to the station, where Winry grudgingly bought a two-way ticket for her partner (she herself had already secured a pass for the year). They boarded just in time, finding their seats among the mostly empty train. Normally, Winry rode on the 4:00, which was invariably packed with commuters; it was nice to have a little leg room.

On the other hand, Macie seemed completely unused to the atmosphere. Every little bump or jostle just made the girl more agitated-looking. "You seriously do this every day?"

"Yeah, otherwise I wouldn't be able to go to school. There's not a high school in Risembool- not enough kids." She decided to ignore the 'tiny sheep town' response she received.

The ride honestly wasn't that long- only forty minutes of actual travel time, and Winry was more than used to it by now. Besides, compared to Ed's tales of train rides of five or more hours, her trip seemed like the blink of an eye. About fifteen minutes in, Macie pulled out the project rubric Ms. Beech had given them.

"At least we're doing it on an interesting person. Last year they had to do it on a non-alchemist military member who gave their lives in the line of duty. My older sister did it on some boring guy- Higgs? No, um, Hughes. Killed in a telephone booth, like, cliche much? Whatever. Darling Edward is going to be so much more fun!" Winry felt her eye twitch.

"You shouldn't say stuff like that. Hughes had a family. He had a little girl- I mean, he could have had one, anyway. Think about how his death affected them," she muttered through gritted teeth.

"Whatever, the presentation was still boring as hell," Macie said with a hair flip. "So we have to pick a specific aspect about Fullmetal and do a report- like his type of alchemy, or a specific thing he's done. Any ideas? Do you know anything about him?" Yeah, right. This kid was practically her brother- she could write a freaking book about him! The real question, she supposed, was how much of her knowledge to reveal about him. Winry didn't want to seem like one of his fangirls... or worse... a stalker.

(Oh god, she could practically see his face if Edward ever found out about this).

"I don't really care..." Winry trailed off.

"Well, I made a copy of the article about him when he was first named a State Alchemist. He's our age, assigned to someone named Colonel Roy Mustang- hey! He's from Risembool!? Did you know this?" Macie shot Winry an accusatory glare.

"Oh, uh, yeah... he is, isn't he..." Winry's smile was just a bit too big to be realistic.

"Did you ever meet him?!" Oh god...

"Uh, I know people that know him... and anyway, he's in Central or something right now. Let's just figure out this project, okay?"

"Gosh," Macie flipped her hair again. "Touchy."

The train couldn't have arrived in the station soon enough. ("This is a train station? My house is bigger than this!") The walk home wasn't long, but it was along a dirt road (the only paved road in Risembool was Main Street), which was yet another source of complaints.

"Okay, so when we get to my house, you can have a snack and do your other homework or whatever the heck you feel like doing. I just have to help out my grandma for an hour or so, and then we can get started, okay?"

"Seriously? What kind of a shop does your grandmother run, anway? Can't, like, your mom help?"

"My parents died when I was little. And you'll find out about her shop soon enough. We're almost there." For once, Macie didn't have a snarky reply.

The familiar yellow house appeared over the hill, and Winry pointed it out "That's it right there."

"What's that?" She followed Macie's gaze, her stomach sinking as Winry realized what they were looking at. They stopped in the middle of the road, Macie curious and Winry heavyhearted.

"It's a house- it burned down a couple of years ago. The family who lived there's gone now."

"Oh," was all Macie said in reply. The two girls tore their gazes away from the charred remains and resumed their course to the cheery yellow home, both of them glad for the distraction.

"Rockbell... automail? Your grandma's an automail mechanic?" Winry couldn't tell if the girl was excited or disgusted.

"Um, yeah, and I help her out. When we go in, there may be some strangers in there, so just ignore 'em. I'll introduce you to my grandmother, too." Macie nodded, looking a little hesitant for the first time Winry had ever seen.

Winry opened the door, relieved to see that all of Granny's customers seemed to have gone for the day.

"Granny, I'm home! And I brought the girl from my class with me," Winry called out, unsure whether to call Macie her friend or her acquaintance or what. Macie had already stepped inside, taking the place in.

Pinako walked in from the kitchen, her automail work clothing replaced by a normal apron. She must have already finished dealing with customers for the day.

"Hello, nice to meet you. I'm Winry's grandmother, Pinako," she offered a hand, and Winry could tell that Macie was surprised by the old woman's strong grip.

"Macie Ross-Williams, nice to meet you, too." At least the girl had manners.

"Okay, I guess Granny is finished with customers today?" The question was directed towards Ms. Rockbell, who nodded to her granddaughter. "So I can probably put the rest of my work off until tomorrow, I guess. Let's get something to eat and then we can start on the project." Macie seemed to deem the plan acceptable, following Winry into the kitchen.

"So, I think we need to first narrow down exactly what we're working on for the project." Winry nodded, taking a sip of her juice (some orange crap that Ed had introduced her to awhile back... she was only slightly addicted). "Well, I was thinking," Macie continued, "with the current events for class and everything, most of the students already know about the majority of what Fullmetal has been doing. Like Youswell and Liore and all that. I mean, I read about him in the paper almost every week- I'm practically an expert," she huffed proudly. Winry rolled her eyes.

"You're probably right. What were the other example topics she gave us?"

"Um, his type of alchemy..." That one would be interesting save the fact that the one time Winry had asked Ed to explain, she was totally lost by the third sentence. Plus, she was pretty sure that the whole "circle-less clapping" thing he was able to do was not something that should be advertised to the public. "... Why he became involved in the military..." No. Definitely not. "... His life pre-military- hey, he's from here, right? Do you think we could talk to his family?!" Macie seemed genuinely excited. Winry shook her head.

"They... uh, they don't live here anymore."

"Damn, we could've had firsthand information." Macie turned her eyes back to her notes. "Those are all the categories she gave us, but she said if we came up with our own idea, we could."

"Well you're the expert here." Winry fought hard to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "Any brilliant ideas?" Macie seemed contemplative for a moment before her eyes lit up. (If Winry didn't know better she'd say the girl was genuinely excited to share something).

"Okay, I have something. But I'm not sure if it's true. Technically, we're not even supposed to know about it. Top secret." Oh, this was gonna be interesting.

"What, does Ed have a secret girlfriend or something?" Winry half-laughed, praying that Macie wouldn't confirm it (because she had to watch out for the idiot, and how could she do that if she hadn't even met the girl? That was obviously the reason the idea scared her so much).

"I'm pretty sure he prefers 'Edward,'" Macie huffed. "And no, this is like, legit military information. I don't even know why I'm telling you this. But apparently..." she paused for dramatic effect, taking a deep breath and glancing around the room as if she could be overheard by anyone.

"Apparently Edward Elric has automail- a full arm and a leg."

"Whaaaaat?!" That was not at all what Winry had been expecting to hear.

"Yeah, I know, right? It's crazy. But wouldn't that explain why he always wears gloves and a long coat? I mean, have you ever seen him without them?" Macie seemed to realize who she was talking to and her mask of feigned indifference resumed just a bit. "Of course you wouldn't. You probably haven't even seen a picture of him. Well this is what he looks like." She held up an illustration (not even a real photo) out of a teen magazine clipping that showed... was that supposed to be Ed?

Winry choked on a laugh. This guy looked about twenty, with a chiseled face, delicate smile, toned body, and long torso (he looked... tall, almost). He was wearing his signature red coat and outfit, but it seemed more fit for a debutante than the runt alchemist she knew. To top it all off, his long, luscious golden hair was braided all the way down his back (she admitted to herself she wouldn't mind that- Ed's hair was fun to mess with, and it was she who had first braided it for him once he'd stopped cutting it after the incient). Speaking of the true Ed...

"C-could I keep this?" Her voice trembled with laughter, but Macie probably mistook it for awe.

"Yeah, I've got loads more where that came from." She handed Winry the image, the blonde vowing to show it to Ed the next time he came to visit. She could only imagine his face... and Al would get a kick out of it, too. "But you see? He's always in long clothes. And according to my uncle's girlfriend- well his ex now, I guess- who's a nurse at Central Hospital, Edward has all this automail and no one knows anything about how he got it or anything. And," she smiled almost cruelly, "apparently he has this blonde lady-mechanic to boot."

"WHAAAAAAAT?!" Winry's face probably looked like a tomato. How- how? She couldn't even form her thoughts into words. How could this spoiled brat from Eastern know that? Winry half-expected the girl to start rambling about human transmutation and array-less circles. Was Ed really this much of a celebrity? She'd known that he was pretty famous, but this?!

"I know, right?!" Macie laughed, seeming to forget that she was talking to the hick Risembool girl for a moment and not even bothering to sound condescending. They both took a few moments to calm down, Winry fanning her face with her hand in an attempt to not look quite so embarrassed. "Okay, but seriously, should we do that? I bet we could find some reasons to explain it- hey, maybe we could even talk to your grandmother! I bet she would be able to tell." It was all Winry could do to nod.

"Yeah, okay. Let's clean up this food and I'll go talk to her. Why don't you wait, uh, in the living room?"

"Let me get this straight. You and this girl are doing a project on Ed- more specifically, on his automail- but you don't want her to know that you're the one that actually makes his automail, and therefore I'm supposed to lie point-blank to this girl?" They were in Granny's workshop, Macie waiting outside in the living room, and Winry was practically on her knees begging.

"You don't need to lie- just not, like, the whole truth. I'm doing this for Ed's sake, Granny. God knows what lengths he goes to keep his automail hidden from everyone!" Pinako sighed.

"Fine, but if she asks me something directly, I'm not lying to her. And I suggest you do the same."

"Thank you!" Winry practially hugged her grandmother to death.

"Thank Ed, not me. I'm not doing this for your sake." But even Winry could hear the affection in Pinako's voice.

They stepped out to see Macie glaring intently at a corkboard in the corner.

"I didn't know you have brothers, Winry," she commented offhandedly. "They don't really look like you, do they? Do they live here?"

"Uh, no, they moved away a couple of years ago," she replied, intentionally not replying to the "brothers" comment.

"They look about your age- why don't they go to our school?" Innocent enough questions, but for Winry this ice was just getting thinner and thinner.

"They, uh- well you see-"

"So Winry said you have questions for me about your project?" Granny interrupted, and Winry shot her a grateful look. Macie turned, the pictures quickly forgotten at the change of subject.

"Yes- we were wondering how you can tell if someone has automail for, say, an arm or a leg," she asked sweetly in the glib tone of voice Winry had thankfully been spared of the entire afternoon up until this point.

"It depends. Some people with automail- especially people that have had it for a long time- are pretty good at moving around with it. It's almost impossible to tell."

"I don't think Edward has had it for a long time. After all, he's only, like, fifteen. Isn't that super young for automail surgery?" Pinako nodded.

"Yes, and because you can't be put under when the nerves are attached, it's the most painful surgery out there." Winry couldn't help but note her grandmother's lack of response towards the "Ed new to automail" comment.

"Hmm... so if he were to have signs of automail, what would they be?" Macie asked.

"Well, to begin with-" She was interrupted by a loud, booming knock on the door.

"Here, I'll get it." Winry rose, knowing the shop was closed for the day and wondering who in God's name would possibly-


"Um, why are..." she trailed off when she saw the one armed mess leaning against the Strongarm Alchemist. Ed's eyes widened innocently and he gave a halfhearted wave with his left hand.

"Hey there, Winry..." The wrench was already in hand, Macie and the freaking project completely forgotten.