She'd always thought the local madman was interesting.
He'd come to her father's pub, alone, and drink until his cheeks were tinged pink. He'd talk to anyone that would listen; his stories were always about crazy things like alchemy and artificial humans. She was barely old enough to help her father out around the place, so she usually found a seat near the crazy man and listen to him talk. She never spoke to him, never caught his attention, never even thought about interacting with him.
"He's probably had a hard time of it," her mother murmured. "He's harmless, I'm sure. Still… you shouldn't upset him, dear."
The man was gesturing emphatically to a couple of guys who had stopped, all the while they were snickering to themselves. "… and so the Fullmetal Alchemist ran Yoki out and saved the coal-mining town of Youswell." The men, still laughing, thanked him for the story and left. The madman scowled at their backs, eyes darkening slightly. "Stupid idiots have no idea what they're talking about."
She knew she wasn't supposed to talk to him, really, but he seemed so upset that she couldn't help herself. Her dainty feet carried her over to face him and she twiddled her thumbs. "So," she began. His eyes snapped to focus on her instantly. She blinked, feeling a bit nervous with him staring at her like that. "This Fullmetal Almechist-" she shook her head, flushing at the slip-up, "Alchemist saved a town just because he was there?"
The man blinked right back, hair golden in the dim lighting. "Something like that," he replied, a nostalgic sort of smile forming on his face.
She wasn't sure why his eyes still looked so sad, but she was happy to see him smile. "Could you tell me more about him?" His gaze searched her expression. He must have been satisfied with what he found, because he nodded.
There was a shout; her father called for her from the back room. She half-turned, not wanting to get in trouble but also not wanting to leave the strange man (with stranger stories). He rose, ruffling her hair as he went by. "Maybe tomorrow, bean."
She didn't want to admit it, but she was absolutely floored that he was in his usual spot the next evening. She tip-toed over as if he could vanish on the trek- and felt her heart plummet when she realized that he wasn't alone. There was another man with him, one that was smiling widely and pointing towards something on a drawing. It looked like blueprints, and she pursed her lips. Just as she was about to leave, the other man looked up at her. She froze, feeling her cheeks flush. She had been staring, after all. "Well, hello there." He spoke in a kind manner. "Is there something you needed?"
It was then that the madman glanced up, the stern look on his face relaxing when he spotted her. His shift in expression was enough to assure her worries and she boldly seated herself at the table with them. "It's 'maybe tomorrow'," she announced.
The golden-haired man threw back his head and let out a short laugh. His companion was no longer smiling, instead eyeing her curiously. Her storyteller let his head drop before looking back at her. "So it is." He lazily propped his chin on his hand and gave her a curious look. "What would you like to hear today?"
The other man sighed. "Edward…" She looked at the madman. Edward? Was that his name?
Edward paid him no mind. "You've been listening to my stories for a while, haven't you?" Blushing, she nodded. "Well then, maybe you should pick something you wanna hear more about."
Her green eyes grew wide. She could choose? Clasping her hands together, she looked up at him with puppy-dog eyes. "You never talk much about his mechanic." Both males gave her a confused look. "That man you're always talking about," she explained, "the Fullmetal A-Alchemist." The other man sighed again, but Edward didn't make a sound. "You mentioned his mechanic, once… I wanna hear about her." There was a long silence. She tried not to chew her lip. "Please?"
His eyes flashed, like he was coming out of a daydream, and he nodded. "Yeah, sure, I told you I would." Her expression brightened almost instantly. He leaned forward conspiratorially, the corner of his mouth twitching into what was almost a smirk. "This mechanic of the Fullmetal Alchemist's wasn't just any old mechanic. She was a spitfire with a damn good throwing arm and an even better heart…"
She scowled, staring down at the floor. "It's not like I'm poking him with a stick or anything, papa." Her father looked almost scandalized by her words. "I- I really think he enjoys having someone to tell stories to."
"You don't need to be harassing my customers," her father replied sternly.
There was the jingle of the bell above the door. Both turned to see that the man in question was back. He made his way over to the two, eyes taking in the scene. "Not interrupting, am I?" Her father shook his head. "Good," he replied, "then I'll have the usual." Placing his hands on his knees, he leaned over a bit to look her in the eye. "What'cha wanna hear about today, bean?"
Her father was the one that was scowling as she followed Edward over to his table.
An entire crowd was around the table that night, and she was sitting right beside Edward, her eyes wide. He was standing, a foot propped up on his chair as he gestured. "The smoke cleared slowly, and the crowd was sure he'd won… but as their vision was unblocked the saw that Fullmetal had the Colonel by the throat, a blade held to the skin. Fullmetal had proven himself to be a man, and worthy of the respect from his fellow soldiers." When he finished, all that could be heard was silence. He then glanced down at her. "Sound about right, bean?"
She flushed as gazes turned towards her, but nodded all the same. "Yeah, but you forgot the part about the Colonel calling the Fullmetal Alchemist a 'small target'."
Something in Edward's eyes shifted, and the listeners fell into an uneasy silence. The madman had gone freakishly still, after all, and the target of his distress was the young girl sitting next to him. He exhaled, reaching down to ruffle her hair. "Guess I did. Huh." He half-grinned at her, winking, and the moment passed.
"… the most beautiful countryside you can imagine, and more." Edward's voice was sadder than she'd ever heard. "It was quiet, and there was never anything going on, but the air was clean and the people were kind." He ran a finger around the rim of his glass. "Kinder than anywhere else he'd ever been."
She twiddled with her thumbs again, not wanting to see his expression when she finally spoke. "I think I want to go there." There was silence; her feet swung above the floor. "Would you show me the way?"
Edward's voice sounded tired. "You don't really believe all this, do you?"
"Of course I do!" Her vehemence surprised even herself. Her madman was staring at her with wide eyes, disbelief etched into his visage. "The places you spoke of, the people… there's no way they're made up." She clasped his right hand in her own, not caring how strange it felt under her skin. "They way you talk about them, like an old friend…"
He tugged at his hand, but she didn't let go.
"Please, tell me how to get there." Her eyes were pleading. "Please, tell me… tell me you know how to get back home." Both of them froze as they realized what she'd said. Her hands left his to cover her mouth. He stood, collecting his coat. She could only sit as he dropped his tip onto the table and vanished out the door.
He didn't show up the next day.
Or the next.
A month came and went. She re-adjusted her schedule in the evenings. Now that there was no storyteller in the pub, she had nothing else to do. She was quiet, more reserved. Sometimes she helped her father out. Sometimes she took to the streets, walking until her nose was numb from cold and her mother would worry. It was one of her walking days when she bumped into someone, falling to the ground in an ungraceful heap.
Chuckling, the man she'd run into stood and held out his hand. "Sorry about that…" His voice trailed off uncertainly. She looked up. It was the other man, the one she'd seen with Edward once. His eyes widened. "Of all the places to find you."
"Pardon?" Her head tilted. Why would this man even be looking for her?
"Are you busy?" He asked, sounding urgent and a little excited. "I mean, are you free? Right now?"
She nodded, lips pursed. "Why?"
"I was hoping you could cometalktoEdward." The last part of his sentence came out all in a rush. "I mean, you're really the only other person I've seen him even want to talk to, and he's been throwing himself into his research with an unhealthy obsessiveness."
She frowned. "What good am I gonna do?"
"You believe him," the man replied softly, looking almost ashamed. "I don't know if it'll help, but maybe…"
Her shoulders slumped as she sighed. "I can't stay long."
The man, who she'd learned was named Alfons, pushed open the door. "Edward!" He beckoned her inside, calling for his roommate. "Edward!"
She followed, heart thudding in her chest. What was she even doing here? This Alfons… she didn't owe him anything. "I'm in here, jeez," someone called out. She turned, watching him emerge from a messy study. His right arm glinted wickedly in the light. He noticed her, and his eyes narrowed. "What are you…?"
"There you are, Edward!" Alfons came out of nowhere. "I should have known you were in the study."
Edward pulled Alfons close enough to whisper. "… the hell is she doing here?"
"You've been acting so… so weird lately," the other replied. "I thought maybe…"
She crossed her arms. "Excuse me, gentlemen, but I can hear you." Ed scowled while Alfons flushed. "It's been wonderful seeing you both, but I should really get going-" she turned to leave but didn't get far, because fingers had wrapped around her wrist.
She looked down at Edward's left hand. He let go, rubbing the back of his neck. "You don't have to go if you don't want," he mumbled. Satisfied that his work was done, the other male left.
"I wasn't going to leave," she managed to admit. "I want to know how to get there." Her madman (she felt she could call him hers again) frowned. "I want to help you home."
She was surprised as Edward reached out, resting his left hand familiarly on her head, as if he'd known her all her life. "I'll bet you do, bean." He ruffled her hair slightly, eyes weary. "And that's why I can't tell you."
She left a few hours later, promising to come back soon. Alfons saw her out the door; she could just make out Edward's silhouette in the upstairs window. "See you later, uh…" the young man stood on the stoop, trying his hardest to think of her name.
"Elicia!" she called back, turning only to wave before she vanished from sight.