A/N: sigh So... Cataluna, you may laugh now. I have given in and written for FMA. I am such a hopeless shipper. What can I say about this? It seems to me Ed carries around a huge amount of pain, and... well... perhaps Winry could help, a little bit. Once again, this sounded way better in my head than it actually does written.

Breathing

By Vitani FyreWolf

"I never said I was enlightened. I am suffering for the mortal you. I cannot save you for eternity; I need you now, I want you here. - Not infinitely, not metaphysically but humanly, humbly. I am not a saint, nor am I a sinner, and you are not an angel, so come to me.

Come to me now, while we are human."

- David Wayne Dunn

She loved the sounds he made.

Small gasps, harsh breaths which were sometimes akin to sobs. Sharp exhalations when her mouth found the soft skin of his neck, quiet moans when her hands wandered over his body. She knew of the wounds that he never allowed to heal inside of him, forced to remain open by the constant weight he placed unmercifully upon his own soul. As harsh as he could sound to others, he was hardest by far on himself – their edges were ragged and sore to the touch, so she never pressed, just coaxed him to get lost for a time in her affection.

His forehead would tighten, fierce bright eyes closed tightly – and she could always tell the difference between when it was out of inner pain or the pleasure she gave him. When it was from the pain, she would press him down onto the sheets and place her lips between his brows, letting her own breath warm the skin until his features relaxed. Sometimes this would result in no more activity for the night, and he would just lie there in sleepy contentment, eyes heavy-lidded, as she stroked his face or played gently with his hair. It could be frustrating for her own desire, but she always quenched such feelings quickly, grateful for whatever lapses in his prickly shell he allowed her to see and be a part of.

It wasn't that he never took care of her as well, for he did – oh, the memories of when he did – but he needed it more, and for the time she was content with the role he allowed her to play. They didn't spend much time together even when he did come home, sometimes visits would go by without a single shared night. She accepted this, and waited until the pain in his eyes grew too much for her to bear watching. Then she would take his arm and lead him off with her – and in those rare times, he needed it too much to offer protest. Perhaps the day would come when he would have healed enough to forget his pain and switch his focus to her – but for the meantime, she did not ask for anything more.

Any chance to touch him was a special one. He was not very open to it, and more than once in their encounters he had flinched away from her wandering hands. As soon as he realized what he'd done, gold eyes would open wide in remorse and silent apology. In those moments of uncertainty she would simply lie there, head on his shoulder and arms encircling his waist, until their breathing synchronized and he was no longer able to remember what his skin felt like when not pressed to hers.

She would move above him, where she was most often – her role as comforter usually worked best that way. Sometimes she would see in his gaze a promise that one day she would experience the same selfless gift that she offered him, and the times when she was the one on her back were certainly not lacking in enjoyment. It was pleasurable, yes, but that wasn't solely what they aimed for – for him, it was human connection and solace, and for her, it was an opportunity to shoulder in a little under his burden without him knowing and help carry it for a time. He didn't realize – if he had, she knew he would have stopped, for he was very firm in his belief that his pain was his alone and he did not deserve any help.

This caused Winry a sort of despair that she knew she shared with Alphonse. But if his brother had not been successful in changing Edward's view, then she knew she had no chance. So, she slipped in while he was distracted, his small hoarse cries echoing softly and unnoticed tears on his cheeks that she took into her mouth before he could realize they were there. It was a testament to how much he did indeed suffer, if in the moments when he lost control he simply began to cry. She hoped that each tear he let out in her arms was a little weight lifted off his heart – but she could never truly know. Hope was what she relied upon.

At first his metal arm and leg were startlingly cold against her skin, but soon grew warm with their heat, as well as slick and clouded with sweat. Others might have been disgusted at the slippery metal, but never her – his limbs were the part of her that he carried with him, the only protection she could provide. She knew every steel plate, every bolt as closely as she strove to know all of him. That was why no matter what else there was to work on, when he needed a new one or just to be fixed, she focused with everything she was – going without sleeping until her task was complete. Despite her skilled craftsmanship, he was always careful not to touch her in any sensitive places with that arm – because he could not feel through it, he worried his perceptions were slightly off and he did not wish to hurt her accidentally. Winry was grateful for his awareness, and kissed the scarred tissue near his shoulder in silent thanks.

She didn't mind, really, when he broke the automail – every time she could make them better, lighter, easier for him to handle, to keep him safe. Her scolding and assaults with her wrench were not, in fact, out of anger about his arm, but out of bitter fear for his well being. If he was afraid of coming to tell her that it was broken, then she hoped that he would think twice about going into situations that were dangerous enough to cause it. It was all she was allowed to do.

The thought made her still momentarily, and Ed took the opportunity to rise up, seeking her lips. She pressed down her bitterness and sighed into his mouth, sliding her hands into his hair and trying to forget everything but him. Tried to forget the shards his arm had been in far too many times, twisted metal next to soft flesh. How close did the blow come to hitting his body? How often? When would it happen again?

Her hands teased his hair out from underneath him, and she allowed herself a smile as the golden strands caught the faint light coming from the window. His response was a soft chuckle that turned into a satisfied sigh as he removed the tie from her ponytail, allowing her tresses to pool around him. For hours, they would be like this. When his regret and guilt spilled over, Winry would spend the night finding the pieces of the shield from around his heart and carefully rebuilding it. The pieces could be found in every quiet exploration, every gasp, in each time they paused to kiss. Part of her hated the shield, but she understood its necessity as well as he did – her alchemist was too sensitive, truly, for the lifestyle he had chosen.

They loved slowly and gently, neither rushing nor trying to increase the pace. When they sped up it was inevitable, their bodies demanding release; and it did not matter who finished first, for the other was never left unsatisfied – this they made sure of. Afterwards, she would rest half on top of him, one arm pulling him close. He would open his eyes and look at her, and grant her a smile – a true, Edward smile - and she would kiss him in that fleeting moment of happiness. Then it was over, and he would fall asleep, hair spread around him, head turned slightly towards her on the pillow.

Winry would not sleep. Her eyes would gaze at the window, dreading the inevitable end that the coming of dawn would bring. When daylight arrived, he would leave. She could not change it, just had to accept it, but it never got easier.

So she lay in silence, listening to him breathe.

Lying beside you,
listening to you breathe..
The life that flows inside of you
burns inside of me,
hold and speak to me
of love without a sound,
tell me you will live through this -
and I will die for you.
Cast me not away,
say you'll be with me,
for I know I cannot
bear it all alone.


- Amy Lee