By Vitani FyreWolf
It didn't storm often in the country, but when it did, it lasted. Days of pouring rain, the wind sweeping through the grass and the soft grey sky blanketing the fields. The townspeople didn't mind, really – many of them being farmers, they knew it was beneficial. A downpour created an entirely different feeling out of a place – there were no people walking on the roads or in the hills, and even had there been, the sound of the rain and the blurry surroundings would make it seem to their senses like they were alone in the world. Some loved that – others were deathly afraid of it. Whatever their preferences, the residents tended to sit it out inside with friends and family, houses shut tight to the wind and water.
One of these rare storms happened to be during one of the times when the Elric brothers came to visit. They, like the others, quickly took refuge inside the house of their 'family'. After the usual catching up and interrogation of the two boys, the house settled back into the hushed atmosphere that so often occurred during rough weather. Voices were softer, quieter, as though raising them would break – or trigger – some sort of spell. It was late afternoon, not quite yet evening, when Winry came back down the stairs. Alphonse was keeping Pinako and Den company while the elderly mechanic finished some automail orders. Her granddaughter had already completed hers, and having not had anything for lunch with the excitement of the brothers' arrival, she headed towards the kitchen. She hesitated for a moment when she reached the bottom step, because for some reason the lights were off, leaving the house to be filled with only the misty, wavering light that filtered through the windows. A few more steps and she came across Ed, sitting on the couch, gazing outside at the stormy sky like a man entranced. Something about him made her pause – the young alchemist was very still, but he did not look distressed. He was looking off in the direction of where his house had once stood, but she did not know if that had anything to do with his trance... outside, the rain soaked through the burnt timbers as though trying to extinguish the tragedy that started there so long ago, the white hot poker of guilt and regret that drove Edward on every day.
She felt compelled to observe him, and wondered if he even noticed she was there. The glass was fogged slightly around the edges of the panes, turning the world into a shimmering mist, and the pure white glow from the windows created silver highlights in his gold hair - his braid slightly disheveled, as he had not remade it in several days. The grey light allowed his eyes to burn solely with their own fire, untouched by the garish yellow rays of the unprotected sun. His skin, pale in the muted light, had always been unblemished, aside from the angry scars she knew were hidden beneath the loose material of his dark shirt. Surrounded in this silvery aura, the boy looked as though he was in another place entirely; and this glimpse of him was something she was allowed only in the brief meeting of two worlds. A beautiful mirage.
This thought, the impermanence of it, made her heart clench bitterly, and in a moment of desperation she broke the silence. "Ed?"
He jerked, and turned his head swiftly, face unguarded as though genuinely surprised to see her there. A few strands of hair fell in his eyes, but he did not bother to brush them away. Such startling was unusual, as he was normally attuned to the comings and goings of other people. This sharp attention had saved his life more than once.
A mirage – always seen, always sought, never to be touched. Forever remaining just barely out of grasp.
"Yes?" His voice, when it finally came, was calm, but he still seemed slightly unfocused.
"What were you thinking about?" A tentative question, one was never sure when it was okay to ask such things of Edward.
"Thinking?" Fierce eyes met hers, and then turned once again to the window. "I wasn't."
"You... looked like you were." She pressed a little harder; he didn't seem to be defensive.
"No. For once... I wasn't."
"Okay." She let it go. "Can I sit with you?"
This brought his eyes back to her. His face registered faint surprise that she had felt the need to ask, and he nodded slightly.
No... no, he needs to be found. He can't stay a step away from people forever. He can't handle that.
His heart wasn't suited to that. She knew Ed tended to force himself away from people, probably thinking that his presence would bring them pain. As much as it hurt her to admit it, this belief wasn't entirely unfounded. Even so, she would not leave that as it was.
Neither spoke for a while, and eventually Winry turned her attention to the same window he had been so caught by. The droplets trailed quickly down the panes, making it seem as though the very glass was weeping. The interior of the house was calm, quiet – but on the outside the windows gathered cold tears, as though proclaiming to the world what its inhabitants could not. Like a mask worn on the inside. It was the exact opposite of Edward, with the confident face he showed to so many people, while within himself he carried his own tempest.
The Rockbell house was fairly old, and the sound of the downpour came through clearly. Drops hammered against the porch and the windows in a quick, soothing staccato. She felt her heartbeat slow, as though lulled by the comforting rhythm. Sometimes a lack of conversation could feel awkward, but not in this case – they were being spoken to by something else. The rain pervaded everything. After a time, her ponderings unconsciously faded away, and she didn't even realize that she had stopped blinking, so caught up in the power of the storm. A sudden bout of thunder jarred her back to herself, and she self-consciously glanced around to see Edward staring at her, an indecipherable look on his face.
His question surprised her, and it took an effort to form a response, as her mouth seemed to have stopped working. "So?"
"What were you thinking?"
She flushed as she realized that her thoughts had indeed stopped a while ago – she had let the rain erase everything. "Nothing."
One corner of his mouth tilted up wordlessly in a slightly triumphant smile. For some reason she didn't feel piqued at all by this, but all she same she acted as though she did, placing her hands firmly on her lap and looking resolutely away from him. This prompted a small dry chuckle, and after an appropriate amount of time she relaxed and glanced back at him. Edward had stopped looking at her, but hadn't returned to gazing at the window, either... his eyes were focused instead on a point just below the sill, seeing something that was not there.
Something in the way his shoulders were slumped tugged at her. Perhaps now, in this rare moment, he would finally allow himself to be touched... Winry shifted closer, until she sat just behind him. Before he could see what she was doing, she had her arms around him and had gently pulled his back down to her as she rested against the end cushions. Tried to pull, anyway. The moment he was touched, he stiffened in shock and resisted her hands.
"Hey – wait, what're you -"
She patiently waited out his stammering protests, knowing he'd stop himself before long. Sure enough, after a few moments he fell silent, cheeks faintly tinged with crimson. At her constant pressure he finally stopped fighting and let himself fall back slowly. As soon as their bodies met, he felt the weight of his metal arm begin to dig into her skin, and fretfully tried to sit up. She kept her arms around him in an almost pleading gesture, and he turned to search her face for any signs of discomfort. When she showed none, he slowly relaxed back into her – she was warm, and whatever other effects the rain had, it always made one aware of a chill. Whether or not you felt the cold yourself was irrelevant, once coming in contact with warmth you became needy for it.
His back rested against her stomach, and his head was pillowed on her chest. Her arms stayed around his waist, and she curled her body slightly, as though attempting to protect him. She would never tell him, but he did feel almost fragile – like something strained to its limit, on the verge of splintering. Resting her forehead against the top of his head, she let her warmth breath drift across his hair, moving her hands in a continuous motion that mimicked the pattern of the rain. Eventually the blush in his cheeks faded away, and he lay silent and unmoving, leaving them again with the sound of the rain for company.
I won't let you detach yourself. You may not believe so, but you deserve better.
Winry didn't know it, but if anyone happened to walk into the room at that moment, they would see that beautiful silver aura enveloping them both.