to places long forgotten
The train sped along the tracks, making the cars sway and lulling passengers to sleep with its rhythmic sounds. But the train cars were all empty, save for a few people scattered here and there. This handful of people, however, were not gathered on the same car and had all spread themselves out. The lack of people was due to the hour. It was very late, the sky pitch black as if someone had spilled ink across it. A heavy snowfall poured from this sky, blanketing the world in white. The train jerked and suddenly the scenery outside the window changed into a wide open black river. Dots of light from a small town on the shore reflected on the black water's surface, but it was mostly lost in the snow.
Edward sat on a car all alone. He wore a heavy dark jacket over strange clothes and his gloved hands resting in his lap. His blonde hair was pulled up into a ponytail that was currently draped over one shoulder. He stared out the window with very distant golden eyes, as if he wasn't truly there. A light that had once burned in their golden depths had gone out. His head rested against the frosted glass of the window, long bangs pressed up against the side of his face and the cold causing his cheek to feel numb. He watched the snow fly by as if he was traveling through the cosmos. It made him dizzy when his eyes tried to follow individual white specks. He watched the blank water below instead, peering at it past the tracks rushing by. The snow drifted down at amazing speed and disappeared past the tracks into the dark depths below. The car he occupied was dark and cold, much like his mood.
But then the train suddenly finished its crossing of the bridge and shuttered as it jumped to new tracks. Dim lights of the new city lit the dim car. They created dancing shadows that rolled across the length of the car, stretching to envelop it all in shadow before they looped around and did it again. Ed blinked and squinted a bit as his eyes adjusted to the glaring of this new light coming through his window. He felt the train begin to slow and he stood to gather his suitcase before sitting back down. The train eventually jerked to a stop and released steam with a loud hiss that stung his ears. Ed witnessed the steam rise by the window and fog it before he left the train.
The air was somehow colder outside as his feet stepped onto the shoveled platform, his single suitcase clutched in one gloved hand. Like the train, the platform was almost a complete void of life. Ed's eyes roamed over the area before a conductor, disgruntled from the cold, shoved him along. Ed complied without a word, limping away to follow after the few people left. He left the station and made his way into the city, careful through the snowy sidewalk that was in the process of being shoveled. He past the shovelers, only glancing at one when he accidentally bumped into him. This city sat near his destination, yet it was still a ways away. Trains didn't run to Resembool anymore.
"Edward? Edward Elric? Is that really you?"
Ed stopped walking and turned around. A shoveler had stopped his work, now turned to faced him. It took Ed a moment to recognize the man's face and then place a name to it.
The man grinned, displaying perfect teeth. He approached Ed and stopped in front of him, leaning on his shovel.
"Well I'll be damned! You're back!"
"Are you all right? You look like you've been through hell."
Ed let a dry laugh escape his sore throat. "You could say that."
"Man... how long has it been? Four years?"
Eric whistled and shook his head. "You're crazy, leaving like that for so long. Especially after disappearing for two years prior. So where are you heading?"
"I don't know," Ed admitted. "Home, I guess."
Eric frowned. "Ed, Resembool's a ghost town. No one lives there anymore."
"I know, but there's something I need to confirm."
"Given your appearance, I don't think you should see anything from there. It'd only make it all the wore, you know."
Ed shrugged his left shoulder only and Eric just shook his head again, picking his shovel back up.
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
Walking all the way to Resembool was not an option for the limping Edward. Plus it was snowing and much too cold to make the long trek. But Ed couldn't wait until morning and after much arguing he convinced a cab driver to take him out. He took to staring out the window again, watching the falling snow rush by. Eventually the cab stopped on the familiar dirt road, covered with snow, and Ed stepped out. He paid the cab driver and it wasn't until he had driven away that Ed realized he was now stuck here. Sighing at his own stupidity, Ed began to walk down the road, snow only ankle deep now. But given how hard it was falling, Ed wouldn't be surprised if it was knee deep in another hour or so.
But the snow was not what caught his grave eyes. It was Resembool itself. Any houses that had once been standing were gone as were trees. The place was nothing but a white plain, black patches where the remains of the houses were. He passed his own house, but barely gave it a passing glance. After so many years it was almost impossible to tell his house had even existed. Finally Ed came to a halt in front of a familiar pile of charred wood. The black stood in stark contrast with the white snow, but the comparison was lost to the dark of night. He stares for a long time at what was once the Rockbell house. His face was hard to understand. It was both sad and expressionless at the same time. But just to see this place burned to the ground like it was nothing... He felt just like his father at the moment when he had first returned to Resembool after his long absence. It made him feel sick.
Footsteps crunching in the snow behind him made him turn half way. He stared blankly at the person, shock flickering across his face. The woman staring back at him kept her face carefully free of emotions, her lips set in a thin line. Somehow Ed found his voice, as tired and as weak as it was.
She flinched when he said her name. It was Winry, older and wrapped in a heavy jacket with hands tucked into her pockets. Two strands of blonde hair hung down on either side of her face while the rest was pinned up in the back, much like Hawkeye had worn her long hair. Sapphire eyes stared at him rather coldly from behind her bangs. Ed wasn't sure whether to be relieved she was here or terrified at the inevitable doom he now had to face.
"Four years. Again," Winry suddenly whispered, creating a white cloud in front of her face.
Ed looked pained by her words before looking away, back to the charred pile. He said nothing and Winry's eyes narrowed slightly.
"I'm sorry," Ed said instead, voice barely above a whisper.
"No you're not," Winry spat harshly. "If you were, you wouldn't have left."
A period of silence before Ed spoke again, eyes never leaving the ruins. "There's nothing left, huh?" He muttered, speaking more to himself.
Winry gave him a flat look for his incredibly obvious statement, but kept her thoughts to herself. Instead she stepped up beside him, wrapping her arms around herself.
"They burned everything," She said. "And killed almost everyone. Then they herded the ones they didn't have time to kill like animals into the neighboring city and told us never to come back. That was just before the war ended. Parliament swears they're going to rebuild and give us homes again, but nothing has happened. Even if they kept their promise, no one would return. None of us have kept hope to return here."
"You're here," Ed pointed out.
"Because I knew you would be," Winry huffed. "This is the first time I've returned since the incident. I couldn't find the courage to."
A weary smile crept across Ed's face. "But how did you know I would be here today? ...Er, tonight."
"I heard a rumor... that your ghost had returned," Winry replied, looking out across the snowy plain.
"Word travels that fast?"
"You have no idea. Besides, I have no reason to explain my actions to you."
Her words stung. "Right." He hesitated a moment before he spoke again. "How is... everyone?"
Winry's face instantly darkened and she turned to him angrily.
"Oh, now we matter to you?" She snarled.
"Don't start this now..."
"Start what? Sorry to have to bring you back to reality, Ed, but someone has to. How long can you live in your dream? How long will you keep running away! Four years, Ed! Just after you had returned, you left again! Why! Tell me why!"
Ed seemed agitated now, but it was hard to tell. "You don't understand."
"Make me understand! Make me understand why!"
"How old is Al now?" Ed suddenly asked absently.
Winry blinked, taken off guard by the abruptly change in subject. He was looking away from her again, eyes focused down the road as he peered through the falling snow. Winry rubbed her arms and glared at him, but her voice was soft.
"He's sixteen now. He still doesn't remember anything, but he misses you. You disappearing again really hurt him, you know."
Ed looked guilty and Winry took a slight pleasure in that, which in turn made her feel guilty. But she couldn't help it. She was angry and frustrated. Angry that making Al hurt made Ed guilty while making her hurt seemed to invoke no feelings of remorse in him.
"Sixteen, huh..." Ed mumbled, dropping his eyes to his feet.
"You're twenty-two, aren't you?" Winry asked casually.
"Twenty-three," Ed corrected, glancing briefly as a plain silver pocket watch on his belt. "It's midnight."
Another moment of silence as Ed put the watch back in his pocket. Winry watched him and slowly her face fell and her eyes softened. Truth be told, Winry had returned here everyday since the incident, looking for the man that now stood beside her. And that was the frustration part of her current emotions. How stupid was she to cling to the one who always broke her heart? Just looking at him hurt so much. It was like watching a ghost or a picture that wasn't real yet depicted something that had once been real. Oh, she had tried to move on and forget him. She had dated other guys, enjoyed it too. But all those relationships had ended because she was too pathetic to let Ed go.
Suddenly Ed turned and began to limp away. Winry looked alarmed and hurried after him.
"Where are you going?" She demanded, blocking his path.
"Well, if I plan to get back to the city before it gets any later I better start walking now," Ed replied matter-of-factly.
"The city is over twenty miles from here!"
Winry stared at him before she shook her head. "You're limping...and you're carrying your suitcase with your left hand."
Ed blinked at her before glancing down at his suitcase as if he had to confirm this for himself.
"Is something wrong with your automail?" Winry continued.
"It isn't automail," Ed admitted, glancing up at her sadly.
"Huh? Not automail?"
"Well, not the good kind. It's the cheap kind. It doesn't connect the nerves very well, so I can't really move it."
Winry stared at him incredulously. "You idiots... using cheap automail..."
"I don't have enough money for anything better."
Winry took this information in slowly before she suddenly made the connection. "That's the only reason you came back, isn't it?" Winry asked softly, dropping her eyes to her feet and clenching her hands into fists. "Well, if you think I'll--"
"No," Ed interrupted quickly. "I... no. That's not why I came back. I've been without real automail for three and a half years."
Ed tried to smile, but it was empty. He limped past her and she allowed him to get several steps away before she turned around quickly.
"I won't let you walk over twenty miles in this weather."
Ed stopped again and glanced over his shoulder at her curiously. Winry motioned with a gloved hand for him to com with her. Ed hesitated, knowing the last thing he deserved was her kindness. She must hate him...
"Are you coming or not?" Winry snapped.
Ed stared sadly at her face, examining how little it had changed even with age. Eyes still bright and blue, skin still soft looking and slightly pale, cheeks now a bit red due to the cold. Then Edward nodded and followed her to her car.
The car ride was silent. Winry drove while Ed merely took to staring blankly out the window, again watching the snow. Winry glanced at him occasionally as if wishing he would say something, but of course he didn't and she didn't really feel like talking either. So the sat in silence the entire drive back to the city, named Wayward according to a sign. The city was fairly new. Ed vaguely remembered it was under construction still when he returned through the Gate, although it had been close to completion. Resembool had grown too, although it was still considered a small country town compared to places like Central. Although now it was nothing but ashes. The city lights were bright in contrast to the near darkness of the countryside. Ed watched the various dim lights rush by. Finally the car slowed and stopped in front of a tall building. It looked like an inn.
"You live here now," Ed stated for no apparent reason other than to break the unnerving silence.
"Yeah. I don't like it much, but its a place to stay."
The two left the car, Winry carrying Ed's suitcase because his limping was worrying her. She bluntly ignored him when he tried to insist he was fine. She knew Ed. He could be bleeding from the head and still insist he was fine. She lead the way to the fifth floor, to apartment 506 hung on the door in tarnished gold. She unlocked the door after a brief search for her keys. It was a medium sized place, too large for one person but perfect for two, maybe three. It had a small living room with a radio and the room opened up into the kitchen. Ed observed a hallway behind the kitchen as he walked further in, one door on the side and one door at the end. He wandered into the living room.
"It's nice," He said absently. "Is all this space necessary for one person?"
"I don't know why they gave me such a large room," Winry replied, dragging his suitcase into the apartment. "I told them it was only me, but the guy insisted on giving me this place. For cheap, too. I think he likes me... he visits me a lot."
Winry had no idea why she had rambled like that. Perhaps she was trying to make him jealous. Either way, Ed was unfazed as he turned back to her and took his suitcase from her. He turned back and sat the suitcase on the couch, Winry watching him. He continued to look around the place. He seemed so lost and out of place here. But seeing him here with her... it brought back happy memories she was sure she had forever buried away. A light smile touched her lips and she clamped her hands behind her back.
"I'll make you a cake," She announced.
Ed blinked from his daze and glanced over his shoulder at her, hair swaying with his movements. His confused face needed no words and she chuckled.
"Today's your birthday, you said so yourself. You're twenty-three."
"Yeah... but its so late. Don't make one so late."
"I'll make one now and you can have it when you get up."
Her voice indicated no room, for an argument and Ed held up his left hand in defeat. Winry smiled before a different thought crossed her mind.
"Oh... right, you'll need a place to sleep."
"I can sleep on the couch," Ed offered, shrugging his single shoulder again.
"No you can't. It's too uncomfortable. Hm..." Winry placed a finger to her chin in thought. "There's an extra room, but right now that's my work space so its kind of a mess. Besides, there's no bed there. So I guess... you can stay in my room tonight. There's two single beds there for some reason or another. You can use one."
Ed rubbed the back of his head, suddenly looking embarrassed. "If this is too much trouble I can always go somewhere else."
"There is no where else," Winry sighed. "At least, not for cheap. And why could this be trouble? Now go put your suitcase away."
There was a brief pause. Then Ed spoke softly.
"Don't you... hate me...?"
Winry, who was half way to the kitchen, froze. Ed stared sadly at her back and there was a deafening silence. Then Ed shook his head and picked up his suitcase from the couch.
"No," He said, voice hard to hear even in the silence. "No, I don't want to know. I can't handle that right now."
Winry remained silent, back still to him. She heard rather than saw him limp down the hall, checking the doors before he successfully located her bedroom through the door at the end of the hallway. Winry remained frozen long after the door had shut, face expressing deep pain. Suddenly everything that had happened and was happening hit her. Ed was really here, he was really back. Ed was really with her again... but... he was so different. Everything was different. They were older and Ed wasn't Ed anymore. Winry buried her face into her hands.
Ed... Ed, what happened? What happened to you? What happened to us
Winry made the cake as she said, despite the sleep fighting to claim her eyes. It wasn't anything special. Just a plain chocolate cake with white frosting and strawberries. It was a simple design but it belonged to and was made for Ed and that alone made it special. Ed never came back after he had ventured into her room. She thought about going to get him before she figured he was probably sleeping by now. She finished her baking, thankful it had taken her mind off of everything and stopped her tears for a little while. She cleaned up the mess she had made before she headed to her room slowly, nervous for some reason. She paused in front of the door before slowly opening it a crack, just enough to see inside. It was a precaution just in case he wasn't asleep. And she was quickly glad she took that precaution.
Ed wasn't asleep after all. He was very much awake. He had taken the extra bed beside the window, which over looked the empty streets below. His suitcase sat on the floor at the foot of the bed. He stood beside the bed, bare back to her and the room completely dark save for the dim lights outside that passed through the window. Winry noticed quickly that his body had not changed. (Unless you counted his height since he was now a bit taller than herself.) He still had his lean muscles and strong build. She could not see his right arm for he held it in front of him with his other hand. But she did notice terrible disfigured scars coming from around the metallic part of his shoulder. He had always had scars there, but these were noticeably different. They were a sign of automail failure. Winry had seen it several times before on others. It meant one of two things: One; the body had rejected the automail or two; the mechanic who had put them on had done something wrong and thus had been forced to quickly (and painfully) remove it once the problem had been confirmed. Clearly the scars weren't from automail rejection, seeing as how his shoulder was metal, and Winry knew she wasn't the one who had screwed up. When Ed had left with her automail, everything had been fine.
But those weren't the only scars Edward had. He had had scars before, ever since he had joined the military. But they had been small. However these scars appeared as if someone had taken a whip to his back. They cut deep into his skin, going across, up, down and more. One fell directly across his shoulder blades and another went directly between them, creating a cross-like image. In her shock at how terribly marred his back was, Winry let the door fall open. It hit the opposite wall with a soft bang, startling Ed and causing him to turn half way. He blinked at her before giving her a flat look.
"Don't you knock?" He muttered.
"It's my room," Winry snapped back instantly. "One doesn't generally knock on their own door."
"Forgot I was here already?"
"I thought you were asleep."
Now that Ed was partly turned, Winry could see his right arm being held by his left hand. It was made of a dull material that attempted to mimic metal, but its lack of luster and brittleness set it easily apart. Patches of rust spread from the elbow, wrist and finger joints.
"That's no even metal," Winry said in disbelief. "You weren't kidding about not having money."
Ed glanced at his arm and shrugged his flesh shoulder. Winry shook her head and placed her hands on her hips, walking into the room.
"We'll go to my shop tomorrow and I can get you real automail."
"I don't have money."
"I didn't ask for money," Winry huffed, stopping in front of him.
"Winry, you have no reason to be so nice to me..."
"Quiet, I can act the way I want to. Now let me see."
She took his right hand before Ed could say anything, causing him to flinch. She frowned at him as she weighed the arm in her hands, examining the entire thing quickly to give herself a rough idea of it. It was too light and brittle to really be of any use. She wondered how he had tolerated it this long. Winry shook her head again.
"Not only is this a piece of crap, but you neglected it and made it worse," She scolded.
Ed rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah. Uh... abrupt change of subject. Where's Al anyway?"
Winry chuckled softly, still staring at his hand she held. She wondered if he could even feel with it.
"I was wondering when you'd ask that. I don't know where he stays, he's never told me. But he comes to visit all the time. Maybe if you stay you... can..."
Winry trailed off, causing Ed to blink at her. She had caught notice of his bare chest. Like his back, it was also littered with deep scars. However unlike his back, the scars were shorter in length but plentiful. Winry dropped his hand and it took Ed a moment to realize what she was staring at. He said nothing, hoping maybe she'd forget it. However she brought one hand up to touch his chest, tracing the scars lightly with her fingertips. Ed stiffened at the touch and jerked away. Winry allowed him to, head bowed and face hidden from him.
"Do you shun all memories of me? Does it hurt that much?" Winry asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
"Winry, don't..." Ed begged softly, looking away from her.
Winry's hands slid down his chest before she wrapped her arms around his torso, burring her face into his chest. Her body shivered against his and hot tears spilled down her face.
"Four years, Ed... Everyone told me you were dead..." Winry sobbed. "I missed you... Oh God, I missed you so much."
Her hold on him tightened and Ed tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling, eyes hidden by the shadow of his bangs. The two of them stood there like that for a long time, Winry sobbing and holding him fiercely as if letting him go would cause him to disappear. Ed let her hold him this way, but he did not return her embrace. He kept his face heavenward and only moved his head back down when he felt her move. Winry turned her head to rest her cheek against his chest, feeling his warmth and listening to his soft heart beat. She relished this feeling she had missed so much. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world. This secure and warm feeling was only something she felt with Ed, no one else.
He had tilted his head back down, face now near hers. Winry rubbed her cheek lovingly against the rough skin of his scarred chest.
"Why are you doing this?" Ed suddenly muttered in her ear. "You were so mad when you first saw me."
"I still am mad at you," Winry replied softly, voice still a bit choked from her tears. "But there's no time to be mad at you. I never know when you'll leave again."
Winry felt him flinch and she pulled him closer to her to reassure him it was all right.
"I wont... I won't leave again, Winry. I promise I won't."
Winry chuckled bitterly. "Where have I heard that before? What happened to you, Ed? What happened while you were gone?"
Winry pulled away to stare at him with teary eyes. She sounded angry, but her face was not.
"Look at you!" She exclaimed. "You're covered with hideous scars! Your shoulder looks like the automail got infected and your eyes... they're so empty..."
Her words suddenly got Edward on the defensive and he waved her away angrily with his hand, sitting back down on the bed. He worked to pull the covers off while still sitting on them.
"Nothing! I said nothing happened so nothing happened!" Ed snapped, attempting to pull off his shoes with only one working hand.
"Ed, why won't you just tell me! Why can't you ever just talk to me! You don't have to keep secrets from me anymore! Please!"
"Nothing happened! Go away!"
"This is my room!"
"Then leave me alone!"
Ed finally kicked off his shoes and crawled under the covers, yanking them over his scarred body as he flopped over on his side, back to a startled Winry. What had happened just now? Weren't they just in a nice moment...? Obviously the subject was a touchy one, which meant it was something terrible that Ed did not want her to know. Winry stared at his back helplessly before she threw her hands up in the air.
"Fine! I don't care anyway!" She shouted before she stormed over to her own bed across the small room.
She changed into a white nightgown without realizing she had just undressed with Ed in the room and climbed into her bed, burrowing underneath the covers to muffle her sobs of frustration.
When everything seems like a dream... You're afraid to wake up and discover that it's real.
Author's Note: Just wanted to make something clear: Yes, I am aware that Ed was gone for four years after the incident with his mother. However I'm under the impression that he was still in contact with Winry, sending her letters and such. In this fic, the four years that have gone by have been without any contact what-so-ever. To Winry, Ed disappeared off the face of the earth. That is all. :)