Waking Life

By TheLostMaximoff

Disclaimer: Don't own these characters. In preparation for the rest of the series airing here in the States, I decided to get back into the swing of FMA things. R/R.

My eyes stir restlessly as I feel something gently nudge my shoulder. The first thing that hits them as they open is light, blinding light that overwhelms me for a moment. My amber-colored irises contract and the light becomes organized into distinguishable shapes, people that I know. To be more accurate, a person I know. But even this causes confusion in me because said person isn't someone I'm supposed to be seeing anymore. My mind tries to make some sort of sense of the fact that I see the smiling face of my mother before me.

"I had to wake you up," explains Mom, "You were starting to snore and you spend too much time on your research anyway." I stare at her with a bewildered expression. I can't be awake, not truly, because if I was truly awake then my mother couldn't be talking to me. So this has to be a dream. My mind immediately begins working with this theory. I am a scientist and, as such, reason must be valued above all else. But isn't that a problem in itself? Isn't my dependence on reason and empiricism what got me into this predicament in the first place? All the numbers and equations for that fateful transmutation were sound and valid and I went with them instead of ignoring the feeling in my gut that it was still wrong. Isn't my pride and arrogance why I'm cursed with this automail and Al's stuck in a suit of armor? So how can I trust my rational mind and believe this is a dream instead of reality? Maybe this time I really did wake up and the other life was the dream.

"Plus you were starting to drool," adds a voice. It's a voice that is both familiar and alien to me at the same time. Usually I'm used to hearing this voice with a hollow quality to it, one that is natural when said voice is coming from inside a suit of armor. But now I hear it through a human mouth, the words being formed by the vocal chords of an actual human body.

"Al?" I ask skeptically as I stand up from what I assume is my desk, the desk I had previously been asleep at. An odd sensation hits me and I realize that my right arm was asleep. I hold out the arm in front of me, no longer a chunk of metal but now flesh and bone. My leg's real as well. As if to distract myself from such revelations, I also idly notice that I'm not the short one out of the famous duo of the Elric brothers. Even though Al is normal again, he's also nine years old again, the age he was before I tried my idiotic stunt to bring back Mom. But now Mom's here too. Did I somehow make everything turn out alright again? I swore I wasn't going to try with Mom again though. This has to be a dream, there's no way I could give up enough to equal this.

"Yeah, it's me," replies Al, obviously noticing my perplexed face, "Who else would I be?" I shake my head, trying to clear it and put everything back into order. Isn't that though what everyone's always trying to do, bring order to the world around them? That's, after all, what thinking, reasoning, rational people do, isn't it? But sometimes, like now, the world doesn't make sense or at least it doesn't make human sense. And if you can't trust your own sense of reality then what can you trust?

"I need some air," I tell Al as I move away from my desk and through the house to the front door. I step out onto the porch and I feel the cool breeze touch my skin. I flex my arm that should be metal but somehow isn't. My senses tell me this is real, my mind says it's a dream. But if it is a dream it's better than reality. In here, I have no responsibilities, no obligations. I don't have to take crap from Mustang or be bossed around by the military. I don't have to worry about getting attacked by serial killers or crazy prophets. Yeah, this world is looking pretty good. So what if it's a dream? Who cares about that? I mean isn't reality just a dream as well? We can never be completely sure what's real so why bother?

"You wanna do something?" asks Al as he comes out to join me. I look down at him and smile. It's been a long time since I saw Al in his real body. I was starting to forget what he looked like.

"Sure," I reply, "You wanna see what Winry's up to?" Al gives me a funny look, like I've just said something both very stupid and very inappropriate.

"Winry's gone," explains Al, "You know that, brother. You had to sacrifice her to bring everything back." I stare at him, trying to comprehend what he's saying. There are moments in your life where everything gets turned completely upside down and this would be the hugest one for me so far.

"No," I tell Al flatly, "I wouldn't have done that. I couldn't have done that." I don't wait for another explanation. I take off running. The path is so familiar but everything in this world is deceptive in its familiarity. She can't be gone, not Winry. I couldn't have sacrificed her for all this. It wouldn't have been equal because not even setting everything right could equal giving up Winry, giving up the one person I love. My left leg is starting to hurt, the limb still not being used to feeling exertion. The path isn't long to Winry's house. But even as I run, all I can see is her. I loved her and she loved me. It was never spoken between us because it didn't really need to be but we did love each other and not just as siblings or best friends. But how could I have been as cold and critical as to give up someone I love all just to set things right? How could I have so blindly ignored my feelings in favor of reason again? I run up to her house and throw open the door. No one's home.

"Winry!" I cry, "Winry, where are you?" There's no answer. From the looks of the place, no one's lived her in a long time.

"Winry, come back!" I cry, "I won't lose you!" It's a hollow promise, the same kind of promise I've made all my life. This world isn't worth living in without her. I don't care if everything is set right again, I just want to be with her. I'd give it all back for her: Mom, Al's body, my arm and leg. I'd give more too: my body, my mind, anything. What's the point of having it all if you don't have a heart anyway?

"Take it all then," I whisper quietly through my tears. I clap my hands and press them to my chest. I feel the energy flow into me and the light blinds me.

"Come back, Winry," I cry, "Come back! Come back!"

My eyes pop open, my body shooting upwards in the bed. I feel hands gently rest on my bare chest and something akin to a human head rest on it as well.

"Sssh, Ed," whispers a voice, "I'm here, it's okay." I shudder, my breath coming in heaves and gasps that violently wrack my body.

"I'm here, Ed," whispers Winry, snuggling against my chest, "I'm always here. It was just a dream." I look into her eyes. God, they're so blue and beautiful. I orient myself by using her eyes as a focal point and then slowly getting a grip on everything else. I'm in her room which is in her house which is in Resembool which is home. We established a little system for when I come home. On some nights, we sleep together. It's not in an intimate, sexual way, just a way that makes us feel close to one another. Sometimes we need to feel the other being physically there. The life I lead is so hard on both of us so we try to do what we can to lighten the load. And most nights, we're glad the other is there to calm the guilt and sorrow and whatever else might be inside us.

"You should sneak back into your own bed," whispers Winry, "You know my grandmother would throw a fit if she found you in here like this."

"I know," I tell her, hugging her tightly to remind myself that she's real. She returns the favor, helping to reassure me that she is here and not a figment of my imagination.

"I love you, Winry," I tell her quietly after a few moments of us silently being in each other's arms, "I don't say that often enough. Just know that I'd never give that up for anything."

"Neither would I," replies Winry soothingly, "I love you too, Edward Elric." We spend a few more moments in silence, both of us shifting to see the sunrise. It's so beautiful it's almost like it's a dream. That's always how life feels sometimes though. Our dreams seem so real we'd rather they were life while our lives seem so surreal we'd rather they be dreams. But no matter which is which, no matter whether or not this is reality or just simply a more pleasant dream, as long as I have Winry Rockbell's heart and she equally has mine it will always be the best dream ever even if it's actually reality.