Months passed, and days went by where Winry didn't even think about alchemy, or Mustang, or Ed, or Al, or any of them. She bought a new puppy in the spring time, one that resembled Den – only with paws twice as big and an attitude doubly as rambunctious, an ominous sign of things yet to come. The few farm cats roving around the place disappeared with the arrival of the new Dog.
She still hadn't chosen a real name for the animal. Something hopelessly cliché – like Rover or Biscuit or Snowball – seemed fitting, but for now, Winry was content with calling him 'Den II' and chasing after him whenever he soiled the carpet in the living room. Sometimes he stretched out along that stupid couch, the one she should have burned, and Winry found herself compulsively shooing him away. She felt like an old housewife, even if it was just her and the dog.
The morning paper arrived just before 5:30am every week day, and she always let the dog out and watched him putter around the yard while flipping through and skimming the headlines. Usually there was nothing of interest – there were a few clippings here and there, about her house, though, which mentioned the "hero of the East War", the Flame Alchemist, who had spent a month in an enemy concentration camp only to escape and return to the fronts – missing an arm and weak, but bravely continuing to fight even despite having "lost so much" that was dear to him. Winry only frowned when she read those stories.
Two weeks ago, the papers had proclaimed victory. After three long years of fighting, the Eastern War was over. Peace treaties were currently being drawn up in parliament, and Amestris was going to emerge the clear winner in all fields. Winry did not care – the State was still The State, and even the new parliament hadn't yet earned her trust. At least, they were no longer homunculi searching for the Philosopher's Stone.
After that one mention, Edward Elric's name had never been in the paper again. Al's wasn't there, either, and Winry wasn't surprised.
Today, the paper mentioned something about a dog-training class being offered in East City, and Winry raised her head, glaring at the Pup as he started roaming towards the blossoming summer vegetable garden just beyond the front porch. Oblivious, the dumb dog began digging, and Winry only shook her head before glancing – as she did every morning – towards the Eastern Road.
Sure enough, no one. Winry went and gathered the up Den II, now covered in dirt – for some reason, she was thinking of changing his name to 'Roy'. He was a dirty, messy dog that destroyed her furniture and distracted her a good twenty hours each day from attending to whatever duties she had – usually automail maintenance for patients, who came to the clinic more often now that the war had ended and the transportation infrastructure of Amestris was up and running once more…
Winry fed her dog and left him in the kitchen, listening to him snuffle and snort through a can of puppy food, before returning to her automail works. Outside, the weather was sunny and clear, and inside the house, it was warm. The day passed by uneventfully – Den II – or Roy, as she more and more convincingly thought of him as – contented himself with chewing on the legs of her chair while she made some final adjustments on a prosthetic foot for one of the local customers. Around sunset, when a powerful spring thunderstorm swept over Risembool and lightning flickered through the windows, Winry heard someone knock rather loudly at the door. Probably another customer, she surmised, but wouldn't it be just humorous if it were another desperate, pathetic alchemist? The kind she invariably fell in love with but couldn't help but resent all at once? She opened the door with a smile that melted into a glare.
Roy Mustang looked strained and tired, but several missing fingers on his automail right hand were more noticeable. He smiled wanly at her.
"I need a few adjustments."
"What did you do? You weren't slinging it all over the place and trying to put dents in it, where you?"
There was a bandage around his forehead, another around his neck, and a few more visible on his collarbone, underneath the clean white shirt he wore. For once he was not in uniform – he only wore a pair of black slacks and a black jacket, and the saggy fit suggested that he was greatly diminished underneath the clothes.
Mustang looked at her, but his face – as hard and unreadable as it sometimes was – softened. He shrugged. "…One of the convoy trucks I was in crashed. It was right after they signed the peace treaty."
"Okay, whatever. Come in, sit down on the couch."
"Right." Mustang said, and he wearily trudged inwards, limping heavily on one of his legs and finally slouching down to sit upon the couch cushions. He looked exhausted – like the last few months of the war had drained whatever little amount of life in him there was left. Winry noticed that he could move his automail arm – and often did – but most of the time he left it to hang limply at his side, more for looks than it was for practicality. Likely, he hadn't yet learned how to operate it correctly.
After all, it had only been five excruciatingly long months.
She washed her hands in the sink and moved to her table, dumping out his little sack of automail screws and the plates that had gone over the fingers with a scowl. Mustang watched.
"…Did Ed ever come back?" He asked.
"…He did. But he left again."
"…To look for Al?"
"…Yeah." Winry murmured, quietly, and pointedly avoided looking at him.
He must have understood. He always did.
She left the broken parts for a moment and went to join him, sitting on the couch and grabbing his automail arm, carefully examining the surface. Unlike Ed, he seemed to have kept it well-polished, and other than the obvious damage it seemed as if there were few dents or scratches in the smooth metal. She assumed Roy Mustang's natural sense of vanity must have played some part in it, because his automail was really in better shape than the rest of him. She examined the bandaged areas on his neck, and lightly pushed his hair aside, studying the wrapping around his forehead. He watched her the entire time with a single dark eye, before misreading her concern as something else and lightly putting his good arm around her shoulders, drawing her forth. Winry let out a sigh.
He is so stupid.
Her head went to rest at his shoulder, and her hands acted on their own – gripping the fabric of his clothing and holding onto him in a possessive way, as he relaxed into her. He was weak – probably leaning into her for more support than he would have cared to admit – but he was still warm, just like she so vividly remembered. She closed her eyes tightly.
Roy Mustang should have been nothing but a reminder of her demons, and she knew she should have reminded him of his, but this time, and like before, his warmth surrounded her and she was simply able to push everything from her mind. There was no pain; they lingered in quiet understanding, and Winry knew that this moment was going to last.
a/n: THANKS FOR READING!