Title: Thief of Hearts: Lost and Found
Part: 2/2
Author: ibshafer
E-mail:
Rating: R
Character/Pairing: EdXWinry; NoaXEd
Disclaimer: I don't own these people, they own themselves and are just nice enough to let me spin them around the page now and then.
Summary: It was bound to happen, so how could someone who can see the future not see it coming…
Spoilers: through the end of Conqueror of Shambala and the post-CoS OVA, "Kids"I didn't plan on continuing this story, but after I saw "Kids," I knew I had to.
Feedback: Yes, please...

Lost and Found
ibshafer

'He didn't belong to her and she knew that.'

As fate would have it, she was the first to see the girl there.

In a strange, frozen moment, she had time enough to be vaguely disconcerted that she hadn't seen it coming. With all she'd seen, both inside him and around him - a life in which coincidence seemed like a given right – she could have easily predicted that this day would come. And yet…

That realization would have required several others she had clearly been loath to accept.

…that he was meant for greater things than the vagabond life they were leading, odd-jobs and quick wits taking them from one side of Europe to the next.

…that as much as she would have wished it, as much as it at times seemed almost true, he could never, would never love her.

…that though in the darkness of whatever room they made their night in, his husky voice and soft skin warming her, his breath quickening for her as she drew near, he did not, could not belong to her.

She knew this to be true, but still, in the quiet reaches of the night, with his brother sleeping fitfully in the other room, she would once again find her way into his bed.

Neither of them seemed willing to alter the protocol, as though doing so would mean committing to something neither were fully prepared for; she spent every night with him, but even after a year, she still began, and ended the night in her own bed…

Perhaps she had not wanted to admit how much he meant to her, beyond those glimpses into his netherlife.

Did she love him?

He was certainly deserving of it, in spite of his moods, his temper and his pain, perhaps even because of them.

He had taken her part, and taken her into his life, such as it was, at a time when even her own people had abandoned her. While others saw her skin, her clothes, her manner and classified her in one way or another, but trusted her not at all, he did not even seem to notice. To him she was simply just another person, someone deserving of respect and protection.

For that, perhaps she did love him.

But as much as he cared for her, accepted her, touched her in ways she'd never thought possible, there was always a part of him looking elsewhere: looking inward; looking for someone else. That very reality, in the misty, darkness of the night, is what began whatever it was that had happened between them.

His dreams, and the depth of his pain, his loss, for the girl he had been unable to love when life, if not time, would have allowed it; that was the void she tried to fill each night while satisfying her own needs: for acceptance; for warmth; for pleasure, yes; but also for a glimpse of a world where she could find peace and belonging.

If she could not live there, then she would live in his dreams.

It was in these dreams that she had first seen the girl, blond, blue-eyed, strong and focused, loving so completely both boys, but pressuring not at all, understanding circumstance and quest and setting her own wish aside. She did not believe he saw these things in the girl – Winry – he was too consumed with his own tortured goals, but it was there on her smooth face, lit her bright eyes.

She loved him.

And then she realized that he had seen what was so clearly written on that beautiful face, but as with all remembrances, it was only clear in hindsight. This thought, this finally knowing, is what tortured him. Not in the way that destroys the thinker, that but for this one thing, life's outcome would have been different, but in knowing the reality of a circumstance that would have seen a life less tortured for the difference.

Had he allowed himself to see, to feel, to act upon what he saw and felt, how less painful would life have been. For it was clear to him now what had never been clear before.

He loved her.

And now he was miles – of space and of time – from the one person that would have made him complete, that would have made him, to him, make sense, and there was nothing for it but to feel loss and be plagued by it.

And so she sought to lessen that loss, provide comfort, where she could.

She had never thought herself selfish, but after her father had passed on, she had lived a life focused on her own needs, her own survival. She had no one else, save her people who had so clearly abandoned her. Meeting him, knowing him, had changed that. In gratitude for his acceptance and his protection, she sought to give him something in return. As the finder of lost objects – wedding rings, family photos, deeds for property, all things people came to her for help finding – she could not bring to him the thing he needed most. His home. His people. Her.

And so she gave to him that which was within her power to give; acceptance of her own, for he was surely strange for this world; warmth and passion, things he had never known; and, under the cover of night, when remembrance and regret beset him most, when his vision of blond hair and sweetly scented skin was clearest, she gave him pleasure and escape, both from and to.

She knew, without any doubt, exactly what she did and what it meant. She had no illusions that what they shared was lasting. In her own dreams, she did not see him graying and bent and at her side in a misty future far-off from the now. She did not expect such things from him.

But knowing and understanding are often very disparate concepts. Knowing he didn't belong to her and understanding that fact? There had never been any need. It was what it was.

Pleasure, escape, refuge.

But love? Surely not. For she could see his mind, he could hide little from her, and she knew that while he felt great warmth for her, for the care and the pleasure she gave him, his own life was so confused, so unsettled, robbed of direction and quest, his own heart so damaged, he simply did not have that to give her.

They existed together, on the same plane, in the same space, in the same time, but they were not a "couple" as other would understand it, except that while the rest of the world slept they took comfort in each other.

Perhaps she had not been ready to accept that he could never truly belong to her. Armed with fantasy, she floated on beside him, intent on simply holding onto him for as long as the fates allowed.

So when she saw the girl, just inside the Piazza del Signoria, rapt in her attention to the Neptune fountain, as if water moving through pipes were the most fascinating science, she was actually quite startled.

There was no mistaking her, though. Streaming blond hair, wide blue eyes, long limbs solid and steady in linen trousers and sandals, she was as if plucked directly from the grassy plains that traversed his dreams. Were there any lingering doubt, the tiny, spectacled old woman at her side dispelled them.

She was here. This girl.

His blue-eyed dream.

…tbd…