Winry woke up first, slowly becoming aware of light filtering through the curtains. She was lying beside Ed, her head resting on his chest, her arms resting around his shoulders. He was still fast asleep, both arms around her waist.
Winry smiled, and tried to sit up. But Ed's hold tightened a fraction, the heavy automail easily holding her down.
"Come on, Ed," she sighed, plucking at his arms. "We have to get up – let go."
Winry leaned closer, and realised with a shock that he was still asleep – the tightening of his arms had been an instinctual response. She tried to ease herself out of his unconscious embrace, only to find he was holding her too tightly.
Well, there was no help for it. She'd have to wake him up.
"Ed!" she called, shaking him lightly.
"Huh?" he groaned, making a ponderous journey into consciousness.
His body relaxed as he began to awaken, and Winry slithered out of the circle of his arms as he sat up.
"What's going on?"
Winry smiled again. "Get up, we've got work to do."
"Well, first, we have to get breakfast, then you have to restore your bodies with my blood, and-"
"What?" Ed yelped, sitting bolt upright in the bed.
"I just said you have to restore you and Al's bodies with my blood, weren't you listening?"
"Well, yeah, it's just..."
"You'd trust me with that? Even after..."
Ed found it incredible that she'd offer that. Hours after being plucked from the grasp of those who would manipulate her, harm her, even kill her for it, she'd trust him with it, so soon.
Winry turned to look him in the eye. "Well...who else?"
For a moment, just a split second, she saw Ed's eyes filled with something tender. Then it passed and he grinned.
"And then we have to work out what happens with Wrath," Winry continued.
Ed frowned. "He's nothing but a little psychopath if you ask me."
"I wasn't asking you," Winry pointed out, acknowledging that Wrath was still a sore spot. "And anyway, he's not as bad as you think. Even when he was a homunculus. He stopped Envy from..."
Winry stopped, realising that topic wasn't something either of them would feel comfortable with.
But Ed rose to his feet, slowly crossing the room to stand in front of her. "What did Envy do?"
"I told you he didn't-"
"I know, but you said...he tried...and I saw the bruises and the bite..."
Winry sighed. Ed looked uncomfortable, his pained eyes the only sign that he was truly distressed. From a purely psychological point of view, she knew they probably should talk about this. Get it all out in the open, allow the healing to begin...or something like that. Ed's imagination would probably come up with something far worse than the reality.
At first, Ed didn't think Winry was going to say anything. Then she bit her lip lightly, and her arms came up, looping across her chest, looking as though she were hugging herself. He stepped forward automatically, pulling her against him.
"He...he molested me, Ed. It wasn't much; he pulled my clothes away, but not my underwear, he bit me, held me down, he...touched me. I tried to fight him, but my hands were tied behind my back."
Ed took a deep breath. "So, why didn't he...?"
"Someone called him away. So he stopped, but left me hog-tied on the bed, with the promise that he'd be back."
"Hog-tied?" Ed murmured, thinking back to her list.
"Yeah, and he looped one around my neck, so that whenever I fought the bonds, I'd strangle myself."
Ed tensed, holding back the urge to curse.
"Wrath came and cut me free, but he was thrown out of the room when Envy came back."
"Envy came back?"
"All he did that time was give me some soup, but I thought it was drugged, so I made sure I puked it up afterwards-"
Ed chuckled. It seemed Winry was more resourceful than he gave her credit for. Pride swelled in his chest.
Winry continued, talking rapidly, wanting to get it out now. "But it still knocked me out. When I woke up, Envy was carrying me and I pretended to be unconscious when he put me on a table. Except then he started...he started touching me again."
"How...how far did he get?"
Winry shivered slightly. "Not too far. I held still and tried to pretend the drugs had knocked me out, but I...I just couldn't take it. I was about to blow my cover and knock him away, when Wrath did it for me."
There was silence.
"So you see why I like Wrath."
"I never thought I would, but I could learn."
Winry giggled lightly, before turning serious once more. "Ed...what did Envy say to you?"
Ed grimaced. "You don't want to know."
"I know that it had to be about me...about what he did...Ed, please..."
In the end, Ed told her, in a stuttering, broken voice, what Envy had said to him. Winry felt another wave of compassion at the revulsion and horror in Ed's voice. Envy had deliberately seeded his lie with just enough truth to haunt him for a very long time.
"I thought I was going to be sick, Winry," he confessed. "That, or cry. I kept trying to tell myself he was lying, but he kept talking...I never hated anyone the way I hated him then. I wanted to kill him, and not just in the heat of the moment. It was dark...calculating...cold...if he hadn't died, I might've killed him anyway, just for what he'd done to you...and I would have been pleased."
Winry could hear the fear in Ed's voice. He was scared of what he'd glimpsed in himself – that he could truly loathe someone that deeply, so deeply, that he could have slaughtered them in cold blood and not felt the slightest hint of remorse.
"Envy hated you, Ed," she said at last. "Everything you told me, everything I remember...it all sounds so...personal. And when he was...he called me..."
"I know what he called you," Ed said, grimacing as he remembered the words written on that page.
"How do you know?" Winry asked, sounding honestly bemused.
Ed's mouth spoke before his brain caught up. "I read your list – you know, 'What I'm Going To Do When I Get Out Of Here' or something like that-"
He broke off, aware that Winry was staring at him as though he had suddenly transformed into a particularly dangerous animal.
"You...you read it?" she squeaked, looking absolutely mortified.
"Yeah," Ed nodded, slight bewildered at why she looked like the sky was about to come crashing down on her shoulders.
"You...you know...that I...?"
Ed's brow furrowed. 'What's up with her? Why would reading that list be such a bad thing? I mean, I love her too...wait, did I tell her that?'
"I told you I loved you too, didn't I?" Ed said, "I mean, that was a conversation we actually had and not one I just dreamed about, right?"
Eyes as large and round as tennis balls, Winry slowly shook her head.
"Oh, well..." Suddenly feeling uncomfortable, Ed looked down at his feet. "Uh, do I have to say it again?"
Another shake of the head.
A slightly awkward silence prevailed, each wondering what happened now. Considering what they'd just discovered, their discomfort seemed ridiculous, but neither could help it. Did they hug? Kiss? Move the conversation along?
Winry chose the last option. "So, when do you think you can get your bodies back? Yours and Al's, I mean."
"As soon as you're ready," Ed answered honestly, pulling his coat on.
Winry pursed her lips. "Well, I'm really hungry, but it seems unfair to eat when Al can't until you bring him back, and you're only waiting on me to bring him back..."
"Oh, by the way," Ed cut in, feeling a suspicious heaviness in his pocket. "Here's your wrench."
He handed the tool to Winry, ginning at the way her face lit up as she took it.
"I threw it at Envy," she confessed. "It fell behind the couch."
"I know, I picked it up."
Ed remembered the fear he'd felt at finding her wrench cast aside, knowing that she'd never voluntarily abandon her favourite tool. He'd slipped it into a pocket of his coat, like a talisman for finding her alive and well.
"Thank you, Ed!" Winry squealed, lunging forward and kissing him before dashing out of the room.
Ed blinked, one hand rising to his lips, slightly stunned by the brief contact. Then he grinned, and followed Winry.
Winry practically danced down the corridor. Everything was turning out so well!
She'd seen Wrath eating breakfast with Izumi and her husband, and she had a feeling the child soon wouldn't be lacking for a home. Riza had been released from hospital, but she and Roy had yet to appear at the military headquarters. Winry had a hunch that they were otherwise engaged.
She was making her way to the empty room Ed had indicated, where the Fullmetal Alchemist was currently drawing a transmutation circle. When Al asked why he was drawing a circle, Ed had told them he didn't want to leave anything to chance. And a simple clap of the hands might be a bit dicey with such an involved transmutation.
In her hand, Winry held a clean, sharp knife – Ed needed something to draw her blood with, after all. In her pocket, bandages to cover the resulting injury.
"Hey, guys," Winry beamed as she entered. "Everything ready?"
"We just need your blood," Al admitted, sounding concerned. "Winry...are you sure you want to do this?"
She could hear the excitement in his voice at the prospect of having his body back, but he still had to make sure she wanted to do this. Winry grinned, sometimes Al was just too sweet – the little brother she'd never had.
"I'm one hundred and ten percent certain," Winry replied, stepping to the edge of the circle. "So what's happening here? Are you making the Philosopher's Stone, or what?"
"We're not making the stone," Ed muttered, re-checking the circle. "All we ever needed was something to bypass equivalent exchange, and the Philosopher's Stone was about the only way to do that. But now..."
"Now that my blood gives you a free ticket for whatever transmutation you want, you don't need to actually make the stone," Winry finished. "I get it."
She handed Ed the knife, rolling back the sleeve of her shirt. The lacerations on her wrists had scabbed over, but it probably wouldn't take much to reopen them.
Ed swallowed, beginning to press the knife against her skin...then he flinched back, pulling it away.
"Ed?" Winry's voice was confused.
Ed tried again, but again he yanked the blade away before it could so much as touch her. He couldn't do it. He knew she was allowing him to, he knew this would bring Al's body back...but he still couldn't bring himself to make Winry bleed.
But Winry understood. He didn't have it in him to really hurt her, not even for a good cause.
"It's okay," she smiled, taking the knife from him.
Winry pressed the blade to the scabs on her wrist...and paused. If she went too deep, she could slice the tendons – she needed a safer place to cut. She chose her elbow, as it was easy to distinguish the vein from the main ligament.
A deep breath, and she flicked the knife, opening a small gash along the pale blue thread of her vein. Blood spurted, in time with her heartbeat, and Winry quickly turned her arm down so that it fell onto the transmutation circle.
"Go ahead," she said, gritting her teeth against the sharp burn of the open wound.
Ed however, was looking at the blood shooting from her arm. "Is it...is it meant to be pumping out like that?"
"I cut a vein, the blood fountains in time with my pulse, but I'll be fine, just move!"
Ed obeyed, swiftly placing his hands on the transmutation circle.
The world lit up before his eyes in pure white light, his left leg and right arm tingling as though full of pins and needles. It was happening, it was actually happening...
Al saw the flash of white light, and nearly shouted in joy when he felt a hot rush overtake his body. If he was still in the armour, he would never have felt it. But he couldn't call out, suddenly aware of the need to breathe for the first time in a very long while.
Winry gasped, squeezing her eyes shut as pain slammed into her body. Just as it had in the homunculi's den, her blood seemed to turn to acid within her. Not wanting to distract Ed, she gritted her teeth and fisted her hands, trying not to scream. The agony brought her to her knees, leaving her shaking with quaking aftershocks when it finally abated.
She sat on the floor, leaning heavily against the wall, gasping and trembling like Ed after an automail attachment. She heard his delighted shout, saw him throwing his coat over a pale body in the center of the circle. Winry wanted to ask if it had worked, but she couldn't get her breathe back. So she sat there, shuddering silently, blood trickling down her arm.
Ed could have sworn his grin split his face. Al was back!
His little brother was blinking, clutching the red coat around his naked body, grey eyes wondering as he held his hands up in front of his face.
"Brother...?" Al couldn't hide the growing excitement in his voice. Excitement...and relief.
Ed smirked. "I told you we'd get our bodies back."
He flexed his arm, shook out his leg. It was odd – the muscles didn't even feel weak or shaky, it was as though his limbs had never been parted from him. And Al's body didn't look as though it had suffered in the least. The hair was quite a bit longer, the entire body taller and more matured...but there was no evidence of tissue degeneration or anything similar.
His smile was turning foolish, but he couldn't help it. This was what they had worked for, for so many years...
The grin turned slightly ironic. Who would have thought that the answer had been right under his nose? All those years, all those long, far-flung searches...and everything he'd ever needed had been right at home, the whole time.
Al eyes had focused past him, and he gasped with shock. "Winry!"
Ed whipped around. Winry was huddled on the floor, leaning against the wall. Her face was chalk-white, blood oozing down her arm.
His heart seized in his chest.
Ed sped to her, Al close behind him.
"Winry?" he breathed, "What happened, are you okay?"
She looked up and gave a shaky smile. "Fine...just...let's not do that for a while, okay?"
Ed grinned again. "No need."
He brandished his newly-regained right arm, a smug smile creeping across his face. Then he noticed her fumbling with the bandages, trying to press them against her injury. He took them from her shaking hands and tied them around her elbow, staunching the flow of blood.
Her eyes flew to his arm, then to Al.
"Hey, Winry," Al chuckled nervously.
Winry beamed, and caught him in a one-armed hug. "God, Al...it's been so long..."
"Winry..." Al choked, hugging her fiercely. "You feel so...warm...I never thought..."
Ed smiled, watching the two people he loved most in the world embrace, chuckling and wiping at their eyes. He could barely believe it. He continued to flex the fingers of his right hands and the toes of his left foot, still unable to comprehend that his quest was over. Finished. Done.
To tell the truth, he felt a bit anxious about what the future would hold. His mission had dominated his life, what would he do now that it was gone?
Winry was laughing as Al's hands smoothed across her cheeks, desperate for touch, for human contact. Her eyes rose to Ed's, and she smiled.
'I love you,' she mouthed.
His fears about the future subsided, and Ed grinned back. "Ditto."
After all, any future with Winry in it was okay with him.
AN: That's it, people! It's been an interesting journey - thanks to all my reviewers, who helped get me through it. Couldn't have done it without you guys. Special mention to Alisi Thorndyke, Nilmiel and Kenya, please-knock, words without, romance rocker, Suteki no Baka, and Magic Noise, who've followed it extremely faithfully (I've probably missed someone here, and if I have, I apologise for it). But thanks to all who reviewed, you gave me inspiration and motivated me to write the best I could.