It had almost been two years. The empty old house creaked in such a pitiful way, as if to tell her she wasn't quite as alone as she thought.
But creaks and groans didn't fool her.
Pinako had passed away, suddenly, and with that a layer of dust had settled comfortably on an old property; a sign bearing, 'Auto-Mail' had long since hung lifelessly, one of its supports snapped and freely swaying.
The money was dwindling, she knew. The customers had stopped coming, she was certain.
The ghosted silhouettes of a young boy and his brother had faded before her eyes. She could only hold on to them for so long.
She had decided she liked ignoring the problems she faced these days. To escape the gnawing sound of silence, she clapped her hands over her ears.
Everything was muted. She felt comforted by this, she realized.
Any action of her own being caused a muffled noise. A creak of a joint. The trembling of her fingers. The swallowing of nothing but saliva. Her own breathing.
At first, it was fine. She told herself it was better hearing these things more intensely, in exchange for the termination of the more hollow sounds of the sympathetic world.
Equivalent exchange, right?
But then, they became more.
A creak of a joint became the mechanical muscles in his arm, testing her newest model.
The trembling of her fingers became his distorted face, blocking out the pain as she connected his new leg to its port.
The swallowing of nothing but saliva became his mouth, opening only for quick words and shoveled food.
Her own breathing became her heartbeat. Winry Rockbell soon realized it was the only heartbeat in the room; the only one in the house.
Some days she sat there and told herself she wasn't moving until they appeared outside.
But deep down, a part of her knew neither of them were coming back.
After all, they were just the two smiling faces, rounded by childhood, in the picture frame on her side table.