Evilkat, who proofread 'The Path to the River' for me, complained how everything I write is morbid and has a depressing ending. So, to prove her wrong, I wrote this.
Many thanks to my numerous betas, including Alex, Jon, SeventhDaughter, and evilkat.
Catch a Falling Star
He's looking through his old notes, when he comes across a notebook he barely remembers. It was when he first found himself in this strange, gray world, and in his disconnection from everything around him he had attempted to keep a diary. Back home, his diary was his travelogue and periodic reports issued with editorial comments and scribbles in the margins. This was his first attempt to keep a journal that wasn't in code, and didn't contain information crucial to his search. It was a complete failure.
A sad smile on his face, he skims through the few entries, embarrassed to have ever put such words on paper. He turns a page, and a dried flower falls out from between the pages.
Surprised, he tries to remember when (and why!) he would do something so whimsical as to dry a daisy in his journal. When he picks it up, the flower crumbles to nothing between his fingertips.
Winry can't exactly call it 'moving on'. There is nothing to move on from, since there was never anything between them in the first place. But she is learning to ignore the potential that had existed between them.
After all, she still has Al. And though Al is so busy coming and going and searching for the truth of what happened Back Then, he is not the illusive presence his brother was. Edward left behind him nothing but footprints (a trail of destruction), memories (of someone bigger and louder than he actually was), and a little brother. There was not even a promise left to be kept.
Winry often follows the path down to the river, when the sun is already set and the moon is just rising. It is the one thing that she has of him, a small memory that is only theirs. The few times that Al is around to witness the ritual, he has somehow known not to follow her down that path.
It takes her several months, but finally she controls herself. She stands at the top of the path, looks down, and firmly tells herself he has forgotten. If he remembers, he would return, and the other option simply cannot be considered. Therefore, it is forgotten, as she knew it would be.
She turns her back on the memory and leaves it behind, knowing that he must be happy in his forgetfulness. It is enough for her.
She stopped counting days a long time ago, so now she has to stop and think each time how long it has been. Knocks on the door in the middle of the night no longer make her leap up in hope that they might herald his return. Yet, she thinks, staring at him in what must be shock, it is fitting that his return is the opposite of his disappearance. Now it is night instead of day, and his smile is honest and quietly tentative, instead of a fake grin. But like always, Al is there, still several paces behind him, and he is the one grinning madly.
And even though the different parts of her mind haven't quite caught up to each other, she is aware that one part has taken out trumpets and fireworks and is dancing with glee, because he remembered.
She refuses to get emotional, refuses herself the hug that she desperately wants, because if he leaves again she won't be able to bear it.
"Winry," he says, and there is a hint of familiar wonder in his voice. The spell of the moon is upon them again. "I…" This time, he works up his courage, and offers her the flower. It comes as no surprise that he is holding a daisy.
He offers an apology, a greeting, a connection – but it is not enough for her. This time, she will demand her due.
"I don't want flowers from you," she says, flinching slightly at the antagonism in her tone. "What will I do with a flower? It'll die in a day, anyway."
He recoils slightly, looking unhappily at the flower. She can tell that he is hurt, but he is still Edward, and he won't give up easily on something he sets his mind on.
Determination burns in his eyes. "Then I'll give you another one tomorrow. And the day after. As many as you want."
Yes! her heart cries out, because this is what she always wanted. But her mind refuses to accept this. "I don't want flowers," she says insistently. "Give me a rock, Edward."
He frowns in perplexity, radiating a well, who can understand females anyway? aura, and bends to pick up a pebble. He stares at it for a minute, then slowly offers it to her, sudden understanding in his eyes.
Now, with a pebble clutched in her fist, she can finally let go and cry and laugh and throw her arms around him and thoroughly embarrass him. Because this rock is hers, and this promise is hers forever.
And now, their house is full of rocks. He brings her rocks from his trips – red sandstone from the desert, and jade from Xing, and obsidian from Drachma, and other rocks she has no name for. Sometimes they are just small transmuted pebbles, and once there was a rock which he swore came from a meteor.
But he kept his other promise, too. Every morning, there is a fresh daisy in a cup on the windowsill.
A/N: In general, I like this better than the first one, and Alex agrees with me.
This one was partially inspired by the fact that in Judaism, you don't put flowers on a grave when a person dies. You put rocks, to signify an everlasting memory.