"Tell me a story, Winry!" Elysia Hughes cried, pulling on her own brown pigtails.
"A story…hm." Winry closed her eyes, thinking. Then she said, smiling, "Which one do you want me to tell?"
Elysia thought a moment, sticking her tongue out. "A princess story!"
"All right," Winry said. "Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl with hair as black as a raven, ruby red lips, and skin as white as snow," she began. "This girl was called Snow White, and she was a princess. Now, there was an evil queen who wanted to be the most beautiful woman in the land, so she sent Snow White far, far away, into the forest. And there the princess found seven little dwarves."
Elysia giggled, bouncing slightly. "What happened next?"
"The wicked queen realized that even though the princess was far away, she still the fairest in the land. So the queen dressed up as an old beggar woman and visited Snow White three times, giving her poisoned objects. The first two times, the dwarves stopped Snow White before she used them, saving her life. But the third time the evil queen came, she gave Snow White a pretty red apple. Instead of killing her, it put the princess in a deep, deep sleep. When the dwarves found out what had happened, they chased the evil queen up the mountain, where she fell to her death."
Elysia gasped. "But what happened to the princess?"
"She was in a sleep so deep that she could only be awakened by true love's kiss," Winry replied, smiling. "So the dwarves put Snow White in a glass coffin so everyone could admire her beauty, and even after many years, when the dwarves had grown old and gray, she was still as beautiful as ever. Then one day a handsome prince on a white stallion passed by her coffin. He was struck by her beauty at once and removed the case to give her a kiss." Winry got a faraway look in her eyes, continuing, "And when their lips touched, the princess awoke from her deep sleep. Soon after, they were married, and Snow White and Prince Charming lived happily ever after." She smiled. "The end."
Elysia clapped excitedly. When she had settled down, she asked, "Winry, who's your Prince Charming?"
Winry blushed and laughed nervously. "Winry?" A boy stepped in, wearing a familiar red cloak. "I'm back."
"Oh!" she squeaked in surprise. "Al!"
"Alphonse is your Prince Charming!" Elysia squealed.
"No!" Winry exclaimed. Alphonse Elric looked puzzled, standing in the doorway. "I mean…I don't have one." And that was true. She didn't have one. But a face did pop into her mind at the mention of those words.
"Um, time to go, Winry," Alphonse said.
The little girl ran to him and hugged him. "Bye, big brother!"
He laughed and tousled her hair. "Bye, Elysia."
Winry knelt down and caught Elysia in her arms. "Bye-bye, big sister!"
"We'll see you soon!" Winry said as Alphonse dragged her out of the room. "Oh! I wish I had a little sister as cute as her!" she said after they had thanked Mrs. Hughes and left the Hughes' home. Alphonse did not respond. She looked at him. He was becoming so much like his brother as he got older: moody, quiet. He kept to himself most of the time. "What happened with Brigadier General Mustang?"
"He's not a general anymore," Alphonse replied.
"He resigned from the military?" Winry gasped.
"He tried to," Alphonse said. "Lieutenant Hawkeye stopped him before he went through with it." He frowned. "He demoted himself to an ordinary enlisted soldier and volunteered to be stationed at a remote outpost. She wouldn't tell me where." He sighed. "What am I going to do, Winry? That was my last hope."
Winry put her arm around the 13-year old. "Don't worry, Al. We'll find Edward…together." She gave his shoulder a squeeze, and then let her arm fall at her side.
Alphonse cast his eyes downwards. "Winry, I always wondered if you and Brother ever…I mean…did you…"
She looked at him. "What are you trying to say, Al?" She was grateful he was speaking to her again.
He exhaled heavily. "Ed really liked you. I'm sure he misses you a lot," he finally said. Winry smiled as Alphonse continued. "We used to fight over you, over which one of us would get to marry you. Neither of us ever won those fights, but his arguments were always more convincing than mine." He laughed softly. "I wish he was here now, even if it meant me losing the fight for good."
Alphonse looked up when Winry was no longer beside him. She was standing a few paces behind him, trembling and shuddering all over. "I've tried to be strong, Al, for two years. I really believed that he would be back—that he was just on another of your adventures, and was coming home."
He stood silently, watching her, until he couldn't bear it any longer. He searched his pockets for a handkerchief, but couldn't find one. So he pulled off a glove and handed it to her.
"What am I going to do without him, Al?" she said, her voice quivering. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
Alphonse hugged her tightly. "We'll find him together, Winry. He's coming back. I know it. I just don't know how yet."
Elysia stared out of the window at them. Her mother stood behind her, wiping her hands on an apron. "What is it, Elysia?"
"Winry is sad because she has no Prince Charming," the little girl explained, turning her head.
"Well, that doesn't sound right," Gracia Hughes said, cocking her head to one side. She took her daughter's hand, and then lifted her up. "I've met Winry's prince."
"You have?" Elysia asked, in awe.
"Well, sure," Gracia said, smiling. "He helped me out when I was in trouble, and he even leant Daddy a hand on more than one occasion." She laughed, remembering the night Elysia was born. "Her prince is a brave young man, who never puts himself first, but always looks out for the sakes of others' well-being. Do you know what his name was?" Elysia shook her head, her eyes wide. "His name was Edward Elric."