Eight years later:
Envy's feet kicked up dust on the dirt path that snaked across the hills like a dirtied ribbon, unable to help but wonder what had happened to Winry over the years. He had written to her obediently, but she could never write back since he travelled so much – there was never any dependable address. He had only recently found out his letters had been re-directed through Paninya, as Winry had moved to Central shortly after he left and then later, back to Risembool.
He had been feeling a sudden urge to see her, an urge that had grown and grown until it was an insatiable, burning curiosity. A need to know what had befallen her over the years since they had parted.
And he probably couldn't have timed it better. After going to Rush Valley in the hopes of seeing her, he had been informed by a girl he assumed was Paninya's roommate about the redirected mail, and the fact that Paninya herself had recently set out to Risembool for a little get-together Winry had been planning.
And now here he was, trudging along a dirt road to a large, yellow-painted house standing proudly in the fields.
Envy decided it looked like a happy home. A line of washing was hanging out to dry, and a small group of children were playing the yard. But it was the wooden sign standing proudly outside that brought a slightly satisfied grin to his face.
"Guess she jumped him after all," he mused, opening the gate and stepping into the yard, where Christa and Paninya were playing with four children and a large brown and white dog.
The dog, noticing his presence, bounded towards him, barking frantically. Without even looking up, Christa called out to the animal.
Envy gave the dog a few half-hearted pats on the head, waiting for one of the women to recognise him. Paninya, poised to tickle a red-headed girl with a glint of mischief in her eyes, froze when she realised who had just entered the yard.
"Something wrong with your eyes, Pan?" he needled.
"E-Envy?" Paninya stuttered.
"Nice to see you again," Christa said diplomatically.
Envy didn't bother with polite greetings. Instead, he stared at the small children who were eyeing him warily. "Who are the ankle-biters?"
"Oh, right," Paninya said, "Introductions!"
She pulled the redhead forward, at the same time snagging the arm of a boy with bright blue eyes and a mop of messy black hair. "Remember Winry Seren? She's turning eight this year, and this is her brother, Marcus – he's five."
Envy nodded briefly in acknowledgment.
"Amelia Mustang's just turned three, and her brother – Colin – is six years old."
Colin had soft blonde hair while his sister had black, faintly-curled locks. But both had the same dark, inky eyes as their father.
Meanwhile, Paninya seemed to be looking for something. "The twins are around here somewhere..."
But then Scar came around the corner, and Envy forgot everything else in favour of the spectacle the man presented. The normally stoic Ishbalan looked very out of place with a laughing and shrieking child hanging off each arm.
"Uncle Scar! Uncle Scar!"
Envy took one look at the two children and knew they could be nothing but Winry's progeny. The girl was a miniature replica of Winry, save that her eyes were a bright amber, and the boy could have passed for a younger Ed if his eyes hadn't been a soft blue.
"There they are!" Paninya sighed in relief. "This is Joseph and Grace."
Envy, however, ignored the children in favour of needling the Ishbalan as the man's passengers slid from his arms to the ground. "Uncle Scar?"
Scar raised an eyebrow, then bent to Joseph and Grace's level. "Take a good look, children...who is this?"
The twins looked at Envy, furrowing their brows and appearing to concentrate deeply. Then suddenly their expressions cleared in abrupt recognition, and they launched themselves at him. Two small cannonballs hit him around the waist, tackling him backwards onto the grass. Envy's arms rose automatically to clutch the twins to him, shielding them from any accidental hurt caused by the fall.
"Uncle Envy!" they shrilled, making him grit his teeth against the shouts almost right next to his ear. "Uncle Envy!"
"Now everyone's here!" Grace laughed. "Uncle Scar, Auntie Pan, Uncle Breda, Uncle Roy, Auntie Riza-"
Envy had a moment to be dizzied by the list of family who weren't really family.
"And we didn't think you'd come," Joseph added. "You never come!"
"Mummy always showed us your picture and said you were our uncle-"
"But whenever we asked why you didn't visit, she said you were travelling-"
Envy was about to protest that he was no one's uncle (and where did Winry get off telling her children he was?) but was cut off when Riza opened the door just enough to lean out and called to them.
"Lunch! Everyone inside!"
At the mention of food, she had all six childrens' attention. They responded in a chorus of voices.
"Yes, Mrs. Mustang!"
"We're coming, Auntie Riza!"
The interior of the house was bursting with activity. Roy and his wife were making themselves comfortable at the dining table, while Kyle, Breda and Fuery set out plates and cutlery. The kitchen walls seemed to be straining at the edges as Ed, Winry, Travis and Marcoh hovered around the stove, shouting suggestions, crashing into saucepans and in general creating comfortable mayhem.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Ed asked, spotting the green-haired man in the doorway.
"Ed!" Winry chided, rapping the back of his hand with a spoon as he reached for the potatoes. "Be nice! And wait until you're sitting at the table before stuffing your face!"
Then she turned, and Envy wondered at the changes in her. She didn't stand tall and stiff any more, but seemed relaxed, comfortable in her own skin in a way he'd never seen her before. Her eyes were bright, no longer shadowed with unspoken pain and suffering, but soft and happy – a woman perfectly content in who and what she was.
"Hey, Pidgeon," Envy said quietly.
"Hey, Envy," she greeted, a small smile playing around her lips. "Been having fun on your travels?"
"Not as much fun as I could show you," he leered, falling back into their old pattern of flirtation and taunts.
Winry raised an eyebrow. "I'm a married woman, Envy – you wouldn't tryst with another man's wife, would you?"
"What am I saying?" Winry muttered. "Of course you would."
Envy's grin shifted to a smirk as he spoke to a glowering Ed, "What's the matter, Fullmetal? Not gonna threaten to break my arm if I touch your wife?"
Surprisingly, Ed's face cleared as he chuckled. "Nope. I think we both know that if you touch her, she'll be the one breaking your arm."
Envy privately thought the alchemist was right about that, but he wasn't going to inform Ed.
"Put this on the table," Winry instructed, pushing a plate of roast into Envy's hands.
Amazing – he hadn't been back five minutes and already Winry was ordering him around. Halfway into the dining room, Envy nearly ran over Al, and it was only his superhuman reflexes that allowed him to save the roast.
"Hey, Envy," Al smiled, and Envy had a moment to reflect on who surreal this was. He had been absent for eight years, yet the greetings he received made it seem as though he'd just gone down to the shops for some milk. As though he hadn't really been away.
He realised Al was cradling a small bundle in his arms – a small, squirming, whining bundle.
"Another kid?" Envy asked, peering into tiny hazel eyes covered by a fringe of blonde fuzz.
"This is Nina," Al explained. "She's only a few months old."
"Another of Fullmetal's and Pidgeon's, I take it?"
Al nodded, then winced as his niece seized a lock of his hair in her fingers and tugged hard.
"Easy, Nina," he pleaded, trying to prise her fist open. "Uncle Al likes his hair, don't pull it out..."
Envy rolled his eyes, and left the younger Elric brother fumbling as he tried to hold the baby in his arms and extricate his hair at the same time. The scene was so disgustingly sweet he felt the need to brush his teeth in case of cavities.
Lunch was pleasant chaos. An extra place setting was laid for Envy, and he sat elbow to elbow with Fuery and Scar, staring bemusedly at the bedlam.
The twins were competing as to who could eat the most food, a contest that seemed to involve grabbing anything remotely edible and shovelling it down as fast as possible. At least, until Winry and Ed came in – then it changed to eating politely when their parents were looking and resuming shovelling when they weren't.
Winry took Nina from Al, cradling her daughter in one arm and eating the meal with the other hand with the ease of long practice. Marcus and Amelia started sneaking food to Max under the table, a practice that quickly ceased when they were caught by their respective fathers. Colin was showing off for little Winry, sketching a transmutation circle on his plate with the remnants of the gravy.
"Colin Maes Mustang!" Riza snapped, sounding like nothing short of an ill-tempered drill sergeant. "Get that transmutation circle off your plate this instant!"
With a guilty blush, Colin erased it with a swirl of his finger.
Winry laughed with Paninya and Christa over some private joke that set Ed blushing. Al and Marcoh were discussing the latest advancements in medical alchemy, with Roy and Travis occasionally interjecting their own opinions. Fuery and Riza made an effort to be heard above the din, in a conversation that Envy only heard snatches of – it seemed to be about who would next be elected president. Scar was engaged in conversation by Breda – at least, Breda was talking and Scar was nodding occasionally.
Sitting down at the Elric's dining table, listening to the chaos and uproar of the family they had built around them, Envy realised he had never felt more at home. And as Winry's laugh rang clearly through the room, Envy allowed himself a small, private smile.
It seemed that Winry, at last, had found happiness.
AN: I must say, I feel especially proud of this fic. I've had a shot at post-war stories before ('Blue Eyes' and 'When The Dust Settles' ), but I really felt I created something special with this one – it really became a world of its own, and I couldn't be happier.
Thanks to everyone who followed and reviewed this fic, with special mention going to LaughingAstarael, who was an excellent beta and wonderfully supportive for this entire story.
And also a big thank you to justcallyme, who drew a wonderful fanart of Commander Winry – go check out my profile for the link!