Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist or any of the characters contained within this fanfiction. It is the property of Hiromu Arakawa, Square Enix Co., Ltd.'s and Monthly Shonen Gangan. I simply worship and adore... and sometimes write fic.
Spoilers and setting: This fic is set in the manga verse and contains spoilers up to and including chapter 68. Please bear this in mind when reading.
Thanks everyone who reviewed the previous chapter. I really appreciate your thoughts and input. Special, super thanks with cherries on top to KariKyrie and Ishte for their help!
Ed exited the bathroom and hopped down the hall, his right hand clutching at the towel wrapped around his waist. He could hear Al and Winry talking quietly among themselves in the living room but chose to go straight upstairs and dress. He had just closed the door behind him when he heard the clanking of Al on the stairs. Frowning, he prayed they would leave him alone; he really wasn't in the mood to talk.
His prayers went unanswered as a few seconds later there was a tentative knock on the bedroom door. "Brother?"
"I'm getting dressed." Was Ed's gruff reply.
"Well, don't bother putting your pants on if you want me to fix your leg." Winry still sounded angry.
Ed sighed, fixing his boxers in place. He pulled a t-shirt from the drawer before hopping to the bedroom door and opening it. Winry stood with her arms crossed, a toolbox at her feet. Al hovered behind her, looking as apprehensive as possible in his armour shell.
"Don't bother with that." Winry indicated to his t-shirt as she stomped into the room.
Ed looked to Al for support but his brother merely shrugged in response.
"Whatever." Ed threw the t-shirt onto his dressing table and hopped over to the bed, where Winry was setting up. He sat next to her, frowning. "My arm is fine though. I didn't even use it."
"Well, it could do with a check up." Winry responded curtly before moving to sit on the ground and inspect his leg. She picked it up by the calf and twisted it around, inspecting the ankle joint. Dropping it she sighed, running her fingers through her hair.
"Can you fix it?" Ed asked, leaning forward for a better look.
"What kind of question is that?" Winry glared up at him and Ed looked away. "Of course I can fix it. I'm going to have to remove it first though."
Ed sighed. He had hoped she could fix it without removing the limb. He always dreaded reattachment.
Winry correctly interpreted his sigh and glared at him. "You know, you wouldn't have to go through all this if you actually took care of yourself." She got to her feet and put her hands on her hips.
Ed stared at the light blue bedspread, awkwardly avoiding her eyes.
"Fine!" Winry shook her head at his response. "Fine." She leaned forward, gripping Ed's thigh with her left hand and his automail with her right. With an expert flick, she detached the metallic limb before standing up straight. She looked down at Ed once before shaking her head and sitting on the floor with her tools.
Ed watched her tinker with the limb for a second before he lay back on the bed, throwing his left hand over his eyes as he lay against the pillow.
Ed turned to find Winry still working on his leg.
"I don't know why I bother, Ed." She flicked her hair out of her face as she removed the shin plate. "Most of my clients I see once or twice a year and even then it's for check ups. I see more of your automail in a year than I'd expect to see of anyone else's in their life time."
Ed sighed. "I know." He quickly replaced his hand as Winry turned to look at him. He heard her sigh loudly before the sound of metal clinking against metal resumed.
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Ed groaned as he felt someone shake his left shoulder.
"Ed, wake up."
He jumped when he recognised the voice as Winry's.
"I'm awake." He pushed her hand away as he sat up. She was frowning at him. "What?"
"You were talking in your sleep. It sounded like you were having a nightmare."
Ed blushed, feeling exposed. "Yeah, well…" He tried to fob her off.
"You mentioned my name."
Ed blushed furiously, glancing in her direction. Winry too, was blushing, her attention fixed on his automail leg. "I was probably having a nightmare of you attacking me with a wrench."
She laughed, turning the leg over and inspecting it.
"Eh… was that why you woke me up or is my leg ready yet?" He rubbed at his eyes, yawning.
Winry shook herself before turning her attention on him. "Yeah, it's fixed. It wasn't anything major this time." She nodded in the direction of what remained of his left leg. "Do you want to attach it now or later?"
Ed sighed, his palms beginning to sweat in anticipation of reattachment. "What time is it?"
Winry looked at her watch. "Past one. You might be better off reattaching it in the morning, that way you'll get a good night's rest."
Ed contemplated this for a second. "No, I might as well get it over with." He sighed.
Winry nodded as he shuffled to the edge of the bed and presented the port. Placing the leg on the ground, Winry inspected the port. Once satisfied, she raised the leg and aligned it in preparation for reattachment.
"Ready?" She glanced up at Ed.
Gritting his teeth, Ed nodded stiffly.
"One, two, three." On the count she quickly slipped the leg into place.
As always, Ed was unprepared for the shock. Searing pain surged up his leg causing him to bite down on his lip as he held back a scream. He twisted the bed sheets in his fists; tears leaking from his tightly shut eyes. He took deep breaths as the initial pain of reattachment began to ebb away to a dull ache as his nerves readjusted to the automail.
Wincing he lay back, Winry aiding him by lifting his legs and placing them on the bed.
"Thanks." He croaked, eyes still clenched shut.
"No problem." Winry yawned. He glanced up at her as she stretched her arms above her head, working the kinks from her back.
"You can take Al's bed." Ed indicated to the bed on the other side of the room. "It's not like he's going to use it."
"Why did you bother getting it then?" Winry asked, sitting on Al's unused bed and removing her boots.
"For when I get his body back." Ed snapped.
"Oh." Winry lay down on the bed, turning her back to him. "I thought you'd come back to Resembool." Her voice was uncharacteristically small.
Ed frowned, understanding her reaction. "We will, I-" He sighed. "I'll have to come back to Central to quit the military, so…" He trailed off.
"So you're going to quit the military once you get your bodies back then?" Winry turned to look at him.
"Yeah." Ed scowled. "The only reason I became a State Alchemist was to get our bodies back. As soon as I do that I'm leaving the military and going home."
"Huh." Winry turned on her back, sighing.
"What?" Ed moved to face her, wincing as a bolt of pain shot up his leg.
"I didn't think you'd want to return to Resembool." She looked at him. "Does it not seem really boring compared to a huge city like Central?"
Ed rolled his eyes. "I hate Central. It's all buildings and concrete and the people are always rushing. It's horrible. I prefer smaller towns." Winry laughed in good humor.
"What?" Ed demanded.
Winry shook her head, beaming brightly at him. "You can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy, eh?"
Ed struggled to suppress a grin. "Yeah, whatever." Winry laughed outright at his behavior. "Eugh," He groaned in annoyance, turning away from her despite the pain. "Go to sleep."
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The dull throbbing in his leg woke Ed far earlier than he would have liked. He winced, rubbing his eyes before deciding to rise, despite the early hour. There was no point in lying in bed when he could at least try and distract his attention from his leg.
Gingerly, he tested the limb before putting his full weight on it. As usual, Winry had done an excellent job and it worked perfectly. Standing up, he stretched his arms above his head, yawning. The sun had yet to rise and the street lamps were still burning.
He glanced at Al's bed. Winry was still sleeping. As quietly as possible he made his way to the chest of drawers and retrieved a pair of pants and a t-shirt. Once dressed he tip toed over to ensure he had not woken Winry.
She lay on her side, her legs curled up against her stomach. She had kicked the sheets down around her ankles but Ed noticed she was shivering. He debated with himself for a second before picking up the sheet and draping it across her. Winry yawned in response but did not wake. Some of her hair fell forward to tickle her face. Ed smiled to himself as she crinkled her nose in an effort to dislodge the tickling hair.
A flicker of Winry's cold dead eyes flashed in his mind's eye. He instantly dug the heels of his hands into his eyes, as if somehow he could push away the image. Taking a deep, shuddering breath he tried to regain his composure.
With a sigh, he looked back to Winry's sleeping form. She didn't deserve this… any of it. She didn't deserve to be under threat for the crime of simply knowing them. He couldn't sit idly by anymore. He needed to do something.
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Ed sat on the edge of his bed, staring at Winry's sleeping form. The sun was rising and shafts of light peaked through the flimsy curtains. He sighed, running his flesh hand over his face. He was not looking forward to this. Winry's suitcase sat next to his left leg.
He glanced down at his watch, before sighing and getting to his feet. He crept quietly to Al's occupied bed; only realising how futile the gesture was when he crouched down by the head of the bed.
"Winry." He called quietly so as not to startle her. When she didn't respond he repeated her name a little louder, his left hand nudging her shoulder slightly.
Winry whimpered, snuggling down into the pillow and fighting off the approaching consciousness.
Ed snorted in amusement despite himself. "Winry." He shook her gently, but firmly, and reluctantly she opened her eyes.
"Ed?" Her eyelids were heavy with sleep and her voice was somewhat childish.
Ed felt his stomach flip in response and looked away as he pulled his hand from her shoulder. "Come on, get up." He got to his feet and walked back to her suitcase.
"Huh?" Winry yawned, leaning on her elbow. "What? Why?"
"We need to go somewhere." Ed picked up her suitcase and turned to face her.
Winry swung her feet off the side of the bed, her attention caught by the presence of her suitcase. "Where? What time is it?"
"I'll explain on the way. We have to leave now." He checked his watch. He shouldn't have let her sleep so long; they were running out of time.
Ed frowned at her delay. With a snarl he walked out the door and proceeded down the stairs. He knew full well that Winry would follow him (curiosity would eventually get the better of her) and he didn't have time to argue back and forth.
"Ed!" As predicted, Winry was hot on his heals. "Ed, wait. What's happening?"
Al peaked out from the sitting room as Ed marched passed, leaving Winry to hop along after him, fixing the heel of her left boot as she did so. He exchanged a knowing glace with Ed, before retreating back into the relative safety of the room.
Ed marched through the front door and was half way down the path when Winry eventually caught up with him. She had been questioning him incessantly but he refused to respond.
In frustration, Winry reached out and tugged on Ed's left arm. "Ed, talk to me!" The anger and worry was evident in her voice.
"We don't have time." Ed shook his hand, trying to dislodge her.
"I'm not taking another step until you tell me what's going on!" Winry pulled at Ed's wrist for emphasis.
Ed sighed, his eyes darting around. It wasn't safe to have the conversation here. Who knew what was lurking in the shadows? He turned to fully face Winry, brow furrowed. "Winry, it's not safe here."
"Ed, what's going on? I-"
"Winry, please." Ed cut her off. "I'll explain everything once we're somewhere more guarded but for now will you just trust me?" He took a step closer to her, willing the stubborn girl to back down, just this once.
Winry stared back at him, her eyes searching his. "Ok." She nodded, looking away.
Ed moved to pull his wrist from her grasp but Winry slid her hand into his, inter-threading their fingers. It was only then that Ed realised he had forgotten his gloves. His pulse raced at the feeling of the small hand in his own. Winry squeezed his hand tightly, their palms slightly clammy where they met. Ed swallowed, his mind screaming at him to pull his hand away. He looked to Winry's face. Her cheeks were stained pink. She blinked back at him before a shy smile graced her lips.
Ed looked back to where their hands were joined and decided to indulge Winry this once. There was no point in upsetting here any more than he had to.
"Come on." He's voice sounded slightly squeaky and he blushed at his awkwardness. Pushing thoughts of embarrassment from his mind, Ed took off at a brisk pace.
Winry jogged along beside him, his hand firmly grasped in her own. She slowed down slightly as she began to recognise their destination. "The train station?" She asked. "But what about Al?"
Ed looked back at her, his body beginning to tense further at the prospect of explaining his plan to Winry. "Come on." He tugged at her hand and once more questioned the logic in allowing her the indulgence.
They rounded the final corner and entered the train station. Ed stopped for a second, scanning the area for the correct platform. Once sure of the direction, he hurried along, senses still primed for an attack.
They rounded a corner and Ed sighed with relief when he found Major Armstrong waiting patiently for them. The giant man inclined his head in their direction but did not advance any further as Winry stopped dead in her tracks.
"Ed, what is going on?" She demanded.
Ed sighed, dropping Winry's suitcase to the ground. He was acutely aware of her tight grip on his hand. "Winry… it's not safe for you to be around us anymore." Ed dropped his eyes to the pavement.
"What are you talking about?" Winry's voice was terse and clipped.
"There are things going on that…" Ed grimaced, not knowing how to make Winry understand. "Myself and Al…" He sighed, looking to her face before looking away again. "You need to be somewhere safe, somewhere protected."
Winry took a step back, dropping his hand in the process.
"Winry." Ed caught himself as he reached for her hand instinctively. His amber eyes pleaded with her to understand. "Winry please, I-"
"You're sending me away." Angry tears began to roll down her cheeks.
"No!" Ed took a step closer to her. "I'm trying to protect you!"
"I'm getting in the way and you just want me to leave!" She bit her lip as her voice cracked with emotion.
"No!" Ed fought to keep his temper at bay. "Winry, you have to understand. This… this thing is so much bigger than me and Al. It involves the whole military."
Winry rolled her eyes in disbelief. "Oh come on. I may not be an alchemical genius but I'm not a fool, Ed."
"Winry, you have to believe me." Ed insisted firmly. Winry visibly started at the change in tone. "They've already threatened your life."
"What?" She furrowed her brow in confusion. "Why?"
Ed blushed. "Because… because, they know we, I… they're going to make us do terrible things, Winry." He swallowed, looking away from her keen gaze. "They know Al and I wouldn't let anything happen to you. That's why the Furher asked you so many questions. They wanted to find out everything they could about you. They called you here tonight and I don't know why."
"Ed?" Winry sniffed, taking a step forward. He looked up at her and sighed. She was weeping freely. "Ed, don't send me away."
Ed frowned. "I have to protect you."
Winry sobbed loudly, stepping forward and burying her head in his chest. "But what about you? What about you automail?"
Ed stood tense for a second. His heart hammered in his chest as Winry clutched at him. Slowly and awkwardly, he wrapped his arms around her slight waist. "I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you." His voice was a tense whisper and part of him wished she wouldn't even hear him.
"Ed." She pulled him tighter against herself. "I'm scared for you."
Ed sighed, slowly letting his head fall against hers. He held her tightly, part of him thinking this might be the last time he ever held her like this… another part mourning the fact that this time was only the first.
His head snapped in the direction of the train, as it's shrill whistle echoed around the platform. With a sigh, he took a step back from Winry, his cheeks burning with embarrassment. "The train will be leaving soon."
Winry hiccupped, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "Where is it going?"
Ed smiled sadly. "You'll have to ask Major Armstrong. It's not safe for me to know where you are."
Winry's eyes widened in disbelief. "How will you find me? How will I know when it's safe to come back?"
Ed grinned. "Don't worry, I'll figure it out."
Winry's face wilted once more and Ed prepared for a battle.
"Miss Rockbell, we must board soon." Armstrong's deep voice rumbled from behind them.
Ed glanced behind him, not having noticed the large man approach. He turned back to Winry. "I'll find you." He insisted, stepping back so that Armstrong could lead Winry away.
The Major held her suitcase in one hand, while he placed the other lightly on her back. With a nod at Ed, he began to lead Winry toward the open train doors. She walked along side him quietly, her head bowed.
Ed remained motionless on the platform. He had always hated Winry's hurt looks, they always made him feel so guilty and uncomfortable, but now… Now, he willed her too look at him. He didn't care how guilty those blue eyes made him feel, hell, he didn't care if she looked at him scornfully as long as she looked at him. But she was walking away, her eyes downcast and he almost couldn't take it. What if he didn't see her again? He'd hadn't said goodbye properly! He bit his lip and took deep, heavy breaths as pain gripped his chest. He desperately wanted to run to her and hold her… to do something, anything other than stand here and silently watch her leave.
She reached the door of the train and Armstrong stood back to allow her board. She hesitated briefly before slowly turning her gaze to Ed.
Ed swallowed nervously, his heart beating wildly in his chest. He stared back at her, grimacing as tears begin to glisten in her eyes.
With a sob, Winry jumped from the train door and tore down the platform. Ed barely had time to brace himself as she threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her tight against him, closing his eyes as he felt them begin to sting with tears.
"You promise you'll come find me?" Winry whispered, her warm breath ghosting across his neck.
Ed leaned back to look her in the eyes. "I promise." His voice was barely above a whisper.
Winry whimpered and leaned forward, pressing her forehead against his. Her eyes slid closed as tears ran freely down her cheeks.
Ed watched her closely, his heart constricting at her obvious misery. He could feel her breath on his cheek. His eyes fell to her mouth; pouting in grief and tantalisingly close to his own. He looked to her closed eyes and back to her mouth, licking his lips. He may never get this chance again…
Pulse racing wildly, Ed closed the brief distance between them, kissing Winry softly on the lips. He felt her inhale sharply in surprise before sighing and pulling him closer. Ed's eyes flickered closed as Winry parted her mouth and he kissed her deeply. He felt light-headed and dizzy as he crushed her petite body against his own. Winry's hand brushed against the soft hairs at the back of his neck and a shiver ran down his spine.
Why had he waited so long to do this? Why had he left it until the last possible minute to give in to himself and how he felt for his oldest friend?
They were startled apart by a double whistle of the train. Ed instinctively looked in the direction of the train before looking back to Winry. He expected he would have been embarrassed by his forthrightness but strangely he was not. He found for the first time in many years he could look straight at her without awkwardness or guilt. He sighed, smiling sadly at her. Winry mirrored his smile for a second but it quickly fell from her face.
"The train is about to leave." Armstrong interjected from a distance.
Ed looked over Winry's shoulder and nodded at the older man before looking back to Winry. "I'll find you, Winry." He smiled sadly, willing her to believe him.
Winry laughed sadly, biting her lip. With a sigh she buried her head in his shoulder. Ed hugged her back, resting his head against hers.
"Edward…" Winry sniffed, whispering softly. "I love you." Her breath hitched and she pulled him against her.
Ed started in shock, his eyes flying open.
"Miss Rockbell." Armstrong pressed urgently.
Winry slipped out of Ed's arms and observed him sadly. She smiled bitterly before leaning forward and pressing her lips to his cheek.
Without further word she turned to join Major Armstrong and they hurriedly boarded the train.
Ed stood watching after her in shock. His heart raced, his breathing was rapid and shallow. Winry loved him?
"Damn it!" He cursed and ran to the train. He ran by the windows, eyes frantically searching for any sign of Winry and the Major.
He had nearly reached the end of the train when he heard Winry's voice call to him from behind. Turning on heel, he raced back to where she was leaning out of the window.
"Winry!" He stood panting before her.
"Ed." She giggled, though the mirth never quite reached her eyes.
"I… I…" Ed stood before her stammering like an idiot. His mouth felt dry and sticky.
"It's ok, Ed." She smiled sadly at him.
"No! I…" He bit his lip. "Winry, I…" He wanted to say it, he needed to. Now, that he had finally acknowledged how he truly felt for her, he desperately wanted her to know but the words caught in his throat. They refused to be spoken. "I…"
"It's ok, Ed." She leaned out of the window and kissed him sweetly. "I know." She blinked away tears and smiled at him once more.
Ed frowned at his own inadequacy before kissing her again. Her cupped her face with his left hand, running his thumb across her cheekbone.
With three shrill whistles the train began to slowly move away. Winry pulled back from Ed, tears straining her cheeks.
Ed jogged to keep up with the train, desperately trying to increase his speed in order to stay level with the window. He kept eye contact with Winry as long as possible. "I'll find you." He promised.
Ed ran along side the train as it continued to build speed before he ran out of platform. He watched as the train sped away into the distance, carrying Winry with it. He remained motionless, staring, knowing he had done the right thing, the only possible thing in their situation, but heart breaking regardless.
Well? Yeah, not the happiest of endings, but in my mind it's one of those 'the end...?' type endings because I know it doesn't end there. Having said that, this is the end of this story for now. I may up-date with a short epilogue some time in the future but I am quite happy with the more opening ending at the moment. For now it's taged as "completed".
As always reviews are adored! Constructive criticism especially so.