Bittersweet Tones

Disclaimer - not mine, all characters belong to Hiromu Arakawa et al, Square Enix and funimition. I don't make a profit

Rating – PG-13

Pairing – Ed/Win

Time Line/Spoilers – Manga based – while no direct spoilers for anything, other than Armstrong's other sister, this is future fic

Summary – Sometimes all it takes is a wrench, other times you have to go to extremes.

Chosen Prompt – Swimming Hole (but ice cream did get worked in)

Word Count - 3,676

Getting Al's help for her scheme was easy enough. Winry suspected the younger boy knew his brother used him as an excuse to not get back out there and start living a little. Ed took all the energy he'd put into getting Al's body back and poured it into nursing Al back to health. Thin, frail, barely able to move from years beyond the Gate, Al did need assistance but Winry and Pinako couldn't convince Ed that Al needed to do things on his own to regain his strength.

Al, Winry and Mustang had contrived to take Alphonse out of Ed's orbit for a while. To that end, Mustang had arranged for Al to join them in Central for some recovery time at the Armstrong mansion with a renowned physical therapist, the same one who was working with Havoc. Ed had wanted to go along so Pinako had actually disabled his leg in his sleep and told him he could go when the 'short-circuit' was fixed.

Winry glared at Ed, now fitted with new automail that took into account his increased height, as he chatted on the phone with his brother, promising to come visit. Al must be telling him that President Mustang was at the mansion since Ed was yelling about it. Winry suspected Ed missed getting to cross swords with Mustang and expected the brothers to move to Central permanently once Al was stronger. After all, the new president wanted their help with parliament.

Never expecting to be much involved in politics, Winry found herself at the heart of it when Mustang was made president. The way she understood it was those in power decided Olivia Armstrong was too close to what Amestris always had been; moneyed, powerful. Mustang had been put in charge but he was smart about it. He chose Olivia as his vice president and his military advisor was the freshly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Miles. That way, whenever the world looked at Amestris, they saw a half Xing president, a half Ishbalan military man and a vice president who represented one of the finest Amestrian families. It seemed very smart to her, as if they were honestly concerned with making repairs to the torn world.

Winry was also aware that Olivia fully expected, and seemingly hoped, that Mustang's life would end up in the hands of the Ishbalans as part of amends for the war, leaving her president. What bothered Winry most, beyond the callousness of that, was listening to Ed now. He seemed nearly as thrilled about putting Mustang into an early grave. She wasn't sure what the man had ever done to Edward. Granted, that first meeting had been pretty awful with him yelling at the boys but Winry understood now the enormity of what the brothers had done. Mustang had been afraid, she had no doubt of it. He seemed to be a little too much like Ed for them to get along. However, Winry had felt a kinship with Riza. Winry wondered if it was too forward to ask Riza for tips about how to handle Ed now that he was becoming a man. Ed was more complicated now and a wrench to the head wasn't the answer to everything.

Glancing out the window at the setting sun, Winry sauntered over to Ed and tapped her fingers on the table next to the phone. "It's late, Ed. There was something I've been trying to show you all day. Tell Al goodbye and let's go." When Ed waved her off, Winry wrestled the phone away. Ed tried to snatch it back, favoring her with a string of cuss words. She pressed a hand against his face, shoving him back. "Get some rest, Alphonse. I'm going to go knock some sense into your brother."

"It'll take several hits," Al replied, his voice echoing tinnily over the line.

Ed glared at her when she hung up. "What was so important that you had to do that?"

"Me, Edward. I'd like a chance to at least talk with you when you're actually not thinking about other things before you leave me again to go to Central," Winry said, taking in a ragged breath. She hadn't wanted it to come out that way. She didn't want to sound needy or desperate.

"What makes you think I'm going to Central?" Ed huffed, a surprised and guilty look in his eyes.

"You'll take that job President Mustang is offering," Winry said matter-of-factly. "You won't be able to resist it, neither will Al. I don't really mind. Central is just a train ride away but while you're here, I want you to be here."

"Why are you yelling at me? I'm here, aren't I?" Ed shot her a completely perplexed look.

"No, you're in Central with Al. Your body is the only thing here." She stabbed him in the chest with a finger.

"I should be with Al. He's still so weak," Ed fretted, somehow missing Winry's eye roll.

"You kept babying him. He was never going to get any better. Now, you need to come with me and test out that new automail leg of yours. You're never going to know if we need to adjust it if you sit on your scrawny butt all day!" Winry pulled on his arm.

"Scrawny?" Ed glowered, brushing her off. "It is not scrawny."

"How could I tell? You never get off it unless to run around doing things for Al that he should be trying to do himself," Winry shot back sourly, ignoring Ed's glare. "It's been a beautiful summer day and you missed it, locked in here with your books and running up the phone bill."

Ed sighed gustily but got up. "Fine. You can watch me walk…where are we going?"

Winry rolled her eyes. "Just follow me."

"How can you see me walk that way?" A sly grin slithered across his face.

Winry clenched her fists, struggling to rein in the urge to kill him. "Let's walk through the woods to the swimming hole."

Ed sighed again as if she were asking him to walk to Central carrying her automail shop on his back. Why did he have to be so stubborn? Why couldn't he just learn to enjoy himself? Why was she trying to so hard to get him to a romantic location that was just going to be lost on him? Maybe a wrench to the head really was the answer when it came to Edward. At least she did get him to follow her out of the house and into the woods.

Finally, summer blossoms and butterflies ignored no matter how many times she pointed them out, they made it to the swimming hole. The butterflies disappeared as the sun lowered in the sky. Winry had wanted to get him out in the light of day, to watch his automail gleam and see sweat forming on his skim while imagining things other than sunshine making it pop, but if she had to settle for moonlight, so be it.

"Let's sit," Winry said, plopping in the grass before he could say no. She was happy when he did so without a protest for a change. "Isn't it pretty here?"

Ed scanned the gathering twilight, taking in the blue-black shapes of the trees against the grey mantle of the coming night. His shoulders slumped a little as if the tension had bled out of him. "I never thought about it. We were so little when we used to come swimming here. I guess it really is."

Winry ventured a soft smile. "I wasn't sure you'd think so. You've been all over this country and to other ones. I know you were hardly sightseeing but you had to see so much on your travels. Home might be boring to you now."

Ed shook his head. "It could never be boring. You're here." When he realized what he said, Ed flushed to his roots. "But…this isn't home any more. I mean, we did burn it to the ground."

"You could build another one, you know." Winry sighed, deciding to concentrate on his remark about her instead of his depressing follow up. "But I know, for a while at least, Central might be your home."

Rolling his shoulders, Ed picked up a piece of grass and put the end in his mouth. "That won't ever be home. I'm not thrilled to still be working with President Shit."

Winry laughed. "You are so mean to the poor man. He helped you a lot and you know it."
She poked him in the shoulder. "He's not a bad person."

"He's an arrogant jerk," he grumbled. "You don't know what he's like."

"Ah, well, I wouldn't know to handle an arrogant jerk, would I?" she asked sardonically and Ed looked at her sharply, tossing aside his grass stalk. Winry ignored him to lay back on the grass. "I guess this isn't my home here any more either, not entirely. I spend most of my time in Rush Valley."

Ed made an unhappy noise. "I know it's good for you to be there but I really don't like the place."

"Well, I can see why. Your limbs had to be so unbearable in that heat…not to mention all the other mechanics trying to see quality work." She smiled, tapping his metal hand.

"Yeah." Ed's head bowed. "I wish I could have gone with Al."

"Edward, a little time a part might be good for the both of you. You've been together so long you've forgotten how to live independently," Winry said, a little roughly, twisting on the grass so she could look at him full on.

"I have not," Ed said but he sounded unconvincing.

Winry decided to let it drop. She didn't want to waste one of her few nights with him arguing but she had to know, "Ed, are you bored with me? You seem so unhappy right now."

Ed's head snapped over. "What makes you think that?" He shifted his weight. "Winry, I could never be bored with you. I'm just worried, is all." He swallowed hard, looking away.

"Ed," Winry said, knowing the truth might hurt, "your brother is fine and it was his idea to go alone."

He whipped back around, his expression somewhere between miserable and furious. "It was?" The two words sounded incredulous.

"It's just for a few days, Ed. I think he needed room to breathe. You've both spent so much time, so many years now, caring for each other, getting a little time apart is healthy," Winry said, hoping that would bolster his spirits.

"I guess," Ed mumbled then fell silent, staring at the pond. His fingers listlessly yanked up grass blades, adding their scent to the air

Disheartened, Winry stared up at the sky, trying to find the first star of the night. A soft blinking glow caught her eye. "Look, fireflies. I do miss them in Rush Valley."

Ed got up to catch her one. Sitting back down, he presented it to her. "Remember how I used to catch you a jar full of them when we were little?" He sounded almost apologetic and Winry had to wonder if the bug was his way of saying he was sorry for being such a pain lately.

Winry let the bug crawl onto her finger. "I would go to sleep with them on the night stand and Dad would come in and let them out so they wouldn't die."

"Mom used to do that with mine, too," Ed said with a wry grin. "It seems so long ago."

"It wasn't," Winry said, her eyes sad. In the distance, a night bird called, sounding mournful. "I wish it was but it isn't. We never got much of a chance to be young and innocent. I know we can't go back but just for a little while, t wouldn't it be nice if all we had to worry about was catching fireflies, or you and Al stealing my ice cream or swimming with our friends instead of seeing people in horrible pain even as I help them and you off in the military, maybe having to do something very awful because of who and what you are?"

Ed's jaw tensed as his fists clenched. "I can't let myself think about that, Winry…and with Mustang in charge maybe there won't be any more stupid wars for a while." He shrugged and relaxed slowly, his fingers uncurling. "Or maybe everyone will be so pissed over the past, there'll be dozens. I don't know. I could resign now. I've gotten what I wanted. Al's back and I know I'll never get my limbs back. The help Mustang wants from me and Al, it might not be military."

"Resigning is something to consider." Winry watched the firefly glide away. This was turning out all wrong. She had wanted this to be a nice night, romantic, to tell him how she really felt. She had been wanting to, ever since their time in the Briggs Mountains. Winry stared out over the dark waters of the pond. Behind it, the moon had begun to rise. The silvery reflection sparked an idea. "Let's go swimming, Ed, like old times. Well…at least go wading." Maybe this was a bad idea. It would just remind him of things he couldn't do.

"Swim? It's dark." Ed flipped a hand dismissively.

"That never stopped us when we were kids," Winry protested. She could make this fun. She knew she could.

"We don't have any swim suits," he said decisively, as if certain that was the end of the topic.

Winry smiled wickedly at him. "We don't need any. Let's go skinny-dipping."

Ed's eyes bulged. "Winry!"

"What? We're adults," she said, 'well, sort of.' She shook her hair back over her shoulder. "I have seen you naked, you know."

"When I was ten. Things are different now!" Ed's voice took on a slightly shrill tone.

"I should hope so." Winry laughed and he scowled. "Ed, look at what Granny and I do. Naked patients are an everyday thing. I've seen a lot of pickles."

Ed made a strangled noise. "I can't believe you said that! That's why I wear those long shorts when you work on me."

"I've always wondered why you wore two pairs. What were you afraid I'd see?" Winry's eyes danced playfully.

A hint of anger flooded his face. "I wasn't afraid. I just didn't think you'd want to see… that peeking at you from under my boxers."

"Just how long do you think it is?" she asked with mock innocence and Ed gaped. "I know, I know, the boxers gape. I've been flashed many a time." She slapped his thigh. "Relax, Ed. You are such a prude."

"I am not a prude," Ed snarled in a tone usually reserved for those calling him short.

"Of course you are," Winry said, a little unsure if she were really ready to be naked but she was already committed now. She peeled off her shirt and the tension fled Ed's face at the sight of her bra and the half-moons of flesh it constrained. He looked innocent and vulnerable, something Winry never thought to see. Getting up, she slipped her skirt off and went to the edge of the swimming hole. Ed's eyes were on her. She could feel them. Looking over her shoulder, she coyly slipped off her bra and Ed tracked its path to the grass. The underwear came off in a flash and she was in the pond before much of her could be seen. The cool water enveloped her and Winry bobbed up a bit, just barely keeping her chest under water. The water felt good on her warm skin. "Come on, Ed."

Ed got up and edged closer, more to get a good look at her. "My automail…"

"You can stand where I'm at. It's not like you'll go to the bottom and drown at the edge, Ed," Winry cut in. "And it's not going to go bad. You won't rust. You do bathe, after all. Take off your shirt."

Ed yanked it off. "Happy?" He tossed the shirt down. "I'm not skinny-dipping."

"Why not?" Winry sighed, exasperated.

"There might be snapping turtles in there." He waved indignantly to the inky water and the dangers it potentially held.

Winry laughed. "Ed, you've been in this pond hundreds of times. Have you ever been bitten? Confess it, you're a prude."

"I was never dangling before. There are fish!" Ed shuddered.

"Does Mustang know you're such a prude?" Winry asked, remembering Al's words; Ed would do anything to spite the man. "Bet Al would love telling him."

His mouth worked for a few seconds before the words came out in a strangled gasp. "You wouldn't dare!"

Winry splashed water at him. "Try me."

"Al would never betray me!"

"I do have Mustang's private number, you know." Winry grinned. "And Riza's."

Ed kicked off his boots and shimmied out of his pants. He hesitated at the boxers. Looking up at the moon, as if drawing strength, Ed turned around and pulled them off. He raced into the water, splashing down so nothing below the belly button was showing.

Winry laughed again, trying to stay submerged and get closer to him at the same time. "Now, was that so bad?"

"I have pond weeds between my toes!" Ed griped then jumped. "Was that a fish?"

"No, it was the huge snapping turtle that moved in while you were away. Lucky you know an automail mechanic," Winry said and he splashed her.

"That isn't funny."

Winry got closer, taking his metal hand. "Come on, Ed, you can safely wade out a little further.

Ed let her led him into slightly deeper waters then extracted his hand. "Swim for me, Winry. I want to watch you."

Pleased, Winry swam out to the center of the pond, cutting through the water like a long, pale otter. She finally had his attention, even if it meant going to extremes. She didn't really mind. She had always wanted to try skinny dipping. Finally she swam back to him, water sluicing off of her torso as she stood up. Ed couldn't help but be a bit distracted. "Isn't this fun?"

Ed brushed her wet hair off her shoulder. "It is…how are we drying off so Granny doesn't know?"

Winry rolled her eyes. Leave it to Ed to be overly practical. "Worry about it later," she said, moving in, hoping to give him a kiss.

Ed turned, looking at the position of the moon. "It's getting late. Maybe we should go lie on the grass and dry off."

Chance missed, Winry sighed and nodded. Following him out, she saw another chance as a little pay back for him being such a pill. "Ed, look out!" she cried, then pinched his butt.

Ed flew out of the water like the mother of all snapping turtles was after him. He looked over his shoulder, hearing her laughing, and glared. "That wasn't funny."

"Oh, yes it was." Winry flopped down on the grass, too relaxed to be embarrassed.

Ed lay down next to her. "That was mean," he whined.

"So was messing up me trying to kiss you out there," she said mildly irritated as she waved at the pond.

Ed's brow beetled. "Huh?"

"Like this." Winry got up on one elbow, leaned in and kissed him. It wasn't quite everything she had hoped for in a first kiss. He was too surprised. Winry looked down at him. "Do you know how long I've been in love with you, Ed?" There, she got it out and the timing didn't feel wrong.

Ed blinked several times. "Winry, I…" Ed trailed off and she was afraid of what he'd say. She couldn't bear it if he didn't want that love. Ed put an arm around her wet shoulder, bringing her down to him. This kiss would be the one she'd count as their first. Long and deep, lips and tongues conveyed physically what they hadn't been able to do verbally. When he let her go, Ed smoothed down her long hair. "I've wanted to say that to you for so long, too. I just didn't…it was always the wrong time, always a dangerous time but now." Ed smiled at her. "I love you, Winry Rockbell." Those words came out as a nervous whisper but they were the prettiest thing she had ever heard him say.

Winry kissed him several times more before being content to snuggle with him in the grass for a long while, their bodies in a dichotomy, hot from their touches and cold from the evaporating pond water.

"I can't believe we're lying here naked," Ed said at last, keeping to himself that he was too nervous to be aroused, even though he probably should be.

"I know." Winry ran a finger along the juncture of his metal shoulder. "You look so handsome."

Ed shook his head. "I'm not, half metal and all, but you…you are so beautiful."

Winry smiled. "I never thought I'd hear Edward Elric being all mushy," she said and he blushed. "But I like it. And you are very handsome to me, Ed."

He flushed even more expansively. "Thanks," he muttered. Ed wanted to touch her but that would be so dangerous right now. He looked at the position of the moon again. "It's getting very late. Maybe we should get back. Granny might decide to send out a search party."

"So long as we don't smell pipe smoke, we should be fine." Winry got up to find her clothing but Ed caught her hand.

"I'm glad we did this. We should do it again," he said.

She beamed. "I'm sure we'll find plenty of things to do…just the two of us." She tweaked his antennae. Finally things were unfolding the way they were always meant to be.

"I'd like that," he replied and that was all she needed to float on air.