Al spent the majority of that evening only half-heartedly playing with Winry, too intent on watching for more signs of life from Ed. Winry was watching, too, though he didn't notice. The magic tricks quickly got old and were put away. Tired of coloring and card games, Winry had fetched a book and was reading it out loud from her perch in the rocking chair. Al sat by the bed, eyes riveted to Ed letting her voice wash over him. An hour passed this way until finally Winry put the book aside. She left the room to search for some food.
Al didn't stir as she moved. He just sat watching Ed. It had been weird not hearing his brother's voice over the last few days. He missed their talks. He knew Ed wouldn't be up for one of their talks for a long time, but even hearing him call Al's name right now would be nice. He considered trying Winry's trick with the water while she was gone, but decided against it. What if he made Ed sick? That got him thinking about the procedure again. Would Ed still need all of the tubes once he woke up? Was there anything he could do to help with the "nerves-part"? He still didn't really understand how that worked, but didn't want to bother Winry with it. He stared at Ed's hand and was wondering if he should take it when she came back into the room.
She took a bite of sandwich and with a full mouth asked, "Did he move any?"
"If you want you could try holding his hand. It might help to stimulate him."
"Yeah. We'll probably sit him up in a few minutes and I'll try brushing his hair. Sometimes that helps, too."
They sat in silence while Winry ate. Al held Ed's hand gingerly, running a gauntlet thumb across the back of his knuckles and over the palm before starting it over again. He let out a yelp of surprise when Ed's hand twitched after his thumb had hit a sensitive part on the wrist. Winry choked on her milk a little and glared at him.
"Yeah. Show me." Setting aside her empty dishes, she slid out of the chair and walked over to the table. Her hands clapped in delight when Al repeated the action causing Ed's fingers to twitch. "That's great, Al." His eyes twinkled at her as she put a hand on his shoulder. She moved away, then, heading towards the door. "Sit Ed up. I'm going to go get the hairbrush."
She came back and climbed up onto the bed. Al had a pillow slung over one arm and had leaned Ed over on it. Al looked away as she spread her legs around his brother's waist and her skirt rode up. Ordinarily he would have teased Ed about his blush, but now he would have to be embarrassed for him. Winry didn't appear to notice as she gently began to tease out the tangles at the nape of his neck. After looking at his brother for a few moments he decided to swallow it down and watch Winry brush the hair. He watched as the silky gold slid through her fingers and let his memory drift. He looked at Winry almost shyly before he asked, "Winry, when I get my body back..."
Her hands paused in mid-stroke. "Yes Al."
"When I get my body back, will you play with my hair, too?"
"But Al, you always hated when I played with your hair. You said I made it spike up all funny."
"I know, but….I miss it now."
She didn't respond, instead burying her face in the back of Ed's head.
"Winry?" He raised his hand, prepared to push her face back when he heard her sniffle. He froze, not sure what to do. A few moments passed with only a sniffle or two heard before Winry moved again. She looked up at him with slightly red eyes and a big smile on her face. "Of course I will, Al. I'll spike it up in all directions!" Al giggled in response trying to hide his discomfort at making her cry. She began brushing again. As Ed's hair slipped between her fingers Al leaned forward for a better look.
"Brother's hair has gotten long. Shouldn't we cut it for him?"
Winry sat her brush beside her on the bed and ran both hands up the back of Ed's neck and through his hair. Al didn't notice Ed's eyelashes as they flickered, but he did hear the slight moan. Winry pulled the tresses straight as Al spoke up. "Winry, did you hear that?"
"…Maybe he's in pain? We should lay him back down. I'm not going to cut Ed's hair. I don't think he'd mind, but he may like it long." She looked down for a second before adding "I kind of like it longer" as a faint blush spread over her cheeks. She slid off the bed and helped Al gently lay Ed back down. When he was all adjusted Al sat back down on the floor not sure what to do next. A few minutes passed during which Al said nothing as Winry fussed over Ed's hair until she got it how she wanted. As he was thinking over what to say, she interrupted his thoughts. "I'm going to go brush my teeth. Should I grab anything on my way back?" He thought for a minute before shaking his head no. He watched her as she went to the door. When it had closed behind her he felt a slight wave of relief, followed by a larger wave of guilt. He hadn't meant to make her cry. Usually it was Ed who made her do that. He made a promise then, to himself and everyone else, that he would do his best to not make Winry cry anymore, even if it meant not telling her things. He was affirming that promise to himself when he thought he heard Ed groan again. He watched carefully, but nothing seemed different when Winry came back in the room cradling a book in her arms.
"It's The History of Amestris book from school."
"You're not supposed to bring those home, you know."
"I don't care."
"So why did you bring it in here? Are you going to study or something? I thought Granny said you didn't have to go to school anymore."
"It's not for me, it's for you."
"Yes, I know neither you nor Ed bothered to learn this stuff in school, so I thought you should learn it now."
"Why do I need to learn that? And why doesn't Ed have to learn anything?"
"Quit being such a baby. I'll make Ed learn later. I thought it would help you on your travels." She hung her head again and Al felt panic well up in him. She continued without looking up at him. "Ed said that I can't come with you and I just want to help in some way. I thought maybe this would be good for you two. If it's not I can put it back."
Al jumped up as she was finishing the last sentence. He dropped to his knees in front of the little girl with a clang causing her to jump. A few tears had escaped down her cheeks while she was talking. He grabbed the book. "Don't cry, Winry. It's a good idea. I didn't think about that. It will help. And we don't want you coming along in case it is dangerous and because you need to finish learning automail and you know, that kind of stuff so don't worry about that, okay?!" His panicked rant was interrupted when Winry gently slid her arms around his neck and hugged him. He went still before gently hugging her back.
Pulling back she rubbed a fist into one eye and yawned, swaying slightly on her feet. He steadied her. "Its okay, Winry. Why don't you lay down and I'll read."
"But I promised Ed I'd be here when he woke up."
He moved to the bed, tugging her by the hand gently behind him. He shifted Ed over and patted the empty space. "You'll be here, just like you promised. Go on. I'll wake you when he wakes up."
She nodded before climbing into bed. Al laughed a little as she immediately cuddled up to Ed's arm and fell asleep. He pushed away the thought that it was all of the crying that made her so tired and went to turn out the lights. He settled down on the other side of the bed with a lamp on the floor so as not to disturb the two sleepers.
The night passed with growing sounds as Ed slowly came back to life. At first it was just a varied heartbeat beside Winry's steady one. Al was a little worried about it until he saw Ed's toes wriggle under the covers. Groans and whimpers became louder as the night wore on. Al paid less and less attention to the words in the book as Ed's movements became more and more frequent. When he rolled his head to the right into Al's face, the book was set down. It wasn't until the first rays of sunlight began to light up the fields out the window that Ed's eyes slowly opened. Al held his imaginary breath as he watched those golden orbs come into focus. He let it out in a rush when Ed finally spoke.
"Alphonse" rolled smoothly out of Ed's mouth and left a slight fog on the chin plate of Al's armor.
"Good morning, Brother." Al watched as Ed's eyes flickered around the room, and then widened a little.
"I can't move my hand."
Al immediately felt all of the guilt return as he answered, "That's because you don't have a right hand, yet."
Ed rolled his eyes slightly in irritation and Al felt hope push aside all of the guilt.
"Not that hand, stupid, my left hand." His eyes dimmed as this was said.
"That's because Winry is holding it." Al stood as Ed slowly rolled his head to the left bringing him nearly face to face with the little girl. She had scrunched down until her chin rested on his narrow shoulder.
"See, Brother. She was worried about breaking a promise so I made her get into bed beside you."
Ed nodded in reply and swallowed a little. His eyes slowly closed sleepily then snapped open again. Al watched in surprise as Ed creened his neck until his lips rested on Winry's forehead. Leaning forward he couldn't make out the words Ed whispered to her; though he saw the lips move. Al smiled a little to himself as he watched Ed slowly kiss Winry on the forehead. His smile faded as Ed fell back into sleep and he slowly crept out of the room to wake up Granny.
30/08/07 -Author's notes: I just wanted to add a thank you to my anonymous reviewers and everyone else who found some enjoyment in reading this story. Sequel details are posted in my bio for anyone interested.