It felt good to be home and have all of the grime scrubbed off. Home And to think he'd almost found someplace just as good. He heard the hands rubbing his back stop squeaking and he looked back at the person doing the cleaning. "What's up, Winry? Is it done?"
"Not yet, you're filthy. You've just been awfully quiet these last few minutes. Tell me about your last adventure. What did you guys do?"
He glanced around sneakily, looking for any sign of his brother. Without seeing any he sat back forward. "Okay." She went back to scrubbing as he launched into his tale. He started with the colonel's sneaky way of getting them to contact him. He had to stop when Winry laughed so hard she almost fell over, his large hand leaving a stain on her hip. When she'd wiped away the tears and regained her balance she encouraged him to go on and went back to her scrubbing. He talked about walking to Wisteria and how the town worked. He left out the parts about fighting; knowing Ed would be upset if he told her that. He had just finished explaining how the government system based on Equivalent Exchange worked when she interrupted him.
"Equivalent Exchange? That's fine for alchemy and some of the other sciences, but for people? What about the weak people, the children, the old, those missing limbs or sick. How are they benefited?" He hung his head as she stopped rubbing again and thought about how to answer.
"Well, Winry, they don't. But we didn't realize it at first." Of course she realized it immediately without even seeing the town. He was more ashamed at how easily she understood the problem when it took him and Ed a few days to figure it out. "At first I just thought it was like Resembool. Maybe even better. I could live there and really be happy." A loud clang interrupted him again. He looked back at Winry. She was shaking a little and her eyes were filled with tears. "Winry! What?!" He was unable to finish his sentence when she hit him again. He watched her slam the door behind her as she left the room, wondering what he could have said.
He twitched when a few seconds after the door slammed it swung open again. He quailed inwardly as his Brother's angry glare met his across the room. "Al," He jumped at his name. "Why is Winry crying?"
"I don't know, Brother. I was telling her about Wisteria and she got all upset." He braced himself as Ed tensed up.
"Dammit Alphonse! This is why I don't like telling Winry things!" He felt a moments hope as Ed's head turned back in the direction of the mechanic, but it faded as soon as the glare swung back to him. Ed pointed straight at his face, the glare dissolving into a scowl. "We'll talk about this later." This was said in a low voice and Al felt an even stronger flood of fear and dread flood him. Ed didn't wait for a response as he turned back for the door, slamming it behind him. He listened to the stomping of steps on the stairs for a few minutes before getting up.
He went for a walk, ignoring Granny's staring from the kitchen doorway. Outside he felt like he was expanding. The last sliver of sun was just descending. He walked down the long driveway, heart heavy, thinking about what he could do to fix this. He turned back at the mailbox, looking up at the fully lighted house. He was glad Winry's light was still on. Staring for a few minutes, he watched the shadows move. It looked like they were arguing, but he couldn't be sure. He saw the figure with the long ponytail shadow, Winry, point clearly towards the door. The other shadow raised its arms as well, but he couldn't make out the gesture. The hand pointing towards the door opened and pulled back into a full slap. The other shadow caught the hand before it could connect and he watched them slowly meld into one. He turned away as they sunk towards the floor feeling angry, sad, and left out.
He walked until the moon was high in the sky. He picked any little white flowers he found glowing in the light on the way. When his armor was mostly full of the little blooms he felt like he'd gathered enough courage and so started back towards home. Home He mused on that word as he walked up the drive, the house was mostly dark, now. He wondered if everyone was asleep. He opened the door slowly, doing his best not to wake anyone. Den in her basket in the entryway opened one eye sleepily, but quickly closed it after a cursory inspection. A light in the hallway caught his attention.
The door to the workroom was cracked. Being very careful he looked through it. Ed and Winry were in there. She was seated on the floor, the outer casings to the automail heel pulled apart and laid beside her. He heard a sniffle and instantly felt guilty. Ed's face looked tired and Al wondered what the fight with Winry had taken out of him. Winry's voice startled him, causing his knee to hit the door jam. He held very still, praying that they hadn't noticed him.
"Ed, was Wisteria really that nice?" He heard his brother sigh in response and waited to hear his answer.
He watched as Ed leaned forward. After placing his left hand on her shoulder he heard Ed reply, "Winry, we'll always come home. I promise." He jumped again when Ed met his eyes in the crack of the doorway. "Isn't that right, Al?"
He pushed the door open and stepped into the room. "Hey guys."
"Have a nice walk?" Ed smirked, trying to be his usual sarcastic self, but his eyes were still tinted with anger.
"Yes." He paused for a second before he sat beside Winry on the floor. "I'm sorry, Winry. I picked some flowers." He undid his chest piece before either of them could answer, letting the snowy white blossoms spray across the floor. "We saw some like this in Wisteria, but they are prettier here."
He felt better as he watched Winry gasp over all of the flowers. He watched a little in surprise as Ed picked up a bloom then reached over, tucking it behind her ear. "You're right, Al." Winry giggled and Al laughed outright as Ed turned pink and sat back in his chair above them, the anger in his eyes now gone. As Winry turned back to work on Ed's automail her ponytail brushed past his armored face. He sighed a little, remembering long black hair, a little sad, but happy to be home.