Its a Christmas Ed/Win, yes run away in fear. Slightly on the angsty side in places here, and a part two to come toward New Years Eve.
She fell back against the wall and heaved a deep sigh of relief. She had been sat on that work stool, up to her elbows in small metal shavings, for hours now but she had finally she finished her task. She admired her handiwork by turning it this way and that in her blistered fingers. Winry had been working on that small token for months and months and the rejected pieces lay at her feet by the dozen. She had always worked with relatively large pieces of metal so to carve such detailing into something only an inch high had taken all her skill and time. The scales on the snake had been particularly complicated has had the symmetry of the cross. But after so many mistakes it was inevitable she would finally achieve perfection. Just in time too for it was Christmas Eve in only a few days time.
As the sweat of concentration began to fade from her face she shivered against the sudden cold of the bitter night outside her window. She slipped out of her overalls and into a thick lilac jumper and some black velvet trousers. Her stomach grumbled and she realised she hadn't eaten since that morning. She stifled a yawn as she placed Ed's gift safely in its box and trotted toward the stairs with it in hand.
The living room was empty of life unless you counted the brightly lit tree. The room was usually lit with candles at this time of year but granny had obviously been concentrating on something herself and so had needed the harsh light. She heard the distant bark of her loyal pet Den from the garden. That silly mutt had been out rolling in the snow every opportunity he got making himself very cold and very wet. She would have to go fetch him in before he did himself any more damage.
When she wrenched open the front door she realised that Den was not the only figure standing in the icy blue snow. Her grandmother stood there on the doorstep watching the two characters chase Den around in the snow. Their footprints were deep and the younger of the pair kept falling face first into the frozen field. His brother, though not greatly taller, did not have such problems for he did not move from his spot, now caught in the light shining from the doorway. Right in such a spotlight was too great an opportunity for Winry to miss so she picked up a handful of snow from by her feet, moulded into a ball and aimed right at the back of his head.
'Winry,' he growled whipping round to look at her. At first she laughed loudly at him as he rubbed the back of a very cold head, but it soon began to fade. She could see the remains of a very deep graze on his chin; another war wound since the last time she had seen him. He didn't bend down to pick up any of the white weapon himself but pushed passed her without another word and stormed upstairs. Usually she could have yelled violently at him, but when there would be no return attack, her heart was not in it. Her eyes pleaded with Al for an answer but Al just shrugged his shoulders before removing his coat and embracing her. Why was it that she had to turn to the thirteen year old for answers? Why was it that she hadn't got a smile out of Edward for several months now? Even more, why did she still let his ever-predictable mood swings affect her so deeply?
Winry placed a giant mug of hot chocolate in Al's hands and sat to listen to his tales of his adventures. After losing nearly all his memories three years ago they had all done all they could to create new ones for him. Alphonse Elric was such a soft but remarkably resistant character he hadn't allowed the sorrows of his life affect his soul. His brother on the other hand had grown colder as the years had slowly gone by. Even now he had got his brothers body back, a darkness ate away at him, slowly destroying everything Winry loved about him. That incident had summed up exactly the man he had become. Humourless, cold and with a standoffishness that even made Den stay away on his worst days. She had made his Christmas gift with such care and attention she hoped it would somehow communicate to him she was still there, still waiting.
'So what has put your brother in such a pitiful mood?' Pinako bluntly asked, never being one to sugarcoat her words.
'I don't know,' Al sighed, 'he seemed fine yesterday. When we got on the train to come home he seemed to close down and he didn't really want to talk anymore.'
'Like he doesn't really want to be here?' Winry asked harshly under her breath.
'I didn't mean it like that Winry. You know what brothers like about coming away from work. Its what he's leaving behind, not what he's coming to.'
She smiled in reassurance at him but she didn't believe a word of it. She cast her eyes up the stairs and wondered if Ed would be gracing them with his presence that night or if she would once again have to seek it out. She looked into the steaming mug in her hand and thought of the perfect reason to track him down.
She lightly knocked on his door and waited for an answer. When it didn't come she knocked again before letting herself into the room. There were no lights in the room but the clear night led to a bright moon, which shone across the wooden floor and highlighted his form lying full length across the floor. She could see the golden glow of his eyes quickly flash her way before looking back.
'The bed might be more comfortable,' she laughed as she walked over to his side.
'I can't see the moon at that angle,' he said in a matter-of-fact tone, clearly ignoring her playful manner.
She swallowed her pride and tried again, 'I brought you a hot chocolate. Even put a shot of brandy in there,' she informed him, placing it by his side. She dared to look at his face in the soft light. He looked half asleep and so sorrowful at the same time. When his eyes finally agreed to meet hers he thanked her with a light bow of his head.
'Don't let it get cold this time, you aren't wearing enough to turn down a warm drink.'
'You are turning more like your grandmother every day,' he sighed under his breath and she knew it was not said in jest.
'One of us has to Edward,' she snapped as he hit a raw nerve.
'Meaning what exactly?' he asked in a slightly deeper tone, sitting upright.
'All this moping around like a petulant teenager! You'll be twenty soon Edward but you still act like a seven year old not getting his own way.'
He stood sharply to his feet and glared deeply into her eyes, 'You try living my life and then you'd know.'
'Oh don't give me that! You do exactly what you wish and never have to ask for anything. Wherever you go people worship the ground you walk on and your brother hates to say anything against you.'
'You think it's wonderful to be glorified and worshipped the way I am?'
He looked away from her and shook his head, 'Rose would never have to ask that,' he muttered under his breath before storming from the room. She let out a gasp of breath that came out as a small squeal before kicking his drink across the room and scalding the top of her foot.
'You foolish girl,' her grandmother snapped, 'if you didn't have such a quick temper you and Edward would get along a lot better.'
'It's hardly all my fault,' Winry whined as her foot was wrapped up, 'if he didn't take everything so personally…'
'If you didn't bring up sensitive subjects in the first place!'
Winry's bottom lip wobbled in defiance before she fell back in to her chair and threw her arms around herself. Ed had vanished into the night in only his shirt and trousers so Al had gone to look for him. After that comment about Rose Winry would have told anyone who asked she didn't want him found. Although she had nothing against Rose her jealousy went into overdrive when Ed had dared to compare the two of them. Rose had suffered, yes Winry was aware of that, but she had come through it and now no longer relied on others to support her.
The front door opened and Winry fought against the desire to look to see if they were back. When she heard heavy feet stomp up the stairs her questions were answered for her.
'I think it's time for bed,' Pinako sighed and guided Al up to his room. Winry sat alone for about on hour simply staring into the light on the tree before limping her way to a restless sleep.
And so the silence remained between them for the next couple of days. On the morning of Christmas Eve Winry refused to emerge from her room until Edward had apologised to her, or at the very least, dragged himself out his miserable slump and enjoy Christmas like the rest of them. She lay in her bed and tried to forget how optimistic she had been the morning they had prepared for Ed and Al's arrival. Presents sat on her desk waiting to be delivered to various people around the village but she didn't wish to leave her cosy comfort zone.
Alphonse bounced in around midday demanding that she come and bake him a cake. She wouldn't allow herself to ruin his Christmas so she crawled out of bed, into her trusty sweater, and prepared to make the most amazing plum pudding Al had ever eaten.
As the sun set Winry had finally finished preparing the food for Christmas day. She and grandma had come to the agreement that Winry would prepare as much as she could while Pinako cooked the meal Christmas morning. Smiling smugly at her various creations Winry heard Ed's voice from the hallway.
'It's cold out there!' he yelled.
'You were willing to walk around in it half naked the other night so you can go out there now all wrapped up,' Pinako retorted.
'I wasn't half naked!'
'You may as well have been brother.'
'Winry! Get in here.'
Winry cautiously put her head round the door to see Ed being forced into a scarf and gloves. He gave her a look of warning but it was too late. Pinako had grabbed Winry and dressed her in her warm coat and hat before she could blink.
'Now both of you be a good Mr and Mrs Santa and deliver everyone's presents.'
'Grandma…' Winry began to whine but she was violently shoved out of the door and handed a heavy bag of beautifully wrapped gifts.
'Al and I have to wrap your gifts so its easier if we get you out of the house for a couple of hours. If you're lucky it won't snow.'
With the door slammed in her face Winry had no-where left to look but at Edward. He looked as bewildered as her but at least there was the slightest hint of a smile there too. He looked at her before casting his eyes down at his feet, kicking the snow around him and breathing in as if about to speak. She could sense how uncomfortable he felt and so she broke the ice for the pair of them.
'We had better get going before they find something else to pile on us,' she giggled and skipped out in to the snow. If she kept up the act that all was well they should be able to pull through the two hours without biting at each other. She listened for the sound of his feet crunching in the snow and after quite a delay she finally heard it and carried on with her journey.
The first house they came to belonged to Mrs Anderson. She had been widowed a few years earlier and had no children to keep her company even at this time of year. Pinako usually baked her a pie of some sort so that she didn't have to cook Christmas Day. Ed knocked on the door and they waited for a long while before it was answered.
'Oh my dears,' she sighed when she saw them, 'don't tell me you've come out tonight just for me.'
'Well actually…' Ed started but he stopped when Winry sharply slapped him in the arm.
'It's no trouble Mrs Anderson. I think Grandma has made you a cherry pie this time.'
'Thank-you Winry dear, I'll warm that up right away. I don't have a man to keep me toasty this winter,' she informed them winking.
Winry laughed nervously and hoped Ed would keep his mouth shut about this misunderstanding too. Mrs Anderson plagued Winry no end about not having a husband at this point in her life. If she believed Winry was with Ed she might finally be free of repetitive, if not truly concerned, meddling. When that door shut Ed finally let out a laugh. Oh, it was music to her frost bitten ears.
'She's been trying to set us up for years,' he pointed out, 'either she's grown senile or she was heavily hinting.'
'What do you mean?'
'Do we really look like a couple working round?' he asked.
It wasn't unknown for her and Ed to be walking around together and they certainly weren't showing any physical closeness. Still his words seemed harsh and unnecessary and it put her in a less than pleased mood for the rest of their quest. The further they went the more they picked at each other over the smallest thing. He would carry the bag wrong or she would sound patronising or they made it obvious they were trying to do everything quicker to get away from engaging in conversation. The last gift was almost thrown at its recipient before they both stormed toward the Rockbell household. It seemed they were incapable of spending any time together just at the point in her life Winry wanted to give him all of her time.
The house was quiet when they returned and the only lights left were a few candles burning here and their.
'What are you so stressed about?' he demanded in a harsh whisper.
'Me? You are the one who started it,' she snapped back also as quietly as she could.
'How did I start it?'
'I can't remember but I know you did.'
'In other words you are waiting to find a reason to yell at me. Why don't you just join the military?'
He regretted saying it the moment the words spilled clumsily out of his mouth. It was the military that had torn her parents away from her in the first place. She reached around behind her and grabbed a decoration off the tree and hurled it at him. He dodged it but she just kept throwing item after item until he felt it would be easier just to let her hit him so she would calm down. This occurred to him a moment to late as the final object she threw landed with an almighty smash against the wall.
It took a moment or two to sink in just what she had done. There was only one item on the tree that could make that sound. On her first Christmas her parents had got a bauble engraved with her name and the year that they celebrated Christmas as a complete family. It was one of Winry's most treasured items and in a moment of blind rage she had reduced it to several shards to broken glass.
When the lights finally came on and Pinako came to see what the commotion was Winry was kneeling on the floor with pieces of her memories shattered in her hands. One shard has cut her finger deeply but she didn't seem to notice.
'Don't worry Winry,' Edward sighed, lost as to what to do, 'just give me all the pieces and I can alchemise it back together.'
She dropped the piece and rose to her feet, 'Not everything can be fixed with alchemy Edward,' she choked before dashing from the room and weeping pathetically into her pillow for her broken treasure and broken heart.
Although Christmas hadn't been very loud in the Rockbell household for a few years it was especially quiet that year. Winry had refused any gifts and only emerged when the food was served. She saw Ed's present from her sat alone under the tree but she couldn't face giving it to him now. She knew she had spoken out of spite last night and in her heart she no longer blamed him for the destruction of her glass ornament. She had to accept that as much as she could try to blame him for winding her up so thoroughly she had thrown it and she had broken it. It was probably this realisation that had made her feel like hiding in a dark hole and not emerging until Ed and Al had left.
Though she had criticized Ed for doing it she once again hid in her room once she had eaten her fill of turkey and mince pies. On her bed lay a roughly wrapped gift and she could see from the tag it was from Edward. She didn't know when he had snuck it into her room for all her other gifts lay in a pile downstairs waiting to be opened. It was a bulky package and she caved in to curiosity and gave it a squeeze, it felt soft and thick and she ripped apart the wrapping in one fell swoop. Inside was a red and green jumper made of the softest wool she had ever felt. She sniffed back a tear and she took off her reliable but well loved lilac sweater and covered herself in his gift. It was slightly on the larger size but she liked them that way as she snuggled her way deeper in to the material. There was a soft knock at the door and, knowing it was Al, she called for him to enter.
'Aww you opened brothers gift, can't you open mine as well?' he whined with a square package in his hand. She laughed and savoured his kind heart, taking the gift from his hand and opening the lid. Inside was a precision tool, perfect for engraving small details into metal.
'I know it's a bit late…' he apologised, 'Granny said brothers gift might have been easier to finish with this.'
'You know about it?'
'Oh yes, a little elf told me. He still hasn't opened it…but I know he'll love it Winry…he just may forget to say so.'
She sheepishly knocked on Ed's door and walked in. This time all the lights were on and the glare was a bit of a shock to her eyes. She blinked a couple of times but didn't miss Ed throwing a blanket over something on the floor before standing up and facing her.
'About Rose…' he started.
'I don't want to…'
'Winry,' he snapped, silencing her, 'listen to me. Look it may have come out wrong. Rose was worshipped in a whole different way to me; there was religion fuelling that praise. She would…she would know what it was like, she'd know a lot about how I feel…but…well…makes it all a bit boring. No need to chat means no need to fight.'
'That isn't better?'
'You think I'd get along with Mustang so well if we were the best of pals?'
The term "hell no" came to mind but she realised he didn't require an answer. She held out the package in her hand toward him and he took it carefully from her grip. Lifting the lid he paused for a while, taking a good look at his charm but not lifting it out of the box. He looked up at her suddenly and made a move as if he was going to wrap his arms around her. Her heart skipped a beat as he approached, only to be unceremoniously escorted out the door and have it shut behind her. She stood on the landing gaping for a second or two before sucking in all her anger in one deep breath and calmly walking back downstairs.