Part 2 of my Ed/Win Christmas story, and thus the final part, takes places on New Years Eve. Romantic, sad, and a warning for one mild sexual reference. This probably needs editing, but I've been writing for four hours, I need to sleep.
The twitch in her eye did not cease for hours as she sat beneath his room, listening with intent to any sign of movement from the offending male. She tugged as the sleeves on her jumper so ferociously she very nearly began to undo the knitting pattern. Winry wasn't exactly sure of what she was anxious of, though she felt nervous in a way that was alien to her. She had felt an anger bubbling in her since Edward had arrived and it felt as though this strange fear had completely replaced that. She didn't wish to challenge him or his isolation anymore. Instead, she wanted to watch him, to fulfil her curiosity about his sudden actions that were out of character. When granny had taken him some food she had heard him check it wasn't Winry before opening the door. Somehow she knew, or at least she dearly wished, it wasn't his desire to keep her away, but rather a desire to keep something away from her.
This was how the next couple of days passed by, with Ed showing himself now and then by disappearing into town alone, smiling at her if she caught eyes with him. It seemed that Alphonse had been informed of his brother's intentions but sworn to secrecy along with it. Though Winry begged, moped, threatened him with torture Al stayed true to his word and did not rat on his brother.
She could have snuck in to his room while he was out had he not skilfully locked it with alchemy with each leave. The noises had grown increasingly unrecognisable even in a house that was usually so full of strange and loud sounds. Most recently she had heard the sound of bubbling like boiling water and the chink of metal on glass.
'What do you think it is Granny?' Winry had asked after an hour of silent pondering.
'I couldn't tell you Winry dear, but he'll have to emerge by the end of the day tomorrow. He's knows as well as anyone we're to spend New Years Eve at the Wilkins bar. I won't have any excuses from either of you, even if Mrs Anderson actually turns up this year.'
'There is nothing you can say to get out of it Winry. The village likes to thank us for our work and catch the brothers whenever they can.'
Winry sighed and knew damn fine her grandmother meant every word of it. For many years the town had held a get together and had always demanded that the Rockbells and the Elrics show up. It had actually been a long tradition for Winry's parents had always been invited and Trisha came as part of them. That tradition had broken with the death of Winry's parents and Trisha but the village had finally deemed it a long enough period of time since those sad events to finally bring back the tradition. Anyone who provided the villagers with a much needed service was thanked at the New Years Eve party as the superstitious believe thanking them at the start of a new year would mean they would be there for the rest of the year.
'Remember what happened last year?' Pinako questioned her granddaughter, 'you and Edward had that huge argument in the street and made everybody around you feel so uncomfortable. You never even told me what you fought about though if I recall correctly most of the fight was spent blaming each other for starting it.'
Winry bit her bottom lip, 'I couldn't remember why we fought, or at least why we started. Of course you're right about how it ended as every time we fight it ends that way. I think I had made some comment about him storming round the party like a trapped animal trying to find an escape route…'
'Just as you were,' her grandmother interrupted.
'I didn't make it obvious,' Winry retorted, 'Al seemed happy to lap up all the attention but they way they dote on him is innocent. When they fawn Edward its like they are only doing it to get within his favour. I can't stand watching it as it makes me so…so…'
Winry gawped like a fish at the sudden accusation but she could not bring herself to deny it. In fact whenever Edward did return to them he would hide away in his room until he was forced to spend time with everyone. That translated in basic as Winry probably spent the least amount of time with him when she felt she deserved the most. Could that have been what made her so angry whenever he came home? Did she just expect to be put at the back of the line when she wanted to push to the front?
'I've been so selfish,' she muttered mostly to herself, 'like a child with a favoured toy.'
Her grandmother sighed heavily and rubbed her weary eyes. She had slept very little for the past few nights, knowing of the torment her granddaughter was putting herself through. The young were foolish when it came to love and Winry had hardly loved the easiest of people.
'It's a selfishness I believe anyone can forgive. When Al was born poor little Edward felt ignored and unloved. Whether he ever realised it or not, it was nothing to do with a desire for attention from his parents. No, Al was his little brother and so rights to play with him should have belonged to Ed alone. Even so young you realised you would always be second in Ed's eyes to Al. Being an only child how could you know any better?'
Winry chewed on this new idea in silence for a long, long time. This ownership of Ed had consumed her before and no matter how much she fought for it; she could never truly obtain it. She was sure her temper wasn't wholly to blame on her constant bickering with Edward and now here seemed to be the other option. The crystal in the window, the dress in the magazine, the most expensive wrench she had ever laid eyes on were out of her reach, and so had Ed always been. In a hot tear or two this realisation had washed over her completely. Nearly twenty of needless frustration would have to be overcome before she could forgive herself. Mixed in to this self pity however was a calm she had so often longed for. Her feelings for Edward had pulled her this way and that for so many years she had never truly been at peace. She could not let that go on any longer and she vowed to finally release him from her beaten heart. Not once that New Years Eve would she allow herself to become jealous, no matter how affectionate any of the girls became, no matter how much he longed to escape. It was time to end it all.
'Al would you go and fetch Edward?'
Alphonse nodded at Winry but something had changed in her. Any other time she would have charged up the stairs and hammered on his door, yelling she'd drag him out by the short and curly's if he didn't make an appearance that second. Since yesterday evening however she had moved from her vigil under his brother's room and carried on as if Edward wasn't there at all. This new Winry hasn't once looked as if she was close to losing her temper and had welcomed that evening's festivity rather than dread them like she had for so many years. He would have liked to believe this was just a temporary Winry and the old one would reappear once wound up enough. But to not bat an eyelid at Ed's late showing was too unlike her to expect she would ever come back.
When his brother finally opened his door, dressed and ready to go, Al stopped him in his tracks.
'What have you done to Winry?' Al snapped in a hushed voice.
'Nothing! That I know of anyway, suppose she's annoyed I'm late?'
'She's not angry at all brother, not about anything. When Granny told Winry she'd have to wait for you if you were late she just smiled and agreed.'
Al was right, something was certainly wrong if she was passing up the chance to yell at him. He looked back into his room and his creation, which was sat carefully on the bed. He debated for a second to two whether he should take it to her now. But no, now wasn't the right time, he'd have to wait till she was in a blind rage with him. Only that would be the perfect time.
She stood waiting for them both by the front door wrapped up tight against that bitter December evening. When she saw him he expected it would be enough to flare her temper but she smiled at him and opened the door for them.
'Granny went ahead to excuse our lateness. Though you know how relaxed everyone is around here. We'll probably still be the first there even now,' she smiled, holding out her hand to Al. He took it with a look at his brother that quite blatantly screamed, "I told you so". But Ed was still sure this was only some kind of cover up or prank and that she would unleash hell upon them when she decided it appropriate. There was that slight sparkle in her eye that betrayed whatever she showed on the outside to show she was the same on the inside.
As they walked along the road in the snow Winry was almost bouncing alone, urging them to go quicker so they could get there sooner. He could feel his arm subconsciously holding itself out in preparation for her to clamp herself around it. But not once did she look as if she would and neither did she seem as if she even wanted to look at him. Whatever kind of trick she was pulling she was going all out to fool them, right down to the very last detail.
When they actually reached the party she instantly mingled herself within the crowd and showed none of the signs that she usually did when being smothered. Before either of them could blink they too had been pounced upon by the crowd and vanished in to a blur of arms and voices.
Winry had probably drunk more than she should have done but it was keeping her from paying and attention to Edward at all. She had vowed to change her ways but it was proving harder than she had ever imagined. She was probably even coming across and standoffish in her determination to not look at him with the same eyes she had for so many years. It also seemed that the more she was willing to speak to people the less they actually wanted her attention. As such Winry had attached herself to Nelly and the punch bowl to keep herself occupied.
'Who does his hair for him?' Nelly asked.
'He does it himself as far as I know.'
'Never run your fingers through those golden locks yourself?'
'Just the once.'
'Oh yea, and which part of his body was this hair on hey?'
'Winry,' Nelly snapped so loud nearly everyone turned round.
'What,' Winry asked quite innocently.
Nelly leaned in closer to Winry and lowered her voice, 'did you even hear what I said. Don't act innocent either you knew exactly what I meant.'
'Of course I did, it was just too obvious what the answer was.'
Nelly snorted, 'I don't understand you tonight. Had you been sober you would have yelled at me, if you were drunk you would have played along and made a crude joke. I'm coming to the conclusion you just aren't Winry.'
Winry took another gulp of punch and knew she was well on the way to being drunk, 'I just didn't feel the need to do either this time. Sorry to be so boring.'
'I wasn't calling you boring Winry, just changed. Has something happened?'
Winry smiled apologetically, 'No I just felt the need to grow up I think. It has come as a bit of a shock to don't expect too much out of me tonight. You'll see, in a few months time I'll be settled in to my new me.'
'Well so far, I'm not too keen on her.'
Winry felt like she had been shot after Nelly had sighed those words and left her standing alone. But she was certain they would all get used to her after a little while. They couldn't all want the temperamental, selfish but predictable Winry back could they?
'What have you done to her?' Nelly snapped, standing right in front of Edward.
'Why does everyone expect it to be my fault?'
'It usually is Mr Elric. Have you drowned her in your usual misery maybe? Because if you look closely you'll see there is no spark left in that shell standing over by the booze.'
When Edward dared to look it was certain that "shell" was just the right word to use. He had been mistaken earlier in thinking he had seen something of his old Winry left inside that blonde being stood all alone. This was more than just a mood swing or a prank; he could see that now, especially if Nelly believed something to be wrong. Nearly two hours must have passed since they arrived and he hadn't been able to talk to Winry once. He pushed his way through the crowd to be by her side.
'Who made the punch?' he asked, trying anything to strike up conversation.
'The Wilkins I think. They usually make the punch while everyone else brings food.'
He took a swig, 'Wow, do you think they plan to get everyone so drunk they'll think the party was great?'
She shrugged her shoulders, 'I don't really know.'
'Perhaps if we both drunk we could find something to entertain us,' he whispered in a husky voice, looking at her from under his lids, challenging her embarrassment and temper.
'No, I don't like suffering from hangovers.'
Ed slammed his cup down with a scream of frustration and anguish, 'that is it! I have had enough of this blank attitude,' he yelled, grabbing hold of her arm, 'we are sorting this out now before anyone else blames me for making you this way.'
She had no choice but to go with him as he held her arm painfully tightly and dragged her from the party and toward the road that would lead them home. Without her coat she should have been frightfully cold but the adrenalin rush of being marched around flushed her red. When her sense finally kicked in she wrenched her arm from his grip and demanded to know what he was doing.
'What am I doing?' he asked, 'oh no this has nothing to do with me. You on the other hand have lost your marbles.'
'I don't understand what you mean.'
'That, exactly that! What has happened to you? Did someone steal your personality last night and replace it with this robot I see before me?'
'I…I don't…I haven't changed,' she argued, her voice beginning to show signs of flare.
This did not go undetected by Edward and he once again grabbed on to her, 'Since this is about as angry as you are going to get tonight you may as well come with me now.'
She struggled against him but he was far too strong for her. Winry didn't think he would take the change in her so damn personally, even if she had changed because of him. It was for the better though and why could none of them see this to be true. By the time they reached the house they had been marching at such a pace she was struggling to breath without gasping for breath. There had been no point in crying out for there was no one to hear to begin with but also, what exactly would she be crying out about?
'Wait there,' he instructed and left her to catch her breath in the warming living room. She did as she was told for at least she was to discover why he had dragged her all the way home. When he thumped his way back down the stairs she was aware he was holding something tightly in his hands. She kept her eyes there expectantly but was completely blown away when he parted his fingers and she could see what was inside.
At first she could see very little, but as she lifted it from his hands it became the most wonderful thing she had ever laid her eyes on. It was crudely put together and the engraving on it was now jagged and inelegant, but there was no doubting it was her bauble, the one she had inadvertently smashed. If he had put it together with alchemy it would have been in perfect condition, but its messy state meant he had put it together in the traditional way.
'The idea was I get you as angry as you could be then I would hand you that. Then forevermore whenever you got really mad you had that to remind you to calm down before you did something stupid,' he sighed, 'as it is I don't think you'll ever be angry again. What's got into you?'
She took a deep breath, 'I have decided to better myself, that's all, why do so many people have a problem with that?'
'Better yourself in what context Winry? Overnight you've gone from the girl I've known for years to a completely dull stranger.'
'All we ever used to do was fight,' Winry snapped, giving in to a perfectly justified temper, 'I could tell you were sick of coming here just to end up in a screaming match with me. That's why you hid away each time you came to visit. I have to change to end it all.'
He stared at her with his golden eyes for a second or two before scowling at the floor and running his hand through his lose hair. He turned away from her and flopped down in to the sofa before covering his eyes with one of his hands and freezing that way. She wasn't sure what to do with herself anymore so she sat down in the chair on the other side of the room and let him alone.
'Al said the other day he can't wait to have a wife and child,' he finally sighed, 'He's barely a teenager and he's thinking about starting his own family already.'
'Did you expect any less from him?' Winry asked, confused as to the timing of this little piece of information.
'No,' he laughed, 'I cant say I did. I've always known really, but when he said it the other day with such…such conviction, it awakened a realisation in me. I…I just can't explain it…look its not you that gets to me…it's me.'
Time seemed to slow down so dramatically the only sound that filtered in to her ear was the sound of her own heavy heartbeat. She was suddenly sat in the middle of a stereotypical scene and all it had taken was a few words. She felt her face flush up again but this time she had caved in to her real temper as she stood to her feet and let it all out.
'Oh no you damn well don't!' she bellowed.
'What?' he asked perplexed.
'You cannot take all the blame for this yourself, especially with no good reason. I said that it was all my fault and you will bloody well accept that it's all my fault and we can finally get along.'
He stood up as well and leant as close to her as he could, 'even if you take all the blame and change yourself you cannot change how I feel so no I will not just accept the difference in you.'
'So how exactly do you feel? What does your brother's desire to have a family one day have to do with you being a miserable piece of work every time you come home?'
'Because I can't feel that way!'
She stopped short, not finding anything to throw back at such an answer. She saw his eyes changed from an angry glare to a pale sadness he rarely let show. He turned away from her to stand by the window and look out upon the falling snow. He leaned his arm against the wall and his head against that and she could see his heavy breath on the glass.
'Al could very well be settled down in five or six years, such is his desire to have a family. No matter how much I travelled I was never alone while I had my brother. I'm not sure I could travel in the same way without him. The only other option is…'
'Settling down,' she finished for him.
'Whenever I come back, here you are. I could settle down…have a family…right here. I have, at least I think I have…you. Whenever I see you I see a family that I could have in an instant, but I can't take it. As much as I might want to have that home, I also want to keep moving, and I couldn't ask a family to travel with me like that.'
She walked toward him and leant her head on his back to hide her silent tears from him. She had tried so hard not to love him for the very reasons he knew she couldn't. He would always be a wanderer, even when that would involve him having nobody there to support him, to love him. To hear those words from him tore her apart inside.
'I have always waited Edward, and I was sure I could finally force myself to stop doing so. But how can I? Even when you wander, for months, years, you have me here. I'm not going to take that away from you.'
'I can't expect you to do that. Don't you want a family?'
She laughed, not out of joy but out of disbelief, 'you are my family, and I choose for it to be that way. How can you stand there and not accept that I will love you if I want to. I don't care if that's not your desire. If it can bring you some…some comfort…and just a moment of peace now and then…I will provide it.'
He turned around to face her and took her tear stained face in his hands, 'you are such a stubborn brat sometimes Winry.'
She smiled weakly, 'alchemy freak, I've got nothing on you.'
He suddenly pressed his lips against hers and she swore she heard fireworks ring in the New Year in her head. She had never been embraced with such strength and ferocity before, and certainly not with such an outpour of emotion. Her heart beat so hard in her chest and the butterflies in her stomach danced so violently she was sure she was collapse in his arms and never wake up. She drew all that emotion in to her memory and knew she would always have in there. The anticipation had made that moment as desirable as it had been. If she could only see him every six months, her heart would only grow and grow as it waited for his return. When she waved goodbye to the Elric brothers that time she knew she had a reason to wait that time, knowing he knew she would always be there. She had screamed at him to not leave it so long next time, and he told her he wouldn't fix that bauble again. Fighting, bickering, snapping at each other over the breakfast table…it kept both of them on their toes and the surrounding audience forever wondering what exactly occurred between Edward and Winry.