A/N: I like to write a lot of different pairings, depending on my mood and the type of fic I want to write. Therefore, please don't comment criticizing the pairings, but rather the work as a whole.

Life and Expectations by ACM a.k.a. Annie May

If there was anything they had learned, it was that life never matches your expectations.

Al thought this as he stirred the pot of soup he was preparing for his brother's lunch. He had learned to cook early in their adventure, realizing that Ed was never going to learn. He chuckled a little at this thought, but then his expression saddened as he thought of their previous life, returning to their hometown, where Pinako and Winry would prepare wonderful meals to satiate his brother's enormous appetite. When they were little, they had argued over who would marry Winry. Al had always thought it would be Ed and probably, Ed had always thought it would be Al, although they both claimed the opposite. And here they were in this new world, separated from Winry and Pinako and all of their friends and those that had become their family. Al, like Ed, believed they would remain in this world for the rest of their days. But then again, Al never knew what to expect when Ed was involved.

On the other side of the gate, Winry lay in bed, taking a rare break from her mechanical pursuits in favor of a nap. Or, what would have been a nap, had Winry been able to relax her mind long enough to take one. Her mind was always troubled with the whereabouts and wellbeing of the Elric brothers. It had been years since they left, and she had long since given up hope of a romance with either of them, but she never stopped thinking about them, wondering if they were alright. As a little girl, Winry had believed that marrying one of the boys next door was her destiny. Even when they traveled far from home and rarely visited, she kept expecting them to return permanently one day. 'I was naïve,' she thought to herself. That was difficult for her to accept. She had always considered herself a strong woman, wise in the ways of the world, but now and then when a tear crept down her cheek, she had to admit that she was a simple country girl at heart and always would be. Presently she felt the weight of another person on the bed, and a graceful arm encircled her waist. She shut her eyes and leaned back, murmuring, "Good night, love."

Things hadn't gone exactly the way Sheska had expected either. She had thought she would have the unobtrusively mundane life of a librarian, loving only her books and keeping mostly to herself. The idea of romance had never really dawned on her and she had felt quite content. This mild happiness was disrupted when she was fired from her job, when the library burned down, and more so when she was hired to a new position by Lieutenant Colonel Hughes. Little did she know at the time how much the new job would change her. She had become more sociable, had begun to explore the world outside of her books, but above all, she had fallen in love. Unexpectedly, she had fallen in love with her superior officer, and his death was devastating to her. To alleviate her guilt, she had begun spending time with Gracia and Elysia. She was still ashamed that she had ever been jealous of Gracia, that she had ever wanted her to be parted with Hughes, and so she wanted to do whatever she could for the little family. But these visits could not help her to find closure in her grief, and so she set out to solve the mystery of Hughes' death. And there, while expecting to find peace of mind, she found Winry. Winry was the one constant through all the years of pain and confusion and fear. What began as a friendship was transformed by circumstance into much more. And though it was hard to see Winry hurt by Ed's final departure, she felt very lucky to have Winry all to herself. She would never live in her books again. Now she was living her own story. 'This is anything but what I expected,' thought Sheska, draping her arm over her lover, her head still turned toward the book in her other hand, 'but I wouldn't change it for the world.'

Probably the one least surprised by the way things turned out was Ed. Ever the pessimist, even as a young man he had never believed he would end up with Winry, although that is what he would have liked. Their friendship held an element of attraction, expressed in their constant fighting, but now when he thought back on it, perhaps that wasn't the same as romantic love. In this world, it didn't matter. Ed was grateful for his life, and for his brother's. Now warm and pleasantly full, he lay on the couch, gazing at Al with wonder as he cleared the dishes away. Suddenly, he reached out and grabbed Al's hand, causing him to drop the spoon he was holding.

"Sometimes I have to touch you to make sure you're really here," he said softly. Al smiled and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. Forgetting all about he dishes, Al sat down next to him on the couch and wrapped his arms around him. As he gazed into Ed's eyes, the look on Al's face subtly changed from sweet to wicked, and he began kissing Ed more passionately, trailing kisses down his neck as he tugged on Ed's collar.

Ed closed his eyes and let himself melt. He hadn't planned for them to end up like this, but when he contemplated it, it made sense. The years had proved one simple fact: Ed would never love anyone as much as he loved Al.

'I didn't think we'd ever be together again,' he whispered inaudibly, as Al began to undress, 'This is beyond my expectations.'