Gilded Cage

Author – cornerofmadness

Disclaimer – not ever going to be mine in this space-time continuum. All rights belong to Arakawa et al

Rating – FRT

Pairing – Winry/Greed!Ling (past mentions of Winry/Ed, Ling/Ran Fan)

Time Line/Spoilers – speculative future fic so spoilers for up to chapter 78

Summary – Sometimes Winry is surprised at how much one can have and yet still feel something is missing

Author's Note – Written for the fmafuhq Winry challenge. Hmm I am apparently incapable of writing a pwp for this community. Thanks to SJ Smith for the beta. This is the cut version. The full erotic version can be found on my livejournal cornerofmadness but only if you're one of my friends. It's locked.

Winry curled up on the silk covered window seat, staring out at the sea of pink blossoms. The cherry trees had been in full bloom when Ling had first brought her here. Their soft beauty had been one of the few balms for her injured heart. Now, a year later, she could still admire their beauty. What else was there for her to do? She wasn't allowed off palace grounds. The Emperor's wife wasn't granted much freedom. His people couldn't even understand why she should want to leave the palace but Winry saw it as a cage - a beautiful one with every luxury she could imagine, but a prison nonetheless.

Winry had never imagined her life quite like this. For one, she had never thought Ling had been serious about making her his wife. She had thought that he had only said that to irritate Edward. She let her eyes flutter shut, the warm, cherry blossom-scented wind caressing her through the open window. Ed was the reason she was here. After meeting Hohenheim in Lior, Al, with his father in tow, had contacted Mustang. They still didn't know where Ed was at that point. Hohenheim was certain that they could beat 'Father' but might need one of the homunculi to assist them and Al wanted one of the few people ever to beat a homunculus to help them. Mustang had met them in Central, bearing word that for some reason, Mei had not gone to Xing and Envy had escaped after killing her, taking with it their best hope of getting a cooperative homunculus, until Winry had her brilliant plan.

She thought she could talk Ling into helping, trusting that there might be enough of him left inside of Greed to reason with. With Ran Fan's help, she found Ling but had underestimated just how much Greed possessed him. Winry thought she had secured his help when she reminded him that he wanted to be Emperor and wouldn't it be better to help them beat Father? That way Ling could be free and be in charge, something he currently wasn't. Winry thought that would appeal to him. He would get his kingdom and she would get help in restoring the two lost pieces of her heart.

Ling revealed his hitch just about the time Ed finally rejoined them. Ling would only help if she agreed to be his bride. Hohenheim was fairly certain they couldn't win without Ling's help. Without telling them, Winry placed the brothers above herself but she did rob Ling of the one thing she knew he wanted, her virginity. Ed had a hundred reasons why they shouldn't. She rejected them all. It wasn't how she wanted it to be and more so, she hated that Ed didn't know what motivated it. It might be the only time she could be with someone she loved. They both made love with pain; hers the expected kind, his coming from the angry red scar on his belly and back that Winry couldn't look at for too long because it only served to remind her she had nearly lost Edward again.

Winry had been counting on the protection of her friends to get her out of the situation. It was the sheer horror of that final battle she hadn't anticipated. They got back Al, but not Ed's limbs, not that she expected they would. Ed and Hohenheim had been exhausted to the point of near-coma. Al's body was too emaciated and weak to support him. Even now, Winry wasn't sure he had survived.

The small family had been placed in a ward in the hospital along with Mustang. He was waiting to see if Marcoah's alchemy had successfully reattached the hand he used to create his flames or whether it be a zombie hand, requiring amputation and replacement. Winry remembered that gloved hand whirling through the air like a stick thrown for a dog after Bradley's sword had lopped it off. Roy continuing with his other hand until blood loss claimed him. Scar and Pride had killed each other. After the battle, Riza and Mustang's men had their hands full guarding their wounded.

Ling didn't wait for anyone's recovery. Winry had gone to check on Ran Fan, to make sure she was all right, not realizing just how loyal the warrior was to her prince. When Winry finally shook off the drugs they had used on her, she was far from Amestris. There was nothing left to do but honor her promise and hope for her escape, something that had yet to offer itself. The strange part was sometimes she didn't even want to escape any more. Other than being so far from home, Winry knew her life was soft and good.

Now, she was Ling's second wife. No one was willing to have a blonde, blue-eyed stranger as Ling's first wife, a position Winry had come to realize held much power and honor carrying the title, 'Empress'. That marriage went to a powerful family and an entitled bitch named Bao. The odd thing was that when Ling was Ling, Winry thought he didn't like Bao any more than she did. When he was Greed, he was busy lining up as many concubines and wives as he could muster, ignoring his empress.

Leaving her view of the cherry blossoms, Winry went to one of the few places she was allowed to go without her entourage and guards; While it wasn't her current destination, her shop equaled freedom. She knew it was deemed improper for a royal wife to be working but Ling liked that she had fixed Ran Fan and was willing to help any of his guards. She suspected he just liked seeing her out of the fancy silks her maids dressed her in. The sight of her in her work overalls usually stoked Ling's fire. Sometimes getting work done in a timely manner was difficult. Ling had gone so far as to put a cot in the corner of the shop after once sticking himself in the butt on a piece of sharp metal.

The other place she could go was someplace she wasn't ever quite alone, but that was where she was headed. Winry padded on silk slippers into the royal nursery. She remembered her surprise when Ling said he needed children. After all, she had thought he had wanted his immortality to rule forever. Who needed sons then? Apparently, he did. His people had yet to accept what he had become but his problem was, the homunculus weren't entirely capable of reproduction. Hohenheim wasn't quite the same thing as Ling was now and Ling didn't want to waste years finding out if he might one day be capable. Culture demanded he have children.

Winry shuddered at the memory of the quiet, frightened young man Ling had brought to her and introduced as his brother, Zhou. She had forgotten what Ling had once told her about just how many children the former emperor had. Zhou looked too terrified to tell Ling no and Winry knew she wasn't really being given an option. Ling had decided there would be royal children and he'd be damned if anyone disobeyed. Trapped in a foreign country so far from home, Winry chose a good comfortable life over rebellion. Of course, she was surprised Ling had actually gone through with his plan. He had waffled back and forth between fulfilling his obligations and Greed not wanting anyone to touch his wife. And it hadn't escaped Winry's notice that Bao had been left out of Ling's breeding plans.

Glancing about, Winry didn't see any of the nurses about except one and she was busy with another charge. Winry reached into the cradle and lifted out her four month old son, Jianyu. She wasn't supposed to nurse him, was given herbs to help dry her milk. Wet nurses were on hand so the royal wives didn't end up with misshapen nipples and sagging breasts. Winry didn't care. Having a child hadn't quite been her idea but she loved her son. Winry pushed open her shirt, veiling her actions with long golden hair. Jianyu was nearly as greedy as his supposed father. She stroked his soft black hair as he suckled like he might never taste milk again. Winry glanced back, feeling a hand on her shoulder. The nurse was giving her a pinched look.

"You know we will do that for him. You shouldn't be sullying your hands with work," she scolded gently in broken Amestrian or at least that's what Winry thoguth she said. That was the most isolating part about being in Xing, the language barrier.

"I don't mind. I'm not used to having others do my work," Winry replied honestly. She knew several of her friends would envy her, her cage. It was understandable. She literally had everything she could want except the freedom to leave. She had more beautiful clothes and jewelry than she had known existed, like her favorite jade bracelet carved with dragons. Winry never had to clean or cook. There were even maids to wash and dress her but she avoided them whenever she could. It felt odd having someone attending her every need. "I'm going to take him for a walk when he's done."

The maid sighed but let her be. Ling had made it clear she wasn't to be trifled with. Winry felt the need to stretch her legs. Ling made sure she had the finest foods and all the rich desserts and the sheer amount of food at the banquets had helped her keep on the baby weight. At least she had learned to use the sticks to feed herself without dropping food all over like she had in the beginning. When Jianyu finally decided he had enough and let out a burp loud enough to be heard back in Amestris, Winry wrapped a blanket around him and headed out into the sun.

Jianyu fussed inside his blanket, hating having things covering his face. Winry had been surprised to see just how much personality her son had already. There were things he liked and things he just wouldn't sit still for. Not being able to see was the latter. She took that as a sign of him being curious. What he loved was when either she or Ling came to play with him. There were many things that Ling did that kept her from hating him. From his point of view, he had done nothing wrong in bringing her since she had made the deal, though drugging her and taking her without letting her say goodbye spoke to the fact he knew she didn't really want to go. Still, once here he really did treat her like a queen and only rarely raised his voice to her. To the boy who should have been his son, Ling was nothing but honey and sunshine.

Ling loved holding the child and playing with him. She had seen him in the nursery at night, reading fairytales to Jianyu, or at least assumed they were. Ling spoke in his language to the boy and, for all Winry knew, he was quoting military strategy like Ed always whined that Mustang did. Her heart thudded just a bit harder, thinking of her lost friends. Winry sighed. No, they were children's stories Ling read his son. His face, while he read, was too kind and soft for anything else. The only time Ling really ever got cross with her lately was when she tried to either play with Jianyu when he didn't want her to or not play when he did. That's when she saw the greedy monster lurking within him, the one that couldn't be denied. Winry didn't hate Ling. She cared for him more than she wanted to admit but she hated the homunculus.

Ling was a better father than she had imagined he would be. As much as he was still capable of loving, Winry didn't doubt he loved his child. Jianyu started sniffling against her, prelude to earsplitting shrieks, she knew, unless she found him something to investigate. Winry turned him in her arms under the cherry trees then reached up and stroked the blossoms. "See, Jianyu? Aren't they pretty?"

He reached up with a chubby fist and grabbed a handful of flowers while she held the branch steady for him. Winry kept a close eye on her son before the blossoms disappeared into his mouth, Jianyu's favorite testing ground for all things new to him. Jianyu gurgled happily, tearing the blossoms free. He let them fall like confetti, laughing. He had no idea they were prisoners here and Winry envied him. She couldn't see her keepers. It wasn't as if a guard watched her every move but there were guards on the walls and many other places. More than once she had caught Ran Fan watching from some shadow.


Her name was spoken as soft as the cherry blossoms but it startled her none the less. She had thought she was alone. Ling moved toward her, a gentle smile on his face. When he looked at her with such kindness, it was easy to forget the reality of her situation. "Ling. I wasn't expecting to see you here."

His face twisted up and he looked every bit as young as he truly was. "Court was boring me." Shifting a pack on his back, Ling held out his hands and Winry deposited Jianyu in them, the baby's arms windmilling excitedly as he reached for his father. "How is our boy?"

"Curious as ever," Winry replied as one of Ling's pendants centerpiece disappeared into Jianyu's mouth.

Ling chuckled as he eased the jewelry back out of the boy's lips. "So I see." He glanced over his shoulder and snapped his fingers. A servant Winry hadn't noticed came around a curve in the garden path. "Take him back please," he told the older woman who bowed and obeyed without a word.

"I was going to show him more flowers," Winry protested gently. "Spring is so beautiful here."

Ling took an expansive breath in "So it is but you can show him later." Ling caressed her chin tenderly. "It's been a while since we've kept company."

Winry couldn't help the excited shiver waterfalling down her body, pooling in her lower regions. Greed had a good way of insuring he would get all the sex he wanted. He was so damn incredible at it. At first, Winry had felt embarrassed by her need for him, like a traitor to her heart. After months had gone by, those feelings faded. She was a royal wife now and there was no sense in not enjoying her husband's strong, lean body. She had been surprised when Greed had left her be for four months after giving birth.

Winry remembered a childhood friend who had the misfortune of getting pregnant too young, marrying the young farmer in question. She had barely kept her shudders to herself when Becky had related tales of Allen refusing to wait and how much it had hurt. Greed had at least given her the time to heal, though Winry knew he had plenty of other concubines and wives to keep him busy.

Better were the memories of sex as her belly grew bigger and all the nerves of her body felt like they had been on fire. The sex they had when she had been pregnant had been the best she had experienced. Winry had sought him out almost as much as Ling had come for her. He gathered her to his chest, nuzzle her neck. He smelled of oranges and spices and she wondered what his maids were floating on his bath waters. It was one of the reasons she tried to avoid them. Winry wasn't used to her bath being flower soup. "Where do you want to go?"

Ling slid his arm around her. "For a walk." He led her deeper into the garden to a thick copse of cherry trees. The ground was soft and pink with blossom. Ling set his bag down and opened it. When he pulled out a blanket, Winry knew why he was even carrying the bag in the first place. He had come prepared. Winry helped him unfurl it over the cushion of petals.

Ling ran his hands through her long golden hair. She knew how much he loved it, even if his somewhat xenophobic people did not. Drawing her in for a kiss, Ling slowly sank to the blanket with her. Strong fingers kneaded her shoulders as his hungry mouth, hinting at his namesake, all but devoured her. As Ling's demanding mouth moved to her neck, Winry's head dropped back, letting his suck at her pulse point. Maybe she, herself, had waited too long to feel this again, judging by how quickly wet heat flared inside her, delicious tingling pulsating deep within her.

When she first came to Xing, Winry feared Greed would be rough with her, and occasionally he was acrobatic but mostly, like now, he handled her gently. Ling untied the intricate ties and folds to her silk garment and let it slide off her shoulders.


Ling rolled off her onto the blanket. When he was breathing more normally, Ling caressed her side. "Do you hate me, Winry?"

Surprised by that question at this time, Winry rolled onto her side, wrapping a still quivering, nearly limp leg over his hip. "I don't hate you, Ling."

His purplish-black eyes shone. "There is a 'but' in there." For just a moment his expression hardened and the homunculus peeked out at Winry. "I don't like losing my people."

Winry knew this was one of those times she had to tread carefully with him. "I'm not going anywhere, Ling. I'm your wife and I care about you." No lies there, Winry thought, a bittersweet notion tugging at her. She did care about him. "But I can't help miss my home and my friends. Didn't you miss the royal city when you were in Amestris?"

Clouds of gloom gathered in his face, an impending storm building. "Sometimes I think I shouldn't have made you keep your bargain but I can't help being a greedy thing."

Winry tried to smile but feared it had turned into a grimace at the reminder of what he was. "I know that, Ling."

"It isn't a good trait for a leader," he went on almost mournfully and Winry felt the pull on her heart. She suspected only she and Ran Fan ever heard his fears and worries. They were something Ling couldn't show the world.

"Better than sloth or wrath," she replied, thinking Lust might have been the better choice or pride. A greedy ruler was a dangerous one.

"That is why I rely on you and Ran Fan to help keep me in check."

Winry couldn't help but wonder what he thought they could do if Greed really wanted something. Maybe there was enough of Ling left to keep the monster caged with help. "I'll try."

Ling's finger trailed over her cheekbone, flicking a petal away before he kissed her. "I'm sorry that I've made you so sad."

She nestled her cheek against his shoulder. "I don't mean to be sad. I just miss Granny and my friends."

"You miss him," Ling growled, reminding Winry jealousy went hand in hand with greed.

"I do miss Edward. I won't lie to you, Ling. I grew up with him and Alphonse. And I won't forget what you did to save them." She watched the jealousy bleed away.

"I liked them, too," Ling said, running a hand over her hair. She wasn't entirely sure of that. "I don't want you to be unhappy, Winry."

"Mostly I'm not. I have my workshop. I want for nothing." Except to go home. "And now I have a beautiful son."

His arms tightened around her. "I wish he were really mine." Those words were so faint Winry barely heard them.

There was nothing to be said to that because it would only break her heart more. She simply kissed him instead. Slowly, inexorably, Ling turned it from gentle comfort to demanding, letting Winry know Greed wasn't done for the day. She had no complaints about that.


Winry glanced up from her sketches, trying to gather her thoughts. She knew Ran Fan would love this new arm once she got it done, she just needed to give her brain a rest. Her gaze settled on the koi pond surrounded by willows Zhou had painted. Winry knew Ling had chosen that particular brother to be his surrogate simply because Zhou had no interest at all in ruling. He was a poet and water colorist. Winry loved his paintings and had hung several in her chambers.

Hearing a noise behind her, Winry cast an irritable glance over her shoulder, trying to see what maid was doing whatever chore now. It was so hard to get any peace some days. To her surprise two garden workers, with their large, floppy bamboo hats pulled down so low she could barely see their faces, stood there with a man who looked maddeningly familiar but somehow not right. The two in the farmer's hats were bowed slightly under the weight of the packs on their backs. Her eyes traveled up the silk-clad man's brilliant tunic to the black and chrysanthemum hat on his head. It was his long queue that had thrown her.

Her mouth fell open, blood thundering in her ear, but she snapped it closed when the man raised a finger to his smiling lips. "Is there something wrong in the garden?" she asked just in case one of her maids had seen them come in. She crossed the room, trying not to run, hoping her eyes weren't playing tricks. No, there on his hand was the array scar. Winry stumbled and he caught her. "Mr. Mustang?"

"No, no Mr. Wu," he corrected her with a smile. "And my two servants."

One of them lifted his head so his snarl could be seen under the shadow of the hat. Even with his hair dyed black, there was no hiding Ed's fierce look. She wanted to run to him but Mustang's hand restrained her. She had no idea what he had said to the boys but they kept quiet even though she could see in their eyes that they were fighting not to sweep her into their arms. Al looked so hale Winry could scarcely believe it.

"Be very quiet now," Mustang hissed. "We're going to get you out of here."

"Ling will be in the audience room at this time," she whispered back, holding out a hand to Ed and Al. Their fingers only brushed briefly before she stepped away from all of them. "Men in my chambers won't go unnoticed for long."

"There's going to be a fire," Mustang replied, glancing at the fireplace in her chamber. "Too warm today. Damn. We tried to get here when it was still cold."

"Do you have a workplace, Winry?" Ed asked quietly.

She nodded. "Follow me," she said, thinking she knew what Mustang had in mind. "There's something I have to get first."

"You can't, Winry. If something is missing, they'll suspect you didn't die in the fire," Ed argued, his face tight.

"I have no choice." Winry swept past them into the hall. Glancing about, assuring herself no one was about, she had to fight to not run down the hallway, her would-be rescuers in tow. Part of her felt horribly guilty for what she was about to do. She knew it would cut deep into the parts of Ling that were still human. It was unfair but he hadn't exactly played fair, either. Winry walked into the nursery. She found one of the maids tying a pointed, disc-like, crimson silk hat on Jianyu. They must have been ready to take him outside for a walk. "I'll take him," she announced, seeing the girl's gaze going over her shoulder. Damn, they had followed her into the room. "They're just delivering something to my workshop and got turned around. I'll show them the way. I have some things I need to work on for Ran Fan. I want my son to see how automail is made." Winry winced at the lameness of that statement. Of course, there was every chance the maid didn't understand a word of it but was letting Winry had her way since Ling had instructed them to do that. Winry scooped up Jianyu before the maid could protest and swept past Ed, Al and Mustang, trying not to notice the huge eyes staring at her.

Winry set the pace toward her workshop. Her companions would almost have to run to catch up but they didn't. Of course. Mustang must realize that servants wouldn't generally be running about freely. She pointed to the door to the workshop. "Lock it." She spun around, hefting Jianyu against her hip, staring at the men.

"Winry?" Ed's mouth worked but she could see the words logjamming against his teeth.

"I can't leave my son behind," she said firmly. She hated this was how they had to find out about Jianyu.


"There's no time to worry about it now," Mustang broke in, putting a hand on Ed's shoulder. "Get the stuff out of the sacks. You can talk about this later. Winry, I'll need a saw."

Confused, Winry handed him one from her bench. She watched them put down their sacks. Al took a smaller sack out of his, glancing at his brother as if expecting an explosion. He dumped out the remaining item, something wrapped in butcher paper. Al tore it away fiercely, revealing a boar's head. Winry grimaced at the butcher paper mounds coming out Ed's sack, the rest of the pig presumably.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

Mustang stood on the snout and started sawing the skull into two. "Just watch."

Al held out his hands to Winry. "I'll hold him. You need to put on the clothes we brought you." He nodded to the sack he had taken out first.

Winry surrendered her son and stripped off her silk dress unashamedly. She redressed in the cotton worker's clothing they had brought with them. Folded up was one of the straw hats like the brothers wore. Ignoring Ed's obvious embarrassment, she watched in amazement as Mustang drew something on the bisected skull and his alchemy reshaped it into two vaguely human looking skulls, one large and one infant sized. He drew the symbol on the porcine parts Ed had unwrapped and she was looking at her surrogate and a smaller one for her son. She dressed the pig-woman in her clothing herself. Winry plucked the silk hat off Jianyu and tied it without a word to the pig-baby.

"Looks good," Mustang huffed. "Back door?" he added hopefully.

Winry pointed it out, the jade dragon bracelet spinning lazily around her wrist. Mustang plucked it off.

"Sorry, but this has to stay." He slipped it on his bastardized creation.

"Winry, earrings." Ed held out his metal hand for them.

"I only have the one pair now," she said, taking off the long dangling jade creations and let him shove them into porcine ears. Winry took her son back from Al. Al took a small pouch out of his pocket and shook out something that looked like powdered jet then clapped his hands touching her hair. Winry watched the long strands go from gold to black, effectively disguising her. "And now I die?"

"Indeed you do," Mustang said, edging her towards the door once Al and Ed donned their sacks once more so not to rouse suspicions. He tugged on a glove. "Alphonse, Edward, if you will."

They clapped and the acetylene tanks she used to shape automail ruptured. Mustang snapped and her stand-in was enveloped in flame. Winry darted out the door, Jianyu's howls in her ears. Hating herself for it, Winry ran out into the garden, pinching his nose shut. He would have to quit crying to breathe. Mustang's hand closed over her shoulder.

"Don't run," he cautioned. "Just keep your head down and let me do any of the talking should it become necessary."

Winry nodded, letting Jianyu's nose go. He whimpered but the howls that would alert half of Xing to his presence had died. Silently they followed Mustang to the garden wall. He stopped and said, "I think there's a loose stone."

Winry was about to say she saw no such thing when the wall suddenly seemed to melt and a huge hand poke through. Mustang walked through the opening and the brothers herded her through. Winry tried not to cry seeing Armstrong standing there, a bamboo hat on his bald head doing nothing to disguise him. Armstrong's eyebrows rose at the sight of her and the baby. Just beyond him was a donkey cart. They bundled Winry into it wordlessly, having her lie down with Jianyu so they could be covered by a tarp, and she all but held her breath as it bounced down the incline toward town.

Seamlessly, they abandoned the cart for what looked like a bread truck, climbing into the back of it. "Drive, Maria," Mustang said, poking his head into the cabin. "We got her, Hawkeye." Winry flopped down gratefully against the truck wall, adrenaline leaving her shaking.

Bouncing Jianyu in her arms, Winry barely recognized Riza as she turned in the bucket chair to peer into the back of the truck. Like Ed and Al, Riza's hair had been alchemized black but her brown eyes looked more convincing than the four gold coins that were still staring at her. Winry could feel it. She could also feel the tension draining away as Maria started the truck as a fast clip.

"It's good to see you, Winry," Riza said, her eyes widening at the sight of Jianyu but she didn't miss a beat. "You have a beautiful baby." Even as Winry was thanking her, Riza got Mustang's attention. "We have horses waiting for the desert crossing. But from here, it'll take most of the day to get to that point."

"We'll go as far as we can safely even if it's dark. I don't want to dally. If the Emperor doesn't believe that burnt corpse is Winry and….his son." Roy glanced back at Winry and the baby in her arms. "He might come looking and the last thing we need is a war with Xing if Ling finds out."

"I can't believe you came for me," Winry whispered.

"Of course, we came," Ed said, tearing off his hat and tossing it next to Armstrong who was pressed up near the back of the truck bed. "I hate that it took this long." Winry didn't miss how his eyes cut to her son as he said that.

Al's expression fell at that. "I'm sorry, Winry. That was mostly my fault. It took months for me to really get up and walking. I kept getting pneumonia and my stomach didn't want to get used to food again."

"Al, I don't care. I'm just glad you're okay. I wasn't sure if you even survived. Mr. Mustang, you got to keep your hand," Winry said, brushing at the tears on her face.

Roy flexed his fingers. "Stiff but there. It's getting better."

"And Al, it wasn't all your fault," Ed said, his feet twitching like he wanted to be up on them, pacing. Winry also caught a hint that Ed did think they could have gotten there sooner if Al had only gotten better faster. She didn't envy Ed his torn loyalties.

"We needed to convince Armstrong that we could do this without creating an incidence and Edward wasn't sure he could get you away without causing one since we all know he's very good at putting a stick in a beehive and stirring," Roy said wryly and Ed's hand came up with a reflex obscene gesture.

Winry glanced at Armstrong, wondering what he had to do with anything then it dawned on her. "Oh…your sister." She tried not to shudder. That woman had terrified her.

"She's president now," Armstrong confirmed. "And Hohenheim is working as one of her advisors, for the time being. She is not thrilled to work with an unknown, wanting to use alchemists she knows, me, Mustang, the brothers, but Olivia is not one to toss aside a useful tool. She knows we wanted to leave the country to help you but we will be back to help her reform our homeland."

Before Winry could say anything to that, Jianyu sniffled then let out an ear-splitting shriek that bouncing around the big space of the truck and started tugging on her blouse. She patted his back. "Shhh, are you hungry? Please be hungry. I didn't get a chance to get you any diapers." Winry didn't miss the 'ewwwww' expressions on all the male faces.

"We can donate some shirts to the cause, Winry," Riza said reasonably. "The poor little guy can't go all the way back to Amestris in a dirty diaper."

"What's his name, Winry," Ed edged closer to her, almost shyly. "He can't…is he actually Ling's?"

"His name is Yao Jianyu Urey," she said, opening her shirt. Jianyu latched on with his usual greediness. "And as greedy as he is, sometimes I think he is Ling's, but no, he's one of Ling's brother's. I'm not sure why Ling discounted the traditions of his people so much. They wanted him married and with children."

"He discounted Xing traditions when he formulated his plan for saving his country. Teenaged boys aren't known for their brightness, Winry," Roy said wryly. "Just their convictions that their beliefs are absolutely right and the adults around them know nothing."

She didn't miss the glare Ed sent the older man's way. Well, at least it gave him somewhere else to pay attention to because she was afraid Ed and Al's heads would catch fire, they were so red. "They wouldn't let me be Ling's first wife so technically I'm not the Empress but he would come for me. Ling was just saying yesterday that he didn't like losing his people. He was sad that I wasn't completely happy."

"How could you be?" Ed growled. "There with that…" He floundered and Winry wondered if Ed was actually editing his potty mouth in front of the baby.

"I made the bargain to go with him, Ed," Winry said, deciding to not bring up that Ling hadn't given her a chance to back out. That wouldn't help matters right now. "And Ling was very good to me. He allowed me to work when no one wanted me to. He gave me everything I could have wanted. He never hurt me."

"Winry, you ….did want to come with us, didn't you?" Al asked tentatively, as if wondering maybe she liked being royalty.

Winry smiled at him, shifting Jianyu a bit in her arms. He was getting to be heavy. "I want to go home, Al. I'm just not a princess. I didn't like having maids and I didn't like not being able to leave the palace grounds."

"So, he was keeping your prisoner," Ed said, sounding very satisfied and justified in his rage against Ling.

"Not as such," Mustang interrupted. "That is how it is for the royal wives and daughters. They are never allowed away from their homes, not unescorted. Not all the wives are kept in the Royal City but they are kept in their clan's home. That's how I knew how to get into the palace unseen."

"I was wondering about that. How did you even know where I was?" Winry asked, as Jianyu let go, a very satisfied look on his face. Lamenting the fact she had no burp rag, Winry turned him against her shoulder, patting his back.

"Ling left us a note," Ed growled. "But I couldn't read it. Who knew the bastard could read the language?" He jerked a thumb at Mustang. So much for editing his mouth.

"I would have thought my background somewhat obvious," Mustang replied, rolling his eyes. "Ling said you had agreed to be his wife and you had gone back to Xing. The brothers weren't convinced it was your idea."

"It was," Winry said softly, concentrating on her son and not the brothers with their horrified looks.

"What I never told Ling, because frankly I figured he'd try to kill me as a rival, is my grandmother was his father's full-blooded sister. I'm Yao clan for what that's worth." Roy leaned over and stroked the baby's hair. "Little cousin. My grandmother had no desire to wait around in that palace to be married off to the first important clansman her brother, the Emperor, wanted to make happy. And she had fallen in love with a court artist. Leave it to Grandmother to find a hidden tunnel, presumably an escape for the Emperor, and run off. I knew how to get in but it would have been difficult to take you back down that way, hence having Armstrong out there to shortcut us through the garden."

"Figures he's related to royalty. It explains all his damn bad habits," Ed grumbled, looking like he wanted to hit Mustang just for the hell of it. "Apparently all the Yao clan are dicks."

"Brother! Don't swear in front of the baby." Al shoved him.

"Like he knows what I'm saying," Ed sulked.

"Hang around Shortmetal, little cousin, and your first words will get your mouth washed with soap." Mustang laughed.

Winry couldn't help her own snicker. "You really are his cousin?"

"I have the tattoo to prove it." Mustang smirked at her and Winry thought she could see his relationship to Ling in that smug expression. "For all the good it does, being half blooded and not likely to ever go to Xing to make it my home."

"Tattoo?" Al asked.

Winry hooked a finger in the side of Jianyu's pants and diapers and tugged them down to reveal a small set of symbols on his hip. "Ling said it was how royalty keep down the number of imposters to the throne. It's supposed to be very secret. Maybe if the emperor had a few less wives," she said, surprised at her own bitterness. Winry hadn't realized how much she disliked sharing Ling.

"Oh…well," Al blushed a little more. "The General had a good plan to get you out of there without anyone realizing you were gone."

"It worked to get me out of Amestris when everyone thought I had murdered Lieutenant Colonel Hughes," Maria piped up from the driver's seat, giving her first indication she was listening.

"I hope it works now," Winry said, meaning that. She didn't want to be the reason for war. "We know what Ling could be capable of." She stroked Jianyu's back, turning him around since he was starting to fuss. He didn't seem to like his view of the truck's wall. She glanced over at Mustang. "General?"

"He got promoted." Ed rolled his eyes.

"I wasn't the only one, Lieutenant Colonel Elric," Mustang replied, stretching out on the floor. "Wonder if President Armstrong will allow her military advisor to keep his new look." He played with the end of his queue. "I've grown attached."

"He's just trying to copy greatness." Ed shot back, ticking a finger against his own braid. Winry sighed. Nothing had changed between those two men. Ed looked at her. "Can I hold the baby?"

"Of course. Here, like this" Thrilled Ed wanted to get to know Jianyu,Winry put her son in the crook of Ed's metal arm. "Jianyu likes to be able to see out. He's very curious."

Ed stroked the boy's cheek. Jianyu caught Ed's finger and popped it into his mouth for an experimental suck.

"You have to watch him. He puts everything in his mouth," Winry warned, feeling suddenly worn out as the adrenaline left her. Stretching out like Mustang had done sounded like a good idea, especially if they thought she was going to be riding a horse yet tonight.

"He's heavy," Ed said in surprise. "And he really is…wonderful," he added as if unsure which word to use.

"Thank you, Edward. Thank you all for helping me," Winry said, tears starting to fall.

Ed reached for her, his fingers gentle around her neck as he pulled her in and kissed her wet cheek, an astonishing public display for him. "It's going to be all right now, Winry."

Al came over and hugged her. "We're going to get you home safe," he promised.

"I know."

"You look sad," Al said, settling next to Ed so he could play with the baby's feet. "You'll miss Ling, in spite of what he is, won't you?"

Winry hated the look of anger and pain on Ed's face as he glowered at his brother. Al seemed to undertand her better or was at least able to admit he was aware of her conflicting emotions. "I will. He was good to me," she admitted honestly even if she knew it wasn't what Ed wanted to hear. "He cared about me and he loved his son. Well, as much as he is capable and I believe that he did love Jianyu more than just as 'I'm Greed and he's mine.' Ling enjoyed playing with him, reading him bed time stories." Winry sighed, sagging a bit against Ed's shoulder. "I'm glad to be going home but I'm sorry it will cause Ling this much grief." Winry knew it would. She knew he would cry and then get angry. Winry hoped Ran Fan could handle him like that and help him through it.

"I don't care about his pain," Ed said in a tone that said he had been in enough of his own in the last year. Al shushed him.

Winry took Al's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze to let him know it was all right. "I know, Ed. Like you said, it's going to be all right now. I'm going home." A shiver ran through her at that thought. She tried to stifle a yawn.

"We have a long day ahead of us," Armstrong rumbled. "You should try to get some sleep."

Winry liked the sound of that. Mustang was already snoring softly. She envied his ability to tune them all out. "Jianyu is still pretty wide awake."

"We'll watch him for you, Winry," Al said excitedly as he scooped the baby out of his brother's arms.

Ed put his freed limb around Winry's shoulder. "Go to sleep." He pulled her closer and whispered low, "I am never letting you go again."

Winry kissed the corner of his mouth then stretched out, pillowing her head on her arm. Ed nudged her and she rolled over, resting her head on his thigh. She had liked the sound of him never letting her go. She'd worry later about what would happen when the realities she had another man's son sank in. Right now, she just so happy to be going home, no matter the pain this would cause. Winry shut her eyes, trying not to think about the things she would miss about Xing and some of the things she could never tell anyone; like just how much she would miss Ling's hot touch and demanding way he made love. That was a secret she would have to keep always. The tug at her heart told Winry she would miss Ling more than she realized. Bruised, confused feelings aside, Winry knew this was the right thing to do. She was out of her gilded cage and she had no intentions of going back.