Wow. This is it. Don't really know what to say. This was one of my first chapter fanfictions ever, and yet it took me ages to complete. There's a few discrepancies in this story, looking back on it. And one of my next projects is going to be looking through it and editing plot mistakes. There's a lot that I like about this chapter, and a lot that eventually didn't make it in because this thing was beastly already and I wasn't going to split the chapter again. Anyway, overall I'm rather fond of this story, even though I don't think its my strongest work. I went into it without much outlining (hence the plot mistakes that need to be edited) and there are parts in the middle that feel rushed. Still, I'm glad to be done and I feel like I can look back on this and be fairly happy with it. I hope you all enjoyed the ride.
Oh, and as I no longer have a beta, due to please-knock being too busy, there may be a few grammar mistakes. I looked for them as best as I could, but *shrug*. We'll see.
One of the most important things to note here plot-wise is that I changed it from being Dr. Marcoh that removes Scar's alchemic ability, to it being Mei, which makes much more sense.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own. :)
"Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for." ~Erica Jong
"Happy birthday, Ed!"
The room was filled with nothing but laughter, and the clink of plates and glasses. Ed sat at the head of the table, still looking slightly stunned at the cheerful chaos around him.
Col. Armstrong slapped him on the back, nearly sending Ed face-first into his birthday dinner; homemade stew. Catching himself on the table just in time, Ed looked up in mild irritation at the Colonel, then broke into a grin and said something to him that Winry couldn't catch.
The rest of the room was crowded. Izumi and Sig and her grandmother were at Ed's right, in deep conversation with Al. Havoc was further down that side, speaking with Riza's friend Rebecca, who had her eyebrows raised. Maria Ross and Denny Brosh were also there, chatting with Sheska, who seemed to be informing them about the latest books she'd read. Gracia and Elysia were sitting as well, on the left side of the table. As Winry watched, Elysia slid off her mother's lap and tottered over to Ed, holding out a party hat with the facial expression that seemed to say 'wear this or else' in the way that only a small child could. Al, who already had his hat on, slapped Ed lightly on the shoulder to encourage him. Ed, with what looked like minor grumbling, accepted the hat from Elysia, slipping it on and smiling as the little girl made her way back to her mother, now satisfied. Den was curled up happily in the corner, watching the proceedings, tail wagging occasionally.
Roy and Riza were really the only ones missing. Due to the trip coming up soon, they were working day and night to get as much out of the way as they could, and had sent a message saying they wouldn't be able to make it, along with a gift.
Winry saw Hohenheim, down at the farthest end of the table, watching his sons with a slightly bittersweet expression. Sticking her head back in the kitchen to make sure her apple pies still had a few minutes, she walked toward him, and nudged his leg lightly with her foot. "Hey."
He looked up at her, and smiled. "Yes?"
Winry jerked her head toward the head of the table. "No need to be such a loner. Go sit over there. Wish Ed happy birthday."
Hohenheim glanced at his eldest son. "I don't think that would go over well."
Winry smiled a little. For the most part, Ed had acted as if Hohenheim wasn't there. Apart from a few glares, and a muttered 'bastard' when he'd first arrived, it was much more subdued than his usual reaction. "I think not saying it would be worse."
His brow furrowed, as if he hadn't considered that. "Perhaps."
"Ed's always been good about holding grudges. But once he has faith in you, almost nothing will change that."
A sad look came to his eyes again. "Almost nothing."
"Enough of that," Winry said sharply. He looked up at her in surprise. "You can keep beating yourself up for things that happened years ago, or you can be here now. You can't ever make up for the past. I yelled at you for it, Ed yelled at your for it, and Al's forgiven you for it. You're a good man. You're here now, so be a good father, too. I know you can do it." She hesitated. "Its okay to feel guilty. But you can't let that run your life anymore."
He didn't say anything, and after a few moments Winry popped back into the kitchen to check on the pies. Perfect timing. Both pies were done, and smelled wonderful. Carefully setting them out to cool, Winry went back into the dining room, seeing that Ed was now eating his stew with gusto, something that made her smile. Everyone else seemed to be pretty immersed in eating as well. She felt Ed catch her eye, and saw him looking up from his food, and nodding toward the place on his left, reserved for her, her own bowl of stew still hot.
For a while there was nothing but the sound of spoons hitting bowls, and requests to pass the salt. Impulsively, Winry hooked her foot around Ed's ankle, and fought back a laugh and he jumped, and blushed. A moment later he smiled, glancing at her, and then went back to eating.
After everyone had finished and felt pleasantly full, they found themselves drawn to the living room, mostly due to Elysia's insistence that this was "how birthdays are 'sposed to be". Unable to argue with the directing toddler, Ed had let himself be led by the hand and sat down on the sofa. On the coffee table sat a small pile of gifts, and Ed looked at the pile in undisguised glee. Winry fought the urge to roll her eyes, smiling, sitting on his left, Al on his right.
"Mine and mommy's first!" Elysia demanded, pushing a medium sized package wrapped in purple paper his way, a white bow stuck on the top.
"Elysia," Gracia warned, "Its Edward's birthday. He gets to choose what he opens first."
"Nah, its okay," Ed waved a hand at Gracia. He grinned, taking the package from Elysia, who was jumping up and down in excitement.
Inside was a new, dark red, leather-bound journal, perfect for alchemy notes. "I noticed you were almost done with the one you have now," Gracia commented, smiling. "I thought it would be good to have a new one, for a new year."
Ed brushed the leather cover with his fingers, eyes soft. "Thanks."
"Look inside!" Elysia insisted, tapping the book with her tiny palm. Ed obliged, opening the book to reveal a folded piece of paper inside the cover. He unfolded it, and Winry felt her smile widen. It was a picture Elysia had drawn of Ed, standing next to Winry and Al, Elysia and Gracia drawn next to them. Each figure in the drawing was labeled in a shaking script. Mommy. Me. Over Winry, she had written 'Big Sister', and over both Ed and Al she had written 'Big Brother'.
Ed looked as if he didn't know what to say. He cleared his throat, and looked at the little girl in front of him. She looked a lot like her mother, but there was plenty of Mr. Hughes in her face too.
Ed reached forward, and rubbed her head. "Thanks, Elysia." She giggled, and he tugged lightly on her pigtail, laughing when she lightly slapped his hand away, and then immediately scooted closer, like she wanted to be patted on the head again. Instead, Al picked her up. "Come here, you. If you're my little sister, that means as your big brother I have full tickling rights you know!"
"No!" Elysia giggled as Al tickled her sides.
Ed's grin was impossibly wide. "That includes me, too!" He laughed as she stuck her tongue out at him, and scrambled out of Al's arms, running to her mother's side.
The gifts continued on. Izumi and Sig gave him a new alchemy book that Ed flipped through eagerly. Col. Armstrong also gave him a picture: a very well drawn sketch of Ed, Al, herself, Pinako, and Den, standing in front of Rockbell Automail in Resembool. There even appeared to be sheep in fences in the background. He also professed an offer to demonstrate techniques passed down the Armstrong line for generations, whenever Ed wished. Maria Ross gave him a book on Xingese alchemy, while Denny Brosh gave him a linguistics book to help translate it.
Roy and Riza had sent a typewriter. The note attached said that it had belonged to Riza's father, and that they hoped Ed could use it to type up his notes if he wished, and maybe publish his own Alchemy book someday. Though Ed had made a few mutters that sounded awfully like "bastard" while opening the gift, Winry knew he'd been genuinely happy to get one from them. She'd spent several minutes examining the machine eagerly, before Ed had snatched it away. "Knowing you, you'll want to add a canon to it or something."
"At least I wouldn't transmute it into some kind of freakish gargoyle," she retorted.
Al snickered, and Ed glared at him. "Traitor," he accused. "My own brother too!"
Al rolled his eyes. "Come on brother, you still have one from me and Winry to open."
"Dunno if I want it, now." Ed huffed, crossing his arms and jutting out his chin in defiance.
"Fine," Winry said smoothly. "We'll just take it back, and-"
"No, wait!" Ed snatched their gift off the table, holding it to his chest.
"You got that poker face from me," Pinako said proudly of Winry. "You could fool anyone with that face."
Muttering about how everyone was against him, Ed unwrapped the gift. Much like with Gracia and Elysia's, it was two gifts in one package. Al had given him a new suitcase. "Yours is really beat up brother. It can barely stay clasped anymore!" Winry had given him his old red coat, which she'd stitched up as best as she could.
"I know you made yourself a new one for a while before the promised day, but that one got messed up too. I thought you might want the old one back." She explained. Truthfully, she had several deep birthday kisses she wanted to give him later as well, but that would remain a surprise for now. She settled for giving him one on the cheek, which was enough to make him go red again.
"Well, I guess you guys aren't traitors," He said ruefully, grinning that wide smile of his. Winry thought that she would never get tired of the sight of that smile, and looked forward to a future that let him keep smiling.
Said smile slipped off his face as Hohenheim gave a slight cough, and stepped forward. Ed opened his mouth, glaring, ready to fire off with his usual "what do you want, bastard?" Al stepped hard on his toe, not bothering to try and cover it up. Ed's glare shifted to his brother, and merely grunted in response to his father's presence.
"Well…" Hohenheim hesitated. "Happy birthday, Edward."
Ed grunted again.
Hohenheim was holding a package around the size of a breadbox, with no wrapping. The package itself was worn, and almost looked as if it had been covered in dirt.
"I have a gift." He gestured with the package in his hands. He stepped a little closer. "Actually, its for both you and Alphonse."
Al looked at him in surprise and curiosity.
"Its something I think you boys should have. Something that I think your mother would have wanted you to have."
Ed's glare softened the slightest amount. Taking a deep breath, Hohenheim held out the package to his sons. Slowly, Ed reached for it, Al's hand outstretched with his. They set it in their laps, and flipped open the lid. Winry leaned forward, eyebrows furrowed.
"Your mother has had this box since she was a child," Hohenheim explained. "Every once in a while she would put things in it. Little things, precious things." His eyes had gained a soft light as he stared past his sons, lost in memories. "When we met, she showed me the things in that box, and added a few more. Over the years she would add more things to it, and very often kept it buried in the back yard. She planned on showing you everything inside it once you were a bit older. Once I came back, so that we could look at it as a family." He finished sadly. "As the sickness started to take her, it looks like Trisha wrote several notes about the things in there that I might not know to say."
Ed and Al were picking up a few things inside, seeming to only be half listening to their father. There was a small cloth doll, with orange yarn for hair. There were a few stains on it, and the colors were a little faded. Folded around it was a note, written in Trisha's familiar writing. Even though she had been sick for quite a while, she hadn't let her symptoms show, even in her writing. After staring at it for a moment, Al read aloud. "This was mine when I was a little girl. Perhaps one of you boys will have a daughter someday, and could pass it on. Her name was Lucy, and my grandmother made it for me."
Ed and Al fingered the writing with trembling hands. Winry felt tears come to her eyes, and could see Col. Armstrong sobbing quietly out of the corner of her eye. Ed and Al had so few things left of their mother, and not for the first time she wondered if in retrospect the boys regretted burning down their house.
There were a few drawings inside, ones that Winry vaguely recognized from their early childhood. Of Den, the Rockbell house, the swing, a few sheep. This was before you started drawing alchemy circles, the note attached said, and Winry could picture Trisha chuckling as she wrote it.
A silver ring, set with what looked like a tiny diamond. "This ring belonged to my mother," Al read, "She told me that it would be mine one day, but I never ended up wearing it. Perhaps one day you boys will give it to someone."
There were a few letters, folded up, and a note stuck just outside of them. Al hesitated before reading it aloud. "Sara and I wrote letters to each other almost all our lives. When she and Urey went off to war, that didn't change. I wasn't able to save all of them, but the last ones are here. Someday, I hope you will share these with Winry, and Pinako."
Real tears fell, hot on her face, and she heard her grandmother's slight gasp. Winry tried to blink them back. She felt Ed's hand on her back, soothing, and felt herself smile in spite of it. Al glanced at her in concern, and she nodded for him to go on.
A small leather bound journal, not unlike Ed's alchemy journals, was next. "After I showed this to your father, I insisted that he put in something. It wasn't until some time later that he did, and I had quite forgotten about my request. There's a little alchemy in here, but from what I understand it's mostly about his experiences. It ends just a little after Al was born." Al choked a little, seeing his name written there.
There were other things inside without notes, like some dried flowers, a few stones, and a very small stuffed bear, no bigger than the palm of her hand, that Winry also vaguely remembered Ed carrying with him until he declared that he was too old for toys like that. There was a near identical bear, just a different color that she clearly remembered as belonging to Al. Ed actually laughed looking at these, rubbing his fingers over the fur, one of the ears nearly worn off.
Lastly, wrapped in paper, was a stack of photographs. They seemed to be ordered by date, and on a few of them Trisha had written on the back. One of the first ones was with an elderly couple, a younger couple with them, the youngest woman's belly rounded with pregnancy. She could see clear bits of Trisha in their faces, and even aspects that she recognized in Ed and Al. They were all smiling. "My grandparents, and my mother and father. This was taken only a few weeks before I was born. It's the only photograph I have of my grandparents, as they died when I was three."
Winry saw Ed and Al exchange slight looks. "I never knew," Al admitted.
"Me either," Ed said softly, staring at the photograph.
"We never asked her," Al pointed out, taking a slightly shuddering breath. "Why didn't-" He stopped. After a few moments of silence, he picked up the next object.
The next seemed to be from around five or six years later. A little Trisha, hair in pigtails, grinning, clutching the doll that they'd pulled out of the box earlier. Her parents stood behind her, contentment written in every line of their face. "A lot of the families in Resembool are pretty large, but I was an only child. I only learned much later that I was the only child my mother didn't miscarry. They were always smiling, always happy to have me, and I would have never wanted anyone else for my parents. I wish you boys could have known them, and that they could have met your father."
Again, the sad look came to Ed and Al's faces. It looked as if they'd never thought about their grandparents much, just like with their great-grandparents. Winry hadn't ever thought about Trisha's family either. She'd known that Ed and Al didn't have a grandmother the way she did, but it had always just been something that was, not something to wonder at.
The next few were simply of Trisha, laughing, playing, flowers in her hair. There was so much that Winry didn't remember about the woman that had been like a second mother to her, and looking at these photographs brought it all back. For all the years that had passed, looking at these helped her to remember the infinite kindness she had possessed, the spirit that had drawn everyone to her. Winry couldn't think of anyone that hadn't liked Trisha.
Hohenheim had gotten a little closer.
The next photo was of Trisha and Hohenheim. Trisha was smiling gently, her hair pulled up in a bun, wearing a light blue summer dress, a crown on flowers on her head. Hohenheim was in a button up white shirt, and looked nervous, his eyes on Trisha, smiling just a little. Winry supposed it could be called a wedding photo, but she knew that the two had never officially gotten married. "Your father and I never married in the eyes of the law," Al read, his voice shaking a little. "But your father is something of a traditionalist, and he wanted us to celebrate in some fashion. So we did. It never mattered that we didn't marry. He is my husband. I am his wife. I never needed a wedding. In my life I've had everything I ever wanted at one point or another, even with what I've lost. This was one of those days that showed me that all over again."
There was only one more thing left in the box, a tiny note.
I love you both very much. I hope that these things make you smile. See you soon.
But she wouldn't be seeing her boys soon. She was gone, and in those moments Winry felt the loss of her all over again.
There was silence for several seconds. Ed stood abruptly, turned, and started to leave the room.
"Ed!" Winry and Al called together, half standing themselves. Ed stopped in the entrance to the hallway. He didn't turn around.
"Thanks," he said finally, before walking up the stairs. Hohenheim looked as if he didn't know what to say.
Though Ed came down a few minutes later, having put the box upstairs for safekeeping, the party didn't last much longer. Though the overall feeling in the air was one of contentment, Winry knew that they probably also felt that Ed and Al needed some time to themselves.
As everyone left, Winry watched the brothers. Even though Hohenheim's gift had been a great one, she felt guiltier than ever for what she was about to bring up. Like attaching Automail limbs. Do it quickly, in one breath. She'd chickened out of doing it last night like she'd meant to. She had to do it now.
After shaking Hohenheim's hand and closing the door behind him, Winry turned to see Gracia holding a nearly asleep Elysia. "Bed time, sweetheart," Gracia whispered to her daughter, starting to head up the stairs. Winry heard Elysia's mumbled protests, and found herself fighting a slight smile.
Her grandmother put a hand on Winry's arm as she started walking toward Ed and Al. "Good luck," Pinako said. Winry had told her a few days ago of her intentions, and while not thrilled with the idea, she had understood why Winry wanted to do it. Winry had even offered for her grandmother to come with, but Pinako had shook her head, saying that she had all the answers that she needed.
Winry wasn't looking for answers, exactly. But there was unfinished business here, and she wanted some kind of…closure, she supposed.
"Thanks," she whispered, giving her grandmother a quick hug. "I shouldn't be too long. Tonight we can go over those prototype designs that Mr. Garfiel sent over. I think you'll really like them."
"Sure, Winry." Pinako gave a sly smile. "The talk may not take long, but you wishing Ed a very thorough happy birthday might."
Winry laughed, blushing a little, walking past her grandmother to where Ed and Al sat around the coffee table, seeming unsure of what to say. Again, she hesitated. They boys didn't need this right now. They were swimming in bittersweet memories of their mother. They didn't need to be afraid or angry right now. And it was Ed's birthday.
She shook her head, and steeled her resolve. They were leaving in two days. They would need to buy the extra tickets, and there was little time left. Putting it off until tomorrow wouldn't help anything.
She stopped just in front of them, and took a deep breath. "Ed, Al."
They looked up. "Hey, Winry," they said together, both smiling a little.
"D'you…" Ed hesitated. "Later, uh, we could look at those letters, if you wanted."
She felt her breath catch. Al nodded. "We don't want to do it without you, Winry."
She nodded. "That would…be great. Maybe tomorrow would be better though. And, um," she stopped, and then went on quickly, "I need to talk to both of you." She twisted her hands together nervously.
The brother's exchanged glances. "Sure," Al said, standing. "Let's go upstairs. We can talk in mine and Ed's room." He grabbed the cane that was leaning against the couch. Though he could go for longer and longer periods without it, he still tended to use the cane when climbing stairs.
Ed was giving her a hard look. "Is something wrong?"
She shook her head, giving a small smile. "No, I just…need to talk to you both."
She followed Al upstairs, Ed behind her. Their room was the farthest from Elysia's, which Winry knew was why Al had suggested it.
After closing the door behind them, Winry walked to the center of the room, pacing a little. Half of her wanted to sit on the bed, and the other part of her wanted to keep pacing.
"Trying to carve a transmutation circle in the floor?" Ed asked, crossing his arms. She looked at them, and was struck in that moment, as she was sometimes, with how alike they really did look. She took another deep breath, and faced them.
"When we leave in two days, I want to take a slight detour. To go and see Scar."
For approximately two seconds, there was complete silence.
Then Ed was right in her face, eyes blazing. "Hell no!"
"Winry, no! You shouldn't do this!" Al was pale, and took a pleading step toward her.
"You can't do this!" Ed grabbed her arm. "Winry there's no reason- you can't-"
She jerked her arm out of his grip, meeting him stare for stare. "I can, and I will!"
"Winry!" Al put a beseeching hand on her shoulder. "Please, you don't- you shouldn't have to-"
"But I do have to!" Winry took a deep breath, trying to calm down.
She realized their reactions weren't about fearing for her safety as it had once been- Scar was a prisoner in Ishval, and could no longer perform his destructive alchemy, thanks to what Mei had done all those months ago. Instead, it was as if they felt like Scar didn't deserve to be in her presence.
"Winry, that fucker doesn't- you don't need to see him!" Ed was practically snarling at the idea.
She took a hard step toward him, her face close to his. "Yes I do, Ed! There's so much I need to talk with him about-"
"Winry, please," Al grabbed her arm too, but much less forcefully than Ed had. "You don't need to hear any of that."
Fury filled her again. "I don't need it? You don't have any right to say what it is I need! Either of you! What do you know about it? Every time I see him I remember what he did, but then I remember that he helped us, and it's all so confusing!" She felt tears prick her eyes. Damn it. "I need to talk to him. And I want to do it with both of you by my side!" She let that sink in for a moment, watched as for a moment indecision flashed across their faces.
Winry took another deep breath, steeling her resolve. "But I will go alone if I have to."
"Fuck that!" Ed, furious again, ready to go a few more rounds.
"I'm not asking for your permission!" Winry glared at him, crossing her arms. "I told you. I'm doing it, whether you guys go with me or not."
This moment brought her back to another day, what seemed so long ago. Freezing in the north, in a desperate situation. The expression on Ed's face was the same it had been that day; loath to put her in this situation, realizing that he couldn't forbid it. Al had been in the armor then, so seeing him this way, with hurt and worried expressions was always something that tugged at her heart more than she would have guessed. Ed's expression hurt her too, but she knew she had to do this. Even though she wasn't sure exactly what she wanted to accomplish, she knew she needed to go there. To see him again, and talk to him. She didn't even want to yell at him anymore. Didn't know what she wanted from him anymore.
He couldn't bring Winry her parents back.
Just like that day in Briggs, she saw the reluctance cross their faces. Ed looked away from her. Al, in contrast, was looking at her hard.
"If…" He hesitated. "If you're sure, Winry."
"We're going with you." Ed almost spoke over her, and she glanced at him, relief flooding her as Al immediately agreed.
She closed her eyes, and before either brother could move she threw her arms around them. There was so much of her life, really, that they hadn't been there for, but at the same time in many ways she was loath to do things without them. They belonged with her, and she with them. Always. Even if there was distance between them or they argued, they were going to be there for each other. They were family. She loved them both so much, even if in completely different ways.
After a moment she felt Al's arms encircle her, and then Ed's.
"Thank you," She said softly, and she felt Ed snort. "Yeah." He spoke a little more gently. "Sure, Winry."
"Winry," Al drew back from her, looking at her seriously. "I- we- don't tell you enough, but, thank you, too. For everything you do."
She grinned. "Idiot. No need to thank me."
Ed was blushing a little. "He's right, Winry. You and granny have always been there, and, well…we never really…"
Happiness spread like warmth in her. Before Ed could fumble through another sentence, she kissed Al lightly on the cheek, and Ed full on the mouth. She pulled back, smiling, seeing them both looking at her with identical grins. "I get it."
"Good." Ed took her hand, and her other hand found Al's, and the walked out of the room together.
A little while later, after Al bid them goodnight, Winry felt her nerves return a little. She still owed Ed some birthday kisses (and, considering the news she'd dumped on him, she figured it would be especially welcome). Truthfully, she didn't have that much more experience than he did when it came to kissing. There'd been a boy from Resembool at a festival she'd kissed, and a few years later in Rush Valley she'd received a surprise kiss from a customer around her age. She and Ed had kissed several times now, and while a few had been somewhat deep, it hadn't really progressed, mostly due to the fact that they were all really busy.
They were sitting on the couch downstairs. Ed was next to her, reading one of his new alchemy books with interest. Gracia had gone to bed a few minutes previously, but Winry still felt a little wrong about the idea of necking with Ed on her couch.
"Hey," she said finally, and he didn't look up, instead making a sound that seemed to imply he was half listening.
"Come with me for a second, okay?"
This time he did look up at her, seeming confused, and a little suspicious.
She giggled. "I promise, nothing bad. No announcements."
Grudgingly he sat up, and she led him upstairs. She hesitated a little at the top. Her room seemed a little too forward, but where else could they go? She pressed on, pulling him a little by the hand.
"Winry?" He sounded more confused. She slid the door shut behind him, and turned to face him. He was already a little red, but she took a confident step toward him, trying not to laugh at how Ed looked suddenly like a cornered animal. She twined her arms around his neck, and was surprised when they immediately fell back against the wall, Ed looking nothing short of terrified.
"Ed!" Winry shushed him. "Do you want to wake up everyone? Calm down."
"Right." His voice was a squeak, and she fought the urge to laugh. In moments like this Ed was, quite frankly, cute. In a delightfully awkward sort of way.
"I have another birthday present for you," she went on, leaning a little closer.
She nodded, their noses touching. Ed seemed immobilized, his arms frozen at his sides.
"Happy birthday," Winry whispered, pressing her mouth to his.
His breath misted in front of his face. He felt her approach behind him, full of her warmth.
"Its cold," she said.
"I know." Roy looked back at her and smiled a little. She merely gave him a look- one he knew so well.
Their balcony gave them a splendid view of the city. It was late now, (or early depending on how you looked at it) but there were still many lights below, and snow lined the streets. The people. He wondered, idly, how many of them hated him. How many idolized him.
She touched his arm lightly, and he tightened his grip on the handrail. She no longer had to wear a sling, and she was left with minor scarring on her arm from being shot. More scars to add to her collection.
Soon they would be married.
In some ways, the ceremony didn't matter. She was his. He was hers. They'd made vows to each other long before the ones they would be making in a few days. But there was this sense of relief. That everyone in the world would know it too, that they would be bound by law, surrounded by people that they loved. That they would be doing something simple, normal, even.
She'd accepted the responsibility of killing him long before she'd accepted his ring, and in a sense few things were going to change. She was still required to shoot him in the back if needed.
Riza did not ask what he was thinking about. Hell, she was probably able to guess. But sometimes his thoughts were such a swirling mess that it didn't make sense to him half the time.
They'd held a mass funeral just yesterday. He'd said goodbye to good men, women, people he would never have known. Others that he did. Falman, always so straight-faced, dead. Gone. He hadn't learned too much or resisted an authority or been on the wrong side of the war. Maybe he'd just been drinking some punch when the walls collapsed on him. Just in the wrong place. Feury with Automail, the pencil pusher of his subordinates. How much combat had he even seen? And yet, tonight he would be lying down in a hospital, with metal limbs sewn on his body. Winry Rockbell and her grandmother were working to help the injured and dying while he sat behind a desk and tried to convince stubborn men to change laws.
How long had he been Fuhrer? Already a deadly terrorist attack while he was having a party. He hadn't even been the one to kill Kimblee, in the end.
As he had killed Envy.
"Maybe you missed it," he said.
Riza's brows furrowed. "Missed what?"
He smiled bleakly at her. "The opportunity to shoot me in the back."
He wants to tell her not to worry. That he wouldn't trade all his coming years with her for anything, but it's not true. So many people have died and he can't ever make up for it, can't ever be forgiven for it. And truthfully, they may not have all that much time. It's an empty thought. Not even a wish, really. There is the here and the now and no way that he can turn back time. Let himself die so that the others could live. And there's another side to it too: without him, would Riza have died? Would the world have died and gone to the homunculi? Would the peace they are so striving for have been an even further goal?
He has done some good in this world. But he knows that she understands.
"When I killed Envy," he adds. "You were recovering. Didn't have a clear shot. Didn't know. But it happened. I killed because I wanted to, because at first it felt good."
Riza is patient, as always. "And then?"
His answer is simple. "And then it didn't."
Riza put her hand over his own, her touch like fire compared to the icy railing. "You found the path again."
"I still strayed from it." Days from their wedding and he was saying this. How awful was that? But he had to say it now. At first the emotions hadn't fully connected, and now, with everything that had happened, those feelings filled him to the brim.
"If I was supposed to hold you accountable in that regard for past actions, I would have shot you already." She took a breath and went on. "I can't do anything now but look to the future, Roy."
The future. She would be with him, and they would go forward. She didn't tell him that there was no reason to be sad, that they could fix it; she knew that there could be no "fixing".
They fit together like welded glass.
He kissed her, then, suddenly, hard, because in moments like this half of him couldn't believe that she was really standing with him. Her past was stained like his, she was not an innocent thing, not something that needed to be protected (because god knew how many times she'd protected him over the years), was not all bright lights and soothing words. Still, she was something to be cherished; strong and powerful, beautiful, hurting, smarter, often, than he was, and despite the death she'd caused somehow he held her and thought that she was good. That with her he could be good too. There were ties between them, of flame and death and fear, but also hope and strength and love.
The dark things were a part of them. The good things were too.
Look to the future.
Fullmetal would say 'walk forward'.
Hughes had talked about his 'beautiful future'. He had had it, for the shortest of times.
The fallacy came not in thinking that the beautiful future could exist, but in thinking that it couldn't exist after so much pain.
He was looking to that future, with Riza, and moments like this one made it beautiful.
It wasn't a large event. Truthfully, counting the bride and groom, there would only be around fifteen people there. Still, they wanted it to be beautiful.
The dance hall was a good sized pavilion on the outskirts of town, where many town events, and sometimes festivals, were held. She'd been spending all morning decorating it with her grandmother, Rebecca, and Col. Armstrong. Ed and Al helped a little, but after Ed had alchemized one too many gargoyles, it was decided to give him another job, with Al keeping an eye on him. They were picking up tables and chairs from in town, and were supposed to be coming back with the first load soon.
Winry peeked out the window as she wrapped some ribbons around paper flowers, biting her lip. Most of the guests had arrived already, and Riza and Roy were supposed to be getting there in a few hours. That night they would have a rehearsal, and the next day would be the wedding.
She was so busy; she didn't really have that much time to reflect on what had happened with Scar.
Ed and Al were…quiet, about it. Truthfully, so was she. She hadn't even really discussed it with her grandmother. Winry sighed for a moment, closing her eyes.
The cells were a little worn, but in fairly good condition all the same. Thanks to some financial aid from Fuhrer Mustang, parts of Ishval had been rebuilt. Due to Scar, one of the first buildings to be completed (outside of a temple and some schools) had been the prison. She had only ever been to the one in Briggs, and in many ways it was very similar.
Ed had told her that Scar wouldn't be in prison forever. With his "chi", as Mei had called it, blocked, he was not able to perform his alchemy, and therefore wasn't as much of a danger. The Ishvalan courts had given him a fairly light sentence overall, and he was available for parole within three years. If some of the things Ed had told her were true, she supposed it wasn't any worse than Roy and Riza not being in jail. They'd killed a lot of people too. More than Scar had, probably. It was hard for her thoughts to find a clean definition for what was right here.
No matter how long Scar was in prison, it wouldn't make her parents any less dead. And if he was out in the world, he could probably help people, as he had helped during the promised day.
In the end, his sentence was what it was. She hadn't come here to yell at him, or to demand that he make reparations with her. He could never make up for killing her parents.
The guard brought them down the row where Scar was being held, and she felt Ed's hand tighten in her own. Her other arm was looped with Al's, and she took a deep breath as they pulled in front of the cell.
"You have a visitor," The guard said, leading them forward.
They walked in front of the cell. As always, she was never quite prepared to see him. First, there was always a flicker of anger. Then sadness. Confusion. Resolve.
Scar looked up at them, and surprise flicked across his face. His hair was longer, and there was a healing cut on his face.
"Why are you here?" He asked softly after a moment, looking away from her.
"Don't ask her like that, you-" Ed started furiously. Winry shushed him, stepping on his foot hard. Glaring a little, Ed shut his mouth.
Winry took a breath, and turned to face Scar again. "What's that cut from?"
He touched his cheek with his hand lightly. "A riot. After my trial. Some of my people felt that for working with Amestrians, I should be punished. Rather than for killing people." He looked down at his hands, and clenched them.
She felt her breath catch, but pressed on. "I hear you could be released in a few years."
Ed's grip on her hand tightened, and both he and Al moved closer to her, as if trying to make shields with their bodies to protect her.
Scar looked up at her, but only for a moment. "Its possible."
"What will you do when you're released?"
He glanced at her again. It seemed she was not asking any of the questions he expected. "Work with my people. And Amestrians. And anyone I need to work with to make this world better." He hesitated. "No matter how long it takes." He spread out his palms, turning his arm over and looking at his tattoo. "My brother had visions of a better world. So does the Flame Alchemist. There's so much that needs to be done for the cycles of hatred to end."
She swallowed back her tears, keeping her voice steady. "Good."
His eyes flashed up to hers in surprise again.
"I can't forgive you," she said quietly. "But I don't think you're a monster anymore." She hesitated. "Keep your word. Make things better. I think you have the power to do that." Winry raised her head, meeting his eyes and holding them for a moment, seeing his astonishment, and sorrow. She gave him a slight nod, and then pulled on Ed and Al, walking away.
Scar's voice made her footsteps falter for a moment. "You are a very strong person, Winry Rockbell."
She didn't respond, and after a moment she kept walking.
Al had later told her that he'd been surprised at her questions too. She couldn't really explain it. She didn't need to ask him about her parents anymore. She didn't want details, didn't want a reason, because there was no good reason he could possibly give.
Ed had looked at her for a while. She'd even felt his eyes on her when she started to fall asleep on his shoulder. Then, quietly, as she started to drift off, he had whispered: "You are strong, Winry."
She'd fallen asleep with a smile on her face.
She opened her eyes, getting back to work. Thinking about Ed nearly made her flush. Her birthday kisses to him had been very well received once they figured out how to make their faces fit together properly, and how to not knock their teeth together. Not to mention starting to figure out what the other person liked. Ed, she discovered, really liked it when she sucked a little on his bottom lip, and Winry could admit to shivering whenever he kissed her neck.
They'd stopped after what was likely a few hours, though it only felt like fifteen minutes, heading to bed before it became too difficult to break apart. She smiled to herself, setting down the paper flower on the windowsill.
Tomorrow was a wedding. She'd never been to one. Her first one, and she even had a part in being a bridesmaid. Their dresses were simple, inexpensive, and there would be none of the grandeur Winry was sure there would be at the more "public" wedding later in the year. It hardly mattered. Tomorrow was a day for celebration, and she hoped that many more would follow it.
The hall was decorated with ribbons and paper flowers. White tablecloths were draped over the tables, candles lit in the center of each one. The assembled watched the bride and groom, transfixed at the front of procession.
The judge looked toward Roy. "Do you, Roy Mustang, take this woman to be your wedded wife?"
Roy's eyes never left Riza's face. "I do."
"Do you, Riza Hawkeye, take this man to be your wedded husband?"
Riza nodded. "I do."
Winry smiled, unable to help but cry a little. She knew that they had suffered a lot in their lives, and yet they were here today, together, and happy.
Riza looked beautiful. The dress looked a little old fashion wise, but it was lovely. Riza had told her during the rehearsal that it had been her mothers', and that it was one of the few things she had left of her. It was high collared, leaving her arms bare, a thin band at her waist, the dress trailing to the floor, flaring out a little at the end. Her train was also long and flowing, seeming almost to have layers to it, set in waves that moved like water when she walked.
Roy was looking handsome at that. He was in his military uniform, his hair slicked back, smiling softly at Riza.
"May I have the rings, please?"
"Hayate?" Riza called, and the little dog snapped to attention, walking forward from his place in line, carrying a small basket in his teeth. He stopped obediently at their feet, his tail wagging a little. The assembled laughed a little as Riza and Roy bent down, picking up the respective rings.
"I give you this ring, as a daily reminder of my love for you," Roy said softly, sliding the ring easily onto her finger.
Winry couldn't see Riza's face from where she was standing, but knew it would be filled with the same happiness. She slipped the ring on his finger. "I give you this ring, as a daily reminder of my love for you."
Rebecca was grinning like crazy next to her, and in the audience Winry could see several people openly weeping (Col. Armstrong among them). Even Ed wasn't scowling. Instead, he caught her eye, and smiled, blushing a little.
Though it might've seemed a little presumptive, Winry knew she would be standing here with Ed someday. She loved him, and didn't know exactly when it would happen, but knew that someday it would.
"By the power of your love and commitment, and the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss each other." Riza wrapped her arms around Roy's neck, kissing him deeply as their friends cheered.
Winry clapped loudly, resisting the urge to jump up and down.
"Let her breathe!" Havoc called, laughing, as Roy deliberately ignored his subordinate and kissed his new wife more deeply.
Laughter and chatter broke out as they eventually broke apart and started greeting everyone, slowly making their way toward the dinner table. After surviving a hug from Col. Armstrong (though seemingly just barely), they made their way toward Ed and Al. Winry hurried over just in time to hear Ed speak loudly.
"-don't see why we can't just go eat now, they know we're here-"
"Brother," Al rolled his eyes. "Its polite. We're supposed to say how happy we are for them."
"They already know how I feel-"
"Oh, shut up," Winry said, kissing him soundly on the lips. Ed flushed, but didn't say anything else as Riza and Roy approached them, looking a little dazed.
Winry threw her arms around Riza. "I'm so happy for both of you!"
Riza chuckled. "Thank you, Winry."
She pulled back and, after a moment of hesitation, hugged Roy as well. Ah, well the hell. Roy laughed. "Careful now, or Fullmetal will burst a blood vessel."
Winry stepped back, taking Ed's hand (who was scowling now) as Al shook Roy and Riza's hands. With minor grumbling in regards to Roy, Ed did the same. After a second he gave them a genuine smile.
After greeting Sheska and her grandmother, they made it to the diner table, Riza and Roy taking their place at the end.
Winry found a place not too far down from them, Al on her left, Ed on her right, her grandma on his other side. Across from her sat Col Armstrong, Sheska, and Gracia, little Elysia on her lap. Further down sat Maria Ross and Denny Brosh, who were conversing quietly, laughing about something. By Roy and Riza sat Rebecca and Havoc, and before they started eating (something that made Ed grumble again) Havoc clinked his glass with his fork.
"I know the best man usually stands, but you'll have to forgive me for this one." He grinned. "Well, those 'o you that know me know that I'm not good with speeches. I was always more of an action guy. So, before I butcher this, I'll try to keep it short." He became more serious. "I don't know very many people that have fought so hard to get to this point, as these two have. They weren't just fighting for each other, but for their country too. I can't understand all the things they've lost to get here, but they've earned it. They've earned this day, and more to come." He raised his glass. "I don't know too many people who suit each other as well as you do. I wish you guys a good life."
Everyone else raised their glasses, and took a drink. The wine tasted strange, and Winry wasn't sure she liked it, but she shook it off. She grabbed Ed's hand with hers, smiling as their fingers laced together. He looked handsome today too. Somehow Al had managed to get him into a button-up shirt, and black slacks. He wasn't wearing a tie, but he –and Al- still both looked great.
Roy stood up, hitting his glass with the side of his fork, smiling a little. "I know its not necessarily traditional for the groom to give a speech now, but there's something I would like to say." He cleared his throat a little. "Thank you all for coming here today. All of you here are my friends, and having you with me now means more than I can say." His hand moved, finding Riza's and holding it. He looked down at their hands for a moment before going on. "I almost can't believe it. With everything that's happened, it's hard to remember that there are days like this. That we can have birthdays and weddings and days where things just slow down and you can breathe." He smiled a little to himself, almost sadly. "I can't say that I'm deserving of these good things, but every moment I am thankful for them. They keep me sane. On the right path." At this, he shared a glance with Riza. "But I'm not here to be sorry for myself, because the truth is..." He gave a true smile now, looking out at them all.
Winry held Ed's hand tighter, glanced at Al's smiling face, and all the smiling faces around her.
"The almost miraculous fact is that I can stand here today. Still burdened with my sorrows, my regrets but stand here happily, with the hope that as long as I- and everyone -walks forward, even in our moments of despair, we will know that this may not be the end. That we may live another day, whether some or even yourselves believe that you do not deserve it, we may live to be happy."
As he raised his glass to the heavens, and Winry followed suit, she reflected on how far she'd come on her own journey. Months ago she'd been in this town and yelled at Hohenheim, stowed away on a train, been in disguise, gotten caught up with the homunculi and crawled her way to safety. She'd seen houses blow up and worked long hours in a hospital. She'd seen Elysia starting to grow up, shared kisses with Ed. Watched with joy every second of Al being here, alive and warm and breathing. She'd been a bridesmaid, and talked with the man that murdered her parents. Lived. Started moving forward instead of staying behind; realized that sometimes it wasn't as simple as following someone, that being at home didn't mean being left behind.
She could see the stars now, through the windows, glittering and bright against the darkness. Sometimes nightmares woke her, screaming, and she knew that would probably continue. Other times she was filled with such joy that she couldn't help but cry.
Winry kissed Ed again, quickly, not caring about the catcalls or the jokes about how she was trying to steal the show from the bride and groom. He blushed a little, but then grinned. "Can't keep your hands off me, can you?"
She laughed, rolling her eyes, holding his hand in hers. They were surrounded by friends and family. The world was changing, and the stars shined above them.
Move forward. They would continue on, always. Together.
There were a few things I'd kind of wanted to put in here, like a scene with Roy and Riza where they are getting her mother's dress and the like, but as I said at the top this was long enough as it was. :P
Oh, the wedding attire for Roy and Riza was based upon this picture: http : / / f l o w e r - in - the - light .d e v i a n t a r t . com / f a v o u r i t e s / 4 03 0 0 8 6 2 ? o f f s e t = 1 2 0 # / d 6 e r p k
Katsumara: Hello new reader! Sorry it took two years for me to update this thing. :) Thankfully the FMA movie wasn't live action after all.
Larxenethefirefly: Haha, they'll get married soon enough. Thanks! Sorry it took so long.
SJ Smith: Thanks so much! Yeah, I thought about those things, but in all honesty the Scar aspect is one of the few plot points I did actually have planned out for a while. :P Thanks for the grammar notices!
obsidianlight: Yeah, it has really been a while now since I updated. :/ I love writing for Al, but don't do it too often. I tend to alternate between Ed and Winry.
YourFavoritePlushie: Thanks! That scene with Hohenheim and Al is one of my favorites too. Sorry about the lack of Riza last chapter, hope I make up for it a bit here. :) I'm so glad you enjoyed this story.
aosugiru sora: Thanks! Yeah, I'm not surprised you don't remember the plot. Its been ages since I updated. You've been here since the start and its been great getting your reviews each time. I hope this chapter lives up to your expectations.
And that's it! Thanks so much to everyone that's been here through this story. And, now for shameless self-promotion. I have an FMA chapter fic that is completely finished, coming to thirteen chapters long. I wrote it for the FMA big bang two years ago now, and thus far only one person has reviewed it. Not that everyone has to review it, obviously. I don't mean to sound like I'm begging for reviews, but in any case, here's the title and summary:
Title: All Is For The One
Mangaverse, with some mild changes.
Summary: Six years after the promised day, some people are desperate to get revenge.
Characters/pairings: EdWin, AlMei, Royai, LingRan, tons of OCs, slight Havoc/Rebecca.
Till then, enjoy my one-shots and check out this chapter story! Thanks again for all your comments.