Disclaimer: I do not nor do I ever hope to have the chance of owning Fullmetal Alchemist...but I can dream.
This chapter is very much a whole lota fluff. But people need a little fluff, especially people like Ed and Winry.
Winry couldn't believe they had done it.
The idea was totally ludicrous and Winry had thought Ed and Al were joking when they first told her that morning. Even as they walked out of the house later that evening and down the path to the Elric house with torches ablaze Winry still didn't believe them, yelling at Ed and Al to turn around and go back to her yellow house so they could enjoy the last few hours they had together before the brothers would be catching the evening train out of Resembool.
She didn't believe they would actually do it until Ed took his torch and threw it onto the roof of the house and Al threw his in the door. Even then she thought they were simply taking a cruel joke too far. But then they stood aside and watched their home burn, the smell of oil and flames polluting the cool twilight air. The stench was potent, the fumes burning her wide, horrified blue eyes, but that was not why Winry had cried.
Through blurred watery eyes, Winry watched as her home away from home, the house of the Elric brothers, was consumed by fire, their memories, roots and past along with it.
The whole ordeal had seemed like one of her worst nightmares.
While Winry had diligently worked on her feelings concerning Ed and Al's departure for the military, eventually coming to accept their decision no matter how much she didn't like it, she found the burning of their house to be the ultimate slap in the face. Even now as she stood at her bedroom window watching the smoke twist away from the ashes of what used to be Ed and Al's house, Winry felt her gut clench sickly.
The sun was just kissing the horizon and soon it would be night…soon Ed and Al would be leaving.
Knowing that the brothers must be waiting for her before their departure, Winry swallowed her misery and decided she had best make her way downstairs to say goodbye to her friends. Taking slow scraping steps through her room, careful to bypass the tools and automail pieces that littered her floor, Winry grasped the doorknob and opened her bedroom door with a heavy groan.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when she found Ed on the other side, arm raised and poised as if he was preparing to knock.
"Ed!" Winry cried a little shrilly, causing Ed to jump back slightly. "Geez, Ed, you nearly gave me a heart attack. How many times have I told you not to lurk? And how long have you been standing there? I never heard you."
Ed's mouth opened and shut a few times, as if his brain couldn't decide which question to answer first. His body was tense, his golden eyes darting everywhere but her face, and the slightest hint of a blush was creeping up his neck and moving around his ears before tinting his cheeks. Winry hadn't told Ed she'd been noticing his rather frequent blushes mostly because she couldn't understand why he was blushing in the first place.
As for Ed, he couldn't bring himself to look directly at Winry for the simple fact that the last hot orange rays of the sun were shining on Winry from behind, causing her somewhat tan skin to take on a fiery glow, her wheat blond hair to shine like a gold-spun halo…and her white tank top to be completely see-through.
Although Ed had very often, and very loudly, proclaimed that Winry had nothing of interest to look at, he was suddenly aware of just how wrong he had been. They might not be much, but Winry was definitely blooming and Ed had been too much of an ignoramus to notice before now.
He was slightly intrigued and even more mortified that this image of his best friend would be what he carried with him on his way to his military post.
"Win…could you maybe come out into the hall?" Ed asked through a few stutters, his eyes now trained on the floor. Giving Ed a quizzical glance, Winry did as he asked, closing the door to her room behind her and thus blocking off the light that made her glow so intriguingly.
"What's up, Ed? I was just coming down to see you and Al off?" Winry said a little too casually and much too cheerfully.
Ed didn't buy it for a minute, his dark amber eyes narrowing as he finally found the courage to look at Winry. He noticed right away that her eyes were bloodshot and her cheeks streaked with tear trails. While she had cried as she stood off to the side when he and Al burned down their house, those tears should have dried long ago. These were fresh tears, and Ed suspected they were over the same mote point.
"Why were you crying, Winry?" he asked as if he were interrogating her. His presumptuous tone made Winry's ire boil, but she had decided that since this was the last time she would see Ed for probably a few months she was not going to get angry with him…no matter how much he deserved it.
"Can't we just drop it Ed, you know why I was crying." she answered tiredly.
"It's not still about the house, is it? Winry, we've been over this…"
"I know. You don't want to have anything from your past tying you down. That way, you can only move forward, not back. I remember your little speech from this morning, Ed."
Ed growled at Winry's flippant description of his reasons for torching his house, his own temper rising to the surface.
"Do you really think it was easy for me to do that?" he demanded.
"I didn't see you hesitate when you threw that torch onto your roof. I smelled the oil, Ed…you and Al had already been there and doused your house in oil so it would burn faster. You planned this all out. Doesn't sound like you found it too hard." Winry countered, crossing her arms as she frowned at him.
Ed hated when Winry gave him that look. That single look was the bane of his existence, even worse than when his mother used to punish him for cussing. That look screamed 'I'm disappointed in you, Edward' and other than upsetting his mother, Ed couldn't stand to be a disappointment to Winry.
"Well, it's not a decision we came to lightly. If Al and I want our bodies back we need to stay focused. That means not clinging to the past."
"Wow, what a compliment." Winry snorted. The surprised look he gave her was the only clue she needed to deduce that Ed had no idea what she was talking about. Letting out a frustrated sigh, Winry took a firm step towards him, her blue eyes boring into his golden ones so that he would absorb all that she had to say. "Just what am I, Ed? We grew up together, went to school together, played together, shared secrets and hopes. I'm part of your past, Ed. Me! Are you trying to forget me, too? Are you just gonna leave me behind, walk away and never come back? I knew you were a jerk but I didn't think you could be so heartless."
"Heartless? Winry, I nearly got my brother killed! All Al is now is a metaphysical piece of energy tied to a suit of armor. He can't sleep, or eat, or feel or do anything he used to. I took that from him, Winry and I need to make it right. He may be the same old Al now, forgiving and kind, but if he stays like that he'll hate me."
"Al would never…"
"He'll grow to hate me, I know it!" Ed bellowed before clamping his automail hand over his mouth, fearful that Al might have heard him. "Dammit. Look, I just came to say goodbye. Al wanted to know if you were gonna come down."
"Edward." Winry huffed, pulling at his coat so that he couldn't storm away like he always did when he got agitated. "I'm sorry. I know you have to do whatever you can to get yours and Al's bodies back. I understand. It's why I worked so hard on making you the best automail. I was being selfish getting mad at you about your house. I'll go downstairs and say goodbye to Al."
Winry released Ed, noting that his long bangs had fallen over his eyes. She couldn't help smiling when she saw that he had tied his hair back in a braid, and had been doing so ever since his birthday.
She had been right, a braid suited Ed.
Just as Winry was about to descend the stairs, Ed's arm shot out, gripping her firmly by the wrist and stopping all of her movements. Turning to regard her friend, Winry saw a look on Ed's face that she only recognized from moments when he was in deep concentration, usually when he was studying alchemy.
"What is it?" she asked.
It was another moment of intense staring before Ed pulled Winry to him, their bodies thumping together as he embraced her, holding her so close that she actually had the wind knocked out of her.
But that was Ed, all passion and no grace.
He held her tightly with both arms wrapped snugly around her back. The strange combination of flesh and metal embracing her left Winry feeling delighted and light-headed. She had given Ed that metal arm. As he hugged her, Winry was able to pick out each grove, curve and screw in Ed's arm, the impressions pressing into her back with gentle but firm insistence. This was a good arm, a strong arm. It would protect him in his quest, just as his leg would.
In some ways, it felt as if Ed was a knight of old, departing on a dangerous quest filled with perils that most could not imagine. He needed a suit of armor, and Winry felt a swell of pride that she had been the one to dress him. Her automail would keep him safe. She knew that each screw, wire, cable and cover would be Ed's shield against whatever foes he faced. What she found most intriguing, however, was how the metal of his arm, so cold and hard, warmed as he held her close.
It was at that moment that Winry fell head-over-heels in love with automail
"I'm not gonna forget you, OK?" Ed stated, his warm breath caressing her neck.
Winry was at least a good head taller than Ed and had been since they were nine. She knew this was why Ed had stopped hugging her since it was his head that ending up nestled under her chin and not the other way around. He hated being reminded of his short stature, and the sacrifice for that great disdain was his hugs which were always warm and inviting, but most of all, wholehearted.
This was their first hug in over three years.
Realizing she wasn't returning his hug, Winry immediately wrapped her own arms around his lower back, her head tilting to rest on top of Ed's. As she hugged him, she spread her fingers wide, as if trying to grasp all of him within her hands. The fabric of his red jacket was coarse and prickly and it ruffled underneath her fingertips. His back muscles, taut and firm with all of the effort he had put into becoming strong flexed and curled, molding to fit warmly in the palm of her hand. His hair tickled her nose and felt rough under her cheek, but she relished it and pulled him close.
She had forgotten how good Ed's hugs felt…how much she loved it when it was just the two of them…
"Al and I will come back as soon as we get our original bodies." Ed swore.
"I know, but that doesn't mean I have to like you leaving." Winry reasoned.
Ed caught his breath when her breath blew through his hair. It wasn't…unpleasant, and that frightened Ed more than his journey to find Al's body. He was too young to be liking girls, and out of all the girls there were to like, why Winry?
'I don't like her.' Ed decided firmly as he released Winry, immediately missing her body heat next to him and then immediately berating himself for missing her warmth. It only reminded Ed of just how much of a bastard he was for taking all of those things away from Al. Every touch, smell, and reaction Ed had towards Winry was something Al couldn't have. Knowing that Al couldn't feel a hug, or smell flowers in someone's hair or cinnamon on their breath or feel his stomach clench and heart pound wildly tore Ed up inside. He wouldn't allow himself to have these feelings, not when Al couldn't.
He'd just wanted to hug her one more time…
"Come on, Win, let's go." Ed said as he stepped around her to begin making his way down the stairs. Dazed, Winry shook herself out of her stupor before following Ed. When he stopped at the bottom of the stairs, the voices of Pinako and Al softly bouncing off the walls, Winry stopped on the step behind him, waiting to see what he was doing.
"You make good automail, Winry. Because of you, I can go on my quest to restore myself and Al. You did that for me. I want you to remember that."
"OK, Ed." Winry answered quietly feeling as if the sun had risen in her heart. It seemed that she had said what Ed wanted to hear for he finished descending the stairs and made his way towards the kitchen. Pinako was standing at the screen door while Al was waiting on the porch.
"Winry!" Al exclaimed. "I didn't think you were going to come down."
"Of course I was, Al. I wasn't going to let you go without saying goodbye."
"Are you still mad at us for burning the house?" Al asked, his voice tinged with guilt.
"Who cares if she's mad? We did the right thing, and it was our house, anyway." Ed snorted as he picked up his suitcase and joined his younger brother on the porch. Winry sighed. Leave it to Al to feel guilty while Ed felt self-righteous.
"I'm still a little mad, Al, but I guess Ed's right. You had to do it."
"I'm sorry." Al said as he came forward to give Winry a hug. The metal of Al's armor was chilling against Winry's skin, but like Ed's automail, it warmed as she held him. Winry knew Al couldn't feel her arms around him, but she also knew that this quest would restore Al's ability to touch and feel.
She could let the Elric brothers go for such an important cause.
"You'll write, won't you? Or call? And you have to come back at least every three months for maintenance, Ed. I'll see you guys soon, right?"
Ed and Al didn't answer for a while and Winry knew that they didn't really know when they would come back to Resembool.
"We'll definitely come back for the maintenance." Ed answered, scuffing his feet against the wood porch. Winry desperately wanted to believe Ed's words, so even though she suspected they were lies, she chose to take them as truth. Ed would be back for a check-up on his automail, Winry was sure of it.
"You two better get going if you want to catch that train." Pinako commented around her pipe.
"We're going, 'ya old hag." Ed grumbled as he turned around and marched down the steps.
"Bye Auntie! Bye Winry! Bye Den!" Al called, waving at the three occupants of the yellow house. Winry waved back, tears once again stinging the corners of her eyes. She had cried enough today, she wouldn't cry as she watched them walk away.
Winry and her grandmother remained on the porch, watching the Elric brothers until they disappeared over the hills, never leaving their post until they heard the whistle of the train as it left Resembool with Ed and Al onboard.
"You're really going to miss them, aren't you?" Pinako asked as she scratched Den behind the ears.
"Yes." Winry answered.
From the moment Ed had stepped off the porch and onto the dirt road, it felt as if he was a million miles away from her. The idea that Ed was gone, completely out of her reach, left Winry feeling lost and uncomfortable and she wasn't sure why. When she thought of Al being gone a heavy melancholy fell on her, but it was very different from how she felt when she thought of Ed.
When did her feelings for the Elric brothers become so different?
When did her feelings for Ed start to change?
"But they'll be back, Granny. They said they would."
If Winry had known that it would be four years until she saw Edward Elric again, she might have hugged Ed just a little longer and a little tighter in the empty hallway outside of her bedroom.
A/N: So this is it, the final chapter in my oneshot drabbles. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my fic, but a very special 'thanks' must be given to those of you who have taken the time to review and tell me your thoughts. Like most fanfic writers, it is your reviews that keep me going. Whenever I was searching for inspiration or suffering from a bought of writer's block I merely went back to my reviews where I was reminded of what my readers like about my stories. Your help has been completely invaluable.
And so, I say once again, reviews are welcomed and greatly appreciated. No flames, please and thank you!