A/N: Post-movie, Ed/Win. Ed and Al wake to find themselves back home, on the other side of the Gate. With no idea how they returned, Winry is their only clue to the secret. And she's not talking….
This is my first FMA fanfiction. Go easy.
Chapter I – Fear
Darkness surrounded him. It pressed from all sides and Ed struggled for oxygen. The black seeped into his lungs, filling and expanding. It choked its way up his throat, becoming solid. Thick. Ed gasped, drawing in more darkness. It pushed against his eyes, fusing them open.
He hung suspended, shackled in the murky shadows that haunted his nightmares. The pressure increased and his insides burned. He knew the eyes would come. Knew the teeth would begin to gnaw and rip. Tear him apart sin by sin.
Let them come.
It was his last thought before the darkness swept him from consciousness.
"Ed?" A female voice sounded above him. "Wake up."
That was strange. The eyes in the Gate knew his name?
Fingers gripped his left shoulder. They were urgent.
"Can you hear me?" The voice drew closer. Warm breath touched his ear. "I need you to wake up now."
A groan pierced the air. It was old and weary.
"That's it. Open your eyes Ed."
He realized the groan was his. He released another, letting it leak out the chill in his cleared lungs.
"Come back to me."
The voice was familiar. It brought a comfort that curled up next to him like a solid form. He wanted to hear it again.
"Don't die on me shorty."
He didn't have enough breath. Couldn't grab enough air.
"I see your mouth moving," lips brushed his ear. "I know you want to swear at me. Be stronger than this. Get angry."
The words were pleading. She was scared.
Ed felt an anger rise from more than her words on stature. He forced his eyelids to flutter.
She needed him awake.
Light flooded his vision and he blinked at its harshness.
A face stared down. Blue eyes locked with his. Blonde hair framed the face, falling down to touch and pool on his chest.
The face smiled and the eyes grew watery.
He found his voice, buried deep by the darkness. "Winry?" Her name ground out in a rasping whisper.
Wet spilled down her cheeks and she sobbed, wrapping arms around his neck. She buried herself in the line of his jaw and her lips again brushed skin.
"I thought you'd never wake up. I thought I'd lost you and Al! I'm so—."
"Al?" Worry rushed his voice. "Where?"
Winry straightened. "He's here," she motioned to a nearby bed. Bare walls of a hospital room spun as he turned to look. Features resembling his lay smoothed, eyes closed and breathing even.
"He's alright," she palmed his chest. "Better off than you."
Ed stared at the fingers splayed across his front. "What are you doing here Winry? How did you make it across the Gate?"
A small smile touched the corners of her mouth. "I didn't. You were the ones who crossed. You're home."
Her hand seemed to push out the cold in his limbs, tingling them into being. Ed sat up and grabbed the wrist at his chest.
"Is the Gate still open?"
Winry's smile grew. "No. General Mustang closed it."
"And on the other side?" He clutched her other arm, drawing her close. "Does the portal still exist there?"
Her smile dropped at his urgency. "I-I don't know."
"How did we come back?" His automail fingers dug into her sleeve.
Pain creased her brow. "Edward, you're hurting me."
"How?!" He shook her.
"I don't know! Let go!"
"Did anyone follow us through?"
Winry shook her head. "No!"
"Stop it Ed! This hurts," her voice broke as his grip tightened.
"Brother!" A sharp bark came from across the room. "Let go!"
Ed whipped to the sound. Alphonse wore a scowl.
"What are you doing?" The younger Elric sat up, hooking elbows around his knees.
Ed loosened his hold.
"Calm down," Al sighed. He raked a bandaged hand through his hair. "They would have told me if there were others."
Ed surveyed the non-descript room. "How long have we been here?"
"I only woke this morning. The General and Major Armstrong sealed the portal three days ago. They found us in the rubble of the underground city."
"So we're back in Central?"
Al nodded. He eyed the automail still at Winry's arm. "She's nursed us back from the brink."
Ed turned to the girl. She was biting her mouth to a thin line to keep from crying out. The cool metal still gripped hard.
He let go. "Sorry."
She pulled her wrist from his left hand. "It's okay."
Her eyes told him it wasn't.
"I was just afraid the army from the other side had followed us," he leaned forward. "Like before."
Winry nodded mutely. She backed up, keeping space between them. Red finger marks were already beginning to appear on her arm.
"I didn't mean to hurt you."
A ghost of her old smile returned. "You never do."
"What?" Ed craned his neck further.
"Nothing," a false brightness entered her eyes. She rose from the bed. "I'm glad you're alright."
'Glad' and 'alright' struck chords in him. She had been terrified. He had never heard her so scared. She was more than glad.
Ed frowned as her weight left the mattress. "Are you going somewhere?"
"You two must be starving," she tucked stray hair behind her ear, not meeting his gaze. "I'll go see what Sheska and I can find in the kitchen."
"Winry…," he reached a hand out. "Don't go."
The brightness came out in a light laugh. "I'll be back."
Ed watched her leave, wondering if her eyes had always been so readable. If he had just missed it.
The door clicked closed and he and Alphonse were left in the quiet.
Al stared at him. "What're you thinking about so hard?"
Ed snapped his gaze from the door to his brother. "What?"
"You look upset."
He sifted through his turmoil, pushing Winry's eyes away. "We almost died."
"More than that."
"We don't know who sent us through the Gate or what affects our journey may have caused."
"The portal could still be open to a world with flying machines, armed vehicles and a political radical bent on conquest."
Al tapped a finger to his chin. "Are you upset about Winry?"
"What?" Ed scoffed. "No."
"I think you are," his brother wagged his finger, imitating Lieutenant Hughes.
"Don't do that. I'm older, I know better."
Al arched a brow. "Cause you have so much more experience with girls."
"I'm not upset about Winry!"
"Fine, fine," Al dropped his knees and slumped back to the pillow. "Hey, remember that old argument of ours?"
"Which one?" Ed followed suit, lifting arms to the back of his head.
"The one about who'd marry Winry?"
"What?! I just asked if you remembered!"
Ed's hands fisted under his neck. He grit teeth. "Yeah. What about it?"
Al cast a smug glance over. "I'd win."
"Psh," Ed closed eyes. "I love your priorities. We have no idea what's going on and are laying like invalids in some unmarked Central hospital wing."
"Just wanted it for the record."
Ed cracked an eye open, turning toward his brother. "You wouldn't."
Al grinned. "I would. She was angry."
"So that's why you're upset."
"I'M NOT UPSET!" Ed chucked his pillow. Al caught it with his face. Muffled protest erupted from beneath goose feathers.
"I'm just saying!" Al pulled the pillow down. "You can admit that every once and awhile I catch you caring."
Ed shifted towards the wall.
"Oh don't be mad," a teasing note entered his voice.
"What's wrong with you?" Ed shifted further away. "You cheat death and the only question you ask is about marriage?"
"Why not? You're getting old brother."
"I think you need more sleep. Eighteen is hardly old," he realized Al had drawn him in. He cursed. "And why are we even talking about this?"
Al grinned again, throwing the pillow at Ed's back. "You were the one who got distracted. I just asked."
Ed reached behind and retrieved the pillow, tucking it snugly under his chin. "Where are Mustang and Armstrong now?" Mattress springs creaked as he tensed.
Al shook his head. "Wow you're easy to read."
"Shut up. So are you."
"Trying to calm me down by switching the subject to Winry?"
"Oh like you're subtle getting back."
"We have NO idea how we got here! I'm staying focused."
Al sat back up. "No wonder she was angry. She always gets back-seat."
Ed shot a look over his shoulder. "Who are you?"
"I did a lot of growing up while you were gone," Al stared thoughtfully up at the ceiling. "I wonder if she goes for younger guys."
"Not for the kind of young she could go to jail for," Ed couldn't help himself. He swore again. Propping himself up on an elbow he fixed his brother with a glare. "So where are they?"
Al continued examining the ceiling. "The General and Major left for the underground city. They thought there might be clues to our reappearance."
Ed lay quiet a moment. "Do you know what happened?" The words were hesitant.
Al closed eyes. "Only that we were in darkness," the light-hearted note left his voice.
They both shuddered. Speaking it aloud gave the chill strength.
"Someone must have brought us back," Ed frowned. "The last thing I remember was looking up at the portal and saying it would be difficult to close without alchemy."
"And how did we cross without making an equivalent exchange?"
"I don't know," Ed clenched his right hand unconsciously. He watched as the metal fingers curled to a fist, commanded by wires attached to nerves. "Do you think we're really in Amestris? I mean… what if we're actually… stuck in the Gate?"
Horror dropped Al's mouth. "Don't say that."
"What if though?" Ed joined his brother, pushing off the bed. "What if this is a dream?" He appraised the room with new scrutiny. A small table separated him from Al, and a worn chair rested in the corner. A tool belt, discarded and forgotten, draped over the chair's seat. It looked like it was taken off in a hurry. Ed recognized it as Winry's instantly. Pain flared in his arm and leg, remembering her deft fingers connecting servos that interpreted messages from his brain.
On cue, the door opened. Ed left the wall, leaning with what he hoped looked like casual interest.
Green eyes and glasses peaked in. "Edward! Alphonse!" Sheska dropped the knob and ran forward, clapping. "You're both alive!" She almost tripped over the chair in her hurry. Catching herself, the girl straightened and pushed glasses up on her nose.
Ed forced a smile. "Always making an entrance."
Sheska palmed her hips. "That one time dropping from the Fuhrer's office hardly counts."
A new voice joined hers. "So says the man who crashed from the sky after two years of absence," Winry followed. She elbowed the door wider, her hands full of tray.
Ed's smile grew genuine. "That was fast."
She cocked a brow. "Have you forgotten who you're dealing with? I can wheedle steak out of the highest bureaucrat."
Sheska's look turned dry. "That shirt you're wearing helps."
Winry glanced to the low-cut innocently. She set the tray down and reached in her back pocket. Sheska shied away as her friend removed a large, oil-stained drill. "This helped more."
Al's eyes went wide. "You swindled steak from the kitchen with a drill?"
"Don't be ridiculous," thick gobs of black flew as she gestured. "I didn't bring steak."
Ed and Al paled.
"If we are stuck in the Gate, they've got Winry down to the tiniest, scary, detail."
Ed watched the girl absently turn on the drill, matching her whistle to its whir as she began picking up plates from the tray. The brightness from before clung, masking her features.
"I don't think she could be copied if every pair of eyes tried their hardest," he spoke to himself.
The drill's whir sped up.
"Soup Ed?" She was already handing him a full bowl.
"Yes please," he eyed flecks of oil floating among the broth.
Winry followed his gaze. "It'll be good for your automail. Eat up."
She pushed the drill again, daring him to argue.
Ed sighed, taking up a spoon. "We're definitely not in the Gate."
Al got even more oil. He made a face. "Yeah… they don't go for slow torture."
The whir grew louder. "What was that Alphonse?"
"Nothing!" He scooped up a quick mouthful.
Ed stared as she took an exaggerated step towards his brother. Why hadn't he ever noticed the false brightness? Had it always been there?