Okay, this is a post-COS story. And it was inspired by… I forget the name, sorry. But the idea was originally not mine. If you recognize anything (I tried to not steal anything at all), that's why. And so I give inspiration credit to him/her/it. Thank you. *leaves podium*
As I put my spanner back in my toolbox, a flash of color crossed my eye. I reached into my toolbox and picked it up. It was a photo of Ed, Al and me in my living room, the last one taken of us together before Ed disappeared – about four years ago. Ed was holding onto a swelling lump on his head with his left arm (his right arm being on my workbench), yelling at me while I waved my wrench around. Al was in the middle trying to calm the argument.
I sighed. I didn't remember that I had put it in there.
"Something wrong, Miss Rockbell?"
I hastily looked over my shoulder at my patient. "Oh, no, nothing at all!" I chirped, hoping to fool him. He wasn't.
He limped over to my work desk on a spare leg and looked over my shoulder, glancing at the picture. He was a local citizen, so he – of course – knew the boys. He stared at the picture fondly and gave a sad smile. "You really do miss them, don't you?" he asked me.
I closed my eyes and nodded. "Yes. I miss them a lot. Now that Granny's gone, I'm all alone. And they were pretty much the only family I had." Then I closed my toolbox. "But don't mind me. Is that spare fitting you well?"
He nodded and kicked his leg around. "Feel's just fine," he assured me. "I'll be back tomorrow for my new one."
I nodded. "And get some sleep this time!" I admonished him as he left. He only chuckled in response and waved as he walked off.
I yawned as I headed up to bed. That was a long day's work. He had been in a bad accident and totally busted his leg, leaving me to totally make a new one. It was almost as bad as Ed's usual.
Ed. The thought of him brought unspoken sadness into my heart. I really did miss him. I cared so much about him, worried about him, but he would never tell me anything, never tell me where he was going or what he was doing, or how he busted up his automail every time he came home. All I could do was wait for him to return. But now he couldn't.
Sad thoughts like these lingered in my head as I climbed into bed. I shifted, tossed, and turned for a while, thinking these things over. But finally, I started to feel tired. The last thought that crossed my head before I slept was 'Ed… I wish I could see you again…'
Then, the next thing I knew, I was standing in front of some big gate. It was huge, completely made of hard gray stone, carved with drawings so intricate that even if I stared at them for a thousand years, I'd never be able to comprehend them. The center was an eye, giant, unblinking, and seemed to probe right into my very soul. The area surrounding the gate and myself was completely white, with no shadows at all. It felt like eternity – an empty eternity. I shuddered. It was a scary thought. There was nothing around me except that gate – like only it was real.
"Do you wish to enter?" came an age-old, knowledgeable voice. It sounded as though it were coming through rock, yet it was so soft and gentle at the same time.
I spun around quickly, but saw nothing. Then I realized that the voice had come from the gate. I turned to face it.
"Do you wish to enter?" It asked again.
From some sudden realization, I became aware of the fact that this was the very gate that took Ed and Al away from me. There was no other possibility.
I looked at the gate – pardon me, the Gate – warily. "What's the exchange?" I asked, not bothering to ask where it would take me. I had a good guess.
Now I was confused. "But what about equivalent exchange? Like what happened to Ed and Al!"
I could swear that the Gate was looking at me. "They did what was forbidden, so they paid the price. Do you wish to enter?"
I thought for a moment – Ed would say that the Gate wouldn't lie. I knew and trusted Ed's opinions on a lot of things – except automail. The guy couldn't tell a wrench from a spanner. But back to the point. I knew Ed would be right about this. I looked at the Gate squarely in the carved eye.
The Gate opened. Millions of small black hands – boneless and lengthless, it seemed – reached out and grabbed me, rendering me motionless in its – or was it their? – grasp. I was frightened, but I did trust the Gate. I knew it wouldn't hurt me. Call me strange, but I had a feeling – maybe it was the Gate's Truth. I felt totally calm. Even the feeling of the hands on me had no effect, even though they had no skin, just something that I could never describe, and the feeling of them on me was not a pleasant one. It reminded me of the legs of an octopus (which I hated, by the way).
"One question!" I yelled to the Gate as I was pulled towards it. "Why is there no exchange for me?"
The hands stopped moving. There was silence surrounding me, and I could swear the Gate was pondering its answer. It must've come up with something reasonable, because it said (sounding quite satisfied, might I add), "Because love has no equivalency."
I was through before I could ask what it meant.
I was standing on the top of a grassy hill, beside a tree. At the base of the hill was a giant river, reflecting the lights of the city on the other side, but it reflected no stars – the light of the city drowned them out. Reason one why cities never appealed to me. Bridges connected each side of the river, but since it was nighttime, all was quiet. The place where I was was desolate and empty, not a soul around. A breeze swept by, and I wrinkled up my nose in disgust – the stench was bad. Worse than Central air. But it still seemed fairly clean, compared to the scent of the city on the other side.
Suddenly – pardon my ignorance – it occurred to me that I was not sleeping in my bed back at home. I wasn't even in Resembool! Where was I then? All memory of the Gate had been lost as I passed through it. I had no idea where I was.
Then I saw something. Or, should I say, someone. I wasn't alone after all. The figure was standing very still, facing the water with his – for it was obviously a man – hands in his pockets. He had blonde hair pulled back into a simple ponytail. He was kind of tall. He wore a long brown jacket, which swayed in the small breeze. Something about his stance caught my attention. It was so firm, so sure, so powerful – and so sad. I quickly focused my attention to something else, trying not to feel unnecessary pain.
Then I saw his back.
I would recognize that back anywhere. It was a back I had to watch leave me all the time, not knowing where he was headed or when he would return.
I started to rush forward, but when I heard him speak, I stopped.
"It's at times like this when I miss them the most," he muttered to himself. He lifted his face up to the empty sky. "I never even got to say goodbye." He paused for a moment. "What I wouldn't give just to hear her voice… one last time…"
At that moment, he stiffened and spun around, his hands leaving their pockets. His eyes widened as they saw me. "W…Winry?"
At that moment, I had no thought whatsoever but to hold him, make sure he was real, that this wasn't all a cruel dream. So I ran down the hill and pulled Ed into a tight embrace, knocking him off balance. He was real. This wasn't a cruel dream. In my joy, I pulled him tighter to me. I would never let him go now.
I could tell he was blushing furiously, but he was still frozen in his earlier position. Just like last time (1). But to my surprise, he slowly brought his arms up, and wrapped them around me, pulling me tightly to him as well. Now it was my turn to blush.
We stayed like that for a moment. To me, it was bliss. I could only hope he felt the same. Then something occurred to Edward, and he pulled away. "Wait, Winry – how did you get here?"
The thought hadn't even occurred to me. "I – I'm not sure, Ed," I whispered, confused. He gave a slight nod, looking slightly pained.
"Ed," I whispered again (we couldn't seem to raise our voices at all), "I've missed you so much!"
More pain crossed his face. "And do you think I didn't miss you?" he asked me.
A flash of annoyance was probably crossing my face right now. "I didn't say that!"
Ed rolled his eyes. "No, not yet."
Now you should definitely be able to tell that I was annoyed. "Yet?! Edward Elric, you rude little shrimp!"
He laughed. "You can't call me a shrimp anymore, Winry. I'm a good few inches taller than you." He gestured to our heights. Even with me standing higher on the uneven ground, I didn't come close to him. Trust Ed to notice something like that right off the bat.
I 'hmmph'ed. "Well, it took you long enough!" I teased, trying to annoy him. He just shrugged. "…Alchemy freak!" I added.
"Alchemy doesn't work on this side of the Gate."
More silence. My eyes widened. "…Oh," was all I could say. "So you have absolutely nothing here but Al. Not even alchemy…" he nodded.
"And this world is constantly at war, too," he added. "They don't wear bright colors. They pollute the air. Women are expected to be obedient little housewives, with no job at all. And they enslave other people just because their skin is a different color. There are so many homeless people, and no one is willing to take the time to help them. They're prejudiced against foreign people, but with no knowledge of what they're really like at all. They think they're so civilized, but they don't have a clue what life is like next door to them. They don't seem to care."
I was appalled. "Then what good does this world have?!" I asked, raising my voice slightly.
He looked upwards towards the sky again. "Machines that fly to the stars," he muttered. After a moment, he looked back at me. "I build them for a living now, you know."
I was confused now, on more than one level. "First of all, you do what?"
He rolled his eyes. "Come on, Winry, after all those automail repairs, don't you think that I'd pick up on how to use the tools?"
I gave him an incredulous glance. "You couldn't tell a spanner from a wrench the last time I checked," I informed him.
"And when was the last time you checked?"
I had no answer to that.
"I thought so."
Veins throbbing at Ed's sarcasm, I tried to change the subject. "Speaking of automail, how's yours holding up?"
He looked down at his right hand. "Well, it's in pretty good condition. You'd be surprised how hard I've tried to keep it in perfect shape. But they're a little short now, and they throw me off balance. I end up walking with a limp."
Now that I looked, I could tell that his left side was shorter than his right.
I rubbed my forehead. "Darn it," I muttered. "I don't have my kit with me at all."
Ed rubbed his neck. "I could get you top quality tools, easy," he said, "but I don't have any automail materials. Sorry."
I sighed. "I guess you'll have to deal with it for now," I told him.
I looked at him. "You don't think that I'll let you stay here forever, do you?"
He shrugged. That's when I noticed something.
"Ed," I mused, "you've gotten so much calmer now. Harder to annoy."
He gave me a wry grin. "That's what four years of exile does to you, I guess. But Al's just as chipper as ever. He always has been that way. I'm glad I didn't let him join the military. That would've sucked him dry."
"Speaking of the military," I said (the thought had just occurred to me), "They promoted you."
"Promoted me? How? I've haven't even been there!" Then he paused. He had figured it out. "Oh…" He turned his face to the ground.
I nodded. "Like they did with Mr. Hughes. For those who gave themselves for their country." I could barely let the words out.
He turned back up from the ground and looked at me curiously. "What did they promote me to?"
His eyes widened. "N-nani? That high? But Lt. Colonel Hughes was only promoted two ranks! And I'm out of duty!"
I simply nodded. "It was on the plaque."
If possible, his eyes got wider. "Plaque?"
I nodded again. "Under the memorial statue."
I swear, his eyes were as big as saucers by now.
I was getting sick of nodding by now. "Yes. They made it in your honor. They had Major Armstrong make it for you out of solid gold. It's a very good likeness," I added. "The Major should've been an artist. They put the statue at the Central headquarters. It's depicting you in your usual (2) clothes…" I said, eyeing his unnaturally normal garb, "…with your arm transmuted, in the middle of a fight. But you looked quite confident."
He chuckled. "At least they're not making any jokes about my height."
I laughed. "Well, Mustang tried to, but they wouldn't let him."
Then he stopped. "Just Mustang? What happened to Colonel?"
I had forgotten that he didn't know. "Ed," I said gently, "Mustang hasn't been a Colonel since you left the first time."
And he didn't move.
"Ed!" I said frantically, waving my hand in his face. "ED!"
He snapped back. "So many things that I've missed…" he said sadly, his eyes staring, yet unseeing, out into space.
I frowned. "Ed, back in Amestris, they told me the whole story. Why didn't you ever tell me these things? About homunculi? The ingredients of the stone? Anything! I might not have been able to help, but at least I could've been there for support! Why didn't you tell me a thing??"
He looked at me with an emotion I couldn't decipher – it was so foreign to Ed's face. "Because," he almost shouted, "I love you too much to pain you that way!"
"…L-love me?" I whispered.
Ed finally figured out that he said what he did, and a furious blush was instantly on his face. He faced the ground again – there must really be something interesting down there – and nodded.
I couldn't believe what I had heard. All this time, I had loved Ed from a distance, always wishing he would open up to me, or at least try not to get killed so often. I knew Ed had no time for love. But now, to hear him say that he had loved me all along…
Before either of us could really figure it out, we were both locked in each other's grasp. I could feel the heat spreading across both of our faces, but – thankfully – neither of us released our hold on the other. We continued to stand like that for quite a while, trapped in a big hug.
After a while, Ed released me. He didn't step away, though, which was what I as afraid he would do. Instead, he turned his head down to me – I wasn't used to that – and, with his eyes burning with that same undecipherable emotion – passion, I guessed – and kissed me. For a moment, I couldn't move, I was too surprised. But once I got my bearings, I threw my arms back around him and kissed him back. Now both of our faces were hotter than flames.
Local police officer Maes Hughes was walking home from a late night yelling at local drunks. He decided to walk slowly this time, and take in the peacefulness of the riverside. He was pausing to marvel at the beauty of it all when he saw one – no, two – people already there. A closer inspection proved it to be Ed and – wait for it – a woman!
'Impossible! Ed with a woman? Kissing, no less!' was Hughes' first thought. But he looked again, nonetheless.
It was Ed. There was no mistaking it. But who was this girl? He was sure he knew every face in Munich, but that one was unfamiliar. He would have to ask Ed about it tomorrow. But Ed could easily deny seeing anyone…
Finally, Hughes had an idea. He pulled out a camera (3) and aimed it at Ed. He knew Ed would be too preoccupied to notice.
(1) When Ed and Winry saw each other again in COS – Winry said something along the lines of "I was wondering when you'd show" and then she hugged him. Practically glomped him! XD
(2) Usual, as in his usual black garb that he wore in Amestris.
(3) I don't know how he did that. The cameras back then were NOT carry-in-your-pocket sized. -_-' But hey, this is a fanfic. Anything goes.
I was happy adding Hughes into the story. I love that guy! ^_^ He rulz! He's the definition of beast! Well, him and Ed and Al. ^_^
And please, this wasn't meant to be for an audience originally, so no flames.
Please read and review! I strongly dislike it when people put me on Story Alert or Favorite Stories without reviewing. To be frank, it pisses me off.
Thanks for reading!