Hello! This is my new Fullmetal Alchemist fic, the first I've written in this fandom. Please be gentle with me! The basic reason that I decided to write this story stemmed from my surprise at how few Roy/Winry fics are out there.
Don't get me wrong- I like Roy with Riza. It makes a lot of sense, and seems more likely from a canon point of view. But in terms of dynamics in the series (as opposed to the manga, which I can't vouch for), there seems to be too much tension in the air between Roy and Winry to disregard the idea completely. I guess you could say this is my way of exploring their... issues. Isn't that what fan fiction is for? : )
This takes place in the series/movie universe, and doesn't necessarily jive with the manga. I read 9 or 10 volumes of the manga, but that was a few years ago. I'll be sticking to the world as portrayed in the anime for the purpose of this story. Also, Winry's age may be off by a year or two. I tried to be accurate, but I wasn't sure if she was Ed's age or a year or two older. Please don't yell at me if I got it wrong! Haha.
The name of this story is taken from a song by U2. I don't own the song, I don't own U2, and I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist. If I owned any of these things, I could probably afford to hire a scriptwriter to write this fan fiction for me. But where's the fun in that?
Running to Stand Still
Chapter 1: Alive
Springtime in Resembool was a riot of nature. Birds sang, flowers bloomed, clouds drifted peacefully across the endless blue sky. The town was known for the beauty of its rolling green fields and hillsides, and most people who visited were even more eager to find some peace and quiet than the actual residents.
Those who passed through Resembool generally didn't make a point of visiting the graveyard. In fact, few people outside the tiny country town even knew it was there, and even the townspeople scarcely realized the tragedy and significance the place represented in the grand scheme of the nation's recent upheaval. Humanity had certainly perfected the art form of being happily oblivious...
Winry Rockbell sat quietly on a hillside directly overlooking the small, unremarkable collection of graves. The sun was low in the western sky, casting an orange glow over the hilltops and purple shadows into the valleys below. It was the anniversary of her parents' death. How long had it been now? twelve years? She had been eight years old when they died...
The terror and pain she had felt at that time were no longer fresh, though the memory itself was clear enough. She could actually smile now when visiting their graves, as she was sure they would wish her to do. Sometimes she felt guilty for being able to do it. Should the grief be allowed to fade, even after such a time? She wasn't sure, but she usually felt at peace now when she thought of them. That peace, however, was not complete. A few feet away from her parents' graves was another, the resting place of Trisha Elric.
A lump still formed in Winry's throat when her glance fell upon the headstone of the long-dead woman. It wasn't because of her death, sad though it had been. It as because of the disappearance from this world of Edward and Alphonse Elric- Trisha's sons.
Winry sighed, blonde hair fluttering around her face in the evening breeze. It had been two years. She knew in her heart that Ed and Al weren't dead, and that they would never have graves in any cemetery in this world for her to mourn at. She didn't want to mourn them. She was glad they were still living their lives somewhere, that they were together. But that didn't stop her from feeling the loss.
It was maddening sometimes; almost as though they had been erased from existence and the memories she carried were somehow false. Smiling slightly as she rose to her feet, Winry realized that she now understood to some extent how Al had felt in his metal shell when he feared the origin and veracity of his own memories. But she was made of flesh and blood, and her faith in her friends was still strong. Even if the Elrics had left this world, at least she could keep them alive in her heart and hope that they wouldn't forget her, either.
Walking slowly down the hillside, Winry prepared to say goodnight to her parents and head back to the house where Grandma Pinako was waiting. The old woman certainly didn't like it when Winry spent so much time at the graveyard, especially when it started getting dark out. As she leaned down to lay a bouquet of wildflowers at the foot of the graves, she caught sight of a dark figure out of the corner of eye. Was Pinako...? No. Her Grandmother knew where she was, and wouldn't come searching for her all the way out here even at this late hour. Winry straightened, turning quickly to meet the approaching visitor face to face.
The figure stopped suddenly, as if not expecting to find her there. Winry couldn't quite see the expression on the man's face with the setting sun blazing behind him, but she knew who he was just the same.
Immediately recognizable even from his silhouette alone, Winry would know Roy Mustang anywhere- from the dark locks of hair laying across that imposing eye patch all the way down to the shiny tips of his military issue boots. Winry frowned slightly. She knew why he would be here, of course she did, but that didn't make it any easier knowing that she was standing at her parents' graves at the same time as the man who had murdered them.
Winry was still as he took another step forward, bringing his face into clearer view. He looked pensive, mouth turned down slightly. His gaze was initially drawn to the headstones beside her, one good eye rising up to meet her shellshocked glance with some amount of effort. Winry could sense a certain measure of pain in the man's expression, and maybe just a dash of determination.
"Miss Rockbell. I didn't expect to meet you here at this late hour. I'm sorry if I've disturbed you." His attention shifted back to the graves of her parents. Winry shook her head to clear her thoughts, no longer frozen to the spot by the intensity of his expression.
"It's alright. I guess I can understand why you would come here. I was just leaving anyway." Saying a silent farewell to her parents, Winry turned to go. She barely heard his reply, it was spoken with such unfamiliar softness.
"You don't have to leave."
Looking over her shoulder, Winry watched as Roy slowly placed two long-stemmed white flowers- lilies, perhaps- next to the colorful bunch she had left before. He regarded the markers silently, not seeming bothered by her presence behind him. Next, he took a few steps to the left, repeating his actions with a similar flower for Trisha Elric's grave. After a few moments of painfully silent stillness, he turned to face her. He still had one white flower in his hand. He held it toward her with almost a ghost of a smile on his face. "I was planning on leaving this one for you, but since you're here I might as well give it to you."
Spinning around to face him fully, Winry frowned at his extended hand. "Leaving it for me? I'm not dead." The last light of the sun lit her blue eyes to a shining midnight as it dropped below the horizon.
He didn't shrink from her gaze, or retract his offering. "I know that. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't pay my respects to you..."
...because what I did to you was just as bad as what I did to them.
Those were the unspoken words that were tangible in the air between them. Relaxing from a tense stance she didn't even remember taking, Winry accepted the flower. "I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say 'thank you' or not."
Mustang shrugged, looking at the ground. "So don't."
A strange understanding passed between them as they stood in the newly birthed starlight. In that moment, there was no animosity, no blame, maybe even no guilt. Just two people standing in a graveyard, maybe bruised but no longer bleeding. Life, however, is no fairy tale, and the comfortable atmosphere didn't last long.
Winry glanced down at the white flower, twisting the stem between her fingers. "I really should go." There wasn't anything to add, really. 'Have a nice night, good running into you' just didn't seem to apply to this situation at all.
He appeared next to her as she began to walk away. "Let me walk you back, it's almost completely dark out."
She was afraid he might say something like that.
Glancing at him sidelong, Winry's eyes narrowed slightly. "I know the way back. I really don't need an escort."
Roy continued to look straight ahead as they walked, keeping pace as she sped up her steps. His eyebrow quirked in irritation... or was it amusement? "I'm well aware of that. Unfortunately we're going the same direction, so I'm afraid you're stuck with me."
Of course- she almost groaned- the train station was just a mile or so beyond her house. He was probably catching the last train out of town.
The silence between them only aggravated her discomfort as she walked next to him. Stealing another glance, she saw that his face maintained a carefully neutral expression. Never had Winry known a person who made her feel so... confused.
Roy Mustang- was he a Colonel now, or a General? Not that it mattered. Her feelings were the same whether he was a foot solder or a king. Everything horrible that had happened in her life was directly connected to him. It should be so easy to hate him, to blame him. But she found that she really couldn't. And where did that leave her?
Remembering back to the days before she knew the truth about him, she had really admired him then. From the time he had come to Resembool after Ed and Al's failed transmutation to her first few visits to Central... She had respected him greatly, knowing that he had the Elric's best interest in mind no matter how much Ed refused to admit it. She felt that he was a person to be trusted, a person who deserved respect and maybe even gratitude. Imagine her reaction when those particular illusions were shattered...
She hadn't even had to try to push those feelings from her mind when she initially discovered that Mustang had killed her parents. Any feeling other than loathing swiftly erased itself, to be replaced by purest rage and disbelief that he could live with himself and be such an arrogant individual after what he had done. This understandably lasted for awhile, but as she began to understand his motivation, watched him try even harder to protect the Elric brothers even when they didn't want to be protected, risk his life trying to make things right... those feelings began to return. They were in painful conflict when matched against her losses, which she still felt- at least to some extent- were his fault. Needless to say, seeing him again after his role in sealing her two best friends in the other world made Winry's stomach churn.
In reality she knew he hadn't meant to do any of it, to take away the people she loved. She didn't really blame him for Ed and Al at all, not really, but she couldn't help but resent him for destroying the gate. If only life were simpler so she could hate Roy Mustang the way she was convinced she wanted to...
Winry felt her companion slow beside her, wondering if perhaps he could hear her thoughts. He stared off to the side of the road at a spot, Winry realized, she knew well. Under a growth of meandering vines and hidden from view by thick brush were the blackened remains of the Elric house.
Roy looked deep in thought as he viewed the empty shell of what was once a happy home. Nature had certainly done a good job of reclaiming its territory. Even Winry occasionally forgot to notice the overgrown foundation. She was surprised his one eye way so keen in the growing darkness that he could pick it out. The words she felt herself speaking then were accidental, not meant to be voiced aloud.
"They're really gone."
He jerked his head around, looking startled, as if he had forgotten she was there. He started to say something, but reconsidered at the last moment. His pause was thoughtful. He actually looked somewhat... sad. "Who knows? The Elrics aren't just anybody. If they crossed over once maybe they can do it again." He shrugged once more, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.
"Who knows? I do. They aren't coming back this time. Can't you feel it?"
Roy started walking again, answering with an enigmatic smirk. "Nothing is final. They aren't dead, I can feel that much. Beyond that...?" He trailed off, leaving room for her to fill in the blanks as she pleased.
"Are you just trying to make me feel better because you feel guilty for destroying the gate?" She stood in the middle of the road, angrily staring at the back of his head. His answers sounded like an evasion, an attempt to circumvent reality. He turned abruptly, taking two long steps toward her.
"Should I? I only did what Edward asked of me. I believe I owed him that much." His visible eye was almost a cobalt grey in the reflected darkness. She was drawn into his intent gaze. "Not everything is my fault, Winry."
She gasped at the sound of her name on his lips, whispered like an oath. The tension between them was much thicker than the intervening foot and a half of charged air. For a moment, she wasn't sure which way was up, or why her heart was hammering in her chest.
...Oh, that's right. It was probably because of the other feelings she had for him all those years ago. The ones you could easily classify as a school girl crush. Yes, even that aspect of her former admiration reasserted itself at times. And what words could express how wrong that seemed- being... attracted to her parents' killer? And why, why was she having such thoughts at a moment like this?
By the time she recovered her senses, he was twenty feet away down the road. She jogged to catch up, carefully sealing away even the smallest inclination to have even a mild crush on this man. So busy she was, putting her thoughts in check, that the silent remainder of their walk was over before she knew it. Lights glowed warmly out of the waiting house, now a mere fifty feet away.
At the end of the driveway he stopped, giving a small bow. "I'd best continue on. I don't want to miss the train to Central. Goodnight, Miss Rockbell." His smile didn't meet his eyes, and the thin veil of politeness didn't fool her. She hadn't meant to add more guilt to the burden he was already carrying...
She reached out and grasped his shoulder as he turned away. "I'm sorry."
He didn't look back. "You have nothing to apologize for. Take care of yourself, OK?"
Winry felt the sincerity of his words as she watched him disappear down the shadowy road. "You too," she whispered. For awhile she watched the spot where he had last been visible. Roy Mustang... surely her relationship with this man would always be complicated. But as she heard Grandma Pinako's voice calling from the house, Winry realized she was grateful to the General for making her feel these confused emotions. At times the reality of losing so many friends and loved ones- her parents, Mr. Hughes, Ed and Al- made her feel a little numb inside, just that little bit dead. Like they had each taken a chunk of her with them to the afterlife or wherever it was they had gone, and there was nothing left of her anymore.
If nothing else, the wide-ranging kaleidoscope of things Winry felt when she saw him proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that she was still alive...
Well, that's the end of chapter one. Sorry if it seemed to move a little slow, but it was necessary to set up Winry's emotional state. In the next installment hopefully we'll catch up with Roy in Central and see what he's up to. What did he think of their encounter? Does he feel guilty about destroying the gate to the other world? And most importantly, is he going out with Riza? Hahaha, I don't know if there's anybody out there interested in reading this, but if you are, please leave a review!