I thought this was all a dream.
The day was clear and bright. The sun shone, the sky blushing red amongst a violet pink sky. Not a cotton ball cloud in the sky to ruin my mood. Den was bounding through grass and dirt and leaves as I worked on Edward's arm. At least, it would have been his arm. He was somewhere else now. I simply tinkered with the automail out of boredom and habit. My eyes had trailed slowly to the path leading from our house. I didn't know what made me look. A spot of brown, trimmed with white, and shining metal. I dropped my wrench, barely acknowledging the dull thud as it hit the yellow tinged dirt under me.
"Edward?" I gasped as the figure advance, his face clear to me now. "Edward?!"
"Long time, no see, Winry." he said softly, almost as though he thought this was all a dream as well. My hands shook, my eyes burned, my knees felt weak. I had managed to run to him, wrapping my arms around his neck and burying my spilling eyes into his shoulder. It was a very "lover" thing to do, but I hadn't seen him in three years. I believe I had the right to cry.
"Edward!" I choked, trying to clear my throat.
"Yes, I think we've established who I am." he laughed, wrapping his left hand around my shoulders. It was sort of romantic.
That is, until Den bounded in.
"Whoa!" Ed shouted, hitting the dirt as a pink tongue slid over his face and throat. Brushing the dog away, he looked ready to murder Den, who was shaking his whole entire butt.
"Sorry!" I laughed, drying my eyes with one hand and holding Den's collar with the other. "I'm so pathetic! I didn't mean to cry on you."
"No foul. Where's Aunt Pinako?" he asked in a light-hearted voice. I looked away, scratching under Den's chin. Remembering the day, just two years ago, he whined pitifully.
"She's gone, Ed." I whispered. Was God trying to make me cry?
"What?!" Ed seemed angry at this. He kicked a bucket of water lying nearby. the wooden object rolled to the fence.
"Ed, calm down!" I cried. Den shouted at us both. Ed was still panting, but he didn't kick anything else.
"Dammit…" he whispered, clenching his fists. "I can here to see both of you, and ol' Pinako's dead? God really hates me."
"Ed, no one around here hates you." I sighed heavily. What good was I to him, or anyone, if I couldn't comfort him now?
"And you had to suffer the pain alone…" he continued. My eyes stung at his sympathy. Even now, he was thinking about me. "Am I always too late?"
"Edward Elric, there's no logical reason to think like that. We can pay our respects tomorrow." I assured him, then smiled. "Let's go inside. I want to hear about all your travels."
"Okay, but what is that?" he asked, pointing to the metal arm I had been constructing.
"Automail." I answered, trying to get on his nerves. It worked.
"I can see that."
"Oh. It's an arm."
"Smart-aleck." he replied, picking it up for me. I lead him to our porch, deciding I'd get my wrench later. Opening the door for him, I got a better look at the man he had become. He'd gotten more attractive over the years, a slight stubble building on his chin.
"If you need to shave…" I hinted as he sat the arm on what was now my work table.
"Yes, I need to." he answered, blushing, and quickly left the room, leaving me alone. I smiled at the sun.
"God, if you're up there, thank you."
I had cleaned up the kitchen and dinner almost ready by the time Ed emerged. His face was slightly flushed from the shave, and his hair was less unkempt. I could guess there were golden hairs stuck in the comb on the bathroom counter.
"Dinner is almost done." I told him, turning off the sink. My dishrag just disappeared. "What? Where'd it go?"
"Funny, Edward." He'd tossed it to me, only to have it land in the sink.
"Yeah, I bet." I grumbled.
Ed was in front of me, a dry Terry cloth in his hands. Silently, he took one of my own and massaged it softly. My face and neck flamed up, my hands shook slightly, but Ed didn't even seem to notice. I looked up at him when he reached for the other one. When he caught my eye, he simply grinned. I felt like a newlywed.
"I...I better check the food." I mumbled, taking my hand from his grasp. In a quick movement, Ed had trapped my fingers once again. I turned to demand his behavior, but the sun colored locks that fell from his forehead sheathed his eyes. "Edward?'
"You…you're not mad?" he asked silently. "I left you, I abandoned you, and now Pinako passed without seeing me. Don't you feel any hatred towards me?"
I smiled, reaching up to put a hand on the top of his skull. He'd gotten taller than me. "Edward Elric, how could I hate you?" I whispered. In this situation, a year ago, I would be the one crying. "You left to protect the lives of others. I never felt that you abandoned me. And Grandma always loved you, and she respected you choices in life. No one holds it against you that you weren't here."
His whole frame shook. I was afraid that Edward would fall to pieces. He'd always acted strong, put on a brave face, and smiled all the way. But, the young boy inside was crying, all alone with no one. That little boy was coming out now, as he pressed the hand he had kidnapped to his left eye. I smiled sadly. He'd been so held together this, I was surprised he hadn't cracked sooner.
"I…I must look so pathetic," he choked out, voice cracking and failing at times. I was almost brought to tears myself. I figured that the soup I had simmering on the stove could wait.
"No. You've kept a brave face for us so long. It's your turn to cry." I answered, sweeping hair back from his forehead. He was so human right now. There were times he seemed like a robot from his emotionless reactions to things. It was a relief to see him like this.
"I…I guess we're even." he laughed. "You first cried on me, now I'm crying on you."
"I guess so." I agreed, stroking his hair. His legs had collapsed on him, so I was kneeling before a despaired man, his head bowed and my metacarpals still clenched tightly in his. He seemed so needy now, like a child who scraped his knee for the first time. I felt like it was my responsibility to tell him that the world wasn't going to end, that everything was okay.
"I'm sorry." he finally mumbled, wiping at his eyes as he released my hand. "I didn't mean to make you worry, and the soup is probably foaming at the mouth."
"Probably. Nothing a long attention span can't handle." I giggled, standing up and turning my back on him. He was such a dork.
I had bowls set out for us. "So, where's Al?" I asked, suddenly remembering Ed's younger brother.
"He decided to stay." Ed answered, setting the table. It was exactly like we were a family, the husband putting out silverware as the wife served the meal.
"That's too bad."
"I know how Al reacts to the loss of someone he loves. It's better he doesn't hear that Aunt Pinako is dead.
I remembered the last time I saw Alphonse Elric. He had grown into a handsome young man, a heartbreaker for the girls. He was most likely facing that onslaught by himself.
"Is he doing well?"
"When I left, yes. It seems he's found himself a lady friend." Ed sat down before his bowl, grinning. I guessed he was happy to get some food.
"It seems like we're newlyweds, huh?" he asked, scooping a mouthful into the hole under his nose. I flushed, but nodded. Those were my exact thought earlier.
"I guess it's the fact we're here alone." I added, removing my apron and sitting across from him.
I listened as Edward told me all of his adventures in the other world. The country he was in was called Germany, and there had been some kind of war where gypsies (who were like witches, but actually good, he explained to me) and others were hated and shunned from society. He told me that when he left, things were still being resolved, even though the war was over.
"Yes, Edward?" I asked, blowing gently on my spoon.
"I have to tell you something."
"I figured that out. What is it?"
"I have to leave tomorrow. To go back to Al."
"What?!" I stood, dropping my spoon and almost knocking my bowl and the table onto him. "Why didn't you say anything?!"
"Because I knew you'd react like this!"
"It's just like you! You never tell me anything, and then I get angry! You don't trust me, do you?!" I could feel tears as hot as the stove drop off my chin.
"No, I don't want to hear it!" I screamed at him. "If you don't trust me then go home!"
I fled for the stairs, for the safety and seclusion of my attic bedroom. It wasn't fair. He had me believing that he was here to stay, that I could maybe start a family with him. It seemed that I was nothing but a hopeful idiot. I slammed the door closed behind me, locking it and falling to my feet. I covered my face with my hands. I just said such cruel things to him. Such cruel, heartless words. He would never forgive me. He would never love me now.
"Win," Ed said softly through the door, using my old nickname. How many years had it been since that words passed his lips? How many years…? "Win, open the door."
I didn't respond. He didn't say anything more, but I heard him slide down the door, a small thump when he sat down.
"I'm not leaving." he reported. I had figured that out when he sat down, though I didn't say anything. His sudden news had infuriated me. "Winry, I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but if I had said anything sooner, you wouldn't have wanted to even see me."
Although I wanted to hit him for saying such a thing about me, it was true. If he'd said he had to leave the next day, I would have never even spoken to him. I reached up behind me, hearing the lock click and feeling it move under my fingers. I shifted. If Ed was leaving tomorrow, I had to tell him I loved him, or else he'd be gone from me forever.
I could hear the door open behind me. "Winry, I'm so sorry."
"How many times are you going to apologize?" I asked silently. Ed sat next to me, stroking my hair.
"As many times as it takes, until you forgive me."
He cupped his hand over my cheek. Instinctively, I looked up at him. We both had melancholic expressions, I could just tell by the way his eyes scanned my face slowly. Ed's shoulders rose and fell with his silent respiration. His expression told of deep thoughts. His flesh was warm, inviting. I couldn't take my eyes off of him. It seemed that the moonlight, which was the only source or illumination, made his skin glow, the automail arm at his side reflected its pale light.
"Winry…" he sighed, leaning in close. I closed the space between us, his lips soft and warm against mine. I held my eyes shut, trying to block the tears that always seemed to break free. I pulled away, trying to tell him to stop, but Edward had no participation. I was stopped by his hand, which inched forward behind my head.
"No," he whispered, "please, just tonight… Just give me tonight."
I succumbed to the yearning in his voice, the begging need in his touch to hold me. I felt his arms around me, picking me up, holding my body close to his. I kept my arms around his waist. I knew what he wanted (not that I didn't want it), and I would do just that. I would give him tonight.
THE NEXT MORNING
Even as my body became aware of my position, as my mind processed last night, I knew he was gone. But, clenching the white sheet to my bare chest as I looked around, my heart fell as I saw I was alone. Tears gathering in the bottom of my eyes, I silently dressed myself. After all, he was gone forever. Why was I going to worry about him?
This, I thought, as tears as hot as the sun slid down my face.
TEN YEARS LATER
"Elda! Elda, wait up!" I shouted. As a twenty-nine year old, I wasn't as young as I used to be, or as fast.
"C'mon, Mama!" she called back, laughing. "Grandma won't be happy if you lose to me!" Her golden eyes shone with laughter. I smiled, thinking just how much she looked like her father. She disappeared around a corner. I heard an "oof!," a thump!, and then the frantic apologies of my daughter.
"I'm very sorry, sir." she repeated over and over.
"I'm fine, Miss." an all too familiar voice said, laughing. As I rounded the corner, my heart stopped with my feet. Two pairs of golden eyes with questions looked back at me.
"Elda, go ahead to Grandma. I'll catch up." I told her, handing her the flowers and offering. She looked between me and the man, and nodded, her skirt hitting against her calves as she fled to the cemetery.
"Winry?" Edward asked. I nodded, tears brimming up.
"Yes, Edward." I answered, wiping at my eyes and trying to clear the lump in my throat. "It's me."
"You have a daughter?" he asked, his voice dropping ever so slightly. I nodded. His face fell and he looked away. "Oh, I see…"
"Edward, I didn't marry anyone. She's yours." I told him, watching the shock hit him as he turned back to look at me. "You think I'm lying?"
"…I want to say yes, but you might have a wrench with you."
"No, Ed, I'm unarmed. C'mon, this is something we have to tell her together."
I grabbed his hand, ready to drag him to meet his daughter. Edward seemed to have another idea. He pulled me into his arms, taking me by surprise.
"I'm so sorry." he whispered. "I left you again, I hurt you again. I can't bear the fact that I did something so cruel."
"Edward, what are you talking about?" I asked. It seemed every time I saw him, I was crying. "You gave me something no one could ever have given me. Your love, a child." I put my arms around him as his grip tightened. "I just want to make sure you're here to stay this time."
"You bet." he answered softly, kissing me and the brushing a lock of hair from my eyes. "Now, we better catch up to her. She might be wondering where her mother is."
The walk to my grandmother's grave was a short one. There, Elda had the herbs burning, the flowers set up in the bamboo vase, and she had her hands clasped and head bowed. I stopped, nudging Edward to go ahead and speak to her. He and I shot each other looks, having a silent argument, until he finally threw his hands up and turned to sit beside his daughter, clasping his hands and praying. I hadn't ever seen him pray before. He wasn't religious, after all, so it looked a little awkward.
"Are you praying for great-Grandma, too?" she asked, looking at her father with eyes as wide as saucers. Ed opened an eye, nodding.
"Yep. Aunt Pinako took care of me after my mother died." he explained. Elda's eyes widened even more, and she smiled.
"Does that mean you knew Mama?!" she asked excitedly. Again, Edward nodded as I sat behind my nine year old daughter.
"Elda, this man is your father." I said softly. The small girl looked from me to a smiling Edward, then back to me.
"You mean I ran into my dad?" she asked me. Shoulders shaking with silent laughter, I nodded. She was such a funny girl sometimes. "That's so cool!"
She tackled her dad to the ground, laughing as grass and dirt tangled with her hair and Ed's. It'd been a long time since I'd really seen her smile like that. Especially on such a day.
"C'mon, Mama! Let's all go home together!" she shouted, hugging onto her father like this was the only time she'd see him.
"That's a good idea." I said, helping the two of them to their feet. "Where's Al?"
"Probably at our house, showing his fiancée where we used to live." he answered.
"Ooh! I wanna see!" Elda shouted, hanging off of Ed's neck. He put his arms around her, supporting her better.
"Ed?" I asked. He sighed, then shrugged.
"Sure. It's a long story, though."