The day old coffee tasted like stale grinds and dirty water but it got the job done...he was awake. His old truck thundered down the road, allowing him to effectively cut his travel time in half as well as commit at least five traffic violations. He could almost hear his brother's voice warning him to get an early start, but knowing and doing are two very different things. Glancing at the dashboard clock he tried to remember if he had packed what he needed and shut everything down at his apartment before leaving. Oh well, not like there was anything of real value to be worried about. Poor Mrs. Evers next door might not appreciate the bag of garbage he left outside his door but nothing he could do about that now; he needed to be on this flight.
After finding a parking spot and spending two hours trying to figure out what line he was supposed to be in he got his first real taste of airport hospitality. Grumbling to himself with impatience he glared at the security team that pulled him to the side. He had already been in line for about an hour and he was already cutting it close to his departure time. Maybe this was some kind of equivalent exchange for his binge the night before. There was no doubt that someone was having a good laugh at his expense because at this rate he was not only going to lose his dignity but his place on flight 190.
A man from airport security gave him a once over, his face a stern calculation of responsibility and purpose. While that should have been a comfort, honestly, Edward thought the man took his job a little too seriously. What was he going to do; take the plane down with telekinesis? At this point all he had was a small carry-on bag with only the essentials and the clothes on his back…real threatening.
"You're all set sir."
He nodded his head, "Yeah…thanks."
So much for being random, he had gotten pulled aside nearly every time he flew, which back in his military days had been quite a lot. You would think they might have some respect for someone in uniform, ungrateful bastards.
He made sure to grab his passport and ticket back, he was not about to let himself get sidetracked now. Still irritated by the long lines and suspicious glares he rushed off, grateful to escape the cramped and crowded lines. His gaze shifted down as he tried to stuff his passport back into his case. Still moving forward, he didn't pay much attention to those around him.
A small cry emitted from the person in front of him as they collided. He stumbled backwards, regaining his balance after a few seconds.
This was why he was going to boycott airports in the future. Here he was just minding his own business when some mindless bastard had the nerve to run into him. Fixing to exchange either blunt words or force he turned to glare at them. His initial anger at the stranger began to pool in his stomach along with a growing sense of shame. A young girl with waist length blond hair was making a face as she surveyed the contents of her purse sprawled across the floor. Her expression twitched in frustration as she bent forward to pick them up.
He felt like a real dick. Kneeling next to her he scrambled to help her. "Wow, I'm real sorry about that."
She still hadn't glanced up, continuing to try and piece her purse back together. Her hands frantically grabbed at items, her voice a breathless rush. "Don't be sorry, I wasn't exactly paying much attention."
When she was done collecting everything, Edward offered her his hand. She gave him a half moon smile and took his offered hand. His chest constricted as he pulled her up, she had the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen. They stood in silence for a moment before he watched her cheeks slowly growing red. Stupid, why did he have to stare like that.
A knowing smile pulled up the corner of her lips. "Thanks for helping."
He returned her smile, wishing he had better words than those that were about to leave his mouth. "Yeah, not a big deal."
Pushing her bag back on her shoulder she grabbed her suitcase in her other hand and paused her mouth opening again. A man with a loud suitcase rattled by them, distracting her and effectively ending their conversation for them. With a small wave the girl turned and rushed off in the direction she had been headed.
Edward dropped his chin, a bemused grin stuck on his face. He could have charmed her, said some lines to make her laugh. Then again the chances of him seeing her were slim to none and pretending that people bumping into each other was some kind of classic opportunity from fate wasn't realistic. His younger brother had the kind of outward charisma that drew people in; he could imagine that blonde girl pausing long enough to get a name and number. Fate like that worked for people like his brother, not for him.
Checking the time on his watch he shrank in annoyance. Shit.
Staring at the sign above him, he scanned for his gate number and any possibility of a direction that might be helpful. Whoever designed airport terminals was obviously never late a day in their lives. Making a face he finally began to head in the right direction. He really didn't need to look to see that his bad luck was still on track; his gate was positioned at the very end of the terminal.
The bland murmur of announcers echoed throughout the terminal as idle chatter kept pace with the sound of his running steps. Feeling out of breath and irritated, he slowed as the waiting space for his gate came into view. The waiting area was already crowded with people and practically all of the chairs were either claimed or taken. Frowning, he paced the space for a moment; his eyes scanning the faces of the waiting room. Now, where was that brother of his?
Looking around, his eyes finally spied the younger Elric. Alphonse was surrounded by a group of kids. The group was staring intently at his brother; completely absorbed in the picture book he was reading. If there was one thing the brothers didn't have in common, it was patience and probably interest in the human species. Edward stomped over to where his brother sat, not caring if he looked childish in his manners.
The sarcasm dripped from his voice. "Hey Al, thanks for saving me a seat."
Alphonse looked up, startled by the tone of his brother's voice. "Brother!" He chuckled quietly. "I wasn't sure you would make it."
Edward huffed indignantly, "Yeah, well I would have been on time but the damn security held me up for over an hour."
His brother raised an eyebrow as he set down the book, causing the kids to groan in disappointment. " Of course it takes that long. You're the one who travels all the time, how did you forget? In fact I came here four hours in advance."
His brother had an annoying habit of always being right. He knew deep down that he should have arrived earlier, but that didn't stop him from glaring at his brother. "Yeah well some of us don't have the luxury of time." He left out the part about drinking himself into a coma the night before and not waking up to his alarm.
He jerked his head towards the kids. It wasn't surprising that they seemed to have already taken a dislike to him. "Where'd you pick up all the strays?"
Alphonse looked a tad sheepish.
Ed pinched the bridge of his nose, not at all happy with the puppy dog look appearing on Al's face. "You better not be thinking what I think you're thinking."
Al shook his head, his eyes filled with innocence. "Relax Ed, I just thought I could help them pass the time."
Edward gave him an exasperated look as the kids got bored with waiting on Al to pick up the book. It didn't take long for the little runts to discover a new distraction as they ran along each aisle of chairs chasing one another.
Taking this as a stroke of good luck he stole one of the kids previously occupied seats, settling in for a nap. Propping his red coat over his face he tried to block out the noise and light. "Wake me when the airlines decide to do their job and get us the hell out of here." He muttered loud enough for just his brother to hear.
Alphonse might have agreed but he was too busy trying to ignore the rest of the waiting room occupants. Keeping his eyes closed he swallowed back the awful taste in his mouth and tried to sleep. His brother began humming some sort of happy tune while a lady with heels seemed determined to tap River-dance. Ed took a breath, forcing himself to try and block it out. Across from him someone began flicking away at a keyboard accompanied by a rather brash and booming laugh of a man having entirely too much fun. He was about to throw his coat off and make a scene when the sound of a familiar sigh grabbed his attention. The same person took the seat next to him, why did that noise sound so familiar?
She sounded flustered and a little shy as she spoke over him towards his brother.
"Excuse me; is this the gate for flight 190 to LA?"
He didn't have to look to know Al was probably beaming, his brother loved helping people. Al had the gift of conversation and good manners. His natural magnetism for animals and kids along with his kind nature captured the fancy of many females.
"Yes it is. First time flying?"
She laughed, "Am I that obvious?"
He laughed lightly. "You're too polite to have flown much. My name is Alphonse." He poked Edward with his elbow, "And this is my older brother Edward."
She laughed lightly as Edward grumbled in annoyance at the jab to his side.
"Winry." She said.
Deciding his quest for sleep had ended, he pulled his jacket off his face. His eyebrows shot up as he registered her familiar voice with that of the woman he had run into earlier. The two continued to stare at each other long enough that Al noticed something was up.
"Do you two know each other?" He asked with an air of amusement.
Winry laughed, a small smirk resting on her lips. "I guess you could say we've bumped into each other before."
Edward just continued to stare, pretty and funny. Now if only he could think of something smart to say. Before he could attempt at a conversation, a lady came over the loudspeaker. "Boarding, all first class and priority seating for flight 190."
Al caught his eye while Winry's head turned. He gave his brother a small wink before tilting his head towards the beautiful blonde. It wasn't a secret that he didn't date much, but Al's constant efforts to change that were occurring far too often for his liking. Something about softening him up and making him into a family man…as if a girl could have that big of an impact on him. Genetics predicted he just might turn out a bastard like his father so the idea of having a family of his own didn't look promising. His younger brother was a different story, Alphonse could have a family, could love the people he cared about in the way that they should be loved.
Winry interrupted his thoughts. "It's nice to know there are still good people out there. You wouldn't believe the day I've had."
The light shining through the glass wall caught her eyes rendering him speechless for a moment. Did all blue eyes look like that? Had he been oblivious or was this a special case?
"I believe it." He agreed but it wasn't just today, for him he had been racking up shitty days for years.
He noticed that Al was hiding behind a book, clever kid. Guess he was on his own with this one.
Feeling curious he decided conversation would at least pass the time. "So what's in LA?"
She shrugged her shoulders, "I was offered a job."
A girl picking up and moving for a job, she was becoming more and more interesting to him. "What's your profession?"
She grabbed her purse, pulling from it an ID card. Next to her small picture, in small black print, was the name Dr. Rockbell M.D.
He whistled softly, "Wow, shouldn't you be riding first class?"
She laughed, her face lighting up. "Why ride first class when I can be crammed between two people I don't know with my knees riding up into my chest?"
He relaxed feeling more at ease as he laughed at her joke. Smirking, he raised his eyebrows at her. "Really, why ride with us poor folk?"
Winry's expression turned serious, "The job pays well but I haven't been an paid employee for that long. I worked in a garage to pay for necessities while I was in school but it certainly didn't pay for med school. I just finished paying off my student loans last month."
He never saw that one coming. "You worked in a garage, like on cars?"
She frowned. "Yes. Why is that so hard for people to believe?"
Edward gave her a once over, from her delicate figure to her lustrous blond hair, "Oh…no reason."
The lady came back over the loudspeaker, "Boarding, all passengers for flight 190."
Al hit his brother on the back gallantly, "That's us!"
Winry gathered up her belongings before extending out her hand to Edward. "Well it was nice to meet you."
His hand lingered on hers, "You too."
She waved at Al and stole one last look at Edward before walking towards the line, her suitcase trailing behind her.
Al chuckled softly, "Nice one brother." He mocked him in a girlish voice, "You too!"
Edward rolled his eyes, "Very funny Al, laugh it up."
Boarding the plane Ed was painfully reminded of his previous irritations. The crowded isle was filled with people either looking helplessly for seats, that were clearly marked, or people trying to force their over-sized carry-ons into the small overhead compartments. He shook his head, oh happy day.
Alphonse beamed behind him as they made their way through first class seating towards the back of the plane. Despite them having bought their tickets together Ed knew he would be separated from his brother. At this point all he could hope for was a nice window seat to fall asleep against or at least an aisle seat to stretch his legs.
His mouth dropped open as Al found his seat. How the hell did his brother score not only a window seat but a rather attractive girl with brown and pink hair who happily took up the seat next to him? Lucky bastard. At this rate he wouldn't be surprised if he had the middle seat between two kids. What he didn't expect was the window seat that awaited him. He doubled checked his ticket before carefully stowing his bag and easing into the stiff seat. Closing his eyes he leaned his head back.
He opened his eyes to the now familiar female voice. She pushed the blond hair out of her face as she stared him down. He gave her an odd look.
She glanced at her ticket once, twice, before grinning.
He sat there like an idiot; speaking had suddenly become foreign to him. Of all the flights she could have been on and of all the seats she could have gotten, there was no way she was unlucky enough to be seated next to him. "You've got to be fucking kidding me."
Rubbing his palm over his face he attempted to redeem himself. "Sorry, small world huh?"
She waved his hands away as he tried to stand up and help her with her bag. "Small world." She agreed.
Not sure what else to say he tried to ignore the pending awkward atmosphere and decided to feign sleep for the rest of the flight. It wasn't until the engines started that he finally relented and opened his eyes. Stealing a glance at Winry he frowned. Her face had turned a shade whiter than the last time her had seen her. Not only that but she quickly buckled her seat belt before grasping her hands together tightly on her lap.
It was all the telltale signs. "Nervous?" He asked feeling sorry for her.
She opened her eyes, "No, not nervous." Her lips pressed together for a moment before she gave him a helpless look, "Terrified."
Not really sure what to he ended up giving her an awkward pat on her hand. "It's not that bad, I promise."
If she minded his touch she didn't show it.
Reluctantly he pulled his hand back as the Stewardess instructed them to fasten their seat belts.
"Hello folks and welcome to Amestris Airlines. My name is Riza Hawkeye and I will be your flight instructor for today."
Edward rolled his eyes as she went into deep and rather strict instructions on what they should do if something bad happens. He tried to give Winry a reassuring smile with the sympathetic understanding that this was clearly her first time flying. Her eyes were trained on the woman speaking as if her life depended on it and like every new passenger she looked nervously at the compartment above them were they were instructed to receive oxygen masks should the need arise.
Finally a deeper male voice came over the speaker. "Hello folks, this is your pilot Roy Mustang speaking."
Edward didn't listen to the rest of his speech, the guy sounded pretty conceited and he seriously was not looking for a preview of the flight to come or what kind of weather they should be expecting.
He could feel Winry tense in the seat next to him as the plane began to move. She leaned her head back, closing her eyes and letting out a shaky breath.
He spied the man next to her take notice as he stopped cooing at his wife and daughter across the aisle long enough to observe Winry's nerves take over. He patted her gently on the shoulder in a way that made Edward feel sincerely inadequate for his awkward pat to her hand.
"Don't worry." He motioned towards his wife and daughter as Winry opened her eyes. "It's their first time flying too. Really, it's not as bad as you think."
Winry gave him a small, forced smile. "Thanks, I think I'll feel better once we've landed."
The man put out his hand, "Dear that's how everyone feels. I'm Maes Hughes."
She took his hand looking grateful for the distraction, "Winry Rockbell." She stole a glance at Edward letting him decide if he wanted to partake in their conversation.
Feeling obligated, Edward reached forward accepting the man's hand. "Edward Elric."
Hughes smiled brilliantly, "If I might say, you two make a very handsome couple. Why, I remember when I first met Gracia…it was over six years ago…"
The woman across the aisle sighed in happy exasperation. "Maes, I'm sure these young people don't want to hear about such things."
Edward hoped his face didn't show the burning that he felt. "We-I mean she and I…well we aren't-we aren't…"
Winry waved a hand in front of her, a smile on her face. "Oh no, we just met today."
Maes looked crestfallen for a second before his smile returned, "Well that's too bad but this flight is long enough…something to think about eh?"
From there he continued on with his original story as if he had never been interrupted. Maes went on to explain his first meeting with his wife not excluding a single detail because everyone would be at a loss if they didn't know what they were wearing or what the weather was.
The plane began to shake as the wheels picked up speed, the airplane trying to take off. Maes began to shove pictures in their faces but it didn't bother Ed. The distraction had taken her attention and he relieved to see that a normal color had returned to her face as she smiled at the pictures.
Once the plane stabilized he saw someone's foot collide with Mae's chair. "Yo Hughes, would ya knock it off?"
Maes didn't look disturbed in the least; he leaned over towards Winry and Edward. "Oh don't mind Havoc, he's just being obstinate."
The man behind him grumbled in response. "Yeah, well you would be too if you couldn't smoke for 6 whole hours." He glared at the no smoking sign, "Stupid addiction."
Ed was about to agree when he saw Winry turn towards Hughes. "Thanks for distracting me."
He winked at her, "Not a problem."
Winry shifted her gaze to Edward as Hughes turned back to cooing at his wife and daughter. She turned the air vent off her before clearing her throat. "So…I've told you why I'm heading to LA. What's there for you?"
He should have probably seen this one coming. In all fairness he could have lied and said something that would make her laugh, or make him out to be intelligent or respectable, but he figured the truth would be easier in the long run.
"My father passed away, the funeral is in two days from now."
Her curious smile faltered as her hand flew to her mouth, "Oh, I'm so sorry for your loss."
He shook off her apology, "Don't feel bad, we really didn't know him that well. I guess we just thought we should at least pay our respects and follow his final wishes."
She made the same face as most people made when he tried to explain his situation. Honestly he could really give two shits about the guy, he just felt that he owed it to his mother and that was reason enough. She would have wanted them to forgive him in the end and while he wasn't sure he could ever forgive the guy, he could at least say a proper goodbye.
A yawn suddenly stole across his face as he rubbed his the sleep from his eyes. Winry looked him over her eyes growing concerned for a second. Then as the seat belt sign went off she stood up and grabbed something out of the overhead compartment.
Her faced glowed as she handed him down a pillow. "Here."
The list grew longer and longer every second he spent with her. Beautiful, funny, smart, hardworking, and kind. Why did she not have a ring on her finger?
Another yawn crossed his face, "Thanks."
Within seconds after his head hit the pillow he was out cold.
A sudden lurching jerked him from his slumber. Blearily he opened his eyes; the sounds of concerned voices filled the cabin. But none of that registered to him, his attention was momentarily taken by the blond head that had taken to his shoulder. He smiled; she must have fallen asleep on his shoulder.
The plane lurched again, this time the entire cabin trembled enough to wake the girl next to him up. Winry rubbed her eyes before turning a bright red at where she had fallen asleep. He saw an embarrassed apology linger on her lips, but fear took her features as the plane shuddered violently. Panicked cries filled the cabin and Edward felt his adrenaline rise up.
The plane continued to tremble as the oxygen masks dropped down in front of them. Edward froze, his mind whirling. They couldn't be…
Winry who had already secured her own mask quickly pulled one over his face. Good thing she had at least paid attention.
Shock still filled his body as the front of the plane turned down. He didn't need to look out the window to see what was happening.
Edward never heard the words over the loudspeaker or the continued cries of fear.
Turning, he gazed into blue eyes before he let his hand search for hers.
She responded to his silent plea for comfort, for human contact. Her lips trembled but she didn't cry.
If your life was supposed to flash in front of your eyes before you died…why was he content to just stare into her beautiful blue ones? All his preconceived notions of the moments before death had been lies. Well, it didn't matter much now.
Stupid fate, guess he shouldn't have been so mad at it. For as much as he had badmouthed the thing, it had tried to slow him down, tried to stop him from making this flight. And it couldn't be all bad could it?
After all, it had at least given him an angel to sit next to as he waited for death.