The Woman Who Waits
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: FMA is not mine.

AN: Request-fic. Elricest "With an ending that differs from the anime one in which they are back in their world" as requested by Misty, seconded by Ankhutenshi, and thirded by Hales.

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This is good work, familiar work, and when she moves, her hands are strong and sure. Her fingers are slick with oil and rough with calluses, and sometimes a stray hair falls loose to stick and cling in the gears, to be dug out hours later with tweezers and a harsh squint, peering in low light because brightness would be blinding. And this is right, and this is better than she'd ever expected, and beneath her grip, Edward is lazy-eyed and sleepy as he's never been before, but that's better, this is better, so much better than before.

She smiles to watch him bat her hair and his away from his nose, and brushes a kiss to a pink-blushed Alphonse's cheek when he hands her the right screw without even looking. It's a quiet miracle that he can feel them out, a quiet miracle she doesn't dare question, because for all they're soft and serene beside her, she knows there's a tempest hidden inside, just waiting to break loose, and Ed had gone tight-lipped and sheet-white in the first moment when Al brought his hands together and flared with the light of his own power.

That night, they'd curled together in a desperate huddle, and for a while, held her much too tightly between them. But she wasn't blind, she never had been, and left them to the soft pile of blankets and each other. She slept outside their door that night, and woke them from shared nightmares five times before morning's light, and when they were finally awake, solemn-eyed and silent, she wrapped her arms around them both and held on for much too long.

She likes this, she thinks, watching Ed loll his head happily, watching the play of strong, smooth fingers through his unbound hair. She likes his soft, sleepy smile, likes the way Al bends down to brush their noses together, likes the way Ed bats at his bangs with his flesh hand, like the kitten Al has always wanted but never been able to keep.

Alphonse, it seems, is better than any drug, and with him so close, Edward doesn't so much breathe a whimper of pain as she tightens bolts and screws in screws and polishes and rewires and pokes at sensitive flesh with needles and knives and molten steel. It's a little unnatural, this stillness, but she's not sure if it's okay to worry, for all that she's hesitated outside their door when the sound of their weeping grew too much to handle. But this is okay, because it's sweet and gentle and Al pretends not to notice when Ed presses his head just a little too hard against his stomach to feel his heartbeat, but every time, a few minutes later, he leans down and brushes lips and foreheads together, soft and smiling, letting him breathe in his breath and know that he's real.

And maybe Edward is right to be afraid, because it feels like a dream, soap-bubble fragile and shimmering, and she knows that if anything goes wrong now, if they lose each other again, the thin thread of sanity in their eyes will snap, and that will be the end of the world. So she's careful, and they're careful, and they'd hate it if they didn't both know it was necessary.

In the soft golden glow of the afternoon sunlight, the metal is flesh-warm under her fingertips, and if there's a halo of light around them, she doesn't want to see the shadows behind. It's been too hard, and it's been too much, and they deserve this, because they're much too young to be this old, and they're both so tired they spend their days half-asleep and wandering, and Edward doesn't even complain when Al carries him, just clings and buries his face in his throat and nuzzles kisses against his ear.

Once, she braided their hair together, honey to gold and bound together by a silver band, and couldn't tell if it was sweet or sad that they didn't even seem to notice. They're almost identical now, with their hair loose and clad in the same simple black, only the harsh gleam of steel to give Edward away, and they'll keep curling together until they're as close to being one person as two people can be, and they'll hate the thin line that separates them just the same, even if on rare occasions they can't stand each other.

Their first real fight wrecked three fields, a barn, and frightened a herd of cows and half the town's population, but in the storm that drenched the evening, they crouched together and drew the lightning down from the sky and held it in their hands like a gift she didn't quite understand, a sphere of light they offered to her that she wasn't quite brave enough to take.

Sometimes when they touch, the world flashes blue-white-gold, and they'll untangle themselves, laughing and trying to figure out who was thinking what to cause that particular reaction, not even noticing the stares, because they've always been an anomaly, and this is just another quirk to add to the pile. Sometimes they fight, and Alphonse is so fast now that it almost takes her breath away, but Ed's intensity is what frightens her the most, for all that Al is stronger.

Sometimes they fight hard enough to shatter automail, and that's what she's fixing now, bent and twisted and broken, because they only stop when they can't fight anymore, and now their battles last for hours, for all that Al's flesh is new and strange to him.

Once, he held her, not Ed, just her, and the soft, seeking touch of fingertips to her belly and lips and eyelashes and hair and the hard curve of her arms and thighs left her flushed and trembling with want-can't-want and a soft, golden sort of happiness that made her steal a kiss and a cuddle and a night curled up with them both, laughing over their childhood and sipping from the same bowl of cocoa, heated and reheated with a crackle of alchemy that tickled over her skin and made her giggle and them smile, radiant and gold-gilt in the low light of the fire. If she's lucky, she'll have that again, warm and tangled and happy, able to be close enough that they won't push her away for fear of hurting her.

Someday, she thinks, someday. Just because it feels like a dream doesn't mean it's not reality, and even though they're still feeling their way out of hell, they'll make it someday, leave the past behind them for good and stop flinching every time they speak of their mother.

Every day it gets a little better, and every day they draw a little bit closer, and every day they grow stronger and more beautiful and happier, and someday, someday it will be okay.

But for now, she reassembles smashed parts and watches them cling and cuddle and share soft whispers and slow kisses and secret smiles, and even though they're fiercer and brighter and more frightening than the boys she once knew, they're home at last, and that is all that matters.

When she steals a kiss as payment for her services, Ed is a sputtering, blushing ball of embarrassment and outrage, but the taste of Alphonse lingers on her lips, and when he curls his arms and legs around his brother, Ed turns into a quietly blushing ball of embarrassment instead, hiding his face in Al's shoulder and refusing to look at her.

Alphonse gives a long-suffering sigh and buries his nose in the soft golden drift of his brother's hair, and she has to laugh, because it's warm and happy and soft and nowhere near perfect, but this is life, and it is good.

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AN: Take it as you will. Also, the Elrics were playing with ball lightning because they totally would.