Chapter 27: Because That's What Guardians do

"Well, hello there, princess," greeted Grumman, smiling widely. Lieutenant Maria Ross stood dutifully outside a hospital room door. When she saw him, she saluted and returned the kind smile.

Maria turned and let him inside, closing the door behind her. Mustang was sitting up in a hospital bed speaking determinately at Breda, who was standing at the edge of the bed holding a clipboard. "The method of cultivation in the Ishval area is double-cropping."

"Nope, sorry," Breda replied. "They raise the same crop semiannually."

He put down the clipboard and sighed. "You expect to gain their trust like this?"

Grumman smiled at Lieutenant Fuery, who sat at the edge of the room with Lieutenant Falman sorting through piles of paperwork. Hawkeye rested in a bed next to Mustang. She sat up when she saw Grumman enter, and said, "He's planning to solve the Ishvalan crisis before becoming the Fuhrer."

Mustang looked over. "Good to see you, sir."

"You look like you're doing well yourself," Grumman said. "So, you're planning on taking my seat from me, are you?"

Grumman chuckled lightly. Mustang grinned. "First thing's first," he said. "We need to take care of Ishval."

Fuery nodded. "Yes, we owe them a great deal."

"The Ishvalan War," Breda added. "That was the start of everything…"

"There's much to be done," Mustang said. He smiled and stared off as though he could already see the future set out before him.

"Hrm…" Grumman rubbed his chin. "Sounds like a young man's aspiration. It's going to be a lot of work. Sounds… interesting."

"Yeah, but I've got people by my side helping out," Mustang replied, turning back to him. "Scar is going to help spread the teachings of Ishvalah again, with the help of Major Miles. General Armstrong has agreed to lend him to my aide. And I've extended an offer to Envy to become my Head of Security to oversee the project in the East."

"The homunculus…?" Grumman said, curiously.

Mustang nodded. "He has expressed interest in the reconstruction of Ishval, and told me I can call on him whenever I need him."

Grumman's glasses flashed in the lamplight. It gave him a pensive look. "You know the military will be keeping its eye on him, just for a little while longer…"

"I'm aware of that," Mustang replied. "But I don't think you'll have anything to worry about, sir. Envy is trustworthy. He's staying with Fullmetal and his mechanic in Resembool. I'm sure if anything was amiss, Fullmetal would notify us."

"A homunculus and a human…" Grumman said, thoughtfully, "I wonder. Will they really be able to understand each other? New possibilities get you excited no matter how old you are."

Grumman chuckles.

Mustang nodded. "I can't wait to see what the future will hold for all of us."


One month later…

A hammer was harder to hold than a sword. Both Edward and Envy had come to this conclusion as they sweated on the roof, nailing down shingles in the afternoon sunlight. At one point Edward clapped his hands and tried using alchemy, but nothing happened.

Envy snickered at him, and Edward shrugged. "It was worth a try," he excused.

"So," Envy said, "no more alchemy for the state alchemist, huh?"

"State alchemists don't have to perform alchemy as long as they can further its research," Edward replied.

"Oh yeah, how could I have forgotten?" Envy smirked. "You're going into the west soon, right? Studying up that new rule of yours. Sounds kind of boring."

"Shut up, Envy," Edward spat. "It's only boring to you, because you don't understand it."

"Calling me stupid, you brat?" Envy put his hammer down and glared across the rooftop at Edward. Edward glared back. A warm breeze tussled their hair. A tension lingered between them.

And then they both broke down laughing.

Envy sighed and wiped sweat from his brow. He stood up to stretch out his back, and let the hammer rest on the roof's angle. Then he looked up and over the green rolling valley. Farmland stretched out for miles and miles. A single dirt road linking them all together. Houses dotting the greenery, and a river winding through the land. Resembool.

A home at the end of the world. Envy smiled, and noticed Edward had come to stand next to him.

"It's nice, eh?" Edward said. They both stared out at the green. Envy made a small grunt in affirmation. His palms were sweaty. Hands started to shake.

He glanced over at Edward, cleared his throat, and said, "Yo, Ed, I've been thinking…"

"Hey, aren't you guys finished yet?" Alphonse yelled up at them. Edward and Envy turned to see Alphonse climb up onto the lower roof, golden hair cut short, eyes shining brightly.

"We would be if we weren't exhausted from having to greet everyone," Edward replied with a sigh. "Winry knows we're tired, but as soon as we get back, she's working us like slaves!"

"Winry said that she wants you guys to come down and have tea," Alphonse said, joining them on the top of the roof. "The apple pie is finished. She's just letting it cool down."

Edward blinked. "Oh…"

He turned back to Envy, and said, "You were going to say something?"

Envy felt color rise in his face. He scratched at the back of his head, nervously. "Oh, it's nothing. I'll just bother you about it another time."

"Is it the same thing you asked me a few days ago, Envy?" Alphonse grinned, making Edward raise a questioning eyebrow.

Envy felt his face redden even more. "I was about to and then you rudely interrupted, dumbass."

"Well, go on then," Alphonse replied, smiling widely. "Don't let me stop you."

"What the hell are you guys going on about?" Edward snapped. "Envy, just spit it out! Come on! Normally it's a task just to get you to shut up!"

Envy sighed. "Okay, okay…"

He tore his gaze away from the scenery to look Edward straight in the eyes. He cleared his throat, felt if he had a heart like humans do it would be threatening to pound out of his ribcage.

"Winry doesn't have a father, so I'm asking you guys," Envy started saying, and Edward's eyes widened. "Al already said it was okay, so now I just need your approval. So…"

He hoped Edward would stop staring at him with that shocked expression of his and just answer his unspoken question. When he did not, Envy continued, "Will you… let me ask Winry if she'll marry me?"

Envy was certain his face looked a bit sunburned. He could feel the heat in his cheeks. He did not realize he was holding his breath until Edward smiled widely at him, and nodded.

"I wish you all the luck in the world," Edward said.

Alphonse put a hand on Envy's shoulder and grinned. "This is so exciting!" he said. "I almost want to postpone my trip to Xing just to see what she's going to say."

"You're going away too, huh?" Envy frowned, "Crap. That means I'll be doing all this work on my own from now on."

Edward chuckled. "For life, if you play your cards right!"

"Lucky me…" Envy smirked.


"Safe trip!" Winry called out to Edward as he boarded the train to the West. He waved back at her through the window as the train blew its horn. A cloud of steam rose from the chimney and the engine started to pull the train away. Winry waited until she could no longer see the train as it rounded a corner into the trees at the end of the valley. Then she turned and started to walk back up the dirt road towards home.

The sun started to set. Orange light flooded the valley. A cool wind brushed the skin of her bare arms. She shivered slightly and crossed them, wishing she had thought to bring a jacket. She could hear the roar of the river as she approached the tiny bridge that spanned it. When she looked up she saw a man leaning on the railing and looking down into its depths. A fisherman: brown hair, brown eyes, an automail arm, and a tackle box.

He turned his head when he heard her approaching, and smiled.

"You're not fooling anyone, Envy," Winry said, grinning back.

He sighed. Red sparks engulfed him as he transformed back into the green-haired, violet-eyed form she was familiar with. He smiled, but it did not quite meet his eyes. She wondered if everything was okay.

She walked up and leaned on the railing next to him. "Well, Ed and Al have both left now," Winry said, a little sadly, "and you'll be leaving soon too. I'll have nothing to do."

"Yup…" Envy replied, resting his head in his hand. "Why don't you go up to Rush Valley and see about getting an apprenticeship? You were talking about that before. Sounds like something I could see you doing."

"Maybe," Winry replied. "Ed gave me a name of a technician out there who's accepting applications. His name's Dominique. I looked him up, and it sounds like he does good work."

"That's good…" Envy said. Winry looked over at him and felt a small pull of sadness.

"I'm going to miss you when you go to the East," she said. "You'll come back soon, right?"

"Yeah, of course…"

"Envy?"

"Winry."

"Is something wrong?"

Envy continued to stare into the depths of the river like it held the answer to her question. She was unnerved by his unusually short responses. It felt like she was holding her breath waiting for an answer that never seemed to come. Then, after a moment, he said, "Hey, you know… we should go fishing sometime."

"Fishing?" Winry raised an eyebrow. "Sure."

"I've never fished before," Envy continued. "I bet it's fun. You know, I always hear people saying they're going fishing on the weekends, or fishing on holidays. I mean, why wouldn't I try it out? Sounds like it's a good time."

Winry gave him a small smile. "Yeah, great…"

A silence fell on them. No sound but the river's constant flow. The lapping of waves against the shoreline. The setting sun seemed to set the sky on fire. Winry thought if Envy had not been acting so strangely she might enjoy it.

"Winry…" Envy said. "Remember the river?"

"First time we met. How can I forget?" Winry replied, smiling. When he did not say anything else, she finally broke down and said, "Envy, you're freaking me out. What's up with you? You're acting strange."

She thought she saw a bead of sweat slide out from beneath his headband. Then he suddenly stood straight and turned to face her. He took a deep breath and gathered her hands in his. Staring down at them, he said, "Sorry for worrying you…"

Winry stared up at his face, but he seemed to be avoiding her eyes. "That's fine. Just tell me what's on your mind. You know you can always talk to me about anything."

He swallowed. "Fine," he said. "I don't know how to do this properly, but…"

Envy suddenly dropped down on both knees. Winry's eyes widened as she realized what he was about to ask her. He looked up at her, orange sunlight caught in his amethyst eyes, as he said, voice shaking slightly, "I want to marry you!"

Winry's mouth had gone suddenly dry. Heart hammering in her chest. Fingers tightening around Envy's hands. She opened her mouth and could not help the small 'I do too' that came out.

Envy's eyes brightened at her response. She let herself fall into him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. A blush crept into her cheeks as she grinned into his neck. Kissed the skin there. She felt him sigh heavily, and say, "That was harder than I expected it to be…"


One year later…

Envy leaned back in the chair, the front legs coming off the floor. He pushed a hand through Den's warm fur. With the other he held a mug of coffee. He grinned across the table at Edward, and said, "We got a call from Al last week that said he was engaged to Mei. Poor bastard. At least Winry doesn't know martial arts."

Edward laughed, and sipped at his own cup of coffee. "Al can hold his own. Sounds like he's making progress with Alchehestry over there the last time I talked to him. Man, I feel so out of the loop these days. It's hard to keep in touch when you're wandering all over the place."

"Oh, yeah, did you hear that Greed has managed to bring the clans of Xing together under Ling's rule?" Envy told him. "He said he wants to come by and visit with Lan Fan soon."

Edward smiled. "He should. It's been too long. And maybe I'll go out to Xing someday…"

"Find anything out in the West?" Envy asked, and then added, "On second thought, spare me the details. I don't really give a shit. I won't understand it anyway."

"There are some promising discoveries I made," Edward replied. "I'm going to pass my ideas by Al the next time he calls."

"You mean, you're staying here?" Envy asked.

Edward shrugged. "Don't look so surprised, Envy. I asked Winry a while ago and she said it would be okay. I'll take the spare room."

"You asked her?" Envy blinked. "But she didn't ask me if it was okay! What if I'm not okay with it?"

Edward smirked. A smug look crossed his face. "Well, I guess I know now who wears the pants in this household."

Envy leaned forward, letting the front legs of his chair slam down with a loud crash. "We'll just see about that…"

"You both should shut up, and keep your voices down." They looked over and saw Granny Pinako standing on the first stair leading up to the bedrooms. Her glare narrowed on both of them. She pointed her pipe at Envy. "If you wake my great granddaughter, you'll be on diaper duty for the rest of the month."

"Tsk…" Envy crossed his arms. "She's a month old. Teach her to use the toilet already. Come on. How difficult can it be?"

Edward chuckled, but Granny Pinako did not look amused. She put a hand on her hip, and Envy knew that look. He did not need explaining to know when he should keep his mouth shut. "Raising a child is not a walk in the park, Envy. But I'm glad you're thinking more realistically now. It's better than your previous idea of trying to show her how to punch properly."

"You were trying to teach a one-month-old how to punch?" Edward laughed.

Envy shrugged. "My daughter's going to know how to defend herself no matter how old or young she is," he excused.

"She needs to learn how to walk first," Granny Pinako said, coming down from the step and walking slowly into the kitchen to pour some coffee.

Edward turned back to Envy, and asked, "So, how did the mission in the East go? Does the Colonel have Ishval reorganized?"

"Yeah, things are good," Envy replied, leaning back in his chair again. "We've got the messes sorted out. All those skirmishes in the slums are settled now, and we've managed to get almost all of the refugees resettled."

"That's good. It doesn't really give you too much time to be at home, though," Edward pointed out.

"Two weeks off, five on," Envy said. "That's how it was before. But now that mostly everything with Ishval is settled, and the Colonel doesn't have any more immediate work for me, I've taken some time off."

"Oh, that's good to hear," Edward replied. Pinako poured her coffee and then slipped back up the stairs. Once she was out of earshot, Edward asked, "I hate to bring this up, but have you thought much about what will happen after…"

Envy frowned, and leaned forward again. The legs hit the floor, and he folded his arms on the table top. "You mean, because I'm immortal. Have I thought about what will happen once Winry passes on?"

Edward dropped his gaze to the table top. "I'll understand if you don't want to talk about it. But it's been on my mind since you guys got married. I keep thinking of what it will be like. How lonely it will be."

Envy picked at a chip in the table top, and replied, "It won't be lonely. I've thought a lot about it actually. Especially now that I'm a father…"

Edward looked up at him and saw a small smile curl his lips.

"And I've decided that no matter what I'll always be to watch over my family," Envy said. Edward was shocked by the flame burning behind his gaze. "First as a father, then as a grandfather, and after that a great grandfather. Until I finally use up the last soul in my stone. This is what I'm meant to do. I want to be there always to protect and watch over them."

Edward gave him a sad smile. "That's a great idea, in theory. But what if you run across trouble at some point. Family can be weird at times. What if you get estranged?"

Envy snickered. "Don't tell me about weird families, pipsqueak. I know all about it."

"Well, I'm grateful that you have that plan in mind then," Edward said, chuckling.

"Yeah, and even if I get estranged, I'll still protect them. Whether they like it or not," Envy replied, looking up from the table top. He smiled, and added, "Because that's just what guardians do."

Fin.


Author's Note:

Thank you to all my wonderful readers and concludes the series of Brotherhood/Manga, or how I believe it would have been if Envy and Winry ever had the opportunity to meet in the beginning.

I'm sad to announce that this will probably be my last fanfiction. I hope you've enjoyed my stories, and I'm happy that I got the opportunity to finish this one, once and for all. Thanks for all your support!