Author' Note: So...otay! This is my first published piece of fanfiction. :) Yaaaaay! Kind of exciting, right? ...Well, I think it is...AAAnnyway, seeing as this is my first published story, I'd like to give some appreciation to those who inspired it - To Kibetha, the amazing, fantabulous utterly astounding beta who helped me make this story less suck-ish - and to Morgstang, a.k.a., the legendary and almighty xXxnightshadexXx, who I dedicate this to, for she inspired me to write it...even though it's not happy. At all. Sorryz, man. I couldn't help myself! xD.

So, anyways, I'm trying to dedicate a bit of each of my fanfics to explain how it was incarnated. Seeing as this is a one-shot, making an entirely new chapter about it doesn't really work. So, I'll just ramble HERE! Yaayyy! Sooo, about the fanfic...It was inspired firstly by the song, "Breakeven," by The Script - this amazing, up-and-coming Irish group. Originally, I wanted it to be Royai, but I changed my mind at the last minute after reading Morg's one-shot, "First Date." EdWin's just too cute! 3 So? I decided to destroy it. /3. Yes. I did! I don't usually do romance, seeing as it's just too...lovey-dovey. And, there's usually not much angst. So, using Morg's lovely one-shot, and the sudden desire to do something evil, I wrote this. And, ta-da!!! It's fantabulous, no?

As a side note, I suggest that you actually listen to the song, "Breakeven" by those awesome Irishmen, The Script, seeing as this IS a song-fic one-shot, and it makes it all the better to immerse yourelf fully into the story. Besides the song's bomb, and the lyric actually make sense in context! YAAAY!!!

So, I hope you enjoyed! Expect to see more iMac15 stuff in the future. Please, review, criticize, vent, etc...Just don't flame. That's Mustang's job. And, he's rather good at it, don't you think? Let's not leave little Roy-Boy jobless. Thanks for reading!!!

I do not own FMA. If I did, I would not be writing fanfiction. I would be a cool Japanese manga author named Hiromu Arakawa, not the pathetic loser that I really am.

"C'mon, Ed, what would I do without you?

"What would I…?

"What would I do…?

"C'mon, Ed, what would I do without…?"

The first thing that Edward Elric did after regaining his limbs was get on the first train to Risembool and head straight to the Rockbell residence.

It hadn't been an easy decision, at first. He'd only had his arm and leg for about a week. The numb feeling still hadn't completely faded away, his leg couldn't hold all of his weight for long periods of time and his fingers still didn't want to cooperate completely with his orders. Alphonse was still in the hospital, although his condition was rapidly improving. But, really, the decision hadn't been his to make. His younger brother had made sure of that.

"You want to see her, don't you?" Al's little voice had asked. Ed looked up from his book. Al was sitting up in his hospital bed, staring at his hands, which were tightly clenched around the thin sheets that were draped over his legs. His brow was furrowed and a deep set frown creased his expression, making him look older than his years. His grey eyes had an almost hardened gleam to them, a look that Edward was all too familiar with.

"What do you mean, Al?" Ed had asked carelessly, flipping along to the next page to begin the next chapter on creating and deconstructing chimeras. But, he knew what his younger brother was talking about – he just didn't want to admit it.

"You want to see Winry, Brother," Al said, a little more loudly. It wasn't a question this time. It was a statement, and it was said as if daring the elder Elric to refute it. Edward knew that he couldn't. Al took the silence as an invitation to continue.

"You should go. To Risembool, I mean," the younger Elric stated gently.

"Don't be stupid," Ed immediately snapped, adjusting his spectacles precariously upon his nose and looking down at his book once more, a stubborn curve parked at the corners of his lips. "I'm not leaving you while you're still in the hospital, Al. Besides, she doesn't want to see me. It's been years. She'll probably freak out at me just because I got rid of that damned automail she never shuts up about."

"I'm not the one being stupid," Al rebuked quickly, finally looking up to give Ed a hardened glare. If that's what I look like when I'm being a hardhead, no wonder I got that promotion, Ed thought vaguely. "Look, Brother, I know it's been a while, but you can't deny that you want to see her. I know it, I can tell."

"How can you tell?"

"You're not a hard person to read," Al deadpanned. "And…I saw you looking through some of your photos last night when you thought I was sleeping. You passed out with the one of Winry fixing your automail from a few years ago in your hand."

Ed couldn't ignore the small little smirk that was forming on Al's face when he felt heat rising up his neck and onto his face. He quickly looked away moodily and crossed his arms, scowling mightily. "I don't know what you're talking about," he muttered.

"Just go, Brother," Al said gently. Ed felt a soft hand gently rest on his newly regained right arm, and he looked up. Al's leer had softened into a gentle, boyish smile that almost made him seem as though he were fifteen again and not nearly three years older. That one look completely tore down any of Ed's previous resolve. "I can hold fort here. Nurse Dolores said I could leave tonight if I wanted. I'll stay at Mrs. Hughes's, if that'll make you feel better. But, you need to go. … For me."

Damn Al, that little… He knew Ed's weakness. In any case… how could he say no to that face?

So that was why, early on a Thursday morning, Edward had given his brother a farewell in the form of a firm pat on the back on the Hughes's doorstep, gotten on the earliest train bound for Risembool, and was now walking along a familiar, dirt road leading to what used to be his home.

"You're leaving again, aren't you, Edward?"

Ed stopped at the top of a hill and put one hand on his hip, the other shielding his eyes from the sun. To his left were the ruins of what used to be his home – only blackened remains and foundations of ash – underneath a tree that hadn't produced leaves or flowers of any kind in nearly a decade. To the right was another dirt road, cutting through the rolling hills of green. Along this path was a low, stone wall, crumbling and covered in vines and old bird nests. At the end of this trail was an all-too familiar small, yellow house, nestled in the tall grasses. It looked as though it were beckoning for him to continue walking forward, as if it had been waiting for him for all of the years that he had been away.

"You only got Al's body back a year ago, and now you're leaving again."

"…Yeah. Yeah, we're leaving."

But, now I'm back, Ed thought as approached the house. He half-expected to see an old lady on the porch of the small, yellow house, smoking her pipe as usual, but he knew better. Things had changed while he had been gone.

He did not simply walk into the house, as he would've done when he was a younger and more temperamental man. Instead, he actually paused to knock on the door. No one answered. He shifted uneasily on his feet, and then knocked again, a little louder this time. … Nothing.

A little snuffling noise and a small nudge alerted him to another presence. He looked down and smiled at the aged black and white lab at his feet. She looked up at him and gave a low, frail whine, her tail wagging feebly.

"Hey, Den," he murmured, crouching down to give the dog a nice pat on the head. "You haven't seen Winry around, have you?" The dog gave him a curious look before giving a small bark and hobbling off, clambering down the stairs and then stumbling off towards the back of the house. Ed followed, feeling his nerves finally begin to catch up with him. They turned the corner and Den plopped down on the ground, immediately lapsing into a deep, peaceful sleep with a deep sigh.

Ed looked up.

There she was, standing there. She was hanging up clothes and some bed sheets, her back turned to him. She was wearing a simple, flowing, white shirt that tied at the back with a pair of jean shorts. Her feet were bare and her skin was bronzed from the sun. Her hair was pinned back, as always, though she still kept her trademark two chunks of hair and her side bangs hanging out. Apparently she'd gotten even more piercings, by the looks of her ears. She'd changed, but, after a moment's contemplation, so had he. Once, she'd been a small, emotional girl who had cried at everything and never went anywhere without her teddy bear in tow. Now, she was a woman and the woman that he wanted to marry, nonetheless. Watching her as she sorted through the laundry, Ed wondered where all the time had gone, and he vaguely wished that he could take all those years he'd been away back. For, if he could, he could've had so much time to spend with her. He could've said so much. They could've done so much more…

Winry stood up, and looked up towards the sun. She let out a contented sigh, and a small smile graced the edges of her lips. Ed felt his stomach flip. He thought that he'd never seen anything more beautiful before in his entire life.

"… Winry?"

She stopped, hesitating. Slowly, she turned around. Their eyes met, bright gold locking with the clear, crystalline blue. Her eyes widened, and suddenly filled up with tears. She dropped the pillow case that she'd been holding with a gasp and brought her hands up to cover her agape mouth. Ed felt himself freeze up, but made himself take a deep breath and go on. He'd waited two years for this. Now was the time to tell her.

"Um… hey," he choked out lamely. He hesitated, and then held out his hands, as if offering them for some kind of explanation – his two, wonderful, flesh hands. The simple look of shock that crossed Winry's face at the very sight of his real right hand was enough to crack a smile across Ed's face.

And, suddenly, before he could even brace himself for impact, Winry was practically tackling him, grabbing him and choking him into a tight, unforgiving embrace. He was shocked into silence.

Winry, it seemed, was not.

"Ed," she cried into his shoulder. "E-Ed… You came back… You c-came back…" She let out a loud, fresh sob, and clutched him more tightly.

Ed was at a momentary loss of what to do, before he finally surrendered. He sighed, and then hugged Winry back, holding her close, and burying his face into her sweet, golden hair. "Yeah," he whispered. "I came back, Win. Just like I promised."

He was too happy, too relieved, to notice the way that Winry tensed at that simple sentence. He didn't notice how she kept her face hidden when she finally pulled away from him, nor the way that her sobs had suddenly dissipated into simple sniffs, or the way that her hands were clenching and unclenching rapidly. All he could see was that he was finally back, and that she was still here, waiting for him. Just like he'd promised. Just like she'd promised.

"Win," he began, almost awkwardly. "I… I kept my promise. I came back. And… and now I have to tell you something - "

And he would have told her everything, right then and there. He would have told her how, every night, he'd flip through his photo album and find the picture of them; how he'd think about her constantly; how he'd loved her for all those years, even though he'd only realized it when he had left for the second time. He would have said it all, if not for the fact that, at that moment, she suddenly cut him off, saying four simple words that would cause his heart to rumble to a stop.

"I'm getting married, Ed."

Everything seemed to tilt away. He felt his heart skip a beat, and the butterflies that had been fluttering in his abdomen suddenly transformed into a snake, twisting around his chest until he found it hard to breathe. Had… had he just heard her right?

"What?" he breathed, disbelieving.

She looked down, and took several steps back, still avoiding eye contact. Edward could see, now, that her shoulders were trembling, though with rage or sadness, he wasn't quite sure.

"He's… he's really nice, Ed," Winry began, her voice quiet. "I met him in Rush Valley about a year ago. … His name is Jack – Jack Griffiths… and he's an automail mechanic, like me. He was there when I was alone, when Grandma died… and, he really cares about me. He proposed about three months ago. Ed… we're… we're getting married next week."

"… But... but, I thought that -" Ed began weakly.

"But you thought what, Ed?" Winry interrupted once more. He was surprised to find that her voice wasn't angry, or bitter, but trembling even worse than before. She looked up at him. Tears were slowly rolling down her cheeks, and her chin was trembling, as if she were holding back a torrent of emotions. "That I would be here, waiting? That I'd keep on waiting, after, what, seven years of you leaving, coming back, and then leaving again? Seven years of you just disappearing, and then just coming back out of nowhere, half-dead, completely busted up, demanding that I fixed you up just so you could run off again?"

Ed didn't know what to say. Winry didn't wait for him.

"I tried, Ed," she choked out, fresh tears spilling from her eyes. "I… I tried so hard. I waited. But, then, Grandma died, and…"

She turned away, hiding her face from view. Ed wanted nothing more than to rush forward and hold her, but he knew that he couldn't. Not anymore.

"… I had waited for so long. You never returned my letters, or my phone calls. You never came back. And…" She began to cry more terribly than before, a terrible, wracking noise that seemed to snap off a bit of Ed's heart with each sob. "… I-I just couldn't do it anymore, Ed. I gave everything I had to you! Everything! I waited for so long, and I tried to k-keep hope that you'd come back. But… you never did. All I ever needed was you here with me, but you had to go off again, and again, and again and keep me waiting for all of those years. And… and… I-I just…"

She let out one last, choked sob. "I just can't wait any longer, Ed…" she whispered. "… I'm sorry."

Before Ed could so much as take one step forward, she was gone, disappearing through the billowing bed sheets and clothes, still crying. And Ed couldn't follow her. At that very moment, the last bit of hope that remained in his heart suddenly snapped away, leaving him to pick up what pieces were left.

And, as he walked away from that small yellow house, he couldn't help but turn back and stare at the empty porch, imagining the smell of tobacco and seeing smoke puffs rising and then disappearing into the clear, blue sky. But when he looked down at the front porch once more, no one was there.

Yes, things had changed while he'd been gone. In more ways than one.

"C'mon, Ed, what would I do without you?

"What would I…?"

I'm still alive, but I'm barely breathing…
Just praying to a god that I don't believe in…
'Cause I got time while she got freedom…
'Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don't break even…

The first thing that Edward Elric did when he returned to Central was to sign his name on the dotted line.

It hadn't been an easy decision, seeing as he had never even considered it before. In his mind, the thought had always been too ludicrous to contemplate. Still, desperate times called for desperate measures. And if there was one word to describe Edward Elric at the moment, it was exactly that – desperate.

In the three years after the Father had been defeated and Al had gotten his body back, the three years that the brothers had gone off in search of a way to regain Ed's limbs, the tension between Amestris and her neighboring nations had only grown more strained. Led by their new Fuhrer, the new republic had tried to staunch most of the talk of war by staging their own negotiations with Drachma, the leading nation of animosity, but it hadn't been enough. Not long after Ed had got his limbs back, a small skirmish occurred at the border. Soon enough, the deaths of several civilians had been blown out of proportion and called a "massacre," and Drachma had suddenly attacked. A draft had been sent out. Amestris and Drachma were officially at war.

Ed, having been one of the "heroes" of the coup staged against Fuhrer Bradley and the Father several years ago, had been sent the draft, but had not been obliged to reply to it, despite his rank and his expertise in battle and alchemy. But the day after he had returned from Risembool, he found himself standing in Mustang's new office for some reason, staring down at a sheet of paper, ready to sign his life away – again.

"Was… was I not good enough?"

There was the dotted line and there was the pen, resting right next to it. It should have been simple, to simply pick up the damned thing and scrawl his name across. But like so many things lately, he found it hard to simply take that one step, to keep moving forward as he always had. He couldn't even pick up the pen.

"Was my maintenance not good enough for you, Ed? Wasn't it? I worked so hard. I studied as much as I could in Rush Valley, I really did. But… but I'll work even harder, I promise. I… I promise I'll make you a new model of automail, and it'll be even better than the last, and the one before that. I'll start working on it now, if you want, Ed…"

You were always good enough, Ed thought as he stared down at the crisp, white paper, But I wasn't. I never have been, have I? His eyes trailed across the contract once more, and certain phrases caught his eye. 'Your reenlistment will comprise of another three years of service to the Amestrian government and its people… Rank will remain the same as currently specified… No changes in names and titles… Increase of pay…'

None of that really mattered to him. Not anymore. The only thing that mattered was trying to forget. Trying to forget Winry's face. Trying to forget the name that she was soon going to be given: Winry Griffiths, not Winry Elric. Trying to forget the way that his heart had shattered and then slowly broken away at each one of her sobs…

He didn't know what else to do. He paused, and then picked up the pen, and scrawled his signature across the dotted line.

Edward Elric.

"I hope you know what you're getting yourself into, Fullmetal," Mustang's quiet voice said through the silence that followed. Ed hated his tone. It was concerned, and the last thing that Ed needed was pity. He didn't want it, nor did he need it. Even with his eyes gone, Mustang could see through him almost as easily as Al could… and Ed hated it.

"I didn't ask for your opinion," the blonde replied tersely.

"You do realize what you just did, right?" Mustang's voice snapped. Ed glared up at him, and was startled and infuriated to see that, somehow, Mustang's sightless eyes were looking straight into his, as if the man somehow knew exactly where the Elric stood. "This is war, Fullmetal, not some playground."

"I'm not an idiot, preach."

"You do realize that you might die out there, right?" Mustang snarled. "That you might not come back? That hundreds of men are dying every day? That you're not going to survive because you're smart, or you can do alchemy? … That, if you do survive, it'll be because you were lucky… right?"

Ed didn't reply. If he opened his mouth, he felt that he might just say something that would get him court-martialed.

Mustang glared for a moment longer, before his expression became softer. "What about Alphonse, Edward?" he asked. His voice was lower, more concerned. "He's your brother. Are you just going to leave him? What about your family back home? What about Winry -"

"Shut up."

Ed felt some kind of sick satisfaction arise within him at the startled look that crossed Mustang's face. Still, it took all of his self-restraint to keep himself from launching himself at the man and delivering to him a good right-hook to the jaw.

"I'm going, Fuhrer," Ed hissed. "And you won't stop me."

He stood up to his full height, and turned on his heel, leaving the circular office and shutting the door behind him with a snap. He didn't stop, but only turned and began to stride down the long hallway. He soon heard footsteps following him.

"Brother…" Al began. "…Brother, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, Al," Ed snapped, picking up his pace, wishing, for once, that Al would simply go away and leave him to his own thoughts and grievances. They turned the corner and entered the lobby. Ed flashed his pocket watch at a nearby guard and he let the brothers pass without inspection.

"Don't tell me that nothing's wrong, when I know that something is," Al quickly retorted. Ed noticed that he had dropped the 'Brother' custom, something he only did when he was really pissed off. "You haven't been sleeping," Al continued, his voice irate, "you haven't been eating. You don't even read anymore. You just sit there, like you're dead on the inside. It's not normal. We're all worried about you – I'm worried about you! Why can't you just tell me what's wrong?!"

"Shut up, Al. It's not that simple," Ed seethed, practically smashing through the double doors that led out from Central Headquarters and storming outside. The absence of trailing footsteps as he began to descend the steps meant that Al had finally left him alone.

"Nothing's simple, Brother!" Al's voice suddenly snapped, sounding more infuriated than before. "But that doesn't mean you can shut people out! Just tell me already! Please!"

At that last, impassioned plea, Ed stopped and closed his eyes momentarily, trying to block out the blinding sun, his little brother's constant questions, Mustang's concern, everyone's concern… trying to block everything out, at least for a moment…But, most of all, he wanted that pain to leave him. He wanted his heart to stop aching. He wanted to shout, to scream, to spill out his heart, to let every bit of resentment, anger and agony spill from him, leaving him blissfully numb…

"I was gone for too long, Al," Ed finally replied. "And she got tired of waiting."

"What would I do…?

"C'mon, Ed, what would I do without…?"

Her best days will be some of my worst…
She finally met a man who's gonna put her first…
While I'm wide awake, she's got no trouble sleeping…
'Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don't break even…

What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you?
What am I supposed to say when I'm all choked up and you're okay?
I'm falling to pieces…
Yeah, I'm falling to pieces…

The first thing that Edward Elric did before he boarded the train bound for the Drachman border was to give his younger brother a hug.

This shouldn't have been a very hard decision, in hindsight. Surely, hugging his younger brother should have been an easy thing to do – second nature, instinctive… simple. It surely would've been simpler than visiting old Granny Pinako's grave, having not been able to attend the funeral when she'd passed a year ago. It definitely should've been easier than crumpling up the wedding invitation he'd received the day before, notifying the Elric brothers of the union between Mr. and Mrs. Jack Griffiths, with a small note attached saying, "Please. For me."

But, as he stood on the train station, it took all of Ed's energy and will power to turn to that grey-eyed boy and wrap his arms around him in a final farewell. It hurt him even more to feel the younger Elric trembling in his grasp, to hear him sniffling back sobs and feel those little hands cling onto the back of his shirt as if he was going to hold onto his older brother and never let go. Part of Ed wanted that. Part of him needed it.

"Be careful," Al choked out, his voice cracking. He buried his face deeper into his brother's shoulder. "Please… Brother, please. Just come back."

Ed gave the younger Elric a tight squeeze, gently patting him on the top of his dirty blonde head and silently wondering why he couldn't find the emotion to cry himself. "I will, Al."


Ed hesitated, but only for a moment. "… I promise."

Part of Ed wanted Al to never let go. Part of him wanted that.

But Al had let go.

Ed had boarded the train headed towards the war-torn border of Drachma. As he watched the green, rolling hills of Risembool slowly transform into the dry, parched earth of the desert, and then from thick, dark forests to cold, unforgiving blizzards, Ed began to wonder why he had left in the first place.

"You're the best mechanic in all of Amestris, Winry. But, automail just isn't the same. We heard about a lead on something that might work last night, and talked it over. … We need to go."

Yes. They had to leave. They had left to regain what had been taken from them, right? They had set out to get Al his body back and it had been fully recovered. Now it was Ed's turn to get his limbs back as well, wasn't it? It was only fair.

"Are you sure? Are you so sure that you need to go? Or do you just want to?"

… Maybe she had been right. Had they needed to leave? All that Ed had ever wanted was to see Alphonse happy again. That's what their entire journey had been about in the first place in Ed's mind – to give Al his body back and gain his own redemption. He had been perfectly fine with his automail. He'd never told Alphonse, but despite his vows of, "We'll restore ourselves together," Edward had never planned on using the Philosopher's Stone on himself. He had never planned to get his arm and leg back. It had all been for Alphonse, not for him. That had always been the plan.

So why had they left again? It might have been because there had been a part of him that truly missed his arm and leg and would do anything to get them back. Maybe it had been the way that Alphonse had looked at him, the guilt in his eyes every time he caught sight of the prosthetics. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

But, Ed knew better. Deep down, he knew that he would've been fine with his automail for the rest of his life. Part of him knew that Al would've eventually moved on, and if he hadn't, Ed would've eventually talked some sense into him. The real reason why he had left her again was because of his very nature. He had spent his whole life questing, searching, traveling and now he simply felt restless whenever he had to stay put. No one could've held him back from continuing to voyage. Even Alphonse couldn't have stopped him.

Even Winry.

And then it struck him – it hadn't been Winry's fault. It had been his. His mother dying had been his fault. Being stupid and trying human transmutation had been his fault. Al losing his body had been his fault. Losing Winry had been his fault. It had always been him. It had always been his fault.

His fault. And no one else's.

"C'mon, Ed, what would I do without…?

"What would I do…?"

They say, "Bad things happen for a reason…"
But no wise words are gonna stop the bleeding…
'Cause she's moved on while I'm still grieving…
And when a heart breaks, no, it don't break even…

What am I gonna do when the best part of me was always you?
What am I supposed to say when I'm all choked up and you're okay?
I'm falling to pieces

Yeah, I'm falling to pieces…

I'm falling to pieces…
One's still in love, while the other one's leaving…

I'm falling to pieces…
'Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don't break even…

The first thing that Edward Elric did after he arrived at base camp was to burn almost everything he had.

It hadn't been an easy verdict at first, but Ed had slowly grown to like the idea. It symbolized a fresh start, a new beginning. At least, that's what he was telling himself. Of course, he knew what the real motive was; he just didn't want to admit that he was so weak as to resort to this one last act of desperation. All he wanted to do was forget… was that really so much to ask for?

It was ironic, really. He and Alphonse had burned down their house nearly eight years ago so that they wouldn't have anything to return to. Al said it was because some memories weren't meant to leave traces, but even then, Ed had seen it differently. Burning down their home had been a promise, no doubt about it. It was a promise that they wouldn't come back, that they wouldn't have anything to return to, that no matter what, they had to keep moving because there was nothing to hold them back. Burning down their home had been almost an act of release, as they tried to disregard the past and look forward to the future. But back then, even as a young eleven year old, Ed had realized that he couldn't forget when there would always be memories that would never truly leave him. That's what his pocket watch had been for. It was a reminder of the past, so that he would never make the same foolish mistakes ever again.

Yet, burning everything didn't have that same release now. He kept trying to tell himself that he was just doing what he had done back then. He was more than just a soldier, now; he was a warrior fighting in a war that was very real and very near. By burning almost everything that he had, he was doing what he and Alphonse had done over seven years – making it so that he had nothing to return to and nothing to pull him back. When things got tough, he wouldn't be able to retreat back to the safety and comfort of everything he had once loved. At least if he died out here on the battlefield, he told himself, he wouldn't have any regrets.

He wished it was as easy to fool himself as those around him.

"Can you keep a promise, Ed?"

He pulled out an alchemy book, the one that Teacher had given him. On the front cover, in old, gold-laced letters, was, "The Basics of Alchemy." He flipped through the old, hardened and dusty pages, staring down at the childish handwriting that had been scribbled in the margins, along with old food stains and dog-eared edges. He snapped it shut and then thrust it forward into the inferno.

"It depends on what I'm promising."

He pulled out the long, red cloak that he'd worn all of those years. The color had faded with age, but the Serpent's Cross was still prominent on the back, the black contrasting strongly with the faded red. Yet what were most prominent to Edward were the rips and tears, repaired by a steady hand with needle and thread. Skilled as they were with mechanics, her hands did not disappoint in the sewing and repairing field either. He ran one finger over the small bumps of the stitching, pausing. And, then he dropped the cloak into the flames.

"It's nothing the 'Hero of the People' can't handle. I just need you to do something for me, okay?"

Nearly everything that he had was disposed of. The books, the cloak, his gloves, most of his clothes, the spare wrench, and the little oil pump - everything that was a reminder of her disappeared into the ravenous flames. There wasn't much left when Ed pulled out the little booklet that had been hidden at the bottom of his briefcase – a small photo album. Alphonse had given it to him some years ago for his seventeenth birthday, and Ed had kept it close to him ever since. Many of Mustang's men had contributed to it, giving them their spare snapshots. Many of them were of the brothers, taken when they hadn't been looking – there was one of Ed sleeping in the library, his face plastered to the inside of a book, and another was of Alphonse sneaking several kittens into headquarters when he thought Ed hadn't been looking.

And there was one of the entire group, Mustang, Hawkeye, and all of his subordinates. Even Al had been involved, standing awkwardly at the back and trying to fit his large, metal body into the frame. Mustang was leaning nonchalantly against Ed in the photo, his elbow resting atop the boy's head. Ed nearly smiled at his own expression. He recalled that he'd nearly popped a fuse after Sheska had taken the photo, and Al had had to bodily restrain him from strangling that Colonel-bastard to death.

He paused, watching the flames flickering across the shining film of the photo, and he wondered vaguely if the bonfire was mocking him. Then he threw the picture into the blaze and watched silently as it curled at the edges, darkened and finally shriveled into pale, worthless gray ashes. The red-faced, scowling Edward in the picture was the last thing to burn.

"Don't stay away for too long this time. Promise."

One by one, each of the pictures disappeared into the inferno. The blonde flipped slowly through the pages, admiring each picture before lazily tossing it forward and letting the fire swallow it into its burning gullet. At last, nearly every picture was gone. Edward was considering simply throwing the album in its entirety into the inferno when his eye caught sight of something – the last photo in the album. It was small, with bent, ragged edges, looking tired and worn. Ed felt a shiver rush up his spine as he felt the panic and apprehension rush through him at the very sight of it, and he could suddenly imagine a callused hand inching hesitantly up his back. … It would be the last one, wouldn't it?

Al had later confessed that he had simply been walking by when he had seen their little moment, and he had just taken the picture without them noticing. Ed couldn't say that he'd been very pleased when he'd found out, but later, he would always find himself simply looking at the damned thing, feeling longing and happiness and anger and sadness well up within him at the same time, his mind far away in a wild daydream…

"I'll promise to come back, if you promise to wait for me, just a little bit longer."

He had come back, like he promised. And Winry hadn't waited. She'd gone off and gotten herself a well-to-do, handsome, tall fiancé. She broke her promise. She had broken her promise after he had kept his – after he'd left ailing Al to come and see her, to confess.

She hadn't cared. Edward doubted that she ever had. She was a liar; she had never cared and she never would. As he stared wretchedly down at the picture, he felt the strong urge to simply crumble it up, tear it into a million pieces and throw it into the fire before him, never to be seen again. And, yet…

"Colonel, sir? W-what are you doing?"

Ed paused and took his hand out from the inside of his coat pocket, looking over his shoulder. A young soldier was standing there, looking at the alchemist with shock and a little trepidation. Ed held his gaze for a moment, before he turned back to the fire and began to sort through the few things that he had left.

"What does it look like, Lieutenant?" he replied quietly.

"But… but why, sir?"

The young Colonel snapped his briefcase shut and stood up, staring down at the remnants of what used to be his most prized possessions as they finally smoldered into nothingness.

"To forget," he said.

But, even as the soldier blinked in sad realization and backed away with a murmured apology, Ed knew it was a lie, to the man and to himself.

He knew that he never would.

You've got his heart and my heart and none of the pain,
You took your suitcase, I took the blame.
Now I'm trying to make sense of what little remains…
Oh, 'cause you left me with no love, with no love to my name…

"You're leaving again, aren't you, Edward?"

Ed paused over his half-packed briefcase, and took a slow, level breath. He slowly turned around. Standing in the doorway was a young mechanic, her face shrouded from view mostly by a veil of beautiful, blonde hair. Her shoulders were tense and her feet were set far apart, as if she were bracing herself for impact. She looked vulnerable and yet solid, an impression that Edward wasn't quite comfortable with.

"You only got Al's body back a year ago, and now you're leaving again," Winry stated slowly, still staring at the floor.

Ed could only stare back, tight-lipped. Just like Al, she got straight to the point with things, as if daring him to contradict her or argue back, to try and deny this one irrevocable, undeniable truth.

He couldn't.

"Yeah," he stated simply. "Yeah, we're leaving."

Winry winced as though hit with a crippling blow and Ed had to resist the urge to go over and wrap her in a tight embrace. Instead, he watched silently as Winry struggled with her words, before she finally asked in a low voice, "When?"

"Tomorrow morning. That's the earliest train to Central," Ed stated, turning back to his briefcase and trying to ignore the painful tugs that were lacing around his heart, like a physical pressure being applied to his very being. He couldn't look at her. He just couldn't, not now. He had to leave, and looking at her would just break apart what little resolve he had gathered over the last couple of hours. Those damned eyes of hers… that look she gave him whenever he left… he couldn't handle it. Not now. … Not ever.

"Was…was I not good enough?"

Ed stopped, and turned around once more, not trying to hide his expressions any longer. Winry was still simply standing there, her face still hidden from view by her sunny yellow hair. Her tense shoulders were suddenly trembling

"What are you - ?"

"Was my maintenance not good enough for you, Ed?" Winry said, and Ed was shocked to hear that her tone was faltering, almost cracked. He suddenly saw that she had a wrench held tightly in her right hand, and he instantaneously launched into defensive mode, but thinking of possible escape routes if Winry suddenly attacked was quickly shoved from Ed's mind when he saw something hit the ground – a little drop. Another one soon followed, and another after that. Winry wasn't trembling with rage. It was sadness, grief… and pain.

She was crying.

"Wasn't it? I worked so hard," she choked out, shaking her head slightly, her chin trembling and her eyes still clenched tightly shut. The tears were falling faster now. "I studied as much as I could in Rush Valley, I really did. But…but I'll work even harder, I promise. I…I promise I'll make you a new model of automail, and it'll be even better than the last, and the one before that. I'll start working on it now, if you want, Ed…"

She brought one hand up to wipe at her sniffling nose, and a little sob broke through her clenched teeth and trembling lips. Ed had the sudden urge to hug her once more, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Something held him back – the same something that had kept him away for four years during their hunt for the Philosopher's Stone. The fear of finding happiness, and then losing it – of losing everything, all over again.

"You're the best mechanic in all of Amestris, Winry," Ed reassured her quietly. "But, automail just isn't the same. We heard about a lead on something that might work last night, and talked it over. We need to go."

"Are you sure?" Winry choked out, this time starting to sound angry. Her sobs were receding, but Ed couldn't tell if that was a good thing or not quite yet. She still had that damned wrench in her hand. "Are you so sure that you need to go? Or do you just want to?"

Ed couldn't seem to find the words to reply to that, either. Winry didn't seem to be looking for any kind of retort, in any case. She spun away from him and let out another choked whimper, holding her head in one hand, her shoulders jerking with each sob.

There was a long, painfully awkward pause between them, this one tenser than the previous ones. Winry seemed to take the silence as an invitation. She slowly turned around; her head turned down once more to hide her expression, and began to walk forward. Her gait held obvious purpose, and her hand was still clenched tightly around her wrench. Ed immediately panicked, looking around wildly for an exit – the window! But no, it was too far… there was no way that he could get there in time. With no other obvious route for a getaway, Ed clenched his eyes shut, bracing himself for the blinding pain in his skull.

But it didn't come. Instead of the cold, hard metal of the wrench denting his forehead like it had done so often in the past, Ed felt a small hand push him backwards, causing him to stumble and sit clumsily upon the edge of his bed. That same callused hand gently lifted up his black tank top. Goosebumps immediately erupted all across his body and he felt a cold thrill rush through him as the ability to breathe suddenly left him. The callused palm slowly traveled up his abdomen and Ed nearly shivered. He was suddenly so apprehensive, so unsure of what was going on and what he should do, and yet, he couldn't bring himself to move. The hand hesitated at his shoulder blade, and then proceeded to gently cup the metal of his automail port, the bolt that was attached into one of his ribs. The other hand gently pulled at the black fabric and then tugged upwards.

"What are you - ?" Ed began to splutter, but a sharp tug at his braid quickly silenced him. He whined, trying to wriggle away, but the firm grip on his hair held him back, almost like a reprimanding owner with his dog on a leash.

"Shut up, you idiot," Winry said simply, all previous tears gone from her voice. "If you're leaving tomorrow morning, then you'll need some last minute repairs, right?" Ed paused, nearly arguing at the idea of another reattachment, but, instead, he smiled gently, closed his eyes and let Winry take off his shirt, relaxing.

Long minutes passed between the two as she worked on his automail, but it wasn't an awkward kind of silence. The tinkling of metal and the creak of artificial joints was something that the two had grown accustomed to over the years. The silence was that of companionship. It seemed that, in their silence, more words could be spoken than in a pointless conversation.

"Can you keep a promise, Ed?" Winry asked eventually, breaking the silence.

Ed paused, considering. "It depends on what I'm promising."

"It's nothing the 'Hero of the People' can't handle," she joked lightly, and Ed could tell that she was smiling. "I just need you to do something for me, okay?"

There was a final tug at his shoulder and a familiar little popping noise that signified the conclusion of the repairs. Ed shrugged his shoulders, testing the automail, but before he could stand up and move it around some more, two arms were suddenly holding him back, lacing him in a tight, wonderful embrace from behind. Winry's head rested upon his metal shoulder and Ed could feel her soft breath tickling the nape of his neck.

"Don't stay away for too long this time," she whispered. "Promise."

Ed couldn't think of anything to say in reply. His mind was empty of anything useful like calming words or cool reassurances. All he knew was that he liked this. He liked Winry holding him like this, the way her arms were warm across his bare chest, the way her chin seemed to fit perfectly into the nook where his shoulder and neck connected. He knew that he didn't want this moment to end and that that'd he'd rather stay like this for all of eternity. He closed his eyes, and brought his left hand up, gently holding one of her arms and giving it a soft squeeze. He leaned back into her and closed his eyes, feeling the silk of her hair gently brushing against his cheek.

"I'll promise to come back," Ed said softly, "if you promise to wait for me, just a little bit longer."

Winry gently pulled away from him. Ed sat up straight and turned around. She was sitting there, looking oddly fragile with her little hands in her lap, her wrench discarded off to the side. The sun streaming in from the window was shining upon her in a lovely way, making her look almost angelic, even vulnerable. Her blue eyes were sparkling with the remnants of her previous tears, but a gentle smile was gracing her lips.

"C'mon, Ed," she said with a small, watery chuckle that he knew would remain within his memories for all of eternity. "What would I do without you?"

I'm still alive but I'm barely breathing…
Just praying to a god that I don't believe in …
'Cause I got time while she got freedom…
'Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don't break…

No, it don't break, no, it don't break even…

The last thing that Edward Elric did before battle was pray.

It had been the easiest decision that he had made all month long.

He'd never believed in God. The thought that some greater entity had created everything that was, is, and would be was ridiculous for a scientist. He'd once heard that, if anyone, scientists should be the ones who believed in God the most, but Ed had different ideas. If this all-powerful God was so all-powerful, so all-loving, then why had he killed their mother? Why had he given the brothers some kind of hope that they could bring their mother back? Why did he take everything away from them? Why had he let them go on those ridiculous goose-chases for the better part of a decade, when he simply could've let them have their happiness and given them everything they wanted – everything they needed?

That was what was running through Ed's mind as he pulled his hair back into his tight, trademark braid, adjusted his collar and gently patted his pocket to make sure that his state-issue watch was still there. Why, if he cared so much about his "children," did God screw everything up?

God wasn't real. And, if he was, he was the enemy. He was a fake. And he was a liar. That's what he had believed, for all of those years.

Yet, it was for that very reason that Edward decided to pray. Maybe God wasn't real. Or maybe he was. Ed didn't know. But, recent events had proven to him that some things, though beautiful and almost in reach, were too good to be true. Recent events had shown that Edward wasn't right all of the time. And, if he had been wrong about Winry, he could be wrong about God, too. He could be foolish, and naive. The "Hero of the People" could be fooled.

But, most of all, he had nothing else to lose.

God, he began awkwardly. Uh… Allah… Isvara, Leto…whatever the hell you are… If… if you're up there, I just want to ask for a favor, alright? I'm… I'm not asking for you to "protect" me, or keep me alive. Whatever happens out here isn't up to you, I don't think, and even if it is, it wouldn't be fair of me to ask for help when I don't need it, anyway… but… but I do want to ask a favor. Just one. I just want… just… just in case I do die out here… I want you to keep Alphonse safe for me. Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid. And keep him from getting sick. Let him go to school and learn and become an even better alchemist than I am. And… and let him have all the damn kittens that he wants… the fuzz balls…

He paused, unsure of how to end the conversation with this so called, "God," when something struck him. He opened his eyes and reached into his coat pocket, grabbing hold of the thing that'd he'd kept hidden for the better part of two weeks. He pulled it out, unfolded it and gazed at it one last time.

It was the picture that Al had taken, the picture that he'd fallen asleep with in the hospital, the picture of Winry and Ed, sitting together in silence. In the picture, he was sitting on the edge of the guest bed, shirtless. His long hair nearly shrouded his face from view, but what Ed could see of his expression was extremely content, his eyes closed, his lips turned up slightly at the corners. Winry was sitting behind him on the bed, her wrench in hand and a small, sad smile on her face. That had been the moment in which Ed had broken Winry's heart. That was the moment that he would never forget.

It had been a simple instant, something that Ed would never have expected to be so important to him now. He didn't know what had compelled him to keep the picture. In reality, he thought that at the very least, he should've let it burn with the rest, but he hadn't been able to bring himself to do it. Why? Maybe it was the way that when Winry cried, she looked even more beautiful. Maybe it was the fact that they had been so close. Or maybe it was because, at that precious moment in time, they'd been able to make promises… promises that they had intended to keep. Ed really didn't know.

But he did know that he wasn't quite done with this "God" person quite yet.

Just one more thing, he thought, continuing to stare at the picture even as the sounds of battle, screaming, explosions and gunfire, slowly grew nearer. One more favor. Is that so much to ask for?

He paused. One tear hit the picture, blotching Ed's contented face, unrelenting to his efforts to keep them contained. They continued to fall, like steady rainfall. One tear fell, then another. And another…And another.

What am I supposed do when the best part of me was always you?
What am I supposed to say when I'm all choked up and you're okay?
I'm falling to pieces…
Yeah, I'm falling to pieces…
… I'm falling to pieces…

One's still in love while the other one's leaving…
… I'm falling to pieces…

'Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don't break even…

"C'mon, Ed…

"What would…?

"What would I do…?

"C'mon, Ed, what would I do...?"

Let her be happy, Ed finished as he stepped forward towards the war, one hand still clenching tightly onto the picture while his left clutched at the collar of his shirt as if trying to hold the shattered, uneven pieces of his heart together, one last time.

"What would I do...?

"...without you?"