Passive Manipulation

By Maggie's Revenge

Winry Rockbell sat at her kitchen table, cheek in hand and feeling extremely bored.

Not long ago, she'd been filled with the exhilaration of knowing the Elric brothers would be returning to Resembool. Her mind was overrun with thoughts of the two boys; particularly the older brother Edward. She was excited to be with him again. She floated through the house in a giddy state until the day they arrived.

However, their arrival was fairly anticlimactic.

The boys she loved stepped off the train and said "Hello," only to resume their hushed conversation in the tones of two young men who are deeply absorbed, meaning their words were not hers to hear.

She was used to it. She'd long ago learned that conversations excluding her were best left intemperate.

As they walked back to the little, yellow house, Winry managed to keep her hand firmly attached to Ed's, and she noted that he glanced at her with adoring eyes for a moment before he turned again to Al.

He'd break; she knew it. He would eventually pull away from his world of alchemy for some well-deserved Winry-time; but it would take awhile, and her patience still had room to develop.

So it was with great, heaving sighs that she sat at the kitchen table, waiting for this soothsaid break. The muffled conversation from the floor above must have held great importance, because it took longer than usual for Ed to so much as cave to hunger, far less Winry.

Even when they had their together, they could never enjoy one another in the way a normal couple might. Mainly, their love given moments consisted simply of basking in each other's presence, lapping it up as if they'd been dehydrated for a very long time and were each other's water.

As Winry thought back on her relationship and grumped about Ed's seclusion from the rest of the world, Pinako walked by carrying a box of sheet metal, all ready for molding. As she passed, she suggested, "Perhaps you should stop waiting."

Winry lifted her head from her cheek, a stamp of red marking her face, and blinked.

"What?"

"If he's ignoring you, then stop waiting for him."

This advice cozied up well, as her heart ached for the boy on her mind.

And then, only the cacophony registered from her ears to her brain: the squeak of her shoes on the floor, the whine of old wood under her feet as she climbed the staircase, and finally the creak of rusting hinges as she pushed open a familiar door.

She'd spent many days with him in there and she'd long ago memorized the exact color of the curtains, the specific loose floorboards, the way the sun hit the walls just so in the afternoon.

But the room she knew so well had undergone changes since Ed's arrival. The previously spacious desk was now a miniature jungle of textbooks and loose papers. The bed hadn't been made in quite awhile; its usually pristine sheets, once crisp and smelling like windblown detergent, were lying in a messy heap at the foot of the bed, smelling more like boy than anything else (which is not a pleasant scent, in excess). A pitiful pile of clothes amounted to a small hill in a corner of the room, begging for a good wash.

Winry wrinkled her nose, like any sensible girlfriend. The discombobulation of it all struck her head with a pain. Or maybe it was the hanging stench that made her so nauseated…

She strode across the room, not even bothering to avoid the squeaky floorboards, causing two deep, whiny groans as she made her way to the window, which she pried open with a grunt.

Ed didn't even look up from his book.

And of all the mess in the room, he was by far the worst. He'd been so deeply enveloped in his work; he'd hardly noticed the lapse of time from when he'd cracked open the first of many, many book spines, to the present. His hair was a thorough mess, falling out of its braid and sticking up sporadically. He had shadows haunting his lower eyelids, and he probably hadn't eaten in awhile.

It gave her a small pang; seeing Ed in any of a range of states of dysfunction always caused her heart to yelp, mainly because they reminded her of rougher states she'd seen him experience.

At the same time, she had to admit he looked rather handsome in a gruff, disheveled way. Small whiskers poked out of his chin and jaw line, enhancing the effect. Her heart gave a different type of yelp at this observation.

He was growing up. In fact, he was very nearly a man.

She knelt down next to him and kissed his cheek in a soft, sweet contrast to the rough little hairs growing on the skin beneath her lips.

He looked up at her with golden eyes dulled by lack of sleep, but stunned to see her. "Winry…" he said, a bit perplexed.

She smiled affectionately at him. "You know, I like you better clean shaven."

Exhausted and only just realizing it, he wiped his eyes with his hand. "Yeah, me too, I think."

She laughed; he loved it.

"Come on," she demanded as she grabbed his wrist, pulling him up, though he protested.

"Wait, what are you doing? I'm working." He whined and pulled against her.

"You've been working too long."

She planted her hands firmly on his back and pushed him out the door, down the hall and into the bathroom where she proceeded to pull off his shirt.

"Winry!" He coughed, his voice having launched upward an octave, though she laughed. "Seriously, what are you up to?" He struggled to keep her away from his clothes, but she'd already managed to pull his top over his head.

"Isn't it obvious? You need a shower." She complacently reached for his belt buckle, but he swatted her away with a deep and flustered wave of crimson taking his skin.

"I can do it myself, thanks," he grumbled.

As he tended to the rest of his undressing, she turned on the shower and let the beginning drops of water fall on her fingertips, and she smiled. It had taken awhile, but she was glad to have finally found her time with him, however domestic and mundane.

"A-hem."

She spun to address him once more, and found him standing in his underwear with his arms crossed stubbornly over his chest, and with a childishly dire frown governing his face. He sniffed, "Are you going to leave so I can take my shower?" and it amplified her smile.

"Of course. I'll go get you a towel." She moseyed down the hall to the linen cupboard. When she came back, towel in hand, the shower curtain had been drawn and she could hear him soaping up on the other side, so she left the towel by the sink and gathered his discarded clothes.

As she turned to leave a final time, she shouted, "I love you!" over the hammer of water landing.

He shouted back, "Same here!"

She moved back to the guest room. While stripping Ed's bed of his sheets, she vaguely wondered if this that she was feeling was something like the mood of married life.

Soon into Winry's endeavor against unseemliness, the fresh breeze had swept almost all that was left of the stench; said stench, previously infecting the fibers of filthy linens, was soon to meet oblivion in a rewarding spin cycle that would fight with arms of water and soap.

Until then, Winry was left only with one last mess: this was the disaster of knowledge and brilliance, made material in shapes of text and paper and pencil and eraser scrubs, which had wrought havoc upon Ed's desk, left for her to undertake.

Looking at the desk, which held the weight of such a side of Ed she could never, ever fully access, a nagging curiosity went to action, pulling at the back of her mind, demanding her attention. These were the things she witnessed directly, but in a coded translation meant to fill her comprehension with snow.

Her feet pulled her to the edge of the jungle, but she knew that, even if she felt compelled to open his notes, this language would be impossible for her to interpret.

She could only tell so far as the stillness that kept her hung between the pole of knowing exactly where she was going and how she would spend her life and what she wanted in it, and the pole of everything else. There were so many intangible things she wished she could hold.

Could she live her life as Ed determined for her, from the intricate instructions set upon her through actions and implications she sometimes couldn't even see, and could she content herself with defining everything else, as if they were furnishings of traits and interactions and events?

What more, could she satisfy herself with knowing she, too, had an upper hand in that she maintained the well being of her beloved's life?

He could call her his woman, but she would always have more to her than the role she played to him.

And so, her hand inched with defiance toward the stack of words and observations. Her fingers held the spine of a book whose cover was rough and textured with age, and she closed her eyes briefly.

But it felt off beam in her hand. She was realizing that this wasn't her action to take.

Rather, she was responsible for nurturing Ed however best she could, which would thereby set Ed's actions into play to eventually come around to her. The clarity she sought, then, depended on however much she opened up to him.

Just as she witnessed the power she held, bewildering and astonishing as it was, she was suddenly shocked, and jumped at the voice she managed not to notice.

"Did you clean up for me?" Ed asked incredulously.

He stood in the doorway holding a towel at his waist. His hair dripped onto his shoulders. His eyes were wide in appraisal; they swept over the neatly made bed, probably imagining how the clean sheets would feel as he melted into sleep- but he already knew they'd feel like heaven.

"I managed to find some decent clothes, too; the rest of your stuff is in the wash."

On her way to the door, she began to hand off some clothes; but he caught her wrist, letting them fall, and pulled her near to let his forehead rest against hers, instead.

"I love you," he sighed.

She held his freshly shaven face and gently kissed his lips. "I love you, too," she answered just as softly.

Fin

A/N: Thanks for reading!