Ed stood at the edge of the road staring at the balcony of the yellow house, part of him hoping she would step out into the morning and call to him, demanding he get back inside before she beaned him with her wrench. The other part of him, the part that had planned this stealthy departure, was glad that even on her vacation she worked into the early hours and slept like a rock once her head hit the pillow.
Grumbling under his breath about how she'd wrench him when he got back, he turned away from the house and continued his walk to the train station.
Winry didn't know where to look first. The open air market offered vendors selling everything under the sun: jewelry, pipes(she'd have to get one for Granny), paintings, needlework, glass work, food, weapons, automail, books, clothing, ceramics, furniture, and then there were the buildings surrounding the market: teashops, healing houses, bath houses, rentanjutsu temples, the royal garden, the clan houses, the palace, and so much more, more than their trip would allow her to see.
A door closed, and as she turned to look to her right, she blinked.
Suddenly she was looking at her desk. She sighed. After being home a couple days, she was ready to begin her vacation. Part of her wanted her vacation, her first real vacation, to last longer than three weeks, but so many people would be waiting for her to return to Rush Valley.
Her eyes widened as she realized Ed's red coat was missing from where it had been hanging on the back of her desk chair.
Ed hadn't worn the coat since he'd brought Al back after the eclipse. When she'd asked, he'd claimed the Resembool summer was just too damn hot for a coat, and it wasn't like he had automail to cover anymore.
From what Al had told her, he never wore it anymore, but always took it with him when he traveled.
She wondered if it had become a second pocket watch, a reminder of past mistakes. As she threw back the blankets and ran into the hall calling his name, part of her hoped he was outside burning that coat and melting down his pocket watch, moving on.
He didn't answer.
She checked his room—he always complained she kicked him in her sleep, maybe he'd gone back to his room—but it was empty.
Thunder filled the yellow house as she stormed down the stairs, still calling for him.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a blond head poke out of the kitchen door and she skidded to a halt.
"Told you she'd be up soon" Al said as May joined him at the kitchen door.
"Alphonse was teaching me to make pancakes, There's even enough for Edward," May announced, the dried up batter splattered on her apron evidence of her attempt at cooking.
"Ed's here?" Winry asked, looking at Al.
Al's smile faded. "He wasn't in your room?"
She shook her head.
"He told me he'd have to go into town today. He must have left early."
"Just into town? He took his coat," Winry told him.
"That's what he told me," Al said through a frown. "Said he needed to pick up a few things before we leave," he elaborated.
She nodded. She needed a few things herself. "I should go get what I need, too," she mused.
"Why don't you eat first," Pinako said as she emerged from the staircase leading down to her workroom.
May nodded in agreement, an anxious smile on her face.
Winry's shoulders sagged as Pinako gave her a push towards the kitchen.
"No use going into town on an empty stomach, you're pockets will be lighter than you planned," Pinako reasoned as she followed her granddaughter to the kitchen table.
Winry sighed as she got another no to her inquiry about Ed. No one had seen him. Either the whole town was conspiring against her finding him, or he'd become invisible—a feat impossible for someone so full of himself.
"Are you finished, Winry?" Al asked as he joined her in the sweets shop.
"Why don't you go back ahead of me," she suggested.
Al's forehead wrinkles as his eyebrows knit together with worry. "We probably just missed him. He's probably sitting at home complaining about," he paused to look over his shoulder and continued when he saw they were alone aside from the shopkeeper, "May's cooking."
"I promised Nellie I'd visit before leaving," Winry explained—not a complete lie—she was supposed to meet with Nellie before she left, but before she left for Rush Valley, not Xing.
"Want me to take those for you?" Al offered, reaching for her bags.
Despite her concern for Ed, she couldn't help but grin at Al's offer. "No thanks, it looks like May could use your help, though," she suggested, pointing out the window to where May stood with her arms weighted down by bags, her little panda looking just as exhausted her.
Al groaned. "She didn't tell me she wanted to buy souvenirs for all of Xing. Don't be too late, I hear we're having stew," he called as he raced out of the shop.
Once Al had unburdened May of most of her bags and they disappeared from the view the shop window offered of the street, Winry left out of the door that lead to the next street over and headed to the train station.
"Can't you speed things up a bit?" Ed snapped.
"Still as demanding as ever, aren't we?" Roy asked through a smirk, purposely slowing down his writing.
"Being at the top gives him even more work to get done," Riza cut in as she added another folder to the pile on Roy's desk.
"Plus, I don't want to let go of one of my best alchemists so easily," Roy explained.
"You knew I was only doing this until I got things put back to normal," Ed hissed.
Roy laughed. He'd miss the shrimp if only for the entertainment his visits provided.
"Sir, what have I advised about instigating, provoking, and procrastinating?" Riza asked from her desk.
It was Ed's turn to smirk as Roy glared at him. Riza cleared her throat and Roy slid the paper across his desk.
"You have to sign and date there."
Ed swiped a pen from Roy's desk and skimmed over the retirement form to make sure Roy wasn't pulling one over on him.
"And we need one last signature if the general would be so kind as to help us out, then we can retire your title," Roy explained.
Before Ed could even turn around to look over at her desk, Riza was beside him. Once she added her signature next to Roy's, she smiled at him. "It's official, now," she said, grabbing the stamp from Roy's desk and marking the top of the paper with the Führer's seal.
Roy grumbled about her taking the fun out of his job and snatched the stamp back.
Ed got up to leave.
"Hey, where do you think you're going?" Roy demanded.
"What's it to you, I'm a free man now."
"You still have to turn in your watch."
"What'dya mean? I thought only the alchemists who were fired had to turn them in?"
"Yeah, and the alchemists who owe me 520 cenz," he added.
"I paid that back."
"No, from the poker game. I won that fair and square."
Ed grumbled as he reached into his pockets.
Winry checked her suit case for what seemed like the hundredth time. Part of her wanted to sit on her balcony with a lantern lit for him, while the rest of her wanted to sit out there in the dark with a wrench at the ready.
"He'd better get back in time to make the train for Xing," she mumbled. He wasn't going to ruin her first vacation—she'd just go without him.
A knock shook her out of her thought. Al stood at the edge of her room, nervously running a hand through his hair. "He'll make it back in time," he reassured her, reading her mind.
"He has to pack, too," she reminded him.
"I already threw a few things together for him."
She nodded, of course Al had thought of that. "You should get some sleep before we leave, trains aren't very comfortable," she reminded him.
Ed pushed away the hand that was shaking him. "I'm up, I'm up. We there yet?" Ed asked, annoyed that, despite Al having gotten his body back, he could probably still sleep through a robbery.
"The Resembool station is the next stop," the ticket checker told him.
"Thanks." Ed stood up and stretched to wake himself up as the man walked away with a few extra cenz in his pocket.
"You want to get me killed?" Ed asked as Den continued barking at him.
She wagged her tail and barked again.
The door of the house opened and Ed froze up.
Pinako flipped on the porch light. "Quiet down and get inside," she huffed at the dog. "C'mon, you too," she added when Ed didn't move. "You should have told them you were going to Central," she chided as he joined her in the house.
"Wouldn't have been gone so long if that bastard hadn't taken his time," Ed mumbled in defense.
"Why'd he need you this time?"
"He didn't," he told her.
"Then why'd you go?" Winry demanded as she appeared at the top of the staircase.
Pinako chuckled. "I'll be going for my morning walk, I don't want to hear this row," she said more to herself than them.
Den looked between Ed and Winry then padded after Pinako.
"Then why'd you go?" Winry repeated, now at the bottom of the stairs.
He didn't answer, but pulled a box out of his pocket.
She shook her head. "No. Earrings aren't going to work this time," she told him as she walked away from him and to the kitchen.
Ed rolled his eyes and followed after her.
"Why don't you go make sure Al and May are up, we have to leave soon," she suggested, her tone telling him to obey or face dire consequences.
"No, I've got something to ask you first," he said firmly.
"Fine, I'll go make sure they're awake," she hissed and stomped past him back to the stairs.
"I'm going to kill Mustang for making this harder than it already is," he grumbled as he grabbed hold of her arm.
"Ed," she warned as she pulled away.
"I'm a civilian, now," he blurted out.
Winry stopped in her tracks. "What?" she asked, not quite sure she believed him.
"I took my resignation papers straight to Mustang, and it's official. No more license, no more getting called away for a mission, no more reports," he elaborated.
She turned around to look at him, her mouth gaping open in betrayal of her cool demeanor.
"What are you going to do now?" she asked, curiosity getting the best of her.
"Well, I did have something in mind, but it requires your cooperation," he told her as he took the velvet box out of his pocket again.
She gingerly accepted the box, watching him as she opened it.
"This one doesn't go on your ears, so don't go punching any more holes in them," he teased.
A lump formed in her throat as she stared at the ring. She was torn between wanting to tell him he shouldn't have worried her so much over it or that he could have been a bit more romantic about his proposal, but instead she asked, "Who picked it out?" It was so normal it couldn't have been a pick made solely by the taste of Edward Elric.
His smirk faded. "Is that all you can say?" he huffed.
"I think I can help you with this," she said matter-of-factly as she plucked the ring from its cushion.
He grinned at her, the weight of his proposal lifted from his shoulders. "I guess I'll go pack for the trip to Xing."
"Al already packed for you. Why don't you help me make breakfast and some sandwiches for on the way there," she suggested.
Ed nodded. "As long as it keeps May out of the kitchen," he commented. "I didn't know someone so good with formulas could make such a mess of cooking."
"And I didn't know a genius could make such a mess of proposing," she shot back.
A.N.: This collection was written for fma_big_bang over at livejournal. Thanks go to Everystep for her beta work! I hope you enjoy the collection.