Author's note: SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF CH. 108! So, who anticipated my absolute thrill at Ed and Winry finally getting together? I mean, even the way Ed asked her out was sort of predictable. I was so glad it didn't turn mushy and disgusting and destroy their characters or their interaction dynamics. But this story has been in my mind quite a while – since I role played Winry on MySpace way back in the day – and I was surprised at how well it fit into how the manga canonly ended. So I decided to write it out and get it up for you as my apology for disappearing for a bit and as one of my many planned dedications to the end of FMA. It's been a long run, ne? It's kind of weird to think that it's ended.
Here's to my FMA fans: Who/What would you like to see featured in a fic next? Include it in your review; I take all suggestions into consideration, and will credit everyone whose ideas I do use in future fics.
In a small town like Resembool, change didn't occur very often. The Rain River carved the same path in the same direction as it had for hundreds of years, the smell of wheat and grass and wood burning in fireplaces and bonfire pits in backyards smelled the same during the late summer as it had when Al was younger. He sometimes swore that even the sun set the same, for he was sure that he had sat on the Rockbells' front porch with his brother and Winry several times before, watching the same golds shifting to pink and red, transforming into one another as they tried in vain to fight off the impending shadows.
He voiced this observation, but Winry quickly replied, "No, every sunset is unique. Like snow flakes! The position of the clouds makes all the difference." She sounded so adamant about it that Al was happy to let it go – She could think what she wanted. – and lean forward a little to hook his hands under his knees. But he still wasn't at all shocked to hear Ed's abrasive rebuttal as he came to Al's defense... sort of.
"It's not really different," Ed said stubbornly, ignoring Al's sigh at the inevitable argument to follow and Winry's narrowed eyes. "It's the same flaming ball of gas, night after night, going through the same cycle again and again with little to no variation. It's not like the sun turns purple some days, or looks like a dragon another day."
"I never said it did!"
"Then what's so unique about it," Ed demanded.
And just like that, they were arguing and Den was barking on the other side of the front door and Granny Pinako was shouting for Den to settle down, but Ed and Winry couldn't hear any of this because they were insulting each other so passionately that they didn't even care what they were fighting about anymore.
"OI, WOMAN! I'VE GROWN!"
"REALLY, I HADN'T NOTICED!"
"S'alright, must be hard to see anything from down there."
Al cringed as Winry's hand colliding with Ed's cheek echoed smartly. When he looked over, Ed was gingerly rubbing his cheek and scowling; Winry's arms were crossed haughtily over her chest.
Some things never changed.
Except that Al was distracted, remembering another sunset nearly two years ago now. It was a sunset when he still marveled at the lack of a metallic echo whenever he spoke, when Ed was snoring on the couch inside instead of sitting on the porch because Winry had just fixed him with a new leg after he'd been stuffed full of turkey and apple pie. So Winry and Al had gone ahead to sit outside like they always did when Ed and Al were home, alone, with Winry resting a supportive hand on his shoulders as Al leaned heavily on the canes he still needed in order to walk.
"I could carry you," she had offered.
"Five feet? Seriously?"
"Or not," she'd said meekly, and Al smiled at her reassuringly. He was fragile, but not broken, and he had to keep reminding them then of that. He'd be fine, given time and effort.
So Winry had walked with him slowly, patiently, as though he was her paying charge instead of Ed. They sat down on the top step, and Al had no choice then but to accept Winry's hand under his elbow; his knees shook when he sat.
"Brother'll be okay," he asked, glancing worriedly over his shoulder. Winry, though, only shrugged. She understood the effect of auto-mail maintenance on a body better than he did.
"He'll pout. Claim I'm trying to kill him. But he's had a long journey – you both have," she added, patting his shoulder as though she was making sure flesh and bone were still there. "Let him sleep. You need the fresh air more than he does." She tried to sound casual, but she looked worried; alchemy might have been a bit over her head, but she'd understood enough when Ed said quite bluntly "It's like being locked in a white room with no food or water or human contact for years." when trying to explain Al's condition to her once, before Al had a chance to see it for himself. And she had looked at him anxiously out of the corner of her eyes ever since. Al tried to pretend he hadn't noticed; she'd only deny it if he said anything. It was easier to let it go.
"It feels good to be home," he said instead. And Winry smiled, but did she look sad? He wasn't sure.
"But for how long," she asked.
Al didn't answer. He didn't have one; he never did, even now that their journey was finally over.
She leaned against his shoulder, like she used to do when they were younger, in what seemed like another lifetime. "It's good to finally have you back."
And Al leaned his head down to kiss her.
To this day, he didn't know why. His body had acted of its own accord, and Winry's had reacted. She half-closed her eyes, even began to lean in... but then she pulled back again, and she turned her head away.
"Sorry, Al..." She didn't get up to leave, but nor did she move back to where she had been. She was blushing; so was Al, and he mumbled an ashamed apology. But he followed her lead and didn't return inside until she was ready to; he didn't mention his momentary lapse of sanity to anyone, not even Edward. Maybe if he had, he wouldn't have to watch his brother's hand – still so strange to see flesh instead of auto-mail – following the curvature of Winry's neck. She didn't pull away from him, but leaned in, and Al felt the old pang of jealousy.
Some things never changed.