Just a Souvenir
by. Poisoned Scarlet
Summary: "It's just some rip off holiday corporations use every year to suck the money out of the gullible!" Edward decides to call Winry a year after his departure to the west and discovers that even fake holidays have their perks.
Rating: K+ for minor language.
Authors Note: This is loosely based on the song Honest by The Morning Light – honestly, that band is so underrated! Their music is awesome! Everytime I hear it, which is a lot mind you, I am always struck with this idea. It's until now that I decided to actually write it and share it with all of you...
Story Notes: Post-Promised Day; one year after Ed and Al leave for the west and east respectively.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist and I disclaim the lyrics used in this fanfiction to The Morning Light.
I'm selfishly connected to my changing mind
But now I have to ask... If I can make an honest mistake, then you're safe.
"What's today again?" Edward asked, slumped forward on the diner table as his guide came back from the restroom. There was no obvious difference that told him he was a westerner aside from the rather strong, but even, accent he carried and perhaps the thick, heavy-set, clothes that automatically labeled him a wrangler – if the spurs on his serpent-skin boots or lariat hanging off his waist didn't tip you off.
"February the fourteenth," he replied with a slight smile. He set his gray felt cowboy hat down by his hand, stretching his arms over his head as the waitress handled their orders. "The ever-adored St. Valentine's day. Can you smell the love in the air?"
"This is such a stupid holiday," Edward scoffed, taking a sip from his glass of soft drink. "Why would you celebrate your love for your significant other openly for one day? Shouldn't that be everyday?"
"Quite the romantic, are you, Edward?" the man baited, his glare ineffective on him.
"It's not being romantic," he crisply replied, "it's being realistic. I find it ridiculous that couples only commemorate the status of their relationship for a single day. Back from where I come from, there isn't two ways about it: either you love her or you don't, and if you do, you show it at every chance you got!"
"Back where you come from, everything is better."
"That's because it's true!" Ed responded, smirking out: "The west stinks."
"That's not what you said yesterday!"
"That was yesterday, this is now."
"Always the one with the sharp tongue..." The man muttered, thanking the waitress when she handed them their plates of steaming food. The delicious smell wafted to them in a gust of scrumptious steak and gravy, Edward nearly drooling at the tender steak drizzled with spicy sauce...
"I have to admit one thing, though," Edward added through a mouthful of mashed potatoes, "You guys have great food!" He had half a thought to mail a letter to Xing to Ling although, now that he thought about, it would probably get intercepted and stripped for information. He, however, doubted sharing the delectable wonders of western cuisine would benefit anyone but Ling himself.
"I hear you guys have nice weather back in Amestris."
"Nah, not in Central City – or anywhere, really," Edward revealed thoughtfully. "It pours, it snows, it's windy or it's hot as hell. I think the weather is more stable here, actually."
"Hmm, a niece of mine went down to, what's it called... Lior?"
"Lior?" Ed rose a brow. "What's she doing all the way down there? There isn't anything but sand over there!"
"Beats me!" the man shrugged, dicing his steak. "She said something about visiting some alchemy landmark or somethin'..."
"Oh." He had an idea of what she went to go see and he wondered if revealing he had been the one to disfigure the statue of the Leto Sun God would be a wise idea. He decided he didn't need to know and moved on: "How long ago did she go?"
"A few weeks ago."
"She should be careful," Edward casually informed, taking a drink from his glass to wash down the food. "There are still a lot of rebel groups hanging around there who like to take foreigners for a ransom."
"Yeah, try tellin' her that!" the man grumbled. "I warned her once! I warned her twice! But she just don't listen!"
"Just keep an eye on her – as long as she doesn't stick out too much or visit bad neighborhoods, she'll be fine," Edward assured, hoping this was true. There had not been much news regarding the small city of Lior except what he already knew from the time spent in Resembool. The city had managed to rebuild itself, slowly but steadily, and it had become quite the tourist attraction despite the insurgents that still lingered down more war-torn parts.
He absently wondered about Mustang and how the Ishval project was coming along. It had been a while since he had last spoken to the man but, from what he had heard from his brother, things were coming along smoothly for the promoted Brigadier General. He even caught wind that he managed to gain the Fuhrer's favour and had been written down as successor. If this proved to be true, he wouldn't hear the end of his bragging!
He flashed his eyes to his pocket, where his wallet was kept.
He would also drop by for collection, too...
Wonder how that'd go down, Ed inwardly snickered. Fuhrer of Amestris – collecting money from former State Alchemist Edward Elric! Al would crack up... At the thought of Alphonse, another, more pressing, thought strung along with it: Winry.
He slowed in his eating, allowing himself a few minutes to ponder over the woman's well-being. He hadn't been able to write in nearly five months although he had received a letter from her nearly two months ago. There was a sludge of guilt for being unable to reply to her past two letters, and he knew for sure that if he managed to find some time in his schedule to visit he would be in for it, but writing to her had become increasingly difficult.
He knew he avoided writing back for the most part.
He couldn't fathom how she was able to express her thoughts so freely on paper and in person unlike him. He would spend hours mulling over a single paragraph, fretting over if it sounded too mushy or clingy, and either way he was clueless as to what to write about in the first place. The first few letters had been easy enough, they mostly involved his findings in the teachings of western alchemy, but now that he managed to read most of those tomes and volumes there was simply nothing else to say.
Surely she wouldn't enjoy reading about some of his unsightly misadventures or simply a steady recount of the past few days? He didn't think so, so he was usually stuck writing a few sentences that sounded like complete crap to him and sending it off and hoping the reply was nothing along the lines of '...it sounds like your life sucks right now'.
"Look at that," his guide said, effectively cutting his reverie. "Newlyweds."
Edward turned, gazing at the woman in a simple, white, gown who laughed joyously with a man in a primp black tuxedo. The two held hands, walking toward a table and sliding into the booth, their hands never parting, and at the sight of the two, Edward thought about Winry again.
He remembered how he used to poke fun at her when she showed him the metal box her mother had given her. The one where, as she had proudly stated, she would place a few cenzs in every week to save up for her wedding. It had been during a time where both their mothers were alive, both their fathers by their sides, but the topic had never arisen after her parents had been deployed to Ishval.
He wondered if she still put money in that weathered box.
"Yeah. I've been done," Edward replied absently, his plate cleaned a long time ago.
"Jeez, son, you eat like a starving dog!" He grabbed his hat and placed it over his head, tipping it forward. He placed his half of the money on the table for the woman to ring him up. "You ready? It'll take three days to reach the town of Palm Springs from here. I've got the horses at the stable – you remember where that is, right?"
"Alright then, let's go—!"
"Wait," Ed removed the napkin he had wiggled under his collar, folding it in half messily and letting it fall on the plate. "I, ah, I have to place a call." The words hadn't been pondered on – they had just spilled out. He would admit it'd probably be asking for early hearing problems once Winry got screaming but he didn't think he'd be able to take another few days, which would progress to weeks and then perhaps months, without contacting her at least once.
He had promised he would keep in touch, after all.
"Sure, I'll wait for you outside."
"Uh, just go ahead without me!" Ed avoided his suspicious look. "I'll catch up with you in a few minutes!"
"Whatever you say, partner," the man shrugged, securing his belt on his waist and walking out of the diner, intent on grooming the horses before they reigned them down the bumpy, arid, terrain of the northwest.
Ed gave one last look to the newlyweds, whom were basking in the warmth of their own joy, before he finished the cost of the meal and handed the money to the woman by the front, who accepted it with a cheery smile and polite "good day!".
I could just write her, he stubbornly thought. His eyes strayed to the payphone nearby the restaurant. But it had been a while.. One call can't hurt.
His hands began to sweat, the heat from outside doing no justice, when he finished dialing the number he had long since memorized. He could probably tell it to you backwards, if you asked. The phone rang continuously for a few seconds and after a few more rings he hung up, knowing they were either busy or had missed the screeching ring somehow.
They're not there, he told himself, swallowing down a lump of anxiety. I-I'll just call back some other time! But the next town was three days away – he would be spending the majority of it out in the wilderness, regardless! Or...just one more time can't hurt, right? He shuffled out some more change and dialed once more, standing stiffly before the payphone.
His eyes caught red and pink beside him; the colors tracing the heart-shaped balloons that tied to baskets of beautifully blossomed roses and daisy's and carnations—
"Hello!" a breathless voice answered. "Rockbell Automail, Winry Rockbell speaking!"
For a second, he considered hanging up and pretending he never called her in the first place. He became unnervingly aware of the splash of romance that spread through the town like wildfire; his favourite color undignified as it was plastered on windows, heart-shaped balloons, heart-shaped chocolate boxes and sappy cards...
Why'd I have to call her today of all days? He inwardly ragged at himself.
"Uh, Winry?" Edward cleared his throat. "It's me, Ed."
"..Ed?" she repeated, in surprise. "Is that really you?"
He scowled. "Who else would it be? Are you expecting another call or something?"
He heard laughter from the other line. "You don't have to yell! It's just such a surprise – you hardly ever call! So, what's wrong this time?" Her voice became decidedly less pleased. "Please tell me your automail isn't broken because I'll seriously consider leaving you with a wood leg if it is!"
"Hey, for your information," Ed loftily began, "my leg is just fine, thank you very much, although I could do without it...Yeesh, it's hot over here!"
"Oh, yeah, what city are you in right now?"
"It's a small town called Simi Valley," Edward answered, leaning against the wall. "You can guess that since it's a valley, heat has a tendency of building up to unholy temperatures..." He wiped a hand over his forehead for emphasis even though she couldn't see it.
"Oh...so, why did you call? Did you need something?"
This was the hard part. His grip on the phone tightened and he leaned off the wall. "I need a reason for calling you now?" he nervously laughed.
"Well, no, if you were any other person," came her amused reply. "But considering this is you...there's always a reason for why you call. You don't just call, Ed!"
"Well, I am today!" he huffed.
"Uh huh, what's this really about?"
"Sir, would you be interested in buying some flowers for that special someone?" a cheerful salesperson asked, shoving a bouquet under his nose. "They're half off for just this hour! Ten dollars a piece—!"
"No, thanks! I don't want roses right now!" Ed snapped, glaring the man away.
"What part of 'no, I don't want some goddamn roses' don't you understand?" he scathingly shot back, watching the man scowl, no longer charming, and turn away, muttering under his breath but leaving him alone to pester the next individual.
"What was that all about?" Winry giggled on the other line. "Roses? Why is he trying to sell you roses? I thought you hated flowers and anything else that could be considered girly," she joked.
"It's just this retarded holiday every overrated couple is celebrating today," Ed groused, distastefully clarifying: "Valentine's Day. The west has this uncanny habit of creating these crock holidays strictly for financial gain. And here I thought Greed was bad..."
"Wow, sounds tough. What's Valentine's Day all about? It sounds...it actually sounds kind of—nice."
"Nice?" Ed incredulously repeated. "You call having one day to express your affection for another person by buying overpriced merchandise nice? It's practically the only day stores are allowed to inflate the prices until they're unbelievably expensive! It's all a scam!"
"Oh, you're just bitter! I think it's sweet, having one day to spend time with your loved one!"
"Tch! Why have one day when you can have every single day – and for way cheaper, too!" Ed flatly stated. "I still think it's just some rip off holiday corporations use every year to suck the money out of the gullible!"
"Whatever, I still think it's cute!"
"You think canned oil is cute," Ed smirked. "Your definition of 'cute' is severely skewed."
"Oh, shut up! You're so lucky you're thousands of miles away or else you'd be getting intimate with my right fist, Ed!"
At those words, his amusement drained. The smile faded on his lips and he resumed leaning against the wall, phone cradled between the junction of his cheek and shoulder as he hooked his thumbs around the waistband of his jeans. "Yeah.. thousand miles away..." he mumbled absently.
"Oh! And don't you think I don't know you're avoiding my letters again! Would it kill ya' to write back every few months? You could be in the hospital and I wouldn't even know!"
"I haven't gotten into trouble these past few weeks," Ed rolled his eyes at her concerns. "Don't worry so much. I'm fine."
"You say that now but..." She left him to fill in the gaps.
He sighed, frustrated by the topic already. "Look, I just called because I won't be able to write you back anytime soon so I might as well tell you now that I'm healthy as a horse! So, stop worrying so much already and focus on becoming the best automail engineer Amestris has ever seen!" A smile lifted the corners of his lips. "I'm already spreading the word over here! Get ready for some new customers, Win! You better give me a discount when I get my leg tuned up!"
Winry's laughter was static on his line and he heard a sharp beep, indicating he needed to spill more coins into the machine if he wanted the call to continue. He patted his pockets and swore softly under his breath when he only came up with two coins. He slipped them into the machine, knowing it'd only gain him two more minutes at the most. "Hey, Win, sorry about this but I have to hang up soon – I ran out of coins..."
She giggled, cutely. He wondered when she had gotten cute and decided not to think about that – it'd only serve to frustrate him. "Typical!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" he snapped.
"It's okay, Ed. I have to go back to work, anyway. Just promise me you'll stay out of trouble!"
"How many times do I have to tell you? I don't look for trouble, it finds me," Ed mumbled but she caught it anyway. "I promise!" he yelled over her scolding. "I promise I'll stay out of trouble if I can help it! Shit, this things gonna' cut the call any second now—!"
"I'm really glad you called..." she warmly said, her smile reaching him from so far away. He felt his face heat up. "And happy Valentine's Day!"
He didn't know what to say for a few heartbeats. His face warmed even more, once again awkwardly aware of all the gushing love and romance that saturated the town on that particular day. "Y-yeah, happy single awareness day, too. I'll be sure to buy you a souvenir before I leave. I'll be back in a few months."
A short snort at his own twist on the holiday was followed by: "A few months? You sure?"
"Yeah, I'll try to find some time to visit," Ed quickly said. "Give or take another five months, though."
He waited for a second, then parted his lips to end the call when she blurted: "Ed, I-I really miss you!"
"I..." He swallowed his nerves. He was glad she couldn't see his pink face, the soft smile that crawled on his lips against himself. "I do, too. Take care, Winry."
The line cut and he was left with the warming resonance of her voice. He lowered the phone, placing it back on the hook after a few more seconds. He regretted not changing a dollar into coins, her last few words making his heart pound hard.
She misses me? He thought to himself, glancing at a jewelry shop a few paces away. He wondered over to it, standing before the display window that showed him fragments of diamonds glistening on gold bands and shining lockets that reflected the hot over-light brightly. He thought back to her earrings, the only pieces of jewelry she had ever worn in her life, and remembered Alphonse mentioning to him that Winry's taste edged more to simplistic; modern but elegant.
His eyes strayed to the single thin gold chain that hooked a decent sized pendent. He stood straighter, squinting at the pendent critically. If he didn't know any better, he would say that was the exact same pendent aunt Rockbell had worn when she was still alive. He clearly remembered the woman showing him the pictures inside one day when he asked: on one side her husband and on the other a toothily grinning Winry.
He wondered what happened to that pendent.
It probably got buried along with her remains, he grimly thought. His fingers tapped against his thigh impatiently, as he stared the pendent down. It wasn't costly, it was a fairly decent amount, but jewelry wasn't his thing. He didn't just waltz into a jewelry shop and pick out stuff like this – that was his brothers thing, not his!
There was a reason why he allowed Alphonse to choose out the jewelry and he the one to give it away: he was just better at delivering the stuff than buying it since apparently his taste was 'gaudy and crude'.
What do they know about cool anyway...
Although, he admitted, he was usually the one to deliver the boxes to her because it would be he who came home with a trashed automail arm. He remembered when he used buying her earrings as a means to get him out of trouble...until he realized she kept poking holes through her ears to fit each one.
Crazy woman, he softly snorted. She just had to wear all of them at the same time, huh?
Waving from the inside caught his eye and he looked up to see the cashier waving a hand at him. She smiled, finally having gotten his attention, and motioned him inside.
He pointed to himself in uncertainty.
She nodded, beaming brightly.
He cautiously entered the shop, cringing when he saw two couples inside browsing for wedding rings by one corner. He was about to turn heel and leave, knowing his guide to the next town would be annoyed by his tardiness, when the woman shouted: "Wait, sir!"
"Yeah?" he answered reluctantly, gazing at the door longingly. He would just tell her to buzz off and then he would be free! It wasn't like he had considered buying that pendent as a souvenir for Winry, anyway. It wasn't like she'd really like it or anything...
It'd probably get caught in her drill or something, he stubbornly told himself. Or she could wear it for special occassions. He sighed sharply. He was getting nowhere with his clashing thoughts.
"I noticed you were standing there for a long while – is there something that caught your eye?" the woman asked. "Maybe I can help!"
"It was nothing," he shook his head, eyes tentatively straying to the sill that displayed the jewelry. "I was just checking out some pendents."
"Ooh, very nice! Our collection of pendents are made from purely refined gold! We even have some with embroidered diamonds, would you like to see those—!"
"No thanks," Ed cut her off, a frown on his face. "I'm not interested in those."
She blinked, smoothly covering up her previous words with: "Then how about some of our older designs? They're very plain, however..."
He was silent for a moment.
It was just a pendent.
It was heart-shaped but didn't he admit to himself he liked her already? Winry wasn't the type to look too much into his gifts, anyways!
He ignored the fact that most, if not all, of his gifts included gorily sculpted artifacts or black leather...
Oh, what the hell! "Do you have some like the ones over there?" he pointed to the window. "I'd be interested in buying one.."
"Yes, yes, I know the one you're talking about!" The woman nodded. "It's the plain heart pendent, correct?"
"We have some more just like it! Some have designs on the cover as well, would you be interested in those? They're a tad more expensive, though!"
"No, I just—just get me that pendent, actually," Ed stated, making up his mind with a firm press of his lips. "As fast as you can – I'm running late!"
The woman smiled. "Okay! Right away!" She hurried to the counter and Edward followed, standing before the cash register. He tapped his foot, feeling his patience begin to combust into flames the longer she took, and glanced at the clock overhead. He swore at the time: he had wasted nearly an hour already! His guide would be more than annoyed with him – it was a good thing he learned how to ride a horse or else the man would have loads of fun spooking the animal and scaring the alchemist out of him...
The woman came back from the inventory with a small square box in her hand. "Here you go! Would you like it wrapped?"
"No—wait, yes! I mean, no!" Would wrapping it make him seem like a wuss?
"Wrapped it is!" the woman laughed cheerfully at his glower, quickly tying a maroon ribbon bow over the navy blue box. "Bag or no bag?"
"No bag," he muttered. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some crumpled bills from his wallet after asking her for the amount, handing the money to her and snatching the box from the counter in exchange. He stuffed it into his back pocket, pouring the change she gave him into his front pocket.
"I hope she likes it!" the woman wished him luck. "Thank you for choosing us! We hope to see you again soon!"
He nodded back, waving as he exited the store.
He hoped she liked it, too.
I wonder what she'll say, he mused, as he made his way down a dusty road that would lead him to the stables, where his guide and their horses would be stationed at. It's just a souvenir... His smile widened rather smugly. It's definitely better than Al's gift, too! Some dumb silk dress can't beat gold...
Of that, he was sure.
A/N: This was hard to end. I could have ended it on various points but I felt the need to make it longer than it should be XD This should only be four pages while it exceeds nine! Alas, I am unable to write a short one-shot. But I do hope you enjoyed it!
I'm considering adding a part two: Winry's side once he hands her the pendent. I'll think about it and if I get enough requests, I'll definitely write it when I have time! :D