1. For anyone following A Song for Alingon, a status update is available on my profile page.
2. I do not normally do fluff. But behold! My feeble attempt at fluff.
3. Timeframe is generic, but essentially later in the original anime series. (Haven't yet seen enough of Brotherhood to play in that particular sandbox.)
4. Possible second (M-rated?) chapter, if I'm feeling sufficiently fluffy/enough demand exists.
5. Eternal and recurring kudos to Sapidus for enduring beta-ship on my ramblings yet again.
Winry twisted the screwdriver in her fingers almost absently. It was an action so practiced, so much a part of her muscle memory that it felt as natural as breathing. A trained flick of her fingers, and the screw rotated obediently into place.
Edward huffed slightly, breaking the silence. "How much longer is this gonna take?"
Winry glared at the screw as she secured it with a firm twist. "Hold still and it'll go faster." It was a reflexive response, and wholly unnecessary; Ed was as solid as a statue. Even after so many years, she found it remarkable how quickly his excited energy could give way to utter stillness when she brought out her toolkit.
Ed merely grunted and turned back to the book in his lap.
The evening's hush fell over them again. A familiar wooden creak issued from the ceiling above their heads as Al shifted in his seat, likely passing the evening with yet another book. A rhythm of gentle scratches sounded in reply as Den padded across the room to Alphonse's side before settling down and giving a contented thump of his tail against the floor. Winry smiled slightly as the quiet song of crickets wafted through the open window, carried by the evening breeze.
She tightened the final screw on Ed's forearm plating and tapped its corners for soundness. Satisfied, her hands traveled to the service panel for his upper arm. She shifted on the couch to get a better angle, and after a few easily twists of her screwdriver, thumbed the panel open.
Ed sighed irritably. "Do you really have to poke at every inch of me?"
She glanced up at him with a glare before focusing on the open panel. "Unless you want me going with you to perform maintenance on the go, then yes." An irritated flush begin to creep over her cheeks.
"And have you nagging at me over every little scratch? No thanks." She didn't need to see his face to know that he was smirking. "Besides, you'd just get in the way."
Reaching in with her screwdriver, she pulled aside a nerve wire a little more harshly than was necessary. Ed barely choked back a yelp and shot her an accusing glare. "Careful with that, will ya? That's my arm you're jerking around."
Winry's brows knit together in annoyance, and she shook her head. "No, Ed, it's my arm. I'm just loaning it to you until you get yours back."
She felt his head turn, but kept her eyes fixed stubbornly on the work in front of her. Another familiar silence fell between them as she placed the screwdriver on the seat beside her and plucked a set of tweezers from her box. Navigating the interior of Ed's automail, Winry slowly began to catalog every deviation she'd made from her original drawings. Dozens of pieces had been discarded for nearly imperceptible flaws in their machining, and she'd had at least two elbow joints re-pressed for being little more than a hair's breadth too wide. By the end of it, she'd run every calculation so many times that even Pinako had declared her standards unreasonable.
Such are the demands of genius, she thought with a contented smirk.
The end product was still derived from her design, to be sure, but so much of her original vision had been altered and re-imagined that, in a way, the arm itself was almost born more of accident than design. She wondered how Ed would feel if he had actually understood how many mistakes contributed to its creation. She wondered if he would even care.
The thought made her pause. Her hands stilled as her eyes traced the lines of machinery up toward Ed's face.
The book sat open on his lap, but his eyes were trained out the window. The harvest moon reflected off the gold of his eyes as it hung low over the fields. Winry frowned as recognition dawned on her at the distance in his look; he was somewhere else entirely.
She lowered her eyes, glancing away from the glow of the lamp backlighting his hair, from the pooling shadows at the base of his neck where the lamplight and moonlight met, from the painful familiarity of his mind wandering places she couldn't follow.
A lingering tightness pulled at her chest. She ignored it; she preferred to be lost in the wiring anyway.
Long minutes passed as Winry continued her inspection of his upper arm. Eventually she withdrew the tweezers and, not without a degree of reluctance, closed the maintenance panel. Taking up her screwdriver again, she felt Ed tilt his head toward her.
"All done?" he asked with one of those quick grins she knew far too well. She was too close for him to look her directly in the eyes, but that didn't stop him from trying. "Maybe now I can finally get some shut-eye."
Winry shook her head. With a quick twist of screws and a gentle drumroll of her fingers at each corner, she turned to her toolbox. "Not so fast. I've still got to check your shoulder." Ed groaned audibly, and she rolled her eyes in response. Sticking the handle of a small wrench in her teeth, she rested one hand under his bicep and the other on his forearm. The gesture was a familiar ritual, and Ed obediently flexed his elbow in response. Winry absently waggled the wrench as she guided his forearm through a series of rotations, studying every movement. Once satisfied, she plucked the wrench from between her teeth and lowered his arm toward the couch. "You'll get some sleep just as soon as I'm done. Then you'll be rid of me until the next time you bust up my masterpiece." She quickly forced a smile at him, though it didn't make its way into her voice. "Promise."
Ed "hmphed" and turned to his book, resting his chin in his hand and leaning forward to expose the back of his shoulder.
Winry glanced at his back as she twisted to fold her legs beneath her. It was broader than she remembered, though just noticeably. Or maybe his braid was thinner, making everything around it comparatively larger as it rested along the length of his spine. But no, that couldn't be right; Ed's hair was an unruly mess on the best of days, and if it had gotten any finer it surely would have been a little easier to tame.
"Hey, Gear-head. What's the holdup?"
Winry shook her head vigorously, and reached over and flipped the braid – still thick and heavy, she noted with some satisfaction – over Ed's opposite shoulder. "Keep your stupid hair out of my way," she said with a touch more pique than was necessary. Even from behind him, she could see the questioning arch of an eyebrow wrinkle his temple as she settled down against his side without another word.
She worked deliberately, careful to not over-stress the fastenings as she gently lifted the maintenance plate from his shoulder. A familiar tangle of cables and pistons greeted her. No matter how many new arms she made him, no matter how many times she had seen similar messes before, she still felt her breath hitch every time she encountered it. It was the hub in which every nerve, cord, and support rod jumbled together into a tangle of complications that only its creator could navigate. It was chaotic, and messy, and only she could read it.
Ed rolled his head forward and reached up to rub the back of his neck. As his braid fell to the side, exposing the line of muscle along the ridge of his spine – gods help me, when did that get there – Winry suddenly realized how close they sat. She froze as he lifted his head again, leaving her face within inches of his, her lips only a finger's breadth from his ear. His body stilled, as it had before, but only now did she notice the warmth that rose from it.
It wasn't that she hadn't been this close to him in the past; she had spent hours prodding away inside his automail. She hated it, but while the ache in her gut was frustrating and unwelcome, it wasn't new. The few other times it had threatened her over the years, she had managed to tamp it down through sheer force of denial. The fact that Pinako and Al were usually hovering nearby certainly hadn't hurt, either.
Her eyes shot back to the open latch before her as she raised her tools, fighting to swallow the blush that was creeping up her neck. As she leaned against him to see, her chest came to rest against the steel anchor plate that wound under his arm and over his shoulder blade. The abrupt change in pressure made her pause for a fleeting moment before her hands resumed their work with renewed speed.
She felt the heat rising from her stomach and spreading its tendrils over her cheeks, and in an instant she was glad that Ed couldn't see her. She picked up her tweezers and began her long foray into the depths of his shoulder.
"You sure do take your time," he muttered, breaking the silence. Winry thought she heard a smirk, but ignored it.
"Yeah, well," she said, testing the grasp of a nut. "I take pride in my work. It's my arm, after all." She smirked back at him. "But since it is attached to you, you think you could take a little better care of it?"
Ed laughed, and raised his free hand in a half-shrug. "But then I wouldn't have an excuse to come back."
Winry's fingers fumbled the screwdriver. She kept her eyes fixed on the guts of Ed's shoulder as she tightened her grip. No excuse to come back.
A creeping chill began displace the warmth she had felt earlier. Ed strained his neck toward her.
"You okay back there?" he asked, nonchalant grin slipping slightly.
Winry shook her head and withdrew her tools. She closed the flap on his shoulder a touch harder than was necessary, and grabbed her screwdriver to begin sealing it. She glanced up at Ed and shot him a forced smirk. She didn't bother watching for a reaction. "All done."
As she furiously worked to tighten the screws back into place, she noticed Ed's hand hover near his lap uncertainly. "Winry…?"
Her head spun as the words echoed in her ears. No excuse. She grasped the screwdriver tightly, and twisted it with a jerk that caused Ed to grit his teeth. It was harder than she'd intended, but she found it oddly satisfying. "No, you're right." She turned back to her toolkit and began to collect the tools that were strewn about the couch. The iciness that gripped her stomach was rising into her chest, clawing painfully toward her throat. With every second her movements became more truncated, less stable. She threw her pliers into the bottom of the toolbox with more force than was even remotely necessary, and her hands trembled as she reached for her wrench. "There's nothing here for you at all. You left it all behind, right?"
She couldn't avoid catching a glimpse of him as she turned to retrieve her tweezers. Ed was turning toward her, flexing the fingers of his automail while grasping the wrist in his flesh hand. She forced herself not to look at him. "Winry." His voice was an unmistakable mixture of worry and rising frustration. "What's…?"
"I said you're done. You can pack up and go." She slammed the top of her toolkit shut, suddenly noticing the violent tremor in her hands. Her vision swam as the irrational heat of her anger washed over her. The pressure rose into her throat, clenching it shut, and she could no longer fight when the words ripped from her. "After all, leaving runs in your family, doesn't it?"
The silence that crashed down around them was deafening. Several beats of Winry's racing heart passed before she realized just what she had said, and her eyes slowly widened. Reflexively, her hand flew toward her mouth, but the sudden trembling that overtook her caused it to slam into the corner of her toolbox. The crashing of tools rang out just as the door slammed hard behind her, hard enough to shake the walls. Glass shattered sharply as a picture frame, shaken loose from its perch, plummeted to the ground.
Winry sunk into the couch, uninjured hand over her eyes. Waves of adrenaline rolled over her in slowly-ebbing aftershocks. Gravity seemed to lurch as she leaned her head back against the cushions.
Of all the accusations in the world, she had blindly thrown the worst.
She wasn't sure how much time had passed when the room stopped spinning. Her head throbbed, her hand hurt like hell, and Granny Pinako's worried voice came through the floorboards between the sounds of heavy metal footsteps. It was only a matter of time before the inquisition began. She knew, distantly, that she needed to leave.
Left hand still clutching the stinging gash on her right, Winry rose on shaky legs and made her way to the door. She heard Pinako's voice at the landing, backed up by Al's, as she shut the door quietly behind her.
Numbly, Winry let her feet carry her down the path leading away from the house. At the mailbox she turned and started along the dirt road leading toward the river, stumbling slightly against the uneven earth as the weight of what she had said gradually sank about her shoulders. The longer she walked, the farther words slipped from her to undo what she had done. By the time she arrived at the river bank, she only knew that she needed to say something before silence – or the slow-burning inertia of anger – settled over them both.
To be honest, she didn't know which was worse.
A cool breeze skimmed up the riverbank to meet her at its crest, ruffling her hair like a lost friend. She shivered lightly as a chill hit her, though whether it was from the wind, or the sight of Ed slumped by the water's edge, she didn't know.
Several moments passed as Winry stood at the edge of the embankment, guilt rising like bile in her throat. Down by the water, Ed say with his knees were drawn to his chest, arms loosely at his sides. His fingers absently traced along the dirt.
A small pebbled rolled down the embankment as Winry shifted her weight. Her chest tightened as, even in the darkness, she saw his fingers freeze.
"Ed?" she called weakly. He did not acknowledge her. After a few moments of silence, she hesitantly put one foot down the path to the water, followed by another.
He was perfectly still as she approached. She settled in the dirt beside him, knees drawn toward her chest, eyes focused on the water.
The wind glided over the surface of the river, leaving a trail of ripples in its wake. Winry caught the moon's reflection in the water; it was low, and bright. They sat, unmoving, for several minutes.
"Ed," she said. Her voice was barely above a whisper, and punctuated by an unmistakable tremble as it cut the silence. "I'm sorry." She closed her eyes. "I didn't-"
"You were right," Ed responded calmly. Winry, startled by the sudden words, turned her head to face him. He drew his left arm around his knees loosely and fixed his eyes on the water.
A sudden urge to reach out and touch him surged through her, but she beat it back. "No, Ed. I wasn't."
A weak smile played across his lips. "Give yourself some credit." He looked up at her, and her breath caught in her chest at the sadness behind his eyes. "You can read people, Winry. You're always right when it comes to figuring people out."
She shook her head, and looked down at the ground beneath them. The moon gleamed brightly off Ed's automail arm as it rested palm-down at his side. Winry reached out a hand, and, after a heartbeat's hesitation, laid her own hand over Ed's.
"No," she said, turning her head toward him and resting her cheek on her knees. "I'm not." She let her gaze linger over the metal of his hand, not daring to raise her eyes to his face. "You're nothing like him."
Ed stiffened as if Hohenheim's ghost had just trailed his hand over the boy's shoulders. His eyes flashed with a dangerous hatred, burning through the dark cloud that had settled over him. Winry wondered for a moment, as an ember of protective fury ignited in her gut, if she didn't hate the absent alchemist with a loathing approaching that of his eldest son. Even all these years later, Ed was never free of him, or the memory of his abandonment. And in a moment of blind anger, she had brought that ghost raging to the forefront, dragging behind it his mother's death, Al's lost body, and however many pinpricks of regret that she could never know of.
Winry swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat, and gently ran her thumb over Ed's metal knuckles. She knew he couldn't feel the sensation, light as it was, but the action brought a modicum of stillness to her own raging nerves. "And you do have an excuse to come home." Tears welled in her eyes. "Always."
She closed her eyes against the rising flood when she felt Ed's hand shift. Suddenly, metal fingers twined around hers, and cool steel pressed against her palm. Ed's steel fingers squeezed against hers, so intensely that it was almost painful, and she looked up at him.
The softness in his eyes took her aback. The sadness still lingered, hidden in the dim light, but she felt it in the desperation of his grip.
The tears welling in her eyes threatened to spill over, and she reached up with her free hand to wipe them away. Suddenly Ed stiffened, and his left hand was grasping her wrist. "You're bleeding," he said, a note of alarm overtaking the quietness of his earlier tone.
Winry blinked. She had nearly forgotten the wound on her hand where she had slammed it against the corner of her toolbox. Remembering it now caused the pain to resurface with a dull throbbing as Ed pried her fingers open. The anxious knot in her stomach began to loosen with a pleasant tingle as Ed's fingers worked gently over hers. The cut itself was lost in the dark smudge around it, and in the darkness it was difficult to tell what was dried blood and what was fresh.
Ed looked at her sternly. "Why'd you go hurting yourself, dummy? We need to get you a bandage."
She huffed slightly and snatched it back. "I could say the same thing about you every time you come home."
A small smile softened his expression in response. "Yeah, I guess you could." A long pause filled the space between them. "Hey, Winry?"
She scrubbed her eyes with the back of her injured hand, not wanting to disentangle her uninjured one from Ed's grasp. "Yeah?"
He glanced at her with an expression that she had never seen. On anyone else it would have been sheepish; on Ed, it was positively alien. "Would you mind checking my shoulder again? I… think I strained it when I slammed the door."
She glared at him. "Ed, it's automail. How can you have strained it?"
He rubbed the back of his head nervously and looked away. "I, uh, may have forced the door open with my shoulder. And I felt something pop."
Winry looked at him skeptically before realization slowly dawned on her. She had been so wrapped up in her own anger back at the house that she had closed him up without finishing her inspection. Her blind self-absorption meant that she had let him storm off with an imperfect arm; and, had he not mentioned it, she would have sent him silently on his way without ever knowing.
She could kill herself for her pride sometimes.
"Oh," she said flatly, and silently thanked the evening darkness for hiding the flush that rose in her cheeks. She reluctantly slipped her hand from Ed's and began to stand. "Well, we should be getting back to the house anyway. Granny's gonna have an earful for both of us for making such a racket."
Suddenly, Ed's hand was on her wrist. She glanced down at him. Their eyes met for only a half-second – hers questioning, his inscrutable – before he stubbornly fixed his attention on the scenery. "Can't you just do it here?"
Winry blinked. "Out here? In the dark, outside, without my toolkit? Ed, are you-"
"Just humor me," Ed said through what sounded like gritted teeth. Winry slowly lowered herself back to the ground, unsure.
Ed tugged aside the strap of his shirt and leaned forward, arm resting loosely out to the side. Winry saw his shoulders tense slightly, habitually bracing to absorb the impact of her fiddling.
But this time there would be no fiddling, and Winry knew that as well as he did. She hesitated before shifting herself beside him, legs curled under her hips. Her ribs again came to rest against the steel affixed to his back, and held back a small sigh at the contact. The familiarity of the posture was so ingrained that her hands automatically came to rest on his shoulder plate.
Hit with the instinctive urge to reach for her tools, Winry paused. There wasn't much she could do in the dim light other than check the chassis for loose screws, and while the thought of running her hands freely over Ed's arm made her stomach flip uncomfortably, it would be wholly unproductive.
She thanked the dimness and her position for hiding her blush as she let her fingers linger on the maintenance latch. Wrenching her attention away from the warmth pooling in her abdomen, she raced through the host of possible complications that could have caused a popping sensation. The most likely answer was a loose socket connection, and the only way to test for that in the darkness would be to check the range of motion. She slid her injured hand down his forearm and slipped her other underneath his bicep.
"Rotate your arm for me?" she asked. He obeyed without turning his head. She leaned back as his arm swung slowly behind him and out before circling over again. Her hands glided over the metal shell, studying angles and testing the strain of his movement. In the still air she could hear the gentle whir of machinery over the evening crickets and their own breathing.
She took his arm in her hands and raised and lowered it a few times. He remained otherwise totally still, and without protest. The silence was broken only when she raised his arm to its full vertical extension, and he hissed.
"Well there's the problem," she said, lowering his arm gently and frowning. "It's your anchor plate. I think you may have banged it one too many times and left a dent."
"Whoops," he said, without the slightest hint of remorse.
She smiled slightly, and wanted to call him an idiot and punch him in the (flesh-and-bone) shoulder and hurl her wrench at him for damaging her masterwork yet again. But, for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to be upset. Instead, she arched her neck toward his anchor plate, dipping her fingertips into the space between the socket and ball joint. She felt Ed tense at the sensation; her touch was light, but he could undoubtedly feel the slight displacement caused by her probing. She ran her fingers through the groove until her pinky stopped on a snag.
She sighed. "You've dented your socket. What a mess." She slipped her thumb into the groove and his back tensed again. Her thumb and forefinger traced over the slight, but now apparent, indentation.
A light shudder, imperceptible but for Winry's side pressed against his, ran across Ed's back. Color flared in Winry's cheeks, jarring her attention back to the moment. She felt his back tense in what she could only hope was embarrassment, and shook her head to steady herself. "I hope you realize how much this is going to hurt to fix."
Ed shrugged his free shoulder and laughed, though Winry thought she heard a small note of unease. "I've had worse." The grin returned to his voice, though its pitch remained low enough to make the hair stand up on the back of her neck. "What can I say? Being a dog of the military means you get kicked a lot."
Winry shook her head and glared at his back. "You might have damaged it more. Sit still." She took her legs out from under her and, after a moment of adjustment, settled in behind Ed, legs slightly bent on either side of him. As she leaned forward to pull aside the strap of his shirt, her chest came to rest against his back. The heat pooling in her core spiked, and she tried not to respond as she felt his spine straighten slightly at the contact.
"Don't be such a baby," she chided, and traced her hands over the faint welder's joints in the plating. Even up close, it was difficult to see, and his shirt didn't pull aside easily, leaving her movement restricted to what she could reach through the arm hole. Frustrated, Winry removed her hands and, steeling herself as Ed shifted questioningly to face her, shoved them up the underside of his shirt.
Ed nearly leapt. Her hands raced over his side quickly to find the plating near his shoulder, and she gritted her teeth against the flaming heat that filled her cheeks.
"Winry-!" he choked. "What the hell-?"
"Shut up and let me work!" she barked angrily, and he reluctantly leaned forward again. "You're such a baby," she muttered in annoyance.
"Who're you callin' short?" he demanded, beginning to turn.
Winry placed one hand on his chest and the other behind his shoulder, and with a swift push, twisted him forward. He yelped. "Just swallow your temper for a minute and let me finish!" Ed slumped forward in resignation, and she set back to feeling the plating along his chest and back.
Winry's chest pressed against Ed's back as she slid her hand up to the steel at his collarbone. Any mechanical interest in diagnosing the problem evaporated quickly as her fingers brushed over the warm skin of his chest where it met the plating. A warm fuzziness gnawed at the edges of her attempts at analytical thought, bringing with it an altogether uncomfortable tightness in her stomach.
"Why automail?" Ed asked suddenly.
Winry paused. His tone was quiet – so quiet that, had their faces not been mere inches apart from one another, she likely would not have heard. She felt a small twinge of disappointment when she noticed that his face was trained toward the water.
She shrugged slightly, causing her chest to shift against Ed's side. For a moment she thought she felt his muscles tense at the gesture, but as soon as she noticed it, it was gone. "It's what I'm good at. Would you rather I take up alchemy?" she added, deflecting the question with a small smile.
Ed lowered his head. "That's not what I mean." He paused. "I chose alchemy for a purpose. So did Al. We had reasons other than the fact that we happened to be good at it." He turned his head slightly, still unable to see her, but bringing the side of his face dangerously close to Winry's. "So, why automail?"
Winry's hands paused in their search. She had thought about the question before, but there were a hundred superficial reasons. They were the same ones she gave any time a customer asked, which happened often in polite conversation: to help people, to make the world a better place, because she liked to build and needed a creative outlet. Every one of them a throw-away that Ed would spot in an instant.
A few moments passed before she was able to gather the nerve to speak. "Because it lets me see inside people." Ed gave no sign of response. Her fingers had stopped at the edge of his plating, straddling the divide between warm scar tissue and cool steel, and the contrast in temperature gave her something to focus on besides the words that were welling up and out of her, almost beyond her control. She lowered her head and felt the back of Ed's shoulder meet her forehead with a welcome coolness. "Because I can open someone up, and see the problem, and fix them with my own two hands."
In all her years of training, in all of Pinako's subtle inquisitions, she had never treaded farther than this. She had lied more times than she could count: to her mentors, her friends, and even to Ed and Al. Or maybe she hadn't lied. Maybe she had just answered the question she'd wished they'd asked instead. The real question was far too loaded to elicit a rational response. It was too tangled up in memories; memories of a trail of blood along the entry floor, of sweat pouring through matted blonde hair to pool on the pillow, of the frantic screams of a boy raised back to consciousness to the sight of bandaged stumps. Memories of unbridled fire in two golden eyes as their owner took his first wobbling steps on his new legs; of the uncertain smile when he managed to hold a fork again; of the ringing laughter that broke a months-long cloud of gloom as he broke into a run across the lawn over the sound of Pinako's shouts.
And now, face lowered and desperately avoiding the inevitable judgment in Ed's eyes, she closed her eyes as the words rose dangerously, unbridled, on their own.
"It lets me see inside you, Ed." She clenched her eyes shut and kept talking so as not to notice the way his back froze. "It's the only time I see past any of your shell. And I know what's in there, I know what I'm getting into, and I know how to fix it." A strangled sound escaped from her throat as she inhaled to speak. "It lets me pretend that I can fix the rest of you."
Ed sat stock still. Winry's hands lingered, frozen, at Ed's chest and back for a moment before she slowly withdrew them. The sound of Ed's voice cut through the silence.
"Fix me, huh?" he asked, his voice barely rising above a whisper. A warm pressure on her knee nearly made her jump. It was Ed's hand, tightening quickly. Winry blinked and struggled to form a question as she found her right hand, halfway off his chest, suddenly pinned against his anchor plating by the press of an automail hand.
She swallowed. The tightness in her throat had not abated, even when it was joined by a painful thudding in her chest. She froze, afraid to lift her head from his shoulder. "Ed?"
He turned, then. The moonlight flashed against his automail as he pivoted, kneeling between her legs. His hands found her sides, fingers digging forcefully into the skin. Shimmering trails wound down his face, and his eyes shone. Winry brought a hand to her mouth.
"Winry, maybe…" His mouth curled in something that Winry could only barely process as a weak smile. He blinked, and fresh tears trailed down his cheeks. "Maybe I'd like it… if you tried."
The tension in her chest knotted violently, and in a second her hands were in his hair, crushing his mouth to hers in a messy, poorly-executed, and excruciatingly wonderful kiss. He pulled her toward him and rocked back onto his knees, drawing her up into his lap. She pressed her full weight against him, years of frustration and longing pouring out in one gloriously unpolished kiss.
Winry made a small noise of protest when Ed finally pulled back, but found her frustration melt away as she looked at him. Freshly-wet lines ran down his cheeks, but they stood out sharply against the slow creep of relief, gratefulness, and (she noted with some satisfaction) triumph across his face. Within moments, the sorrow in his eyes had abated, and a sudden flicker of confusion colored his expression.
Ed's brow furrowed. "How lo-?"
"Since we were five," Winry responded darkly. "There. Now you know." She quirked an eyebrow at him, fingers brushing away his bangs. "What about you, Shorty?"
"I'm not-!" He caught himself, and settled into a glare. "That's no way to get an answer."
Winry shrugged. "Since when do I get answers out of you anyway?" She caught one of the plaits of his braid on her fingertips and tugged gently. His hands tightened reflexively around her waist.
"Well you're certainly not going to get any if you keep messing with my hair like that." He shook his head to try and free his braid. "Took me all morning to get it right," he added quickly. Winry smirked as she saw his blush even in the darkness.
"Hmm." She quirked an eyebrow at him. "And it took me all evening to calibrate your arm, and you still managed to damage it. There'll be a double-rush charge if I'm going to have it fixed by the time your train leaves next week."
His jaw dropped. "Double-rush? What are you, insane? That's highway robbery!"
She leaned forward and rested her forehead against his. The gesture caught him off-guard, and he tensed slightly. "Fixing you isn't going to be cheap, Ed."
He raised his eyes to hers, and smiled softly before sliding to rest his head on her shoulder. Winry buried her face in the crook of his neck, and he sighed, almost contentedly.
"No, I guess it won't."