What lies ahead

Chapter One
Decisions and Answers. And Questions.

Edward pounded on the kitchen table with his right arm. Wood was no match for metal. The Fullmetal Alchemist. That name didn't seem to have the same meaning anymore. The limb only reminded him of his past. That label made him who he was; a dog of the military. Was that going to change? He assumed the ways of the military would be different now that Roy Mustang would become Furer Roy Mustang. The state of the country would change for the better but did that mean everything else would change with it? So much had changed already. He couldn't possibly handle any more adjustments.

His younger brother had gotten his body back. Regaining Alphonse's human form was what he dedicated his life to. To fix his mistakes. What was he supposed to obligate himself to now? He had a long life ahead of him. Once he hit eighteen he realized that he had no plans for the future. He never took the time to think about what he'd do after getting their bodies back. He had an idea, but would he really go through with it?

Alphonse had plans. When he turned nineteen he was traveling to Xing to study Alchehistry. Mustang had plans. Besides becoming head of the military he was marrying Riza Hawkeye. There wedding was in a few months. Winry had already been offered to open her own automail shop which was a dream she had always had. They all knew what they wanted in life. Edward had one thing that he wanted more than anything. His fear always held him back. It held as tight as a knot. The damn knot was weakening. It wanted to come undone.

He felt lazy and out of shape. He spent his time fixing up the old Rockbell house, improving the small things like a broken post on the balcony or a leaky faucet but that just wasn't satisfying. His whole life had been adventurous and busy, and it had been dangerous. He had always wanted just a little time to settle down and now he certainly had it. He just didn't know how to occupy himself. Everyone else was keeping busy. Alphonse was doing odd jobs to earn money to buy what he needed for school. Winry was busy planning for her store.

Though things were looking up for the two of them, others weren't doing so well. Pinako had been ill for weeks now. A doctor came once a week, but he never had a straight answer. It was always "she needs rest" or "nothing's changed". Whether that was good or bad they didn't know. Winry knew her grandmother was only getting worse, so she asked Ed to stay in the room with Pinako and the doctor while she waited downstairs. When the day came that she'd hear the dreaded news, she wanted to hear it from the only person she really felt would never leave her. She had loved her parents, and they left her and never came back. She loved her grandmother who would be leaving her soon. Alphonse would leave to go to school, but Ed. Edward would always be there. Or was that just her fantasy?

Edward stood up and went to the sink. Thinking about things like this made him sick. Not because he hated those thoughts but because he was angry at himself for the fears he had about them. What was he so afraid of? He knew what he wanted so why wasn't he going for it? He wanted an answer.

Upstairs, Winry sat her desk with her face in her hands. So many thoughts ran threw her head but they all led back to the same thing. She couldn't drag her mind away from it. When she thought about the state that Pinako was in, she thought about it. When she thought about work she thought about it. That fact was that it was her goal. Not a goal a plan. No not even that. A dream. Had she dreamt of it her whole and just didn't realize? Or did she not want to admit it? No. The answer only made her anxious. She knew now that she had always dreamt of it, but to think it would happen now only made her nervous. She felt it would but she could be entirely mistaken. Continuously pondering over these questioning was tearing her apart. She wanted an answer.

Winry lifted her head at the sound of a car door. She leaned over and looked out the window. In front of the house was the shiny blue car that arrived for a weekly visit. She got up and hurried down the hallway and down the stairs. Edward at the door with the doctor, and they talked quietly. Winry walked past them and took a seat at the table. Ed glanced at her and told the doctor to head on upstairs. He went over to Winry and put a hand on her back which shook slightly as she wept. He sat down across from her and took her hands. Their arms joined and laid across the table. Edward smiled with compassion. She dropped her head and squeezed his hands tight. So much pain, yet he touched her and she felt relief. "No matter what happens Winry, I promise it'll be all right." he said softly and got up from the table. He dropped her hands which reached out. She took her hand back and held her breath. Ed felt her pain, and he carried it with him up the stairs.

Being told that the person who basically raised you has a day to live is unthinkable. Having to tell the one you love is unbearable. Winry refused to be comforted, and said she only wanted to be alone. She stayed in her room all day. Before going to bed she spent an hour in Pinako's room. No sound had come from the room, and later that night Edward found Winry balled up on the floor crying. She cried every time the doctor came, but tonight she cried the hardest and for the longest amount of time. He had led her to her bed and put the sheets over her like a father tucking in his child. She rocked slightly. Her pillow was damp from her tears. She cried herself to sleep. Edward had heard her sobs from his room half way through the night.

He didn't want to think that when they woke up, Pinako wouldn't. It would be hard to say goodbye, but not as hard as it would be for Winry. Thinking back on their childhood, Ed began to feel guilty. When they were younger he never included Winry in anything. Then both her parents died. Pinako raised her, and himself and Alphonse really. As they grew older, Ed stopped telling Winry things. Maybe it was for her own protection, but thinking back on how him and Al left was what made him feel the worst. He left her behind like he always had. He abandoned her. He didn't mean to, but now he realized how lonely she must have been. Now that they were all back together someone else was leaving, but forever. Winry was consistently saying goodbye to the ones she loved, and Edward blamed himself for that.

He lay in bed thinking of any way to make it up to her. That seemed impossible at this point. A familiar thought came into his head, but he couldn't possibly make it happen on the day of a funeral. That would be too overwhelming. He found himself get up out of bed and to Pinako's room. He went in and saw that she was still awake. He quietly closed the door behind him and went to her bedside. He pulled up a chair and sat beside her.

"Granny, how are you?" he asked. She just grinned and whispered.
"When I'm gone you got to promise me one thing."
"Anything." Pinako leaned toward him.
"Marry my granddaughter." she told him. His cheeks turned red and he swallowed hard, but he took Pinako's hand, promising her. Her hand was cold. Ed looked out the window and down the dirt road to the tree that once stood next to his home. The home which him and Al had burnt after the death of their mother. Then he said his final goodbye and left the room in silence. There were going to be too many tears tomorrow. Too many for him to handle.

The morning rolled in with a gray sky and rain clouds that were about to burst. Edward and Alphonse stood behind Winry who knelt beside her grandmother's grave. She plucked the petals out of the flowers she had laid on the stone. The stone with the etched words of Pinako Rockbell with the date she was born and the date that she died. Today, and it was a day Winry would never forget for more than one reason. She stood up with the petals clenched in her fists. Once released they blew in the wind along with her black dress. Tiny rain drops fell one by one. They left polka dots a shade darker on the gravestone. Alphonse whispered to his brother.

"I'm going to head on inside." Edward nodded and waited until Al was gone before going to Winry. He stood beside her.
"Winry?" he began, but she said nothing. Just stared up at the sky is it dropped wet kisses.
"Winry." he said again. "I know this is hard for you, it's hard for all of us, but It's going to be ok-"
"Okay? You think this is okay? This is far from it! " She yelled.
"I know Winry but-"
"But what? There's nothing to say!" Ed stared at her questioning her response. She saw this and turned to him. "I'm sad, and alone. And all I ever wanted was a family, and I can't even have that!" she began to walk away and Edward grabbed her.

So was he supposed to take his time comforting her, or was he supposed to make his move? He looked into her cloudy blue eyes.

"You're not alone Winry, and you'll never have to be. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere." she wiped her face with the back of her hand."Pinako may be gone, but you can start a new family." He said taking her hands. "Our family." Winry stared at him and when she realized what he meant her cheeks flushed with red. She saw that his did too.

They embraced and she cried. She cried tears of joy, just like he promised her she would. The next time I make you cry they'll be tears of joy! That's a promise! he had said to her. That was only a few years ago, though it seemed like an eternity. He had kept that promise, and suddenly the melancholy feeling that had sat in Winry's heart turned to a feeling of shear happiness. She was more than happy now that she had what she longed for most. She never wanted to let go of Edward. When he first left for the military she hadn't wanted to let him go. She felt the same each time they parted. She wanted him to be here with her forever. She wanted to be held by him forever. Edward made her feel so safe and comfortable. She never felt like that when she was more than a mile away from him. Now her only desire had come to reality. Their hugs would eventually be severed but he would always be in reaching distance.

Then she thought, by starting a family did he mean, marrying? Winry smiled and clenched Edward's jacket. Just them forever. Just them? Would there be more to it one day? Did a family always include, children? Winry imagined herself in bed holding a tiny daughter wrapped in a blanket , and Edward whispering I love you and kissing her and the baby. She saw them raising their daughter. Edward cradling her and holding her small hand as she took her first steps. Winry stopped. She was thinking way too far into the future; fantasizing. Little did she know that her fantasy would come true. For now she was satisfied with only him. That was perfect.

Feeling her in her arms, that close to him, was more than he had ever imagined. Edward was so happy. No words could express his feeling. One minute he was watching the girl he loved wallow in agony and now he had her. He would never leave, never. If he did who would protect her? He had always felt that way, but now he felt almost responsible for her. That was fine. Would they live together forever? Would there be more to it than just marrying? Edward pictured himself and Winry taking a family portrait. Winry holding a baby, sitting her on top of her round belly and Edward with a second on his side. Him with his arm around Winry and kissing her. Would they even have children? How many? Edward was getting ahead of himself. For now, just her was perfect.

The sky had cleared and the sun shined down on them.