Story: For Good
Rating: PG-13/R (light)
Disclaimer: I don't own these people, they own themselves and are just nice enough to let me spin them around the page now and then.
Summary: It took Ed a while to figure out what was different, but once he did, he knew where he had to be…
Spoilers: yep, end-of-manga, end-of-Brotherhood
A/N: This story is more than just a story – it was a labor of love from two friends (myself and the fabulous elasg) to another – written (and drawn) as a birthday present to the best friend and FMA fan in the whole world, the witty, the talented alchemyotaku75! We love you, babe! Have a wonderful day!
~accompanying artwork by elasg
Somehow, the road felt different this time out.
Clearly, there was the lack of Alphonse, a presence Ed had hardly been without since, well, since the day his brother was born. Other than those few months toward the end of the fight, months when they'd been separated, Al had been a constant in his life, be it in armor or in squishy little brother form.
Also missing from his life on the road was the ability to perform alchemy, something that had been second nature to him, a thing he had sometimes used for the silliest reasons. (What – that rock is too low to be a table? A little alchemic "adjustment" and its perfect; the spike-headed skulls only making it more so. Atmosphere is everything on the road…)
But he'd been living his life without alchemy for a long while now. Before he'd left, he and Al had lived the life bucolic in Resembool; he, helping out around the house, Al, eating and growing like the weed he'd earned the right to be.
So, yes, being without Al here on the road was unusual, but certainly not something he hadn't experienced before.
And being without his alchemy was an inconvenience, but it was one he'd willingly traded for the very air his brother now happily breathed. He'd lived without it for a while now, so, again, nothing new.
When he thought about it, his reasons for being on the road this time were both the same and different as before; he and Al were conducting their individual research for a singular reason – the advancement of their new Cause – and yes, the tone was different this time, more atonement, than the frenzied, desperate quest they'd called their lives before, but research was research, plain and simple. It was books and libraries and asking people questions and hearing people's stories. It was that now and it had been that before.
So, basically, nothing (really) new there, either.
What else could it be that was making Ed's time on the road this time, such a strange, unsettling, unsatisfying experience?
If it wasn't the lack of Alphonse, the lack of alchemy, or the lack of a sacred quest, what could it be?
For a while, he'd thought that it might have been his physical perspective.
His point of view had clearly changed…now that his viewpoint was a bit…higher than it used to be.
He was certainly loving the results of that growth spurt, now that the aches and pains and effin' breathing issues had subsided. (At one point, he was growing so quickly, his lungs hadn't caught up with his body yet – and he'd had to be hospitalized and in an oxygen tent for a week…)
The world looked different – now that he could actually see more of it, now that he could actually, say, see over people's heads.
Now that it was no longer true, he could freely admit to himself how short he had been.
A midget, really.
No wonder people were so surprised when he did big things. Hell, if he hadn't been yelling all the time, people wouldn't have even known he was there…
A sense of humor about himself was another new thing, having developed since he'd gotten his brother "back," given up alchemy, grown over a foot, told the girl he loved he loved her…
Wait – what?
Was that it?
Was that what this unsettled feeling was all about?
It's not like she hadn't always been back in Resembool waiting for them to return, it wasn't like she wasn't already a part of his life, it wasn't even that they hadn't always missed her, but something about it this time was different and he knew what it was.
This was the first time he'd let himself feel a thing he hadn't ever felt, before, he had the right to feel.
Winry was all kinds of crazy with a wrench and she knew her way around a schematic as well as he and Al knew theirs around a transmutation circle. She was sharp as a honed blade when it came to keeping her accounts straight. She made a mean plate of brownies and her apple pie was second only to one. She had the ability to look him dead in the eye and tell him he was an idiot, something he needed rather more often than he would have liked to admit.
But for all the hard, useful, vibrantly brainy and skilled things Winry was, she was also the very picture of…cute. No matter how many times he'd told her, over the years – and it had been a lot – that she wasn't, he'd known, even as he was saying it, even as the curses were flying, that it was not true.
Winry was cute.
More than that, Winry was gorgeous.
He saw the way other guys looked at her, saw the way friggin' Mustang looked at her, (those were probably the times when he'd been most vehement in telling her she wasn't cute), but even when the truth of it was right there, plain as day, plain as the flush on other guys' faces, a voice inside him reminded him of the solemn pact he'd made with himself, not long after they'd left their teacher's care and returned to the farm.
Ed, a bit older, had started to have…thoughts, thoughts about girls, and when he'd found a spare moment away from Al, he'd gone into town. With no mother, and no (good-for-nothing!) father to ask, he'd had to figure stuff out on his own. (Most boys without guidance learn these things in the streets or from their friends, but Ed, being Ed, went to the library…)
He'd learned that it was natural, to have urges, to have feelings even, but the pragmatist in him refused to let them rule his life. Firstly, because he didn't have that kind of life: most boys his age weren't studying to be State Alchemist; most boys his age hadn't destroyed their lives, and their brother's body; most boys his age hadn't entered into a solemn quest to make it right; most boys his age were still hitting balls with sticks and trying to get the cute girl in homeroom to kiss them…
Another thing that most boys his age didn't have to contend with; they didn't have a brother with no body and no ability to feel, a brother they were responsible for not just because they were brothers, but because they were the reason said brother had no body and no ability to feel.
How could he, Edward Elric, damaged, but reasonably whole, indulge in the whims of his body, the whims of his urges, when his brother could not even feel the rain?
He didn't have the right; not to think and certainly not to feel.
And so Winry was cute and she was smart and she was there for them, important to them, but that was all she was, all she could be.
Because if he allowed himself to think about all the other things that she was – the curve of her waist, visible and mere inches from his face as she adjusted his elbow joint, the color of her eyes, bluer than the sky at dusk, fringed lashes brushing her smooth cheek even as she scolded him about lubrication and daily maintenance – he would have to hate himself.
Because he didn't have the right to see those things and want to touch them.
He didn't have the right to smell her hair – motor oil and almonds – and want to fill his lungs with it.
He didn't have the right to see the swell of her perfection beneath the black top she wore daily and ache to touch that perfection free of fabric.
He didn't have the right then.
He had that right now.
From the moment he'd left Resembool, and only because of the words they'd exchanged mere minutes before then, she had burned beneath the surface of his skin, a thought he'd previously banished, one that he had now cleared a path to, one he now could indulge.
And she was always there beneath the surface of whatever he did.
He might be talking with a man who had traveled in Xing fifty years ago and come back with an interesting tale of alkehestry, but in his mind, he was thinking 'when I hear this story, I can go back.'
He may have been running an idea on green alchemy past a boy, now a young man, that he'd met when he and Al were kids themselves, but he was telling himself 'when I confirm this theory, I can go back.'
For almost a year, no matter how far from home he was, he was always wondering when he could go back.
He did not take his quest, their quest, any less seriously, he put no less passion into his research, but he always, always thought about the day when he could take his notes, take his artifacts, and return for good.
Research was research and science would always be important. Nina was a specter that could never be atoned for. But Edward Elric, without the support of his brother and stripped of his alchemy, simply needed some parcel of purpose, some fraction of it, for himself.
He had brought his brother back from the ether.
He had, with the help of thousands, both the living and those mere souls, brought the world back from the brink of oblivion.
He had stayed true to his principles.
He had respected life.
He had earned the right.
He had earned her.
And so, just shy a year of his departure, Edward sent a note off to Xing (where it would hopefully find his brother), made a stop at an alchemic shop whose proprietor created items from sketches, and purchased a ticket home.
[*** SECTION BREAK ***]
She'd been sorting out cables at her workbench when he was just there.
No call. No telegram. No hint. No word.
One minute he was on the road and the next, he was there.
Standing in her doorway.
Face as red as an apple.
Eyebrows pinched in distress.
…Something about his face looked familiar.
It was almost a year ago, that unexpected conversation on a train platform, that funny wonderful conversation that had changed everything.
He'd gone off on his quest, his communication skills from the road only marginally improved, but still she'd had no idea when he would be returning. It could have been a decade, it could have been a year. (And apparently, it was…)
And now…now here he was with that…that same expression on his face.
Suddenly she felt all the blood in her body drain into her feet and, knees wobbly, she sunk unsteadily to the floor.
She knew why he was here.
She knew why he'd come home now.
She'd waited a lifetime, more than one it seemed, and now…now he was here…
[*** SECTION BREAK ***]
Edward was good at many things, excelled at much of what he tried in his life, but words…words had always been slippery little buggers, eluding him when they were almost in his grasp.
He'd had a long train ride from the far reaches of Aerugo, lots of time to think about what he would say, how he would do it, but in the end, his notes and sketches and awkward attempts at romance were thrown out the proverbial window when he saw her.
There was only one thing he wanted to do.
So he did it.
Face blazing, but heart sure, he spanned the distance between them, amused at her dropped jaw and the tangle of cables still dangling in her hand, and dropping his bag at their feet, he slipped one hand up the column of her neck, the other into her hair, and covered her stunned mouth with his own.
The faintest, muffled, sound of surprise, and she was dropping her cables to land next to his road worn suitcase.
Hands now free, she slipped them, not around his back – and the bulky trench that had sheltered him from many an element – but inside, circling arms around him, fingers grabbing at his vest as she settled against his body, mouth mobile, surprised but happy, on his.
He broke away then, breathless, feeling that this should be a time for words. After all, he was about to ask her to spend the rest of her life with him.
"I have something to s-say to you, Winry Rockbell," he sputtered out, certain that if he didn't speak now, he might never speak again. Ever.
Her eyebrows gathering dangerously, she pinched him hard –clear through his vest, his shirt, and the undergarment beneath that – and then she reached up, her lips pink and full and her teethsharp and exposed, and she bit him.
It wasn't much of a bite, just his lower lip between her smooth white teeth, but the affect was immediate and the message was clear.
Talk. LATER. Kiss. NOW.
With the briefest nod of assent, he put his hands on her shoulders, walking her backward until they'd hit the nearest wall, and then he proceeded to tell her, not with words, but with actions (which he'd always thought spoke louder anyway) just what she meant to him; that she was his home and he was home for good…
Link to story illustration – final scene. (You guys know the routine: sub the symbols for the words, remove all spaces, cut and paste into your address bar. Any trouble getting it to work, PM me or review and I'll PM the real link back. The art is GORGEOUS though – it's worth the hassle…)
http colon forward slash forward slash i17 dot photobucket dot com forward slash albums forward slash b85 forward slash Arielphf forward slash Fullmental percent sign 20 Alchemist percent sign Pictures forward slash ForGoodfinal dot jpg