Author's Note: This started out as just the first line, and I was going to talk about how EdWin came about. But somewhere along the way, I ended up also focusing on why EdWin came to be, in a way. Why they just fit together so well, hot tempers or no. I really do admire Winry for how she supports Ed, despite everything. I also think that, if Ed ever did realize that he loved Winry during the FMA storyline, it would be here.
If we all work together
We would be stronger
If we all open our eyes
We could see further
If we all stand tall enough
No one can beat us
If we all hold our hands up high
We can carry the world
- "High" by RyanDan
Edward Elric accidentally fell in love with Winry Rockbell.
They'd been friends for as far back as he could remember; Winry was a constant in his childhood memories as surely as Al was. That was why he'd asked her to marry him when they were five – Al had said that everybody had to be married when they grew up, even Granny Pinako (though they'd never met Winry's Grampa Rockbell, they'd seen pictures). And Ed had figured that, if he had to marry some dumb girl someday, it might as well be Winry, because she wasn't half bad, for a girl anyway.
But then Winry had declared with all the hauteur a five-year-old could muster that she would never marry a boy who was shorter than her, they got into a huge argument about how tall each of them was, and that was the end of it. He never considered her any differently from Al, except for the obvious things like dresses and automail obsession. She was just...Winry. Someone he played with because she was convenient, because Granny Pinako and Mom were good friends and often visited each other.
And nothing seemed to change between them for many years. Even when their mother died, they lost their bodies, and Ed endured automail surgery at her hands, he looked at her no differently than ever. He would rush off, searching for the Philosopher's Stone and beating up all the crooks he came in contact with, then return home and bicker with Winry like always, complaining about her sass and her propensity to throw things, but knowing without her having to say anything that she would always be there for him when he needed her. It was just how things were.
He couldn't help noticing a definite upswing in the amount of teasing he got on Winry's behalf – dozens of comments about his "girlfriend." He yelled at them, shouted that she was just a childhood friend, nothing more, and vehemently denied every insinuation as loudly as he could, because he couldn't let it be any other way. He didn't have time for a girlfriend, didn't want to have to worry about her on top of everything else, didn't want anything to come between him and his brother, because there was already too much between them and he was terrified of losing Al.
So as time drew on and people commented on the way he interacted with Winry, he fiercely denied to anyone and everyone that there was anything other than friendship between them. He refused to even entertain the notion, because somewhere deep inside, he knew how vulnerable that would make him. He was already vulnerable enough. So of course he would fling himself between her and Scar, because she was his childhood friend who shouldn't have gotten involved. And of course he would promise to make her cry tears of happiness, because she was such a crybaby – always had been – and it was getting annoying, especially when she cried over him and made him feel absolutely rotten inside. It was only natural that he would object with every fiber of his being to her escaping with the man who had killed her parents, because Scar was dangerous.
So it took him completely by surprise when he finally admitted to himself that he loved her in a different way than he loved Al. He eventually decided it was because he hadn't seen her for weeks, not since she'd dropped her earrings in his hand and run off into the cold Briggs mountains, and then all of a sudden she stepped back into his life. It might have also helped that he'd been sitting in her darkened room to watch the road, and she came into the room without turning on the light and started undressing before she noticed he was there...but he tried very hard not to think about that part.
While finishing his sandwich and slurping his coffee and ignoring the others chattering in the front room, Ed leaned on the sill of the kitchen window and let the night air cool his burning cheeks. So...he liked her. No, he loved her. And it wasn't just that she was beautiful (especially compared to the burly men he'd been traveling with), or that he suddenly had the urge to run his hands through her hair and find out how smooth her cheek was... He quickly tried to think of something else, though he couldn't figure out whether the twisting of his gut and pounding of his heart was pleasurable or just uncomfortable. No, he loved her, the girl who had given him a leg to stand on and a hand to fight with, the girl who had jeopardized her own safety and been forced to run off with the man who murdered her parents and several strangers, braving the elements and hiding from soldiers, just because he'd crossed the line enough for his enemies to make her a hostage. The perfect hostage.
The last mouthful of sandwich was like ash in his mouth. He hadn't meant to fall in love with Winry, but now he couldn't take it back. He'd always had a fierce desire to protect the people he loved, to make sure that nothing happened to them. But of course...he always failed. His mother was dead, his brother was stuck in that horrible body, Hughes was six feet under, Ling was trapped somewhere inside Greed's body, and even Mustang was worse off for Ed stirring up all this dirt on the military.
Ed let his forehead rest on his arms crossed on the windowsill. A throbbing pain pounded against his skull. He was such an idiot, and somehow all of these problems had fallen on his shoulders. The Promised Day was so near, and he still needed to meet up with the others and come up with some plan to fight back. He had to face that bearded guy who looked so annoyingly like his old man, not to mention the rest of the Homunculi, and possibly Greed if Ling didn't get his act together soon. And he had to come up with some way of getting Al's body back or he would never forgive himself. He would probably die, and the whole of Amestris with him.
All he could see was Winry's body sprawled across the floor, blood pouring from her body and tears caught in her eyelashes. That outcome seemed so much more horrible than any of the other possibilities facing him, and that was precisely why he hadn't wanted to fall in love with her. Now he would be terrified every moment, because if he messed up it would mean her death.
"Ed? Are you in here?"
He slowly straightened and turned to face her. The ache in his chest intensified when their eyes met, his head and heart pounding in tandem. Why couldn't he just die right now and get it over with?
"Come on, silly, I have to see what damage you did to your automail this time."
"I didn't break it, honest," Ed grumbled, knowing his complaint sounded half-hearted.
Winry's eyebrows drew together and she stepped farther into the dark kitchen. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Ed shrugged and sat on the windowsill, trying to look nonchalant. "Just a lot of pressure. The Promised Day and everything."
Winry rolled her eyes. "Let me guess. You think you have to save the whole world all by yourself."
He looked at her in surprise, but she just grabbed his right hand – making his heart pound even harder, though he couldn't feel it – and pulled him to the door. "Look."
He did, and saw the four chimeras catching up over large mugs of beer, while the Briggs soldiers chatted with Granny Pinako and Greed – or maybe Ling, he couldn't tell – shoveled food into his mouth at top speed.
"Your friends," Winry said firmly. "And you have even more coming together to help you. You're not going to win this fight all by yourself. You never were."
"But I'm..." He didn't know what he was going to say, but she cut across him.
"The Full Metal Alchemist? The Hero of the People? Don't be so conceited, dummy. We all have our roles to play, and we need everyone to work together, not just one hero to dash in and save the day."
Ed stared at her, speechless. Like magic, the weight seemed to lift from his shoulders, and he felt strengthened to carry out his task to the best of his ability. He would just have to place his trust in all of his companions, and they would see it through together.
"Speaking of which," Winry continued, pulling him through the door and towards her workroom, "I really do need to give you a tune-up if you're going to be bashing everything in sight."
Ed snorted, feeling more cheerful already. "The first thing you're gonna say when we come back is that I ruined your precious automail."
He watched her with a smile as she made her retort. So maybe it had been an accident, but he loved Winry and that was fine with him. Yes, he'd be thinking of her while he fought, but he knew she'd be thinking of him while she waited here in Risenpool for his return, and that would be his strength. Without her he wouldn't even have a chance to help everyone fight and save Amestris. She would be the steel that allowed him to run and fight, the beat of his heart that kept him going no matter what. Maybe that's what love was all about.