Winry looked at letter the lawyer had sent her. Ed's bequest was enough money to set up a clinic, and staff it, and pay herself while she was starting up. It was the secret dream that she'd never shared with anyone, not even Ed. How had he known?
She felt numb. It had been over two years since she'd discharged Major Elric from Med Base Chiron, and more than three weeks since Lieutenant Hawkeye had forwarded his final letter to her. She supposed she was in denial, but she didn't feel like he was dead. Somehow, it just felt like waiting for his next letter. She'd waited a long time before.
"Doctor Rockbell?" Kain said, interrupting her train of thought. "Are you okay?"
Winry suddenly realized that she had been sitting at her desk for over an hour, staring at the damned letter.
"Sorry, Kain," she said. "It's just... you know." She gestured vaguely at her desk.
He nodded, looking at her with concern. "There's a boat on approach. Its idents say it's a troop transport, not an ambulance. They're not responding to hails."
She sighed. It probably meant dying men and a 40-hour shift for her crew. "Rally the troops," she said. "When will they hit dirt?"
"Fifteen minutes," Kain said.
"Tell the nurses to be assembled in ten," she told him, standing up. She pulled her hair back and quickly washed her face in the small sink in her office.
When the ship landed, she was standing in front of her crew, waiting for the chaos that was sure to debark from landing hatch.
The hatch opened, and only a single figure stepped out. It was a man, cradling an unconscious, skeletal body in his arms. He walked out, grinning unabashedly.
Winry stood, gaping, unable to react.
"Winry?" Edward Elric said. "I brought Al to visit."
Winry was a doctor, and her training took over. She got Al transferred onto one of the stretchers and checked over his vitals. She got an IV running, ordered tests for organ function, ordered thermal treatment. Then the nurses whisked Alphonse off to a treatment bay. Winry was left standing there, staring at Edward Elric. He looked surprisingly tall, she thought, absurdly.
The next thing she knew, she was in his arms- or he was in hers; it wasn't really clear.
"You inconsiderate jerk!" she snapped at him, tears welling in her eyes. "I thought you were dead!Why didn't you send a message?"
"I told you I was a jerk," he said, laughing. "But I figured I could get here quicker than a message, and Al needed a doctor anyway."
He was wounded, she realized suddenly. He was pale, and limping, and he had makeshift bandages tied in several places. She got hold of herself. "Come here," she said. "I'll patch you up. You can have the bed next to your brother."
It was months before Al was stable enough to travel. In the meantime, he made himself the darling of the nursing staff. Winry could see why Ed had described him as "kind", those years ago. Al's long imprisonment had left its mark on his psyche, but he was still a sweet, good-natured young man- if one who was prone to nightmares and depressive episodes. Winry made sure that he got treatment for those at the same time he was being treated for severe malnutrition and exhaustion.
Al and Ed were almost never apart. Ed was discharged after a few days, but took up residence in the visitors' quarters. He still slept on the floor next to Al's bed if Winry didn't force him to leave the ward at night, though. The brothers were forever talking and laughing and touching each other. When Al was having a bad day, it was Ed that he called for. Ed always answered. It made Winry's heart ache, wishing that she'd had a sibling to lean on after her own parents had died.
There were days when Ed and Al pulled her in, treating her like a third sibling, and that made her heart ache even more.
After a week, Ed's entire squad appeared, giddy with happiness to see both the brothers alive. Winry was pleased to see the people she'd heard so much about in his letters. Mustang, though, looked paler and thinner and grimmer than she remembered him. She caught him weeping his relief in the hallway outside the ward. "I thought I'd gotten him killed, too," he said awkwardly, by way of explanation. Winry nodded and let the man be, leaving him to the care of his Lieutenant.
She and Ed danced around each other. Winry didn't know what she felt for him, and Ed didn't seem to know, either. Wherever she looked, though, it seemed like Ed was there. He'd been a patient first, and then a penpal, and now- she didn't know what he was to her. A friend, at least. Someone that she cared about and respected.
The day before Al's planned discharge date, Ed came to her office. He looked nervous; almost angry. "Come with us to Resembool," he said, firmly. "I know you've got your work here, but you've got to have leave saved up. You never take vacations. So, just come with us, okay?"
"Ed-" she started, awkwardly, not sure how to answer.
"No, dammit!" he broke in. "Don't tell me no, not yet. Just listen for a minute."
She stared at him. "Okay," she said, softly. "I'm listening, Ed."
He turned, his hands clenched together behind his back. "Your letters," he said, after a long moment. "They meant-" he broke off. "I don't know. They were- they were the one good thing in the never-ending river of shit that was my life the last two years. Even when you couldn't write anymore, I'd go back and read your old letters because they made me hope that maybe things would be okay someday, that maybe somebody was waiting for me. I don't expect anything from you. I just want to show you Resembool, okay?" He looked away, his cheeks flushed pink.
"Okay," she said, feeling strangely warm. She wasn't sure why she was agreeing to this- she had her work, she had responsibilities. And yet, she hated the idea of Ed and Al blasting off tomorrow without her. "I'll go."
Ed's face broke into a smile; an enormous, shit-eating grin. "Okay," he echoed. "Good."
The sun was shining the day they landed on Resembool. There was no one waiting for them when she and the Elric brothers disembarked, but the sheep outside the spaceport baaed placidly at them.
The grass was green, and the sky was the brightest color of blue that Winry had ever seen.