My prompt: Winter Night

My title: Twenty One Nights

Rating: K — nothing bad, just a few words such as "damn" and "hell".

Disclaimer: This is a derivative work of Arakawa Hiromu's story, Fullmetal Alchemist. No disrespect is intended. All rights revert back to Arakawa, BONES studio, Square Enix, Gangan Manga, etc.

Notes: This fanfiction was an entry for the Fire and Ice Competition of 2011~! All of the competing stories were amazing, and every single author well deserved the crown. c; This was my first 'prompt' competition on LiveJournal, and I tried my best to correlate the shipping with the prompt. I know I've been taking an unannounced hiatus lately, due to going back to school and whatnot. I just want to let y'all know that I'm most certainly not dead, and I will be writing more in the future. —Ebony


~c~

A winter's night. Ah, how Winry adored the season. With its icy weather, foggy windows, bundled blankets and heated drinks. Sure, it wasn't like the gorgeous spring in Resembool, but nevertheless, Miss Rockbell couldn't help but fall head over heels for this time of the year.

Most disliked the cold weather, chapped skin, and stress of keeping warm. Others only enjoyed the winter for its snow, magical and frothy, lingering from the clouds. But her? No. She enjoyed the simplicity of it. Cuddling up next to someone—anyone—sharing warmth and exchanging smiles. Mist escaping lips, cheeks and nose tainted pink, muscles tightening at the dropping degrees, shivering with delight at the first sip of hot cocoa. And no matter where she was—North City, Rush Valley, Central, or even Dublith—the girl felt right at home.

Every single night for the past twenty-one nights, Winry would slip into a nightgown, curl up in a cotton blanket, huddle close to the fireplace, holding a mug of hot chocolate in her hands as she gawked into the red and orange flames of a calm, crackling fire. She could get lost in those flames, sapphire orbs unblinking for hours. The heat against her skin stung, contrasting with her back, which was exposed to the chilly air instead of a blazing fireplace. The crimson flames illuminated light against her face, dancing against the ivory skin of her nose, cheeks, and chin.

There was one more part to the routine. That part had not happened yet.

"It's not safe for you to be sittin' that close, y'know," a familiar voice proclaimed. She didn't have to look to know it was him.

Edward sat himself beside her, a crooked smirk placed on his face. The flames projected themselves even more on him, dancing against his molten honey irises of gold, as well as the matching locks of hair. What a gorgeous sight it was.

She had been too busy examining that fact, looking like spacing airhead with perplexed eyes. Ed snickered a bit, pointing down to the edge of her blanket. "Cotton is a bit flammable, Winry. If you sit that close to the fire—"

Letting out a small grunt, she scooted back a bit, pulling the edge of the blanket away from the entrance of the fireplace. She couldn't help but blush out of embarrassment.

"You don't need to explain it to me like I'm a four-year-old, Edward," she protested, bringing the rim of the mug close to her lips. "I'm not stupid."

The young man raised his eyebrows. "Really?"

Glaring her eyes like daggers, Winry playfully nudged his shoulder, forcing a frown upon her lips. "Shut up, dummy!"

He chuckled at this, loving the frivolous 'teasing'. For a moment, his sight glanced to the clock on the wall, which revealed that it was twelve 'o clock. Ah, midnight. This really was routine. For when the hand strikes twelve, Edward was sitting beside his mechanic—sharing the fireplace—for twenty-one nights and counting.

Winry peered down to the steam arising from the mug. Whipped cream topped it, but that didn't stop the heat from escaping. She didn't want to scorch her tongue, so she took a careful, cautious sip of cocoa. It immediately soothed her taste buds with its rich, chocolate, creamy goodness; a slight trail of cinnamon and honey remained on her tongue. This was by far the best hot cocoa in Amestris, all thanks to a few extra ingredients.

"Don't you love the winter, Ed?" Winry asked out of nowhere, her gaze remaining on the flames of the fireplace. She seemed to be deep in thought, though Mr. Elric couldn't be sure. Her voice was soft, detached, but still happy.

"Eh… I guess…" he squeezed out of his throat, not knowing what to say, honestly. His brows furrowed when a thought came to mind, causing him to groan and stretch out his automail leg. "…Except the cold weather bothers the 'mail. I get aches constantly… hurts bad," Ed griped, rubbing his limb. Despite the black trouser pant leg in the way, he figured that it might help somehow.

"It wouldn't hurt so much if you didn't break it all the damn time…" she muttered, even if she knew very well that wasn't true. Cold weather, specifically rain, had a tendency to make the nerves extra sensitive, thus causing the limb, being attached with automail, to ache like growing pains. It was a known fact, being one of the few downfalls to baring prosthetics.

"But seriously," the girl continued. "There's something about winter. I dunno, it's… it's something magical… something simply breathtaking."

Ed tasted the word. It was like nostalgia on his tongue. "Breathtaking…"

A moment of silence passed by, the only sounds being crackling flames and a faintly ticking clock. Maybe a dog was barking nearby, because Den, who was lying on the rug behind them, jolted up with perky ears. Another moment of silence.

"Well if you really feel that way…" the former alchemist spoke, penetrating the quiet. "…Then you should come to North City with me next year. Last time we were up north, we didn't get to spend much time in the actual attraction." It was true. Two years ago, Ed, Al, and Winry were too busy with near-death situations and getting out of hostage situations (thanks to that bastard Kimblee) to take a nice vacation in up north. "Forget Briggs; the actual city is really pretty," he finished. "Gorgeous in the winters."

Winry blinked. "Would you really take me there?" Her voice grew lighter and happier.

"Of course!" He grinned, lightly poking her with his elbow. "We'll drink crappy coffee; make snowmen; go ice skating; kill each other with snowballs; watch the fireworks. Hell, we'll even ride the roller coaster until we throw up."

She couldn't help but giggle at that. "There's a roller coaster?"

"Yeah! A Ferris wheel, too. But only in December," he explained. "It's like the sheep festival here, 'cept it celebrates winter instead of spring. There's even a parade. I haven't seen it, but apparently they go all out."

The mechanic looked up in a daze, her lips summoning a smile. That sounds nice. A week with her childhood friend, roaming around in the perfect white snow of Northern Briggs. If only it snowed in Resembool; that would take the cake.

"You still haven't answered my question," she spoke after a few minutes of silence.

Edward stared blankly into the heat before him, then to Winry, then to the heat again. His amber eyes fluttered when he had kept them open for too long, denying the need to blink.

"Honestly? No." While saying this, he reclined back, his shoulder blades hitting the rug. "The season is too damn cold. I hate the cold."

Sighing, Miss Rockbell rolled her eyes. She should've seen that answer coming. Edward was never the type to talk about mushy warm stuff, especially around those who intimidated him.

The blonde finally inquired, "…Then what season do you like?" Her blue orbs stayed confined on his form, waiting for an answer.

For the life of her, Winry couldn't tell what in the world the young man was thinking. In fact, she didn't even know if he heard her question. She was simply curious and trying to make conversation, so she'd be damned if he didn't answer.

Still waiting, she pushed out a small breath, once again bringing the hot cocoa to her lips. Her reserved sips soon turned into generous gulps, slurping and enjoying her drink with everything she had. Once she lowered the mug to her lap, she shut her eyelids. How strange it was; even when she closed her eyes, she could still see the flames of the fire—reaching higher and higher with its crimson fingers, charring the chimney.

Suddenly, something swiped against her nose. Winry blinked for a moment, unsure of what it was until she saw Ed sitting up, his index finger pointed in the air. A clump of whipped cream caked the tip of it. His smile was smug.

"What? You had whipped cream on your nose. It's very unladylike to be drinkin' like that, Miss Rockbell," Ed grimaced, finishing the statement as he stuck the finger into his mouth.

Winry stiffened in embarrassment and aggravation. "Stop nagging my every move!"

Yet again, the young man paid no attention to her demand. He simply seemed stuck in his own mind, tasting the whipped cream cautiously and meticulously. "Mmmm…" he sounded through closed lips. "That tastes good…"

A momentary pause. "…Gimme some!" Abruptly reaching out for her mug, Edward aimed his digit toward the white substance topping hot cocoa.

She moved the cup out of reach, causing him to fall flat on his face.

"Hey!" the guy growled. Still, he sat up and reached out for it a second time. Winry scooted back a few inches, trying not to spill the piping hot drink while doing so.

"Keep your dirty fingers out of my cocoa!" she commanded with pouted lips—ivory brows scrunched together.

Edward shot back, "Didn't you ever learn to share?" Successfully keeping the grin off his mouth, he lunged for her mug a third time, landing on his childhood friend in result.

"Gah!" Winry flinched as the cup almost slipped out of her hands. "Edward! It's gonna spill everywhere!"

He laughed aloud, unable to restrain the giggles. "Then give me some! That is, if you don't want to get it all over the rug…"

Like a loyal missionary, the young woman didn't give in. She continued to struggle under his grasp—Ed pinning her stomach with one arm, while using the other to reach out for the hot chocolate.

Winry finally dragged herself on the floor to the point where she could slide the mug away from reaching distance. She stuck her tongue out at him, claiming victorious.

"You may have won the battle, but you won't win the war!" he bellowed, a smirk implanted on his face. He then danced his fingers vigorously against her stomach, intending on tickling her to death.

She busted out in giggle fits, kicking her legs as her face turned a bright shade of red. Oh God, not the tickling. Fortunately, she was able to squeeze out between laughs, "S-S-Stop! Hahaha…!"

All of the ruckus caused the blankets around Winry to toss into the air and around their bodies. Before they both knew it, the cotton blanket was on top of them, covering their heads while their toes just barely peeked out from underneath. Den blinked as he watched the two roll repeatedly across the floor, bumping into furniture and getting tangled in a web of arms and legs.

Winry had laughed to the point where her cheeks ached. Yet she couldn't melt the wide smile from her face, looking up to a grinning Ed, the material of the covers against the back of his head. By now, they were practically mummies; a wrapped up burrito.

"What's the magic wo-ooo-rrrd~?" Ed sang, his fingers now moving up to her neck.

She was still twitching from the nonstop tickle torture, now snorting herself to laughter. "P-P-P-P-Please…!"

The young man chortled. "Please what?"

"P-P-Prett-y p-please!"

He let out a hysterical laugh, struggling to find an opening to the blankets. Once he did, he wormed his way through. Afterward, he rolled Winry like a burrito in the sheet, picking her squirming form up—bridal style—and throwing her on the couch. Her laughs echoed as he did so, saying things like, "E-Ed! Hahaha… I'll k-kill you, I s-swear!"

Edward gleamed with pride as he ran to the mug, pounced on the ground next to it, grasped the handle and put the thick glass to his lips, slurping audibly. The whipped cream on top of it was devoured in a matter of seconds, followed by the first layer of hot cocoa. He raised the mug in the air, cheering, "A-ha! Victory belongs to Elric!"

Meanwhile, Winry was still squirming in the bundle of sheets on the couch, looking like a foolish worm. Mr. Elric couldn't help but laugh at the sight, sitting cross-legged and consuming the heated drink. For a minute, the mechanic looked as if she had given up. Arms and legs stopped flailing from beneath the blanket. Gracefully, she finally found an opening between the covers and slipped out, landing not-so-gracefully on the floor. Ed snorted at that as well.

Rubbing her head, she growled at the man who seemed content with her drink. What a jerk.

He lowered the cup from his mouth, letting out a long, satisfied exhale. When Winry crawled over to see how much he had drank, all but a droplet of chocolate was gone. Her jaw hit the floor, eyes bulging from their sockets.

"What the—" she gasped and pointed at the empty off-white mug. "No fair! You have to make me more!"

"Don't be a sore loser, Winry," he said, flashing a toothy smile that made the girl want to cringe.

After a prolonged, eternal glare from those cold blue eyes, Edward decided that he should be a gentleman for once. Or… that he shouldn't be killed and just make some more damn chocolate.

"Alright, alright," he sighed. Snatching the mug up from the floor, he stood and stretched. "I'll be in the kitchen, I guess…"

"Good," she remarked, crossing her arms against her chest and pointing her nose at the ceiling.

As he walked away, Ed muttered something along the lines of, "….Stupid… woman… gear.. head…. bossy… as hell…"

Alas, he made it to the kitchen in one piece. As he put the mug under the sink and rinsed it out, he noticed a tiny brown stain at the bottom of his white shirt. Great. Now he had to scrub cocoa out of his clothing tomorrow. Well, at least he was just wearing a pajama shirt. And his black sweats weren't the most important article of clothing, either. Besides, what did he expect? He was wrestling with his mechanic over a boiling cup of chocolate.

He opened up the freezer, twitching at the milk. His worst enemy. Yes, he hated the rotten substance, so it made sense that he'd never admit to liking it in hot chocolate or coffee, as well as stew. He swiftly took it out, filled a tea pot with water, put it over the stove, and just as he was about to light it…

Ed's eyes of amber glanced at the foggy window—the only one in the kitchen—thick with condensation and ice. He then noticed a white speckle… landing on the glass. Squinting at that speckle, he stopped his activities to walk toward the window. He couldn't see a thing through it; everything was a smeary blue blur. Ed put his hand to the freezing surface and wiped the condensation away.

There it was. A piece of white froth, sliding down the window as it slowly converted to water. And then another. And another. Almost in a pattern, the flakes sprinkled over the perpetual grass of Resembool. It coated the green with a mystical white, so ivory and perfect. His irises sparkled, warming up to a vibrant honey.

In an instant, Edward sprinted to the front room, in search of Winry. She looked up to him, a questionable expression on her face. "Ed?"

"Come outside! You gotta see this!" He grabbed her arm, pulling her up and dragging her upstairs.

"What—? Where are we going?" she tried to say as Ed led her into her bedroom. Once they arrived there, he pulled the doors to the balcony wide open, dragging her outside.

Automatically, both Ed and Winry were silent, in a state of awe. Their orbs twinkled, hearts slowing. The cold temperatures caressed them like a blanket. Tiny flakes, frosty and pale, fell from the gray clouds that shield a night sky. Even so, the outline of a crescent moon could still be seen from above. The endless miles of green were now covered with a thin layer of ivory dust. At last, snow has reached Resembool.

The grandest thing of this sight? In the center of gathering clouds was a clearing… and in that clearing, was a series of colored curtains… dancing beside the stars, more magnificent than a rainbow. Who knew… in this quaint countryside, an astronomical phenomena such as the northern lights could take place.

Edward and Winry could practically hear the faint sound of violins, harmonizing in the winter's snowy night, playing against the polar lights like a harp. This was what life was all about… the little things. With a smile plaguing her lips, Winry rested her head upon Ed's shoulder. Blood faintly filled his cheeks, but nevertheless, he wrapped an arm around her, eyes never leaving the miles of scenery ahead of them.

This was the magic of a winter night. Warming up, sharing heat, cuddling close with a stranger, and not giving a care in the world. Sharing the sentimental awe with a loved one, and never forgetting that moment, no matter how small. Even if every moment is routine, or if it's spent completely spontaneous… these were the moments to cherish. These were the seconds worth dying for. Winry wouldn't mind doing this for another twenty-one nights…. or years….