Once upon a time, Winry nearly forgot how to smile.
It was one of the worst periods of her life. At eleven years old, she finally began to realize that her parents weren't returning to her. Alphonse was stuck in his suit of armor and Edward was still recovering from receiving his automail transplants. While she was thrilled to have her two friends alive, she was still reveling in fear that she could lose them. Ed was pushing himself too hard some days with his recovery. What if he snapped one day? What if he was pushing himself too far?
The blonde sat outside on the porch, feeling the cold winter air nip at her bare skin. If Pinako hadn't gone to the store, she would be scolding Winry for sitting outside in her winter boots, pajama pants and tank top. Right now, she wasn't afraid of being scolded by the three that remained in her home. There was Al, Ed, and Den. The dog was taking a nap, Alphonse deep in thought, and Ed was hopefully resting. Hopefully. Winry needed a bit of privacy.
I know Al and Ed should be the ones crying, she thought to herself as she stared out over the snowy world. But I can't help but be the one crying. Those two were idiots. They were too strong in all this. It was obvious they were both hurting but neither would admit to it. Al was just quiet and coping with his new body. And Ed…He was feeling so guilty over Al's body. He only brought it up right after the incident, but Winry could never forget. Ed believed it was all his fault.
"What are you doing out here, dummy?"
Winry jumped and wiped at one of her frozen tears automatically. "Ed." She turned around and looked at him, seeing him wear clothes that were more wise for this weather. Black pants, long sleeves, and a red full-length coat. He looked almost normal in that except for the hand that stuck out from the one sleeve. Metal. At least he didn't seem to notice that she just wiped at a tear. He was as oblivious as ever.
"Pinako is gonna yell at you when she gets home and sees your skin blue from the cold."
"Mind your own business, Ed," Winry suggested with furrowed eyebrows. "You shouldn't be out here either. Your skin won't stand up well to the cold."
"Which is why I'm wearing a coat."
"The metal is still gonna be really cold and hurt you. Go back inside."
"Still gonna hurt me, huh?" Ed asked calmly. "Even with the layers?"
"Well then…" He shrugged off his red coat and wrapped it around Winry's shoulders before he sat down on the porch beside her. "This coat won't make much of a difference, will it?" he finished.
Winry automatically lifted a hand, fingering the warm red coat. Being surrounded in that warmth was comforting considering how cold she was, but it was all wrong. "Ed," she said lowly, shooting him a glare. "Go inside."
"Don't tell me what to do."
Her temper flared up automatically as she rose to her feet and gave him a more intimidating glare. "Go back inside right now, pipsqueak."
"WHO YOU CALLING PIPSQUEAK!" Ed hollered as he jumped to his feet.
"I'm calling you pipsqueak." With that, she pushed a hand into Edward's chest and shoved him back into the house through the open door. Because of his new leg, he stumbled back in pretty easily. She shut the door on him and moved to the bottom step rather than sitting at the top one before.
As soon as the actions were done though, she realized that she was an idiot. Ed wouldn't let a shut door keep him from staying inside. He'd come right back to her and sit with her until she came inside with him.
Unless she ran away.
The thought startled her. Winry didn't like running away from her problems. Fortunately for everyone, she was so stunned by the thought that she was paralyzed.
"What are you doing, idiot?" Ed's voice came again as he walked down the steps. Again he placed himself right next to Winry, though not before he readjusted his red coat on her shoulders to make sure that she was warm. All that she did to respond to both his words and his gesture was bring the coat closer to her body as she looked down at her black boots.
"Why are you so sad?" he tried again as he gazed at her with those caring gold eyes of his.
"That's a dumb question," Winry declared softly as she continued staring downwards. Yet dumb question or not, she answered it. "I'm sad for you, and for Al."
"That's stupid," Ed said in a judgmental tone.
"Is not!" Winry snapped. She gazed over at him, both anger and sadness burning in her gaze. "You two are acting like everything's fine, but I know how much you're hurting on the inside. Why can't you just start admitting to that and act like you're hurt?"
"Why is that so important to you, Winry?" he asked more softly.
"Because," she said as tears began to appear in her eyes. "I can only help heal the wounds that I see."
Ed sighed in exasperation, though he wasn't angry at the comment. He was just sad. "That's not your job, dummy."
"Yes it is." Ever since her parents left…she tried to be a lot like them. They were good people and good doctors. They helped every person that they ever met. Not once did they worry about the sacrifices they would make for the sake of others. It just came so naturally for them to help those who were hurting. Winry had a heart just like theirs, so when she couldn't help people, it killed her inside. Worse than that, she wanted to ask her parents for an answer to these problems. But they probably wouldn't ever come back to her…
She lifted her hands to her face, hiding herself away from the person patient enough to sit outside in the frigid air with her. She thought of chasing him away with her words. She considered calling him pipsqueak again like she did before just to get him upset so she could trick him into going inside. But then she realized how much it hurt to be alone. It hurt to be alone and bear the weight of the world on her shoulders.
They sat in silence for a while. Ed was uncharacteristically quiet and Winry was too. She didn't know if he was staring at her or not as she kept her face hidden. But after a few minutes, his metal hand came up and gently took one of hers away from her face.
He cupped her hand with both of his as she finally looked over at him. "Your hand is freezing," he declared quietly. "Go back inside."
Winry lowered her gaze to the hand. She guessed Ed was right. There wasn't much point in staying outside now that her privacy was gone. In silence, she rose to her feet. It wasn't hard for her to realize that her hand was still captured in one of Ed's though. Before she could ask what he was doing, he began to rise to his feet and grip her hand for support.
But it wasn't enough. The step must have been more slippery than it looked, because once Ed was nearly on his feet, he lost his balance. "Whoa!" he cried out, tightening his grip on Winry's hand as he began to fall towards the railing. He may have reached out one hand to grab the railing, but he also tugged Winry in that direction and made her lose her balance as well.
The blonde squealed and fell backwards onto the snow-covered ground.
Ed released the railing instead of her hand and ended up landing right on top of her.
Both of them groaned, too shocked from the fall to immediately realize the awkward position that they were in. Winry was stunned by the cold snow that was being soaked into her pajamas and tank top (since Ed's red coat fell off her when she toppled to the ground). Ed was probably in shock from falling at all since he thought of himself as being so strong.
Within five seconds, both of them realized the position they were in. Simultaneous gasps left their lips as Ed pushed himself up slightly and caught a glimpse of her equally surprised expression. Despite the cold, Winry's cheeks blushed to match the shade of Edward's.
Then she felt angry that he took her down to the ground with him and made her land on the bottom of this pile. How was this gentleman like or fair?! She began to reach for the pocket of her pajamas and pull out an item.
"No, no Winry!" Ed cried frantically as the item became clear to him. "I didn't mean—aaaaah!"
Ed went reeling off to the side, drooling out the side of his mouth as he recovered from the hit to the head he just received from Winry and her wrench. Unfortunately for him, she had kept it in her pocket from some tune-ups that occurred earlier that day. Boy did he wish that she didn't have that on her.
Winry pushed herself to her feet, breathing heavily and blushing in the same manner as she looked down at the boy lying down on the ground. The wrench was held so tightly in her hand that it was shaking, but seeing Ed such a victim was…funny. Hysterical, for some odd reason. She found herself beginning to laugh in a way that she hadn't laughed in a while. Freely, without restraint.
Ed may have been an oblivious boy, but even he wasn't oblivious to this. He turned his face in the snow and looked up at Winry to see her laughing. Her cheeks were redder than her lips because of the blushing—but then again, her lips were also paled because of the cold weather. Her eyes though—They weren't so dull anymore.
Her blue eyes were shining again.
He began to laugh, not because he found the situation as humorous as she did, but because he loved her laugh. He hadn't heard it much lately. Everything had been far to grave for that since the incident. His laughter made hers continue, but her motives were the same as his. She didn't want him to stop laughing either.
The truth was, Ed wasn't just carrying the weight of his guilt. He was also carrying the weight of Winry's sorrow. He knew she was thinking about her parents a lot lately. It was obvious how she stared at the pictures on the wall and wished for the days where her parents were here and Ed and Al were both completely fine.
Ed looked at those pictures with the same wish. Mostly, he wished for the past for Al and Winry's sake. He could manage just fine, but those two…He loved them too much to want them to go through that kind of pain.
"Just don't hit me again!" Ed said, fake-panicking so that Winry would keep smiling. The trick worked and she kept laughing. Instead of throwing the wrench at him, she stuffed it back into her pocket. Relief flooded Ed's veins immediately…until she bent down and began to make a snowball. He couldn't hold back a snicker as he knelt down in the snow and began to make one of his own. He couldn't feel it completely because his one hand was metal, and he realized then that he wished he had a hand to fully feel how the snow chilled him. Funny how something so annoying in the past was so desirable now.
Winry's snowball smacked Ed in the forehead, knocking the negative thoughts out of him. He shook his head and shot Winry a scolding look before returning fire. The shot was a little too wide.
"I…I did that on purpose!" he muttered as he ducked behind the stairs and made another snowball. He had purposely missed Winry to make her feel good about herself. But he wasn't about to miss this next shot.
A battle-like cry left his lips as he rolled out into the open again, only to see that Winry was gone from her spot. He grunted, beginning to stand himself up with snowball in hand. "Winry?" he called as his gold eyes darted around the area. Where did she go?
Ed suddenly felt a weight on his back, and his instincts took over. He pulled his arms back and grabbed onto Winry's legs as she was on him piggy-back style, her arms wrapping around his chest. They had done this before, more than once. Whenever she fell asleep on the couch growing up, Ed and Al would both grab Winry's limbs and carry her to her room. But when Ed was strong enough, he insisted on doing it himself. He…liked it when she was on his back. He liked that she could depend on him.
He also liked that she was laughing in his ear at that moment.
What he didn't like was the pain that he felt in his arm and his leg with the movement. He cried out (dramatically, so he didn't scare her) as he fell down on his face in the snow.
Unfortunately, she remembered his arms and legs because of it.
The moment Ed cried out, Winry knew that something was wrong. It may have been an over the top cry, but there was a slight whimper of pain in it that was real. It alarmed her and made her smile disappear immediately.
"Ed!" Winry cried in worry, pushing herself over onto the snow beside Ed. Her knees were becoming even more soaked because of the snow, but that was the least of her concerns. "I'm sorry! I…"
"Dummy," Ed muttered as he slowly began to sit himself up. "I can handle you on my back, you just surprised me."
"You're lying," she declared as moisture appeared in her eyes. "I'm so sorry, Ed. I wasn't thinking. I…"
"Winry. It's okay. Really."
"But…" Winry began to wipe at her eyes, looking away from her friend automatically. "I just got done talking about wanting to heal you. And now I hurt you instead…"
"It's not your job to heal what's hurting inside me, Winry," he said gently. Upon seeing how she refused to look him in the eye, he lifted his real hand and tilted her chin upwards toward him. "If anything, I want to heal what's hurting you."
Though it wasn't really a good distraction, Winry's eyes did begin to change from sorrow to confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"I've seen you lately. You keep looking at the pictures on the wall. You miss your parents and gaze at the pictures like they're never coming back."
Winry glanced at the ground again, hands curling on her knees as Ed continued to look at her gently. "…So you noticed," she said softly, those being the only words that she could think to say. He saw and realized that she didn't believe her mom and dad were coming back. Who could blame her though? They were gone for so long and didn't send anything home…She didn't believe they were coming back. It was easier to accept that than believe and be disappointed.
"I see how you're hurting," Ed continued quietly, graciously directing the topic away from Winry's doubts. "And I don't want you to be. I want to heal it."
"Dummy," she said, biting her lip. "You should be worried about yourself."
"And I could say the same for you. Winry…look at me, please." Since Ed's politeness was out of character, the blonde did lift her gaze and meet his. "It's unreasonable for me to be able to heal all your hurts, right?" Upon seeing her nod, he continued. "Well, it's the same the other way around. You can't heal everything that I'm hurt about either."
"What do we do, then?" she asked unsurely.
"We help carry each other's burdens, but we can't heal them. I…I want to make you happy again, more than anything…But…I can't. And you can't make me happy, and trying will only make you sad."
For some stupid reason, Winry found herself smiling. Since when was Ed actually good at facing problems head on? She guessed…maybe it was different because she was involved. He felt a need to step in directly, so he did. But she wasn't used to this Ed, so she made a light comment. "I made you pretty happy a few moments ago, don't you think?" she said with a weak smile.
He caught on and allowed the topic to become lighter. "Of course, dummy. I'm happy when you're happy."
She smiled in return, glad that he was happy when she was. It worked the other way around too.
But in a few moments, neither of them were going to be happy.
"What are you two doing outside?" Pinako's voice of warning came. Turning their heads, both blondes noticed the elderly woman approaching with a bag of groceries in her arms. Of course she would come home now and see them outside playing in the snow. They were definitely going to be scolded for this one.
"Ed," the granny began in a serious tone, "your metal could freeze against your skin and cause damage. And Winry! You're out in just that? You should know better."
"I told you she'd scold you," Ed smirked.
At that cocky know-it-all tone, Winry grabbed the wrench, swung it hard, and knocked Ed's head again so he fell into the ground.
"I'll drag him in," the girl muttered, approaching Ed and grabbing him by the back of his shirt. With her other hand, she held the wrench and began to drag Ed up the stairs. He was in too much of a stupor to protest, which Winry was surprisingly okay with. He was a dummy for taunting her like that.
Yet with Ed facing the sky and Pinako facing her back, Winry found herself smiling.
That was the day that she was reminded not to carry her burdens alone. Maybe it wasn't her job to heal Ed and Al, but she would try it anyway, just as Ed and Al would do for her. At least she could help carry their burdens. She'd watch over them and make sure they were in good shape so that they could go on a journey to get their bodies back like Ed wanted. And when they went, maybe they'd run into her parents. …Or at least, they'd hear the truth about them and tell her what happened. They at least had to tell her that much. They were family after all—they'd be honest with her. And then…they'd be there for her to face whatever that truth was. Her family was unconventional, but it was strong all the same.
After all, nobody else but family could have taught her the lesson that she learned that day. She was not alone. She never would be.
That was the day she learned how to smile all over again.