Night Terrors and A Leaky Ceiling
By Maggie's Revenge
The earth groaned beneath the Original Homunculus, now appearing as a combination of Ed, Al, and their father…
Souls slipped over the rubble, searching. They yearned so fiercely, their mouths opened to beg for their release. They opened, begging, wider with urgency; wider with longing; wider than the limits of their flesh, until the corners of their mouths seeped rich, red blood and, after a moment of straining, their jaws…
Tongues lolling out, torn skin, blood on their groping hands. The Homunculus smiled, long hair golden like Ed's, so much like Ed's…
He reached out his hand, and as the first desperate soul latched onto him, the Homunculus saw the cadaveric mob before him. Faces like any others, but hungry… Yawning… Begging… Hair as black as coal…
Long, auburn braids…
Cheeks that once had been rosy, but now were grey and dusty as ash. Eyes that once had been bright, but now were dark as if their lights had been snuffed out like a flame. Dimly colored green. Glassy, sightless brown. And then, bright and blue like the sky…
Ed's eyes were open.
The edges of his vision were, at first, red, and he could only hear a constant thud in his ears. The thud was so strong that it neither started nor stopped. It only tried to fade off before surprising itself with another sudden thud. But the thuds weren't sudden; they followed a rhythm. Ed knew there was a rhythm, and could predict each thud, but was just as startled with each arrival. Gradually, he realized the thuds were his heartbeat, and when the heartbeat abated, he realized he'd been dreaming.
He released a long and jagged sigh. His chest heaved, and he shivered from the clammy sweat covering his skin. His legs were tightly bound in his bed sheets, kicked into a twisted vice that gripped his hips and thighs and calves. He slowly wiggled his knees enough to begin to loosen the mess of bedding.
But something dripped and he jerked suddenly – impulsively – to the right, and clenched all his muscles. Wet. Something on his cheek: Blood, surely blood. His mind flashed to the jaws, unhinged, and…
No. It was raining.
His muscles, though they ached, released, and his head hung over the edge of the mattress. He felt his left knuckle hit the floor. He lay somewhat on his side and stomach, exhausted in many ways. He breathed for a minute, letting his head dangle, before he pulled back the covers, as much as weren't tangled around his legs, and then tumbled onto the floor, loudly. He cursed and kicked until his legs were free, then pushed himself to his feet.
He didn't bother to pick up the bedding. It wasn't worth it. He was weary and wanted solace. He began to tread as silently as he could, and he shook his head. He wasn't a little kid. This was absurd. It had been ages since he'd had a nightmare, or, at least, a dream that unhinged him so thoroughly.
His feet scuffed gently against the floor as he approached the door at the end of the hall. His fingers touched the doorknob and he thought briefly that it felt cold; but a snap of thunder spooked him and jolted through him the pain and the images and the sounds and the memories. His nerves felt as if they'd been whipped with electricity. He cringed, his toes bunched against his feet, and his grip tightened on the doorknob. Whatever composure he had left had been rattled. He held his face grimly for a beat, closed his eyes and exhaled.
The door creaked slowly. Inside the room, there was a plain bed dressed in a white quilt. When he opened his eyes, his heart lurched involuntarily.
She was unfazed by the storm and lay curled on her side. Half her face was hidden against her pillow, but the half he could see was calm. No lines affected her expression; she looked so open. He could stare and stare and would never in all that staring read all that was left unchecked on her face. There was so much she had to tell without saying a thing. Her eyebrows, how they were set… Her eyelids, how they were closed… Watching her carefully, he approached the bed and placed his fingers a short way in front of her nose. A light air burst against his skin. He was satisfied.
He slid to the floor with his back against the wall. Like a burdensome weight, his head rolled heavily to his shoulder.
"Hey," said a whisper.
He looked up. There was her blue eye, clear and bright, though tired. He twisted his mouth and exhaled through his nose, causing his chest to rise and fall. "Hey," he said.
She watched him for a while, and he watched her back, until she finally opted to push herself onto her elbow. There was a rustle of fabric. She didn't bother to adjust the strap that was falling off her shoulder, just continued to watch him. "Not sleeping well?" she asked. They both knew it was a rhetorical question.
He pouted and looked away. "What are you doing awake?" he countered gruffly.
"I heard you coming in. You're pretty loud, you know."
Ed accepted this answer and replied, "There's a leak over my bed."
She accepted this, as well, and threw back her quilt. "Come warm up. I bet the floor is cold."
Ed's eyes widened with a look of horror. "I didn't come here to get in bed with you! I only meant to… I mean…"
Winry's laughter was swallowed in thunder, and Ed's eyes squeezed shut. When they opened again, Winry had sobered. Her eyes were a heavy blue. "Come on," she said softly.
Hesitantly, achingly, Ed stood and eased himself onto the bed as Winry scooted over to make room. "If I still had my alchemy, I could just transmute the ceiling back to normal," he grumbled.
"I know," said Winry.
Ed wiggled into position, facing his back to Winry. He muttered, "Stupid leak," and gradually fell asleep.
In a way, Winry wasn't surprised that Ed had trouble sleeping. He may have accomplished his goal, and the Promised Day may have safely passed, but he'd never prepared himself for the life that would come afterward. He'd been so determined to restore Al to his natural body that even Ed's own body took a back seat to their efforts. If it came down to it, he'd had every intention of forfeiting his life so that his brother could live, and he'd had that resolution from the moment he surrendered his arm in order to bind Al's soul to a suit of armor. Age as they might, that armor was forever an indication of a moment that Al, and Ed by proxy, could never abandon.
Now their bodies were more or less whole again, and the fact that they'd begun to physically grow and change was proof that their quest was behind them. Their bodies were theirs to use, no longer prisoners of the Truth.
Ed's body was in no way soft or inexperienced; he had muscles and callouses and scars. But, there were parts of his body that he'd begun to use in unfamiliar ways. His fingers were blistered from using tools, and his flexibility was giving way to the stiffness that results from manual labor. He kept up his sparring, but his routine was less rigorous than when he'd had enemies to fight and a brother who couldn't tire. At the end of the day, the parts of his body that ailed him were different from those of his days in the military, and he was newly appreciative of the minor but aggravating pain of a blister just waiting to burst.
There was nothing wrong with his new life. He was happy – happier than he'd been in a very long time. It was what he'd always wanted – peace, contentment, spending time with the people he loved – but he'd been on his toes for years, and there was still a feeling inside him that something was bound to go wrong. It was hard to let that mentality go, and so he was tense.
Winry stayed awake, leaning on her side with the heel of her hand to her cheek, while Ed flinched at occasional rumbles of the storm. She stared at his back seismically tensing and releasing. She drew her finger along his shoulder, feeling the round of it. Muscle and bone. And also, warmth. Briefly, Winry's finger was illuminated by the lightning outside and she could see the trail she traced along his back. For that second, the darkness was lifted; silent light stole through the window and flickered over her. She dipped her finger down along his shoulder blade, and then it was gone.
He stirred to her touch. She could feel through his back a great release of breath.
Her finger slipped over the bumps of his spine, moving downward, and then lifted from his body just briefly enough to relocate to the dip of his side, his waist, where she rested her hand.
Ed rolled onto his back.
His eyes flashed open, molten gold. Electrified. She stared steadily at him. He blinked several times – "Damn. I was… I was just…" – struggling to ease his pulse. Her expression was still, but not in the way it had been during sleep. It was a stillness like water anticipating waves. He looked down, and saw her hand. He closed his eyes and his head fell back onto his pillow. His left hand covered hers; he said, "I don't know…"
Winry settled her head on his chest in the soft cradle beneath his collar bone, rising and falling and hearing his heartbeat.
She curled into him.
"But… gotta fix that leak…"
Then he frowned, and faded back into sleep. She listened to his heartbeat, counting against the pace of the thunder. When both had finally settled, and the moon had come out and the clouds had pulled back like curtains, she stretched her neck so that her lips were even with his ear, and she whispered. She whispered so softly that one wouldn't have noticed, beneath the patter of the last raindrops, her words.
"I lied to you, Ed," she said. "I heard you in your room. And I know that you lied to me, too."
And then she returned to the nook of his side and closed her eyes.
She'd heard him in his sleep, and she knew it wasn't the leak on his mind.
If he still had his alchemy, he'd transmute himself back together.
A/N: I've been gone for a very long time, and I've missed you all so much! I found this in a notebook from when I was at boarding school and was unable post anything online. I think Ed and Winry's interaction could have gone a little differently for this plot and I might put it into a drabble for "Bits and Pieces" if anyone's still reading that old thing (I wouldn't mind picking it up again; I had a fun time with it and I have more time on my hands now). Let me know what you think, and as always, thanks for reading!