"What do you mean your not coming home?"
The disappoint was evident in Winry's voice sent a sharp pain through Ed's heart and he almost felt like spilling everything right there. The real reason they were stuck in the center of the city; stuck needing to get Al's body back to a place where he could even just walk around a little on his own, or even with a cane. How he was stuck needing to get his arm back in working order. But he'd promised to keep it a secret, promised to make it a surprise so that the next time she saw them, it would be without any expectation. Al had made sure to make him pinky swear and everything.
He'd at least had to call her and let her know he was still alive, though. It seemed right.
"It's a mess here, Winry, and we just can't get out right now," he tried to squeeze his way out of the conversation with half-truths. Central was definitely a mess. "You should be happy I'm calling at all."
"After a battle that big, if I hadn't heard from you in a week or so, I would have been coming down there myself, you big jerk! You shouldn't have even had the thought of not calling cross your mind!" She huffed a little and he could practically hear her cross her arms on the other end of the line. "Maybe I still should hop on a train. How's your automail holding up?"
He paused, stuck on how to respond, and finally cleared his throat. "It's uh - it's fine. My leg's a little stiff, but nothing a little oil can't fix."
"And your arm?"
Ed winced, wondering how he could worm his way out of that one. The arm she'd made was in shattered pieces, likely still lying out amongst the rubble of Central where he had brought Father to an end. He grumbled a little, glancing down at the scrawny beginnings of flesh and bone, flexing his hand slightly. It was achey, but it worked, and it was his "... Feels good as new. I promise."
He could hear the skepticism in her silence. He knew full well that Winry's face was probably scrunched up in that typical expression that he always got whenever she knew he was lying but was debating calling him out on it. With her mouth turned down and her eyes narrowed just the right amount to make him feel guilty instead of intimidated. He gulped slightly, wondering if he should ramble out some excuses, or just wait it out.
"Fine," she said finally with a frustrated sigh. Ed could feel the relief run through him of not having to further talk her out of coming into the city. "If you say so. Just don't take too long to get home, okay?"
"I won't. I promise. I -" He cut himself off, not sure what he was going to add on there. It felt like something big was missing, but his stomach was twisting in knots, and he could feel his heart race a bit at whatever it was his mind had wanted to subconsciously add on. "I'll talk to you later, Winry. Stay safe."
And with a click, he went to go take care of his brother.
It took a few months before Alphonse was walking again. Limping was more like it and he could hardly do it even with the aid of a crutch. Ed could feel a pang in his heart, a tugging to get out of this hospital and away from the prying eyes of the military. He knew the new regiment was something that he could trust, but he wanted the fresh, rural air in his lungs, the breeze off the mountains, and more importantly, he wanted Granny's stew in his stomach.
But the day had come when they were finally able to leave the hospital. It was made clear Al wasn't to travel alone and certainly wasn't supposed to push himself. Sitting regularly was required and, if need be, Ed was fully ready to give him a piggy back all the way home if he had to. There was no way he was about to let his little brother's body suffer any more damage when he could control it.
He was still getting used to waking up to his brother sleeping near by. Actually sleeping. Not just sitting and waiting for a restful night that would never come. Sometimes he'd reach out and brush some of Al's short hair back with his fingers, feeling the smooth locks run over his skin, just to remind himself that their fight was over and they had won. It was these little things he'd longed for. Holding his brother's hand, watching him breathe as he rested, getting to say "bless you" when he sneezed. It was listening to his laugh without having the dull echo of empty armor to water it down or actually seeing tears fall down his cheeks when he was sad or in pain.
Ed let Al lean on him as he took him over towards an empty seat in the train car. He let him sit down first and took care of getting their things into the proper places of the train for them. He groaned a little at the strain it put on his still less than perfect arm, the muscles straining to try and keep a hold on such heavy trunks.
"You should take it easy, Brother. Maybe we should have someone else take care of that." Al watched him cautiously, seemingly ready to get up and try to catch the trunk himself if it were to fall out of Ed's grip. Ed gave him a quick glare of warning before going to focus on his task again.
"I got it. Quit worrying so much." And as if the universe was there to help prove his statement, the trunk finally slid into place with a loud clatter, and Ed was able to let out a sigh of relief at actually not having to seek out assistance. He didn't like to take help unless it was a last resort, but he knew Al would push and push until he gave in. "See? Told ya," he grumbled as he slid into the seat across from his brother, propping his feet up across the gap between booths and putting his arms behind his head. Al would have argued that he was only sitting like this because his legs were finally long enough to actually reach across the gap, but he didn't really fancy the thought of getting punched so early in their travels.
"Good work, Brother. Your strength is really coming along."
Ed let out a long sigh of exhaustion as he flopped against the couch in the Rockbell home. He could still catch the remaining scent of dinner in the air as he lay there, eyes closed, lips forming a gentle and happy smile. His stomach was full, even if his muscles were achey. He ignored the pain all together, knowing full well that whatever he was feeling, Al must be suffering ten times worse. His new body hadn't faired the trek home as well as he had tried to say it did the entire walk home.
The word lingered in his head for a moment and his eyes slowly reopened to take in the scenery. It might not have been the house he'd thought he'd grow up in, but it was definitely home all the same. He had always had this place to come back to, even if he hated to admit it. The same people there, ready and waiting to care for him and Al whenever they needed him. It hadn't be something he was always aware of during his travels, and certainly not something he was every very good at admitting to, but deep down, he had always known that this small house of a crazy automail mechanic family was where he belonged.
As soon as he'd managed to pry Winry off of them, they'd rushed Al inside, fussing over him, making sure his body was as tip-top as the doctor's had thought when they'd released him. There was a large meal made and much of it shoved at his now far too skinny little brother, and tea was consistently being poured into their cups whether they asked for it or not. It was comical, in a way, and above all it was comforting. They cared and they worried and it felt nice to feel so loved at a time when he could fully appreciate it.
Staring at the ceiling, Ed's mouth went from smiling to a wide-toothed grin as the reality sunk in. Things were going to be okay now. His urges to travel were quiet for now and he had the time, the luxury of being able to stay in one place and just take care of his brother for a little while. The joy and the privilege of getting to be boring and normal just like everyone else.
"You just got home and already you're daydreaming..." The teasing voice cut into his train of thought, making Ed focus more fully on what was in front of him. Winry's hair was falling slightly in front of her face as she hovered over him, hands on her hips and a smirk on her face. "What am I going to do with you, Elric? I can't even get you to help with the dishes." She gave an over exaggerated sigh, hanging her head and going to take a seat on the edge of the sofa cushion. Ed shifted just enough so that she would have enough room. "So when are you going to be leaving me again, then. Out with it."
It sounded more accusatory than inquisitive and Ed couldn't help but give a soft chuckle. He reached out a hand, going to play with a few strands of her ponytail. He shrugged, not really sure how to answer that. Not for the usual reason of being afraid of disappointing her, but because for once, he honestly didn't know.
"I think we're gonna stick around here for a while," he said finally, giving a small smile when she looked at him in disbelief. "Al still needs to heal and my arm isn't exactly a shining example of health and fitness. I'd like it to at least look sort of the same size as the other if I can manage it before I go anywhere."
Winry was still quiet and he was starting to worry he'd broken her. He reached out, waving his hand slightly in front of her face, and was given a satisfactory smack against his forearm to get him to cut it out. Well, she was still with him, at least. He tried to bite back the laugh that threatened to come out from her stunned silence, but it mostly failed, falling out in a series of snorts and small chuckles. He was given another smack.
"Shut up! It's not my fault I'm not used to you guys actually staying in one place for more than a week!" She gave a small, dignified huff and crossed her arms, looking away from him with a distinct pout on her face. Ed simply shook his head and went to lay back down fully on the couch again, putting his arms - his two skin covered arms that were a lot softer than metal, he might add - behind his head.
"It could be months, you know," Winry muttered quietly, letting her arms fall and fiddling with her hands in her lap. "If you're waiting for Al to heal before you go anywhere. It's gonna take a long time for his body to get anywhere near to what it used to be."
"Probably over a year. Maybe two or three." Ed shrugged, his voice seeming rather relaxed about the idea. He used to hate sitting still. He wanted to see the world, wanted adventure, and the military had been a great way to get that, even if it wasn't the ideal situation behind everything. That desire to be out, traveling around, and seeing everything he wanted to see was still there, of course, but... Well, it was stifled a little. They'd had enough non-stop adventuring for a while. "I think it'll be nice to be home for a little while."
While he had expected her to give one of those smiles he liked to get out of her, he hadn't been expecting the hug that she suddenly flung onto him. Her arms were wrapped tightly around his neck, her chest pressed against his, and he let out a few coughs of surprise at nearly having the wind knocked out of him. He shifted a little to keep his balance on the couch, one arm wrapped tightly around her waist, and tried not notice just how much she had developed over the years that the brothers had taken to get their bodies back. He felt his cheeks burn all the same and cleared his throat loudly.
"You can breathe in a minute," she grumbled into his neck, keeping her face pressed against him. He could hear that thankful emotion in her voice, the quavering she got when she was trying not to cry. He rolled his eyes softly, shaking his head as he began to rub her back. She held on for a little while longer, before finally pulling back, sniffling lightly, and rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand.
Grumbling, Ed rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "Geez, Winry, what do you have to go and cry for?"
"Thank you, Ed." She went to stand up without explanation, giving him a grin and clasping her hands behind her back. "I'm gonna go cut you a slice of pie." Leaning down, she placed a kiss against his cheek, before rushing back towards the kitchen. Ed was left in a stunned silence of his own, eyes slightly wide from the expression of affection. He reached a hand to touch his cheek, knowing full well his entire face must have been a nice shade of pink under his fingers. He rolled over with a small huff, crossing his arms over his chest in annoyance at being embarrassed over something so stupid.
Why was she so weird?