Coming home, Winry finds someone unexpected at the house.
Winry loved the market days in autumn; she just wished she had more strength to carry home everything she'd purchased. As it was, her shopping bag was crammed full of crisp, tart apples and a fresh loaf of bread, a packet of bacon and another of sliced, smoked ham, a little package of caramel candies that Nelly had slipped into her bag and wouldn't accept payment for and three orange yams.
Alphonse would've offered to carry some of it but she'd lost track of him when Nelly had mentioned that she had a litter of kittens at her farm. Granny, on the other hand, had disappeared into one of the taverns with one of her old drinking buddies. They'd both eventually make their ways home, probably hungry and, at least on Al's part, apologetic about not being around to help.
In the fall, when she'd walk from the market, the sun would slant down over her shoulder, as if lighting the way home. Leaves of gold and russet bobbed on trees or drifted in heaps along the roads. She couldn't resist walking through them, kicking her feet to make that wonderful crunching sound.
Topping the last hill before her house, the sun obligingly winked on the sign reading "Rockbell Automail." Winry smiled, shifting her back from one shoulder to the other. As much as she enjoyed the market, it was always nice to get home. As she drew nearer, she realized something was different than when they'd left that morning.
The door to the house stood open.
"Did we forget to close it?" she asked herself. Worry slipped along her spine to settle in her stomach. It wasn't so very long ago that a stranger had come through Rizembool, stealing from some of the merchants. Misha, Nelly's older cousin, had been beaten so badly he'd needed to be taken to the hospital after he'd caught the thief in his shop.
The sun didn't seem nearly as warm any more. It would take too long to go back to town and no one lived close enough to go to for help. Winry straightened her shoulders. She wasn't going to just let someone walk away with their money or steal any of the automail in the shop.
Setting her groceries next to the stoop, Winry climbed the steps to the porch. Her feet automatically avoided the board that squeaked as slowly, cautiously; holding her breath, she entered her home.
Though she'd never exactly been a coward, Winry wondered at her own daring. Another part of her wondered at her own stupidity, entering a house where someone might be lying in wait for her. That was the part that knotted her stomach and made her clench her hands. If only Den was still alive. The old dog would've been at the door, welcoming Winry home. Instead, she had to make up her mind whether she was going to enter the house, find out if someone was actually in there.
The sunlight threw her shadow before her, stretching it out to absurdity along the hall. She took a step forward, seeing a glint ahead, something in the living room. Slowly, slowly, she crept down the hall, her body angled so her shadow hit more of the wall than the floor ahead of her. Finally, she could look into the room from the doorway and she paused, drawing a breath, a hand curled over her hammering heart.
A man lay sprawled on the couch, his eyes closed. The last rays of the sun glinted on a line of stubble along his jaw and licked at the hollow of his exposed throat. Hair framed his face messily and his mouth was open just a little. From the slow rise of his chest, Winry knew he slept. Her gaze traveled slowly, wonderingly, along the line of one arm, his left elbow hanging off the edge of the sofa. Her breath caught in her throat, seeing a flash of flesh, where his shirt should've met his trousers.
Blinking, Winry ghosted into the room, avoiding the pitfalls of medical books she needed to reshelf and a stool that had somehow made its way to the middle of the floor. Sinking to her knees, almost as if her strength had left her all at once, she stared at the figure on her sofa. Throat tightening, Winry wondered if this was a hallucination. She'd wanted to come home and find Edward so many times and yet, the wish had remained unfulfilled. Her hand seemed to move of its own volition, rising jerkily but still rising, moving slow as if the air around it had thickened and it took effort to push through. Her fingers were clumsy as they bumped into his shoulder and she jerked them back so fast but the imprint of warm fabric still stung her fingertips.
Cradling that hand as if were burnt, Winry allowed herself to believe, at least a little. Her throat wouldn't loosen to speak his name but she felt it hitch. She covered her mouth, feeling water on her cheeks - another surprise. And the sunlight gilded his sleeping form, making him appear to her like some god fallen from the sky.
The illusion was spoiled when he snorted, rolling onto his side, his right arm dangling off the sofa cushion his hand dropping onto her thigh. The metal was cool, even through her long skirt and that, more than anything convinced Winry that this wasn't a dream. Eyes closing, she smudged her tears with the heel of her hand and with a shuddering sigh, gently moved Edward's hand off her leg. Rising to her feet, she stared down at his face. A cheekbone rose in sharp relief, reddish-orange light burnishing it and sinking into the faint hollow below it. Winry wondered at the changes time had made; since she'd last seen him, the boy had grown into a man.
She wanted to touch him; a fleeting thought making her choke down a giggle, that like the beauty, he could be awakened with a kiss. Instead, Winry left the room as quietly as she'd entered it. For now, she'd let Ed sleep.
It was enough for now that he was home.