Set post-series; Rosé is slowly adjusting to her new life. Winry helps.
Winry's been gone for nearly three days.
Roze knows she oughtn't worry about her. Winry knows quite well, one might say extremely well, how to take care of herself. She's so good at it-so good at everything Roze's seen her do-that sometimes Roze almost forgets Winry's a girl.
Not that Winry isn't pretty. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was just that there's a /strength/, a power, a fire wrapped inside those soft curves and shining blond hair and bright blue eyes that seems, to Roze, distinctly unfeminine.
But after almost two years living in Rizenburg, Roze's realizing that her standards of femininity are perhaps a little outdated. It's not just Winry; Pinako has to be one of the smartest, toughest, scariest women Roze's ever met, a woman who could make even the gods obey her. Then there's Izumi, who's just as tough and smart and scary; and she's so pretty, and married/, which is the /really surprising thing; Roze's been brought up to believe that no man would want a woman who behaved like /that/. And yet Izumi can be amazingly gentle, a natural mother; little Kain, for one, adores her.
Then there are the women Roze hasn't met yet, women in Central that Winry often writes to. There's Schiezka, the scholar (Winry always laughs when Roze uses that word) who's read more books and knows more than all the priests Roze's met put together; Hawkeye, the ex-soldier who followed her commander right up to insurrection at the highest level; Gracia, the widow who raises her daughter all alone, and, so Winry says, does it wonderfully. It's just amazing.
But Roze's not alone, she reminds herself. She has Pinako, and Al-up until he left on his quest-and Winry.
Den comes out of the house and rests his head on Roze's lap. She smiles down at the aged dog, scratching him behind his ears. "Yes, Den, I have you, too."
It's sunset, night fast approaching with a cold wind at its heels. The trees are bare, but the hills are vivid green, fresh and healthy after the recent rains. Soon it'll be too cold to stay out-Roze grew up in far warmer climes-but just a few more minutes...just a little bit more of watching, and waiting...
Roze narrows her dark eyes. Is that a person, walking up the path to the house? It is...and as it approaches, Roze glimpses golden hair, catching the last rays of the setting sun.
She jumps up and runs down the path, Den cantering along behind her, woofing happily. Winry barely has time to put down the box she's carrying before Roze leaps into her arms, hugging her tight. Winry catches her, laughing and letting the force of Roze's greeting carry them around in a circle, the dog still hopping around and barking, impatient for some attention of his own.
Winry makes him wait, though, squeezing Roze tight, both of them giggling and happy. "Well, aren't you pleased to see me," she laughs, letting go of Roze and turning to Den.
"Well, we missed you," Roze says, a little shy after that initial outburst, dark cheeks darker now with a blush, hands clasped behind her. "I...you were gone a long time, and..."
Winry laughs, a bright, happy sound Roze loves to hear, and hugs her again. "Oh, I missed you, too. But I think you'll - "
Den cuts her off suddenly, barking loudly at the box she's set aside, tail erect and ears forward.
"Den!" she scolds, swatting at him, "You get away from there!" The dog obeys, reluctantly, still eyeing the box. Roze peers at it, too. There are air-holes punched in the top.
"What's that?" As she speaks, the box starts moving.
"Oh-nothing!" Winry says, snatching up the box and holding it to her chest, her smile too innocent to be trusted.
Roze puts her hands on her hips and gives Winry the look she once saved for the really naughty children at the orphanage. "/Win/ry..."
Winry's shoulders slump. With a resigned sigh and a mumbled "I wanted to surprise you," she extends the box towards Roze and opens the lid. Roze peers inside, then claps both hands over her mouth to hold back a squeal. The little shepherd-dog puppy inside places both its paws on the edge of the box and yips at her, wagging its little stump of a tail enthusiastically.
"It's for Kain," Winry says, embarrassed for some reason. "My Mom and Dad got me Den, and...well, every kid needs a puppy," she finishes, blushing.
"He's so /sweet/," Roze coos, reaching in to pet its soft brown-and-black head. "I know Kain'll love him." She looks back at Winry and hugs her again. "Thank you..." Then, before she can stop, she leans up to kiss the other girl's cheek. It's quick and hurried and she's blushing furiously afterward, and Winry looks at her, surprised. "Roze..."
"I-I'm sorry..." Roze begins awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot, "I shouldn't have..."
"No," Winry says, shaking her head, "No, you just.../surprised/ me, is all..."
This time, Winry kisses /her/, warm and sweet and soft, like no kiss she's had before; Roze tastes cherries, most likely the last thing the girl ate, smells the fruity sweetness of the shampoo Winry uses-and smells, and tastes, the sharp, pervasive tang of the metal Winry's built her career around. Strength and delicacy, masculine and feminine, all rolled into one.
The barking of dogs makes them both look up; his box now open, the new puppy is off like a shot, bounding over the terrain as fast as he can, Den galloping along after him.
"Ah - wait!" Winry yelps, running after them. "Come back!"
Roze laughs, hurries after, feeling light and happy and /home/.
And the storybook comes to a close
Gone are the ribbons and bows
Things to remember, places to go
Pretty maids all in a row