When do you learn to live with your losses, and what do you do when you realize you no longer want what you spent five years of your life chasing? (End of anime spoilers, none for movie)
Winry glanced behind her at the golden-haired young man lying on the bed as she quietly gathered her tools together. Edward Elric had done the impossible. He had managed to return his younger brother to his flesh and blood body, losing his own newly regained arm and leg in the process. Winry had heard the stories of Ed stumbling out of the vast underground city on Rose's arm, Al's emaciated body over his bloody shoulder. At the behest of Lieutenant Maria Ross, the military had contacted Winry, and she'd taken the first train from Risembool to Central.
Ed's newest injuries had destroyed the body-automail interfaces Winry and her grandmother had built at his shoulder and leg years ago, and it had taken nearly two days for Winry to rebuild the interfaces before she could finish the automail limbs she'd brought with her. All in all, it had taken Winry three days of working alone before she could ask for help in connecting Ed's automail limbs. While Ed spent the first two days in an exhausted slumber, he woke that third day, and Winry cursed at herself for not finishing the reattachment before he awoken.
Now that the reattachment was complete, Ed dozed as he had many times before, mildly feverish, while Winry gathered up the remains of her trade. Once she was sure she'd put away every screwdriver and spanner, Winry stowed her toolkit and stepped over to an alcove near the door, where a pitcher of water stood within a wash basin. She tipped a generous amount of water into the basin and washed off her sweat-streaked face before taking a fresh basin of water over to the sleeping form.
As she'd done countless times before, Winry wordlessly dampened a towel and wiped the faint film of sweat from Ed's face. Her fingertips lingered on the sleeping youth's face, and she could not help but stare at the bright gleam of automail peeking out from beneath the covers. Ed had given Al back his body, but he had lost his limbs again. Even now, Alphonse Elric rested in a room across the hall, constantly fed broth by Gracia, in hopes of bringing his body back from its emaciated state as quickly as possible. The best doctors in Central had proclaimed, after thorough examination, that Al would survive. But Winry still feared that Ed would insist on continuing his quest to regain his limbs. Both Elric brothers had died and been brought back by means that seemed to her miraculous, but was that enough for Ed?
Lost in thought, Winry did not realize she was crying until she felt tears fall onto her legs. Now that the floodgates were open, the tears came harder and harder, though she fought to keep her sobs silent lest she disturb Ed's rest. She wept out of joy for seeing Al again, out of amazement for the Elric brothers' courage, and out of fear of losing either of them again.
"Winry?" Ed's weak voice croaked from the bed beside her. Winry jumped in surprise and stood up to hide her tear-stained face.
"You should be sleeping, Ed," she said, "Are you thirsty? Hungry? I think Mrs. Hughes brought some vegetable stew-" She moved towards the door, but stopped when Ed's hand closed around her wrist.
"Stay with me, Winry?" Ed requested. Mutely, Winry sat back down in her chair, still attempting to wipe the last traces of tears from her face. Satisfied that she wasn't going to leave, Ed raised his right arm, the new machinery gleaming in the muted light, and flexed his fingers experimentally. "You really are the best mechanic in the world," he said with a faint smile.
A weak smile flitted momentarily across Winry's face before she spoke, "But it's not what you want, is it, Ed? You want your real arm and leg back." When Ed did not reply, she continued, her voice breaking, "And as soon as you and Al are better, you're going to go looking for ways to do that again." The tears began to fall again, and Winry bowed her head, unwilling for Ed to see the hurt in her eyes.
For a long moment, Ed said nothing, staring at the bent form of the girl who had been his oldest friend as she cried. He had seen her cry before, been the cause of her tears on more counts than he liked to admit, but this time it was different. He knew he had the ability to make her stop, but the words sat awkwardly on his tongue and he could not will himself to speak them. Silently, he pulled himself upright and turned until his feet touched the floor. Winry's head jerked up, surprised by his movement, and Ed took the opportunity to wrap his arms around her, guiding her head to rest against his left shoulder.
Aware of how open Ed was being by his simple gesture, Winry reciprocated, wrapping her arms around his waist as she allowed the tears to come again. She had once told Ed that she cried because he wouldn't, but this time her tears were her own as she clung to him.
Ed fought to keep his emotions in check as he felt the warmth of Winry's tears run down his chest. "I'm not going to keep looking," he finally said, his voice a bare whisper, as if afraid of the words that spilled from him. His grip tightened around Winry and he buried his face in her hair as he continued, "The most important thing was to bring Al back. It took the deaths of thousands of people to do it, and I still almost couldn't. I can't risk more people's lives just for my arm and leg."
Winry pulled back far enough to see Ed's face; her eyes searched his and found nothing but truth in their golden depths. "What are you going to do now?" she asked, slowly untwining her arms from around his waist.
"Once Al's recovered enough to travel, we're going home," Ed replied simply. At her teary smile, he complained lightly, "That was supposed to get you to stop crying, Winry!" When she halfheartedly glared at him, Ed became somber again. "I want to go home. I don't know if Al and I will rebuild our old house, but I want to go back to Risembool. It's a little late, but I want to live life the way Mom wanted us to." Winry smiled; for the first time since Trisha Elric died, she felt the veil of darkness around Ed's spirit lift. She blinked rapidly, but a tear still escaped and ran down her cheek.
"Winry, you're still crying," Ed exclaimed as he pulled away. Before Winry could retort, he smiled, letting her know he understood, and reached up to brush the tear away with his thumb.
"You and Al are staying with us until you figure out what you want to do about your old house," Winry said firmly, "And you're getting a tune-up. Your automail hasn't had a proper tune-up for almost five years."
"A tune-up?! You just put it in!" Ed yelped, scrutinizing his arm as he flexed it, "Is this one shoddy work?"
Winry stood up and glared at the seated alchemist, trying her hardest not to hit him with something blunt and heavy, "You put regular tune-ups on hold for five years for Al. You're not doing that to my machines again."
Ed stared up at his irritated mechanic with a thoughtful expression on his face. Unable to read his expression, Winry stood awkwardly watching him, the rest of her tirade dead in her throat. "I suppose you're right," Ed mused as he stood up to meet her eye to eye, "I did put too many things on hold. But now that Al's back, I should start taking care of those things."
Unnerved by the unfamiliar intensity in his eyes, Winry looked down at the floor and felt heat rise in her cheeks as she realized Ed stood in front of her clad in nothing but his shorts. She'd seen him in that state of undress many times before while she and her grandmother were reattaching Ed's limbs, but those times she had always been focused on the automail. "Ed, get back in bed," she protested, looking him in the eye again and willing herself to stop blushing. Putting her hands on his shoulders, she attempted to push him backwards, but he remained firmly upright. "You shouldn't be standing up! You need to rest."
"I will, in a minute, just let me finish" Ed reassured her, resting his automail hand on hers. "Winry..." he frowned, as if trying to find the right words, "Winry, I'm sorry. I'm sorry Al and I were gone for so long and that we made you worry. I'm sorry I kept breaking my automail and that I made you cry-"
Ed's voice had grown softer as he apologized, and she had to lean in close to catch the last of his words. "Ed... It's okay," Winry interrupted, resting her forehead against his. "I'm just glad you found what you were looking for." She smiled softly, knowing he understood that despite all the tears and angry words of the last few years, she really was just glad that the people she loved the most in the world had found peace within themselves. "Now, will you please go to bed?"
Returning Winry's smile, Ed leaned forward, closing the mere inches between them as he touched his lips to hers. Winry froze, surprised, but relaxed again once she realized Ed was not going to pull away. Her arms found their way around his neck as his slipped around her waist, holding each other close. There was no artistry in their kiss, just a simple promise of better days ahead wordlessly conveyed. Behind closed eyes, a single tear escaped and ran down Edward Elric's cheek.
After what seemed like an eternity of being aware of nothing but the girl in his arms, her lips on his, Ed pulled away, a faint blush colouring his face. He sat back down on the bed and turned his eyes hesitantly to Winry. Her expression was dazed, though a faint smile curved her lips as she raised her hand to her mouth. "Ed..."
The whispered sound of his name warmed his entire being and Ed smiled, "See, I'm going to bed. But, will you stay with me?" Winry nodded and sank into the chair besides his bed. Before Ed could pull himself under the covers, however, a soft yawn caught his attention and he looked up in time to see Winry smile sheepishly at him. "When was the last time you slept, Winry?" he asked suspiciously.
The uncomfortable look on her face told Ed all he needed to know before she even replied, "I took a nap before I finished your arm."
Ed shook his head in amazement and got out of bed again, grabbing Winry's arm and forcing her out of her chair. "Get in the bed and sleep," he commanded, dropping into the chair and to leave Winry standing awkwardly between him and the bed.
"What? No! Ed, get back in bed!"
Her glare merely made him smile, and he shook his head. "I'm tired of lying down. You sleep. I'll just sit here and rest."
Winry's expression softened and she sat down on the edge of the bed. "Ed... You're being stubborn again."
He grinned and waved for her to continue, "So are you. Now go to sleep. I don't want my mechanic forgetting to put in a screw just because she's too tired to know what she's doing." At his words, Winry's face turned inexplicably red, and she muttered something under her breath that he didn't understand. "What?"
She smiled and extended her hand. "You're not that big. There's still room for you. Stay with me?" He glared fleetingly at her comment, but obliged and joined her beneath the covers.
His arms around her, Ed sighed as Winry's breathing almost immediately deepened to that of deep sleep. "Winry..." he said affectionately. When she stirred in his arms, he added, "Sleep well." It only took a few minutes before his breathing matched hers as he slipped into sleep.
Gracia knocked lightly on the door to Ed's room, a tray in her hands. When no one answered, she opened the door and stepped inside. The last rays of sunlight coming through the window bathed the room in golden light, and she spoke softly, careful not to be disruptive while still announcing her presence if Ed was still awake, "Edward, I brought you some dinner." When a dark blond head rose from the bed, she continued, "Good, you're awake-" Only when Ed raised a finger to his lips for silence did she noticed that there was a third person in the room. When she recognized Winry asleep against Edward, she smiled widely and whispered, "I'll bring a second bowl of stew." Ed returned Gracia's smile and turned his attention back to the girl in his arms.