A/N I've actually been working on this one for a while, but with school and everything the going was slow. Hopefully soon I'll be able to add another one-shot as a companion piece. As usual, I feel like everyone's out of character, but that's probably just me. Although if you feel that way too, let me know! I enjoy all types of criticism!
Disclaimer: If I owned FMA...well, I'd probably still be writing fanfiction. I'm just weird like that. I don't own it, though, which I'm sure you all know.
Thank for reading!
It was hard to tell what they were fighting about. It happened at least every other day. Ed and Winry's raised voices were so much a part of the brother's visits that Alphonse and Pinako hardly paid them any attention anymore. The shouting usually started in a random part of the house, or yard, moving about the place until, after a good half hour, the house fell silent with the slamming of bedroom doors. Their most recent row was only just beginning. Winry and Ed had been in the kitchen, trying to get some vegetables ready for supper that evening. She had made some sort of off-handed comment, a stinging retort in response to his announcement that they were leaving again.
"You always do this!" she shouted, jabbing a carrot into his face. "You show up whenever it's convenient, expecting me to fix you, then as soon as I'm done you just run off again!" Turning away from him, she hacked viciously at the vegetable she'd been thrusting at Ed. It was starting to look more pureed than chopped. "We spend so much time worrying about you guys, and you don't even think of us, do you? Would it kill you to spare an extra day or two for us? You really are selfish, Edward!" The alchemist was shocked at this remark and his face flushed red with anger.
"Selfish!? Winry, how can you say that?" He'd had enough. Normally he was content to let her take jabs at him (secretly, he even enjoyed the little spats they had), but there was a line somewhere, and Winry Rockbell had just took a flying leap over it. "Is that really what you think, that I'm selfish? Is it selfish to want to fix Al? It is my fault after all, I did that to him! What do you-"
"NO! What's selfish is the way you leave us! I understand that you need to go, but the thing is you never come back, Ed! I...we sit here month after month waiting for you, but you never call, you never write, the only reason we even know you're alive is because your arm or leg gets trashed and you windup back here again!" Winry pushed her knife away, resisting the temptation to lose herself and hurl it at Edward. She didn't want to hurt him, not in the slightest, but after years of jumping hopefully every time the phone rang or there was a knock at the door, she really wanted nothing more than to let it out and tell him what an idiot he was. He needed to know that it hurt. A fight wasn't the way she had wanted to bring it up, but somehow that's what it had become.
Edward had been trying to peel some potatoes. His mechanic's vehemence had startled him a little, and he stood staring at her, a half peeled spud lying forgotten on the tabletop between them. Slowly, the rage on his face began to soften, falling away to leave a faint, guilty scowl.
"You're selfish because you've never once thought to contact us, all this time! You're too busy trying to fix everything!" They were staring at each other, Ed leaning on his hands against the table. Their normal quarreling had slowly gotten much more serious. Winry, a little carried away with herself, was practically seething at Ed as he stood staring at her. Her blue eyes were clouded with tears, but she looked him in the eye almost as if she were daring him to challenge her statement. "I'm so tired of waiting for you! I can't help wondering if you'll come back this time. If we mean so little to you, why bother?" Her anger began to fizzle out, and she fell silent as she finally said what she'd been trying to get out.
Across from her, Ed's face had suddenly become guarded, the practiced caution he employed so often making it unreadable. Her hands balled into fists, and she suddenly found that she was embarrassed. With everything he dealt with, the last thing Edward needed was guilt overher too.
"Winry." he said softly, his gold eyes never leaving hers. "We're leaving tomorrow. If us being here upsets you like this...and if all we're going to do is fight...then we won't be back." His voice was steady, the tone never wavering, never belying how much it hurt to say something like that to her. Winry was right in a lot of the things she said, save one. Nearly every thought in his mind, during the sleepless nights and when he and Al had to spend hours at a time on a train, or in another equally uncomfortable location, revolved around her. He was upsetting her, there was no denying that. As much as he hated the thought, it would be easier if he didn't come back until he could stay for good. Winry's eyes had widened. She watched him circle the table, moving toward the door to the hall and the stairs. Some part of her hoped desperately that she had misheard hin, but another more realistic part of her fought to be heard over the fear that seized her.
It was only a matter of time.
He can't be held back here, can't be held back by you.
He can't! He can't go! He has to come back!
You shouldn't have told him. This is your fault.
"Ed!" Her anger was forgotten instantly. Winry scrambled for the door, regret flooding through her. How stupid of her to vent herself on him, to drive him to make such a decision. How incredibly, unbelievably stupid! She reached him in the darkness of the hall, just as he was beginning to climb the stairs. In her worry, she reached out and latched onto his automail arm. Ed froze at the pull against his shoulder, glancing down at the hands clutched just above his elbow. Seeming to be exhausted from flipping through so many emotions, Winry slumped behind him, not daring to touch him any more that she already was.
"No. Ed. Listen-"
"Let go." he growled. Ed wasn't angry at Winry, not anymore. The way she had bared everything to him like that had shocked him into the realization that maybe he was a little selfish. After all, he really didn't call them. Al didn't either. He was more and more angry with himself then. It felt like he always screwed things up for her. He was angry at himself and he was hurt that he'd not be seeing her again for who knew how long. It was all his own doing, and he didn't want her hanging on him anymore, he wanted to be alone. He needed to calm down.
On his last nerve, he couldn't suppress the small snarl in his voice. "Dammit, Winry, get off!" All the time they'd been standing there, he had never looked back, and so he didn't know just how close to his arm she was. Without even thinking, Ed jerked his arm back, intent on throwing her hands off.
It connected with something.
Suddenly, he was aware of a small sound, something between a cry and a startle gasp. Again he froze. The soft smack when he'd thrown his arm back...it was a sound he was painfully familiar with: the sound of metal against flesh. He had heard it so often he knew in a heartbeat what he had done. Slowly, almost painfully, he turned to face her.
Winry was clutching her right eye, staring at him in shock with the other. Her pale face twisted as tears began to pool in her blue eyes. Whether they were tears of surprise or hurt didn't matter.
"Winry! I'm so sorry, I didn't-"
"Go away." Edward stopped, startled by the unfamiliar harshness in her voice.
"Just leave me alone, okay?" she said, her voice shaking. The wavering tone cut through him, an almost physical pain that arose as Winry pushed past him, ascending the stairs to retreat into her room. Edward could only stare after her, angry and sickened with himself.
"These look good! Um...they are alright, aren't they, Auntie?" Pinako glanced at the tomatoes Alphonse was offering for her inspection. She nodded in approval, reaching out to press the fruit's skin gently.
"See? They're nice and red. When you squeeze them, they give just a little. Add 'em to the pile." Alphonse imitated her action, peering closely to see if they gave any before dropping them into a basket piled high with vegetables. Pinako smiled, watching him take up another handful. "Thanks for lending a hand, Al. It's nice to have you around...unlike that useless shrimp."
"Eh?" Al cocked his head at the mention of his brother. He turned to glance behind them at the house. "They've been quiet for a while, haven't they?"
"Gone to their rooms to finish throwing their fits, probably." Pinako shrugged, chuckling at the uneven stomping growing louder within the house. "No, wait, here he comes."
A moment later, the front door banged open. Edward stalked onto the porch, a scowl still smeared across his face. With a grunt, he dropped onto the steps next to his little brother. For a long while nobody commented. Ed sat fidgeting, his bare toes poking into the dirt of the path. Every so often a testy hmph escaped him eventually Pinako sighed.
"What is it now, shrimp?" Edward was silent. Al and Pinako both stared at him in shock. The old woman leaned toward him, pulling her pipe from her mouth. "Hey, half-pint!" Still nothing. Glancing at Pinako, Al leaned close to his brother.
"What is it, Brother?" Ed shook his head, his hair falling forward to shield his face. Al tried again. "Just tell me what's wrong. Is it Winry?"
Edward stiffened. 'It must be obvious,' he thought. 'Then again, what else would be bothering me?' Reluctantly, he nodded.
"What happened?" Ed didn't exactly want to give the whole story, at least not in front of Pinako. He lifted his head, pulling Al even closer. Pinako had turned away from them, but he still kept his voice low.
"I...I hurt her, Al."
"Literally. I hit her."
"It was an accident!" He had forgotten he was trying to be quiet and his voice rose defensively. The old woman's sharp hearing had picked up every word, of course, but she wisely kept silent. From the corner of her eye, she watched Ed's face twist painfully as he confessed.
"Did you apologize, Brother?"
"Of course I did! Or at least, I tried to. She wouldn't really listen to me..."
"I can't believe this..." Al gave an airy sigh, the glow of his eyes narrowing at his brother. "I think you should go talk to her again."
"It won't do any good."
"You don't know that."
"Al, you know as well as I do that it won't work. If she didn't accept the first apology, she won't take the second..." he trailed off, staring at his little brother. Alphonse was radiating such anger and annoyance that the emotions were almost tangible. They glared at each other, Ed allowing a moment or two to pass before he dropped his gaze. "Okay, okay, I'll talk to her agian. Later, though..."
Edward stood in the hall, staring through the darkness at Winry's bedroom door. The room on the other side was silent, but she was definitely in there. He'd been standing there hesitating for nearly an hour. From what he could see, there was just no way around it - he'd have to talk to her eventually.
She'll kill me as soon as I open my mouth...if I even manage to get into the room. Aw man, I'm screwed no matter what I do. He sighed through his nose, the frown on his face deepening. I'm wasting time! Slowly, he lifted a hand, tapping the knuckles of his automail softly against the door. The gesture was met with silence. He knocked a little louder, calling out to her this time. "Winry? It's me."
"Go away, I'm busy."
"Well, you can just stop being busy. I want to talk to you."
"So? There's really nothing to talk about." came the muffled reply.
Ed swore under his breath, losing his patience and barging into her room. "Winry, just let me talk to you!"
Whatever Winry had been dong at her desk, she abandoned it immediately, scuttling away from him and sitting on the foot of her bed. She didn't look at him. "Edward, I don't feel like talking, okay?" Ed stood in the door for a moment, his annoyance fading into concern. Winry sat curled in on herself. Her knees were pulled to her chest so she could rest her chin on them. As she spoke her voice was soft, wavering and pulling at him. Somehow he knew that he hadn't just hurt her eye.
"Win..." He crossed the room, stopping behind her . Hesitantly one of his hands moved to rest on her shoulder. Relief flooded him when she didn't pull away."Look, I want to say I'm sorry. You were right before, and I shouldn't have acted like that. And...you have every reason to hate me..."
"I don't hate you."she lifted a hand. It was blocked by her head, but Ed guessed she was exploring her eye. "I overreacted."
"Here, let me see your eye."Gently, his hand went for her chin, but she tensed beneath his fingers.
"...I don't want you to see it, Ed."
"Just turn around, Winry."
"No." The irritation surfaced again and Ed fought to push it away. She was being stubborn. She didn't want him to see what he'd done to her, how he'd hurt her.
"Edward," she said, the hand that had been inspecting her eye moving again to grasp his own as it lay against her shoulder. "I know you didn't mean to hurt me. You don't need to come in here to apologize. It was an accident, okay? Let's just leave it at that."
"I can't." he sat behind her. Winding his left arm around her stomach, he pulled her close, nearly into his lap. Trying not to give her time to pull away from him, he set his chin on her right shoulder, bringing his lips close to her ear. "Winry...I'm sorry."
"Ed, don't!" she shivered against him, causing him to frown and hold her tightly. What was that? Was she cringing? Did it really bother her to have him touch her?
"Just, wait, okay?" He whined a little. Winry began to wriggle against him, trying to pull away. "I'm sorry. For hurting you, for leaving again, for everything, Win!" She twisted again as he tried to speak. His breath against her ear was driving her crazy. "I just want you to forgive me."
Winry stopped in surprise. He wanted her forgiveness? Forgetting that she hadn't want him to see her face, she turned to glance at him over her shoulder. Ed frowned, his eyes narrowing as they were suddenly face to face. He could see her eye. The black bruise blossomed across her cheekbone and the ridge of her eyebrow held the same dark shadow. Suddenly, a fresh wave of guilt hit him and he held her tighter still, although she couldn't have gotten any closer to him.
The pained look on his face didn't escaped her, and Winry smiled softly. "Do you really think you need to ask?"
"Edward." she cut him off, craning her next so she could touch her temple to his forehead. "I forgave you a long time ago."
"Trying to make me feel better, aren't you?"
"Maybe a little. I'm serious, though. I was shocked, yeah, but I know you didn't mean to do it. When I realized how upset you probably were, I really didn't want you to see..." Winry gave a small sigh.
"What, you've been hiding from me all day?" Ed didn't like this. The fact that she was shut up in her room on his account...
"I wouldn't call it hiding, exactly. More like 'avoiding you like the plague.'" she chuckled, but it quickly left her as she saw the face he made. Winry turned serious again. "You don't need another thing to worry about, Ed. You've got enough problems to deal with without having to put up with my tantrums. I'm sorry I blew up like that." she paused, leaning back into him and letting him support her. "I just didn't want you to leave again." It felt good to finally admit it. He was barely there as it was, Winry wanted him to know that she wanted him there.
Edward frowned, moving to let his flesh arm wrap around her waist alongside his automail. It was a good position to be in. He'd never had his arms around Winry, not like this. He found he was warm, almost happy. He gently brushed his lips against her temple, barely allowing himself to make the contact. Winry felt it, though. That same little twitch shook through her, and she pulled away from him. "Ed?"
"We've been through this, Win. I have to leave."
"Just because you have to doesn't mean you can't give us another day or two."
"I know, I just...I want to fix Al as soon as I can." Winry stood to move toward the door. She wanted to see the younger Elric whole again almost as much as Ed did. All she wanted was a few more days. Ed felt himself begin to panic a little as he watched her go. He watched, confused, as she stopped at the door. Her head tilted to the side as she looked back at him over her shoulder.
"Just be careful, okay, Ed? Don't wait years to come home this time." She opened the door.
Crap! What am I doing? Edward didn't realize that he was moving. He didn't take the time to think as he scrambled from the bed, catching her in the doorway. "Winry!"
"Wha-" She stopped short as Ed seized her shoulders and spun her around to face him. His lips covered her mouth, cutting off her surprised exclamation. It was a gentle movement, despite his haste. Unfortunately Winry found herself unable to respond, shock and disbelief driving her thoughts away from her. When she froze against him, Ed pulled away from her. With a wince, as if he expected her to lash out at him, he backed up a bit.
How stupid he was, pulling something like that! Heat flooded his face and he couldn't help frowning. The bangs hanging over his face weren't enough to hide the way his skin had flushed, his embarrassment reaching all the way down his neck. He had meant every bit of the kiss, and hoped it could tell her what he couldn't quite bring himself to say. He was so afraid that the message hadn't been conveyed.
"Look, I..." he began hesitantly. Winry was staring at him, a strange, disbelieving look in her eyes. Trying to think of what he wanted to say, Ed stopped and stared at her. Somehow, he realized, in the time he'd been gone she'd become beautiful. Her sunny hair was all over the place (he would have loved to have been the one to mess it up like that) and her blue eyes were red and swollen beneath the bruise, as if she'd been crying not long ago. Whatever she looked like, she was beautiful. It's a shame that I don't notice these things until I've started to screw everything up. He thought. "Winry, I'm sorry. I just wanted...I don't know. I probably shouldn't have..."
"Edward?" he lifted his head. Without his noticing, she had come several stepped closer to him. "What are you trying to say?"
"Not that." she interrupted him, a flash of irritation crossing her face. For a moment he was quiet, before he realized it: she wanted to know why he'd kissed her.
"Well..." What did he say? Voicing his feelings wasn't something Ed was particularly good at, or comfortable with. The fact that Winry was waiting expectantly for an answer didn't make it any easier. "Win," he began. He knew he sounded hesitant, and mentally he kicked himself. "I don't want to leave you."
Ed couldn't help bristling a little. Winry knew very well how to push his buttons, even if she wasn't doing it intentionally. Couldn't she see he was trying to say something? "Can't you be quiet for two minutes? I'm trying to tell you I love you!"
"What!?" she squeaked at him. Ed regretted the words immediately, the shock on her face wasn't what he wanted to see right then. His head began to lower again.
"Is it really that terrible?" he asked. The question was met with silence and he felt himself continuing, barely even thinking as his words spilled out of him. "Well, I'm sorry, but it's the truth. There's no getting around that any more. I know I'm always fighting with you and I hurt you...today's just been one thing after another, I'm not even sure what's going on here anymore. I don't know how I feel half the time either. I know I'm angry about a lot of things. Not to mention embarrassed, and...I feel so guilty...honestly, the only thing I'm sure about is you. And it seems like all I do is hurt you."
"I know neither of us need this sort of thing right now, Winry, but it's the truth."
"Stop." Winry seized his chin, pulling it up so he'd look at her. "You don't need to explain it, okay? 'I love you' is more than enough." It wasn't what he'd been expecting at all. Winry moved closer to him, showing none of the nervousness or haste he himself had displayed. Happily, he found her arms winding about his neck as he let his hands come to rest against her waist. She had drawn close enough to him that he could fell her breath against his face. "You're an idiot sometimes, Edward."
"Yeah, I know." He grinned as she closed the space between them.
"Are you going to call this time?"
"Sure thing, Auntie." Edward wriggled into his red coat, suppressing a grin as he heard Winry snort.
"Gran'ma, you know they won't."
"Come on, Win. Don't you have any faith in me?"
"No, I just know you too well. Oh, bye Al!" Winry pulled Alphonse down to her level so she could plant a little kiss on the cheek of his helmet. He straightened again and she patted his arm. "Can you try to keep an eye on him for me?"
"I don't think you realize what you're asking. I'll try, though." Al gave a small nod,
"And you." Winry spun on Ed, who was sharing a rather heated goodbye with Pinako. His scowling face brightened immediately and he turned to her. "You could do your part to stay out of trouble too, you know."
"Yeah, I could."
"I mean it!" Ed shrugged, grinning at her. Reaching out, he ran his thumb over the bruise on her face. It was healing and had faded to a dirty, greenish color. "Be careful, okay?" Winry asked, pulling him into a hug.
"Don't worry, we'll come back soon." Ed promised. He planted a quick kiss on her lips, pointedly ignoring the snicker that sounded from his little brother. After a moment he reluctantly pulled away from her and seized his suitcase. "See ya, Winry. Bye, Auntie!"
"You boys take care."
"We will!" Pinako and Winry followed them to the door, staring after them as they wandered down the road. Before they disappeared into the bright morning, the two boys stopped and turned to wave.
"I still can't believe you talked him into staying another whole week." the old woman mused, turning to glance at her granddaughter.
"Well," Winry smiled, unconsciously reaching up to touch her eye. "He did need some convincing."