*Sneak* .... >_> ....
..... *Waves white flag* Sorr-eeeeeeee. ^^; Yeah, the wait.. About that... ...Writer's block is a bitch. >_< But I tried to force out this chapter and the result is utter crap. Er, try and enjoy... at least...? And sorry again for the stupidily long wait. I feel very, very honored, special and loved that people were waiting for this chapter so eagerly... It means a lot to me. Thanks!
My December II
fragments of a dream The Rockbell house had never been more alive or so it felt to Winry. She couldn’t remember the last time she had this many people here or felt this happy about it. It was a celebration and there was a large reason to celebrate. Ed had returned from the dead. At least that’s what it felt like to everyone. They had all believed he was truly gone. Everyone expect her and Al. Both of them refused to accept the idea that Edward was gone forever. Winry was well aware of the sad looks she received from Pinako when she would turn on the flickering lantern outside or talk about new automail designs for Ed for the day he returned. One night her grandmother had sat her down and tried to make her understand that Ed was dead. Winry would hear none of it. Now it was clear how right she had been to believe Ed was alive. But the Ed that had left was not the same one that had returned and she knew it the moment he had arrived.
He was oddly quietly, taking it in as Al chatted excitedly to him. He was brought instantly to the Rockbell home and upon noticing he had a fever, promptly sent to bed to rest. It was a hassle to keep Al away so he could sleep, but Winry managed. In fact, it was hard to keep herself away too. So she cheated, using the bowl of water and the wet cloth draped over the edge of it as an excuse to go in and see him. She found him sitting up, looking out the window at the snow covered countryside. His hair was in a ponytail, slung over one shoulder. Winry noticed how it had gotten longer over the two years he had been gone. His golden eyes were distance, face peaceful. She paused in front of the closed door with the bowl in hand, unsure of what to make of this. Clearly something was wrong. He wasn’t himself, he hadn’t really said anything for two days and he seemed to have gotten thinner since he came back. Winry wondered if she should have brought him food instead.
“Ed?” She asked softly, afraid to disturb him.
Ed glanced over at her, the movement of his head causing his ponytail to move off his shoulder. She smiled at him and walked over, placing the bowl of cold water on the night stand beside the bed.
“Are you feeling better, Ed?” She asked, voice still quiet as if talking louder would break the mood.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” He replied.
“Well, that’s good. You gave me a heart attack when you nearly passed out!”
Winry blinked and frowned a bit. An awkward silence settled over the room and Winry wasn’t sure what to say. So her eyes wandered and found the dresser. Upon it sat a jade comb with a beautiful white flower on it. Winry walked over to it curiously, feeling Ed’s eyes follow her. She picked it up carefully, running her fingers lightly over its teeth. She plucked a strand of hair from it and twirled it between her fingers.
“This is... yours?”
“Don’t ask,” Ed chuckled softly.
Winry smiled as she heard him chuckle and glanced up. “Whose is it?”
“Ah... it belonged to... someone... Just a person...” Ed muttered, quickly looking back out the window.
Ed offered nothing more than that and Winry couldn’t help but wonder who this ‘someone’ was as she ran her fingers lightly over the teeth of the comb. Her instant thought was a lady friend who was close. And given the way he was acting... Why did that hurt so much to think he had found a lover... where ever it was he had gone? Winry walked over to his bedside casually, trying not to let her thoughts show on her face.
“It’s a very beautiful comb,” She said, only realizing how stupid that sounded after it left her mouth.
Ed nodded and glanced at her. He paused for a moment before he reached up and took the jade comb from her hands, tucking it gently in her blonde hair near her ear. Winry felt herself blush, but she could not tear her eyes away from his terribly sad eyes. Ed moved his hands back to his lap and smiled just a little, cocking his head slightly to one side to cause his bangs to shift drastically.
“It suits you. Keep it.”
Winry smiled and touched it gently. “Really?”
Winry nodded and dropped her hand, clasping her hands together behind her back.
“Thanks. I’ll treasure it always.”
There was no sun that morning as Winry stirred. No sun, just more gray clouds veiling the sky and spitting snow. Winry cracked open her eyes, blinking painfully into the bright outside via the window. Once her eyes adjusted she finally noticed the empty bed beside the window. Wait... empty? Winry sat up, shivering as a gush of cold air washed over her. For a moment she felt like crying. He couldn't be gone again... Then she noticed his suitcase was still there. Quickly she left her bed, tugging on a robe and some slippers. The house was still, quiet, and cold. She found Ed sitting at the kitchen table, wearing a black undershirt with his pants. His left hand clutched the handle of a white coffee mug and steam curled from the top, disappearing against the white of the window he was gazing out of. His hair had been tied into a ponytail which was now draped over one shoulder. She paused half way to the table and the noise of her feet shuffling on the hardwood floor made Ed glance over. The ponytail slid off his shoulder at the motion.
“You’re up early,” Winry said, voice low. “It’s barely after dawn.”
Ed shrugged. “I always get up early. Why are you up early is the real question.”
“I don’t know,” She admitted. “I was... I thought you had left again.”
Ed frowned at her and turned away, glancing back out the window. “I told you I wouldn’t, Winry.”
“I can’t really trust your word anymore, Edward.”
Ed flinched at how her voice suddenly sounded. Cold and unforgiving. It hurt, but that’s how it had to be. She shouldn’t forgive him. She couldn’t forgive him. After what he had done to her... He tightened his grip on his mug and lifted it to his lips, taking a large gulp and not even caring as the hot liquid burned his tongue. There was a silence afterwards in which Winry got herself some coffee and sat down across from him, staring out the window also and trying to match his distant gaze. When she couldn’t stand the silence anymore, she spoke quietly.
“We’re going to my shop today and getting you some real automail.”
“You make it sound like I don’t have a choice...”
“You don’t,” Winry said simply, sipping her coffee. “I won’t let you wander around with such horrible automail.”
Ed wonder if that was because she wanted him to be that walking advertisement for her work again or because she really cared. It was hard to tell at this point as she left the table to make breakfast. It felt very awkward and yet normal at the same time to be with Winry again. Ed wasn’t aware that feeling this way at the same time was possible until now. Still with the notion that he really shouldn’t be here with Winry like this, he fell silent and only spoke when he was spoken too. It was not a characteristic of Ed and Winry wondered if her previous comment had gotten to him. After breakfast, Ed helped her clean up before she shooed him back to her room.
“Go get dressed. Hurry up, we’re leaving for my shop as soon as we’re both ready.”
“Do we really have to do this today?” Ed asked, rubbing the back of his head.
“Of course we have to! How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t want you limping around like that! Now go!” Winry cried, pushing him toward her room.
“H-Hey wait! I thought it was because--Oof!”
Ed never finished his statement as Winry shoved him inside and shut the door, sighing. She rubbed her head. Twenty-three and still as stubborn a mule.
Two hours later, they left down the shoveled sidewalk. It had finally stopped snowing and the streets were busy. Children played in the empty streets, throwing snowballs at each other or sledging down the hills. A few had a game of ice hockey going.
“I can’t believe it took you so long to get ready,” Winry sighed. “I think this is the first time in history that a man took longer to get ready than a woman.”
“Shut up,” Ed grumbled, eyes straying to watch the ice hockey game as they passed it. “You try getting dressed without the use of one arm.”
“You can still move your arm, can’t you?”
“Yeah, but not very well. I avoid it when I can.”
“Well, don’t worry. We’ll get your properly equip!”
“....Why are you wearing that?”
Winry blinked and glanced over at Ed curiously. He was still looking away.
Winry reached up gently to touch the comb she had placed into the part of her hair clipped up.
She frowned. “Because I like it. What’s wrong with it?”
The pair finally reached Winry’s shop sometime later, entering the wonderfully heated building. Winry quickly made her way inside while Ed glanced around the place curiously, a smile growing on his lips with every inch of the room his eyes explored.
“You finally got everything you wanted, Winry,” He said after a moment of silence.
Winry paused in cleaning up the area and glanced over her shoulder at him. “Not everything... but I think I’m half way there.”
Ed decided not to think about what she meant as he sat down in a chair Winry indicated to. She then continued running about the room, gathering things she needed. It was at that moment that a door leading to a back room opened and a man stepped out, cleaning his hands on an oil stained rag. He paused in the doorway as both Ed and Winry turned to him. The man was tall with dusty blonde hair and green eyes that peered out from underneath long bangs. His hair was long enough to be tied into a small rat tail in the back. He was skinny and more slender, lacking the muscles Ed had acquired, but he was hardly unattractive. He seemed instantly curious in Ed and in turn Ed was instantly curious about him.
“I thought I heard you come in, Winry,” The man said after a moment of studying Ed, smiling pleasantly at the mechanic. “What are you doing here? The shop doesn’t open today.”
“Ah... yes, I know. But there was an emergency,” Winry replied, smiling weakly.
Ed instantly had a terrible sinking feeling and he slumped in his chair, tightening his jaw to ensure he didn’t say anything. But now the man’s eyes flickered back to him. They were examining him with such an opinionated stare that it made him shift uncomfortably in his seat. Not about to be stared at in such a way, Ed glared back at him. The man blinked, then smiled.
“I’ve never seen you around here before. Are you a friend of Winry’s?” He asked cheerfully.
Ed decided he didn’t like this guy very much. “You could say that.”
“Great! The name’s Grett. Nice to meet you, Mister...?”
The man’s face flickered and fell, growing suddenly dark. Ed arched an eyebrow at him.
“What’s your problem?” He muttered.
But Grett had forgotten about him by this point. “Winry!”
Winry was suddenly in between Ed and Grett. She held up her hands to Grett in a calming gesture. Instantly Ed straightened.
“It’s all right,” Winry said quickly. “Really, it’s--”
“It’s not!” Grett exclaimed, throwing his rag down on the floor. “After what he did, you took him back?!”
“No! I mean... not in the way you’re thinking!” Winry said desperately.
“What other way is there?! I won’t let you do this to yourself again! Forgive me sounding harsh, but have you learned nothing?”
“It’s not.. like that. Look, let’s not talk about this now, okay?”
“No, go on,” Ed said dryly from behind her. “I’m most fascinated.”
Winry jumped and turned quickly, apparently having forgotten he was there. Grett glared hatefully, rounding on him.
“Watch your mouth, you bastard,” He snarled. “Learn this now: You aren’t welcomed here.”
Ed abruptly stood. He looked ready to explode and tackle Grett any second. However his dark gaze fell to Winry.
“You tell the whole fucking city or what?” He cried in true disbelief.
“Shut up, you don’t know anything!” Winry snapped back, meeting his gaze with a dark look of her own. “Grett is... He knows because he was there for me after you left! After...”
She instantly fell silent and Ed did not fail to notice the sudden pain that flashed in her eyes. Before he could say anything, however, Grett cut in between them, glaring at Ed.
“You should leave now, Mr. Elric,” Grett said darkly.
Ed stared at him, then toward Winry who didn’t seem ready to object. After a moment of tense silence he whirled away and limped back toward the door.
“Wait! Ed, you--”
“Forget it!” Ed shouted, cutting Winry off violently. “I don’t have any money anyway!”
He disappeared out the door and Winry discarded her tools on the table to hurry after him. She paused in the doorway, one hand on the frame and the other keeping the door held open. She stared after Ed’s retreating back, limping down the sidewalk. Both her legs and throat were frozen even though she wanted nothing more than to call to him or run to get him. But all she did was watch him leave. A gentle hand on her shoulder startled her and she looked up at Grett in alarm.
“You haven’t told him, have you?” Grett sighed softly, threatening look gone from his eyes.
Winry lowered her gaze quickly to her feet, bending one arm across her front to wrap her fingers around her other arm. “No... There’s no reason too now...”
“No reason to?!” Grett cried in disbelief. “Winry...”
He pulled her back into the warmer shop, letting the door fall shut with a soft ring. He placed both hands on her shoulders and looked into her face sincerely.
“Tell him. It would serve him right... so he’d know what kind of bastard he really is.”
Winry glared and pulled away, moving back to her bench quickly. “He didn’t know at the time, either, Grett. I told you that.”
“How couldn’t he have known? Or at least had an idea that it might happen! Is he that dense?”
Winry chuckled softly as she paused, staring dejectedly down at the tools scattered across the table. “He’s dense, but... it isn’t suppose to happen the first time.”
“That’s not an excuse. Winry, you can’t forgive this guy so easily..” Grett pleaded.
He moved over to stand behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders once more. Winry flinched and moved away, earning a sigh from him.
“Not interested in me now that he’s back, eh?” Grett muttered.
“I was never interested in you. I’ve told you that,” Winry said firmly and went about cleaning up the unused tools.
“Right,” Grett sighed.
Ed was tittering between fuming and sulking as he made his way down the sidewalk. He didn’t even know where he was going. He didn’t know this place and now he knew for certain he could not stay with Winry. He would have to get his stuff later. Something cold suddenly smacked him in the side of the face, causing him to stagger to a halt. He brushed the snow from his face and turned, ready to vent his frustration out on the culprit. However the culprit was a boy looking up at him with large brown eyes. He had dark hair and skin and was dressed up in thick winter clothing.
“Sorry, mister,” The kid muttered honestly.
Ed sighed and rubbed the back of his head. “No worries... Just be careful next time. But I have to tell you, that was one bad snowball, kid.”
The kid blinked and Ed knelt down with some difficulty. He scooped a handful of snow into his gloved hands.
“Now watch,” He told the child. “You have to do it like this, see? Gotta pack the snow together real tight or else it falls apart when you throw it.”
He began to pack the snow a certain way and the kid shuffled carefully closer, peering at his work with interest. Ed completed his work and held out the perfectly round snowball to him.
“You can have it,” He said kindly, smiling.
The kid blinked, then smiled shyly and took it carefully in his mitten covered hands.
“Cody! Cody, don’t approach strangers like that and...”
Ed glanced up and the boy turned around. A woman had approached them, brown hair past her waist and long bangs dyed a rosy pink. Her dark eyes were wide, her mouth half hidden by her thick tan scarf and her figure concealed in many layers of clothing.
Ed stood, wincing as his left leg refused to unbend. He used his hand to force it unbent before he could stand. He smiled weakly at the woman, the boy now at her side.
“Hello, Rose. You’re son has grown, huh?”
“I don’t believe it... You’re back,” Rose said softly, apparently having not heard his comment. “You’re a mess.”
“Aw, thanks,” Ed chuckled dryly.
Rose stared at him a moment longer to confirm he was really there before she straightened, taking Cody’s hand with one hand and snatching Ed’s flesh arm with the other.
“H-Hey!” Ed protested as he was dragged down the sidewalk in the opposite direction he had been walking in. “Where are you...?”
“There’s someone who wants to see you,” Rose replied simply, not looking back at him.
“I already saw Winry,” Ed said quickly. “I don’t--”
“No, Ed,” Rose said, although she sounded a bit surprised at his words. “I’m talking about your brother.” Where did you go wrong?