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Celeste Nayamashii
This is a story I've been working on for quite awhile now, but I only have 5 chapters done. I figured I'd go ahead and post it here and hopefully some people might like it! I've recieved quite a few reviews on fanfiction.net and people seem to like it so I thought why not post it here as well? This story does contain pairings, maturity, swearing, violence, action, angst and such so if you aren't a fan of this kind of writing, then you may not be interested in reading. It'll be EdxWin, RoyxRiza for sure and maybe future pairings. I'm not sure just yet. Edward just wants to find a way to get back home to all the people he loves and Winry wants to find a way back to Edward and Alphonse. What is in store for our beloved trio?

Chapter 1-Nostalgia

Laughter rang through the air like a morning church bell sounding, singing it's song to it's fellow Sunday gatherers. However, this was not a typical Sunday morning; quite the contrary. It was a busy, Friday night in New York City. The streets were bustling with couples who'd just left the theater with their significant others and heading into the town's restaurants and coffee shops. A trio of people were leaving the theater together, two males and a female. The taller of the two males, with a head of light brown hair, was laughing while the shorter of the two was complaining loudly, followed by a soft, amused giggle issuing from the female.

"C'mon Al, that movie was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life!" bemoaned the shorter man with a long, blond ponytail cascading down his back. He raised his white, gloved hands and brushed his long, golden bangs from his amber eyes. "Too damn sappy if you ask me. It's so cliche'! I mean man meets woman, man falls in love with woman, man goes out on a dangerous mission, woman chases after him, woman dies in the process leaving the man to wallow in grief. I mean who in the hell writes this stuff, and who in the hell gets into these ridiculous romance stories anyway?" he questioned arrogantly.

"Just because you're not a romantic, Brother, doesn't mean that we're not!" retorted the younger man walking next to him.

"Alphonse is right, Edward," chimed in another voice, a woman with long, brunette locks, walking next to the younger Elric brother. "I quite enjoyed the movie myself. Thank you for the handkerchief, Al," Noah added with a blush.

"Ah, it's no problem. There probably wasn't a dry eye from any woman after that movie," the younger Elric replied, rubbing the back of his head, a blush rising on his cheeks. Edward scoffed and Alphonse glanced over at his brother, rolling his eyes. "Besides, it was a nice break from trying to constantly chase down these things you call like to call lethal weapons, Brother," Alphonse Elric added as he placed his arms behind his head while walking down the road.

"It's been so nice to actually be able to go places and not get yelled at or belittled for a change," Noah stated cheerfully as she walked in-step with Alphonse. "I mean atleast in America I'm not constantly have somebody yelling 'gypsy' at me or saying I'm trying to swindle them."

She was forever grateful they'd been brought to America. Edward had insisted, wanting to get his brother out of the dangers of the Nazi's parading around Germany. This had been decided almost immediately when Edward had nearly lost his brother once more. A bomb had exploded not too far from where they lived. Alphonse had been outside with the cats when it happened. The only injuries he'd really sustained were some burns on his left leg; nothing that couldn't be taken care of with regular doctoring, but the elder Elric wasn't taking any chances. It was then that the older brother knew if they continued to live their lives like this he could really lose his little brother for good, and Edward Elric was not about to let that happen again. So only mere days later, had the trio boarded a ship that would take them across the Atlantic Ocean to a country called America.

There, Edward and Alphonse had taken to continue studying rocketry and worked in a decent-sized lab on the outskirts of the bigger part of the city. The lab was within a very well known company. The boys had met a few scientists where they worked together daily, studying uses of fuel mixtures, substances and many things that Noah couldn't quite comprehend. She just smiled jovially while she listened to the boys carry on at the dinner table about what new foundations they'd explored. However, any news of anything destructive action sent Edward and his brother out for speculation and extermination of whatever type of mortal weaponry there was, of course leaving Noah to worry about them, but she always greeted the boys with a warm smile when they came home safe and sound. Yes, those were the busy lives of the famous Elric brothers. Nearly everyone knew them by name in New York City and their recent discoveries for different types of engine fuel. While the boys were busy with their everyday lives, Noah kept herself busy in their nice-sized apartment complex the three shared, keeping the place clean, buying the groceries, doing the laundry and making sure warm food was on the table when the boys got home from work. It almost felt like a mother's work at times.

The gyspy woman gently brushed back her long, dark locks off her shoulders and smiled up at the younger Elric brother. They were the same age, 18 years old and the elder brother, Edward was 19. It had been a year since the brothers had attempted to destroy the gate. It had been extremely difficult at that point in time, especially without the use of alchemy, but they were almost certain they'd managed it. At least nobody was trying to break through and get on the other side to destroy Edward and Alphonse's real home anymore, and as far as the Elric brothers were concerned, that was all that mattered. For the last year, before coming to America, they'd been journeying together, trying to stop the uses of any types of atomic bombs that could set the world in disarray. During their journey, the trio had barely taken the time to just stop and enjoy themselves, but Edward had noticed something about his brother and Noah. It seemed as though the two were growing small affections for one another. At first, the blonde had been a little jealous he had to admit, but it wasn't for long. He wanted a girl too, but not just any girl. It was that day when he'd left Amestris forever, had he realized that Noah wasn't the woman for him. The woman for him was another world away.

Edward inaudibly sighed as he held out his right arm, studying his metal automail arm and flexed his fingers underneath the glove and twisted the forearm under his sleeve. It had been one year since he'd managed to get his automail back, one year since he'd seen her and went through the painful reattachments of the automail, hearing her soothing tones as she carried through the motions. It had also been one year since he saw her glistening blue eyes, felt her soft arms thrown around his neck when she saw him again for the first time in two years, felt her warm tears touch his skin as she hugged him close, seen that she had saved his automail limbs for the just-in-case, and saw her pretty smile. Edward flexed the steel once more, trying not to allow his brother or Noah to notice.

It had been feeling a little stiff lately and when they got home, Ed made a mental note to make sure he performed some regular maintenance on it, oiling it up, checking the bolts and such, though it was nothing compared to her handiwork. Noah and Al's voices drowned out as the three walked on, Edward finding himself lost in his thoughts. Winry...It's been a year now. I'm trying to learn to do the maintenance on my automail by myself but it's still hard taking care of it without your help. I remember a lot of how you did things back when I watched you take care of it for me, but my skills are nowhere near as engineered as yours. I wish...you were here, or maybe I wish I were there. Do I really belong here? It's been 3 years since the gate brought me to the other side and I still can't make this place feel like home.

"Brother? Did you hear us? Earth to Brother! Hey Ed!" came Alphonse's voice, loud and brash right next to the young man's ear.

"Huh, what?" Edward questioned, finding himself back in reality once more and he stared over at his younger brother. "Sorry about that," he blushed scratching the side of his head. "I was just thinking."

Noah laughed and Al joined in while Ed just stood with an embarrassed grin on his face. "It's alright, Brother," he replied, the laughter still in his tones. "Noah and I were just talking about stopping off and grabbing some coffees and going to Central Park to watch the stars for awhile. We haven't done that in a long time."

"Hmmm, coffee? Stars? Yeah, sounds nice," Ed replied, still not completely registering what his brother had said. He was still thinking about the girl he'd left over a year ago. Winry and her long blonde hair that hung down her back, the determination always held in her beautiful blue irises whenever working on his automail, the sweet tones in her voice when it came time for reattachment or whenever she'd try to ease the burdens of his guilt back when Alphonse was just a soul attatched to a suit of armor and the feisty, stubbornness whenever Edward would break his automail. He could almost hear the sound of her voice yelling at him and found himself nearly wanting to protect his head from a flying wrench, when he heard it.

"You're such an idiot!" cried out the familiar voice. "I told you not to do that, but you still insist on it anyway!"

The older Elric gasped, turning around swiftly through the crowd of people, his golden eyes darting back and forth, scanning the area to try and catch a glimpse of the face he'd heard that voice come from. He didn't see what he wanted to see; just the backs of people walking away from him when his eyes caught a glimpse of blonde. Could it be? That light, blonde, bouncing ponytail. Could it really, possibly be her? Edward did a double-take and it was gone as quick as he'd seen it. The voices in the crowd seemed much more audible as well and he'd lost the sound of her voice.

"Winry?" Ed spoke so softly that nobody had heard him, but Noah and Alphonse had quickly noticed that he'd stopped. They both turned around, slightly confused by the young man's abrupt movement. Edward continued trying to fight his way through the crowd using his eyes, hoping to catch her again, but to no avail. The girl had already disappeared. "Damn," he whispered, placing his palm on his forehead, his slender fingers snaking through his blonde bangs.

"Brother? What is it?" Al and Noah were both staring at the back of Edward's head with concern held in their gazes.

"Huh? Oh, it's nothing," the young man replied, shaking his blond head and turning back towards his brother and Noah with a bemused smile on his face.

"That's not true, Brother," Al began sternly, staring his brother down. "What is it? What did you see?"

Noah began to take a step forward, lifting a hand instinctively to place it on Edward's shoulder, but he backed away, knowing full and well what she'd see if he did. "I said it's nothing!" he snapped. "Just forget about it alright?" Edward didn't want Noah or his younger brother to know he still suffered from homesickness of his days back in Amestris. "Now, how about that coffee?" he asked, pulling on the most dazzling smile he could manage, but the truth was was that Ed felt troubled and somewhat upset.

He'd hold up this front until they made it home. Then atleast he could lock himself up, stay alone in his room and wallow in his thoughts of who that woman was and why the voice was so strikingly familiar. Though maybe it had been his imagination because of his longing desire to hear her voice, see her pretty face with her bright blue eyes lightening up. Maybe because he never got to tell her what he wanted to tell her before he left that's why his mind was possibly playing tricks on him. Things had been happening all too fast for his own liking, but it was a now or never decision.

The trio approached one of smaller, refined coffee shops and Edward stood outside leaning against a thin pole while his brother went inside and ordered the beverages to go. Noah stood across from him, observing him carefully. Ed had closed his golden orbs, and he sighed softly. As he and Noah stood outside waiting for Alphonse to order their drinks, a very vibrant image flashed right before Noah's mind. She saw somebody standing next to Edward. The gypsy woman's brown eyes widened, and then she quickly turned away before Edward caught her staring at him. She had unmistakingly seen somebody there...a young woman with long blonde hair. She'd gotten an eyeful of her. She disappeared from Noah's eyes, but she'd seen her long enough to take in her full appearance. Edward opened his eyes, just as Noah turned away. He'd felt the gypsy staring at him and wondered why. He titled his head slightly and looked at Noah curiously, wondering what she'd seen.

"Noah? Something wrong?" he questioned, his arms folded over his chest as he continued to lean his full weight into the pole.

"What? N-no, it's nothing," she stammered, turning her gaze away from Edward's confused expression.

"C'mon now Noah, how long have we been friends now? A year? I know you better than that and I also know you're a clairvoyant woman, so what did you see?" the young blond urged.

"Oh, nothing out of ordinary," lied Noah.

Edward was about to open his mouth in protest when he saw Al coming out of the coffee shop, trying to juggle three cups of hot, frothy liquid in his hands. "Alright Brother! Mocha for you, regular coffee for Noah and black coffee for me!" the young man mused as he handed the drinks over to the others. "These will help us warm up a bit. It is starting to get chilly at night." He grinned and stared back and forth at them before quickly picking up the vibes that something was amiss. Alphonse's brown eyebrows furrowed and the trace of euphoria left his face. The young Elric glanced at his brother, noticing that Edward looked greatly bothered by something.

"Brother? What is it? You've been acting strange since we left the theater," the younger brother pointed out. "If you don't tell us what's wrong, I'm going to dump this hot coffee all over you."

"Oh c'mon Al, does there always have to be something wrong with me?" Edward inquired, rolling his amber orbs. "I was just thinking about a mixture back at the lab I was testing on Friday. I wondered if I added a wrong ingredient to the formula before I left yesterday, but I'm sure it'll be fine until I can get back and see what I did wrong. That's the only thing that I've been thinking about. Don't worry so much," he added with another one of his playful, toothy grins.

"I'm sorry, Brother," apologized Alphonse. "I just noticed you looked...distracted is all."

"Ah, that's alright Al. C'mon! Let's go to Central Park and watch the stars like we planned," the blond beckoned the two, waving his hand towards them to follow him.

Edward turned away from others, his long ponytail flying out from behind him and led the way to the park. As he sipped on the hot mocha, he dissolved himself in thought once more and secretly hoped that Alphonse bought his lie. As for Noah, well he knew nothing would get past her, but she was saint enough to keep anything she may have saw to herself, that much he was almost certain of. His brother didn't press him for anymore information and the former state alchemist was thoroughly grateful. Though if it had been Mustang accompanying them, the General would have given him hell and he knew it. Edward could just hear his voice in his head.

"Oh, come off it Fullmetal and stop wallowing in your self-pity. It was your choice to return to that world and leave everyone behind here, so why the hell are you regretting it now? Get your act together, Fullmetal or I'll put it together for you."

Edward grit his teeth together harshly, nearly wanting to growl at the General, but Mustang wasn't even there. He snorted softly to himself as he clutched his cup of warm mocha in his metal, gloved hand. Am I really this nostalgic? That's probably exactly what Roy Mustang would have said to him and truth be told, no matter how much Ed didn't want to believe it, the General was indefinitely right. He had chosen to leave her behind...no he didn't choose chances that Winry would be in danger. People from this world would be just as crazy Dietlinde Eckhart had been, or maybe even worse. It was unfathomable. He didn't even want to think about it. She had told Edward she feared their world and wanted to destroy what she didn't understand, what she was afraid of. So, how would that be any different from anybody else who knew about it and possibly feared it? Edward had done it to protect Winry, keep her safe along with everyone else back in Amestris that he loved and cared for.

The trio finally reached the giant park and picked a spot clear of trees so they could see the sky. Star gazing had always been one of Edward and Alphonse's favorite past times. Alphonse and Noah took a seat on a wooden bench, gazing up at the sky while Edward spread his coat out on the ground, plopped down on top of it, and fell back with his arms folded behind his head, his left leg bent at the knee and his right leg resting on top of it. He stared up at the twinkling stars, winking down at him and studied them for awhile. He could remember back in Risembool he, Winry and Al would stay outside late at night when they were just kids and watch the stars together. Winry always got excited and would try to trace the constellations with her fingertip, keeping one eye closed tightly and the other open. She would stick her little tongue out of her mouth, pressing down on it with her lips as if concentrating so hard her little brain might explode. Edward snickered to himself as the memories flooded back into his mind.

"What's so funny, Brother?" Alphonse questioned, bringing Edward out of his sentiments.

"Ah, nothin' much. Just thinking back to when we were kids. We used to go outside all the time and watch the stars. Me, you and Winry," Edward rambled on. "I can remember, Winry used to try and trace the constellations. She'd concentrate so hard sometimes her face would turn red," the former alchemist laughed.

"Haha, yeah! I forgot about that. Winry always was the silliest one of us, wasn't she? She did love tracing the constellations. I can remember she used to stick her tongue out too," the younger Elric laughed. "Do you remember that time when we got all busted up by Scar? We went back to Risembool, Winry fixed you up and then you fixed me? That night, we watched the stars together. Winry was laying next to you, Brother, 15 years old and making that exact same face trying to trace the constellations, just like she did when she was a little girl."

"Winry was your childhood friend, right?" Noah questioned softly, holding her empty cup in her lap and gazing down at Edward. She wondered if Winry was the same woman she'd seen standing beside him in front of the coffee shop.

"Yeah she was," Ed stated softly, rolling over onto his side and propping his head up with his elbow placed firmly in the ground, turned away from the other two. The memory of the three being together four years ago, flashed fresh within Ed's mind and he saw Winry's smiling face turn towards him as the three lay in the grass together. Edward had felt terrible at yelling at Winry for taking his pocket watch and seeing what was engraved inside of it, so he took her star gazing that night. On that night, if Al hadn't been around...what would Edward have done? He remembered he wanted to hug her, hold her and maybe even kiss her. Just the mere thought had brought a blush onto the boy's cheeks, which at that time he was grateful it had been dark out and neither his brother nor Winry would have been able to tell he was blushing. Why was this memory upsetting him so much?

Edward toyed with the thin blades of grass in between his gloved thumb and forefinger. Every since he had arrived in this world, he'd never even spoke of Winry, to anyone. It was too painful to talk about her and even now he was finding it hard to discuss her. Why did he even have to bring her up in the first place? Why did Al have to bring up the last time they watched the stars together? Why did he have to hear her voice tonight or see that blonde hair that so resembled his Winry's? The young man was almost positive he hadn't been imagining things. There was just no way. It had all seemed entirely too real and he had seen the back of the girl's head for goodness sake. Was it possible that there was another woman in this world that resembled Winry? But wait...if that were so, then that could mean that the Winry in the other world was possibly...No! No, Edward couldn't think like that. How could anything dangerous happen to her anyway? Wasn't she living safely in Risembool with Granny Pinako and Den? She had to of been. Nothing could have happened to Winry. She was too special and too sweet for anything to happen to her.

Alphonse could tell this was greatly bothering his brother and so he didn't say anything more. He just gave Noah a conspicuous look, warning her with his eyes not to say anything. If anybody knew his brother, it was Al and just from Ed's body language he could tell this was upsetting his brother, but he also felt that Edward was keeping something hidden from him. Al shrugged it off, knowing that if he needed to talk later, the older Elric would come to him and talk. In the meantime, it was best neither himself nor Noah should press Edward with the matter. Alphonse stood and stretched, faking a yawn.

"Well, it's getting late, don't you think? Maybe we should be heading back to the apartment and get some rest?" he suggested and lowered his arms to his side.

Edward stood up, gathering his coat in his arms. He hadn't heard a word his brother said. All of this was really beginning to get to him and he needed to get away. He needed time to think and quiet. "I'm going to head back," the blonde told the two, still continuing to keep his back turned towards them. "You guys don't need to worry about going back now if you don't want. If you wanna hang out a little while longer, that's fine."

"Okay, but Ed-," Alphonse began, but was cut off by his brother.

"I'm just tired. I want to get some sleep. See you guys tomorrow!" he told them in the most convincing, cheerful voice he could muster before picking up his feet and running across the park, past some trees and out of sight.

Noah and Alphonse just stared at each other for a moment before the younger Elric dropped back down next to her on the bench, his entire face contorted with worry and confusion. "I wonder what that was all about? Brother has been acting very strange...did you notice that, Noah?"

Noah nodded her dark head, staring at the place where Ed had been laying. "Alphonse, I saw someone," she admitted softly. "I didn't want to say anything with Edward here, but I saw this person twice now next to him."

"You saw somebody?" Al asked, gazing curiously at the gypsy. "Who did you see?"

"A woman. She had, long blonde hair. It hung down both sides of her face and the back of it was tied up. She had on a brown jacket with a white, collared shirt underneath it and some strange pants that only stopped at just above her knees. She looked like she was carrying a heavy-looking suitcase and it was strapped over her shoulder. It was clear as day, but I only saw her long enough to take in her appearance and then she was gone. The first time I saw her, she was standing next to Edward just outside of the coffee shop while we were waiting for you," the brunette told him. She brushed back one of her braids and continued. "And just before Edward got up, I saw her again, only this time she was laying next to him, and she was wearing different clothing. She had a red bandanna tied around her head, what looked like a purple pair of pants and a strange black top that exposed her stomach. Is that woman-," Noah began, but Alphonse finished for her.

"Winry...yeah, that's Winry you just described. Noah, do you mean that...has Brother been thinking about her?" the young man questioned.

"I think...that every since you guys came back from the other side of the gate, Edward has been thinking about her a lot," Noah sighed, looking down at her hands. "I thought...well, I thought maybe Edward had feelings for me, but after he returned, he just didn't seem like himself," the girl admitted. "I mean, I'm not upset or anything, well...I was at first, but I'm okay now. I used to see very hazy images of somebody with blonde hair next to him, but I could never tell just who it was. Now I understand."

"Noah," Alphonse began, placing a hand over hers. "Brother and Winry...they've always been, very close. We used to tease Brother all the time back when they were younger about Winry being his girlfriend and he'd get all embarrassed and protest against it, but whenever he needed her, Winry was always right by his side, taking care of him or just being his pillar in a hard place. I've always thought Ed and Winry had feelings for each other. I guess this confirms it, huh?"

"Hmmm," Noah hummed, followed by a small giggle. "Yes, I suppose so. I just feel badly for Edward. I know he'd probably get very angry if I said this, but I sensed sadness radiating from him while we were at the coffee shop and just now. I think, all that talk about Winry was upsetting him a lot. Maybe he just needs some time to cool down and time to himself. We'll stay here a little longer so he can be alone and then we can head back. Is that okay, Alphonse?" the gypsy asked, her dark eyes sparkling in the moonlight.

"I'd like nothing more, Noah," Al replied, still keeping his hand over Noah's. The two smiled at each other and continued to watch the sky, though both of their thoughts lingered on Edward and his current state.

Edward finally approached the apartment complex, out of breath from running, but he wasn't about to stop until he reached their door and was inside. He continued to sprint, his coat tucked under his arm and he ran up a set of stairs leading to their flat. He shoved his hand into his pocket and dug out the apartment key. He stuck the golden appendage into the lock, unlocked the door, stepped inside and slammed it shut behind him. He was breathing heavily from his dash from Central Park back to their apartment. Edward fell back against the door, squeezing his golden eyes closed and trying to catch his breath. Why was this affecting him so much? Why was he getting so upset? He clenched his gloved hands into fists and grit his teeth together, slamming his left fist back against the door. Edward opened his eyes and glanced around the dark room. He walked through the kitchen and down a small hallway, leading to the three, individual rooms in the place. He found his door, opened it up and shut it behind him, flipping the lock to make sure that when Alphonse and Noah returned, they wouldn't bother him. He didn't even feel like talking to his little brother about this at all.

Ed walked across his room, stripping off his gloves, laying his coat over a chair and stood at the table in front of it. There was a closed bottle of wine and a small, empty glass sitting there on a silver platter that some of his co-workers had given him a few weeks back, but Edward had never bothered to open it. The blond decided he'd at least have a drink to calm his shaken nerves. What was bothering him most as that he was almost positive he'd seen and heard a doppleganger of Winry. If that were the case, Winry could possibly be dead in the other world. The former alchemist didn't want to think of anything such as that. It wasn't possible. Winry couldn't be dead. She just couldn't. What could she be doing though?

The older Elric paced the room before stopping in front of the table once more. He grabbed the bottle of wine, popped the cork and poured a glass. Ed took a few sips of it, calming his nerves and turned to stare at the wall behind him. It was covered with a dark, blue curtain to match the bed clothes on his mattress. The blond approached the curtain and pulled it back, staring at was littered across the atramentous wall. There were paintings, all of them concealed in a frame of their own. This was something he'd always kept to himself; he'd never even shown it to Alphonse.

Whenever he was alone, Edward had taken a new hobby and that was painting. When he was younger, he'd had some drawing skills, but nothing to brag about. However coming into this world, he'd found his art skills had picked up quite a few notches then what they had back in Amestris. Edward had painted a picture of his sensei, Izumi Curtis, whom he had soon discovered, not long after he and Al had tried to destroy the gate, died. Alphonse had told him the heart-shattering news. Edward sort of looked at Izumi as a mother-figure at times, so it was somewhat hard to except her death, though he knew it was inevitable. Izumi had lost some her insides trying to perform the biggest taboo in alchemy, Human Transmutation. She'd tried to bring her still-born child back and in the process had to pay the price, just like he and his brother did. She'd lost quite a bit of her organs and quite often she coughed and vomited blood, especially if she was strongly provoked.

Edward had been beside himself at the news of his teacher's death and in his grief painted a picture of her, held fast to the wall by a dark green, rectangular frame. He'd also painted a picture Granny Pinako and one of General Roy Mustang. Though no matter how much he complained about Mustang, there were times where Ed had looked to him as an almost father-figure back when he was a state alchemist, a 12 year old kid in the beginning and 16 at the end. Roy certainly had tormented him enough like a father would their son. He smirked as he stared at his handiwork, hanging in a deep gray frame on the wall. Underneath each portrait on their frames, Edward had painted their names in gold. Roy had lost his left eye during the fight between himself and Pride years ago. Edward had made sure to draw the eyepatch over the General's eye. He'd almost considered drawing one over his mouth just for laughs but decided against it.

As his eyes wandered across the wall, they came to rest on another portrait he'd done. A portrait of a beautiful blonde girl in a tan frame, with a red bandanna tied around her head, long blonde hair seeping out of the back of it and a silver wrench held in her hand. She was smiling and winking. Edward smiled at that one. That was one way he remembered Winry. If she didn't have a wrench in her hand then she was most likely eating or asleep. He scanned the wall, moving his golden orbs over to another portrait he'd done of her in a metallic-blue frame. Edward remembered how gentle her face had been at times whenever he needed comfort. This was one thing about her that he adored the most. Her blue eyes would soften and she would smile at him, uttering gentle words of comfort and care. It made Edward's heart warm at the thought of her and he could almost hear the sweet mechanic's voice in his head.

"I know you miss me, you silly goof. I miss you too, but don't worry! Everything will be fine, you'll see."

Edward smiled and sighed as he looked up at his most recent one, concealed in a round, lavendar frame. It was another painting of Winry, the way he'd last seen her. Right after she took care of his automail that he'd desperately needed a year ago, she had stared down at the ground, a saddened and sullen look on her face as though she knew what was coming; that she knew this was her last time to be with him. No matter what he did that image wouldn't go away from his mind and left him with a guilty conscience. The former alchemist had left her without so much as a goodbye, a hug or maybe even the kiss that he'd longed to give her now. Edward had only realized how strong her feelings were for her when it was too late. He sighed once more as he ran his fingertips over the painting of her. He had to pride himself on his work; it truly did look like his Winry. His Winry...hell he didn't even know if Winry was alive, or if maybe she'd found someone else. Just mere thought of his made his heart burn with anger and jealousy. He almost wished that now he hadn't destroyed the gate...that he could have brought Winry back with him and Al.

Ed laughed bitterly at himself. "Wasn't I just bitching about seeing a romantic, sappy-arse movie with Al and Noah? Here I am going all sappy myself over a girl. Damn I'm contradictory."

That shouldn't be his concern though. Besides, he was stuck here. This was home now. No matter how much it didn't feel like home in three years he'd lived here, it was home. Edward moved away from the paintings and sat down in the chair next to the table where he'd hung his coat. He raised the sleeve that hid his metal arm from the world and opened a small drawer in the table. He took another sip of wine and set the glass back down. Edward took out an oil can from the drawer that Winry had given him and squirted a few drops where the bolts felt stiff and uncomfortable. He flexed his fingers, twisted his forearm and felt the oil release some of the pressure that had been on his arm. He'd perform the needed maintenance on it tomorrow. It was just too late tonight, and he most likely wouldn't be able to concentrate on it. The last thing he wanted to do was screw up the job. Winry wasn't there anymore to help him fix up his automail anymore, and so it was up to him. Not being able to face his paintings of her anymore, Ed turned around in the chair, straddling it and folding his arms over the back of it. He rested his chin on his hand and stared off across the room.

"Who was that woman I heard tonight? Could it really have been someone like Winry?" he questioned softly to himself.

He almost felt like he wanted to throw his coat back on and search the streets all over New York City in hopes to find her just so he could see her face once more, but Edward knew that was impossible. Instead he kicked off his shoes, walked across the room. He unbuttoned his vest, his white shirt and removed them, laying them in a pile on the floor. He removed the hair band from his ponytail and lay it on the small nightstand next to his bed. Edward picked up a brush and ran it through his long, golden locks, before putting it back on the nightstand. Once he was done with that, the blond flopped back onto his bed, emitting a big sigh. His head sunk into the pillow and he lifted his metal arm, studying it hard with an intense stare. He squinted at every single, tiny detail and design on the automail. His heart felt heavy.

"Winry...I miss you...I really do," Ed admitted before resting the cool automail across his forehead, closing his eyes. "I wonder if I made a mistake...closing the gate?" His question couldn't be answered. Edward lay in darkness for awhile before he heard the door opening to the apartment and the soft voices of his brother and Noah as they entered the premesis. Edward kept as quiet and still as possible, not wanting them to hear anything coming from his room. There was a gentle knock on his door, followed by his brother's voice.

"Hey Ed, you awake?" Al called from the other side of the door. Edward didn't respond. He didn't feel like talking tonight. He wanted to get as much rest as possible, for tomorrow he was going to pay a visit around the city and see if he could find this doppleganger and find out for certain if his mind had been playing tricks on him or not. It would bug him and haunt him if he didn't. After a few moments, he heard Al's footsteps descend from his door and then the quiet closing of another door. Alphonse had retired to his room for the night and Ed was glad. It wasn't that he didn't trust his brother with everything he told him, it was just something he wasn't really ready to talk about yet. Ed raised his right, metal hand up towards the ceiling reaching, a somber look on his face. "Winry," he spoke softly in the stillness of his room.

~*~*~*~*~

Meanwhile, on the other side of the gate, in the world of Amestris, in a small place called Risembool, a girl with long blonde hair was laying in her bed, holding her hand up towards the ceiling as if wanting to reach for something. She had small trails of tears leaking out of the corners of her vibrant blue eyes. "Edward...," was the only word she whispered mournfully into the night.
RavenHair
I really like what you did with this story so far. It sounds similar to the stroy line I'm doign for mine. Great minds think alike huh? I hope you continue with this I'd like to read some more of it.
Celeste Nayamashii
happy.gif Thanks! Glad you're enjoying it so far. Here's Chapter 2 since you're interested in reading more. As for it being similar, I suppose great minds do think alike, but I've never read anything remotely similar to what I'm doing, so it'll be interesting to read yours. I've been writing this for awhile now. Enjoy Chapter 2 happy.gif

Chapter 2- Distant Longing

His face, his chest, his eyes, and his hair were the only things that could be seen by the subtle golden light cast around the room from the candles that were lit, hanging on the walls. His long hair was down, not in it's usual braid or ponytail and it fell sleek, spreading slightly unkempt on the pillow underneath his head. She was laying nearly on top of him, her torso laying across his bare one; one leg was laying off to the side, the other straddling him. She was wearing a small, white, sleeveless nightdress that came just to her thighs. His right hand was brushing back the long, light-blonde locks of hair from her eyes, his left hand grasping her bare thigh as the two pressed their bodies together, as if holding on for dear life.

He wound his metal fingers around each strand of her hair gazing at her with a look he'd never even given her before. He was smiling at her, his expressive eyes showing nothing but deep affection for the woman above him. She smiled too as she ran her fingertips down his smooth cheek. She trailed them back up around his face, traced his forehead and then slid her fingers through his long, golden bangs and down the sides of his head, raking her nails through his soft locks. The man underneath her sighed softly and closed his eyes as if enjoying the gentle sensations. The golden orbs slowly opened half-way, and he stared at her intently; the small smile never leaving his face.

"Winry," the golden-haired man whispered as they moved in closer towards one another. Their noses were only inches from each other.

"What is it, Edward?" she replied back softly, never breaking the longing stare she held within her blue irises.

"I just want to stay here with you," came his voice barely breaking a whisper. His smile faltered and his voice trembled slightly with emotion. "I'm scared though."

"You're scared? What are you afraid of?" Winry asked him curiously with a slight giggle in her tone, however holding concern for the man below her. He truly did look frightened and his gaze held sadness as well. What was ailing him?

"I'm scared that Amestris will be conquered and I'll lose you, Grans, Al and everyone I care about. I can't let that happen, Winry. I have to protect you and keep you safe." His fingers removed themselves from her silky-straight locks and it almost felt as if there were a gravitational pull from behind her, ripping her away from Edward's touch. Winry grasped his bare, muscular shoulder with one hand and clung to his steel forearm with another, desperate to hold onto him, to not let him get away from her. She wasn't about to let him go again, no matter what forces of nature required of her. "Even if that means going back."

"I don't understand, Ed...going back? What does that mean?" she questioned him softly, her eyes shimmering with the fear of his warm body removing itself from hers, the cold steel of his hand, letting go of her own, soft one.

"It means I have to go back and destroy the gate, Winry. I'm...so sorry," Edward told her, his voice cracking. The last few strands of hair that clung to his metal fingertips gently fell back down against her face. "I have to make sure this world is safe and nothing will happen to any of you. Even if that means leaving...I'm so sorry," the alchemist reiterated. "I never wanted to do to you what my father did to my mother, but at least I understand now. I'm doing this though, to protect you Winry, so you can live a happy life." His golden eyes seemed to quiver as though he were fighting back tears.

Winry felt hot tears on the edges of her eyelids. She bit her bottom lip to hold them back. She was still laying over top of him, but the two seemed to be floating in mid-air and something forceful was struggling to pull the alchemist from Winry's grasp. She couldn't hold back her tears anymore and they fell, sliding down her cheeks and splashing onto Edward's face. He just gazed at her, a sorrowful look in his eyes. He reached his metal limb out once more, caressing the tears gently off of her face.

"No, Edward! I won't be able to live a happy life without you! I lost you once already for two whole years and barely ever saw you for the four years you were searching for the Philosopher's Stone with Al! I never even got the chance to tell you goodbye, Ed! I don't want to say goodbye again! There's still so much I want to tell you! EDWAAAAAARD!!!!!!!!" Winry cried out as the young man's shoulders were pulled roughly from her firm hold. She reached out and frantically grabbed for him again, but to no avail. Winry felt her body being slammed backwards as though she were being thrown in mid-air, hurling through a void of darkness. Edward's face was contorted with sorrow and remorse. "I DON'T WANT TO LOSE YOU AGAIN!" the girl sobbed, warm crystalline streaming down her cheeks in twin streams. "PLEASE DON'T TAKE HIM AWAY FROM ME AGAIN!"

"I'm sorry, Winry...I'm sorry..." was all that could be heard, echoing from the alchemist who was slowly fading from her view...


"EDWARD!" Winry cried as she lept up in bed, a thin line of sweat beading across her forehead.

Her chest was rising and falling rapidly. The young blonde raised a hand and wiped the sweat from her face and cheeks. She reached her hands up to rub her eyes and came to realize that she had been crying in her sleep. The dream she just awoke from was so vivid. The blonde woman fell backwards onto her pillows, her blue orbs widened as she stared at the dark ceiling above her. Her heart twisted underneath her flesh and it almost felt as if she'd lost him all over again.

"Edward you bastard...you left me here, all alone without even so much as a goodbye! How could you do this to me!" Winry whispered as she rolled over onto her side, slamming her fist down furiously into the bed.

She grit her teeth together, squeezing her tear-filled, deep, blue eyes shut, trying to prevent anymore from falling for him. Winry drew her covers up around her shoulders, curling up in the fetal position. It had been a year since she last saw him, tended to his automail and not a day had gone by that Winry Rockbell didn't think about Edward Elric. He was the man that she was almost certain she'd end up with once he and Al got their bodies back, but things hadn't turned out like they had hoped for. Edward had disappeared, believed to be dead and Alphonse had been returned back in his old body, as a 10 year old boy just as he had been before he'd lost his body by the forces of alchemy.

The young mechanic had felt like her heart was shattering into little pieces at the mere thought of Edward being dead. Never again would she be able to tenderly care for his automail, or would she ever be able to touch his soft locks, braid them like she had done the last time she had even seen or spoke to the young man before he'd disappeared on the other side of the gate. He had used alchemy to color his hair jet black and disguise himself from people who were looking for him. That had been the last time they laid eyes on each other, before he'd been thrown to the other side of the gate. Never again would she get to hug him or watch the stars with him. It just didn't seem possible that the famous Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist was really dead.

He was too strong, tenacious, very arrogant, brash, bold and rude. He'd only been an 11 year old boy when he went through the excruciating procedure of having automail surgery, bound and determined to have the artificial limbs so he could join the military and make right what he'd done wrong. Most grown men who went under this process would scream and cry like babies, but Edward endured every ounce of it better than an adult would. Winry had been right by his side that entire year he worked on recovering, nursing him and caring for him as he healed from the mechanical attachments to his nerves, that had caused the boy pain beyond belief.

She had been there to comfort him when he needed her. She was there to wipe the sweat from his brow, lay a cool washcloth across his forehead when he was feverish, hold him, wipe his tears whenever he thought of how much Al would hate him and how much he blamed himself for losing his younger brother's body. Winry would comfort him and tell him that Alphonse could never blame nor hate him. The young mechanic had done everything she possibly could to reassure Ed that everything would be okay. She had been there through it all. Yet despite all of that he just kept up a strong front, saying that his pain was nothing compared to what his younger brother had lost. Alphonse was always first and foremost on Edward's mind. The blonde mechanic couldn't think of any other siblings who were as dedicated to one another as Alphonse and Edward Elric were.

As more and more memories continued to flow through Winry's mind, more tears swam to the surface and found their way out of her eyes and into her hands where she'd buried her face. Why? That was the only thing she wanted to know. Why did Edward just leave her here without so much as a goodbye or tell her if she'd ever get to see him again? Why did she deserve this after everything they'd been through together? For so long she ached to tell Edward her feelings for him, but only grew embarrassed or didn't want to burden the already busy alchemist with feelings of blossoming love. Besides, she didn't really want to allow herself to believe it just in case anything might have happened to Edward and he had been killed, but it was just too difficult for her. Her feelings came anyway and showed through. Granny Pinako had always told her to get on with her life, move on and forget about Edward, but Winry found she just couldn't, no matter how hard she tried.

Wiping furiously at her tears, the girl rolled over in her bed to look at the alarm clock sitting on her nightstand. It read 6:30 AM. Her grandmother, Pinako, would already be up, most likely making coffee and getting ready to open up shop for the day. The young woman reached over to the window and pulled the curtain back. The sky was filled with a pink, red and orange hue suggesting that daybreak was well underway. Winry knew that she would never be able to fall back to sleep now; not after that dream she'd just had of Edward. Composing herself, she sat up, whipped the covers off of her and swung her slender legs over the edge of the bed. She sat there for a moment, before reaching to grasp a framed photo on her nightstand. It was a picture of herself, Edward and Alphonse when they were only 14 and 15 years old.

The photo had been taken right after Edward had come back in need of a new arm. His arm had been destroyed by Scar, but at that time Winry had no idea it even had, she was just furious that Ed had lost some of the best automail she'd ever made. The mechanic had told the alchemist she put her heart and soul into making it, and it was all true, she had. Winry had always put her heart and soul into anything she made for Edward. The firey, young girl shortly recovered after her blow up, cheerful as ever as she and Pinako created a new design of automail for him. The day he had his arm repaired, Pinako had made them all stand in front of the fence. The arrogant blonde was leaning back against the fence with his arms folded over his chest, a playful grin on his face. Winry was behind Edward, standing on the fence with her arms hanging around the young alchemist's neck and her face pressed up against the side of his head. Despite his smile you could see the hint of blushing on his cheeks at Winry's closeness to him. He had protested against this but Pinako had remained firm and made them stay just like that while Alphonse was crouched down on one knee beside his brother in the suit of armor he'd been attached to at the present time. It was a day she'd never forget.

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"Alright Edward, you stand right here in front of the fence," ordered the short, little old lady pointing towards the wooden ramparts. "Alright good! Now Winry, you come over here behind Edward and stand up on the fence, yes that's good and now you Alphonse! Stand over here beside your brother."

Alphonse obliged, clinking over to stand next to his older brother who's head only reached up to his armored waist. Pinako held the camera up to her face momentarily and then removed it with a frown. "Now now, this won't do at all. Ed, even though you may have grown an inch, you're still too much of a pipsqueak-," the old lady began but was brutally cut off by a very angry alchemist.

"WHO ARE YOU CALLING A RUNT SO SMALL THAT HE COULD RIDE ON THE BACK OF A GRASSHOPPER!!!!????!" The little blonde boy exploded, flailing his arms up in the air wildly.

"That's not what she said Edward," Winry and Alphonse both sighed in unison, placing their palms over their faces, a small sweat drop making their appearances.

"Well it's like the pot calling the kettle black, you midget hag!" retorted a very agitated alchemist, his fists clenched at his sides and his teeth baring down at the visually smaller, old woman.

"You're shorter than your temper!" snapped Pinako, staring up defiantly at Edward.

"You're so short, you're two-dimensional!" Edward snapped back at the elderly woman whom both looked ready to explode at any given moment.

"Beansprout midget!" retorted the elderly lady, forcing herself to hold back a chortle.

"Miniatured-sized flea hag!" roared the feisty boy, not realizing that Pinako was about to burst into laughter at any given moment.

Winry and Alphonse just stared at one another, wondering when this 'fight' would end. It seemed as though every time Pinako mentioned the words 'small ' or 'pipsqueak', she and Edward would fall into the same argument all over again. Winry rubbed her palm over her face, shaking her head and just snickered. "I swear, Edward. You get so piped up at the word-," she began, but the young alchemist whirled around and pointed his finger in her face.

"DON'T SAY SMALL!" he bellowed which only sent Winry into more laughter. Edward placed both fists on his hips and glared at the blonde girl. "IT'S NOT FUNNY!"

"Yes it is, Ed. It's funny to watch you get all worked up," Winry snorted, poking one finger into Ed's chest and holding her other hand up to her mouth to keep the laughs from spilling out.

"Calm down, Brother," Alphonse chimed in, placing a hand on his older brother's shoulder to restrain Edward in case he tried to do anything rash, but nobody could mistake the laughter in the younger boy's voice. The blond's teeth were clamped together, his hands clenched into small fists at his sides and he seemed to be fighting back to urge to lash out, but thankfully for Alphonse's hold, Edward wasn't about to go anywhere or do anything he might later regret.

"All right that's enough now!" Pinako snapped, trying to get the kids to pay attention to her. She was standing on a tree stump, camera still in hands looking very stern. "I want to take this picture of you already, now Winry, back up on the fence, arms around Edward's neck and Alphonse, why don't you go ahead and get down on one knee, and put your elbow on your raised knee," the elderly woman ordered.

"Ummm Grans, don't you think this is a bit...errrr...close for me and Winry? I mean...her head is like right next to mine, so...you sure this is a good idea?" Edward inquired, rubbing the side of his head with two fingers, a blush sprinkling gently across his cheeks.

Pinako observed them momentarily before cracking a side grin, her pipe held steady between her teeth. "Actually, I want it exactly like that. I like it"

"But, but but," the young alchemist tried to protest, but backed down after he recieved a deathly glare from the girl mechanic, with her arms around his shoulders. She peered down close to his face causing the boy to gulp, her arms hung loosely over his shoulders now.

"And what's so wrong with having your head next to mine, Edward Elric?" the blonde girl questioned slowly and dangerously, reaching down into her pants to withdraw a wrench. However she had no intentions on hitting the boy with it, she just wanted to scare him. "You act like we're strangers or something," she added with venom in her voice.

"Ah! Sorry Win! It's alright! Heads together is cool! Just please put the wrench away!" Edward pleaded nervously, waving his hands back and forth in defeat.

"Hmm!" giggled Winry, placing the wrench back in the pocket of her turned-down overalls. "I just knew you'd see it my way." She put her arms a little tighter around Edward's strong shoulders, feeling her heart starting to race. She found herself blushing a little, hoping that the state alchemist didn't feel her pounding heart on his back. Why was being this close to him making her feel this way? They had grown up together after all, it was no different than all the times they played together. Ed always used to pick her up by the waist and swing her around, causing Winry to laugh out loud, and her bright blue eyes to sparkle with elation. Now it seemed so different from back then. She almost wanted Edward to take her by her waist again, but in a completely different manner; not like he had when they were just children.

Brushing away her devious thoughts and refraining from blushing, Winry smiled brightly at her grandmother, waiting for the picture while Edward and Alphonse glanced at one another before laughing nervously. Pinako cleared her throat out loudly, causing all three heads to snap forward towards her. "Alright then, we're gonna take this picture and then you kids can go do whatever it is you have planned for the day," Pinako stated as she placed the camera up to her face. "Alright now everyone, SMILE!" Winry pressed the side of her face up against Edward's blushing one and they smiled, trying not to blink from the blinding flash.


-----------------------

"Oh Edward, Alphonse, I miss you both so much," Winry whispered, tracing her finger along Ed's face on the picture. "Especially you, Edward...I never got to tell you how I feel and now...I wish I had. I wish I would have swallowed my pride and shyness and told you that I realized I loved you."

At the memory, Winry had started crying again, a few of her salty tears fell on the window of the picture frame. She wiped them off with her fingertips, sniffled, set the picture down and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. The girl gazed over at the clock. Nearly twenty minutes had passed since she'd woken from her dream. It was going on 7 AM. The shop would be opening in a couple of hours. Most likely Rose Thomas and her son, whom she had named Andrew, would be waking soon as well. They had been staying with Winry and her grandmother every since Edward and Alphonse's disappearance. She and Rose had become very close friends. The young blonde woman stood up, walked across the wooden floor of her bedroom and quietly opened the door. She tiptoed down the hallway and into the bathroom, closing the door silently behind her. Upon reaching the room, she picked her hairbrush off of the sink and ran it through her long, thick locks of blonde. After she was satisfied all the tangles had been removed, Winry leaned towards the tub to turn on the shower. She slipped out of her nightdress and stepped inside of the warm water.

The girl leaned against the shower wall, allowing the water to impale her flesh and run rapid through her hair. She could feel the hot streaks down her back and she sighed, closing her blue orbs, breathing in the steam from the shower, her thoughts wandering back to Edward. Where exactly was he? What were he and Alphonse doing? Were they even still alive? Had he forgotten about her and possibly moved on with another woman? As much as she hated to admit it, it was certainly possible. She never did get the chance to tell him her feelings, but maybe she was able to tell him with her eyes the last time they'd seen each other. Winry didn't want to imagine Edward with another woman. Just the mere thought of it made her heart burn with jealousy and she almost felt angry with him. He can't...he just can't have...

After her shower, Winry headed downstairs as she heard the squealing sounds of Rose's bouncing baby boy along with Rose and Pinako's voices. The girl trudged downstairs and stopped in the kitchen as the two other women turned their heads towards Winry. Little Andrew Thomas was sitting on the floor, playing with Den's front paws, laughing loudly and clapping his hands. Winry couldn't help but crack a smile at him and her dog being so playful. It almost reminded her of when she, Ed and Al were young and would play with Den.

"Well there she is! Good morning sleepyhead," her grandmother grinned, holding her pipe in one hand and a coffee mug in the other. Rose was standing at the stove frying up some eggs and bacon while Pinako sat at the table studying some sheets of new design mechanisms for their latest automail.

"Morning Granny, Rose," Winry replied, trying her best to make it look as though she were happy and her spirits were bounding, but Pinako could see right through her granddaughter.

"There was a telephone call for you just a bit ago while you were in the shower," the elderly woman began with a smile.

"Oh? One of my customers?" Winry questioned as she walked over to the fresh pot of coffee and helped herself to a mug of it. The shower still had not completely awakened her, so Winry hoped the coffee might. Maybe even that might give her troubles too. Lately it'd been so hard just to get out of bed, wishing Edward were by her side, but the young mechanic made sure to keep all of this private and hidden. She didn't want to burdern her grandmother or Rose with what was missing in her life.

"Yes it was Alec," Pinako stated brightly. "He's having some trouble with his arm and thought maybe he could come in and you could take a look at it for him."

"Oh...him," Winry spoke rather flatly. "Could you call him back for me and tell him I've got too many customers already today? I don't really want to see him."

"Winry Rockbell, you ought to be ashamed of yourself brushing off one of your customers! Besides, Alec is a really sweet boy and he seems to really like you," Pinako scolded her 19 year old granddaughter.

"I told you Grandma, I don't want to be with anybody right now," Winry mumbled as she lifted her coffee mug to take a sip. "It's too soon," she added quietly under her breath, turning away to lean against the kitchen counter.

The fiesty, elderly woman stood up with her small feet planted harshly on the floor of the kitchen, her small fists placed firmly on her hips. Pinako glared at Winry for a moment before shaking her head and sighing. "When are you going to learn that he's no longer here? There is no hope for it. He's gone, Winry. He's off in another world, isn't he? He's not coming back and so you should get up and move on with your life," the old lady scolded her granddaughter. Though her words were harsh, she just wanted Winry to understand that Edward wasn't coming back home and all she wanted was for Winry to move on with her life and be happy. Edward wasn't here to do that anymore, and here it was a very handsome young man was interested in her Winry and the girl wasn't budging.

Winry gasped lightly at her grandmother's words. She whirled around to stare down at the elderly, stern looking woman, before drawing her eyebrows in, clearly struck by Pinako's words. Her lip began to quiver and Winry hurriedly turned away, setting her mug in the sink so nobody could see the tears that were threatening her once more. "I have a lot of work to do," the girl lied as she walked towards the door. "Call Alec and tell him to come in. I'll take care of his arm," she choked, forcing back new tears that were threatening her once more. The girl flung open the door and hurriedly left the kitchen, her long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail whipping around the corner before the door slammed shut behind her.

"Goodness, what was that all about?" Rose questioned, her violet eyes widened in slight surprise. She was putting fresh eggs and bacon onto plates for herself, her son, Pinako and Winry. Pinako just shook her head, sighing sadly as she removed the pipe from between her teeth.

"It's Ed," the old lady sighed. "No matter what, Winry won't allow herself to get close to another male because of him. It's because that moron left here without so much as a goodbye and broke the poor girl's heart."

A solemn look crossed Rose's pretty and tanned face. She reached up a hand to brush back her magenta locks of bangs from her eyes and sat the plates down at the table. "Yeah...I think we all miss Edward. We really do, but I think Winry is the one suffering most of all," the young woman spoke in barely above a whisper. "We all love Ed, but not as much as Winry does."

"Yeah, I know I came off harsh, but I just want to see Winry happy again," Pinako told Rose as she seated herself at the kitchen table. "Even if it has to be without Ed, I just want to see her smile like she means it again, instead of hiding behind a false emotion."

"Yeah, Winry hasn't been herself every since Ed and Al left," Rose pointed out as she spooned some eggs into Andrew's mouth who clapped his hands laughing loudly.

"EGGS! EGGS! AND BACON!" the little boy squealed happily as Rose tore up pieces of bacon and set them on Andrew's plate.

"No she hasn't. I had hoped that maybe this Alec could pull her out of the rut she's in," Pinako mumbled as she toyed with the food on her plate.

"Poor Winry," the younger woman sighed, taking a bite of her bacon. "I wonder if there is a possible way she could contact Edward again? If she could just see him again and talk to him, I'm sure it would help her, but that's impossible, isn't it?" Rose inquired sadly.

"Yes...I'm almost afraid to say that it is," Pinako replied, looking out of the screen door.

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Winry sat on her workbench, her fists resting clenched on her knees and she trembled consistently. She was trying to calm herself down and control fresh tears that threatened her for the millionth time, caused by what her grandmother had said to her regarding Ed. Why couldn't anybody understand how hard this was for her? Why couldn't they just give her time instead of trying to force a new man on her every time somebody cute walked into the shop for maintenance? It was already hard enough having to learn to teach herself the realization that Edward and Alphonse weren't coming back home. It was even more difficult to make herself understand that Edward was gone for good, on the other side of the gate and that she'd never see him again.

The young blonde clenched her teeth together before standing up, tying a bandana around her head to set to work on her newest design for the day. Her work clothes were similar to that of what she used to wear, instead her top was white, her pants were black and so was her bandanna. Winry held an automail arm in both her hands, gazing down at it. It was the exact same as the design she had made for Edward a year ago. She'd ended up making duplicates as she'd given them to Wrath whom had been in need of limbs. Still, Winry allowed nobody to wear this design. It had been made special. Even now it was hard to see anything that could remind her of him.

"Edward," the mechanic whispered as she ran her fingertips tenderly down the metal base of the arm.

She was interrupted in her thoughts by a knock on the door, followed by her grandmother's voice.
"Winry, Alec's here. He needs a maintenance check-up on his arm!" the little woman called from behind the door.

Gathering her composure, Winry laid the arm back down on the tool bench and crossed the room to open the door. There at the door stood a man a head taller than her. He had short, sandy brown hair, brown eyes and lightly tanned skin. From his elbow down to his fingertips on his left arm he bore the automail. He had told Winry the story of how he lost his arm. The boy's arm had been trampled on by a horse, and he had not been able to salvage it. After his automail surgery and attachment, he'd moved to a quiter location, Risembool and lived about a mile away from Winry. He'd only moved in just a year ago, working on a farm and living with his father and younger sister. She smiled kindly at the familiar face and stepped back to allow him entrance.

"Hey there Alec. How's the arm feeling?" the girl questioned benevolently.

"Hey Winry, you're looking as beautiful as ever," came the deep voice, followed by a flirtatious smirk.

"Oh, stop that Alec," Winry replied with a false smile. In all truth, it was beginning to irritate her every single time Alec came here anymore. However she still continued to put up her fake, cheerful front. "So what can I do for you today?"

"Well, asides from what I'd like you to do, you can take a look at my arm," Alec stated with a seductive grin, leaning over the table towards Winry's face, causing her take a few steps back. He just continued to smile, his white teeth flashing in the sunlight that poured through the room. "It's feeling a little off, not real painful or nothing, but I was doing some work in the field the other day and I think I might have bent something."

"Hmmm, well have a seat and I'll take a look see," the mechanic told him. Alec removed his coat and hung it on a hook on the wall and made a move towards a chair.

"NO! Not that one!" Winry cried out shrilly, causing the young man to back down.

Alec turned and look at the girl, raising an eyebrow in question. "Ummm, okay? Is this chair alright?" he asked, pointing to another one nearer the work bench.

Winry sighed, blushing from sheer embarrassment. She wiped the back of her hand across her brow. "Yes, I'm sorry...that chair is...ummm broken. If you would have sat in it, you would have fallen and could have got hurt," the mechanic stammered, laughing nervously. She rubbed the back of her head and then dropped her hands. She stood at the work bench, pulled on a pair of rough, tan gloves, gathered a screwdriver, a wrench and removed the top of Alec's automail. She lifted his wrist and moved his hand back and forth expertly. "Hmmm, seems like the cylinder might be bent and the suspension feels slightly out of wack. I think we just need to replace the cylinder and put in a few new bolts around the suspension, oil it up and you should be good to go!"

Winry turned away from Alec and walked across the room to one of the boxes she kept certain automail pieces in. The mechanic frowned as her baby blue orbs scanned the room back over to the chair that Alec had nearly sat in. The truth was, was that had been the chair Edward always sat in whenever Winry performed maintenance on his arm and leg. He'd been the last person to sit in that chair and it would remain that way. It held a lot of special memories for her. She could recall a time where she was tending to his automail and Edward had turned his blonde head, gazing at her tenderly.

"Thank you, Winry...you'll never know how much this always means to me, despite all the pain. If it weren't for you I wouldn't have this arm or a leg to stand up with."

Back then, they were only 16 years old. It was before Edward and his brother had left, the night before Winry had witnessed his awesome disguise by changing his hair black with a bowl of water and alchemy. The alchemist's face had looked so sweet, so gentle compared to how it usually was. Normally he maintained a hard look, his eyebrows drawn roughly together, a firm, cold stare in his gaze, only proving everything the boy had been through, but not this time. His eyes held a tenderness and thankfulness. Edward had placed his flesh hand over Winry's as she worked on his arm that day.

The blonde mechanic could remember being so startled by the young man's actions, she had dropped her wrench as her eyes met Edward's and he'd smiled softly at her. If the two wouldn't have been interrupted by a very playful suit of armor and dog bounding into the room, they probably would have kissed; or at least that's what Winry had hoped for. They'd came so close, their noses had only been inches from each other's. She could remembered Ed had raised his hand, as though he were going to bring it to her face when his young brother and Den burst into the room, laughing and barking. The alchemist had quickly drew back his hand, scratching the back of his head, turning from Winry, and she could not mistake the blush that had spinkled on his cheeks. She dipped her head down to retrieve the wrench, not able to hide the happy smile erupting across her flawless features.

"Hey, Winry? You forget about me?" came Alec's voice as it snapped the young woman out of her sentiments.

"What? Oh, no I'm sorry! I was just...looking for something that I-," Winry began but was interrupted once more by the ringing of the telephone. "I'm sorry Alec, can you hold on for just a moment?" Winry dashed to the other side of the room and grabbed the phone. "Hello, Rockbell Automail! Prosthetic Limb Outfitters!" she answered cheerfully.

"Hi, is this Winry Rockbell?" came a female voice on the other line.

"Yes it is, may I ask who's calling?" the mechanic questioned kindly. She didn't recognize the voice on the other line.

"It's Riza, Riza Hawkeye," spoke the Lieutenant in her usual, cool tone. "I'm sure you remember me. It's been awhile."

"Oh! Yes I do remember you! How are you doing Riza?" Winry asked, smiling fondly at the sound of the older blonde woman's voice. For as long as Winry could remember she'd always really liked Riza.

"Well, something rather important has come up. I'm calling you to ask if you could please get on the earliest train possible and meet myself, the General and Scieszka here at the Central HQ?" the woman questioned. "It's very important."

"Well, I'm sort of busy here at the shop right now. I have a long list of customers waiting to be fitted and have maintenance work done. Can we do this some other time?" the mechanic questioned. If there was one thing Winry hated was leaving her customers hanging when they needed her the most. "It's just a really busy day today."

"Winry, I think it would be wise if you could postpone working on your customers or have somebody else take care of them. We need you here. It's in regards to something General Mustang and I spoke about just recently. We think it's best if you're here. The General feels you need to know what's going on," Riza explained calmly. "I think you'd be disappointed if you didn't come."

"Oh? Why is that, Lieutenant?" Winry questioned, staring down at the receiver with a raised eyebrow.

"Because, it may have something to do with Edward's disappearance," Riza told her, still in the same cool, calm and collected voice she was infamous for.

Winry nearly dropped the phone. "W-what? Edward? What do you mean, regarding his disappearance?" The mechanic could feel sweat drops on her brow and her heart began to race in her chest.

"We can't speak much over the phone in case the lines are tapped. We need to see you here at the HQ. I will be waiting outside for you. As soon as you get here we go straight to the General's office. He has a lot to tell you," Riza explained. "There's a train leaving at 1pm today for Central. The General has taken it upon himself to purchase you a train ticket for that exact time already. Just go to the station, let them know who you are, they will give you a boarding pass. As soon as you arrive, we'll be informed and I'll be in front of the Headquarters. We'll see you soon," the Lieutenant told her and then hung up the phone.

Winry stood dumbfounded for a moment, her heart still pounding rapidly in her chest. What was Riza trying to tell her? What was this about Edward and his disappearance? What was Roy Mustang hiding from her? Turning towards Alec, the mechanic untied her bandanna, allowing her ponytail to fly freely. "I"m sorry Alec, but something really important has come up. I'm going to have to get Granny to take of your maintenance," the girl apologized, leaving him looking confused. Winry bounded out of the shop and up the porch stairs, into the house. She didn't know how long she was going to be gone, so Winry decided to pack at least a week's worth of clothes.

"Winry? Is something the matter?" Pinako questioned as her granddaughter burst into the kitchen. "I thought you were taking care of Alec's-," the elderly woman began, but was quickly cut off by the young blonde.

"I just received a phone call from Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye. She said that Roy Mustang needed to see me right away!" she called as she hurried up the stairs.

"Wait, Winry! You're just going to abandon your customers?!" Pinako questioned incredulously. "We need you today!"

"Tell them to either take a rain check on their appointments or go somewhere else. Granny, Riza said it's about Edward. Roy has already bought my train ticket. I have to go," the mechanic told her almost desperately. She stopped and turned around on the steps to gaze at her Grandmother. "Granny, if there is...if there's a possibility that I can get Ed back home and safe, and Al too, I'm going to do it," Winry told her defiantly, clenching her hand into a fist and banging it on the banister. "I have to!"

Winry whirled around and raced up the stairs, to change out of her work clothes and pack for her trip to Central. It was now or never. She didn't know why, but something felt like it was forcing Winry to get there as quick as she possibly could. She changed out of her work clothes and into her white, zipper top, her brown capris and a small brown jacket to match. She pulled her ponytail up and snapped a barrett in the back of it, to give her a more presentable appearance. Before closing her suitcase, she knelt down, pulled a box from underneath her bed and flipped the lid. Inside of the box were extra bolts, screws, knuts, some tools and oil. It had been a special maintenance kit she put together for Edward. Just in case, if there was some way possible, she'd have this ready for him. The moment Winry would see him, if she got to see him again, after embracing him, she'd care for his automail. The girl couldn't help but vaguely wonder what kind of condition it was in at the moment. After she finished packing, she slipped on her white boots, strapped the suitcase over her shoulder and hurried down the stairs. She met her grandmother standing at the foot of the stairs, the stunned look still on her face. Winry leaned down and lightly kissed her cheek.

"I'm sorry Granny," the girl apologized. "But I have to know if it's possible."

"It's about Edward, isn't it Winry?" came a small voice from across the kitchen and she saw Rose standing there with a hopeful look on her face. Her hands were folded up underneath her chin.

"I won't know until I get to Central. I need to leave now otherwise I'm going to miss my train," she told the others. "I'll contact you as soon as I find out any information." With that, Winry Rockbell turned on her heel and hurried out of the house, desperate to get to the train station.

--------------------------

"Have you seen a girl that looks like this?" the golden-haired man asked what he thought could have possibly been the thousandth person in the city today. He held up a lightly sketched drawing he'd done of Winry the previous night, since it had been the only means of showing her to the people and finding out if they'd seen her. Edward decided against taking one of his paintings of her, figuring he'd look pretty ridiculous carrying around a large painting of a blonde woman.

The girl at the counter Ed was asking shook her head. "No I'm sorry. I haven't anybody who looks like her," she told the boy sadly.

Ed sighed and flicked his ponytail over his shoulder. "Ah well, thanks anyway." The former alchemist was growing weary from walking all over New York City for the past few hours, diligently searching for the voice he'd heard last night, desperately wanting to put a face with it. "I suppose I should just go home. It's getting late and this is becoming pointless," Edward told himself, stuffing the drawing of Winry into his coat pocket. Her voice weighed abundant on his mind and made his heart feel like it was being crushed. He trudged back to the apartment and walked into the kitchen. Alphonse and Noah were sitting at the table talking when Edward entered. They grew silent at the dejected expression on Edward's handsome features.

"Brother?" Al began as he made to stand up, but Ed held up a gloved hand at him, signaling him to sit back down. "Is...everything alright?"

"Yeah, Al, everything's fine," Edward replied in a softer voice than usual, his amber orbs downcast. "I'm just...kinda tired. I think I'll go lay down for awhile."

"But, Brother," Al protested, making to stand up again when he felt Noah's hand on his arm.

"Let him go, Alphonse," she spoke softly. "He needs some time alone." She cast her worried brown eyes on Ed's back as the young man disappeared down the hall, the door audibly closing behind him. She sighed and frowned, knowing that Edward had been in town to look for the girl who'd sounded like Winry last night and having no luck. "He's...so sad."

Ed kicked off his shoes and fell back onto his bed, staring up at the ceiling. <i>Why am I so down about not finding that girl who sounded just like her? Am I really missing her that much that I'd go as far as to wanting to see somebody who's identical to her in this world? Even though, she still wouldn't be the same Winry...Dammit! Was it just my mind playing tricks on me!? Maybe I've been thinking about her subconciously and just heard her voice! Al hadn't heard it, Noah didn't either, but I did! What the hell is going on? I just...why didn't I tell her? Why didn't I tell her the way I felt before I left? Now I'm just living in this nightmare with a guilty conscience. Just face it Elric, you're never going to see her again.</i> Edward slammed his fist down on the bed, gritting his teeth together harshly. He felt furious with himself. Furious that he couldn't find the doppleganger, furious that he'd possibly let his mind trick him into thinking there was a Winry on this side of the gate and furious that he'd just left her there without so much as a goodbye; left with so many things unsaid.
RavenHair
ohmy.gif Man this is really good! It would be great if you continued posting this story. I'm soo happy to find somebody with the same idea almost to a story like mine. Mine is called "Home" it in this area of the forum if you don't find it let me know. Maybe I can email you the chapter sIhave so far and you can tell me what you think. I'm going ot try to start chpater 5 of mine tonight. I just started writing mine a few months ago. After seeing hte movie and how he had toleave Winry behind I just did not like how that ended. Maybe if you want to that is, we could prepare notes if you get stuck on ideas for your story and we could team up on it or something. I've read alot of stories for FMA that were EdxWin/RizaxRoy based but I always thought this type of plot would work best. Yours is similar to mine in the the plot and some minor details but the main story line is different then mine. The pairings the same, it's so funny how we thought of the same stuff. But very cool! Can't wait to read Chapter 3!!

- Lisa
Celeste Nayamashii
I'm really glad you're enjoying it so much! happy.gif I'll check yours out as well and sure I'll continue posting chapters. I currently have 6 written and about half of 7 written happy.gif Thanks for the feedback! Here's the next chapter!

Chapter 3- Guilty Motivation

I can remember a time when I thought you were seriously going to kill me with that damned wrench. Hell, I can remember a lot of times I thought I was really going to die after being repeatedly whacked over the head with it; guess I wasn't so tough after all. Just thinking back, reflecting on those days puts a smile on my face, but at the same time my heart is filled with an ache, filled with an emptiness, like a black void of something missing in my life. You're what's missing in my life and my home. I miss Amestris. I miss being able to use alchemy. I miss, Grans, Den, everybody in Central and even that damned General. Hah, funny huh, that I'd actually miss that bastard. Well, believe it or not, I do. I just owe him a good crack over the head for all the .... he put me through when I was a kid. Who knows...maybe one day I'll get to [i]do that. Cracks over the head. Hell, I think I deserve one right about now because I was too damn ignorant.

Do you know what I miss the most though? Something I can't have in this strange world. What I miss most of all is you, Winry. I miss your smile, the sound of your laugh, the shining look in your eyes, your warmth when you touched me. I can remember it all. I even miss the way you used to scold me for getting myself into so much trouble back then. Do you remember, back when I was only a runt? I was 15 years old and had to come back home because my automail had been completely destroyed. Haha, I'll never forget that look on your face when you saw it was gone. If looks could kill, I would have been dead already. Then I got smashed over the head again with that damned wrench of yours when you found out it was gone. Jeeze woman, I bought you a wrench and you always tried to kill me with it. I suppose at times I really did deserve it though, thinking back. I acted out of sorts and there were times I could be really cruel. I honestly didn't mean that. I guess I just didn't know how to be kinder to people when I was young, but living in this world has taught me a lot. I've changed a lot and I've grown. You saw that though the last time we saw each other. I was actually taller than you, Win! Never thought I would be taller than you, though that wouldn't have bothered me if I didn't get taller than you.

I acted cocky and like a smart arse back then, but truthfully I did feel guilty for not telling you how the automail had been busted. I didn't want to tell you that Scar was the one who destroyed it and that he nearly killed me. I still feel terrible for not speaking up. I feel guilty for not telling you the things you should have been told. I feel guilty for constantly keeping you in the dark about what was happening in my life. Do you possibly understand though that I only did it to protect you? We had friends and enemies all over. People and homunculi alike after me, out to get me because I was the Fullmetal Alchemist, the human weapon. Of course they wanted me. They wanted me to fullfill their half-assed duties since they couldn't do it all on their own. They needed the help of the child prodigy, they called me.

If they had known, Winry...if they knew how close of a relationship I shared with you, if I had expressed my feelings for you, those homunculi would have used you to their advantage and I was not about to let that happen. It was bad enough they used Alphonse against me so often, it would've been worse if they'd got a hold of you. That's why I kept you in the dark about things. I didn't want you involved. I wanted you to stay safe, protected and out of the everyday dangers that my brother and I put ourselves in. You were safest in Risembool with Granny and Den, even though I knew you hated things being kept from you. I can honestly say, I'm sorry Winry. I'm sorry, I miss you, and I want to come back home. I guess, I just need to figure out how to move on with my life.

It's ironic, me saying that. I can remember when I was 12 years old. I had just acquired my State Alchemist certification and found out that the man I had been staying with for months before my test couldn't be trusted. I discovered on my own he'd used his wife to make a talking chimera. Two years later, his assessment comes up and the man was so desperate that he used his daughter, Nina and her dog, Alexander. Not long after that, those bastards tried to take her away and turn her into a damned test subject. She broke free with my help, but only minutes after she was freed, Nina was killed. She was killed by the same man who destroyed my automail, Winry. I was devastated. I never could talk to anybody about this, and still really never have except for Al. I could never bring myself to tell you either. I don't know why. Maybe I was afraid that if I told you, I'd cry in front of you and look weak, or maybe I was afraid that if you came anywhere near where all of this was happening, they'd take you away from me and do the same thing to you. Hell not long after that you were nearly killed by Barry the Chopper. I had nearly failed to save you because of my weaknesses.

Still, thinking back to that time of when Nina was killed and you were captured makes me feel a little sad. I grew to love Nina like a little sister. Al and I both had. Mustang had found me out there, in the rain, in that alleyway, crying like a baby. At least he didn't make fun of me. Her body had been splattered all over the wall and I kept trying desperately to use alchemy and bring her back, but I couldn't. All I could do was clap my hands and pathetically slap them on her deconstructed body that was plastered to the wall. Man, I was so stupid. Mustang told me then that it was no use and that I had to get on with my life. At that point in time I was so young and naieve. I didn't care about getting on with my life. I was too wracked with grief by the loss of Nina. I would have done anything I could to bring her back. I couldn't save her and that pained me...so much. I never thought I'd have to feel anything like that again. I think now, I feel it again, Winry. That time, it was so much easier to move on and continue down my narrow path because I had goals to work for, but now...I feel like I lost all over again. What goals do I have to accomplish in this world? I already succeeded in my main goal, but I'm not there to succeed in my other. I don't know if I can move forward this time, unless I can find a way back home.

Even though I know you're alright, safe and alive it still aches. I can feel that in my heart that you are but still, it hurts. It hurts a lot. I'm trying to stay as far away from Noah as possible. I thought that maybe I had feelings for her a year ago, but it turned out to be that I was just fascinated by her amazing power to read my mind, at least until I was betrayed by her. Then again, I guess all she wanted was a home where she could belong where people wouldn't hate her. She saw the suit of armor walking beside me on the stairwell and I'd never even told her about it. If I stay away from her, Noah's clairvoyance won't pick up on what I'm feeling. I don't want her seeing anything either. I don't want to burden Alphonse or Noah with my problems, so I'll maintain this cheerful front as long as I possibly can.

Maybe one day I'll come out of this rut, maybe I'll go the rest of my life being in it until I break. Who knows? I guess I have to make those decisions for myself. I've noticed that Noah and Al have taken a liking to each other. I think that Al reminds her a lot of Alfonse. He was a boy here that looked nearly identical to our Al, Winry. Except he had blue eyes where as Al doesn't. He was killed though. Noah was holding his body when I got back and I could tell she had been crying. I always kind of speculated the two having feelings for each other, though trying to be discreet about it.

However now it seems my brother has taken a liking to her, especially here recently. I think it's good for Al. He always said he wanted to fall in love. I hope this works out for them. I'll give them all of my support. Well, I suppose I should end this. I don't know why I'm doing this since I know the letter can't reach you, but maybe I'm writing this to ease my own senses; a guilty motivation I suppose, who knows right? Maybe...someday with a small, tiny shred of hope we can find our way back to each other. I'm sorry I never got to tell you the things I wanted to say. Goodnight, Winry.

All my love,

Edward


The blond man ended his letter, capped his fountain pen and threw it to the side of the journal he'd taken to writing in almost every night. The small, brown, leather-bound book had all of Edward's daily works, findings and assignments written down in it. Usually he didn't write anything so fervent, unfeigned and heartfelt, but since he'd gotten home with no luck of finding the doppleganger, the man had felt extremely discouraged and depressed. That's when the former alchemist decided to write Winry a letter, telling her some of the secrets he held deep inside himself, hoping that'd ease some of the heaviness weighing on his heart.

He leaned back and sighed, placing his gloved hands over his head, closing his amber orbs. Honestly, Edward didn't understand why these feelings had possessed him to write a letter to Winry, but every since he'd heard that voice that sounded so similar to hers only a couple of days ago, the blond found he just couldn't stop thinking about her. He'd tried desperately all day to find that girl, even took along a picture he'd done of her and shown it to people, but it was all for naught. Edward hadn't found the Winry look-a-like anywhere and it was frustrating him.

"Heh, why though? Why do I want to find this girl so bad? Maybe I'm just desperate to see her face again," Edward told himself softly, standing up from his chair and moving across his wooden floor. He stopped in front of his dresser, placing the palms of his hands down on it's surface and leaned in to study his face in the mirror standing on the dresser top. Edward gazed at his reflection, his golden eyes emulating the sincere loss he felt. Laughing quietly, but harshly at himself, he turned away from the mirror, stood still for a moment before moving away. "You really are a fool, Elric." Edward stripped himself of his gloves and his olive vest, just leaving him in his white, collared, button-down shirt and his olive colored pants.

The young scientist sat down on the edge of the bed, unbuttoning his shirt and removing his right arm from it's sleeve. He held out the automail hand and flexed the fingers back and forth. Despite the fact that he'd used oil on it the other night, something still didn't feel right. The former alchemist had been taking very good care of his arm since Winry had repaired it for him, so he couldn't figure out what possibly could have been happening with it. It's not like how it was back in Amestris, constantly battling homunculi or chimeras. Edward didn't do any of that stuff in this world. Nor was he a part of the military here. "Damn, I wish she were here," the blond sighed, slipping his arm back in the shirt sleeve and falling back on the bed, leaving his toned chest and torso exposed. "She always took such good care of me...I wonder if I ever really thanked her enough?"

Edward shut his golden orbs as her pretty face flashed behind his closed eyes and her voice rang through his mind. He could remember a time, back when he'd ended up in the hospital after trying to create a Philosopher's Stone for his brother. The former alchemist realized that he wouldn't be able to do it and had been gravely injured on his journey in Lab 5, where the most dangerous and hellish experiements had taken place. Back then, he'd only been just a 15 year old kid, soon to be 16. It was hard to believe that it had been nearly four years ago. His arm had stopped working in mid-fight with Envy, which was an advantage or he would probably have been killed.

He wasn't only named Fullmetal because of his steel limbs, but because of his stubborn nature. Edward had always had a backbone and didn't back down from anything that was in his way. He'd stop at nothing to get what he wanted, especially when it came at the expense of his younger brother. No two brothers had ever been closer than Edward and Alphonse Elric. Though at that particular time, the alchemist had been lucky his arm had quit working when it did, otherwise he would have continued to fight and probably would have been killed. However if it would have quit working when he was fighting the Slicer brothers, he would have been dead for sure. Days later, he awoke in the hospital, pain had been shooting through his left side and shoulder. They'd cleaned him up, washed his hair, bandaged his wounds and given him clean pajamas. His automail arm had been held up in a sling for him which much to Edward's dismay, found he still couldn't move. It had no feeling in it what-so-ever. He'd nervously called Winry later that day to tell her what had happened, worried he was going to get his head bitten off by the feisty mechanic.

She had shown up hours later, completely distressed by the fact that her best friend was in the hospital, and becoming even more disheartened that the brothers wouldn't tell her anything about why they were hurt and why they were in the hospital. Nevertheless, Winry took out her tools to set to work on Edward who had already felt terrible by the way his brother was treating him and how he'd messed up Winry's automail once more. Finally, his pressure valve broke and Edward admitted to Winry how awful he'd felt at not being able to succeed in getting Al's body back. He'd told her how he hesitated because he would had to sacrifice other people's lives in order for it to work. He remembered the gentle smile and comforting words the girl had given him. If he hadn't been in the hospital, Edward most likely would have embraced her, or maybe he was just too shy to do it yet. Why didn't I back then? I know why...I was too embarrassed to, and I didn't want anybody to find out that I had feelings for her...especially Alphonse. Not at that time anyway.

Edward sighed and rolled over onto his side, wrapping his arms around one of the pillows on his bed. He figured he should at least try and get some sleep. His brother and Noah always got up early on Sunday mornings to cook a big breakfast for them all. There were even times were Edward felt like he was intruding in on their happiness and so he'd sit quietly at the table, reading the Sunday newspaper while the two took turns throwing egg shells at each other. The entire kitchen always rang with their laughter on Sundays. The blond closed his golden orbs which were burning from the sudden exhaustion that hit him. Someday, Winry...that'll be you and me standing at the counter cooking breakfast together...someday... With that final thought, the tired young man fell asleep. He'd fallen so deep so fast that he'd never heard never heard the phone ring, nor the person who had entered his room.

She walked quietly in as she'd noticed that his door was slightly cracked open, and his light was still on. Thinking he was still awake, she peeked inside of the crack, but the former alchemist was sound asleep, still in his clothes and laying on top of the covers. The brunette woman tiptoed inside of the room and walked over to the desk were the former alchemist had left his journal laying wide open after he'd written his letter to Winry. Noah sat quietly down in the chair, the only sounds emitting from behind her were Edward's deep, even breaths as he slumbered peacefully. Knowing she wouldn't wake him, the woman lifted the leather diary and read the words Edward had written. Noah caught the name Winry a few times remembering what Alphonse had told her about the girl.

Winry was the woman that Edward was in love with. There was no doubt in her mind from what she had seen and how she'd observed the man's actions recently. As she read the scripture, Noah found she had to hold back a laugh at the wrench story, but the further she got and realized how much pain and suffering the alchemist had endured over the course of the years, Noah had to hold back a few tears. She felt guilty for reading his private things. The gyspy girl knew she shouldn't have read it and if Edward found out he'd be furious, but curiosity had fueled her. Before she knew it, Noah was reading the very personal letter that the young man had written to the woman a world a way.

The woman she'd seen and kept continuing on seeing, since that night, right by Edward's side was who he had written about. The woman with the long, blond hair, Winry Rockbell, who'd stolen the young scientist's heart. Noah couldn't help herself though. It was almost like an insatiable urge for more knowledge about him. Her heart lept slightly when she approached where he'd written about her, but then she felt it drop in her chest when she came to the realization that the older Elric never had the feelings for her like she'd hoped. It was all just an infatuation, nothing more. It seemed as though that infatuation had left him completely now.

Sighing softly and wiping away her tears, she gently set the journal back down in it's proper place and wandered over to where Edward lay pleasantly snoozing. He had a small smile on his face. "Winry...come stay," he mumbled almost incoherently and Noah smiled painfully. "With me...," he finished with a sigh before hugging his pillow tighter. She seated herself on his bed and placed her hand on his forehead, closing her eyes, concentrating on what was going on inside of the older Elric's mind. The images flashed, one by one, racing through the young gyspy's mind.

Two small children. They weren't much older than maybe 9 or 10 years old. One was a little girl with light blonde hair and the other was a little boy with golden blond hair, but cut short. Their voices rang playfully throughout the air.

"I wanna go higher, Edward!" squealed a little blonde girl, riding on a swing hanging from a tree. The small, golden haired boy was standing behind her laughing in delight. "Okay, Winry, but you better hold on!"

The little boy behind her gave the young Winry a massive shove, sending her soaring on the swing. She kicked her legs to make herself go higher, throwing her blonde head back and laughing with delectation. Shortly afterward, she jumped down from the swing and took off at a run. "Betcha can't catch me, Ed!" she squealed.

"Oh yes I can!" cried the little boy as he took off after her. He ran straight past the little girl laughing. "I BEAT YOU!"

"HEY! NO FAIR!" she exclaimed, picking up speed.

Edward stood ready for her, his arms held wide open as the little girl fell into his arms. He picked her up and swirled her around, the two laughing to the skies above, followed by a playful barking puppy and another little boy running behind it.

And then another...The same children, only this time they looked a bit older than before...

"It'll be okay, Edward. You'll make it through this," the same blonde girl told him as she gently laid a cold wash cloth over the young boy's sweating forehead. He had long, red and blue wires extending from his missing right arm and missing left leg.

"I...don't...I can't...stand it...Al...please...don't...hate me!" the boy replied, releasing small gasping breaths after each word, his small chest heaving.

"Al doesn't hate you, Edward. He will never hate you. Your brother loves you," Winry answered soothingly, rubbing his shoulder.

"But..Winry, it's my fault! It's all my fault that Al lost his body. He blames me! He definitely blames me! I know he does!" Edward insisted, clenching his teeth and tears leaking from underneath the wash cloth that covered his forehead and eyes.

The young girl reached her hand up and brushed them away. "He doesn't hate you and he doesn't blame you. I promise, Ed."


Followed by another...

"Ready...one...two...," two females spoke in unison, standing around a young man and holding metal limbs. One girl was blonde and she was holding the arm. The other female was a very small, elderly woman and she was down by his left leg. "THREE!" They inserted the limbs inside of the young man, who threw his head back, clenching his teeth and groaning forcefully through them, fighting back a scream.

"You two get up! We're going to lay him down right there!" ordered the elderly woman. "We could use some help!"

The boy was whimpering through clenched teeth as his new automail limbs had been reattached. It had been 4 years since he'd had his automail arm and leg docked. Everytime he'd had them attatched, despite the intense pain, he never once screamed or cried. The pain coursed through his right arm and left leg. The girl with the long, blonde hair held him up in her arms as the elderly woman grabbed a pillow and a blanket. A taller, blond-mustached, extremely muscular man lifted the boy into his arm and gently laid him down on the small couch. The golden-haired boy moaned and took deep breaths, trying to get past all the pain he was feeling from the mechanism being attached to his nerves. The blonde girl sat right on the couch next to his head, trying to take his mind off of the pain by tenderly rubbing his forehead with her fingertips. He recalled her doing the same thing when he was going through the automail surgery. Though to help himself get past the pain, he constantly reminded himself that his pain was nothing compared to what Al had given up.

"Are you okay, Ed?" the girl questioned.

"Uhnnn," was all the boy could reply with, his eyes closed tightly and eyebrows creasing.

She allowed him some more time to get past the terrible pains he was feeling, just staying near him. She shifted on the couch and he opened one golden eye to peer up at her. She smiled and gazed down at him.

"Well, what do you think about the changed designs, Ed?" she questioned cheerfully, hoping that it'd take his mind off of the pain. Surely it should have been getting more dull by now. "I tried to make the steel 80 lighter than the last go around. After all, we can't have it weighing you down so much and never growing any taller," she teased.

Edward just glared up at her. "That's gotta be illegal," he groaned, lifting his braided head off of the pillow. "Making fun of somebody's height, when they're in pain like this." He removed the blanket off of his body and sat up.

The blonde just smiled at him. "Look at you, you've already got enough energy to argue. You'll be fine," she insisted. The boy appeared to not be listening to her, but he was. He stretched his metal arm, flexing the fingers and lifted his left leg, moving it back and forth as the pain in his body dulled to an ache. "Seriously now," she continued. "The lighter weight should make it faster but that means it's easier to break too, so don't be reckless. You can replace automail, but you've only got one life," she added in a very tender voice, her eyes gazing lovingly at the boy sitting in front of her.

He turned back and looked at her. "Right," Edward replied.

The girl stood up and stretched. "Mmm that's the first all-nighter I've pulled in awhile. I'm beat."

"Really Winry...thanks," Edward told her, just as tenderly. He was trying to express all of the thank you for her giving him limbs again, for being able to get up and walk. It was all because of her.


And another...

"AL!" cried out Edward as he lept to his feet and ran towards the railing, with that blonde girl hot on his heels. "WAIT!" He reached the railing, grasped both hands on it and was about to leap over it to catch up with his younger brother, completely forgetting the fact that he had been brutally injured. Two warm arms grasped him from behind. One wrapped underneath his arm and the other around his stomach. He tried to force himself from Winry's grip, but she held on tight.

"ED, NO!" the girl insisted, as she held tight to the struggling golden-haired young man.

Choking noises of anguish were releasing themselves from his throat as Ed continued to struggle against Winry. "AL! AAAAAAAL!!!!!!!!!" the young alchemist called for his younger brother as he watched the suit run away from him, disappearing from his sight...

His hands slid down the iron bars as he gripped them tightly, trying to release all of the hurt and anguish he felt into the bars. If he squeezed any harder with his automail hand, he might just break the bar. He pressed his bandaged forehead against the iron railing and squeezed his eyes shut.

"Al...why?" Edward said in a tight voice. "Winry..what did I..."

"Edward," Winry whispered as she felt his tense body slacken in front of her and she went along with him, holding onto him still, laying the side of her face against his warm back where she could feel his racing heart right through his hospital pajamas.

"I...I don't understand this," Edward spoke bitterly through clenched teeth, his voice trembling. "Who would put something like this into his head? Why would my only little brother think I made up false memories for him? Why would he think that he was just a fake, that I made him for my own benefit?"

"I don't know, Ed...I honestly don't know," Winry replied, still hugging the afflicted boy from behind. "Let's get you back into the hospital so you can lay down for awhile. Maybe Al just needs some time to cool off."

Edward stood abruptly on his feet, clenching his hands into fists and turned around to look at Winry. "Are you kidding me!? I'm not leaving him alone out there to just wander around Central! What if something happens to him!? I have to go look for him!"

"Edward, you can't be tracing around the place right now searching for him, not in your condition," Winry persisted sternly but gently. "You need to lay down for awhile." The girl reached into her skirt pocket and withdrew a small, white handkerchief. She raised it up and dabbed gently at the blood that had seeped down the side of the alchemist's mouth, taking care not to hurt him any further. He just stared at her while she cleaned him, his face full of agony, no trace of euphoria left in his golden irises.

"I...I guess you're right," the alchemist sighed and closed his golden eyes as the young automail mechanic finished dabbing up the blood on his face. "He'll come back when he's cooled down and had time to think, right Winry?" He looked almost pitiful.

"Yes...I'm sure he will, Ed," the blonde girl assured him.


Right after another...

He was laying on his side, facing the back of the couch he was resting on. Winry was behind him somewhere, clinking around in her toolbox. She was most likely putting her tools away after doing a maintenance check on his limbs. Edward was in a bad mood because of what she pulled with him previously; having Paninya steal his State issued watch. Winry should consider herself lucky he got it back and he allowed her to get off so easy.

"Hey Ed, you asleep yet?" came her voice softly.

"No," the boy replied bitterly.

"You know...I think you may have grown an inch or two since the last time I saw you," she began cheerfully.

"People do that," he answered, trying not to sound too rude.

"At this rate, you'll probably outgrow your arm and leg soon," the blonde continued. He still didn't look back at her. "Want to go back to Risembool so I can make new ones?" she questioned.

"Let me think about it," Ed replied. He was silent for a few moments when he spoke up again. "Nah," he stated with a sigh in his voice. "I think I'll pass for now."

"But, why?" the girl asked.

Edward could only sigh in a somewhat irritated way. She just didn't seem to understand his motives. He stared at the back of the couch before hearing a small noise issue from behind him, and it sounded almost anguished.

"Haven't you been satisfied with my automail, Ed?" the girl questioned, her voice trembling. His eyes widened and he abruptly sat up on the couch, turning to look at the girl who was on her knees, her head lowered and long blonde bangs shielding her eyes from view. "I promise to make the next even better," she insisted, her voice thick with tears. "I've been studying hard. So it'll be just as top of the line as any of the big city dealers." He could only gaze sadly at her. He hated making her cry. "So?" she questioned, followed by a few sobs. "What do you say?"

Edward smiled sympathetically at her. What should he do? Should he get up and hug her, hold her and comfort her? He smiled, knowing no matter what, Winry wouldn't be able to understand. Maybe he didn't understand her. "Oh Winry," he sighed sadly. "You're automail is the best, really." he insisted. He grew even more sad by the moment as he sat there watching her tears fall from behind her bangs. He should get up and comfort her.

And another...

"Ed! Al! are you planning on sleeping all-," came her voice as she opened up the door to the boy's room. "Oh! Sorry!" she exclaimed, and he noticed the blush rise rapidly to her cheeks. He'd been sitting in front of a bowl of water in just his boxers. His long, golden hair hung down over his shoulder and a towel rested over his shoulders. He smiled as she entered the room.

"That's okay," he replied with a light laugh in his tone.

The boy clapped his hands and placed them over the bowl of water, releasing a bright blue glow before lowering his head and dipping the tips of his golden locks into the water. It rapidly began changing to black and he listened to the girl laughing and clapping her hands in the background, obviously amazed by what she'd just witnessed. He couldn't help but feel smug at allowing the woman to watch some of his alchemy skills.

"Don't look so surprised," Edward stated as he lifted his head to look at Winry, now completely colored raven black as though he'd just done a recent dye job on his hair. "A trick like that's pretty basic alchemy," he told her, the smile still in his voice.

Winry just laughed as she walked closer to Edward. He noticed the girl had caught something in the corner of her eye and she gazed up, seeing a massive, harsh-looking statue she'd never seen before. Obviously not expecting it, Winry screamed and dashed across the room, leaping onto the bed Edward was sitting on and hiding behind his back. The raven-haired boy burst into laughter as Winry peeked over his shoulder. He held his fist up to his mouth, trying hard not to completely crack up at the girl's reaction to the statue.

"What is that thing!?" she questioned. The statue started rocking back and forth and Winry cowered even more behind Edward and squealed, only causing the boy to errupt in another fit of laughter.

"Don't be scared! It's just me, Winry!" came a small voice from inside the stone.

"Al?" the girl asked, peeking back over Edward's shoulder, her hand lightly touching his bare flesh.

"I used a few materials I found to make Al a disguise. There are no seams either. No one will know he's in there unless they break it open," the alchemist explained, the grin still on his face.

"So you guys are leaving again?" came the downcast voice from behind him.

Hearing that familiar tone, Edward felt the guilt rush through his body. "Sorry Winry, there's something I need to do," he replied elusively.

"Wait, I know! You're going off to find a way to get Al's body back, right? Why can't you just do your research here?" the girl insisted.

Footsteps sounded down the hall and stopped behind the door. A mousy woman with, short brown hair, green eyes and glasses appeared on the other side, looking sad. "You're going to avenge Hughes, aren't you Edward?" she questioned.

Edward still kept his head down. "If I give my whole life to revenge now, everything Scar said...his whole life would be meaningless. Still, there is something that I have to take care of," he told them, not wanting them to know what he was planning to do.

"Something more important than what you've been searching for or revenge?" Scieszka asked.

He couldn't answer, all he could do was stare at his reflection in the bowl of water below him. He felt a tug on his hair from behind. "Ow ow ow! What do you want!?" he exclaimed as the tug became a hard pull. He peered back over his shoulder, noticing that familiar look on Winry. Her head was lowered again.

"I'll braid your hair for you," came Winry's somber, slightly trembling voice from behind her bangs.

"That's okay, I'll do it later," Edward told her.

"I'll do it!" the blonde insisted, trying to smile but she couldn't hide the tears in her eyes. Instantly Edward felt guilty and also felt a blush sprinkling on his cheeks as he stared back at her.

"Oh...'kay," he answered with a grin and a blush. This was probably going to be the last time he'd see her. He could atleast allow her this much.


And another...

A deserted hilltop was all that could be seen and a sillouhette of two people; a man and a woman. The wind was coursing through the trees, causing the branches to sway heavily. His long, brown overcoat was flowing out from behind him in ripples. He grasped her hand in his as the wind blew his golden ponytail wildly. Her long blonde hair whipped around her face as he tugged on her hand, pulling the girl around to face him. "I'm sorry, Win...," was all he could say. "I'm really sorry." He reached his metal hand up, to brush back the hair hiding her face.

The blue eyes gazed back into his golden ones that were filled with so much remorse. "You don't have to be sorry, Edward," Winry insisted as she allowed herself to step closer to him. The man had dropped his head, his golden bangs flying across his face from the wind that was now slowly dying down. They shielded his face from view. "Edward, look at me," Winry told him tenderly, lifting his chin with her hand.

"Winry, I...," he began as gold met aquamarine. The girl just smiled and on impulse, Edward grabbed the blonde around the waist and brought his lips to hers, kissing her fiercely, almost desperately. He'd longed to do this to her, for ages now. Now that she was in his hold, he felt as though he never wanted to let go of her. Winry whimpered into his mouth and soon, Edward could feel her warm tears on his face. Being this close to her, holding her and kissing her like this almost felt like a dream. If he let go, then she'd disappear. He himself had to fight the urge to cry along with her. He just held her, holding back his tears and buried his face into her hair as she buried hers into the crook of his neck.

"Don't ever leave again, Edward please," was the only words that came from her.

"I promise. I won't ever leave you again," he replied in a tight voice.


Noah gasped as the images faded from her mind. Her brown eyes widened and she quickly removed her hand from his forehead. Everything she'd seen, it had to of been his memories. Was that what he dreamed about? The last image she'd seen. That had been a dream of Edward's. Noah was certain of it. It wasn't as crystal clear as the memories that salvaged her mind and she could tell it was a wish of the former alchemist's. The golden-haired man still didn't budge and slept soundly. "Winry, I won't leave," he mumbled as Noah slowly stood up from his bed.

I won't wake him up. I'll wait until morning to tell him that Hughes called for him earlier. He should at least allow his heart to feel light when he's sleeping...Noah thought to herself as she quietly turned off Edward's light and shut his door, trying to be as silent as possible. As she walked down the hallway to her room, she came to the realization that she'd never be Edward's. She'd taken a liking to Alphonse, yes, but Noah had always harbored feelings for Ed. Now she knew that it could never be. Maybe it would be best if she moved on with Alphonse, knowing that the older Elric's feelings she thought he had for her were never real. She decided as well that she'd tell Edward about the phone call he received, in the morning. Tonight, she just didn't have the heart to awaken him, no matter how her heart may have felt.

The sun shone brightly through the blonde's windows the next morning, casting it's warm rays over his face. Eyes still shut, he squinted against the brightness that was tempting his lids to lift. A wide yawn escaped his mouth and Edward rubbed his eyes against the sun's vibrant rays splashing on him through the sheer curtain on his window. He sat up in bed and remembered he'd fallen asleep wearing his clothes again. Ed laughed at himself as he sat up in bed, stretching and flexing the fingers on his mechanical arm. He reached over to the nightstand to his oil tin and squirted a few drops to release some of tension that had built up overnight. He'd have to get a brave streak and try and take it apart to see if anything had happened or not, but every time he started something always stopped him whenever he picked up the screwdriver. He was worried he'd mess up Winry's handiwork and then he'd really be screwed. With his line of work, he needed both arms.

Ed stood up from his bed and stripped out of his rumpled clothing down to his boxers. He rummaged in his drawer for new clothing, slipped on the white tank top and a pair of olive colored pants. "It'd be so much easier if I could just use alchemy here and transmute my clothes clean and crisp like before," the young man laughed as he dressed himself. He took his disheveled ponytail down and ran a brush through his hair, cringing as the bristles hit a few tangles. Edward left his long, golden locks flowing over his shoulders as he left the room and headed down the hall. He could smell that breakfast had been cooked, but when he entered the kitchen it was deserted. There was no sign of Noah or Alphonse anywhere.

"Hmmm, where the hell did they go?" Edward wondered, gazing down at the table. He saw his Sunday newspaper, still bundled and folded. Wondering what time it was, the older Elric gazed up at the clock ticking on the wall. It was after 10am. "Oh damn! I didn't realize it was that late!" He left the paper laying on the table, unconcerned about it at the moment and walked into the living room. He peered through a set of glass doors and saw Noah and Alphonse sitting on the balcony that led from the doors. They were sitting at a small, white table and chairs set drinking coffee. The blond pushed open the door with his metal hand, a cocky smirk on his face.

"So, you guys were just gonna really let me sleep all day?" he inquired, staring down the two who jumped slightly at Edward's sudden presence.

"Brother! We didn't expect you to be up for awhile yet. You were up pretty late last night," Alphonse stated.

"Yeah, but you could have still woken me up," Ed retorted. "I must have missed breakfast," he added with a somewhat pouty expression.

"There's still plenty left over," Al told him getting up from his chair and Noah following. "Let's go heat you some up." Edward noticed however, Noah was keeping her head down and not looking at him. He tilted his head slightly, a confused expression grazed his handsome features.

"Noah? Everything alright?" the older Elric questioned her.

The gyspy's dark eyes widened as she caught Ed's concerned look and then quickly averted her head once more. She didn't want him to see the look of guilt covering her face. "Fine, Ed. Everything is just fine," she lied and followed Alphonse back into the house.

"Hmmm, well...alright then," the blond replied, scratching the back of his head. Something was evidently bothering her, but he decided not to push it. He followed his brother and Noah back into the apartment. The brothers seated themselves at the table in the kitchen while Noah went to heat up a plate of sausages for Edward.

"Did you rest well, Brother? I got up this morning around 2:00 to go to the bathroom and your light was still on. I wanted to come in and check on you, but I wasn't sure if maybe you had just fallen asleep with the light on or not, and I didn't want to risk waking you," Alphonse stated as folded his hands on the table.

"Yeah I did sleep pretty good for a change," the older Elric replied, his normal playful grin on his face. "I thought maybe after I get some food in me, we could go out back and spar for awhile. Everybody's at church so they won't see us. You know it's been a quite a few weeks since we've done that."

"Yeah, you know Teacher always told us to train the mind to it's potential you gotta train the body!" the younger Elric pointed out cheerfully, realized what he said and then instantly blushed, turning his head away from his older brother's.

Edward's golden orbs widened as the memory of Izumi flashed before him. He remembered when Alphonse had told him their teacher had finally died and didn't want to speak of her since that day. Al had told him Izumi passed, and all Edward could say was 'oh really...' and quickly changed the subject. When Al tried to bring it up again, Edward snapped at his brother, telling him to drop it.They hadn't spoken of the woman since that day. Both boys had always looked up to her as a mother figure. Being in this world, Edward still wasn't sure he had completely accepted her death.

"Uh, yeah...so let's head out back when I get done!" Edward exclaimed as Noah placed a plate of heated sausages in front of the blond. He stuffed a couple in his mouth. "And I'll kick your arse," he added with his mouth full.

"Yeah right, Brother," Al replied, rolling his eyes and waving a hand at the older Elric. "Don't talk with your mouth full, it's rude."

Edward placed his palms on the table and glared at his younger brother, mouth full of sausage, causing the younger Elric to laugh at his silly expression. Ed just rolled his golden eyes and then took a drink of the orange juice Noah had put down for him. Neither of the brothers noticed the girl leave the room as they carried on about their plans for the day. When Edward had finished with his breakfast, he took his plate to the sink and rinsed it off. He turned towards Alphonse with a devious grin plastered to his face. He pulled the hair band off of his wrist and tied his hair back into a ponytail.

"Alright, Brother, you ready for this?" Edward inquired.

"I've been more than ready," Al replied, removing his button-down shirt to reveal a white tank top underneath his shirt, just like his brother's. The two young men walked out of the apartment, down the stairs and around back of the complex. They saw Noah standing out there, hanging sheets on a clothesline and waved at her.

"To train the mind...," Edward began as he stood ready for any sudden attack Al might unleash on him, his fists raised.

"You gotta train the body," the younger Elric replied, but before he could even move, Edward was lunging full force at his younger brother. He drew back his automail fist and swiftly brandished it; Alphonse easily side stepped the attack. Using this to his advantage, Edward lowered his body and unleashed a side-kick to the younger Elric's ankles, sending his brother toppling over.

"You're rusty!" Ed taunted. "C'mon now Al, don't go soft on me! Show me some serious combat!"

"Oh you asked for it now, Brother!" Alphonse shot back as he lept on his feet, ran towards Edward and lept in the air, brandishing his right leg towards his brother's head.

Prepared for this, Edward blocked the attack with his right arm. On impact, Alphonse shot backwards and landed swiftly on his feet, sliding back a ways, leaving tracks in the grass. The moment he saw Alphonse down, Edward lept in the air, kicking out his right leg towards his brother. Alphonse was ready for it and he grabbed Edward's foot with both hands, shoving him backwards. The former alchemist back flipped and landed on his left knee and right hand. The older Elric grit his teeth, still grinning. The two unleashed what looked like powerful punches and a series of side-kick attacks on one another. They twisted, turned, back-flipped, cart-wheeled all over the yard. Again, Alphonse would grab Edward's foot and again the boy would back flip, landing cat-like on the ground before unleashing a series of punches and kicks on his brother, sending him soaring.

Noah stood and watched them carry on for awhile, always worried that they would get too rough with one another, but neither boys ever sparred hard enough to hurt one another. She was amazed by their fighting skills and knew that soon they would tire. She gathered up two white, fluffy towels for the boys to dry off with when they were finished. As she watched them, another image of blonde girl she'd seen in Edward's dreams flashed before her eyes. The girl was standing in front of a tree and she seemed to be shouting and cheering the boys on. Noah shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut. She really needed to tell Edward about the phone call he'd received awhile asleep. She felt two hands on her shoulders and lifted her head to meet Al's warm, brown eyes.

"You okay there, Noah?" he asked her worriedly. The younger Elric was still breathing rather heavily from his sparring session with Edward.

Noah had been so lost in her thoughts that she didn't realize the brothers had quit for the day. "I'm fine, Alphonse," she told him smiling. She handed him the towels. "Just a headache. Here take these. You can and Ed can dry off with them," she added with a giggle, noticing the boys had broken into a definite sweat. She gathered up the wooden laundry basket and headed back into the complex.

"We better get back inside, Brother," Al pointed out. "People will be getting back from church and you don't want them seeing your automail."

"Yeah you're right. Maybe we should spar at night so we're not seen," the older Elric proposed as he took the towel Al had offered him and placed it over his shoulders.

Ed threw his arm around his younger brother's shoulders as the two talked and headed back into the complex. They plopped down on the couch in the living room, throwing their arms over the back of it and resting their heads up against the backs of the cushions.

"You were tough on me today, Brother," Alphonse stated as they sat in the quiet of the apartment. "My arms are gonna be sore tomorrow," he complained.

"Yeah, well, I told you you were rusty," The older Elric teased. "I really think we should keep up on our sparring sessions. Even though we're not...at home...doesn't mean that we still can't keep our bodies in shape."

"I agree, Brother," Alphonse stated. He was about to say something else when he was interrupted by Noah's soft voice.

"Ummm, I'm sorry to interrupt you guys, but Edward, there's something I need to tell you," the gyspy woman began.

The older Elric sat up and gazed at her, eyes slightly wide and curious. "Ummm, okay. What is it, Noah?"

"There was a phone call for you last night," she began, twisting her apron she wore around in her hands nervously. "I didn't want to wake you because you were sleeping so peacefully."

"A phone call last night? Wow, that's kinda late to be calling. Who was it?" Edward questioned standing up.

"Ummm...it was Hughes," Noah stated, not able to look at him.

"Hughes!? He called here last night for me!? Well, what did he want?" the blonde questioned her, now standing up. "Did he leave a number for me to reach him back!?"

"Yes, he did. It's over there by the phone," the gypsy replied, pointing towards the desk were the telephone sat.

"Well, did he say what the call was about? I can't imagine why he'd call me that late night at night unless...," the former alchemist's eyes widened even more and he looked over at Alphonse who met his gaze knowingly. "No! NOAH! What did he say!" the older Elric demanded.

"He said...it was really important," she answered in a small voice. "And he mentioned something about the gate."

"WHAT!? AND YOU DIDN'T WAKE ME UP, OR AT LEAST TELL ME FIRST THING! YOU'VE GOT SOME NERVE KEEPING SOMETHING LIKE THAT FROM ME!" the older Elric exploded at the gypsy. "DON'T YOU REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT THAT GATE IS!? IT LEADS TO MY OTHER WORLD NOAH! MY HOME!"

"Calm down, Brother!" the younger Elric exclaimed, leaping off of the couch to calm his irate brother and comfort Noah. He placed his hands on the dark-haired woman's shoulders. "Noah just didn't want to wake you up. That's the only reason. At least she didn't keep it from you."

"I can't calm down!" the blond replied, slamming his hands down onto the desk. "Don't you get it!? If we failed in destroying that gate, then that means...Winry and all the others could be...dammit! Where's that number!" He was throwing papers and books off of the desk right and left.

"It's on top of the desk, Edward," Noah stated softly, her head hanging. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner."

Edward stared hardly at her for a moment and sighed. "Nevermind it," he told her before picking up the phone and dialing the number Hughes left for him.

Noah just gazed at him sadly, a small smile on her face. He saw tears glistening in her eyes and immediately felt guilty. "I now understand...I know I'm not the one for you, Ed," she told him before turning away and running out of the room, leaving the older Elric very confused. He didn't have much time to put it all together before the other line picked up.

"Hello?" answered the familiar, cheerful voice on the other line.

"Hughes!? Hey, it's Edward," the former alchemist said, trying to keep the anxiousness out of his voice.

"Oh, hey Ed! Long time no chat! Sorry about calling you so late last night, but I just had to call you! You see, me and Gracia finally have decided to set a wedding date! Plus I was up so late last night because of her. I swear, she's like a cat! She could go all night! I mean the woman is sensational! I can't get enough of it! She's like a lovegoddess in the sack! It's as if an angel, descended from heaven and kissed her on her-," Hughes carried on, but was quickly cut off by Edward.

Is this the same .... Mustang had to put up with from Hughes back at home? "Hughes...I really don't want to hear all about yours and Gracia's...well, you know!. If you don't tell me the real reason why you called last night, I'm gonna hang up!" the older Elric threatened, trying hard not to explode. "What I do want to know is that Noah said you called in regards to the gate. Hughes...tell me Al and I succeeded in destroying it. Please tell me that everything's alright," he pleaded.

"I really don't know Edward," Hughes replied, resuming a serious tone. "Some people that used to work with Alfonse were out by Haushofer's Villa a few nights ago and saw a strange light emitting from the windows. We don't know what's going on or if somebody from the other side is trying to get in. I felt that it was important and you needed to know. I know how much that world on the other side means to you and your brother, but with it lighting up as much as it has been-"

"Don't say another word, Hughes. Al and I will take the first train out of here, jump ship and head back to Germany."

"I figured you would, Edward. We'll be waiting here for you. As soon as you get back, I'll take you out to Haushofer's Villa so you can see what's going on with the gate for yourself. You and your brother be safe."

"Will do, thanks Hughes," the older Elric replied before hanging up. He turned towards his brother with a serious look planted on his handsome face. "Alphonse...we're going back to Germany."

"Back to Germany? Why Brother, what's happening!?" Al demanded. "Is it really the gate?"

"It is...it's possible that...we failed in destroying it," Edward answered hoarsely.
RavenHair
Aww that was a really good chapter. When Naoh was reading Ed's thoughts it was so sad and you had every line right down to a T! Awesome job! I definately think your story is turning out better then mine :-( But that's ok. I haven't gotten a single comment on it. But I figure I should finish it out for myself if no one else. I do hope you continue writing this and give it a proper ending. Alot of times I'll read a t story and it's getting really good then it just trails off and the person never finishes it :-( One of the reason I started wrtiting my own. At least I can get a ending that I might like to this movie lol. I started writing chapter 5 of mine last night and got it half way done. I couldn't think of what else I wanted to put into the chapter. Hopefully tomorrow or maybe even tonight I can work on it some more. Anyways I'll go for anow and can't wait for chapter 4!
Celeste Nayamashii
I'm off to go and read yours now happy.gif I'll give you a comment as soon as I'm done. I'm glad you're still dedicated to getting it done. Just keep up the hard work on it! I'm so glad you're enjoying this story of mine! I'll post up the next chapter for you.

Chapter 4- Familiarity on the Voyage

Edward ran frantically around his bedroom, gathering up clothes and stuffing them haphazardly into a suitcase. He didn't bother grabbing any of his favorite books, too much was spinning through his head at the moment. The gate, Winry, Amestris, Risembool, Central, the military, everything...he was almost positive that by closing it up would have kept anything out of it, but there was only so much you could do in this world. He and his brother Alphonse had used bricks, wood and scraps of metal to build over the gate as there were really no means of destroying it, just closing it and covering it up from any seeing eyes. They had attempted to destroy it by shooting it, but to no avail. Shooting it had been a complete failure and so the boys tried many other methods, but nothing seemed to work.

The gate was still open and still glowing bright as ever. There was really no true way of 'destroying' the gate on this side like he had hoped for, so instead, they came to the conclusion of closing it up. They built a massive, makeshift, stronghold boulder over it on their own. The only person who'd seen what they did was Noah, so there were no worries of anybody finding out what they did. When the boys were finished, it looked like nothing but an ordinary wall. Anybody out of the ordinary wouldn't have noticed what was truly behind that wall of brick, wood and metal. It had taken them at least a good week to create the wall without alchemy, but regardless, they managed to cover it up, hide its existence and that was all that mattered.

"So then why the hell is light showing through that damned gate!" Edward exclaimed out loud, slamming his fist down on the wooden desk across from his bed, rattling the bottle of Napoleon wine and empty glass next to it on the silver tray. "Unless Mustang failed to destroy it on the other side, which I doubt he did, and we have it covered on this side then there can't be any way for anything or anyone to get through. It was just me, Noah and Alphonse there when we closed that gate...so then how would anybody know it was still there? Everybody assumed we had succeeded in destroying, and it because we told them we did. Nobody's gone back to Haushofer's Villa since as far as we know," the young scientist thought out loud scratching his chin with his metal hand.

There was a swift knock on his door when Alphonse walked in without waiting for Edward to answer. "I've got all my things packed, Brother. The train leaves for the docks at 10:00 AM. We've got an hour to get to the station."

Edward pulled out his pocket watch from inside his pants and flipped it open; just another thing he carried out of nostalgia. It reminded him of home and what he carried with him when he used to be a state alchemist. Though it wasn't his state issued watch, it was still a chained pocket watch. "Try 45 minutes Al, we need to hurry up and finish getting everything together that we need," the older Elric told him as he finished shoving the last of his essentials into the suitcase and slammed the lid shut. "And with the crowd always in the city, we're going to have a hell of a time getting through it. Dammit! Sometimes I wish we did have the use of alchemy here. It'd make things so much easier and we wouldn't be putting up with this."

The golden-haired man tied his long hair back into a high ponytail and threw on his deep, brown overcoat. He grabbed his pair of white gloves, pulled them on and secured them around his mechanical hand. He took one last look around the room before his eyes fell on the blue curtain that secluded the paintings he had created from view. The older Elric turned towards his brother. "Hey Al, could I ah...have a few minutes alone please?"

"Ummm, sure thing, Brother," the Alphonse replied, rubbing the back of his head in confusion. He left the room, closing the door behind him.

Edward could tell Alphonse didn't understand why he wanted to be left alone, but that was okay. He didn't want him to know. He didn't want anyone to know the true feelings he harbored deep in his heart. It was something very private and personal, despite all of the things he shared with his younger brother, this just wasn't one of them he could willingly tell him. Though he did feel guilty; they were leaving Noah behind and he knew Alphonse had been growing fond of her, this was way too important. The brothers had discussed it last night, saying Noah would be safer here than in Amestris, a world where she couldn't even begin to understand the essence of it's power, even though she'd seen into Ed's mind. They just wanted her to remain safe. Edward crossed the wooden floor over to the blue curtain and pulled it back. He gently removed each painting down from the wall and carried them over to where his suitcase lay on his unkempt bed sheets. He flipped the lid back open and took out his rumpled clothes. Carefully he lay each painting at the bottom of the suitcase until the very last one was one Winry's face; the way he'd last seen her. He ran a fingertip gently down her painted cheek.

"I really don't know what's going to happen once we get to Munich...but, it's possible that we could be going home for real. I'm going to find you, Winry. We'll be together again soon," he spoke gently to her oil-created picture. The older Elric felt his heart lurch in his chest at the thought of going back home to everything dear and familiar.

Edward gathered his clothes, placed them over the paintings, hiding them from view, gathered his journal, put it in the suitcase and shut the lid once more securing it's latches. He flung open his bedroom door and hurried down the hallway, glancing once more at his pocket watch. Five minutes had already gone by and he was wasting precious time on getting to the train station. He reached the front room and skidded to a halt to see Noah standing next to Alphonse in her coat.

"Noah? What's going on?" the blond man questioned.

"Noah's going to accompany us to the train station, Ed," Alphonse replied as he placed his hand on her shoulder.

Edward noticed that the gypsy couldn't even look him in the eyes and he felt another twinge of guilt. I'll explain it all to her once we get to the docks. "Alright then, but let's get out of here before we miss the train!" Edward urged, ushering the two out of the door.

He stepped out into the sunlight and was nearly blinded by it's rays as he advanced down the street next to his brother. Shielding his eyes with one gloved hand, he gazed ahead and groaned at all the people he saw standing in the streets. Noah walked on the other side of the younger Elric, keeping her distance from Edward. He knew why and he could remember her words as he called Hughes yesterday. "I now understand...I know I'm not the one for you, Ed..." No, she wasn't the one for him, but that didn't excuse how he had reacted to the news regarding the gate.

Edward seized his left hand into a tight fist. He had yelled at the girl and felt bad about doing so, but Noah had kept something really important from him for a long period of time. He had every right to be upset with her, didn't he? If she had told them sooner, they could already be gone. Then again, he was able to put together that Noah had feelings for him, and that only made him feel worse because he didn't return them. He couldn't, not after realizing his feelings for a certain mechanic in Amestris. I'm sorry, Noah...you're very dear to me...but in a different way. Winry is more...The former alchemist was interrupted in his thoughts as he ran smack dab into a person in front of him.

"OW DAMMIT! Hey! Can't you watch where you're going!?" Edward snapped as he rubbed his forehead. The people in front of him were, much to Edward's dismay, quite a few inches taller than him and they turned to stare down angrily at the golden-haired scientist.

"Maybe you should watch where you're going, short stuff," came a gruff voice from the harsh looking man, who had to be at least 6 feet tall, in front of him. The blond just glared back, gritting his teeth and trying hard not unleash the burning anger he was beginning to feel building in his temples. Edward started growling through his clenched teeth but then found himself being harshly pulled backward.

"Ahahaha, sorry about my brother. We're just in a hurry to get to the train station!" Alphonse apologized nervously, grabbing his feisty brother by the coat and dragging him away. He just ignored the his brother's protests as the golden-haired young man flailed his fists and legs furiously at the people who'd called him 'short stuff'. No matter how old he got, he still wasn't going to be average height, but at least he wasn't 4' 9" anymore. He's grown to be 5' 5" tall. At least he'd managed to break 5 feet, but still, he wished he'd grown a bit taller. His brother was easily two inches over his own height now. Alphonse had grown a lot in the short period of time he'd been back in his body, especially within the past year. It was an alarming rate.

"Dammit, Al! Let me go!" Edward ordered as he tried to jerk out of the younger Elric's hold.

"Calm down, Brother and I'll let you go," sighed the amber-haired boy, rolling his brown eyes.

"I'll calm down as soon as we get to Munich," the older Elric growled as he felt his brother release him. He straightened out of his olive vest and repositioned his coat. "I'm just stressed out about this whole business with the gate," he added to Alphonse under his breath. He still clutched his suitcase in his right hand, and slung it over his shoulder.

"Me too, Ed, but we can't take it out on the townspeople and tourists. That's why you need to calm down and just relax. Getting worked up won't make things any easier and letting your temper rise will definitely not make things go quicker," the younger Elric pointed out.

"Yeah, yeah I know you're right, Al but..," Edward paused and tried to crane his head over the crowd of pedestrians in front of him. "I CAN'T SEE OVER THESE IDIOTS! HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW IF WE'RE AT THE TRAIN STATION YET OR NOT!" the blond exploded as he and his brother continued to force their way through the crowd.

"Calm down, Brother. I can see just fine over their heads. I'll be the lookout since you can't," Al proposed as he slung his suitcase over his shoulder just as his brother did.

"What was that Alphonse?" Edward questioned through clenched teeth. He raised his fist which was visibly shaking and clasped tightly. "I didn't quite hear you. Maybe you should speak up."

"Ugh, Brother, just knock it off already, just because I'm taller than you-," the younger Elric began but was forcably cut off by his older brother.

"WHO ARE YOU CALLING A SHRIMP SO SMALL THAT THEY'D HAVE TO PUT HIM UNDER A MICROSCOPE JUST TO IDENTIFY WHO HE IS!?" the golden-haired man exploded.

"I didn't mean anything by it, Brother!" Alphonse tried to explain, but had laughter in his voice. He took off running as soon as he spotted an out through the crowd and Edward shot after him.

"COME BACK HERE AND SAY THAT TO MY FACE WITHOUT LAUGHING!" the older Elric exploded. People noticed that the two young men were running through the crowded streets, one being chased by the other and began to back away, making room so they wouldn't get plowed down by the high-strung Elrics.

"I promise I won't say it again!" Alphonse exclaimed over his shoulder, still running from his brother and laughing. He had a very amused Noah by the hand and was dragging her along with him. Her steps were stumbling as she tried to work her legs to keep up with the amber-haired young man. He continued to hold her hand tightly so she wouldn't fall and she joined in on Alphonse's laughter.

"Slow down, Alphonse! I'm sure Edward isn't going to do anything to you," the gypsy woman insisted, her long dark hair trailing behind her.

"No way! I don't trust Brother! Even if I say I won't call him short anymore, he doesn't believe me!" Alphonse replied frantically, though the laughter was still heard in his voice.

"I"M NOT SHORT! AND SURE YOU WON'T! SO WHY DON'T YOU LISTEN TO NOAH AND SLOW DOWN!" panted Edward, still yelling at the top of his lungs as he weaved in out of the traveling pedestrians, keeping an eye on his younger brother's low ponytail whipping behind him. He had to admit, he was glad Alphonse had decided to grow his hair back. They looked even more like brothers with their matching ponytails, though Edward wore his a bit higher at the back of his head where as Alphonse wore his lower and closer to his neck. "I CAN STILL SEE YOU AL, WOULD YOU JUST STOP ALREADY!?"

"NO! I WON'T! YOU WON'T STOP CHASING ME IF I DID STOP! I'M NOT GONNA CAUGHT!" Alphonse shot back in taunting tones.

"NOT UNLESS IT'S BY ME!" Edward yelled flailing his suitcase in his right hand. He was visibly choleric now.

"EDWARDDDDDDDDD!" Alphonse replied in an irritated tone.

GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" the older Elric roared as he gained speed and finally caught up with his brother. He grabbed the younger Elric by the waist to try and slow his movement. Alphonse let go of Noah's hand, grabbed ahold of Edward's coat sleeve and lost his footing while doing so. "SHIIIIIIITTTTTTT!" the young scientist bellowed as he felt himself loose balance, and the two went down, landing roughly upon the cobblestone street on their sides.

"Owwww, hospital," whined the blond as he sat up, rubbing his head. "Why the hell did you fall down for!?"

"I didn't fall down! You pushed me down, Brother!" Alphonse retorted as he sat up, rubbing his side.

"Oh you two brothers are such a nuisance," Noah rebuttled, still in fits of laughter, though Edward noticed her laughs seemed almost too cheerful.

The brothers were about to respond when they were cut off by a very high-pitched whistle. Edward and Alphonse both gazed upward somewhat surprised. "Hah! We made it to the train station in one piece!" the blond stated in satisfied tones still sitting on his haunches and thrusting his fist into the air. He stood up, grabbed his suitcase and dusted himself off. He held a hand out to his brother, helping the younger Elric to his feet.

"Yeah, but if you would have continued chasing me, we probably wouldn't have made it in one piece," Alphonse remarked, rolling his eyes as he dusted himself off as well.

"Then it's just as well that I caught you," Edward replied arrogantly, sticking his nose in the air.

The blond scientist took out his pocket watch once more and flipped it open. "The train leaves in 15 minutes! We gotta hurry up and get tickets now!" Edward dashed across the crowd, over to the booth and bought two tickets for the train. He came back and handed Alphonse his. "Well, it's now or never, Al." He turned to Noah who's smiling had completely faded and a shadow cast over her dark eyes.

"Don't worry Noah," Edward told the girl kindly as he laid a gloved hand on her shoulder. "We'll have Hughes call you as soon as we can relay some news and keep you updated." The golden-haired man sighed as he noticed the gypsy could still not bring herself to look at him. "Noah...I'm going to have to be honest with you before we go. There's a possibility that Al and I might not come back. If that's the case, there is plenty of money stashed away inside of my desk drawer. The key to the drawer is hidden in the 3rd book from the right on the top shelf in my room. Use it if you need anything. Don't stay around and wait. Go out into the world and make yourself some friends. Nobody shuns you here for being Roma, so enjoy your life. Make the most of it because you only have one. I'm...sorry I couldn't give you more...but it's...just hard to explain. Just promise you'll keep moving forward," the blond told her as tenderly as possible. "You'll never be forgotten, Noah. You'll always be a dear friend to me."

Noah gasped lightly and looked up into Edward's warm, golden orbs. He was smiling and for some strange reason he seemed light-hearted and happy for the first time in a long time. Crystalline tears were filling her dark eyes and she smiled back at the scientist. She took his left hand in both of hers and closed her eyes. "I hope you find what you're searching for and I hope you find your way back to her, Edward," the young gypsy spoke in barely above a whisper.

"Yeah, me too," Edward replied with a nod. She opened her teary eyes and still continued to smile. "Take care of yourself, Noah." He gave the girl's hand a gentle squeeze with his own, released it and boarded the train without looking back.

"Look after him," Noah told Alphonse as the two gazed at one another. "You know how irate he can be sometimes and you seem to the only one who can control him when he gets mad," she added with a small laugh.

"Don't worry I will," the younger Elric replied, sadness grazing his child-like face. "I'm really sorry we have to do this, Noah. It's just...important that we find out what's happening on the other side. You see, it's our home. It's where we grew up. We have a lot of people there who we love and want to protect, especially Brother."

"I know...Winry. I hope he can find her, Alphonse. I know how much he loves her. I seen it the other night. I seen him dream about her, all the memories of her and his wishes to be with her...and I want him to be happy," Noah choked, a few tears streaming down her cheeks now. Alphonse just gazed at her and reached up a hand and brushed them away. She placed a hand over Al's hand and leaned into his touch.

"Noah, Brother is right. I don't know if we'll be coming back or not, so please take his advice and live your life for us and for yourself." He took the gypsy into his arms and held her close."We'll never forget you, Noah...ever."

"I won't forget either of you," Noah spoke into his shoulder, hugging the younger Elric tightly back. "Tell Edward goodbye for me. He left too quickly without giving me the chance to say it and give him a hug for me."

"Brother hates goodbyes...that's probably why he wouldn't say it. He told me that he's said goodbye to too many people he cares about that he just can't say it anymore, but that's where he and I differ," the amber-haired young man replied. "Goodbyes...have become a bit easier for me. When I was younger and in that suit of armor, goodbyes were very hard, but from everything I've been through and seen, losing Brother twice, losing Mom and Dad and friends I loved, it's not as hard for me to say goodbye, because no matter what, I always know that they're in here," Alphonse explained to her, tapping his chest gently. "So promise me, Noah that even though this is most likely goodbye, you'll keep going and staying strong."

"Okay, Al...I'll live for you...I'll live for both of you. I'll go out into the world and make friends. I'll live as if everyday were my last," Noah told him, smiling through her tears. As the two hugged tightly, they didn't notice Edward peering out of the train window, watching his brother saying goodbye to their dear friend. He sighed sadly, his golden eyes downcast and rested his chin in his hand. The whistle blew again signaling the train was going to leave in a few minutes. Alphonse tenderly kissed Noah on the forehead. "Goodbye, Noah."

"Goodbye, Alphonse," the gypsy told him.

She watched as the younger Elric boarded the train. He reached the same seat as his brother and both boys opened up the window leaning out. They waved and smiled at her. She did her best to put on her prettiest smile and waved back at them. The train whistle blew once more, signaling it's departure and idly began moving down the tracks. The boys watched until Noah was a small speck and out of sight. They never saw the gypsy girl fall to her knees, crying into her hands nor did they see the generous people that were around her comfort her and help her back to her feet. Edward leaned back into his seat his hands behind his head. Alphonse just stared out of the window with a blank expression.

The older Elric quickly noticed this and leaned forward. "Hey, Al...you okay?"

"What? Yeah...I'm just thinking about stuff. I'm thinking about Noah. I hope she's going to be okay," the amber-haired boy admitted.

"She'll be fine, Al. Noah's strong and she knows of some other people of her race around the area. I'm sure she'll be just fine once she gets used to us not being there anymore," Edward tried to reassure his younger brother.

"Yeah, but that's not all I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about home, Brother. Do you think we'll be able to go home? Do you think we'll get to see Granny Pinako, Winry, General Mustang and everybody else again?" the younger Elric questioned.

"If...if we have to, we will. I never really wanted to say anything in front of Noah about this, because you know of her clairvoyance, but...don't you miss being home? Don't you just want to go back home?"

"Brother, what's with this all of a sudden? You want to go home?" Alphonse questioned, raising an eyebrow in confusion at his older sibling. "I thought you said that this place was home."

"I know, but...I mean don't you miss using alchemy and being near our friends and family? Don't you miss Winry, Granny and everybody else? I know I said this place was home and we had to do our part, but we couldn't track down that uranium bomb that was brought into Germany, hence why even more were created, so what exactly can we do now? It's not like we can stop the war from happening. The army is so huge here and the war is inevitable. Plus...I almost lost you again from that explosion, Al," Edward stated, seeming as though he'd been holding these thoughts inside of himself for a long time. "I've been thinking for a long time now...how is this world anymore different or dangerous than home? We all live the same, don't we? We laugh, we cry, we have children, we fight, we go to war and we die. It's no different than home, except for the uses of alchemy and the homunculi, but I suppose you could almost consider the Nazi's as homunculi in this world except for the inhuman abilities. Yet they're so evil you could almost consider them inhuman, right? Besides that, we only have one person here we're truly close to and that's Noah, where as everybody we know and love is in Amestris."

"I get what you're saying, Brother, about all the similarities. I do miss home. I want to go home. Honestly I do, but what if by some small chance we can't go back? I mean if General Mustang managed to destroy the gate on the other side, we'll never get back through. We'll never see Winry, Granny, Den, or anybody ever again and we'll be stuck in this world forever."

"Well, we'll find out when we get back to Munich, Al. All we can do now is be patient and wait," Edward sighed as he leaned back in his seat again. "I should practice what I preach," the former alchemist laughed. "You know I have the worst time being patient."

"How long do you think the trip from New York to Germany will be?" Alphonse questioned as he leaned against the window, stretching his long legs out across the seat.

"Well, the ship we're taking goes at a decently fast rate. I imagine it'll take about a week to get into Germany. I don't know what the name of the ship is, but I do know they have 1st, 2nd and 3rd class lodgings. There's going to be at least 200 to 300 passengers on board. Really that's all I know," Edward replied as he too lay across his seat now, closing his golden orbs. The moment he shut his eyes, he could see Winry's smiling face behind his lids. "I just can't wait to get back to Haushofer's Villa and find out what exactly is happening with that gate." Alphonse just nodded silently in response.

An hour later, the train began to slow, blowing it's whistle to signal it had reached it's destination. The Elrics gathered their suitcases and left the train. They stepped back out into the sunlight once more and glancing around the shipping docks. The ocean was a sparkling mass of crystal blue as the hot rays cast down over the gentle, waving waters. Tied up and anchored to the dock, was a massive, blue and white ship at dock number four where the brothers would be boarding. Sprinkled across the starboard side of the boat were the words The Aquroya in gold.

"Edward!" exclaimed Alphonse, pointing to the massive lettering. "Look at the ship's name!"

"Aquroya, huh? Sometimes this place just gets more and more strange," the elder Elric muttered under his breath. "It's so weird to see a ship named after one of the towns in our world, isn't it?"

"Yeah, but I'll never forget our trip there," laughed Alphonse as the boys hurried to the docks where they purchased second-class tickets to The Aquroya.

They boarded the giant ship, handing their second class tickets to officer who stood on the plank. He ripped off the part he needed and handed the stub back to the boys which indicated what room they'd be staying in. They marched up the plank and onto the massive, wooden deck. The deck floor was a fine, polished wooden finish and children were running across it's smooth surface, laughing loudly and playing with a ball. The captain's cabin was built in the same wood, rather tall with one tiny window at the door of it. Next to the captain's cabin was the steering room, Edward assumed where the ship was piloted. They stared around at all the people who were boarding and heading to their lodging rooms. Alongside the deck railing were small, wooden benches where people were sitting and some were empty. Both brothers looked at each other for a moment before bursting into laughter.

"Aquroya is something I'll never forget," Edward laughed as he and Alphonse made their way down the deck.

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"Well it looks like a little bit of food poisoning that's all," explained the doctor as he turned his chair to face the sick Elric and his brother who was sitting behind him.

"You mean it's not from eating too much?" questioned Al, as his helmeted face stared down at his older brother who sat hunched over on a stool.

"Oh shut up," retorted Edward as he glared at the doctor sitting in front of him.

"We'll need to give you an injection," the doctor told him. "Clara?" the bespectacled man called out to his nurse.

Edward's golden orbs widened to the size of silver dollars. "An injection?" he and his brother questioned in unison.

"Yeah, just a poke," the doctor told him cheerfully, peering at the golden-haired boys through his large- rimmed glasses.

There was a crash and Ed threw the stool he had been sitting on across the room. He made to leap out of room and get as far away from the needle as possible. "NO! GET AWAY FROM ME! I DON'T NEED IT!"

Alphonse was too quick for his brother and swiftly grabbed him around the tiny waist, pulling him back into the room. "It's just a little needle. You'll be fine," he assured his the flailing alchemist.

"I FEEL BETTER! I'M CURED!" Edward insisted, struggling against his brother's hold. He was cursing himself in his head for Alphonse being bigger than him at this point in time.

"Don't be a baby. Take off your coat!" Alphonse told him as he attempted to hold down his thrashing brother.

"I HATE YOU AL! WHY DO YOU WANNA SELL OUT YOUR OWN BROTHER! YOU'RE EVIL!" Edward bellowed as Alphonse held him down to take off his coat.

"You don't mean that!" Al shot back, his voice almost sounding as though it were brimming with tears.

"I'LL TURN YOU ALL INTO FISH!" the young alchemist threatened, fighting against Alphonse's strong hold and almost making it seem as though the entire room were shaking.

The nurse came into the room holding the syringe in one hand. She had a very pretty face, short, honey-blonde hair and warm, blue eyes. She approached the now trembling Elric who was sitting once more on the stool, behind held down firmly by Alphonse. He was clenching his teeth looking terrified and made to open his mouth in protest when the nurse placed a finger over his mouth as she began to insert the needle into his arm, breaking his attention from the injection.

"There, you're all done Ed!" Clara told him warmly and cheerfully, removing the needle from his arm and holding it upright. "That didn't hurt at all, did it?"

"Fast work. You didn't even notice," the giant suit of armor pointed out as he sat behind his brother.

"Hmmm, and after all that fuss," Clara added calmly with slight laughter in her tone.

"Yeah, so what's your point?" Edward shot back, clearly embarrassed by the way he acted over a tiny needle.

"We all have to grow up sometime, right?" the lady replied, still smiling at him, only further irritating the young alchemist.

"So, is the rude commentary included in the bill?" Edward interrogated her, only causing Alphonse to sigh at his brother and stare at the nurse before them.

After his visit to the doctor's office, the boys went outside to finish their sight seeing around the tourist hot spot. The two were sitting on a park bench, enjoying the warmth of the sun hitting their faces and the cool breeze that rustled the trees above them. "She was so good at her job. Smart and gorgeous too. I can't stop thinking about her," the younger Elric sighed.

"You've got the weirdest taste in women, Al. She was a bad gift in pretty wrapping," Edward replied in lazy tones as he leaned back against the oak bench, his hands placed comfortably behind his head.


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The boys continued to laugh heartily as they leaned up against the deck railing, reminiscing about their past enjoyment in Aquroya. "Well, you sure found out I was right," Edward told him, slightly shoving his younger brother. "She was a bad gift in pretty wrapping, and you still have weird taste in women if you're still hung up on...Clara," Edward taunted, putting emphasis on her name in an almost singsong voice.

"No she wasn't, Brother! I still don't believe that for a minute! I feel that Clara was trying to save that town," Alphonse shot back. "At least I wasn't running away from her like a big baby when she went to give you your shot."

"Uh! Hey! You don't know what kind of experiences I had with needles back then, Al," Edward scoffed, blushing at the memory. "You couldn't blame me for being afraid of a needle."

"Hahaha, yeah and what's gonna happen if you get sick again and have to have the same injection, Brother? You gonna run out of the doctor's office like a big baby?" he questioned sardonically.

"Of course not. I'm 19 years old. Why the hell would I run away from a stupid needle? I was only 15 back then anyway. Most 15 year old kids hated needles, didn't they? Besides, you were a big armored body. You couldn't feel the needle. Maybe you'll be the next one to get sick and get a shot," Edward replied with a devilish grin. "You haven't had a shot in a looooong time, have you Alphonse?"

"No, but I sure won't act like you did, Brother and run away from it," Alphonse stated dryly.

"Hah! I never told you what happened the night I chased her down!" Edward exclaimed, changing the subject as the talk re-jogged his memory.

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"Hey! Hold it!" Edward ordered as he chased the masked, black-suited, curvy thief out of the building. She had crashed down the door, living a trail of billowing smoke in her wake. The beautiful bandit dashed across the bridge in hopes to escape from the state alchemist on her tail. The woman couldn't see the young man behind her anymore and she looked forward, coming to an abrupt halt at what stood at least 10 feet from her.

There was the golden-haired, braided boy with the long red coat standing right in her front of her, both of his fists clenched tightly. "Alchemy's the greatest thing we have going for us," he told her, glaring at the woman through golden eyes. "And yet here you are stealing with it and making things even worse!" the alchemist stated, raising his fist threateningly at her. "Not to mention I put up with a very mind-numbing interrogation because of you," he added bitterly. "I'd say you owe me a major apology!"

The masked woman held her fingers upward as though she were going to snap and gently blew on them, unleashing a long line of what seemed to be cards. The cards formed themselves into a long, multi-colored blade. Edward gasped as he watched the alchemic reaction take place and he stepped backward. The woman raised her sword threateningly, bringing the blade down as though to cut through the boy, but Edward's quick reflexes and martial arts training proved otherwise. He was entirely too quick for her as he ducked the blade's blow. He lifted his metal fist with a bellow emerging from his chest and which collided with the shining blade. The blade dissolved back into a deck of cards that floated listlessly down into the water below them. Edward grabbed the girl's shoulders and slammed her down on the pavement, landing on top of her, straddling the woman to hold her down and breathing heavily.

"You've just been pinned, Psiren," the alchemist told her, trying to catch his breath. his golden orbs squinted shut. His hand clasped one shoulder, but the other was clasping something not as hard as her shoulder. "HUH!?" The golden eyes flew open to stare down at what his had was grasping. He squeezed a few times before realizing he had grabbed the woman's breast. He lept off of the woman in complete and utter horror and embarrassment. "I DIDN'T MEAN THAT!" he told her almost desperately.

"You've never fought with a woman before, have you?" Psiren questioned with a lusty tone. "Makes for a whole new style of action," she added as she unzipped her top that would soon expose her plump breasts if she pulled it down any further. She revealed a transmutation circle tattooed on her chest and another deck of cards in between her breasts. Edward's eyes opened wide as a bright magenta light shot out of the tattoo, slamming into the state alchemist and throwing him backward. He landed roughly on his back, groaning as his body made impact with the concrete.

"HEY! THAT WAS A DIRTY TRICK!" the boy bellowed as the cards that had penetrated his coat held him down.

"It's a shame I can't show you my face. It's a real treat," Psiren told him, smiling as she zipped her top back up. She brought her fingers to her red, plump lips, kissed them and blew the kiss back at Edward. "Sleep tight, pipsqueak!" she called as took off once more, her black-heeled boats echoing in the distance.

"Who are you callin' a pipsqueak!? You know I'd be tall too in heels! RAAAWWRGH!" the little alchemist exploded.


-------

Alphonse had completely doubled over in laughter now at his older brother's story. "Y-y-you mean to tell me that you...GROPED HER!" he exploded as another fit of convulsive whooping hit the younger Elric. "Lucky you, Brother!"

"Oh c'mon Al, it's not that funny," Edward grumbled as the blush became extremely obvious on his face. "It's not like I meant to...ya know...grab her there."

"Yeah, right, okay Ed, whatever you say. You thought she was gorgeous too," Al told him as he wiped his eyes on the back of his hand, trying to catch his breath.

The ship was beginning to depart from the docks now and the brothers watched as people around them waved tearfully at their friends and family members down below. They looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders not wanting to intrude on the people's farewells, and walked towards Deck B where they would be sleeping. "What room number do the ticket stubs say, Brother?" Alphonse questioned as the brothers walked towards a set of a metallic stairs and made their way down them.

"Well, I'm assuming this is Deck B. Our tickets say we're staying in boarding room 22 and the key number is 22, so watch the numbers on the door until we find it," Edward replied as the two walked down a narrow hallway filled with white doors. On each door was a red and white inner tube and a number in the center of it. "19, 20, 21 and ah here we are! Room number 22," the scientist stated as he approached the door. "This should be it."

He slid the key into the lock, turned it and opened the door. The walls were painted an off-white color, but seemed to glisten in the sunlight pouring into the room. Two beds about 10 feet apart from each other sat in the room. Soft blue comforters and pillows were placed substantially along the wooden headboards. A small, 4-paneled window was built artistically into the wall that when the boys looked out, they could see the surface of the ocean's sparkling waves. There was a tall, dark oak dresser with a mirror on it's surface and the ceilings were cut somewhat low and slanted, forming an almost triangular shape. On each side of the beds were matching end tables with small oil lamps sitting on each table.

"Hey! This room doesn't look too bad, does it, Brother?" Alphonse questioned as he dropped his suitcase and flopped back onto the soft bed, allowing his head to sink into the pillow.

"Nah, not bad at all for second class," Edward reiterated as he dropped his suitcase on his bed and walked around the room. He crossed the boarding room which was decent in size; about the same size as his old room at the Rockbell's in fact. He opened up a door that sat caddy-cornered to the beds to reveal a small bathroom and shower. "Nice! We've got a place to clean up too, Al!"

"This ship is so much nicer than the one we took getting out here. The trip took us nearly a month and it was so slow! This one will only take about a week or so, right?" the amber-haired boy questioned his older brother.

"That's right. I'm going to head back out onto the deck, Al. I don't really feel like being cooped up in here. You wanna join me?" Edward questioned as he made to head towards the door.

"Yeah, I'll join you momentarily," Alphonse replied as he flipped the lid on his suitcase open. "I'm going to put my things away first and then I'll be out there."

"Alright, see you then," Edward replied as he opened up the door, waving a hand at his brother from behind, not looking back.

The young scientist wandered down the hallway and climbed up the steps, back out onto the polished wooden deck surface. He strolled past the same group of children, with his hands in his pockets, who were playing ball earlier and reached the white, painted deck railing. Edward leaned forward on it, resting elbows on the metal rails and folded his arms over the top of the railing. He crossed his left leg behind his right one comfortably and stared out at the sparkling ocean around them. When they had traveled before, it had been too cold to even go out on the deck and watch the sea, but this time the air was warm and the ocean wind felt good rushing into his face and flowing through his long, blond ponytail, causing it to whip wildly. Edward closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath, engulfing himself into the smell of the ocean.

He could hear the gentle laughter of the children and people behind him, feel the flow of the sea wind blowing his long, golden bangs back from his handsome face and he smiled from the epiphany that struck him. They were headed back to Munich, back to Haushofer's Villa. There was a huge possibility that he and his brother were going to go back home; back to the world where they belonged and once more he'd be at Winry Rockbell's side. The older Elric was interrupted in his sentiments as he heard a very familiar laugh come from behind him. His golden orbs widened and he was almost afraid to turn around. The laughter was coming from a young girl, the sound of her voice was way too familiar...could it be possible? Edward whirled around to see the long, chestnut braids trailing down the little girl's back. She was laughing and playing with a small, white puppy on the deck of the ship. A blonde woman was seated on one of the benches, smiling down at the little girl who could have been no older than 4 or 5 years old. The little girl inclined her head just enough for the blond to get a good look at her face.

"Nina...," Edward whispered in a trembling voice as he watched the child play just as she had done so many years ago in his world.

"C'mon Alexander!" the little girl exclaimed as she tottered across the deck, the white puppy yipping playfully at her heels. "Catch me if you can!"

"Be careful and don't fall down, Nina!" the woman on the bench called to her daughter.

Edward gasped as he heard the girl's name. Her name was even Nina. He wanted so badly to approach the little girl, maybe even pick her up and hold her in his arms, but he couldn't. These people were complete strangers in this world. She wasn't the Nina that knew him, but still, it was hard not to go to her. Despite the fact that he'd only been twelve years old at the present time, he'd still grown to love the little girl like a sister and he still continued to hold that love for her in his heart, though he never told anyone. Edward's heart was racing unceremoniously in his chest. What would the harm be if he just pretended to bump into them? At least he could see her shining blue eyes sparkling up at him. What he wouldn't give to here the little girl call him 'big brother' just once more. His legs began feeling weak underneath him and Edward collapsed onto a bench near where the girl and her mother were sitting.

"Hey Brother, what's going o-," came Alphonse's voice from behind him, but also stopped as his brown irises came to rest on the little girl. "Nina...," the younger Elric whispered, eyes widening at the shock of the familiar face.

"Mommy! Hey mommy! Can I have my paper and crayons, please!" the little girl pleaded as she tugged at her mother's skirt. Edward noted that even this girl had troubles pronouncing her Rs, just as the Nina back in Amestris had when she was alive.

"Of course dear, I have them right here," the woman replied cheerfully, handing the little girl the book and a box of crayons.

Nina laid down on the bench next to her mother, sprawling out and began to spontaneously draw. It was almost becoming too much for Edward as the memories of the little girl flashed in his mind. She had always called him 'little big brother' as he was the eldest brother, but smaller than Alphonse whom had been a suit of armor at the present time. He could recall the time where they played together in the snow, making snow angels and Edward had created a ring of flowers for Nina's hair by transmuting the snow. He could remember all the times Alexander, Nina's big white dog, had tackled him. He could remember all the drawings Nina had made for him, especially the one she'd made for him the day he went and took his alchemy exam at only twelve years old.

"I made something for you!" the little girl told him, handing the boy a piece of rolled up piece of paper.

Edward unrolled it and gasped as he stared down at the image on it. It was a drawing of himself, Alphonse, Nina, Alexander and a very wonky transmutation circle in the center of it. He lowered the paper, feeling very touched and came face to face with Nina's sparkling blue eyes and glowing smile. She was still wearing the ring of flowers, Edward had made her, on top of her tiny head.

"It's a circle to help your wish!" she exclaimed laughing all the while.

"It's great, thanks Nina," Edward told the girl with a smile.


Edward still had that drawing as well, though he never told anyone about it. It was tucked safely into the journal inside of his suitcase. That would always be a remembrance of the sister he had lost due to her father's insane hankering to change her into a malformed chimera. That image had burned his skull and never left it; especially if something happened to remind him of that night. The boys had been ordered to leave the Tucker estate by the Brigadier General, but the young alchemist had quickly put two and two together when he realized that Tucker's wife died around the same time he became the Sewing-Life Alchemist, created the talking chimera; which died shortly after it was made; and acquired the status he did in the military. It was only then that he burst into Tucker's mansion to discover something he didn't ever want to see.

He entered the dimly lit room, Tucker's back facing him. "I told you I'd let you see," the man spoke calmly as he moved to face the Elrics. Edward's teeth were clenched, his fists were tightened as he came face to face with what looked like a white dog, covered in long, silky brown hair cascading down it's back, shoulders and head. It's bore four long fingers and a thumb for paws, looking extremely human. It's eyes were rounded, pupiless, white and glowing.

"It's a perfect version, a chimera that knows the human tongue," the Sewing-Life Alchemist told the brothers who couldn't seem to tear their eyes away from his creation.

"Listen dear, that's your friend Edward, look," Tucker spoke gently as he lowered himself down next to the chimera and pointed towards the boy in the red coat.

"Ed-ward...friend," the beast spoke in what almost sounded like a deep, radioactive, mechanical voice. It sounded nearly robotic, but with intense emotion behind it. The blonde's eyes widened slightly before he dropped his head, long golden bangs shielding his face from view and remained quiet.

"Yes exactly, that's very good," he praised the chimera who reiterated.

"That's bery good," it replied in the same tones, speaking very slowly.

"Unbelievable! It really can talk!" exclaimed Alphonse, his voice echoing in the hollow suit of armor.

"Ah, I'll have no problem getting the funding now," the man stated in a relieved voice, rubbing the back of his neck. "I can't believe I didn't see it before, the other one was too old to adapt."

The newly recruited state alchemist walked over to the chimera who turned it's head to stare up at the boy. He lowered himself to his knees, gazing at the beast in the face. The chimera lifted it's nose and sniffed at Edward and then lowered it's head down towards his pocket. The young alchemist watched as the beast took the silver pocket watch in it's teeth lethargically and then it dropped to the floor as though it didn't have the strength to hold the metal between it's teeth. The sound echoed across the room like an eerie bell. The chimera gazed up sadly at the boy.

"Ed-ward...my...friend?" it questioned.

"Yeah, that's right," the braided boy replied in a quiet, trembling voice.

"Ed-ward...why does it...hurt here?" the chimera asked him. The boy grit his teeth, and stood up, his eyes closed tightly shut. His fists were still clenched and visibly shaking. Alphonse noticed something seemed to be wrong with his older brother and he stepped forward a bit.

"Brother?" he began to question him, but Edward cut him off.

"So Tucker," the boy began, still not able to open his eyes for fear of if he did, what he was seeing was going to be real. This was just a dream right? This hadn't happened had it?

"Something wrong?" Tucker asked, seemingly innocent.

"When was the last time you made one of these...human-speaking chimeras?" the older Elric inquired.

"I thought I told you, it's been two years now," Tucker remarked.

"And when exactly did your wife leave you?" the braided blond continued with his questioning.

"Two years ago, why?" Tucker asked, thoroughly confused now.

"And those letters...that Nina wrote, did any of them ever reach her?" Edward continued through clenched teeth.

"What are you getting at?" the man asked, wondering what Edward was trying to say.

Edward opened his golden orbs, his eyebrows were drawn in furiously. "Tell me this, where have Alexander and Nina gone to?" the young alchemist interrogated the man. Somewhere from behind him, Alphonse released a cry of shock.

Tucker placed a hand on his hip and sighed. "I hate prodigies like you, Ed. Too damn perceptive."

Edward couldn't hold back the boiling blood racing through his veins and the billowing fury rising his chest and filling his heart. He grabbed Tucker by the shirt with his flesh hand and slammed the man into the wall.

"Brother!" exclaimed Alphonse.

"This guy used his own wife, Al!" Edward snapped, not dare removing his eyes from Tucker.

"And...and this time?" the younger Elric asked nervously, not daring wanting to hear what Edward was about to tell him next.

"His daughter! And his dog! He transmuted them into that...thing!" Edward exploded, anger ringing in his voice, not daring to let go of Tucker.


Edward ran a gloved hand down his face as the memories plagued his mind. He felt a hand rest on his shoulder, recognizing it as Al's touch. He lifted his head and peered over his shoulder, looking up into the younger Elric's worried expression

"Brother, you okay?" Alphonse questioned, knowing how hard it had been for Edward to accept what had happened so long ago.

"Yeah, I'm okay...just thinking about those times with Nina. At times it seems like it was ages ago, but at times like this it seems like it was only yesterday and the pain just comes rushing back. It makes me remember how some people use alchemy for terrible things and it also makes me realize something else," he spoke with a hint of emotion in his voice, turning towards his brother, his golden orbs glistening. "That we need to go back home, Alphonse if we truly can. Not only do people there need us when we so selfishly left them, but we have to be the ones who eliminate those monsters. We don't need alchemists running around Amestris and destroying people's lives. They need people like us to help protect them. Just because things have changed dramatically there, doesn't mean there aren't going to be alchemists in this world who get that crazy streak up their asses like Tucker did or do what we did and perform a human transmutation just because they want it bad enough."

"I agree, brother, but maybe we should go back to the cabin for awhile and you should lay down? It's not such a good idea being out here if all it's doing is upsetting you," the amber-haired young man proposed, not wanting his brother to be hurting.

"I'm fine, Al. Honestly I am. I'm just realizing some things is all. I thought for sure we'd been doing a selfless act by coming back to this side of the gate and destroying it, but in the end it was selfish on our part. I mean, there is no act that isn't selfish in some way I suppose, but we left all those people at home who need us. That's why if at all possible, we need to get back home so another Nina doesn't happen, or human transmutations and homunculi. Alphonse, we never told anybody the secret of destroying a homunculus except for the General himself and he can't do it all on his own," the blond insisted. "If I know Mustang, he won't lay this burden on anybody else and he'll try and handle all the work on his own if another homunculus is created."

"Alright then brother. We'll try and find a way to get ourselves home," Alphonse agreed. "You're right. Those people need us and the General can't do it all on his own."

Edward made to stand up from the bench he had collapsed into when he felt something crash into his right leg. He looked downward in surprise to see the little girl, Nina, fall backward just as she made impact with him. Instinctively, Edward quickly grabbed her, before the little girl hit the deck of the ship and gotten herself injured. He smiled at her as he caught her and Nina's blue eyes were wide with shock.

"Don't worry, big brother won't let you fall," Edward found himself saying, not able to control his words.

"Ooooh, thank you big brother!" exclaimed the little girl happily. "You didn't let me fall down!"

Nina's mother came rushing over to the two teens. "Oh my goodness, thank you so much for catching her. I was worried she was going to fall. These wooden floors would hurt if someone fell on them," the woman thanked the older Elric breathlessly. "I appreciate it so much."

"Mama! Mama! Big brother saved me! He didn't let me fall down and get hurt!" the little chestnut-haired girl exclaimed as she jumped up and down.

Edward could feel his heart clenching almost painfully and joyfully at the same time from hearing the words coming out of the small girl's mouth. She'd called him big brother and that was something Edward was almost certain he'd never hear again.

"I know he did and did you thank him?" her mother questioned as she ran a hand down the back of Nina's, double-braided head.

"Yes I did! I should draw something for you, big brother!" the little girl insisted.

"I'm sorry if she was any trouble," her mother apologized, brushing back blonde strands of hair from her eyes.

"That's okay. It was no trouble at all," the blond man replied, doing his best to keep the cheerful expression. "We gotta head back to our rooms, but big brothers will see you again soon, okay?" Edward told the girl as he knelt down to his knees and patted her gently on the head.

"Okay big brothers! Don't forget! Next time I see you, I'll have a picture drawn just for you!" Nina replied enthusiastically. "Oh! What's your name, big brothers?"

"I'm Edward and this is my younger brother, Alphonse," the golden-haired man stated, as he introduced himself and his brother.

"My name's Nina, Edward and Alphonse! I'll have two drawings for you tomorrow! Come back up here and I'll give them to you, 'kay?" Nina asked, the same familiar light showing in her bright blue eyes. The light of being juvenile, elated and cognizant; existing in a world where everything around her looked bright and cheerful, as though no gloom could ever befall the young girl.

"Alright Nina, we'll be back up here tomorrow," the older Elric told her, rubbing her head gently before rising to his feet.

He turned his back and headed towards Deck B, back to their room. Alphonse followed his brother in silence, not wanting to pursue anything. He would wait until Edward was ready to talk. The boys reached the room, unlocked the door and went inside wordlessly. Edward shoved his suitcase off the bed he was sleeping in, the one nearest to the window, and lay down on his side with his back facing Alphonse. For the longest time, the older Elric lay in silence, staring out of the window at the blue waves crashing against the side of the boat and causing water to hit the glass. He didn't know how long he lay there thinking about how much this world's Nina was exactly like the Nina back in his world and how important it was that they did need to get back home. Finally Edward rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. He could see Alphonse laying in the other bed, out of the corner of his eye.

"Brother? Are you sure you're okay?" the younger Elric's voice quietly cut through the room.

"Yeah, I'm fine Al." Edward insisted, looking over at his brother, determination filling his golden eyes. "I'll be just fine."



RavenHair
This is getting soo good. And thank you for your reply. I replied back to you in there so when you get a chance take a look. :-) This story is getting really good I can't wait to see what happends when they get to Munich. In a way I kinda feel bad for Noah but I love Winry and the rest of them a whole lot more!! lol
Celeste Nayamashii
Yeah, but I'm not a huge fan of Noah so...lol I just wanted to get her out of the picture for now, but she'll be back in later chapters. Anyway, I am so glad you're enjoying reading this and thank you for the reviews! I will post up the next chapter for you happy.gif

Chapter 5- Prodigous News in Central

Ughhhh, are we there yet? Winry was sitting on a red, bench-like seat inside of the train compartment with her forehead pressed up against the cold window, her blonde bangs askew. Her legs were tucked up underneath her to provide better comfort than the nearly rock-hard bench she was currently planted on. The blonde mechanic was watching the scenery flash by as the metal mode of transportation rolled stealthily down it's iron tracks. Her breath left a foggy cloud on the glass, indicating it was a bit too chilly at the present time to open the windows and allow fresh air in. The automail technician had been on the train for nearly three days, though she'd almost lost track of how long she'd been riding it. The seats were extremely uncomfortable and she almost wished she'd brought a pillow with her. It had been a long time since she had last ridden the train, however.

The last time was a year ago when she'd left for Risembool for Central and that had also been the last time she'd seen Edward. Remembering his kind, golden gaze, the girl shot up in her seat from the slouching position she was in. That was her motivation to try and ignore the granite-like seats and how sore her behind was going to be the moment she stepped off. What was more important was getting to Central and find out exactly what Riza Hawkeye and Roy Mustang knew about the Gate and Edward. Nearly the entire train ride had Winry mulled these thoughts over and over again in her mind.

Was it possible that Edward and Alphonse could really come home? Why else would they contact her in regards to their disappearance unless something really terrible had happened? The mechanic had wracked her brains trying hard to come up with other resolutions as to why General Roy Mustang would buy her a train ticket to come to Central Headquarters as soon as possible. Then again, he had always felt extremely guilty for killing her parents back in the days of the Ishbal raid. He always seemed to be apologizing for calling her or much less speaking to her, but Winry had put that behind her. As hard as it had been accepting her parents death and knowing that the General was the one who killed them, Winry knew that it was his orders, whether or not he understood it. She still respected him.

The whistle rang across the train's walkway, signaling that it was closing in on it's destination. "Oh thank God. We're all most there," the blonde announced quietly in a relieved voice.

The train was slowly rattling to a stop and she could see Central's grand station just ahead. She stood up as it came it a complete halt and gathered her suitcase from the storage compartment above her head. People were filing out into the hallway now, and Winry almost had to push and shove to get past them all.

"Excuse me, pardon me, I'm sorry," she apologized and excused herself in the most polite way she could muster, but in truth, the mechanic was becoming extremely agitated by their rudeness.

She had half a mind to take out her wrench and start mashing people over the head with it, but thought better of it. The last thing she wanted was to be hauled off for an assault on pedestrians. The girl found herself nearly laughing at the thought. If there was a possiblity he could get home, the first thing Winry was going to do was bash him so hard over the head with her wrench that he wouldn't be able to see straight for days, that was if he were able to make it back home. Knowing she was even closer to finding out what Riza had been so reluctant to tell her over the phone made her heart start pounding in her chest.

Sighing, Winry finally found her way to exit and made her way down the steel set of stairs. Once outside, she stared around the group of people, searching for the familiar blonde. Some were gathered near the map of Central that was hanging on the station's wall. Others were exiting trains or boarding them. Now...where is Lieutenant Hawkeye...she said she'd be here waiting for me... the blonde thought to herself as she gazed through the crowd of pedestrians. She heard a familiar bark and caught the familiar sight of blue. Black Hayate was yipping cheerfully as though enjoying being near all the people who looked as if they wanted to coddle him. The black pup was sucking up the attention while a blonde woman was walking right beside him. Her hair was pinned back extremely similar to Winry's style.

"There she is!" exclaimed the mechanic as she pushed past a group of teenagers, making her way towards the Lieutenant.

"Hello, Winry. I'm glad to see you made it safely," Riza greeted the mechanic as the two women advanced towards one another. "I hope the trip was okay."

"A three day train ride can be a bit uncomfortable," Winry admitted rubbing her backside. "Those seats are about as soft as granite."

Riza chuckled and nodded her light-golden head in agreement. "Yes well those trains can be quite uncomfortable. Unfortunately we have to bare it until we can talk the state into getting some new, softer seats installed," she spoke in amused tones. The Lieutenant beckoned towards her. "Come this way. We have a car waiting to take us back to headquarters. The General is waiting for you in his office."

"So, do you know exactly what is going on, Riza?" Winry questioned as she knelt down to pat Black Hayate on the head in greeting. He was anxiously wagging his tail and licked her hand in a friendly gesture. "You were very vague over the phone and couldn't tell me much obviously, but now that we're here, I'd like to know just what you meant when you said it had to do with Edward's disappearance."

"I don't know much, but I can say that it has a lot to do with the gate. I promised the General that I wouldn't tell you much. I know he wants to speak to you himself," the Lieutenant explained as she led Winry towards were a tan, military vehicle was parked.

A man with short, brown hair and wearing the traditional, blue uniform was standing in front of the back door to the car. He held his right hand to his head in salute to the Lieutenant, bowed to the ladies and opened the door for them. Riza held out her hand to allow Winry to climb into the backseat first and then followed suit. Black Hayate lept in after them and laid himself down obediently at Riza's feet. Once the driver was certain the girls were seated comfortably, he shut the door. He took Winry's suitcase and put it in the trunk, walked around to the driver's side, seated himself and started the vehicle. Winry felt the car rumble underneath her as the soldier accelerated and began heading towards the HQ. The two women sat in silence while Winry gazed out of the window, watching the familiar shops and restaurants go by. She could remember when Edward had taken her all around Central and bought her all kinds of gifts to better her automail engineering. After a while of silence, Winry spoke up.

"Look, I know you can't tell me much, but please just answer this question," the young blonde began as she gazed over at Riza. "Is there a possibility at the Edward and Alphonse can come home?"

Riza's crimson eyes looked towards Winry momentarily before averting away from her. "Honestly, I don't know, Winry," the Lieutenant replied coolly. "The General didn't tell me much of anything except for a few things which I promised I wouldn't say anything to you about. He wants to tell you for himself and I'm not going break that promise to him."

Winry sighed as she stared down at her hands in her lap. "I'm sorry for asking so many questions Riza," the mechanic apologized quietly. "I just miss them so much. Especially Edward."

Riza gazed momentarily at Winry, who was still looking down at her lap. Her face softened at the girl and she smiled. "I understand how you feel," the Lieutenant began in a more gentle voice. "There are a lot of people who miss the boys. They've been gone for a year now, and I don't believe there isn't a day that goes by at the Headquarters where the boys aren't mentioned in one way or another," Riza told her fondly. "We all miss them. Just the other day, Fuery was coming into the office. He accidentally knocked over a vase of flowers, which naturally broke. He laughed and rubbed his head, mentioning that if Ed were here, he'd be able to fix the vase up no problem. The whole room went silent for awhile, before Havoc changed the subject. Both of the Elrics are pretty much legends here in Central. Armstrong actually cried when he discovered the boys were gone."

"You don't say," Winry replied, resting her elbow against the arm rest in between the seats. She placed her chin in her hand. "Everybody always used to call Edward the 'People's Hero', didn't they?"

"He's still known as the People's Hero. There's even posters of him being sold around the market," Riza told the girl. "Look out the window there. There's one of him hanging in the window of the bookstore."

Winry gasped slightly as the driver slowed the car, allowing the blonde to look at the picture. It was Edward alright. Just as he looked when he was a 15 year old kid. His long, golden hair was tied back in it's usual braid. He wore the long, red overcoat, his black pants, shirt and boots with the crimson heels. The alchemist was unsmiling in the image, with his arms folded across his chest haughtily though irritated by something or reluctant to be in this certain situation. Winry couldn't help but laugh. Despite how grumpy he looked, his eyes still head that gentle warmth and kindness in them. The warmth that Winry always felt rush through her body whenever Edward looked at her. The gentleness that he expressed towards her if she were to cry, even the deep appreciation he'd felt when it came to his automail limbs. Those eyes never lost that look, even when she saw him a year ago and they haunted her dreams every night. Right underneath his feet were the words "We'll never forget the Fullmetal Alchemist, the People's Hero", printed in bold, red lettering.

"So, who's idea was it to have him printed on the poster and where did you guys get that picture of him?" Winry asked as the store disappeared from her view. She turned back to Riza, smiling. "If Edward could see this, he'd have a fit." Even though she was feeling somewhat down, the blonde mechanic couldn't help but stifle a laugh as she pictured a very red and irate Elric in her mind, ranting about his picture being plastered up all over the damn place. She could easily see him running rampant around the city and ripping down as many as he could, before stopping to catch his breath and then tearing off to get rid of the rest.

"Actually it was Lieutenant Breda and Major Armstrong's idea," Riza replied. "Armstrong is the one who actually drew the picture, we never did take one of him. The Colonel sent it out to the printing company and had them print a load of copies, and now they're being sold to the people who were a fan of him. Edward was very famous around East City and Central, so the people still adore him. Armstrong has always really loved those boys, especially Edward. He did not want the Fullmetal Alchemist to be forgotten, and so he had a poster made in rememberance of him," the Lieutenant explained. "And he insisted they be plastered up all around Central and the East. There was only so many distributed, so now they're being sold in certain stores around the area," the woman explained.

"Central and East!?" Winry questioned incredulously. "Well, if Ed does come back and he sees this, he's going to freak out," the mechanic reiterated, laughing. "Ed was never much for the publicity stunts when it came to him, and I can garauntee you he'll triapse all over Central and the East until every one of them are taken down."

"Yeah, that would be the typical Edward Elric I suppose," Riza chuckled along with Winry. The car came to a halt in front of the familiar gate of the massive white building; Central Headquarters.

"We're here," the driver stated as he slowed the car, shut the engine off, got out of the car, gathered Winry's suitcase and opened the door for the women.

Black Hayate lept out behind them, barking joyfully at passerby. He handed the suitcase to the blonde mechanic who thanked him graciously for being so hospitable. The man gave another small bow to Riza and Winry as the two women walked at a rather abrupt pace to the large doors, Black Hayate bounding playfully at their heels. The girls stepped inside and the mechanic stayed by Riza's side, trying her best to not let the pressure of wanting to lose her calm and run down the hallway to the General's office get the better of her. They walked down the familiar hallway and the closer they came to Mustang's office, the harder Winry's heart throbbed in her chest. It was like a rush of joy was begging to leap out. She felt a swooping sensation in her lower stomach at the thought of the boys possibly coming home. Riza stopped in front of a dark oak set of double doors. She raised her hand and knocked gingerly on the wood.

"Enter," came the familiar, deep voice from the other side.

Riza stepped in, raising her right hand to Brigadier General Mustang in respectful salute. He was seated at his desk with his gloved hands folded on top of a small stack of paperwork. The eyepatch was still set firmly in place over his left eye. He gazed up at the golden-haired woman standing impliable before him. "Sir, I've brough the Rockbell girl here as you requested."

"You can relax, Hawkeye, I'm in here alone. Come in and close the door behind you," Roy told her with a small smile on his face, and a very suave look in his right eye.

The woman gazed around the room momentarily before relaxing her stiffened form and released a breath of relief. "I'm sorry, I didn't know if anybody else would be in the office," the Lieutenant told him with a smile. She was about to turn towards Winry when the blonde mechanic shoved forcefully past her and billowed into the office.

"What do you know, Roy?! What is this about Edward's disappearance?! Is there a possibility he can come back?! What are you hiding from me?! You know you owe this to me for everything that has happened!" the young woman found herself exploding before she could even stop herself. Her hands were planted firmly on the General's desk and her blue eyes staring determinedly into his own. Winry's face held no fear. She stood firm, eyeing him square on, her face about a foot from his own.

"Calm down, Miss Rockbell and please have a seat," the raven-haired man told her, waving his hand in a gesturing motion towards a navy blue couch. "I'll explain it to you once you've had a moment to relax yourself. There's a lot of things we need to discuss. First though, can I get you anything? Would you like a cup of tea or something to eat perhaps? You've had a long train ride here and the food on the trollies isn't all that good," Mustang proposed kindly.

"I'm not hungry and I don't want any tea," Winry stated in a slightly irritated way, removing her hands from the finely polished, oak desk. "What I do want is...," she hesitated for a moment, trying to calm herself. Just stay calm, Winry...you don't want to act out irrationally. Then you might not ever know if the brothers can come home. Please just say yes, it's possible! Please tell me I'll get to see Edward again! "I just want to know what this is about the gate," she stated in a much calmer tone. "I want to know if the brothers can really come home or not. That's all that's been on my mind since they left me here without so much as a goodbye a year ago!" the girl exclaimed, trying hard not to raise her voice again. It was more than obvious she was pained by their lack of goodbye.

The young blonde turned away from Roy's desk, walking across the fine carpeted room and seated herself on the vinyl couch, crossing one leg over the other and folding her arms over her chest. Across from the couch was a small table crafted in the same oak as the General's desk. On the other side of the table was another navy-hued couch. Extravagant, picture-fixed windows were lined up all across the back wall, with long, crush velvet, navy-blue curtains extending from their tops. The familiar lion-like State symbol was painted in gold on each curtain. The sunlight was filtering into the room, casting it's rays across Roy's desk, table and the couches; filling the room with a golden hue. The General stood up and advanced towards Winry. Riza seated herself on the couch across from Winry and Roy soon followed suit, seating himself next to the Lieutenant.

Roy folded his white, gloved hands together, his onyx eyes staring intently into Winry's still-determined aquamarine ones. "First thing I want to tell you about is the gate. I was never completely clear with you on what happened and I do apologize for not telling you."

Winry made to say something, but Riza held up a hand silencing her. Her crimson orbs were closed and she maintained her unperturbed manner. "Don't misunderstand, Winry. We want you to know that the General only did this to protect you. He didn't want you to hurt anymore than what you already were hurting or fill your mind with false hope of the Elrics returning here."

"Lieutenant Hawkeye, you don't have to try and cover for me. Regardless of what my intentions were, Miss Rockbell has every right to be upset and continuing being upset with me," Mustang told her, brushing back a few strands of ebony hair from his good eye. "What I'm about to tell you is just between myself, Hawkeye and Armstrong. Nobody else in the military has any idea about this, so please make sure you keep this confidential until further notice."

"Alright, I will! Just please tell me, Roy...because I have to know," Winry began in pleading tones. She stared up into his eyes, her own glistening with emotion. "I have to know if I'll ever see Edward again."

Roy was slightly taken aback by this, but could tell the feelings Winry was holding deep inside herself for the alchemist. He smiled and nodded his head. "When the boys left, I didn't get much of a chance to speak with them. I only spoke with them long enough to tell you what they wanted me to tell you and that was that they would miss you, that you always made the best automail and that they were both sorry, but it was something that had to be done. I also told you that they entrusted me to destroying this side of the gate down in the underground city. You do remember that, right?" Winry nodded fervently, her blue irises never once leaving Mustang's face. "Well, the truth is, is that I never did destroy the gateway," Roy told her, staring at her straight on but slight reluctance could be heard in his voice. He paused momentarily as the girl gasped before taking a breath and going on. "When the time came...I just couldn't do it. I had myself convinced that those boys weren't going to be gone for good. That somebody would send them back to us...that Fullmetal and his brother would be able to return home. I still have reason to believe it's true and that it's possible."

"You...you mean you didn't destroy the gate? All this time I thought you had, and you didn't?" Winry asked him incredulously, her lower jaw falling open slightly. "But...why! Why didn't you tell me! You left me hanging for an entire year and you ever told me!? So what did you do with it then? Also, don't you think that if the boys could come back, they would have by now!?" The blonde mechanic's voice was trembling with emotion. Maybe they didn't want to be here anymore. Maybe Edward had already found himself somebody on the other side...maybe that's why he didn't say goodbye...because he didn't return my feelings.

"I don't know, but discussing this with Major Armstrong and doing research myself as a side project," the General pointed towards his desk where the small stack of papers sat neatly, "we've come to discover that there is no possible way to destroy the gateway without alchemy. Since the Elrics cannot use alchemy on the other side of the gate, there is no possible way that those boys succeeded in destroying it."

"So then...it's possible? Could we...maybe somehow pass through it and make it to the brothers?" Winry inquired.

"I don't know if we'd be able to pass through it safely. We'd definitely need aid in this. I remember Alphonse telling me that in order for the doorway to open, a homunculus has to be born," Roy explained to her, leaning back against the couch now, one leg crossed over the other.

"Uhn!" the mechanic's voice caught in her throat. "But...then that would mean...," Winry began, her voice trembling.

"Somebody would have to attempt a human transmutation," Riza finished for the girl, who seemed almost unable to speak. The blonde mechanic had a hand placed over her mouth, her aquamarine orbs had widened in terror at the mere thought. She knew what human transmutation resulted in. Edward and Alphonse had nearly died because of it.

The flame alchemist cleared his throat. "However, since we didn't destroy the gate, it is still open, but in order to pass through it safely, we would have to transmute a homunculus. At least, that is the theory that myself and Armstrong have come up with," the General continued.

"But...so then, are you saying that somebody is going to have to...perform the ultimate taboo in alchemy in order for us to get to Edward and Alphonse?" the young blonde questioned. "If that happens...I mean, I want Ed and Al back more than anything in the world but not if it means taking somebody else's life."

"Well, that's just thing, Winry...it's already been done," Riza spoke up.

"Not too long ago, myself and Major Armstrong were in Drachma and discovered that a recent human transmutation had taken place. From speaking to the people in the area they learned that a woman's husband had passed away from a terrible disease that had invaded his body." he told the mechanic who was intently listening now. "His death was unpreventable and there was no cure for what the man had. All we know is that they were both alchemists. When we arrived in Drachma to further investigate the rumors we'd heard and questioned the folk, the townspeople had told us that the woman took his remains along with other elements and tried to perform a human transmutation on him. They tried to stop her, but she was too determined. However when we got there...well, she paid the price with her entire life," Roy explained solemnly.

------------

"This place is a mess," The General complained as himself and Major Armstrong crossed through the deserted home. "Something smells extremely rancid in here."

"Mmmm, I smell it as well," the mustached, giant of a man nodded his bald head except for the small, golden curl placed on top that lay neatly against his forehead. "It smells like decay."

"Something definitely happened in here," the General continued. He opened up a door where smoke literally billowed out of room, causing the General to gag and back down. He placed his hand over his mouth and nose, trying to keep the scent from making him sick.

"Somebody has performed a taboo, but of what kind I don't know," Armstrong stated, waving a massive arm, trying to waft the smoke away from himself and Roy. "It certainly reeks of it."

"I suggest we find out. C'mon Major." Roy beckoned towards the lower officer as he stepped into the broken-down, desolate room. His onyx orbs widened as he took in the view surrounding him. Oh God," came a trembling whisper from the General's throat. "Major, come here. I think we've discovered just what kind of taboo has taken place here."

"What is it General? What did you find?" came Armstrong's deep voice from somewhere behind Mustang, but his thoughts were so clouded by what he was currently witnessing that he barely registered it. "Oh...great mother of-," the muscled, blue-eyed man began, but his voice broke as his small, widened eyes too met the sight that befell them.

Laying in the center of the destroyed room, which appeared to be an alchemic study, was a smeared transmutation circle; and in the middle of the circle was the body of a woman. She was on her back, blood had seeped down her sides, soaked her clothes and was pooled out across the entire floor. The mess was almost intolerable as the General clapped another hand to his mouth.

"What on earth...do you suppose happened?" Armstrong asked as he looked over at the woman, but Roy's eyes were only for the center of the woman's mutilated chest.

"It...was definitely a human transmutation," Roy stated to no one in particular. "No doubt by the fierce reaction..and I thought Fullmetal and Al's was bad."


-----------------------

"We found her laying on the floor where she'd tried to resurrect him. A giant hole was in her chest and blood was everywhere. It looked as though the price she paid was with her heart. When we examined her body, her chest cavity was empty. She was already dead when she returned from the gate, so there was no saving her either, not without a beating heart her demise was inevitable. We assumed the gate took her heart because her heart is what made her want to resurrect him. The deep love she felt for him, just as with Fullmetal's teacher. Her insides were taken due to trying to revive her child, were they not?"

"Yes, that's right. She tried to revive her baby, but in the end, lost the ability to ever have children again and eventually she died. That was the price Izumi had to pay," the mechanic told him, staring down at the floor. "So...this woman who was so deep in love with her husband, lost her heart by trying to bring him back? It's...so tragic sounding, but I can understand how she felt." Winry lifted her corn-colored head and met Mustang's eyes once more. "So then...what happened to the homunculus she created? There had to of been some kind of creature born, right? Where is it now?"

"When Major Armstrong and I got there, we searched the entire city and there was no trace of the thing she created. We've got a few officers out searching for it, but the mission is under wraps. We don't want this information leaking out. What we plan to do is once we get the homunculus, we're going to go back to the gate and transmute it with the hopes of passing through safely. Transmuting a homunculus should be payment enough to allow us through. Once we get there, we search for the brothers. I won't stop until we find them. With the technology of the rocketry they have there, we could be able to come back home safely," the General explained.

"Right...but that reminds me of something. When Edward came back home a year ago, he arrived in some kind of rocket, right? What ever happened to that?" Winry questioned, her curiosity getting the better of her now. "I mean, can't we use that to get through the portal?"

"That's another thing. Armstrong and I have been studying how that technology works. We think it's possible we can recreate it using what Fullmetal left behind, but only for the sole purpose of going through the gate to the get Elrics," Roy told her. "We really don't want to mass produce these just yet. I don't feel the country is ready for something like this. With war just around the corner at any given moment, we can't take those chances."

Winry's heart was racing uncerimoniously in her chest now. It felt as though it could throb it's way right out of it's cavity. There was hope. There was a true possibility that Edward and Alphonse could come back home. She may get to truly see them again after all and finally tell the older Elric how she felt. Winry's eyes scanned back and forth between the General and the Lieutenant, her face set with fierce determination. "So, will you take me to see the gate?"

"We knew you would ask and yes, we're going to take you to the gate," Riza assured the girl. "We're just waiting for Major Armstrong. He's off on a mission at the present time, but he should be here within three more days. In the meantime you are more than welcome to stay with the Lieutenant. Once he arrives, we set off for the underground city."

~*~*~*~*~

"Uuughhh, you'd think they'd at least cook the eggs better than this," complained Edward as he poked his fork at the runny yolk in the center of the egg on his plate. "It looks like yellow slime or something. Do they actually expect us to eat this crap?"

"Oh stop complaining, Brother. We've only been on the ship for a couple of days and already you have something to whine about," Alphonse replied dryly, rolling his brown orbs.

"Well what about you! You haven't even touched the food on your plate," the older Elric retorted. "So you can't sit there and be hypocritical about me not wanting to eat this slop!"

"I'm just not hungry. Is that alright with you?" the younger Elric bickered as he stood up from his bed. He walked over to the window and peeked out at the crystal blue waves crashing against the side of the boat. "I think I want to go up on deck for awhile. It looks really nice out today and warm. We should enjoy the voyage while we can!" he insisted enthusiastically. The brown-haired boy grabbed his gray-blue coat that hung over the post on his bed. "You coming with me?"

"Sure because I can't eat anymore of this. I'll bet the first class people eat like kings and queens," the golden-haired man replied, staring down in disgust at his less-then-appealing breakfast. "You're right though. We should enjoy this while we can because once we get to Munich, there will be no time for us to relax."

"Right, so let's go! Besides that, Nina promised she'd have a drawing for us today, didn't she?" Alphonse ushered him, grabbing his brother's brown coat and thrusting it at him.

"Alright, alright, settle down already. Yes she did and we can't disappoint her," Edward answered, pulling on his coat and removing the key to their room from his pocket. Alphonse began shoving his older brother to the door. Edward just peered back over his shoulder at his younger brother's desirous and eager expression. "Sheesh! Somebody sure as hell is anxious."

"Of course I am! I can't wait to see little Nina again. It reminds me of the times we had with her back at home," the younger Elric replied, bounding ahead of his brother as Edward opened the door.

Edward shook his head amusedly at his brother actions as he exited the room, heading down the hallway and back up the steel stairs. He couldn't help but wonder if Alphonse truly remembered what had happened to the real Nina and when that truth would hit him. The moment they stepped foot on the deck, the warm sun splashed down on their faces and the warm sea breeze blew their long ponytails back from their necks. The golden-haired man closed his eyes enjoying the feeling of the sea winds rushing through his long bangs, drinking in the scent of the ocean around him. For some unknown reason, the sounds of the waves and smell made him feel almost harmonious and the former alchemist relished the sensation. It wasn't very often that he was allowed to feel like this.

The deck was bustling with activity as usual with the children running amuck, their laughs ringing through the air like the gentle tingle of Christmas bells and parents watching them with smiles on their faces. Edward scanned the area, trying to catch a glimpse of Nina, but he couldn't find her. Not a sign of her brightly colored clothes or her long, brown braids. Shrugging his shoulders, he assumed that she'd be on the deck shortly, that they were most likely finishing their breakfast. The young scientist walked across the deck to join his brother on the starboard side. He was leaning against the white railing, staring out at the massive amount of ocean surrounding them.

"It's like, you can see water for miles on end. There's no sign of land, all that's there is water," the younger Elric spoke, not moving his eyes from the waving ocean. "It's almost unfathomable and it makes you wonder exactly how all that water got there. There wasn't massive oceans like this back at home that I could ever recall," Alphonse pointed out.

Edward was about to say something to his brother when he felt somebody crash into him. He was thrown backwards and smacked rather harshly up against the railing, squinting his eyes shut as he made impact. Alphonse grabbed his brother to keep him from nearly toppling over the railing. "What the hell!" Edward growled, placing a hand on his forehead in shock, wondering who on earth had crashed into him. He opened one eye to see the face of a woman he didn't recognize leaning down in front of him.

"Oh my goodness I am sooooooo sorry!" came her giggling, female voice. "Are you alright? That was an accident!"

"Yeah, I'm fine, but you should really watch where you're going next time," the older Elric replied through grit teeth.

He stood back up, opened his eyes fully and came face to face with the girl. She looked to be right around his age. She had brunette hair a little past her shoulders, brown eyes and lightly tanned skin. She was wearing a white slope-necked top with a long, yellow skirt that reached just above her ankles and a pair of strapped, white heels; a traditional fashion for the women of this age. She batted her lashes at the golden-haired scientist and tucked some brown hair behind her ear.

"Well, I think I should consider myself lucky I bumped into you. You're certainly cute," she told him in a flirtatious manner. "My name is Emma."

Edward just stood next to his brother, his arms folded cholericly across his chest. "Yeah, well if you're trying to get friendly with me, don't even attempt it," the older Elric said pungently. "I'm not interested."

"Oh really?" Emma inquired in unbelieving tones. "Got a girl of your own already?" The brunette inclined her head around Edward and Alphonse both. "Well, I don't see a special lady at your side. That's too bad," she told him in pretend pity.

Edward rolled his eyes and Alphonse placed a hand over his mouth, stifling a laugh. It was more than obvious that the younger Elric was getting a kick out of this girl who was clearly irritating his older brother. Edward averted his eyes away from the woman to turn and glare at his younger brother. Alphonse just held his hands up surrender, flashing his brother a toothy grin.

"Hmmm I see, so you don't have a girl, then do you?" Emma pressed on, advancing closer towards the elder Elric.

"Wha-what!? I never said I didn't have a girl!" he exclaimed in slight horror, backing up as the brunette came closer to him. The last thing he wanted was this complete stranger hanging all over him.

"And you never you did either. So which is it, blond cutie? Do you or don't you? Though it really doesn't matter to me either way. Plus, I love that ponytail. You don't see long hair on men much anymore and your eyes too. I've never seen eyes of your shade before. Besides, I don't see anything wrong with a little harmless necking, do you?" she giggled, moving closer to Edward.

"Well, go engage in your harmless necking with somebody else," the blond told her, holding out his left hand to shove the girl away from him. "I don't have time for this. C'mon, Al." He grabbed his brother by the sleeve of his coat and began dragging him away.

"Oh no, sir. You didn't tell me your name. You won't get away that easily," Emma told him as she began walking towards the Elrics, who were now picking up speed.

"Dammit! I told you to leave me the hell alone!" Edward yelled over his shoulder as the girl preceded. He continued to keep a firm hold on Alphone's jacket sleeve.

"Ah! Ed! Be careful!" the younger Elric exclaimed as he nearly lost his footing. Edward ignored his protests as he picked up his pace to a jog now, but Emma sped up just as much. What the hell is the crazy lady doing!?

"Oh, Ed is it? So then I wonder, it must be a nickname for Edward then? What a beautiful name," Emma called from behind the boys. Edward didn't dare look back over his shoulder. Her very presence was beginning to piss him off.

"Oh what's wrong, Ed? Or shall I call you Eddie or how about Edo?" Emma questioned in seductive tones.

"Argh, dammit!" Edward lifted his feet and began running, letting go of Alphonse's jacket in the process. "Let's go Al! Move it!"

Emma too picked up her pace. "Oh don't worry little golden-eyed man, I''ll find you."

Did she just call me....little!? Edward ran across the deck, trying to lose himself in a crowd of people to Emma. He lost his grip on Alphonse's jacket, but it didn't matter. He wanted to get away from this freaky woman as fast as he could. The last thing he needed was some horny, pyscho b*tch chasing him all over the ship. The older Elric dashed around the corner of the captain's quarters and hid against the wall. He peeked around the corner, checking to see if he could catch any sign of Emma, but it seemed as though he'd lost her. Closing his eyes and releasing a sigh of relief, Edward made to come out from behind the cabin when he felt himself bump into somebody else. He stumbled backwards and landed on his backside once more.

"Argh, dammit! This is just not my day!" the golden-haired man complained, reaching down to rub his behind. "I'm so sorry about tha-," Edward began, but his voice caught in his throat as the person he ran into turned around to gaze down at him. As he took in the person's sight before him, he let out a shaky gasp and his golden orbs widened in disbelief. "Mom?" he whispered almost inaudibly.

"It's quite alright," the woman told him as her gentle, green irises sparkled down at him.

The face of Trisha Elric was staring Edward right in the eyes and the young man felt as if he were frozen; completely rooted to the spot where he was sitting. He couldn't move. "Is everything alright?" she questioned, tucking some of her chestnut-brown hair behind her ear, leaning down and offering a hand to help him stand. She had the exact same hairstyle as his mother had once wore and she was even dressed in the same color of clothing. She was wearing a long-sleeved, light purple top with a matching skirt patterned with white flowers that fell just above her knees. Her face carried the same beauty that Trisha's always had and her emerald eyes held the same warmth. "Young man, are you alright?" she inquired, clearly concerned, her hand still out.

Edward reluctantly lifted his left, gloved hand and placed it into the Trisha doppleganger's hand, his heart racing furiously in his chest. The last time he'd seen the face of his mother was when he fought Sloth. The golden-haired Elric assumed that he'd never see anyone like her again. The woman pulled him to his feet and all he could do was stare. "Ye-yeah, I'm...alright," he insisted quietly.

"Are you quite sure? You look somewhat pale and shaken up. Is there anything at all I can do for you? Did you get hurt when you fell?" the chestnut-haired beauty asked him, that familiar smile planted on her face. The same concern was sprinkled in her voice, just as their mother's had been whenever one the boys had gotten hurt.

Edward was about to answer when he heard his brother's voice coming from behind him. "Hey, Brother! It seem as though...we...lost...her," Alphonse's words slowed as he came face to face with the woman identical to his own mother. "Mo-," he began to say, but just as Edward's had, his voice too caught in his throat.

"Oh, so you boys are brothers?" the woman questioned cheerfully. "I must say you two are very handsome boys. What are your names?"

"I-I'm Alphonse and this is my older brother, Edward," Alphonse tried to say smoothly, but it was obvious he was having trouble keeping the emotion out of his voice.

"What's going on Trish? Some young gentlemen lost?" stated a male in deep tones as he approached the woman still holding Edward's hand.

"Well, I'm not so sure they're lost, but this young man accidentally bumped into me. He fell and so I helped him up," Trisha replied to whom was obviously her husband, though this man looked nothing like Hohenhiem. He did have blonde hair, but it was cut short and side-parted. He had warm, dancing blue eyes.

"Are you boys alright?" he asked the Elrics cheerfuly, who still seemed to have lost their voices. "Trisha has always been a very motherly person," he added fondly, placing both hands on his wife's shoulders.

"Well, these boys look terribly shaken up and I just wanted to make sure they were okay. You boys aren't seasick are you? If so, you can come back to our rooms. We have some pills for seasickness or if you're hungry we have plenty of food," Trisha proposed kindly. She was still smiling at both of the boys, her emerald irises giving off the same loving devotion that their mother had always given them when they were just little boys. It was almost too much for the Elrics to bare and Edward wished that Trisha would look away from him.

"O-oh thank you, but...we're fine, really! Sorry about that, I was trying to get away from somebody on here and...it was an accident," Edward stammered, trying to keep his composure he rubbed the back of his neck with his left hand and placed the best, false grin that he could on his face. "We'll...get out of your way now."

"You're not in the way at all," Trisha replied kindly. "If you boys need anything at all you can find me in First Class in room 1. If we're not in the deck or the dining room then you'll find us in our rooms."

"T-thank you, Miss Trisha," Alphonse answered for both him and his brother. "We'll do that." The younger Elric gently placed his hand on Edward's shoulder. "Come on brother, let's go back to our rooms for awhile."

"Yeah...let's go," the older Elric agreed quietly. He and his brother turned away from Trisha and her husband, turning to go back to Second Class, but not before Edward caught what the two were saying to one another.

"You certainly seemed fond of those boys," the husband stated warmly to the chestnut-haired woman.

"I don't know why, but I just felt drawn to them. Edward and Alphonse...such handsome boys with beautiful names. I noticed when they looked at me, there was something in their eyes. Maybe sadness...or longing, and I might be mistaken but I could have sworn I heard Edward call me Mom," Trisha replied to her husband before the couple turned and walked away. "Silly, I know."

"It's not silly at all dear, and you're certainly motherly enough to be called a mom, sweetheart," the husband responded.

Edward grasped his hand into a tight, shaking fist and clenched his teeth, taking deep breaths and trying to prevent the lump rising in his throat. The older Elric could tell Alphonse was having the same trouble. He had forgotten that back in Amestris, homunculi always took on the form of the people they once were. So, if their counterparts survived here, they would look just like them as well. It had been a shock and even almost painful seeing the woman who was identical to their mother on board the ship; even more so than it had been when the boys saw Nina. The Elric brothers walked across the deck in silence, back down the flight of stairs, leading to the second class boarding rooms. Edward approached their room with Alphonse right behind him, unlocked it and walked slowly inside. It seemed as though they were almost in some kind of trance. Alphonse sat down roughly on the surface of his bed, not bothering to remove his jacket and Edward plopped down into a chair, bringing his hand up to his mouth, placing his index finger above his upper lip and the others hanging loosely against his chin.

"I'm sorry, Al...," the golden-eyed man began in a tight, quiet voice.

"Sorry for what, Brother?" Alphonse questioned, inclining his head to look at his brother, but Edward would not meet his eyes. He just stared off out of the window.

"That I didn't tell you that there would still be people in this world identical to the homunculi we fought," Edward explained.

"Brother, it was just as unexpected for you," Alphonse replied, trying to maintain his composure. "I mean, a year ago we saw somebody who resembled Lust and we even road with her and the man that resembled Scar, remember? That was when we left to track down that uranium bomb. Don't blame yourself. I should have seen it coming eventually, but I...never thought it would..,"

"Be Mom, I know," Edward finished off in a voice barely above a whisper. "I never expected to see someone like her on this ship. She was identical to Mom, and did you hear what she said as we were leaving the deck just now?"

"No, I didn't Brother. My mind was so busy trying to work it's way through all of this, that any sounds around me were literally closed off. I couldn't hear a thing except my own thoughts," the younger Elric replied with a sigh. "What'd she say?"

"She said...she felt drawn to us and," Edward began, but his throat felt as if it were constricting. He took a deep breath and continued. "She heard me call her mom, which was just an accident. She also said that we had beautiful names. Mom used to tell us that all the time when we were kids. That's why she named us what she did. She said...she could see the longing in our eyes."

"I suppose, even though we're older now and we've been through the hardships we've been through, we're still always going to long for our mother, aren't we?" Alphonse questioned, his voice starting to tremble.

"Yeah...I suppose so. It wasn't easy, back at home when it came to Sloth, but it was something that had to be done. In truth, I never thought I'd see her face again," Edward admitted. "Even when I came to this world and seen all the familiar faces, I had my mind closed off; convinced that I would never see her face here. I didn't believe it to be possible, but when I saw Fritz Lang in Munich for the first time, I recognized him as Führer King Bradley from our world. At first sight, I thought a homunculus had crossed through gate along with Envy, but he showed me his left eye and later I learned his was just a filmmaker."

"Brother, sometimes...I wonder if we should have just stayed on the other side of the gate. It doesn't seem to matter where we are, but something always brings up the pain through all the memories and times we shared."

"Maybe it was a mistake coming back here," Edward agreed. "But what's done is done I suppose. Once we get into Munich though, we discover what the hell is going on, go back through that gate and completely and utterly destroy that permanent gate on our side for good," he told his brother hoarsely.

Silence feel between the two boys for a long period of time. Edward continued sitting slouched in the chair in the corner of the room, his hand elbow resting on the arm and hand still at his mouth as though lost in his own sentiments. Alphonse was now laying across his bed, his arms folded behind his head, his light-brown orbs staring blankly at the ceiling. Edward gazed out of the window watching the waves rolling by before he heard the sound of beating rain, hitting the deck above him. It was harshly beating up against the window, along with the sea spray and seemed to dampen the strange mood he'd been in since he'd seen the woman whom was identical to his mother. Perfect...now it's raining. Could this day possibly get any better?

"I like rain," Alphonse's voice drifted across the room. "It was something I went so long for without feeling on my skin. I love standing in the rain." There was a rustling sound as Alphonse sat up on his bed. "I'm going to go out on the deck for awhile, Brother." The younger Elric stood up and crossed the room, opening the door. "I'll be back in a bit."

"Hey, wait...Alphonse," Edward began to protest, sitting upright in his chair, but his younger brother already closed the door. He sighed as he fell back into the chair, placing a hand on his forehead and running it down his face. "This...this has got to be so hard for him. All of his good memories of all the times we shared together came rushing back to him when he came through the gate with me, and now this. Nina, Mom...everything. Alphonse, I'm so sorry..." The golden-haired man stood up and followed his brother out of the room.

Keeping himself hidden, he watched the brown-haired boy stepping onto the deck's surface. He could feel the cool, slanted rainfall falling on his face and wondered if his brother really did enjoy the rain's kiss. Edward crossed the deck quietly, and watched his brother walk back over to the white railing where they'd stood earlier. The deck was deserted, devoid of people except for a few of the crewmen who were working around the ship. They didn't seem bothered by the rain at all. Edward observed Alphonse and saw his brother wrap his hands around the railings of the ship, his head dropping to stare at the floor. Edward could tell Alphonse was hurting and so he advanced towards his brother with intentions to console him and stopped just behind him. He could hear the trembling breaths Alphonse was taking and he reached out to place a hand comfortingly on his younger brother's shoulder.

"It's all real to me now. It's so real, isn't it Brother? Everything about Mom, what we did, about Sloth and even Nina. Nina was really turned into that chimera by her own father, her own flesh and blood and then killed in that alleyway by Scar, right? This isn't just my imagination? And Mom? We watched...Sloth die while wearing the face of Mom?" Alphonse inquired, not turning towards Edward, but he could feel the boy's shoulder beginning to tremble underneath his hand. The younger Elric turned to face his brother, face full of agony and brown eyes filled with unshed tears.

Edward gazed back into his brother's sorrow-filled expression, his golden orbs glimmering. He didn't know what to say to alleviate his younger brother and so he said the only thing he could think of; the one thing he felt the younger Elric deserved. "I'm sorry Alphonse," the former alchemist apologized hoarsely. "I'm so sorry."

"Brother," was all the younger Elric could say before Edward placed his hand on the back of the younger Elric's head.

"C'mere," Edward told him quietly and Alphonse obliged.

He was now buried in his older brother's shoulder and completely breaking down. Everything is catching up to you now, isn't it Al? All of the hardships, pain and suffering we tolerated, I'm so sorry...This is...all my fault. The brothers stood on the deck and all that could be heard around them was the heavy rainfall and Alphonse's anguished sobs. They never noticed that Trisha was peeking out of the window from inside of the warm, dry captain's cabin, watching the brothers with a pensive and solemn expression on her pretty face. Her husband was standing behind her with both hands on her shoulders and she couldn't seem to be able to take her eyes off of them.

"Those poor boys," was all she said, placing her hand on the window as if longing to hold them in her arms.
RavenHair
Wow this was definitely a good chapter! You almost had me in tears over here! LOL. I thought it was so sad in the last chapter with Nina but now the mom. I can't even imagine what that must be like. This is getting so good. Lots of emotion in the characters which I love. And I have to agree with you, I'm not much of a Noah fan either lol, I just have her in mine cause that would make the most sense. Looking very forward to the next chapter. Now I must go reply to you from my story :-)
Celeste Nayamashii
Awwww bless you *hands tissue* I've had a lot of people tell me that they either were almost in tears or actually did cry from that chapter. You'll have to pardon me though, I'm a fan of angst in stories lol and I enjoy writing it as well. I don't know why, I've always been a sucker for the angst, hurt and comfort aspects in stories, anime, manga, you name it. Now this is the most updated chapter I have right now. It usually takes me anywhere from a week to two weeks to get one chapter done depending on my schedule. Right now I have about half of Chapter 7 completed and hope to have it done within the next few days. Anyway, here's Chapter 6 happy.gif I hope you enjoy this one just as much as the others!

Chapter 6- The Elric's Rescue Mission

Alphonse's cries died down to dry sobs as Edward gently led his younger brother back to their room on the second class floor, keeping a comforting arm around his heaving shoulders. He didn't press the boy to talk to him about anything. He already knew what Alphonse was suffering through because he felt it all himself. It had come crashing down on the blond while the two brothers had stood in the rain; the older one comforting the younger one. It had taken all he had not to break down with Alphonse, but the former alchemist was the older brother, and his job was to protect and comfort the young Elric. He had to be the one who remained strong for both of them and be the boulder that Alphonse could lean on when he needed to. It shouldn't be the other way around. Once he got that in his head, he was able to maintain composure and be that rock. Now that the younger Elric's memories were in full blown and seeing all of these painful reminders of his past, Edward had come to the conclusion that this was something Alphonse would probably go through a lot.

All of those years he was trapped inside of the suit of armor, he'd never been able to feel the strong burden of emotions that the older Elric had felt through their years of struggling, searching, determination and fighting. He'd never been able to feel sheer and pure happiness or elation. Sure he would feel happy or pleased, but nothing to the intensity of what he should have been able to. He'd never been able to feel extreme terror or sorrow either, nor had he even been able to really cry with the body he'd been in. Edward had done the share of all of that for both of them, though at times he still was hit the harsh remorse of all the years his younger brother had lost because of him.

Even though he was in his normal body again, growing rapidly, and at least to the age of 15 now, though in truth he was really an 18 year old, Edward still couldn't help but be reminded of the past. So now that Alphonse had finally been put back in the flesh, the older Elric had to get used to the fact that his little brother would probably express these repressed emotions often. Besides that, Edward had never lost any portion of his memories. The impact of everything had to of slammed down on Alphonse like an avalanche, and he understood that. Still, it was hard to see his younger brother suffering through so much turmoil. He preferred Alphonse to be determined, happy and maybe even angry with him over something as pointless as leaving his clothes laying in a heap on the floor, but never like this.

"Hey Al, we're back," Edward told his little brother softly as they approached the familiar door.

He withdrew the key and unlocked the door so the two could go inside. They'd left their lamps on in the room, so it wasn't dark as the two entered. Edward released the grip on his brother's shoulders and crossed the room to go into the bathroom and get some dry towels for the two of them. He gazed at himself in the mirror momentarily before going back into the room, wondering if their entire trip was going to be like this and wondering if he was going to watch his younger brother suffer the whole time they were on the ship. The golden-haired man exited the bathroom, closing the door quietly behind him. He emerged holding four, freshly laundered towels in one arm. He handed two of them to the younger Elric who was standing quietly in front of his bed, left over sniffles still issuing from behind his soaked bangs.

"Thanks," Alphonse accepted quietly, sounding like he had a slight head cold.

Edward stood, observing his younger brother as he placed a towel over his brown head and began ringing out his ponytail and bangs with it. The last time he'd seen his younger brother so distraught was when he left Amestris, telling Alphonse to stay on the other side and destroy the gate for him. Edward loosened the hair band from around his ponytail, raking his fingers through long, soaked, golden locks and began towel-drying his hair.

"We should probably get out of these wet clothes before we get sick," the former alchemist pointed out after a moment of silence.

Alphonse turned and looked at his brother and nodded his head in silence. The older Elric sighed as he approached the dresser where Alphonse had folded up all of his clothes in a neat pile. He grabbed a black tank top and a dry, light blue pair of boxers. "Listen, Al...I was just wondering, I mean...are you going to be okay?" the blond man questioned as he pealed off his wet clothing, leaving them in a pile next to the dresser. Edward knew he'd probably hear about it from Alphonse later, but he didn't care. He couldn't find it in himself to look at Alphonse. Just seeing that sorrow-filled look in his eyes was harder than having to drink a glass of milk, and if anybody knew Edward, they also knew he loathed milk.

"Of course I will, Brother," replied the younger Elric, sounding a little more cheerful, as he too stripped out of this wet clothing, grabbed a pair of black pajama pants and a white t-shirt. Edward noticed Alphonse huffing as he spotted the blond's wet clothing in a heap on the floor and he gathered them up in his arms, disappearing into the bathroom to hang them over the bathtub to dry. He came back out of the room and re-seated himself on his bed.

Edward was dressed and his hair was decently towel-dried as he sat on his bed to rummage through his suitcase. He pulled out his hair brush and began running it through damp, slightly tangled strands. "It's just...I just want you to know you're not alone in what you're feeling. I also want you to know that I'm here for you, if you need to...you know..." the young scientist stopped after he heard his younger brother sigh.

Alphonse looked over at Edward and smiled warmly at him. his silvery-brown eyes not as downcast anymore. "I know, Ed and thanks. I'll be okay. I guess everything just kinda hit me hard tonight, but knowing what I know now, it'll get a little easier one step at a time. I really will be okay," the silvery-eyed boy insisted. He gave his older brother an honest look.

The former alchemist smiled back encouragingly at the younger Elric. There didn't need to be words. Both of the brothers understood each other just by facial expressions more than any other pair of brothers probably could. Edward continued running the brush through his golden locks, cringing as the bristles caught a tangle. "This is one thing that's a pain about having long hair," he complained, changing the subject as he finished combing through the rest of it. "Tangles, tangles and more tangles, especially when it gets wet."

Alphonse laughed as he too, ran a brush through his hair. "If it's too long, then why don't you cut it?"

"No way! Are you kidding me? I couldn't imagine having short hair and besides...," the young man hesitated, feeling the blush creeping up on his cheeks.

"Ahahaha, I know! You're only keeping it long becau-," Alphonse began to say but was abruptly cut off by Edward.

"Ah! What! NO! SHADDUP! I just...like it long is all! There's no reason why I'm keeping it long really!" the older Elric stammered in a higher voice than usual with a nervous laugh. However he noticed that the younger Elric could not mistake the blush that had risen on his heated cheeks. Edward knew that Alphonse knew, the only reason he kept his hair long was because Winry had loved it. She used to brush it for him, braid it and play with it whenever they were in Risembool. He just didn't want his younger brother to admit it outloud.

"Okay Ed, whatever. You don't even wear it in a braid anymore either," the younger Elric replied in amused tones as he finished combing through his tan locks and re-tied them in a ponytail.

"Agh! Well...ummm, don't you think it'd look really odd to people around here if they saw me wearing my hair in a braid? I mean c'mon now. A ponytail is much more classic anyway," Edward replied. "Besides that, why the hell are we talking about hair? We sound like a couple of sisters instead of brothers," he snorted in slight disgust.

Alphonse just laughed along with his brother, before he turned his body around on the bed across from Edward's, folding his legs in Indian-style. "Hey Brother, I've been thinking. Whenever something was troubling us, we used to spar a lot, do you remember?"

"Of course, how could I forget?" the older Elric replied as he finished brushing his golden hair and put the brush back into his suitcase. Unlike Al, Edward left his hair down, it's length reaching just below his shoulder blades and laying smoothly in between them. "Those were some of the best times we had. Although I never did beat you," he added with a pout.

"Oh, don't complain. You beat me all the time now! I think it's payback for all those times I kicked your bony butt," the younger Elric shot back, his familiar, toothy grin appearing on his face. The one expression that Edward loved to see on his younger brother and that was him being happy. "It's nighttime now and everybody's asleep. What do you say we take a look around the ship and see if can't find a place to let off some steam?" Alphonse inquired.

"Hmmm, you know, that might not be a bad idea," Edward stated thoughtfully as he scratched his chin. He grabbed his hair band once more, tying his golden hair into a low ponytail. "We can't quite go out on the deck because it's still raining and I don't really want anybody to see these," he added pointing to his steel limbs. "Let's go down to the lower deck! I'll bet you anything there's room down there and nobody goes down there unless maintenance is needed or something, like a storage room or even the engine room."

"Sounds good to me, but let me take a walk down the hallway first and make sure nobody is up and running around," the younger Elric suggested. "Like you said, we don't want anybody seeing your automail. They're going to wonder what on earth it is and how you got it, right? They don't have automail on this side of the Gate either so it wouldn't be exactly easy to explain it to them," Alphonse added.

"You're right. I swear, I thought we could get used to living in this world, but sometimes it just feels like things get stranger and stranger by the day here, even after three years," Edward admitted as he watched the brown-haired boy rise from his bed. "Just be careful," the older Elric added as Al approached the door.

"Oh don't worry Brother, I'll be fine. You're the one who needs to be careful," he added with a snicker. "I'll be right back," Alphonse told him before going out of the room and closing the door quietly behind.

Edward sighed as he leaned back against the soft pillows cushioned up against the oak headboard of his bed. He ran his flesh hand down his face as all the thoughts of everything they'd encountered from the time they left Amestris to now. This world really was a strange place. It felt foreign to him, like it was a place he just didn't belong. No Winry, no automail or alchemy, no Pinako or Mustang or Havoc, no state military like the one back at home. This place still seemed so unnatural to him. Sure it had people who were once dear and familiar to him, but they were only just dopplegangers. They weren't the real thing and never would be; especially Hughes, Nina and the others he'd ran into that had died back in his world.

These people weren't indubitable to him. Alfons had once told him, before he died, that this world wasn't a dream. If this world wasn't a delusion, then why did it still feel so? A girl's voice had sounded identical to Winry in New York City and he'd even seen her blonde, bobbing ponytail. That must have been the xerox of Winry. A little girl was on this very ship that could have been a twin of Nina Tucker's and her name was even Nina, but that wasn't what plagued him the most about this voyage. Sure the memories of Nina were painful and even seeing the little girl was hard, but nothing could had prepared him for what he and his brother had seen earlier.

The biggest impact of all was the woman who corresponded his mother, and her name had been Trisha as well. The golden-haired man still didn't understand quite how to work his head around it all, but her words rang fresh in his mind. "You look somewhat pale and shaken up. Is there anything at all I can do for you? Did you get hurt when you fell? If you boys need anything at all you can find me in First Class in room 1. If we're not on the deck or the dining room then you'll find us in our rooms."

"First Class in room 1," Edward repeated softly as the familiar tones of his mother's voice continued to sound in his head like a consistent ringing in his ears. "Maybe...maybe I really will go and talk to her. Maybe it's something I...need to do," the young blond told himself. Edward's thoughts were deferred as the door swung open and Alphonse stood cheerfully in the doorway.

"All's clear! Let's go, Brother!" he stated enthusiastically, all emotion that had invaded him earlier, seemed devoid now.

"Alright Mr. Anxious One," laughed Edward as he stood up from the bed, stretching his limbs. "Let's go and work some of this off. My joints are feeling a little stiff," he admitted as the two left the room. Edward tried the best he could to keep the sound of pat, thump, pat, thump of his flesh and metal feet as silent as he possibly could. The Elrics crept down the corridor like a couple of children sneaking down the stairs in the middle of the night for cookies and not wanting to be caught by their parents.

"This is just as bad as when we were kids," the older Elric whispered amusingly to his brother. "We used to sneak around like this all the time."

"Yeah, like that time when we went to Xenotime and snuck into the mansion because the Tringam brothers were impersonating us," Alphonse mused as the two continued stealithly down the corridor. "Those times were just brilliant. Hey Brother, I wonder if we'll get to see Russel and Fletcher if we get to go back home?"

"Hmmm, possibly," Edward told him, not wanting to think of the sheer possibility that they might not be able to go home. He changed the subject back to when they were young. "I know we did a lot of sneaking around back then, even before Dad left and Mom died," the young scientist added, trying hard not laugh at the memories of him as his little brother. "We always were devious little runts."

"Well, you were the runt, Brother, not me," the brown-haired young man told him with a defiant grin on his face. "And you're still are a runt."

"Hey! I'm not a damn runt anymore, okay!?" Edward snapped, whispering in the loudest whisper he could muster without raising his voice.

Alphonse just held his fist to his mouth, trying to stifle his somewhat silent laughter. Soon, the brothers found themselves in front of the set of stairs that led down to the third deck of the ship. They tiptoed diligently down that hallway as well, only stopping once to dash behind a corner as somebody walked sleepily down the hall, rubbing the back of their head and yawning loudly. The Elrics held their breath as the man passed them unnoticed. They let out sighs of relief before turning and descending towards another set of stairs that would take them down to the bottom deck of the ship.

"Brother!" exclaimed Al in a loud whisper.

"....!" was the only thing that came out of Edward's mouth before the two began falling.

They had ran for the stairwell as somebody else had decided to unexpectedly come out of the room. The older Elric had grabbed his brother around the shoulders, trying to shove the boy in front of him to help hide his metal limbs from view, only resulting in the two brothers tumbling down the stairs and landing in about the middle of the stairway. Edward was latched onto the banister and Alphonse was clutching onto his brother's shirt as they lay strangely angled in the center of the flight of stairs.

"Dammit, I'm running around down here in a friggin' tank top and boxers with my automail hanging out all because we want to go snooping and find a place to spar? I swear if somebody pops out at us unanticipated again, you are so getting it Al," Edward grumbled threateningly, rubbing the lump on his head. "For once it was your idea to go sneaking around."

"Yeah and you're the one who agreed to it, Brother because of your insatiable urge to sneak and explore. You haven't changed one bit," Alphonse retorted as he rubbed his sore behind. "Besides that, we're down here now. Let's see if we can find somewhere to go!"

"And you haven't either, Al. Besides that, I can hear the engine. It can't be far away," Edward nodded, standing up. "There must be like a storage room down here or something where they store bedding and things for the rooms. Let's see if we can find one," the older Elric stated suggestively.

"We could probably use linens for cushioning, but we'd have to clean up properly when we're done," Alphonse pointed out.

"You're really obsessive compulsive when it comes to cleaning, aren't you Al?" the former alchemist groaned, rolling his golden eyes.

"I'm not obsessive compulsive. I just like things clean. You're just a messy person, Brother. You always have been," the younger Elric told him, sticking his tongue out at Edward who wasn't even looking at his brother. He'd came to an abrupt halt, holding his hand out from behind him, signaling for Al to stop.

"Shut up, I'm trying to hear something," Edward whispered, holding a finger up to his mouth. He cupped one hand around his right ear. "I think I hear something and it's not the engine." Edward ascended cautiously across the hallway on the lowest deck of the ship, searching for the source of the sound he'd heard. He inclined his head and stared around with intent, golden eyes.

"What was it you thought you heard, Brother?" Alphonse whispered, his silvery-brown eyes scanning the area, but holding confusion as well.

"Well, I don't know, but I was almost certain that I heard a child crying," Edward insisted, as he still continued on attentively.

"A...child crying? But, I don't hear it. Do you still hear it?" Alphonse stammered. The elder Elric noticed that goosebumps began cascading down his younger brother's flesh.

"What's the matter with you?" Edward questioned with a laugh in his tone. "You aren't scared of a kid, are you?"

"Uh, well no, Brother it's just...haven't you ever heard those ghost stories about ships and stuff?" the younger Elric inquired, his voice sounding child-like and trembling.

"Ghost stories, are you serious?" Edward exclaimed as he burst into a raucous fit of laughter. "Ghosts!? You think that child crying was a ghost? You're not going to tell me you actually believe in that stuff, are you, Al?" the older Elric chided.

"W-well...I mean, I've read some stuff before about hauntings on ships, B-brother! I d-don't want to see a ghost!" he exclaimed voice wavering. Alphonse was hunching down with his hands balled up into fists and holding them close to his chest. He pressed closer to Edward bumping into him a few times.

"Good grief Al, did you forget how to walk in a straight line or are you really that scared? Besides that, after everything we've been through, how could you be scared of a little ghost?" the golden-eyed young man continued to poke fun at his little brother playfully. "Honestly now Al, there's no ghosts down here. I was probably just hearing things is all," he added, his voice softening. "Don't worry yourself so much."

"Y-yeah...sure, Brother," the brown-haired boy replied straightening his body but still gazing around suspiciously.

"Ah!" Edward exclaimed, causing his younger brother to jump backward and hit the wall. Edward turned back towards him with a golden eyebrow raised and then sighed and shook his head placing his hand on top of it, chuckling at Alphonse's reaction and expression. They had finally approached a door, with a single, squared window in the middle of it. The blond turned back towards the door and looked inside of the small window to see what was inside. "Alright, this is perfect! It's the linen storage room! There's plenty of space right in the center of it to give us extra room for moving!" the older Elric exclaimed, turning back to smile at his brother who's face was still struck with fear.

"Al? Are you gonna be alright?" Edward questioned, cocking an eyebrow once more at his brother's slightly white face.

"E-Edward...listen!" Alphonse demanded in voice that sounded somewhere in between a high pitched whisper to a squeak. He dashed behind his older brother, still crouching down. "I...I hear it!"

Edward furrowed his eyebrows as he picked up the sounds of the child's cry yet again. "Yeah, I hear it too, but something about it tells me that it's no ghost. It sounds...familiar almost. C'mon Al! That child might be lost or hurt or something!" he insisted as he tore off down the hallway of the lower deck.

"Brother! Are you sure! Why are you so impulsive! Wait for me!" Alphonse squeaked as he ran after his older brother.

I don't know why, but that sounds like...Edward stopped abruptly in his tracks as the sobbing sounded louder than ever now. There was a tall stack of boxes and the cries seemed to be eminating from behind them. The older Elric could see a small opening from between the boxes and the wall, but he'd never fit through that. Instinctively, Edward grabbed a few of the boxes, tossing them aside before it gave him enough space to peer down at what was back there. Behind the stack of boxes was a little girl, curled up into a ball and laying in a fetal position. The hem of her blue dress was torn, her shoes were missing as well, but the thing that most caught the blond's eye was the long, messy braids.

"Nina!" he exclaimed as he hurriedly moved all the boxes so he could get to the little girl. What in the hell! How on earth did she get stuck back here all by herself!?

"It's Nina!?" Alphonse questioned almost hysterically as he rushed over to help Edward move all the boxes out of the way. As soon as the packages were moved, Edward knelt down to the trembling figure and placed his hands gently on her. The girl recoiled under his touch, wailing loudly.

"Hey Nina, it's alright! It's just your big brothers!" the golden-eyed man told the girl gently but insistently. "C'mon now, sit up. It's alright."

"Yeah Nina, it's just Ed and Al. We're right here with you. Nothing's going to happen to you, okay?" Alphonse reassured the girl as he knelt down next to his brother.

Nina sniffled and sat up, with the help of Edward, rubbing her large, teary eyes. "B-big brothers? Ed and Al?" she asked, hiccuping with nearly every word. "Oh big brothers! I was s-s-so scared!" she let out a cry and errupted into fresh sobs, falling into Edward's lap. He felt slightly awkward at first, not really sure how to properly console her, but upon instinct he wrapped his arms protectively around the little girl.

"It's alright," the blond told her calmly as he lifted her up to a sitting position on his lap. "Can you tell me how you managed to get down here?"

"I-I lost Mommy! I d-don't know where she is or Alexander! I w-w-went down the stairs and h-hoped I could find her, but I just c-c-couldn't! I looked everywhere and I s-s-still can't find her and then I got lost!" Nina wailed, large tears rolling down her cheeks. Her little body trembled violently in Edward's arms and he felt his heart reach out to the little girl.

"Calm down now," Edward told her soothingly. He scooped the girl up in his arms, holding her close to his chest in a fireman's carry. "For now, we'll take you back to our room so we can wash up your face, get dressed and then we'll help you find your mom, okay?"

"Okay," Nina sniffled, wiping away her tears with the back of her small hand. She looked up at the metallic shoulder that was Edward's and her large, blue, curious eyes gazed up and down it's smooth, metal surface. She peeked downward and also saw his automail leg extending from his shorts. "Ummm, big brother? How come one of your arms and one of your legs are silver?" Nina questioned curiously, her tears dried now with only a small trace of hiccuping left in her voice.

"Well, big brother has to wear a special arm and leg," Edward explained, slightly nervous. "If I wasn't able to wear them, then I wouldn't be able to walk or carry you, but nobody else knows about big brother's silver arm and leg, so don't tell anyone, okay Nina?" He told her, his golden eyes gazing warmly down at the little girl in his arms.

"I promise I won't tell a soul big brother!" Nina insisted, as if excited that she and Ed were sharing this huge secret. "It'll be our secret! I won't even tell Mommy or Alexander! Can I touch it?" she asked eagerly, her bright blue orbs flickering back and forth over his metal arm.

"Sure you can," he told her with a laugh as the little girl eagerly reached out a hand and ran it down the smooth surface of his forearm. "It'll be a secret kept just between us. People might not like big brother's silver arm and leg," Edward told her as he made he way up the stairs, heading back towards the second class floor.

"Oooh it's kinda cold and hard. Isn't it heavy, big brother Ed?" the girl asked, her blue eyes still widened with amazement as she flicked his arm with her fingertips, issuing a soft ping! sound and making her giggle. Normally something like this would bother Edward, but for some reason it wasn't this time around.

"Well, I used to wear ones that were kind of heavy," he told the girl. "These ones were made special though and they are a lot lighter than what I used to wear."

Alphonse just laughed as he walked along with the two, both brothers watching the girl in gentle amusement at her astounded expression towards Edward's metal limbs. Shortly, the Elrics and Nina found themselves back up in second class, in front of Edward and Alphonse's door. Alphonse unlocked the room and opened the door, allowing the blond and Nina entrance first. Edward carried the girl over to his bed and gently sat her down on top of it. "You wait right here and I'll go get a warm washcloth so we can wipe up your face, okay?"

"Okay big brother Ed!" Nina told him, jovially swinging her legs back and forth over the edge of the bed.

Edward hurried into the bathroom, hearing the sounds of his younger brother and Nina chattering and laughing issuing from behind him. He smiled in spite of himself. The former alchemist had always loved helping people and being able to help this little girl who was identical to the Nina he loved made his heart swell with pride. Even though she wasn't the same Nina, he still felt a strong connection to her, just as he had with Hughes, Alfons, Gracia and even Trisha whom he'd just seen hours ago. Edward grabbed a washcloth from the stack on a shelf behind him, turned on the sink and slid the cloth underneath the running faucet, allowing the warm water to envelope it. He shut off the faucet and rang the white cloth out to a damp consistency so it wouldn't drip water all over the place. The last thing he wanted was to find something else for Alphonse to complain about. Once he was certain the cloth was good and wrung out, he left the bathroom. Edward sat down next to the girl and tenderly began dabbing at her face with the wet cloth. "There we go," he told her softly as he cleaned up Nina's tear-stained face. "I'll bet that feels all better, doesn't it?" he questioned as he finished wiping her face.

"It does, thank you big brother!" exclaimed Nina. "Can we go find Mommy now?"

Edward smiled down at the little brown-haired girl, his amber orbs dancing. "Of course we can. We just need to get dressed and then we'll go and find her, okay?" He told the little girl, placing a hand on top of her head just as he'd done a couple days ago and rubbed it gently.

Edward crossed over to where his clothes were, grabbed a white button-down shirt and a pair of olive-colored pants. He threw on the shirt, buttoned it but didn't bother to tuck it in. He pulled on his pants, socks and shoes, while Alphonse followed suit. Soon, the brothers were dressed and Edward pulled on his white gloves so nobody would see his automail. Nina stood in between the brothers, grasping their hands in each of hers and they made their way back up onto the deck with Nina chatting animatedly between them. The night air was cool and less thick than it had been before the rainstorm had hit. The downpour had stopped leaving a stillness about the ship. Edward crossed the deck and saw the light on inside of the captain's cabin, just next to the steering room.

"Alright, I'm sure we'd report a lost child here," the blond said more to himself than anything.

He raised a gloved fist and knocked on the door to the cabin. He waited a few moments and went to lift his fist to knock again when the door swung open, revealing a man who was a good head taller than Edward and very round-bellied. He wore a pair of black dress pants, a white button-down shirt with a black tie that hung lose around his neck. He had cheerful, jolly brown eyes, short brown hair and a shadow of facial hair, both which were graying in areas. The moment the door opened, there were sounds of people talking and a woman crying in the background. The golden-haired man inclined his head over the elder man's shoulder just so he could see inside and he quickly recognized the woman as Nina's mother.

"I'm here to bring in a lost little girl," Edward told the man.

"This must be her then! The girl that was reported lost" the graying man exclaimed as he knelt down on one knee and clapped a large hand on her shoulder. "Are you alright sweetheart?"

"Yes! Big brothers Ed and Al took real good care of me!" Nina piped up cheerfully, raising up on her little toes, her hands clasped firmly behind her small back.

"Ed and Al? They were the ones who found her?" came the sobbing woman's voice over the man's shoulder. "Oh my! Nina! Oh my little Nina!" she exclaimed, pushing past the man and gathering her daughter up in her arms. "I thought I lost you! Oh my goodness, are you alright? Did anything happen to you? Oh, Nina!" The woman was covering her daughter's face in kissing and was running her hands down Nina's cheeks.

"It's alright ma'am. It seems these young men here are the heroes of the day! They are the ones who brought her to the cabin after all!" he exclaimed heartily, and he too clapped a large hand on Edward and Alphonse's shoulders.

"Ed and Al, I couldn't thank you enough for finding her! We got separated on the deck just yesterday because there were so many people out to enjoy the weather. She's been missing for nearly a day. Thank goodness she's alright!" the woman wept, holding her daughter close to her face. "I don't know how I can thank you boys enough!"

"It was no trouble really," Edward replied, blushing and rubbing the back of his neck. "We're just glad she's safe."

"Come in boys! Come in! This calls for a reward!" exclaimed the cheerful man as he ushered the brothers inside of the cabin.

"No no, that's not necessary! We're just-," Edward began in protest but was obstructed by the boisterous man.

"No no! I won't hear a word of that! As the captain of this ship I absolutely insist that you boys be given an award for finding the lost little girl!" he continued keeping his hands on the brothers' shoulders. "We could give you a cash reward for what you've done for us!"

"No no! We really don't need any money! Honestly!" Alphonse and Edward both cried in unison, waving their hands back and forth. Their faces were very red at being praised so much by a complete stranger. It didn't matter if he was the captain of the ship or not. They just weren't the type to except something so big so quickly from people they didn't know.

"Well then, I suggest they be moved to first class boarding rooms and get free meals for the rest of the voyage if that's alright with you, Dad," came a familiar female voice that made Edward's heart skip a beat. Trisha was standing up from where she'd been sitting at the table inside of the cozy cabin. Edward and Alphonse had missed her sitting there. He quickly looked at his little brother who's eyes had widened again and he could tell the boy felt the same way he did at this very moment.

Dad? She must be the captain's daughter then..."No, really we couldn't impose-," Edward attested, but yet again he was cut off only this time by Trisha.

She smiled warmly at the boys, her emerald irises shining. "Please, I insist. You will be much more comfortable and fed proper meals as well. You both look like you could do with putting on a few pounds," she added with a smile. "Please, do us the favor of staying there. We'll have all of your things brought up to your rooms from where you're staying now."

Edward found that he just couldn't say no to the woman's request. She was somewhat assertive but even though she was that, the woman was still too reminiscent of Trisha. It had been hard to decline and so he agreed, nodding his golden head with a smile, thanking her graciously. It didn't take long before the Elrics were lead out of the cabin and to the first class state boarding rooms, and all of their things had been brought to their rooms. They gave Edward and Alphonse rooms that were seperate but side by side. The brothers could go into one another's rooms by a door that was attaching them. The older Elric gasped as his eyes met the sight that befell him.

The room was probably twice the size of what himself and Alphonse were sleeping in previously. The carpets were deep red hue that reminded him almost of velvet. The curtains that hung up against the large, picture window in his room were of the same shade, embroidered with a golden floral pattern. The dresser was a dark, fine oak with a massive mirror sitting on top, outlined in a gold frame. A tall armoire stood about three feet away from the dresser in the same matching oak with double doors and fine designing carved into it. The bed was a four-poster with a headboard cognate to his dresser and armoire with golden trimming around the edges and the same, carved design. The bed clothes were the same as the curtains, deep red with the same golden floral pattern, sprinkled across it. Edward walked slowly across the room, eyeing the two deep red armchairs that sat in the corner. He walked to a white door that was placed in between the two chairs and opened it.

Inside was a bathroom, complete with a decent sized tub, double sinks with golden handles on the faucets and marble surfaces. There were two towel racks with freshly laundered, bright white hand towels hanging on them that looked almost whiter than the ones down in second class. After taking a look around the bathroom and finding where the regular towels and cloths were stored, Edward left the bathroom and headed back into his room. He finally reached his bed and allowed himself to fall back onto it, staring up at the sloping ceiling. The moment his body hit the bed, he could feel himself sinking into it and relaxation overtook his body. The blond sighed and closed his golden orbs. He'd never stayed in anything so refined and elegant in his whole life that he just wasn't sure how to take it all in. There was an unexpected knock on the door which caused him to jump slightly.

"Come in!" Edward called as the young scientist sat up on his bed. The door popped open and in walked Alphonse who looked just as shocked as Edward but nevertheless, cheerful.

"Can you believe these rooms, Brother!?" he exclaimed in a voice barely above a whisper. "I mean wow! We've never stayed in anything so amazing in our lives!"

"I know, I couldn't believe it when I walked in here myself. Thought I must have been dreaming," Edward agreed. "So that's the door that leads from your room to mine?" he questioned, pointing towards the door that Alphonse had just came in from.

"Yep sure is! My room looks almost identical to yours, except my stuff is done in really dark blue and gold," the younger Elric told him, sitting down on Edward's bed next to his brother.

"Man, I just can't believe this. All for finding Nina, it's just amazing," the older Elric breathed. "And hey! We get free food that'll taste good!"

"Oh jeeze, Brother," Alphonse replied, placing his palm on his face. "You are the most picky eater I've ever met, I swear."

"You know," Edward began as he leaned back on his hands and stared up at the ceiling. "I really should go see Trisha and thank her for all of this. This was a really generous thing to do for us," the blond stated softly. "Just like Mom, huh?"

"Yeah, just like Mom," Alphonse reiterated in a tone as quiet as Edward's had gone.

"Do you wanna come with me?" the older Elric questioned as he sat up and turned towards his younger brother.

Alphonse yawned widely, rubbing the back of his head. "Nah, I'm beat Brother. I think I'm going to turn in for the night. You should go see her though and thank her. She really does deserve it from at least one of us."

Edward could tell his younger brother was lying about being tired, but he did not press the subject. It was hard for them to see the woman who looked identical to their mother and acted exactly the way she used to. Edward, being the older brother, knew that this was only right. "Alright then. I'm going to go see her and thank her for all she's done for us. I'll be back in a little while. Get good sleep," he added.

Alphonse had already gotten up and crossed the room to the door leading to his room. He waved a hand sleepily at his older brother and disappeared behind the door. The golden-haired young man sighed as he put on his coat, placed his hand on the elegant knob, turned it and stepped out. He descended down the elegant hallway straight towards the very first room. Edward hesitated before raising his hand to rap gently on the door before him. He felt almost reluctant to do so, but Alphonse was right. Trisha did deserve his thanks. Before Edward could turn back, the door opened and Trisha stood on the other side, smiling at the older Elric.

"Hello, Edward. I was wondering when you'd show up," the older woman greeted him with her gentle smile. "Please come in."

Edward stepped timidly into the room, feeling somewhat apprehensive. The room was decorated in very much the same way as his own, except it was slightly bigger and there was a small, oak rounded table with two chairs across from one another. In the center of it sat a white teapot with steaming pouring from the spout. A squared tray sat in the center of the table with a creamer pot and a bowl of sugar cubes. Small teacups were turned upside down on the tray, surrounding the bowl of sugar and creamer.

"I was just about to have some tea. My husband is in the smoking room with the other men and so it's kind of lonely in here," Trisha told him as she closed the door behind the blond. "Why don't you join me for awhile?"

"Oh, sure, thank you," Edward obliged as he removed his coat and lay it over the back of the chair, seating himself and crossing one leg over the other.

Trisha sat a cup in front of him, poured the tea and then poured one for herself. She seated herself down in the chair across from the young man. The captain's daughter offered him a bowl of sugar cubes which he took two and dropped them into his cup, stirring his tea slowly. He watched the bottom of his cup swirling as the sugar melted to a white substance before disappearing. "So," she began. "Why did you come to see me?"

Edward was sipping from his cup and his golden eyes slid over in her direction. He placed the cup back down on the table and folded his gloved hands on the table, staring down at them guardedly. "Well, I wanted to ummm, thank you for giving us the rooms you did. They're really really nice and comfortable," he stated, averting his gaze away from hers. It was so hard to look at her and Edward had to bite his cheek to keep a lump from rising in his throat. She still continued to carry that gentleness, tenderness and warmth about her. It was all over her, eminating from her exactly like how it had been with his mother. Why was it so hard to talk to this woman just because she looked and sounded like Trisha? She wasn't his mom, he understood that, but still. Stuff like this just wasn't easy. No matter what, he just couldn't prepare himself for what came next.

"I don't think that's why you came to see me," the woman replied matter-of-factly, but nonetheless gently. "I saw you boys out there, in the rain. You've experienced loss, haven't you Edward? I can see it in your eyes," the chestnut-haired woman told him in sympathetic tones. "I remind you of someone you were close to, don't I?"

Edward gasped at the woman's words, his mouth gaping slightly open as he stared at the chestnut-haired woman. She's so perceptive...just like Mom was... The young blond cleared his throat. What was the harm in talking to her and telling her about at least some of his past? It's not like he had anybody else to open up to and here Trisha was, welcoming him with warm and open arms. "I...well, yes," began nervously as he finally found the courage to look at her. "You see, when my brother and I were little kids we lost our mom. She died of an illness when we were very young." He paused as the woman gave him a sympathetic look, waiting to see if she was going to speak, but she didn't and Edward continued. "You...you're identical to what my mother used to look like. Al and I...well, we don't have any pictures or anything left of her and we were just surprised is all that we saw you. At first glance, we really thought you were our mother, but then we remembered that couldn't be possible," the young scientist explained, his voice soft and golden orbs downcast.

"Oh, my goodness. I didn't realize, I mean...I'm so sorry that you boys suffered through such a terrible tragedy," Trisha apologized, reaching across the table and placing her hand on Edward's folded ones. "It must be very hard for you to see somebody like me who looks just like your mom, but at the same time you must feel comforted by it?" she stated with a questioning tone and withdrawing her hand.

"In a sense I do. I don't feel...well, upset by seeing you or anything. I guess it just came more as a shock than anything, especially to my younger brother. You see...he was in an accident and lost his memory. Only recently did he get it back," Edward explained, trying to sugar-coat the things he didn't want to accidentally blurt out and make the woman think he was crazy. "When they returned to him, he remembered everything, including Mom and what happened. It was hard on him at first, but once he managed to get past it, he was okay. I think it just really hit him hard to see a woman identical to Mom and well..you even have the same name as her too. Her name was Trisha." Edward stared down into his cup of tea, stirring it with the tiny, silver spoon so as not to look at all of the vicarious, pitying expressions he was receiving from the woman.

"Oh goodness. We have the same name as well?" she asked, slightly taken aback by this bit of information. "Well, can you tell me what your mom was like?"

"She was...well, she was pretty much like you are," Edward admitted, still stirring his tea. "She was kind-hearted, giving, caring and she loved us, more than anything and we loved her," he told her, voice slightly cracking and sounding somewhat hoarse. He was trying not allow an overabundance of emotions slam him right there in Trisha's room. The golden-eyed man swallowed and took a deep breath to regain his composure. "That's why it's just a little overwhelming is all," he told her, finding the courage to look back up at her.

Trisha smiled and reached her hand once more across the table to squeeze his left hand. "I don't doubt for a moment that your mother loved you. You boys are very special and one of a kind that's for sure. I can see the love you have for your brother and your strong will to protect him. I saw it in you when you were standing in the rain together. You boys should be happy for the lives you have and that you have each other. I think that's what your mother would have wanted. I'm sure that your mother is looking down on you right now and that she's very proud of the man you've become," Trisha replied tenderly. "I'm also glad that you told me this as well. My heart went out to you boys the moment I saw you. Maybe it's just that maternal instinct I have, but I saw the loss in your eyes the moment you looked at me, so I had a feeling. I'm just thankful I've had a chance to meet you and speak with you."

This was almost beginning to become too much for Edward to take in. Before he completely lost his nonchalance and told her everything, he needed to get out of there. The blond sipped the rest of his tea and followed off by faking a yawn. "Well, I should probably head back to my room and get some sleep. Only a few more days before we reach Germany," Edward replied, faking a cheerful smile.

"Of course, I understand completely, and you must have people waiting for you there, I presume. Go and rest. Breakfast is served at 9:00 am. Usually somebody will knock on the door and leave the tray outside of it, so make sure you eat well," the emerald-eyed woman told him as Edward stood and pulled his coat back on. She placed a hand on his back in much the same way his mother always did and he could feel his heart beginning to throb heavily in his chest. "And get good rest. You do look tired, Edward."

"Don't worry...I will," Edward told her assuringly. "Thank you again for the rooms and for the tea," he added, expressing his gratitude for the woman.

"It's no problem," Trisha insisted as Edward crossed the room and exited.

Once he'd said his goodbyes and the door was closed behind him, he turned and ran as fast he could down the first class hallway, dashed into his room and slammed the door behind him, locking it. The young man fell back against the door, grasping at his head with his hands, strands of golden bangs snaking in between his fingers. He stared up at the ceiling, exempting heavy breaths. The older Elric bit his bottom lip, trying to hold himself together. So many different emotions and feelings were afflicting him that Edward didn't know if he wanted to laugh loudly, punch something or just scream his lungs out.

Everything she said, the way she sounded, the way she'd acted, it had been just like her and it was painful. It was extremely painful and Edward half wished that his brother would have gone with him. Okay calm down, Edward...she was just being kind. You have to remember she's not your mother. She's just a really sweet woman who looks like Mom, has Mom's voice and personality, but she isn't Mom. Your mom died. She's at peace with Dad now. This is the other side of the gate and not your world. No matter what, you can't let yourself get attached. The former state alchemist took deep breaths before finally calming himself down, walking across the room, advancing to his bed and falling on it, reminding himself that there was only a few more days left of this torture. That's what it felt like, seeing Nina and seeing Trisha, hearing them speak to him and feeling Nina's hug. While he adored it and relished it at the same time he loathed it. It was torturous, and there was no other word for it.

-------

The last few days rolled by and the Elric brothers were treated most graciously by the people of the first class floor. Word had spread all over the ship that the brothers were the ones who'd found and rescued Nina. They had been greeted by the little girl and her mother the next day, with drawings that Nina had done for the boys and a grateful hug from the mother. People cheered at them and praised them all over the ship and they were the talk of the crew. Even at dinner time as the boys seated themselves at the dining room table, did the passengers of the first class floor carry on about their heroics. Edward and Alphonse just humbly brushed them off, stating it was nothing and ate their dinner with the rest of them. Finally, there was announcement made on the ship that they would be arriving just outside of Berlin in less than 24 hours.

Edward and Alphonse had rushed back to their rooms, talking excitedly about Munich, the Villa and the Gate. The closer time it came to arriving at their destination, the more desirious the brothers were becoming. They anxiously packed their clothing and essentials for the arrival in Germany. Both were ready to get off of this ship and away from the painful memories it carried. They just wanted to get back to Haushofer's Villa as soon as they could and find out what was happening with the Gate and possibly go back home to where they belonged. After a few hours of haphazardly packing and rushing about, Edward dropped on his bed, falling backwards on it and allowing his body to sink into it's soft surface. In about four more hours they'd make their arrival and the ship would dock. He was already feeling vertigo creeping up on him and his golden irises flickered shut. He'd only rest his eyes, just for a moment.

'It's cold...really cold...Where am I? What's going on here?'

Edward's amber orbs fought to open as a bright light filled his vision. He blinked rapidly, trying to allow his eyes to adjust to the light that surrounded him. He was no longer laying in his bed. The place was freezing and Edward could feel goosebumps rising all over his skin. The blond sat up and rubbed his eyes, trying to gather his senses. He stood up and realized he was standing in whitespace. "What the...where in the hell am I?" He hugged his body as a fresh wave of shivers cascaded down himself. Edward began walking forward, not knowing what was going on or where he was for that matter.

"Hello!" he called out, his voice echoing around him.

He could feel an extremely familiar, eerie sensation from behind him, and Edward whirled around coming face to face with the thing that he most dreaded to see but at the same time longed to see...the Gate. It's massive pillars held the giant, engraved double doors up and the blonde just stopped in his tracks, rooted to the spot and stared. "Hey! I didn't come back here on my own!" he cried out insistently at the doors. "Don't take anymore of my limbs!"

The double doors creaked as they slowly began opening, eminating a phosphorous light from the inside. Edward fell backward a few steps, shielding his eyes from the massive, yellow and white glow, brighter than the whitespace he'd been standing in just moments ago. "What on earth?" he inquired, golden orbs squinting. Something was coming through the gate right for him. It was familiar to him, the figure was donned in white and as it came closer, it began taking form. It was a woman, shapely but thin. Her hair was tied up in the back just as he'd last seen it, her long waves of blonde cascading down the sides of her face and her bangs brushed to the side as always. Her eyes were closed and she had a peaceful smile on her face. The older Elric felt his breath catch in his throat as he tried to gasp at the image before him. Was this real?

"Win-ry?" he questioned quietly and incredulously.

The girl opened her eyes, revealing astonishing blue irises at him and she smiled, holding out her arms. "Edward," his name left her lips.

"Winry!" he exclaimed softly, the two now running towards each other. They fell into one another's arms, holding onto each other for dear life as if they never wanted to let go. Her body felt so warm to his touch, and she felt solid and real. She was truly here. He was back together with Winry again. Nothing seemed to matter at this point, except for her as he enveloped in her. Everything was the same; the touch of her skin, the caress of her hair, her scent, all of it was. All of the things the older Elric wanted to say to her raced through his mind and he opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. It was as if the moment his thoughts hit his tongue, they just slipped away through his fingers before he could catch them. Winry just smiled at him as the two loosened their grips slightly but still held onto each other. She placed a slender finger on his lips and smiled.

"You don't have to say it, Edward," she told him, that knowing look in her blue eyes. "I already know."

"Winry," he reiterated, running his automail hand down her cheek. She closed her eyes and leaned in towards it. "I missed you so much. How did you get back to me? Alphonse and I were going to come through the gate and come back to you."

"Edward, I-," Winry began but stopped in midsentence. Edward gazed at her worriedly and saw why she'd quit talking. He stared horrifyingly at the black, snake-like arms ascending towards her from the still open doors of the Gate. Winry screamed as she began being pulled back towards the Gate, the terrible sounds Edward remembered so well, issuing from it.

"No! I will NOT let you take Winry! You aren't taking her away from me!" the golden-haired man screamed, clinging tightly onto her body. "YOU DON'T TOUCH HER!"

It was to no avail, the creatures from the Gate were pulling Winry roughly out of Edward's arms, dragging her into hell. She was being gravitated harsly backward, her hands reaching for his. "EDWAAAAAAAARD!" she screamed, desperately trying to grasp onto him.

"NO WINRY! DON'T TAKE HER AWAY FROM ME PLEASE!" the young man pleaded as he raced towards her, but it seemed the closer he got to her, the quicker she was pulled from him. What he saw next, sent Edward to his knees. In the exact same way that Al had, her body began disintegrating right before his very eyes, her vanishing screams piercing the air with an echo. "NO! I WON'T LET YOU TAKE AWAY FROM ME!" Edward bellowed as he raced for the doors to the Gate, but just as he approached them they slammed shut, leaving him alone to stand behind them once more.

"NO! YOU BASTARDS! OPEN IT BACK UP! GIVE ME WINRY BACK! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE HER LIKE YOU DID MY LITTLE BROTHER! SHE DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO DESERVE THIS!" Edward had lept back on his feet and was desperately pounding on the doors with his fists. Nothing happened, just distilled silence and the boy slid back down to his knees once more, pressing his forehead against the doors of the gate in agony. "How could you do this? Winry didn't deserve this. I didn't deserve this! How could you take her away from me?" he whimpered tears stinging his eyes. The blond's fists were still pressed firmly into the markings on the doors. "How?"

"Brother! Brother!" cried out Alphonse's voice, sounding very far away. His brain was becoming clouded and his vision foggy.

"A-Al..," Edward's fists dropped from the doors and he fell onto his side, hugging himself as though trying to rid himself of the pain and loneliness.


"Brother! Wake up! You're having a nightmare!"

His voice sounded clear now and Edward jerked awake. He stared up at his little brother, whom was hovering over him, staring down at him worriedly. There was a burning sensation in the back of his throat and his eyes were tingling. His vision blurred momentarily before the urge to sob rose up in his chest. Edward held it back instead and released a shaky breath, wiping the back of his automail hand across his face and sat up in bed, his head hanging downward and golden bangs obstructing his features which were still filled with agony.

"Brother, what happened?" Alphonse questioned worriedly, sitting down on the bed next to the older Elric and placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"Ugh, one hell of a nightmare's what's happened," came Edward's shaking voice from behind his bangs. He took a few deep breaths to compose himself and raised his head, golden eyes closed. "I haven't had anything like that in a long time." He opened them up and gazed around the room, remembering that he was still in the ship. The Gate really had not taken Winry from him and he felt a sigh of relief raise in his chest and escape his mouth. "Damn, that was something. I didn't mean to fall asleep."

"Are you sure you're alright, Brother? I mean you were almost cry-," the younger Elric began but was harshly cut off.

"I'm fine, Al just drop it okay?" Edward told him standing up. "It was just a nasty dream and that's all it was. Nothing more, alright?"

"Alright, if you say so Mr. Short Temper," Alphonse replied rolling his eyes.

"I AM NOT SHORT!" Edward exploded, raising his fists in his younger brother's face.

"I KNOW you're not short, Ed! That's not what I was implying, geeze! I just wanted to tell you that the captain said we'd be arriving in Berlin in about 20 minutes," Alphonse told him, shaking his head with a sigh.

"Really? Dammit! I had no idea I slept that long!" Edward exclaimed, grabbing his suitcase which was all packed and ready to go. Edward pulled on his brown coat and gloves, pushing his brother out of the door and closing it behind him. "Let's go! We have a train to catch!"
RavenHair
Liked this chapter as well, I think you have a good story here. I'm happy to say that this is probvably the first one I liked all the way through so far :-) Can't wait to read chapter 7 (but don't rush through it) Like you said have to take our time and I want to re-edit my other chpaters as well. I can't to see if they can make it back and f so what is going to happen. I'm also liking the fact that there will be a Riza/Mustang thing going on as well they are my 2nd favorite pair from FMA biggrin.gif . I really wish they had at least got it together by the end. Have you read any of the manga? It's really good so far. I just started reading it myself.
Celeste Nayamashii
Wow no kidding? I'm so glad you're not turned off by it. Thank you so much for the continued reviewing and support on this! Oh yes, RoyxRiza to come in later chapters ^_~ just you wait. I'm actually really surprised with myself! I managed to finish Chapter 7 tonight happy.gif I really hope you enjoy this one as much as you have the others, my friend. As for your question about the manga? Yes I do read the manga and am anxiously awaiting the next chapter!

Chapter 7- Arrival in Munich

The room was dark, filled with an ominous mist surrounding the beings currently occupying it. There were growling, raspy noises resounding around it with an echo like drops of rainwater falling into an empty pail. One by one, a candle was lit, allowing the room to come into view slightly, showing that three beings were currently inhabiting the deserted-looking place. Long, thin, red-tipped fingernails ran silkly down the pale face of the thing emitting the growling sounds which were now followed by desperate crunching. She didn't mind all the red bits of stone falling down her hands as she studied her latest creation. Well, not necessarily hers, but what she was making this monster become, would soon not be an abnormality.

A beast, taking on the shape of an attractive, female, human face was feeding feverishly on a pile of red stones gathered in between her cupped, scaled, clawed hands. However, her body was still disfigured terribly. One leg seemed to be attached to it's torso, while where the legs should have been, was a stump that seemed to squish and metastisize across the old-fashioned, marble floor underneath it. It's arms were anomalisticly long for normal arm length and had very jagged elbows. It had long, straggly, ebony hair, touching the floor and spreading out across the surface like vines of ivy on an old brick house. The creature's skin was an almost purplish-green tint and seemed somewhat luminescent. The woman who stood next to the creature rose to her feet as the beast continued to eat.

"That's right my darling, feed and savor the taste. Soon you'll be just like your brother," the portentous woman told the creature gently, running a hand almost lovingly over the top of it's head.

"Tch, are you kidding me?" You mean to tell me that thing is going to look as good as me? You can keep it far away from me thanks," came a snarky reply filled with indignation from across the room.

A man was standing with his back against the wall and arms folded across his chest, only his face was most clearly being shown in the candlelight that sprinkled across the room. He was tall, somewhat attractive and at least a decent 6 feet. He wore a black, stretch tank top and black pants that fell slightly over his shoes and a black, dress overcoat. He had sleek, raven hair, that just barely touched his shoulders. Half of it was pulled back to the back of his head and held fast with a hair band. The man had slightly raised bangs that stopped just at his upper cheekbones with a few stray hairs that stood slightly upward. His eyes were lavender, and he held a sinister grin on his face. In between his teeth was a lit cigarette to which he took a deep drag from and exhaled.

"Now now, my son. If you remember properly, you weren't in much better condition then this little darling," insisted the woman. "I have to say, I'm deeply amazed that she was able to pull this off. Wouldn't she be proud if she could see that I was following in her own footsteps?" the woman stated in a sing-songy voice. "Hah, she always thought she'd gotten rid of me, hidden all of her secrets from me, but I was no fool," she added bitterly.

"Obviously you weren't, boss lady," the brusque man replied, still casting a disgusted and uneasy glance at the creature feeding on the stones, exhaling smoke from his nostrils. "Otherwise, we wouldn't be here."

"I know all about how she used it. I had a small portion of it myself, though she never knew," the woman continued with a harsh laugh, advancing towards the black-clad man. "And I stole the red stones from her as well. I wonder if she ever realized just how many had gone missing?" She threw her head back arrogantly, brushing a hand over her forehead and down the back of her hair.

Her face was becoming visible in the candlelight and as she stood, her appearance came into full view. She was wearing a long, deep red dress that reached her ankles, fitting her curvy but thin figure. A delicate, green-gold leaf and vine pattern was stretched gently across the bottom of the skirt. Around her neck she wore a green and gold broach that seemed to almost glisten as she stepped closer to the man. Her hair was a deep shade of brown, tied up at the back of her head in an elegant knot with a few, curly tendrils hanging down the sides of her face and neck. Small hair sticks decorated with ornaments obtruded from the bounded mass at the back of her head. Her skin was pale and the irises of her large eyes were black as coal with a hint of deep purple just around her pupil. Her nails on each finger tip seemed to be at least a half inch long and were painted the same, deep red as her dress.

"I won't put you all in danger as she once did," the brunette female purred. "I will not echo that b*tch's pitiful mistakes." She brought a pale hand up to cup the male's chin, her haunting eyes staring deeply into his. "You all are my children," she told him in a voice barely above a whisper.

"Ah, yeah, that we are, boss lady," the lavender-eyed man concurred. "If it weren't for you, we wouldn't be in the forms we have now and I wouldn't be this sexy. Damn, I can't wait to get out of this house and find some women of my own. I want it now. I want money, I want women so I can have all the sex I want and I want power and status, I want everything I can get my hands on!" he added as a maniacal grin spread across his pale face, his teeth clenched together. "Hehe damn. Was the old Greed as greedy as I am?"

"Much more, but you must have patience, my dearest Greed," the dark-eyed woman told him soothingly. "You will have what you want, but first we finish our work here and I need your help for that in case you forgot already!" she snapped with a slightly threatening ring in her voice.

Greed raised his hands in up defeat and waved them back and forth nervously. "Of course not, no way! I haven't forgotten. I'm sorry that I'm being so impatient. There's just so much I want," he insisted. Greed's mauve eyes scanned the room. "By the way, where is Gluttony, boss-lady? I haven't seen him in awhile now."

"That is none of your concern. He will return shortly. I've sent him off to do something for me and promised him a delicious treat when he returns as long as he completed the mission I required of him." Mhmm and Greed," she began sweetly, raising a thin, dark eyebrow at the homunculus. "I would prefer you to call me Mother. I do not want to be called 'boss lady' as it sounds sounderhanded for someone like me. Is that understood, my son?" she added, sounding somewhat strict now, her voice raising back to normal level.

"Uhhh, sure whatever you say bo-, I mean...Mother," replied the homunculus with a sound of something like desistance in his voice.

The room was growing more quiet now and both Mother and Greed seemed to realize this. Mother turned, riveting her attention to the beast who'd stopped feeding on the stones. The creature that was once slumped to the floor had taken on a graceful, human shape. Her body was curved like an hour glass and her chest had filled in with taut, voluptuous breasts. She had long, straight, raven hair that reached down her waist and seemed to glisten in the candlelight from sheerness like threads of freshly woven silk. It hung around her intensely attractive face and crossed her forehead in loose strands. In between her breasts was a red symbol forming, of a serpent devouring it's own tail. She opened her eyes which revealed, shining amethyst irises. Her lips were a deep shade of puce as well, and she was standing completely in the nude causing Greed's eyes to nearly bug out of his head.

"Woooah hooh, Mama!" exclaimed Greed as he began making his way towards the woman. "I guess she does look as good as me. Maybe even better than me," he added, running his tongue over his lips. "Nice to meet ya, pretty lady."

Mother reached out and slapped Greed's hands which had began reaching amorously for the naked, female homunculus. "Greed! That's enough! She's your sister and you will NOT get any ideas. Do you understand?"

"Yes Mom, sorry," Greed mumbled like a child in trouble as he drew back behind the woman.

The female homunculus crouched up against the side of the wall, her lilac eyes swiveling madly back and forth between the woman and Greed. Her naked form was visibly trembling, and she wrapped thin, pale arms around herself, hugging her body tightly as if to protect herself. Mother seemed to notice this and advanced towards the woman, with as gentle a look as possible that her raven eyes would allow. She raised a hand towards the female homunculus, who shied away as though not wanting to be touched or near anyone. A raw hint of fear shone clearly in her mauve eyes. The brunette placed the hand gently on her face and ran her long nails down her cheek softly.

"Yes my dear, you must be exhausted. We shall get you to bed so you can rest. You don't need to be afraid of me. I'm your Mother. I'll take good care of you," she insisted. The woman placed an arm around the homunculus's waist and lifted her back onto her feet to help support her.

"You...you'll take care of me?" she spoke behind her long, ebony hair that had fallen around her dropped face. "What...w-where am I? Who...a-am I?" she questioned in weakened tones.

"As soon as we get you into bed and into some clothes, I'll explain everything dear," Mother assured the girl.

They were now walking up a dusty, winding flight of stairs which lead to a very dreary and cold hallway. She approached the first door on the right wall and opened it, a long creaking sound issuing from the old, rusted hinges. Mother gently sat the woman down on the bed and crossed the room to rummage in a drawer. She pulled out a long, black, spaghetti-strapped gown and pulled it over the female homunculus's head. Once the woman was dressed and her long strands of ebony hair were pulled free from the back of the gown, she gently laid the homunculus down on the bed, resting her head against the pillows.

"There now, rest easy my dear. We'll talk some more and explain everything once you have woken up."

The female homunculus sunk into the pillows without any type of reluctance, closed her pools of lilac and fell into a deep sleep with Mother sitting right by her side, and Greed peeking in at her from the doorway.

-----------------

Tap tap, tap tap, tap tap. The blonde-haired young woman was pacing apprehensively back and forth around the Brigadier General's office her white, inch-high heels tapping conspicuously on the floor of the room. Winry had been completely aware that she was accompanied by somebody else in the room. However her level of anxiousness and nervousness had made her disregard the fact that she wasn't alone and so she carried on with her pacing. She kept crossing the large office and over to the windows to draw back the curtains and peek outside to see if they had arrived yet. Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye was seated formally on one the couches inside of General Mustang's office, absentmindedly thumbing through a stack of documents, while retaining her usual calm.

"When are they going to be here?" came Winry's voice from behind the curtains. "Roy said they'd be back within the hour and it's been an hour and a half now."

"I wouldn't worry about them Winry. The General is always late. Why don't you take a seat and try to relax yourself?" replied Hawkeye in a kind, but cool manner.

Winry heaved a sigh and walked across the fine carpet, seating herself on the couch across from the Lieutenant. She folded her arms underneath her bosom and crossed her legs, slightly swinging her elevated one back and forth. Today was the day that General Mustang was going to pick up Major Armstrong. They were going to take Winry and Riza along with them and back down to the underground city where Armstrong had hidden the permanent Gate from view. It was a huge possibility that Winry could be back in the Elric brothers' arms very soon, and she couldn't help but feel very elated, enthralled, disquieted, agitated and maybe even a little unnerved all at once.

"Why don't you calm down and have a cup of tea?" proposed Riza, as she continued going through the stack of papers in her hands, not taking her eyes off of them once. She pointed towards the teapot and teacups sitting in the center of the table between the two couches.

"I...of course, thank you," Winry replied as she reached over, grasped the teapot in her hand and poured herself a cup. She dropped two cubes of sugar into the cup and took a sip. Winry stared down into the dark liquid briefly before sitting the cup back down on the table, not really wanting to drink the tea, but nevertheless, obliging Riza. The Lieutenant was right though. She did need to calm down. It didn't help the cold, anxious churning of her stomach in the least.

"Ummm, Riza?" Winry began tentatively, her hands nervously fidgiting in her lap. She folded them together and tried to remain collected. "Have you ever...you know, had feelings for some one?"

Riza's deep, red eyes extended upward over her paperwork to gaze momentarily at the blonde teen in front of her. "It depends on what you mean by feelings,Winry," the Lieutenant stated, obviously somewhat baffled by the out of the blue question.

Winry's blue orbs found Riza's crimson ones and she stared into them for a moment before lowering her head seeming almost penitent. "I mean like...feelings of affection, for...a man," she replied, unable to keep away the stigma that crept up in her voice.

Riza placed the stack of documents down onto the couch next to herself and gazed intently at Winry with almost sympathetic eyes as if she understood what Winry was getting at. "Is this about Edward?" she questioned the young blonde knowingly. The mechanic's head shot up as she stared with a striking expression back at the quiescent Lieutenant sitting in front of her. She placed her elbow on her knee, resting her chin one hand, not removing her eyes from the younger girl in front of, making Winry feel slightly unnerved. "Well? Is it?"

"How...h-how did you know?" The blonde teen's eyes widened as she stumbled over her words.

Riza sighed and smiled slightly at the younger woman in front of her. "Well, it was more than obvious what you were feeling the day that I picked you up and brought you here. I could sense it coming from you, even throughout these past few days that you've been staying with me in my apartment," the Lieutenant replied, not breaking stride. "I've also heard you crying at night."

Winry felt her face burn hot with embarrassment and degradation. Every since the girl had arrived in Central, all she cared about was getting to the Gate and seeing the boys again. More than anything she just wanted to hold them in her arms, especially Edward. Winry had laid back in the bed she occupied in Riza's apartment, daydreaming about her reunion with Edward, hoping and praying to the Heavens above that she could have him back by her side again. She longed to touch his face, run her fingertips down his cool, smooth automail, gaze longingly into his pools of gold and pour her heart out to him.

How she longed to release all the pent up and suppressed feelings for the alchemist more than anything. All Winry wanted was to bring them back home, but then the cold rush of anxiety and doubt coursed through insides making her think that she may not be able to get them home, or Edward might simply refuse her. The mechanic wondered if he truly had found himself somebody else. It had been a course of three years really.

The last time she saw him, there hadn't exactly been enough time to just expel her feelings to him like a gushing waterfall, and it wasn't exactly the best time to do it either. She had planned on doing so once they were able to stop the war from happening on this side of their home, but Winry realized all too late that she would never see him again. She had hoped the feelings would go away, but they were there. They continued to grow inside of her bigger and bigger as though a dam about ready to burst. There was a possibility that somebody else was already with him in the other world, and he wouldn't be likely to just cast her aside for Winry, would he? Those were the thoughts that brought unrelenting tears to blonde mechanic's eyes every night since she'd heard the news. The blue-eyed woman found herself turning her face away from Riza's so as to stare at the oak, double doors to the General's office.

"I'm...sorry," Winry spoke in an apologetic murmur. "It's just, this whole thing really hasn't been easy for me, Riza. I...I'll admit it. I do have feelings for Edward." Taking a deep breath, she raised her head valiantly and stared head on into Riza's crimson gaze that seemed to warm at the younger girl's words. "I've always had feelings for him. I think I may even be in love with him." The blonde mechanic found herself growing more confident as she spoke to the Lieutenant. After all, they were both women and they were alone. What was the harm in confiding to Riza? She'd always been very kind-hearted towards Winry. Even after the incident with Barry the Chopper, Riza had comforted her and Edward, drying their tears and placing her coat over Winry and a blanket over Edward in much of a way that a mother comforting their children would.

"Right now, there's nothing more that I want in this world, Riza. As much as I love Alphonse, he's like my little brother. As for Edward, there has always been something different between him and me. Even when we were kids, I've always had feelings for him and I disregarded them as nothing; just a silly, childish crush, but I was wrong, Riza. I realized my feelings for him while he and Al were searching for the Philosopher's Stone, but I could never truly bring myself to be open because I already knew of the weight he carried on his shoulders. I couldn't add extra baggage, but now I wish...I wish so much that I would have said something. Maybe it would have changed things between us," the blonde sighed, a small hint of wishful desire could be heard in her tone. "Gosh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to go off on a tangent like that," Winry apologized, blushing before the older blonde female in front of her. "What about you Riza? You've never said how things are going with you?"

Riza smiled at Winry and nodded her head. "You don't have to be sorry. You're only human right? It's hard sometimes for people to understand a woman's heart and even sometimes she can't understand it herself. It's like a deep ocean of secrets. I understand what you're feeling, Winry. I know that this is hard, confusing and exciting all at the same time. I've felt this way many times, maybe that's why I can relate to your feelings." The Lieutenant averted her gaze from the young mechanic's and hesitated. before turning back towards the younger woman timidly. "Maybe since we can understand each other, I could confide some of my sentiments to you as well?"

Winry gasped very lightly, somewhat taken back by Riza's words. She hadn't expected the cool, calm and collected Lieutenant to open up to her of all people. "O-of course, Riza. I mean, it's only fair right? Or as Edward would say, Equivalent Exchange."

Riza nodded with a hint of a giggle. "Yes, that does sound like Edward, doesn't it? Alright then, do you remember on the train ride back to Central when you and I spoke a few years ago before Edward's disappearance?"

Winry nodded her head firmly. How could she forget? Riza had basically told her the reasonings behind a soldier's actions in time of war. That had been the day she'd found out that it was Roy Mustang who'd shot her parents down. Despite her bitter feelings towards her mother and father's assassin, she knew deep in her heart why he had to do it. While she missed her parents a great deal, it was still understandable and yet it wasn't. Winry still held a deep respect for him, even though at times she found herself growing angry because of what the General had been ordered to do years ago, but then she'd always bring herself back to the same realization that it had been an order, and those orders were unavoidable.

"I told you there was someone I had to protect. Well in all honesty, I failed to do so," Riza began quietly, her garnet eyes imperceptively downcast. "That's why he lost his left eye. When Edward disappeared, it was like a part of him just faded away. Winry, he truly loves those boys as if they were his own sons. He'd never admit it out loud, but at times I could see the fatherly gleam in his eyes whenever he spoke about Edward, even after the boy left. After that, he stopped talking to us and tried to step down as General, but the state wouldn't allow it," Riza paused, obviously surprised by her own inundation of feelings. Winry could tell that this was something the Lieutenant had been holding inside of herself for quite sometime.

"He never used alchemy and eventually he ended up leaving headquarters without so much as a goodbye to any of us. He had avenged Hughes's death; he did his part. I just didn't make it on time," The Lieutenant recounted with obvious guilt in her voice.

"When he left, it was like a piece of myself faded away as well, and that's when I realized subdued, as you say, feelings that I too had. I sent Havoc and Breda out to speak with him. We'd discovered he was staying in a cabin in Northern Amestris, but I couldn't bring myself to go and see him. I couldn't see him like that. I could watch him blame himself for all the people who died," Hawkeye admitted shamefully. "Not to mention I was haunted by that eye patch he wore because I seen that as my mistake. I had failed to protect him, and I also failed in spite of my own feelings." A noticeble tinge of pink had sprinkled on the older blonde's face.

The automail tech sat stock still, not quite sure what to say to Riza in comfort. After a small stretch of silence between the two women, the younger blonde finally found the words. "Oh, Riza, you can't blame yourself for the loss of Roy's eye," Winry lamented. "Sometimes things happen that are inevitable. Whether we may not be able to understand them or not, it happens. Just like with Edward and Alphonse. I could have clung to their legs, begged and pleaded with them to stay, but just because I would have done that doesn't mean they would have agreed and stayed here with me. I've learned that things happen for a reason, Lieutenant. You know, that must be why we're going to the Gate, because something is happening for a reason," Winry tried to explain in soothing tones. "Also, if your feelings are as strong as you're leading me to believe they are, why don't you open up to Roy? Tell him how you feel? You'll never know anything if you don't try."

Riza tilted her head slightly, staring at the younger blonde in front of her. Sure the girl was nineteen years old, but for somebody like her to give advice to an older woman such as this was somewhat surprising and unexpecting. "I guess I've always been a little afraid to. Maybe I will say something to him, but only in due time. Right now we have more important matters on our hands. They need to come first before anything else."

Winry nodded her head firmly in agreement. Both women looked at each other smiling and a whisper of solace could be read on their expressions. They were about to say something else to one another before their heads snapped up towards a distinctive sound . The sounds of car doors were heard banging closed outside of the office and instinctively the two lept up from their seats and rushed over to the window. "They're here," Winry breathed, her heart beginning to slam apprehensively against her ribcage. "It's time, isn't it?"

"Yes," Hawkeye nodded in confirmation. "We'll wait for them to meet us up here in the General's office. They're already inside of the building now, since I can't see them. Let's just try and stay calm." She placed a hand on Winry's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. The younger girl looked back over her shoulder at Riza and returned the small smile the Lieutenant had given her.

Winry nodded fervently, keeping her hands clasped firmly behind her back. She could feel the hot anxiety coursing through her insides. Within mere moments, herself, Hawkeye, General Mustang and Major Armstrong would be leaving to the underground city, where they would reveal the undestroyed portal to the other side of the Gate. Just as soon as the girls had heard the General and the Major's car doors shut, she heard footsteps just outside of the door and in burst Major Armstrong, who headed straight for Winry. Following behind him was the dark-haired form of General Mustang, a timorous expression planted into his features as if he knew what was coming. He took his usual stance beside Riza, shaking his head at the Major as the massively-built man bounded towards the young mechanic, who'd found herself backed up against the wall. All too well were they all aware of the Major's typical maneuvers.

"Ohhhhh, Miss Winry! It's so wonderful to see you again! General Mustang told me all about it! Your undying devotion to the Elric brothers, especially young Edward!" he exploded in his booming voice, gathering the blonde mechanic up in a hug and squeezing her until she thought her ribs were going to crack under the pressure. "You must miss them so!"

"Ummm Major, you might want to release the girl before you break her," Mustang pointed out with a hint of amusement in his voice.

The Major was holding the girl's body who'd gone rigid in his embrace and he let go, not realizing that he'd tackled her body into a bone-crushing hug. Winry stood back, gasping for breath and rubbing her ribcage, grimacing from the impact. That was something she had notexpected from him. Armstrong withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his leaking eyes. "Oh, it's just so inspiring and so beautiful! The amount of love! The adherence and glorification for these boys that could fit in one girl's tiny body! Oh how I do hope we can bring them home for you Miss Winry!"

Winry's bright blue irises slid over to gaze at Mustang accusingly, keeping her expression as emotionless as possible but baring her teeth just enough to show that she was ready strangle him for spilling the beans about her feelings, then it dawned on her. How in the blue hell did the General know about my feelings for Edward!? Was I being that obvious!? The General just stared back sheepishly, shrugging his shoulders while the Major continued to be unaware of their silent conversation of body language. "Well then," began Mustang as he broke the sudden strange bout of discommodious emotions from Winry and Armstrong that had filled the room. "Shall we take Winry to the Gate then?"

Major Armstrong settled down and nodded his bald head in agreement, the lone, blond curl on top wiggling back and forth in sync with his movement. "Indeed we shall. I believe Miss Winry has waited long enough. He placed a giant hand on the girl's shoulder and began escorting her across the General's office. "Our cars are outside. It will be just the four of us going alone," he explained, once more regaining the calmness in his thunderous voice. Winry shuddered inwardly but not from the Major's touch. More so that this was really happening and she wasn't sure what to feel or what to expect. Her conscience was being slammed with an onslaught of many mixed feelings to which she abhored at the present time. Now was not the time for doubts and fear, but Winry couldn't contain herself from them.

Her flesh had errupted into goosebumps as the foursome left the room, heading down the familiar marble floor of the hallway in the HQ, lined with long, dark green rugs. Her mind was spinning like a chasm of emotion and the mechanic had to fight back the urge to bolt down the hallway like a child and leap into the car. More than anything that's what she wanted to do. She wanted to bang her fists on the seat and whine about getting there as fast as possible like an impatient six year old, but she knew better than to act like that. Those days were long gone now. It was time to show how much Winry Rockbell grown, and so the mechanic maintained her composure, watching the backs of General Mustang and Lieutenant Hawkeye walking in front of her.

In mere moments, the four found themselves packed into General Mustang's car, driving down the road towards the building that led them to the underground city; the building that the Tringam brothers had once shown Edward. Once before, the blonde mechanic had recalled that Scieszka and herself had snuck into the old Führer's office, the earthquake hit and the women were ferociously hurled down into the underground city. As Winry delved into her memories which still seemed fresh, she felt the car come to an abrupt, screeching halt.

"We're here," came Mustang's voice from the driver's seat at the front of the car.

Once more, Winry's heart began to pound uncerimoniously in her chest, slamming into her ribcage accompanied by her stomach doing a nervous flip flop. They were only mere hours away from being together with the Elric brothers again, she was certain of it. Mustang led the way down the long flight of winding stairs that carried them down to the barren destitute of a city, hidden deep underneath Central. It seemed as though it were ages before they finally reached the familiar, cracked and rocky surface wraught with derelict, broken-down buildings surrounding it.

General Mustang and Major Armstrong continued leading the way when Winry felt her heart leap into her throat. About thirty feet away from her was the rocket to where Edward had crash-landed a year ago. The rocket was still decently beat-up, but the glass and broken bits of it had undeniably been repaired over the course of time. She turned her head and saw the place where she'd fallen on her knees, throwing her arms around Edward's neck the moment he'd sat up after he'd been thrown mercilessly from the rocket. The image of that day burned so fresh in her mind it was if it had only happened yesterday.

Her blue orbs widened as the billowing dust dissapated, leaving behind a form in it's wake. He was laying on the demolished earth, grunting as he sat up, holding his head. "Landing needs some work," she heard him mumble, his eyes closed, shielding himself from the flying rock and debris that had previously surrounded him. She approached him, slowly and cautiously, one hand raised at her chest.

"Edward," was the only thing she could say to him and she felt the beginnings of tears burning her eyes. "I was wondering when you'd show."

The moment she spoke, his pools of molten gold flew open at the familiarity of her tone and he gazed upward, squinting momentarily before a hint of a smile flew to his mouth. "Winry," the alchemist breathed, sounding almost awe-struck.

The blonde woman didn't waste any time. She dropped to her knees and threw herself into Edward, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and resting her chin on his shoulder, struggling to hold back the warm tears that had filled her eyes. The blond alchemist gasped at the woman's sudden contact, but then slowly raised his left arm to place it around her waist, hugging her back. The blush was eminent on his cheeks and his aurulent eyes had widened in surprise at her actions.

"Welcome home," she told him, barely able to keep the suppressed tears out of her voice.

"T-thanks," Edward replied, an implication of elation and bewilderment on his tone.


"Winry? Are you still with us?" came a voice from behind her and she felt a warm hand close over her shoulder. The blonde girl turned to look up at who was present behind her and she came face to face with Mustang. She had been unaware of the tears that had creeped up on her snaked down her cheeks at the memory until she was snapped back in reality by the General's voice. "Oh, I'm sorry," she whispered, hurriedly turning her head away from the General and trying to conceal her tears, but Roy had already seen them.

"It's okay Winry," he assured the girl gently, squeezing her shoulders in a manner of comfort. He pointed towards were Major Armstrong was kneeling down. He lifted a massive, brown tarp that could have been mistaken for a boulder to reveal two more rocket-type aircrafts. "We're finishing on the repairing of the rocket Edward showed up in and from the aircrafts that had traveled through the portal we've managed to put together a couple of two-seaters. We've been test flying them down here and we're almost certain that they're fast and powerful enough to get through the pressure of the Gate and arrive safely on the other side."

Winry wiped her tears on the brown sleeve of her jacket and stared hard at the aircrafts lined up. She felt Riza approaching her. The blonde Lieutenant pointed a finger. "We kept them here so they would be safe and nobody would find out about them. We're the only ones who know about them. Nobody else in the military does. Not even the state," Hawkeye told her, walking up next to the General and stood side by side with him. "Armstrong has built a boulder to hide the Gate in case anybody might have found their way down here," the woman continued explaining.

"Mmmmm yes! Let me take you there Miss Winry! I shall break down the barrier hiding the Gate from view and once we fuel the rockets, we shall be able to pass through and rescue the brothers!" Major Armstrong resounded in his usual, valiant way.

He led the way to where the hidden Gate was currently located and the rest followed behind him. The blonde mechanic could feel cold anxiety and perplexity in the pit of her stomach as they came closer and closer to a dome-shaped structure that loomed in the distance. It was the only thing in the entire city that looked decent and brand new. All around it were elegant and cultivated carvings in the stonework that Armstrong had evidently built to hide the portal on the floor of the city from view. He stood with his massive chest thrust out, proud at his non-lacking use of aristic, alchemic skills.

"Wow, so this is it huh?" Winry questioned somewhat incredulously as she walked around the circular-shaped dome, running her fingers absentmindedly across the carvings. Her heart began racing in her chest once more. The Gate was just underneath this thing and that was her ticket to finding her way back into the Elrics' presence one more.

"YES! IT IS A DISPLAY OF MY BEEEEEEEEEEEEAUTIFUL ARTIST ALCHEMY! I, ALEX LOUIS ARMSTRONG'S OWN EXQUISITE CREATION TO HIDE THE GATE FROM THE SEEING EYE! NOT A SINGLE PERSON WOULD KNOW WHAT WAS HIDDEN BENEATH THE GLORIFIED STRUCTURE THAT I HAVE SO GRACIOUSLY MADE!" boomed the Major leaping forward and ripping his shirt off, his bulging muscles rippling dramatically from where his jacket and shirt had once resided. A sweatdrop formed slowly on Winry, Riza and Roy's faces as they watched Armstrong gallivant proudly around the aesthetic creation that was his. "Oh, it is almost a shame we have to destroy this lovely display of work that I single-handedly put together," he sighed discouraged, as though speaking to himself. "BUT! I must remember that this is for the Elrics' and Miss Winry's sake! Yes! I can always rebuild something even MOOOOOORE beautiful!"

"Yes, what a shame," mumbled the General dryly as he stepped forward. "I'll happily dismantle this... thing for you since you seem so reluctant to do so, Major."

"Yes, yes maybe it is better left to the hands of the Flame Alchemist. I just cannot justify myself destroying one of my own beautiful creations made by my aristic hands!" Armstrong exclaimed passionately.

"Well, alright then," nodded Mustang as he turned to look at the women. "Stand back ladies, it's about to get a little smoky in here."

Winry and Hawkeye hurried back quite a few steps out of the way and Armstrong followed them, looking somewhat downhearted but at the same time, anxious as the rest of them. Winry observed Roy's actions as he turned around to make sure everybody was well out of harm's way. He reached inside of his coat and withdrew his ignition gloves, pulling them furtively on his hands. He raised his right hand, poising his middle finger onto his thumb and with a swift flick of his wrist and a snap of his fingers, a loud explosion resounded across the broken-down city, followed by a thick trail of smoke and flying debris. Winry and Riza had been forcefully pushed to the ground with a massive palm planted on the backs of their heads and out of danger's way. Within two snaps, the General had completely destroyed the structure that had hidden the portal away. A brilliant, phosphorous light radiated from where the gathered cloud of smoke had began to dissapperate and Winry shielded her eyes. It was there, as wide open as it had been the day Edward and Alphonse left home. It was time.

Her bright blue orbs had widened as they met the permanent Gate that Alphonse had created there just a year ago and felt a swoop of gratification in her chest that General Mustang hadn't destroyed it. "You know," the blonde woman began, turning to face the military officials standing with her. "I can guarantee you one thing I plan on doing once those boys get back here," she told them, smiling slightly. Winry reached her hand into her pants pocket and withdrew a long, silver, glistening wrench. "And that is beat their skulls in senseless for the hell they've put me through this past year, especially Edward," the mechanic stated dangerously, a gleam in her blue eyes. She turned her back, eyes piercing the portal while the rest of the group just exchanged nervous, incredulous glances.

---------------------

The ship had finally docked at a port just outside of Berlin, leaving a trace of anxiety in the Elrics as they abandoned the massive boat. The boys had said goodbye to a very tearful Nina, and in their suitcases were many different drawings the little girl had done for them. For rescuing Nina, the brothers had been rewarded with a sack of money. They had been very reluctant to take it, but it had been forced into their hands unwillingly. As they walked down the plank that allowed them departure, the Edward felt a small hand on his arm and noticed his brother had one on his as well, stopping them. Inclining their heads, Edward came face to face with the smiling face of Trisha.

"Oh, Trisha! I'm so glad we were able to see you before we left for Munich," Edward enthused, smiling back at the older woman.

"Oh, so you boys aren't going to be staying in Berlin then?" the honey-brown haired woman inquired, emerald orbs gazing at them with emblazoned curiosity.

"No, we have...friends in Munich that we're planning on meeting up with and staying with for awhile. We're headed straight to the train station from here," explained the golden-haired man.

"Well, in any case I am so pleased I was able to meet you boys," she grasped one of their hands in both of her own, clasping them tightly. "Do take care of yourselves and have a safe trip to Munich."

"Thank you so much for everything, Trisha," Edward replied graciously, squeezing the older woman's hand back. "Your hospitality has been more than we deserved."

"We're grateful for everything you all did for us on the rest of the voyage here," Alphonse piped up, reiterating the older Elric.

"We were more than happy to oblige," Trisha told them, her emerald eyes glimmering as though she were on the verge of tears. "Oh would you just listen to me? I'm getting all blubbery over this. I don't know why as I haven't known you all that long, but at the same time I feel like I've known you my whole life. I just hate goodbyes," she explained, removing a handkerchief from her purse and dabbing at her eyes.

Edward felt a small twinge of guilt as he watched his mother's doppleganger wipe tears from her eyes. In retrospect, he always remembered all the times when he'd been younger how often his mother had always tried to hide her tears from her sons because of the loneliness and longing for Hohenhiem. Back then, that was what had made him hate his father to the extreme that he did. Now, standing here seeing this Trisha reacting the same way, well its seemed just like her. "I...we understand Trisha," the blond found himself saying. "Just take care of yourself and your husband. Maybe we'll see you again."

"Yes, maybe. Take care as well boys," the chestnut-haired woman told them. She stood in front of the Elrics, hesitating for a moment before gathering them both in an abrupt, tight hug. She smiled and then turned, leaving them to stand on the port by themselves. They watched as her form grew smaller and smaller and soon, she was lost in a crowd of people.

"That...really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be," Edward admitted sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck, a nervous half-grin on his handsome features. "I just hope that I haven't gotten so used to goodbyes that I'm turning cold against them."

"Yeah right Brother,you turn cold? I can't see the day that you'd actually be that way, and besides you're a bigger baby than me," the younger Elric insisted.

"Ugh, hey! I'm not a baby!" the blond exclaimed, his golden orbs widened.

"Well, you're more soft-hearted than me," Alphonse teased, poking his brother in the ribs.

"Yeah yeah whatever, you're the one who's gone soft. I'd say I've gotten a lot tougher after everything we've been through anyway."

The younger Elric just snorted. "Yeah, whatever Brother. I'm just saying I can't see you turning cold-hearted, that's all. It was probably just easier to say goodbye to her since we know she's not really our mother."

"Yeah, you're probably right," Edward replied. "Speaking of cold, have you noticed how much colder it is here than what it was in New York? The seasons are so strange here compared to theirs," he added, wrapping his free arm across his chest and hugging himself. He gazed forward at a sign that pointed towards the train station which wasn't far off. "We only have a small walk to the train station, so let's be on our way."

Alphonse nodded and fell in step beside his brother. In little to no time, the Elrics had found themselves at the booth, purchasing tickets to board the train which would take them back to Munich. Anxiety and nerves were high as the boys seated themselves onto the slightly cushioned seats of the train. Both brothers were too nervous and excited to eat during the trip as the trollies went by offering them food. Instead they politely declined, returning back to their discussion. They conversed about the Gate quietly in their small compartment so people wouldn't hear them, wondering if they'd truly be able to get home. Edward had came to the conclusion that they'd definitely need rockets to get through safely, without getting themselves killed in the process.

It was nearing dusk when the brothers felt the train slow, reaching it's destination. The train came to an easy-going, rolling halt on the tracks, and the Elrics gathered their suitcases, leaving the train. It was more than obvious that both were genuinely hoping that it would be their last time ever having to ride one in this world. They walked down the familiar sights of Munich, heading straight for Gracia's flower shop. Hughes had told them he'd meet up with them here. Her windows were coming into view as the golden haired man and his brother advanced down the cobblestone street.

"Hey, Al," began Edward as he grabbed his brother's shoulder and pointed ahead. "I see a couple of familiar faces," he told his brother, the smile imminent in his tone.

"It's officer Hughes and Gracia!" the younger Elric splurted, running towards her flower shop. Gracia and Hughes had been standing at the window with the curtains drawn back and smiling at the two Elrics.

"Hey Al! Wait for me!" Edward called after him with a chuckle in his voice, surprised by his younger brother's burst of enthusiasm. He caught up with Alphonse, slightly out of breath and both brothers were greeted by Gracia and Hughes with hugs.

"We're so glad you boys made it safely here!" Gracia enthused. "We were worried-," she began before she saw Hughes throwing her an accusatory look. "I mean I was worried that the ship would sink or the train would wreck."

"Darling, you worry about the tiniest things. As you can see, they're both here safe, sound and alive. Besides, don't you have some news to tell the boys?" Hughes sighed, placing and arm around Gracia's shoulders and kissing her temple.

"Oh!" the woman exclaimed, holding out her left hand. There was a shining, diamond ring placed formally on her left finger. "Maes and I are engaged to be married," she gushed as the brothers looked at her piece of jewelry.

"Wow! Congratulations you guys!" Alphonse piped up, sounding excited. "So when's the big day?"

"We haven't set a date yet," Gracia told them. "We're still trying to decide on one. We want a summer wedding though, that's for certain."

"Well either way, we're really happy for you," Edward told them, a smile on his face but at the same he felt his heart drop slightly in his chest.

More than likely, he and his brother wouldn't be here for the wedding. Though at the same time, going home and being with Winry and everyone else again was far better than continuing to stay in a world that was still so foreign to him. Hughes and Gracia both smiled at the brothers, a blossoming happiness seemed to glow around them. Gracia politely excused herself and left the room, leaving her fiancee and the brothers to talk.

"Well if you don't mind, we thought maybe since it's so late you two might like to stay the night here with us? I can drive you out to Haushofer's Villa in the morning if you'd like?" the officer proposed.

Edward shook his head indignantly. "While we greatly appreciate the offer, no Hughes we can't. We need to get there as soon as possible. We've already decided on the train ride here that the Gate is more important than anything. I understand if you can't drive us this late at night. We'll see if we can't find a cab or hitch a ride with someone else. This isn't something we can just push aside and make it wait until morning. You remember the importance of the Gate don't you? I explained a lot of it to you after Alfons's funeral," the older Elric told him.

"You're right, of course Edward. I guess I should have thought about that. I don't mind taking you out there at all tonight. Why don't you go ahead and get in the car. I'll go inside to let Gracia know I'm taking you boys out to the Villa," Hughes told them, pointing towards his vehicle parked just outside of the flower shop.

"Thanks Officer Hughes! We really appreciate this more than you know," Alphonse thanked the man graciously, before following his brother out to the car. They climbed into the backseat and watched as Hughes disappeared inside of his and Gracia's home. It wasn't too much longer before he'd reappeared, walked out to the car and stared the engine.

"Alright then, let's buckle up and get you guys to the Villa," he told them, snapping his seatbelt into place. The Elrics buckled their seatbelts as well and Hughes pulled out into the street, heading towards the mansion.

It seemed like it had to of been the longest car ride in history as Hughes drove them back to the Villa. Darkness had completely blanketed the night sky, with a gentle sprinkling of stars that seemed to twinkle and wink at them. Finally, after what seemed like forever, Hughes slowed the car as the Villa's castle-like top came into view. He stopped the car just outside of the large, familiar building that was Haushofer's Villa . Hardly able to contain their excitement and anxiousness, the boys bolted out of the car, suitcases clutched in their hands heading straight for the front doors. Hughes called after them causing them to stop just at the entrance.

"Wait, boys!" Hughes puffed as he caught up to Edward and his bronze-haired brother. "I just...need to know...a few things...before...you go back...to the Gate. Are...you coming back?" he asked them, breathing somewhat harshly from his sprint to catch up with the brothers.

"Honestly Hughes, we don't know what's going to happen," Edward admitted, his golden eyes staring into the officer's green ones. "If you want to, you can head back home. We don't know how long we're going to be or if we can even find a safe route back through the Gate. If there's a possibility that we can cross through it, then yeah, I won't lie. We're going to go home and stay there. It's what we both want and though it might be selfish on our part, it's not selfish for the people back home who love us. There are people there that we left behind and I know they miss us. We have family and friends that need us," the former alchemist tried to explain.

"I understand, you don't have to explain," Hughes nodded his head. "I just wasn't sure if you guys would like for me to wait here or not."

"There's no need for it Hughes. We're just extremely grateful you got us out here when you did," Edward replied, the smile on his face one more. "We're going to go inside and see if Alfons's sponsors left behind any rockets. I remember Alfons telling me that he'd actually hidden a couple that he'd been working on. I'm just hoping that the Thule Society didn't find out about those. If we can find them, then we'll definitely be going home."

"Well, then I guess this is most likely goodbye, Ed and Al," Hughes told them, sounding slightly downhearted. "You boys just be careful, alright?" He extended a hand towards Edward who accepted it and shook it. Alphonse followed his brother, shaking Hughes's hand as well.

"Goodbye then, Officer Hughes," the brothers told him before turning and heading back into the Villa.

It hadn't changed much. The place was still dark and somewhat chilly as ever. Edward led the way as they climbed the familiar set of cracked and broken stairs which led to the very room where the faded transmutation circle on the floor still resided. Above them was the massive, makeshift stronghold the boys had built over the Gate to hide it from view, but something was a miss. Half of the boulder had been busted through and sure enough, emanating from the broken pieces was the blazing, familiar light the Gateway opening had always given off.

"Dammit! Somebody's been in here! What the hell is going on!" Edward snapped, throwing down his suitcase and climbing up the ladder that he and his brother had put together while building the stronghold. "Nobody was supposed to know about this!"

"I don't understand this, Brother," Alphonse began nervously. "You don't...you don't think somebody managed to break through the Gate and go back to our world, do you?" he asked him, silvery-brown orbs widening with fear. "I mean, you remember what happened last time! Brother! What if...what if our world has been completely destroyed by now!"

"NO! We can't know that Al! We don't know that for sure!" Edward began trembling and was finding it difficult to keep the trepidation out of his voice. He lept down from the ladder and faced Alphonse. "We...need to find those rockets, Al! We need to go back home now! There's...there's just no way!" Edward furiously whirled around with a hint of hysteria in his voice, his gloved hands clenched into tight fists at his sides. The blond was visibly panic-stricken. "Winry! General Bastard! Pinako! You better be alright dammit or I'll kill you myself!" the young scientist yelled up at the Gate.

His voice resounded in an echo, carrying across the room and was followed by a long stretch of silence. The older Elric was quiet for a moment as he continued to stare up at the resplendent light. He turned back to his younger sibling, voice much more calm now. "Al, we need blood. We need blood to activate the array," the older Elric told his younger brother. "See if you can find a piece of glass or...or something. I'll cut my hand so I can wipe it on the array. Activating it should allow us to be able to break down the rest of the stronghold." Edward turned back to look up at the gate and he couldn't control the atrocious, churning anxiety that had settled into the pit of his stomach. His face broke out in a cold, thin sheen of sweat.

Alphonse nodded fervently, whipping around to find something to allow them to activate the array he was currently standing on. As he turned to find glass, the younger Elric blanched and yelped in surprise coming face to face with an unfamiliar man. He had short, dark brown hair which was combed back from his face, blue eyes and lightly tanned skin. He wore a gray pair of pants, a white button-down shirt and a long, gray coat to match his pants. He couldn't have been older than 21 or 22 years old.

"Al! What is it!" Edward questioned, sounding almost hysterical when he saw another man that was inside of the room with them. "What the...what the hell is this! Are you the one who did this!? Are you the one who started breaking down the barrier we had over the portal!" the blond crossed the room as fast as he legs would allow him. advancing on the stranger. He grabbed the other male by the coat and slammed him up against an old, rusted rocket launch control machine. "Who the hell are you?" he growled hoarsely. "Answer me!" Edward bared his teeth at the man and fought back the urge to completely pummel this man.

"Brother! Calm down! This isn't a good idea! You're never going to find out anything if you hurt him, Ed! Put him down!" Alphonse exclaimed, running over this brother and grasping onto his arm, but the blond scientist stood fast, using his automail arm to tighten the grip on the man's coat. He wasn't about to release him anytime soon.

"I...I-I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to frighten your brother! I swear I have nothing to do with the opening of the gate!" the man sputtered. "I-I I used to f-follow Alfons Heiderich's work. We...we sort of knew each other! I was always very intrigued by his knowledge in rocketry! Please, please don't hurt me! I'd heard the curious rumors about the portal being opened again, but I've never said anything to anyone, I swear! I've been staying here every since Alfons's death. Somebody broke in a few weeks ago and tried to get through the portal, but was sucked in and didn't come back!" His blue eyes were widened as though petrified. "Please, just let me introduce myself. My name is Curtis Haldegger. I was the one who helped Alfons hide the extra rockets!"

Edward released his grip on the man, who landed on the floor, somewhat shaken. He stood up as the former alchemist took a few steps backward from him, hands still balled into fists. "I see, so you're the one then. So tell me, Curtis, are these rockets still hidden? Or did the rest sponsors take them too?"

"No no! They didn't! They're still hidden," insisted the man. "I've tended to them because I had a feeling that you two would return once you got word of what was happening to the Gate. The rockets are powerful enough to blast through that boulder you've built and get through the rumored phenomenon on the inside of it," Curtis explained, his face slick with sweat. "I'm so sorry if I did anything wrong. It's just that I know you're the Elric brothers. I'd heard about Edward a few times from Alfons and I'm assuming you're him," he added, pointing a thin finger towards the older Elric.

"Yeah, I'm him. What's it to you anyway? Why are you so eager to help us?" Edward inquired, still sounding skeptical.

"Because I know what's it like to want to go home. I don't have a home anymore or any friends or family. They were all killed and I was left alone. That's why I've been staying here and studying rocketry. I had hoped that maybe one day I could meet you and go back to your world with you," Curtis admitted, withdrawing a handkerchief from his coat pocket and wiping it across his forehead.

"You want to go back to our world with us?" Alphonse asked him, a look of pity touching his features. "I don't see why it would do us any harm. I mean, you're going to help us with the rockets, right?"

"Of course! There's three one-seaters hidden away. They're similar to the one you went through in, Edward," the dark-haired man explained. "I was here at the time that happened. That's how I know about the Gate and the Thule Society and Alfons's rockets." He walked over to where another launching machine was and threw back a heavy tarp, revealing three, dull-red rockets almost identical to the one Alfons had put Edward into a year ago.

"Alright then. Are they fueled and set to launch?" the older Elric questioned as he crossed the room to study the rockets. "What about the controls? Who's going to set those for us to take off in if you're going to come back with us?" he added, turning towards Curtis. Edward still didn't like it. An agnostic feeling crept slowly down his spine and he leered at the man before him. "Understand this though, just because I'm letting you come back with us doesn't mean we're buddies. I still don't know if I trust you."

"I understand, I understand. The controls are pre-set, so the moment I pull down the lever, we have 60 seconds to get strapped in and ready to go," Curtis explained as he showed the controls to the older Elric. "Ed, I know you've probably never heard of me from Alfons so I know why you wouldn't trust me, but please know that I'm not here to cause you or your brother any harm! I just want to leave this world. I want to leave behind all the sorrow and pain this place has caused me," Curtis explained, sounding almost desperate. "Please don't make me stay here."

Alphonse stared sympathetically at Curtis before turning back to Edward with pleading expression on his face. Edward hated that look from his younger brother. It never failed to make him give in. "Brother, I really think that Curtis is harmless. I don't see anything wrong with him coming back to our world with us. I mean he more than deserves it," the younger Elric stated, turning towards his older brother. "Please, Ed. Let him come back. It's because of him that he have these rockets and we can go back home."

Edward placed his palm over his forehead and ran it down his face, shaking his blond head, causing his ponytail to swing back and forth. "Ugh, alright then fine, but I'm warning you. Our world is nothing like this one. It'll probably all seem like nothing but a dream to you once you arrive. Also, if I find out you do anything to backstab us, you'll have me to answer to and I can garauntee it won't be a pretty sight when I'm done," the elder Elric told him bitterly through clenched teeth. "For now, I'll just have to trust you. Let's get these rockets prepared." The brothers and Curtis began checking the fuel in each of the aircrafts and Edward checked his and Alphonse's rockets to make sure the straps were intact in safe. When they were certain all was good, Edward helped his younger brother climb into his rocket and strap himself inside.

"You going to be okay in here by yourself?" he questioned his sibling.

"Of course I will be, Brother," Alphonse replied bravely, but there was a hint of fear in his voice. Edward smiled encouragingly to him, about to offer words of assurance when he was abruptly interrupted.

"Wait!" came a voice from behind one of the older launch controls. Edward, Alphonse and Curtis all whirled around to see Hughes standing beside the machine.

"Hughes!" the Elrics exclaimed in unison.

"Hughes we told you that you could go on back home. There was no need to stay here," the bronze-haired boy told him, peering up at the tall man from inside his rocket.

"I know and I'm sorry, but I followed you in here. I didn't know what was going to happen," he stated apologetically.

"Actually, I'm kind of glad you followed us in here," Edward began. "I need you do something for me, Hughes and it's really important."

"Sure kid, what is it?" the officer asked.

"First, I want you to give Gracia my regards and tell her thank you for everything she did for us. I also want you to phone Noah back in New York and tell her we won't be coming back home. Tell her for me that I want her to live her life as roma and enjoy every single moment of it. I want her to meet people, fall in love, have lots of children and to not let this bring her down. Also, tell her that I forgive her. She'll understand what I mean when you tell her," the older Elric catechized with a definite tone on his voice. "And as for you, I want you to marry Gracia and have a bunch of kids with her. I know you'll be a damn good dad to your children. I've seen it once before."

"You...how could you...you what?" Hughes sputtered, not quite sure what the golden-eyed young man was getting at.

Edward just snickered as he gathered his suitcase and climbed into the rocket that Curtis had prepared for them. Alphonse was already strapped in his, the top closed down thanks to Curtis. The older man was setting the controls on the launch machine. "Don't worry about it. Take care, Hughes," he told him as he pulled down the top of the rocket over his head and shut it firmly, locking the inside. He pulled the familiar straps over his shoulders and snapped the buckles, making sure he was tucked in safe. Edward raised a gloved hand at his brother who gave a thumbs up and Curtis followed. The familiar roar of the rocket's engine began to vibrate underneath the blond and his heart began pounding rapidly against his ribcage. Winry...I'm on my way. I'm coming home! Please please be safe! Edward felt intense excitement, elation and fear rise in his chest that nearly brought him to tears.

In mere moments he'd be home. Edward felt the rocket began to tilt upward and the engine thundered underneath him. The three aircrafts began advancing upward and he grabbed the clutch, pulling it back and feeling the rocket zoom, leaving his stomach somewhere behind him and towards the familiarity of the Gate. It burst through the stronghold, sending debris flying everywhere, but the aircraft was going so fast, it didn't give the older Elric time to react, nor to see if his brother and Curtis were alright. He was soaring, flying so fast that everything flashed by him in a blur. The rocket hit the entrance of the portal, sending the blinding, phosphorous light into his pools of gold. He could see the black, tentacle like arms that waited for them inside of the Gate. They were nothing but a blur and his aircraft was going much too fast for them to try and snake their way around him. The other side was just seconds away. He could see the broken down buildings coming into view and wondered if Alphonse could see them too. They were almost home.

The ground began shaking underneath the Winry's feet and she lept back from the aircrafts that the military officials had been preparing. "What the-," she began and felt herself being swiftly lifted up in the air by Armstrong.

"Get out of the way!" Something's coming through the portal!" the Major exclaimed, pulling the teen out of harm's way.

"Oh my god!" screamed Winry as Mustang grabbed Riza around the head and shoved her to the ground, shielding her body with his own. Armstrong towered over Mustang, Winry and Riza to protect them from any falling debris from the delapidated mass of buildings that were now crumbling from the underground earthquake. Winry was able to just peek at the Gate as she saw three aircrafts burst through the entrance, tumbling downward with long trails of smoke billowing from their tails.
RavenHair
Oh man! I knew you were going to leave me hanging I just knew it. lol VERY well done I really can not wait to see what is going to happen next. I am so glad you were able to get this chapter done! I don't know if you read my post in my story but my bf got a new puppy this weekend and I've been super busy helping him get settled in. I'm going to email myself my whole story so far after I get down with this reply and going to put a copy on my bf's so I can work on it more there. I'm telling you if they could of ever made a squeal I would really like it to be very close to your story line cause you kept everything exactly how it should go. Definitely love it. Excellent Chapter My friend! Can't wait to see what Chapter 8 has in store for us biggrin.gif

P.S And I can't wait for the next volume of the manga to come either! Have you seen those novels that someone wrote too? They are in my books store and I was thinking about getting them and seeing what they are like. I hear they are pretty good.
Celeste Nayamashii
LOL Well, I've been told that I am very notorious for cliffhangers *giggles* Yeah, I'm glad I was able to get that chapter done too. I had been aching to write it for quite some time now xD
Wow, you really think so about the sequel? Gosh, that's such a sweet thing to say *hugs* I just love to write. Can't really help it tongue.gif I'll be working on Chapter 8 this week ^_~

I know, I can't wait either! Less than 2 more weeks of a wait, but still! This is like, murder. I hope she doesn't leave us hanging again! I really hope Ed doesn't die...
You know, I've heard about the novels but I haven't read them yet. I'm going to make a trip to the bookstore next week and see if I can't find them and purchase them happy.gif
RavenHair
Oh man I really hope that doesn't happen! I really wish it didn't take so long for each volume to come out but in a way it's good otherwise I'd be going broke lol. I just got paid today so I'll be going to the book store sometime this week too! I can't wait! And your very welcome about the compliment. I love cliff hangers and lots of emotions in stories. And I think your doing a really good job. I will be working more on Chapter 5 this week and also re-editing my others. I thought of some more ideas for future chapters I'm just trying to figure out how to put the ideas together to make it all make sense. Looking forward to what's in store for Winry and the boys now that they made through the gate biggrin.gif
HanyoAlchemist780
did you ever post this on dA? this story is sooo well written!! awesome job, 5 star. biggrin.gif
Celeste Nayamashii
Indeed I did happy.gif I'm MorningStar83 on DeviantArt. Glad you like it! biggrin.gif
Celeste Nayamashii
Holy crap people! So sorry for the long-waited update! I got kind of caught up in making my doujinshi, then I just went through this huge art streak and got inspired to start my EdxWin drabbles. Anyway, here's Chapter 8!

Chapter 8- Home Sweet Home

A high-pitched woosh cut through the air like scissors slicing through paper as the crafts came tumbling downward, closer and closer to the ground leaving trails of smoke in their wake. Winry continued to watch as two of them made impact with the cracked pavement side by side and another landed with a screeching, crashing halt enveloped by giant clouds of smoke and fire. Soon, a third aircraft followed, landing a distance from the first two. The moment the aircrafts made contact with the floor, a massive sound, almost like an explosion, rang through the air and shook the ground with decent, but swift force. Great clouds of smoke billowed after they collided into the underground city, and small flames could barely just be made out near the wreckage. The smoke and debris were so thick that it caused Winry and the three military officials to choke from it's coalescence.

After recovering from their coughing spells, Riza spoke up, not sounding the least bit amused. "Nice going there General. The moment you broke down the boulder hiding the Gate, something just had to come through didn't it?" the Lieutenant interrogated, staring up at the man clad in blue towering over her. "Would you get off of me please?" she added, a hint of irritation in her voice.

Mustang obliged, lifting his body off of the older blonde's and smirked at her. She failed to hide her face as a light blush raked her cheeks the moment she'd realized he was trying to protect her from being hit by any flying pieces of rock and metal. Instinctively, the Lieutenant placed her hand on her gun and withdrew the weapon, holding it out front of her and eyeing the smoking area, her finger placed comfortably against the hammer.

"Like I knew something was going to come busting in the moment the boulder was taken down," Roy replied in mock, agitated tones, rolling his ebony eye. "Besides that Lieutenant, we were focusing on getting the Elric brothers home weren't we? We had everything all planned out, so of course I was going to destroy the thing Major Armstrong made to hide the Gate. How else were we supposed to go through? I didn't break it down for that particular reason, you know. If I had known something would come through the moment the portal was unsealed, I wouldn't have opened it back up."

"Yes, but don't you find it strange that not long after you broke down the boulder, something was just aching to come through it and did? How do we know this isn't going to be another uprising like we had last year? How do we know that something else isn't going to come flying through that Gate again any moment now and attack us again?" the Lieutenant questioned, piercing her crimson orbs into his dark one, keeping her firearm pointed towards the explosion.

"Now now Lieutenant, relax," Mustang told her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "You're thinking on too large of a scale here. I think if anything was going to attack us it would have by now, don't you agree?" he questioned in his usual haughty way, flashing pearly, white teeth at the woman.

The two sat and bickered back and forth slightly before they were harshly cut off by Armstrong raising a massive hand. "I don't mean to be rude General, Lieutenant, but that's enough for now," he stated, grasping both Riza and Roy by the collars of their uniforms and standing them to face towards the wreckage. "What do you think they are?" he questioned, squinting his tiny, blue eyes trying to catch a glimpse of the aircrafts in the midst of all the dust and smoke that still continued to idley billow upward. It was slowly seperating and revealing what was left of the aircrafts and what was laying on the ground that had been just presently inside of the flying machines.

Winry felt the breath being sucked from her lungs. Her hand instinctively flew to her mouth as two figures came into view laying almost side by side. She recognized that bronze, ponytail that lay stretched out across the ground and the figure dressed in gray-blue, very dusty clothing, was laying on his side. The person next to him however, she did not recognize. The mechanic's eyes frantically scanned the area in search for the person that should have been next to the brunette boy. Her hand stayed clasped around her mouth, and the blonde found she couldn't move, as if she were frozen solid or her feet had been glued to the ground. She opened her mouth to try and speak, but no words came out. Winry had been rendered suspended to the spot, not able to move or talk, even if she wanted to. Alphonse?? That's really Alphonse but...but who is that beside him and where is Edward!?

"Well, I'll be damned," came Mustang's bemused voice just from the left of Winry. He was standing with both hands on his hips, shifted into a presumptuous position, clearly gazing down at something in front of him. "Well, at least we don't have to go and get you ourselves now, Fullmetal. Looks like you managed to make one hell of a mess yet again," came the General's cheeky voice as he stared down at the fallen victim in front of him.

"Jeeze, I haven't even been home for five minutes and you're already starting your crap with me? What a way to be welcomed home," came a grumbling, hoarse voice followed by a small bout of coughing that Winry couldn't see but certainly recognized.

Edward!? Please say that really is you! Please tell me you guys aren't playing tricks on me! I swear I'll beat you all to a pulp if you're screwing with me! She tried hard to speak, but all that came out was a faint squeak. Never in a million years did she expect the Elrics to come bursting through the gate so unexpectedly. Mustang stepped back, revealing Edward's figure, laying on his stomach with a piece of rocket laying over his back. "Hey General.," the alchemist began, raising what he could of his torso up on his hands. "Do you think, you could do me a favor...oh I don't know, STOP STARING AND GET THIS DAMN THING OFF OF ME!?" Edward bellowed, glaring up at Mustang who just stared back with his insolent smile that young blond had come to both like and loathe at the same time.

The raven-haired man lowered himself to the ground to lend a hand, shoving the piece of metal off of Edward's back. He felt the weight being pulled off of him and instant relief flooded through his body. The older Elric fell back down against the ground on his stomach, his arms and legs sprawled out across the ground breathing heavily. "Damn, I'll be feeling that tonight. Thanks, General," the older Elric stated, staring up at the contemptuous Flame Alchemist who just waved a hand at him in a bored fashion in a 'don't mention it' sort of way.

After collecting himself and finding the energy to sit up, Edward gazed around the derelict city in search of his brother, hoping that he was safe and didn't get injured too severely from the crash. His eyes came to rest a good twenty feet away from where he was currently sitting, where Alphonse and Curtis had landed. The two figures that had been laying on the ground were slowly pushing themselves up and sitting up on their haunches, attempting to gather their bearings and figure out where they were. They were covered in scratches, dust, dirt and fragments from the rockets they'd taken to get here. The aircracfts had pretty much been completely obliterated upon impact.

"Owwww, we should have learned how to land these things properly before we decided to fly them," moaned Alphonse has he rubbed his backside. Curtis nodded his head in agreement, rubbing his hand on his side. "Do you see Brother anywhere?" the younger Elric questioned, turning his head and squinting his silvery-brown eyes. "Oh! There you are! Are you okay Ed? You didn't get hurt or anything did you?" Alphonse inquired, worry imminent in his tone.

"I'm fine, Al. Just a sore back," Edward replied, placing his hand on his lower back and wincing slightly. "What about you? You two okay over there?"

"Yeah I'm fine. Curtis got a bump on the head, but nothing major and we have a few cuts, but we're not bleeding to death," Alphonse replied. "Now, let's get out of here and-," the boy's voice trailed off as his eyes met soft, azure ones.

She stared into the familiar face of the younger Elric not sure what to feel or really even believe. It seemed almost too good to be true. Her heart was throbbing so heavily against her sternum that she felt as thought it could burst out of her chest at any given moment. Her stomach did excited but nervous flip-flops. The automail technician continued to just stand in shock, not quite sure what to make of all the happenings at the present time. Winry was trying to piece together everything in her head. The Elric brothers were home. They were alive and in the flesh, laying just feet away from her. Their aircrafts had been destroyed. There was no way for them go back. This wasn't just another one of her dreams where she'd wake up and find herself alone, cold and in bed, right?

"Winry!?" Alphonse exclaimed as his eyes rested on the blonde's stiff form. "Is that you? And General Mustang! Major Armstrong! Lieutenant Hawkeye!" the boy exclaimed as his eyes came to rest on the familiar forms in front of him. "Brother! Winry's here!"

Before Edward even had a moment to catch a glimpse of the woman he'd been longing to see now for over a year, he was abruptly cut off by a familiar, emotional, booming voice, followed by the sounds of heavy thudding feet.

"OH ELRICS!! HOW WE'VE LONGED TO FIND YOU AND SEE YOU AGAIN! WE DID NOT KNOW IF YOU HAD LIVED OR DIED! OH HOW HAPPY WE ARE TO DISCOVER THAT YOU SURVIVED!" exclaimed Major Armstrong as he thundered towards both of the brothers, his familiar purple stars soaring around his head like flies, tears flying like streams from his squinty, blue eyes.

Amrstrong gathered Edward in one arm and then rushed towards Alphonse and gathered him in the other, squeezing both of the brothers with his muscle-bound arms. Fountains of tears were pouring down the Major's cheeks as he blubbered nonsense that Edward couldn't make out. He was just desperate to be released from the Major's sweaty grip. The older Elric felt his face being pressed into the shirtless Major's chest, and the alchemist did everything he could to keep himself from completely and utterly gagging from the contact.

"OH WELCOME HOME EDWARD AND ALPHONSE ELRIC! WELCOME HOOOOMEEEEE! WE'RE JUST SO HAPPY YOU'RE ALIVE AND WELL! OH IT IS SO GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK! YOU WERE DEARLY MISSED BOYS! DEARLY MISSED!" the Major told him, his voice shaking with dramatic emotion.

"I...CAN'T...BREATHE...MAJOR!" Edward tried to squeeze out as it felt like the man were crushing his lungs, and Alphonse waved a wobbly hand across the air in defeat. Their faces began turning red from lack of breath, and both brothers had gone frigid in Armstrong's grasp.

"Alright Major, that's enough. Put them down, or they won't be alive much longer if you don't allow them to breathe. Let them go before you end up killing them," Lieutenant Hawkeye demanded gently with amused tones. The body-builder of a man released the brothers who collapsed on their knees, clutching their chests and breathing heavily, gasping for air. Armstrong grabbed the brothers by their backs of their coats and stood them on their feet, using his giant hands to dust them off the best he could.

"There now! It's not as good as a nice, hot shower, but this shall do for now until we get back up to Central!" the man enthused before putting his hands back down at his sides. Edward noted just how strange it was that the Major could go from a billowing pile of emotion at one moment to a relatively calm man the next. "Now that you're back, we have somebody here who was anxiously been wanting to see you boys again," the Major told them, his tones placid now. The man pointed towards the blonde mechanic who stood solitary while he withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and was dabbing at his light blue eyes with it.

"Winry," Edward breathed as his pools of molten gold came to rest on her figure, taking in every inch of her feminine allure.

The alchemist tried to catch a glimpse of her face, longing to gaze into those gentle, azure-blue orbs of hers, but upon seeing her he furrowed his thin, golden eyebrows slightly as he took in her appearance. Something wasn't right. Last time he'd seen her, the girl had jumped into his arms and hugged him tightly. Her face had been filled with color and full of life. This time she seemed almost pallid and even a little more thin than usual. Last time, she'd been overjoyed at seeing him again and he'd been aching for her to do it again, only this time he was going to wrap both arms around her, hold her close and never let her go. He ached to bury his face into the silk-like locks of light blonde and drink in every precious bit that was Winry. However, it was different this time. What was wrong with her? Where was that familiar sparkle in her eyes? Where was that beautiful smile always placed so delicately on her coral lips that she had saved just for Edward, and furthermore why wasn't she looking at him?

Just a little over a year ago she couldn't take her eyes off of him when she first saw the older Elric for the first time in two years and even had trouble concentrating on the automail she'd fixed to him that day when he arrived with a broken appendage and not able to stand. Edward had wanted to stay with her longer that day, but there were so many more important things to do that the present time, such as getting rid of the ships coming through the Gate, causing a war and threatening his home and friends. He just didn't want Winry or any of the people he dearly loved to be killed in the disaster. Looking back now, Edward wished he'd done it, and now looking at her standing here, this wasn't the Winry he remembered from a year ago. The mechanic was completely fixed to the ground with her head hanging. Her long, light-golden bangs casting her lovely face into shadow. Alphonse stood up, followed his brother, and remained behind him, features filled with worry.

"Winry, it's us," Edward tried again. "We're home." He gazed down at his right arm, ready to show her that he even still had his automail. He pulled back his coat and shirt sleeve when he noticed that the top half of it had been completely busted up. It must have happened when I made that collision from the rocket crash. Damn, Winry's going to be pissed! If she isn't already... Immediately feeling guilty, Edward pulled the sleeve back down to hide the automail, uncertain if his mechanic had seen it or not.

"Winry, why won't you talk to us?" Alphonse questioned, standing next to his older brother now. "We're home! We missed you so much!"

"Yeah! We're back Wi-," Edward began, but he stopped, promptly cut off as a glint of familiar silver flashed through the air in front of his eyes. Before he even had the chance to run or move out of the way of danger, he felt the cold, metal, hard familiar crack over the head sending stars dancing in front of his watering eyes.

"Win-," began Alphonse as he progressed towards her, holding both hands up admitting defeat, but just as Edward had, the large, silver wrench made a nasty collision with Al's head, sending the boy stumbling backwards a few steps.

Both Elrics clutched their heads, staring at Winry through brimmed eyes. They were taking in hissing breaths through clenched teeth from the throbbing pain their skulls were currently enduring.

"Do you...," began Winry, advancing towards the brothers, wrench raised. "Have ANY," she cracked them both over the head once more, sending them falling backwards and landing roughly on their behinds. Edward squeezed his watering orbs shut, peeking one eye open so he could look at her. Despite the fact that she was furious with them, he felt he really did need to explain. He didn't get a chance to. Winry just continued on with her interrogation. "IDEA...," the young blonde seethed, raising the wrench threateningly once more.

Her blue eyes, that once held a soft and tender look, blazed like the fire in the very pits of the underworld. "...OF THE HELL YOU TWO HAVE PUT ME THROUGH THIS PAST YEAR! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA AT ALL HOW WORRIED I WAS WHEN ROY MUSTANG TOLD ME THAT YOU TWO LEFT TO GO OFF TO THAT OTHER WORLD!? YOU LEFT ME HERE ALL BY MYSELF! YOU DIDN'T BOTHER TO SAY ONE WORD TO ME ABOUT ANYTHING! JUST TOOK OFF AS I WERE NOTHING TO YOU! SO IS THAT IT!? AM I NOTHING TO YOU! IS THAT WHY YOU LEFT ME WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A GOODBYE!?" the petite blonde declared at the Elrics, causing them to cower in fear, still clutching their pounding heads where the wrench had previously made contact. Her teeth were clamped so tight that Edward thought if she clenched them any harder, they might crack. Heaving, hissing breaths issued from the girl and her chest was rapidly rising and falling with each one.

Edward and Alphonse clutched their hands over their heads and squeezed their eyes shut tightly, almost curling up in balls, trying to protect themselves from the oncoming wrench blow. They sat, waiting with bated breath for the next bound of tool assault from the mechanic, but it never came. Instead a soft clang was heard as the wrench had obviously fallen out of Winry's hands and hit the ground. The older Elric slowly opened one eye to look at Winry who'd also dropped to the ground. She was on her knees, her lands laying limp in her lap, her blonde head lowered once more so they couldn't see her face. Edward watched cautiously, not sure what type of move the automail tech would make next, but he felt his heart clench slightly in his chest as he saw two crystal drops fall and hit the ground from behind Winry's bangs. Her shoulders were starting to shake lightly as the girl was being overwhelmed by silent sobs. She brought one hand up, placing the back of it over her face, followed by the other one and wept.

"Winry, " Edward began as he got up from the ground and approached the girl. He knelt down on his knees and took her by the shoulders. "H-hey, Winry talk to me. Why are you crying?" The alchemist always hated seeing her cry and knowing that he'd been the one who caused it, made him feel even more horrible than the cracked skull he was sure he had retrieved from the blows on the head. He wasn't angry this time at the mechanic's actions. Edward felt he more than deserved them.

"Why?" was the only word she could produce in a cracked voice. That one word grabbed his heart with a cold fist and squeezed it just a little tighter. It was a few moments before she found the will to speak again again. "Edward...why did you leave me? Why did you leave without so much as a goodbye? You and Al both just...left and didn't say a thing to me. Why did you do that?" the mechanic questioned, raising tear-bright eyes at him.

Hawkeye, Mustang, Armstrong and Curtis all turned away from the Rockbell girl and the older of the Elrics, evidently feeling that they were intruding on something of a private moment between the two. The Lieutenant gathered the younger Elric to tend to his head, and the others moved a distance away to talk and not disturb them. It was just Winry and Edward now, and she had questioned him. He felt she deserved an answer to everything, but just as soon as the answer hit him, it seemed like nothing but a pitiful excuse that he would be using to try and claw his way out of the danger zone.

"That was the second time you left me alone to wonder, Edward," the mechanic told him, grasping onto the front of his brown, dust-covered coat with tight fists and gazing a him, eyes wrought with many different emotions that Edward had trouble discerning them all. Had Winry really and truthfully suffered this much because of his idiocy?

The alchemist was finding it hard to look into her tear-filled eyes. Just seeing her like this, knowing that he'd been the cause of Winry's anguish was nearly tearing him apart from the inside out. This wasn't exactly how he'd pictured his reunion with Winry at all, but really should he be surprised that she was being this way with him right now? The golden-haired young man lowered his head, allowing his blond bangs to shield his face from view, his long ponytail falling over his shoulder, and he closed his golden orbs, swallowing a a lump of burning guilt in the back of his throat. "I'm sorry, Winry" he told her hoarsely, but the alchemist wasn't sure if she'd even heard him.

"You left me to wonder if you would ever come back home. Why? Why did you leave last time anyway!" she demanded sounding desperate for answers. Her voice was still thick with tears, and she did not seem to care that the older Elric wasn't looking at her anymore. "Did you find somebody more important there than all of us here? You didn't even say goodbye to me, Edward. You let me fix you with automail and then you just up and left me here all alone to constantly worry about you and wonder if you were even alive anymore. Why did you do this to me, Ed! That's all I want to know!" Winry cried out, burying her face into his coat, succumbed by fresh sobs.

Edward lay his face against her soft hair, closing his golden eyes and, breathing in her familiar essence of automail oil and sweet scented shampoo. The silkened touch of her hair caressed the older Elric's face as he struggled to find the answers to tell her without sounding like he was just trying to weasel his way out of trouble. He tightened both arms around the trembling mechanic and held her close, allowing the girl to release all the pent up tears of frustration, confusion, anger and elation at seeing him again. Winry's grip let up on Edward's coat and she returned the gesture, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist and hiding her face in his shoulder.

"Winry. I...I don't know what I could possibly say to justify my decisions I made back then, so I'm just going to try and explain it all to you the best that I can," the alchemist began when he found his nerve. "When all of those ships from the other side of the Gate began coming through and threatening my home, I couldn't allow it to continue to happen. I had to stop them all and break the gate on the other side," he tried to explain, gently taking the girl by the shoulders and willing her to look at him. He placed his left, gloved hand on her chin and lifted it up.

Her tears continued to slide down her cheeks in twin streams, dripping off of her chin and falling onto his glove, soaking it to his skin. Winry's azure irises found their way to look up into his amber ones. God how it killed him to see her like this. "I honestly don't know why I left without saying goodbye, but Winry I swear, every single day I have regretted it," Edward insisted, unable to keep the tremulous tones out of his voice that had crept on him without warning.

He swallowed the many rising lumps in his throat and composed himself. "There probably is no apology that would ever be fitting enough for what I put you through, but I do want you know that from the bottom of my heart I truly am sorry," he told her, trying to prevent his voice from cracking. "It's just...my main reasoning for it was to protect you and everyone else here from ever being hurt by those insane people on the other side of the Gate," he insisted, piercing her with an intense stare and smiled with his teeth slightly clenched. His glistening, amber eyes searched hers and he pleaded with them for Winry to at least try and understand. She stared back momentarily before sighing and pulling back from him.

"I...I guess I understand. You left to keep me and everyone else safe. I think Roy must have tried to tell me that, but I was too upset to listen. Or maybe I was just too hard-headed and stubborn," the girl admitted, her cheeks blushing a great deal now.

"So can you accept my apology then?" Edward inquired in a hopeful voice, his golden irises pleading with her.

Damn Edward and his giant puppy dog eyes... "Hmmm, I don't know. I suppose we'll have to see later on," Winry told him as she stood back up on her feet, trying to regain her usual Winry-ish composure. "Besides, you probably need a maintenance check-up, don't you? C'mon, let's go tell the others so we can head back up to Central," she added as she stalked away from Edward and headed towards the group.

He was slightly dumbfounded, not quite sure what to say really. Edward couldn't help but chuckle and shake his head slightly as the older Elric rose to his feet as well to join the rest of the group. Winry had strange ways about herself, and while he was almost certain that the girl wasn't going to forgive him for what he'd done, she had. Edward couldn't help but admit to himself how incredibly lucky he was for Winry's forgiveness. The blond approached the military officials, his brother, Curtis and Winry, taking his place at her side, but at the same time feeling strangely awkward. The young man couldn't help but wonder just how much they'd overheard or at least watched. He fought back the urge to ask if them if they enjoyed the show but bit his tongue and refrained. He felt a slight blush creeping up on his cheeks and averted his gaze towards the ground, digging the toe of his shoe into it.

"Well then Fullmetal, are you ready to go back up to Central?" Mustang questioned, his hands in his pockets and staring at the alchemist.

"Yeah, I think it's a good idea. I could really use a shower," Edward replied with a nod of his head.

"That's fine. If you'd like, you and Alphonse can come back to my place and clean up there. If Winry wants she can come out there and wait for you as well," the General proposed, causing Edward to raise an eyebrow casually.

"You're being awfully nice for a bastard you know," Edward told him with a cocky grin on his face.

"Well I figured, considering you just crash-landed under Central, that it could at least be one nice thing I could offer. Unless of course you want to go and shower in the main dorm area at the HQ so anybody that comes in can see you and you won't have any type of warning what-so-ev-," Roy replied in a haughty manner, but stopped as he saw the horrified look on Edward's face. He grinned in triumph. "Alright then it's settled. The brothers can come back to my place and clean up there. Winry's more than welcome to stay as well. It's the least I can do."

The mechanic nodded her head with a smile. "Thanks, Roy. I'll come there and wait for them then."

Edward turned towards Curtis who'd been strangely quiet throughout their whole conversation. "What about you, Curtis? You can tag along with us if you want. It's not like you know anything about where you are in the first place," Edward remarked.

"Well, once we get up to Central I'll be fine on my own," Curtis insisted. "Besides, how will I ever learn how things work here and my way around the place if I don't venture out on my own?"

Edward and Alphonse exchanged glances before turning back to the brown-haired man. "Well, alright then, but you don't even have any money on you. Where are you gonna sleep, outside on the ground?" The older Elric questioned, the skepticism still imminent in his voice.

"Oh I'm sure I'll be fine, really!" Curtis replied, waving a hand. "Honestly, I've always been the loner type. I don't like hanging around a bunch of people and I like to learn to do things on my own. This is a whole new start for me and I want to accomplish new goals in this world on my own."

"I understand his point, Brother," Al stated with a nod of his bronze head. "I still have a lot of money in the State Alchemist Treasury from when you disappeared. It should still be there, shouldn't it General?" the boy questioned, turning to look at Mustang. He nodded his ebony head in confirmation. "We can loan him some money so he can at least sleep at an Inn until he decides what he wants to do, couldn't we?" the younger Elric proposed. "What do you think, Ed?"

Edward rubbed the back of his head with a gloved hand, brows furrowed in thought. "Eh, alright then. I suppose it couldn't hurt," he sighed, giving in with a shrug. "Just give him enough so he can stay at the Inn for a week. That should give him enough time to figure out what he wants to do and where he wants to go, shouldn't it?" the older Elric stated, placing his hands on his hips, still looking at the man suspiciously. Edward couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he had a really strange feeling about this man and it wasn't good. Then again, maybe he was just being over-skeptical considering he'd only known the guy long enough to help the brothers prepare the rockets, discuss Alfons and come back home.

"Oh yeah, more than enough time!" Curtis told him with a generous nod of his head. "I really appreciate it a great deal!"

"Fine, then. When we get back to Central, we'll go and take out the figure he needs and he can be on his way!" Alphonse enthused, clapping a hand on Curtis's shoulder who was smiling in an almost overjoyed way.

"Well, you can take him to the Treasury. I'm going to back to Mustang's and taking a shower," Edward told his younger brother. "I'm filthy."

"You're worse than a girl sometimes, Brother," Al told him rolling his eyes as the group began making their way up the familiar flight of stairs and back up to the surface.

----------------------------------------

Nearly an hour later, Major Armstrong was back in the HQ attending to other duties he said he had to do; Alphonse had taken Curtis to the Treasury and gave him funds for food and boarding. Edward, Winry and Al had all ridden in awkward silence with Roy and Riza back to the General's apartment. Edward had seen the posters of himself hanging all over the windows in stores and demanded to know why his face was plastered everywhere. It had landed them in a silly, petty argument, with a brooding alchemist in the backseat.

The moment they stepped inside, Roy pointed Edward towards the bathroom so he could shower and offered Winry to change her clothes considering how filthy they were. The mechanic thanked him, slipping off into the bedroom with her bags. She pulled on her purple coveralls that she usually wore when working and a blank tank top with a zip up front, just barely exposing her tummy. Once dressed, the girl took a seat at the kitchen table, waiting for Edward to complete his shower. Riza had taken to making some tea while Roy poked around behind her, playfully doing things with his hands, causing the older blonde to slap them away and threaten him with a pistol if he didn't behave in front of Edward's mechanic. Winry decided she would rather not witness or know. She and Al had exchanged strange glances over the two's antics. Roy disappeared from the kitchen to get changed out of his uniform, leaving the girls alone.

"So...you guys are together now?" Winry questioned, breaking the silence as Riza went to bring her a cup of tea.

"Well, I don't really know. I mean, I suppose you could say that, but it's kind of hard to date while in the military. Yet at the same time, he's always being so...well you know, and sometimes I stay here with him, and...," the Lieutenant stammered, a slightly nervous tone in her voice. Her eyes swivled back and forth between Winry and Alphonse and the mechanic came to understand. Riza was most likely uncomfortable in discussing her relationship with Roy in front of Alphonse.

"It's quite alright," Winry replied with a slight laugh. "You don't have to explain. I understand."

"Well, I think it's about time," Alphonse piped up, placing his cup on the table. "You know, when Brother was in the military, there was always word going around that you guys were attrac-," he continued, but stopped as Winry place a hand over his mouth, giggling nervously.

"That's enough, Al," she told him through clenched teeth.

Riza blushed, her crimson eyes staring down into her cup of tea when the door burst open and in walked Edward.

"My turn to shower!" the younger Elric exclaimed as he lept up from his seat at the table and headed towards the bathroom, disappearing from the room.

It was all she could do to keep her mouth from gaping open the moment he walked into the kitchen. His golden locks were still slightly damp and hung loosely over his shoulders. He was wearing a pair of black dress pants and a black tank top to accompany it, accenting each individual muscle as it clung to his damp body. Down his shoulders were little beads of water glistening like dew on a flower petal, from his shower, and his face was slightly flushed from the obvious heat the water and steam had given off. Resting at the back of his neck was a towel. There was no other word for it as came stalking across the room. Ed looked positively hot. Winry had seen him bare-chested many times and just in boxers, but now that he'd grown so much, his body had taken on a very manly-esque shape, and all she could do was marvel in the eye candy. His golden eyes scanned the room before coming to rest on Winry and smiled at her sheepishly, completely oblivious to Winry's apparent noticing of bare, damp flesh. Her eyes then found their way to his right arm and they narrowed as she took in the busted wrist plate.

"Ehehe, I didn't know you'd still be out here, Winry," Edward told her nervously, quickly placing his automail arm behind his back. "Ummm, so what's going on?"

Winry stood up from the kitchen table, pushing her chair back and crossing the room. "Let me see your arm," she demanded, grabbing at his right arm, but the alchemist backed up.

"It's fine! Don't worry about it!" the blond insisted, laughing apprehensively.

"Don't lie to me, Ed. I saw that the wrist plate was broken. I've got some parts here to replace it and brought my tool kit along. At least let me fix it for you," the mechanic told him, grasping his arm and pulling it out from behind his back. She gazed it momentarily, holding his wrist and moving his hand up and down. "You can move your fingers and everything alright, can't you?" she questioned, not removing her eyes from the broken automail.

Edward blushed, finding it hard to look at the blonde. "Ah, y-yeah. I can move them just fine, see?" the older Elric told her, wiggling his fingers, opening and closing his hand. "I'm sorry, Winry. I honestly didn't mean to break your automail. I swear I didn't. I had no idea it was even going to-," the golden-haired man began apologetically, but Winry cut him off as she placed a finger to his lips, causing him to blanch slightly and blush even more.

"Don't worry about it. I'll let it slide this time. Besides, it's not like it could be helped, considering you crash-landed," she added with a chuckle and a shrug. "Since you seem to be moving everything fine, I don't need to remove the shoulder plate and check the wires, but I do need to replace the wrist plate and make sure none of the wires got tangled or snapped there," she explained, carting him over to a seat at the table and pushing him down into a chair.

Winry picked up her tool kit and placed it on the wooden surface. She opened it up, removed a large, thick white cloth to lay down across the tabletop so as not to get any oil or scratches on it. She pulled on her thick, brown gloves, brought out some bolts, screws, a wrench; which Edward eyed nervously; and a screwdriver. Carefully, the automail technician set to work on removing the busted wrist plate from the alchemist's arm, to which he was gazing at with a somewhat timid expression on his handsome face.

"What?" Winry asked him as she unscrewed the bolts holding the plate in place. He didn't speak out loud. Instead, he spoke to her with his eyes. "Oh, don't look at me like that, Edward. It's not going to hurt, and I'm not going to hit you with a wrench again, alright?" she sighed in an exasperated manner. "Just hold still so I can do this."

Edward remained still while Winry set to work on his arm. Only mere moments after she began her maintenance on him, Roy came walking back into the room dressed in a loose, white, button-down shirt and a pair of gray slacks. He had his hands placed comfortably in his pockets. "Be careful not to get oil all over my table, Fullmetal," Roy teased as he seated himself across from the two blonds.

"Oh shut up, Mustang," Edward shot back, rolling his eyes. He turned to face the haughty General, pulling his arm from Winry's hold. "Unless you've recently gone blind in your other eye, you should be able to see that I have a cloth under my arm. Don't worry, the oil won't stain your precious table."

"Ed! I said hold still !" the mechanic growled, grabbing ahold of his metal arm and snatching it back towards her, causing a small yelp to issue from the blond. She laid it back down on the table to resume maintenance. "Unless of course you'd rather me just remove the arm and work on it like that, and reattach it," she added with a devlish smirk crossing her pretty features.

The older Elric flinched and shuttered at the mere thought of it. "Nah, that's quite alright," he told her, sighing and resting his chin in his free hand. "You know how much I hate reattachment. Plus, I still think you like causing me pain," he mumbled into his fingers.

"Then I advise you not to move. What part of hold still do you not understand? Good grief, Edward. Stupid one-track minded...," Winry mumbled incoherently, turning back towards her work.

Mustang laughed as he tilted the chair back on it's hind legs and placed his arms behind his head. "Well, that's Fullmetal for you. He never could just stay still in one place at a time or sit still beforehand. What makes you think he'd be any different now?" Mustang sized up the younger man for a moment, smiling a toothy grin. "Come to think of it, you haven't grown much at all, have you? No, I suppose nothing is really different."

Edward inclined his golden head, a strange grin on his face and glared at the General. "Pardon me General? What did you say? I didn't quite hear you....You know, I really should see if they have a patch to fit the size your big mouth," he remarked in an irritated tone, teeth clenched. "Though they probably don't make them in extra extra extra large sizes."

"Sorry sir, just ignore Brother. You know how he is," came Alphonse's voice from the doorway to the kitchen as he reappeared freshly showered. He was towel-drying his bronze hair and had dressed in a pair of brown pants and a white shirt, so he could remain comfortable as well. "You know how he tends to go off on little tangents like that, especially if you're still making remarks about his height." Alphonse snickered and looked over at his older brother.

"Thanks Al," Edward muttered bitterly, glaring at his little brother who'd taken a seat next to him. "You're a reeeeeally big help."

"So is anyone hungry?" Riza questioned them, changing the subject. "It's getting close to dinner time and I figured we could go ahead and make something to eat."

"I'm starving," Edward drawled, as Winry finished untangling a wire in his arm. She had to tug on it a little harder than usual to get it to come loose. "Tch!! Tell me when you're going to do that next time, dammit," he growled through clenched teeth, staring at the lovely mechanic from behind his bangs. I think this payback for the hell I put her through...I wonder how long this will last? The alchemist thought timidly to himself, as he watched the girl replace the tangled wire.

"Almost done!" Winry told him cheerfully, ignoring his little outburst, as she placed a new wrist plate over his arm and screwed the the bolts back into place.

Once she was done, she removed a small oil can and oiled his joints, starting at the back of his shoulder and working her way down his arm. Winry was unconciously, tenderly tracing her hand slowly down the steel of his automail as she worked. Her azure eyes were glazing over with what could have been adoration and affection for the blond man in front of her. She continued this gesture before realizing what she was doing. Riza, Roy and Alphonse were all staring at her and Edward with mixture of amusement and awkwardness on their faces. The alchemist just stared back with a bewildered expression tracing his features, his expressive, golden eyes somewhat widened. Winry swiftly removed her hands from him, jumping back a few feet away.

"O-o-okay! All done!" she squeaked, dashing around Edward and back to the table. She began cleaning up her mess, lowering her face just enough so that her long hair would curtain it from view. She was determined not to look at the others or allow them to see just how lobster-like she'd gone.

Edward stretched his arm out and flexed his hand. "Hey, niiiice, Win! The joints don't feel so stiff anymore and the plate looks great! Thanks!" he told her enthusiastically, praising the mechanic for her hard work. Winry just looked back with a blushing smile. Edward pulled his arm across his chest and then brought it back behind his head, stretching and loosening the joints, allowing the oil to make their usual tracks through the steel.

"So? What do I owe you for the maintenance job?" he asked with a cheeky grin, leaning his elbows on the table and trying to get the girl to look at him. Edward was completely oblivious to the fact that Winry had almost allowed herself to become completely enthralled by touching him in front of everyone. "Helllooo? Winry?" he continued, placing his hand on top of her head.

"You don't owe me anything, Ed!" She told him, trying to keep the embarrassment out of her tone. "It's the least I can do!"

"Huh? Well that's not like you, Winry...you're being a little too kind for your own good," the alchemist pointed out, raising a thin, golden eyebrow at her.

"No no really! I insist! It was no big deal at all! I'll just charge you the next time we decide to fit you with a new arm or leg!" Winry replied almost shrilly. Edward just shrugged and laughed, feeling slightly confused by the blonde's strange actions. The mechanic finished clearing up her mess, and then quickly offered to help Riza with dinner. The Elric brothers and Roy made a departure for the living room, leaving the women to themselves now.

Once she was certain the boys were out of earshot, Riza turned towards Winry who bad begun chopping potatoes on a wooden cutting board. Riza was pulling out baking dishes from the cupboard. "You seemed to be enjoying working on his arm a little more than usual," the Lieutenant pointed out, still staying in her usual calm, collected posture.

"W-what?" Winry asked, her blue orbs widened as she stared hard at the vegetable she was slicing into bits. "I-I have no idea what you mean, Riza!"

"Oh c'mon now, Winry. You remember what we talked about in the office earlier. How long are you going to go on about hiding your feelings for him?" the older blonde questioned her.

"I-I'll tell him...sometime," Winry whispered, peeking over her shoulder to make sure none of the boys had decided to sneak up on their conversation. "It's just...maybe it's too soon. I mean he just got home and all. The last thing I want to do is go pouring a bunch of girly issues on him. He needs some to relax and get settled back in."

"I understand that, but if you don't express your feelings for him to him, then you might not have another chance. Edward has quite the flock of girls that are big fans of the Fullmetal Alchemist in both here and East City. Once they find out he's back in town, they'll probably go haywire," Hawkeye explained.

Winry cringed at the mere thought of another woman having her hands all over Edward, touching his stomach, touching his chest, his arms, his legs. No way, those were her arm and leg...no other woman would ever get their hands on Winry's
Edward if she had anything to say about it. The automail tech grit her teeth together, setting her jaw stubbornly and stared pointedly down at the potatoes she was slicing. He...wouldn't...dare...He wouldn't DARE let another woman TOUCH my arm and leg! I'll strangle him with a wire and bash his skull in until that damn wrench breaks! I'll kick his arse down Central and back if he even tries!

"Winry?" Riza spoke up, trying to break the girl from her furious thoughts. "Hey, Winry? Are you still with me?"

"He...wouldn't....dare," Winry breathed through her teeth, pure venom resounding in her voice.

"That's great, but Winry, you're ruining the potatoes," Hawkeye sighed, removing the knife from the mechanic's hand. The younger blonde stared down at the pile of potatoes she'd been cutting and realized she'd cut about three of them into mush.

"Oh...gosh, I'm sorry," the mechanic apologized, blushing furiously, snapping out of her reverie. "I suppose I should have paid attention to what I was doing," she continued, a small sweatdrop making it's appearance on her face.

"And I rest my case," Riza told her, staring knowingly into Winry's eyes with her crimson ones. "You need to tell him."

"I know, I know...I'll tell sometime. It just needs to be the right time," she mumbled while switching places at the counter with Riza.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

After dinner, Edward, Winry, Roy, Riza and Alphonse had all taken seats in Roy's living room. Winry and Riza were sitting on the couch. Edward was down on the floor in front of Winry, Roy was reclined in his chair, and Alphonse was stretched across the love seat, dozing. Winry absentmindedly ran her fingers through Edward's long, golden locks as he sighed and closed his eyes, leaning his head back in pure contentment. Winry started just behind his bangs and slowly raked her fingernails down his scalp. She pulled her fingers through thick locks of gold, allowing strands to fall silkly off her fingertips and back onto the couch.

"Well, it looks like Al's ready for bed," Roy pointed over to the boy who had curled up into a fetal positon on the love seat, snoring lightly. "He must have been really exhausted."

"Yeah, we barely got any sleep from the time we got off of the ship, to the time we arrived in Munich," Edward explained, stifling a yawn himself. With Winry sitting behind him and playing with his hair the way she was, was making him feel even more sleepy. "We caught a couple of hours of Zs on the train ride back, but not much. I'm not surprised Al is so tired though. His body is still continuing to grow at a decent pace. He tends to take a lot of naps, which I'm sure is normal, considering his body has a lot of catching up to do with his age," the alchemist pointed out.

"Well if you all want, you can sleep here tonight?" Roy offered them. "Winry and Riza can take the bed. I can sleep out here in my chair and you can take the couch, Edward. We can't just leave you guys all alone on your first night back home," he added, a touch of parental tones in his voice.

Edward couldn't help but smile and appreciate the General at times. As brutish as he could be, Roy Mustang had always held a soft spot for himself and his brother, and Edward knew that. Despite all their teasing, bickering and insulting, Edward and the General were surprisingly close. Mustang had always looked at the Elric brothers in a fatherly sort of way and even after all this time, it was more than obvious that he still continued to do so.

"Yeah that'd be great, General," Ed sighed as he spread his arms out across the couch, accidentally brushing Winry's leg with his flesh hand. He paid no mind though, and Winry didn't flinch either only proving how much the two had matured in a course of time. Edward had long since gotten past the freaking out point whenever he accidentally touched her elsewhere aside from her shoulders. "It really does feel good to be back home. I never thought we'd make it back, but we did." Great complacency and ease could be heard in the alchemist's voice, and Winry couldn't help but smile. She had to fight back the urge to lean down and wrap her arms around his shoulders and hug him close.

"Alright then, if that'll be the case I'll go prepare the bedroom for you girls," Roy told them, leaning up in his recliner and pushing down the foot stool.

"I'll come help, General," Riza told him, getting up from the couch. It was more than obvious that the two were leaving Edward and Winry alone so the two could talk, and maybe do a little talking alone themselves.

Once the General and Lieutenant were out of the room, Winry commenced tracing little patterns on Edward's scalp with her fingertips. "So it really does feel good to be home?" she asked curiously. "There wasn't anything in Munich holding you back, was there?"

"Nope. As a matter of fact, something happened in Munich that made us move out of the country. We moved to another country called America and into a state called New York. It was me, Alphonse and a girl named Noah," he began explaining.

Winry instantly dropped his hair and felt as if a brick had just landed in her stomach. She fell back against the couch. So there was another woman....

"Winry?" Edward questioned, inclining his head to gaze back at his mechanic's horror-struck face. "What's wrong?"

"A girl?" Winry spoke in a muffled voice. "You had a girl living with you, Edward?"

The alchemist sighed and mentally kicked himself for saying the wrong thing. Dumbass! He shook his golden head back and forth. "It's not what you think, Winry. She and Alphonse had taken a liking to each other and she was an outcast in her country, so we brought her to America with us. There was never anything going on between me and her....i-if that's what you're getting at," he added, stammering slightly and hoping that was what Winry had been trying to say, otherwise he'd probably just made a huge arse out of himself.

"Oh...I see. So if she and Al had really liked each other, then why didn't you bring her back with you?" the mechanic inquired, leaning forward once more to continue playing with Edward's hair.

"We didn't know what was waiting for us here and so we told her to stay behind and live her life. She had a lot of friends where we lived and so I wasn't worried about her being alone. Plus, Alphonse agreed. He didn't want Noah coming along with us, for safety's sake," the alchemist continued as he felt Winry's nails brush through his scalp once more. "I liked Noah as a friend and nothing more, but she had betrayed me, Winry."

"Betrayed you? How so?" the girl asked. She couldn't help but enjoy this conversation between her and Edward. She wanted to know all about the other world and what he'd done throughout his years on the other side of the Gate.

"Well, you remember a year ago when I came back through and Central was being attacked?" the blond asked, leaning back once more against the couch. Winry replied with a yes and allowed him to continue. "Well, there was a group called the Thule Society who wanted my knowledge of alchemy so they could use it to try and break open the portal and make a permanent gateway. They had planned on coming through to our world and taking our advancements and weapons back to theirs so they could create weapons of mass destruction for war. I wasn't about to cooperate with what they wanted and so they used Noah. You see, Noah is what you'd call clairvoyant. She could see into a person's heart with just a touch to the hand, or shoulder or arm. Noah ended up seeing a lot of things that I never wanted her to see. Things that I didn't tell anyone about," Edward told the mechanic.

"What kinds of things?" Winry asked, anxious to know more. She and Edward had never really had a lot of chances to be so open and talkative with one another and the girl was relishing every moment. He truly had matured a lot as opposed to his 16 year old self had been, and the last time they were together barely gave them a moment to talk to each other.

"Well, like when I bound Al's soul to the suit of armor. We were coming down the steps of the apartment one day and she just happened to see a tall suit of armor walking beside me. I'd never told anyone about that, ever. She saw...a lot of things precious to me. She saw Mom, Resembool, and you...without even trying, she just did," the alchemist explained. "But when the Thule Society learned of Noah's clairvoyance, they used her in my stead. Without me even knowing, somehow Noah managed to get inside of my head and see my dreams, read my thoughts and steal all of my secrets in regards to my life here and alchemy."

"Wow, so a woman, who has some kind of strange telepathic powers or can see the past or into a person's heart just by a touch, used you to her advantage so they could open the portal that leads to our world?" Winry inquired aghast, her fingers had stopped working through Edward's hair.

"Where Noah was from, she's what is called a gypsy. I suppose you could compare her to an Ishbalan woman. She was an outcast and people hated the gypsies because of their tendencies to steal a man's heart and then his wallet. Noah wanted a place to belong and in her own selfish gesture, used me so she could try and come back through the gate with me and live here, so people wouldn't hate or distrust her. I've never really forgotten about what she's done," Edward added with a sigh. "I know she's seen more inside of me than she should since she'd been living with us, but after that day I just lost all trust I had for her as a friend. I always wondered if she was staring straight into my soul anytime she looked at me. It was rather unnerving at times, to be honest," the alchemist admitted with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Well, that was really wrong of her to try and do something like that, Ed. Yet at the same time, I can understand where she's coming from. I mean look what all those Ishbalan people suffered through because of hate and lack of trust. Noah must have been feeling the same thing back then," the mechanic pointed out.

"Yeah...I guess I never really tried to look at it so deep in perspective, but I understand she just wanted to fit in. It was just...never really of great importance to me. I had other things on my mind," Edward sighed and then found himself blushing as he realized what he was about to say to his dearest, childhood friend.

There was a loud snore from the love seat, snapping the alchemist and mechanic from their discussion and sentiments. Alphonse rolled onto his back with his hand over his stomach, a silly grin on his face, and he mumbled something incoherently in his sleep. Edward and Winry placed their hands over their mouths in silent laughter, determined not to wake the younger Elric up.

"He does that sometimes," Edward told the mechanic, snickering. "I can't help but laugh. After all these years, it's just so amazing to see my little brother back in the body he was born with, eating, talking, crying, laughing, sleeping, everything that he should have been able to do for those years he was trapped in that armored shell. I'm just so grateful every single day that he finally has a chance to live now."

"I know, Edward. I felt that way when he came back to us three years ago. He's growing so fast too. He doesn't seem like he'd be only 14 years old. He seems like he'd be 18 now, but at the same time his mind frame sort of borders on 14 or 18. It's sweet to watch him and listen to him," Winry replied with a sigh as she gazed over at the sleeping Elric. "Edward, I'm just so happy you guys came home. I know I have Granny, Scieszka and Den, but it still gets really lonely without you."

Edward couldn't say anything. He didn't know what to say as his moment of slight elation turned into cold anxiety and guilt. That familiar, freezing hand seemed to clench at his heart once more. He truly did feel guilty for everything that had happened. A long stretch of silence pierced the still of the room before Winry finally spoke up.

"You know...Roy and Riza have been in that bedroom for a long time. I don't want to disturb them with our chatter. How about we take a walk?" she suggested, untangling her fingers from Edward's golden threads. "It's been a long time since we've just gone outside and looked at the stars."

"Yeah, well, we might not be able to see much considering we're in the city," the alchemist pointed out as he followed the girl.

Winry was already standing at the door of the apartment, waiting with her coat on and Edward's long, brown one in her arms. "Put this on," she demanded, holding it out. "It's probably cold outside, especially since autumn is just around the corner."

"Damn, really? What month is it?" Edward inquired as tied his hair back into a long, golden ponytail. He took his coat from Winry's arms and pulled his arms through the sleeves, tugging the coat forward until it rested comfortably on his body.

"It's September. The leaves are probably just starting to change too, back in Resembool," Winry told him with a sigh as she tugged on his sleeve. "Let's go!"

"Alright, alright, I'm coming!" Edward told her, following the impatient mechanic.

The two stepped out into the crisp night, onto to the quiet street in Central and headed towards the outskirts of town. It was the place closest to where there were no burdening lights to shine on them and it was clear as you could get when it came to seeing the stars, but they were still visible, just not as vibrant as it was back at home. Edward gazed around the city as he and Winry walked, not speaking a word to each other. Incomprehensible silence had fallen over them, and Edward wasn't sure why as he shoved his mismatched hands into his coat pockets. Since the assault and earthquakes that had taken place in Central last year, the city had been rebuilt, no doubt thanks to Armstrong and some skilled alchemists. Edward felt a small swell of pride rise in his chest for all the good that some alchemists really did.

After what seemed like forever, the two had finally, reached a small hill with a white, rickety fence surrounding it and a tree perched on top of it. The wind was a bit stronger as the two climbed with upturned heads to gaze at the stars when something struck Edward hard. This was almost nearly identical to the reaccuring dream he had every single night of himself and Winry. The alchemist could feel his heart pounding against his ribcage now, and he couldn't help but wonder if the same thing was going to happen out here tonight, just like in his dream.

"It's a bit more chilly out here than I expected it to be," Winry told him, her arms hugging herself and teeth chattering. "At least we can see the stars though." She was standing right next to Edward and found herself moving closer to him, shoulder to shoulder. That was when she came to realize he was actually taller than her now and the girl stifled a giggle.

The wind was coursing through the trees, causing the branches to sway heavily. Edward's long, brown overcoat was flowing out from behind him in ripples. Winry's hair, that had been clipped up, was pulled down from it's hold, remaining in just a ponytail, blowing wildly behind her like a flag caught in the breeze. Upon impulse, the alchemist reached out and grasped her hand in his as the wind blew his golden ponytail out from behind him. Her long blonde hair whipped around her face as he tugged on her hand, pulling the girl around to face him.

Winry's azure orbs had widened like saucers as she stared into Edward's welcome, warm golden gaze. All cold seemed to evaporate as she felt herself melting in his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Win...," was all he could say. "I'm really sorry for everything." He reached his metal hand up, to brush back the hair hiding her face.

The blue eyes gazed back into his golden irises that were filled with so much remorse. "You don't have to be sorry, Edward," Winry insisted as she allowed herself to step closer to him. The man had dropped his head, his golden bangs flying across his face from the wind that was now slowly dying down. They shielded his face from view. "Edward, look at me," Winry told him tenderly, lifting his chin with her hand. "I've just realized something," she stated, her lips twitching at the corners. "Your hair."

"Huh?" Edward questioned, slightly dumbfounded. Why on earth would his childhood friend be talking about his hair at a moment like this? "What about it?"

"Your braid. The last time I saw you, you had your hair tied back into a ponytail just like now. When you showed up back home today in that underground city, your hair was still in a ponytail and just now, you put it back into a ponytail. Why don't you braid your hair anymore, Ed?" Winry asked, as she moved closer to him, their bodies almost flush with each other.

"Because...," he began, feeling his face burning. Edward was grateful it was dark, so Winry couldn't see the blush that unmistakeningly risen on his cheeks. "You were the last person to braid my hair, Winry. I've never let another person touch my hair since the day I ended up on the other side of the Gate and I've never once braided it. Asides from me, you the were the last person to have touched it and braided it. It was...a painful reminder of you, of what I lost....that's why I don't braid it anymore," the golden-haired man admitted, in hoarse tones.

Winry felt her heart swell and spill over with a bought of emotion. "Well you're home now. So let me braid it when we get back, okay?" Edward didn't speak, he just lost himself in Winry's crystal pools of blue. She could remember that day. She'd seen it clear in her mind. Despite the fact that he'd alchemized his hair coal black, her fingers still threaded through those fine, familiar locks, separating them into three parts and slowly placing one piece over the other in a beautiful braid. She hadn't wanted to stop that day. She'd wanted to linger there and just keep braiding, in hopes it would make him stay. Her hope had been lost the moment she saw the sorry in his eyes and the end of the train as it descended down the tracks, leaving a puffing cloud of steam it's wake. He smiled at her, tracing his fingertips down her cheekbone.

"Oh, Edward," she murmured, buring her face into his shoulder and allowing her fingers to once more wind themselves in his ponytail.

Edward sighed, placing his arms around Winry's waist and pulled her close to him. The two hugged and held onto each other for the longest time, their hearts pounding against one another, in synch with the other. He was about to say something to her when a sharp pain ascended through his shoulder and down to his elbow. Just as fast as he'd grabbed onto the mechanic, Edward's hand went flying up to his shoulder and he clutched it, gritting his teeth and breathing through them. The pain was so intense it sent him to his knees.

"Edward!?" Winry exclaimed, dropping to her knees in front of him and placing her hands on his shoulders. "What is it!? What's wrong!?"

"Winry...I...," Edward tried to say, but couldn't. His voice was trembling and his body began to shake. "It...hurts," he managed to spit out through grit teeth. "Really...bad."

"C'mon! Let's get back to Roy's. Oh I am so so sorry, Ed! I should have taken your shoulder plate off and checked to make sure the wires were still installed properly. This is all my fault," Winry cried out as she placed a supporting arm around the alchemist's waist and helped him back down the hill.

Edward tried to protest, but was in to much pain that he could barely even speak. They hurried as fast as they could across town, though it seemed like ages before they finally reached Roy's apartment. They barreled inside, trying to be as quiet as physically possibly, but Edward was now issuing quiet whimpers, trying to hold back his agony through squinted eyes and clenched teeth. Winry helped him across the kitchen and back into the living room. She removed his coat and helped him to the couch where he collapsed and placed his left arm over his eyes. Winry wasted no time and pulling out her tool kit and removing the plate that covered his shoulder. She gasped at what her eyes met.

Four of the many wires attached to his nerves were tangled and one was completely snapped in half. The inside of his arm was caked with dirt and debris, Winry assumed, from the crash. She pulled out rags, pliers, a set of chrome steel cutters and oil. Winry set to work, taking the the pliers to the inside of his arm and pulling out all the debris as swiftly and carefully as possible. Every once in awhile, the alchemist would flinch, cringe, whimper or suck in a breath through his teeth as she worked. Winry knew how much pain this was causing him and so she tried to get the job done as quickly as she possibly could, wanting to release the man from his pain.

"Ssssss, Winry!" Edward moaned, cringing as she tugged at a stray piece of rock.

"Just hold on, Ed. I'm almost done," Winry assured him as she finished removing all the debris from his arm.

She managed to untangle the wires, but had to go rather slowly with them and tug somewhat hard to remove the wires, causing him to blanch and whimper again. Winry hated hearing that sound come from him. It was like the whimper of a wounded animal, and she cursed herself for not checking his automail when she should have. She gazed up at his face which was covered in a thin sheet of sweat. Why he never allowed himself to cry just once from the pain, Winry didn't know. The mechanic brought a clean cloth to his face and wiped him down. "It's okay, I just have to reattach one more wire and you'll be okay. Does it hurt as bad anymore?"

"N-not as a bad," Edward told her shakily. "It's like...an after shock now or something." He removed his wrist from his eyes and opened them to gaze over at his shoulder while the mechanic worked. She gathered a single wire from her kit and replaced it with the snapped one. After that, she oiled the hinges and joints inside of his shoulder.

"There we go, all done now," she told him gently, brushing back his golden bangs that had clung to his forehead from the sweat. "You'll be okay now. Just rest here for a few moments. I'll go get you a glass of water and a cloth for your head." Winry rushed into the kitchen with the cloth she'd used to wipe his forehead and turned on the faucet, allowing the water to run cold before she drenched it. She wrung the cloth out in the sink and then filled up an empty glass with water. The mechanic turned off the faucet and hurried back into the living room. Kneeling next to him, she handed Edward the glass of water. He leaned up and took a sip from it and fell back against the cushions once more. Tenderly, Winry placed the washcloth on his forehead and heard him sigh in relief at the cool touch.

"I'm...not in so much pain anymore," Edward assured the girl who'd been completely frazzled and upset by not performing proper maintenance. What would Granny say if she knew about this?

"I'm so sorry, Edward. I didn't maintain your arm properly like I should have. It's all my fault you ended up in so much pain," the girl told him dejectedly.

With a grunt, the alchemist sat up on the couch and removed the cloth from his forehead. The pain was rapidly disappearing and he was already starting to feel better, but he was not going to have Winry getting upset over something so minor.

"Winry, it's not your fault," the alchemist told her. "It'd just been a really long time since I've had anything like this happen. I just wasn't prepared for it is all. I'm fine, really I am," Edward insisted, smiling at the girl, but she just turned away, cleaning up her mess.

Edward shook his golden head and sighed. "C'mon now, Winry," he began lowering himself down to help her. "Just don't sit here and blame yourself over it. It's not your fault."

"If I wouldn't have been so stupid," she began, clutching a wrench in her hand. She turned to look at Edward with shimmering, sky-blue eyes as though she were on the verge of tears. "If I would have done the job like I was supposed to-," the girl stated, turning away from the alchemist again. As she turned, she was abruptly cut off by his flesh hand grabbing her wrist. Winry gasped as she felt his automail arm snake around her shoulders to cup her chin.

"That's...enough, Winry," Edward whispered, tilting Winry's face towards his. They were close...so very dangerously close now. Their noses were only millimeters apart. Edward's pools of molten gold had gone stern as he gazed at her. "It was an accident, that's all."

His eyes softened as he leaned in closer and Winry found she couldn't move. The wrench fell from her hand, as she felt the alchemist's warm lips capture hers in a kiss. She turned her body towards his, tangling her hands in his ponytail and kissing him back. The wrench landed on the carpeted floor with a soft thud and lay there unforgotten.
RavenHair
YAY!! I was waiting for this chapter! And another very good one. I love the ending of it too. I was in suspense the whole time they arrived at Roy's and was wondering if they would end up kissing or not. Can't wait for your next chapter!
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