animas omnium fidelium defunctorum
ab omni vinculo delictorum,
et gratia tua illis succurente
mereantur evadere iudicium ultionis,
et lucis æternae beatitudine perfrui
i. because our genius is a work of art no man can counterfeit
Winry Rockbell will never understand Alchemists.
It’s not because the Science eludes her, or that she has no talent for it; no, it’s not even that automail feeds a fire in her than Alchemy never could.
(Indeed the scent of oil is more appealing than the burn of deconstruction, the spark of her torch less terrifying than the crackle of transmutation, the biomechanics of the body more ingrained in her mind than the endless circles of reconstruction. But these are a different breed of handiwork, a modus operandi she has seen the destruction of with her own eyes too many times and too close to home.)
She knows her hands are made for giving life; He told her so, in a field of battle and surrounded by rubble, and it will forever be her juxtaposition in too many acts where she is tired of playing the Fool. It has always been an Alchemist to make her wait, to make her cry, to shatter her everythings and mold her nothings until she is rebuilt into something she still doesn’t quite know how to command.
She is not like them. She doesn’t see the world in equations and circles and the limits of the defined objective that approach the wonders of the infinite subjective; her world is more than the black of the Gate and the white of chalk, it’s black and white and grey and all of the other colors of the spectrum because dammit why can’t it be?
(Her world is blue skies and flaxen fields, grasses green and fires burning bloody, but He will always be the golden child. Her golden child.)
If nothing else, this she understands.
ii. and this is our patchwork contentment, no rest for the weary and the sun goes down
It’s one in the morning on a cold winter night, and Winry Rockbell is watching the plains of Rizenburg through a storm of snow that glitters like stars in her lamplight.
And the stars are always cold when He’s not home.
(It’s almost like waiting but somehow it’s not quite the same; she remembers when they used to be like a rubber band: she the pivot, stationary, never knowing if He’d snap back or break away and the both of them would be broken. But now they are a compass joined, and He doesn’t leave her behind, only makes His journey around His circle until it brings Him home to her again. She knows they were never separate to begin with.)
She sips tea beside her sleeping dog and it’s only a matter of time before He walks in the door, she knows it, He called her only hours ago and said He was in Central and on the next train home. It’s been her personal mission to always be ready with a hug and a kiss and her body hungry from solitude when He walks wearily in, and on a night like this their bedroom is cozy by fire and blankets galore and it’s not worth waking until the light of morning.
Her eyes light up at the sound of the front door’s deadbolt unlatching, and she downs the last of her tea like a drunkard does whiskey and sets the porcelain in the sink. It’s a hurricane of cold and ice and winter’s chill, but He’s finally home and she doesn’t care that she’s just as freezing as Him when she throws her arms lovingly around His neck.
(And she doesn’t care about the ice on His coat right now because the gold-dust of His hair and eyes and His starlight smile are brighter and warmer than even the fire in their room, and it’s all she needs to feel warm again.)
She can feel His exhaustion in her kiss and the way His shoulders sink ever so when she runs her hands through His flaxen ponytail, his hair grown long with time and travel. He breaks her kiss and pulls her to Him tightly, and she feels Him rest his head on her shoulder (strong and steady always, with strength enough to hold the weight of His world when His own two legs cannot). The hand that isn’t holding the black briefcase entwines with hers and leads her up the stairs without a word.
(The sleeping dog is left to lie and the star-storm outside forgotten. She’ll make sure the curtains are closed before they bed down for the night, so the light of morning can reach them where the ice-snow cannot.)
iii. burn the pocket map to rapture, our navigation is by starlight because heaven shines its own way
He drops the case just inside the doorway, kicking the door closed after her and Winry Rockbell hopes it didn’t wake her Grandmother, but nevermind that thought because He’s closing the curtains for her and collapsing boneless on their bed, exhausted sigh and heavy eyes ringing silence off the walls and to her ears.
This isn’t how He used to come back, wide-eyed and wondrous and He never yawned until He was finished the weave of another fascinatingly-spun adventure. But more and more she finds Him a solemn traveler home, star-bright eyes darkened by far-off sunsets and shoulders worn too weary for one so young.
(She remembers Him as her golden child, but He is no longer a child, now He is a man and still He bears a weight He carried as a child for far too long.)
‘By how tired you seem, something tells me this was another rough trip,’ she whispers, running her hand through His bangs like she remembers His Mother doing when she wanted to calm Him down as a child.
‘You could say that,’ He replies, throat dry from the cold and voice cracked with tiredness. ‘Got some real drafts for combination-circles down with Al and Mei, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before a practical fusion of both alchemic methods can come to light.’
She remembers Him talking about fusing Amestrian Alchemy with Xingese Alkahestry to see what sort of healing techniques could be discovered, especially any that could give real help to chimeras so that ones like Nina would never have to suffer again, but the work was long, steady but slow and it might be years before results would show, He’d said.
‘Mm,’ she responds; she doesn’t really understand a lot of what the three of them do but she knows enough from when He bounces theories and ideas off of her to talk them out of His system.
‘Something’s the matter,’ He says, and her hand stills in His hair. ‘I can tell by that response that something has you in a tizzy. What is it?’ His eyes are innocent like fireflies and she doesn’t have it in her heart of hearts to tell Him that He should stop roaming, should lay the theories to rest for another time and just take it easy.
(But the look in His eyes is all she needs to see and she knows that keeping it to herself will do them both more harm than good; He has always been someone she can and will not deny.)
‘I just think that maybe you should take a rest from wandering so much for a while, let the theories lie and enjoy the world you have here before it passes you by,’ she states, and it strikes her pinpoint in the heart at His expression; He is the total embodiment of wanderlust and far too free for her to ever tie Him down, but she’s not looking to cage Him, merely guide him back to the haven that is Rizenburg and herself and all their friends they can’t forget.
‘But Winry, I can’t just–I mean, I have to keep working, there are so many people who need help and I—’
‘I’m not asking you to stop forever,’ she pleads, ‘but I am saying that you need to slow down, relax, take time for yourself. Look at how you come home now,’ she gestures to His boneless form and half-lidded eyes, ‘tired, weary, you’ve lost the joy you had before of coming back with all kinds of stories to tell and every time you’re always more and more exhausted.’ Her hand runs rapid through His sun-colored hair, her gaze taking Him all in.
‘I just don’t want to see you like this anymore,’ she whispers, her bangs hiding her eyes as her head hangs beneath the terrible weight of her own words. She feels Him bolt upright beside her, frenetic.
‘I don’t either Winry, you don’t know how much I wish it didn’t have to be like this,’ He implores her, ‘but you know I can’t sit still for long and there’s just so much left to do.’ He takes her hand in both of His and both their eyes are on the gold wedding band around her ring finger. ‘And besides, you told me a long time ago that a guy who just sits around is boring anyway, right?’
Damn Him for making her want to cry and curl up in a corner and have His children all at once, and damn herself for no other reason than because. It’s all one big, innocent misunderstanding and she doesn’t know how to do anything but crumble into tears and hug him senseless in a single moment. His hands are around her back and He’s frantic because He doesn’t know what He did wrong and dammit she’s only supposed to cry happiness and this is anything but.
‘You idiot, Edward Elric, how can you be so stupid?’ she’s soaking his already-soaked coat and vest and she only holds Him closer and tighter as the curses spill around them both, ‘That’s not what I meant when I said that and you shouldn’t be doing these kinds of things for me because we both know I can be such a bitch and don’t deserve it—’
‘Whoa now wait a fucking minute, Winry,’ He cuts her off, grabbing her shoulders and forcing her to face Him, ‘I don’t think you’re a—’
‘Shut up, Edward,’ and she only uses His full name when she’s more serious than He’s ever been, ‘You’re such an Alchemist even without Alchemy, always thinking in terms of equivalent exchange and dammit when are you going to realize that you’ve given enough and it’s time to start taking what you’re due?’ He only stares at her as she continues her half-cried, half-whispered tirade.
‘Don’t you think you’ve given enough?,’ she’s holding His hands in her own, over her heart and He feels the hitches in her breath as He hears them, ‘You gave your arm for Alphonse, your childhood and damn near your life for his body, you’ve watched people kill and be killed and you suffered so many days and nights for not only him but for this entire country in the end. And now you’re wearing yourself raw to find a cure for people destroyed by the Science you gave up for your brother.’ Her head hangs low under her words and her tears are falling from her eyes to His hands in hers, His own wedding ring glistening in the candlelight she prepared only an hour ago. She looks into His gold-dust eyes, gradually lit with the light of understanding.
‘I’m no Alchemist, but I don’t need to be one to understand the equivalent exchange you all live by. You’ve given more than your share, Edward, and you only have so much before you run out. Please,’ she begs, pulling the rest of Him against her body, ‘Enough.’
(And in a single moment it all comes crashing into place, and Edward Elric and Winry Rockbell are puddles of tears on their bed, neither of them wanting to cry because if both of them break, who is left to pick up their pieces? But if it means they’ll come out more whole than before then so be it, they’ll bend and shatter and no one ever said they couldn’t lean on each other to pull themselves back up.)
iv. and we are a tragicomedy in too many acts, someone has to play the Fool but it doesn’t have to be us
Winry Rockbell doesn’t know if she’s ever loved Edward Elric as much as right now, or if it’s even possible to love Him more than she already does.
There, she said it, told Him what He needed to hear and she knows it is because He wouldn’t be a broken-down mess on their bed if it wasn’t; He’s raw and malleable and she will rebuild Him in the light of their understanding because a clean break always heals better than a jagged one.
He told her that her hands were made for giving life, and if she does nothing else with them ever again, she will give that gift to the one person on this planet who needs it more than any automail recipient she’s ever helped. (She doesn’t find it ironic that the person who has most needed her handiwork is also Him, and she knows it’s not ironic because it’s true.)
She foregoes her knowledge of biomechanics for that of primal desire, her work-hardened hands trace velvet through His hair, and He becomes her most important work ever, like He has always been. Her nails trace lightning across his neck as she begins unbuttoning his collar, her mouth crashing onto His as He crushes her to His body with a whimper and they both taste the salt of their tears, not knowing whose are whose and at this point it’s pointless to differentiate themselves from each other.
His hands tug frantically at the clip that’s been holding her hair all this time and He tosses it onto the nightstand, her hair falling guardian and soft around His face and over her fuzzy white robe. She pushes His coat from his shoulders and it falls to the floor somewhere while her fingers undo the buttons of his vest, and she can feel Him pulling the robe from her body.
(She strips away the grief and the tears like she does His clothing, one layer at a time, down to the core where she will build Him up again with her body and their heat to forge it steady.)
She’s naked but for her underwear and she’s not done with His shirt yet, and she can feel Him hard and ready beneath her, a heat like madness wild within her body that she knows He’s feeling too. Her lips move from His mouth to His neck, His collarbone and that sweet spot in the crook of His shoulder that makes Him beg for her. He groans into her shoulder, pulling her hips against His and crushing His lower body into hers; she damn near rips the shirt from His shoulders and goes straight for His belt next, unlocking it and pulling it from His waist as her tongue slides over His collar. He tastes like salt and fire and something that makes Him uniquely Edward Elric, this she contemplates as she undoes His trousers with a flick of her wrist and He pulls them off to join the other articles of clothing scattered around the room, but not unless He can take her underwear too and now the both of them are naked as they came.
(This is what it all comes down to; they are Edward Elric and Winry Rockbell, a son and a daughter and c’est leur amour comme un mélange, where sex is their two-AM prose piece on the theory of everything that makes them who they are and all they’re meant to be.)
His automail leg is cold against her skin, a tantalizing contrast to the heat of Him around her, above her, within her, and they move like lovers in a dangerous time, only this is safe and real and it’s something they can’t get enough of. A constant rhythm of back and forth, towards something between them and all around them at once, and He reaches His hand between them for her and she’s sure she’s on fire from a spark that neither Alchemy nor automail could ever light within her. Only Edward Elric, only her Alchemist but never His art, a hand in her hair and her nails race rapid across His back, they’re moving and they can’t get enough, closer, closer, closer—
And then the world is as white as the snowstorm outside their window, His hands are around her face and her fingers are tangled in His hair and they are the One and the All, everything and nothing but for the kiss shared between them. He collapses next to her, face tinged strawberry wine and hair sweat-drenched and tousled and she is exactly the same; they are equals on this holy ground and she pulls Him next to her, her mouth on His like a prayer.
(A prayer for the both of them in the days to come, when the sun goes down and the stars point them to heaven, and they will take with them their art and their happiness, joined like a compass where their only journey is always back to one another.)
Of all the things Winry Rockbell doesn’t understand, this is one she does.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.