Ed was a thousand miles away.
He hadn’t left- yet- but he might as well have. Winry sighed, and waved a hand in front of his face. “Ed?” she said impatiently.
He looked up, startled, and she rolled her eyes. “Do you want to go back to the house?” she asked again. “It’s getting close to dinner time.”
He looked around, as if taking in the woods and the grass and the river bank for the first time. He shook his head. “Not yet.”
Winry shrugged, dipping her toes in the water.
Ed frowned, scrunching his face up like he did when something was confusing or frustrating him. “Winry,” he said, his voice suddenly serious, “I know you’re not going to like this-”
Winry narrowed her eyes. “What am I not going to like, Ed?”
Ed looked up, his eyes burning with determination. “I want you and Granny to get out of the country. Creta, Aerugo- wherever. Just out.”
“What?” Winry snapped. “How- we have a business here, Ed! Not to mention, how would we even get travel passes? You’re being ridiculous!”
He lowered his head and bared his teeth in the way that he always did when he was planning to dig his heels in on something. “It’s not safe here,” he insisted. “I’m not around, and anyone could- could- gah!” He threw his hands up. “I need you to go!”
Winry crossed her arms. “Okay,” she said. “Enough of this. You’ve been acting weird ever since you got here. You didn’t want to talk about it, fine. But if you’re going to ask me to uproot myself, I deserve to know. What’s going on? What happened to you, Ed?”
Ed recoiled. He looked away, clenching his fists. He was silent for a long time. She waited him out, tapping her foot and glaring. Ed didn’t like to talk about his problems, but dammit, some things needed to be said.
“The Emperor,” he got out, finally, his voice strangled. “He ordered me to execute a group of rebels.” He paused, and Winry waited expectantly. “I was going to do it,” he said. “It’s what being a Guardian means, right? I’m such an idiot.”
Winry swallowed her horror. She wasn’t stupid; she knew what the Guardians did. But still, Ed had never been sent on those sorts of missions. He’d spent the years that he’d been in the mask hunting down rogue sorcerers and flesh-bound demons. “You didn’t do it?” she asked, unsteadily. That was unthinkable, for a Guardian to refuse an order.
Ed looked away. “I meant to,” he said. “But-” he ground to a halt. He shuddered, and Winry didn’t know what he was seeing in his mind’s eye. She didn’t want to know. “I couldn’t,” he whispered. He cleared his throat, looking back at her. “We managed to cover it up, but sooner or later, they’ll come for us. This can’t keep happening, Winry!” His body language was sure again. “The Emperor is wrong. The way he governs is wrong. We’re going to try to stop it, but- you know what that will mean. Al’s with me; I can protect him. But you and Granny are out here in Resembool.”
Winry nodded. She knew what she needed to do. “It might take a while, but we can probably find a reason to get a travel pass to Creta.” She paused. “Once she’s there, Granny can get away where no one can find her.”
Ed turned sharply, taking in her words. “Once she’s there, Winry?” he started.
“I’m not going,” she said, firmly.
Ed jumped to his feet, snarling. “What the hell are you-”
She stood up, facing him down. “You’re not going to send me away, Ed. You’re right. If that’s how things are, then it’s not safe to stay here. So, make me part of your staff. I can help with Al, and I’ll be with you that way.”
“Winry-” he protested, looking horrified.
“I’m not leaving you,” she told him.
“Winry-” he growled, frustrated, moving into her personal space.
A few years ago, she might have been a little intimidated. Ed wasn’t a large man, but he was bigger than her, and he had an intense presence when he got into these moods. But she was older now, and she was used to Ed, and she knew he’d rather cut off his own right arm than hurt her. “Ed,” she snarled back, and pushed into his personal space.
And then, suddenly, they were kissing. She wasn’t at all sure who had started it, but they were crushing their mouths together like it was the only way to get air. She was left panting, holding onto his shirt just to keep standing. Finally, she thought, laughing.
He pulled away, shaking. “I’m sor-” he started, but to hell with that. Winry grabbed him by his bangs and pulled him down for another kiss.
Ed dropped onto his butt with a thud as she pulled away, looking up at her with a stunned look on his face. Then, as she sat down next to him, his expression morphed into his familiar grin. “I should have known better,” he said. “You’re so stubborn, you know? It’s not at all cute.”
She glared at him. “You don’t like cute,” she told him. “And I don’t care, anyway. You need me, idiot.”
He looked at her for a long moment. “Okay,” he said, finally. “You’re right.” He started laughing.
“What?” Winry asked, annoyed.
He reached out, tentatively, like he was afraid she might slap his hand away. His fingers trailed through her hair. “It’s a good solution,” he said, softly. “I hadn’t thought of it.”
“I’m an engineer,” she said, leaning in again. “I’m good at problem-solving.”
"I want you to be safe," he said.
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s work with those specs.” She leaned in and kissed him. Then she stood and offered him her hand. “Dinner,” she said.
“Al will be waiting,” Ed agreed, his yellow eyes shining as he took her hand.