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Steel and Sorcery

Chapter Text

Ed was feeling sorry for himself again.

Well, more properly, he was feeling guilty, but that basically translated into the same thing for Ed. Winry did the only sensible thing she could think of, and kicked him.

“Ow!” Ed whined, rubbing his shin. “What did you do that for?”

Winry narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you going to spend the whole night moping?” she asked. “It doesn’t do Al any good, you know.” Which was true. Al was going to howl in his cage in the basement no matter what any of them did. Ed always acted like he could sit vigil and it would make it better somehow, but that was stupid. There was no point to it, and Al wouldn’t even want Ed to suffer.

Ed’s face went stormy. “Leave me alone,” he snarled.

Winry went right up into his face. “You can’t make me,” she said, grinning. It would piss him off, but pissed-off Ed was better than self-pitying Ed any day.

She expected him to push her away, or complain, or argue. She didn’t expect the way he froze. He leaned his head in, breathing her in. When she looked up, his yellow eyes were bright and dangerous. She was suddenly aware that he was taller than her; larger and stronger than her. Her heart beat fast in her chest. She had never been afraid of Ed, not ever. But there was something in his eyes tonight...

Then he pulled himself back so hard he slammed into the wall and slumped onto his bed. He covered his face with his arms. “Sorry...” he mumbled. “You smell- shit- I’m sorry-”

“Ed,” she said, gently, pulling one of his arms away. “What was that about? Why are you being so weird tonight?”

“Winry,” he groaned, and there was an animal whine in the depths of his voice. “Just leave me alone. You shouldn’t be around me right now.” More self-pity- but something else, too.

“You’re not going to shift, are you?” Winry said, stubbornly. Ed shook his head mutely. “Then you can behave yourself.” She plopped herself down on the bed next to him.

“Winry,” he groaned, again. “Why are you doing this?”

Because I remember you when your eyes were blue, she thought. She reached out and ran her fingers through his bangs. He shivered at her touch. His skin, when her fingers brushed over it, was warmer than it should have been. “You need someone to expect you to be human,” she told him. She thumped him on the forehead. “Don’t be a jerk. Are you hungry? I could fix something to eat. We have plenty of meat in the icebox; Granny always stocks up around this time.”

Ed let his breath out, and suddenly, he seemed a little more like the boy she’d grown up with. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m pretty hungry.”

Chapter Text

“What are you doing here?” Winry asked, confusion all over her face.

“Well, geez, if we’re not welcome,” Ed grumbled.

Winry shook her head, her blonde hair flying. “Don’t be an idiot,” she told him. “But it’s not the full moon. You never visit when it’s not the full moon.”

“We just... needed to visit,” Al said, softly.

Winry looked at the two of them closely, and Ed didn’t like to think about what she saw. In the end, she shrugged. “You’re always welcome; you know that,” she said, and led them into the house. “Granny’s off in Burlow working on some of the equipment at the factory, so it’s just us for the next few days. I don’t know how long you want to stay.”

“At least until she comes back,” Al said, quickly, giving Ed a look. “Brother has leave.”

Winry scrunched up her face in that way she did when she was trying to figure something out. “Leave? Do Guardians get leave?”

Ed shrugged. Al rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he said. “Brother just never takes any.”

“Well, your room is where it usually is,” Winry said. “I’ll cook dinner in a few hours, and no complaining about my cooking.”

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

Ed woke up with Winry’s scent in his nostrils. Her scent was everywhere in the house, and it made it hard to sleep. His body.... reacted. Which is what it was doing now. Ed groaned, and pulled himself out of bed. He needed a walk or something. He needed to get out of a house that smelled like Winry.

As he was making for the door, a voice interrupted him. “What are you doing up?” Winry asked him. He turned to see her standing in the doorway to her workshop, a wrench in her hand and her goggles pushed up onto her forehead.

“I would ask what you’re doing up, but the answer is obvious,” he said, uncomfortably. “Working like a crazy person.”

“Takes crazy to know it,” she said, cheerfully. “You’re a Guardian; you’re crazier than me.”

It was the kind of joke they’d been making with each other for years, but this time, in the face of everything that had just happened... he didn’t feel like joking. The original reason he’d woken up was forgotten in the face of a sudden wave of shame and grief.

Winry’s face fell, concerned. “Are you okay, Ed?” she asked.

It was a simple question. Ed wanted to put his mask on, suddenly. The mask hid his emotions in a way he couldn’t manage to do. He was not okay, but he didn’t want to put that on Winry. He knew that he ought to laugh; to tease her for being a worrywart. He only seemed to be able to stare at the floor, not meeting her eyes.

Winry sighed. “Oh, Ed,” she said. She took him by the hand and dragged him into her work room. She shoved him into a chair. “Sit,” she ordered. “I’ll be right back. Stay there,” she added in her scary voice.

She disappeared, and came back in a few moments with a slice of apple pie and a glass of cider, brown and opaque. He took a tentative sip, and then choked. “This is Granny’s cider,” he said.

“So what?” Winry said, grinning. “We’re adults now, Ed. Didn’t you notice?”

I noticed, he thought, bitterly. He closed his eyes.

“Don’t sulk,” Winry said, and thumped him on the forehead.

“Ow!” Ed protested, rubbing his head. “What’d you do that for?”

“What’s wrong, Ed?” Winry said, frowning.

“Leave it,” Ed snapped. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Winry sighed again. “Well, if you’re not going to talk about it with me, then with who? You’re too busy being strong for Al to open up to him, and who else do you ever talk to?” She reached out and pushed his shoulder. “Eat your pie,” she told him.

Ed opened his mouth, then closed it, then picked up his fork. Winry let him eat, turning back to whatever gadget she was currently working on. She was brilliant, no matter how he teased her. She could build things no one had ever imagined before. He wondered, sometimes, whether it might be better if there were no sorcerers, and they just let people like Winry build machines to do what magic could.

He suddenly realized that his pie was gone.

“Now,” Winry said, “Do you want to talk about whatever you’re moping about?”

Ed glared. “I’m not moping,” he argued.

Winry’s eyes narrowed. “Answer my question,” she ordered him.

“Winry-” he started. Even if he wanted to, he had no idea how to explain. He probably shouldn’t even be here, except that Al had wanted to come, and Ed wouldn’t leave him. He stopped, looking helplessly at her.

She crossed her arms. “Right,” she said. “Come with me.”

“Wha-?” he said, and then she was yanking him up the stairs. Towards, he suddenly realized, her bedroom. He blushed red. “What are you doing, Win-?”

She looked back at him. “Why, Ed?” she asked, smirking. “What do you think I’m doing?”

He blushed harder. “Win-”

She pushed him into the room. “Don’t worry,” she told him. “Your virtue is safe with me. Unless you don’t want it to be.”

That- that was something to think about. Did that mean she wanted-?

She pushed him onto the bed. He fell backwards with a surprised squeak. “It’s okay, Ed,” she told him gently. She reached down and pulled his boots off, setting them carefully by the bed. She frowned. “I don’t know what happened, but I know what Guardians are expected to do. If you don’t want to talk to me about it-” she paused. “I guess I understand.” She reached up, and let her fingers trail across his shoulder. “But I’m here anyway, idiot. So, rest for a little while. I’ll be here.”

Ed breathed roughly in and out. “Okay,” he said, finally, letting himself relax into her presence; letting her scent be comforting rather than tantalizing.

“I’m going to work on designs while you sleep, though,” she told him, her voice teasing.

“Gearhead,” he whispered, his eyes closed.

“Steel-headed idiot,” she returned, fondly. “Go to sleep.”

Surprisingly, he did.

Chapter Text

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.