In her dreams, sometimes, Ed is there, not as she last saw him, but as he could be — whole and almost lovely, with his hair down around his shoulders and his eyes gentle as she’s ever known them. Winry remembers he never looked like that to her, only to Al, and to his mother.
Sleeping allows her a distance with him, a way to interact with him without being with him, his sharp edges and old bitterness. When she dreams about him, he’s not the stranger who sits still only for her to fix his automail — he’s the friend she grew up with, the boy who taught her to skip rocks and wandered Risenbul with her and his brother by his side. He’s just Edward Elric, country boy, not the Fullmetal Alchemist, military dog.
Dreaming allows her to be able to say everything she didn’t manage, before he left — all the things that strangled in her throat, even when she saw him again. This is the only time he’ll let her get close enough to try. He’s not her own, will never be hers, but like this, she can pretend, and for the time being, that’s enough. Dreams that would have humiliated her to admit in the daytime are less silly in the dark.
She can pause and let go, untie her hair, and smile at him with shy grace, she can lay down her tools and step towards him, lace her fingers with his. For the space of a few hours, she’s not an automail mechanic, she’s Winry Rockbell, and there’s a world of difference between the two.
It’s not that she’s forsaken being feminine, she thinks, it’s just that it’s more convenient to forget that, let it go in favor for being one of the boys. In her profession, it’s easier to be taken seriously if she projects herself right,
But she crawls into bed at night and shivers at the quiet smile Ed gives her, at the way his hands feel, on her bare arms. She should feel guilty, she thinks, because she’s grasping at something that doesn’t quite belong to her. Ed knows how to kiss her properly like this, when she knows he’s never even thought about that sort of thing, never grasped the ideas of sex beyond its biological function.
Winry curls around a handful of snatched memories and tries to create something from them. She presses her face into the pillow and presses a hand between her legs and tries not to think very hard of what she’s doing, not till it’s over and she’s left shivering under her blankets, breath tight and fingers sticky. Only once, did she try to think of what it would be like, if he stayed beyond the length of the dream, curled warm against her back, and surprised herself by feeling colder than before.
And then in the morning, she gets up and she dresses, peering at herself in the mirror. She never looks any different, tousled and sleepy, nothing like the secret that creeps under her skin. And it’s not really a bad secret, she thinks, as she ties the bandanna around her head; it’s just — a secret, and one that doesn’t need to be shared.
The dream is hers to do with as she likes, which is more than she can allow herself, if she ever sees Ed again. Because there is a fine line of what she can do, and what he’d let her do, and as she remembers him, he’s too fragile for her to let herself go.
She washes her hands in the bathroom, just in case, and heads down for work.