for waiting now

Should anyone outright question her, Winry won’t deny she hasn’t at least thought about it. After all, Edward Elric is smart and handsome, moves with grace–and not a single girl in Rizenbul doesn’t remember how utterly devoted he was–is!–to his family. Winry can only imagine what other girls think, in all those distant cities that Ed and Al visit, charmed by Ed’s looks and reputation.

They don’t know that he hates milk with an irrational passion, or that he sleeps with his limbs sprawled everywhere, the picture of puppyish abandon. They don’t know that he prefers early mornings and late nights, and that the lack of sleep sometimes makes him testy.

They don’t know what is written inside his watch, and the significance of those words.

Winry knows, and she has still wondered, a few times. There have been a few other boys who’ve dropped by the shop over the years, red-faced and stammering. One or two even brought her flowers. She thanks every one of them, and then gently sends them on their way. In her heart, she feels she is waiting for something, someone, and so cannot say yes to the ones who come courting. Her grandmother says that is the way of the young, and clucks her tongue before turning back to her work.

Ed is the only one she has seriously considered, and that embarrasses her to admit. The few times she has seen him, since he and Al left, he has never quite looked at her. He’s always busy staring ahead, into an uncertain future, his goal always propelling him forward. Sometimes, she thinks Al is the only real person in his world.

She is practical, but she also dreams, and she wants more than someone who does not quite notice her. There are memories she has of Trisha Elric that she has not shared with the woman’s sons–of Trisha weeping into Winry’s mother’s arms, as her father stroked the shining brown hair; of her grandmother’s anger, tempered into gentle words, as they tried to promise Trisha she was not failing her sons, that she could do it alone, that it was not her fault that her husband had left.

Winry remembers crouching behind the door and watching this, and feeling a cold sick twist in her stomach that took her years to understand.

As much as she loved Trisha Elric, she does not want to become her. The idea of always staring out a window at a departing back breaks her heart, and then makes her angry. It’s hard enough that she has to smile and wish them a safe trip when neither of them have made promises to return. It should not be expected that she just accept and wave as they go. Journeys cannot be predicted, but as long as you have a family to come home to, then you should.

Ed cannot do that, she knows–not yet, at least, and every time she sees him, she begins to think not ever. His heart and soul are tied to the road, too bright and brilliant; stopping would be the death of him, even after his heavy limbs are made new. Winry thinks about maybe kissing him and blushes, then tells herself sternly no. There are too many complications, especially at this point in their lives.

And she could make him stay, she knows. If she smiled at him, opened her arms to him, then she could coax him to her, and keep him close. For a while, she would be able to stand by his side alongside Al, and catch him when he stumbled.

But then, she knows, his expression would change; he would grow shifty, restless, prowling the house, tightlipped and unhappy. And just as she does not want to be his mother, she knows he does not want to become his father: so if she catches him, he will stay, and with her own fingers, she will have reached out and snuffed out his light. She’d have him, and be the envy of hundreds of girls around the country, but in the holding, pieces of him would be lost every day.

Al would never forgive her. She would never forgive herself.

Prudence does not stop her from wondering, though; Ed is casual enough around her home, going around in boxers and undershirt without a second thought. As an automail mechanic, she knows his body and many others by sight and definition, and though she is always professional, there are definite times where the impulse to touch is difficult to restrain.

But every time she sees him now, she thinks at him, I’m still waiting, and he never hears. “That person” has not come to her, nor has she found him, and it is getting harder to imagine him with Ed’s face and voice. Even so, she still wants to kiss him someday, just to see what will happen. It will not be anything grand or spectacular, she is certain, but maybe–for just a moment–she can see him smile the way he did, long ago.

Cleaning up, she finds a golden hair, too short and the wrong color to be one of hers, tangled and bent on a couch cushion. She wraps it around her fingers and stretches them until the hair breaks into many pieces, which she then throws away.

There’s still a lot of work to do, and they are traveling farther away from her with every step. For now, she has to accept Trisha Elric’s role and be content with knowing they’ll both come back to her–occasionally, sporadically, sheepish smiles and awkward grace. For now, she has to hold on to knowing that within her, she holds pieces of both the famous Elric brothers that will be handed over to no one else. That is something a hundred thousand sighing, starry-eyed girls will never have over her.

And Winry is no alchemist, but she knows the value of things. You need something of equal value if you want to get anything in this world.

So she will do the most important thing, and be patient. Maybe someday it will be enough, but even if not–she carries what matters most, in her heart.

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