Of all the things she could ever have expected Edward Elric to do, kissing her during automail maintenance had not been in the top ten. It had been quite a way back, in fact, just before Edward ripping all his clothes off and dancing naked on the railway tracks, and therefore Winry didn't think she could be blamed for stiffening in surprise. The kiss was hesitant and nervous but tender, the fingers of Edward's left hand curling around her wrist to keep her in place. When he received no immediate response, he drew back and let her go, and the aching vulnerability on his face made her blink in surprise.

"Edward?" she asked, cautiously, and he gave her a weak smile before ducking his head. She carefully placed her wrench back in her tool box, unsure what to make of this.

"God," he said after a while, his bangs shielding his face and his voice muffled. "I didn't think..."

This wasn't the Edward she'd been seeing so frequently lately, not now. This wasn't the brash genius State Alchemist, with an eye for danger and no common sense at all to speak of. This wasn't even the strong figure he pretended to be so often, attempting to fit the roles of infallible brother and father both for Al's sake, refusing to cry out in automail surgery because Alphonse might hear. This was someone new, and Winry took a deep breath before turning back to face him.

He looked ... smaller, wearing only a pair of light cotton shorts. She'd been working on his automail port previously; with only one arm, he seemed even more shockingly vulnerable, and she wasn't sure she liked that. She leaned back against her work bench, unsure of what she should do now.

She didn't know everything; she was only fourteen, and she didn't really have that much experience with boys. How could she, when Granny Pinako had said she was too clever for her class and so pulled her out of school, four years ago? When Ed and Al had almost vanished soon after? She knew vaguely what was supposed to happen. The boy kissed the girl, and the girl tittered in that irritating way and kissed back, then they got married; like in those damn predictable romance films she vaguely remembered watching at Nelly's house before they grew apart. She'd always disliked that type of thing, just on principle. She really couldn't picture Granny Pinako tittering, and her mother had always seemed a very practical person; hardly the types to giggle, let alone blush.

But what did you do when a boy you'd known since infancy kissed you? One whose limbs you had built and attached to his body through painful surgery, one who you'd nursed through the fever that came with that surgery?

One who you'd always known you liked, on some level; but you'd never dared face up to this, not even to yourself?

Ed was a hunched ball of misery, at the moment. His shoulders were tense, single hand clenched into a fist, and face ducked down. As she watched he took a deep gulp of air, angrily rubbed at his face with the heel of his hand, and forced himself to smile at her. It was a fake, plastic smile, and she didn't like it. "I'm sorry, Winry," he said, voice wavering only slightly.

She paused for only a second before answering, thinking about what she'd say. And somehow she knew, like she'd always known, and had just been waiting for the opportunity. "It's okay," she said, and because she was a creature of action as much as she was of words, leaned over, tilted his chin up, and kissed him too.

It was clumsy, partially from lack of experience and partially from the awkward angle, but it was sweet, and real. Ed's hand flitted up but froze, halfway between them; she didn't need to open her own eyes to know his were first wide and shocked, then slipped towards being pleased.

She broke off when her back began protesting, ran a hand awkwardly through her hair and was horrified to find her cheeks burning. God, a Rockbell? Blushing? A quick glance at Ed confirmed that he wasn't much better, his own cheeks flushed pink, and that made her feel a little happier.


"Don't say anything," she warned, turning and digging a screwdriver out of her toolbox. Her movements were jerky and awkward, but eventually she had to ask, "How long?"

"I don't know," Ed said quietly, and a little wistfully. "Winry, Al—"

"I know, I know, Al doesn't need to know about this."

Ed shook his head, once again letting his bangs fall as a protective shield. "He likes you," he said, voice thick. "Has for as long as I can remember. God, I feel so selfish—"

Winry felt her shoulders slumping, and blew out a long breath. She liked Al, and she never wanted to hurt him, but this had been ... She knew she could never feel all of what she felt for Ed, for Al, and she knew that would hurt him. "He can't know," she said. "Not until you restore him, at least."

"Yeah," Ed replied softly, and she turned back to him, screwdriver in hand.

"Ed," she said as she pulled up a chair next to him, the better to examine his automail port. "I know about you and Al. I know it will be, okay? And I'm saying, if it comes down to a choice between me and Al... I won't blame you if you choose Al."

"Winry—" Ed began, but she put a gentle finger over his mouth.

"Ssh," she said. "You'll jinx it." Ed blinked at her, and she smiled at him before returning to work.

Ed was strong, soft, harsh, brilliant, stupid, but—well, he was anything but predictable, and, in the time they had, however long that was, Winry thought she just might end up enjoying herself.