It is a familiar thing, now, that when she sees him she will take one of his gauntlets and hold it in two warm, oil-stained hands, just squeezing gently as if to assure him that she's there; something set in stone, like his brother's temper, in a world where few things are stable and the ground beneath him can give at any moment—he thinks he rather likes it.
Edward is terribly amused, the first time Al reveals his secret; amused, but pained by Al's confession, that he wonders what it would be like to kiss her, wonders what it would be like to hold her hands and feel them, what her hair would smell like, how warm she would be in his arms—and seeing the look of guilt on his brother's face, Al stops wondering aloud, and berates himself for a fool.
She brings him a mug of hot chocolate and seats herself on his lap, impertinent—without demand, just her soft and warm against him and his brother and he safe, Ed swearing at something out round the back; it is a blissful moment, without equal.
He cuts himself with the kitchen knife two days after his restoration—only a minor cut, but he stares as the blood wells around it; Ed panics, hares off after a telephone to call the ambulance with, and it is Winry (so practical, his mind whispers) who puts a plaster on it and then smiles at him, in that special way that makes him blush.
"I don't get why we have to eat them, they're fucking horrible," Ed snarls as he pads towards the garden, a basket under his arm and his younger brother at his side; and Al thinks, with a hint of a blush: because she wants potatoes tonight, brother.
They're just back from the market when the rain starts—she jumps and curses, quickening her pace for lack of an umbrella, but he stops in the middle of the road, staring upwards; she hesitates in order to turn back and watch him, the train slowly soaking his clothes, and realises he hasnít felt it for years
He has a devious expression on his face, when he sidles into her workshop; she turns off the blowtorch and pushes her goggles up, rubbing at her face with gloved hands—opens her mouth to demand he explain his presence, and he slips a bit of slightly melted chocolate in before bolting out the door, leaving behind only the sound of his laughter and the smile touching her cheeks.
Her cheek is pressed fat against his chest, and his arms are heavy around her waist; they are comfortable, and the feeling is pleasant, and thus they can ignore Edward when he walks in and begins complaining about the weather.
"Al," Ed's voice says, crackling with the static, and Alphonse cradles the receiver tighter; shifts to the edge of the bed in order to not wake Winry, and bites his lip as he waits for the words he desperately wants to hear: "I finished the mission, I'm gonna be on the next train home."
He touched one of her earrings, nuzzled the nape of her neck; breathed out against her hairline and asked if that had hurt, and was bewildered when she shook her head no, for in his experience, every inch of the body was sensitive.
She never calls him 'Alphonse' unless there's something wrong, or when she's being sultry; either way, he knows that when she's pressed enough to use his full name, it's incentive enough for him to drop whatever he's doing.
His body is new, still so very sensitive; she kisses him in the rain, cold and wet and her lips are soft and the moment is perfect—Al curls his fingers into the wet tail of her hair and deepens the kiss, this amazing sensation, as much as he can.
He holds her at the funeral; wraps his arms around her shoulders and rocks her gently as she cries, tears leaking out of his own eyes—Granny Pinako was family, and he loved her dearly—but feels guilty for the needle pricking at him that insists, sad as it is that Granny is gone, he'd be crying a lot harder if his brother were to die.
They have sex at least once a night, if all goes well; Alphonse is young, and making up for lost time, making up for it by adoring every inch of her, by loving every part of her that she can—and she is so responsive, his beautiful mechanic who leaves oil streaks across his shoulders when she clings, who tastes of cinnamon and metal.
Winry cups his face in the palm of her hand (warm, calloused hand)—drags the pad of her thumb over his lips and whispers, "I've been waiting for you."
Edward returns from his mission and is greeted by a house bursting with laughter; nudges the door open to find his little brother and Winry, each brandishing a feather duster at the other and grinning fit to burst; simply shakes his head and only has time to hang up his coat before Al launches himself at him, a cry of "BROTHER!" ringing through the air.
Alphonse straightens his tie and gulps, nervously; behind him, Ed swiftly wipes away any trace of his proud tears and follows his little brother, up past the benches to the little podium—no priests at Al's wedding, only Roy Mustang, smirking already at Winry's bridesmaid.
He's at the foot of the garden when he hears her scream, from inside the house—drops his rake and pounds back up, taking the stairs four at time, bursting into her automail workshop—to find her bouncing on the spot, examining a sheet of steel and squealing to herself about how perfect it will be for Ed's next set of limbs; slumps against the doorway and shakes his head even as he pants for breath.
The window of the train compartment is down; it is a hot summer day, and his brother bitches about it as he gorges his way through his lunch—complains about the weather, about his missing automail arm, about Rizenbourg, about Roy Mustang—and Al can't help but think of her, waiting for them at the end of their line, a wrench shoved in her tool belt and a smile on her face.
Winry takes him up to the roof after dinner one day; stands with a hand on the chimney and stares out, over the fields and alleys of Rizenbourg—the sun is setting, and the sight is beautiful, and Al is surprised when she slips her hand into his, tilts her face up uncertainly, and asks if he's sure this is what he wants—not when he's never wanted anything else.
His daughter is a small red thing, bundled in a white towel; Al sits down, slowly, holding her tightly and amazed by her miniature perfection: Ed claps a hand on his shoulder and grins at him, says, "She's got Winry's eyes, Al—er, and your lungs, ow."
His brother's visits start to slow, about a year after his restoration; Ed starts spending more and more time on his missions, and Al misses him with a sharp feeling in his chest—doesn't realise why until he discovers his brother is dating Scieszka, of all people, is staying in Central more and more in order to court her, charmingly old-fashioned in his approach to dating: Alphonse is amused, but secretly so jealous—his brother had always been his, always, and it's not until he confesses this to Winry that he realises—Ed must have felt the same about her.
Winry's hands are rough, calloused—she works hard, and gloves don't help; Alphonse loves the sensations those hands can wring from his body at night, sliding over bare skin, exciting and warm—loves her hands, loves her.
Not many people know that Winry's major weakness is, in fact, bananas—a rare thing, in Rizenbourg, but Al has contacts; he speaks to his brother, who has a quiet word with a few people, and whenever the bananas grow, a crate of them tends to turn up on their doorstep, sealed shut and imprinted with the words AMESTRIS MILITARY SUPPLIES.
Alphonse wants a picnic that afternoon, and Winry is more than obliging; they trek out to a certain spot they know, lay out a blanket underneath the sun, and lie next to each other on their bellies as they eat—and Alphonse can't help but think, this is how I want it to always be.
Winry was the one who proposed, blithely tossing tradition out of the window for the sake of letting Al know how much she cared—offered a ring of simple steel, forged herself, and the symbolism of that spoke so much louder than gold.
There are pictures, trailing up their stairs; Ed, Al and Winry as babies, Trisha, Winry's parents, the Rockbells and the Elrics at a picnic, Winry and Al's wedding, Ed squirming before a camera in his blue uniform—and finally something that is not a photograph but rather a chunk of steel, an odd design etched onto it in a strange reddish material; Al pauses in front of it each morning, strokes the glass with a finger and smiles in memory, before heading downstairs to start cooking breakfast.
"Winry," he says, wringing the cloth out and carefully placing it on her forehead, "It's okay to relax when you're sick—really, my brother can wait a few days, you know he can."
Neither of them are musical—Winry whistles sometimes as she works, but the sound warbles uncomfortably, piercing and awkward; Alphonse doesn't complain, because in term, she puts up with his singing hideously off-key in the shower—equivalent trade lies in acceptance of each other's faults, after all.
It is night by the time they finish patrolling the area they used to know so well; the stars are bright above them as they trudge back home, and then the light appears—so familiar it hurts, brighter than any star, and Al knows, with a giddying rush, who is behind it—the one who makes Rizenbourg still feel like home, in a way.
It is the memories we have that make a home a home, Alphonse thinks—smiles, Winry pressed up against his back, her arm over his waist and her soft breaths cool and familiar between his shoulder blades.
Ed is nervous when he brings Scieszka back to Rizenbourg—he, a brash outspoken boy, she a shy, sweet woman—introduces her to his brother and nearly-sister-in-law-but-not-quite awkwardly, as though he expects them to look down on him for his choice; and blinks up at Al in confusion, when his brother hugs her, and says softly that he wishes them both the best.
When he breaks his leg—in a bicycle accident, embarrassingly enough—he is surprised by Winry's reaction, her intense worry, the fear on her face; asks her about it, bewildered, and she sniffs and wipes her tears away, says that she's crying because, for once, an Elric is around for her to worry over.
They both jump, when the thunder goes off; link hands atop Winry's bed as his brother presses his face to the glass of her window, eyes wide with awe: it sounds much scarier than it actually is, Al knows, but still—the impressive noise is intimidating, and it's nice to know that even Winry is a little unnerved by it.
He trips over the bed when he tries to back away—whimpers and laughs nervously as she brandishes the handcuffs between her hands, eyes lit with an evil gleam; scoots backwards and pleads, "Come on, love, what's—ah!—wrong with conventional sex once in a while?"
They hold hands as they go through the market-place, like an ordinary couple—smile and wave at the stall keepers, some of whom recognise Al; chat with the man selling fruit, and buy ten ripe apples from him—spend the day just being normal, free of the strange things that has consumed their lives thus far.
Ed grits his teeth in pain as Al and Winry step back, Alphonse frowning at causing his brother this hurt—a necessary one, unfortunately, even getting drunk didn't dull the pain of automail reattachment—and then stood, wobbling a little on his new limbs; scowled and flexed his arm, before cocking his head and saying, slowly, "You've... done... something... to the composition, haven't you?"
His eighteenth birthday is spent in Rizenbourg, with his brother and his new (and so precious) girlfriend and Granny Pinako; it is a lovely day, spent with those he knows best, but the best part is the gift Edward gives him—a piece of paper giving his brother six months of leave, in order to research whatever he so chooses, wherever he so chooses.
He presses his thumbs to her cheeks, pulling her mouth into a smile; grins at her, at her blue eyes and the oil smeared along the bridge of her nose, loves her for what she is—drops his hands and the smile stays, and their teeth bump when they kiss.
She's ashamed to admit that she's a virgin—protests that she's not a sappy weed, wasn't waiting for the right moment or any of that romantic crap, just... never felt ready, before him.
The mattress creaks, softly, in time with his threats; she pants for breath, tightens her fingers on his shirt as he hesitates inside her—inside her, he feels like he knows her from pure physical proximity alone; kisses her breasts and gasps out his orgasm, slowly, into her skin, enjoying the pure peace of the moment, the sense of warm finality.
The river slows softly nearby, reflecting the perfect blue sky, the soft white clouds; it is a beautiful day, and were they not so busy doing... other things on top of the bright green blanket, their clothing heaped beside them, they might have taken a moment simply to enjoy the view.
She leans on the balcony railing and watches them play through the ritual—Ed diving at his brother, expression grim and automail a whirling flash of steel; Alphonse twists and ducks and dodges with perfect grace, allows Ed to overbalance himself and then knocks him off his feet with one well-measured blow, sends his older brother spinning head over heels to land on his back and blink, dazed, up at the sky.
The water has been warmed by the sun—she bursts from the surface, panting for air, and pushes her hair out of her face as she wades for the bank; Alphonse grabs her ankles and tugs her back and, and she laughs even as she kicks at him, enjoying the moment far too much to be annoyed.
Central is as busy as ever and Al hesitates, for a moment, in the crowds; Winry pushes at him from behind, face just as pinch with worry as his, and whispers, "Go on—visiting hours will be over soon, and you know you need to see your brother today."
They are having sex on the couch despite the afternoon sun when Ed gets in from his mission; he drops his suitcase, watches horrified as they shriek and attempt to cover themselves; crosses his arms over his chest and announces, "Stick with the feather dusters next time I come home."
And now it is night, and he presses the pillow over his head; rolls over and thumps hard on the wall with his automail arm: in the next room, the mattress stops squeaking, but only temporarily, and they're soon at it again—god damn, when did his little brother get such an enthusiastic libido?
He brings her soup when she's sick in bed—blows on each spoonful before feeding it to her, and she cranks open one eye, scowls and says that she's capable of feeding herself, thankyouverymuch; he blushes, embarrassed, and drops his face; she looks apologetic, nudges her leg against his back and whispers, "More?"
She kisses him in the shower—all warm water and her, and it is a while before his brain notices that she has pulled away, is toying with the loose hair at the back of his neck; she raises her eyes to his and smiles, bunching it into a fist, and says, "Long hair might look good on you, you know."
Ed pays to have a batch of fireworks imported from Xing, just for his little brother's wedding; they are beautiful, and Al and Winry watch them over each other's shoulders, still dancing slowly to some mushy ballad Al can't remember asking the orchestra to play; look back at each and rub noses, grinning, and kiss, gently under those explosions of colour and beauty.