"Nii-san?" Al's gentle voice reached his ears, a smile lurking in the tone. "You really try too hard, don't you?" The sensation of someone sitting down next to him. "You didn't have to go through so much pain just to get your leg back."
"I'll try to get your body back, Al," Edward whispered, voice thick with sleep. "Then the pain will be worth it."
"Ed?" A gentle hand touched his arm. "Are you awake?"
Edward cracked his golden eyes open slowly, expecting to meet familiar golden eyes. Instead, Winry's worried face peered down at him. "Winry? Was it...?"
"Still just a dream?" She busied herself with looking over the automail leg replacement. "You've been dreaming of your brother since that night."
A stab of pain lanced through Edward's heart, but he ignored it. "Do you think I'll be ready to travel soon?"
"No way!" Winry shook her head quickly. "You've only had the automail for a few weeks. It'll take longer for you to get used to it. And we need to make sure there aren't any complications."
"Mm." With a wince, Edward started to push himself up into a sitting position.
Her voice soft, Winry asked him, "Why did you take his offer?"
He didn't answer. Instead, Edward looked out the window. His hands rubbed absently at the automail, feeling the cool metal beneath his fingertips. "We tried to bring Mother back," he said finally, "and I lost Al and my leg. I don't want to lose anyone else or anything else."
Winry's slender fingers intertwined with his. "And I don't want to lose you! Ed, with this war, I've... lost my parents..." Her shoulders started trembling. "And I lost your mother... Al... I don't want to lose everyone close to me."
Startled, Edward just looked at her as tears dripped from her chin and the end of her nose. "Winry... you won't lose me, I promise." He freed one hand, gently touching her head. "And I don't want to lose you."
The girl raised one hand to wipe away her tears. "I promise you won't lose me," she whispered. "I promise."
Edward let out a little growl, rubbing his hip. "Will this happen every time it rains?"
The blonde next to him let out a little laugh. "It happens. Well, at least you'll know when to get inside, right?"
Slowly, Ed raised his hand to touch the window. "It was raining when Al and I..." On the other side of the glass, a light rain bathed the world. "And that's when the Lt. Colonel showed up." Heh. A small smirk crossed his face. Wouldn't it just be ironic if Roy Mustang showed holy fuck that was him.
"Ed." Winry stood up. "Stay here, okay? We'll try to put him off for another week."
Silently, Ed stood and walked over to the door. "Why?" he asked as he opened it. "I can walk without the cane now."
"Because you aren't strong enough to travel!" Winry pulled the door out of his hand, slamming it shut. "You can barely walk down to the river and back. And... and I..."
"Get out of my way, Winry."
She looked at him, stunned by the cold and determined look on his face. "Ed, listen to me..." She grabbed his shoulders, shaking him slightly. "If you leave now, he's just going to put you to work. You aren't ready for it. If... if he does... you promised I wouldn't lose you!"
He didn't look at her. "I have to." Edward's eyes narrowed. "I screwed up, Winry. And now I have to make things right. Working for the Lt. Colonel seems to be an equivalent trade."
"Ed..." Winry pressed her lips together. "Then you write to us a lot! I want a lot of letters. Long letters about anything you can think of, okay?" She let go of his shoulders. "Okay? Or else I'm going to drag you back here."
Edward turned his face towards her, smiling. "I will." He turned to walk out.
"And promise you'll take care of your automail!" Winry shouted after him. Her hands trembled as she grit her teeth. "I won't forgive you if you don't."
Edward descended the stairs, silently interrupting the conversation between Pinako and the Lt. Colonel. He lifted his head, matching stare for stare with the older man. 'I won't disappoint you,' he thought, trying to let it show in his face. 'Al... I'll bring you back.'
Lt. Colonel Mustang studied all parts of the boy before him, dark eyes unreadable. "You look older," he said finally.
"I'm almost twelve now," Edward answered, voice soft.
Finally, he nodded. "Get together something warm, Edward. Don't worry about packing. You'll be outfitted at Central."
"Ed, you don't have to..."
Edward shook his head, cutting the old woman off. "No. I do have to do this." He grabbed his coat, fastening it. "Ready."
"Ed!" Winry stood at the top of the stairs. "Remember! Write and take care of your automail!"
"I will." Edward looked up at the Lt. Colonel's face, and nodded.
And followed him as they left.