"Are you really sure you want to get a pet?" Winly had asked as Al eagerly dragged her by the hand into the Central City pet shelter. "Because, if you insist, snakes don't cause much trouble."

Al had laughed and hugged Winly, wrapping a warm arm around her shoulders and squeezing gently. He'd always been gentle, Winly thought to herself, but now, even his touches were gentle, not clumsy like when they were kids; he never squeezed too hard, never grasped her hand too tight, never waited too long to offer her the couch blanket on cold nights. And he often touched her—he would press his hand to her cheek and smile when their eyes met, hold her hand and stroke her thumb lightly as they walked down the street, and wrap his arm around her shoulders whenever he could.

It was as if, she often thought, he was trying to make up for all the years of not being able to feel at all.

"But Winly," Al had smiled, his gray eyes crinkling at the corners, "just look at them!" he gestured to the display case near the front of the shelter.

"Oh, Al," Winly had sighed then, somewhere between enchanted, exasperated, and amused. "You really do have a soft spot for kittens, don't you?"

Al had blushed sheepishly, and Winly had reflected that it was so nice to look up and see that color in his pale face, to watch as he tilted his head just so and his golden hair brushed against his forehead. He was handsome, she thought—had thought so for months on end, and had imagined he would be so before his body was returned to him.

"I guess," he'd said apologetically at her gentle accusation, but he still reached into the display case and carefully, carefully hoisted one of the sleeping kittens—little more than a ball of charcoal-gray fluff that barely fit in Al's long, thin hands. It yawned, and even Winly, who was not massively fond of cats, was moved; she looked up at Al, and he was drawing in a sharp breath, his eyes alight with joy. "But ... we finally bought a house, and I just thought ... "

Winly knew what Al had thought. He had wanted a cat since they were kids, had talked his brother into helping him sneak strays home to take care of until Elric-kaasan caught them. But that was because he was so gentle—so very gentle, Winly thought. Al could never say 'no' to something that needed care. That was why he needed someone like Ed to protect him from being taken advantage of.

But when Ed couldn't be there for Al, Winly was.

"I think that having a kitten around would be fun," Winly had answered, trying to keep her face straight as Al's grin broke wider and wobbled a little.

"Thank you, Winly," he had said, his voice filled with awe as he turned his eyes on her. "You're so good to me." And then he had leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, blushing when he turned back to the kitten. "We can name him something like Smoky ... "

Winly, however, had ducked her head against the telltale red in her own face. Anything, she reflected, is worth seeing you so genuinely happy.

And when Al beamed at her, she beamed back.