Edward Elric was so damn theatrical about every trivial little thing in his life, that it still amazed Winry how casually he could drop a bombshell about something really important. On that soft summer morning, just before lunch in the sunny wide-windowed kitchen of the Rockbell house, he had made no exceptions.
She'd been up to her elbows in baking, halfway through unfolding the freshly-rolled crust over the top of her third pie that day, when she heard Ed banging his way inside at the porch screen door and called him into the kitchen to help.
Normally Ed would have jumped at the chance to steal pie filling, but today for some reason he came shuffling reluctantly into the room, wearing his old workout pants and the edgy expression of a man approaching a hill of biting insects.
"What's your problem?" Winry asked in mild irritation, carefully splaying her fingers under the fragile pastry skin so that it wouldn't tear as she lifted it. Juice ran over the edge of the pan when she pressed it into place, and she licked her fingers. The red liquid was powerfully sweet.
(She would remember those little details years later. She'd always had a mind for catching such vivid, insignificant sensory scraps, in good times or bad; she couldn't remember the words Alphonse had cried out when the door banged open to reveal him cradling two-thirds of his brother in his huge hollow arms, but she could still see the perfect thumbprint marked among the spatters and smears of blood on the pale skin of Edward's leg when they'd cut away the tatters of his pants to wash him clean.)
"Um," Edward said, and continued to stand just inside the doorway.
Winry tossed her ponytail over her shoulder impatiently as the ends of it tried to trail into the bowl of blackberry pie filling for the dozenth time. "If you've got something to say, say it," she said. "If not, hand me a fork, would you?"
He hesitated until she was on the verge of turning to check on him, but finally went to the silverware drawer and dug through it, or so she assumed from the sound of his automail fingers clinking against the metal handles. The fork appeared in her field of vision a minute later. Winry glanced down as she reached for it—and paused, as she noticed the suspicious way his other hand was tucked behind his back.
"Edward—" she said, narrowing her eyes at him.
She strongly suspected she'd just discovered what his ‘problem' was.
In the next moment she'd swiftly wiped the flour and juice off her hands on a dishtowel and was grabbing the offending arm to pull it into view, glancing it over, then uncurling the metal joints of his fingers to inspect them closely. Ed had the decency to look embarrassed, but didn't struggle or pull away.
"Uh, look—" he began, awkwardly.
Winry could manage a real gimlet stare when she felt like it, as glinting-blue as folded steel and just as sharp, and Ed fell silent as she pinned him with it. "One of your casings is deformed," she informed him, tapping the finger in question. The metal shell covering the joint closest to his hand was indeed misshapen at one end, and the surface had a slightly puckered look, as if it had been stretched like rubber.
A mechanic who hadn't made the hand or grown up with its user might not have noticed, but Winry recognized the signs instantly. "You broke it and fixed it with alchemy, didn't you."
Ed was staring at the floor again, those expressive eyes hidden by his hair. "Well, sort of."
"I mean, more or less—"
Something was amiss here. Ed never sidled around a question like this unless he was purposely hiding something big. He was one of the most direct people she knew, and one of the worst liars—and—
Was he blushing? Winry blinked and looked again. Blushing was practically his little brother's default skin tone, but in all the twenty-odd years she'd known him, she could count the times she'd seen the mighty Fullmetal Alchemist turn this red on one hand and have fingers left over.
Well, whatever was twisting him in knots, she'd bet a case of drivers that Ed wouldn't come out with it until he was good and ready.
"You idiot," she sighed, delicately bending and flexing the joint to see if it still worked properly, then leaning close to peer at it. "Why not just tell me it was broken? I could have fixed a little thing like this up in a snap. Dammit, you bent the wiring all funny—how long has it been like this?"
"Uh—a few days?" Ed estimated, vaguely. Winry let out an exasperated puff of breath and pulled him over to the kitchen table where the lighting was better.
"Well, at least I finally noticed it," she muttered darkly, still turning his hand this way and that to get a proper look at the damage. "How did you even get it to break like this? It looks like somebody sliced off part of the casing, but your wiring and cables are all intact, just kinda shoved around in there to make them fit."
Ed glanced around as if pulling the pieces of a story from the air. "Well—it was kind of an—alchemy experiment—"
"An experiment in what?" Winry asked, her eyebrows knitting into a frown. "The fastest way to screw up my hard work?" The joint moved okay, but she was still worried about what being squeezed into a smaller space might have done to the internal workings.
"Well, fine, don't tell me anything," she said, rolling her eyes. "Do you have the broken piece left over, or did you alchemize it into a toothpick or something?"
Edward nodded, took a deep breath as if preparing to jump off a cliff, and slipped his left hand into his pocket.
When he pulled it out, there was a tiny black box nestled in his palm.
Winry blinked down at it, bemused. "You put it in a box?"
Ed finally cracked a smile at that, and shook his head grimly. "Damn. I'm setting a world record at screwing this up, aren't I? Here," he said, and dropped to one knee in front of her, still holding the little box.
Winry's heart kicked right into fourth gear with a shuddering leap. The color drained out of her face.
"Oh, my god," she said.
Ed had to open the lid one-handed, since she was still clutching his automail hand in both of hers. Inside, a tiny, sparkling diamond winked at her from the top of a curve of familiar silver-gray metal.
"Oh, my god," Winry whispered again, her throat closing up.
Edward smiled sheepishly. "Sorry it's from the wrong hand," he said. "At least it's the right finger, right?"
She let go of his hand to take the ring, looking it over in amazement. It was perfect, a delicate circle just the right size for her finger, so smooth that she saw the swimming gold of her hair reflected in the surface.
"So," Edward said, finally, nervously, when she didn't speak for a long, tense moment. "Um. Sorry. I was going to wait for a good time, but...you, uh...dammit," he muttered, still self-consciously pink in the face. "I had a speech for this, I swear I did, I just.... I... Look, Winry, would—"
She slipped the ring onto her finger as he spoke, silently, afraid that if she opened her mouth to answer she would dissolve into light or tears or both.
Then she kissed him.
(His hair was still warm from the sunshine as she slipped her fingers into it, she remembered long after the years had passed; he laughed in the moment before their lips touched, bright and brief with relief and delight as he recognized her ‘yes'; and the kiss itself tasted like canning sugar and blackberries and Edward.)
It was a beautiful morning.