Title: 2,000 Miles
Summary: Two thousand miles and more ghosts than that to haunt them.
Spoilers:Post series, so yeah. A little bit of an alternate ending. No movie though. Doesn't even exist.
Rating: PG - NC-17 This chapter: PG
FMA does not belong to me and I make no profit from any of these tales. Any further archiving of my fiction is strictly prohibited unless cleared by me.
8. Life Lessons
A tumble through dew laden grass is not the best way to start a girl’s day, Winry decides after their hasty escape from the train the following morning. Ed said it would be easier to be caught if they waited for the train to stop. Grouchy from an uneasy sleep on the train, Winry rubs at a grass stain on the elbow of her shirt and hopes that Izumi will have a good remedy for getting it out.
They walk down the streets of Dublith, noting how little has changed, until they come to the Curtis’ Store. Ed stares at the building’s front. A closed sign hangs in the front window and all the lights appear to be off. Winry knows this isn’t a good sign.
Ed starts toward the back of the building where the entrance to the Curtis’ home is. Winry follows him. He doesn’t knock, but as he opens the door, he calls out hesitantly. “Sensei? Sig?”
Winry looks around the kitchen that they now find themselves in. No lights are on and dishes are piled in the sink. The only sound that greets them is the tap of water escaping a leaky facet.
“Ed, what’s going on?” She asks, walking close to his side, an unnamed fear keeping her voice low.
He doesn’t answer. His mouth is set in a grim line and he takes several purposeful steps to the door leading to the other room. They go through the door together, Winry keeping close to his back. Standing in the doorway in the living room is Sig Curtis. He looks at them and Winry can see a tired man beneath his usually stoic countenance. His clothes are wrinkled and his eyes are heavy lidded and bloodshot. It’s as if he hasn’t had the time or will to sleep or change his clothes in days.
“I called you in Resembool.”
“We weren’t there.” She immediately feels foolish for her response. Sig gives her a look that clearly says ‘I knew that.’
“She wanted to see you one last time.”
Ed makes a sound like a gasp and a choke got caught in his throat. Winry covers her mouth and looks around the room, as if the body of Izumi Curtis was going to suddenly appear and confirm her morbid suspicions.
Ed gulps and his voice is raspy and a little shaky when he says, “Is she….I mean… has she?”
“Not yet. Soon, though. You should go see her.” At that Sig takes a step away from the doorframe. Ed takes half a step, hesitates, and then bolts past Sig. Winry can hear his heavy footfalls disappear down the hall, hears them slow to a stop, then the sound of a door creaking open and quietly shutting.
Sig turns his attention toward her, “Aren’t you going to go with him?”
Winry shakes her head, “No, I think that he’d want to be alone with her.”
The first thing Ed thinks as he enters Izumi’s room is that all deathbed’s must feel the same, because he swears he’s felt this same heavy atmosphere too many times in his life. The window is open, letting a humid breeze flow through the room. A pan of cool water sits on the floor by her bed and rows of prescriptions line the nightstand. As quietly as possible, he makes his way to her bedside, where a well-worn stool has been conveniently placed. She is sleeping, perspiration beading along her too pale face, the only color is a trail of dried blood on the corner of her mouth. There is a towel draped across her forehead, and Ed reaches up to check it. It is no longer cool and he pulls it off her head and carefully wipes the blood from her mouth.
Her eyes flutter open at the touch and search out his face. Ed can’t think of anything to say, so instead, he bends down and concentrates on re-wetting the cloth.
“…Yeah.” He squeezes out the cloth, watching the faint red cloud mix with the water.
“I’m glad. What kind of idiot apprentice doesn’t come to his master’s deathbed?”
“…” Ed freezes, his eyes shifting to the side, glancing at her through his bangs.
“Don’t look at me like that. We’ve known for a long while that this was coming.”
He dips the cloth in the water once more, squeezing out the excess; his voice is soft, barely more than a mumble, when he says, “Still doesn’t make it easy.”
“That’s true. Death is never easy, especially for the ones left behind. I think we both know that better than anyone.”
Ed has no response, his irritation growing with every word she says and his inability to cope with what is happening, again. Instead, he concentrates on folding the cloth, corner to corner, completely symmetrical just like his mother used to.
“For what its worth, Ed, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you have been left behind so many times. You’re still so young, so I can’t say it won’t happen again. You’ve just got to remember what I taught you. That we are all part of the all, and the all is-”
“Just shut up with that stupid crap!” The cloth is thrown across the room, hitting the wall and falling to the ground with two wet plops. “It doesn’t help any of this. How can you think like that? How can you make it all sound so impersonal?”
Izumi looks unimpressed with his out burst, not even blinking at his display. “Really Ed, yelling at a woman who’s at death’s door. You really are a brat.”
Ed’s breathing is the only sound in the silence. He stands by her bedside, not looking at her, hands clenched into fists. “…Why do you have to die, too? Why is everyone I love dying, and all at the same time?” His voice breaks on the last word, and he fights back tears as fiercely as any foe.
“There is no simple answer to that question.”
“I wish none of this had ever happened. I wish I’d never even heard of alchemy, that it didn’t even exist.”
This seemed to spark some reaction in the dying woman, and as she speaks, she props herself up and crosses her arms. “Well it does, and no amount of wishing is going to change that. So stop acting so much like a child. You know better than that. Honestly, and here I thought I could die in peace, knowing what a great man you had become.”
He finally turns to face her, and Izumi can see the tears held so controlled in his eyes. “I don’t care if I’m acting like a child! I don’t know….” He stops shouting here, but his breathing doesn’t even. “I don’t know how to take any of this! What’s adult? Should I act like you? Huh? Uncaring about the whole thing?” His admission weakens the damn holding back the tears, and a few slip out, unbidden.
“I’m not saying you should not care. Be sad if you will, morn, but don’t sully my death by wishing that we’d never met. To grieve for someone so deeply, must mean that one was truly loved, does it not? That kind of love is worth the pain, don’t you think?”
“…I guess, you still have things to teach me, yet, don’t you?”
“Ah. I can see I do. I haven’t got much time left, but you always were a quick learner. Let’s see what I can do.”
For two weeks Winry knew a semblance of peace. Every day brought Izumi closer to her end, but though Ed was conscious of it, he never let his grief show in anyone’s presence. He’d rise with Sig in the morning and prepare a tray with Izumi’s breakfast and medication. By the time Winry woke up, he would already be shut up in Izumi’s room, leaving her to clean up the breakfast dishes.
By afternoon, Izumi would rest while Ed exercised in the yard. Winry would watch. His graceful movements and cat-like agility mesmerized her. Plus it didn’t hurt that with every passing shirt-less session, she could admit more and more how beautiful he was. She’d watch how each muscle pulled and pushed with effortless fluidity. She admired how he could possibly jump so high and flip and tumble on the ground as easily as feather on the wind. She could barely even do a cartwheel without pulling a muscle.
After dinner on the third day, Izumi demanded to be let out of the house. In response, Ed spent his usual afternoon exercise time to rummage through the store. Winry watched with curiosity as he drug old pieces of wood and metal into a large pile. After several trips, he stood in front of the pile, nodded in satisfaction, and then clapped his hands together. There was a bright light, and once the spots cleared from her vision, Winry could make out the form of Ed standing in front of a well crafted and sturdy wheelchair.
From that day forth, every evening after supper, the four of them would take a walk. These were the best times, Winry concluded on the fourteenth day of their stay in Dublith. The crickets were chirping loudly and the sky was painted in shades of gold, red, and blue. They kept the setting sun behind them, and were able to relax in the evening’s waning heat. As usual, Ed was walking beside the chair, he and Izumi discussing alchemy as Sig silently pushed behind them. Winry followed close behind, watching them, not really understanding the conversation but letting the sight and sound carry her through the mystical, dreamlike state that dusk always provoked in her.
“-still think that my theory leaves less to be examined.” Ed remarked; his indignant tone crisp in the night air, snapping Winry’s focus on to him. Winry had heard tales of Rose’s sun god, and in this moment she couldn’t imagine him looking any more like Edward Elric. His skin was a healthy tan and his hair and eyes glowed in the golden light of dusk. His hair shined, the loose ends of his bangs sweeping around his handsome face with the movement of his steps. Steady, confident strides on two flesh and blood legs. His arm rose gracefully, waving away whatever reply Izumi had. Winry watched the outline of his muscles through his t-shirt, watched how the muscles of his biceps flexed and his shoulder blades pulled tight against the fabric.
Silence descended upon the group as it so often did. The kind of quiet only brought on when all is at peace. They came upon the hill that they usually stopped at to observe the sunset before turning back. Some decades ago someone had built on this hill and there were the remnants of a stone fence that she and Ed would sit on. Sig would push Izumi’s chair up to the fence, where she could rest her elbows and gaze down on the village, Sig standing ever stoically behind her.
This night, though, as Ed and Winry took their usual spots on the fence, Izumi’s voice cut through the evening. “I think I’ll sit this one out.”
“Are you not feeling well?” Ed asked, concern evident in his voice.
“I’m a little tired this evening, that’s all. You two stay though. Enjoy the sunset together.”
Winry could have sworn she saw a bit of mischief in Izumi’s eyes as she looked at her after her last comment. Before she could confirm it though, the look was gone, replaced with her normal countenance. Sig turned her around and the two headed back home, Ed and Winry watching them go.
Only once they were out of sight did Ed face the setting sun. Sighing, he pulled one leg up and rested his chin on his knee. Interpreting his sigh as weary, Winry said, “Sometimes, it’s easy to forget she’s so sick. Its only reminders like that that make it so real.”
“It’s not that I forget…it’s just, the way we talk now, its like we’ve finally found the bond we were meant to have. No secrets, no disappointment and guilt, just understanding and friendship. I just know that I’m gonna loose that, and soon. I think about it all the time and I get so tired pretending that it doesn’t bother me. It’s so frustrating because I know that she doesn't want to plague me with her death, impending or passed already.”
“She just wants to leave knowing that it’s not going to shut you down and put another whole in your heart.” Winry said this with the utmost certainty, as anyone who loved him wouldn’t want to leave him so broken.
“I know that. But I’m just not the kind of person who can just walk away from death so easily.”
“Its not like she wants you to skip along her funeral procession going ‘tra la-la’. It’s okay to grieve, just don’t let it consume you.” Winry watched his lips pull into a small smile.
“Now you’re starting to sound like her. We talk about grief all the time and I believe she’s said the same thing you just said. More than once.”
“So that’s what you two do all morning? Talk about death? That’s pretty morbid.”
“No, that’s not all we talk about. We talk about other things.”
“Like life, and alchemy.”
“I thought alchemy was your life.”
“You’re not wrong. For a while it was, but it only became so because we always used it to try and fix our life. At first it was to make Mom smile, then it was to make her live again, and when that didn’t work out, we used it to try to wipe the whole slate clean again. I spent so much of my life trying to use alchemy to fix my life, that at a certain point I didn’t know how to live without it.”
“But you do now?”
“I learned, yes. When Al and I first came home, well, you remember how restless I was.”
Winry laughed, “Yeah, I think you fixed every broken down cart, fence, and chicken coup in all of Risembool.”
“Yeah, well, Al was the one who pulled me out of it. Some nights we would just sit outside, under the sky and talk about all the things we could do with our lives now. He had so many dreams…”
Winry felt him slipping away into the grief of his memories as he trailed off. Trying to keep him talking she asked, “Like what.”
“He wanted to start studying medicine, he wanted to have a family, and he even mentioned opening a shop like Sig and Izumi.” At the last one Ed smiled. Winry was amused too; she could not picture Al as a butcher.
“And you, what were you dreams?”
“I didn’t really know, I still don’t know. I was too busy playing the secondary-lead character in Al’s dreams. The point is, the dreaming, it helped pull me out of the place I had lived for so many years, because not once was alchemy a part of any of Al’s dreams. Then he got sick, and we had already been down that road with Alchemy and well, you know what happened next.”
Yeah, she did. Just because he had already tried to save a life with alchemy before didn’t stop him from researching any kind of medical science he could get his hands on, be it alchemy, biology, or chemistry. All failed him, and Al still died.
Beside her, Ed straightened his leg and curled his hands around the ledge of the fence behind him, letting him lean back just slightly with the small amount of space provided. “I guess some of Al’s dreams were pretty good. The trouble is, the only plan I have for them involves him being at my side.”
“Hmm. Well, you have the brains to be a doctor. I can’t imagine you being a butcher or anything involving food, but you could have a bookstore. And I think you’d make a fun dad. And if you want, I could help you out.”
“Winry, are you offering to bear my children.” The smile on his face was positively wicked and Winry took a moment to think about what she just said. She blushed and Ed’s shoulders began to shake with laughter.
“That’s not what…You’re so-Urgh!” Not finding words, she punched his upper arm. His body swayed slightly to the left, but he didn’t stop chuckling. Winry was aware of the dangerous territory they were approaching. They had been mistaken for a couple before, but the subject was never brought up in the privacy of each other’s company.
“Yeah, I think I may need to find someone gentler to raise my children.”
“More like a battle-hardened Amazon warrior who can contend with your evil spawn.”
As their laughter died down, Winry found she was disappointed that they had so effectively curtailed the subject. She had an almost hazardous urge to explore that dangerous territory tonight.
“Although, Al always did like to travel, and, you are proving to be a decent traveling companion…Maybe your suggestion just might work.”
Winry looked to Ed. His posture was easy and relaxed, his eyes open and unguarded, and through them she could see the honesty there. It seems that she’s not the only one wanting to play with fire tonight. She sees the dare in his eyes, leans over, as natural as breathing, and lets her lips touch his.
There is a moment of awkwardness, and she fears that she was mistaken. She begins to pull back but before she can even put a centimeter between them, his hand is on her arm, ceasing all movement. The warm touch makes the evening chill that much more apparent and she can feel every callous on his fingertips and every breath he takes. Embolden by his actions, she leans in again and this time he meets her.
They are less awkward this time. He is tender in a way she never thought he could be with her. One hand comes up to rest on her waist, the other travels up her arm to tangle his fingers in her hair, the warmth leaving goose-bumps in it’s wake. He pulls away and rests his forehead against hers and she takes a while to appreciate the perfection of this moment. Her first kiss with Edward Elric happened as the sun went down. She shivers in the wake of his warmth.
“Are you cold?” He asks, his voice so soft to her ears, even so close. She nods, the movement slightly awkward with their heads still touching. “Then we should get back.” He says, and after a moment - she is reluctant to let the moment end - she agrees.
Author's Note: So how was it? Was Izumi too preachy? I'm really nervous because this is kinda a turning point in the story, kinda where the real romance kicks in and I get really scared about alot of things when writting romance. I never really write strictly romance so I get nervous that it'll interfere with the main plot or not really come off as convincing. I was really hesitant to put their first kiss in this chapter but I decided that despite the circumstances, Ed is a bit more at peace in this chapter than others and although I am addressing many depressing subjects in this story, ultimatly I want it to be about hope and moving forward, as the manga/anime are in cannon. (at least to me) Being that, Ed isn't out of the tunnel yet, but I wanted their first kiss to be under good, happy, peaceful conditions and not out of despair or loneliness.
On another note, I've spend the last few days watching Code Geass and HOLY CRAP THAT WAS AWESOME! I totally recommend it to anyone. I originally didn't want to watch it because I am not a fan of mecha animes, but this show is so good I couldn't imagine it without the mechs. The characters, the story, the characters, its all just so, so... I'm speachless for words. I have never had such an experience watching a show. I was just riveted. I laughed, cried, got angry...I haven't had that kind of emotional connection to a show in a long time. (does that sound kinda sad?) Anyway, I totally recommend it to anyone who likes complicated, well-rounded characters involved in a plot that will really make you think.
PS: also, I'm trying to cut down on posting time so if you guys followed a link here from a FMA community group, could you let me know. As it is, I cross-post this to about 4 different groups and it takes forever, so if you could just let me know how you got here, I'd really appreciate it. I don't even care if you leave a review,(they're nice, but I don't do this for them.) just let me know how I can save posting time.