Author: TerraCotta Bones
Title: Hot Coffee
Ed_Winry Christmas Contest Theme: Hot Coffee
Spoiler: Up to episode 25?
A/N: If you read "Drink In" on FF.net...I guess you could consider this in the same timeline.
“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.”
Snow fell like the rain of winter onto a tinkling, jingle bell city.
That’s what Central became for a few days a year, not the headquarters of the government or the place where Hughes died – no history and no terror and no ringing determination. Just a few people in a small house with a wrought iron fence and iced over gardens, icicles on the trees, shine on the sidewalk.
When Ed woke up that morning, he could feel it before he even opened his eyes – a sleepy, falling white, all over the city. He laid there and drifted back to days past for a while, days where he and Al and Winry had rushed out the morning after a blizzard and built snowmen shaped like marshmallows and Den. Like the days when Nina was alive, and he’d grown flowers with Al out of the frozen ground – like the days in Germany when his father brought him up to the roof of their townhouse to watch the city bathe in the shower from the sky.
Just as he was mulling over these old things in his mind, Winry came in and sat on his bed. She looked warm in a nightgown, robe and slippers. But he knew by the pink on her nose that it was much colder out from under the covers than he cared to find out, so he just wriggled and moved closer.
“Hello, sleepyhead,” she murmured, yawning. “Merry Christmas Eve.”
He smiled, stretched and, catching her contagion, yawned. “Yeah. Merry Christmas.”
She plopped down next to him, curling her legs under her and snuggling her head next to his.
“Look at the snow,” he said.
“I know. They say it’s going to last for a few days. We’ll have a really nice Christmas this year.”
“Hm.” He was quiet for a while, and closed his eyes. He reached a hand out from under the blankets and wrapped it around her fingers, bringing them first to his forehead and then to his lips.
“Did you have a nice trip?” he asked. He opened his eyes for a moment; she nodded. He closed his eyes. “Granny here?” She nodded again – the sound on the pillow was the same. “Did you get a present for Gracia and Elysia?” Nod. He sighed a long, deep sigh. “Is Al up?” Nod. “Are we still going to that party tonight?” Another nod. He wrinkled his forehead. “Is Mustang gonna be at this party?” He heard the first chimes of a laugh, and she nodded again.
He wanted to fall asleep again after that, and her fingers stroking his hair back only encouraged him. He wanted her to crawl in with him, but he knew she would raise her eyebrows at that, and he didn’t want to watch.
“I’m making coffee,” she said. He groaned a little, not unhappily. She kissed him on the cheek. Her lips were cool and soft. “I’m making coffee,” she said again. He groaned more, but smiled. She was a whole world, and his eyes weren’t even open. She kissed him on the nose, which tickled. “I’m making coffee.” Her voice was music and air; he grumbled like wide and expanding peace after a long war. She kissed him on the side of his mouth. “I’m making coffee.” On the other side. “I’m making coffee.” He was grinning like a fool at this point, eyes stubbornly shut. In his mind she was burning bright. Blue eyes and straw-gold hair and a girl he’d loved ever since he learned how. “Winry.” She kissed him on his chin. Softer now, “I’m making coffee.” He wanted to cry; she was a whole world. He brought both his hands up to her face and pulled her to him; she kissed him full on the mouth. Soft and pink and warm. “I’m making coffee,” she whispered into his lips. He kissed her again, in a sea of white blankets in a sea of white snow. Falling white snow. It was Christmas in 1920, and time never rolls back. For once, he was glad. “You’re making coffee,” he whispered.
She led him out like a girl leading a puppy, her arm twisted back behind her and his hand in hers. A month ago they’d decked the whole house in what Al called “the Christmas spirit.” Chains of red and gold beads and shimmery green garlands hung off the wooden railing of the staircase, and Ed flicked his hand through the festoons as Winry drew him down the stairs. The Christmas tree in their living room tickled the ceiling with its glittering star, and positively preened with all the sparkling glass balls and strands of fat gold ribbon and garland. Rainbow-wrapped boxes hid under the pine needles like children against a mother. The chimney across from them sported a crackling fire, and Ed saw Winry wrinkle her nose at Al’s wet footprints on the hardwood floor.
He stopped her when they were halfway down the steps. “Wait.”
She turned around, and he sat down on a stair. She tilted her head, then joined him. He took her hand in his flesh one. “Tell me about your trip,” he said. He could wait for the coffee.
“Momma, what are you doing?”
“Makin’ peppermint chocolate. You want some?”
Three-year-old Winry never refused candy. Her mother broke off a piece from a long sheet and gave it to her. Winry crunched down and contemplated for a moment, moving the chocolate around in her mouth, then smiled.
“Can I have some more?”
Winry’s mother grinned. “Sure, honey.” She drew a plain yellow mug to her lips first, and sipped deep. Her daughter pulled on her skirt as she snapped off another piece of chocolate. “Yes?”
“Mommy, what was that?”
“What was what?”
“That stuff in the cup.”
“That was coffee.” Sara, struck with a good idea, took out a knife and cut the outline of a dog into the chocolate. After some very hack-worthy effort, the pup came free. “It wakes you up in the morning and tastes good with milk and sugar.”
Winry smiled, one tooth missing, the apples of her cheeks brimming with happiness, a cherub. “This chocolate is good, Mommy.”
“Thank you, Winry. My mommy gave me the recipe.”
Winry, munching and holding the extra chocolate in one hand, pulled a chair to the counter – scraping the wooden floor and making a rough squeal with the chair legs as she did. She climbed up on the seat and stands. “Can I try some?”
“Some of what, honey?”
“Some of your coffee.”
Winry’s mother poked Winry on the nose, her hands covered in chocolate. She snickered as Winry wiggled her nose. “You’re a little young for coffee, honey.”
“I am not!” Winry stomped. She balled her little fists and puffed herself up like a fish.
Sara laughed. “Alright, alright. But be careful, it’s a little hot.” She picked up the mug and put it to her daughter’s mouth; Winry tipped it with her tiny hands. And then pushed it away with a bolt, spitting.
“Ew!” She stuck out her tongue and made three-years-old and grossed-out sounds. “That was disgusting!”
Winry’s father chuckled as he walked into the kitchen. “And that was Winry’s first experience with coffee.” He kissed Sara on the cheek. “One day you’re going to love that stuff, kid.”
“Oh – I was going to make cookies.”
Gracia and Winry stood staring in the doorway to the Hughes’ kitchen, and Ed sat staring back from the breakfast table, tiger-streaked with chocolate frosting and white in the chest with a puff of flour. Al, at the counter and clearly the master of the stove, grinned. He had a blue streak of food-colored icing on his cheek, a spot of cocoa dust in his hair, and was up to his arms in swirls of butter, sugar and various white powders.
Winry put a hand to her lips and smothered a laugh. Gracia twinkled, chuckling. The table, the counter, the stove, the oven, and the floor were all covered wood-to-aluminum siding-to-icebox in all the fluffy destructive messes that go in cakes.
Al scratched his head. “Um,” he blushed, “you said we could use the kitchen?” He looked at Ed. Ed blinked, and coughed.
“I’m the victim in this investigation,” he declared, throwing his hands in the air – and spraying chocolate on the tiled walls.
Winry burst out laughing, and Gracia rocked with giggles. Elysia came running in a few seconds later to discover the carnage, and cackled spectacularly all the way out down the hall, where she was lighting the house afire with decorations.
“It’s called coffee.”
Winry glared up from her book. “I know what it is. Why is it on my desk?”
Al faltered, but Ed kept going strong.
“Hey,” he reprimanded. “We made this for you with a transmutation circle, so you better like it!”
Winry groaned, then laced her fingers together and rested her chin on them. She batted her eyelashes at them. “And why good sirs would I need something as horrible as that stuff?”
Al stuck out his bottom lip. “Well we figured since you always fall asleep in class that maybe if you drank this then you wouldn’t feel so tired anymore.” He was looking dangerously teary in the eye area.
Ed bopped Winry on the arm. “Don’t make my brother cry!”
“I’m not crying!”
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m reading!” She bopped him back, on the head. Her disdainful blue eyes softened. “But I guess it was nice of you guys. Even though it tastes like rot.”
Ed sighed exasperatedly. “Just drink the damn junk.”
“Ed!” Al squeaked.
“Okay, okay, no need to get jumpy, Mr. Alchemist. I’m drinking it.” Winry waved one hand at them annoyedly, and brought the tinny travel tumbler to her lips with the other.
She paused – took a breath – and drank.
Ed couldn’t help but shake with laughter as Winry’s face crumpled with absolute revulsion; Al looked so crestfallen it was pitiful.
“It takes like motor oil!”
And Ed couldn’t help but ask, choking on his chuckles, “Now, Winry, have you ever had motor oil?”
“Your general has arrived!”
Roy Mustang swept through the door like a king through the gates to a banquet hall. Riza followed, touched with pink in the nose and bearing several small gifts. Havoc popped up behind her, very urban cowboy with his cigarette and duster coat. Ten or so more people followed, to join the ten or so people that had already arrived. It was four in the afternoon, the sky was turning dark, the Christmas lights were turning on, and Elysia was outside in the snow greeting guests with her shaggy, hulking, man-sized dog. The Hughes house was filled up like a frothing pot of hot water – with talking, laughing, frying, boiling, gift-setting, and the disrobing of numerous coats.
Mustang snaked his way through the cocktail-toting crowds with Hawkeye in tow and, triumphant, spotted Edward Elric in the living room near the piano. He and Al were in an animated discussion of something of probably-no-importance with Maria Ross and Denny Bloche. (Riza had to remind him of their names.)
He was indescribably delighted when Ed cringed as they came over.
“Fullmetal! It’s been too long. What have you been up to, you old dog?”
Ed gazed at him balefully. “Are you drunk already?”
“Actually it’s General now, if you don’t mind.”
Riza smiled politely at the other three as
She was fixing his arm, and he was so far into daydreaming that he couldn’t hear her when she spoke.
“What did you say?”
She shook her head – her hair scattered all over – and bent back over his shining bicep. “Wondering what you were doing for Christmas. You sure you don’t want some coffee?”
He grunted. He’d been thinking about the reason a rebound transmutation actually produced something even when the materials were insufficient.
The workshop quieted, and Winry’s screwdriver squeaked in his arm. He almost thought to flinch, then remembered, and went back to daydreaming.
It wasn’t really a dream, of course.
Dinner, which spread to three banquet tables and two different rooms, was loud. Winry, her fork in her mouth, goggled as Ed grabbed his third helping of sweet potato. When dinner was finished Al leaned over to her and said, “It looks like something out of a cartoon. He’s got four plates in front of him. And three bowls!”
“And two knives, and five forks, and a couple spoons,” Winry added. “I could keep going.”
“But he’s so small,” Al whispered. “How does he do it?”
Ed glanced around, suddenly suspicious. “Hey,” he began – and Al and Winry snorted into their napkins.
“First Christmas in Central,” she said.
“First one together, anyway.” He had an arm around her waist. They were standing on the sidewalk in front of their frosted-over lawn, and comically loaded down with eight grocery bags each. Al was opening the front door. It was very cold.
“C’mon, pack mules,” he ordered, beckoning them through to the glowing foyer. “I’ve been shopping since seven in the morning and I need more coffee.”
When they started to open the presents, half the party was drunk to uncontrollable cheering, and the other half was tired enough to die happy.
“Is this an automated miniature merry-go-round with hand-painted horses?” Elysia held up the contraption with partly doubtful, party exuberant delicacy.
Ed nudged Winry, whose head was very heavy on his shoulder. She sat up.
“It is if you like it, Elysia!” she called across the room.
“And if I don’t?”
“Then you’ll have to wait until next Christmas!”
Elysia laughed. “You make the best presents ever, Winry.”
Winry smiled into Ed’s arm. “Good.” She paused. “Winry is tired,” she mumbled. He kissed her hair.
It was the middle of the night. Christmas was a week away.
“Winry, what are you doing?”
His voice cracked with grogginess. He rubbed his eyes in the doorway to the kitchen.
She was sitting at the table in front a cookbook and jiggling her leg, hands twisting over each other like eels. Her face was red, but with embarrassment or something else Ed couldn’t tell. Chocolate was all over the counters, and something in the air smelled like mint.
He padded over and looked at the cookbook. It was old and yellowing, and stuffed full with extra recipes on note cards and on the backs of can labels. A card entitled “Winry’s Peppermint Chocolate” sat innocently on the page.
“She used to make it every Christmas, remember?”
He tried to think back. “You mean your mom?”
“I just wanted to – bring back the tradition.”
He rested a hand on her shoulder. She wrapped his arms around his waist, and whimpered.
“Ed, it’s the middle of the night.”
Her voice cracked with grogginess. They’d come home from the party only a few hours ago, stumbling out in swerving lines to their cabs, drunk on Christmas trees and turkey and Elysia opening all the presents and glass after glass of eggnog.
He turned around from his place at the counter, filthy again with chocolate and visibly exhausted. But he smiled broadly – a good Ed smile, all teeth and cheek and joy.
“Your mom used to make it every year.” He gestured to the contents of his mixing bowl. When she ambled over, she could smell the peppermint in the cacao, and drank in the picture in her heart like winter air – the picture of her beautiful mother in the kitchen with an apron and a piece of puppy-shaped chocolate.
“You’ve barely started.”
He rubbed the back of his head. “I know. And it’s late.”
She smiled, running a finger along the edge of the bowl and licking off the chocolate. “If you put this in some nice hot coffee, we could just stay up all night. Watch the day start and all that.”
He tilted his head. She was very warm and soft in the kitchen on Christmas at night.
“I don’t think Santa will mind.”