Some of this is my own inspiration, and some is a present for amurderofcrows. I don't have a title for it yet for sure, although I've been using the working title "Looking Back." It'll go up on FF.net when people have looked it over here.
He could remember the first time he kissed her, full on the lips, in the middle of a discussion about where she should go. He'd told her she should go back to the slowly rebuilding Lior and try to start anew. Like he had in the other world. She had said she wanted to come with him. Maybe when he found his alchemy, she'd find what she needed, too.
Somewhere in the middle of this they wound up with their lips together, and one thing led to another. (Or it didn't, really--he'd always been good at ignoring this particular aspect of human life when it was inconvenient, and she still had issues about the whole matter. But it certainly felt like something uncontrollable had been sparked.)
When they could speak again, he had little choice but to allow her to follow him on his quest.
When the Gate had spat Edward and Alphonse back into the world they came from, Rose had been the first person to meet them. At least, that's what Ed assumed. He'd fallen unconscious after the grasping hands in the darkness had wrenched something out of him. When he came to, he was in a quiet room (somewhere in Central, he later found out), and she was bent over him with concern on her face.
It was done. He and Al had reunited; Al had regained his body and now his memories. Foor some reason, though, Ed had not gained his limbs back. He still had the nearly useless prosthetics he'd rigged during his years in the other world.
He asked how long it had been here, in case the time was different. It wasn't. Three years. Here or in the other world, he wasn't even a teenager anymore.
He was quiet through the trip back to Rizenbul, taking in the sight of the world around him--and his brother at his side. He said even less to Winry and Pinako once he got there. The way they looked at him--Pinako with a weary chiding that made him sullen and resentful, Winry with something he couldn't identify in her blue eyes--made him uneasy. He didn't want to deal with any of that. He just wanted to go back to searching for a way to get his arm and leg back. He didn't need them to do anything more than give him his automail and send him on his way.
Only when he'd gotten the automail installed did he realize that something else was wrong. Very wrong.
He clapped, brought his hands together, and nothing happened.
He drew arrays all over the floor and walls, and nothing happened.
It was only then that Al admitted to him what he'd figured out before they left Central: the Gate hadn't reunited them and restored Al for free. It had taken their echoes of itself from inside them. Goodbye, it had said, let me take a parting gift, and then it had kicked them out of the world of equivalent trade.
So now he wasn't just looking for his limbs, and he didn't have his alchemy to do it with. But this only made him more determined.
So it irritated him to no end when, in one inconsequential village on their way back to Central (as good a place as any to start their search), they met Rose once more, standing silently in a train station, her sleeping child in her arms.
He couldn't even remember the details of their argument. Al had been glad to see her, but Ed had not. She was only getting in their way. So as she bought a ticket to accompany them on the next leg of their journey, naturally he'd gotten angry. Accused her of following them. Demanded to know what she wanted.
Apparently somewhere along the line, the answer became 'You.' He was sure she'd had another reason for seeking them out, but he never bothered to ask, after that kiss.
"Where are you going first?" she asked afterwards, not yet including herself by making that 'you' a 'we,' although she obviously wanted to come along.
"Central," Al said from the doorway of their train compartment.
Ed wondered, rather uncomfortably, how long his brother had been there, what he'd seen. So maybe it was just to be contrary that he said, "Lior. We're going to Lior."
The look Rose gave him had a hint of annoyance in it, but Al just looked puzzled. "Brother?"
"I was talking to Rose," he said, trying to keep himself from stressing 'talking' too much, "and it gave me an idea. Better than going to Central. We'll go to Lior first, then Aquroya, then Xenotime, then East City. Maybe then we'll go to Central."
To be honest, he didn't particularly want to go to Central. Al had told him about what had happened to those he'd known in the military in his absence. He didn't want to meet Mustang's inscrutable gaze, now permanently one-eyed; he didn't want to feel the uncomfortable lopsidedness of the man with Hawkeye on one side and a permanent emptiness on the other.
There was nothing in Lior except ruins and a small band of determined Easterners attempting to reclaim what had once been their home. There was nothing in Aquroya, nothing in Xenotime, but fortunately East City was big enough that they could loiter a while before declaring that there was nothing there either.
There was something there. It was Rose.
Ed was fascinated with the way his hand looked against the duskier skin of her cheek, with the softness of her mouth, with the shape of her body against his. He visited her room in the inn one night, and she did not tell him to leave. Even though he was twenty now, he touched her with the awkward hesitance of a teenager.
The next night, Rose suggested to Al that he watch the child for a while, since he got along so well with kids. And Al asked a question that they should have asked some time back, but they'd never gotten around to it.
"Rose? What's his name?"
She was quiet. Silence had been her friend for a while now, even if she'd long since found her way out of its most smothering grasp.
Finally, she said, "He doesn't have one. Yet." At the looks on their faces, she hurried to add, "He will soon. It'll be perfect."
"Rose," Ed said carefully, "he's almost four years old."
"I know," she said quickly. "You can come up with a name for him, if you want to call him something. That's what most people have done. I just haven't figured out his real one yet." She smiled at them. "See, you're not the only ones searching for something."
So Al watched the child, because he needed a babysitter even if he didn't have a name, and Rose took Ed back to her room. When he kissed her there, this time it was serious, and this time, in a nervous, tentative tangle, it did lead to other things.
Months passed like this, piling up on each other until they threatened to topple over into a year. Ed and Al moved from town to town, avoiding anywhere that might have people they knew, Sometimes Ed would catch Al looking at him strangely, like he was waiting for Ed to do something. He tried not to catch these looks, because they made him annoyed and uncomfortable. He was doing something, wasn't he?
It took them half a year, but eventually they wore out the places within Amestris and its immediate environs that might hold some clue. Edward began to notice his brother showing more interest in helping Rose look for the perfect name than in finding a way to regain their alchemy.
On their way deeper into Ishbalan lands, where Ed was sure they'd find the answer they needed now that they'd used up all the possibilities closer to home, he took his brother aside and confronted him about this.
"Brother," Al said slowly, "the child is four years old. He needs a name--one that sticks, not one that goes away as soon as we leave the latest place he's made friends. You should pay more attention to him, you know." Neither Ed nor Rose had ever outright told Al what was going on between them, but it wasn't hard to figure out after a while.
"I'm no good with kids, Al," Ed muttered, which was of course a lie. As much as it embarrassed him to admit it, he adored children. But this particular child disturbed him in ways he couldn't pin down. He reminded him of things best left forgotten. "And coming up with a name is Rose's job. Don't you want to get your alchemy back, too?"
Al hesitated, his gaze drifting uneasily to Ed's automail arm. Finally, he said, in a very small voice, "I just want you to be happy, brother."
The discussion didn't really go anywhere productive after that.
They met a man in a cave sheltered from Ishbal's desert sun, but still miles from civilization, the entrance scoured of the arcane sigils it had once been carved with by the relentless blasting force of windblown sand.
"Were they important?" Ed asked the Ishbalan as he stepped inside the cave and started down the stone-hewn steps. The only other person who didn't have to stoop to do so was Rose's kid. Even Rose herself bent down a little in the low stairway.
The man shrugged. "Probably."
"Why don't you recarve them?"
"Better this way." They were in darkness now, light dwindling from the opening. They turned a corner, and Ed nearly stumbled at the sudden completeness of the darkness. The Ishbalan merely struck a match and lit a pair of candles on the wall. Then he picked up the miniature candelabra and started downwards again. "You think it's easy finding a good alchemical workshop around here? If anyone from home ever figured out what I'm doing here, they'd ransack the place."
"Brother," Al murmured from behind Ed, "are you sure we should be doing this?"
"Yeah. But what the hell is Rose doing here? This is dangerous."
Al drew in a breath, as if he was about to respond, but then he caught his response and held it still.
"What?" Ed demanded.
Al said nothing.
Restless and uneasy with the import of what they were about to do, Ed turned his attention to the man leading them down the stairs. "Who are you, anyway? Don't you have a name?"
"Not here, I don't," the man said. "I don't expose my name to the Art. The name is a way into the soul, and the Art eats souls." He was silent for a moment, and then he said, "It'll get mine in the end. But it'll take longer, this way."
"Alchemy does not eat souls," Ed said. "I used it to save my brother's soul."
The man paused for a moment on the stairs, then shrugged again. "Fine, then. What if I said that names attract God's attention, and I don't want Him knowing what I'm doing here?"
Ed just glared, but from behind him, Rose said quietly, "You sound like you know a lot about names."
In front of them, a wide, echoing chamber opened up as the stairs flattened into nothing. Alchemic designs on the floor spread out and vanished into the darkness. The Ishbalan began lighting candles set within recesses at certain points on the floor. "Names are the heart of the Art," he said. "You have to know what something's called to force a change in it. Even you alchemists know that," he added, glancing back at Ed. "You call water 'H2O' and say it's science, but really you just need a name for what you're trying to transmute."
"I think I'm starting to figure out why you guys have such a problem with alchemy," Ed said. "You think it's magic."
"Ed," Rose said, "be quiet. I want to hear what he has to say about names." She glanced down at her son, who was clinging to her leg and staring at the scene before him.
"Rose, you shouldn't even be here," Ed said. "This is going to be dangerous."
"What did you expect me to do, wait outside in the desert? Maybe leave my child out there alone?"
"Well--" Ed started, then shut up when he realized that this was a rhetorical question. He could feel Rose's glower without actually turning back to look at her.
"Besides," she said quietly, "if he's right, there might be something here that I'm interested in, too."
"I guess he could try a transmutation on the kid--why do you look like you're about to hit me?"
"Take a guess, Ed," Rose said, and she picked the child up and stalked pointedly away from him.
"I don't understand girls," Ed muttered sullenly as he walked over to the Ishbalan. "When will you be ready to start? This place doesn't exactly have the greatest ambience."
The man looked up from where he was knelt on the ground, chalking in one of the lines carved into the stone. "Look, you're asking me to make God take you back after He deliberately rejected you. These things take time."
Ed scowled. "Could you stop with all the God business? All I want is to get back in touch with the Gate. Ishbala's not involved anywhere."
The Ishbalan grimaced. "What did I tell you about names?" He shook his head. "The Gate is the Eye of God. I think that means He's involved. Stupid alchemists. Do them a favor and they start throwing science at God." He sighed, then added in a less cranky voice, "But if it makes you feel any better, I'm almost done."
Ed wasted another few moments glaring at him, then stalked off to find Rose. It wasn't hard--she was very pointedly crouching in the corner, a comforting arm around her child. He stared at her for a minute, waiting hopefully for her to speak up, then finally said, scruffing awkwardly at the back of his neck, "I'm sorry about what I said." He still wasn't entirely sure what he'd said that was so wrong, but he knew she'd been upset by it. "I know this is important to you too."
After an uneasy moment, Rose looked up at him, and her angry expression softened, the corners of her mouth turning up just slightly. "It's all right," she said, standing and reaching out to take his hand. Not for the first time, Ed wondered what she saw when she looked at him like that. He leaned in to kiss her.
The Ishbalan chose that moment to rap sharply on the ground and say, "Come on. Let's go."
Rose stayed in her corner, holding on protectively to her son. The Ishbalan stood at the far end of the room, where the lines of the array converged. Ed and Al stood back-to-back at the very center of the array.
"Al," Ed said quietly, "are you sure you want to go through with this?"
"If you need to do it, brother, I'm not going to let you go through it alone."
Ed laughed into the darkness. "Okay."
And then it wasn't dark anymore, because everything around them lit up in blue and white light. In the new brilliance, Ed could see designs even older than the arrays etched onto the cave walls, dim images that might have been letters, numbers, or mute pictures. He couldn't tell, but their sheer age comforted him.
Then a new darkness emerged from the heart of the light. It split into many grasping hands, which pushed their way rudely through the crowd of light, approaching the two brothers. Neither flinched.
The grabbing hands were inches away from Ed's face when they stopped as if tugged from behind. They twisted around until they reached into the corner where Rose stood. Then they reared back and lunged--not at her, but at her child.
For an eternity of a second, Ed was frozen in place as Rose screamed. Why had it gone wrong? It had been perfect!
Then, behind him, Al fell to his knees and scrabbled frantically at the chalked-in lines, struggling to undo the alchemy that was already underway. The light rose up around the two of them so fiercely it seemed to cut open Ed's skull, and he fell back into unconsciousness without the slightest whimper of protest.
When Edward woke up, he wished he hadn't. He ached not with a steady pulse but in ragged bursts all over. He tried to sit up and promptly decided that he'd let that wait till there were fewer spikes jangling around his spine.
He turned his head very carefully to examine the room around him, but there wasn't much to see. It was like any other inn room he'd seen in all the small towns he'd visited over the past nine months.
He gingerly rubbed his eyes and tried to shut out the pain. Only the sound of the door opening brought him back to reality. He looked up to see his brother watching him nervously from the entrance. After a long, cautious moment, Al said, "How do you feel, brother?"
Ed stared at him. "Like shit, Al. How come you're up and about? I thought you got knocked down by...whatever that was, too."
Al hesitated in responding. Finally, he said, "Yes, but it looks like it did much more damage to automail than flesh."
Ed blinked. Then, this time forcing the pain down against its will, he sat up and took a good look at his right arm--or rather, the melted mass of metal and wires attached to his right shoulder. The rest of it had apparently been blasted into oblivion. He pulled back the thin sheet covering him and stared at his left leg. At least it was still there, albeit as a fused, nonfunctional lump of metal. If he hobbled, he could probably walk. But he wasn't looking forward to the pain that would result.
"Oh," he said.
Al had helped him get halfway to the bathroom when a much graver thought struck him. "Rose!" he yelped. "Where is she? And the kid, is he okay?"
"Brother!" Al struggled to steady him. "Rose is in another room in this inn, and her child is fine. We stopped the alchemical reaction im time."
"You stopped it, Al," Ed said quietly. "I didn't do a damn thing." A beat, and then he asked, "Why did the Gate go for him instead of us, anyway?"
"I don't know," Al said. "Neither did the Ishbalan, but he said that it might have something to do with the Gate somehow knowing the boy from before."
"And it doesn't know us?"
"Do you think it was going to do anything good to him, brother? Did you really want it doing something like that to you?"
Ed was silent for a moment. Then he said sullenly, "I want my alchemy back."
"I know, brother. I know." Al looked down at the floor. "Rose wants to talk to you."
Ed frowned at him, then said, "Too bad. We're going back to Rizenbul to get me new automail."
"Without even telling her? Come on, we can't--"
"We can and we will. We can't have her slowing us down, Al."
Al stared at him hard for a moment. Then he just sighed and started pulling Ed forward again.
The trip took longer than it should have and, as far as Ed was concerned, not long enough. He couldn't decide whether to worry about the look on Winry's face when she saw him show up at her door like this, or the look on Rose's when he finally saw her again. Eventually, he settled on worrying about the latter.
Fortunately, it turned out that he needn't have worried about the former. When Al knocked on the door of the Rockbell automail shop for them both, it was Pinako who answered.
"Hmph," she said around her pipe. "Come to see--" She cut off abruptly as she saw the state of Ed's automail. "...never mind that. When Winry sees what you've done to her automail now..."
"Wait, why did you think we were here?" Ed demanded.
Pinako just shook her head and hauled them inside. "Sit down and wait," she commanded them. "I'll get Winry." She pushed them at a pair of chairs and vanished into the interior of the house.
It took her longer than they'd expected. In the ensuing silence, Al said, "What do you think she meant by that?"
"She thought we were here for some other reason. You know that."
Ed stared uncomfortably at the wall ahead of him. "Yeah. But I don't know why."
A door slamming all too nearby alerted them to Winry's approach with only seconds to spare. She was pale and tired-looking, but the fury that lit up in her eyes at the sight of the damage to Ed's automail clearly obliterated any fatigue she was feeling. He had just enough time to be thankful she wasn't carrying her wrench before the first open-handed blow landed.
"You idiot!" she snapped. "You idiot! What did you do, walk into a furnace? I can't believe you did that!" She hit him again and again, until he was reeling back against the wall from the blows.
It only stopped when Al reached out and grabbed her wrist. "Winry," he said urgently, concern looming large in his grey eyes, "you're hurting him."
It was only then, as the stinging subsided, that Ed noticed something: Winry was nearly in tears, and she was shaking. He stared at her until he noticed something else. "You have blood on your hands," he said.
She looked at the two of them for a moment longer, and then she started to cry.
It took them several minutes to get her to stop crying enough to speak, and even then, her explanation didn't make things any better. But she told it to them all the same, because they had to know.
"Three days ago," Winry said, "Izumi and her husband paid us a visit. She wanted to know where you two were," she added. "It was good to see them, until--" She hesitated, then went on, "Izumi got sick. She just collapsed on our floor and started throwing up blood."
"There's a medicine she takes," Ed said. "Couldn't you--"
"Sig went to get it as soon as we realized how sick she was," Winry said, "but he had to go back to Dublith. It'll be at least another day or two before he gets back with it." She stared down at her hands, one of them flecked with blood. "She's really sick," she said quietly. "There's been a lot of blood."
"Internal bleeding," Ed said dully.
"I know that," Winry snapped. Then she swallowed hard and said in a more subdued tone, "I'm sorry. I just...it's been hard on us. I didn't mean to hit you." A beat. "That much. Because you deserved some of it. What did you do to your automail?"
Ed shook his head. "We don't have time for that now." He looked around him, attempting to stand up as he did so. This only resulted in him falling hard back into his chair. "Just--get me a piece of paper and a pen. I learned a few things about the chemistry of medicines while I was--away. I should be able to come up with something--is Izumi conscious at all?"
Winry nodded. "Sometimes." She stood and moved a little further into the house, rummaging about in drawers. A minute later, she returned, holding out a pad of paper and a pen to Ed.
"I'll write up the ingredients for something that should keep the bleeding down until Sig gets back with her medicine," Ed said, starting to write on the pad. "And directions about the proportions, too. Izumi should be able to put them together right with alchemy." He wrote for a minute longer, then said, "Here, you can get these at most stores--"
"No," Al said suddenly. "I'll get them. Winry, you stay here and make sure brother doesn't do anything stupid." He grabbed the pad and made off with it before either of them could say another word.
They both stared after him for a minute. Finally, Winry said again, "She's really sick. I hope your idea works, Ed."
"It will," he said, clenching his good hand into a fist. "It has to. I mean..." He trailed off.
"You've lost a lot already, haven't you?" she said.
He said nothing in response, and after a moment, he looked away.
Tension filled the next few days. Al brought back the chemicals Ed had asked for, and Izumi did her best to turn them into a proper medicine--and then they waited. Winry threw herself into making Ed's new automail, and Ed and Al sat and talked about where they'd go next.
On the third day, Sig returned with Izumi's medicine in hand. Ed waited nervously outside of the room she was staying in to hear word of her condition--but he didn't dare go in to see her.
"She's going to be okay," Winry said when she finally emerged from the room. "At least, I think she is. You, though!" She grabbed him by both shoulders. "Don't you go anywhere. I just need to put a few more touches on your automail, and then we can install it."
"Oh, I'm really looking forward to it," Ed muttered.
Winry glared at him and stalked off.
Edward Elric had suffered plenty of pain in the years since his fateful attempt at human transmutation, but none of it would ever approach the pain his automail could cause. Something about the wires twining into his raw nerves, hot with the energy required to make the connection, but not so hot they'd cauterize and make him go numb to the pain--nothing could compare.
But he would not cry. He would not even scream.
Halfway through the surgery, he glanced over at Winry. Their eyes met, gold heat caught by blue calm.
It was, somehow, a little easier to get through the rest of the pain after that.
"I guess we'll be going now," Ed said, picking up his coat and approaching the door. He'd had a day to recover from the surgery. Winry had told him to wait two days, just in case, but he was already restless to move on.
"Not a chance," Winry said from behind. Ed whirled around guiltily. He hadn't even noticed her approach. "There's no way I'm letting you go so soon. You'll just mess up my automail again."
"You don't have a choice," Ed said flatly. "We're going. Come on, Al."
Al hesitated. "Winry--"
"Come on, Al," Ed repeated. He turned again and pulled the door open.
Standing there, her hand poised to knock, was Rose.
For a moment, the silence was absolute.
Then Winry stepped up and said cautiously, "Can I help you?"
"No," Ed blurted. "Rose, now is not the time! You know I was going to come back as soon as I got the automail installed. Why'd you have to--" He made vague, embarrassed gestures at his surroundings.
She glared at him. "Excuse me," she told Al and Winry both, "I just need to talk to the idiot for a minute."
She yanked Ed outside by his collar and slammed the door behind him.
Inside the house, Al said, "That really isn't a good sign."
"Um," Ed said. "Hello, Rose." He looked around. "Where's the kid?"
"I paid someone in town to watch him for a little while," she said. "We need to talk alone, Ed."
"I'm sorry about the way things happened, Rose," he said. "But I think we can move on anyway. Al suggested that maybe we go all the way out to Xing now--"
"You can if you want," Rose said quietly.
"Well...yeah," Ed said. "We will. What's wrong?"
"You can go if you want," she said. "But I'm not coming."
There was a pause. "What?" Ed said.
"It's over, Ed," she said. "I'm through with this search of yours. I'm going to Lior to help them rebuild."
"But there's nothing there of the old Lior anymore," Ed said. "You said so yourself, back when we first went there."
"Exactly," Rose said. "I can't keep running back to the past anymore. I'm going." She paused, then said, "And if I don't have a name for my son by the time I get there, I'm going up to the first man I find, asking him what his name is, and giving that to the boy. I've been a terrible mother, but that ends now."
Ed stared at her for a moment. "What about me, Rose?"
She hesitated, looking at him hard. Then she said, "Goodbye, Ed." And she turned and started away.
He watched her go, mute with confusion and a vague sense of loss. He had the peculiar feeling that he was losing something other than a lover.
When she turned a corner out of sight, he sat down hard on the steps and just stared into the distance.
It wasn't until over half an hour later that Ed heard the door open behind him. "Go away, Al," he said sullenly. "We can leave soon. Just...not now."
There was no reply for a moment. Then Izumi said, "Edward. Are you all right?"
He jumped to his feet and turned around hurriedly. "Sensei! I'm sorry, I didn't mean--are you okay?"
She smiled slightly, although she still looked very tired. "I'm better now. Thanks in no small part to your help, Ed." She looked at him for a moment. "I heard there was a woman here just now..."
He stared at the ground. "I...she...it's a long story, sensei, but I did some very stupid things trying to get my alchemy back." He looked up at her, not even bothering to raise his arms in defense. He knew he deserved whatever she rained down on him.
She frowned at him. "I'm disappointed in you, Edward. But not entirely surprised. I suppose you have to learn these things your own way. But try not to make too many mistakes, okay?" She rested a hand on his shoulder for a moment, smiled wearily, and turned to go back inside.
"Sensei?" he said, startled.
She turned around. "Yes?"
"Aren't you going to...you know, hit me? I did terrible things!"
She didn't look angry so much as exasperated. "I'm not your teacher anymore, Ed. Your choices are your own. It's not my job to punish you for them." She shook her head and started inside once more. "But I hope you can figure out what's right."
Once Izumi was gone, Ed gave over his body to autopilot and just ran. He felt a terrible urge to cry until he had no more tears left in him, but he fought it and fought it and just kept running.
Until he tripped and sprawled face down in the dirt. He made no effort to get up.
After a while, he heard footsteps behind him. This time, before saying anything, he turned to look at who it was. Winry was coming his way from her house. He blinked, then glanced behind him. He was sitting within a few feet of the burnt and overgrown wreckage of his old home.
He was still staring at it when Winry reached him. "Who was she?" she asked.
He shook his head, pushing himself into a sitting position. "Nobody. Nothing. There wasn't anything between us."
She gave him a very distinct Look. "Is it asking so much that just for once you not be an idiot about people?"
He stared down at the ground, blinking furiously. "I don't know," he said. "I don't know anything anymore, Winry."
She just stared down at him for a moment. Then she lowered herself to the ground beside him. "Yes, you do," she said. "You know you can always come home to me."
He looked up to meet her eyes.
The next thing he knew, he'd finally lost the battle against tears, and he was holding onto her and weeping on her shoulder. She held him tightly, stroking his hair but not saying anything, just letting him cry. "There's so much I've lost," he sobbed. "So much I can't ever get back. I can't come home. There's nothing there for me. I don't have a home anymore."
When he'd finally cried himself dry, Winry said, "Of course you have a home. It's here. Right here, with me and your brother. Silly," she said. "Didn't I tell you that? It may not be much of a home yet, but we can work on that. It'll just take time and effort."
She stood up and held out a hand to him. "Come on," she said. "Let's go home."
He hesitated, gesturing at his automail leg. "I think I might have pushed it too hard, too soon. Like you told me. I fell, and...maybe I shouldn't be walking yet."
She didn't pull her hand back. "Go on. Try."
He looked down, then back at the burnt husk of his old house, and then back at Winry.
"I'll help you," she said.
He smiled up at her, and swallowing the last of his tears, he took her hand and got to his feet.