Author: Yellow Mask PM
Part one of the Equivalent Exchange trilogy. She knows what she is doing...she has whored her body, to save Ed's soul...slight Edwin, mature themes, very dark.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst - Winry R. & Edward E. - Words: 4,713 - Reviews: 28 - Favs: 37 - Follows: 6 - Published: 06-22-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3610944
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By Yellow Mask
Spoilers: Only up to Chapter 56, really, but makes more sense if you've read up to 70.
Disclaimer: I do not own FMA.
Sailor's Harbour Hotel
Words sprawl across the paper like deadly nightshade – black, thick and poisonous, staining and tainting the pure white paper with the dark, dripping ink, like dried blood on untouched snow.
A fitting metaphor for what it represents.
Winry stares at the paper without truly seeing it, her mind already beginning to shut down in preparation for what is to come. Nausea rolls in her stomach, but she's never thrown up before, no matter how many times her body has tried to rebel against what those words mean, so she knows it can be ignored.
She reaches for her jacket and ties her boots with shaking hands. She glances at Ed and Al's door as she passes it in the corridor, wanting them to remain unaware of her movements, and at the same time desperately hoping they'll emerge from their room and delay her departure.
But the door remains shut, and there is no royal decree to stay Winry's execution.
The night embraces her like a lover, and she finds herself clinging to the shadows between the lamp posts, as though they can offer comfort. As though they can curl around her like an ewe about her lamb and hold her safe and sheltered and hidden from the eyes of the crows that circle above, waiting to feast on tender, vulnerable flesh.
Winry is going to one of the crows tonight. She is going to keep her bargain.
The brass numbers nailed to the front of the door are battered and dented, like they've been pulled from a car wreck and hammered haphazardly to the wood. They're chipped and cracked, the shiny finish peeling away.
As though representing what Winry will do here.
Behind this door she will lay on her back and offer her throat to the wolf, let him take as much as he desires, and then rise bleeding and broken once more. Behind this door she will allow more pieces to be chipped from her, more dents beaten into her, more of herself peeled away beneath the heat of the wolf's breath.
Her hand shakes like a palsy patient's as she reaches for the handle. The door opens with a moan like an animal in pain – she doesn't bother knocking – and reveals a dimly lit room. Obviously cheap and of ill-repute, it contains only the barest necessities; a small table and single chair, a door Winry assumes leads to the bathroom, and a bed with bland cream-coloured sheets.
The door shuts behind her, the sharp snap of the lock sounding like the toll of a funeral bell. Lamenting the part of her which will die, again, tonight.
She doesn't have to look to know he's behind her. The wolf, the crow, a seething tempest of malice disguised as a man. She doesn't have to look, so she doesn't, her eyes remaining trained ahead of her, her gaze moving involuntarily to one point alone, drawn like a fish to a baited hook.
The bed, the altar where she will sacrifice herself to bargain with powers greater than she. Like ancient barbarians slaughtering a lamb to appeal to their brutal gods.
Winry turns as though awakening from an ice age, her movements stiff and halting, as though she has yet to thaw out. She does not meet his eyes, instead stares over his shoulder at the dull beige wall, trying to ignore the gaze that licks at her body like a tongue of cold flame.
"Take off your clothes."
There is no small talk – not even gloating ersatz politeness. They both know what she is here for. What she has come to him for so many times since she first struck her Faustian bargain.
She has whored her body, to save Edward Elric's soul.
Her fingers catch on the edge of her shirt, lifting it over her head as swiftly as she can. It does no good to drag it out – he has infinite patience, so all prolonging the encounter does is heighten her anticipation and fear. Winry has learned it is best to finish it as quickly as possible, like tearing a plaster from an oozing wound. If you do it with haste, it is over more swiftly.
But that knowledge doesn't make it any easier – those few moments before it is finished are always agony.
Her skirt slips from her hips and crumples on the ground, a small dark puddle on the carpet. Winry folds her clothes neatly, placing them on the table, trying to avoid his eyes. As though if she doesn't look at him, he will simply vanish, the same way the ostrich hides its head in the sand.
If she doesn't see it, it can't hurt her...
Her underwear joins the small pile of her clothing, multi-coloured scraps of cloth lying on the table like a litter of puppies abandoned unwillingly by their mother. She wants to catch them up, to snatch them close and never, never take them off again...
He is beginning to pant now, aroused by her nakedness and her fear. Some part of Winry's mind wonders which he is truly enjoying more.
"Get on the bed – on your hands and knees."
She obeys as though struck mute, no whisper of either assent or protest passing her lips. Her mouth flattens into a grim, silent line, and her eyes begin to slip out of focus as she wills her mind away. Trying to be anywhere but here, naked on all fours on a hotel bed. Trying to feel anything but the heat of a large male body behind her and the hands gripping her hips with bruising force, readying for the invasion of her body.
It would be nice if she could send her mind away to the fields of Risembool, to when she, Ed and Al played in the orchards and tucked apples into their pockets to smuggle home later. It would be nice if good memories could banish the slick sheets beneath her palms and the man behind her. But distasteful experiences must be repressed with distasteful memories – Winry has learned this the hard way.
So as the sound of a loosening belt rings in her ears, Winry closes her eyes and thinks of the day she first made her bargain with Kimblee.
It began innocently enough – though she doubts anything about this obscene arrangement can be called innocent. Another fight Ed refused to tell her about, another damaged limb, another repair job. She had been wiping down the bench and cleaning up her room when Kimblee walked in, startling her into dropping her screwdriver.
Sometimes, she thinks that some deeply-buried instinct had already alerted her to what was going to happen – the way people said the subconscious mind realised things faster than the conscious one. Because that day, having only met Kimblee once before, she had felt inexplicably tense. As though a snake had been slithering around her ankles and she was waiting for the moment it would strike.
"I take it Major Elric's repairs are complete?" His tone had made it a question, but something in his eyes had told her he already knew.
Willing to believe he merely wanted to start some small talk, Winry had nodded. "His arm should be fine as long as he stops getting all these fights."
"I'm afraid that's not an option."
There had been a sharpness in his voice, a hint of unholy glee his words, that had made the hairs on the back of Winry's neck prickle as adrenaline began to leak into her veins, her body suddenly, inexplicably on-edge.
She never had a chance to question him, as the alchemist continued as soon as he saw she'd absorbed his previous statement. "I'm afraid the Major will be required to perform his military duties very soon. There is a war brewing and the Fuhrer needs soldiers. More than that...he needs assassins..."
Winry still remembered the way her eyes had widened, something twisting and cracking in her stomach at the thought, like a plastic straw in a toddler's hands.
"I may be able to stop it," Kimblee had told her, as though they were discussing something of no more consequence than the weather. "I do not make the decisions – I am not the one in charge – but my arguments hold some merit. I may be able to sway them."
"Then why don't you?" Winry remembers snapping, her eyes flashing, her thoughts trembling in anger, grateful to focus on something besides the look in Kimblee's eyes. A look she couldn't quite place, but somehow sensed she wasn't going to like.
Kimblee had smiled, and in that instant Winry recognised the glint in his dark gaze – a cat playing with a dying mouse, knowing the prey is already in its grasp but deliberately dragging it out to prolong the pleasure of the inevitable triumph.
"Miss Rockbell," he had purred, making her think of a tiger with a still-kicking gazelle rather than a tabby with a tiny rodent. "I'm an alchemist – we obey the law of Equivalent Exchange. If I were to convince the Fuhrer not to put the famed Fullmetal Alchemist to work as a military dog, what would I get in exchange?"
Winry had stared, unable to ignore the crawling feeling that, previously content to lurk in her intestines, had suddenly climbed to her throat, as though she were about to vomit poison. "You...want something from Ed?"
Even as she spoke, something within her knew that wasn't what he was after.
He regarded her the same way a stalking panther would regard a bird with a broken wing. Something helpless and vulnerable, only inches away from his jaws.
"No, Miss Rockbell...I want something from you."
"M-me...?" The sliver of poisonous dread in her throat thickened, making her speech breathy and choked.
"Tell me...what would you be willing to give up, to ensure Edward Elric does not become a killer?"
His eyes dipped from her face, his stare passing over her body like a bucket of ice water, though his gaze chilled her far more than any liquid ever could. The venom writhing in her throat rose even higher, coiling around her brain like a strangling creeper and making it hard to think.
She knew – or at least, she had a good idea of – what he wanted.
And the knowledge froze her in place as though she'd been plunged into liquid nitrogen. She didn't move, didn't breathe, feeling a creeping chill settle in her very bones.
'I can't...' had been her first, hysterical thought. But the words never made it to her lips, stopped by the barrier of love and loyalty.
She had known – she knows – what it would do to Ed to become a killer. It was the one vow he had clung to as fiercely as the one to restore his brother – the one thing he thought made him better than just another military dog, collared and chained to blood. The only thing that kept his battered soul intact.
If he was forced to kill...
It would destroy him.
'What would you be willing to give up...?'
So Winry had shut her eyes and embraced the chill, letting it seep into every crevice in her body, so that she might never feel anything else again. Nothing past this moment of pure, blinding love, when she realised she would give anything, sell anything, to keep Ed whole.
Her lips parted, and her doom fell from her mouth in frost-coated words, the contract signed in her own blood.
"What do you want?"
He told her.
And rather than allow him to destroy Ed, Winry let Kimblee destroy her instead.
Payment. Fair trade.
"On your back."
Winry's mind snaps back into the room, like a photo flash. Just long enough to respond to his command, then out again, fleeing from the present like a rabbit startled by a fox when too far from the burrow. Knowing the attempted escape is useless, that safety is too far away to be found in time, but instinct and self-preservation forcing her to try.
No matter how useless it is, or how unpleasant the escape might be.
The first time Kimblee called for her was barely two days after they struck their sickening 'deal'. He had told her that whenever he had to dissuade the Fuhrer from forcing Ed to surrender the last piece of his conscience, he would demand her presence in an anonymous hotel room, where she would be expected to submit to whatever he demanded of her.
A small slip of paper was pushed under her dormitory door late in the evening, heralding the sacrifice of her body on the altar of Kimblee's depravity. Winry had picked it up, not knowing what it was, turned it over...and felt her stomach lurch so violently she was afraid she would be sick all over the floor.
For several long moments, she said and did nothing, just staring at the words looping and twirling across the paper, beautiful archaic cursive for a very ugly, twisted act. She had stared at the writing, at the small slip of paper telling her where and when she would surrender herself...and in a brief, wild impulse considered backing out. Considered going to Ed and Al's room next door and confessing her transgression and her almost-sin.
But she hadn't. Winry had barely taken two steps across the floor before she stopped, her feet welded to the wood as her mind screamed at her.
And she realised that even if she did tell the Elric brothers, it wouldn't change anything.
She knew they would be furious. Ed especially, with his drive to protect those close to him. He would stop at nothing to make Kimblee pay for trying to force himself on her.
But even if Kimblee was brought down, another would take his place. Another who would send Ed onto the battlefield or into the enemy's camp, another who wouldn't even stop to bargain with her for her friend's peace of mind.
'What would you be willing to give...?' Kimblee's voice whispered in the back of her mind.
"Anything," Winry breathed, her voice a phantom in the empty room.
A phantom talking to a phantom.
'Why?' a voice asked in the back of her mind. Without rancour, without judgement, just a soft, 'Why are you willing to give so much for him?'
"Because I love him..." she whispered brokenly, the confession not feeling the slightest bit elating or freeing. On the contrary, it felt like the shackle around her wrist, dragging her onwards into Kimblee's cruel bargain. "And I know what it will do to him if he's forced to kill. If I have a chance to save him from that, I have to take it."
'No matter what it costs me...'
Her heart as heavy as a stone in her chest, Winry had walked out of her room, and didn't turn towards Ed and Al's. Instead, she walked on down the corridor, out of the building and on into the night.
She reached the specified room on time, not wanting to give Kimblee any motive to go back on their deal. He had been waiting in the shadows of the room for her; a wolf in the dark, a snake in the grass...
"Off the bed. Get on your knees and open your mouth."
Winry complies, feeling the harsh carpet fibers dig into her knees. She parts her lips – remembering to breathe through her nose – and closes her eyes, shutting him out, shutting the room out.
Shutting the world out, as she's done every night since that first time.
Even with her compliance, he hadn't been gentle with her. When she left that night, she left with blood between her thighs and bite-marks on her breasts. It hasn't gotten any better – she wears long sleeves at all times to cover the purple-blue bracelets constantly ringing her wrists.
She walked home that night in a daze, tears drying on her cheeks and leaving salt-streaks like a crab's footprints through the sand. Feeling blood and semen oozing down the inside of her legs, looking like a whore with her clothes rumpled and her eyes empty...
'And isn't that what whores do?' she asked herself. 'Trade their body for favours?'
Wasn't that what she'd just done? No matter how noble her motives or how good her intentions, wasn't that what she was now?
'Whore...' the blackest depths of her conscience hissed at her, like a vicious cobra concealed in the shadows of her soul. 'Whore...whore...whore...'
When she finally staggered back to her room, every cell aching and throbbing with a pain that had no name, she darted into the bathroom, craving clean water as though she were amphibious. Winry turned on the shower as hot as she could stand, hoping the rattling thunder of the water on the slick tile was loud enough to drown out the condemning voice in her head.
"Good girl." The obscene praise drips from him like sludge. This is how it always ends – him praising her like she's a performing dog.
Of course, to him, that's probably exactly what she is. Send her instructions, and she comes to him and does whatever he tells her to. The world's most obedient bitch.
Winry pulls on her clothes as swiftly as she can, trying to ignore the way Kimblee studies each and every moment as though preparing to write a thesis on her. She grimaces at the stickiness on the inside of her thighs, wishing she has a chance to shower before she bolts from the room. But he never lets her wash herself in the dingy bathroom of whatever hotel he has chosen to house them.
Sometimes, she wonders why. Does he enjoy the idea of her forced to make the long trek back to her room, stained and branded with his essence, unable to remove the mark of his use until she reaches her own shower? Or does his indifference to her extend so far that he simply doesn't care?
She descends the stairs so fast her feet making a stuttering sound on the smoky wood. Each movement burns and stings, as though it was a red-hot poker that was forced inside her, but Winry doesn't even flinch as she tears out into the night.
She has become accustomed to this sensation – it's amazing what the human body can grow used to, no matter how disgusting or agonising.
A cold wind blows grey tendrils of mist into the streets. People hunch in their jackets and huddle in alcoves, but Winry barely feels it. She remembers when she embraced the chill in her room the first time Kimblee mentioned their bargain, and can't help but wonder if such an act has somehow damaged her permanently. She doesn't feel the cold anymore, because it has somehow became a part of herself. She can never get warm now – standing in front of a raging bonfire, her cheeks flush like rose petals and beads of sweat slide down her skin, but inside...there's nothing but ice. Ice surrounding the dead heart of what used to be her soul.
The night is cold, but not nearly as cold as the corpse she has become.
Under the unforgiving spray of the shower – so hot it almost raises welts – Winry scrubs and scrubs until her skin is raw. Purging herself of his touch the only way she knows how, like cutting away the dead flesh from a gangrenous limb. It hurts, but the pain is sharp and savage, purgative and cleansing, a stark contrast to the raw, dirty ache between her legs.
She brushes her teeth so violently her gums bleed. She spits red-tinged toothpaste down the drain, watching it smear and dribble against the surface of the porcelain sink with a fascination almost like illness.
Winry swallows a painkiller with difficulty, her throat stiff with the effort it took not to scream when she felt his hands on her skin. She turns out the lights, grateful for the darkness that hides her, and crawls into bed like a dying animal, curling the covers around her like they are made of steel – as though they can somehow protect her from everything that waits outside her room.
A knock on the door startles her, and she bolts upright in the bed, her eyes wide and her nostrils flaring – a rabbit spooked by the dogs.
"Yes?" Her voice sounds like gravel on razor blades – she needs time to distance herself from the experience before she can even attempt to sound normal. She hopes whoever it is will pass her garbled voice off as a normal reaction to being startled from sleep.
"Are you okay?" Ed's voice is behind the door, sounding a little tired and strained...and so honestly concerned Winry thinks she might cry.
Of course, that impulse is smothered and drowned in the half-panic, half-relief of the thought he might know what she's been doing. She tries to steady her breathing, telling herself there is no way he could know. Ed may be a genius when it comes to alchemy, but as far as social interaction and emotional cues go...he can be as dense as three-foot concrete. There is no way he could have put the pieces together, no way he could know...
And if he did, would it really be so bad? There'd be no need to hide, no need to cry under the covers like a little girl awoken from a nightmare. Would it really be so terrible, if he knew?
She knows it would be. Because at best; he'd stop her, he'd see Kimblee punished for what he did to her, the way a man like him should be punished, and then he would be off to do the military's dirty work, because there would be no one to argue on his behalf then.
At best. And at worst...
At worst, he would think the lowest kind of woman, willing to trade her body for favours. At worst, he'd hate her, lose all respect for her, and likely never speak to her again.
Shame wells in her like a swelling soap bubble, thick and viscous. Belatedly, she realises Ed is still waiting for her answer.
"I...I'm fine." She has never told a blacker lie. She is not 'fine'. She doubts she will ever be 'fine' again. Even when you glue the shattered vase back together, the cracks always show.
A pause. She doesn't hear the steady thudding of his boots on the wood – the sound that sometimes reminds her of a horse's hoofbeats, so regular and rhythmic – so Winry assumes he has not left. She wonders what he's waiting for.
"Are you...sure?" Winry blinks into the darkness – she has never heard Ed sound so...hesitant...before. "I mean, Al said you left, and you were out for a long time, then he said the shower turned on and was running for ages..."
He's almost babbling, and some part of her is vaguely disturbed by that. He's probably concerned that she hasn't switched her light on or let him in yet. While it feels strange to be having this conversation wrapped in darkness, a barrier of wood between them, Winry makes no move to change any of these factors.
The darkness is too comforting for her to turn on the lamp. In the light, she is revealed for what she is. In the light, there are no deceptions, and she sees all too clearly. And she hates herself for what she has become.
So she won't turn on the light, and she won't open the door. Ed may be socially stunted, but he's not blind – if she faces him like this, he'll know something is wrong. She needs at least one night of restless, nightmare-filled sleep before she can step out of her room and feel like she hasn't got a neon sign hovering above her head, screaming 'I was just raped!'
Or was she? Is it rape if she goes willingly?
"I'm fine," Winry cuts Ed off, trying to keep her voice from conveying how brittle she feels – like a dry twig battered by a hurricane, inches away from snapping. He might come into her room if he gets anymore worked up, and that she must avoid at all costs. "Really, Ed...I'm okay."
Something's wrong with his voice. Nothing tangible, nothing solid or concrete, just...something. Like mist on the horizon, a mirage in the desert – something indefinable twisted and blurred.
She wishes she could ask after him. But she won't. She doesn't dare. Not when her eyes are still bubbling with barely-leashed tears and her voice is inches away from cracking like a porcelain angel dropped from the sky.
Winry hears the heavy clop of Ed's boots as he walks away. She hears the tiny mouse-squeak of the door opening, and the low hum of his voice join with the hollow echo of Al's.
And it is only then that Winry lets the tears come. She buries her face in her pillow, biting the fabric, trying to muffle the sounds that are emerging from from her throat – the broken sobs, the throat-tearing whimpers, the soft, keening wail that punches from her lips into the pillow.
This is her weakness, and her only concession to it throughout the duration of these wretched experiences. She never weeps while Kimblee uses her – at least, not since the first time, when she was unable to stop the treacherous beads of salty liquid leaking from her eyes in mourning for her lost innocence – never cries while she walks back or when she's cleaning herself off in the bathroom.
But in her room, in the dark, before she falls asleep and waits for the inevitable rotation of the vicious wheel she's tied to, Winry lets herself cry. The pillow absorbs the salty water until it grows damp, and all that's left in Winry are wet sniffles and broken, empty sobs.
Tomorrow she'll wake up with a headache from her tears and a throbbing pain deep in her abdomen, and Ed will joke with her about another late-night jaunt and she will smile painfully and try to control the urge to vomit. Tomorrow, she'll begin the long, agonising process of putting the splintered pieces of herself back together, only for another note to come slipping under her door another night and shatter her once more. Tomorrow, she'll wake broken again.
Yet strangely, some part of her doesn't mind. Yes, she'll be torn into ragged, bloody shreds of herself until she can't even look in the mirror without cringing away from her bleeding eyes. Yes, she'll be broken.
But Ed will be whole.
That was her deal, the day she struck a bargain with the devil.
Her body for Ed's soul.
In the end, what Kimblee said was true – it all boiled down to Equivalent Exchange.
AN: I have no idea where dark, creepy story came from. Sometimes what's in my mind scares even me. And thanks to LaughingAstarael, who helped me through my first time attempting something so blatantly evil and angsty.