A/N: I'm hoping to keep notes to a minimum. I've decided to try something different and blend the world of Amestris into modern day New York City. Basically some parts of New York I've renamed after locations
in Amestris to reflect inspiration from the world of FMA, but not be exact replicas. Everything in this story should be pictured as the modern day environment of New York, I'm simply borrowing names. I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist.
One smile can start a friendship.
One word can end a fight.
One look can save a relationship.
One person can change your life.
The nurse smiled at me as the needle slid from under my skin with a bold pinch. I had been here a million times, and having blood drawn no longer phased me, but the pinching sensation that came along with it was still annoying. I held the cotton swab in place as a band-aid went over it.
"Thanks Rose," I gave a small, polite smile as I made my way to the lab exit. "I'll see you in a month."
She clutched the small crimson vial and looked back at me with shining, wet eyes.
"No Winry, thank you ."
Very few people knew about my secret. My condition. Of course the nurses at the base hospital in Central knew, but they were sworn to secrecy. And Granny, who's been there from the start, knew. And obviously the military. Thats why I drove every month to come to the base hospital so that they could take blood samples. Sometimes it was more than just that. A blood transfusion here, an experimental vaccination or infection there. All because they've been looking for something. Something that I hold the key too, and yet, I'm as unable to find that key as they are. Even though we have looked for 10 years.
Pulling my leather jacket around me tighter to shield myself against the late October air, I made my way across the parking lot to my Honda Fit. With the money I get from the government, I could easily afford a nicer car if I wanted one. But when you live in the village on Manhattan's lower west side, there's not much point to driving a big fancy car. The streets are narrow and cobblestoned, turns are sharp, streetlights are few and far between, and bike messengers fly up and down the streets as they weave their way between cars. Around here, beautiful cars don't stay beautiful for long. As I neared the driver's side door of my car I noticed a small scrap of paper held against my windshield by the wipers. Assuming it was some sort of ad I pulled it away and merely glanced at it, only to pause a second later and take a closer look. It was a typed note, something that had been printed from a computer.
'I love you' was all it said.
"How sweet." I quietly said to myself. Having no significant other to speak of I assumed the note was meant for another cars windshield and tossed it in my glovebox as I got in.
I was feeling light-headed and decided to swing by the local deli near my apartment on my way home. For some reason I never ate enough before my doctor appointments and it always wound up leaving me nauseous. Christopher street is a long and narrow stretch nestled in a part of Manhattan quiet enough to make you almost forget that you live in one of the biggest cities in the world. Beautiful old brownstones are smushed together along tree-lined streets, accompanied by mom-and-pop cafes, shops, bakeries, and Italian delis. Neighbors and tourists alike can always been see out walking, and somehow, the air down here seems fresher. The cost of living here isn't cheap, but its worth it if you can afford it. My apartment exists on the fourth floor of a pre-war building. The lobby is small and there is no doorman, but luckily there is an elevator and a parking garage two doors down with reserved spaces for the residents of 32 Christopher St.
I parked my car in a reserved spot on the second level and took myself and my sandwich down the stairwell and out on the street. The crunch of autumn leaves under my boots was only masked my the munching I heard in my head, as I simply couldn't take it anymore and decided to eat while I walked home. After the elevator ride to the fourth floor I continued my trek down the long, carpeted hallway until I reached my door and was surprised to find a small package waiting for me. I opened my door and brought the small box inside and set it down on my large ottoman. Upon closing my front door I stopped at the framed, floor length mirror I kept propped up against the wall adjacent to the entrance for those last-minute once-overs before leaving.
Gently pulling off the bandage on my arm, I inspected the forming bruise in the mirror. Sometimes I felt like my skin would never be free from the bruises of needles. My blonde hair is long and full, and cascades to my lower back and down the fronts of my shoulders. I have jagged, choppy bangs that I consistently push to the side, and large blue eyes that -according to my Grandmother- "shine like the sea on a sunny day". I set down my keys on the side table near the door and pushed the button next to the small blinking light on my answering machine. Yes, I'm one of the few people left who still keep a landline. I only have it because the government insists upon it.
*Winry dear,* My grandmother Pinako's voice sprang from the small machine *You've gotta find time to come to the house and clear out all stuff you've left here for the past 4 years. There are nuts and bolts and gears and wires and God know's what else spilling out of these damn boxes. I don't know why you keep all this junk just to put it together, take it apart, and put it back together again, but you can't do it here anymore. You've got that big apartment in the city so take your crap there and get it out of what's soon to be my smoking lounge. Love you, and come for dinner sometime this week.*
I rolled my eyes so hard I almost fell over. The woman was gutting the bedroom I grew up in and turning into some dark den with velvet-tufted walls and large animal heads mounted above a massive fireplace for her and all her friends to smoke cigars and clip coupons in. I didn't understand why she couldn't just sip a glass of whiskey on the living room couch like a normal person. I sat down on my grey sectional and opened my laptop as the answering machine qued up my latest message.
Heavy, shuddered breathing for about ten seconds. Then a deep and raspy male voice.
"I only have eyes for you." With a click, the message ended.
Creepy and weird to say the least. I found myself drawn to the small box on my tufted ottoman that served as a coffee table. I got a knife from the kitchen and slit away the tape-covered seams. What I found inside nearly stopped my heart. Delicately cradled in crimson tissue paper was a human eyeball. The phone rang, startling me, and I leapt back with shock and dropped the box.
"No way that's real" I said out loud to no one. "Its gotta be some sick prank." I backed away as the small, sticky orb bounced slightly off the edge of the ottoman and rolled just a few inches on the hardwood floor towards me. The phone continued ringing until my voicemail answered and stern, smooth voice filled my apartment. Thats when I saw it. The thin, slick tube protruding from the back of the sphere, no doubt where the ocular nerve could be found.
*Winry, Mustang here. I need you to come see me right away. It's urgent.*
My head swam as I stared at the detached eye, which had come to a stop and was now directly fixated on me. My heart pounded, my breathing labored, and I grabbed my keys and ran.
Central was always a swarming hive of worker bees, buzzing around from desk to desk, corner office to corner office, floor to floor from the water cooler and back. Officials ranking high and low would always be found, some clad in uniform and others in plain clothes, sitting at desks or standing together in groups or pairs staring at papers, computer screens, or phones with coffee cup in hand and their brows knit in determination; heavily focused on their current assignment. But my arrival today revealed all of that and then some. Central was less like a bee hive today and more like the floor at the New York Stock Exchange. Everyone was yelling, throwing papers, waving their arms wildly through the air, hollering at eachother or into whatever phone they were holding. Suddenly I wondered if my problem was really all that important. 1st Lieutenant Riza Anira met me at the door and quickly swept me across the room towards the largest corner office.
"Riza what's going on?" I questioned, watching Private Fuery sweat bullets as his eyes scanned his computer screen and Lieutenant Havoc light up cigarette after cigarette as if today was his last day on earth. "Everyone seems...unhinged."
Riza Anira turned her sharp chocolate eyes on me and answered in her usually cool manner, "We've received word that your situation with the military has been compromised and that information about you was leaked by members of Central. A lot of asses are on the line, and everyone is working on proving their innocence."
Riza always stayed calm and collect no matter what. She was forever the eye of the storm, a moment of quiet surrounded by chaos but completely unaffected by it. I longed for her never-frazzled nerves. The only thing that gave me that kind of serenity was a reoccurring dream I've had where I wake up surrounded by jelly donuts. She quickly climbed the ranks of the military for her critical thinking, ability to keep a cool head while under pressure, and for being the best damn sniper the Brigadier General had ever encountered. She was beautiful, tough, and had a glare that meant business. They didn't codename her 'Hawkeye' for nothing.
She escorted me to a corner office with glass walls inside of which sat Brigadier General Roy Mustang, a man pushing forty who managed to look younger with unruly black hair that fell around his ears and hard black eyes. He was speaking in hushed tones with someone over the phone while sitting behind an impressive mahogany desk. His features brightened when we made eye contact and he motioned me in to have a seat. I turned and gave a little wave to Riza as Mustang hung up the phone and slumped down in his leather chair, exhaling a breath of exhaustion and running a hand through his hair, showing his human side.
"Winry we've got problems." He started, massaging his temples with his fingertips and closing his eyes as he continued. "Has anything strange happened to you today? Anything at all?"
I launched into my explanation of the note, the voicemail, and the eyeball as he straightened up in his chair and took notes while nodding intently. He elaborated on what Hawkeye had told me and explained that a certain enemy knew about my involvement with the military and has demanded they end all medical testing or "suffer the consequences". The reason everyone in the squadron was freaking out was because a typed letter was sent to Mustang's home listing the names of every person working in Central and citing every one of them, from the janitor all the way up to Mustang himself, as the source of their information. So like Hawkeye stated, everyone had to prove their innocence, or risk being court-marshaled.
"As you know, this isn't the first time we've gotten threats regarding the advancements in medical science we've made," he continued. "But this is very different. We've been getting threats against your life specifically, which is of course incredibly alarming because no one's ever named you before. And now I see that not only do they know who you are, but they know what you look like, where you live, and why you're so important. We can't risk losing you Winry, and I don't mean that in a material sense. I mean it as a friend. I'm genuinely concerned for your life."
I had known Roy Mustang for years because he'd been running The Godsend Project from the very beginning. He and Riza had been there for me and my grandmother when we first learned of my abnormality and offered us protection, therapy, housing, whatever we needed to keep me a secret. I would work with dietitians and nutritionists regularly to better understand my hyper-fast metabolism, get bi-monthly physicals, give blood every month, and have transfusions when needed. All with the knowledge that someday soon, it would save the lives of millions of people every year.
I was born with an incredibly rare defect known as 'Perfect Blood'. We never realized I had it until I was 7, and the bacterial meningitis that claimed both my parents left me unharmed. I'd been tested for the virus once my parents had been diagnosed, and the doctors were spellbound to find that not only had I not been touched by the contageon, but that my full body scan had come back immaculate and my blood tests were completely pure. Their testing had supported a theory that my blood could possess the ability to clear any virus or disease that entered my body.
"She's a godsend," they told my grandmother. "She could mean salvation for the entire world. She's a perfect specimen of human being."
News of my supposedly perfect blood spread through the world like wildfire, the result of overly chatty doctors, and quickly mutated from a simple theory to a cure for diseases. I couldn't go back to school, I couldn't leave my house, I couldn't go anywhere or do anything without being chased through the streets by complete strangers clawing at me as if I were Christ returned to the earth. People were so desperate to be saved from their illnesses -their good judgement so clouded by mangled versions of the truth that had been spoon-fed to them by the media- that they were swarming me in public with knives and syringes in the hopes that tasting even a drop of my blood would bring them salvation. It was a terrifying childhood. When I turned 18 I went to see Mustang, a Colonel at the time, and told him that I would allow the military to use my body to find a cure for world's illnesses. This was something they were secretly hoping for all along, but Mustang made sure I grew up never feeling pressured into it, and to this day always reminds me that I can stop at any time. It's been 9 years since the experiments started, and Central was coming unfathomably close to a vaccine for HIV, and a complete cure for Leukemia.
"Winry I'm not willing to take any more risks when it comes to your safety, so until we find the traitor in Central and eliminate the people threatening to kill you, I'm assigning you a bodyguard." Mustang laced his fingers on the tabletop casually. I felt the heat of embarrassment flush my cheeks and I grimaced. A body gaurd? It was all incredibly over-dramatic in my opinion. I had been able to evade the occasional whack-job or lunatic over the years, while hiding away my condition as my very existence on earth had become like a memory from a dream for the rest of society. I kept to myself, I didn't have a job, I didn't have friends, and because of that my secret was safe. I handled all of this remarkably well at 27 years old. I was capable of taking care of myself and the last thing I needed was a babysitter.
I felt a shift in the atmosphere of not only Mustang's office, but of the entire open floor behind me. The loud voices in the room had suddenly dropped off to dull murmurs and hushed whispers back and forth amongst co-workers as about 50 sets of pondering eyes all seemed to follow the same moving target across the room. I heard the heavy foot falls of boots coming up behind me and then finally a soft rapping on the frame of the open door.
"Perfect timing." Mustang remarked as he stood to shake hands with the new presence. "Winry Rockbell, this is the person who will be in charge of your protection from now on. I'd like you to meet Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist."