AN: Thanks in advance for reading! Please let me know what you think.
"Idiot. You better bring back what's left of it!" Winry fumed as she hung up the phone. When would Ed learn to take care of his automail? She only saw him when he was in pieces and she had to put him back together so he could do it all over again. It shouldn't have been particularly perplexing that she needed to dent his head regularly.
One day, he would have to acknowledge the art of her profession. What he didn't realize was that each piece was crafted to suit the person; that she spent hours and days and months reworking his designs; that each time, it was an increasingly complex blend of strength, brashness, and a stunning amount of adaptability to suit all the various tasks Ed would ask of his limbs. She knew the lines of his right arm like she knew the curl of his hair, the quirk of his mouth, the set of his jaw. She meshed the two together until she spent as much time with the metal as she had spent with the boy, and each time he returned, what she gave him was just slightly better than the last one, but always her best.
Ed gave his arm a remonstrating look. That last time had been closer than he'd ever admit to her. If he'd been just a second slower in ducking after his arm had finally given out, there would've been a lot less of him for her to abuse. But then again, that probably wouldn't stop her.
He tried twitching his fingers. No luck. He really was grateful, even though he didn't show it. How many times had he done something with his automail arm that would have shredded his left? If it ended up broken more often than he did, it was only because he knew it was stronger than he was. If he still went as hard or harder in the next fight with that same arm, it was only because he knew that Winry didn't make subpar products, and if it was anyone's fault, it was his. The limbs she gave him would take the brunt of the payment for the mistakes he made, when he was too slow, too careless, too naïve to see it coming. It was because of them that he could keep walking.
But then, after all the silence in between, Ed would come. And she'd fix his stupid arm, and probably his leg too, and watch him test them out. She'd see how driven he was, how that fire in his eyes burned even more brightly than before, now that he was fit to continue pursuing his goals. And she'd help him get there, even if he didn't understand how incredible all the little masterpieces she'd given him were. But that was okay, because she'd bill him in lieu of it.
And he and Al would go outside to spar, or she'd watch them run off, already in action, and suddenly, even with as much pride as she took in her work, and how much her skills were growing in finesse and subtlety, she'd find herself staring at him. Her resolve would grow.
It wasn't that her work had diminished. It was just that when she looked at Ed, what was amazing wasn't her work, though it was most assuredly a work of underappreciated genius. The problem was that he shone through all of it, living so fiercely and fully that mere metal just couldn't keep up. But she'd keep trying, because she needed to see him succeed, she needed him to come back, and until that day came, she would draft as many designs as it would take in a hopeless attempt to match him.
It wouldn't be surprising if Winry only liked the metal parts. Whenever he went back, her eyes spent .5 seconds on his face before skipping straight to the automail, examining them with an intensity that he had yet to interface with – in no small part because when he tried, it was like they were two magnets with reverse polarity.
A small, secret part of him knew that this was one of the perks of needing prosthetics. He knew she thought of him constantly because he was reckless with her creations, and he knew that when he broke something, he could call her and go to a place that was dangerously close to being home. And some nights, when the moonlight glinted off the metal of his forearm, he could see the shape of the pieces, individually crafted and filed for optimal performance.
He couldn't say anything yet, but he knew. When this was over, he'd exchange this arm of his for a different type of bond, based not on necessity but want. And when Al was restored and they regained what was lost, then there would be time to find, to build, to forge something new and utterly human between them, greater than mechanics and alchemy combined. He just hoped she would think so too.