Title: Professional Pride
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Ed, Winry, Al.
Summary: Winry and Ed have rather different definitions of 'minor' damage.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt word "Toes" at Fan Flashworks.
"Alright, that should do it." Winry gave one last turn to the final screw that secured the plating of Edward's automail arm. "Try it out and see how it feels."
Ed complied, gingerly flexing the prosthetic limb that had been damaged and half-immobile when he arrived two hours earlier. Upon finding that the arm now moved freely and easily once more, his face lit up with the delighted grin of a child with a new toy. "It's perfect! Thanks, Winry!"
At Ed's shoulder, Alphonse approximated a throat-clearing sound within his hollow tower of armor.
"Maybe now you should have Winry look at your other little problem," he said pointedly—which prompted Ed to turn scarlet and wildly wave a negative gesture at his younger brother.
Of course, by that time it was too late.
"…Other little problem?" Winry asked slowly, flattening the words between her teeth.
The older Elric turned his dismissive flailing to her—although now he looked more scared than irritated. "It's nothing! Just a tiny little bit of cosmetic damage to my leg. Not a problem at all." He yammered these assurances in a tone of forced lightness, but his desperate grin was the opposite of convincing.
"Don't try to fool me, Ed. If it was really only cosmetic damage, I know you'd just use alchemy to smooth it over—whether I like you monkeying with the steel or not." Winry glared at him. "So what is it really?"
Ed wilted, scowled, and finally caved in.
"Okay already," he muttered, and reached into his hip pocket, withdrawing something which he tossed down on the workbench with a faint clink.
Winry stared at the object. It was a smooth, rounded nub of steel, roughly the size and shape of a small acorn. A few torn wires were protruding from one end.
"Is that what I think it is?" the mechanic snapped—even though she didn't really have to ask. She knew her craft, and especially her grandmother's handiwork, more than well enough to realize exactly what she was looking at. It was the severed little toe that was supposed to belong at the end of Ed's mechanical left foot.
"It is," Al sighed flatly. "He smashed it against a wall when a guy he was trying to kick dodged him—and he's been carrying it around in his pocket like that for nearly a month now."
"Hey, come on, it's not like it really matters!" Ed protested, flinching only slightly when a different level of surprised offense flashed across Winry's face. "What does a toe ever do anyway but just sit there at the bottom of my boot? I can walk just fine without it, so waiting to fix it until I needed a more important repair was no big deal. I wasn't gonna come all the way back here and bother you just for that!"
"Dummy, it is important! If we didn't have toes for a reason, why do you think automail mechanics would go to the trouble of articulating them so precisely? They help keep you steady on your feet, even if it's only to a small degree. Maybe you don't notice it just in walking around, but you can't afford to have your balance screwed up even a little when you get in fights the way you do!"
The boy's eyes widened slightly at that, his objections momentarily silenced.
"…Now come on," Winry continued harshly, snatching up the toe from the workbench and a pair of pliers from her toolbox. "Get that boot off, and let's fix this."
Faced with the prospect of the actual repair, Ed's mildly surprised and wondering look collapsed once more into a grimace.
"It's just gonna hurt when you reconnect it. Still seems like a stupid thing to go through that for."
She rounded on him, planting her fists on her hips. "Alright, Edward, let's get one thing straight here. Since you just had to go and make yourself a famous State Alchemist, you'd better accept the fact that you're the biggest walking advertisement Rockbell Automail has ever had—and I am not gonna have anyone see my work all busted up anytime you happen to run around barefoot. So suck it up and sit down!"
A momentary glimmer of indignation darkened into a sulk. At last Ed compliantly dropped onto the bench, yanked off his left boot and sock, and propped up his automail foot—revealing a hole plugged with cotton in the place where his little toe had snapped off at the joint. At least he had sense enough to make some effort to protect the severed connection wires, the mechanic grudgingly acknowledged.
Winry knelt down and set to work reattaching the toe. Engrossed in her task, she stopped noticing the moody tension of Ed's silence above her… until several minutes later, when he finally spoke in a peevish grumble.
"…Well, if you've just been using me all this time as your human billboard, you'd better not expect me to pay for the repair job this time."
In his awkward position, he was just a little too slow to avoid the casual swing of her wrench.
2017 Jordanna Morgan