Disclaimer: Ed and all of his friends (and not friends) aren't mine. Please don't sue.
Warning: Mix of manga and anime universes. No major spoilers. TWT
At the start of the mission Ed hadn't been worried, merely annoyed. The automail was acting funny again, feeling too tight at odd moments. Which meant he would have to go see Winry. (And no, it wasn't his fault. He hadn't even gotten into any major fights since his last tune up and he'd been doing his maintenance so there!) Al had worried of course and wanted to leave right away but Colonel annoyingly-too-tall Mustang had insisted they go immediately. Well, they had managed to save several lives and even find a few rare books on Human Transmutation so it hadn't been all bad. Unfortunately Ed hadn't been in any state to read them.
As soon as they finished the elder Elric brother had succumbed to a fever long building. Alphonse had used his own discretion and quickly took the teen back to Risenbourg noting the swelling around both of the state alchemist's automail joints. Once there Granny Pinako had made a harsh judgment. Alphonse went into town with Winry to explain the situation to Ed's superior.
Alphonse nodded even though the Flame Alchemist couldn't see it. "Granny Pinako says at least that, maybe more. It depends how long she has to wait between replacing the automail." Beside him Winry glowered. She did not like the Colonel at all and made no bones about showing it. "Even then Nissan will have to adjust to it."
"I see. Take care of your brother Alphonse-kun. Get him healed as soon as possible."
The line went dead before the bound soul could reply. Winry sighed and shoved him towards the store. "If you two are going to be staying with us some more then we'll need some more supplies."
While her grandchildren (one by blood, one by love) gathered food and other materials Granny Pinako continued to work over Ed's automail. Really she should have seen this coming. The boy looked so much like his father… Pinako sighed staring at Ed as the blond shifted uncomfortably in his sleep. She finished the last of the adjustments. That should hold for a few days.
For a long time the automail mechanic had been hopeful Ed wouldn't go through a large growth spurt. The problem with installing automail in such a young child was that they often out grew the ports. This meant that the painful process of installing the automail would have to be repeated after removing the metal from the flesh and allowing the body to heal completely. In her lifetime Pinako had only removed automail three times. Of those cases she had only replaced it once. The first had scared too badly for the nerves to reconnect. The third had chosen a less extensive leg replacement claiming not to have the courage to go through the process again.
When Winry returned with Al, she helped her grandmother begin the preparations for removal. The entire operation took a week. Afterwards Ed's body burned with fever for days. Al came in to check on his brother regularly. He lightly placed his hand on Ed's forehead. For a minute he pretended he could feel his brother's hot skin beneath his cold metal instead of the dreaded numbness that had plagued him for years. Ed stirred under his hands. "I'm sorry Niisan. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"'on't be stupid," Ed mumbled. He pulled the hand back with his left arm. "feels good."
"Well that solves one problem," Winry noted. Al looked at her with confusion. "We didn't want to use ice on him because of all the equipment in the room. Your armor is cool; it'll help bring down his temperature."
"Oh." Not that Al didn't want to help. In fact he felt rather useless in this whole endeavor. It was the first time anyone had used him as an ice pack though…
"He should start coming out of it soon," Winry reassured her childhood friend. "Just hold on a little longer."
The blonde's words proved true. Within a week Ed had made an almost complete recovery from the fever and was gobbling everything in sight. He greatly improved his abilities with his left hand as well. Independent as always, the sixteen year old continued to develop his handwriting and fed himself most days. Three months after the surgery the Rockbells had a surprise visitor.
Winry glared at the other blonde. Normally she got along rather well with First Lieutenant Hawkeye but today she was here on behalf of her commanding officer and Winry Did. Not. Like. Him. "You can't see him. If its that important you can leave them here and I'll see Ed gets them."
Hawkeye stared at the child in from of her. "The Colonel wants this delivered directly to Fullmetal." She also had instructions to check on the alchemist's status personally.
All well and good but today had not been a good day for Ed. Looking very much like her mother-doctor during the war Winry pulled herself to her full height. "Too bad. The Fullmetal Alchemist is my patient and as such I have the right to dictate his visitors. He currently is in no condition to have any." I will protect him.
Someone else might have argued. Even Hawkeye might have argued. Winry Rockbell was not the most intimidating figure, even with her wrench in easy reach. However, Lisa recognized that look. She had worn it several times when dealing with those whowould harmMustang. "Very well. See that Edward gets these please."
"Do you know how much longer it will take until he returns?"
"At least another year." Edward's growth had yet to slow. It was if his body had decided to make up for years worth of developments in a few months. Until it stopped replacing the automail would be a lost cause.
"I see." Hawkeye wasn't surprised. Mustang had pulled up some research on automail after this development. It was a miracle Ed had managed to come to Central a year after receiving the artificial limbs the first time considering it usually took three years. In the small percentage of cases where this happened a five to ten year wait was more common. "We'll be sending more cases for him by mail then. He needs to keep his certification."
Winry brought the documents to Ed the next day. The blond dug into them the way a starving man dives into food. Within a month he and Al had solved the supposedly 'unsolvable' alchemy puzzle. In fact Ed's condition continued to improve as the days rolled by and he completed more assignments. It felt wonderful to do something. He was essentially stuck in bed unable to do much besides read and write. And type his reports. He had become an expert at typing one handed. Winry's non-automail books were driving him nuts. (Though the fictional novels had actually raised some very interesting philosophies and attitudes. He was considering trying them out when he got back to Central.) At least they weren't romances.
Finally a year after the Elrics had returned to Risenbourg Pinako declared they could begin the reinstallation. Al hovered nervously by his brother's side. "I'm sorry Niisan!"
Ed looked confused. "Why?" He was elated. He couldn't wait to get back to normal!
"If it wasn't for me you wouldn't have to do this!"
"Al, we made the decision to try and resurrect mom together. You couldn't have stopped me either. If you hadn't been there I would have been dead."
"But if you hadn't called me back-"
"I would still have to replace my leg."
"Butit would only be one limb, not two!"
"And I wouldn't have you here to back me up." Al fell silent. "I mean that Al. Sometimes I can't think of any reason to go on but then I look at you and I pick myself up."
"I know. I love you Niisan."
"You guys are so cute!" Winry smiled from the doorway.
"Winry!" Ed objected. "I am NOT cute!"
"Alright Al, we have to get started. Can you wait outside? We'll let you know when you can come back in."
The instillation was different this time. At the end of every day Al would stand by his brother's side. No hidden secret separated them this time. Sometimes they would talk; others they would simply enjoy their quiet time. Finally the day came when Ed could get out of bed on his 'own' too feet.
It felt odd, very odd. The Fullmetal Alchemist had become accustomed to the weight and feel of automail over the years. The blond still remembered adapting to the metal limbs the first time and knew what to expect. It wasn't the automail confusing him now, it was the rest of his body. Of course, when you had grown over a foot that was to be expected. He easily matched Hughes' height at least. Pinako admitted he equaled his father's as well. Maybe even taller. 'No more shrimp comments now.'
Sparing was out of the question for now. Just walking around the house tired him. But he would get stronger. He would get it all back.
A flash of light caught Ed's eye. He walked over to the mirror hung on the wall. He stared at the face thoughtfully. A part of him hated it. He hated how much he looked like his father in his coloring. It was a constant reminder of a man who had abandoned his family. But as he looked carefully he could see signs of his mother as well. His general bone structure mimicked hers as did the texture, if not color, of his hair. It seemed somehow appropriate. Those who had never known his mother well would see her in him. 'All mine. Mother…'
"Niisan! Do you want to go for a walk?"
Ed tore his eyes away from the glass. "Coming Al!"
Days turned into weeks then into months. Soon Ed was well enough to return back to Central. He donned a new copy of his trademark red and black outfit after finishing the last report packet Mustang had sent. Winry and Pinako sent them off wishing them luck and good health. As always Winry lectured him on taking care of his automail which resulted in a rant all the way to the train station.
Once on board Al observed his older brother with a smile. Even with his growth spurt the teen managed to curl up on the seat and fall right to sleep. Actually Edward reminded Alphonse of a cat despite his nickname 'dog of the military.' That might be why the blond rejected the cats his sibling found so often. Defending his territory. Yup, Al decided. Ed must be part cat. Standoffish to most, coming to only those he chose, willing to change his mind in a minute…it all fit.
A few minutes later Ed awoke to demanded exactly what was so funny.
Upon their arrival at Central Ed brightened noticeably. He had been waiting for this for months. He grinned as he waved to Broche and Ross. Neither of the soldiers returned the greeting. Instead they merely stared. Similar reactions came from various figures as the two alchemists made their way to Mustang's office made Fullmetal's grin widen even more. Inside the reactions were even more pronounced. Havoc dropped his unlit cigarette. Papers fell from Fury's hands. The bestwas Hawkeye who for the first time in Edward's experience had lost her jaw. "I have my report Lieutenant. I'll head in."
The blondedid not respond. Ed pulled out his secret item and quickly used it then knocked lightly on Mustang's door and entered. Inside the Colonel had an annoyed expression on his face which turned ever so slightly hopeful as the door opened. The reason for this became immediately clear as Edward noticed Lieutenant Colonel Hughes at the man's desk with a stack of photos in his hand. Both officer's expression turned to bewilderment as they stared at the young major. Ed snaped a quick picture to go with the one of Hawkeye. He grins evilly.
Yay! Happy Holidays everyone!
Ed glares at Linn banefully. "What was that for?"
"Happy holidays!" He stomps angrily. "You just made me go though two of the most painful surgeries possible! How am I supposed to have a 'happy holiday'?"
Linn grins. "I made you taller than Mustang."
Ed looks thoughtful. "Point. Okay, you get to live. For now."