By Yellow Mask
Part of the 'Risembool and Rush Valley' series
Spoilers: The manner of Trisha's death.
Disclaimer: I do not own FMA.
This is the first of a series I am calling the 'Risembool and Rush
Valley' series. They are Edwin themed oneshots, but will center
around Winry's life in both Risembool and Rush Valley, the part that
is fairly unconnected to the visits from the Elric brothers. The
individual stories won't be directly related unless indicated, but I
just had a slew of ideas on Winry's life because we don't see much of
it that doesn't relate to Ed's visits.
And why is this story listed as complete? Because each story stands alone, so each is complete in itself.
Winry tried to repress the tickle building in her throat, but it exploded in a series of racking coughs that made her chest and stomach ache as the muscles protested the violent movement.
She was coughing badly, her throat was sore, her nose was running, her joints ached, her muscles throbbed, and her head felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool.
She was sick, no two ways about it. She wondered if her little excursion in the rain had anything to do with it.
Two days ago, she'd been caught in the rain while going home from the market. She'd run the rest of the way home, but now it seemed like the damage had already been done.
Winry bent over with the force of her coughing, managing to regurgitate something that looked like it belonged in a slime pond rather than her lungs.
"Gross," Winry muttered, washing her hand in the sink.
"Granny," she called into the workshop, only to begin coughing again as the shout irritated her throat once more.
"You sound sick," her grandmother barked.
"That's the point. I'm going back to bed before I hack up a lung."
"Smart girl. Do you need anything?"
"Just sleep, I think."
Winry managed to stagger back to bed, and practically collapsed into the rumpled sheets. She closed her eyes, and her drained body gave into sleep within moments.
Winry remained in bed for the next week, and Pinako was growing concerned with the length of her granddaughter's illness. She'd called the doctor on the second day, and he had recommended plenty of bed rest. Which would have been good advice, except that bed rest simply didn't seem to be doing anything for Winry. If anything, her illness was getting progressively worse.
Winry was pale and running a fever, and on those days when she actually did manage to summon enough energy to totter around the house, it was never very long before she had to rest again. Though Winry had been trying to keep her strength up, any food she ate never stayed down for long, and she was steadily losing weight as her body was forced to burn fat reserves to keep functioning.
"Now are you sure you'll be alright?" Pinako asked, "If we didn't need these groceries so badly I'd stay with you-"
"I'll be fine, Granny," Winry cut in from her position on the couch, lying on her back and gazing steadily at the cieling. "Really – I'm not going to do anything but sleep."
"Glad to hear it," Pinako said gruffly, "And I'll try to get the doctor out again – you should have been on the mend long ago. Now, are you comfortable where you are?"
"Actually, I might go up to bed."
Winry slowly gained her feet and took the stairs with a definite quiver in her step.
Ed tried to sneak into the house, on the lookout for flying wrenches. But Al ruined his attempt at silence with his bellow of greeting.
"Granny! Winry! We're back!"
Ed winced, waiting for the inevitable blow to the head. But silence reigned throughout the house, save for Den's welcoming barks.
"Where are they?" Ed asked, looking around the barren house.
He took a deep breath, then shouted at the top of his lungs, "Winry!"
A crash sounded from Winry's bedroom, and a sleep-riddled voice called, "What?"
The blonde mechanic staggered down the stairs, clad in a long-sleeved shirt and pants, blinking blearily and rubbing her eyes. She seemed to be weaving on her feet, and Ed could tell they'd woken her up from a sound sleep when she responded only half-heartedly to Al's enthusiastic greeting and failed to fling a wrench at his head.
"Where's Granny?" Al asked, looking around.
"Went grocery shopping," Winry yawned.
"Still asleep?" Ed chuckled, raising an eyebrow. "It's nearly two in the afternoon!"
"Shut up, alchemy freak," Winry growled, leaning heavily against the table. "What's broken this time?"
Ed's eyes narrowed. Was it just his imagination, or did Winry look paler than usual? There seemed to be fine sheen on sweat on her skin as well...
Ed shook his head. Winry was fine – she was always fine.
"It's not broken broken..." he defended, raising his arm.
Winry groaned, looking at the mangled casing and exposed wires. She would have wrenched him, but every joint ached and her limbs felt shaky. Trust Ed to come knocking, in dire need of repairs, just when all she wanted to do was lay down and sleep.
"I'll get my toolkit," she sighed, trying to persuade her body to move towards the workshop.
Ed snorted as Winry staggered into the doorframe. "Clumsy, much?"
Winry's glare was rather dampened by the splitting headache that seemed to have taken up residence in her temples.
Ed blinked in surprise as Winry turned around and simply walked into the workshop, shutting the door without comment. He had been sure she would have rounded on him for that remark – secretly, he'd always loved the way she never let anyone walk all over her.
"Hey, Al, did Winry seem...off...to you?"
"Normally, she'd have hit you with a wrench by now..." Al mused, pausing on his way outside. "Brother, I'm going to play with Den, okay?"
"I'll give you a shout when Winry's finished with the automail," Ed acknowledged.
It took far more time than it should have for Winry to find her toolkit. Her head was still foggy, she was still running a fever, her limbs still resisted her commands as though clogged with syrup, and she wondered briefly about the wisdom of fixing Ed's automail while she was in such a state.
She let loose with a series of lung-spasming coughs just as she located the metal toolbox under the work table. She bent over and heaved it up, trying to make her way back to the kitchen...
However, lugging around a thirty pound toolbox while in the throes of a debilitating illness wasn't a good idea. Winry's head swam, her vision blurred to a multicoloured whirl, and before she could even think to drop the toolbox, darkness fell in a silent cloud.
Ed was sitting on the couch, waiting for Winry's re-entrance, when he heard a deafening crash from the workshop, sounding as though Winry had unleashed a rain of tools on the floor.
"Yeesh, Winry, you really do sound like you're on the clumsy side today," he called towards the door.
He waited for the explosion, but it never came. Not even a snorted insult or a huff.
"Hey, Winry, are you okay in there?"
Still no sound.
Feeling the beginning pricklings of worry, Ed crossed the room and opened the door...
Winry was sprawled on the floor, arms outstretched towards the toolbox. The metal lid had broken open upon impact, spraying tools in all directions.
Unbidden, a flash of memory rose in Ed's mind. His mother, collapsed on the floor, the fruits and vegetables she'd been carrying scattered from her outstretched arms...
He couldn't help the scream that ripped from his throat, an expression of utter horror and primal terror.
Ed practically fell at her side, his hands clutching at her, trying to turn her over, his movements frantic, panicked. 'Not her too, please not her...'
His flesh hand fumbled at her throat for a pulse, and he almost drew back in shock at how hot her skin was – it was like touching a furnace! The rise and fall of her chest was reassuring, but her breaths were weak and shaky, interspersed with gasps and coughs. Her could feel the sweat on her body, even in the cool workshop.
Winry was sick. Really sick, if she'd collapsed in the middle of the room. Ed's fear rose a notch. What should he do?
Well, he could get her out of here, for a start.
He eased his left, softer arm under her shoulders, while he worked his right under the crook of her knees. He lifted her easily, and Ed felt another flash of panic. Winry was as tall as he was – it shouldn't have been this easy to carry her! He'd lifted suitcases that weighed more than she did!
It was effort to remain somewhere resembling calm as he carried Winry into the living room and laid her gently on the couch, especially when Ed realised that the bumps digging into his arm through her shirt weren't rolls of fabric, but her ribs.
Al charged in, attracted by his shout. "What's wrong?"
"She just collapsed," Ed hissed urgently, trying to get his hands to stop shaking. "I just opened the door...and she was lying on the floor...just like..."
He didn't need to finish. Al understood. 'Just like Mum...'
"Is she okay?" Al squeaked.
"I-I don't know...Al...what do we do? She's burning up!"
Al was alarmed by the tinge of panic in his brother's voice. "A fever? I think...I think we should try to cool her down...at least, I'm sure I read that somewhere..."
"Right, cool her down..." Ed's eyes zeroed in on the dishcloth beside the sink.
He dashed over, ran icy water over it until it was soaked, then returned to Winry's side, wiping the chilled material over her face, already feeling marginally better now that he had something to do.
"Al, see if you can find some ice somewhere," he said, rolling up Winry's sleeves to try to cool her off, wincing when he saw the bones in her wrists so clearly defined.
'Stupid idiot!' Ed berated himself as Al left the room. 'Stupid, stupid, stupid! Should've known, should've known! She was pale and sweaty, she didn't hit you with the wrench, she looked woozy, she ran into things..."Clumsy much?" Idiot! Winry's never clumsy...'
"Why didn't you say something, you stupid machine junkie?" he murmured ruefully, dragging the cool cloth across her cheek again.
Ed's heart lurched as Winry's eyelashes fluttered on her cheek like dark butterflies. She groaned, coughed, and her eyes cracked open, the normally vibrant blue glazed and dull.
"Ed?" she croaked, "Wha...?"
Her muscles tensed as though she was about to rise, but a hand on her shoulder stopped her.
"Don't even think it about, Winry," Ed growled, irrationally angry that she frighten him like this. "You just collapsed in the middle of the workshop – you're sick! Goddamn it, Winry, you could have seriously injured – why didn't you say something?"
"Sorry," Winry said in a small, weak voice that instantly made Ed feel guilty for shouting at her. "But you needed your automail done..."
"I don't care about the stupid automail!" Ed exploded. "You're sick, Winry! What's wrong with you?"
"Don't know..." she slurred, her eyelids already starting to droop. "Been sick for a long time..."
The more Ed heard about this, the less he liked it. Worry twisted his gut.
"I'm so tired," she breathed, obviously struggling to stay awake.
"Go to sleep, Winry," Ed sighed, wiping the cloth over her neck to collect the beads of sweat that had formed there.
Winry's eyes closed, and her breathing even out within moments. But her inhalations rasped like sandpaper over gravel.
Al came in with a fistful of ice. "I think these are meant to be used during the operations, but I'm sure Granny won't mind if we take it."
Ed wrapped the ice cubes in the cloth, and continued to pass it back and forth across Winry's skin. After several minutes, he felt her forehead again.
"Has her temperature gone down?" Al asked anxiously.
Ed hissed in frustration and shook his head. "Strong as ever...goddamn it, what's she got?"
Several swift barks from Den interrupted the blonde alchemist's train of thought. Pinako entered, placing bags laden with groceries on the table.
"So, now that you boys are back again-"
Then her eyes took in Winry lying on the couch, Ed sponging her face and neck...
"What happened?" she cried, bolting to the prone girl.
"She just collapsed," Ed swiped at Winry's bare arms with the impromptu icepack. "And her temperature's through the roof!"
"I'll call the doctor," Pinako said tightly, already making her way to the phone.
Ed wondered briefly why he hadn't thought of that, then turned his attention back to the feverish Winry.
The doctor came swiftly, armed with a slew of instruments. He checked Winry's temperature, listened to her breathing, her heart rate, and ended up prescribing a small bottle of antibiotics, to be taken twice daily.
Though anxious herself, Pinako still found Ed and Al's obvious panic amusing. Until she looked at Winry, sweating and panting on the bed, and it struck her how much she looked like Trisha in her final moments. No wonder Ed looked so pale – seeing Winry collapsed on the floor must have brought back too many bad memories.
When the doctor left, Ed leaned in, clutching Winry's hand, brushing sweat-soaked hair away from her face.
And, despite the seriousness of the situation, Pinako had to hide a smile.
Gradually, Winry inched towards recovery. She learned that Pinako had called the doctor in after her collapse, and her sudden change of health was a result of the antibiotics he'd given them. She slept most of the day, and had to be woken periodically to take the pills and to eat. But she still couldn't keep much down, unless it was very light.
Ed's behaviour kept confusing her, though. He hadn't pressured her about his automail once (and Winry privately wondered why he hadn't got Pinako to repair his arm), when she managed to rejoin the waking world he was always right beside her bed, and during her vomit attacks, he supported her over the toilet and held her hair away from her face.
And Winry knew you didn't hold someone's hair back while they vomited unless you really cared about them.
So when she finally awoke one morning – four days after her collapse – feeling weak and drained but otherwise healthy, the first thing she wanted to do was ask him about it.
He was sitting on a chair beside her bed, his head resting on the blanket, near her hip, eyes shut and snoring softly.
'Has he been sleeping here?' Winry wondered.
She brushed her fingers over his disheveled braid, causing him to stir. His eyes opened, blinked once, then widened as they landed on her.
"Hey, Ed,"she beamed.
"Are you-?" he started, beginning to rise.
"Don't worry, Ed," she giggled. "I'm not about to throw up again. In fact, I'm feeling better than I have in ages."
"You're...feeling better?" he ventured cautiously.
"Well, I assume I'll be a little frail for a couple of days, but other than that, I'm fine."
Ed grinned, and Winry saw his relief in every line of his features.
"And Ed, I just wanted to say thanks...for everything you've done."
"I didn't do anything," he mumbled, sounding embarrassed.
"You did, Ed. Whenever I woke up, you were right there, and that was...comforting. But I have to ask you...why were you so worried?"
Ed bit his lip and looked at the floor. "I...I walked into the workshop and saw you lying on the floor and I...I..."
"It was just...just like when Mum...and I thought...just for a second...I thought you were going to die..."
Winry's heart went out to him. She could only guess at how frightening that must have been for him – to have his mother die like that, then see her collapse on the floor in the same way...
She slid from the bed and wrapped him in her arms. "It's okay, Ed, it's okay."
Winry was surprised when Ed, who normally avoided physical contact, hugged her back, fiercely.
"I was...I was so scared," he whispered.
Winry was astounded at what was happening. Ed was revealing so much, allowing her to see him so vulnerable...she almost felt like she should return the favour, to assure him he wasn't the only one spilling his heart here.
So she kissed him.
It was soft, light, their lips in contact for barely a second. Winry pulled away first, smiling at the dazed expression on Ed's face.
"Come on, Ed, let's go downstairs and I'll fix your automail."