Chapter Fourteen – Chafing under Restraint

Disclaimer: Not taking credit for anything here, other than this story written in Arakawa's toys in her playground.

Canon: Animeverse including CoS and the Mangaverse where it doesn't directly contradict, or Ed where tells me "yah that happened, but it was like this:"

Note: Reviews are wanted, so please encourage me with feedback whether it's good or bad. It lets me know you read it and either enjoyed it, or that you think I need to work harder to make it enjoyable and why. If you see some glaring error, please feel free to point it out. I'm really not too delicate, and I usually actually go and fix those.

Previously: Edward Elric is sick with an infection in his shoulder port wakens from a strange nightmare to find Winry and his brother are safe and still looking after him. He's improving, but still feverish and weak.

Edward roused while they were easing him into bed. Winry took that opportunity to have him drink more water. After Edward was finished, she sent Alphonse to get more in a clean glass so they would have it handy when Edward wanted it again. Winry was pleased to note that, to the touch, Edward's fever had gone down. Still, she slid the thermometer under his tongue just to be sure he wasn't slipping down too far. Though he wasn't entirely asleep, Winry could tell by the way he toyed unconsciously with the thermometer that Edward wasn't too alert, either. She stroked his hair to keep him with her enough that he didn't bite down on the glass or work it out from where it needed to be. "There now," she whispered, when enough time had passed and she could take it out to read it. Just under a hundred. Well that was safe enough. Winry set the thermometer aside and tucked the blankets up around Edward's shoulders before bending to kiss his cheek.

"Tucking him in?" The deep voice behind her sounded amused.

Winry cringed at Mustang sneaking up on her like that again. "Geeze you're like a damn cat!" she hissed, moving to the foot of Edward's bed so she wouldn't disturb her friend's rest.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry, Miss Rockbell." Mustang held up his hands and corrected himself. His tone made her wonder if he was being sarcastic or not. "Doctor Rockbell. No, I really am," he added his deep voice genteel and soothing despite his tousled hair and the sleepy expression.

Winry decided to allow him to convince her he was genuine. Even though she'd have preferred to stay annoyed, it seemed too much like Ed's behavior. Better to give the man the benefit of the doubt. She shook her head. "It's all right Mr. Mustang, but I wish you wouldn't sneak up on me like that."

"Truly, I don't mean to." The former general assured her. "It's my Xingese upbringing as a child, I'm afraid. We're taught to walk quietly indoors, and even with shoes on I never quite learned how to stomp around like Fullmetal."

Winry couldn't help a snicker at that, her hand going over her mouth too late to hide it. "I hope we didn't wake you," she said belatedly.

"Oh, no," Mustang shook his head with a sparely covered yawn. "But I think I've slept enough for a while. I should try to find my office tomorrow even if they're officially closed. Much as I adore paperwork, there is some I should retrieve and try to go through even if nothing is really moving yet. So I'd better leave a little sleep for tonight." He nodded toward Edward. "How is Fullmetal?"

Winry frowned. "He's doing better. The medicines you got for me this morning have helped a lot. It'll take some time for the Dyadrine to get out of his system. He may have some withdrawal, but I hope it won't be too bad. I have some other medications that will help if it is."

"He seems much more comfortable."

"Yes," she nodded, her hand stroking Edward's foot for a moment. "The fever isn't as out of control now, for one thing. I gave him a bath a few hours ago, and that seems to have helped him feel better."

"You gave him a bath?" Mustang's eyes widened.

"Of course I did," Winry shot back. She kept her voice low, though she bristled. "Mr. Mustang, I installed Edward's automail ports when we were eleven years old. What part of him do you suppose I haven't seen before?"

Mustang raised an infuriating eyebrow at her. "I wasn't even thinking about that, I assure you, Doctor Rockbell," he said. "I simply wondered how you managed to get him to the tub, and was surprised I hadn't heard. I'm a fairly light sleeper. And I suppose," he added examining his fingernails, "I would have expected more fuss out of Fullmetal about it at any rate."

"Pff," Winry rolled her eyes. "I can manage Edward," she told him smartly. She wasn't about to give this man any ammunition to use against Edward. Oh sure, she supposed most of the bickering that went on between them was just banter now. That was what Alphonse said. Edward didn't openly admit it, though sometimes it was a little too obvious. Still, wasn't she supposed to take Edward's side on that anyway? Winry was a little torn. It was awfully funny to watch Edward react when Mustang got a particularly good zinger in on him, but still, it wouldn't be very professional. "I told you, I've been his mechanic since he was eleven."

"And you always kiss your customers, and tuck them in?" Mustang asked, pursing his lips in amusement.

"Edward," Winry said, pointing a warning finger at Mustang, somehow keeping her voice low, "is not a normal patient. He's also my friend." She didn't care if he was probably right. Edward had told her she could kiss him, that it comforted him. "Edward may take this sort of teasing from you, Mr. Mustang, because he likes the verbal sparring, but he's in no condition for it right now. Though, I assure you that I'm perfectly capable of defending myself, as you know. If you wake him up with it, he'll waste energy defending me. If that happens, there's gonna be hell to pay and you're the one who'll be paying it."

"Yes ma'am!" The former general held up his hands, laughing softly. "No teasing until Fullmetal is better."

"And I'm the one who says when he's better enough." Winry's finger jabbed the air.

"Understood," Mustang agreed with a genuine smile. "How is he really?" He leaned against the door frame. "Have you been able to look at his shoulder?"

Winry glanced back over her shoulder at Edward as he slept. "Not really. There's some corrosion in the socket, inside the port connections, and that shouldn't be happening. I really can't look at it much more until he's stronger and the inflammation is a lot better. Right now, it's just too painful for him to have me to be poking around in there." She pouted for a moment, folding her arms over her midsection. "He is improving though. He's been able to eat a little today, and doing better with keeping fluids down. The saline drip I gave him this morning was probably the biggest help to him in the short term. If he can keep drinking, he may not need the other one."

Their conversation was interrupted at that point by a dozen small feet charging up the stairs, then the Chairman was surrounded by little bouncing dogs, his face transformed from concern into a happy smile as he tried to pet all three of them at once. Ultimately, he had to crouch down and let them all express their happiness by licking his face, before he could pet their wagging bodies and croon over them all equally. "Who's the puppies?" or "How's my doggies?" and other similar nonsense.

The dogs were followed shortly by Alphonse who also stopped to pet them, and in a moment all three were moving between the three wakeful humans. Ralph, after satisfying himself that these three were as they should be, hopped up on the bed, nosing under Edward's hand and settled down there next to him. Only his tail continued to move.

"He's a good dog," Mustang observed as Alphonse set the glass of ice water on the bedside table.

Alphonse nodded, fishing a lemon slice out of the little fingerbowl full of water they'd put there to keep them fresh, squeezing it into the water. "I'm concerned about the ice supply, Chairman," he said. "You put the ice card out several days ago, I know, but the ice man still hasn't come, and the block is getting really small now. I've tried to preserve it as much as I can, but even just chipping off bits for Edward to suck on has–"

"Al…" Winry set her hands on her hips. "What the hell is wrong with your brain?"

"Huh?" Alphonse set the lemon aside and stared at her with wide gold eyes only a shade or two darker than Edward's.

"This morning, I could excuse it because you were exhausted, but now?" Winry shook her head. "It's freezing cold outside. You even told me you'd brought in snow to cool the compresses with. Why in the world didn't you break off a couple of those big icicles from the eaves and put them in the ice box if you were worried about it?"

"Oh." Alphonse's face fell, and Winry knew he felt foolish now.

"Even better, Al," she went on, unrelenting, "Why didn't you just use your alchemy to make more ice? It's not like we have any shortage of water, you know?" She pointed towards the window. "Just look at all that snow out there!"

There was a small snicker from the bed, and all three turned to see Edward had his eyes open again. He was petting his dog. "She's right you know?" Edward smirked.

"Maybe you could have suggested it, Edward!" Winry pointed out.

"Hey, give a guy a break, Win!" Edward protested. "I'm sick as hell, remember? I can't even think straight half the time. He never bothered to mention it to me, or maybe I would have thought of it. Who knows! He didn't, so it's not my fault. You can't blame me for this one."

Alphonse chuckled softly. "I didn't," he admitted. "I didn't want to worry him, so I just dealt with it as well as I could think to. I guess I'm still not entirely used to the idea of having alchemy to use for simple everyday needs again after a year without it. Silly, isn't it?"

There was another little scoff out of Edward, but he didn't say anything else.

"I think I'll go make some ice now," Alphonse told them, blushing.

"Wait," Winry ordered. "I want you guys to do me a favor first."

"You do?" Alphonse squeaked.

"Don't act like you're scared before I even ask you to do anything, Al!" Winry warned. "I'll think of something for you to be scared of."

Edward snickered sleepily.

"You shut up, Edward!" Winry warned.

"What do you need us to do, Doctor Rockbell?" Mustang asked.

"I don't like where Edward's bed is." Winry nodded at the placement. "If he could walk it would be one thing I guess, but even then, he's going to need a lot of rest the next few days, and that means a lot of time spent in that bed."

"Aw, I'll be back up and around in no time, Win," Edward started, pushing himself back up against the headboard as if he thought that proved something. "I don't–"

"You be quiet!" Winry pointed at him, and Edward closed his mouth.

"Where would you like it then?" Mustang said coolly. Clearly he was just as unimpressed by Edward's protests.

"I think it would be nice if he could actually see out the windows."

The older man scrubbed his chin for a moment.

Winry thought she could almost hear him rearranging the furniture in his mind. "Every time I leave him alone for a minute he has been staring out those windows from over here."

"No I haven't!" Edward denied.

"Be quiet Edward," Winry told him. "You know you have, and you can't even see anything."

"That must be very frustrating," Mustang murmured, pacing down the room towards the windows,

Edward snorted eloquently. It might have been quite expressive, except that he set off a tickle that made him cough harshly. He drew his knees up, gasping and clutching at his chest, as his brother hurried to help him.

Feedback! "Don't cough, Ed," Winry ordered, only two steps behind Alphonse. She sat him up, perhaps a little more roughly than he might have liked. She wrapped her arm behind him, her other hand shoving his hand out of the way to expertly find the right pressure points to stop this. Deep shoulder attachments were one of the very worst places to get feedback. A recurrence like this, so long after the initial surgery, usually meant that there was serious inflammation to the inner nerve attachments and possibly damage to the nerves. It wasn't something Winry wanted to deal with ever; doubly so with Edward, whose attachment was already in serious trouble. That he was getting feedback on this level was not a good sign. That said; Winry was a little encouraged that he hadn't had any since early this morning, and this was not as bad as it was then.

Edward, to his credit, didn't cough any more. He struggled with it, clearing his throat harshly twice, growling in pain, as his hand unconsciously tried to get Winry's fingers out of the holes they were digging in his chest. Even if it wasn't as bad as it had been, the spasm worried her, and she was relieved when felt it easing. Though Edward still pulled at her fingers, she released the pressure slowly rather than all at once. Once it was over, Edward leaned against her, exhausted by the ordeal.

"He's all right now?" Mr. Mustang asked from where he hovered nearby.

Winry nodded. "Yes. For now. I don't like that he's having feedback issues," she admitted aloud what she'd just been thinking. "It does seem to be improving though. This is only the second episode I've seen."

"It wasn't as bad as it's been, Winry," Alphonse assured her.

"Yah," Edward told her hoarsely, obviously trying to sound like his usual brash self, even though he lay limply against her. "That was nothing…" He cleared his throat carefully.

"Do you have blood in your mouth Ed?" Winry asked seriously, her thumb wiping over his lips gently. She couldn't always trust him to tell the truth about things like this.

He shook his head and whispered back, "I can taste a little metal, but I didn't get a mouthful this time." He cleared his throat again. "That's good, right?"

Alphonse handed Winry the glass of lemon water. Edward drank from it, his hand clenched in the fabric of her dress again as she held him and the glass. "It's an improvement. I think you definitely need to keep taking your anti-inflammatory medicine though, Ed. I know you don't like it and I know it probably upsets your stomach, but you have to take it, okay?"

Edward nodded, his hand slowly unwinding from the fabric of her skirt. He reached for Al's hand. "You guys still gonna move me where I can see out?"

Winry giggled softly at the admission of what she'd known all along.

"Sure, Brother. You want to just move with the bed?"

"No," Winry cut Edward off before he could answer. "You get him out and set him in the chair, Al," she ordered. "I don't want him bounced around like that."

Mustang moved the second chair back out of the way. "I think it would be best right here. It seems to afford the best view, but it will allow you to move around him as needed while he's mending."

Alphonse bodily picked his brother up and bundled him into the chair as directed. Winry watched over him carefully while the two able bodied men wrestled the bed to its new location. The dogs ran in and out several times, excited by the activity. Ralph barked at Alphonse as Edward was quickly resettled into bed, then immediately parked himself next to his man so that Edward could pet him and tell him what a good dog he was for making sure Alphonse did it right. Roxy and Moxy bounced up onto the foot of the bed, but didn't bother Edward. Mustang praised them for being good dogs because of it. Both other chairs were placed near the bed, and tables were resituated.

Now that the inner part of the room was empty, Winry's 'workbench' was moved into the space where the bed had been before. Once she reorganized the space to take best advantage of the gas light, Winry thought she could set herself up with a decent makeshift workshop right here if she could manage another table. A couple of good electric lights would be even better. That was something to work on later.

Edward, thoroughly worn out by the activity, had fallen asleep almost instantly, which was probably for the best, but Winry was sure that when he was awake again he'd be much happier with his new location.

"Chairman Mustang," Alphonse was saying. "Winry and Ed and I have already had dinner. I made some sandwiches for us. I hope you don't mind."

"No of course not, Alphonse," Mustang said, his voice all congeniality. "You're growing boys." Then he amended with a little sniff. "Well, you are at the very least."

Winry could have sworn she heard Edward growl something in his sleep, but when she looked the older brother still seemed quite soundly asleep, his face towards them, his left hand curled under his cheek. How Edward could possibly look so innocent baffled Winry.

Alphonse laughed softly, that same laugh. Winry recognized it. Alphonse had learned to use it inside the armor to show he was smiling even if no one could see it. Once he had his body back, even when he didn't have all his memories, that small laugh had never really gone away. It was just a bit warmer now. "I left a couple in the ice box for you, Chairman. I thought maybe by the time you woke up, you might not want to cook for yourself."

Mustang smiled. "That's very kind of you, Alphonse. If you think you've got everything settled for the moment, I think I will go and partake of them now. I'm sure they're quite good if you made them Alphonse."

Winry snickered softly as he left them. Maybe Mustang really didn't know that between the two boys, Edward was by far the better cook. Somehow the fact that he didn't know everything about them that she did pleased Winry on some level.

Winry stretched her arms over her head tiredly. She'd spent an inordinate amount of time cramped in the cold car trying to get to Central from where they'd been stranded. She'd slept in the car, and a little since she'd arrived this morning, but she still felt the long ride by train and car in her muscles and bones. The felt like they were creaking as she stretched.

"Why don't you take another nap, Winry?" Alphonse suggested seeing the way she tried to ease her back and shoulders.

"No…" not that she didn't consider that option, but sleep wasn't really what she needed right now. "I'm not really sleepy. If you don't mind though, I think I'd like a hot bath.

Alphonse looked a little embarrassed, but he waved a hand at her, "Of course, Winry. Ed's fine now."

"He's not fine," Winry said firmly, pointing a finger at the younger brother. "He'll be okay if you keep a close watch on him."

"Yes, ma'am," she heard him agree as she whirled out of the room. Winry was relatively certain Alphonse had rolled his eyes as he said it. She was less certain of hearing a hoarse snicker from Edward, but she wouldn't be surprised. Edward seemed inclined to sleep for only a few minutes at a time, and it was probably why he was having so much trouble keeping track of time. Still, she let it slide. Better snickers and rolled eyes behind her back than either boy in the condition she'd found them in this morning.

End Notes: Sorry to keep everyone waiting for so long for this. I've been tweaking it for it seems like forever, and just never felt satisfied with it. I've had a lot going on, and my schedule has not been real conducive to creativity. Seems like I have to go to bed just about the time I would normally be getting into writing mode. I'll try to do better. I have several chapters outlined, so it's not like I don't know where I'm going here. I'll try not to get myself lost in the internet for hours at a time too. *snort* Thanks for your patience.