He was being above-cautious the way he slowly opened the door to Ed's room. Well, it wasn't really his room, but he had pretty much taken it over for the last few days. Earlier that evening Winry and Granny had started the first major portion of Ed's automail. Hot metal had pierced through bone and flesh, melding with the tissues until it was a part of Ed. The first step taken to becoming a being half-living and half-metal; and it was all for him. He'd even managed to help with the process, at least a little, but he couldn't bring himself to clean his brother of blood. That he had left to the person who did the majority of the work, Winry. After watching her cry while doing the job he felt he should have done; he was ashamed, sheepish, and above-cautious, when checking on his brother. As the door swung the entire way open, he filled with relief. It was Granny. It was Granny sitting with Ed, taking his vitals, and dressing his wounds.
"Is there anything I can do to help, Granny?" The old woman looked up, surprised at his offer. After a few loud sucks on the toothpick currently hanging out the corner of her mouth she responded.
"I made Winry go to bed. She was passed out in here with Ed all propped up in a weird position. She got water everywhere." Al watched her as she paused, seeming to mull something over. "I don't suppose you can feel Ed's heartbeat?"
"I can't feel it, but I can hear it when I'm close enough." She gave him a sharp, scrutinizing look before answering.
"And you can hear it when it changes, I suppose."
"I suppose that will have to do." She plucked the toothpick from her lips and surreptitiously slid it into the front pocket of her apron.
"These drugs we gave to Ed. Do you know what they do?"
"Um…they make him unconscious and they prevent him from moving."
"Good boy, I'm glad one of you pays attention. The drug that makes him unconscious also helps to numb the pain of the operation. So if that one starts wearing off first he won't be able to communicate it. Follow so far?"
"So the best way to monitor which of the drugs is wearing off first is to listen to his heartbeat and breathing. If the paralytic wears off first like it's supposed to he will begin fighting the respirator which you'll definitely hear. However if the pain drug wears off first the only indicator is his heartbeat. Winry and I can hold his wrist and monitor it, but if you can hear it, then you can help."
"You want me to sit up beside Ed and listen to his heartbeat?"
"That's right and if there are any changes run and get us. Okay son, I'm gunna be on the couch. Winry's in her room. You run get us if anything changes."
She turned back as she opened the door, Al making himself comfortable on the floor beside the bed. "Wake Winry up at dawn. We've got a lot of work to do tomorrow."
"Yes ma'am, Granny. Good night."
She waved at him over her shoulder, stifling a yawn as she shut the door behind her. Al was now all alone again. Laying his metal head on the mattress beside Ed's torso he could hear the heartbeat. The steady pace was a welcome shock. After all Ed's little body had been through, that his heart was that strong amazed Al. After all of his doubts about the procedure, to hear this washed them all away. He sat there for hours, just listening to that strong beating, remembering his mother and ever so faintly the man who fathered him. It wasn't fair, but he was glad Ed was the older one, to fill in their place. He knew they'd get through this.
As the night wore on, midnight striking and going, the moon passing over the top of the window, slight changes could be detected in the pace of Ed's heart. For the first few minutes Al ignored it, thinking his brother was dreaming again. When nearly half an hour had passed and Ed hadn't let out a gasp Al knew something was wrong. What Granny had been afraid of was happening. He flew out of the room bellowing Granny as loud as he could as he raced up the stairs to get Winry.
The door to her bedroom slammed open and she jolted up. Before she could get to her feet Al had yanked her up by one arm and dragged her from the room. She fell on the stairs, but he was too impatient, pulling her stumbling down them anyways. Granny was sitting up on the couch rubbing her eyes.
"What's wrong, Al?"
"It's like you said Granny, his heartbeat changed." At this Winry's eyes widened and she jerked free of his grasp running for the room. Granny just yawned as her eyes followed her granddaughter, then she slowly made her way to the kitchen. Al looked back and forth between the two rooms, confused by the different reactions, before deciding to follow Winry.
She had left the door open and thrown on all of the light switches. Her gloves were on and she was quickly preparing a tray of rubbing alcohol and cotton. Looking up at his entrance she turned to him.
"Al, help me roll him to his side, Granny should be here in a minute with the shot."
"Yes, shot. We have to give him more pain medicine. Now come help me."
Together they carefully rolled Ed onto his left side. Winry pulled the sheets down, exposing his back. Looking it over with a critical eye, she chose a spot on his spine and rubbed an alcohol-soaked piece of cotton over it. Granny walked in with the syringe as Winry reached for his throat, feeling for a pulse in such a hurried way Al was sure it would bruise.
"How is it?"
"Strong, but a little fast."
"Well, calm down, girl."
"I'm sorry, Granny."
"Hold him steady, now, Al. Winry keep a finger on that pulse."
Winry and Al both stiffened as the needle went in. The plunger was lowered painfully slowly. As the needle was backed out of the wound they both relaxed.
"We got him in time. I'm going to bed. Winry clean this up and wake me in the morning. I put some coffee on."
Still yawning Pinako left the room. Al and Winry exchanged glances.
"Al, will you hold him steady? I'm going to clean off the alcohol and check the bandages."
"Okay Winry." She rubbed a dry towel over the injection site before putting applying a small circular band-aid. Al wanted to laugh at this. She spent the whole day drilling and branding hot metal into his flesh and she's worried about a little puncture wound? She slowly pulled up one side of the large bandage over his scapula. "These look good. I'll check them again in the morning. We can lay him back down now."
They carefully lowered Ed back to the sheets. Once there, Winry pulled up both of her arms in a big stretch letting out a soft yawn. Al winced as the sleeve of her t-shirt fell down exposing a large red mark on her upper arm.
"I'm sorry, Winry."
"Why?" He pointed at her arm. "Oh." She hastily covered it back up with her sleeve. "No big deal. It doesn't even hurt."
"I'm still sorry."
"It's okay. Help me shift Ed over some."
"It's lonely having to stay up all alone and watch him. I'll stay, too."
He gently pulled Ed over to one side of the table as Winry climbed onto the other side. He spread the sheet out over both of them and took a seat on the floor. A few minutes of silence passed before Al got up.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm just turning off the lights."
"Will you sing to us?"
"What do you want me to sing?"
"I don't know. Anything. Mom used to sing to us when we got sick."
"Okay, Al, but if I mess it up tell me to stop."
"You won't mess it up." She yawned and hesitated a minute. He hadn't known where this request had come from and was about to take it back when Winry quietly began. He was so close he could hear her heartbeat as well as Ed's and it was pounding. He wondered if Ed was awake would she still have done it, although he could have sworn he heard her singing to his brother a few times before he decided to do the automail. As she continued she got slower and softer. Al reached up to hold her hand, to let her know he liked it. Her little fingers curled around his thumb as her words drifted off. Soon her words faded away entirely to deep breathing and her heartbeat was steady again. His thoughts turned inward as he listened to the combined drumming and thought of his parents, his brother, and his future.