Sooo. I updated. I know, rare right? (BUT NOT ANYMORE I PROMISE! I WILL BE MORE AWESOME IN THE FUTURE! PLEASE LOOOOVEEE MEEEEEE!) But here you go anyway! If anyone is still reading this thing… Weh.
Setting down his third cup of coffee, Ed looked around the silent room, his sheepish eyes meeting in turn with the other occupants' shaken, troubled gazes. He hadn't really been sure what to expect when he sat down to come clean about what he knew, but the total silence throughout his story, and now afterwards, was not it. He drummed his fingers nervously on the table, waiting for someone to break the mounting tension. Surprisingly, it turned out to be Hughes, not Winry, who spoke first. He had been expecting an almost immediate wrench to the skull after he'd finished, for withholding such important information.
"...So you really did get kidnapped, then?" He asked, probably not really expecting an answer. Ed grimaced.
"I suppose, in a manner of speaking." He mumbled. Roy shifted in his chair.
"Actually, it seems to me Fullmetal pretty much held out his wrists and asked to be tied up. What were you thinking, going into that place unaccompanied with a potentially dangerous individual? Come on Edward, I know you pretend that you don't pay any attention in the protocol seminars at Central, but even you must have thought it was fishy!" He berated. Edward pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.
"I don't know, alright?" He snapped. "He must have done his research on me. He – he knew things. He knew how to play on my weaknesses, drop names that would affect my clarity of thought. I don't fully understand myself why I followed him. Hell, I don't even fully remember what happened in there, or how I escaped! For all I know, Kine could still be there, carrying out whatever the hell depraved experiment he was planning whilst I was there! He could-" Breathing heavily, Ed bit the end of his sentence off, not wanting to voice one of the major concerns that had been plaguing him. It was all for naught, though. As usual, his brother was annoyingly in tune with his though process.
"He could be on his way to track you down, and bring you back to finish what he started? That's what you were thinking, right Brother?" Al said softly. The room fell back into a frigid, troubled silence. Ed bit his lip, a pained expression crossing his features, and looked away.
He hadn't even wanted to think it at first, but if he was right... If the fears that Al had voiced were a reality, then he had put everyone here at risk by returning. He had to hope that he was wrong, that he would have thought of this before escaping, and that the reason he had arrived so beaten up was because he had fought with, and put a stop to, Kine.
The problem was he just couldn't be sure. The only way to know for sure would be to...
Mustang's voice roused him from his thoughts.
"Well, Alphonse, if that is indeed the case, then we'll have to deal with it when the problem actually presents itself. Ed's not going to have to face this lunatic alone again." Ed's head jerked up, his eyes finding Mustang's in surprise. He was half touched by the man's support and half irritated by his casual approach to the potential danger. The frown forming across his face was tinged with anguish.
"I can't let you all get dragged into my mess, especially one this dangerous!" he said tiredly.
The words were barely out of his mouth before Winry abruptly pushed her chair back with a loud scrape. Her head was down and Ed couldn't see her face as she marched swiftly and silently from the room.
"Winry!" he rose as quickly as he could with his injuries and started after her. She was only a few feet ahead of him, towards the other end of the hallway.
"Winry? Winry would you wait a second?" he grabbed her wrist, tugging her back, and in a flash her free hand swung around to slap him fiercely across the cheek. Stunned, Ed dropped her wrist, his hand moving automatically to his stinging face. This time she made no move to leave.
"Wha-" Ed tried to piece together a coherent question, anger at the sudden slap subdued by his confusion. Winry glared at him, unshed tears making her eyes seem over-bright.
"You have no right to grab at me! Not when you will not even trust me with your memories!" She shouted, balling her small hands into fists. "No right at all, not when you will not even trust in my – in our strength and will to help you, to protect you." She bit her lip viciously, snapping her head downwards and letting her hair fall across her face. If her tears were to fall, she would not let Edward see them this time. Guilt pushed shut Ed's gaping mouth, guiding his hand from his face to rub at the back of his neck in sheepish discomfort. Neither moved for a moment.
"I'm… I'm sorry Winry. Really, I am. I meant to tell you what I had remembered ages ago… I just wasn't so sure on how to deal with it myself, and…" Winry cut him off, her tone softened, just slightly.
"It's not that Ed, not really," she sighed. "I-I'm more angry because even now you won't trust any of us completely. You don't trust us to be able to look after ourselves, make our own decisions, and actually be of any use to you. You're still trying to protect people, even when it's clearly you that is need of help." Ed blinked slowly, a pained look creeping across his features. Even when he was trying to make decisions that would ultimately worry his friends less, he still seemed to be messing it up. Winry jumped as Ed moved forward unexpectedly, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her into his chest. It was times like this when she realised how much taller than her Ed had grown.
"I know it's not an excuse," he said slowly, holding her firmly against him. She was glad her face was pressed against his shirt – always the cry-baby, her eyes were beginning to give into the tears she had been holding back, and her face was flushing rapidly by the second. "but old habits die hard." He squeezed her unintentionally. "I've made so many stupid decisions over these past years. So many stupid, dangerous decisions that pulled in so many of the people that I love. I guess my mentality on the whole matter back then was: 'Why should the people around me have to carry the burden of my mistakes also? Why should they be put at risk for my ill choices?' I decided that I would keep the dangerous things that I invoked to myself to avoid any more deaths, anymore losses of the people most precious to me. I was being immature and selfish, really; it was all to avoid anymore heartache. I didn't want to lose anyone else." Winry swallowed. The front of Ed's shirt was growing increasingly damper. She already knew where he was going with this. He wasn't trying to guilt trip her into backing down; he didn't even realise that was what he was doing. He just always managed to find a way to. "I guess that somehow, I'm still doing all those things now, even though I know I don't need to anymore. Even though I'm supposed to have grown up." He pulled away slightly, holding Winry back in order to look into her eyes. "I'm sorry Winry. I was supposed to have stopped hurting you long ago. I give you my word; I will not keep things from you again." He finished. Winry scrubbed a hand across her eyes. He said that he didn't think he had grown up, but it was the opposite. Ed had gotten so mature it was scary. The old Edward would never have even realised he was doing anything wrong.
She gave him a weak smile.
"You'd better be telling the truth, Edward Elric," She said, the attempt at a stern tone ruined by the after tremors of her silent tears. "or I'll be charging you triple for your automail repairs in the future." He chuckled.
"Well, hopefully I'll be safe from that one. I'm not planning to need to have it repaired anymore times after this one. It would be nice to have the threat of imminent death removed from its favourite place of residence. That place being over our heads." Winry sniffed, biting back a laugh as she swiped at Ed's shoulder.
"What, are you planning on ceasing your fun-filled and usually close to fatal adventures after this is dealt with?" she teased. "I didn't think that the military was so keen to let you go. Ed's face grew serious.
"I was debating it. The Amestrian Military owes me, after all." Even having been back a while now, Ed still made the strange differentiation between the military of this world and that of the one in the…other world. His parallel universe. It unsettled Winry somewhat, though she couldn't quite place her finger on why. Ed continued, failing to notice the effect of his little slip up. "I never wanted to join the military in the first place, it was only ever so that Al and I could have access to otherwise restricted areas during our search for our bodies." His scratched at his head. "It doesn't really make much sense for me to stay enlisted if I can get an out." He mused. Winry raised her eyebrows surprised.
Suddenly there was a disturbance from behind them. Roy was hanging off the hallway door frame, Hughes and Al not far behind, obviously attempting to eavesdrop on their conversation. Ed blushed furiously.
"Oi, General Asshole. How many time have I gotta tell you that the ins and outs of my life are not a spectators event?" he raged, storming down the hallway towards them.
"What? You were taking ages, and we wanted to see what was causing it! And why am I the only one you're screaming at like an angry chimp?" Winry smiled as Ed exploded into one of his usual uncalled for 'don't call me small' rants, slipping back into her seat. Pinako leaned over to her.
"Are you two all sorted out now?" she asked quietly, re-adjusting her glasses. Winry nodded, grateful for her Grandmother's concern. Pinako settled back into her seat, satisfied, and went back to quietly observing Al attempting to wrestle his older brother back into his chair and away from Roy, who had his hands up in amused surrender. She would discuss Ed's musings on leaving the military with him later.
"What are you going to do now, brother?" Al asked, after the commotion Ed had kicked up had died down. "Surely you're not thinking of running back to Central now?" Ed shook his head turning to Winry.
"Winry, you said my arm was finished, right?" Winry's face hardened.
"No Ed. I'm not reattaching your arm when you're in this condition. You need to finish healing." Ed frowned running his hand through his hair.
"I'm not going to go running off anywhere, don't worry. I just want my arm back. I'll heal a hell of a lot faster if I actually feel whole again, and the only thing that will do that for me is my automail." He said firmly. Winry almost smiled at the roundabout compliment to her automail. Almost.
"But the strain it'll put on your body-" she started.
"Is not going to be as bad as it has been in the past." Ed cut in. "Look Win, I've reattached it myself when I've been hurt way worse than this, and far less healed, and I got along just fine. I promise you this; I'm not going to leave Risembool without telling you so first." He finished. Winry chewed her lip, frowning. He had practically read her mind. Her gut was telling her that he would sneak off in the dead of night as soon as his missing limb was restored, but Ed had promised he wouldn't be doing things like that anymore. If she didn't want to sound like a complete hypocrite on the whole 'trust' issue, she'd have to cut him a little slack.
"Fine. But don't say I didn't warn you when you develop a fever from the strain of it all." She muttered. Ed grinned.
"At least I'll have a good nurse to look after me if I do." Winry blushed, swiping at the irritating alchemist.
"Shut up, moron." She mumbled, storming off towards her workshop, slamming the door behind her. Ed laughed, hoisting himself up onto the sturdy kitchen table.
Roy cleared his throat.
"I don't think you should be aggravating the woman who is about to painfully reattach your arm, Fullmetal."
"Oh don't worry, she's never coddled me in the past, and that's not going to change now. She'll make sure to spare me no pain when it's reattached." He chuckled darkly, swinging his legs back and forth as he sat on the edge of the table. It was at that moment that an odd grinding clunk resounded through the room. The damaged metal protested as Ed's automail leg swung forwards again and, this time, the metal catch that most definitely should have been securely fastened down to the leg swung open, finally giving up its feeble grasp on Ed's port. Mustang barely dodged the flying chunk of metal as it flew from Ed's stump, crashing into the stack of pots and automail equipment that had been piled by the work surface. Ed flailed comically, thrown off balance further by the loss of another limb, before thudding to the floor for the second time that day.
"What the hell is going on up there?" Winry's voice rang out from her work room, shortly followed by her footsteps in the hallway. Ed's face dropped, the colour leeching rapidly to white.
"Uh-oh." He climbed awkwardly into some semblance of a crawling position and began to scramble ineffectually across the floor towards his leg. Al pressed his hands to his face.
"Brother! What have you done?" He moaned. "Winry's going to kill you!" Ed growled in frustration as he crashed to down again, unable to move without the sudden loss of his balance.
"Shut up! I know! Just help me get it back on!" Al raced across the room to help his brother up as Hughes and Roy looked on with bemusement. Roy raised an eyebrow at his old friend, but it appeared that Hughes was just as clueless as he was at the Elric's sudden panic, merely shrugging.
Al snatched up the rather sorry looking automail leg, whirling around to face his brother, who was still trying to hoist himself up off the floor with only two limbs.
The door burst open.
"Oh God, too late…" Ed's terrified whisper only barely reached Roy's ears. Winry stood in the doorway for a moment, staring blankly at the now one-legged Edward. Her eyes slid slowly over to the leg in Alphonse's arms, her face still arranged into a curious calm.
"Hey, Al?" she asked in a horrifyingly light tone. Alphonse froze.
"U-uh, yeah?" he squeaked.
"Would you care to tell me why your moronic brother's leg is in your hands, and not still attached to his body?" Winry was smiling. This wasn't good.
"E-er, I…" Al looked desperately at his brother for help, only to find him trying to edge towards the front door by using the table as a crutch.
"Ed!" he wailed, backing away from the doorway that Winry was currently occupying. Abruptly Winry stalked across the room towards Al.
"Wah!" Al shoved the automail arm between them like an outstandingly crappy shield, but Winry merely grabbed it from his hands. The room was silent as she stood there, head lowered, examining the estranged leg. Tilting the limb so that the bottom of the foot was facing upwards, Winry turned to Ed.
"Is this a bullet lodged in the lower heel joint?" her voice was dangerously benign. Ed winced.
"A-ah. Yeah. Haha, I guess I forgot to mention the part with the gun?" he said nervously, the question in his tone hanging pathetically in the air between him. His head was flicking towards the front door – and only current escape route – so often now it looked like he had developed a twitch. Winry laughed. It was petrifying.
"Yeah, I guess you did!" she said sunnily, raising the automail leg over her head and starting towards Ed.
"Arrgh!" In his haste to escape from the rapidly advancing and demonically angry mechanic, he lost his balance yet again, ending up on his backside for what seemed like the millionth time that day.
"EDWARD ELRIC! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY AUTOMAIL?"
The sound that the metal foot made against his head as she screamed 'automail' was spectacular.
Rightio, before anyone beheads me due to how late this update is and how crappy the quality was let me explain somewhat! Ulp!
Soooorrrryyyy! I've been ridiculously busy with my uni work (I know right? Stupid tutors expecting me to do real work at university! Puh.) and sorting out a new flat for next year with my flatmates. I have also slyly been working on a different FMA fic, which I have not uploaded yet, and probably will not until this one is done. But yeah, as you have probably guessed, multi-tasking is not one of my strong points. Weh.
I know this was a pretty short chapter, but I plan to upload the next one this week, as I've come home for the Christmas holidays and haven't got TOO much work to do! :)
I'm hoping that my stupid country won't live up to its rainy reputation (Britain, if you couldn't tell, haha) and we will get lots and lots of snow so I have an excuse to be stuck inside in my tiny little village writing for days on end. Yaay!
As always, constructive criticism, love and reviews are all welcome! :D
Thanks for reading!