Care

Ed opens his eyes, and immediately winces as the movement provokes a spiral of pain which curls slowly and angrily out from what was once his right shoulder. He groans and hastily screws his eyes shut again, hoping to avoid the headaches that seize his brain after every automail attachment, inevitable as sunrise- but it is too late, and the tiny amount of light he allowed past his eyelids has already dug claws into his temples and sent a sharp staccato throb down his spine.

He lies still for a minute, allowing the tingling stabs of agony darting throughout his limbs to die down a little. It has been a while since the last time the pain from his automail attachment was enough to make him pass out, a fact which he is beginning to be grateful for: he had forgotten about the nausea and tiredness which always seize him along with his returning consciousness. His vision ripples in and out of focus as he attempts to re-introduce his eyes to the concept of sunlight, and he groans again, wondering whether the sun has always hated him this much.

"You should try moving it."

Startled, Ed whips his head around to locate the source of the voice, and then yelps, as the dead weight of his automail arm stretches the exaggeratedly sensitive skin of his neck.

"Youch!"

Winry sighs, standing up from her workbench and pushing her hair back. "That's why. You've been out for twenty minutes. You ought to be moving it, so your body has a chance to get used to it."

"I didn't know you were still here," Ed says, a little embarrassed, attempting to curl his newly updated fingers into a fist.

"Where else would I be? I've been clearing up. I haven't had a chance to tidy my workbench in days." She sighs, rubbing her eyes with the heel of her hand. "You do work us hard, you know."

"And you charge me the fees to match," Ed mutters.

Winry rolls her eyes but doesn't reply, instead marching over to the couch and seizing Ed's feet, pulling his legs out straight.

Ed grimaces as her thumbs dig into the soles of his feet. "Hey, your hands are cold!"

"Maybe we should have done some work on your leg, too," Winry muses, seemingly deaf to his complaints. "Your ankle looks like it needs some adjusting."

"I haven't noticed anything wrong with it," Ed says, craning his neck to look down at his feet. "Anyway, if it needs work, why didn't you do it earlier?"

"I was slightly distracted by the enormous clump of wires sticking out from what used to be your elbow," she replies, more than slightly irritated. "How the hell did you do that in the first place? And don't tell me you fell over again, because I know that wasn't caused by a trip."

She frowns in annoyance, either at Ed himself or at his prosthetic leg, which she is now examining in closer detail. Suddenly, she produces a small screwdriver from her pocket and begins work on dismantling the joint.

Alerted by Winry's sudden lapse into silence, Ed pushes himself painfully up onto his elbows and cocks his head to one side, watching her lips move as she mutters to herself, mentally registering the almost invisible flaws in the metal beneath her fingertips.

"I said there's nothing wrong with it," Ed says after a pause.

"Don't change the subject," Winry snaps, with a surprising amount of heat in her voice.

Ed hesitates. Winry keeps her eyes on the screwdriver, but she can all too vividly imagine the pained look on his face as he weighs up his options.

Eventually, he heaves a sigh. "Do you really want to know?"

She looks up, hardly daring to breathe. Swallowing slowly, she nods.

Ed already seems to be regretting his decision to be honest, but he does not withdraw the offer. He closes his eyes briefly, then looks back at his mechanic, who in the silence has returned to her work.

"I got into a fight," he says.

"I know that."

"It was in South City. Some guy- some rebel- was stirring things up. He organised a group, trying to take down the military. I got mixed up in it." He takes a breath, then decides on the spot that he might as well tell the whole story.

"There were rumours of riots, assaults on policemen, things like that. I got sent down there, just to check things out. I was talking to some local officials when the rebels appeared. They had obviously been told to attack anyone in a uniform, because they just leaped on us. They didn't go after me at first, but I was fighting back, and- I guess they decided they should break my arm to keep me still."

Winry smiles wryly. "I bet that backfired."

Ed flashes her a grin, relieved that she has not, as of yet, yelled at him for being careless. "I guess so."

"So… does that sort of thing happen often?" Winry asks, tilting her head and peering into the workings of his foot. "I think that ought to be fine now."

"… Well. You know how it is with the military. It's rare for rebels to be quite as violent as that, but…"

"That's not what I mean."

"Oh."

The silence is filled only with the soft grating sound of screws against metal, and what with the pressing distraction of the still present pain in his shoulder, Ed is almost unable to think of an appropriate response.

Abruptly, Winry stands and moves back across to her workbench. Ed wrestles with his automail until it allows him to reassemble his body into a sitting position, but the pain that washes through him is enough to blur his vision once more, and he knows he is still unable to stand.

Winry is making a lot of noise with the tools on the bench. Ed peers at her back, trying to read her mood.

"Winry," he tries.

She turns, but for some reason he is afraid to look at her. He forces his eyes up to her face; she stares back, confused and questioning.

"… What did you change in my arm? It feels different," he says eventually, even as something inside his head screams at him.

She shrugs. "I tried a new alloy. It's more brittle, but lighter and more resistant to scratches and surface damage."

"So will it need a different maintenance system?"

Her eyes narrow suspiciously. "Why do you care? It's not like you ever do maintenance on it anyway."

"I just wanted to know how to take care of it-"

"Well don't. It's weird."

Ed's mouth snaps shut and he turns away, glowering at the wall.

Winry breaks the silence. "Do you want to stand up now?"

He glances up, and doesn't bother to nod, simply placing his hands on either side of himself and pushing downwards, hoisting his body up. He hisses between his teeth at the pressure on his shoulder, and she hurries forwards to support him, slinging his real arm over her shoulders.

Once he is upright she doesn't move away, but turns to face him and wraps her other arm around him, pulling him close. "Just be careful," she whispers, resting her chin on his shoulder as her eyes ease closed. "That's all I want."

Winry is warm and her hair smells of flowers, a fact which strikes him as vaguely surprising. The action of moving his arm to hold her around the waist sends a sting of pain through him, but he can feel her breath on the aching skin around his automail, and he barely winces at all.


Author's notes: This was written as a birthday gift for the talented Cerulean San. Go and check out her page, now! I command you!