A/N Hi! I'm pleased to give you my second FMA fanfic. It's longer, and I hope better, than my first venture a year or two ago, and I hope you enjoy it.
This little one-shot follows the most current manga events (Chapter 85) and may contain spoilers, as will the following lines of this intro. - raises an eyebrow pointedly - Still here? OK. This story takes place sometime in the near future, aka on the eve of the Promised Day. I tried to stay as close to the realm of possiblity as I could, so Ed and the gang are still on their way to meet Father/homunculi. However, your guess as to how on Earth Winry ended up with Ed on the outskirts of Central is as good as mine :P As unlikely as I find this scenario, it was the only way to make my plot bunny work, so give it the benefit of a doubt, mkay?
Rated "K+" because of a few words that little kids aren't supposed to say. Nothing too explicit, though. Oh, and all I own of FMA are a few novels and a keychain... Alright, I'll admit to a wristband and a messenger bag too.
Without further ado, here's…
Playing the Hero
"Ughh," Winry mumbled as she got thrown ceromoniously on the hard ground. The grunt went unnoticed by Ed, who stomped off toward the small group of people, consisting of Greed, Heinkel and Darius, who were setting up a tent nearby and starting a campfire in the middle of a clearing.
With a sigh, Winry rubbed her back and tried to get into a more comfortable sitting position. However, the moment she shifted and moved her right foot, she felt piercing pain shoot through her ankle.
Letting out a startled yelp, the girl mentally berated herself for her own carelessness. I guess no more running into the line of fire for me anytime soon.
Well, she thought, it's not like she planned those things in advance. It's not like she put herself in danger on purpose… Maybe with the exception of that incident with Scar in Central last year. And that whole thing with her leaving the safety of her hideout to help Ed's group against the sudden chimera attack, despite having been explicitly told not to. Damn.
No wonder Ed was mad at her. But did he really think she was going to patiently wait on the side and watch him get his remaining flesh limbs chomped off when he was bad enough at taking care of just one pair of automail?
Honestly. She did what anyone would have done: grabbed the heaviest stone she could find and heaved it at the seething beast from behind. It helped get the chimera's claws off of Ed, alright, but…
Note to self: a stone that's light enough for me to lift may not be the best weapon against a half-tone-weighing homicidal mutant.
OK, so maybe she had known what she was getting herself into – she wasn't dumb. And the more she thought about it, the more Winry realized it was a miracle she was still alive. The hog-like monster shoved her with such force that she hit a tree several meters away and fell down so unluckily that she sprained her ankle. Thank goodness Ed was basically a monkey, and the split second it took the beast to turn around and toss Winry like a rag doll was enough for him to jump back to his feet and alchemize the final blow, while the rest of the group took care of the other chimeras. Not that she really minded the piggy-back ride from Ed…
Her musings were interrupted by the said alchemist returning with a handful of first-aid supplies. Wait, scratch that: not supplies, just bandages. And as she scanned the three huge rolls that she could easily wrap around her entire body if she wanted to, Winry started questioning Ed's experience with this. How he survived all those fights he always got into was a mystery.
Dropping the items ceremoniously on the ground, Ed positioned himself down next to her and, with a stern "Hold still," reached out for her ankle.
"I can do this myself."
But her attempt to take the supplies from Ed was met with a small but strong shove back and an annoyed "Just hold still."
So she did, thinking it was better not to provoke him. She settled on watching his movements, which did look a bit clumsy, but which were practised enough to tell her this wasn't a first for him. As much as her ankle hurt each time Ed had to reposition it in order to wrap the bandage around it, she grit her teeth and tried not to let out a sound.
However, watching him struggle with the second roll of bandages (yes, apparently he was going to use all three on her), she couldn't suppress the shriek that escaped her lips as he moved her foot the wrong way.
"Ow!! Careful! That hurts!"
"Yeah, well," he replied without taking his eyes off of her ankle, "should've thought about that before jumping right in front of a chimera."
OK, this was starting to get on her nerves.
Winry crossed her arms and looked at the back of Ed's head with a scowl.
"I know it wasn't the smartest thing to do, but it did save your ass." When he didn't reply, she added sourly, "A little gratitude isn't too much to ask for, you know."
This time, Ed did stop fiddling with the bandages and turned to glare at her.
"Gratitude?" he barked, "For what? For doing the exact opposite of what I told you to do and almost getting yourself killed?!" Ed's voice rose dangerously with each word. "For being a stubborn little brat when you know there couldn't be a worse time and place to act like some stupid kid?!"
Realizing he was practically yelling and noticing the guilty expression on her face, he turned his attention back to Winry's ankle. "Then yes, thanks for almost giving me a heart attack."
Watching Ed wrap the last roll of bandage around her ankle, Winry sighed and started fiddling with the hem of her shirt.
She almost jumped at Ed's sudden outburst, "What the hell were you thinking?!"
Looking up to see Ed's golden eyes staring at her expectantly, but now with more exasperation than anger, Winry found she couldn't take it. Turning away from Ed's intense stare, she focused on her ankle, now fully bandaged with a little bow on top and everything. Ed had always had an eye for detail, though she was thankful he didn't transmute some crazy flaming skulls onto the bandages. She didn't really share his artistic style.
Earth to Winry!
Remembering Ed was still waiting for her to say something, she snapped out of her thoughts and realized she'd been stalling.
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to help."
Still somewhat frustrated, Ed countered with a raised eyebrow, "And you thought throwing a rock at a chimera was going to help how?"
Winry flustered. "Well, it seemed like a better idea than watching you get killed." She acted on instinct, which was to protect her friend – was it so hard to understand? "I saw you on the ground with that… thing looking at you like you were some kind of an appetizer, and I didn't think, I just acted."
Seeing the tension in Ed's face gradully fade away, she added,"Besides, I knew I could out-run the chimera and hide in that small cavern nearby if it hadn't shoved me away so quickly."
Ed sighed, knowing he couldn't really stay angry with her. Hell, as much as he hated to admit it, she did save his ass and he was glad he didn't end up as a menu item for some overgrown hog. Still, he couldn't let her off the hook that easily, could he?
"That's all heroic and stuff, but for future reference, I'm the only one who's allowed to play the uncalled-for hero, alright?"
She fought a smile coming to her lips when he finished off with his trademark cocky grin. Ed would never change… He'd always be that same arrogant, over-confident numbskull she'd fallen in love with. And as his stupid grin grew wider, she knew exactly why she'd done what she'd done.
"Whatever, Ed," she said with a grin of her own, which soon faltered as she took on a more serious tone. "Just as long as you don't die before you get your limbs back and restore Al to his body."
It was Ed's turn to abandon his grin, but wanting to keep the atmosphere light, he replied, "It's a deal." Then he added half-jokingly, "But the deal has no clause that says you can break it any time you think I'm about to get killed, OK?"
Expecting a chuckled "OK" in response, Ed started to get up from the ground and was surprised to see the slight frown and a look of contemplation cross Winry's face.
"OK?" he repeated, more forcefully this time. Stopping in mid-squat, he waited to hear her say it before he could drop it and relax.
But then, it struck him. It struck him and Edward Elric was seething all over again.
"You didn't care if you were going to get killed back there, did you?" He asked rhetorically, clenching his fists and looming over Winry, who looked up at him with what could only be described as a mixture of realization and panic in her eyes.
Ed didn't wait for her response this time, but continued, "You're not stupid, you knew perfectly well that you'd be defenseless against a chimera!"
"I thought I'd be able to hide in the cavern!" It was just around the corner, after all!
"You would've never made it to the cavern," he replied quietly, looking her in the eyes. "We'd passed it at least twenty minutes before those things attacked us."
Words were caught in Winry's throat as she felt Ed's accusing glare bore holes into her skull.
"You only did it to distract the chimera's attention long enough for me to recuperate. You thought it would go right for you – you just got lucky that it pushed you away first."
Deciding she was done feeling guilty – there was no reason to feel guilty – she looked daringly into Ed's eyes and her next words left him in shock, even though he already knew the answer.
"So what if I did?" Exploiting Ed's rare moment of hesitation, she added, "Maybe I thought there were things more important than saving my own butt." Feeling a surge of what she considered as rightful anger, Winry went on, "Maybe I couldn't let you die and not keep your promise to your brother and to yourself."
On a scale from one to five, Ed's rage was now approaching double digits.
"Oh, so you just decided you were going to sacrifice yourself for me and Al?!"
"Yes! And now I'm supposed to feel bad because that's such a horrible thing to do for a friend?!"
Ed hadn't meant to yell that last part out for the whole forest to hear. Smooth, Elric. God knows how many more chimeras were waiting for you to reveal your new location.
Ignoring the death-promising glares he was getting from Greed and the others at the small fire, he focused on the confused woman sitting in front of him.
"Getting yourself killed is the stupidest and the most selfish thing you could do. It doesn't matter if it would save me, Al, or both."
Winry still wasn't persuaded. "But if it meant you could help Al get his body back and live like a norm-"
She didn't get to finish, because Ed butted right in. "Do you think Al would want that?!" Mentally counting to ten, he prayed that he had enough self-restraint not to start shouting again. "Do you think Al would want you to die for him?! Do you think he could live knowing what it took?!"
Winry looked away and was about to voice some kind of an unconvincing reply, when Ed beat her to it again.
"Do you think I could live with that?!"
Winry mentally cursed when she turned back towards Ed and unconsciously shifted her bandaged ankle the wrong way. Staring speechlessly at the angry alchemist who was now looming over her pathetic-looking form, all she could do was look down at her hands and muster a barely audible "Sorry."
Ed huffed in response and studied her for a couple of minutes in utter silence. When Winry finally heard him shift, she looked to the side, expecting to see his outstretched hand urging her to get up and limp back to the camp with him. So she was completely thrown off when, instead of an automail hand she knew so well, she saw Ed's unreadable face just inches away from her own.
"Do you think I could live with that, Winry?"
Then silence fell upon them again. But this time, it only lasted seconds, because as she dumbly stared at him without the faintest clue of what to say, Winry failed to notice Ed's sudden bending forward and softly capturing her lips with his own.
Fortunately, she had enough common sense to kiss him back when he began moving away. And though the kiss only lasted seconds, when they parted, both felt as if it ages had passed between them.
The silence was broken by Ed's gentle plea, as he looked into Winry's eyes, "Don't ever be reckless like this again, OK?"
Her dazed but sincere response was enough for him, so Ed stood up and reached a hand out to her – but not the one she had built.
Getting up on her feet with a silent yelp when her ankle protested the sudden change of position, Winry felt that warm hand slip away, only to feel Ed's flesh arm encircle her waist as they slowly made their way toward the campsite.
"You know, you didn't have to use three whole rolls of bandage on my foot."
Ed stole a glare at the shadowy figures sprawled around the fire before replying, "Yeah, well, when I went to get some bandages from the tent earlier, Heinkel and Darius practically shoved them in my hands and said I might as well not come back if your ankle isn't secure enough for you to tapdance on it."
Leaning on Ed for support, Winry let out a laugh that echoed through the woods.
A/N Call me crazy, but I think that, if they were to spend more time together, Heinkel and Darius would totally act like Winry's over-protective parents XD
Also, I think the beginning kind of drags on. And Winry's mind wanders off a little too much than it normally does… then again, who's to tell?
Comments and constructive criticism are appreciated and will make me a happy panda :)