Good evening everyone!
You have all been so wonderfully patient and I am sorry to say this chapter might seem a tad on the shorter side because I didn't want to delve into the next segment in this one. However, it does explain stuff so that's always good, right?
I don't own Full Metal Alchemist in any way shape or form.
Now on with the story…
What Would You Do?
I hate hospitals.
Ed sat hunched over in the plastic chair of Central's main hospital with his elbows braced onto his knees. He could have opted to sit in the waiting room, but he preferred the solitude here to the people waiting to be checked in, children crying, or people staring at him with those questioning gazes.
People always seemed to do that in hospitals…like they want to ask you what your there for when you look perfectly fine.
Too many questions. People should mind their own business. He thought in disdain as he watched yet another nurse in scrubs zip past him. He brought his eyes back to the front.
He really hated hospitals.
He hated the smell of antiseptic. He hated the air of depression that blanketed the entire building, (it didn't matter what department in his opinion…even the newborn wing full of expectant parents and screaming infants held that same depressive air). He hated that pasty color scheme that for some reason, all hospitals used; that dull blue and sterile white. Above everything though, he hated the stupid doctors and nurses who zipped in and out of the room in front of him who still couldn't tell him a damn thing.
Ed sighed as he reclined backwards and stuck his legs out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. Stupid chairs being made out of industrial plastic…you never could get comfortable in the damn things no matter how hard you tried.
Ed turned his head slightly to stare into the warm and equally exhausted eyes of his younger brother who was making his way back towards him. "Yeah." He replied as he took the cup of steaming coffee Al offered him. He sipped at the steaming cup of caffeine and almost wished it was hotter. At least then he would probably feel something.
Al took a seat next to him in an unoccupied chair and took a sip of his own beverage. "Still nothing?" he asked gently.
Ed shook his head. "You should go home and get some sleep. I don't want you missing school or anything."
Al offered him a gentle smile; his older brother always seemed to put his wellbeing above his own. "I'm sure I can make up the work tomorrow. Besides you're the one graduating soon, shouldn't you be more worried about falling behind?"
"I'm not going anywhere."
Al stared at him for a moment longer before nodding once. He reclined into the back of the chair and brought his eyes to stare at the same door as his brother.
For a few moments, the two brothers sat in silence relishing in the noise that the hospital personal seemed to exude. All around them they heard the hum of machines, the chatter of nurses and the weariness of the doctors as they all seemed to hold an agenda that the two boys were unaware of.
They watched as yet another nurse came barreling through the door to drop something off; she ran out nearly as fast as she had run in.
Al glanced at his brother upon hearing him. It was kind of a morbid game Edward had adopted since the moment they were escorted out of the room and into the vile chairs they were sitting in. How many hospital personal did it take to fix a Winry? They were hoping to find the answer soon.
Al sighed gently to himself. He did his best to give his brother his space and tried not to interfere in his affairs, (except for the few times his dear brother needed a kick in the backside when he 'forgot' what the right thing to do was), but he needed an explanation for the nights events.
He remembered too vividly the sound of his brother's tires squealing as he rounded the turn into their driveway too fast and how he ran into their house without even closing the front door behind him. Al had watched him take the stairs two at a time and followed after him calling out for an explanation. He watched as his brother flung open the door to their mother's bedroom without even the slightest bit of apprehension. A room that had gone untouched for more than half a decade was now being ransacked by his only sibling. He had been shocked into silence after that and could only watch as his brother reemerged from the darkness. As far as he could tell, Edward hadn't taken anything. He remembered the look in his eyes as he offered Alphonse the only insight into what was going through his mind.
"I'm sorry Al. So sorry."
Then he was gone. He ran back down the steps he came from and out the front door to his waiting vehicle; still idling in park with the keys in the ignition.
Alone with his thoughts once more, Al had sunk down to sit on the top step of the oak staircase; dread filling him to the point of immobility.
Those had been the exact words his brother had said to him the night he had his accident. The night their father had died.
When he received the phone call from his brother an hour later, he nearly jumped out of his skin and assured him he would be at Winry's as soon as he could hail a cab. It proved to be easier than he thought and since it was nearing midnight, there was no one else on the road.
What he saw when he got there did nothing to calm his fears.
There were cops. A lot of cops. And an ambulance. Their lights illuminated the darkness of the night and Al nearly jumped out of the vehicle before it had even come to a complete stop.
He was stopped, questioned, and ordered to turn back before he caught sight of his brother. He called for him, and it seemed like Ed's face gained some sort of relief at seeing him before he caught up to him.
He had only caught the end of their conversation and they were instructed to follow them to the main hospital in Central. The cop instructed him to drive as it didn't look like Edward was in anyway shape or form to do so. He didn't think it was necessary to tell him he only had a permit and not his license.
The ride there was silent. The kind of pins and needles silent that held an air of fragile tension that Al himself was too scared to break. His brother looked like he was being driven further and further into shock that he only snapped out of until they had been kicked out of the room that Winry had been brought to.
Then it was as if a daemon from hell itself had possessed him to wake him from the nightmare he had witnessed. He yelled, he fought, he swore, and he damn near broke a cop's nose that had restrained him. Al could only watch as his brother fought to stay at her side before he was forcibly picked up and dropped into the hallway with the threat of sedation and/or incarceration if he didn't stop his behavior.
Al blinked back to the present and hoped to the heavens that his brother hadn't done anything rash in the time that he was over there.
He sighed once more and braced himself for the tidal wave of emotions his brother was going through and asked the question he had wanted the answer to for hours at this point.
"What happened tonight brother?"
Edward's shoulders visibly dropped as he exhaled a silent sigh. He was surprised it took Al this long to finally ask him but then again, he imagined his actions earlier might have made it a tad difficult to get an answer out of him.
None the less, he knew he owed him the truth. "You didn't see her Al."
Al brought his eyes back to his brothers and saw the same hollow look in them that plagued them before when he had arrived. The eyes of a person who had clearly seen more than they were capable of handling. It made the teenager seem aged… like he was far older in that moment than his body reflected.
Ed recounted the events to his sibling. He told him how he had picked her up from work and went to drop her off at her house and how he should have listened to that nagging suspicion in the back of his mind. He told Al how he met her legal guardian for the first, (and only, he hoped), time and how he had pulled a gun him and threatened him if he returned. He sighed tiredly when he told him he couldn't leave her there and so he had thought that he should properly arm himself as well. He educated Al on the pistol that their mother had kept hidden in her nightstand for years as a method of protection when their father left them for long periods of time and how he immediately raced back.
Al interrupted him at that point and had chastised him fiercely for thinking that taking their mothers firearm was even remotely a good idea.
"What would you have done?!" Al asked in a harsh whisper while he gripped his brother's shoulders tightly. Mindful of where he was, he didn't want to draw attention to the fact that a minor had been in possession of a legal firearm. "Did you even stop to think to call the police?! Your only seventeen Ed, You would've been killed!"
The guilt slammed into him like a freight train; fast and crippling. Edward let his brother be the voice of reason, as he always was, and felt terrible for making him worry as much as he had. He let his brother knock his back into the chair with so much force that the legs tipped backward.
Al raked a hand through his disheveled hair in annoyance before falling back into his own seat; eyes forward and arms crossed.
Ed let his head fall backwards to stare up at the pristinely white ceiling above them. "I needed to do something Al." He locked his eyes back onto his brother's and spoke in exasperation. "Shit, if I didn't get there who knows what could have happened?!"
Ed didn't think he would ever be able to forget what he saw. When he had finally shouldered the door out of his way, he had silently drawn his gun and cautiously stepped inside the quiet house. The hallway was dark but Ed wasn't going to draw attention to himself, (more than he probably already had), by turning it on.
He was in no way prepared for the site that greeted him.
The floor was littered with glass and it crunched loudly under his shoes. Glass wear he had thought as he noticed a crystal decanter on the coffee table with no glasses in sight. He let his eyes roam to the corners and spied a bottle of an unknown liquid in multiple pieces. That was also probably why the floor had been so sticky. He ignored it and instead let his eyes notice that the table lamps that had once sat upright, where now laying on their sides along the floor; their shades coated in red. He righted them to cast the room in light once more and was rendered completely speechless.
The walls, the floor, even the furniture was smeared in blood. Hand prints, sprays, flecks, smears; it looked like an artist went to town on the room as their canvas for the most macabre painting in history. For one heart-stopping moment, he thought the absolute worst.
It was looking around, spinning to get a 360 degree view, that he finally saw her.
She was just sitting there next to the fireplace with her back pressed against the wall and her knees drawn up to her chest. Her arms were wrapped around them tightly to hold them close like she was trying to shrink into herself and her whole body was shaking like she had severe hypothermia.
The most terrifying though, had been her eyes. They were opened so wide that it made her already large iris seem tiny in comparison. Her pupils had shrunk to mere millimeters even with the darkness the room provided; they were trained and staring, unfocused in one direction that never shifted.
It didn't take a guy with a medical degree to know the girl had been driven into complete shock.
Edward had immediately run to her side and collapsed to his knees next to her. He called her name repeatedly to try to garner any sort of reaction as he began assessing the visible damage caused to her. Her brilliant blonde hair was matted to her face from sweat and blood and he felt a small weight lift when he realized it wasn't hers. Besides the bruise on her cheek and the split in her lip, she had no facial injuries and no head injuries where a good thing in his book.
However that's where his relief ended.
It was then he noticed that her hands where coated in various shades of red; a constant changing gradient of dried blood to fresh. His eyes traveled to her arm where the pink muscle of her bicep was visible between the bouts of streaming liquid. He was by no means weak when it came to blood, but seeing the sinewy, pink tissue of her arm even made him feel nauseous.
He knew she needed medical attention right away.
"Winry what happened?!" He demanded as he brought his hands to her shoulders and stared into her eyes.
What he saw frightened him.
She didn't answer him. Hell, it didn't even look like she had even heard him. He noticed something though, being so close to her. Her cracked lips where parted slightly and moving a mile a minute but to Edward, it didn't sound like anything was coming out.
Is she even speaking? He thought as his eye brows drew together in confusion.
He gently brought his head closer, being mindful to make slow and deliberate movements so as not to startle her. It was then, with his ear mere millimeters from her lips, feeling her breath blowing gently across, was he able to make out the one phrase she had been repeating over and over like a broken record.
"I killed him".
Edward immediately recoiled from her and nearly lost his balance but Winry still made no acknowledgement. As far as her shattered mind could tell, there was no one there. She was completely and frighteningly, alone.
Had he heard her correct?
Edward's gaze swept to his left to finally notice the still body across from them and felt all the blood in his veins freeze over. Sprawled on his stomach was Winry's assailant; blood pooling underneath him.
Ed immediately called the police.
The ride to the hospital had gone by in a blur and as the only current witness to the scene, he couldn't even join her in the ambulance. He remembered pushing against the officers that restrained him and demanded to know what hospital she was being taken to.
"I shouldn't have left her. Even for twenty fucking minutes."
Al sighed. "You couldn't have known any of this would happen."
It did little to reassure him.
They waited together in silence for another hour and a half. It was in that time that another officer, looking just as exhausted as Ed himself felt, came by to take another statement. They asked if she had any other family they could call and without missing a beat, he told them to call a one, Riza Hawkeye. Ed answered the rest of his questions to the best of his knowledge and almost flinched when the older gentleman regrettably said he unfortunately couldn't rule him out as a possible suspect yet.
Ed snorted as he watched the officer walk away. "Suspect? Yeah right. A catalyst maybe."
Al smiled ruefully at his brothers statement and was about to respond when he was cut off by the door across from them opening. The doctor looked exhausted and his once pristine, white coat now held the sporadic traces of blood.
Edward was immediately on his feet. "Well?" The word had come out more demanding and angry than he wanted it to and he internally winced. His patience was being held together by the thinnest of tethers and he knew if he didn't get information soon he was going to snap.
The doctor sighed gently as he closed the manila folder in his hands. "It's a good thing you found her when you did. Her forearm required a high amount of stitches and she needed a blood transfusion. The amount lost was too great."
Ed barely registered his hand balling into a fist in anger. He knew it had been bad, but he didn't think it had been that bad. "Can I see her?"
The doctor seemed to debate the question before nodding. "I'm afraid she won't be awake. I had to give her a mild sedative in order to calm her down."
Edward visibly winced recalling the way her screams lit up the quiet hallway when the doctors and nurses touched her. It was a horrid sound that made every nerve ending in his body freeze over and he was almost relieved when her screams died down to silence once more. He nodded once and immediately pushed passed the doctor to enter the sterile room. His brain dimly registered his brother apologizing for his rude actions before he heard the soft click of the door shutting behind him.
He wasn't sure what he had been expecting; maybe countless nurses pouring over oxygen levels or officers looking to arrest him for attempted murder. In any case, he was met with the haunting mix of silence and the shrill sound of the heart monitor alerting him the woman he cared for was in fact still alive.
The room looked near identical to the one his mother had been admitted to, the only difference being he remembered that her bed had been against the left wall…not the right. Mechanically, Edward walked to the still woman's side and dragged one of the visitors chairs over before gracelessly falling into it.
This one was made from a cotton material…still uncomfortable in his opinion.
His hand immediately took hers and his eyes traveled to her face. She had a bruise forming on her cheek and her lips where cracked from being dry. Other than that, most of the dried blood and grime from earlier had been wiped clean revealing her pale flesh.
She looked at peace. If you could ignore the hum of the machines and the tubes sticking out of her body at different places, anyone would have thought her merely asleep. The thought made him uncomfortable.
He didn't know how, and he definitely didn't know when, but it seemed like he had blinked once, maybe twice, before the physical exhaustion seemed to catch up to the mental. His deprived body fell forward and he was out like a light even before his head hit her bedside.
"I knew this would happen."
"I'm sure you did what you thought was be-"
"I'll kill him myself!"
What the hell? Edward thought as the once far away voices in the room seemed to become clearer with each word spoken. I must have fallen asleep…
Edward's golden eyes blinked open and struggled to regain their focus. He sat up and winced as his sore neck and back left him painfully aware that how he had slept was not ideal. He let out a loud yawn and that seemed to stop the conversation at hand.
"Well look who's awake."
Edward's eyes slid to meet the furious gaze of the one person that had been a constant in Winry's life: Riza Hawkeye.
"Mind telling me what the hell is going on?"
Edward immediately looked to Winry before his brother's gentle reply reached his ears. "She hasn't woken up yet. The sedative they gave her hasn't worn off."
He let his gaze linger a moment longer before sighing gently. "I'll start from the beginning."
Edward recounted all of the night's events to Riza and watched in mild amazement as her calculating expression never once faltered from her passive features.
"I don't know where he is now or what his status is." Ed finished as he squeezed Winry's hand once more.
Riza seemed to be thinking something over, wondering if the information she had would be prudent to share. She pursed her lips and did her best to keep her voice even and level.
"I do. She didn't kill him."
Ed's head jerked up at the news to meet the passive woman's eyes. He wasn't sure if he had heard correctly but the way his brothers gaze fell to the tiled floor confirmed his disbelief. He let his fingers slide out from Winry's still hand before he stood up; his quick temper flared at hearing the sudden news. He didn't deserve to live. Not when he had caused her more pain than a person should ever have to endure.
"I can't believe it." The anger was evident in his voice and his fist balled tightly at his side; his knuckles slowly turning to an ashen shade of white. "After everything he has done, he still breathes?!"
Riza ignored the outburst from the shorter man and exhaled loudly into a sigh that left her visibly deflated.
"His condition is much worse than hers, make no mistake of that. He isn't even conscious at the moment and I don't think he will be without permanent damage. Blunt force trauma to the skull usually does that." Her next statement had an underlying note of pride in it. "She did a number on him."
Ed let her statement sink into his brain before he turned to the window and let his fist slam into it. It was still dark out; the wee hours of the morning would soon give way to the rising sun but for the moment, the only light outside was from the street lamps in the hospital parking lot.
"He deserves worse. I wish he fucking died back there."
Riza's eyes blazed with molten fury but her voice remained as calm as ever. "How could you say that?"
He immediately turned to face her, his anger spiking to another degree as the rebuttal started to pour from his lips. "What do you mean?! Look at h—"
"Imagine for one moment how Winry would feel when she woke up." She interjected, effectively silencing the young man in front of her. "Imagine she woke up only to learn that she killed someone. What do you think that would do to her?"
Ed was immediately silenced. It was rare for Riza to raise her voice but the power of her words hit harder. She was right. Winry's hands were meant to create; to take pieces of nothing and make then into something… something amazing. He could only imagine what would course through her mind if she learned those artistic hands, instead took away a human life.
She would feel like you do. He thought to himself.
He knew as well as the other two individuals in that room, that she would blame herself for the rest of her life.
-Notes from the Author-
And there's the next chapter! I couldn't really kill him off…it would be too easy!
Thank you for the patience everyone. I got a new job and the hours will take a little getting used to as well as planning a wedding kind of eats some time up.
In any case, I can't thank you guys enough. I receive reviews stating how nice my writing style is and how awesome the story is and it's the greatest feeling in the world.
The next chapter will be up soon!
Read and Review and have a Happy Halloween!