A/N: Hello everyone! I'm back with a lovely onesot for my faithful readers. Lately I've been re-inspired in my war tales and this is only one of the results. Though, this idea is not entirely my own. It is a story all its own told in the hospitals of WWII. I hoped to create even a pale imitation of such a touching story. It is rated T for some slightly details of war.
Please read and enjoy.
Summary: "Beauty heals. Like these flowers, its presence can be slight and feeble but its touch is indefinite. It comforts." EdWin
It was with quick, no-nonsense strokes that she wiped the crusting blood off the steel frame of the hospital pallet. Winry's ministrations were precise and thorough, and she did not flinch to the testimony of pain that now stained her rag. For three years she had served as a nurse in the midst of WWII and it was all the time needed to harden her stomach against the sight of it.
But the heart could not be so well guarded.
Compassion was not a necessary quality in a nurse because they were so desperately needed but it helped. Too much of it tended to leave the heart open and easily disturbed and Winry knew this too well. A night had not passed that she did not dream of the faces of dead men.
Her hand paused before dipping the rag into the cold, soapy water. The cleansing substance had adapted to a pale colored rust and made her think twice. When the water stilled, Winry caught the eye of her reflection in its murky depths and had to force herself not to flinch. Even if it wasn't an adequate mirror, the deep shadows beneath her eyes were clearly seen and her lips a ghostly comparison to her face. She considered reaching for the single tube of lipstick she carried in her pocket but decided against it. There was no concealing her paleness. Even her hair was in a horrid disarray and she tried to smooth it back with her free hand. Beauty was such a fleeting thing, and it appeared she had lost it long before she had a chance to cultivate it. Or rather, she'd lost any sense of it when she gave her career for the welfare of others. She could not help but be envious of some of her coworkers who always seemed so pristine.
"Winry, have you taken your break yet?"
She looked up from the bucket at Noah whose critical eye quickly assessed the sparkling beds that laid in Winry's wake. A small smile curved her sculpted features.
"Go on," she tilted her head toward the break room, "take your fifteen in the back. We'll have a truckload soon enough again."
Too weary to argue, Winry picked herself up with a mumbled "thank you", ignoring the twinge in her muscles as she did so. Perhaps it was carved into her personality, but in her commute to the break room she couldn't completely disregard her work, stopping by the beds of a few of her patience to gently place her hand upon their clammy brows. Most were asleep but some stared beyond her with haunted eyes.
She prayed for them. At that point it was all she could do.
The cold water was a shock to her face but it helped her mind focus. Now was not the time to give into her exhaustion. Her next shift was about to start. Around her, in the close-knit quarters, were four other nurses—two of which she considered close personal friends. The other two spoke loudly and without restrain and Winry found more often than not she would block their voices out. But now she cocked her head to the side when the stinging smell of smoke filled her nostrils.
"There's no smoking in here, Bernice. You know that." Winry's quiet reprimand earned her a sneer from the lanky woman's face. Since first stationed there, Bernice had always been a ridiculing thorn in Winry's side. She had all the meanness of a bitch guarding her pups, only she had no pups. It had taken nearly a year for Winry to completely disregard all the snide comments that came her way from the woman.
"Keeps me young." Her sarcasm was heavy but her measuring eyes returned to the open door of the break room.
"Look at that wench, Helen," The woman addressed turned away from the mirror and from following her lips with a blood red tube to gaze to the door where Noah could be seen sitting next to a wounded man's pallet. "Even with that color their eyes follow her like she were wearing nothin' at all."
"Bernice!" Helen scolded with false audacity. "She might hear you!"
"Then let her come. She ain't nothing compared to me."
"I swear, Bernice, you have all the gumption and class of a flapper."
At this point their conversation fell upon deaf ears as Winry too watched the eyes of the soldier who gazed intently at Noah's face. Whatever it was, it wasn't lust that lined the man's features. He was too ill to be feeling any of the sort. But still, his eyes clung to Noah's lovely profile as if it were a lifeline to the world around him, and one that he feared to let go of. Noah's dusky hand gently brushed aside the hair from the soldier's face as if he were a child. Her lips moved but Winry was too far to hear what she said. In response, the soldier nodded, his eyes closing slowly and Noah departed.
"Like a dog…"
Fortunately the comment was overwhelmed by the sharp sound of the alarm bells sounding overhead. A hand to her shoulder brought Winry's eyes to Riza, who gave a short nod.
"Break is over. Let's go."
Chaos erupted the minute the wounded were unloaded on the Army base and every available nurse swarmed to their aid. Every pallet, every blanket was used until no more could be found and screaming men were forced to lay in wait along the hospital walls. It didn't take long for the sickly smell of open flesh to disperse around the building and only medical masks were worn as its combatant. But nothing could hinder the painful screams and groans from the ear. Even more men were laid in the hall for a surgery that might never come.
Determination was set deeply in the lines of Winry's face as the terror progressed. Bodies were seared to the bone and belies were stitched together with a weak thread. There was little she hadn't seen in this hospital but it still didn't remove the initial shock at such monstrosity.
"Winry!" Her head snapped up from the gash she'd began to sew on a soldier's thigh when Czeska's voice sounded through the chaos. Sweat beaded the corners of the girl's glasses.
"I'll take over for you here. Riza wants you in surgery."
Quickly, Czeska took the needle from her hand and Winry power walked toward the surgery room. Her pace quickened when a man's shouts echoed forcefully past the door and down the hallway. She burst through that same door.
"I'm here." Even as she said it, she donned on the apron, hard-pressed not to stare in shock at the convulsing man on the table. Two Grunts pressed their weights heavily against his arms and still his shoulders managed to rock up as he roared in fury and in anguish. Noah stood by his head with a needle cocked in her hand, attempting to sooth the man so she would not miss his vein. Blood pooled on the table by his leg and only then did Winry realize that he was an amputee. How a man could have this much strength—even after loosing a part of himself she did not know.
Riza struggled with the straps around his whole leg. "Winry! The needle!"
With no hesitation, Winry grabbed the needle from Noah's hand and zeroed in on his arm. But with another astounding feat of strength, the man pulled free of Riza's hold on his leg and his Knee hit the center of her back and she fell forward. His face was suddenly a foot closer than she'd ever wanted him to be and golden eyes full of rage glared up at her. "Let me go." His words came through clenched teeth.
"What is his name?" Noah's face turned incredulous at Winry's question.
"What is his name!"
It must have been her urgency that propelled Noah to answer. "Edward Elric!"
"Edward," her tone dropped and she tore away her mask. If they didn't stabilize him quickly he could cause even more damage to himself or to one of the nurses. "Edward, look at me. You are okay. No one here will harm you." The heat in his eyes did not lessen. Like she had seen Noah do earlier, she placed her hand on the side of his face and prayed he'd see the sincerity in her eyes. "We want to help you. I promise you no one here will harm you. I won't let them."
Thirty seconds lingered as Winry watched the bone along his sharp features clench and as the muscles in his arms strained against a struggle. Another opportunity could not be waited for. Noah took the needle from Winry's outstretched hand and quickly injected it in his arm. Only then did the wounded soldier tear his eyes away from Winry's to glare at the people around him.
"Damn you all!" The fury in his voice sent a shiver running up her spine. His lids began to droop until finally his limbs became limp. Everyone in the room could not conceal their sigh of relief that he had finally fallen under the meds. It was Riza who first to broke the silence.
"I knew he was going to be a hot pilot from the moment I laid eyes on him."
It wasn't until a full twenty-four hours had passed that things began to slow down into a sort of chaotic order. They were still terribly understaffed and supplies were becoming dangerously low. Riza, who was second only to the head nurse, sent word for a replenishment of both but nothing had yet been heard. Unfortunately, a medical facility was only as good as its staff and supplies. There could be no argument in that.
It had been nearly forty-eight hours and Winry had only been running of coffee and catnaps. Belatedly, she only remembered this when she begun to sway on her feet. She was no fool to completely neglect her body's need for rest, but she couldn't prevent her eyes from flickering to the corner cot where the man called Edward lay quiet. He still had yet to pull away from the morphine—his wounds had been so extensive she feared he might not pull out. During his time in the operation room, they had been forced to saw another portion of his leg to make the cut a clean one. He also suffered from four cracked ribs and a bullet in the shoulder to follow suit. The surgery had been extensive and it had left everyone exhausted.
It was Noah who sat by his bedside. Winry gave a quiet prayer of gratitude that it wasn't Bernice.
She went to the back and slept.
A firm shake to her shoulder jolted Winry from her slumber.
"Winry, wake up."
"Yes." There was a smile hidden in her voice. "Now wake up. Your charge needs you."
That brought her wide awake. "My what?"
"Lt. Elric. I've designated you his nurse."
She nearly scoffed at her superior. No one was designated a single nurse. "Why?"
"He won't cooperate with any of the girls. He's been in a foul mood since his eyes opened. You were able to calm him down in surgery. See if you can at least talk him into letting you see his dressing."
Anything she might have said was silenced by her disbelief. Did this man ever slow down or did he just naturally carry all the characteristics of a mule? A complete laceration of his leg couldn't even slow him down! She wondered if he was this mean when he was well.
Disheveled from her sleep, the young nurse could feel the sudden droop to her ponytail and could see the blonde tendrils whisk around her face. She definitely was not something to behold, yet she did not waste any time for personal vanity. With a quick splash of water to the face, Winry paused only to grab a glass and a silver pitcher of water. If he was awake then there was no doubt he would be thirsty.
His body was listless when she saw him and his breathing shallow but steady. As was habit, her hand came to dutifully rest on his brow. Edward was warm but thankfully had no fever. The shadows beneath his closed lids were a testament to his exhaustion, and because of his seemingly deep sleep Winry had no qualms in quietly lifting up his blanket to check his bandages.
"What are you doing?"
The rough, grated voice made her jerk in surprise and his narrowed eyes watched her with a fierceness equal to when he was first brought in. She forced herself to relax.
"I'm checking your bandages. If I don't they will soil and the infection we are trying so hard to avoid will settle in."
Those burning irises held her where she stood until he blinked and she was yet again freed from the fire.
"I don't need your help." He said.
His answer was filled with loathing. Most of the men who ended up here struggled with the severe bitterness.
"Are you always so ornery, Lt. Elric?" She gave a slight smile when his sharp gaze fastened back on her. Then she said, more quietly, "We all need help in this war, Lt. Elric."
The fire in his eyes did not lessen, but he let her check his wounds.
I know it's similar to my other two stories, but I promise the outcome will be different as will its moral. As for updates, fear not, there will only be one more installment before it's finished. I hope to have it posted within the next couple of weeks.
If you enjoyed this story, drop a review for support :) It would be much appreciated.
Hearts of the Innocent