Title: Time to Take
Author: Tiamat's Child
Rating: PG
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Character/s: Ran Fan, Winry
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: Ran Fan's world has always been, in some ways, small. But it's growing.
Notes: Written for Deconcentrate as a (belated) birthday present, off her prompt "Ran Fan and Winry; 'repair', or 'maintenance.'"

Time to Take

Winry whistled. "You're fast!" she said to Ran Fan, "Look how far you've got already, and it's only ten on the clock!"

Ran Fan gave the staple she held across the fence post another tap with her hammer, trapping the barbed wire strand beneath it, and turned to look down the way she had come. "It is a long way," she said after a moment, "But the posts are sound. There is only the wire to be strung."

"It's impressive anyway," said Winry, "Grandma's been meaning to get this pasture back in use for ages, but with the shop – " She gestured expressively with the hand that she was using to hold a nested pair of glasses.

"Your labor is worth more machining," Ran Fan agreed, crouching to lay the hammer and loose end of the barbed wire coil next to the box of staples in the grass. "What is it you need from me?" She stood, straight backed and poised, her hands loose at her sides, barefoot in the grass, all attention.

There was a hint of a flush creeping up Winry's neck. "I brought out lemon soda," she said. "It's getting hot. Figured you could use a drink."

Ran Fan blinked. "Thank you," she said.

"Oh, it's no trouble!" Winry said, dropping down to sit tailor fashion on the grass, glasses in one hand, pitcher in the other. Ran Fan watched her curiously. The pitcher did not even threaten to slop. "I'm so sick of being stuck indoors! It feels like I've been hiding in crates and wagons and my basement for so long that I'm about to turn all pale and start fruiting, like a mushroom or something – " She paused to grin up at Ran Fan, who was still standing, light on her feet. "Please sit down? I'd like to share a drink with you."

Ran Fan nodded and knelt, keeping her back straight and even, her body unencumbered by her limbs, ready to move fast if she had to.

Winry set down the pitcher and unstacked the glasses. "Besides, with Al asleep on the couch I can't get any work done. I'm afraid I'll wake him up!"

Ran Fan did not think that Alphonse would be likely to wake for the sounds of Winry's machine shop, which he had told her were so familiar to him he used the memory of them to keep him company in the night. Ran Fan did not think that Alphonse would be likely to wake for a procession of all the judges and guards of the dead. Not at the moment. It still surprised her that he was waking on his own for food and short conversations, instead of having to be woken. It was a testament to his strength of will, but he had been five years without sleep. He would take it in noise or in silence.

She did not say so. She simply took the glass Winry handed her without comment. It was already growing slick with condensation. "Tell me what you think," Winry said, and poured out a glass for herself.

Ran Fan drank. It was sharp and sour, with just a little sweetness, not what she'd expected from Winry, who seemed the type to over sugar everything. "It's good," she said.

"Mmm," said Winry, sipping at her own glass and then, "Good. I thought it might have come out too sweet."

"No," Ran Fan said, "Not too sweet."

"No," Winry agreed, "It's not."

They sat in silence for a moment, drinking their sodas. "It's all right to drink it fast," Winry said, as the quiet stretched. Ran Fan supposed it must have gone past the point she felt comfortable in something as intimate as wordlessness with someone who was, after all, little more than a stranger. "I know it's cold, but the soda should stop any stomach cramps."

"It's too good for that," Ran Fan answered. She looked down to her glass, to the beads of water that rolled slowly down it and wet her hands, to the bubbles that rippled trails upwards through it. Up and down. "It would be disrespectful," she said, with no notion of whether or not Winry would understand.

She looked up. Winry was smiling. Ran Fan let the glass rest between her palms, one flesh and one metal, and met Winry's gaze. Pale blue flame, and the sky behind her, heavy with the promise of rain. "You're right," Winry said, "With good food, it's good to take time."

It was not exactly what Ran Fan had meant, but that did not matter. "Yes," she agreed.

"Which is good," Winry said, ducking her head, breaking the connection between them. Ran Fan didn't expect her to look back up again, and was a little surprised to realize that she found that lack of expectation disappointing, that she was disappointed to no longer be looking at Winry's face, only at the veil of her hair. But Winry did look back up, her face set in lines of resolve, her eyes clear and steady with determination. Ran Fan felt her face go hot and red. "Because I haven't been able to take time with you. I've known you for months, but I barely know you at all. I don't like that. I'd like to be friends." Ran Fan's mouth tightened. "Can we be friends?" Winry asked, just a little shyer, a little less self-assured.

Ran Fan wished for her mask, for the safety of it, for the cool clay against her cheeks. "Yes," she answered, though her body was taut and tense like a well strung bow, though she could feel her pulse in her throat and it was faster than it should be. She had never had anyone emask/em to be her friend before. Ling was her master and her kinsman and her comrade and her lord and she loved him, adored him, would do anything for him, took pleasure in his company, took comfort in his mastery of her, her service to him, but in all the things he'd asked her for, for her time, or her touch, or her attention, all the ways he'd used his questions to create places for the two of them to simply be themselves, he had never asked her for her friendship, any more than he'd asked her for her loyalty, for her knife or her arm or her life. And with Alphonse it had simply happened, without a question or an answer beyond, "Please write to me."

Ed was another matter. She didn't even like Ed. Mostly.

Being asked for her friendship was new. Her world was getting bigger, Ling had said to her, some days ago, both of their worlds were. "I know it's strange," he'd said, "But I also know Ran Fan can handle it." And he'd smiled at her, right in close, and she knew it was fine if their world was getting bigger, if there were more people tangled up in her heart, just as long as they were still safe when they were near each other. As long as they were okay, everything else would be. So it was okay. So she could say yes.

Winry was glowing. "Great!" she exclaimed, and Ran Fan found herself watching in befuddlement as Winry set her glass down and folded her hands around Ran Fan's, even as Ran Fan's were still folded around her own cup. There was no threat in Winry. Ran Fan knew that Winry, in the general rule of things, was only someone to worry about if you were Ed and she had a wrench in her hand. She would not seriously harm anyone. The idea of hurting other people made Winry look away, her face pinched. She only hurt to heal. Besides, even without that, Ran Fan didn't read anything threatening in the way she was moving now. She was just excited. "I'm glad!" Winry said, bright and close, having taken herself further into Ran Fan's space than anyone except Ling had ever peacefully gone. "I really am. Because you're really brave, and really important to Al, and I don't know everything that happened, but I already know I owe you a lot."

Ran Fan shook her head, leaving her hands caught in Winry's. That was fine. It even felt good. Strange, but good. Winry's hands were larger than hers. They covered hers completely, hiding them behind Winry's machinist's calluses and surgeon's strength. "You don't owe me."

"It's okay," Winry said, "It's not a bad kind of debt. It's the kind that's a tie between people. I owe lots of people. It's a good thing to owe people. It means you're part of them."

Ran Fan couldn't help frowning. That sounded backward somewhere to her. "You can look at my arm, if you want," she said, fully aware that this was the fastest way to change the subject. It also probably meant that she wouldn't be getting back to the fence for at least an hour, but she was sure she could finish restringing the wire before Ling was ready to go anyway.

Winry squealed.

Ran Fan could almost see her eyes turn to stars, and for just a moment she wanted to retract the permission, to retreat, because that was disturbing and not professional at all, but she didn't. She held firm. She had offered. She would not take the offer back.

She gently tugged her hands free of Winry's and set her glass of soda down before she held out her metal hand to Winry. She knew that the automail was warm from the sun, as warm as living flesh, or warmer.

Winry cooed and unfolded herself, taking Ran Fan's hand, moving to kneel beside her with a swiftness no one would have believed from a girl thoroughly untrained in any kind of martial art if they hadn't seen her display it.

Ran Fan expected that she would have to forcefully remind herself that Winry was a professional, that she was fully qualified for this, no matter how odd the glint in her eye got, but she didn't. The touch of Winry's hands, practiced and assured and not so much clinical as confident did it for her. She relaxed. It was fine. Winry knew what she was doing. Winry would not use the knowledge of how the arm worked against her. It would be good to have another person she could ask for advice.

"This is so clever," Winry said, in a register nearly an octave higher than her usual. "It's really, really clever! I might have to build a retractable blade like this into Ed's next arm. It might stop him transmuting his all the time."

Ran Fan smirked. "It was my idea."

Winry chuckled. "I'll be sure to tell him when I give it to him," she said, "The look on his faaaaace."

Ran Fan bent her head and bit down on her smile.

"He'll throw his arms around and shout," Winry continued happily. "'I can be just as resourceful as that grenade happy ninja freak!' he'll say."

Ran Fan kept her teeth on the inside of her lower lip, but looked up to see Winry anyway. She was grinning, fierce and slightly wicked. "You know he will," Winry said, "And he'll stomp, too."

"And pull at his hair," Ran Fan agreed, not sure what this was, but Winry seemed to want an answer, and she didn't mind. She wanted to give what Winry wanted.

"And growl," said Winry, "He's so funny when he growls. Like a kitten!"

That lost Ran Fan. She blinked in honest puzzlement. "…A kitten?"

"With little baby needle claws!" Winry said, laughing. And then, more seriously, still checking tension and form and all the ways Ran Fan was put together now, "Al says you agreed to write to him. I know it's a lot, but would you write me too?"

"Yes," Ran Fan said, because that was easy. That decision was already made. It was in the yes she'd said before.

"Thank you," Winry said, "I'll write too."

"Good," Ran Fan said.

Ling had said their world was getting bigger. It was. It stretched half way around the planet, now, their world. That was a long way. It was a long way away to have people you cared about, people to protect and foster, especially for Ran Fan, who had always done her best to keep her people as close to her as possible, so that she was always within range of a whistle if something went wrong, but, "Ran Fan can handle it," Ling had said, and she would. She would it. It was, she thought as Winry made a squeaking sound with no established onomatopoeia, worth the work. Worth the fear, too.

She could handle it.