A.N. Those who have seen the first anime probably remember a little episode called The Phantom Thief, where our badass Fullmetal Alchemist turned into a sissy at the prospect of a shot. I've always found this aspect of Ed's personality interesting, considering he went through two automail surgeries without making a peep. I know other stories exist about where this fear came from, some of which I've read, so I apologize if my ideas have been done.
Warning! This story contains medical procedures, a terrified/hurting Ed and lots of brotherly love! Why does the general populace of this site like seeing Ed in pain so much?
The first time anyone learned the truth, their first reaction was to shake their head in disbelief. Ed didn't blame them. The Fullmetal Alchemist? Afraid of needles? It was completely absurd. Sure, it was a common fear in young children, but Edward Elric was no ordinary kid. Not after losing two limbs at the age of eleven, going through automail surgery in under a year and becoming a State Alchemist months before his thirteenth birthday. At fourteen, he was a soldier and a living legend of the people. A little thing like a needle couldn't scare him.
Ed's phobia was irrational and downright juvenile. He was perfectly aware of that. But it didn't matter how many times the doctors convinced him it was necessary or that every single time Al would selflessly agree to hold his hand for comfort. The second a needle came near his skin, Ed's rational mind shut down and panic set in. He went out of his way to avoid doctors and hospitals so that no one would ever see him in that state.
But sometimes, even the Fullmetal Alchemist couldn't worm his way out with a pitiful excuse.
"Meningitis?" Ed asked incredulously. "You're kidding, right? Isn't that something little kids get?"
Ed hadn't thought much of his fever at the time, thinking it would pass in a day or two. But a week later, it was still going strong and was now accompanied by splitting headaches and a stiff neck. His nosy little brother had ultimately been the one to drag him to the nearest hospital, amidst much griping and groaning. Now, Ed was in a hospital bed wearing a thin little rag of a gown, arms crossed and teeth gritted in mutiny while this Doctor Miller guy grilled him.
But the word meningitis rang an ugly bell in his head. He and Al had devoured dozens of medical texts in their rush to learn about human transmutation and faded phrases jumped out in his memory. How it started with an infection and a fever that eventually progressed to the brain and turned deadly…
"We don't know for sure if that's what it is," Doctor Miller assured them, "but your symptoms match the early warning signs. If it's not diagnosed and treated now, it could become life threatening."
"So what should we do?" Al pressed, sounding very young and scared.
"First," Doctor Miller explained, "I would like to do a simple test to determine if this is meningitis. It's called a spinal tap or lumbar puncture."
"Wait, wait!" Ed interrupted, alarm bells going off in his head. "Puncture? That sounds like it involves a needle."
"I'm afraid it does, but allow me to explain the full…"
That was as far as he got before Ed jumped off the bed and took off for the door. He had almost reached it when Al caught him and clamped his arms around him. Ed thrashed around wildly, terror spiking through his body like adrenaline.
"Forget it, there's no way in hell--!"
"Brother, you need to take this test! Just bear with it--!"
"Let GO of me, Alphonse! I can't believe you're taking THEIR side, you traitor--!"
Al stubbornly held onto him while the doctor explained what exactly a lumbar puncture entailed. When he got to the part about extracting fluid from the spine using a long needle, Ed howled some choice curses and redoubled his efforts to escape. The doctor wisely took his leave then, telling Al to let him know when they were ready.
Ed kicked Al's armor futilely, still fighting to get his arms free. "Al, I can't! You know how I feel about needles!"
"But you need this, Brother," Al insisted. "What if you really do have meningitis? It's not something you can just get over!"
"I know!" Ed snapped and arched against Al's arms, but only succeeded in smacking his head against the armor. The collision increased his headache tenfold and he slumped against Al's shoulder, clutching his head with a pained whine.
"I can't," Ed muttered against the cold steel. "I don't want those things inside me…just thinking about it makes me feel…"
"I know," Al said simply.
Ed slammed his fist on Al's thigh in helpless frustration. "I can't take it! I don't even know why, I just can't!"
Al gripped his shoulders, making him look up. "This body is all you have, Brother. You need to take care of it."
Ed shook his head miserably, trying for the thousandth time to rationalize this fear he couldn't seem to control. He couldn't stop himself from picturing all that the doctor had described, not one but two needles, one after another, all in his back where he couldn't even see them, oh God he couldn't breathe, he had to get out--!
He bolted for the door again. Like always, Al was ready and kept him in place, patiently rubbing soothing circles in his back until Ed got his breathing under control.
"You'll stay in the room, right?" Ed finally asked in a small voice.
"Of course I will."
And like magic, those four words calmed his terror-stricken mind. Ed still wanted to run and hide, still wanted to throw up, still wanted to punch Doctor Miller's lights out. But he thought he could bear it now, knowing Al would be with him.
Al called back the doctor and informed him that his brother was ready for the procedure. Everything was set up very quickly after that, lest the Fullmetal Alchemist change his mind. Al eventually coaxed him into removing his automail for the duration and Ed could see his rationale. If he panicked in the middle of the procedure, he was less likely to hurt someone without his arm and leg.
But as soon as those limbs were gone, Ed felt the walls start closing in again. He couldn't escape now. The doctor returned with a nurse carrying a tray of medical instruments. Ed's eyes lingered over the sharp, gleaming objects and he felt his throat close up, his vision tunneling until those things were all he could see…
The doctor's voice seemed to come from a great distance. "I need you to lie down facing away from us. Pull your knee up to your chest and bend your neck forward as much as you can."
Ed felt his brother's hand on his shoulder and let himself be guided down on his side, curling into a tight little ball. Al settled down on his knees at the head of the bed and they linked hands wordlessly. Ed stared fixedly at the wall while the nurse opened the back of the gown and washed the skin over the lower portion of his spine. The doctor's gloved fingers traced along the vertebrae in search of the right spot and Ed chewed on his lip, anticipating the first needle.
"This is the local anesthetic. Deep breaths, now."
Ed sucked in a gulp of air and shivered when the needle went in, a tiny pinch that was like a knife through his heart.
"Oh shit," Ed gasped, his voice cracking in panic. "Oh shit, get it out--!"
"It's alright," Al said gently. "You won't feel it in a second."
"Easy for--you to--!"
Ed whimpered when his lower back slowly went numb. Al's thumb stroked over his knuckles and Ed pulled his hand closer. The worst was yet to come and he was already losing it.
"Hold still," Al murmured. "They're going on to the next step."
Even through the anesthesia, Ed felt the spinal needle prick his skin and he jerked away. "Shit, no I can't do this! Al, don't let them!"
"It's going to be alright, Brother…"
"No!" Ed babbled, looking up at his brother in desperation. "No, please Al, let's just forget it--!"
"You can get through this," Al said softly and his other hand clasped around Ed's remaining one. "You've just got to be brave."
You'll be ok…just be brave…
I'm so scared…
It didn't exactly hurt, but there was a horrible, crushing pressure where the needle went in. Ed clenched his jaw and squeezed his eyes shut, fighting with all his might to keep the tears at bay.
"I'm right here," Al whispered, knowing Ed needed that simple reassurance as much as air.
A feeling like an electric shock shot through his thigh and it was all Ed could do not to scream. "M-My leg--!"
"It's ok, it's ok" Al hushed him quickly. "They said that might happen, remember? It's normal."
Ed knew he couldn't last much longer. Not when all his instincts were screaming for him to yank the needle out and run away. If he'd had both arms and legs, he might have done just that. Ed pressed his forehead to the back of Al's hand, noticing for the first time that he had broken out in a cold sweat.
"That's good," Doctor Miller said. "We have enough."
The pressure vanished and just like that the needle was gone. Ed moaned in relief and turned his face into the pillow, praying his tears wouldn't be noticed. Distantly, he was aware of the doctor pressing gauze over the place where the needle had been.
Al's fingers stroked the back of his neck. "You're alright now, Brother."
Ed merely clung to Al's hand, not trusting himself to say a word. Later on, he knew he would look back on this and be disgusted with himself. Ed hated that this horrible fear could take him over so easily, whittling away all his hard-earned resolve until there was nothing left. He despised how it made him depend on his little brother, someone he should be setting an example for, and reduced him to tears in the company of adults.
Most of all, Ed hated it because it hadn't always been like this. Years ago when their mother was still alive, Ed hadn't been afraid of anything, not even needles.
Despite popular belief in the cities, the citizens of rural Risembool were no strangers to immunizations and yearly flu shots, courtesy of Winry's parents. At the beginning of every school year, they would take it upon themselves to administer these much needed injections to all the school-age children. And when his turn came around, Ed would march right up to them, stick out his chubby little arm and dare them to do their worst. He did this because he knew Al was watching the whole thing from a few feet away, pale with dread and clinging to their mother's skirt.
Al was the one who was really afraid of needles. He would sooner face being grounded for throwing a tantrum than allow anyone to bring a needle near him. Ed had teased him about it at first, until he saw with his own eyes just how petrified his little brother really was. Then, he became Al's comfort.
Ed would always go first, letting Al see that the needle was nothing to be afraid of. He would throw on a big grin afterwards and display the bandage on his arm like a badge of honor. Only then would he take Al's hand and refuse to let go until his brother made it through the ordeal.
See, Al? I lived through it and you will to!
I'm so scared, Ed…I don't want to…
You'll be ok, I promise! You've just gotta be brave, ok?
I-I'll try, Brother…
Ed squinted up, abruptly aware that he was now lying on his back and Al was the only one in the room with him. A dull ache in his shoulder and leg told him someone had been kind enough to put the automail back on while he was still out. Ed rubbed his eyes with a groan. "Please tell me I didn't faint…"
"You fell asleep," Al said warmly. "Trust me, I know a snore when I hear one."
Ed cracked a wry grin, but let if fade when he noticed Al was avoiding his gaze. The silence between them stretched on, heavy with pain and regret.
"Don't," Ed barked. "Don't apologize."
Al raised his head. "But--!"
Ed shook his head crossly and started to rise, but Al pushed him back down firmly. He settled for scowling up from his pillow.
"We had a hard couple of years," Ed continued more softly. "Losing mom and living on our own, then…what happened That Night. Add automail surgery and joining the military on top of that and you've got one big crapload of psychological baggage. No kid can live through that without picking up a phobia or two."
"But the exact same one that I had?" Al demanded doubtfully. "And only after That Night, when we were both caught in the transmutation! After that, I wasn't afraid of needles anymore, so what if…?"
"You're a suit of armor, of course you're not afraid of them!" Ed snapped. "Just forget it, alright?"
Al fell silent at the harsh retort, just as Ed knew he would. They had repeated this conversation so many times that Ed found himself counting out the seconds as he waited for what he knew Al would say next.
"Once we get your arm and leg back, I'll find a way to fix this too," Al whispered with real sincerity. "I can't stand seeing you suffer every time this happens."
Ed opened his mouth to say something only to have the words die in his throat. He didn't know if Al's theory held any merit or not, but the last thing he wanted was for Al to feel responsible for this. At the same time, it seemed like there was nothing he could possibly say or do to take that burden away, not when Al seemed so sure that he was the cause of Ed's phobia.
In the end, Ed just threw a weak grin on his face and casually folded his arms behind his head. "It's not that bad! I mean when you think about it, it's actually good practice in case I ever get captured by an enemy country! You know they use all kinds of needles and crap for their interrogations."
"How would you know what they use?" Al asked in bemusement, but Ed could hear a trace of humor in his voice. "Unless there's something you're not telling me about how you spend your time on the weekends."
"Yes, Al," Ed said sarcastically, "I spend my free time helping the military practice their interrogation tactics on helpless little kittens…"
"Don't bring kittens into it!" Al said frantically. "You know that's not funny!"
Ed couldn't stop an evil cackle. "But they make such adorable sounds when they're stuck full of needles!"
Al clapped his hands on the sides of his head where his ears should have been. "Not listening, not listening! My brother's a sick, twisted person who just likes to mess with my head and give me nightmares!"
"Who said anything about nightmares?" Ed said, baring his teeth in a feral grin. "I'm going to drag you in there and give you a front row seat while we dissect the little furballs--ack!"
The pillow in Ed's face cut off his words and he snatched up the blanket as a shield as Al continued to pummel him.
"Damn it, learn to take a joke, Al!"
"Take it back, Ed!"
"No fair, you've got the only pillow!"
The door opened and Doctor Miller entered the room, compelling Al to stop his assault. The doctor raised an eyebrow at Ed's ruffled appearance and the pillow in Al's hand. "It's good to see you're feeling better, Mr. Elric," he said blandly.
Reality closed in when Ed remembered the whole purpose of the test and he slumped down in dejection. "So what's the verdict?"
The doctor held up the folder in his hand with a cheerful smile. "You're results came back negative! It appears your fever is caused by a simple infection, which we can treat with some antibiotics. You'll be back on your feet in a day or two."
Ed blinked. Then again. "Wait, you mean you stuck two needles in my back just to tell me I have an infection?! What the crap kind of hospital is this?!"
"W-Well," Doctor Miller stammered, "at least we know for sure you don't have meningitis. I'd say that's worth a little discomfort."
Ed threw up his hands in disgust and swung off the bed. "I'm out of here."
"But this is great news, Brother!" Al exclaimed. "It means you're going to be ok!"
Ed yanked on his pants with a snort of amusement. "As if there was any doubt!"
Five minutes later, Ed was dressed, discharged and striding out the door of the hospital with Al right behind him. He took a deep breath of outside air, savoring it. The smell of antiseptics always drove him crazy.
"I really am sorry," Al said in a subdued voice.
Ed let all the air he had just drawn in wheeze out as an exasperated sigh. "Didn't I tell you to drop it?"
Al nodded unhappily and they set off down the street. Ed threw a devious look in his direction and grinned. "So about those kitten interrogations…"
A.N. Sheesh, I had the hardest time working out how to end this thing after the flashback! And don't worry, Ed was KIDDING about the kitten thing! I know from personal experience that all older brothers have a twisted side and take pleasure from torturing younger siblings with various mental images.