Author's note: I haven't written for FMA in a while, which is shocking considering how long I role played for it and how close to my heart it is. But chapter 104 had me absolutely stunned to tears, which I've been made fun of for at every opportunity by my boys since (I was at my friend's, where I've been sort-of living whenever my mother's in the hospital), and reading it drove me to begin sketching out ideas for this one-shot. Winry is a character very close to my heart. I like to believe my friend, xxjust-a-nobodyxx, when she stubbornly insists "There's no way in hell they're all dead. You just watch." But that's not-exactly-besides-the-point. This fic is manga-verse, most obvs, and is a panel filler of sorts. We saw a little of what Pinako was thinking before the stone was completed, complete with her threatening Hoho-Papa under her breath before... you know, her last breath (-shifty eyes- for now). But what about Winry, ne?
Winry was well known for slaving over work for hours and hours, working for days until her masterpiece was completed. Each auto-mail creation that was molded by her hands was like a work of art, carefully crafted to suit the person it was charted for. Measurements were taken with painstaking care, and she used only the best metal, screwdrivers, drills, and other such technology to make sure she produced nothing but her very best.
But the best of her very best went to only one person.
He didn't come to visit very often, and so she couldn't dedicate large chunks of her time to the best of her very best. But whenever she wasn't working on another project, whenever she had free time that wasn't dedicated to exercising Den and remembering that she did still have a life with friends and family in Resembool even if the best of the best had spent the past several years traveling Amestris in search of what once was and what could be again, Winry was working on the best of the very best.
She had to have it ready, she told her grandmother when she clicked an impatient tongue at Winry. He never called, and he was always getting into dangerous situations and getting hurt. He was changing the world. He didn't have time waiting for a young girl's hands to mold a new arm and leg for him, so she had to do it before he commissioned it. She knew him well enough, she insisted stubbornly, to know that he would need it one day. And Pinako would just shake her head and get back to making dinner or her own auto-mail projects, for they were a joint team, the Rockbells. She knew there was no changing Winry's mind, nor her heart.
Winry stretched her arms overhead in a vain attempt to work out the kinks that stiffened her shoulders, for she had been bent over the best of her very best projects for quite some time now. The hour wasn't very late – the sun was still shining, in fact – but it had been a slow day. Den was playing outside, and her grandmother was keeping an eye on the old dog. With no commissioned works slated for that day, Winry's fingers itched for the feel of a screw driver in her hand, the scent of oil floating into her nostrils, and the beautiful gleam of metal in the sunlight that streamed into her work room from the four-paned window over her desk.
"It's a beautiful day out. You don't want to spend it inside, do you," Pinako questioned doubtfully as Winry reached for her apron on its peg and slipped it over her head.
"It's been nice every day this week. I'll go out tomorrow, if there's no work," Winry promised, synching the apron's tie behind her. It never occurred to her that tomorrow might not come, and it never occurred to her grandmother to relay Hohenheim's warning of dangerous things happening in the country. After all, Winry was no stranger to dangerous occurrences, not with the stories the boys brought home with them whenever Ed was in dire need of reparations.
"Alright then." Pinako leaned back in her rocking chair and placed her pipe between her teeth. The conversation was over, and Winry went upstairs without a second thought.
That was where she was now, dropping her arms back to the work table top after stretching. She removed her oil-stained gloves from her hands. For inspections, running her hands over the metal looking for rough spots and poking at the gears for parts that aren't aligning properly, she found gloves to be nothing but a hindrance.
She was proud of this model, not gonna lie there. It was lightweight and strong, with enough material for Ed to transmute into that stupid sword thing even though she really hated when he screwed with her designs. But at the same time, it made her smile because to return it to its original state, he had to know its original state. Whatever he said about not paying attention and not caring, it was a lie. He listened, he watched, he remembered. It made Winry happy, although she'd never tell him. They had an unspoken understanding that torment, arguments, and abuse equated to the utmost loving of friendships between them.
"Kiddo, where's the order log," Pinako asked, pulling her pipe from her teeth with a puff of smoke. Winry jumped, surprised – she hadn't heard the elderly woman approach, so engrossed was she in her work. She was almost done, almost... And then she could return to working on his leg, which she was always more hesitant about because of her ignorance in how much he'd grown since she'd seen him last. She doubted it was much, but for his sake she tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was very sensitive about his height, Edward was.
"On the shelf. I'll get it," Winry replied cheerfully.
But when she stood up, her heart hurt.
It wasn't the feeling people describe when they're heart broken. It wasn't that unexplained, mythical connection between two very close friends or lovers or whatever that told her "Something's wrong". She had no way of knowing that in the heart of Central, Edward and Alphonse were trapped by shadows. She had no way of knowing that Edward was staring wide-eyed at the center of a transmutation circle, horrified as what he knew would come to pass, came.
All Winry knew was that it hurt to breathe, like some dark shadow had reached into her chest and wrapped its cold hand around her heart. It squeezed. She gasped and fell to her knees.
Not a heart attack, please don't have a heart attack, it can't be a heart attack...
She was healthy. She was young, not even seventeen yet. She ate her vegetables and drank her milk. She went for jogs and walks regularly. She laughed. She had a loving grandmother who made her work for what she wanted but never let her go without. She couldn't have a heart attack.
"Winry...?" Her grandmother dropped her pipe from her mouth again, looking alarmed as she saw her granddaughter fall to her knees with a gasp for air that didn't seem to quite reach her lungs. But Winry was oblivious to Pinako, to the sunlight hitting her face. She was oblivious to everything but the pain around her heart that made every breath fall short. It was like when she was six, falling into the river and getting pulled under by the current. Edward and one of the older boys had helped pull her back to the surface. Where were they now, she wondered. When was she going to surface?
She clutched at her chest.
Let it go. Let it go. Please, let my heart go!
It took a lot of effort to raise her head. She wanted to get back to her feet, to her desk. She wanted to reach the phone, thinking vainly that someone might be out there that could help her. She was oblivious to the sound of her grandmother falling to the floor in the doorway behind her. She was consumed by the sound of blood rushing in her ears, her own panicked, silent cries in her mind.
Her eyes landed on the best of the very best, her pet project. Edward's arm, so close to completion that all it really needed was a light dusting and a coat of polish to be absolutely perfect.
"He'll be annoyed," she mumbled through the pain, sorrow and despair bringing tears to her eyes that mingled with the tears of pain. "If it's not finished. I've got to... to..."
Her arm slipped out from under her. She didn't have the strength to hold her head up anymore. Black smeared the edges of her vision. The auto-mail arm was too high up on the desk for her to see it. She let out a sob, but choked from the lack of air.
And she was still.