Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Winry, Ed, Al.
Setting: Following Ed's battle with Barry the Chopper in "The Philosopher's Stone".
Summary: Winry gets a lesson in her possessiveness about her handiwork.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Just playing with them.
Notes: I felt strangely compelled to write a story that was related to Ed's fight with Barry, and it occurred to me that Winry's perspective might be a novel one. In this, we explore her reaction to a certain unorthodox use of Ed's automail.
"I'll be down the hall when you're ready to go back to your hotel, Miss Rockbell."
With one last kind smile of reassurance, Lieutenant Hawkeye turned to move off toward a nearby waiting area. Winry gave the door in front of her a reluctant look, heaved a sigh, and at last reached out to tap on it hesitantly.
"Please come in," returned the soft reply--and even without the metallic resonance of the voice, the impeccable politeness would have told her it was Alphonse.
Slowly she pushed the door open, and stepped into the hospital room.
Edward was lying in the bed by the window, his back halfway turned, bundled up to his neck in blankets like a child hiding from nightmares. He had rejected a soft pillow in favor of resting his head on the hard metal of Al's vambrace, and his unbraided locks of gold hair fell loose across silver steel.
"Oh... Sorry, I didn't know he was asleep." Winry looked up at Al anxiously. "How is he?"
Al gazed down at his brother, his expressionless steel somehow achieving an impossibly gentle look. "Reconnecting his automail was rough on him, but the cut in his shoulder isn't as bad as it looked. He was mad that Lieutenant Colonel Mustang made him stay here, but the doctors just want to watch him overnight." The younger Elric hesitated, and then added quietly, "That isn't really where he hurts, anyway."
Winry grimaced. "I know."
Dropping her gaze, she rubbed the bandages on her wrists. The raw lacerations there, from her struggle with the chains that had bound them, were not what pained her either. What hurt was the memory of her own terror... and the mirror of it she had seen in Ed. The panicked wildness in his eyes as he fought uselessly to free her. The animal desperation of his outcry as he drew back his arm--the arm she had fashioned with her own hands, but could no longer recognize--and took aim with that awful--
She started and glanced up. Ed was awake, and had turned over to face her, revealing shadows under his eyes as dark as bruises.
Al's helmet swiveled, looking back and forth between Ed and Winry. Then he gently withdrew the arm Ed had appropriated, tucking the pillow under Ed's head in its place, and stood up. "I'll come back, Brother."
Ed frowned slightly, but he didn't object to Al's thoughtful retreat. As the door closed behind his brother, he drew himself up with a wince and a sigh, pushing the blankets away from his bandaged left shoulder and arm.
Winry claimed the chair Al had vacated, clasping her fingers over Ed's hand. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. Sure." As usual, Ed was lying--but at least the fact he had recovered enough to lie said something. Winry didn't want ever again to see him as wretchedly exposed as he was that day, when he knelt beneath Al's sheltering hands and wept.
Now he looked down at her hands that covered his own, and nodded to the white wrappings on her wrists. "What about you?"
"Oh... I've taken worse from the belt sander back home." If Ed could lie, then so could she.
That was it, then; apparently they weren't going to talk about what had happened. Winry fidgeted and stood up, withdrawing her hands. "I'm sorry, I should let you go back to sleep. I just wanted to see how you were."
"Wait." It was Ed's turn to look hesitant. "As long as you're here, uh... maybe you could look at my arm. The tension in the elbow's a little off. I fixed the dings on the outside, but I think something got knocked loose in there."
As he was speaking, Ed gingerly reached up and pulled the blanket away from his right arm. The automail caught the light with the harsh gleam of an unsheathed blade, and Winry physically flinched.
Ed noticed, and his eyes darkened. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing... It's nothing." From her back pocket, Winry produced the small kit of tools she always carried. She laid them out on the edge of the bed, and reached for Ed's arm--but her trembling fingers froze an inch above the steel. Abruptly she turned away, hearing his noise of startled confusion behind her.
"I saw the thing you did to that arm, Ed." She glanced over her shoulder. "That--that knife or whatever it was."
Ed uneasily slid his left hand across the metal of his right forearm. "Oh. Yeah." He looked vaguely guilty. "All I did was reshape the steel in the outer plating. It... it was all I could think to do. I promise, I put it back exactly the way it was."
"It isn't about that." Winry turned to face him, her eyes suddenly brimming. "Ed, how could you even think of--I didn't make that arm for you to... to kill people with!"
Ed gaped at her, first startled--and then angry. "What was I supposed to do, let that psycho hack us both to pieces?"
Tears spilled down Winry's cheeks as she looked away.
There was silence for a long moment, and then Ed sighed heavily. From the corner of her eye, she saw him staring down at the automail as if he had never seen it before, steel fingers slowly clenching and unclenching.
"Listen, Winry... you knew what I was planning when you made this arm. You knew being a State Alchemist might be dangerous--and I know you had that in mind. You made this good and strong for me, and it saved my life today..." A tremor crept into his voice as he concluded, "And I swear to you, I'm never gonna do anything with this arm that could make you ashamed."
The tears suddenly dried up, and Winry swallowed hard.
Ed's automail was her proudest work, but for the first time now, she realized it wasn't her trophy. She had created it to make him complete again, doing her best to replace the warmth of flesh with the warmth of her compassion. Perhaps it was a part of her own life then, when it was merely a lifeless piece of skilled craftsmanship sitting on her workbench; but now it was a part of his life, just as she designed it to be, and it carried the weight of all his talents and his burdens. On the day she joined it to his body, she had surrendered it to serve his will, giving him her trust that he would use it wisely... because in her heart, she knew she could trust him. She always had.
And today, instinctively, unthinkingly, his will had relied on the strength she gave him, to protect her life as well as his own.
Full circle--or Equivalent Exchange. Whatever one called it, the meaning was the same.
Wiping her eyes, she smiled thinly, and reached out to grasp the joint of his wrist between her fingers.
"Let's take a look."
2010 Jordanna Morgan