by. Poisoned Scarlet
Summary: In which one distraught Ed and one sick Winry make a difficult decision: chicken broth or Central Hospital?
Author's Note: Holy crap I never thought I'd see the day I'd actually be able to post this up! I had been dying to write it but my computer was down so I wasn't able to. It was torture, and paper and pencils can only get you so far lol. I particularly liked the ending – it was fluffy and sweet. I wrote this in two hours as well, something I only do rarely. Maybe this forced lapse in writing really did help me gather my ideas...(but she agrees that she'll never do it again for as long as she lives -pets laptop-)
Disclaimer: I only own Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 22. That's about as much own-age as I can get.
"Ah-Achoo!" Winry ran a hand under her drippy nose, stifling a groan when her head pounded with the effort of sniffling. She gently touched her forehead, deepening her frown when she discovered that it was still as hot as it had been two hours ago. Her body felt like it was burning underneath all the extra blankets and she was sure she was sweating buckets but, no matter how much she wanted to kick them off, she couldn't.
Her grandmother had specifically told her not to in order to sweat out the fever that was running havoc on her already-weakened body.
Winry rolled on her back, groaning lightly at how pathetically weak she felt. She fluttered her eyes shut, but not before glancing at her window, which was drawn shut with thick curtains.
She imagined it was nice and sunny outside as her eyes grew heavy.
The next time she awoke—she did not know if it was just a few minutes later or a few hours later—it was because of the clamor downstairs. She could hear Den barking and jumping, along with heavy footfalls accompanied by softer, but more frantic, ones.
She took a deep breath, took weak to do anything but assume faintly that perhaps more customers had arrived to have their automail checked up and her grandmother was coming upstairs to retrieve some tools.
She heard her bedroom door open, heard some intake of breaths, but paid no real attention to whoever had entered. She slowly rose her arm from beneath the heavy load of blankets and slid it over her eyes, which felt unnaturally hot against the clammy skin of her arm. She grumbled internally when her grandmother was going to shut the door and let her get some much-needed shut eye.
"Winry? Winry, how are you doing?" came a hushed, childish, voice. "Are you feeling any better?"
Jerkily, Winry moved her arm and forced her eyes open, focusing on the huge vintage armor that loomed over her; concern written all over the two orbs of light that served as Alphonse's eyes. She felt warmth swell in her chest – they were back!
She managed a smile. "Al, you're back. Where's...?" Her eyes flicked right to the young alchemist who had his hands on either side of him, clenched, and baring a rather severe expression. "Ed." She opened her mouth to say more but it seemed her throat had other ideas. She ducked underneath the covers to hide the rather brutal coughs that tore through her throat, leaving it feeling raw and throbbing with dull pain.
I hate getting sick, she grumbled internally, peeking out again only to catch a glimpse of Ed's even more worried face. "What are you guys doing here?" Winry groaned all of a sudden. "Ed, did you wreck your arm again?" She really didn't think she would be able to fix it if he had. She could barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom without falling over.
To her surprise, a soft "no" was his answer instead of the usual "No!... kind of."
Winry fixed her gaze on Ed. His arm looked fine—in fact, it looked just as she had left it months ago despite being hidden underneath his black jacket. He shifted his weight and Winry noticed that his leg was also fine – already having been replaced nearly a year ago because of height issues. So, then, why were they here?
"Um," Al coughed nervously. "I'll be downstairs. I hope you feel better, Winry! Granny told us that you've been like this for a while now.." He sounded guilty, to her confusion.
"Only about a week, Al," Winry reassured. "Besides, I'm sure I'll get better soon. I think my fever is breaking," she added weakly, noting how her hopeful thinking only made Edward's face darker and darker.
Ed scoffed and Winry sent him an odd look.
Alphonse snuck a glance at his brother and nodded at the loaded look he received. He quickly hurried out, sending the both of them one last worried look before clambering downstairs to help Pinako with dinner.
"Granny says you've been like this for nearly a month," Ed broke the tense silence. "She says you aren't getting better."
Winry worried her bottom lip. "She's exaggerating – sure I've been sick for nearly a month but it's only a cold..."
"Colds can last an average of four weeks but you haven't shown signs of improvement. In fact, she says you've gotten worse." Ed grabbed the chair beside her nightstand and flipped it around, so he could rest his arms on the backrest as he sat down. "She thinks you might have caught something else. I do too."
"I-I don't think so, Ed. Trust me, I know what a cold feels like and this is no doubt a cold! I'm not sick with anything else." She swallowed down the itch of a cough.
Ed's face was as grave as she had ever seen it. She could see his usually arrogant topaz eyes glaze over with a mixture of concern, exhaustion, and fear. Winry didn't really understand what his fear was for – she just had a really bad case of the common cold, is all, it was nothing to be fearful over.
"But you might be," he persisted, "and that's all I need to know."
"But with what?" Winry tried to sit up, in order to face him better, and she was honestly surprised with how quickly he reacted to help her up. She swatted his lingering hands away once she was well-seated. "What else can I have except the flu or cold." Winry winced as she went into a coughing fit, which only served to add to Ed's seriousness.
Winry patted her chest lightly. "Ow," she frowned. Her chest hurt with every breath she took. It had been for the last week or so. Though she was sure this was only a simple side-effect from her deathly coughs, Ed's suggestion had Winry hesitant. What if she didn't just have a cold?
"Does your chest hurt?" Ed asked suddenly.
"Yeah, it does."
"Does it hurt whenever you breath?" Ed continued.
"It hurts whenever I inhale deeply, if thats what you mean," she replied dryly.
"Winry, have your coughs gotten worse?"
"I think granny already informed you that they have," she said casually, feeling the comings of another coughing fit. "But it started with a mild sore throa—" She quickly covered her mouth as she coughed, managing a glance at Ed, who had his brows scrunched up in worry. She hacked out something nasty, the willies from the squishy liquid making her shiver. However, she froze when she removed her hand from her mouth. She stared at her palm, at the bright specks of blood that dominated the middle portion of her hand. It was few, but it was enough to strike fear within the blond.
"Winry, what's—" Ed stared at her palm as she shakily brought it down to show him. She saw his jaw flex, his eyes set in determination, and she barely had time to ask where he was going when he abruptly sat up and marched out of her room.
"Wait, where are you going?" She asked hoarsely.
"I knew it," Ed mumbled nervously, stopping by the door. "Winry, I'll be right back. Stay warm and don't move around much. If your cough up more blood, yell for me." His golden eyes fixed on hers, a fear she had never seen before coloring them darker.
"But..." The door shut. Winry blinked. She glanced down at her hand, at the light specks of blood. She was an automail engineer; she had gone through strict and thorough medical training. She knew why she had spat blood; chillingly knew what all her symptoms amounted to. She wiped the blood off with the tissue kept underneath her pillow and sighed. She had an idea of what she had developed.
The door burst open again and Ed stood at the doorway for a moment.
"Well?" Winry asked, slightly sour.
"We're going to Central," Ed stated. "If what I think you have is right, then we need to get you to the doctor as soon as possible."
"Ed, look, I'll be fine!" Winry sighed, massaging her hoarse throat. "Trust me, I think it's just my throat."
"No," Ed said stubbornly. "It's not."
"Yes, it is," she frowned.
"No, it's not, and I can prove it!"
"Oh, really?" Winry crossed her arms, raising a mocking brow. "You're a doctor now, Ed?"
He crossed the short expanse of her room in record time and pressed a hand to her chest. She froze and had half a mind to screech and tell him to remove his hand from her chest but decided that, as he leaned down and pressed his ear against it, she rather liked it.
"Breath deeply," he instructed.
When he rose his head, his mouth was set on a grim line. "Winry, it's not your throat. You," he took a deep breath, "I think you have pneumonia."
She blinked dully. "Oh, great," she sighed. "I knew it."
"What?!" Winry jumped, leaning back from the sudden rage that lit up Ed's eyes. "You knew you had pneumonia and you didn't get it treated!?"
"I didn't think I actually had it!" Winry retorted angerly. "I figured I was just over-thinking my symptoms! It wouldn't be the first time I've done it!"
"You're so stupid!" Ed continued as if she hadn't spoke at all. "You knew you had pneumonia and you didn't do anything about it?! I thought you were smart, Winry!"
"I am smart!" she yelled back defensively.
"Yeah?" Ed snorted derisively. "How many times have you fussed over me and told me that if I feel any slight pain in my ports, to report back to you immediately? You always tell me to go to the doctor if I'm sick but you can't even muster up enough reason to go get yourself checked for pneumonia, a life-threatening disease!?"
Winry shut her mouth with a click and averted her gaze. When he put it like that, using those words, it did seem idiotic to not at least get herself checked. Her grandmother was a doctor but, Winry thought with growing guilt, she never really cooperated with her grandmother and told her all of her symptoms. Perhaps she had lied here and there to keep her granny cool and calm and perhaps, now that she thought it over, she shouldn't have done that. Not if it hindered her ability to get better this much.
"Look, it's not that far long anyways," Winry said. "I'll just ask granny to buy me some antibiotics and I'll be fine in a few days—"
"Oh, no, you're coming with me to Central!" Ed replied viciously. "I'm not going to leave you in the hands of regular country doctors just like that! Look, I know a doctor in Central that can treat you without making a huge fuss out of everything. He's treated me loads of times whenever I get the crap beat out of me, and he's a real good—"
"What?!" Winry gasped, face paling. "You're a regular!?"
"A what?" Ed asked, quizzical.
"A regular patient, you dummy!" Winry set her jaw and fisted some sheets. Her breathing was labored, a bad sign as it would most likely weaken her further. "What the heck does Colonel Mustang make you do!?"
"That's not important right now," Ed waved off, continuing in that rushed, panicked, tone that had Winry slightly annoyed. "Al and I will be leaving tomorrow, first thing in the morning. You'll be coming with us so I suggest packing some clothes or a screwdriver or whatever it is you take whenever you go to Central—"
"I'm not going," Winry argued. "The doctors in Resembool are just as capable as the doctors in Central, Ed!"
"That's debatable," Ed spat harshly.
She opened her mouth to release a vicious retort of her own when another coughing fit rendered her speechless. This fit was worse than the others, most likely because of the cold air she had been inhaling during her argument with Ed. Her blanket had been pushed down to her thighs and her entire torso was exposed to the rooms cold temperature. Winry wheezed with pain when the coughs only tore up her throat more than before.
Suddenly there was someone beside her, a hand placed gently on her back, and warmth engulfing her in the form of a red coat. She rose her head and breathed in deeply, flinching at the sharp pains in her chest, but was relieved to find that no blood had been spat; rather slightly discolored sputum that was a sure sign of the looming disease taking refuge in her lungs.
"Please, Winry," he breathed into her ear, voice taking a decidedly softer note. "Come back to Central with me so we can fix you."
"Fix me?" Winry chuckled breathlessly at his choice words, trusting herself to lean into his normal arm. "Ed, I'm not some automail limb I can just disassemble to find the glitch."
She felt his fingers – his flesh fingers – dig into her shoulder. "Just come back to Central with me. That's all I'm asking for! This isn't some cold you can take care of with chicken soup, Win." He laughed weakly, forcefully, and Winry turned her head slightly to see him very close to her. He was closer than she had first thought he was. Her face colored and she was silently thankful for the fever for he wouldn't question why her cheeks had gotten so red.
His eyes searched her own for a moment, then he rose his hand and pressed it against her forehead. "Fever's gotten worse," he gruffed.
"I-I don't think so," she mumbled, knowing exactly why her face felt hotter. It wasn't because of her fever, either. Turning away when he leaned down even more, she could feel his nose brush up against her temple. The fact that he was half-hugging her wasn't helping her pounding heart, too.
"Just say yes, Win," he whispered tiredly, and she was suddenly aware of the thick underline of fatigue in his tone. He must be putting off sleep again.
"You're tired," she pointed out quietly. "How many times have I told you to get proper sleep, Ed?"
He was silent, then: "Lets make a deal."
"I'm listening." She also relaxed slightly when he leaned back. The frantic throbbing of her heart was making her head feel lighter.
"I promise to get some sleep if you come to Central with me." It was a far-fetched deal, but Ed hoped it would stir her into a good mood and she'd agree to come with him.
The compromise, however, only made Winry sigh. She knew that Ed knew that the doctors in Resembool were just as good as the doctors in Central. If so, then why did he want to drag her all the way to Central, a trip which could worsen her condition?
She voiced this thought and waited with some satisfaction. Winry frowned when he went unnaturally still. "Well, Ed?" She turned her head and froze when she caught sight of the deep, debilitating, sorrow within his eyes. The intense emotion deepened the beautiful shade of gold, making his eyes sparkle even more brilliantly than before. Winry found it bitterly ironic how the most despairing of emotions lit up his eyes in ways she couldn't ever imagine.
"My mother was treated by doctors from Resembool," he said, almost inaudibly. "Mom knew she was sick and she didn't say anything... and the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with her anyways. Mother always knew," his voice dropped even further, if that was possible, "...and she didn't do anything to try to heal herself." He cracked a bitter grin. "I don't think she could."
"Oh, Ed..." Winry felt an insurmountable guilt lock on her shoulders. No wonder he looked so distraught and helpless – she was doing the exact same thing Trisha Elric had done all those years ago, which a few minor exceptions and alterations. Winry didn't exactly have a terminal illness. Trisha did. Winry could get better with help of antibiotics. Trisha couldn't – the medication only fended off the sickness for a while, but it eventually became resistant and continued to grow worse until her body could not longer take the strain.
And Winry had selfishly decided not to visit a doctor except her grandmother, whom she had lied to half the time in order to keep her unworried. Trisha had gone to doctors albeit they found nothing wrong with her, and the woman was already, almost morbidly, aware of the disease which would end her life.
Her arms wrapped around him, her face in the crook of his neck, and she squeezed weakly to offer some comfort. "I'm sorry I worried you so much." Her voice was muffled but she was sure he could hear her just fine. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I should have gone to a doctor. I shouldn't have dismissed it like nothing. I'm an automail surgeon! I should've known better..."
He had gone ahead and stilled up on her like he always did whenever she hugged him. His arms were limp beside him, head straight and stiff as she rested upon him. Winry often wondered when he'd grow comfortable with physical contact...
"So..." She could feel the deep vibrations of his voice resound in her chest cavity. "Does this mean.. you'll come to Central with me to see Doctor Knox?"
Winry sighed, nodding her head lightly. "Yes, I'll go to Central with you." Wait a second, she thought suddenly, Dr. Knox? The military coroner?! These were the type of people Ed went to to get his injuries treated?!
"Great!" Ed chirped, making Winry's eyebrow twitch as he detached himself from her embrace and stood up straight. There was a cheeky smile on his face and for one, dark, second, Winry believed that Ed had purposely brought up his mother as a means to make her give in. But then she saw how he was straining to keep his smile and how the lines under his eyes were more defined than usual and knew he had been honest with her – for once. "We'll be heading off somewhere around dawn, so I asked Al and Granny to pack up some clothes for you... and I guess I could help you pack up whatever else you need," Ed mumbled as an afterthought, seeing as he did not want her to move around much.
Winry lifted her blankets and covered herself, shivering from the sudden lack-of-warmth. "My toolbox is all I need. Its downstairs in the shop." She coughed a few times.
Ed's smile faltered, somewhat. "Alright. Do... Do ya' need anything else?"
Winry looked up and stared.
"W-what?" Ed mumbled, looking away with a faint sheen of pink on his cheeks. He hardened his expression and brought the corners of his lips down into the scowl. "Well? Do you?" He snapped.
Her eyes flickered to the red coat he held in his hand. She looked away when he noticed her staring. "No... I'm fine. I'm just tired." She slipped back underneath the covers and snuggled into her pillow, glad to have long hair for it obscured her face and the pink shade of her cheeks.
She heard footfalls reach the door, hesitate, and then walk back towards her. With bated breath, she felt something drape over her. Thinking perhaps he had thrown over another blanket to add to the multitude of blankets already on her, Winry peeked from above her sheets to see his trademark red coat slung across her. She glanced up, barely managed to see his amused eyes, before he spun on his heel and bolted for the door.
"E..Ed!" She called, watching him freeze and stand rigid. "Thanks..."
"Y-yeah. Whatever! I'll bring up some food for you in a couple of hours!" he said quickly, marching out the door and closing it behind him. Winry sat up slowly and kicked off an extra blanket, stretching Ed's red coat over her. It was still warm from being worn, and the scent which was clearly Ed was almost intoxicating for her, but there was an actual reason for wanting the red coat: Ed had transmuted it from a sort of material that absorbed heat, meaning it kept and produced body heat better than most clothing or blankets would.
She would never understand why the boy would wear such attire during the hot summer days but she didn't question it – Ed was Ed and she was just happy with that.
As she snuggled the red fabric under her chin and inhaled the soft scent of earth, sun, and oil, she mused that perhaps missing her seasonal flu shot was worth all the fuss of consequences that had been roped along with the decision.
She felt the gap between she and Ed grow a little smaller.