Author's Note: Set roughly a year pre-canon.

Winry doesn't know where Ed's been or where he's going.

But he's come back worse than this before. She adjusts the angle of her long nose screwdriver by a few degrees, then twists harder. She's leaning over his bicep so his face is close. Ed winces reflexively—just a tiny bit, barely noticeable—as she tightens the bolt, even though she's nowhere near the nerve connectors.

It's not that bad, all told. The leg is fine and the arm's situation could be mistaken for a normal year's worth of wear and tear if Granny had trained Winry with a less keen eye—if she didn't know that his last tune-up was just under three months ago. She's already repaired the surface damage to the casing and yelled at him about the transmutation marks. Now there's just adjustments. Three fingers are sluggish, partially due to his consistent failure to do his maintenance and partially due, she's sure, to whatever he's been punching.

The rest of him isn't as well off as the arm, there's a scratch on his face and bruises on his torso, blooming dark purple. But Winry can't do anything about that. Flesh is not her purview. Except for where it connects to—melts into—metal, from soft and warm over pliant and strong to smooth and hard and gleaming.

Winry asked Al what happened this time and he turned his head, as if to hide an expression that doesn't exist—the helmet unchanged in profile. He stammered something about how it was nothing and how Winry shouldn't worry, and Winry sighed.

She tests a lead and there's a small spark.

"Move your fingers," she commands.

Ed exhales heavily, but obeys. The digits twitch, curl, straighten. Winry turns the screwdriver.


Ed groans in frustration and throws his head back, spine arching, slams his left hand on the exam table where he's reclining.

"How much longer is this going to take?"

Winry doesn't release her grip on her tools where they are still half-buried in his arm as she turns her head to stare him down.

"You don't get to bother me about how long it takes! If you would ever do your maintenance and stop ifighting/i with imy/i automail it wouldn't take any time at all!" she snarls.

"I have better things to do than all that," Ed yells back. "And the fight was necessary. Besides, stop being so possessive about it. It's my arm! I paid for it! It's attached to my damned body."

Winry deftly shifts both tools into her left hand, still holding them steady, so that she can rap Ed on the head with her right.

"What was that for?" he asks, affronted.

"I put a lot of time and work into this automail," she says ferociously. "You're an idiot if you think people stop caring about things that are important to them as soon as they're out of their sight. It'll always be mine." She tightens another screw with more force than necessary.

Ed huffs and blows his hair out of his eyes. He turns his head away from her, staring at the wall, and wiggles his fingers again. Ire flares between them, swift and bright, then snuffs itself out just as quickly. They've both always had tempers. Winry wonders if his is responsible for all the trouble he gets into or if it's something else entirely—the determination he carries around, wrapped about his shoulders like a cloak.

"Just get it done," he mumbles without heat.

She refocuses her attention on the automail. There's no noise except the light metallic clinking of her tools.

"You're always in such a hurry to leave."

Ed doesn't respond at first. He moves his fingers again, but just idly. Winry frowns and strips out a frayed wire.

"I always come back," Ed says quietly, almost sulkily, after a long pause. It's true. Winry just worries that someday it won't be. Ed shifts around where he sits, impatient and uncomfortable. His right leg twitches back and forth and the movement makes his arm jostle just a fraction.

"Hold still," Winry says and briefly puts her hand on his knee. He freezes, immobile as a statue. "Give me another hour and it'll be perfect—ready for whatever stupid thing you decide to do with it next." She smiles, though she still isn't looking at him, just at the arm.

He snorts indelicately, but doesn't deny it.

"You worry too much," he says, instead. She doesn't deny it.

Winry doesn't know where Ed's been. She doesn't know where he and Al are going. But she can make sure he's in one piece when he gets there. He won't stay that way, but she's gotten well-practiced at putting him back together.