Under the Knife

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Painkillers are useless. Painkillers are useless.

Winry remembered her initial horror at the suggestion of what kind of surgery Ed would endure. While she and Granny Pinako poked and pried at the nerves, at the source of his feeling, drugs would be utterly ineffective.

(Some didn't survive, she remembers Granny telling her softly. 'He's eleven!'—she had protested to no avail.)

She was still grateful that he hadn't screamed. Then again, she shouldn't have been surprised. Ed was the stoic brother. It was Al who preferred to let it out when he suffered.

(And why couldn't he scream before all of this had happened? His tearless face at the funeral should have been her first warning sign.)

Useless.

But Winry felt like she'd been screaming into a vacuum since Aunt Trisha had died. The illness, the military, even her own friends had been deaf to her. The barrage of tragedy kept coming. Before she could ask if the last twist of fate was fair, Winry had to staunch the bleeding on the next—literally.

Edward experienced violent nightmares post-surgery. He'd apologize and deliriously beg for the reversal of his fate, his punishment for a sin. She couldn't drug him for that either. Too many years of watching maimed soldiers limp hollowly home had made Winry realize that some things just couldn't be mended. But they could be substituted. That was the beauty in automail engineering.

(She'd seen too many bodies ripped apart and too many souls rent with them. She could never become a doctor, forced to attend the ailing and the dying. No, she would rebuild lives—not bring them back.)

But how could she replace Ed's heart?

Painkillers.

The heart that had been pulled from the last little corner of shelter it had when Alphonse was disembodied. Ed still had most of his own body, but the way he gritted his teeth against the pain during the day and the desperate cries in his sleep made Winry wonder if her best friend's soul had been lost as well.

(And how can she rebuild a soul when none but Ed's will do? Forged that night as surely as she forges limbs of steel was a new soul, one she did not know.)

She'd poured over improvements to the arm and leg Edward wouldn't replace for a while. She'd push him when too soon and finally he regained his spirit.

(But would that moment bring them closer to healing or closer to the next twist of fate's knife? She just couldn't know and she could not decide—no matter how much she screamed.)

That time looked like it would never come. Ed's limbs had been replaced. His determination could not be so easily restored, and neither could Alphonse's body. Their innocence would never be healed—nor replaced.

And nothing could weaken the agony of a childhood slowly torn from them. No, medicine for the soul, if it indeed ever did exist, would not allow them to scream and fight and reach for what they had lost.

(What little they have left, she reminds herself.)

Still, she couldn't reach Edward and Alphonse's minds. She could only rebuild body parts. Steel and welding and agony on agony. How cruelly useless that must have seemed to Ed when he'd made the same improvisation to save his brother.

(It all seemed useless when she used a steel patch on his broken heart and he only rose to cast his fate into another circle and an unsympathetic flag. When he and his brother came back, would there be any pieces her nuts and bolts could put together again? Their departure was like losing a leg and being thrown off balance and how, how could she replace them? How grueling her reattachment to life each time she lost someone else?)

Painkillers are useless.

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