Wrenches over Wings
A hint of light shines through the plain window curtains, traveling through a simple bedroom with minimal furnishing. It lands on the torn photograph in her hands. Although it is turned over, memory allows her to see through the white back. She can remember the girl with short, blond hair. On her left is a boy who probably has a rambunctious grin had his face not been ripped out of the picture a year ago. On her left is golden-eyed boy with a shy smile, which reminds her of what happened that day she had ripped picture in the first place.
She shoves the photograph at the bottom of her drawer before her past becomes just as vivid in her chest as it is in her eyes. It is no use; no matter what she does, she is still just as torn and tattered as the picture.
Perhaps she will always be. And perhaps she wants it that way.
Pain seems to be the best solution to time—it helps retain her memories of him the best.
She looks up at the top of the drawer. A portrait photograph of a 20 year old man smiles back at her, broad shoulders turned ¾ away from the camera frame, eyes like calm, Sunday afternoons.
The green cloth of her knotted bandanna twirled back in a circle when she turned from her machinery project to the familiar voice. Trying to wipe the gear oil off her face, a bright smile spread over her lips.
The young man at the door held a large package filled with belts, nuts, bolts, and other materials. His white T-shirt was damp; at the tips of his gold-blonde hair hung tiny drops of rain from the drizzling weather outside.
"Can I set it here?" He motioned towards the wooden bench against one of the walls filled with wrenches, drills, and various contraptions hanging off hooks. Looking around the workshop interior, he smiled, "Working hard even on a Sunday. That's just like you, Winry."
Usually, she was too busy to care. But with Alphonse here, the smell of grease and strewn gears embarrassed her sometimes. She waved it off while removing her heavy gloves, "It's not a big deal—What's that?"
She stared at the red, tattered bandage wrapped around his bicep. He laughed sheepishly, "It was from patrolling. One of the guys started picking on an Ishbalan civilian and a fight started. So I tried to break it up—
"Al! You have to change the bandage if it's wet! How long have you been using it? The wound could get infested!" She scolded loudly and dug through one of her messes until she found the first aid kit.
"Winry, it's just a cut. Don't worry—
"Sit!" She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him down onto the bench. Gingerly, she removed the cloth and dabbed anesthetic onto the wound.
He watched her tie the fresh bandage in a neat knot as she complained, "Jeez Al, stop getting into unnecessary fights! It's dangerous!" She walked back over to the desk and embarrassedly finished in her mind: and it worries me.
But she knew he was only doing his job as a soldier. Him, and thousands of other men and women. Was it selfish of her to wish he wouldn't have to contribute to the war and let everyone else fight for him?
"Thanks, Winry. You're a lifesaver, you know."
It is his grin that took her aback. How could Al make her feel uncomfortable among screwdrivers and wrenches and other metal things that typically made her feel at home? Who knew that a smile could make her wish that she wasn't wearing a pair of baggy, worn jeans and could pull off a cute skirt like that petite nurse at the hospital?
She snorted in attempt to shake away the foreign feeling of self-consciousness, "Pft. What's up with that? Go tell that to one of the nurses like Catherine Elle, Al. I just do stuff with machines all day, why would anyone ever call me a lifesaver?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's because your hair reminds me of the sun?"
"Wh-wh-what?!" As a reflex of embarrassment (if that was meant to be a compliment in the first place—because it certainly felt like one), she snatched a bolt (the wrench was the first thing she saw, but she decided against using it) and threw it with all her might at him. "Y-you don't just say that to a girl! Jeez Al!"
He dodged, laughing as she sputtered, leaving her speechless.
It is as if the absence of a single person can turn something golden into ash. The garage door of her workshop creaks as she pushes it up and is greeted by the smell of dusty abandonment. She tries tugging on the metal cord dangling from the ceiling, but the lightbulb flickers, then dies, leaving her to sit on a bench in the dark.
Watching a spider spin a web at the corner of her eye, she wonders at how just a year ago, she stood at the desk working away at some engine with an earnest grin. She used to get perhaps over ten visits from customers each day—Mrs. Hughes would give her a slice of fresh-baked pie in the mornings, someone friendly from the military like Mr. Havoc or Mr. Hughes would drop by with a project and a conversation, and then, of course, by the end of the day she would've expected to see his smile.
But gone is the warm glow of business and left over is the ashes of economic downturn from a lost war. Now she spends her days by empty-eyed amputees in need of physical therapy, greeted with the frustration of ex-soldiers, grief of bombing victims...and crude ungratefulness.
The cobwebbed clock needle ticks to five over and over, but she knows she is expected at her new patient's room. She wishes that her photograph was still in tact, so she could rip that corner off all over again.
Why should I? She asks herself, tilting her head up as if waiting for an answer to dawn upon her. Better yet, maybe motivation to do anything at all could enter her as well.
A soft scoff escapes her lips.
But who would be able to help her? There is no one up there anyway.
"You're a lifesaver, you know."
Somehow, she musters the energy to get up and brush the dust off her pants, sighing as she headed towards the hospital.
"_! _! Come on! It's getting dark. Mom and Dad are going to worry." A boy's voice chastised.
"But...what about him? He looks lonely." The cat mewed softly as he petted it gingerly and stared worriedly at its jutting rib cage. "Can we bring him home?"
"No. It's not safe. It might have fleas or something."
"But...he's hungry. We can't leave him if he's hungry."
"And I'm hungry too. Stop worrying about it and worry about yourself—
"_! Are you bullying _ again?!" A girl's voice interrupted.
"No! Go home Flat-chest! You're a boy and no one will ever marry you!"
Repeated insults flew between his brother and his neighbor from behind him. Although he wished they would get along, he was accustomed to it. He continued to pet the stray cat.
"Ouch!" Tiny beads of red welled up on his finger that the cat bit.
"_!" A girl runs over and kneels by him.
"I told you that it wasn't safe!" His brother interjected.
"Shut up, Shorty! You're the son of midgets and adopted!" She yelled back and then turned to him, "Are you okay?"
"Yes. Thank you." He smiled and accepted the band-aid she offered. "I think he's hungry, that's all."
"Oh! I know!" She runs over and victoriously wrestles for his brother's lunchbox. "Ha! I knew it! You never drink your milk!"
"Whatever Flat-chest! Milk is gross!"
"But big brother, you should. Mom says it's good for you." He good-naturedly advised.
"Wait! Don't tell on me, alright _?"
"Okay big brother, I pro—
"Maybe _ won't, but I will." The girl deviously teased. She patted the top of his brother's head, and left him fuming in the background.
"Here you go." She tore off the top of the milk carton and placed it before the cat.
They watched its tiny pink tongue lap up with liquid and then turned to each other with grins.
(No matter how hard he tried, he could only see faint facial expressions on silhouettes—childrens' shadows talking to him in the sunset. But he thought that when she tilted her head to meet his smile, he had caught sight of a strand of gold.)
He wishes that eyelids came with a lifetime warrantee; because if they did he would ship the ones he has now right off to get new ones that can actually shut out the unforgiving flood of light.
"Just a few minutes." He grumbles.
The callous voice causes him to give up his attempts to fight off the sudden brightness stabbing his sight. He squints at the window and sees instead a figure looming over him, completely black against the sheer white.
"Lucifer, is that you? I'm ready for death now." He mumbles.
"Did you just call me the Devil?" She takes his gold ponytail and yanks upwards.
"Holy shit, woman! Okay, okay, I resign! I'm up! I'm up!"
She lets go and allows him to grimace in pain.
"What are you doing here anyway? Aren't nurses supposed to be nice?" He asks, ticked off at the fact that his scalp feels as if it's burning.
"Do I look like a nurse to you?"
He observes her worn jeans and oversized t-shirt. "Yeah, you really don't fit the stereotype of a pretty nurse."
She ignores him and sets a plate of eggs and toast on a nightstand to his right. Then she slaps a fork near his prosthetic hand.
He is about to use his left hand when he finds that his arm is chained down to the bedside with a pair of handcuffs.
"What the fuck is this?! What are you—a sadist?!"
"What do you mean?" She stares coldly at him.
"Don't fuck with me. You know what I mean. Why is my fucking arm chained down? How do you expect me to eat?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe your other arm?" She sarcastically pointed out and headed towards the door.
"I can't even move this piece of shit glued on my fucking arm! What kind of hospital is this? Do you even work here, you crazy bitch?"
She gives one last look at this young man with long, gold hair in his pathetic, selfish self-pity. His ignorance, his callousness—she hates him, every inch of him, no matter how similar he is in appearance to him. She decides to leave before she can not resist the temptation to rip his prosthetics off and leave him crippled forever.
"I'm the crazy bitch that's your physical therapist" She replied, "and that shit is AL-6XN steel—24% nickel, 6.3% molybdenum."
Nickle and molyshitwhatmadehimnumb?
His stomach gnawed as his eyes remained glued on the breakfast—a solid, non-liquid-through-tubes food he hasn't had in days. He bets that it is most likely cold by now—how long has it been, 20 minutes? He tells himself that he doesn't want cold eggs anyway. And if he isn't able to move in the next hour...
That woman wouldn't be so crazy as to let him starve to death here in a hospital, right?
Now it isn't even any growling. His own body is about to eat him alive silently.
He cursed the woman for the shitty-ass job she did on him.
It dawns upon him that he is with this nick-molyshitnumb arm and leg for life; like some arranged marriage without the divorce option. And he is the useless groom who can't even grab a fork.
The concept of a grown man being unable to feed himself seems worthy of sympathy but because that grown man is himself it is disgusting. He might as well be breast-fed. But babies can crawl—he can't even do that.
Move. Move. Move.
He cursed it. Pleaded it. Prayed to it.
The metal wouldn't move. Beads of sweat rolled down his forehead. At least, he hopes it is sweat and not tears because that would make him hate himself even more as he slips into darkness from fatigue of concentration.
"Big brother! Come down!"
"But, we're going to be late for school!"
"Th-there still more apples up here!"
"What are you two doing?"
He turned to the blurry image of a girl with gold-blonde hair and then looked back up at the tree, "I saw apples and big brother said he would pick them himself because the doctor said I shouldn't do anything too physical this week. But now he won't come back down."
"Hmmm...ah." She grinned deviously and yelled up at the tangle of limbs wrapped tightly around a branch, "Shorty, you're scared of heights aren't you?"
"What?! No! Am not!"
She laughed, "When you're short, everything looks higher doesn't it?"
"Shut up! Shut up Flat-chest!"
"Big brother, it's okay, just down look down and climb down."
"But we have to go to school!"
"I...I'm not going to school! I'll just stay here!"
"Big brother..." He looked up and then started to panic. He asked the girl next to him, "What do we do, _? What if he never comes down? What if no one can get him down?"
She seemed to search his eyes and finally sighed. "Fine."
She climbed her way up tree and offered a hand to the other boy in the leaves.
He turned his head the other way, "No way. You're going to let me fall, evil Flat-chest."
"_. Just trust me." She looked him directly in the eyes.
"Are you crazy? Do you know how much distance there is from here to the ground?"
"Stop focusing on the things that you can't help and focus on what you can do, _! Just one step at a time!"
(Even if he couldn't see her, he could tell from her clear, promising voice that she had a bright smile on her face—one that he wished he could've seen as he watched her come down with his brother)
One by one, his fingers curled in.
She finds the plate completely emptied when the clock in the room reads 6 PM. It took him 10 hours.
He sleeps carelessly with the fork still in his right hand and a carefree grin on his face, a boyish expression that makes him look as he is dreaming of puppies. It looks rather sloppy and undignified, but she can't frown. She wonders if all people are erased of their sins while they sleep.
She takes her toolbox and sits on the bed, checking over the status of his prosthetic. When she turns to grab another tool, she notices that the glass of milk is still untouched. That's not surprising to her, since picking it up would've required him to adjust to a different grip and use another set of his mechanical muscles.
Or does he still hate milk...?
She almost laughs but catches herself.
Somewhere in between dreams and reality, he hears a soft snort. A sound so familiar that he thinks he has heard it so many times growing up. There is a name on the tip of his tongue. One that he has called when walking to school past the apple tree near the bridge...at his neighbor's house when sent on an errand...at a mechanic's shop faintly scented of gasoline...
He is unsure whether he is really awake. Still lost somewhere in tiredness, he thinks he opens his eyes and sees a young woman watching over him—some sort of odd angel who traded wings and a halo for an oversized T-shirt and a wrench.
He wonders why her face is one of incredulous fright.
A/N: Sorry for the wait! As always, I appreciate reviews!