|Fullmetal Alchemist: From Ashes (5/10: What You See)
||[Sep. 4th, 2010|12:44 pm]
Title: From Ashes (Chapter V: What You See)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: PG for blood in the first two chapters.
Characters: Mainly Ed and Al, with intermittent Winry and Pinako.
Setting: The year between the boys’ human transmutation attempt and the day they left Resembool.
Summary: Edward and Alphonse had a long journey to make before they ever left home.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I own nothing but a couple of villagers in chapter nine.
While Ed was once again bent over his books one evening, a weighty mass of metal landed on the pages before him with a thud and a clank.
He started back, blinking—and looked up to find Winry beaming down at him.
“Well, how do you like it?”
Perplexed and mildly annoyed, Ed refocused his attention on the object that had disrupted his reading, and finally recognized its shape: it was an arm. An automail arm, made of gleaming steel… and as he reached down to pick it up, he realized its measurements were a match for his own arm of flesh.
His heart stopped for a moment. He drew back his hand as if the arm would bite him, and a jumble of emotions passed through him as he looked up at Winry.
“This is… mine?”
“Well, it will be. It still needs some calibration, and a few other finishing touches.” Winry patted the arm proudly. “But I wanted you to finally see it. I don’t mind telling you, it’s the best piece that’s ever come out of our workshop!”
In quiet wonderment, Ed lifted the automail to study it intently. It was a little heavier than he expected; something he would have to get used to. Its lines were as sleek as his own arm, well-muscled as he still was from the rigors of Teacher’s training. As he turned it over to examine the joint of the wrist, the limp fingers clattered together, producing what was almost a softer imitation of the sound Al made when he moved.
Abruptly smiling like a child with a new toy, Ed looked up at Alphonse, who sat watching in silence from the corner of the room he had adopted as his resting place. “Al, look!”
“I see, Brother.” Al’s voice was subdued—even more so than the usual dulling effect of the armor could account for. He looked down at his own hollow vambraces, and Ed felt a twinge of pain in his heart as he realized Al was hurting for him. His brother knew better than anyone that steel was a poor substitute for flesh.
Ed’s smile softened. “Hey, don’t be upset for me, Al. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Soon we can really get to work.”
This time it was Winry who faltered. Ed just barely caught the reaction before she glossed over it, lovingly stroking the fingers of the automail again… in a way that threatened to make him uncomfortable very soon, if he thought too much about that thing as a part of him.
“Well, this still needs work, and your new leg isn’t quite that far along yet. But you’re the one that needs more time, Ed! This isn’t like snapping together the parts of a doll, you know. The connections in your shoulder and thigh have to be completely healed, or you could have permanent nerve damage that would affect your motor skills. And we’ve told you, it’s going to hurt again at first.”
“That doesn’t matter.” Ed pried the arm away from Winry’s possessive grip, giving it another admiring appraisal. Then his glance shifted to the automail port attached to his shoulder. He was accustomed to its weight by now, and where steel met flesh, the lines of scars had darkened in healing. Soon he would be strong enough. He looked back at the arm, and imagined it there at his side: responding to his will, enabling him to do all the things he had made a promise to do.
“Yeah, Pinako has really outdone herself with this,” he pronounced in satisfaction.
Winry twitched again.
“Well, actually… Granny’s mostly been working on your leg. She only helped out with some of the metal casting on this. I’ve done pretty much all the work—I even designed the whole thing myself.”
Ed flinched and dropped the arm on his open book, feeling oddly broadsided by information that was a little difficult to process.
It made sense now why Winry was fawning over the arm. If it was her proud personal handiwork, it did belong to her in a way, at least for now. But the thought of her doting on it the same way once it was attached to him, after it became a part of his body… that was just creepy. And this was Winry, a girl he had known even before she started taking her dolls apart. Intellectually he knew she had learned from the best, developing skills he hadn’t had a chance to appreciate, while he and Al were preoccupied with their own alchemy training. Still, it was strange to think of living his every moment with a thing she had made, feeling its heaviness at his shoulder, relying on it to let him function normally—perhaps even depending on it for his life someday.
Awkward and unsettled, Ed was thoroughly at a loss for what to say… and so, as usual, he said entirely the wrong thing.
“Well, I hope I’m getting a discount for being an apprentice’s guinea pig!”
Even as Winry’s expression abruptly crumpled, the reaction from Al’s corner was a deep, disappointed sigh.
“Why do you have to be such a jerk?” Winry snatched the automail away protectively. “There’s nothing wrong with it! It’s perfect! I’m a good mechanic—you know I am! It’s… Oh, I don’t even know why I’m wasting my best work on you anyway! I put my heart into this!”
…Which was exactly what made Ed so uncomfortable. What was the going rate for heart in Equivalent Exchange?
Winry was bawling now, and Ed reacted with instinctive alarm to the tears running down her face. Waving his hand rather wildly in an attempt at a soothing gesture, he forced a feeble grin. “Hey, come on, I was just joking! I said it was amazing work, didn’t I? I’ll think of you every time I have to hit somebody in the jaw with my new arm!”
In the next instant, Ed had the privilege of being the first person to know what it actually felt like to be hit in the jaw with his new arm.
As he clumsily righted himself from a dazed sprawl across the bed, for a brief moment seeing nothing but stars, he heard the rattling noise of Winry shaking the arm at him. Her voice came low and trembling.
“Don’t lie to me, Edward. When you look at this arm… all you’re ever going to think of is what you’ve lost.”
With that, she ran out of the room, taking her precious handiwork with her.
Stunned and dismayed, Ed rubbed his aching chin and looked woefully toward Al, who sighed again. “Really smooth, Brother.”
“I didn’t mean…” Ed trailed off awkwardly, looking down at the steel port that weighed upon his right shoulder.
Maybe Winry was right, but he didn’t want her to be right—at least not in the way she meant it. He knew he could never expect to look at the glint of that steel without thinking of the flesh that should have been there instead. Even so, it couldn’t be merely a symbol of his loss, his pain, his failure.
It wouldn’t be. He wouldn’t allow it to be.
“She’s wrong, Al,” he said with quiet resolve, gently running his fingers over the scars along the edge of the port. “This will always remind me of the promise I made… and I won’t forget how much Winry has done to help me keep it.”
And Equivalent Exchange be damned—because there was nothing he could give to repay her for that.
© 2010 Jordanna Morgan
Chapters: I. | II. | III. | IV. | V. | VI. | VII. | VIII. | IX. | X.