Winry raised her wench, threateningly. What she had just heard... her eyes narrowed, watching Ed raise one hand, laughing nervously. "Calm down, Winry. It's not that bad..."
"Not that bad?!" She was completely and utterly incredulous at that. Ed really couldn't blame her. He had promised, after all. There was a loud sound of metal on metal as Al rose, speaking softly to the girl.
"Brother didn't know," he said, soothingly. "He tried to keep his automail as clean as possible, but it's been really damp at Central lately."
Ed let loose another nervous laugh, putting his human hand behind his head. The motion caused the sling to move, catching her attention again. She shoved the anger down just enough to smile at him, sickly sweet. Both of the brothers started to scoot backwards, looking for the nearest exit.
"But Edward," she trilled, causing the fear level in the room to rise greatly, "how can that possibly explain why bits of your automail are missing?!"
Ed carefully poked his head up from behind the couch, having joined his younger brother in the mad dive for cover. "Um..."
She shoved her gloved hands onto her bare waist, waiting.
"Words, Ed," she said, falsely patient.
"I didn't know it was that badly rusted," Ed finally snapped at her. "And I didn't know that shapeshifting bastard was going to decide to pick a fight with me then!" He carefully moved around his cover, his bruises perking up and reminding him that sudden movements, like diving for cover from an annoyed automail mechanic, would hurt like fucking hell. "Can you fix it or not?"
She glared at him, the unspoken lack of faith in her abilities only making her more angry, but finally put the wrench down. "Of course. You're probably going to have to take your leg off as well so we can clean it and make sure it isn't rusted as well."
Ed groaned, finally breaking cover to sit on the couch again. Al carefully rose as well, looking at Winry. "Um..."
"This might take a while," Winry said absently, looking through her equipment. "I'll probably have to pull an all-nighter to get it done by tomorrow. Cleaning your leg will probably take a few hours... so if you two want to go somewhere, get moving."
Al's armor relaxed into a relieved posture, obviously wanting to go visit their mother's grave. Ed, on the other hand, slouched a little further on the couch. Winry eyed him curiously, getting together the materials she needed. "Okay, Ed," she continued, smoothing out a plastic sheet, "I'm going to go get the replacement leg so you can move around while I work."
"Eh, don't worry about it. I'll go out once you're done cleaning the leg."
Winry lifted her eyebrow. But instead of reaming him good for his uncharacteristic behavior, Al took up the job for her. "Brother," he started, sounding like Ed was dancing on his last nerve and that nerve was about to break. "You can't let Colonel Mustang get to you."
"Eh? Oh. Yeah."
"Okay Ed." Winry pulled her tools over, gracefully interrupting the conversation. "Let's get your leg. You know the drill."
Winry looked up at Ed, her face and hair slick with sweat. "For fuck's sake, Ed, spit it out!"
Ed let out an explosive sigh, flopping back onto the couch. "When will you be done with my leg?" he spat out, cranky. He knew the problem with asking that, though, and barely had enough time to dodge the girl's calculated swing of a wrench.
"I'll be done when I'm done," she told him, shoving strands of sweat-drenched hair back under the cap. "Hold still. Geez, you're a baby. You're not usually this bouncy."
Ed swallowed another grunt and shifted.
"I said hold still!"
Ed rubbed at his eye with his human hand. "Yeah, Al?"
"Once Winry and Granny Pinako are done with your arm, you'll have to report back to the Colonel, right?"
Ed groaned. "Thanks for reminding me," came the sarcastic response. "Aaaaugh, what is with that bastard? He and Winry, I swear, it's like they want to control my life." He pulled his coat more securely over the open port in his shoulder. "Did you go see Mom?"
Al nodded, the sound of metal on metal not even causing Ed to wince. He was too used to the teeth-clenching sound, too used to what it meant. "Yeah."
One last human hand flexed as Ed looked down, hiding guilt. "I'll visit her before we leave. Okay?"
"Okay, Brother." Al sounded like he wanted to say something else, or more, but he left it as it was as Pinako called the two boys for dinner.
Winry had scraped a promise out of Ed. He had to come by at least once a month for automail checkup. He had put off proper maintenance for too long, she had said, and nearly beat the promise out of him. Add to this that he had to update the Colonel on his progress, well...
The only thing Breda had said to Ed was that yes, the Colonel was in his office. Everyone else, minus Lieutenant Hawkeye, ran for cover. The female Lieutenant simply rolled her eyes, calm and collected as always. "Edward," she said instead.
"Yes, Lieutenant?" Even Ed had to respond to her with respect.
"Keep it down this time."
He grumbled, but there was a slight undertone of assent in there. So instead of stomping over to the closed door and busting it open, he strode over and open it normally. At which point his promise to Hawkeye was instantly forgotten.
"WAKE THE FUCK UP, BASTARD COLONEL!"
Mustang lowered his feet to the ground, just managing to keep from yawning. "Fullmetal. I see you managed to come back in one piece."
Ed closed the door, struggling not to scream at him and have the wrath of one scary blonde woman come down on their heads. "I was going to get my automail put back into one piece," he said, barely patient.
"Of course," Mustang said, nearly purring at him in a condescending tone.
"I don't blow up everything I come across!" Ed snapped at him, just managing to keep his tone level.
"Of course not, Fullmetal. Just whatever comments on your stature, or lack there of."
"ARE YOU CALLING ME SHORT?!"
Both men jumped guiltily. "Sorry, Lieutenant."
"And no," Mustang continued, "I never said the word 'short.'"
Ed ground his teeth, but kept the enraged yell behind them. Hawkeye wasn't above throwing Ed out of the office so they could get work done. She had done it before, in fact. "Let's just get this over with," he spat out instead, dropping onto the couch.
"Indeed, we should."
Al fidgeted one more time, causing Ed to finally put his book down. "What is it?"
"Brother..." His hands fidgeted again, not looking up at Ed. "What's been going on?"
"Eh?" Ed bookmarked the page and set it aside. "What do you mean?"
"Well, every time we've been back at Resimbool, you've always had a reason to stay behind with Winry. And the two of you have always been sweaty. And you always limp coming back from reporting with the Colonel but Lieutenant Hawkeye just says you two have had screaming matches, not physical fights. Brother, what's going on?"
"Oh, just the usual," Ed said glibly.
"Edward," Al said sternly, the rarely-used full name coming from a menacing suit of armor. "You always look guilty after you come back."
"Brother, what is going on?"
Al slammed his hands down onto the floor, causing it to crack slightly. "Brother! I mean it."
"I don't know how it started!"
Al went still, confused about the sudden rapidly spoken outburst. "What do you mean?"
Ed wasn't looking at him. "Al, listen. I don't know how it happened. One day things are normal, the next..." He blushed, licking his lips. "Winry was really worried that one time when my automail was completely smashed to bits, remember? She cornered me and I swear I don't remember when we stopped arguing."
"What happened, Brother?" Al asked gently.
Al felt like he should be blinking and gaping at his brother. "Brother! What were you thinking? Did you use protection?"
"I pulled out," Ed said defensively.
"That's not good enough! What if she got pregnant?"
"Well, she didn't!" Ed sighed heavily, hitting his head against the wall. "Besides, that wouldn't be what she would kill me over, anyway." He scrubbed at his face. "Being with her... it's like being a normal guy. Normal guy with his weird friend that he's known since childhood. It... it's like everything else goes away and I can be happy for a while."
"But...?" Al prompted.
"What is it she'd kill you over?"
"Al, you have to promise me you won't hurt me about this." Ed sighed. "Winry doesn't... understand. She's lived away from all the fighting her entire life. She just... she's innocent." Another thud against the wall. "I swear, I don't know why Mustang and I—"
"What?!" Al exploded.
Ed glared at him. "I just said I don't know! Look, we were arguing about something, he did his usual cracks, and next thing I know he has me bent over his desk."
"You've been having sex with both Winry and the Colonel?!"
"Not at the same time," Ed spat back. "Winry really hates the bastard and I don't think she'd be up for it. And she'd kill me for cheating on her. But damn it..." Ed slammed his automail hand against the wall. "I just can't stop it, Al. It's like they both have a part of me."
"Do you love them?"
Ed reared back, almost horrified. "What? Love that automail geek and bastard? What the hell?"
He was silent for a few seconds, then growled. "Hell, Al, I don't know." Ed picked up the book again. "It won't be going on for much longer, anyway. Mustang doesn't want to be called in on fraternization, and the homunculi could attack Winry at any moment if they knew." He purposely went back to the page he had been reading. "It's for their own good."
Al fell silent at that. Finally, he stood up. "Brother... I don't understand, but I know that they'll figure it out. Winry might kill you for cheating on her, but she'd do worse than that if you didn't tell her. At least... let them know?"
Ed glared at him over his book.
"It's better than letting someone else tell them?"
The glare intensified.
"They make you happy?"
"Al, stop talking."
There was no way Ed was going to tell them that. The next time he had to go to East and Resimbool, he'd bring up the fact he couldn't sleep with them anymore, but he wouldn't mention why.
They'd only maim him a little for ending the relationship. They'd do worse for him admitting he was sleeping with someone else.
And Ed had a very strong will to live, thank you very much.