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Sketch: Passio


She took the lead from her escorts once they told her which floor she wanted. There was no missing the correct waiting room: scarred linoleum, pale pink walls, an officiously ticking clock, and a seven-foot suit of armor taking up two-thirds of a chrome and black leather bench. She claimed the remaining third, leaning against him, and he put an arm around her shoulders. His greaves made uncomfortable dents in her trapezius muscles; she wondered fleetingly why they went through the motions when he couldn't feel her warmth and his touch hurt. "How long?"

"Six hours."

She'd spent five of those on an express from Rush Valley and the other arguing her way in here, well past visiting hours, through six layers of security, pulling strings that were bound to yank back someday. She didn't care. She'd have argued herself straight into the OR if his automail had been involved, but for once that wasn't the case. "How are you?"

"I'm all right." His voice sounded less strange than usual with her ear pressed against the side of his chest, like a message through a tin-can telephone. "Are you hungry? There's a vending machine down the hall."

"No." The call had come during dinner; Garfiel had turned her uneaten meal into a sandwich while she threw clothes into a duffel and grabbed the emergency toolkit, just in case. He'll need a tune-up. He always needs a tune-up. She swallowed. Her saliva tasted sour; grimacing, she ran her tongue across teeth still filmed with the coffee she'd drunk to fortify herself for the fight with the hospital. She'd have to find a toilet eventually—take a pee, rinse her mouth out, clean herself up a little. When dealing with the military, it always paid to look ready for inspection. Neatness counted; passion was suspect. Which was why she'd refrained from screaming at any of the politely obstructive men and women downstairs, channeling her adrenaline into eloquence instead. It seemed to have worked. Here I am. "I'm fine."

"Thanks for coming." His hand closed carefully on her arm; she reached up automatically and patted it. "He'll be glad to see you when—when he wakes up."

The hitch in his delivery was more painful than the ridges digging into her back. She sat up, faking a giggle. "No, he won't," she said. "I'm gonna kill him."

But once encouraged, the laughter kept bubbling in her belly, stopping her breath with uneven gasps until the drip of snot into her throat made her realize that they were sobs, not chuckles. She bent over his lap, unable to gulp back the tears, and pounded her fists against his thighs. He grabbed her fingers, squashing them in his fleshless grip—fleshless, senseless, dead ... Damn you! Damn you, damn you, damn you, damn you ...

He pulled her toward him until his breastplate bumped her forehead. "Winry, Winry, don't," he begged. "Please, Winry, stop. Please—"

His distress cut through hers; she brought their joined hands up to her mouth and bit down, hard, on his gauntlets. Throttled, her cries dwindled into whimpers, then petered out. She turned her face aside and wiped her nose clean on her shirt. "Sorry," she whispered. "Sorry, Al. I'm okay, really ... " Her fingers tingled, half-devoid of feeling; she squirmed, twisting her wrists, and he reluctantly let her go. Dangling her hands beside her knees, she tried to shake off the buzzing numbness without wincing. "It'll be all right," she said, looking up to hold his gaze. "It's just ... been a long day."

He said nothing, but after a moment settled his arm tentatively about her waist. Together they turned to face the door, waiting for footfalls to override the unremitting clock.