"Ed!" Winry shouted through the door, and banged on it with a wrench. "Come on out, Ed!"
"Niisan," Al called, hovering over Winry's shoulder. "Winry's students are waiting."
"Let them wait!" Ed yelled back through the door. "I'm not coming out, not like this!"
"Edward!" Winry slammed on the door again. "You open this door or I swear I'll take it off its hinges and come in there to drag you out!"
Ed didn't bother to respond, but there was a crackling sound, a brief flash of blue light, and the door was solid stone.
"Oh, you are so dead!" Winry yelled, incensed, though she wasn't sure that Ed could even hear her. "This is still my house, Edward Elric, and if you think I'm going to let you get away with you transmuting the walls into various chemical compositions just because you're suffering from a stupid fit of nerves, you've got another think coming!"
"Winry," Al interrupted, "move out of the way."
Startled, she glanced over her shoulder, and then edged aside. Al reached over her arm, swiped a few lines of chalk onto the surface, and laid his hand over it. The stone slab lit up again, turned back to the dark honey color of wood, and then melted into the doorframe.
Winry caught only a glimpse of Ed's braid in the hallway beyond, before he vanished into the bathroom and slammed the door behind himself again. Growling with frustration, she stomped through the doorframe towards the Full Metal Alchemist's new hiding place. "Alchemists!" she growled. "You owe me big for this, Ed!"
"I don't owe you nearly enough to do something like this," Ed's muffled voice came through the door. It was still open a crack, and she could see a sliver of his golden eye watching her warily down the hallway.
"Like hell you don't!" She shook her wrench at him again. "You're walking around with two sets of the best work I ever did, custom work like that would cost a fortune in the city, you don't even appreciate the beautiful auto-mail I gave you—"
"I appreciate it just fine," Ed growled.
"You keep going and getting it broken," Winry continued, as though Ed had not interrupted, "and expect me to fix it, and through all this it's kept you alive and in one piece, and the gratitude—! You won't even let me show my finest work to my students!"
"I am not a piece of machinery!" Ed yelled. "Show them one of the prototypes, or just give them the blueprints. I am not a walking display model for a group of twelve-year-old-girls to ogle!"
"But that's not the same," Winry wailed, wringing her hands around her wrench. "A blueprint can't possibly convey the feel of solid metal, the grace of motion, the slide of oiled parts—ah! Auto-mail is so wonderful!" she caroled, then quickly controlled herself. The thin slice of Ed should could see did not look amused.
"And besides," she went on quickly, "they've already spent weeks studying the prototypes. It won't do them any good unless they get a chance to study the way it actually works on a real person, not just a temporary hook-up for a demo, but someone who actually uses and moves and lives with it..."
"Show'em Den," Ed grunted, and Winry stomped her foot in frustration.
Al stepped in at this point. "Niisan," he said, putting on all of his best tones of sweet reason. "You're making more of a fuss about this than there needs to be. Don't you think it's a little unfair of you, to take advantage of Winry's expertise in automail mechanics and then not to—"
"Oh, don't you pull that unfair line on me," Ed snapped, poking his head far enough into the hallway that he could see his brother, now standing with his hands clasped and bronze eyes shining sincerity. "Call this unfair! You're the ones taking advantage of me, treating me like a piece of meat to be put on a block just because I'm still missing some pieces. An automail arm and leg! Is that really all you see me as? Or are you just looking to flaunt the fact that you got your normal body back and I didn't?"
Winry gasped in shock. "Edward!" she gulped. "You didn't have to go that far..."
Too late, though. A quick glance over her shoulder showed that Al's eyes were already filling up with tears. "Niisan," he wailed.
Edward saw the expression, and blanched white. He made a fast retreat back into the bathroom, pushing the door firmly shut behind him and, from the sound of it, sitting against it to hold it closed.
"Now look!" Winry banged on the door with the wrench. "You made Al cry."
"I'm sorry," Ed's strangled voice came back through. "I didn't mean to..."
"In that case, you need to make it up to me," Al was businesslike once again, no trace of the tears left. "Come on, Niisan. I promise I'll forgive you if you do just this one thing."
"This is blackmail," Ed growled, but he pulled the door open a
"I'll do your chores for the weekend," Winry wheedled.
Ed frowned; he was clearly thinking. "The week," he tried.
Winry huffed, but accepted it. "Fine."
"And Al makes my favorite dinner?" Ed said suspiciously.
"Of course!" Al reassured him, leaning in towards the door to give his brother his best soulful eyes. "I knew you didn't mean it."
The door wavered a moment, then the crack widened slightly and Ed leaned out. "Can't I wear at least half a shirt?" he whined. "Or pants? I'll pull the leg up."
"That won't work!" Winry gave him a stern look. "It's absolutely necessary for them to see how it plays into the natural structure of the chest, and besides, we need to have the normal limbs for comparison."
"At least you can wear your shorts!" Al reassured his brother.
Ed looked like he had swallowed a lemon. "You make breakfast tomorrow, too," he told Al. "Equivalent trade."
"Yes, Niisan," Al said, keeping his best respectful-younger-brother tone.
"All right," Ed sighed, and he came out into the hall. Winry had to remind herself that Ed was more of a brother to her than anything, and that after the argument they had just had, it would be very undiplomatic of her to ogle her more-of-a-brother's chest. Or his legs. Or his—ooh.
Winry reminded herself again.
"Well, let's go then!" she said brightly. "We've already kept the class waiting for over twenty minutes!"
She hooked her hand around Ed's arm, more to make sure he came with her than for moral reassurance, and towed him off towards the workshop. Al followed closely, preventing any last-minute escapes.
"Your class only has four or five students in it, right?" Ed asked Winry as they drew closer to the doorway.
"Well," Winry didn't quite meet Ed's eyes. "My normal class, yes. But since this is a special demonstration, there are a couple of students over from the Adelard district, as well."
"A couple," Ed repeated suspiciously.
"Right!" Winry laughed, but it wasn't entirely genuine, and Ed sighed. He could see it coming. It wasn't like he couldn't see it coming. Why did he agree to this again? Ed slowed, and Al bumped into him from behind. He glanced up and over his shoulder, and caught his brother's reproachful and slightly hurt look. He sighed again. Oh, yeah.
"Um, I'll just pop in and tell them you're here, okay?" Winry said brightly, stopping before the workshop door. She shot a meaningful glance at Al, who nodded solemnly, and slipped inside.
"You really don't need to be embarrassed, Niisan," Al murmured. "They'll just be interested in looking at your auto-mail."
"Besides, it's not like you have anything to be ashamed of," he added, and placed a hand on his brother's shoulder. "It's good to have your own body, at least. And it's not like you're ugly or anything."
"I... guess so." Ed hung his head, hiding his expression. "I don't—like people looking, that's all."
Al squeezed his shoulder encouragingly. Ed sighed, but before he could say anything else, Winry was swinging the doors open and dragging him in. "Well, here we go, everyone!" she said cheerfully, and shoved him into the middle of the room with a flourish. "Our prize model!"
Ed vowed on the spot that Winry's favorite electric drill had a destiny as a teapot.
There were two dozen people in the workshop, of a range of ages from ten to eighteen. Most of them were girls. And all of them had—
"Winry!" Ed yelped, panic setting in. "They have sketchbooks! You didn't say anything about—why do they have sketchbooks?"
"Relax, Ed, it's not what you think," Winry hurried to soothe his nerves. "That's just for them to do studies of, so they can take the designs home with them—they won't be sketching the rest of you at all. Probably."
"PROBABLY?" Ed spun around to escape the room, only to find Alphonse locking the doors behind them. It didn't make him happy that he was now exposing his back to the very intent stares of the students, nor did the fact that he saw—"WINRY! They have CAMERAS!"
"N-now, Ed—" Winry began.
"NO WAY! ABSOLUTELY NOT! LET ME OUT OF HERE!" Ed started for the door, then changed his mind and went for a wall. He'd make his damn door.
Unfortunately, he didn't make it more than a few feet, towards one of the squeaking, alarmed younger students, before Al blocked his path. "Niisan! You promised, remember?"
"I didn't promise this! In fact, I didn't consent to any of this! In fact, I—ARGH! WINRY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
"It's just a special kind of oil, Ed, it makes the joints show up more clearly, that's all!"
"Get it off me! Al, you—OW!"
"Hold still, Niisan!"
"AL! YOU'D BETRAY YOUR OWN BROTHER THIS WAY!?"
"You're one to talk! You always cheat at cards!"
"Uh, anyway, class—here we have a perfect to-scale example of a working set of automail limbs..."
"WHO ARE YOU CALLING ONE-TENTH SCALE?"
"She didn't say that, Niisan..."
"Gimme that camera! I'm going to turn it into a hunk of LEAD!"
It was six days, a dozen favorite meals, and three highly prized wrench sets before Ed would even consider forgiving them. But Winry, who still had the negatives filed away under her blueprints, still thought it was worth it.