Under There

Ed had assumed—foolishly, perhaps—that once the automail was installed, that would be it. Like putting a shelf up on the wall, or doing a transmutation. He hadn't really anticipated the long hours of constant adjustment, readjustment, and—the further he got along in physical therapy—readjustment again. The process was painful, frustrating, and—worst of all—stupefyingly boring.

He perfected the art of daydreaming, projecting his mind beyond the white walls of the operating room or the window of his bedroom, for hours at a time. He'd occupy himself with elaborate plans for the future, plots for what to do once he was mobile again, once they got to Central, once he became a State Alchemist, once they got their bodies back...

He got so good at it, in fact, that it was several days before he noticed how much Winry blushed when she worked on his leg.

It confused Ed, and embarrassed him more than a little, because Winry might have been practically a sister to him but she was still a girl. And she was a girl who had her hands on his thigh half the day, and his chest the other half. It didn't bother him because Winry was his bossy doctor and brisk cheerful nurse all in one, but when she blushed like that, it reminded him again that she was still a girl.

Things like girls had never really been on his mind, not even like the boys on the playground who obsessed over teasing and making fun of them, but one way or another he was getting towards the age where he was uncomfortably aware of himself around them. Where something about him wanted him to look good around them. Even, apparently, a half-sister machine-geek tom-boy like Winry.

He looked down at himself, at Winry's blond hair and intent expression bending over his leg, and took stock. At least he wasn't wearing that annoying hospital gown any more, just an ordinary loose shirt and a pair of pale blue shorts. Okay, his hair wasn't brushed, and it had been a while since he'd gotten a bath, but he didn't think it was anything to blush at. He was just the same as he had always been.

So what was it, then?

"Hey," he said, and Winry looked up at him, surprised. Something on the way up seemed to make her blush further, which deepened his irritation. "You know," he snorted, "I always knew you were a machine freak, but that doesn't mean you have to get all sappy over it."

"Huh?" Winry stared at him.

"You're blushing," Ed reminded her. "What's up with that?"

"Oh-oh," Winry stuttered, and looked down again. If anything, she blushed even more. "Don't be a jerk, Ed! It's got nothing to do with the automail."

That did nothing to reassure Ed; mostly because if it wasn't the automail, then it had to be something about him. "Oh, come on," he complained. "Don't get all mysterious on me now, Winry!"

"It's nothing important," Winry said briskly. She took hold of something in the port, and twisted her hand. "How's that feel?"

"Ow! Hey, don't change the subject!" Ed yelped. "I want to know what's making you come over all girly!"

"I, ah... it's, um, your shorts Ed," Winry came out in a rush, cheeks reddening completely.

"Huh?" Ed said, and it was his turn to stare like an idiot.

"Your shorts," Winry repeated, a little clearer. "I can see right up your shorts, Ed."

It took a moment for that to sink in.

Then Ed was halfway across the bed with a yell, left hand clapped down over his crotch. "Why didn't you say anything?" he yelped, face burning. "What are you, some kind of pervert?"

"Oh like I'd want to see that!" Winry screeched, leaping to her feet and waving her balled fists in the air. "You're the pervert, waving them around in the air like that for anyone to see!"


The door cracked open, and a large metal helmet peeked around the jamb. "Um, Winry?" Al's bright, familiar voice came through. "I heard yelling... does that mean you're done for the day?"

The next therapy session, after a little help with Al, Ed was armed and ready. Well... sleeved and ready, anyway. With a little fabric alchemy, Al had put him together a new pair of shorts that were mostly elastic. Clinging tight to his legs, there would be no way Winry could see anything up them.

Winry didn't comment on the change of attire; neither of them commented on the previous day. With them it was always best just to keep the peace and let things pass. She fitted in a new knee joint, they chatted a little, and there was no hint of any blush on her face.

It was only when she was standing up to go, carrying her tools with her, that she commented on his new shorts. "By the way," she said offhandedly over her shoulder, "you do realize with those tight shorts I can see every lump of anything through them."

Ed's yell this time chased her out the door.

If Pinako found it at all unusual that from that day on, every day Edward wore two pairs of shorts—the loose light blue ones over the tight black ones—she, at least, was wise enough not to comment on it.