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mikkeneko

Hurt


Equip me with automail with that money, Ed says, and his eyes burn hotter and harder than she has ever seen in her friend before.

Give me the best you've got. If I'm going to become a State Alchemist I need an arm and a leg that will help me.

Are you absolutely sure? Pinako asks, and she has her serious business face on; the face she uses when discussing costs and risks with patients. Complete automail installation surgery is a long and difficult process; it's the furthest any human can go in the field of limb replacements. We will have to cut into your body and into your bones to install the ports. Each of the motor and sensory feedback nerves must be attached individually. The surgery must be done in several rounds, and each one is major trauma on a body. Are you absolutely sure?

I'm sure, Ed says. I don't care how hard it is.

Pinako has no expression as she adds, This surgery is not recommended for anyone under the age of eighteen. It can be too much for a child's body and even if it's successful, it will probably slow your development. It would be better to wait.

Wait eight years? Ed glares. I'll deal with it. I can deal with it fine. Just do it.

Pinako doesn't argue, and goes away, but Winry comes back to talk to Ed later, in private. Ed, she says hesitantly, I don't know if I can do this. The surgery hurts a lot. It makes people scream and cry. It's okay when it's people I don't know but I don't think I can do that to you.

And Ed looks up from his contemplation of the sheets and meets her eyes, and they're already hurting.

Please, he says. I have to do this. Surely you can see I have to do this. I can't back down from anything that might let me help him. If you and Auntie won't do it for me, then I'll find someone else who will.

But I'd really rather it was you.

Ed, she says, and she feels like she's about to cry and she isn't even sure why. You've already been hurt so much. I don't want to hurt you any more.

You must, he answers. And then he adds, in a low voice, I trust you.

So she hurts him. And it's not the same at all when the patient choking back cries of pain and thrashing against the straps is her friend and playmate and brother, but she keeps her hands steady and her mind focused anyway; searching for the nerves in the stump of his leg and stabbing in the needles to make the connection, cutting and peeling back the skin to fit the port neatly against the leg and the shoulder, driving the steel bolts right into the bone to hold them steady. Auntie Pinako says more than once that she's impressed by how well the child is holding out; Winry wonders if she isn't only talking about Ed.

And she hurts him more, afterwards, because he's impatient and he's sworn he'll master the limbs in under a year, which means that she has to get him out of bed and doing the exercises before his fever is completely gone and while the new limbs are burning in his still-healing flesh. He grits his teeth, but he can't hold back on all the sounds he makes as she moves and bends and compresses his new limbs and everything else in his body has to adjust to match it. She knows it hurts him but she does it anyway, because this is what he needs, and this is what he asks for.

When it's all done, when the limbs are installed and running smoothly and he stands and walks and uses them at ease, he looks at her and smiles with pride, for himself, and gratitude, for her. There's a lump in her chest as she sees that smile, and it only hurts more when she watches him and his brother – her brothers – walk away without looking back.

It's not the last time she sees him, of course. Once she goes to visit him and Al in Central, and it is still so good to see them even though everything else about that visit was a complete disaster. He's a reckless boy, and he gets in fights, and he gets his automail damaged, and of course he looks to her to fix it, because he trusts no-one else with his important limbs. So she hurts him again, every time the limbs go back on, every time the screwdriver or the wrench goes in while they're still attached. And she looks at his injuries and marvels, a little, that he can so comfortably turn his back to her or lie on his stomach, helpless and exposed should she choose to attack him, or hurt him.

He trusts her.

No matter how much she hurts him – whether it's for his automail, or just because she was standing with a wrench in her hand while he did something to piss her off, or because she has something to say that he'll hear whether he likes it or not – he trusts her.

Things change, she knows. They won't always be her brothers; they'll change and grow and so will she, and their bodies won't always be the same. Even if someday she is no longer his mechanic (as she's heard him say to others, with pride) she only hopes that trust won't change.

No matter how much it hurts.