"Does it hurt?"
Ed blinked, startled out of the doze he'd started to slip into, and glanced down at the girl who knelt next to him. Winry's screwdriver had paused in its exploration of the docking port bolted into the flesh of his leg, and she was looking up at him with large, worried blue eyes.
"What?" he said, disoriented at the interruption of his nap. "Does what hurt?"
Winry set down the screwdriver and blew a strand of blond hair out of her eyes. "Your automail," she said, pointing at the wires trailing from the half-dissected port. "I've always wondered. The wires can translate nervous impulses into movement, but can they go the other way? Send sensory information to the brain, like real nerves? I mean, I know the docking is painful, but what about once it's on?"
Ed frowned. "You mean like when it gets damaged?" he asked, then winced, remembering why he was here. Winry didn't react to the reminder by grabbing for a wrench, though, but simply nodded, so he went on. "Well...sort of, I guess. It's—hey," he interrupted himself. "You're a mechanic. Don't you already know all this?"
She shrugged. "It's not usually an issue. Granny says it varies from person to person, and some of it's just phantom limb sensation. Besides, it's not normally an issue, anyway—most of my patients don't need extensive repairs every few months," she added, a bit sharply.
Ed made a face, glancing away with a hint of guilt.
Winry smiled at that, but hesitated, fiddling with the ends of her ponytail where it draped over her shoulder. "I just...wanted to know if...well, if yours ever does. So I would know if I was...hurting you. When I do repairs." She was staring at the floor.
How long had that question been eating at her? Ed wondered, noticing his old friend's uncertain frown. "Does it really matter?" he asked, puzzled. "I mean, as long as I don't jerk around and screw it up—"
"So it does hurt?" Winry exclaimed, sounding slightly alarmed.
"What? No!" he cried. She relaxed a bit, but still watched him for an answer. She looked so...anxious. Ed sighed, and ran his hand through his hair in a gesture of exasperation. "Not really. It's just...I don't know. The metal doesn't feel anything, obviously."
"Well, obviously," Winry agreed. "But the wiring?"
He thought about it. "I get...hmm. Little zaps, sometimes, when you hit the wires too hard, poking around in there. More of a tickle, I guess." He laughed sheepishly. "Now, getting it blown apart is another story, but even that only lasts as long as the wires do. As soon as they're gone..." He made a tossing-away gesture with his one hand and shrugged expressively.
Winry nodded, choosing to ignore the reference to limb-batterings past in favor of filing away the knowledge for future reference. "Gotcha," she said, and leaned over to gently pick up one of the trailing wires at random. "So, this is okay?" she asked, making sure.
"No problem," Ed said, with a careless grin. "Don't even feel it."
She looked the wire over for a minute, noting where the insulation had been stripped away for retuning, then tugged it gently, careful not to pull too hard. Ed flinched slightly, and she stopped. "And that hurt," she said decisively.
"Just a tickle," Ed insisted, shifting nonchalantly in his chair. "No big deal."
"Sure," Winry said, rolling her eyes. He could be such a stupid stoic sometimes. She contemplated the wire for another second, curiously, rolling it thoughtfully between her finger and thumb.
Ed shot bolt upright in his chair. "Hey!" he yelped, his eyes wide with alarm. "You...don't...hey!"
"What?" Winry asked, giving him an odd look. "That wasn't near as rough as last time. What's wrong?" She rubbed the wire again, puzzled, and Ed let out a strangled squeak.
"Don't do that!" he gritted between his teeth, and grabbed the wire out of her hands. Winry noticed that his cheeks were flushed vividly pink.
"Ed?" she said, wondering if he was all right. She'd never seen him blush that hard before...
Ducking his head, Ed gathered up his various trailing bits and pieces in one hand and stood, edging past her on one foot. "I...have to go to the bathroom," he sputtered, still bright-faced, and hopped awkwardly out of the room.
"Ed, what the hell?!" Winry yelled after him. "Don't fall!" she added as the door slammed shut, and winced at the thought of unprotected automail tumbling down the stairs. Not to mention unprotected Ed. What on earth was wrong with the boy? She'd only—
A thought struck her, and Winry's mouth fell open in a tiny 'o'. Snapping her jaw shut, she went to the door of the door of the workroom and shouted downstairs, "Granny?"
"What is it?" Pinako shouted back, stirring dinner in the kitchen.
"Refresh my memory!" Winry yelled. "Which nerves do the dark yellow wires usually connect to?"
"Posterior femoral cutaneous!" Pinako responded promptly. "And sometimes the pudendal! Why? Whose automail are we discussing?"
Upstairs, her granddaughter had suddenly burst into hysterical laughter. Pinako harrumphed to herself. Whatever that girl had gotten up to, she wanted no part of it.
"Nobody's, Granny!" Winry called, still giggling. Going back to the chair Ed had occupied, she picked up her screwdriver and looked it over, smothering the occasional hiccup of mirth. Good lord. Posterior femoral and pudendal. Right up through the leg to the...wow. She was mostly mortified, of course...but on the other hand...
No. She would never infringe on Ed's trust like that. She was his mechanic, after all, and they had a professional relationship to maintain.
She would just store the information, she decided. For future reference.
Just in case.
A satisfied little smile playing around the corners of her lips, Winry sat down in his vacated chair. He would come back sooner or later, once he'd calmed down. She could wait.
Upstairs, Ed leaned against the bathroom door and slid wearily to the floor, hand over his face, doing his best to think of unsexy things. Beige wallpaper. Cold showers. Mustang's damn smirk...yep, that did it.
After his breathing was normal again, he dropped his hand and stared at the stump of his automail, sitting innocently attached to his leg as usual.
"Well, great," he muttered. Did she do that on purpose? Probably not, he decided after a moment. Winry wasn't like that. And thank god nothing down there had reacted noticably, or he would probably have a wrench embedded in his skull right then.
It just wasn't fair, he thought irritably. She was already his mechanic, and his oldest friend outside of Al, and...and that was as far as that train of thought was going to go, he decided firmly. And now, to find out that on top of all that, she could play his nervous system like a piano...
Making a disgusted face, he got his foot under him and stood with the help of the doorknob. He was going to have to go get her to seal this thing up sooner or later. Might as well be now. And after all, he didn't really expect her to try that again. They were both way too young for this, anyway.
And besides, he didn't want her to.
At least...not where Al might find out.