Title: A Little Maturity
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist
Summary: Ed finally decides to show a little maturity. Key word: little.
A/N – this is my first fanfic written for a series other than Inuyasha. It takes place immediately after chapter 58 of the manga and contains SPOILERS for earlier chapters. Also, please be careful not to give me any spoilers if you review; I am not quite through chapter 59 yet. Thanks.
“You love Winry-chan, don’t you?”
Ed scowled up at the ceiling as he thought of First Lieutenant Hawkeye’s words, as well as his oh-so-articulate response. Was it really so obvious that a person who didn’t see him very often like the lieutenant would be able to figure it out? Scratch that. He didn’t know if he loved Winry, but he certainly liked her. A lot. As in the wanting to be more than friends kind of liking someone. Yeah…
He had always secretly hoped to tell her how he felt after he and Al got their bodies back, but their recent conversation with King Bradley had smashed those plans harder than Winry liked to smash his head after he broke his automail. No, that despicable homunculus did not deserve the title of ‘king.’
“Ah, yes. Winry Rockbell, was it not? That childhood friend of yours…and your equivalent of family. She now works in Rush Valley, blessed with friends and talent. A nice and obedient child.”
His blood boiled at the memory. Yes, Winry was like family to him, and the homunculus had threatened her, using her as leverage to make him toe the line. And for the moment at least, there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. Oh, he supposed he could tell Winry everything and then ask her to accompany him and Al wherever they went, but there was no guarantee she would go along with that. In fact, he was fairly certain she would refuse, being the tough, stubborn young woman she was. It wouldn’t do much good regardless; he could barely keep himself alive fighting the homunculi, let alone protect her as well. Besides, she loved living and working in Rush Valley, and he couldn’t take that away from her. The other option of moving in with her was equally implausible; not only would Bradley surely take issue with his lack of use to the military, but he owed a blood-bound duty to Al to get him his body back. That obligation came before everything else in his life.
But that didn’t mean there wasn’t room for others, friends, even girlfriends… He blushed at the thought, and frowned. He really did want to see her. He had thought a phone call would be enough to assuage his worries, but it clearly wasn’t. He needed to see her in person, to assure himself that she really was still alive and well. As for what would happen when he got there… He didn’t know if he would tell her how he felt, but he was seriously considering it. As much as it pained him to admit, Winry’s life was in mortal danger every day now that the homunculi had basically made her into an unknowing hostage. If something were to happen to her, before he had confessed his feelings… He would be devastated regardless, but his silence on the matter would add an extra layer of misery to the equation. Maybe it was finally time…
He didn’t have to make a decision right now. What he did know was that he wanted to see her, and that was damn well what he was going to do. But how to spin the idea to Al…he didn’t want it to look like he wanted to go to Rush Valley just to see Winry. Hmmm… Ah! Ran Fan! She wants to have automail surgery, and Winry’s the best automail mechanic in the country. That’s the perfect excuse! Grinning in triumph, Ed finally turned off the light and went to sleep.
“So let me get this straight, brother,” Al said the following morning. “You want to go out of your way to take Ran Fan to Rush Valley?” The unasked question hung in the air, ‘why are you being so nice to her all of a sudden?’ Ed was sure his brother’s eyes would have narrowed in suspicion if they could. He nodded, gulping and hoping Al didn’t ask any further questions.
“Sounds fine to me!” Al declared after a moment, causing Ed to sigh in relief. His brother probably knew that he just wanted to see Winry, but thankfully was too nice to say anything about it. He was worried about Winry too. “Though I don’t think Dr. Knox will like it.”
“Heh! I’m not afraid of that old man.”
“WHAT?!!! There’s no way you’re taking my patient on a bloody road trip!”
“We’ll take good care of her!”
“Not a chance!”
“Yes, we will!”
“No, you won’t, because you’re not taking her!”
“Yes, we are!” A moment of relative silence ensued, with Ed and Dr. Knox growling at each other, a few inches separating their foreheads.
“Please doctor,” came a small voice from the doorway to the other room, and all parties turned to see Ran Fan leaning unsteadily against the doorframe. “Your care has been exceptional, far better than I deserve, but I need to have automail surgery as soon as possible. Please let me go with them.”
“B-b-but you can barely stand! You need to build up your strength before having such an invasive procedure!”
“And I will. Please, let the automail mechanic decide when my body has recuperated enough for the procedure. I promise not to pressure her into doing the surgery before she thinks I’m ready.”
The doctor frowned, still decidedly uncomfortable with the arrangement, but finally he assented. “Alright, you win. Now get back to bed.”
“Thank you,” Ran Fan said before disappearing inside the room once more. Dr. Knox sighed, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. Then suddenly he turned to Ed, a fire in his eyes.
“Listen, you,” he ordered, pointing a finger at the young alchemist. “She is my patient until you hand her off to your friend in Rush Valley. If anything happens to her under my care, I will personally rip off your automail and shove it where the sun don’t shine! Got it?”
Ed gulped. “G-got it.”
“The same goes for you, armour boy. Don’t make me melt you down into forks.”
Al chuckled nervously. “Uh, yeah…I understand.”
“Good.” With that, the doctor turned and marched into his study, leaving both boys to slump over in relief.
“Let’s make sure Ran Fan gets to Rush Valley in one piece.”
“Alright, you stay here. I’m gonna go get some more money from the Colonel.”
“That damn Colonel!” Ed shouted as he burst through the door.
“Brother? Did he not give you any money?”
“Oh, no, he gave us plenty of money. But you’ll never guess what he said to me!” Al didn’t try; he simply waited for his brother to relate whatever horrible thing Colonel Mustang had said to him. “He said ‘say hi to Winry for me.’ Can you believe the nerve of that guy?!”
Al sweatdropped. Gee, brother, do you think you might be overreacting a bit? But he knew it would be useless to argue, and it would only get Ed even hotter under the collar. “So, the Colonel gave us money?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, he gave us travel funds and enough to pay Winry for Ran Fan’s surgery and care.”
“Yeah. I guess he’s more willing to spend the military’s money now that he knows Bradley is a homunculus. Wrote it off as ‘combat-related expenses.’”
“Hmm, it’s kind of ironic that the military is paying to give Ran Fan a new arm when Bradley is the one who cut her original arm off.”
“Huh, I guess it is.”
“You know Winry would have done it for free, like she did for you.”
“I know, but it’s good to pay her when we get the cha— What do you want, bean girl?” Ed asked, glaring down Mei Chan, who had suddenly appeared before them. She matched his look with a determined one of her own, seemingly ready for a fight.
“I’m going with you,” she declared firmly.
“Like hell you are!”
“I am, whether you like it or not!”
“Mei Chan,” Al interrupted the two bickering children. “Why would you want to come with us?”
“I have my reasons,” she replied, glancing anxiously in the direction of the study.
Ed laughed gleefully. “I bet she’s just afraid of Dr. Knox!”
“Oh, and you aren’t? Mr. ‘G-g-g-got it.’”
“I-I do not stutter like that!”
“Do so, bean boy!”
“Elric!” came the doctor’s booming voice through the doorway. “You had better not be arguing with my patient!” Ed shrunk back, his expression becoming worried, and Mei Chan smirked. “And my patient had better get her butt back on the couch before I give her a sedative!” Now it was the alchemist’s turn to smirk, as the young girl reluctantly returned to her makeshift bed.
“I’m coming with you,” she whispered.
“No, you’re not!” Ed whispered back. Al sighed, sitting down and putting his head in his hands.
Mei Chan crept silently through the house in the dark of night, moving into Ran Fan’s room. There lay her enemy, sleeping soundly. It would be so easy to slit her throat right now…pathetic.
“Well? Are you going to try to kill me?” Ran Fan asked suddenly, startling the girl.
“I-if I was, you’d already be dead!” she replied hastily.
“Just out of curiosity, why do you desire to journey with me to Rush Valley?”
“I need to know where my enemy is staying so I can find you again, since that damn doctor and those nosy brothers won’t let us fight.”
“What right do they have to interfere with the affairs of our country. Draw your weapon. We shall decide this right now,” Ran Fan said, sitting up and reaching for the dagger on her calf. Mei Chan studied her movements; they were skilled and precise, but sluggish, and there was a weakness that the older girl tried to conceal.
“So you’re getting a new arm?”
“Yes,” Ran Fan answered, surprised by the question.
“Then I will wait until you are fully recovered. Perhaps then you will pose some challenge to me.”
“Hm, then I shall have to recover even faster. It will be five and a half months instead of six.” The girls exchanged a fierce grin.
“Until then, Yao dog,” Mei Chan said as she departed.
“I look forward to it, impudent princess.”
“Why the hell did bean girl have to come along?” Ed whined for at least the tenth time that day. He had been grumpy since breakfast, which wasn’t that unusual. The train ride had been quiet, at least; Ran Fan’s condition dictated that they get their own room. She was now laid out on a cart purchased from a local merchant, with Al pulling her down the dusty road toward Winry’s shop, hoping to make it before the light faded. He had used alchemy to craft a makeshift awning over her face and torso to shield her from the sun. Mei Chan rode next to her, the two of them seeming to have come to an uneasy truce since the day before.
“How are you doing back there?” Al called over his shoulder, ignoring his fuming brother.
“Fine,” Ran Fan answered gratefully. “It’s so nice to get out of that house, and the fresh air is wonderful.”
“Yes, the Yao dog is right, for once,” Mei Chan agreed. “I am enjoying myself, even in her presence.”
Renewed grumbling sounded by his side, leading Al to sigh in exasperation. With the way brother’s acting, you’d think Mei Chan had the plague or something. But he knew the girl wasn’t the real problem.
“You’re still mad about what Colonel Mustang said, aren’t you?”
“Hell yes I am! That womanizing bastard, what gives him the right to hit on my—Winry! To hit on Winry?” For a brief moment, Al thought about commenting on his brother’s slip, but decided that it would be better for all parties if he kept his mouth shut. And fortunately, Mei Chan hadn’t been paying enough attention to those particular words to notice.
“Hmmm, Colonel Mustang, you say? He sounds dreamy… I bet he won’t be a colossal disappointment like BEAN BOY was!”
“Hey! It’s not my fault you had unreasonable expectations!”
“It’s not unreasonable to expect a man to be more than four feet tall!”
“I-I’m not done growing yet!”
Realizing that the bickering was never going to end, Al decided to have a little fun with it. “Hey, Mei Chan, tell my brother if he wants to grow, he should drink his milk.”
Ed sent him a withering glare. “Al? Who’s side are you on?” he ground out through clenched teeth.
“Yours! I want you to grow, but you don’t drink your milk like you’re supposed to.”
“Traitor,” Ed snapped, crossing his arms and giving everyone the silent treatment. Finally, Al thought, greatly enjoying the rest of the quiet trek to Winry’s.
“Edward? Alphonse?” Winry exclaimed, obviously surprised to see them. “What did I tell you guys about calling before you visit?”
“Well, I’ve never listened to you before, so I figured why start now?” Ed replied good-naturedly. Al rolled his figurative eyes. Funny how his bad mood evaporates the instant he sees Winry. That she was sometimes covered in dirt and grime—as she was now—never seemed to bother Ed. In fact, Al suspected the fact that Winry was unlike other girls was one of the things Ed liked about her. They had certainly never seen another girl dress like she did, her overall sleeves tied around her waist, her torso bare except for the wide strip of black fabric covering her breasts.
“Because you probably banged up your arm again, and you probably need me to fix it. Again.”
“Well, it could probably use a tune up…but the real reason I’m here is to bring you a new patient.”
“Oh? Where is he?”
“She’s outside on a cart.”
“Well, make yourselves comfortable. I’ll go introduce myself and get her set up in a room.”
“Alright. Hey, Garfiel-san! Can I get something to eat!”
“Yes, and milk to drink!”
“Shut up, Al!”
Ed was finished eating—and drinking his milk—by the time Winry came back in, and she looked none too pleased. She stopped a few feet in front of them and placed her hands on her hips.
“Edward, Ran Fan isn’t nearly strong enough to undergo the surgery yet. She’ll need at least a few more weeks to recover.”
“We know, we know, but—”
“But you figured you’d let me take care of her until then? Come on, Ed! Food and medical care cost money. I can barely keep the business going as it is! I…” she trailed off as a grinning Ed dropped a small bag on the table with a thud and a metallic rustle. It almost sounded like coins… Excitedly she snatched up the bag, nearly keeling over when she saw just how much money was in the bag. She dizzily took a seat.
“Is this all… for me?” she wondered in disbelief. Ed merely grinned wider.
“That should cover all the costs of Ran Fan’s care, right?”
“And then some! I’ll be able to buy better supplies, more advanced equipment, and renovate the operating room. And then I’ll be able to go shopping!” she finished in a sing-song voice, her eyes shining with happiness. But then a disturbing thought struck her, and her jubilation vanished in favor of suspicion.
“How did you get this? You didn’t steal it, did you?”
Ed sighed. “Is it so hard to believe I got it legally?”
“Ok, then how did you get it?”
“I…sweet talked it out of Colo—someone at headquarters.”
“You couldn’t sweet talk a sick man out of the flu.”
“Is that so? Well then why don’t you give it all back?”
“Nope! No refunds! Seriously, Ed and Al, thanks for this.”
“No problem. We know firsthand how you operate, only taking what the patient can afford to pay, even if that’s nothing at all,” Ed said softly, momentarily becoming lost in his memories.
“Yeah…” she agreed as a long silence settled over the trio. “Well, do you still want that tune up?” Winry asked after awhile.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all. I can do it in your room. Go get undressed while I get my tools.”
They rendezvoused in the brothers’ usual room a few minutes later, minus one member of the trio. Ed sat on the bed, stripped down to his boxers and a tank top. The lack of outer clothing didn’t bother either of them; it wasn’t the first time Winry worked on his automail, and it wouldn’t be the last.
“Huh?” Winry wondered. “Where’s Al?”
“I think he went to check on Ran Fan.”
“Oh. Alright, I guess I’ll start with the leg.” She did so, kneeling in front of him and inspecting the machinery carefully, making a few minor adjustments here and there. She made him stick both his feet straight out, studying them together before laughing quietly to herself. “Hey, Ed, I think you grew a little taller since the last time I saw you.”
“Really?” he asked, trying to conceal his excitement.
“Just a smidgen.”
“Oh,” he replied, somewhat deflated but still happy. Silence resettled over the pair as Winry resumed her work, finishing with the leg and switching to the arm. She was the picture of concentration, not even realizing how her hip pressed against his leg as she tried to get at an especially hard to reach place, her elbow resting on his thigh. Ed certainly noticed. She usually got close to him when she was working on his automail, and he didn’t mind. But for some reason, tonight her proximity was fairly unnerving. And it didn’t take a genius to figure out why. What, if anything, was he going to say to her tonight? Damn, why did I procrastinate on making this decision? At least I’d have a plan going in! He swallowed, sweat beginning to form on his brow, some of the color draining from his cheeks. His heart thundered in his chest, impossibly loud to his ears. Calm down, Ed. It’s really not that big a deal… Somehow, he couldn’t quite bring his hyperventilating body or his racing mind to believe that.
“ED!!!” Winry’s annoyed cry broke him from his musings. He looked down to his arm to see her no longer there. Instead, she was standing in front of him, her hands on her hips again. His eyes wandered sluggishly up her body, his brain muddled, until finally reaching her face. It wasn’t until then that he realized she was waiting for a response.
“Huh? What?” he mumbled. Winry quirked an eyebrow at him and frowned.
“I said you’re all set, space boy.”
“You feeling alright, Ed? You don’t look normal.”
“N-n-no, I’m fine.”
“Hmm,” Winry pondered, ignoring him. “Maybe one of my adjustments was too tight.” She moved to recheck his arm and leg and he let her, mostly because he didn’t think he was capable of comprehendible speech right now. After a few minutes, Winry pulled back and scratched her head. “It isn’t a problem with the automail…are you sick?” He shook his head, then gasped when she placed her hand on his forehead, leaning forward and gazing at his face in concern from mere inches away. This certainly did not help Ed’s mental dilemma any, which Winry was still apparently unaware of. “Well, I don’t think you have a fever. I’ll go get you some medicine just in case.” She started to pull away, and in a moment of blind panic Ed reached out with his right arm and grasped her hand. Winry stiffened at the contact, peering closely at him once more.
“Ed? Is something wrong?” This was entirely unlike the Edward Elric she knew. He wasn’t a touchy-feely kind of guy, so for him to be holding her hand like that meant that something was up. The metal felt cool against her skin, and she couldn’t help but marvel at how his hand, which could crush bone, cradled hers so tenderly.
“No,” he croaked out. “Nothing’s wrong.”
Her gaze panned up to his eyes, and she gasped at the way they smoldered. It was almost the same determined look he had worn through his whole automail surgery, and continued to wear when things got tough to this day. But there was something different this time, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Then she realized he was leaning toward her, those enchanting golden eyes of his sliding slowly shut.
“Ed? What are you…oh…” she breathed as she leaned down to meet him. Their lips met in a sweet and innocent kiss, neither of them really knowing what they were doing. And it was over all too soon, though their lips still tingled afterward.
“Ed…” Winry whispered, her voice barely audible. “Why…did you do that?”
“Because…I’ve always wanted to.”
Winry took in his words, a brilliant smile slowly blossoming on her face. She sat down on the bed next to him, wrapping an arm around his back and leaning her head on his left shoulder. “Me too,” she confessed. A cozy silence ensued, as each person came to terms with this new turn in their relationship. Ed’s metal hand moved to grasp her free one again, both resting comfortably against his thigh. After awhile, Winry glanced shyly over at him, surprised to find his eyes directed at her lips. Her licking them must have given her away, because his gaze suddenly flickered to her eyes before he turned his head quickly away, blushing in embarrassment. She giggled, flushing a little herself as she reached around touched his cheek, turning him to face her once more as she leaned in for another kiss.
The next few minutes were spent in delightful exploration, discovering that a little motion went a long way when one was kissing. They only very briefly and tentatively strayed beyond the boundaries of the chaste, however. They mused that they still had a lot to learn about the art of kissing, and about being a couple in general, but they had plenty of time to educate themselves and each other. Neither of them was done growing up, after all, and they knew they would cherish the meantime before they became adults. Eventually, Winry stood to leave, and Ed finally released her hand.
“Well, it’s getting late…” she said.
She left, smiling at him one more time from the doorway before disappearing into the hallway. Ed sighed long and deep, flopping back on the bed, his arms spread out wide, a silly grin on his features. Wow… He and Winry were officially an item now, and though he wasn’t sure exactly how things would work out from here, he knew he would be finding excuses to visit Rush Valley more often. And maybe she could visit him at headquarters sometime… One thing was for sure; he was going to have a difficult time falling asleep tonight.
Morning found the Fullmetal Alchemist tired but content, watching Winry bustle around the shop. She hummed quietly to herself the whole time, and there was more than just one extra spring in her step.
“Winry, you seem especially bright this morning,” one of her first patients commented.
“Oh, really? You think so?” she replied, laughing merrily. It was infectious, and soon everyone in the building was at least smiling to themselves. The atmosphere was so jovial that Ed felt loath to leave, though wanting to kiss Winry again surely had something to do with it. But alas, duty called, so to speak; they really did need to return to headquarters. Mustang would only let them stay on their little vacation for so long, and who knew what the homunculi and Scar would be up to next. Still, it was with great reluctance that he, Al, and Mei Chan said their goodbyes.
“Call me!” Winry yelled after them as they departed. “And come back soon!”
“We will!” Ed hollered back, returning her wave. When no one was looking, Winry blew him a kiss, then gave a little finger wave and scurried back inside. Ed shook his head; why did he have to leave again?
A short while later, the two brothers were on the road again, walking back to the train station, this time unencumbered by the cart, which they had left to Garfiel in gratitude for his hospitality. Mei Chan was hitching a ride inside Al’s torso, which was well ventilated and not a bad place to be on a relatively cool morning such as this.
“You seem happy this morning,” Al declared.
Ed grinned. “Yep.”
“Any particular reason you’re in a good mood?”
“I kissed Winry last night.”
“Oh, good. It’s about time.”
“Wh—you could at least sound surprised!”
“Maybe I would be, except I came in last night while she was still there. You guys were too *ahem* busy to notice.”
“And then there was the goofy smile you wore all last night and this morning, and the kiss she blew you when we were leaving.”
“Alright, alright. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Nah. We argued about it when we were kids, but you were always the one who had the crush on her.”
“Yeah, I guess so. It turns out she always liked me too.” He heard a snort from inside Al’s body, but he knew it wasn’t his brother who made the sound. “You got something to say, bean girl?!”
“I was just thinking that it would have been interesting to see you two kissing. I’ve never heard of one where the girl has to lean down to kiss the boy.”
“Why you little— Pipsqueak!”
“Tiny little rice speck!”
Al groaned miserably; it was going to be a long ride back to headquarters.