“Oh, god, Ed!” Winry stood in the doorway of the bathroom, her hands resting on the frame. “What did you do?”
He groaned, turning a pale, sweating face her way. Blond hair clung to his skin in sticky strands. “Guh,” he said, holding up a trembling hand, though Winry couldn’t tell if he was trying to wave her back out of the door or make a plea for help. A terrible smell wafted out of the room and into the hall, one that told her more than she really wanted to know about the state of Ed’s stomach and intestines, and what particular agony he had to be in.
Holding her breath, she stepped over Ed’s sprawled legs to pry open the window, letting in dusty but fresh Rush Valley air. Winry turned back around to squat next to Ed, pushing his bangs off his forehead, making a face at the cool, greasy feel to his skin. “Ed,” she sighed softly. “What did you do?”
“No…” Ed whined, shoving his head against her shoulder, “interro,” he burped, and Winry had to wave her hand in front of her nose to clear the air, “gations.” Groaning again, he pushed away from her to lean over the mouth of the commode, a thin stream of bile trickling out of his mouth. Winry rubbed his back, making soothing noises she was pretty sure Ed didn’t hear at all.
Ed held onto the bowl of the commode, gasping and spitting, finally uncurling with a heart-breaking moan. Winry helped ease him back down into a sitting position, getting up so she could grab a towel to wrap around his shaking body. She flushed the toilet, getting rid of the mess within it while she fetched a washcloth, dampening it with warm water. “All right, Ed,” she said, squatting next to him and taking hold of his chin so she could clean his face, “what happened?”
His long braid dragged on the floor, straggly and in as bad a shape as the rest of him. Red-rimmed eyes met hers before she passed the washcloth over his forehead, wiping the greasy sweat from his face. “Went back to that restaurant.” Ed sighed, leaning into her care. “You know, took you there.”
The Xingese restaurant that served food Ed claimed was just like what he’d eaten in Xing. He’d even smiled brilliantly when he’d said it, the first real smile Winry had seen in relation to Xing since Ed had appeared in Rush Valley. She wondered if Ed thought of it as comfort food now. Apple pies didn’t exist in Xing – she’d gotten that much from a letter from Al back at the very beginning of their stay in the other country – and Al had remarked how much he wished she could send them one. Ed hadn’t asked her for an apple pie, or stew – not that she wanted to make either, as hot as it’d been lately. Instead, he’d taken her to the Xingese restaurant, and ordered different dishes, one of them so extraordinarily spicy it felt like it was melting her nose hairs from across the table. “What happened?”
“Dunno.” Ed burped, making an ‘excuse me’ grimace. “I ordered the same thing I did last time, remember, pressed chicken? It smelled okay.” The hand clutching at his stomach fitfully didn’t agree with Ed’s words. “I was so hungry,” he whined, “I felt like I hadn’t eaten for days. And the guy, Hung, he’s a good guy. We talked while his son was cooking my meal.” His whole body slumped, as if the weight of his head dragged his spine down. “Smelled good,” Ed whispered, “like the stuff I’d get back in Xing.”
“I’m sorry, Ed,” Winry said, rubbing his back again. “Are you feeling any better?”
“Hnng.” Ed managed to lift his head, blinking at her. “Think I need a shower.” His hand resting on the seat of the commode, he tried to push himself to his feet, only to lose his balance, nearly falling on his butt again.
Grabbing him around the chest, Winry held him steady, feeling-hearing the racing of his heart against arms. “Easy, Ed,” she murmured, “it’s okay. Just lean against me, I’ll help you up.” She set her feet under her, half-pulling, half-supporting Ed as he got up. They stood together, their reflections swaying together in the mirror.
Ed let out a waving sigh. “Thanks, Winry. I can take it from here,” he mumbled.
“Are you sure? If you crack your skull getting into the tub, I swear, Ed.”
The warning hung in the air for a few seconds before Ed started shaking against her. Winry automatically tightened her grip, thinking he was about to fall, when she realized. The idiot was laughing. “What?” she snapped, hating the flush of heat on her cheeks, especially since Ed’s eyes met hers in the mirror.
“You’re threatening me,” Ed said, snickering. “Now I know I’m back home for sure.”
Winry would’ve shoved him if he wasn’t still so obviously sick. Instead, she snorted, tipping her nose up in the air. “Like there was ever any doubt!” she said, and dropped her arms to step back, though she stayed close enough to grab Ed if he lost his balance.
His grin still in place, Ed waved at her again, this time shooing her out of the bathroom for sure. “I’m going to take a shower.” He turned on the water for emphasis. “You might want to leave the bathroom.” Beginning to unbutton his shirt, Ed gave her a look, one that made something deep inside of her tingle. “Unless you want to help me.” A belch erupted from him, and Ed had the grace to wince. “Excuse me,” he mumbled, though the heat still warmed his eyes.
Color shot up her cheeks and Winry took another step back. “You don’t need my help for that!” He didn’t, she reminded herself, backing out of the bathroom door and shutting it firmly behind her. Ed could take care of himself. She’d done enough to help him out already, she thought, even if a part of her wanted to go back into the bathroom, and not just to make sure he could stand up for his shower, either. Dammit, why did he have to still look so amazing, even when he was sick like that?
Shaking her head, Winry went down to the office of Garfiel’s shop, picking up the telephone receiver and asking the operator to connect her to the Lucky Dragon Xingese restaurant. Maybe the ice box needed repair. She could offer to help with that, right? If Ed was going to keep eating there, she had to make sure he wasn’t going to get sick off of it every time.