Edward Elric had a lot of things against Rush Valley; namely, the hyena-like mechanics who kept pestering him for a look at his leg, or a chance to repair his leg, or to talk excitedly about his betrothed, Winry Rockbell. Listening to them go on about Winry’s talents was weird. Pride in her abilities, well, sure, Edward had that, in spades! And hearing other people go on about her skills, yeah, that was fine. It was when they started talking about her physical attributes that Edward started seeing red. He’d managed to only punch a couple of them before word got around – Edward Elric was jealous. That was okay with him. If they thought he’d beat up any guy who sniffed around Winry, it might discourage some of the hyenas, and for the others, well, Edward had no problems with Winry taking care of herself. She had that wrench, after all, not to mention her customers were as loyal as he was to her. If anyone laid a hand on her that she didn’t want there, Edward had no doubt the guy would come back with a smoking stump.
Okay, so there were some good things about Rush Valley, too, he admitted, leaving the train station and heading along the now-familiar streets toward Garfiel’s Atelier shop, but still, he couldn’t wait for Winry to finish up with her testing. They’d decided to wait until after her journeyman apprenticeship was officially over before marrying, and it was getting close to time for her to take her final test. Even though she’d probably spend her free time – such as it was, Winry was crazy about automail, and stayed up for nights in a row to finish off whatever project she was working on – studying, Edward wanted to see her. It didn’t hurt that the last time he’d called, Garfiel let it slip that Winry could use a little extra attention, and Edward had cut short his research to hop a train to Rush Valley.
He picked up his pace as the landmarks let him know he was that much closer to Winry. A grin brightened his face as he rounded the final corner, spying the black flower that marked Garfiel’s shop. The door into the shop was open, and Edward walked in. Inside, the sound of metal being worked was even louder, and the people in the shop pitched their voices to be heard over the machines.
“Edward!” Garfiel trilled, shrill enough to hear over everything. “I’m so glad to see you.”
Some of Winry’s customers gave him a gimlet eye, but Edward ignored them to smile at her boss. “Hey, Garfiel, is Winry busy?”
“What do you think, Edward?” Rolling his eyes dramatically, Garfiel pointed his screwdriver at the doorway leading deeper into the shop. “If you can convince her to take a break, I’d appreciate it. The girl’s running herself ragged.” At the protests from the customers, Garfiel told them, “You know she is! Everyone deserves a break.”
Not waiting to hear the rest, Edward made his way into the back area. Spotting Winry at the grinder, Edward moved up behind her. He waited until she shut the motor off before saying, “Too busy to take a break?”
“Ed?” Winry turned to him, wearing a pair of goggles that magnified her eyes.
Edward carefully pushed the goggles up, taking Winry’s bandanna off with them. “Winry,” he murmured, taking in the dark circles under her eyes, the way the delicate skin around them seemed puckered. She ducked her head, but not before Edward saw the tension in her forehead and the lines around her mouth. “What’s wrong?” He cupped her shoulders, leaning down to peer into her face.
“Stupid headache,” Winry grumbled, squinting at him. Her eyes widened suddenly and she shoved Edward out of the way, lurching out of her chair and to a waste can at the next table over. Dropping to her knees, she retched into the can.
With a grimace, Edward caught her hair, pulling it back out of the way. He offered Winry his handkerchief when she finished vomiting, easing her into a sitting position. “How long?”
Slumping, Winry leaned her head into her hands as if her skull was too heavy for her neck to hold up. “A few days,” she said with a low groan.
“That’s it. You’re quitting for the day.” Edward put his arm under her knees, and the other around her back. “Hold on.” Grunting, he pushed to his feet. Damn, Winry didn’t look like she’d weigh anything but she was heavy.
“Shut up,” he told her. “I’m taking you to bed.”
“I’ve got commissions I need to fill,” Winry whined, slapping weakly at his chest.
“They’ll wait. Right now, you’re getting some rest, if I have to tie you to the bed to make you.” Edward carried her past Garfiel and the customers, ignoring their wide-eyed looks as he began climbing the stairs to the upper reaches of the building. “She has a headache.”
Winry stopped fighting him, her head sagging against his shoulder, but she rallied enough to say, “I’ll be back at work soon!”
Rolling his eyes, Edward carried her to her room, glad the door was open. He deposited Winry on her bed and pulled the curtains closed to block out the intrusive Rush Valley sun. Not surprised that she relaxed a little when the light was gone, Edward considered what she might need. Later, he’d need to clean up the vomit in the trash can, but right now, Winry deserved some aspirin and a damp cloth for her eyes.
“Ed, I have work.” Winry tried to sit up but her eyes nearly crossed, and she slumped back down on the bed with a groan.
“Not today,” Edward pointed his finger at her. “Today, you’re taking it easy.”
Winry whined, “But.”
“No buts,” he called as he walked out of the room. The fact Winry didn’t argue farther told him just how much pain she had to be in. Stupid of her to keep working, but Edward reminded himself he’d have done the same thing. Carrying back a tray with a basin of water, a glass and a bottle of aspirin, he set it down. Wringing out the cloth soaking in the water, he smoothed it over Winry’s eyes. “Keep that in place.”
“You’re not Granny,” Winry whined.
“No, but she taught me what to do.” Edward shook two aspirin tablets out of the bottle. “Open your mouth.”
“Why?” Winry started to move the cloth and Edward caught her hand.
“Aspirin, Winry, just open your mouth.” When she did, he popped the tablets in, offering her a straw. “There’s a straw. Drink.”
With a whine, Winry obeyed, closing her lips around the straw and sucking. “Ugh.” She pressed her fingertips to her temple, rubbing it. “Gotta get back to work, Ed.”
“Not today,” he repeated. “You’re staying here, in this bed.” Sitting next to her, Edward adjusted the cloth on her face. “You’re going to rest. And I’m going to take care of you.” He could just catch the glimmer of a blue eye beneath the cloth. “Everything else can wait. Your customers will understand.”
Groaning, Winry let her body relax into the mattress. “This time,” she muttered.
“This time,” Edward promised, picking up her hand and holding it in his, remembering long, painful days and nights while his body adjusted to the ports Granny installed; to the automail Winry made. The twinges and aches and sheer fucking agony of a missing limb. Throughout all of that, he’d heard Winry’s soft voice, talking to him, arguing with him, reminding him that he was going to be okay, that this was the best automail she’d ever built, that he was in good hands.
A light knock got his attention, and Edward left Winry to open the door. Garfiel stood there, a sweet smile on his face. “Tetsuo heard she wasn’t feeling well,” he said softly, “and brought this.” He held out a steaming pot of some soup. Edward could smell chicken, and mint, and something spicy that made his mouth water. “He says his mother makes it when he or his father isn’t feeling well.”
“Tell him thanks,” Edward said in a low voice, accepting the pot. He set it down to cool, noticing that Garfiel had sneaked bowls, spoons and a ladle onto the table next to the door. Shaking his head, he settled into a chair near the bed, picking up the book he’d left the last time he’d visited. Okay, so he didn’t like Rush Valley very much, but the people here, well, it was good to know they’d take care of Winry when he wasn’t around.
“Ed?” Winry said drowsily. “I’m glad y’er here.”
“Yeah, Winry,” he smiled at her. “Me, too.”