(takes place after episode 23 when Al thought Ed implanted his memories)
Fullmetal Heart Crushed
"I WON'T STAY HERE!"
That's all it took. A punch in the face, and the blonde was down on the roof laying on his side, trembling from the shock of his brother's reaction and from the pain coursing through his body. For a 16 year old kid, Edward Elric was normally a tough cookie, but he'd recently had his side sliced open and his shoulder. He was in the hospital because of the amount of injuries that he had sustained and of course being knocked unconcious after being endoused by the red stone material. Not to mention numerous cuts and brusies around his face and forehead. Today was his birthday...and if it wasn't already bad enough that he was in the hospital, his little brother had to say those things too?
Obviously Alphonse was suffering, but what could have made him think the way he was or say the terrible things he'd said? What on earth could have happened while Edward had been close to making a nearly complete Philosopher's Stone? What made Alphonse react to him this way? The moment he was down on the ground, he heard the gasp emite from Winry and the gentle clattering of his younger brother's armor as the boy shook with what seemed to be rage and maybe even heartache, but why? Fabricated memories? Fake, implanted memories? Edward forced himself to sit up as he gazed at his brother, knowing there was something he needed to tell him, but he was so afraid...so afraid that his only little brother would hate him and he would be left alone; left by his mother and left by his brother.
"Edward!" Winry cried in a trembling, soft voice as she ran to the elder brother's side and knelt down, holding her hands above him as though she wanted to touch him, comfort him and maybe help him back to his feet.
"Alphonse," Edward spoke in a soft, pleading voice. He stared up at his younger brother, begging with his golden, glimmering irises. He had a trickle of dark, red blood coming out of the side of his mouth where his brother's massive fist had made contact with his jaw.
The great suit of armor, in which Alphonse's soul was attached to by Edward's blood seal, backed slowly up. "Stay back," came a small, frightened voice from the hollow inside.
"Hold on," Edward continued as he forced himself to atleast get on his knees, Winry right by his side to help him.
"Just stay back," Alphonse warned, holding a hand out towards Edward in a gesture to stay away from him. He backed up a few more steps, his armor clanking. The blonde made to rise to his knees so he could get to his feet, and the armored boy backed up even more, staring down at his brother. "KEEP AWAY FROM ME!" cried out the little boy and he turned sharp on his heel, sprinting across the rooftop.
"Please, Al!" Edward implored.
He reached the guard railing that traced it's way around the entire rooftop of the hospital building, placed one hand on top and lept right over it, leaving Edward and Winry to stare in shock and leaving Edward with a tattered, confused heart.
"AL!" cried out Edward as he lept to his feet and ran towards the railing, with Winry hot on his heels. "WAIT!" He reached the railing, grasped both hands on it and was about to leap over it to catch up with his younger brother, completely forgetting the fact that he had been brutally injured. He felt two, warm arms grasp him from behind and wrap one underneath his arm and the other around his stomach. He tried to force himself from Winry's grip, but she held on tight.
"ED, NO!" Winry insisted, as she held tight to the struggling blonde.
Choking noises of anguish were releasing themselves from his throat as Ed continued to struggle against Winry. "AL! AAAAAAAL!!!!!!!!!" the young alchemist called for his younger brother as he watched the suit run away from him, disappearing from his sight...
The scene replayed over and over in Edward's mind as Winry continued to hold him from behind. The things that Alphonse had said to him, had tore into his heart like a knife tearing into fresh meat, slaughtering it, chopping it up into little bits. As the reality of his younger brother's words hit him, Edward dropped to his knees, still clutching onto the railing, his entire body trembling. His hands slid down the iron bars as he gripped them tightly, trying to release all of the hurt and anguish he felt into the bars. If he squeezed any harder with his automail hand, he might just break the bar. He pressed his bandaged forehead against the iron railing and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Al...why?" Edward said in a tight voice.
"Edward," Winry whispered as she felt his tense body slacken in front of her and she went along with him, holding onto him still, laying the side of her face against his warm back where she could feel his racing heart right through his hospital pajamas.
"I...I don't understand this," Edward spoke through clenched teeth, his voice trembling. "Who would put something like this into his head? Why would my only little brother think I made up false memories for him? Why would he think that he was just a fake, that I made him for my own benefit?"
"I don't know, Ed...I honestly don't know," Winry replied, still hugging the afflicted boy from behind. "Let's get you back into the hospital so you can lay down for awhile. Maybe Al just needs some time to cool off."
Edward stood abruptly on his feet, clenching his hands into fists and turned around to look at Winry. "Are you kidding me!? I'm not leaving him alone out there to just wander around Central! What if something happens to him!? I have to go look for him!"
"Edward, you can't be tracing around the place right now searching for him, not in your condition," Winry persisted sternly but gently. "You need to lay down for awhile." The girl reached into her skirt pocket and withdrew a small, white handkerchief. She raised it up and dabbed gently at the blood that had seeped down the side of the alchemist's mouth, taking care not to hurt him any further. He just stared at her while she cleaned him, his face full of agony, no trace of euphoria left in his golden irises.
"I...I guess you're right," the alchemist sighed and closed his golden eyes as the young automail mechanic finished dabbing up the blood on his face. "He'll come back when he's cooled down and had time to think, right Winry?"
"Yes...I'm sure he will, Ed," the blonde girl replied, though she herself wasn't sure if Al would return. She knew how stubborn Edward was and she knew that he wouldn't wait for long if his brother didn't come back soon. "Let's get you back to your hospital bed, okay?" Winry lowered herself to the roof's surface and picked up Edward's pair of sandals that had fallen off when Alphonse had hit him. She walked back over to the blonde and watched him sadly. He'd turned his head back to where his brother had lept the fence, his shoulders drooping. The girl sighed and placed an arm around the young alchemist's waist and supported him across the roof, down the stairs and back into his hospital room. "Don't worry, Ed. I know Al will come back."
As the two reached the room, Winry let go of Ed's waist and he collapsed on the bed, turning his head away from her, so she wouldn't have to see the howl of pain held in his face that begged to be released. After everything they had been through together, after all this time, Alphonse truly thought that his older brother had just created him for the hell of it. Edward had lost his left leg, his right arm, and Al had lost his entire body. Edward would have gladly given his life if that meant his little brother could live and he'd do it again. The alchemist had salvaged his right arm in order to save his brother's soul, that much he could do.
It was a moment of intense panic, not knowing whether or not he'd get his brother back or that he'd just be left all alone in the world with nobody there to stay with him. He saved Al's soul, he'd got that far, and that was something right? Even now, he'd give his life if his only little brother could just have his body back so he could feel again. Alphonse deserved that much, but fabricated memories? That is something that never even crossed Ed's mind. Who would have implanted such an atrocious thought into Al's mind? He closed his burning eyes, burying his face further into his pillow. He really felt alone. All alone for the first time in a very long time. What if his brother never listened? What if he never forgave him? He didn't deserve Al's forgiveness though; not after everything that had happened. He had to tell him...tell him that it was all his fault that Alphonse had lost his body.
Edward felt the side of his bed sink as Winry seated herself next to him. "Ed?" she spoke softly, placing a hand on his back. She felt the alchemist recoil slightly from her touch and sighed. "You can ignore me all you want, Edward Elric, but I'm not leaving you alone," the girl spoke stubbornly but gently. She toyed with the long, blonde ponytail falling down Edward's metal shoulder.
"Winry...I," the blonde tried to speak, but his voice was choked with the onset of tears. Edward could feel them in his throat and burning the backs of his eyes. The boy swallowed them, forcing them back and tried to speak again. "Why does he think I put false memories into him?"
"Huh?" Winry asked, slightly surprised that the stubborn, bull-headed alchemist was actually going to attempt to talk to her. "Well...I don't know, Edward. Do you think that maybe Al was near somebody who could have told him that's what you did? Maybe tried to fill his head with ideas that just don't exist?" the blonde girl question as she continued to thread her fingers through Edward's golden ponytail.
"I...I don't know," Edward struggled to keep his breathing steady, to keep the tears out of his voice. A sudden thought struck him. Edward sat up abruptly in bed, turning towards Winry who had jumped back slightly from his sudden movement. "Wait a minute...something Tucker said back in Lab 5. He had this...thing, this souless doll of Nina in his arms. Al must have heard what Tucker said!" Edward exclaimed, slamming a his metal fist down on the sheets. He grasped them in his hand and clenched them tightly. "Why would Al be so stupid as to listen to that mad man!" he growled through clenched teeth,
"What are you talking about, Ed?" Winry asked now, blue orbs widened and full of curiosity. What was said?"
"That has to be it! I can't think of anything else," Edward mumbled to himself.
One heavy step after another and a massive, malformed man, who looked as though he had his neck twisted, stopped next to Lust, cradeling a small body in his arm. The body was covered in bits of fur, the long brown hair hung down in strands and the souless eyes stared off into nothing.
"These people are indeed homunculi," came the man's whispering voice. "Perfectly created artificial humans. They've promised to provide me with all the secrets of generating a homunculus, so I can at last bring my precious Nina back to life."
Edward stared, his golden orbs widened to the size of silver dollars at the girl in the man's arms. Her dull, blue eyes seem to be staring straight through him. Just the look of her brought back the painful memories, coursing through the alchemist's body, crashing him from both sides. He trembled with anguish and sorrow, his breath catching in his throat, making it feel as though it wanted to collapse.
"Why are you even trying to recreate your daughter's body?" questioned Edward on hoarse tones. "When you can't do the same for her soul!?"
"But I already have her soul," came Tucker's quiet reply. He lifted a massive clawed hand and tapped at the side of his head. "I keep it here," he told the young alchemist with a slightly maniacal grin. "My Nina's indomidable spirit lives on in all my memories of her. I can implant those in the mind of the homunculus, giving birth to a Nina even more perfect than the real one that inspired her."
Edward couldn't do anything. He felt like chest was caving in and he stared in pure disgust and utter shock that Shou Tucker would even attempt to bring back his 4 year old daughter this way. Hell, he couldn't even fathom Tucker even trying to bring her back of her turning her into a malformed chimera who was in pain. It would never be his Nina, if even he did memory implants. The real Nina was gone forever. Memory implants...what the hell was he thinking?
"That's right!" Ed exclaimed, staring up at Winry almost desperately. "Tucker had said that he could implant memories into the mind of a homunculus. We know Al's been upset because he can't remember a lot of his past, but the more I think about it, how could he? He's been in that armor for too long...4 long years he's suffered in there, and it's all my damn fault!" the alchemist slammed both fists down onto the bed, drooping his head, his long golden bangs shielding his face from view.
Edward squeezed his eyes against the tears that threatened him once more. It was all his fault. Because of him, his brother had lost his body and now his memories of ever being human were fading now. What had he done? Why did he even have to go and be so stupid, be such a fool and try and bring their mother back, resulting in this? Where had it gotten him and his brother? Stuck with automail for limbs and his beloved brother in a hollow shell with a soul intact by blood. The boy took in a deep, shuddering breath and turned away from Winry. He didn't want her to see him like this. Edward was never one to lose his composure, but now...Alphonse probably hated him and he didn't blame him. He would probably hate him too; infact Edward did hate himself at this very moment for putting his brother through this hell. Though despite how much Alphonse may detest his older brother, Edward was going to do everything he could to try and get his body back, even if that meant sacrificing his own self. Yes, that's what he'd do. If he had to die so his little brother could live and be real again, he'd do it.
He felt Winry's warm hand close over his left shoulder and give him a gentle squeeze. Edward reached his metal hand back and placed it over Winry's, trying to keep himself calm and gave her hand a small squeeze back. Releasing it, Edward stood up from his hospital bed and trudged across the room, towards the window. Earlier the sky had been bright blue with white fluffy clouds, but now it was filling with dark gray cover, almost as if it were taking in Edward's feelings and filling the sky with them, but those feelings weren't breaking free. No, the sky was just mocking him.
The alchemist placed his hand on the knob of the windowed door that led to a small balcony on the outside of his hospital room and stepped out. He gazed upward at the sky, eyes staring blankly at the rolling rainstorm threatening and felt a few cold drops hit his face. The alchemist closed his golden orbs as the sky's tears fell on him heavily, cold and causing him to shiver. Winry was standing behind him still in his room and she watched Edward's shoulders rise and fall. The rain began to pour down heavily and at last his tears came. They wouldn't see him, they wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It was raining. The icey drops mingled with the warm crystalline that was now sliding down the alchemist's cheeks. He continued to keep his face turned upward towards the skies, his golden orbs closed tight, but that didn't prevent his tears from escaping. He took in a jagged breath, followed by an anguished sob.
"Al, I'm so sorry...I'm sorry to have done this you. I'm sorry that because of me your memories of our childhood are so hazy. I'm sorry that because of my stupidity, you're in this mess, living in this hellish void some call life," he spoke to the rainy heavens, the sky that was releasing it's pain along with Edward's.
Winry struggled to hold her own tears back as she heard the young state alchemist's words and she stepped out onto the balcony with him, walking around his broken form to stand and face him. His hospital clothing was soaked and Winry could see right through it now. The metal of his arm, the flesh of his skin and she knew that right now, Edward most likely detested having a body of his own when his brother couldn't. Edward had now dropped his head, his wet bangs curtaining his face as his body shook with silent sobs. She wrapped her arms around him, and Edward leaned into her shoulder, allowing himself to envelope the comfort he needed from her, from anyone at this very moment. Winry never told him she felt the warmth of his tears trickling down her arm, along with the coldness of the raindrops. She just cradeled his head gently, running her fingers through his soaked, ponytail.
"It's not your fault, Edward," she whispered.
"But it is my fault, Winry...it's all my fault," the boy spoke back, as he continued to lean into her comfort, both arms just hanging limply at his sides.
"Let's get you back inside and dry you off so we can go find Al, okay?" the young blonde told him, still holding his shaking body.
Winry couldn't tell if Edward was shivering because he was cold or shivering from anguish, but nevertheless, the mechanic knew that she needed to get Edward in some dry clothes before he got sick, and so they could find his brother. She kept her arm wrapped comfortingly around his shoulders and led the shivering boy back into the hospital room. He sat down in a chair just beside the door, his head still drooped and small sobs still issuing from him. Winry walked across the tiled floor and into the small bathroom in Edward's hospital room. She grabbed a few white, fluffy towels from the shelves and brought them to the alchemist. She unfolded one, gently removed the hair tie from Edward's hair, combed her fingers through it to remove tangles and placed the towel over his head, massaging his hair with the towel to help get rid of the rain water.
She then took another towel and wrapped it around Edward's trembling body. The towel on his head had now fallen and was draped over his shoulders, but the state alchemist wasn't paying attention. He reached both hands up and tugged the towel around himself, still keeping his face hidden from Winry, but this wouldn't do. She knelt down on one knee with the other towel in her hand and took the Edward by the chin and lifted his soaked face up to her own. Tenderly she raised the towel and began drying the cold water and tears from his face. Edward's eyes met hers and Winry had never seen the boy's gaze filled with so much sorrow, so much grief. He needed his little brother. This much she knew. After she dried his face, she tilted her head, frownly gently as more crystalline filled his eyes and streaked down his dry face, dampening it once more.
"C'mon now, Ed," Winry whispered, her hands folded around in the towel in her lap. "Let's find you some dry clothes and I'll braid your hair for you. Then we can go and find Al, okay?" she spoke in tender tones.
Edward nodded his head, raising his left hand and wiped the back of it across his face. " 'kay, Winry," he replied and stood up. The girl walked over to his suitcase, removing his black pants, a dry pair of boxers, socks, a black tank top and his black, long-sleeved overshirt he normally wore. Edward stood up, keeping the towel wrapped around himself.
"Here," Winry stated softly, offering Edward's clothes to him.
He took them gratefully and trudged off into the bathroom to get changed. Winry slumped on the bed, her back facing the bathroom door and buried her face in the towel she'd used to wipe Ed's face, releasing a few tears herself for him. Her long, light-blonde locks were still dripping wet from being in the rain and they fell down her shoulders and the sides of her face. Why did he always have to suffer through so much? Hadn't those boys already been through hell and back? Why on earth would Al even for a moment think that Edward would implant false memories into him? Doesn't Alphonse have any idea how much he hurt his older brother by saying what he did?
He had called Edward his so-called brother, and Winry had seen the look of hurt on Edward's face when those words came out. Ed had lost his left leg at the expense of trying to ressurect their mother and then willingly sacrificed his right arm, so he could gather his brother's soul and put it into that suit of armor. Hadn't Ed done something that other people wouldn't even think twice about for their siblings? Didn't Al realize that? Winry tried to cover her muffled sob in the towel the best she could. She was hurting so much for both of the boys, especially Edward who was thoroughly suffering. The girl felt almost angry at Alphonse for believing such a farse. Winry was broken from her thoughts when he heard the hospital door open.
"Winry, you alright?" came Edward's concerned voice from behind her.
The girl quickly gathered her composure and lifted her face from the towel, pretending like she was drying herself off from being in the rain with Edward. "I'm fine, Ed! I'm just really soaked and so I was drying off!" she proclaimed in the most convincing voice she could muster.
Edward stared at her, raising one thin, golden eyebrow. Winry couldn't fool him, he knew she'd been crying, but he wasn't going to press her to talk to him. If anything Winry wanted to hide those feelings from him, knowing what type of state he was at the moment the last thing she wanted to do was burden him with her feelings. His hair was mostly towel dried now, golden, slightly damp locks flowing down his back and around his shoulders. Winry lept up off the bed, almost too cheerfully and was furiously towel drying her hair. She smiled at Ed and placed the damp towel on the bed.
"Here, I'll braid your hair for you," she proposed, holding Edward's hair tie in her hand.
"Sure thing," he replied and sat down on the bed, glad Winry couldn't see his blushing face.
Winry sat on her knees behind the alchemist, combed through his soft stands to make sure there were no tangles and began seperating the soft, golden locks into three parts. She slowly began braiding, threading each chunk of hair around another and enjoying the feeling of his hair against her fingers. Winry soon found herself blushing, and was glad that Ed couldn't see her either. She reached the end and tied the small, red hair tie around the bottom. "There, all done," she said softly as she finished looping the red material around the thick end of his braid. Without any type of warning, Winry threw her arms around Edward's shoulders from behind and hugged him close.
"Wi-Winry...what are you...," Edward began stammering, his face reddening completely now.
"Don't worry, Ed," Winry whispered in his ear. "We'll find Al for you and make him understand the truth."
"I-I hope you're right...," Ed stammered slightly as the girl continued to hold onto his shoulders from behind tightly.
"I know I'm right and if not, I'll kick his armored ass! Keep in mind, I still have my toolbox here," she replied in a fiesty voice, grinning almost dangerously. Ed turned his head, looking back at the girl nervously, and then her face softened. "Besides, I can't stand to see you hurting like this. We'll make Al understand that you didn't implant those memories and make him understand that he really did have a real body before all this happened."
Edward continued to stare at Winry for a moment, his face rather slack and then he smiled very slightly. "Thanks, Winry," he told her, trying not to blush.
"Ah, don't mention it," the girl told him, waving a hand as she lept up from the bed and gathered an umbrella in her hands.
"No seriously, thank you Winry...for everything," the alchemist told her in a serious voice. "I guess I just...sometimes don't really know what I'd do without you," he admitted, rubbing the back of his head nervously.
Winry whirled around, her long blonde hair trailing past her face as she turned to look at Edward a look of shock on her face. She couldn't believe the words she heard from him at that very moment, but nevertheless, smiled back at him. "It's no problem, Edward. You know I'm always here for you, no matter what it is."
"Well then, let's go find Al," Edward proposed as he grabbed his red jacket and pulled it on, not bothering to pull the hood up. Winry and Edward walked down the hallway of the hospital and out of the doors, holding the umbrella above their heads as the skies continued the heavy downpour. It was now or never for Edward...he had to tell his brother the truth sometime, no matter how afraid he might be. So the two walked down the streets in Central, clutching a drawing of Al that Ed had done to show to people in hopes that they would find the missing Elric.