Title: Tangled
Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@jordanna.net)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: G.
Characters: Edward and Pinako.
Setting: Between the Elrics’ human transmutation and their departure from Resembool. (Also shortly after my story “Appearance”, and during the events of my post-transmutation study “From Ashes”.)
Summary: Ed finds one task his metal fingers are particularly ill-suited for.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I’m just playing with them.
Notes: This fic is a Fandom Stocking gift for HalcyonSkies, and it also fills the prompt of grooming at Genprompt Bingo. I wanted to write an interaction between Edward and Pinako, who tends to be rather underused.
(For the record, my reference to Winry’s uncle in this story is based on a statement made by Pinako. In the first-anime episode “Mother”, she declares that State Alchemists were involved in the attacks that cost the lives of her sons, plural—meaning at least one other besides Winry’s father. My proposal is that the other son was not in Ishbal as merely a civilian.)

 

Tangled

 

If Granny Pinako had heard the language Edward was muttering that summer morning, she would have tried to wash his mouth out with soap—just as she had when he used to curse at her prize rooster for crowing under the boys’ bedroom window.

Glaring at his reflection in the mirror, Ed reached his flesh hand awkwardly past the right side of his face, and tried to peer around it as he began to gingerly tease long gold hairs out of the joints of his automail hand. His half-finished braid flopped against his metal palm with every move, bound there by the tangle, further hindering his efforts. Each time he turned his head even slightly, the entrapped hairs were tugged at, sending a sharp twinge of pain through his scalp.

He was becoming sorely tempted to reach for the scissors and be done with the whole thing… permanently.

Stupid hair,” he grated with a wince, as his probing fingers accidentally—and painfully—snapped a few strands. “Should’ve just let Winry cut it short again, but no… Why did I ever get the dumb idea to braid it in the first place?”

Truthfully, Ed knew the reason why. Although letting his hair grow long was merely inattentiveness at first, while he was far more preoccupied with his recovery from automail surgery, there had been a day when he deliberately chose to keep it. He chose to adopt an appearance that was unusual and striking, because his brother could no longer look anything but… and that was all Ed’s fault. It was only fair if Ed garnered curious glances and raised eyebrows himself, even when his automail was covered by his clothes.

As for the braid, first of all, it was the most effective way to keep those unruly blond locks out of his face—and it was nothing like the simple ponytail he could remember his father having. The last thing Ed wanted was to look any more like that man. What was more, after a few weeks of wearing his hair in a braid, he had even begun to like the way it looked.

What he sincerely and intensely did not like was the task of plaiting it. He had avoided it when he could, often leaving his hair braided for a few days at a time, even while he slept; but loose strands and small tangles inevitably forced him to comb it out and do it all over again. This was a challenge—and not in a good way—to the still-developing dexterity of his mechanical hand. Any little slip of his fingers could result in hairs getting twined into their small, complex joints. More often than not, this ended in half an hour or more of painful aggravation.

After a few more minutes of agonizing tweaking, Ed was forced to conclude that the entanglement was hopeless. Heaving a sigh, he gritted his teeth and wrapped his left fingers around the trapped strands of hair. He braced himself for one sharp, decisive pull…

“Looks like you could use a little help, Ed.”

With a startled flinch, Ed glanced toward the half-open bedroom door. Pinako stood there, arms folded, regarding him with a trace of wryness in her dark little eyes. She moved forward before he could speak, reaching out to push his fingers aside and examine the mess.

“You can’t make automail that doesn’t have this problem with exposed joints?” Ed muttered between his teeth, closing one eye and nervously watching Pinako’s hands through the other.

“Not without sacrificing some dexterity.” Pinako tsked thoughtfully at the tangle. Then she reached up to slip a bobby pin out of her own hair, and carefully began using it to unwind the strands of Ed’s hair from the tiny moving parts they had gotten caught on. “But I would’ve thought a smart alchemist like you could figure out a solution on his own.”

Ed grimaced. Pinako always said alchemist in a not-nice way, as if it was a dirty word. He knew she hated the military, and the alchemists in it, but he wished she would at least stop lumping civilian alchemists into her contempt as well.

Not that it would really matter if she did. Edward didn’t plan to be only a civilian alchemist for much longer now.

“Almost… there.” Pinako gave the bobby pin one last little twist, and the final trapped strand of hair was freed. Ed lowered his automail arm with a sigh of relief.

“I’ll braid your hair for you, if you want,” Pinako offered phlegmatically.

“No thanks.” Ed reached for his comb on the bureau. “It’s my problem. And besides… I’ve gotta get used to doing it on my own.”

Pinako was silent at that, for a long moment. Then she turned and marched out of the room, tossing a rather huskily murmured “Wait a minute” over her shoulder.

Bemused, Ed waited. Pinako returned a minute later, with something white clutched in her fist. Grasping his automail wrist, she turned his hand over, to lay the snowy cloth across his palm; and Ed recognized it then as a pair of gloves.

“This might help.” Pinako glanced away. “You can keep them. They belonged to my son… Winry’s uncle.”

Taken aback by the statement, Ed ran his flesh fingers across the gloves. They were of fine white silk, their stitching tight and sturdy.

Military gloves, he realized, with a feeling of somber wonder.

“Well… they’re a little big for me,” he said feebly. The observation was an understatement; but it was also a gentle excuse for Pinako to take back the gift, if she would really rather not part with them.

However, Pinako merely gave him a crooked twitch of her lips, inserting the bobby pin back into her bun. “Like I said: an alchemist ought to be able to fix that.”

A slow grin spread over Ed’s own face. Moving to the desk, he quickly sketched out an alchemic array with his left hand—which, after months of practice, he had finally trained to write and draw almost as well as his lost flesh-and-blood right hand. Then he placed the gloves on top of the array and transmuted them, reducing them to a size that would comfortably fit his own hands.

When he put the right glove on, the silk slipped over his metal fingers as easily as water. It covered the exposed joints, and when he ran his gloved automail hand through his hair, the fingers glided down the length of his locks without the slightest catch.

“Thanks, Grans,” he murmured sincerely, favoring her with a grateful smile.

“You’re welcome, Ed.” Pinako’s expression lapsed into feigned sternness, and she started for the door. “Now fix your hair and come down to breakfast. Al and Winry are waiting.”


© 2014 Jordanna Morgan