Light streams in through the partially drawn curtains, outlining four squares of gold spilling over the blue blanket, lumped as though filled to the brim with kittens or something of the like. Yet despite Al currently preparing breakfast downstairs, in the upper spaces of the bedroom, all is quiet, and warm, and comfortable.
Between the softness of the pillow rounding Sciezka’s cheek and the cottony blanket, loose as though perfectly melding to her touch, wrapped under her feet over her form to almost her shoulders, where her short hair bunches in the valleys in the pillow fabric, Winry doubts her fiancée ever wishes to move. Truth be told, in the fairytale wonderland of the sunlight ocean pooling in her upturned hands, she doubts that she ever wishes to move. She sits up slowly, languidly, as the sensations in her limbs return. Stretches. Cracks her neck to either side for as long as possible before steeling her nerves for the inevitable need to awaken the slumbering Sciezka.
Winry sighs to see Sciezka’s current bedraggled appearance. Mussed hair. Lashes trembling on the pale curve of her cheek. Face hidden by the soft rise of the pillow, the weight crinkling the material into a miniature path of rolling hills. Head turned towards the left. Tip of button nose and hint of smile tantalisingly visible. Blanket up over her front to brush against her lower jaw, only to fall away at her back, as though inviting one to fold the fabric up and slip into the heat of spooning the greatest woman, no, person on the Earth and the Heavens alike.
She supposes that she could liken her snoozing fiancée to a brown-haired angel who sneaked into her bed upon beams of moonlight and now cannot return home for want of staying with Winry, but she’s never been a poet. Or even a lover, really, until Paninya, and Ed, and now Sciezka. Her Sciezka, who fell asleep last night reading a book. With the light still on. “Poor lamp,” Winry murmurs quietly as she reaches up to flick the electricity off.
Shaking her head, Winry carefully pulls Sciezka’s glasses from the bridge of her nose. The covers catch at her ears. With a frown Winry wriggles the frames with a subtle intuition born of years of automail repair until she senses something give. A tug. And the spectacles are free from the suffocating grip of Sciezka’s ears. Closing the frames, Winry sets the glasses down upon the nightstand to her left.
The frames have left impressions over Sciezka’s nose, in thick rings of reddish swooping her eyes, on the sensitive skin between her ears and the edges of her eyelids, and Winry sweeps the dark marks with the side of her thumb. Traces the red. Next, the book: The spine turned up in a faint V, the hardcover rests upon the cushion of the pillow, and Sciezka’s face rests upon the not-so-cushiony cushion of the book. The weight of Sciezka’s head has crumpled the two upwards facing pages. Which indicates little but Sciezka openly apologising to her precious novel whenever she wakes up, wailing and pleading for its forgiveness in the most adorable and endearing way, and in a voice tuned to the exact resonance frequency of Winry’s heartstrings.
Winry bites her lower lip at the dilemma: If Sciezka awakens whilst Winry is moving the book, then the morning routine she has planned may well have been thrown into the garbage. Yet the book must go, for it staying will also ruin said morning routine.
Dilemmas indeed. Edging her fingers under the book covers, she attempts to lift the corners, at least a tad. Sciezka shifts. Mutters, or seems to, and Winry inhales sharply and exhales a prayer of sorts for her fiancée to remain into the land of slumber. When Sciezka returns to her light snoring, more akin to a cat’s purr or a dog’s thumping tail than to true snoring, Winry breathes out a thank-you of relief.
Pushing forward with the ingenuity and tenacity of a tried, tested, and true automail engineer who has passed from the infernos of Rush Valley, Winry tries a hint of better leverage with the angle of her wrists. She spreads her fingers. Lays her palms as flat as she can and directs her force inwards towards the spine: no need to snap the book closed around Sciezka’s neck.
From downstairs comes a call: Al has finished the pancakes. And judging from the sleepy falling down the steps stumbling from the staircase, May has just awoken as well to rub her eyes and yawn and go seek out sustenance herself.
Winry has little time. Slipping the book up centimetre by centimetre, she catches her breath each time Sciezka slides a fraction from the pages. Yet somehow, somehow, Winry successfully removes the dratted book, until Sciezka’s cheek rests on the silken pillow, as it ought to have done all of last night.
Sitting back to ease the strain that the awkward position placed upon the curve of her spine and the bow of her shoulder blades, Winry rubs the back of her neck. Cracks said neck again. Looks down at the book in question:
Encounters of a Third Sort: A Memoir of an Alien Abduction
Winry squints at the title. As if she were expecting anything different . . . but wait. The cover feels a tad too large, and when she peels the paper away, she spots the true title underneath:
1001 Ways to Be the Perfect Wife, Every Time
The cover depicts two women removing some sort of roast ducks or turkeys or other assorted varieties of bird from the oven at the same time. According to the back cover blurb, although the book has been written expressly from the assumption that both in the relationship are women, the text and advice therein should work perfectly no matter the gender of participants in the relationship.
Winry feels her throat clog with something thick and wet and not entirely unpleasant. While she hides the book beneath her leg, her voice parts the warm silence. “So this is what you’ve been staying up so late reading, Shesh . . .” She glances over to allow her gaze to linger over Sciezka’s sleeping form; Subconsciously her fiancée curls more tightly around herself. Around the pillow. As if seeking something to embrace. Winry can see the tendons in the back of her left hand, the visible hand, shift under her skin as her fingers clench closed around imaginary softness. Winry’s hands twitch with the need to surreptitiously tuck themselves into Sciezka’s grip. Feel the fingertips, characteristically marked by the myriad scars of papercuts afforded by a serious love of reading and a just as seriousness consistent cluelessness about where she is or where her limbs are going.
Her Sciezka, as of three weeks from now. The wedding set and the early bird guests already arriving and bustling about, like Granny and Al and May and Ed and Paninya and Rose and the rest. Ling and Lan Fan, whenever Ling can skip off from his duties as Emperor. Not to mention Winry’s neighbours in Resembool, and the Hugheses, and Roy and Riza and the vast multitude of friends and acquaintances that the both of us have picked up over the years, from Winry’s customers in Rush Valley to Sciezka’s friends in the military to Ling and Lan Fan’s apparently overflowing garden of adopted children that has even sent May complaining over her letters.
But all of that is just a touch less than a month off. And at the moment, Winry wants nothing more than the eternity promised her in Sciezka’s company.
Leaning over until her fallen bangs tickle the outer shell of Sciezka’s ear, Winry exhales; Sciezka’s hairs stir from the gentle force. “Shesh. Sheshy. Good morning, love,” she whispers. Sciezka mumbles something under her breath. “Mm, did I wake you up?”
A hand scrambles at Winry’s chest. Pushes her up, weakly, limply. “Five more minutes,” Sciezka pleads in the muffled tones of a woman having turned her head towards the pillow. “Just five . . .” She yawns with a mewling sound like a kitten, and Winry, smiling faintly, strokes the hand crimping her night-gown. “. . . and I’ll stand up, get back to work and everything, I promise . . .”
Winry can‘t help herself: She laughs, not unkindly, and softly as possible, lowering her voice until her laughter comes out less like mirth and more like joy distilled into a solitary noise of happiness. “Oi, Sciezka?”
“Don’t laugh at me, you big meanie,” Sciezka complains with her face still planted firmly in the domain of the pillow. Yet when Winry angles her neck to press a quiet kiss to the back of her neck, Sciezka affirms with a heavenly moan and a barely perceptible arch of the back. Lifting her chin until her mouth is freed of the pillow prison, Sciezka blows a messy strand of hair curling over itself in front of her face. “You could let me sleep in, you know. The Promised Day won’t happen without us.”
“With any luck it’ll never happen again, period.” Flattening her form over Sciezka’s back to press her stomach onto the small of Sciezka’s back, Winry nuzzles the mussed slope of her fiancée’s hair. “And don’t you love it when I wake you up?”
Sciezka conceals her grin in the pillow. “. . . maybe a little. But not this early.” She yawns again, this time violently enough for her head to rise up from the pillow, and then sneezes. “And whuh-why’s everything all blurry? D-did I put my glasses on top of my head again?” Her hands fly upwards to seek out her spectacles.
With a grin, Winry snatches the glasses from the bedside nightstand and offers them triumphantly to her fiancée. Sciezka settles her quivering fingers on the inset of Winry’s wrist, heating her skin down through her arm and outwards into the rest of her body. Deliberately she creeps her hand up, hint by hint, dragging the flat tip of her nail to trace a tiny heart on Winry’s palm. Winry swallows. “Thank you, Win.” She sets the glasses back onto her nose and checks to ensure that her hair wisps over the frames in place of being trapped beneath while Winry struggles to cool the blush certainly seriously threatening to consume her cheeks entirely. Sleepily Sciezka blinks, apparently satiated by her cleared vision. “Ah. Ah, Winry?”
“Mm?” Winry shifts her position to prop her chin up on Sciezka’s shoulder. “What is it?”
The glasses pop off once more. Sciezka wipes them furiously over again, clearly intent on wiping them from the universe entirely. Cleanliness is next to godliness, after all. “Ah, you didn’t h-happen to see a sort of, ah, I s-suppose you could call it a book?” Rub rub rub on the lenses. Winry wipes as well: wipes the amusement from her expression to arch an inquisitive, entirely innocent eyebrow in Sciezka’s direction. “It’s a l-little thing, one of my f-favourites, just something about aliens, y-y-you know, that kind of real life ab-bduction thing.” Her voice trails off. Winry tilts her head to one side, at which point Sciezka deliberately angles forward by degrees, twists her head in the direction of Winry’s thighs, and parts her lips. “Oh my God.”
Before Sciezka can jump directly into a panic, however, Winry has caught her mid-leap in a tight embrace, here, in the golden expanse of warmth and comfort and love of the mid-morning sunshine pooling amongst the blankets. Her mouth near Sciezka’s ear, she murmurs, “I thought it was cute. And sweet.” She feels Sciezka inspire, chest expanding, throat trembling, and she tightens her hug even more so. “And you know, you didn’t need anything like that, no instruction manual to tell you to be yourself, silly.”
“R-really?” Sciezka breathes, irises glistening. “I . . . Win . . . I love you.”
Winry grins. “Love you too.” She closes her hand around her fiancée's. Now, c’mon. I think Al made pancakes.”
Nodding, Sciezka beams. “I hope he remembered my chocolate chips. I love chocolate chips.”