You Can't Hurry Love Part 1
Ed was hot.
Not as hot as when crossing the desert on his unplanned journey to the Xersian ruins several years before, but he was still very uncomfortable.
He shifted the jacket slung over his shoulder so that the nearly non-existent breeze could cool his neck, but it was a wasted effort in such high temperatures. Even pulling his hair up into a messy ponytail did little to relieve his distress. A trickle of sweat fell from his brow and he absently wiped it away.
‘Guess I should have dressed light, like Al.’ Ed glanced down at his favored attire of dark clothing. ‘I just didn’t think the walk from the train station would be this miserable.’ A glance over his shoulder told him his brother wasn’t suffering as he was. Al was looking about Rush Valley’s nearly deserted streets like a curious tourist, seemingly very comfortable in his climate-appropriate attire; lightweight, light-colored clothing and a short-sleeved shirt. Ed knew if he complained about the heat, Al would take on their mother’s chastising tone to remind him that he had given due warning about the need for lighter clothing.
They continued down the dusty street in silence, with Ed ignoring his discomfort as he kept a wary eye out for any overzealous automail mechanics. In spite of how much he disliked Rush Valley, he was here because this was where Winry was, and he was in need of her care.
Or at the very least, in need of her.
“Ed, how mad do you think Winry will be this time?” Al asked. Ed glanced back again to find him nervously tapping the tips of his index fingers together. Ed recalled the same gesture being performed by a hulking suit of armor and a smile crossed his face. Al’s body language had changed very little from his time as a suit of armor.
“Hey, I didn’t break her precious automail this time.” His tone was flippant. “Why should she get mad just because I’m stopping by for routine maintenance?” Ed wiped away more sweat.
Al grinned. “You don’t seem too concerned, Brother. Are you sure you’re only stopping by for maintenance?”
Ed’s shoulders stiffened in reaction to Al’s stifled laugh. “Shut up,” he growled without turning around. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Then he shrugged, frowned. “Whatever. My leg is malfunctioning. I need Winry to check it out.”
“You sure your leg is the only thing you want her to ‘check out’? “ Al sounded calm and innocent, but with a note of mirth. “Or should I ask, which leg.”
Ed stopped short, nearly causing Al to collide with him. “Al.” His voice was low, threatening.
“Relax, Brother. What’s going on between you and Winry isn’t exactly a secret. I’m happy for both of you, really.”
Ed chose not rise to the bait. Instead, he picked up the pace, forcing Al into a trot in order to keep up. He had never discussed his and Winry’s new relationship with his brother and wasn’t about to start now. It was a private matter, details of which didn’t need to be known by anyone else. Maybe it was due to old habits from the time when his silence meant Winry’s safety, but those dangers were gone. If he were to be honest with himself, it was probably because he felt uncomfortable discussing such subjects with his younger brother, even though Ed suspected Al had already figured out some things on his own.
It just seemed…improper…to talk to others about his intimacy with Winry.
Ed suppressed a grin at the thought of that special and very exhilarating relationship. Ever since their first time, thoughts of her had occupied most of his waking hours, filling him with longing to be with her whenever he could. It was just a convenient coincidence his that leg really was in need of maintenance. Ed wasn’t about to pass up such a perfect opportunity; Al would likely go visit Paninya and leave him and Winry alone to participate in some mutual ‘stress relief’.
If Winry was still receptive, that was. The last few times she hadn’t been as willing of a partner.
“Well, here we are,” Al declared with false cheer. Al’s shoulders were hunched and there was a hint of fear in his eyes. Al always worried about him when there was a chance Winry would explode over damaged or malfunctioning automail.
He scowled up at the flashy façade indicating they had arrived at ‘Garfiel’s Atelier’, then squinted at the door as if it were made of barbed wire. “Well, let’s get it over with.”
Al hovered close. “How mad do you think she’ll be?” Al asked. “I mean, did you really break your leg or is it just malfunctioning?”
“Does it matter?” Ed grumbled. “Either way, it’s an excuse for her to beat me to a pulp.” ‘Especially lately…’
“Both you and Winry really do have short fuses, don’t you?”
“What did you say about being short?!” Ed growled, scowling over his shoulder.
“Geez, Ed. It’s just an expression.” Al’s sardonic reply was punctuated with a frown.
Ed faced the door again, slumping in resignation. “Whatever. The sooner I go in, the sooner it’ll be over with.”
Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly and shuffled up to the sun-bleached door. A cheerful bell announced their entry.
Ed froze in his tracks when a familiar female voice called from the back of the shop.
“I’ll be right there!”
A collision from behind caused Ed to stumble a few steps further inside as Al walked into him. “Watch it!” Ed snarled under his breath, pinning him with a pointed glare. A glance around the waiting room told them there were no other patrons in the shop, and that the owner appeared to be absent. The brothers pressed further into the tastefully decorated waiting area and Al closed the door behind them, careful not to make too much noise. “It’s awfully quiet in here, today,” he whispered, carefully setting their suitcase down.
“Damn. No witnesses,” Ed muttered, only to have his heart rise into his throat when footsteps advanced from the back room. Thoughts of turning and running for his life entered his panicked mind, but Ed shored up his resolve and held his ground. Winry appeared through the door behind the counter, tugging her work gloves from her hands. She was dressed in tan coveralls and a black and white half top that zipped up the front. A pale peach bandana covered her head to keep the hair out of her eyes.
“How can I hel—” Winry’s cheerful greeting cut short when she saw them. A dark frown replaced her bright smile.
Winry hummed as she delicately soldered the connections within an automail hand. The rhythm of touching the hot iron to the flux, then to the tinning to melt the metal onto the target area was relaxing, almost meditative, She reveled in this kind of detail. It gave her a sense of accomplishment and made her feel good about herself. It also allowed her to think.
What she didn’t want to think about was her ‘boyfriend’.
Whenever Ed came to mind, her altered state fractured and she would gnash her teeth painfully. It galled her that Ed had yet to voice his feelings. Their lovemaking had become less about love and more about scientifically perfected lust. He was taking their tenuous relationship entirely for granted, and the thought of this always caused her stomach to knot with anxiety.
Even when Ed was out of sight, he was not out of her mind.
At least her work helped to distract her, keeping Ed at the fringes of her mind. Right now, she was doing what she loved and thoroughly enjoying it.
The bell above the storefront door jangled, breaking her focus. She sat upright, hoping it would be a quick transaction so she could keep to her schedule.
“I’ll be right there!” Winry called over her shoulder. She turned off the soldering iron and set it down with care. Standing, she gave her coveralls a quick brush to remove any metal shavings, and started for the waiting room.
“How can I hel—” The sentence died on her tongue as soon as she stepped behind the counter and saw just whom it was that came to call. The source of her ire, the one she could no longer think about without provoking a headache. The very person she would really rather have not dealt with today.
Winry wanted to scream.
“Hey, Winry!” Al greeted with equal cheer, waggling his fingers at her.
Winry suppressed the surge of irritation that welled up and carefully kept her countenance and voice even. “What did you do, Edward?” She did offer a brief smile at Al, who was looking decidedly nervous, “Hey, Al.”
“What, no ‘Hi, Ed, it’s good to see you again’?” Ed groused. She could tell by his posture that he was anything but self-assured.
“Edward,” Winry intoned, jabbing her fists into her hips. She drilled him with a burning look and he wilted.
‘He’ll want sex. I really don’t have the time or energy for this right now’. Lately, her feelings of desire had turned into dread. Her body, which used to tingle at the prospect of having sex with Ed, now tensed with apprehension instead. Their lovemaking became more predictable; Ed had learned to do no more than necessary to bring her to her peak then hurry on to his own conclusion.
And he had even begun to neglect even that effort their last few times together, taking care of his own needs without giving another thought to her pleasure. There really had never been curious exploration or caring touches after their first time, and rarely offers of holding one another while falling asleep. It was truly pathetic, considering they had been intimate no more times than she could count on the fingers of both hands.
“I think there might be something wrong with my leg. But I bet a couple of small adjustments will fix it up, no problem,” he said with forced bravado and gave his automail leg a shake as if to prove it to her. The strained grin plastered on his face did nothing to bolster her confidence.
Winry sighed. ‘That’s not the only problem you have, Edward’, she wanted to say, but kept it to herself. Instead, she went with a more typical rant. “You think there might be something wrong? What did you do to my automail this time?!” she asked in a low, frustrated growl. She narrowed her eyes, as if catching him in a lie.
The building tension in the room was too much for Al. “Ahhh…I think I’ll go find Paninya.” Al searched behind himself for the doorknob. Finding it, he yanked the door open and made his exit, almost slamming the door in his haste to escape. The bell clattered wildly in protest as the door closed with a sharp ‘thump!’
‘Coward!!’ Ed railed to the sudden silence. ‘You’re supposed to have my back, Al! Some brother you are!’ He instinctively backed up a pace as Winry moved toward him. “I didn’t do anything to it!” he barked in his own defense, feeling a lot less brave than he sounded. “It’s nothing major! All I probably need is some maintenance! You can’t be mad at me for coming in for maintenance like you always tell me to!”
“Yeah, right!” she snapped, pulling her wrench from a deep pocket of her coveralls and hefting it as if to test its weight and balance. “Like you’ve ever been good about that before!”
‘You’d better think of something to say to keep yourself alive, Elric.’ His larynx bobbed with a nervous swallow. “Honestly! I didn’t do anything to it! It’s not like I was in a fight or anything!” he shot back in desperation. Ed took another step backwards, prepared to dodge any metal missiles that might come flying his way. “Why is it always my fault!”
“Because it usually is!” she snarled as she wound up for her pitch.
Ed flinched and threw up his hands. There was one last thing that could save him: guilt. “Excuse me, but I seem to recall a time when SOMEONE forgot to replace a bolt in my shoulder when she installed my automail, and I was nearly killed because of it!” In a last-ditch attempt to ward off injury, he draped his arms over his head.
Tense seconds passed as he waited for a blow that never came.
“I never said it was my fault!” Winry pouted and lowered the wrench.
Ed found himself focusing on her plumped lip. ‘She can be so damned cute when she does that—wait a minute! She’s trying to kill me! Focus, dammit!’
“It took me a while, but I did figure it out. You put a new bolt in without taking one out, back when you did the repair in the hospital!” His eyes glowed with self-righteousness as he crossed his arms over his chest. “That means there was something missing after you fixed me up in Resembool, right? Despite appearances, I DO pay attention—upon occasion!” Ed punctuated his words by huffing and mirroring her pout.
Winry’s indignation collapsed into weary surrender. Returning the makeshift weapon to her pocket, she heaved a tired sigh. “Okay, okay!” She rubbed a fist over her forehead, leaving a dirty streak behind. “Then what is the problem?”
Ed relaxed but remained alert. He wasn’t about to take any chances by letting his guard down. “It’s acting weird, that’s all. The knee catches every now and then and I have a limp.” Considering her current mood, it might be best to not bring up the other reason for his visit: the chance to have a romp between the sheets with her. “Just look at it, okay?”
Winry tapped a finger against her chin, her brain switching into mechanic mode. “Hmmm…I wonder…is it possible you could’ve grown a little more? Sometimes a length difference between the legs can cause the ball joint to wear unevenly, especially if every step results in a hard impact because your body is compensating for the uneven gait.”
Ed fixated on the ‘growth’ part of her explanation. “Hey! And why wouldn’t that be possible?! And don’t say LITTLE!”
She scowled at him, clearly fed up with his childishness. “Honestly, Ed! You’re taller than me now and you still carry on like a little kid! Grow up, already! You’re nearly twenty years old!”
He made a strangled noise in the back of his throat that almost sounded inhuman, and clenched his hands at his sides. Now she was calling him immature? “YOU…YOU…” He bit back an invective laced retort and shook with helpless rage. Common sense prevailed only because Winry was still armed and dangerous.
Ed caught the fleeting smirk on Winry’s face. He could already guess what she was thinking: There! That’ll teach you to break my masterpieces! and it made him even angrier. Who was acting immature now?
Winry’s sigh of resignation cooled his anger. “Well, c’mon then.” She pointed to a stool at the end of the counter. “Strip down to your shorts and sit here.” She retrieved a tool kit stored on a shelf behind the counter. “I might as well look at your arm while I’m at it.” Her expression was a mix of annoyance touched with melancholy as she placed the cloth bundle on the countertop.
“Strip? Here?!” Ed protested, oblivious to Winry’s subdued mood. His face grew warm. “No way! I refuse to go on public display again, wearing just my skivvies! I can still remember being stripped down in public the first time I came to this backwater town!” ‘Besides, what if someone walks in, especially if we get ‘busy?’
“There’s no one here,” Winry countered impatiently, rolling out the canvas toolkit. A quick sweep of her arm around the room emphasized her point, “Garfiel’s on vacation and I have no other clients coming in! My schedule is clear for the rest of the day!” She slapped both palms on the countertop and challenged him with a steely glare. “Strip!”
“And what about walk-ins?! That’s what Al and I just did!” There was no way he was going to risk anyone he didn’t know seeing him in such a compromising position again.
“Oh, all right, you big baby!” Winry shot back, throwing her hands in the air. She turned and walked deeper into the studio. “Follow me and we’ll go to my work room!”
“I wasn’t a baby when I was a baby!” Ed growled, snatching up his suitcase and stomping after her. The little voice in the far corner of his mind cheered, ‘Yes! Back to her room where it’s more private!’
“Yeah, yeah,” Winry tossed back, not rising to the bait.
Even under the loose fabric of her coveralls Ed could see her soft contours as he followed her down the hall. He was so mesmerized by the way her hips shifted as she walked that he nearly tripped over a large wooden box of parts sitting on the floor behind the counter. He grumbled under his breath at the offending container and re-focused on Winry, the soft, tanned skin of her waist, her pony tail that gently twitched back and forth across her shoulders, the elegant sweep of the back of her neck as it dove under her top. He felt something drip under his nose and absently wiped at it.
Did he have a nosebleed coming on?
They reached the small workroom that was Winry’s personal workspace. It was situated near the patient recovery rooms, well away from the daily activity of the business. Within there was a workbench covered with tools and automail parts, a waist-high bench for clients to recline upon, and a wheeled work stool. In one corner stood a number of stacked crates, and along the far wall sat a drafting table with an old wooden chair parked before it. Above and to the side of the crates, a single window framed in yellow curtains lit the off-white walls with a warm, cheerful light.
“Strip and I’ll be back in a moment,” Winry told him without enthusiasm. “I need to borrow some of Mr. Garfiel’s tools. Just sit on the bench.” She pointed to something on the crates. “There’s a cushion you can use to sit on if you want. Hang your clothes over the chair in front of the drafting table.” She shuffled out of the room without further comment.
Ed glared after her: she wasn’t showing any signs of being ready for an afternoon’s entertainment, but she was still dead sexy.
He set his suitcase down and hung his jacket over the back of the chair. Winry’s anger should have dissipated by now. During previous visits she would greet him by taking him into her arms and kissing him. Today she seemed more distant and even appeared to be avoiding his touch. ‘Maybe she’s just tired. She’s probably been working long hours again.’
Ed shrugged and began to undress.
Winry replaced the upper plate of Ed’s forearm and sat back to look at his leg. Few words had passed between the couple during the half hour of the examination. He knew Winry’s focus was absolute when working with automail, but it bothered Ed that she was avoiding conversation altogether.
It was okay. As much as he wanted to make the first move, he believed it would be best to wait until she was done. Winry tended to be more receptive after finishing maintenance, and he did need his leg looked at. As much as it tortured him to, he had to remain patient until the right moment.
‘Just don’t look at her, concentrate on something else in the room and I’ll be fine.’
Unfortunately, his eyes had a mind of their own. Winry’s attire was a source of great distraction, and Ed found himself stealing glimpses of her. He tried looking at the ceiling, the crates in the corner, the large toolbox on the bench at her side, anywhere other than at the woman sitting before him. Luckily, Winry hadn’t noticed or she would have surely made him suffer. He wished she’d strike up a conversation, or do something to take his mind off of how sexy she looked.
As the exam progressed, Winry still showed no signs of her usual affection, or even of wanting to talk like they were friends. Ed found her overly professional manner perplexing; just what the hell was her problem, anyway? He caught a whiff of her hair, the sweet scent of vanilla…and…was that…cherry blossoms? and he was caught up in a pleasant daydream. He envisioned her lips, swollen and pink from his kisses, the line of her bare arms, her exposed navel. He could even recall the tactile sensation of her long, graceful legs wrapped tightly around his hips, and her sighs of pleasure as he pushed into her. A thrill raced down his spine. He shook his head, tearing himself from his fantasies. When he looked down, Winry had finished the internal check of his leg and was already replacing the panel.
As she slipped the panel into place and straightened to check the alignment of the plate over the appropriate fastening holes, Ed caught sight of her cleavage. Above the low cut half top, her breasts were pressed together, making them look plumper and even more luscious than usual. This was the most beautiful sight he had seen in some time; oh, how he would love to dive into those mounds of soft, tempting flesh.
Winry looked up to reach for her screwdriver, and Ed quickly turned away.
“I didn’t find any problems with the wiring or the cylinder, and I really didn’t see a problem with the ball joint. I’ll measure your legs to see if there’s any difference in their lengths.” Her mouth set in a hard line, she pinned him with a scolding glare, “In other words, you may have grown more and that might have caused the problem!”
Ed recovered his composure with an exaggerated grin, “Yeah. That must be it.”
Winry’s expression immediately turned suspicious. After a tense moment, in which Ed could almost see the storm clouds gather over her head, she began to fasten the plate in place. She stood and reached for the tape measure on her workbench.
Ed jerked in surprise as she took his right thigh in a no-nonsense grip. Winry dug her thumb into his flesh, seeking the hip joint to use as an initial point of reference. Ed winced in discomfort. While not specifically touching him in a suggestive manner, Winry was very close to doing so. He swallowed hard as she ran fingers down the length of his thigh to his artificial knee, stretching the cloth tape in the process. He relaxed when she let up, only to tense again as she repeated the procedure on his other leg. Her proximity combined with her touch caused him to be very aware of just where her hands were. Now if she would only move her hand just a little more to the right…
And then things…started…to stir…
As she sat back to measure the bottom portion of his leg, Winry brushed the inside of his thigh, just above his knee. That was all it took. Try as he might, there was no way he could stop the tightening in his groin.
Was she doing this on purpose?
Warmth flushed through him and he squeezed his eyes shut, determined to not look at her and escalate the problem. Reciting the periodic table wasn’t as effective of an anti-arousal device as it used to be, and he had turned to solving differential equations in his head. He had to do something, anything, to get the situation and his body back under control.
To be continued in Part 2