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mikkeneko

Troubleshooting


The call from Central came in the early morning, while the household
was still in a deep slumber.

That is to say, it came at 10:30 AM, at which time half the household was still sleeping off the effects of a three-day working spree, and the other half... well, let's just say it was sleeping off the effects of a night-long recreation spree.

But it was enough to put Ed back on the road before noon; wild-eyed, trailing clothes from an improperly packed suitcase, and stuffing a hasty breakfast in his mouth with his brand-new, much-improved, much-celebrated automail hand. "Sorry, Winry!" he said, around a mouthful of toast. "Duty calls, gotta go!"

"But Ed," Winry said, a whine threading through her voice. She didn't normally like to whine, but it was early—well, kind of—and she was still sleepy. And disappointed. "Eddddd, you can't go yet! I just installed it, I haven't had a chance to troubleshoot, we haven't gone over it together yet..."

He smiled at her, eyes full of apology, around the toast hanging out of his mouth. "Forry, 'Inry," he said, then swallowed with difficulty. "It's an emergency mission, or else they wouldn't be calling me back so soon in my leave. It's only been four days, not seven! I owe you big, you know that..."

Winry pouted, even as she followed him dismally to the door. "I'd wanted those other three days to... well, never mind now," she mumbled. "But you come straight back when this mission is done! Okay?"

"Of course I will. I always come back." Shrugging his coat on over his shoulders—real and metal—he leaned forward and kissed her, unapologetically. He tasted like toothpaste and toast; she felt a moment's regret that she probably tasted of morning breath. Still, she sighed in loss as he pulled back. "I have to go. Al is waiting to pick me up at the station."

She waved rather forlornly at the back of his coat, fluttering in the wind of his passage like a flag. Then sighed, and closed her door, turning back to her—suddenly much quieter—house and workshop.

Well, at least she still had automail.


The mission dragged on from three days to four, then five, days of frustrating legwork and nights of even more frustrating sexual deprivation. Ed loved his brother, and would take his company as a roommate over anyone in the world—except one; but he made a damn lousy substitute for a girlfriend.

After a long shower in the hotel's crappy bathroom—not really warm enough to relax him, not really cold enough to completely kill his frustration—Ed stepped back into the hotel room, shucked on a new pair of boxers, and began toweling off his hair. Alphonse was out, delivering their messages to the local post, and as he worked Ed idly thought about trying to take the alone moment to jack off.

The thought was tempting, but really, if he were going to do that he should have done it in the shower; Al could get back at any minute and anyway, then he'd have to shower again. With a sigh, he draped the towel around his neck, and strode across the room to his luggage. At the very least, he should take the free moment to do some maintenance on his new automail.

Winry hadn't left him with specific instructions, but really, what could be different? This automail, like the last, was water-proof; but one way to keep it that way was to be sure to re-oil it every time he washed it. And it was better to do that before he put the rest of his clothes on, or else he'd have to wash them later.

Opening up his suitcase—battered nearly into oblivion, by now, but still comfortable and familiar—he pulled out the paraphernalia of automail maintenance. A few small tools, to work along the joints and cracks. A bottle of clear oil, topped off from his last visit. A few handkerchiefs, to wipe excess oil later. Settling down on the edge of the cheap motel bed, he began the familiar routine of working the oil over the polished, burnished steel.

The automail really did feel very much the same. Ed frowned slightly, concentrating, as he traced over the familiar contours of it. Winry had sworn up and down that this was a new, improved model, with exciting new features—but he had mostly blanked out on that part, as he usually did. The details, as usual, really only mattered to Winry—Ed only understood, and carried, the love that was embedded in them.

As he passed over the elbow, working the oil into the joints, Ed's fingers brushed over a strange metal protrustion. Strange; he didn't recognize that one. Frowning, he tried to examine it, but it was in an awkward position on his elbow and he couldn't really get a glimpse of it. It felt like something small, sticking out of the casing; and slightly loose, when he carefully felt at it.

Oh shit, was the casing damaged? Was a flake coming loose near the edge? He panicked slightly at the thought; not so much for fear as his automail as for fear of his skull, as well as other parts of him, if he damaged Winry's brand new automail after only three days.

But he hadn't been doing anything, really! Maybe this was just a mistake in the automail itself—although he felt guilty, reflexively, at the thought—and none of his doing. Brooding over the problem, he worried the small piece between his fingers, trying to feel out the dimensions.

If shifted slightly, and there was a click inside his arm.

Immediately, a strange buzzing sound began to fill the air. Ed yelped, and lost his grip on his elbow. The arm dropped out of his grasp, and the buzzing sound increased. Not only that, but the arm itself—from the elbow down to the wrist and especially the fingers—were beginning to shake, a tight, powerful vibrating motion.

When he tried to move his hand, the intense buzzing made fine control almost impossible. He had to grab it with his flesh hand to keep it from shaking out of control. "What the fuck?!" he yelped, desperately trying to regain control.

It took him a long moment to figure out what must have happened—and when he did, his face flushed bright red as he gritted his teeth. Special new features! Winry, I'm going to kill you! His fingers scrabbled for the widget—switch, he now realized—on the elbow, but it was impossible to be precise with his arm still vibrating so hard.

The tingles ran both ways, too—up his arm, into his shoulder. It didn't hurt, fortunately—which just confirmed his suspicion that this had been a deliberate addition—but his port warmed up noticibly around the edges, and sent waves of trembling relaxation through his shoulder muscles. The total effect was relaxing, maybe even mildly arousing—which was probably the point, dammit!—but did nothing for his coordination.

"Fuck!" Edward swore, again, and gave up. He couldn't hold his arm still with his flesh hand and manipulate the switch at the same time. Plunging his hand between his legs, he gripped it hard between his thighs to stop the motion, and tried to get a better grip on his elbow. The vibration wasn't dying down, he realized—if anything, it was just getting stronger with time. That woman and her technological fetish! "Winry..." he groaned, mentally promising slow vengeance.

A small noise from the doorway grabbed his attention, tearing him away from his predicament, and he looked up. Alphonse was standing in the doorway, apparently frozen with one hand on the doorknob, staring at him.

His eyes shifted slowly from Edward's face, to the nightstand with the oil and the handkerchiefs, and then down to Edward's hand. For a moment Edward stared back, before it suddenly hit him just what this situation looked like, and a the burning flush suddenly swept from his face to envelop the rest of him, like his whole skin had caught fire. "It's, it's not what it looks like," he stuttered. "Uh, Al—"

Al just looked at him, for one moment more, shook his head in disgust. "I don't even want to know," he declared, then turned around and walked out.

Girlfriend or no, he was going to kill Winry.

After she showed him how to turn off his arm.