Edward Elric considered himself to be a pretty understanding, open-minded guy. Mostly. Certain people might say otherwise, but he always strove to be tolerant of others and give everyone a chance before he passed judgment. And it certainly wasn't his fault there were too many idiots in the world who failed to meet his standards. Yes, standards. Everyone had them, everyone used them to judge whether the people around them were fit to interact with. Ed just happened to have very, very high standards.
For example, he expected quite a lot out of a certain group of people who called themselves alchemists. Ed simply had no patience for egotistical half-rates so high on power that they expected to be worshiped by everyone they met...
But that was a tangent. Ed also had a strong dislike for people who went off on tangents.
Back to the standards. Ed expected a certain level of responsibility and morality from adults in general. Nothing unreasonable about that. And the closer those adults got to the ones Ed loved, the higher his expectations rose. He had been disappointed many times, but there were also many adults—many soldiers—who had managed to pleasantly surprise him.
As for people his own age...Ed ignored them. He hadn't been on the same level as his 'peers' since he was in grade school, and sometimes not even then. And that was not his fault! Their problems were just so trivial compared to his and Al's. Ed couldn't stand to even be around people who spent all their spare time discussing popularity and partying and dating. He gladly went out of his way to avoid teenagers and all their drama.
But in doing so, he had made one fatal mistake.
Just because he was impervious to the trials of adolescence did not mean Winry shared his immunity.
"What about this one? Ed?"
Ed lifted the book off his face and gave Winry a once over. She turned a little on the spot, scrutinizing herself in the mirror by her closet. Ed could see his own reflection in the mirror as well, sprawled out on his back on Winry's bed and looking like he would rather be anywhere but here.
And by here, he meant helping to pick out Winry's outfit.
For a date.
With a guy.
Ed's reflection scowled. Best not to dwell on it for now. Winry turned this way and that, trying to get a look at every inch of her outfit. That was all that was left to pick out. Everything else had been decided on. The place, the time, the guy. Winry was even wearing makeup, and some of her hair was pulled back and held in place with a pretty dragonfly clip he and Al had bought her as a souvenir (Al had wanted a butterfly, and Ed a dragon—they compromised).
And even Ed had to admit that she looked nice. And that the clip actually went rather well with the deep, moss-green top she was currently wearing. The shirt was sleeveless, showing off her muscular arms, and a ruffled feature over the bust made sure she had plenty of coverage while also making the observer wonder just what was underneath it…
"No!" Ed barked when he realized he was digging the outfit a little too much. "That ruffly thing looks like some of those moth-eaten shirts Granny has in her closet. And those pants are too tight."
"They are not!" Winry protested. But she still twisted around and lifted the hem of her shirt to check her butt anxiously. "Are they?"
"For a first date, yes," Ed said shortly, placing the book back over his eyes and tucking his arms behind his head while she changed. Honestly, he was amazed she had enough faith in him to let him stay in the room at all. But Winry probably thought it was all right since they had known each other for so long. She was practically his sister, for God's sake. Albeit, a very hot sister that was in no way related to him, not even as a distant cousin. In other words, the very best kind of sister...
Mind elsewhere, Ed told himself, focusing very hard on the black squiggly lines a millimeter from his pupils and not on the half-clothed girl said squiggly lines were blocking him from seeing.
"Maybe I should wear a dress," Winry mused quietly. He heard hangers clacking together as she dug around in her closet for something. "But do you think that would be too formal? Or I could wear a skirt, but I only have two..."
"Thank God," Ed grunted. "I've got better things to do than sit here all night and wait for you to pick a damn skirt."
A belt smacked his leg, and Ed yelped, nearly dislodging the book in the process. "Don't complain!" she said crossly. "Not when you agreed to help me of your own free will."
"Free will, my ass!" Ed whined, pressing the book to his face so hard that he was squashing his nose. "You threatened to give me a concussion and lock me in the basement if I didn't help!"
"It was the only way to stop you from contemplating fifty different ways to disembowel my date!"
Ed pointed in her general direction with all the authority he could muster. "You better believe I'll disembowel him if he tries anything funny with you! Disembowel and dismember and castrate..."
This time the belt caught him right in the stomach, about three inches above a certain area that he really should have known better than to leave unprotected. He collapsed back on the bed to nurse his bruises in sullen silence and listened to Winry's movements. There was already a sizable pile of clothes at her feet, and they weren't even halfway through the selection. Just how much longer would this take?
"Ed, it's very sweet that you're so determined to play the shotgun-wielding, boyfriend-castrating, daughter-doting father for me," Winry said matter-of-factly. "But could you tone it down a little? I'm perfectly capable of looking out for myself. And the boy I'm seeing isn't at all like what you're making him out to be. What do you think of this?"
Ed moved the book again and blood rushed to his face for no logical reason. Winry was wearing the black skirt and white tank top she usually donned when she wasn't working on automail. Ed saw those items all the time and they never bothered him, but in his paranoia the skirt looked short enough to tempt a saint. What if there was a wind? And the low-cut tank was freaking white, which any guy knew would become clear as glass if it happened to rain. Hell, all her date had to do was pour water on her to get a glimpse of her bra...
"Absolutely not!" Ed said in a strained voice. "You'll go back to that ruffled mothball thing before you wear that! And how do you know this guy is so great? He could be a creep or a pervert or a serial killer! Are you sure you don't want me and Al to...?"
"Stalk me on my date?" Winry said dryly as she turned back to the mirror. "I think I'll pass. And for your information, I've known my date for a very long time. We're good friends, and he's very trustworthy. He would rather rip off his own arm than hurt me."
"You can't trust everything these guys say, Winry," Ed said darkly. "He could be lying through his teeth!"
Winry shook her head with a secretive smile, smoothing a hand over the front of her shirt. "No, trust me. He really feels that way, even if he doesn't say it. So what's wrong with this outfit again?"
Ed needed a moment to come up with a reply, momentarily distracted by the briefest glimpse of something black and lacy when Winry tugged on her shirt. "Too...revealing," he mumbled, fixing his eyes on the floor. Bad idea. There were bras there as well.
"Revealing?" Winry said, affronted. "I wear this almost every day!"
"That's different!" Ed said rapidly. "I mean, it's fine for every day when you're just around us, but not on a date! He might get the wrong idea!"
"Ed, I told you-!"
"That he's a freaking gentleman, yeah I get it!" Ed said in vexation, throwing up his hands. "But I don't care if he brings you flowers and carries you off in a chariot, he's still a guy. And he's also your friend, right? Unless you want to wreck the date and your friendship, he's got to know right off the bat that certain boundaries need to be respected."
Winry's mouth twisted a little, and she seemed to give his words serious thought as she looked over her reflection one more time. Ed reclined back on the pillow and crossed his arms, somewhat pleased that he had managed to sound somewhat noble and gentlemanly himself, even under duress.
"Maybe you're right," Winry said slowly. "He has a hard time showing how he feels, and I might end up scaring him off if I seem too forward."
Ed pursed his lips. "That's...not quite what I meant..."
Winry started pulling even more shirts off their hangers, tossing what looked to be her entire closet on the bed at his feet. "I just don't want to look like I'm not even trying," she said fretfully. "This is our first date. I want him to know that this is important to me, you know? I need to show him that I'm taking him seriously and not just going through the motions because of our friendship..."
With every word Ed's heart sank further and further. By the time she was done it was cowering under Winry's bed where it nursed its pathetic crush for the mechanic in solitude. He picked at a stray thread in one of the blouses. "You really like this guy that much?"
Winry sank down on the bed beside him, giving him a fleeting smile. "I'm afraid so. I'd have to be crazy not to."
Crap. Now his heart was dwelling somewhere in the basement of the Rockbell home with all those spare automail parts. And Ed very nearly got up and went to join it. Really, this was his own damn fault. If that other guy could muster up the balls to tell Winry how he felt, why couldn't he?
"So any ideas?" Winry asked in earnest. She was still smiling at him so innocently, not knowing he was dying inside. "Come on, Ed, your opinion really matters to me."
"I don't know," Ed muttered. He toyed with the idea of suggesting her baggy overalls, but that wouldn't do much except make her mad at him. And he didn't want her mad at him just before this big important date. Even if it was with some guy who would never, could never appreciate Winry as much as he did.
"Well, we're running out of time," Winry said with a glance at the clock. "I need to get going. Maybe I should go with the red top I tried on earlier. I know he likes that color..."
Ed grimaced. Red was his color, damn it! And it didn't help at all that the very sight of Winry in his color had been enough to make his mouth run dry earlier. But...but even so, if Ed were the one calling the shots, he wasn't sure he would want to see Winry wearing red. It was too busy, too distracting for a first date. He let his eyes wander over the multitude of hues and fabrics on the bed, and he caught sight of something dark buried under a bright yellow sundress. Ed thought it was black at first, but when he tugged it into the open it turned out to be a very dark blue dress made of layers and layers of some kind of gauzy material.
"Where'd this come from?" Ed inquired, fingering the flowers stitched all the way around the hem with thread that was just a shade lighter than the rest of the dress. There were flecks of these exact colors in Winry's eyes, difficult to see unless one had the opportunity to look very closely. Such as when one was strapped to the table in the middle of a maintenance check...
"Oh, that?" Winry said, leaning over to look at it. "My friend Nelly was getting rid of some things. I haven't even tried that on, so I don't know if it fits."
"Try it," Ed said, cursing himself for sounding so eager. "I mean...just try it. I like the color."
Ed thrust the dress at her roughly. "Sure, why not?"
Winry smiled brightly and traded him the book for the dress—and Ed was very grateful for the chance to hide his burning face. "So who is this guy anyway?" he said loudly as he lay back down. "If you're so serious about him, maybe I should meet him. You know, make sure he's good enough."
"I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon," Winry informed him. "I doubt you would get along with him."
"Well, at least tell me more about him," Ed demanded over the sound of the belt unclasping and falling to the floor. "And none of that 'good guy' crap either. I want the dirt! You haven't even told me his name yet."
"Believe me, there's plenty I could tell you about him," Winry chuckled. "He has a very strong personality, and it's gotten him into trouble more than once. Sometimes, I think I'm the only one who can set him straight."
There was a muffled thwump as the shirt and skirt joined the pile on the bed. Ed frowned at the darkness behind his eyelids as he mulled over what few clues he had. "So he's a friend you've known for awhile. Long enough that you could tell some potentially embarrassing stories about him. Supposedly, he's actually a nice guy and not a creep or a pervert..."
"He's also very attractive," Winry said in a low, husky voice that made Ed's stomach swoop. "I never really noticed when we were younger, but he's really matured in the past few years. He has the most wonderful eyes that show everything he's feeling even when he's trying to hide it, and this beautiful blond hair that I've always wanted to run my fingers through..."
The bed sagged a little. Ed gulped, wishing he could set the book aside and see what the hell she was doing. But Winry hadn't given him permission yet, and there was no way he would risk checking for himself. She could be completely naked for all he knew.
Naked...on the bed...with him...oh, that image was not conductive to rational thought...
A lock of Winry's hair grazed his arm, and Ed just managed to choke off a wussy yelp as he squirmed away, clearing his throat. "W-Wait!" he stammered. "Y-You said he has blond hair, right?"
Ed heard her shifting around and a slight dip on either side of his hips told him that she was leaning over him. He could almost picture Winry's wicked smirk as she watched him scrambling to put the pieces together. Blond hair...childhood friend...a nice guy who would never hurt her...
Ed yanked the book on his head and flung it across the room, nearly bonking their heads together when he shot upright. "You're going on a date with Al?" he screeched.
Winry burst out laughing so hard that she clutched her stomach. Ed wanted to demand what was so damn funny about the fact that his little brother had beaten him to the punch, but his mind got tripped up when he saw the dress. Damn, it did fit her. Perfectly. The dress pooled around her legs as she stood up and halted just under her knees, swishing with every move Winry made. The sleeves only covered her shoulders, flaring out a little in a mimicry of the skirt, while the bust sported the exact same flower pattern as the hem and was, thankfully, a sensible cut. But if she chose to wear a necklace, then Ed was not responsible for taking the time to admire the length of the chain.
"The only way for Al to become my date is if my real one backs out at the last minute," Winry snickered, eyes still bright with mirth. "So I suggest you get moving, Edward. I'd much rather have dinner with my first choice."
Winry swept out of the room while Ed was still trying to work out what she meant. Once he did, he was very glad she wasn't around to see him first go pale and then flush to a purplish red. Her first choice. Him. Winry had just asked him out on a date while making it out like he had asked her out first. Quite devious, that. And more than a little sexy. Ed slid off the bed and stepped up to the mirror, thinking of everything Winry had said about her date. About him. She really thought he was all of those things? Trustworthy? Mature? Attractive?
Ed stared down Winry's date for the night with an appraising look. At last, he cocked an eyebrow and stuck one automail finger in the smug teen's face. "Alright, you lucky bastard," he said shrewdly. "You've met her standards. The question is...can you meet mine?"
Ed looked over his reflection's shoulder to see Al poking his head in the room with a strange look on his face. "Yeah, Al?"
"Winry's acting weird," Al said apprehensively, shifting from foot to foot. "I don't really get it, but she says you've got ten minutes to get ready and meet her by the door, or else I'm taking her to dinner after all..."
Al only just managed to dive out of the way when Ed charged out of Winry's room and sprinted for his own. "The hell you are! I'll be ready in five!"