Edward is an enigma to Alfons, a stray cat who has wandered into his home and into his bed, and may well wander out again soon without warning; he twines his fingers with those of Ed's good hand as they have sex on the cheap bed sheets, and wonders if the contact is enough to quell Ed's desire to roam.
The fever is fast and rapid, but not deadly, and Alfons recovers from it quickly; it still surprises the hell out of him, however, when he opens his eyes and discovers that the one pressing the cool rag to his face all this time was no other than Edward.
Ed doesn't quite believe it when Alfons says that he's only sixteen—snorts and raises his eyebrows, in fact, smirking disbelief; when asked, he simply shrugs and wanders off, leaving Alfons to blink at his back, vaguely confused.
"I guess I work as hard as I do because I want my name to last," Alfons says softly, caressing the metal surface of the rocket; Ed embraces him from behind, awkwardly, hair spilled loose over his shoulders and utterly naked, and whispers, "Overworking yourself will get you nowhere, idiot—come back to bed."
Edward might be good at driving, Alfons discovers—his friend gets the knack of it within a week—but he has a terrible sense of direction; it is only after they turn the wrong way and end up closer to Dresden than Munich that he insists Edward just give him the damn map, already.
Edward's prosthetics are terrifying things, all sharp metal and cold rubber coating; when Ed's fake hand trails down his body to slip between his legs, carefully fondling his balls, Alfons can't help but be impressed—despite the sheer pleasure currently consuming him—at how gentle the touch is.
Ed tells him about his brother, Alphonse Elric, and Alfons isn't sure what to think; it hurts, somehow, to think he might not be unique, that his friend stays with him solely for the physical resemblance to Ed's beloved brother.
There're hundreds—billions—of thousands more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand on Earth, Alfons tells him as he nuzzles the underside of Ed's jaw, kisses the marks left on the long-haired blond's skin by nipping teeth, and one day I will show them to you.
Noah is reading her tarot cards when Ed comes out of his room, still doing up his shirt—she has laid the battered old deck out on the table, and as he watches she taps one, flips it over, and examines it; hisses between her teeth and lies it back down, muttering something about the King of Wands and Alfons, and Ed can't help but feel apprehensive.
One thing that Alfons truly finds fascinating about Ed is his ability to learn—whatever it is, he throws himself into it willingly, and nothing Alfons has shown him has proven too hard: rocketry, astronomy, German, engineering, accountancy, sex—he takes to it all within weeks, and is a valuable partner.
It is on his seventeenth birthday that Alfons discovers he is going to die, that his passion for rocketry has doomed him to a painful and slow death, although he had suspected it for a while—he finds himself trying to explain this to Ed and suddenly is unable to see for his tears; and it is a relief beyond any when Ed clumsily pulls him close, holds him tight, and whispers "I know," into his hair.
Alfons is a serious young man, even-tempered and calm, and prone to looking before he leaps—utterly unlike Edward, who whines and claws at the younger blond's back, demanding relief now, cock straining hard against Alfons hand; don't make me wait god Alfons PLEASE!
Alfons doesn't know how hard it must be, to adapt to a world entirely different from your own, where you are alone and lost and a little confused; he thinks, however, as he watches Ed over the top of his own book—watches the sad, thoughtful expression on the blond's face—that he might have a clue.
Alfons knows that Ed fully intends to leave him, if and when the chance should arrive; intends to walk out and return to Amestris, and it stings—but he knows that begging, pleading, commanding Ed to stay with him will not work, and so he settles for fortifying his heart against the inevitable.
Ed isn't a cuddly person, he discovers very shortly, but Alfons is—likes holding and nuzzling and being close to the older blond, much to the latter's mortification—and so they settle for a compromise: if any of Alfons' research-mates notice the two holding hands underneath the table at the pub, they say nothing about it.
There are candles burning atop the dresser, and that is the sole source of light what with the lack of a sponsor; Alfons drags his tongue over the raised nub of a nipple and smiles as Ed's hips buck against him, as his lover—
—cries, almost, with sheer desperation, his flesh fingers tangling into Alfons' hair and dragging him closer, lets him taste the sheer need Ed has to offer.
He is not really aware that Ed is a little short-sighted—the older boy hides it well, but too many years of peering at dusty tomes in poorly lit libraries have done it for him, really, and Alfons isn't really surprised when he walks into their living room to find Ed holding his book six inches from his nose, face scrunched up as he attempts to read.
Joseph asks, once, why Alfons works on his blueprints here, and not back home—assumes it's because the study has been converted into a bedroom—and Alfons blushes, knowing the truth; that he can't work at home because he usually has a blond genius sprawled in his lap, exploring his mouth with his tongue and breathing mathematical formulae across his ribs, and while some of those formulae have resulted in major breakthroughs, Alfons is never in the mood, at the time, to grab a pen and jot them all down.
Edward tells him about a suit of armour, animated by a soul and supposedly powered by science, and Alfons does not say what he thinks: that such a thing is ridiculous, that science has no place for the notion of a soul—such a thing lies within the domain of the clergy and their prayers—but knows, looking into Edward's eyes, that it's not worth arguing about.
Alfons keeps a picture of his parents in one of his desk drawers, takes it out and stares at it, sometimes when his research is not going well; Ed asks him about them once, one lazy Sunday morning as they lie, a huddle of limbs and skin and sin between the bed sheets, and Alfons cannot respond for the unearthed hurt.
Edward is drunk when Alfons returns home, drunk and in a foul mood—all his research, his painstaking hard work has been flung all over the room, and the plaster of the wall is slightly dented where he'd pitched an empty whisky bottle at it; Alfons carries his friend back to bed and tucks him in, knowing, somehow, what has gotten the older boy so upset—strokes Ed's hair away from his face and whispers, "You'll get home eventually, Ed, don't give up now."
He's not Al, Ed knows, is not the baby brother he worked and died and cried for—but he's close, and Ed can fool himself into thinking that he tastes like Al, when he kisses him, that Al's skin would feel this way if he were to scrape his nails down it, Al's cock would feel the way Alfons' does, as it presses inside him; and he realises that he must be damned or crazy or both when he finds that this turns him on.
He's an adult, now, and it's happened without him realising it; Ed stirs his coffee and watches Alfons eat his breakfast across the table, and wonders when it happened, when he gave up his childishness, and realises it must have occurred at the same time he gave up hope of ever seeing his brother ever again,
Edward Elric is relaxed, in his post-coital daze—accepts Alfons' cuddling without complaint, lets the younger blond pillow his head on his intact shoulder; Alfons knows that this isn't a permanent thing, that the Ed of tomorrow will be as brisk as normal, will not tolerate cuddling, as per normal—but he closes his eyes and breathes in the scent of sex and sweat and Ed, and thinks he doesn't mind taking what he can get.
For the first few days, Ed trailed Alfons around wherever the other boy went: out shopping, down to the pub, to the office where he met his research mates—and when quizzed, would only say that Alfons reminded him of someone; it took a few more days for Alfons to clock onto the fact that Edward was incredibly lonely, was desperately seeking—contact, a friend, an ally.
His rocketry was meant to bring fame to Germany, was to be used to pull his country out from the after-effects of the Great War—Alfons had not intended it to be used like Eckart did, and so he does the only thing he can think of to stop her; he carries Ed to the plane—straps him in—and makes the necessary adjustments, knowing full well that he will be shot as soon as Hess notices the rocket's fire; he'll never see his dream realised, he knows, but when he covers Ed's hand with his own, he thinks he can live with that.
"Edward," Alfons said, picking his way carefully through their house and peering round the back of the couch, "You can't hide from him all the time—come on, your father's waiting—where are you?"
They have very little money—Ed has only the sporadic cheques that Hohenheim sends him, and Alfons has only the money his sponsors give him, for his work; that's what makes his dedication so impressive, Ed thinks silently, because Alfons honestly does not dream of money or fame or anything, save his inventions bettering his country.
Ed asks him once, quietly, if he minds Noa staying—she is a gypsy, after all, and Ed is all too aware of the attitude people hold towards those deemed different from themselves; Alfons smiles, and says that he doesn't mind sheltering her from harm, and would Ed go get some extra ingredients for dinner tonight with the money his new sponsor gave him?
It is when they share a bed for the first time—elbows bumping as they awkwardly slide apart, feet touching, hands entwined—that Alfons becomes aware of the true severity of Ed's nightmares; is struck in the mouth by a flailing limb as Ed screams for his brother, the boy who shares Alfons' name, and who may or may not even be real.
He first meets Ed in the library, when he finds the boy hogging a full study table to himself, papers strewn all around and Ed himself chewing on the end of a pen; slaps his book down on top of a blueprint (it'll never leave the ground, his inner scientist notes)—Ed looks up, ready to spit furious, and then freezes, eyes wide at the sight of him in a manner which makes Alfons feel very self-conscious.
The first few times they have sex, Ed insists that the lights are on, and that he takes Al from the front—Alfons' thighs tight around his waist, the air heavy with musk and soft groans and the scent of sex; Alfons likes it, likes being able to watch Ed, likes feeling his cock slide in and out—and never occurs to wonder why the third rule is that he must keep his eyes open, all the time.
He swore he would never allow himself to be distracted from his goal, and yet he is—not much, admittedly, and he is still obsessed (Edward teases him for weeks after he cries out a potential chemical compound for use in rocket fuel when he reaches orgasm) but it takes another visit to the doctor's to know that he needs to buck up—that his ultimate deadline is drawing near, and he's accomplished so little.
Alfons is the type to sing in the shower, Ed discovers to his horror within a day of moving in with him, and what is worse is that the walls are too thin for the sound to escape; he settles for clamping his pillow over his head and gritting his teeth, and thanking a non-existent deity that his own baby brother never developed this particular trait.
Edward first kisses Alfons on a bright sunny day, in the kitchen—childishly curls his fingers in Alfons' shirt sleeve and watches his reaction with an almost helpless expression, although there's a stubborn turn to his lower lip; Alfons blinks back and hesitates, unsure what to do, but finally smiles, a little sadly, and asks, "Is it me you want, or your brother?"
The hearth rug is not the best place in which to be having sex—the rug is too bristly, Alfons thinks, and tries to shift away from it—up into Edward, who is busy marking his collarbone with teeth and tongue and saliva, and his body feels overheated—he gasps and clings to Ed's shoulders as Ed grinds their still-clothed groins against each other, gasping—and it's all too much but oh, he never wants it to end, and his fingernails dig in as he cries out, over and over.
It is his second winter in this world, he thinks, sitting on the edge of Alfons' bed stark-naked, busy pulling his prosthetics on; his second winter, and it's just as ugly as the first—nothing like the beautiful snows of Rizenbourg, and it hurts, to think he might never see them again, hurts almost as much as the thought of not being able to watch his baby brother grow up.
"Morning," Ed says cheerfully when he slowly opens his eyes, beaming at him from across the pillow; Alfons leans up and glances over Ed's nude shoulder for his alarm clock, and can only sleepily blink at the time before his brain registers that he's two hours too late for his meeting with another potential sponsor—he swears in English as he scrambles out of bed, but Ed's good hand catches his wrist and hauls him back down, smirking as the long-haired blond says "Don't worry about it, Alfons, you've already missed it and they wouldn't appreciate your unwashed, unshaven just-got-out-of-bed anyway, hmm?"
The first night, he gave his little brother his bed, the one he'd shared with Alfons for—god, the past year; watched Al snuggle down amidst the comforters and felt his heart ache—and felt ungrateful, suddenly; Alfons had died to ensure that he could see his brother again, see the tiny figure snuggled up, long bronze hair scattered over the pillow—and he'd been looking for Al for so long, by what right should he feel so—conflicted, so sad that he couldn't have both?
"Germany used to be a bunch of barbaric independent states until the mid-nineteenth century," he tells Ed over the breakfast table, his fingers wrapped around a mug of coffee, enjoying the steam; Ed looks bored, but Alfons knows that it's an act, that Ed loves learning and these impromptu history lessons are favourites of his.
Alchemy is a medieval rudimentary science, he discovers, and is surprised; Alfons is not so, however, and admits that while he's never paid much attention to the old precursor of the science that will hopefully get Edward home, he has heard of Paracelsus—a name that, on investigating, makes Edward stare, and then sit back and laugh.
Edward is a prickly soul, defensive and difficult; but he changes, during the night—whenever he's not in the midst of an awful nightmare, he's snuggling up to Alfons body, and it's a miracle, Alfons thinks with a frown as Ed's good arm winds around his waist, that he gets any sleep at all.
Alfons is no Christian, despite his upbringing—makes an effort to uphold the nicer parts of the bible, such as tolerance and kindness to all things anyway—and never takes god's name in vain until the first time he has sex with Ed, on the cool tile of the kitchen floor; runs his hands through Ed's hair as his (acquaintance? friend? lover?) sucks his cock with more enthusiasm than skill; fingers bury amidst the soft gold and he thrusts his hips forward, despite himself, nearly choking Ed, and blasphemes as he comes.
He feels trapped, sometimes, by his illness—he's getting closer every day, and he knows that, can feel it when he wakes up and his breathing comes harder and harder—and his research is progressing—fast, but not fast enough; he dreams of formulae at night, of rocket fuel and propulsion fires, and even Edward cannot distract him, when he's on a roll.
He's awed, when he sees Ed naked for the first time; the older blond is so defensive of his body, but Alfons thinks that it's beautiful—touches the scars so gently, the discoloured, rougher patches of skin around his prosthetics, the thin white lines criss-crossing his skin, the broader swaths of scar tissue—and thinks: you've had a hard life, and your struggles aren't over, are they?
The hood is down, since it is unlikely that anyone will interrupt them out here—Ed's car rocks and squeaks, and Alfons groans, his back sticking to the leather of the back seat as Ed thrusts into him, his good hand wrapped around Alfons' cock and pumping, helping Alfons to orgasm as fast as Ed seems to be reaching his; the stars are bright above their heads, and Alfons thinks, dazed, seconds before the white light of climax overtakes him, that it was well worth the half-hour drive to get here.
He doesn't ask where Ed got his newest scratch from—doesn't mention the Munich city library's mysterious intruder he heard about from his friend at the pub—simply wipes the blood away and puts a bandage on, giving his friend a kiss on the forehead; Ed blushes at this, and Alfons can only smile and say "Be more careful next time, okay?"
Edward is always watching out for him—bites his lip at each coughing fit, makes sure he's fed and gets enough sleep, won't let him stay up all night—fusses over him, as though he were special, and Alfons supposes in some ways, he must be—must appeal to Ed's instincts as an elder brother, or something, and so he doesn't complain when Ed takes his temperature for the tenth time in as many minutes, scowling at the thermometer as though he suspects it's lying, when it proclaims Alfons completely healthy.
There is no food—he has been without a sponsor for nearly a month now, and despite his best rationing there simply is not enough money left; Edward doesn't ask what has his face so guarded, but rather leaves in the early morning—returns that evening with a loaf of bread, a leg of ham, some eggs and even a bottle of milk (which he hands over, shuddering, and complains about having to carry) and when Alfons asks, merely smirks and says that he has his ways, and for once, Alfons is willing to let the matter drop.
Edward is baffled by the sheer power of the church, in his world—tells Alfons his is ruled by scientists, and religion is considered an amusing pastime for the stupid; Alfons frowns at this—he's an atheist, he says, was born a protestant but lost the faith when his parents died, even before he found out about his own terminal illness—and says he cannot agree with such a prejudiced blanketing of such a large group of people, despite what they would say about the two of them, were they to know.