Stipendium Peccati

There's a kind of obsession, in literature, with blood. Crimson, ruby, carmine.
It pools, drips, spills between the hands of the characters in the cheap books
his little brother reads on the train, the seats rattling and their suitcase
swaying in the rack above, Ed ripping another dumpling off its stick and ranting
about their destination. Whatever it is, wherever it is; he's not picky. He's
a pessimist with an ego seven miles long; he's a scientist, too, doesn't approve
of Al's books. They are cheap tat, when all's said and done. They have
titles like 'Carmilla, Queen of Vampyres' and other such nonsense, as though
adding a 'y' to the word 'vampire' changes the fact that the damned things do
not exist
and never will, are the things of stories designed to scare the
easily impressionable.

"They're wasted on you, Al," he'll say softly, even years
later when Al returns with the shopping and four more of them. His eyes are
gold and bright over the rims of his glasses, late at night when he's curled
up on the couch; a heavy textbook lies open on the armrest, and a mug of coffee
gently cools on the table beside him. "Those books, I mean."

Alphonse gives him an odd look, placing the books on the
table and heading into the kitchen to unpack the food. Ed watches him go, then
glances back at the spines of the books; Bride of Dracula, Hel, Queen
of Hell
, Death on Mars and Frankenstein. His older brother
snorts; lifts his eyebrows and shakes his head, returning to his textbook. He
has a class of third-years to teach tomorrow, and Maddison is a smartass; he
plans to make sure that he can handle any question on astrophysics the annoying
student can throw at him.

"It's snowing outside, brother," Alphonse says, coming
out of the kitchen. His eyes and bright, and his cheeks are flushed; he's practically
bouncing in place. "I saw the neighbour's kids, you know, Daphne and Vera, making
a snowman—I leant them my scarf, and I'm going to take them out a carrot or
something—they're planning a snow fight, want to join in?"

"Alphonse," Ed says, voice curt and sharp, "I'm thirty-nine.
I'm far too old to be rolling around in the snow with a pair of eleven-year-old
twins—and for that matter, so are you."

Alphonse pulls a face and sighs, padding over to kneel
on the floor by the couch, one hand on the cushion, the other on Ed's hip. "Come
on, brother," he says gently, "You're only ever as old as you feel."

"That was so cliché," Ed responds, eyes narrowing.
"You get it out of one of those god-awful books? 'cause it sure sounds like

With a sigh, Alphonse leans forward and kisses him, once,
on the cheek. Ed freezes, goes tense, eyes thin shutters of gold; his lip curl
and he swallows before asking, voice hushed, "Are the curtains closed?"

"I don't know, and I don't care," Al whispers back. "It's
not like someone would come into our front garden and come up to our living-room
window for no reason other than to see if we're kissing—"

"I don't care!" Ed hisses. "I'm not—I'm not putting
anything at risk, Al. Close the curtains."

"You're impossible," Al mutters, but does as he is asked.
He pauses at the window, watching the gentle drift of the snowflakes onto their
front garden; the way the snow coats the plants, the path, the garden wall,
and smiles.

Behind him Ed scrabbles for a bookmark for his textbook;
when Al glances back it is to see his older brother picking up one of his penny
dreadfuls—Bride of Dracula—and sticking the thin volume between two
pages of a chapter entitled Gravitational Pull. This done, the heavy
textbook finds its way to the floor; Edward lies back and licks his lips nervously,
and Al gives the curtain a quick tug before returning to his older brother's
side. "There we go," he says, sitting on the edge of the cushions. "Better now?"

"Don't patronise me," Ed says, grinning. His teeth are
very white and sharp, and Alphonse laughs as he reaches out, presses both hands
to his brother's stomach. Uses them as a support as he leans in and kisses Ed,
all tongue and teeth, prolonged and oh, so sweet; Ed has always tasted so warm
and it's a taste Al is so used to he is no longer sure whether he's tasting
his brother or himself.

"I love you, you know," Alphonse whispers when they part,
brushing his nose against Ed's, and his brother's lips curve into a grin. "Oh,
don't give me that expression," he adds, swooping down to pepper Ed's
face with harsh, forceful kisses; Ed tilts his head back and allows his eyes
to flutter shut, mouth fixed in that soft grin. "Honestly, brother," Al adds,
in between; nuzzles his brother's face to the side to give Ed's neck due attention.
"You're so difficult."

Ed's hands rise to slip under the fabric of his shirt,
pawing at his back. One flesh, one steel; Alphonse welcomes the attention, the
contrasting touch, recognises it after all this time. He knows the automail,
the way it feels on bare skin naked and overheated, as they couple on the rug
in front of the fire; in the winter snows in their bed, snow piled up on the
windowsill and the automail icy as his brother thumbs his nipples with it, chuckling
quietly at his reaction.

"I love you," he whispers again as Ed works his shirt
off, tosses it over the back of the sofa to pool in the corner. Ed's cheeks
are flushed with need, his eyes slits of want and lust, and if that were not
enough, the hungry curve of his lips would've been enough to get Al hard all
by itself. His brother was gorgeous, and entirely his, and he'd sworn shortly
after coming to this world that he would never, never ever, lose sight
of what he had.

Ed writhes beneath him, and Alphonse can feel his brother's
erection through his pants; it steals his breath away, temporarily, and sends
a stab of pure need through his own. It is all he can do to unbutton
Ed's shirt, but he manages; kisses his brother again as he brings their groins
together, a rocking motion that makes Ed's spine stiffen and his brother gasp

Ed is his, he thinks, and always will be. And he's
only too happy to assert that claim, as his brother gasps and whimpers, and
begs with a soft, helpless voice, for more.

Outside the snow whirls and dances; two little girls wind
a blue scarf leant to them by their kindly neighbour around a snowman's neck,
and then dash home for mugs of their mother's hot chocolate.

Ed has frequent nightmares, painful, powerful. Dark, bloody
—he's vaguely embarrassed of them, sometimes, feeling they belong in Al's penny
dreadfuls, and not his subconscious. They make sharing a bed with him very hard,
and Ed can't help but be touched every time he awakens, panting and tense with
fear, to find Alphonse awake beside him, stroking his spine gently. It would
be so easy for Alphonse to simply climb out of bed; leave him to his nightmares
and return to the other room, left vacant since they bought this house. Alphonse
never does—is always there, to hold Ed and attempt to soothe him, to offer,
quietly, to go fetch him a glass of water; and Ed will never admit that he loves
the attention, loves the feeling of being cherished like that.

Tonight is almost no exception different. He remembers
little more than a sea of blood, as far as the eye can see—such an abused
example of imagery, he explains between gasps when Alphonse holds him quietly,
he should be so ashamed—and phantom beings, watching from the darkness with
gleaming purple eyes. It has been over twenty years, more than half his life,
since his last encounter with the Gate—with his homeland—and still the eyes
haunt him, always watching. Sometimes they whisper things, things he knows but
usually never remember upon awakening, when he tucks his face into the curve
of Alphonse's shoulder and neck, taking deep breaths enriched with the scent
of his baby brother to calm himself down.

"Are you all right?" Alphonse asks quietly, wrapping his
arms around Ed and holding him close, letting him fit himself against warmth.
"Do you need anything?"

Ed knows what he means; his eyes flick to the bottle of
sleeping pills, lying uncapped on the bedside table. They only have to use them
once or twice a month, lately; it used to be more often, but the nightmares
are becoming less frequent—or maybe he's forgetting them more, he doesn't
know. "A glass of water," he whispers instead. Alphonse's chest is slick with
sweat; his little brother had been trying to hold him down in his thrashing,
keep him from falling off the bed, or injuring himself on the headboard or bedside
cabinet. "Could you get one for me? And a towel?"

"Yeah, of course." Al kisses him once, on the top of the
head, and then slides out of bed; he's stark naked and, in Ed's opinion, physical
perfection embodied. He can admit that he's biased—he's happy to spend quite
a lot of time, mooning over the body that he spent five years struggling to
get back and two more struggling to get back to, provided Al doesn't
notice him doing so—but he's sure that it's not just him, that Alphonse is
exceptionally attractive.

He draws his legs up to his chest when Al is gone; wraps
his arms around them, rests his chin on his knees and closes his eyes. The whispers
are still inside his head, soft and repetitive, insistent and determined; he
hunches up tighter, his brows drawing together, and huffs out a sigh as Al's
footsteps sound on the stairs.

"Here you go," his brother says quietly, and he looks
up in time to catch the towel flung at him from the doorframe. It's duckling-yellow
and fluffy, smells of soap and is freshly-washed, slightly damp. He smiles and
dabs at his face with it, cleaning away the sweat and grime lining his skin.
"I bought you the water, too," Al adds, and the mattress dents as he takes a
seat behind Ed, circling one arm around his waist and passing the glass around
his older brother's chest. Ed takes it with a sigh, shifts to mould his body
against Al's, and leans back so that his head is pillowed on his baby brother's
collarbone before taking his first sip.

Al is warm and strong against his back, his arms around
Ed comforting and reassuring, although the elder Elric will never admit it.
His baby brother—baby brother—is a foot taller than he is, though
still fairly lean. Lanky, he thinks, is the operative word. "Feeling better?"
Al whispers against his ear, and he smiles, crosses his legs.

"A little, yeah. It wasn't a bad one, thank fucking god."
The gate nightmares are easy to deal with; so easy, nothing like his least favourite.
The one where he wakes up to an empty bed and an empty house—because Al has
left him, in that nightmare; has found some method of returning to Amestris
and has taken it, leaving his big brother behind. That has always been
the worst of the bunch, the one he needs the sleeping pills to cope with, the
one that leaves him a shivering, sobbing wreck in its aftermath; trying his
best to hide it, trying to pretend that he knows without a doubt that Al would
never abandon him like that while some part of him insists... how can he be

"I'm glad," Alphonse murmurs, and punctuates the statement
with a light kiss against his brother's neck. "I love you. Do you want to go
straight back to sleep, or—?"

"I—no, not today. Al, I remembered what they said."

Alphonse nuzzles his older brother's jaw, raises his eyebrows.
"What do you mean?" When he doesn't receive an answer immediately, he gives
Ed's chest a squeeze and sighs, shooting a long glance out the window. "The
weather's picking up. Our classes might be cancelled, tomorrow. Shame, I have
my second-years, and I kinda like them—"

"I remembered what they said, Al. It was a sentence
from... something. An alchemy book." He sighs and squirms a little closer, and
Alphonse presses a kiss against the nape of his neck, gentle and soft. "'Stipendium
peccati mors est'. They whispered it, and then they came for me." A pause. "I
wish—I wish I could go back to how it... used to be, you know?"

"I know that line," Alphonse murmurs, softly, voice thoughtful.

"Yeah, it was in that book we found in the old bastard's
study, on human transmutation. We couldn't decipher it at the time—"

"It means 'the reward of sin is death'," Al interrupts
quietly. "It crops up in 'Doctor Faustus', which is a 17th century play about
a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for a mere seven years of
power. He wastes those seven years on stupid, trivial things, while starting
off with such grand hopes. I'm covering it with my first years at the moment."

"I—see," Ed murmurs, softly, and grins. "Bet your students
don't know their professor likes penny dreadfuls."

"Shush, you," Al says, with a laugh. He kisses the tender
skin on Ed's neck; his older brother slants his head to defend the vulnerable
area, making a little noise of displeasure. "Do you want—?"

"I—yes," Ed murmurs, twisting in his little brother's
grip. "Of course I do."

He leans up, lacing his fingers around the back of his
brother's neck; shoots Al a pushy, demanding glare, and says, "What are you
waiting for?"

"We already had sex earlier today, brother," Alphonse
murmurs softly, reaching out to unbutton Ed's pyjama top. Ed is the only one
who wears clothes to bed; Al likes to sleep naked, usually because the feel
of his brother's skin so close is enough to quench Ed's nightmares, most nights.
"The oil's still downstairs, too."

"Then go get it," Edward mutters, furious-bright,
even as he grinds his groin against Al's belly and gasps at the sensation. Alphonse
hisses, too, caught off-guard by the motion; disengages his body from Ed's with
extreme difficulty, his brother's limbs coiled heavily around his. He's not
quite sure how his brother can get hard so easily; he's not a teenager anymore,
and yet it doesn't seem to faze him.

Ed lies back, when Alphonse scrabbles out the room; folds
his arms behind his head, and tries not to think of his nightmare or of this
'Doctor Faustus' play-thing, tries to concentrate purely on thoughts of his
brother, naked and wanting, skin soft under his hands. He stretches his arms
out ahead of him, up to the ceiling; has to lower the automail quickly, the
weight of it too much for his shoulder.

He's getting old, he thinks, or out of shape; the thought
makes him smile, and when Alphonse pushes the door open, the small jar clutched
firmly in one hand, Ed only shoots him a mildly amused glance. He pushes himself
slowly up, and swings his legs over the side of the bed; rotates his shoulders
until his flesh one clicks—Alphonse winces, he's always hated that
sound—and then curls his thumbs around the waistband of his pyjama bottoms.

He has to stand up to push them down, and isn't wearing
anything underneath. Alphonse grins at the sight; places the jar of oil on the
bedside cabinet and pushes him back onto the covers. Ed ends up with his legs
dangling over the edge and his torso pinned beneath Al's, who is busy kissing
every inch of him that he can reach—enthusiastically, but with caution. The
last thing they need is for someone to notice Ed sporting love bites at work,
not when his finger is free of a wedding band and he is not known to be courting
anyone. They're already running a thin line by living together, in a two bedroom
house; sometimes Alphonse hates this restrictive society.

"Brother," he whispers, and Ed moans softly as his collarbone
is nipped, licked at; as the insistent mouth sweeps lower, tenderly caressing
his left nipple. He gasps, hands bunching in the fabric of his shirt; grits
his teeth and pants, writhing but trapped beneath Al.

"Al," he hisses, automail hand grasping for purchase on
Al's back. "Al, god, come on. Please, god, more—" Alphonse gently closes his
teeth around the nipple, applying enough pressure to make his brother whimper
and arc off the bed but no more; his other hand rises up, shakily circles the
free nipple before rolling the hypersensitive bud carefully between thumb and
forefinger. Ed's cock is hard and hot, presses against Al's stomach while the
younger man continues with the foreplay, feeling the way Ed quivers helplessly
beneath him.

"Hush, brother," he whispers wetly into Ed's skin; Ed
makes a whining noise and bucks beneath him, attempting to get free. He flesh
hand is slipping down the length of their bodies, then scrabbling to squeeze
between them; no doubt seeking to reach for his own cock and offer himself some
stimulation. Alphonse leans back—grabs Ed's wrists, and grins an almost feral

"Al, what—" Ed licks his lips, gaze unfocused; it sharpens,
and he tugs on Al's grip once or twice. "Hey, let go of me. Alphonse. Al, come

"If I let you go, you'll just jack yourself off," Al responds
with a scowl, and leans forward to swipe his tongue up his brother's chest,
over a nipple and then up the side of Ed's neck. Ed squirms away from the contact,
and pulls harder at the grip; Al transfers both his brother's wrists to one
hand, and glances around for the handcuffs he keeps for just this scenario.
Of course, he realises dourly, they'd be in the box under the bed; it wouldn't
do to have sex toys out where anybody could see them. With a sigh, he pulls
at Ed's hands; drags his older brother to the edge of the bed and then slightly
off it so he can peer beneath it. Ed kicks at him, though thankfully not with
his metal leg, and wriggles desperately.

"Al," he spits, his golden hair brushing against
the floorboards, "Pull me up, I'm gonna fucking fall—"

"You are not," Al says mildly, reaching out with
one hand to the small wooden box. It is non-descript, the hinges old and creaking
and the cover falling off; easy to nudge that lid aside and reach in, drawing
back with a pair of steel handcuffs, the keys still in the lock. He'd bought
them off a police officer for six shillings, claiming he just wanted to own
a pair of genuine police handcuffs as a conversation piece; the policeman had
given him an odd look, but hadn't objected to the money.

It is easy to snap the handcuffs around the automail wrist,
loop them around the headboard, and then kidnap Ed's flesh hand—flailing frantically,
as the rest of Ed is; Ed never likes being tied up, normally being the dominant
partner during sex—and press it into the free cuff. The keys go onto the bedside
table, next to the lube; Ed makes a whining sound and lashes out at Al's face
with a metal foot. "Don't," Al says gently, avoiding the foot and stroking down
his brother's sides with soothing hands. "Don't, brother. Hush now. Calm down.
Come on, you know I'm not going to do anything hurtful."

Ed's thin chest rises and falls with his frantic breathing,
and then finally Ed takes a deep breath, and relaxes; his brother's eyes narrow
to golden slits, and then Ed nods—once, deliberately. "Yeah," he whispers,
"I know."

"I love you," Al says with a smile of pure adoration,
and kisses the underside of Ed's jaw, where the skin is soft and sensitive.

"Funny way of showing it," Ed snaps back; but he's smiling,
and not really mad; arches his spine as best he can and pants softly. His cock
is hard, standing out proudly from its nest of dark golden curls, and Alphonse
ponders the wisdom of getting this whole thing over and done with as soon as
possible. He decides against it.

"I know, I know," he agrees, leaning forward to nip Edward's
belly hard enough to leave a mark, and then sweeping lower. Ed licks his lips
and swallows, glances straight up at the ceiling with his spine stiff; Alphonse
ignores him, and licks at the inside of his brother's knee, the flesh one.

Ed instinctivly tries to jerk his legs together, but Al
catches hold of his brother's knees and prevents him from doing so; licks a
long swipe up towards Ed's cock, and then pauses to hear his brother's reaction.
It comes audibly, in the form of a lengthy but soft whine; Ed's back relaxes
slowly, and Al takes the opportunity to fit his head and shoulders between his
brother's legs, hefting Ed's thighs over his shoulders.

"Al," Ed mutters softly, "What the hell are you doing
down there?"

In response Al licks him, one long vertical swipe from
the base of his brother's cock up to the tip; Ed lets out a soft moan his thighs
tense, but he doesn't attempt to thrust. Amused, Al dips a little lower, mouthing
his brother's testicles and being very careful to keep his teeth out of the
equation; Ed begins to pant breathlessly, spreading his legs further apart in
unspoken encouragement.

Alphonse is not normally a tease, either in bed or out;
it has always seemed cruel to him, to deprive someone of something they want
—but he makes an exception for his brother, occasionally, and this looks like
it'll be one of those days. Ed makes an enticing picture, spread out naked for
him, thin chest heaving and golden eyes narrowed in furious bitterness; and
yet with his pupils dilated and his lips parted, cheeks flushed a soft red with
his need. It's an aspect of his brother that nobody else knows of, nor ever
will, and that's fine. Alphonse likes it that way. He swipes his tongue back
up his brother's cock, from his testicles to the head; nudges at the foreskin
as Ed whimpers and whines and begs without words for relief, for mercy.

He won't get it, of course. That's just the way Alphonse
is, and although he'll never admit it, his brother likes it this way, too. He's
the dominant partner normally, but every so often it's nice to give him a taste
of his own medicine, to push him on his back and tie him up and—blindfold
him, normally, only Al didn't really have time for that today.

As children they would never, ever have imagined this.
They were children of a scientist, rather than a godly man; the books they read
contained not moral statements about sexual preferences, but neat diagrams.
This is a penis. This is a vagina. Insert one into the other for maximum baby-making
efficiency. Never anything about, oh, incestuous homosexual lusts in a society
a thousand times more restrictive than their own, a thousand thousand miles
away from their own, if the distance could be measured in miles. They miss Amestris,
a lot; Alphonse talks about it, sometimes, wrapped up in bed and night, breathing
in his brother's breath and thinking of the family and friends they left behind.
There are no others, in this world that they have found; no equivalent to Winry,
to Izumi, even to Roy. It makes for awful loneliness, sometimes, when his brother
is not there; Ed is his last link to everything, and that is why—beyond ties
of blood or oaths or even love—they will be together until they die, little
old men in an unimportant English town, forgotten as soon as the priest snaps
shut his tiny black book.

"Al," Ed whispers, and the handcuffs rattle as he tugs
on them. "What're you thinking about?"

Al shoots his older brother a smile, up the pale gold
expanse of his brother's body, and pushes a stray lock of his hair out of his
eyes. "Nothing," he says sweetly, and then yelps when Ed nudges him, quite sharply,
in the side of the head with an automail knee. "What was that for?!"

"If it was 'nothing' you wouldn't have paused a perfectly
good blowjob to mull over it," Ed snaps back, bristling. Despite the fact that
he's a foot shorter than Al, naked, and handcuffed to the bed, he emits
an effortless aura of control; Alphonse hides a smile behind his hand and huffs
out a sigh.

"Yeah, you got me, I was being saturnine, lugubrious.
Dolorous, miserable, dreary, elegaic, gloomy, maybe even 'lamenting' if you
wish to stretch the term; call it what you—"

Ed thumps him again, though with his flesh foot this time.
"Half of those aren't even words, you idiot," he says with a flash of
teeth. "Don't try to throw me off the scent, just suck me off and we can talk
about it later. C'mon, please."

Instead Alphonse lifts his eyebrows, pushing himself up.
"What? ‘Not even words'? I'm ashamed, brother. They are, though I was
using them incorrectly—hang on and I'll go fetch the dictionary from downstai

"NO!" Ed's abdomen curls, and the wooden headboard makes
an awkward sound as Ed tugs at the handcuffs with his automail. "Suck me,
God damnit, you smug—"

"Fine, fine," Alphonse says, and huffs out a theatrical
sigh. "I have enough academic credentials to be cited as the authoritative source
on my subject by my peers, and all you care about is if I give you good head.
I'm wounded, brother."

"Suck, you, my cock, now."

"Eloquent." Alphonse brushed his hair behind his ears,
licking his lips, and dipped his head back to the task he'd abandoned. Ed's
shoulders fell back on the pillows with a loud noise, and as Al lightly tongued
the glans he was met with a soft, breathless moan. Ed used to be much more audible;
but time has worn that out of him, much to Al's relief. He wraps his lips around
the crown of his brother's cock, slowly slipping the head inside his mouth as
Ed whines quietly and wriggles like he's being assaulted with a dozen feather
dusters. An arm slung across his hips, pressing down heavily, proves to be the
solution to this, and Alphonse is then free to continue his methodically slow
sucking as he sees fit. He's not going to let Ed come from this, anyway, so
the specifics hardly matter; draws back when his jaw starts to ache and noses
his brother's scrotum gently as he thinks about what to do next. Ed is still
whining, spine jerking around spasmodically; but he calms considerably once
Alphonse pushes himself up and reaches over him, to fetch the little jar of
oil on the bedside table, lying quite casually right next to Ed's personal organiser
and reading glasses.

"You want to do it like this, or do you want me to flip
you over?" Al offers, the handcuff keys dangling from his little finger, scooped
up along with the lube.

"I'm okay with fucking like this, as long as you don't
make it hurt," Ed replies after a pause, and huffs out a long sigh, closing
his eyes and squirming to make himself more comfortable on the pillows. "I wish
you'd continued with the blowjob, Al, that was really fucking good

"We can't have everything, brother," Al offers, and leans
over to kiss Ed on the forehead; his brother's eyes fly open and the older man
blinks up at him, looking confused but vaguely flattered.

"Yeah, well," the older man says, and clears his throat.
"Get on with it, moron."

"Sure." Alphonse tosses the jar into his other hand and
slides down the bed, grinning up at his brother as he does so. Ed licks his
lips and gazes resolutely up at the ceiling; squares his jaw and shifts minutely.
Al pops the cap with a thumb and lets the oil dribble out, across his right
hand; grins as he leans over the side of the bed and puts it on the floor, upright.
Oil is fairly expensive and money is a little tight; wouldn't do to waste it.

He rubs his hands together to warm them; Ed spreads his
legs without a word, eyes flitting down to examine him. They are mere slits
of gold, and Alphonse smiles at him even as he crawls forward, wrapping his
arm around the Ed's hips and tugging him up gently. "Okay," he says, and reaches
out with a slick hand, "Ready?"

"Yeah," Ed says quietly, "Go ahead."

Al cups his brother's balls gently, and Ed jerks and hisses;
trails a finger down from Ed's testicles towards his entrance, eyes focused
on his task. Ed shifts a little, but not too much, and then forces himself to
relax with a soft sigh that can be felt throughout his body; Al slips the first
finger in, gently, and grins to himself as his brother's shoulder's spasm.

"Al, you know I hate this stage," Ed whispers, tongue
darting out to lap at his lower lip. "Can we hurry it the fuck up?"

"Have some patience, brother," Al retorts dourly,
slipping his finger further inside his brother's ass, "You'll regret it if you

"Oh, like how?" Ed retorts bitterly, and whimpers as Al
wriggles the digit a little.

"Like that. Hang on, I'm not done yet." After a little
more wriggling, Alphonse adds a second finger, slowly as possible; Ed whined
and writhed, took another deep breath and visibly forced his body to relax.
Al growled his thanks, distracted by the feel of Edward around his fingers,
trying not to imagine how Ed would feel around his cock instead; first things
, he tells himself, and carefully flexed his index finger.

Ed makes a sharp whining noise, head jerking back sharply
onto the pillows, and his cock damn near twitches; Al gives a small smile
of victory and carefully flexes both of his fingers, stretching his brother
out as gently as he can. Ed's flesh hand clenches into a fist against the headboard,
but eventually uncurls; Al takes this as his cue and withdraws his fingers,
wiping the sweat off his face with his upper arm. Damn, even with the window
open slightly and it snowing outside—still—he feels boiling hot; by the
sweat slicking Ed's thighs and stomach and face, he's not the only one.

And oh, god, Ed. His brother, stark naked and handcuffed
to the headboard, watching him with gorgeous slitted golden eyes; his cock straining
for attention, flushed a light red with blood. Edward bites his lip; tilts his
head to the side, smiles, and says, "What're you looking at, Professor?"

"My Adonis," Al replies, with a soft smile; Ed gives him
an odd look and rolls his eyes.

"Christ, you're sappy during sex. Anyway, didn't Adonis
kick the bucket, or something?"

"And you," Al says with a frown, punctuating each
word with a jab to Ed's defenceless stomach, "Are as romantic as a coal scuttle.
Idiot brother. Would it kill you to be nice for once?"

"Since when have I been 'nice'?" Ed retorts, shifting.
"I'm always this way, star-crossed one."

"And here I thought you loathed Shakespeare," Al replies,
grinning. He reaches around the side of the bed for more lube; slicks his hand
again and applies it to his own hard cock. "Obviously not—"

"I do, though," Ed protests. "Romeo and Juliet is awful.
I just like Macbeth."

"Because it's gory?" Al offers, hooking Ed's legs around
his waist, positioning the tip of his erection at his brother's entrance and
then closing his hands around his brother's hips.

"No! Well, yes," Ed admits, angling himself slightly into
a more comfortable position. "Hurry up."

"Demanding old git, you," Al responds with a shake of
his head, and rocks his hips forward, slowly. Ed lets out a gasp—more an exhalation
than anything else, really—as Al moves into him, shoulders jerking; the automail
screeches shrilly against the handcuffs, and Al winces at the painful noise.

"Fuck," Ed whispers when Al pauses, all the way inside,
"That's good. Do it again."

"You're always so pushy," Al snipes, "Would it kill you
to say 'please'?"

"I don't say—AH! 'please' to anyone, Al," Ed hisses
furiously, his cheeks burning a bright red. Alphonse smirks and thrusts back
in, grinning at the way his brother's thighs clench around him, the way Ed moans
and tries to shift, tries to rub his cock against something.

"You always used to say it to mom," Al points out, drawing
back. Ed is beautiful when he's needy, and Al plans to make him as needy as
he likes, as needy as he wants; his brother is at his best when he's begging
to be fucked, when Al's name is the only thing he can and will say.

"Don't bring up our mom in this situation, Al," Ed says,
tone light and sarcastic; another thrust makes him moan and whimper, spine flexing
as he attempts to buck. "Harder. More, oh god—"

"Patience, brother," Al purrs, and smirks. The handcuffs
rattle and screech once more, and he pauses at the end of another thrust, glancing
up to see if the combination of handcuff and automail is damaging the headboard
at all; it seems to be undamaged, and he barely has time to notice this before
he notices Ed's face, flushed red, lips parted as his older brother, his only
brother, pants quietly and pleads without sound for more.

"Al. Al. Al. Why'd you... stop?" And Ed's watching
him, expression soft and lips tinted a soft pink colour; his eyes are desperate
and pleading. And Al finds himself unable to look away, captured by the gentle
need in that face; his hips jerk spasmodically, and he grins wolfishly
as he bows his head, tearing his gaze away with great effort.

Concentrate on fucking him, he thinks, and it'll
all work out just fine.

It's not like it's a difficult chore; Ed is making quiet
little whining noises with each thrust, hesitant little gasps and lustful exhalations.
He's hot, tight and perfect inside, too; Al grits his teeth and bows his head
hard against orgasm, trying to think of other things. Snow. That seventy-year-old
woman down the road, whatsername, Beatrice, in her lingerie. Father, naked.
Mom and Father, naked. Having sex.

"Oh, ew," he mutters out loud, and then blushes when he
realises what he's said; but it works, in terms of being a delaying tactic for

"What's 'ew'?" Ed whispers, voice soft, and Al flinches;
hadn't meant that to be overheard.

"Nothing," he says cheerfully, thrusting again, and hard.
Ed gasps, head lolling back on the pillows; Al decides that he'll have to take
pity on his brother soon, and slowly begins to slide a hand up from Ed's hip
towards his cock. "Nothing at all."

"Good—would hate to think that—ah—you weren't entirely
focused on—oh god, Al, I need to come soon, have some fucking mercy

And now Al allows himself to focus, allows himself to
look up at his brother's face, and oh god it's enough. He finds himself
coming on the next stroke of his hips, a lightning flash burning through him;
barely remembers to grab hold of Ed's own cock with one slippery hand and jerk
his brother off, too. Passing the current on, he thinks vaguely as he
slumps forward over his brother's torso, panting, and Ed bucks hard beneath

The post-coital buzz is always both a curse and a joy,
and this is no exception. Alphonse pulls out of Ed slowly, well aware of the
fact that he aches, the sheets are spattered with come, that Ed is wincing and
muttering something about his wrists and ass hurting, and thinks: it was worth
it. Everything's tinted with a kind of soft light; Ed is smiling, sleepy and
sweet and god, he's beautiful. Al snags the keys off the bedside table and unlocks
the handcuffs with gusto; his brother sits up, massaging his wrists, and swings
his legs over the side. They'll have to change the sheets before they can get
to sleep, but Al nevertheless grabs Ed and tugs him back down; peppers his face
and neck with kisses while his brother flails for balance.

"What the hell was that for?" Ed demands, ducking his
chin down to stall further kisses, and Al laughs.

"I just wanted to let you know," he says with a shrug.
"I love you."

"You tell me thirty or forty times a day, Al, I've
kinda gotten the drift by now," Ed responds sourly, and Al merely smiles, and

"Just thought it bears repeating, is all," he says; climbs
off the bed and drags the quilt with him. "Help me strip the bed? I'll do the
laundry tomorrow, 'cause you have more classes than me."

"Oh... sure," Ed replies, startled, and then smiles. "Sure."

Al stuffs the old sheets in a basket, tucked away in a
corner of the bathroom; they then proceed to wash themselves down briskly with
cold water and a flannel before heading back to bed. Ed's walking with a slight
limp; judging it with a critical eye, Al decides that it'll mostly be gone by
the morning.

The snow still whirls outside the window; Al watches it
for a moment, before yanking said window shut. "Class might well be cancelled
tomorrow," he says cheerfully, returning to the bed and Ed's heavy, clutching
embrace. "It's freezing, and you know students. We'll be lucky if three turn
up, at best."

"We still have to go in," Ed mumbles into his collarbone,
snuggling closer and throwing an arm over Al's waist. "We're the teachers. We
have to set an example."

"I know," Al whispers, and presses a kiss against Ed's
temple. "When did that happen, brother? When did we become—responsible?"

Ed snorts, and burrows even closer to Al's body, to the
source of heat. "I dunno why you're asking me," he says mildly, "I'm still tryin'
—trying to figure that out myself... now can we sleep? I'm kinda tired."

"Of course," Alphonse says, rising up on one elbow—Ed
grumbles at the motion—and leaning over his brother to switch off the bedside

They curl up close under the covers, wrapped as tightly
as they can be; Alphonse waits, so quiet he barely breathes, for the inevitable.
And it comes, as it always does; wrapped up in skin and blankets, Edward only
feels safe to whispers the words, "I love you," directly into Alphonse's flesh,
voice muffled as though the words are shameful. They aren't, of course, but
Edward Elric has always been a proud soul. Al strokes gently down his brother's
spine, feeling the shift of muscles and the tension there, and sighs, closing
his eyes quietly.

Maybe, some day before he dies, Ed will finally be able
to say the words out loud; Al's fine with waiting, however long it takes. He
trusts Ed; always had, both before he arrived in this strange, foreign world,
and after it.

"Is the back door locked?" Alphonse asks, one gloved hand
resting on the doorknob.

"Yeah, yeah, 'course," Ed mutters in reply, fumbling in
his pocket for the little paper carton. "Made sure of it myself." He knocks
a cigarette out of the pack and clamps it in between his lips; glances down
the snow-covered road as he digs for his box of matches in the pocket of his
trousers. Alphonse purses his lips at the cigarette, but doesn't say anything;
slams the door shut, and turns the key in the lock.

"Let's go, then," he says, shrugging his bag to make it
more comfortable. It's not as heavy as Ed's—he doesn't need to carry textbooks
—but he does have both of their lunches in there, and it is more than
a little uncomfortable.

A match flares, and Ed cups the tiny flame as he lights
the thin tube; shakes it out and sticks it back in the box, rather than dropping
it and having to face Al's wrath. "Sure," he says, and tugs at his own bag.
"Can we stop off at the corner shop? I'm down to my last two fags."

"'Cigarettes,' brother, 'fag' is an uncultured slang term,"
Al replies with a frown, sticking his hands in his pockets and walking ahead
of his brother, to their garden gate.

"Whatever. Just can we?" Ed goes ahead of Al once they're
out of their garden; walks backwards, his hands also stuffed in his pockets
and the cigarette dangling from his lip. He'd picked up the habit shortly after
his permanent isolation in this world, and no matter what Al said, had refused
to kick it, though he had cut down quite dramatically.

"I guess," Al concedes with a sigh, and then waggles a
disproving finger at his brother. "Only one packet, mind! And you'd better make
it last. Money's tight again, and we need food more than you need to feed that
unhealthy addiction."

"I know, Al, who do you think does the finances?"
Ed raises an eyebrow and smiles, cheeks flushed with cold. He's wearing a woolly
hat, knitted by Al; has a matching scarf on, too, which Al had tied himself,
slowly and carefully. He looks so beautiful in the weak morning light, snow
crunching under his boots, eyes vibrant and alive, face touched perfectly by
the chill, and Al wants to kiss him. Wants to hold his hand and kiss him breathless,
right here in the middle of street, and fuck what everyone else might
think, it's none of their damn business.

But he knows he can't, and so he merely settles for raising
his chin, and smiling, and saying, "I hadn't thought of that, brother."

"Yeah, well." Ed spins in place, heists his bag further
up his shoulder, and takes out his cigarette to exhale a soft stream of smoke;
waits for Al to catch up and then walks beside him without complaint. "So, what're
you doing in today's classes?"

"More Faustus," Al replies, with a dreary sigh.
"And the Canterbury Tales in the afternoon."

"What, no Frankenstein?" Ed teases, teeth very white in
his face. "Honestly, Al, I thought literature was all about your favourites!"

"The head of the School of English said I couldn't," Al
mutters. "He said students would be better placed learning about 'real' books."

"Ah." Ed seems torn between mocking him and giving him
a comforting pat on the shoulder; he opts for neither, and bumps his shoulder
hard against Al's. "Oh well, I'm sure you'll get over it. Should've opted to
do astrophysics like me, or some other science—chemistry, you were always
very good at chemistry. It's a lot easier to teach. One big textbook and a bunch
of formulae, hah..."

"Maybe," Al says, lips thinning, and glances away. "I
don't know, brother. I like Frankenstein. I always identified with the monster,
you know?"

"... No, I don't," Ed replied, awkwardly. "Uh, how do
you mean? Given that I haven't read the book and all."

"Oh, well," and Al hops over an ice patch; doesn't quite
make it and nearly slips, before Ed grabs him and helps him up. "Thanks. Well,
see, there's this scientist—Frankenstein—right? And he decides he's going
to create life—animate a human body, you know—"

"What, like a homunculus?" Ed sounds suspicious, and Al
blinks, surprised, and then shakes his head furiously.

"No, no, not at all! It's hard to describe. You should
really read the book, brother. Anyway, so this scientist creates this monster
—it's really, really ugly—and—waaah!"

"Watch yourself, idiot!" Ed scolds, and Al looks at him
and blushes nervously.

"I didn't even see that ice patch, to be fair,"
he protests, and Ed drags him back up to his feet. His armpits hurt where his
brother had caught him, but he seems otherwise fine; brushes snow off his trousers
and straightens his scarf. "So, anyway. This monster escapes from the castle
and he goes out and stuff, and he's all curious about humans, you know?"

"For a lit professor, you suck at summarising books,"
Ed remarks mildly, and sighs. "Look, let's just keep walking... I need my cigarettes."

Al pulls a face, but falls in line behind his brother,
keeping his eyes on the floor. "At the end of the novel, the humans all club
together to destroy the monster because, well, he was being a monster. But the
novel never answers the fundamental question: was the monster born a monster,
or was he made a monster by the things people did to him?"

Ed freezes, practically mid step, and turns back to him.
"I don't get it," he says, taking his current cigarette out of his mouth. "How
does this relate to you, exactly?"

"I—the armour," Al says, softly, bowing his head. "A
—Another thing about Frankenstein was that—well—would the villagers
have tried to reason with the monster... were he not so fearsome? Would they
have tried to understand him? His appearance commanded such hatred and fear,
when that wasn't what he wanted; was it because of the fact that he was treated
with hate and fear that made him a monster?"

"Al," Ed murmurs, eyes soft and pained. "You were never
a monster. You were my baby brother." He reaches out and touches Al's cheek,
just once, and not a lingering touch; but it is gentle, and it is more than

"Where would I have been without you?" Al whispers, looking
his brother straight in the eye. "I was—ten years old and suddenly trapped
in this—seven foot tall suit of fearsome bulky armour and—god. People looked
at me like I was going to rip their heads off. Even—Winry, and the colonel
—treated me like I was so much older than I was but you, you never did.
And for that I will always be grateful."

"Al..." Ed bites his lip, glances away and then rubs at
his cheeks. "I, uh, don't think we have time for the, um, corner shop. We should,
uh, hurry straight to work, you know?"

"Brother," Al whispers, and smiles. "You are what kept
me from becoming a monster. Thank you."

"I—uh—I think you're, um, reading too much into a
book. You're my baby brother. I swore I'd look after you before you came here,
and I swore I'd protect you after you came here."

"I can still beat you in a fight," Al points out teasingly,
and Ed flips him off. Laughing, Al pounces his older brother and secures him
in a headlock; knocks his hat off and scruffs up that beautiful golden hair
with his knuckles. Ed fights, but only half-heartedly; he's grinning, too, and
doesn't seem to mind the fact that they both look so very silly.

And somehow, when they return home after being told by
the Dean that yes, it is a snow day, and yes, all classes have been cancelled,
Alphonse isn't too surprised to see, when he peeks into the front room from
the kitchen door war, his brother nestled up on the couch, a book in his hands.
It's bound in a plain black cover, but the title is printed in gold along the
spine; though half obscured by his knee, the 'Franken-' part of the word
is still plainly visible. Ed slams it shut and stuffs it underneath a cushion
as soon as Al emerges with the tea tray, hastily tucking his hair behind his
ears and meeting Al's amused, mildly inquisitive expression with a stubborn
glare. Al places the tea tray on the coffee table, and climbs onto the couch
itself; curls up on the opposite end of the couch, feet resting on his brother's
lap, and cracks open his latest purchase, Werewolf of Amsterdam.

Five minutes later, both books lay on the floor beside
the couch, Alphonse's back flat against the cushions, Ed's weight bearing them
both down, Ed's tongue hot and searing in his little brother's mouth. Guardian,
protector; lifeline between a little boy and the world around him, brother,
lover, friend.

Books stood no chance, next to that much affection.