The next morning Ed is no better. Al calls the military reception to report his illness and is transferred to Hawkeye—though Ed is technically a Colonel and should have an office and subordinates of his own, it was generally agreed that he would continue working with General Mustang and his merry minions. Hawkeye sounds somewhat sceptical, but wishes him the best and says she'll send Fury over in an hour or so with a few things for Ed to be getting on with. Al tells her Ed's running a temperature of 101.3 Fahrenheit and isn't up to getting out of bed, let alone catching up on work, and can almost see her pursing her lips. He feels sorry for his brother, when he does eventually have to go back in, but she doesn't argue; simply wishes Edward a speedy recovery and hangs up. He eyes the phone, wonders if he's signed his brother's death warrant, and hangs a—-closed' sign on the door of the shop. He can't both work and keep an eye on Ed, he thinks, but does some of the laundry before returning to the bedroom.
Ed's still sleeping, eyes gummed shut with the long lashes resting across his flushed cheeks. His hair is a tangled mess, and Al gently smooths it away from his face, turns Ed's head sideways and ties it in a ponytail to keep it orderly. Ed shivers violently and reaches for him, opening his bright gold eyes a slit to grab him by the neck of his shirt and pull him down into the bed before arranging himself against Al's body again.
For someone who used to avoid contact of any sort, Al thinks with a sigh as Ed's feverish face presses against his throat, Ed likes to touch him a lot. It's probably the sickness talking; Al seems to keep him warmer than the blanket and the heating. He presses his lips to Ed's forehead and sighs softly, and Ed raises his head off the pillow to blink at him, winces at the sudden onslaught of a headache, and gropes at the bedside table for a glass of water. Al reaches over him and presses it into his hand, and Ed grumbles and takes a deep gulp, sputters, and just manages to reach the bucket in time. He hasn't eaten anything since last night, and so mostly just retches dry air, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes with the force of his spasms. Al curls against his back and holds his bangs out of his face for him, and when he is sure Ed is quite finished gently thumbs the tears away. Ed presses himself against Al again, muttering, "God, I hate being sick." Al smiles, but Ed flings his automail arm over Al's hip and pushes and pulls until he's resting flat out, pillowing his head on Al's right arm and face barely an inch away from Al's own. Al's breath catches in his throat; even sick, Edward is absolutely striking. Vaguely he hears himself saying something—something hopelessly sappy about Ed's hair and eyes being all the gold he needs and will ever need in the entire world—and inwardly cringes when Ed opens a sleepy eye and blinks at him.
"Al, are you coming down with this too?" Ed asks with a frown, raising his living arm to press the back of his hand against Al's forehead. "Your temperature seems okay. Where'd you leave the thermometer?"
"I'm fine," Al says with a sudden blush. Ed shakes his head, but is too tired and achy to do any more; instead letting his head fall back onto Al's arm and closing his eyes. Al watches him sleep again, and even the heat this time is not enough to stop a sudden spike of longing driving through his groin. He hisses and ducks his head, blushing furiously, but Ed's sleeping face is too much for him. Leaving Ed behind to mumble sleepy protests, Al wriggles off the bed and into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him as he pulls his boxers down.
He sinks onto the floor, and bites his lip as he gingerly touches himself. The feeling is exquisite, and when he throws his head back to let out a deep moan, he bangs the back of it against the bathroom door. The pain causes spots to dance before his eyes, and he rubs the back of his head and takes several deep breaths. 'It's wrong to want him,' he reminds himself. 'It's wrong to want him because all I'd have to do is ask, and he would do anything for me. He won't think about himself. It's wrong to want him. He's my brother, and he's already given up his arm and his life for me, I can't ask him to give up anything else just because I want him. I can't.'
Talking to himself, on the floor in the bathroom while his brother lies sick and feeble in bed, alone with his arousal, will not solve anything. Cautiously he cups himself, and lets out another wordless yelp, this time matched by a shallow thrust with his hips. God, it feels so good, and maybe if he gets rid of his erection he can treat his brother with the respect he deserves. He curls a hand loosely around his cock, thrusts upwards into the contact, and whimpers with pleasure. He presses his free hand over his mouth as he thrusts faster, fists at his own rhythm, dimly aware that Edward must not discover his shameful secret. Because it is shameful, he's sure, to want your own brother like that, even if he's so mired in his self-imposed guilt he'll never condemn you for it. He's thrusting faster and fisting maybe a little too hard; tears leak from his eyes and land on the back of his hand and it feels good, so good, and one more thrust and he's coming over the floor and his own palm. Panting softly he sprawls back against the bathroom door, feeling far too good to even clean up.
It takes a while for the guilt to catch up—Ed's lying alone back there, sick and utterly unaware of his younger brother's even sicker desires. Shaking, still aching with pleasure and movements slow and languid, he pulls his boxers back up and re-zips his trousers with one hand before wiping his semen off the other. He flushes the used tissue down the toilet before washing his hands and face under the sink.
When he returns to Ed's side, he is calm and orderly, as though nothing is amiss. He curls against Ed's back again, nuzzling his shoulders, and at the movement Ed blearily opens his eyes and says, "Oh, you're done jacking off in the bathroom? Good. 'M tired, gonna nap a bit more. 'night, Al."
He does, resting his head back on the pillow and slipping into a deep sleep, and all Al's indignant splutters will not rouse him.
Ed's illness seems to have been one of those twenty-four hour bugs Al's heard about but never really witnessed. It's fading by that evening, though Al tells him with pursed lips that he is not going into work tomorrow, either. Ed doesn't protest this, instead choosing to wheedle Al for more food. He's hungry and thirsty, he says; Al touches his forehead and cheeks and decides his temperature is certainly going down. Ed is allowed toast and water, which he meekly consumes in bed under Al's watchful gaze.
Thankfully he doesn't seem to remember, or want to remember, his last comment before he dropped off. Al's nervous, though, unsure whether or not his brother does remember but is choosing not to mention it out of respect for his younger brother's feelings. He catches Ed giving him a few sidelong looks that make him gulp and lick his lips cautiously, until by midday he can't stand it. The next time Ed glances at him, he asks, "What? Brother, why do you keep looking at me like that?"
Ed sighs and stretches his legs, then smiles. "I'm just wondering... " he says, and Al swallows. "I'm just wondering what we're doing for Christmas this year. 'Cause I still haven't bought anybody any presents, and it's only two weeks away. Are we going back to Rizenbourg?" His smile is lazy and affectionate, and puts Al strongly in mind of a cat.
"I think we're staying here," he says, affecting a casual tone. "I'll go ask Winry and Auntie Pinako. You stay here, brother. In bed."
"Eh, fine, fine." Ed cracks his flesh knuckles over his head when he stretches, a habit which has always made Al wince. "Just don't be too long, or else I might get kidnapped or something by some sort of rampaging alchemist-kidnapping criminal in the, say, ten minutes you're not by my side."
"Brother, I am not in the mood," Al warns. "I haven't slept well the past few nights, and all because of your fever. Don't push it."
"Aa," Ed says, and his grin is warm and soft. "Sorry. Thanks for staying with me, I appreciate it, really, I do."
"Mmm," Al says with a suspicious glare, and then heads downstairs to the phone on the counter, a sudden idea growing in the back of his mind. Winry is out buying food, Auntie Pinako tells him, so he can tell her why he wishes this Christmas to be held in Central. "It's my first Christmas since I got my body back," he tells her, and winces when he hears her take a deep and thoughtful drag on her pipe. He quickly mentions the shop, and the effort he and Ed have put into it, and how he'd be touched if they could come visit, just this once, please?
He doesn't quite hold his breath as he waits for a reply, but eventually she breathes out through her nostrils—he can imagine the cloud of smoke, so used to this habit is he—and says she thinks she can. Al hangs up, then calls his teacher and invites her, Seig and Mason as well. After this he contacts Gracia, Scieszka, Ross then Broche, and he'll leave Mustang and his subordinates—not to mention Armstrong—to Ed. When he hangs up for the last time he claps his hands together, grinning wolfishly, and after grabbing a bit of paper and a pen heads back upstairs. He settles beside Ed, who rolls onto his belly to watch him, and begins planning a shopping list with the paper propped on his pillow. "What's that for?" Ed asks, reaching over to tap the list with a metal finger.
"A Christmas party we're hosting," Al replies distractedly, the tip of his tongue poking out of his mouth as he adds mince pies to the list. Ed blinks at him, brows furrowing, and then smiles.
"You've always done that," he says fondly, and when Al turns and blinks at him reaches out with just the tip of his automail thumb and pokes Al's tongue back into his mouth. Al crimsons, and Ed laughs. "Always. Since we were kids and mom first taught you how to write."
"Um." Al glances studiously down at his hands, stilled on the paper. "So, a Christmas party—"
"Sounds like a good idea to me," Ed says mildly, pressing his head back onto the pillows, gold eyes shuttering lazily. "Don't be embarrassed, Al, it's cute."
"I'm not embarrassed," Al says, cheeks burning again. He's not, truthfully, and Ed's eyes open again and he frowns as he studies Al's face thoughtfully.
"Does this have something to do with last night?" Suspicion colours his voice, and Al scratches the back of his neck with the pen and shakes his head rapidly.
"Of course not. So, um, I already invited—"
"—Winry, Auntie Pinako, Master, her husband, Mason—"
"Scieszka and Gracia all say they can come, but Lieutenant Ross says she'll need to check—"
Al winces, but babbles on. "-and Sergeant Broche says he'll be out of town visiting his sister and brother-in-law. I hope that's okay because—"
"Al. Stop rambling and look at me before you begin to piss me off."
Al cringes as he turns to Ed, whose expression is unreadable as he reaches out and brushes a metal thumb over the corner of Al's mouth. "Brother, I—" Al takes a deep breath, and Ed's eyes flash into concern when the edges of his eyes begin to shimmer slightly with wetness. The flesh hand joins the metal, and Ed caresses Al's cheeks softly, smiles slowly.
"It's okay," Ed says hesitantly, reaching up with a living hand to wipe the near-tears away. Al takes another deep breath and also reaches up, setting his own hands over Ed's; Ed pulls their faces together so that they rest forehead to forehead, mouth quirking into a gentle smile. "You can tell me what last night was all about, Al. You know I won't judge you. Trust me."
Al gulps and looks away, running a hand through his hair nervously. Ed lets him go, eyebrows drawing together suspiciously. "It was nothing. Just, um, something that I needed to do." He's blushing furiously, and hopes Ed will take a hint and leave him alone. "So, um, I've got wine, rum, an ash tray or two for Lieutenant Havoc and Auntie Pinako, the ingredients for apple crumble, bacon, chicken, sausage meat, pork, turkey—"
Ed leans over and seals his mouth to Al's, and Al drops his pen. Ed is fierce, pushing him onto his back on the pillows, and Al can hear the paper of the makeshift list crumpling under his weight; he's too shocked to push Ed away and can only stare, wide-eyed, up at Ed's closed golden ones. Ed's mouth tastes salty, hot, and perfect, the best first kiss Al could want. Al closes his own eyes and winds an arm around Ed's head, fingers curling tightly into the braid, and kisses back just as fast, just as hard, and God, it's wonderful—
And then Ed's breaking away, licking his lips and pressing automail fingers against them. They are slightly swollen, slightly bruised; Ed's hair is unravelled and his bangs stick to his face. Al pants for breath, touching his own lips, and then can do nothing but stare up at Ed in complete confusion. "Brother—"
Ed ducks back down and brushes his lips over Al's again, this time softly, his tongue drawing patterns over Al's lips. Now that it's less of a surprise, Al opens his mouth too; guides Ed's tongue in deeper, touches it with his own. This kiss is soft and affectionate, a different sort of spar than they normally indulge in. Ed's flesh hand settles on his shoulder, the automail on the sheets. Al tightens his grip on Edward's hair and rests the other arm over Edward's back, drawing him closer and keeping him there, and everything is hot and warm and perfect in the slick space between them.
Ed breaks this kiss, too, leaning back and pulling Al up with him by the collar of his shirt. He slides this shirt off Al's shoulders, then the undershirt, then the belt; Al freezes as Ed's hands begin unbuttoning his pants, and Ed stops too, looking up at him. "You okay with this?" he asks, and Al's breath comes a little faster.
"I—yes, I mean—this is what I want, but it's just—so sudden, and—"
Ed presses his mouth to Al's again, then breaks away. "I will never make you do something you don't want to do, Al," he says gently, against Al's lips. His eyes are wide and bright and honest, and Al feels his mouth going dry. "I've just wanted to... touch you for so long, so tell me if I go overboard, okay?"
"... Okay," Al replies quietly, hands curling into fists as Ed unbuttons his pants then pulls the zipper. He doesn't take them off, instead pressing the fingers of his living hand onto the waistband of Al's boxers; Al waits, frozen, for Ed to move, then realizes Ed is waiting for permission. "I—I don't mind," he whispers, and Ed's hand dips, pulling the waistband down slightly. Ed's automail curls around the back of his neck, pulling him down for another kiss, as Ed's fingers explore his already half-hard cock. A spot just under the head is particularly sensitive, Ed discovers. He takes a firm grip, rubbing the pad of his thumb over that spot as Al whimpers and moans into his mouth, arms scrabbling at his shoulders, hips rocking lightly as he thrusts into Ed's grip. He breathes Ed's name into his brother's mouth, dimly aware of his brother breaking away to watch him as he strokes Al into full hardness, and then further. Al tips his head back, then lets his arms slide from Ed's shoulders, falling onto his back over the pillows; Ed follows him, still touching, still caressing, still driving Al closer and closer to the edge before he—
"God, brother," he whispers, eyes dazed and fixed on the ceiling. Ed leans over him and kisses him again; reaches for the box of tissues on the side of the bed and briskly wipes his hand clean.
"I'm not god," Ed says quietly, with a small smile. "I thought I was once, but I'm not. I'm just a mortal, prone to all of humanity's sins and vices."
"Sins, brother?" Al opens a dubious eye, and Ed dips down to plant a trail of wet kisses up from his collarbone to his mouth.
"Lust," he whispers against Al's lips. "Pride. Wrath." His hands settle on either side of Al's head, and Al leans up to claim another kiss, then pushes him onto his side and straddles his thighs, already beginning to tear at Ed's clothes with hungry fingers. This is new, so new, but Al's wanted to do this for such a long time, and Ed obviously felt the same way, so who is he to complain? The pyjama top falls onto one side of the bed, the undershirt ripped open with alchemy, and the drawstring pants are yanked down with as much haste as Al can muster. "Umph—Al—" he slams his hips up against Al's hand, panting softly, and Al bites his throat hard enough to leave a mark. "Uh—God—as I was saying—fuck, that's good—lust, pride, wrath—more, please, more—gluttony, sloth—"
"You leave me alone with greed and envy, then," Al purrs, nibbling on the soft skin of the junction between Edward's neck and left shoulder. "God, you're beautiful," he whispers, as Ed thrusts again into his hip. Ed's eyes are shut, though the eyelids flicker softly, and his golden hair is sticking to his face. His mouth is still slightly bruised from the forceful kisses, and little marks are just beginning to show on his throat and shoulder. Al slides a hand along the automail arm, twines his fingers with Ed's metal counterparts, and fondles his brother's cock as though it is natural.
"Envy? You? Hah—oh GOD—"
Al laughs and kisses his brother's mouth, then runs into a dilemma. He still has Ed's hand clasped in his, and is reluctant to let go; he casts the tissues on the bedside table a thoughtful glance, looks down at the mess coating his free hand, and lightly slides a semen-coated finger between his lips.
Ed tastes—bitter, and salty, and warm. Slightly sticky, Al thinks, but decides that in general the taste is tolerable, and might—if he has time for it to—grow on him. Ed watches him with an indescribable expression on his face; Al licks his lips and kisses him on the cheek before letting himself down next to him. Ed turns onto his side, reaching out and running his left hand along the side of Al's face and through his hair, expression sliding into something gentler.
"How did you know?" Al asks, awkwardly. "How I—you know. How did you know?"
Ed shuts his eyes and says mildly, "Anybody ever tell you you're really loud when you masturbate? And that you call out the name of whoever you're thinking about when you finish?"
Al closes his mouth on his next question with a fetching blush. "I think you're the first, brother," he says with a tiny grin, and Ed's mouth twitches into an answering smile. "So—um..."
"I want to do that again," Ed admits candidly. "Quite frequently, in fact. You?"
"Yeah," Al murmurs softly. "That'd be nice. But... We can't let anyone know, right?"
"Right." The corners of Ed's smile quirk even further up, into a smirk. "I can't think of anyone who would be accepting of us, no. Most people don't go in for homosexual incest."
Al bites his lip and tips his head down. He wouldn't have put it quite so bluntly, but Ed's words sum up their relationship, presents it as it is without any of their emotions, their feelings for each other, attached. He thinks about Ed, about the things he feels for his brother, thinks about society and the military, shrugs and leans over to kiss Ed. "We've been keeping secrets for most of our lives," he says quietly. "It shouldn't be any different now."
Ed shakes his head, and then his stomach gives a loud grumble. He cracks open an eye, grins sheepishly at Al, and says, "Is there any food?"
"Sins? Just gluttony, more like," Al retorts with a laugh, sliding out of bed. "Come on then, and I'll make you something to eat. Make sure you've got socks, the kitchen floor is freezing."
Ed grumbles but follows, and clings to Al and nuzzles against his back as he attempts to prepare hard-boiled eggs for them both. It's terribly inconvenient, but Ed is warm, and Al finds he doesn't mind too much.
The alarm clock wakes them both up far too early the next morning. Al is more than reluctant to release Edward from his arms, instead urging his brother to play sick for another day. Yesterday's activities seem to have kindled a longing in him, a desire to just touch Ed and admire the sleek beauty of his brother, to pin him down and rip off all his clothes and take him in his mouth and—
"Mmm," Ed mumbles blissfully against Al's ribs, but pulls away nevertheless. He stretches his arms above his head, knocking some of the stiffness from his neck and shoulders, and sleepily stumbles out of bed. Al rolls onto his belly and watches his brother attempt to find his clothes on the floor, only to catch sight of them resting on top of the chest of drawers, cleanly pressed and ironed. "Thanks, Al," he says blearily, and with a sigh Al rises too and slips into boxers, jeans and yesterday's shirt, heading into the kitchen to make some coffee.
It's waiting for Ed when he staggers through the door frame and trips into one of the three chairs by the table. Al puts it underneath his nose, well aware that his brother is not at his best in the mornings, and Ed inhales the steam before happily taking a great big gulp, ignoring the scalding heat of the liquid. He's dressed, if not neatly, and his hair is already in its customary braid. Al glances up at the clock, realizes with a sinking sensation that he only has five minutes before Ed has to leave, and frowns. Ed sets the now empty coffee mug down on the table with a satisfied sigh, then wanders out of the kitchen to emerge with his coat. Al follows him to the door downstairs, watches him go, and tries to figure out why the hell he's so possessive and clingy today.
Still, it's hard to concentrate that day. His clients are not engaging enough, save for a brief distraction around lunchtime when he has to alchemically lock his first would-be shoplifters in by sealing the door to the doorframe. Their excuses for attempting to steal a beginner's guide to alchemy are mildly entertaining, but once they've left in the company of the military police, Al finds he has nothing left to do. It's a slow day, not helped by his newfound crush on Ed; whenever a flash of red goes past the shop window, Al finds himself swivelling to look at it more closely. He closes at the normal time, and practically as soon as he shuts and locks the door bolts upstairs to sit by the window and watch the road. After half an hour, he manages to distract himself by continuing his research project in the study; thick books, stacks of papers on the nature of the gate, human alchemy, recovering objects taken—and as far as he's been able to discern, he is the first instance for this—chimeras with lost limbs, regeneration, equivalent trade... His notes are coded, about as well as Ed's were. He's disguised them as a series of bad poems, assigning different forms of poetry to different branches of research, and hasn't explained this to Edward. In fact, he hasn't explained this research topic at all to Edward; his brother would go crazy if he discovered Al was still thinking about trying to get his limbs back.
Ed returns at five, hands stuffed into his pockets and a bright red scarf he didn't have when he left wound tightly around his throat. By then Al is so occupied with his research—a haiku, for things about the gate—that Ed has to jump him from behind before he realizes his brother has returned. They step into the kitchen, Ed shrugging his coat off and hanging it up just outside.
"What's with the scarf?" Al asks, quirking his eyebrow and nodding at the red woollen thing. Ed actually blushes slightly and Al, intrigued, stops in the middle of the kitchen floor and cocks his head at his brother.
"Hawkeye sent me out to buy it practically as soon as I arrived," Ed mutters. "I had wondered why I was getting so many strange looks on the train." He unthreads the scarf as he speaks, and Al is torn between laughing and blushing.
"Um. Sorry?" he offers, and takes the few steps necessary to bend over Ed in his seat at the table, place his hands on Ed's shoulders, and lightly kiss the hickeys he's left over his brother's throat. Ed is smiling, so he can't be that mad, and Al softly kisses his mouth as well. "Missed you today, brother," he says with a sigh. "I felt really soppy while you were gone. What's up with that?"
Ed shrugs, hands circling around his newest mug of coffee. "I dunno. What do you mean?"
"I just really missed you," Al says, taking the seat opposite Ed's. "I couldn't concentrate on anything. I was on the brink of closing early and taking a train up the city centre so I could see you at the office." he sighs, drumming his fingers on the table. "It was so—pathetic; I'm kinda glad I didn't."
Ed gives him an odd look, takes another gulp of coffee, and says briefly, "Eh. I thought about coming home early, but Hawkeye and Mustang between 'em might've killed me if I'd done that, so I stayed to try and catch up on some paperwork. Anyway, so what were you working on when I came in...?"
Al blinks at him, and then grins triumphantly. "You thought about—-? Brother, you sap," he laughs, and the tiniest hint of colour rises in Ed's cheeks. At this Al laughs all the louder, and Ed slides his chair back, puts his mug in the sink, then pounces, wrapping his hands around Al's neck and kissing him breathless. Ed is a remarkably affectionate person with those he trusts, Al thinks vaguely, as he relaxes into the kiss. "All right, all right, I'm sorry," he says when Ed breaks away, a definite 'beat that' expression on his face. Ed smirks at him and Al smiles back. "Love you, brother," he says brusquely as he stands up, too. "Even if I probably shouldn't."
"Eh." Ed frowns, and then shrugs. "I don't think many people care what we're up to."
Al raises an eyebrow, and then nods thoughtfully. "It's like Master said, 'One is All, All is One'. If we'd died on that island, then those who knew us would've been sad. The rest of the world wouldn't have cared. Now..?"
"Those who know us, and some who don't, might be horrified," Ed says, stripping off his gloves matter-of-factly.
"But most of the world couldn't really care less about what we're doing, because it has its own problems to deal with," Al finishes for him, then smiles. "So, if we keep the people who know us and the ones who don't innocent—-?"
"—It's okay to do what we want," Ed crows, and Al laughs.
Christmas comes early this year. Ed and Al procrastinate until the very last week, which is spent in a flurry of purchasing decorations and gifts and a Christmas tree, then adorning the shop floor with them. It doesn't help that Al picks up a little black fluffy kitten from the street and refuses to put him back out; the kitten—named alternatively 'Greebo' and 'Argh, You Little Furry Bastard' by its two owners—has a slight habit of getting underfoot when Ed is trying to arrange a wreath of holly on top of a bookcase, and after the third accident in two days Al is forced to lock him in their bedroom while he and Ed decorate their home.
Winry, Auntie Pinako, Izumi, Seig and Mason are staying in a nearby hotel; Ed's paying, because Al made him.
These days, Al thinks, it's amazing what he can 'make' Ed do in the outside world because of a bargain struck behind the closed door of their bedroom. They haven't yet gotten beyond touching, Al because he's too nervous, Ed because Al doesn't want to; what they have is enough, though. And Al likes the taste of his brother's mouth.
The twenty-fourth of December arrives from nowhere. One day he and Ed are arguing over screwdrivers for Winry, the next she's on their doorstep, wearing blue fluffy mittens and earmuffs. Her grin is dazzlingly white in her face and she embraces them both; Auntie Pinako, just behind her, follows her into their home and takes a long thoughtful inhale on her pipe as she looks around before nodding her approval. Al breathes a sigh of relief, and she immediately criticises the way Ed has arranged the tables before concluding that 'it could be worse'.
Gracia arrives next, Elysia holding onto her hand. She greets Al with a warm hug, and then holds him at arm's length to remark on his new body while he blushes. Ed snatches Elysia up and throws her over his shoulders, ignoring her squeals of laughter, and they join Winry and Pinako in the corner. Gracia watches him go, then touches Al's cheek gently and says, "Maes would be so proud of you both."
Al smiles weakly; Gracia's hand is soft and warm, like his own mother's, and she has the same kind smile he remembers. He wonders weakly whether it's a trick passed from woman to woman, but before he can finish the thought, Gracia says, "Edward will make a wonderful father someday." She inclines her head towards his brother, who has let Elysia down and is letting her tinker with his automail arm while he chats to Winry.
"I—" Al begins, and then cuts himself off. "I don't think so. He's far too impatient." Not to mention he doesn't like girls that way, Al thinks, but doesn't tell Gracia this. Some parts of Ed's life are to kept between he and Al, after all, and he's not even sure if Ed really does plan to stay with him for that long. Gracia doesn't seem to notice his momentary insecurity; she laughs, makes her excuses, and heads over to strike up conversation with Auntie Pinako. Al watches her go, then transfers his gaze to Ed—who is laughing freely with Winry over something she said, holding Elysia off with one hand as she attempts to kick his legs out from under him. There's a knock on the door, and with another thoughtful glance at his brother, Al opens it.
"Alphonse," Seig rumbles, and Al steels himself not to flinch as a massive hand descends to ruffle his hair. "You've gotten smaller."
"HA!" Ed jeers across the room, and Al pivots and pointedly eyes him up and down.
"Edward. You haven't changed," Seig adds, squeezing through the door frame. Al blinks, realising his teacher is nowhere in sight, and leans out of the doorway to look at the street outside. Someone grabs him and puts him in a headlock, and he manages an 'urk' before Izumi releases him.
"Damnit, Al, I thought you were your worthless brother," she snarls, then drags him back inside after her, muttering about how he's let himself slip and needs more training. Al massages his throat weakly as she spots his brother and takes a deep, thunderous breath. "EDWARD! WHAT'S THIS I HEAR ABOUT YOU *STILL* WORKING FOR THE—Oh, hello there, what's your name?"
"Elysia," Elysia says, blinking up at her. Edward nudges her closer to his teacher, and then very carefully inches over to Al's side.
"Why did you invite her?" he demands out of the corner of his mouth, and Al shrugs. He's going to have bruises in the morning, he thinks gloomily as he continues rubbing his neck. A few feet away Seig has descended upon the punch with great solemnity, and has filled two glasses for himself and his wife. Izumi is by now thoroughly distracted by Elysia, who has just told her she has 'funny hair'.
"Same reason I invited everyone else, brother," Al replies eventually, and smiles at Ed when his brother blinks at him. "C'mon. There's some shandy in the kitchen, we should get to it before Seig does."
The kitchen is empty and isolated, being upstairs while everyone else is downstairs, and there they kiss for the first time all day. It's not a long kiss—they are wary of their guests encroaching—but it is a sweet one, and Al likes it all the more for its almost illicit nature. When they return, it is in time to receive Scieszka; she barely manages more than a "Hello, thanks for inviting me, here's some wine—" before Winry pounces on her and drags her into a corner to catch up on the latest in their lives. Ed and Al grin at each other, but then Izumi catches them; Seig is currently dangling a laughing Elysia upside down by her ankles while her mother looks on cautiously. Izumi grabs their chins in her hands, tilting their faces towards her to examine them with sharp eyes. "So Al aged beyond the gate," she says, not needing an answer since the evidence is right before her eyes. "You didn't get your limbs back, Edward?"
"You didn't even touch me that time," Ed complains, and she snaps a harsh glare on him.
"Your fake arm and leg move more rigidly than your real ones," she says absently, by way of explanation. She releases their faces and frowns, crossing one arm over her chest and putting her chin in the other. "So."
"I'm staying in the military because I've been left with no choice, unless I want to be hunted for the rest of my life," Ed replies slowly. "I couldn't do that to Al, though. It's easier this way."
Izumi is watching Ed, her face carefully blank, reserving judgement. Al steps in, voice low and quiet. "We're adults now, Master, whether we like it or not. We can make our own decisions, though that doesn't mean we should, just that we can. Brother decided this, just like I decided to stay here and support him. We chose this, and other things besides."
Her gaze drifts between them, and she frowns. Ed shifts his weight nervously, and in a lightning motion she grabs his right wrist, holding it up at eye level. "This was the result of one of your decisions, you know."
"Yeah," Ed mutters, an embarrassed flush appearing on his face at being caught so easily off his guard. "I got Al his body back. We don't need to do any more than that."
His gaze is fixed on his wrist, and he doesn't notice when Izumi glances at Al. Something on the younger Elric's face must say something, because her eyes widen minutely, and then she nods to him slowly. "All right," she says quietly as a thunderous knocking threatens to break their door down, "I'll take your word for it. Be careful."
Ed blinks at her, then smiles hesitantly; Al knows what she really means, however, and feels his mouth go dry. "I will," he whispers, and she looks at him with eyes that are unreadable.
"We will," Ed says firmly, unaware that the conversation has moved on. Izumi raises an eyebrow at him then shakes her head, and walks back towards Seig. The brothers avert their eyes before they have to see her give her husband a wet, sloppy and prolonged kiss, identical expressions of distaste on their faces.
The thunderous knocking is—unsurprisingly—caused by Armstrong, who grabs Al, throws him in the air, then floods over him. Ed steps away carefully, but he's not quick enough, and Armstrong grabs him too. "ALPHONSE," he booms. "It is so wonderful to see you in the form that you were intended to have! I must take a picture of this momentous occasion with the legendary photographic technique—"
"You saw Al when I bought him back to the hospital, Colonel," Ed protests, and Armstrong practically sparkles at him. "In fact, you carried him the last stretch of the way—"
"Ah," Armstrong booms, releasing them from his grip. "But at the time, Alphonse was practically unconscious. It is very good to see you both together! You look similar, though of course no siblings can be as close in appearance as my wonderful sister, Catherine, and I—"
"I didn't know you had a sister," Al says meekly, his brain rebelling at the image of a female Armstrong in a dress. He likes the man, and while his effusive good-nature is sometimes a little annoying—more so for Ed than for him—bulging muscles combined with a low-neckline dress isn't really a wonderful image.
"I have three," Armstrong says proudly. "They are all beautiful ladies, but Catherine comes closest to me in her physique—"
"Ah, Mustang," Ed cuts off quickly, and Al thinks it might just be the first time in his life in which he is glad to see the man.
"Excuse us, Mister Armstrong," Al says politely. "We have to see to our new guests. If you want to make yourself at home...? I'm sure you already know Gracia, Elysia and Scieszka, as well as brother's automail mechanics—they're over there, see—and my master and her husband, Seig—"
"Seig, eh?" Armstrong bellows, bristling as Seig's eyes meet his and narrow. "I've been training since the last time we met. It is time for me to show him the legendary 'coat-button-popping' technique passed down—"
"Yes, thank you, please don't break anything valuable," Al interrupts smoothly, and scoots over to join his brother. Mustang isn't alone; he has Hawkeye with him as well as Havoc, and it makes Al a little nervous to see all three officers in plain clothes. He spares Winry and Auntie Pinako a glance; Pinako is inspecting the newcomers shrewdly, but not unkindly. Winry, on the other hand, is still talking to Scieszka; her shoulders are tense and she is carefully not looking away from her friend. Al frowns, realising she hasn't told Auntie Pinako about what she knows, and is unsure what to do; he'd invited Mustang both to be polite and as a quiet 'thank you' for the help he gave them, and had tried not to think about the possible effects of having both he and Winry in the same room.
"Here. Take these."
He returns his attention to his brother, who is holding out an armful of coats and hats and scarves. Roy has moved away to talk to Gracia; Hawkeye is two steps behind him. Havoc has joined Winry and Scieszka and seems to be attempting to flirt with them. "Um... sure," he says quietly, accepting the bundle and shifting it until it's comfortable in his grip. "Brother, Winry—"
"I'll deal with it," Ed replies quietly. "You try and hang around Mustang, I'll see if I can stay near Winry. Don't worry, it'll be fine."
"I guess," Al says softly. "I should've thought—"
"Aa, it's not your fault," Ed murmurs knowingly, taking a step closer. He is smaller than Al and will never grow any taller, and has to look up to meet Al's eyes. It doesn't seem to bother him much. "If there's anything else you want me to do, tell me now, because I'm—"
"I want to kiss you," Al cuts in.
"Later," Ed replies with a grin. "After everyone else has gone home. Then you can kiss me all you like."
"I'd like that," Al whispers, and after glancing around quickly, Ed leans up on the tips of his toes, draws his arms around Al's neck, and pulls him into an awkward embrace. His automail arm is uncomfortable, but Al will never point that out; instead he nuzzles back, smiling as he does so.
"Why Fullmetal, I didn't have you pegged down as the affectionate type," Mustang drawls from where he stands, wineglass in hand, not too far away. Al jumps back, wrinkles his nose and blushes deeply, then hurries to the other side of the shop floor to drop the armful of coats onto the table he set up for that purpose. When he returns Ed and Mustang are talking warily, dancing around a conversation with polite small talk, like two fencers sparring. Al watches them for a moment, then takes a deep breath and slides in; he gives his brother a small push towards Winry—who is watching them both, utterly expressionless, over Scieszka's head—and gives the Colonel a polite nod. "Alphonse," Roy says, holding out his hand.
"General," Al says politely, accepting it. He's not sure what to think of the man; Roy's made it so that he can't have Ed all to himself for a very long time, and he can't help but feel resentful about that. Nevertheless, it's Christmas, and he is not naturally a person prone to keeping grudges. Yet another trait he and Ed don't share, he thinks woefully; they are alike in so many ways, but at the same time so different from each other—not that they're complaining. Variety is the spice of life, after all. "I'm glad to see that you made time in your schedule for this little gathering..?"
"I can hardly be expected to work up until Christmas day itself, can I, Alphonse?" Roy protests with wry dignity. Al laughs, but runs his hand through his hair; it's a sign of nervousness, and as soon as he catches himself doing it he stops, forcing his hand back to his side.
"Of course not," he says, with a grin, and tries to change the subject. He's not good at lying or acting, never has been; even in the armour Ed always knew when he wasn't being truthful, despite the lack of eyes to shift nervously, palms to grow sweaty, lips to bite, cheeks to flush. "Can I interest you in the punch...?"
It's not a formal event. He knew it wouldn't be when he first arranged it, and didn't really want it to be. Formal occasions, for him, have always been wedded firmly in his mind to funerals; the only times he and Ed wore suits were to watch the burial of Winry's parents and then their mother. Still, there is a solemnity in the air that has nothing to do with Winry and Roy, and it takes him a while before he realises that he's the cause, that everyone is unsure what to do or say around him. However, the tension eases as the evening draws on; shortly before midnight, they gather for a toast, to both him and his brother. Ed has drawn Winry out of the little throng and away from Mustang, stands easily beside her with his wineglass in hand. Al, who knows that the red liquid in his glass is cranberry juice rather than wine, has to hide a smile at the sight.
Everybody present says a few words, on how glad they are that the quest is over, how they wish both brothers the best in the upcoming year, how they've changed since they were younger. Izumi ruthlessly provides much mirth at their expense when she tells those stories about the two of them and their efforts to jump her.
The last person to speak is Mustang. He tips his glass to Al, then Ed, and says smoothly, "I am sure I speak for many who could not be here today when I say I am glad to see Alphonse restored. I am equally sure I speak entirely for myself when I say that I am proud Edward has grown spiritually, since I am sure he has not done so physically in all the time I have known him." Al is then made thankful of Winry's proximity to his brother when she grabs him by the braid and prevents him from assaulting a senior officer. Mustang smiles, nods, and says, "Congratulations, Fullmetal, Alphonse," before stepping back beside Riza Hawkeye.
"Thank you," Al replies with a sweet grin, taking a few steps to the side until he treads on Ed's human foot, hard. His brother stops struggling, instead opting to bend double and clutch at his foot, and Al lightly drapes an arm over his shoulder blades. "My brother and I went through a lot to get where we are. We couldn't have done it without help. We owe each of you a massive thank-you; some, admittedly, more than others. But you all had a part to play in my being here today like this..."
"'Some more than others'," Ed mocks, as they wave goodbye to the last of their guests half an hour later.
"Well, they did," Al responds evenly, shutting the door. "Mmmm." He stretches his arms above his head, yawning as he does so. "Bed?"
"I thought you wanted a kiss?" Ed protests, and Al smiles at him lazily.
"Oh, believe me, I do," he purrs, gripping Ed's chin and tilting his brother's face up to brush their lips together. "Maybe I want to do more than that, though," he adds hopefully when they part.
Ed blinks at him for less than a second, before his face shifts into a wicked grin. "Merry bloody Christmas, Al, you pervert."
"That makes the two of us, brother," Al says with a grin.
They hit the bed together, Al straddling Ed's thighs and fumbling with the clasp of his jacket. His mouth is glued to Ed's throat, tongue slick over soft skin, and Ed almost purrs. He tips his head back and moans quietly when he drops the jacket on the floor, then tugs the undershirt over Ed's head, before adhering his mouth to Ed's left nipple, flicking the stiffened nub between teeth and tongue. His hands dip lower, cupping his brother through the tight pants, and Ed thrusts hopefully against his hip. Ed's arms are around him, his flesh hand roaming over his back while the metal presses his mouth against Ed's chest, and Al doesn't fight the grip.
"Al," Ed pants, and Al releases his pants to undo the belt, raising his head from Ed's chest. "Nngh—"
"Ssh," he whispers, pressing his mouth against Ed's as the belt slides off. It, too, is discarded by the side of the bed, and Al opens Ed's pants without even needing to look. His lack of physical contact with his brother today was unusual, and Al's kiss lasts longer. Instead of slipping hands into Ed's boxers and swiftly stroking his brother into orgasm, he tugs the boxers down, kisses Ed's chin, then his throat. "You're so warm," he whispers between kisses, making his way down Ed's body. Ed tilts his head back, and lets out a heartfelt groan; slides backwards onto the pillows as Al nips gently at his abdomen.
He doesn't know why he's doing this; he's certainly never done anything like it before. His tongue skates over Ed's hipbone, slipping once, twice, thrice into the hollow, and then he places the lightest of kisses on the tip of Ed's cock.
Ed whimpers, automail hand curling into a fist and ripping the sheets as it does so. His flesh hand flails, weakly, in the air before finding Al's head, then buries itself deeply in Al's hair. Encouraged by this reaction, Al does it again, this time running his tongue over the crown and dipping softly into the slit. "Fuck," Ed moans, letting his head fall back onto the pillows. "More."
Al takes a firm grip on the shaft, still toying with his tongue, and with the other hand tears Ed's pants and boxers down together. He's obliged to let go to get them off Ed's feet and drop them on the floor, and Ed moans softly until he returns. He pauses, unsure how to do this, and then hefts Ed's left leg over his shoulder. The automail is heavy, but not too bad, and when Al leans forward the smell of his brother is enough to quench any protests. He rubs his nose against his brother's erection lightly, breathing in the heady scent of Ed's arousal, and hears Ed's wordless exclamation. "You smell good," he whispers, and doesn't even check to see if Ed heard him before leaning forwards and taking the tip in between his lips. He takes as much as he can, until he begins gagging, whereupon he pauses, takes a deep breath, and says, "You taste good, too."
"Al—" He can just make out Ed's golden eyes, slitted in pleasure, as his brother struggles to support himself with his elbows. He's sweating, and his bangs are just slightly damp; Al licks his lips at the sight and ducks his head down again, dragging his tongue slowly up and over his brother's balls. "Ah—-! AL!" The mattress creaks as Ed flops back down again, panting helplessly as Al explores his scrotum relentlessly. "Fuck."
"You could say that," Al agrees amiably from his position between Ed's legs, before beginning to run his tongue up the underside of his brother's cock. "But not yet," he adds, before once again going down on Ed.
"Ah—-!" Ed whimpers, tries to thrust. Al drapes an arm over his hips and growls; with Ed buried deep in his throat, the sensation seems to be a pleasant one, as Ed whines and tries again. Al pins him, this time, before sliding down nearly to the root. Once you'd gotten past the gag reflex, he thinks, this new trick is easy; it isn't quite so easy a few seconds later, when Ed's entire body tightens, his abdomen curling as his hands seek Al's hair, before he collapses back onto the pillows with a soft, content sigh. Al coughs and sputters, is forced to retreat and then dip back, licking what is left of Ed's come up with his tongue.
He crawls up Ed's body to sprawl on his brother's chest. Ed idly wraps an arm around him, still breathing fast, his skin slightly damp with sweat. Presently, Al raises himself back up on his hands and knees, laying kisses on Ed's face, over his cheeks and mouth and nose and eyelids. "Al," Ed says, without opening his eyes. "What was all that about?"
"I wanted to taste you," Al says honestly, nibbling a little on Ed's lower lip before continuing. "You know I have no self-restraint when it comes to you, brother."
"Eh," Ed says with a dismissive shrug, but he's grinning underneath Al's lips. "Poor discipline, that's what you have. I'm sure if you just tried to control yourself—"
Al snorts, and nibbles his throat. "I don't think so, brother. It's just something about you..."
"Mm." Ed nuzzles his chin against the top of Al's head. "So, what can I do for you ...?"
Al raises his face and bumps his nose against Ed's, grinning. "Well... you could just take a wild stab in the dark..."
Ed laughs; his eyes are half-lidded pools of wicked gold, and they make Al smile, too. His hands are already guiding Al's shirt over his head as he purrs, "Well, then, Al, don't you think you're just a little bit overdressed for that?"
"Oh, I'm sure you'll find a way to deal with the problem, brother," Al says with an equally mischievous grin, and Ed smirks and presses their mouths together in a kiss long and sweet.