Operant Conditioning

He was not normally, on the whole, the type to notice his surroundings—he was a creature of immersion, caught by books, penciled equations. A whole library-day could go by without the feeling of the sun, or the lack of it; entire meals down the hatch with only the vaguest sense of pressure and spiciness. But in moments of reckoning, the world was reduced to a few simple truths.

Wooden bench, straight and hard against his back.

Winter sun, harsh and glinting off the metal of his brother's chest.

And the words, flowing and hypnotic; robbing him of dignity, burrowing under his skin. All the rest was inconsequential. Restaurant, waitresses, short-order cook; everything else was nothing but background.

All that mattered were the words.

"Benzene," his brother was suggesting, and his groin surged in response; already hard and not quite safe to be touched. "I think that's what you were missing. It would be a better solvent, see, I've done the equation..."

Agony. Please. Edward pleaded with himself, drummed his heels on the floor, despaired of himself. Please, not NOW.

His body, as always, failed entirely to listen. It was its own fickle beast, expanding and contracting, telling his brain that it was hungry, that it was needy, that it was tingling and tired, tired of confinement, tired of this horrible inaction. It needed him to let his hand inch down there, press his palm over the bulge in his pants.

"See?" Alphonse was pointing at something—the back of his placemat, which he was drawing on; as if he would be needing it anyways—"Turn this and you get Hydrogen. I think they drew the elemental wrong, see, like the way Mars was sort of inverted up here...unless maybe you think it's supposed to be code? I can't imagine anyone messing that up by accident."

Oh fuck, Al, SHUT UP. Edward wanted to cry, wanted to scream, but dammit, he couldn't. He shifted himself on the bench slightly—ever so slightly, it was really so delicate. He dared not drape his hands in his lap, in case he brush his hand too closely. He needed his coat. Wanted his coat. He really, really had to hide this. But coat was too conspicuous. He slunk forward, slightly, tried to shrink beneath the tablecloth.

"Brother?" Alphonse was looking at him curiously, no doubt wondering why he was slipping.

He licked his lips. "Yeah, uh, I agree. Totally a code." He stared down at the array briefly and wished he hadn't. The twitch came again, harder, and he was acutely aware of the roughness of his boxers, the squeeze of the leather above. The urge to wrap his hand around his cock was almost unbearable.

"Glad you think so, too." His brother said, made a little happy-squeaky noise with his helmet. "I had some theories about that, let me know what you think..."

And then the Words were coming again, maddening addiction crawling straight down inside, making him itch, making him want (and it was his own damned BROTHER'S voice, his own, self-same BROTHER) but oh, he didn't care. It was inescapable. The twinges in his thighs were radiating up to the insides of his stomach, making it do loops in his chest; every heartbeat throbbed in his groin. He held perfectly still, tried his best not to squirm. Pinned down by nothing more than language; trapped perfectly, horribly by words. The worst kind of torture; the best kind of hell.

Hydrogen...oxygen...the serpent. The Heavenly Three. He had to release soon or he was going to explode in his seat. He would burst in a single moment of terrified ecstasy (like all of his orgasms) and that would be the end of him—the ignoble end to the Fullmetal Alchemist, consumed by the demons of sexual frustration.

The sun, gold, the phoenix, the flamel, the Stone, oh fuck, holy hell...

He had to GO. NOW.

"Sorry, Al!" He said, pained in more ways than one. "Bathroom!" He all but whipped his coat over his lap and stood up, draping it in front of him.

"Brother? Are you okay? You're awfully red!"

"Yeah. Be fine in a minute." He muttered, started limping as fast as his screaming groin would allow. The movement both hurt and made him want to shudder; sent new spikes of awareness through his already tingling legs.

Somehow, he kept it together until he got to the outhouse. Thank god for back country shit-holes he thought briefly before collapsing against the wall of the shed, ripping his pants open. It felt better almost immediately, his cock wept hard in his hand, and he shuddered and cried, jerked himself hard enough he came up on his toes to follow.

And what was wrong with helping it along, when he was already damned? The damage was done, there was no turning back now. Biting his lips to stifle the words.


He came by "Magnesium", shaking helplessly against the wall; his knees were weak, would no longer hold him. He only barely managed to keep himself from bruising his kneecaps, flailed out with his automail and caught himself as he tumbled. He looked down at the mess across the hard dirt floor (calcium, chlorine, magnesium, nitrogen...) and choked back the first in a series of wild, uncontrollable laughs.

So many years he had recited the elements, trying to reign back his libido in his head. And in the end, all he had managed was to associate his life's work with sex.

He leaned back against the cool tin, choked on the awful, stinking air, threw his head back and shivered in laughter until tears started leaking out of the corners of his eyes. Many alchemists, one could note, claimed to enjoy their discipline, but of all of them, he really was the only one truly in love with his work.