Pandora's Box

chapter 1.

It was mostly the same thing, every morning. Mostly. Alphonse woke late (as usual), but with enough time to still make it through his morning routine (as usual). Combed his hair, washed his face, a dab of cologne behind each ear, and still time to slap jam on a few pieces of toast, but not quite able to make eggs. Which (again, as usual) was irritating. Just one of these days, he would like to be able to wake up early enough to have something real for his breakfast. Ham. Bacon. Hell, gruel, or even reheated leftovers. He really didn't care what it was, so long as he didn't have to eat it in the hallway, on the way to the coat closet.

"Running laaaaaate!" He announced ahead of himself, flipping his jacket on entirely the wrong way. Cursed, yanked it off again, and reversed it. Damn it all, where was his watch, he couldn't tell what TIME it was...

A brief whine met him at the door, and Alphonse scowled.

"NO, brother." He said, even before his pajama-clad sibling pounced and made an ass of himself.


It was not every day Edward Elric begged, but this morning he was on the floor. On his knees, and rubbing his cheek against Alphonse's thigh in a v-e-r-y suggestive manner, actually. He tilted his chin and looked up at his sibling, eyes smoky in that special way, half-closed and begging.

Fingers twisted in the cloth just to the right of where, as usual, Alphonse had no time to let fingers go.

"Brother, I have a job." Alphonse said, thoroughly unimpressed. Edward ignored him, ran his other hand up the back of Alphonse's thigh, and urged his hips forward. Alphonse swallowed. He'd left his hair down on purpose, he bet. Damn.

"Call in sick." Edward breathed, nuzzled the tip of his nose along the top of Alphonse's thigh. Inward.

"—ah—stop that, I can't!" Alphonse said. "I'm down to two."

"Which means you'll still have one left." Edward said, reasonably, and began molding his mouth around much more interesting territory. His hair swayed with the movement and caught the hall-light, reflected it.

"I said, NO." Alphonse snapped, pressed hard at his brother's forehead. It took a supreme amount of effort to step backwards, but he was afraid if he didn't, he was going to wind up with mouth-prints on his trousers. "I'm late enough as it is."

His brother eyed his retreating crotch like he was losing his best friend, and Alphonse resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Overreacting (as usual), but then, overreacting had always been his brother's forte. A slight to his height, to his sex drive, it was all the same breed of silliness.

"You know, SOME of us have bosses who care if we show up in the morning." He said. "You're lucky the General slacks off more than you do."

The name-dropping did not work. Instead of ranting, Edward made another play for his fly, and Alphonse had to resort to a Look.

"...oh, alright, here's your lunch, then." Edward grumbled, and produced a small brown sack. It would not have much in it—a bruised apple, a chunk of cheese maybe; Edward was not exactly a master at meal design—but it was, as they said, the thought that counted. Alphonse bent down and kissed him, and stole the frown right off of his face

"Have a nice day." And out the door, before his brother had time to register that he was going. Edward made an upset noise after him, and he closed the door shut. Hard.

Really, they needed a new routine.

The problem, Alphonse mused darkly, as he limped down the long and narrow staircase to the street, was not so much their schedules. It was his brother's ability to wreck havoc with said schedules, at any time of the day or night, regardless of what saner people might or might not care to be doing. Hell, regardless of whether or not saner people cared to be conscious—more than once he had woken up to find a hand down his pants, and its mate up his shirt, and whether or not he had work at seven the next morning seemed to be entirely unimportant. After so many years in the dark, Edward Elric had discovered he had a libido after all, and it was unfortunately exacting its frustrated vengeance upon one Alphonse Elric.

Well, not, he amended, that he was entirely blameless. His brother had never been this bad before he'd entered the equation. Frustrated, definitely, and prone to explosion at any man/woman/inanimate object that drew his ire, but he had at least been easy to manipulate. Point him in the right direction and let him run himself to exhaustion, that had been the way to deal with him then. But when he'd taken that one extra step—gone so far as to confront his brother's intensity, take it into his own hands—it was like he'd taken the cap off something grievous and vast. The proverbial tip of the iceberg, only this was neither cold nor sitting around and waiting. THIS iceberg jumped out and shoved its pointy bits right up your ass, if you weren't careful.

"Pandora's box." He muttered to himself, and near the sidewalk, an older woman with a broom looked up at him sharply. Hohshit, downstairs neighbor! he recognized, and gave her what he hoped was an apologetic wave. She waved back in acknowledgement but her expression was not nearly so friendly; Alphonse could only imagine what she was thinking. Crazy person, talking to himself! He clutched his lunch bag tighter and made a sharp left turn, eager to make it to Thatcher Street and lose himself in the traffic.

At least she wasn't the nice lady two doors down. Alphonse shuddered at the memory. She had used to bring them cookies sometimes, except that one day she had decided to come knocking just when Edward had decided he was tired of reading up on Basal's Theory of Chimera Inversion, and oh god-

Is everything alright? I thought I heard screaming? Oh god. Screaming, indeed. He had come up with something to tell her, but it hadn't been helped by Edward appearing suddenly from the bathroom, clad only in a towel and looking mightily annoyed that he was not alone in the foyer. He wasn't sure if it was his imagination or not, but he thought the frequency of cookies had decreased after that.

At least it hadn't been old Mrs. Dunway. Edward had actually told her, their NEXT DOOR neighbor, that they were brothers; Alphonse had just about throttled him. It wasn't like she had to know, she wasn't their landlady. And oh god, what if she weren't as deaf as she claimed to be? What if they kept her up at night? The walls weren't that thick, and -

And dammit, why did they have to live in an apartment building, anyways?! On his brother's salary, they could afford a real house. They could afford a couple houses, probably. But no, here he was, stuck in the low-rent part of Central, because that was closest to the base, so that brother could be close to work, never mind that HE was out here fighting to get fifteen blocks to Penn Street, and he probably only had five minutes to do it in. Sometimes, he felt like his life was nothing but an endless scream, and it was welling up inside of him, waiting to get out...

Alphonse pinched the bridge of his nose, willed himself to stay rational. No, he knew the reason they were here—knew that someday, they both wanted to back to Risenburg and settle; that any house before that would not feel like Home. Knew that HE was the one who had thought they should stay closer...his brother's health had been so scarily inconsistent those first few months after he'd come Back. He still felt a vague shadow of guilt about that, how much the creation of his body had taxed his brother's own; really, it had been that last prolonged hospital stay that had driven him to touch him, just needing to be close, take his mind off how much everything hurt. He didn't think he'd ever forget the way his brother's pain-filled eyes had finally, finally uncrossed, and then crossed again for all the right reasons—those milky thighs parted, pressed up -

Pinched himself again. Had to keep focused. Had to walk faster. He took stock and realized that his legs were actually kind of shaky, not moving nearly as well as they should. Right. He could do with a snack.

He opened his lunch sack and rustled around in the bottom, colored to realize that there was more than just his usual fruit and a sandwich. His fingers wrapped around an all too familiar glass bottle, and he gritted his teeth to keep himself from hurling it. His brother hadn't intended him to get out the door from the start.

That sneaky little bastard...and what am I supposed to do with this AT WORK!?

One thing was certain: Pandora's fucking box had nothing on Edward Elric.

He managed to survive the work day without dying of embarrassment, but it was close; Crowley, from the next lab over, had wanted to swap lunches, and just the thought had nearly sent him out the window. He had ultimately retreated to eat in the spare room, just in case; unfortunately, the solitude, combined with the damned bottle, had made him want to do increasingly inappropriate things. By the time he was eyeing the mouth of his root beer bottle with less trepidation and more and more interest, he decided he'd just about HAD it.

It just wasn't fair. His brother was still getting to him, and he wasn't even THERE to do something about it. He squirmed, he fidgeted, he didn't get hardly anything done the rest of the damn day. Just great. He was going to have to finish his project on his own time.

He was a foul mood by the time the wall clock chimed five, and nobody messed with him when he began biding up arrays up to take with him for the weekend. That was the good part of being the responsible one in the office; nobody questioned it when you took work home with you. They trusted you to get it done.

"Oh, and Elric? Would you mind getting those redesigns to me by Wednesday?"


"James is out sick, and I really need those arrays hashed out for Fleet Street."

That was the bad part. Everybody also expected you to pull deadlines out of your ass, including your deadbeat, makes-far-too-much-more-than-you boss. Alphonse nodded curtly and resisted, again, the temptation to turn the man into a hefty, infinitely more useful paperweight. Damn government liaisons. He was sure the project manager hadn't transmuted a thing in his life, and had no idea just how long it took to develop certain things.

"How much of the surveying did he get done?" He asked.

"Uh...I think the survey is in your inbox..." As usual, when it came to actual work, Mr. Pug was completely lost. "Someone was supposed to be working out the geometry, but I don't remember who. I was out that afternoon."

Yeah, with the secretary. In a love hotel.

"Alright, I'll take a look." Alphonse sighed, resigned to his fate. Knowing his coworkers, probably no one had started yet. And James always took his sketches home with him. He would most likely have to redo the bridge design by hand. The same bridge, which, if he were allowed, he could clap-transmute by feel alone.

"There's a good boy. Get those arrays done by Wednesday, and I'll even overlook your Occurrence this morning. Remember, son, you're already at three..."

Alphonse nodded, stiffly. Yes, five Occurrences and you were out, but he had only been three minutes late, and just WHOSE fault was that, really?! Whose fault had ALL of them been?

"In fact..." Mr. Pug said. "Since you reported in late this morning, perhaps you wouldn't mind staying a bit after? Crowley needs help with the Middletown sewer project, you know, we could use your input there, too."

Alphonse stared at his boss, horrified. He'd heard Crowley talking about his progress—or lack of it—over the lunch hour.

"But sir—that could take HOURS! How am I going to have time to—"

The man clapped a meaty hand down on his shoulder and offered his own, special brand of 'encouragement'.

"Well, you're a bright boy. I'm sure you'll figure it out."

Which was how he found himself home a full three hours past the normal time, pissed off and with a literal arm-load of work, kicking the door open and cursing his sibling's name—who was once again lying in wait.

Edward greeted him much the same way they'd parted, but in reverse. He launched himself at Alphonse's ass this time and began groping at him from that direction. Alphonse was about ready to deck him. "Brother!" He hissed, and shook his sibling off his coat-tails. "Let me GO!"

"What?" Now it was his brother's turn to scowl. "I can't be happy to see you?"

"That's not the point! Look, I've got a lot of work to do tonight, could you possibly shove off for a while?"

Edward pouted. When Edward pouted, he didn't just pout with his lips. He Disapproved with his entire body.

"But it's been a long day and I missed you!" Edward accused, as if that were somehow Alphonse's fault.

Alphonse gaped.

"YOU'VE had a long day? YOU'VE had a long day!?" Now, that was a bald-faced fucking lie. "No, YOU probably went into the office at ten, and wasted half the damn day arguing with the General!"

"Hey, it wasn't HALF, it was only-"

Alphonse slammed his way into the study and threw his outstanding work onto the table. The stack skittered laterally and half of it toppled to the floor; he was going to have to pick all of that up later. Alphonse closed his eyes.

"Believe me, brother, you do not know the MEANING of Hard. Day." He ground out.

"Al?" His brother's arms wrapped around him from the back. He sounded worried.

"It's nothing." Alphonse said. "Okay, well, maybe it IS something, but it's nothing you can really do anything about, okay?"

"Okay..." Edward said doubtfully, but rubbed his forehead against Alphonse's shoulder anyways, the way he always did when he was trying to cheer him up. Truth be told, it only worked because of how ridiculous it was (his brother was still so much smaller, he couldn't SEE over Alphonse's shoulder flat-footed), but... Alphonse smiled. His brother could be sweet when he wanted to be.

...or when he wanted something.

"Al?" Edward yelped as Alphonse swatted a wandering hand away from his thigh.

"Look." Alphonse turned to face his errant sibling. Tried to breathe. "Mr. Pug assigned me pretty much ALL of the Fleet Street project at the last minute, cause this other guy was out sick."

"That why you were so late?"

"No," and his prior annoyance flared up again. "THAT was because YOU made me late this morning. I got another Occurrence."

"Oh." His brother scratched the back of his head, sheepishly. " bad?"

Alphonse boggled. "Your bad?! Brother, it's not just your bad, it's...oh, forget it. Like you would know. Nobody in your office has done an honest day's work in their life." Which was not true—not remotely—but he'd be lying if he said there weren't days when he wished he were working in Mustang's office.

"Al, that's not fair." Edward called him out on the carpet. "You're forgetting Lieutenant Hawkeye. She does work enough for all of us."

"Lieutenant-Colonel," Alphonse retorted. Smiled. "See? You can't even keep people's titles straight."

"Oh, shut up." His brother muttered, and pressed his head up beneath Alphonse's chin. Score one for me. Alphonse thought, and rubbed his sibling's back absently. Physical submission, however slight, was one of the Edward Elric words for "I'm sorry".

Except that, in this instance, the submission was apparently aggression in disguise, because a warm tongue flicked out and began tracing the curve of his neck.


"Sorry you had such a shitty day." Edward purred, lipping expertly along the lower edge of his jaw. Alphonse groaned and tried to pull his head away, but that just exposed more his neck to the evil little vampire. Dammit, why did his brother have to be

His brother pulled his lips away, and his grin transformed into a veritable leer. He rose up on his toes and rocked his pelvis against Alphonse's, making both of them hiss.

"Heh. Looks like you're having a hard night, too."

Alphonse leaned back and closed his eyes.


"Mmm?" Lips were back at his neck, fanning unwanted desire deep within his belly.

"You have exactly ten seconds to get out of here, before I PUT you out."

"You don't really mean that." Edward murmured, and rose up on his toes again to nip at an ear.

Ten seconds later, Edward learned that Alphonse DID.

"HEY!" He protested as he was dumped unceremoniously into the hallway. Alphonse glowered.

"Brother, I have a lot of work to do these next few days." He said. "And when I say I need you to shove off for a while, you need to SHOVE. OFF. I'd appreciate it if you just left me alone for a while, okay? Like I asked?"

Edward nodded slowly, unhappily.

"Thanks." He pulled the door shut and locked it, stalked back to his desk. Sat there, and waited; counted to ten again. Sure enough, he heard a suspicious clapping noise.

"And don't even think about transmuting that lock!"

Light blazed briefly through the keyhole, then died down just as fast. There was no further sound of clapping...but neither was there the sound of footsteps, lumbering away.

Alphonse ran a hand through his hair, rapped a pencil against the edge of the desk. Dammit, he should just get on with wasn't his fault that his brother was always wanting to accost him. A guy just couldn't have everything they wanted all the time, it just didn't work that way. And when he said "no, not now", he meant "hands off now", not "okay, make it a quickie".


"It's just for a little while, brother." He said finally. "I promise. I don't want to have to do this either, but I know the way things work, I'll never get anything done. I wish you'd just show some self-restraint once in a while, you know?"

He couldn't tell if Edward was listening or not, but after a few more minutes he heard something rustle, and then, slowly, mismatched feet clomped away down the hallway.

Alphonse bit his lip. It was a conversation that needed to happen, he told himself. Even if he still couldn't help but feel like a heel. But SOMEBODY had to reign his sibling in, show him boundaries...had to let him know that he did, in fact, have better things to do than take care of Edward 24/7...

The sound of footsteps thundering back suddenly, and Al jerked his head toward the door.

"...Al?" His brother's voice was low and quivery, as if he loathed having to speak.

"Yes?" Don't tell me he's going to apologize...

"...what am I going to do about dinner?" Edward whined, through the door.

Alphonse buried his face in his palm. He loved his brother, he really did.

So much that some day, he was going to strangle the moron.