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cryogenia

Pandora's Box

chapter 3.

He regretted tossing his brother out a little later, as the evening dragged on; it would have been nice to have someone to talk through the structural supports with. The problem was that they all needed to activate at the same time, from multiple points at once, and he had to allow for different operator skill levels. Not everybody they contracted out was as adept as he was. He could key a master array to direct the flow of energy, but that was contingent upon him being able to draw a straight motherfucking LINE, for one thing, and his pencil seemed to be fighting him every step of the way—

The support arrays started spinning in circles, and that was when he finally just gave up and put his head down on the desk. A nap. He just wasn't going to be worth anything without a longer nap. He thought fuzzily about setting some kind of alarm, but Edward would probably come bother him eventually, and really, he wasn't sure they still had one that worked, because one morning the bell had gotten stuck, and then it had gotten struck, hard, by automail. He smiled, sleepily. His brother always meant well, he just...never quite got the details...right...

It seemed like it was only a heart's beat later that he heard the clapping.

Alphonse stirred only reluctantly, still felt awfully like sleep was smothering him by inches.

"Brother..." He protested, into a mouthful of fuzzy. Wake me up later. I'm sleeping right now...

...and just what the hell was he talking into, anyways? It smelled like his sibling, but felt nothing at all like brother's clothes. Alphonse snorted and turned his head away, but the soft stuff seemed to follow. It was actually all around him.

He woke up for real.

"What...blanket?" He murmured eloquently, blinking his way through what seemed like miles of cloth. There was flannel all around him, not just flannel, comforter too—and white sheets, and pillow case...His brother hadn't just brought him a blanket, he seemed to have brought the whole goddamn bed.

Which he was going to have to put away, of course, because lord knows that Edward was not going to transmute a spare comforter. Hell, what time was it? He hoped his brother hadn't already gone to bed. Bad enough he had a knack for knocking all the covers off; no reason to make it worse by not putting on any to start with. Have to be careful. A phantom nurse reminded him, months ago, in a hospital room that did not seem so far away at the moment. His constitution's not as robust as it used to be. Keep him warm at night; make sure he eats three meals a day, don't let him overtax himself or he could easily risk a secondary infection. You'll have to watch out for signs of—

Pneumonia. Right. Last goddamn thing they needed. Last goddamn thing that was likely to happen right now, too—he wasn't even sick, how the hell would he get pneumonia?!—but still...

Well aware that he was being ridiculous, and not caring one bit, Alphonse finished unfurling himself from the blankets and gathered them up. Yes, his brother was better now. But an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, like they said, and he wasn't about to live through his brother in the hospital again. He could still remember how awful it was just to sit there and listen to him breathe, touch that sallow skin, wonder if he'd ever wake up.

Not on my watch. Alphonse thought firmly, and struggled toward the door. Not ever again.

He fumbled blindly for the doorknob and almost lost the pile; realized the door was still locked and fumbled again, this time for the pin. He was already starting to forget concern in the face of unbridled annoyance, that was for damn sure. If his brother could just cope once in a while, he wouldn't have had to keep the door sealed like that. Hell, even a dog could learn to stay out of the neighbor's yard. What was so hard about leaving him alone for a couple hours, honestly!? He wrestled the door open and lost a pillow case, tried to pick it up with his toes; gave up, and slid sideways out through the door frame. He'd make Edward go pick that up, if he were awake.

Brother...

A shadowy shape loomed out at him as he turned into the hall, and his breath caught suddenly, hard, in his throat. His brother was leaning hard against the wall, slumped against his automail shoulder with a flush across his face, and Alphonse dropped all the bedding for good.

—oh god—

"Brother!" He yelped, dashed the rest of the way to his sibling's side. Edward jerked and doubled over, turned away almost immediately.

"Are you alright!?"

Strangely, his brother looked deeply embarrassed.

"Al, just give me....a second." His brother's breathing was labored. "Fuck, I'm sorry."

"Are you okay?! Do you need the humidifier? Do you—oh." Post wake-up reasoning might not be the greatest, but belatedly several things came together in Al's mind. Flushed complexion...short of breath...inability to stand...there was more than one 'illness' that lead to those symptoms.

That, and his brother struggling to get his hands out of his trousers was a pretty big tip-off.

"Brother!" Alphonse hissed and punched his sibling in the shoulder blade, not sure whether to be aroused or just plain horrified. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"I'm trying not to bother YOU!"

"In the middle of the HALLWAY?"

"I just—oh, fuck." His brother said, looked like he was damn near about to melt into the floor. He whipped away, head still bowed in that special Edward form of embarrassment, and began limping quickly toward the bathroom. "Fuck, Al. I'm sorry."

Alphonse trotted after him and caught his elbow. "Sorry about what? You scared the life out of me! I thought—"

His brother pulled his arm away and practically snarled, a horrible, frightening sound. Alphonse's eyes widened. They'd walked in on each other masturbating more than once before, it wasn't like this was some kind of new embarrassment.

"I scared YOU!? Holy shit—" He averted his eyes again and continued. "I'm sorry, I really am, I didn't mean to do that, Al, just DROP it—"

Alphonse scowled. No way in hell was that happening. His brother was acting even weirder than normal, and he was not about to "just drop" the matter.

"No." He insisted, and hooked a leg around to the back of his sibling's flesh knee. It unlocked immediately, and sent Edward tumbling into a headlock.

"HEY!"

Even after multiple prolonged illnesses, Edward was certainly the more muscular, but Alphonse had been born with all the fighting skill. He guided his bellowing sibling this way and that, refused to let him pull himself free, danced him back toward the study—fuck, the study. That wasn't going to work; what if his brother stumbled into the corner of the door? The door frame? Floor was too hard, too; not so good for automail knees to drop down on suddenly. His brother had a knack for picking up random injuries in the silliest of ways, so he had to pin him safely. At the last minute he changed course and dropped his brother into the pile of discarded blankets. There, that was soft enough to protect Edward from himself.

Edward sprawled and Alphonse flipped him immediately, straddled his stomach just above his hips to keep him from pulling himself up.

"There." He said. "Now what's gotten into you?"

"What do you mean, what's gotten into me?"

"THIS!" Alphonse waved. "The hallway! I don't mind you doing that just—brother, why on earth? The hallway!" He boggled.

Edward flipped his head to the side, pretended to hear nothing. Alphonse yanked on a chunklet of hair and forced his sibling to look at him.

"Well? And what's up with you jumping me all the time, to begin with? It gets old, you know."

"...I'm sorry, Al." Edward whined, struggled. "I was trying...I swear I was...it's just..."

"It's just what?"

"I was going to leave you alone, like you wanted. But I couldn't help it, I went in to check on you, and then you were sleeping like that, all cute and shit, and then I just wanted—you. I wanted you. I'm sorry. I tried to bring you blankets and fuck, I thought I could handle it, but I guess I suck too much for that, too." He laughed, a harsh, hopeless sound. "Fuck."

What?

"Brother..."

"...if you don't want me anymore, I'll stop. I swear I will." Edward said, looking for all the world like a large, lost, hopeless puppy. "I just suck sometimes."

He thinks I don't want—oh, for the love of everything—

"...alright, you lost me." Alphonse admitted, threw his hands up. He wasn't sure whether to be touched, or exasperated, or confused, so he settled for all three at once.

"Huh?"

"Brother, you are the only person I know who can translate 'not now' into 'I hate you.'" Alphonse scowled. "In what parallel universe are we, where I suddenly no longer want you?"

Now it was his brother's turn to look hopelessly confused. And annoyed. He pointed angrily toward the study door and said, accusingly, "You threw me out on my ass!"

"Because you were being a PAIN in the ass! When I've got stuff to do, I'd appreciate it if you could listen to me when I tell you to knock it off!"

"...you never used to complain."

"And you never used to endanger my job! Honestly..." Alphonse rubbed his temples. Edward made a pitiful noise beneath him. His eyes were cinched shut, almost as if he were expecting to be hit. Or to be yelled at. Alphonse was in the mood to do both at once, but that would be ridiculously counter-productive.

He ran his hand down his brother's neck instead. Edward relaxed into the touch immediately, looked horrendously relieved.

"Brother, I love you...I really, really do. I'm just tired, okay? It's nothing personal. We can do this in the morning, alright? I promise."

"...okay..."

Edward nodded, but his eyes were distrusting. Sparked new anger in the pit of Alphonse's belly.

Fine, you want PROOF?! I'll fucking show you.

Before he even knew what he was doing, he had lunged forward and pinned him, was bearing down on Edward with the entire brunt of his body weight.

"Al—" Edward gasped.

"Shut. Up." Alphonse said, and kissed him until their teeth clicked together.

Edward shuddered and clawed at the blankets beneath them, squirmed, struggled feebly to respond. He was used to Alphonse being the pliant one, and the sudden aggression seemed to confuse him. His automail arm jerked up, as if to push him away, and Alphonse pinned it.

There. Alphonse thought, trapped Edward's flesh arm to his side with a single deft motion. See how HE likes it.

Edward seemed to like it very much, indeed. Alphonse could feel the press of something hard against the curve of his ass, and despite his weight holding them down, his brother was still straining to lift his hips up, arch into the contact. His tongue snaked up and attempted to regain dominance, but Alphonse had his sibling's mouth sealed to his. Any hope Edward had of using it was frankly, out the window.

Alphonse drew back.

"Al..." His brother groaned, raising flushed lips to follow him. He looking strangely relaxed despite the muscles standing out taut along his neck.

"No." He said, before Edward even flattered him with begging. "I love you, I really do—but I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, but most of all, I'm TIRED, and I'm really just not up to it right now. I'm sorry. The world does not revolve around your libido, you know, and I for one, am going to sleep. We can do this in the morning."

He scooted over just a little and lay down, still mostly on top of his brother, nuzzled his sibling's soft hair to drive the point home. Edward gasped a bit, but he wasn't particularly concerned about the person he was using as a pillow. Edward was strong. He could take it.

"Good night, brother." He said pointedly, and flipped a stray section of blanket over them.

Edward flexed upward again, definitely uncomfortably. The hardness pressing into Al's hip did not abate, not in the slightest.

"...you're going to leave me like this?" The words came out as a single, pained whine, and Alphonse couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Angry or not, he hadn't really intended to leave his brother suffering. He'd really just planned on yelling, but dammit, Edward had such an awful habit of throwing things into chaos.

"I will let you up so you can go take care of it." He ceded, still not opening his eyes. "But don't you dare come back here and wake me up. Just go sleep in the bedroom."

Edward jerked at the mandate. "Hey, I wouldn't—"

"Yes, you would!" Alphonse growled, still residually annoyed. Man, it was hard to keep his eyes open. His brother was just so warm and comfortable...made the best furniture, really. "I know you—" Yawn. "You elbow me and knock all the covers off when you crawl in. You want up now?"

Edward squirmed a bit.

"...no." He buried his face in Alphonse's shoulder, took a deep, shuddering breath. Alphonse moved to roll off of him, but Edward's flesh arm flailed desperately, urged him to stay.

After a time, they both stilled.


It must have been karma, or Edward's automail, or both, because Alphonse did not sleep well. At all. He woke on his back, sore as hell, and damn cold because he had somehow manage to roll completely free of the blanket-pile. He had the vague thought that something was smacking him in the side, but by the time he got his bleary eyes functioning the culprit was away. Maybe just the tail-end of a dream.

And here I was worried about brother waking me up. He snorted. By the looks of it, Edward hadn't done anything untoward at all. He was simply laying there the way Alphonse had left him, automail arm stretched high above his head and covers flopped over the rest. And judging by the intensity of the moonlight, shining down through the window at the end of the hall, it probably wasn't anywhere CLOSE to dawn. Well, maybe he'd get some work done, at least. Alphonse rolled up onto his side, winced a little as he did so. He had a bit of a headache, residual from his all-nighter, but on the whole he really did feel a whole lot better.

Something smacked into him again and he scowled to recognize Edward's flesh hand, swiping blindly at his retreating flank.

"Br—" He began, and then shut his mouth promptly as the low light revealed an extremely slack-jawed face. Still asleep.

He shook his head and rolled back over to tug additional blankets over his sibling. Without his heat, his brother might get cold, and he wasn't going to have that. Edward's arm made another sleepy arc and brushed against his pants, caught briefly on the cloth. He smiled and ran his own hand over his brother's fingers, played with them a little. Really, his sibling could be adorable, when he wasn't awake to realize that he was being cute, that was—

Edward's hand closed tight, and caught him.

"Brother!" Alphonse complained for real, as a tentative tug failed to do anything. He wondered how asleep his brother really was, to be hanging on this tightly.

Edward murmured something incoherent and thrashed his head toward him, a trouble line written deep into his brow. It was strangely sweet, to know that Edward was looking for him, but at the same time, extremely frustrating.

The hell is wrong with him, that he can't just TRUST me!? Alphonse thought, incensed, as he discovered that he had to physically pry Edward's fingers off his wrist. Can't let go, even in his sleep!

Edward's arm flailed again, a little more coherently this time, and Alphonse rolled away to be sure it wouldn't latch on again, stuck his tongue at it, annoyed. His brother was certainly waking up, and then it would be back to the same-old, same-old—him trying desperately to finish things up, Edward hanging off his neck, and before they knew it the sun would be up and Edward would be trying to ambush him at the door. My life, ladies and gentlemen. Alphonse thought. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Edward made a pitiful noise from amidst his sea of blankets and raked his automail arm out, clawed away the entire bevy of blankets Alphonse had just managed to arrange.

"Now that wasn't very good of you." Alphonse told his muttering brother—Edward always talked in his sleep, and sometimes Alphonse rather needed to say something back. "I just fixed those!"

He rose up on his knees and crawled toward the sorry lump of bedding now covering his brother's knees, started slowly rolling them back up. His brother's flesh leg twitched when he touched it, and Edward called out, more intelligibly this time.

"Al..."

He looked up, half expecting to see his brother staring back at him, but Edward's eyes were still solidly shut. The wrinkle in his brother's brow was smoothing out, though, and he seemed generally more at ease.

Alphonse stroked Edward's knee again, musing.

He thought about the way his brother had sagged earlier, when he stroked his hand down his neck—the way he had eased, and even submitted, when he'd snapped and ending up snogging him. His brother hadn't always hated to be touched, had he? They'd wrestled and snuggled each other and mother and Winry when they were kids. He'd only gotten prickly about it—sealed shut—when he'd gotten the automail. When...

In the armor, he'd only had words.

And he supposed that he'd really forgotten about it, how his brother like to be petted behind the ears, or how it felt to have your arms around somebody when you told them you loved them. But then he had touched him, in the middle of the night, in a hospital bed; noticed the way his brother's broken body had reacted and lit with a new sort of fever...Dammit, he had opened this box. He.

Alphonse leaned forward, and kissed his brother.

Edward's reaction was immediate, and amazing. In one moment, he was still half-asleep, yammering and half-mad with sleep-talk. The next, he was awake and sputtering into the kiss, pushing up on Alphonse's shoulders. Looked very, very confused.

"Is it morning yet?" He asked blearily, when he could breathe again.

Alphonse smiled. "Close enough."

Edward didn't need any encouragement to roll over and tackle his sibling, shower him with messy good-morning kisses. Alphonse gasped at his enthusiasm, laughed as over-eager fingers found ticklish spots along his ribs.

Edward, encouraged, began press into harder, more persistent attacks. The nature of his aggression changed, became lustier. Alphonse tilted his head back and allowed it, let himself get lost in the feel of hard bites against his throat, then the urgent fingers tracing out the puffy swellings of weariness beneath his eyes. Edward followed each finger with a gentle kiss, breath puffing into Alphonse's eyes and making them reflexively close.

You are still here. You are alright. He remembered feeling, that first time he touched his brother in that hospital bed. That was what Edward was doing to him. Making sure that he still existed. Alphonse smiled and ran his fingers through his brother's hair, clenched down as his brother began unbuttoning his pants.

He did always like to take care of him first, didn't he? Run his hands over every part of him, like he was afraid Alphonse might disappear if he didn't. Frowning, Alphonse struggled to sit up just as Edward was messing with the buttons on his boxers; the combined motion resulted in a trapped finger and considerable confusion.

Edward's face fell immediately and he too, pulled back, when it became apparent that Alphonse did not wish him to stay. They ended up kneeling, facing each other.

"No, brother." Alphonse said, tugged Edward's hands up to kiss it. "I'm just...you first, for once. Okay?"

I'm not hard yet, anyways. He thought, but would not say. Edward would take THAT like a knife to the heart, even though it was just biology. He was still running on precious little sleep; he wasn't exactly going to rise and shine to the occasion immediately.

His brother might still read be reading into it, anyways. Edward looked at him, dubious. "Why? Don't you—"

By way of response, Alphonse simply opened his mouth to suck on Edward's thumb. His brother's eyes nearly rolled back in his head. Alphonse smirked around the digit and sucked harder, pulled back and swirled his tongue around the pad. He knew exactly what his brother had to be thinking.

"Suck me." Edward breathed. Ah yes, there it was. Alphonse drew his brother's thumb out of his mouth, nipped at it; flattened his palm out and placed open-mouthed kisses there. Edward groaned and tried to pull his hand away, but Alphonse collared the limb with steel resolve.

"Okay..." He murmured, and slid another one of his brother's fingers between his lips, lapped at the sensitive undersides just the way he would his brother's cock. Hands were so sensitive, you could feel every minute detail of the tongue stroking up them...

"Al, please!" Edward thrashed. "For the love of—FUCK, just suck me!"

"I did suck you." Alphonse said, taking care to puff air over Edward's moistened fingertips. "You just didn't specify where."

"PLEASE! I'll do anything, I'll suck you off too, I'll suck you off as many times as you want, just PLEASE, fuck!"

His brother gasped and Alphonse finally took mercy, let the arm go and went straight for his brother's pants. He'd never actually gotten them fastened up again from the night before, Alphonse noted sourly, but he couldn't exactly complain given the current circumstances. He reached into his brother's fly and tugged out his cock, and was concerned for a moment Edward might give him a facial. His brother sounded like he was about to come already.

That's weird...

He bent down and pressed the tip of his tongue to Edward's cock, and watched as all the muscles in his sibling's thighs seized at once.

"Oh fuck, Al, that's good..."

Bitter, as always. But it was worth it to see the way Edward threw his head back, feel the way his balls grew even tighter in Alphonse's grasp. Edward had no leverage with his legs folded beneath him, and Alphonse could tell the pace must be agonizing. He started tugging with a hand, too, only sucking on the head, and Edward nearly threw his back out trying to thrust even faster.

Al pulled his mouth away, kept working the shaft with his fingers alone. "Brother, do—"

He was going ask if Edward wanted to lie down, but he never got to finish. Edward got to finish, all over his face, his neck, the tangle of bedding beneath them. There was so much of him, he thought it would end and then it just kept coming, until finally Edward fell forward on his forearms and practically shoved Alphonse away.

Alphonse's only consolation was that he didn't get any in his eyes.

"Shit, Al, I'm sorry!" Edward gasped, still trembling a bit. "Oh hell, your face..." He reached up with a section of sheet and then seemed to think the better of it. "Hang on, I'll get you a washcloth."

He pushed himself to his feet, teetered, didn't look at all stable. Alphonse watched numbly as his brother staggered toward the bathroom, listened to the sound of running water. It was all over his FACE...on his right hand, too...he tried to scrub with his left and only succeeded in getting that hand sticky, too. Damn. It had been so long since they'd made so much of a mess.

Edward was back and smashing a dripping towel in his face; apparently he'd decided not to bother with something as trifling as a washcloth. Alphonse protested weakly and finally had to take the damn thing himself, because Edward was doing a much better job at smothering him than removing the mess. Once his skin was clean, he started dabbing at the sheet beneath them. Gave up, and just wadded it up with the towel and tossed the soggy thing aside. Thank goodness they weren't on a real mattress, he was feeling the fatigue hit again, and he really didn't want to have to alchemize body fluid out of porous foam just this minute.

...which made him think about why they had ended up in the hall to begin with.

"Brother? How long had it been?" He asked. Edward twitched but answered dutifully, always more obedient after sex.

"Not since the last time we did it."

"So then..." Alphonse thought of the past two weeks, of his increasingly awful work schedule. "You don't have to wait until it drives you to the hallway." He snickered.

"Hey! I was headed to the bathroom!"

"Well, you sure didn't make it there."

Edward rolled his eyes and burrowed into the remaining blankets, rolling up until only the top of his head was poking out. Alphonse laughed.

"You look like an egg roll."

His brother made an irritated noise.

"You want in, or not?"

Alphonse crawled over and gave in, let himself be folded into his brother's strong arms.

"I love you, brother." He said quietly, as Edward nuzzled his neck. "All the time. You know that, don't you?"

"Yeah." Edward whispered. "I know."

"And you can ask." Alphonse pointed out. "I don't mind so much if you ask, first."

"Mmm-hmmmmm..." Edward murmured sleepily.

"Because I'm always going to be here, you know that." He said, fondly. "I promise. I just have things I like to do too, that aren't always sex. I mean, I like sex—you know that, believe me, I wouldn't do it if I didn't like it—but there are other things that are fun, too. And it's been so long since I had the chance...you know, to have a shitty job. To go out and get curry at Leo's restaurant. Normal stuff. I don't want to miss out on all these other things, either."

He placed a kiss to the top of his brother's forehead.

"But I'm always going to be here for you, okay? I promise. So you don't have to worry, alright?"

There was no response, save for the slow rise and fall of his sleeping brother's chest.

So much for his amazing 'stamina', Alphonse thought, fondly, and closed his eyes as well.


The next thing he realized, it was morning. Nothing but sun, all the way down the hall. Fuck. Alphonse whipped the covers off and scrambled to his feet in a panic.

What time was it?

He flew into the kitchen and jerked his head toward the clock above the stove, felt his heart drop down to his FEET when he saw it. HohshithohshithohSHIT, eleven 'o clock, Pug was going to have his balls. If there was one thing the man hated, it was employees who showed up late, who didn't have the proper "team spirit", who—shit, and his arrays weren't all keyed yet. Were, in fact, about as far away from being keyed as they possibly could be—the last he had seen them, they were hopelessly imbalanced and he'd had no idea what to do about it.

In his very short life, Al had unfortunately brushed with death more times than he cared to count, but this time, he was very very certain his number was up.

"Yo." Edward said nonchalantly, walking in, obviously fresh out of the shower. His hair was dripping wet, and he was wearing nothing but a towel tucked around his hips. "Rise and shine, sleepyhead."

"BROTHER!" Alphonse howled, and all the fury of hell was howling with him. "WHY DIDN'T YOU WAKE ME UP!?"

Edward opened the fridge and took out a bottle of cider, popped the top off and took a swig directly. "Because I already called in for you." He said, and flashed him a wicked smile.

"You WHAT?!" Of all the selfish, bastardly— "I thought we went over this!!! I didn't want to have to use any more sick days on you!"

Edward finished draining the juice bottle and tossed it in the trash (no, recycling!, the nit-picky part of his mind noticed, yet another point in favor of destroying his brother slowly and painfully).

"On me? No, little brother," Edward smirked, in that patronizing way that Alphonse was going to have WORDS with the Fuhrer about, one of these days. "I'm afraid you're having an urgent meeting with the Fuhrer this morning. Classified, of course. National security and all that."

"Brother..." Alphonse said weakly.

"In fact, I don't believe you're set to get out for another oh, two or three hours. Maybe more, if he keeps you to talk about that one thing, you know."

"What one thing?"

"Exactly. Classified, remember? In fact, this meeting was SO secret, officially, you never even had it." Edward winked. "But in case you don't believe me, ask Colonel Havoc. He called your boss to make sure you'd remembered. He was very understanding about it. Said he'd just expect your project on his desk by the end of the day."

"...I owe you one." Alphonse finally conceded, and flopped into a kitchen chair. Edward sauntered over and kissed him, let the towel slip just enough to show interest.

"Hey, 's what I'm here for." He bent down again, and began attempting to suckle Alphonse's earlobe off.

It felt wonderful, but...Alphonse steeled himself and put his hands on his brother's shoulders.

"Okay then. Can you—can you bring me some toast, to the study then? If I've got two hours, I'm going to make damn sure I use them. I've got this last set of arrays to key, you see, and they're kind of kicking my ass."

His brother pursed his lips disapprovingly, but ultimately, withdrew. "...okay."

"You want help?"

No he started to snap automatically—Edward was in a towel, that always spelled disaster—but didn't. Edward had respected him earlier. And Edward had, he recalled, stayed out of his study once he'd laid out the ground rules.

Maybe, for once, he should just stop assuming his brother was guilty before he even started.

"Well, maybe..." He said instead. "What do you know about Schlephorst's earth moving work?"

"I know I've read the treatise, but...show it to me?"

"Okay."

He tripped into the study and retrieved the master-and-key arrangement he'd been working on the night before, brought it back and spread it out on the kitchen table. Edward hissed and puzzled with him, for once letting a friendly arm around his shoulder stay friendly.

"See, I'm trying to link here, on the tertiary arc." Alphonse explained. "But I can't get the cardinal elements to balance each other out! I've looked at these suckers a hundred times, what on EARTH am I missing, it doesn't—"

"...isn't this one backwards?" Edward frowned, pointing at a small smudge.

"Huh?"

"You've got Air here, but it's inverted." Said his brother. "Look. And Earth is in the other linking array, instead of Air."

Alphonse stared.

"And if..."

"...I swap those, and uninvert Air, then it all balances out." Alphonse was not sure if he wanted to kiss his brother, or kill himself. "I can't believe it. I drew it backwards."

"Al..."

"I freaking drew it backwards!" Alphonse laughed until he almost started crying. Burden, lifted.

"I had it right, I just can't use a PENCIL?!"

"You were tired." Said Edward sensibly. "It happens to the best of us."

"Yeah." Alphonse couldn't help but rib. "Like a certain someone last night, who fell asleep?"

Edward turned scarlet.

"Y-you weren't complaining!"

"HOW many blowjobs did you promise me...? HOW many did you have the stamina for..." Alphonse teased.

"...I'll show YOU stamina!"

The towel dropped, and this time, neither of them minded.


Almost exactly two hours later, Alphonse was binding up the last of his newly inked, precise and CLEAN arrays. After they'd finished with each other, in the kitchen (and the shower), Edward had sat down and helped him redo everything. They'd even had enough time after to make a proper breakfast (well, probably should be called lunch now, BUT). Alphonse whistled a little, adjusted his good tie, and stepped out into the hallway. Things were looking up.

And now, for the final hurdle. His brother was waiting for him by the door as usual, and, though logically Alphonse realized that there should be no way his brother was up for a third round in not nearly as many hours, logic had never met with Edward Elric's libido. There was certainly no reasoning with it.

"Hey..." Edward's eyes were subdued, but his hands were certainly enthusiastic enough. "I know you don't have much time, but..."

Alphonse nodded and attempted to put a hand on the doorknob, but Edward was faster.

"Two minutes." His brother whispered. "At least let me say goodbye."

And before Alphonse could react there was a hot mouth on his, and hands pulling him close despite the mass of papers wedged uncomfortably between them. He didn't struggle, because he had expected it. Edward's lips were sticky and tasted, not unpleasantly, of maple syrup.

He allowed it until those hands started wandering lower, then gently—but not too gently—nudged his brother. Edward made a brief noise, but let him go.

Stepped away.

"There," Edward said, sounding pleased with himself. "See? I'm not making you late today now, am I?"

"Well, that was certainly more than two minutes, but no, you're still not." Alphonse grinned in response. "Cause I set the kitchen clock ahead."

"What?!"

"See you!"

Alphonse ducked out the door before his brother's brain could catch up, laughing all the way.

Now this—THIS was a routine he could stand getting used to.