devils devotion

Play on Nerds

chapter 6. Familiarity Breeds Consent

Ed is awakened the next morning by a muffled sneeze delivered messily to the top of his head.

He was having a nice dream, too; a world where he recovered his limbs and Al's body, where the warfare suddenly dropped off the face of Amestris, homonculi were sent through a space-time anomaly to never return, and he was free to do as please. Such as...

And the later half of his dream had consisted of him quitting the military, mucking the rest of his days out in Rizenbul living off the pension—there was always something to do, and he and Al would do them happily together—and he didn't even care that the bastard colonel came to visit every now and then, because the man was actually pleasant on those days, smiling dryly and treating him like an equal. Just like...

'Just like what' was never finished nor answered, though, because of that disgusting sneeze to his hair.

Ed blinks slowly and puts his hand up to the top of his head, grimacing and slowly coming awake. Somebody was in bed with him. Not Al—Al couldn't sneeze, nor was he particularly warm or yielding—but maybe... Hopes flares in him and he raises his right hand quickly.

Pale morning light glints on cold metal. Ed stares at it for a moment, then sighs. Just a dream. Al's still... And I've still got...

Wait a minute...then what the hell had sneezed in his hair?!

Feeling a growing dread in the pit of his stomach, he looks up slowly.

"Sorry," Colonel Mustang is mumbling, eyes still closed, "I think I inhaled some of your hair; it itched like hell, but I really didn't mean to sneeze on you..."

Ed stares; his eyes grow wide. Wider. Wider. Until—

"AHHHHH!" he screams in a panic, kicking out and rolling away, flattening himself against the adjacent wall. "AHHHHHH!"

"Ah?!" echoes Mustang, sitting up and blinking as though he too is startled; he actually slips on imaginary gloves and snaps his fingers twice before waking up completely—at least, as completely as he could without coffee. He shakes his head as though clearing out cobwebs and peers Ed in a daze, dark eyes still clouded slightly. "Guh..? Fullmetal...?"

Ed kicks out spasmodically with his automail foot, preventing any chance of the man getting any closer to him; he is wide awake now, and trying to remember what the hell had happened. And why was he naked?!

It wasn't drinking; he didn't drink because the shit went right to his head, and he liked to have a clear head when he raged about this or that—perhaps the tea he'd had at the restaurant had been spiked...?

Tea? Restaurant? When did I go to a restaurant? Why did I go to a restaurant?

Right, he'd been following the nasty colonel, said nasty colonel who was flopping back down on the mattress carelessly and halfheartedly using a pillow to shield himself from Edward's deadly kicks; but what the hell had he wanted to follow that bastard for? It wasn't as though he cared what the man did out on his dates, unless one of his conquests would—unrealistically speaking—have some ties to the Philosopher's Stone; he frowns and ceases his jabs with his automail foot—he is remembering something odd now, something wet and swirling around his toes like a viper, and something like blunt sawteeth grinding where his metal arm met his shoulder—Ah, fuck -

No wonder he was so tired; he'd just had an encounter with a wild mustang.

Ed collapses suddenly against the headboard, breath coming out of him in a whoosh. And there he'd been, so full of righteous anger, and he'd gone and done it with that bastard colonel again

"God...early," Mustang manages, as though speaking was an effort. "Quit...spazzing... Go to...sleep...again...?" He cracks an eye open and gives Ed a slightly disbelieving stare; 'Why the fuck aren't you as tired as I am?' is clearly what's written in it, and the blonde charges forward with a cocky grin he doesn't quite feel.

"I see your reputation's a bit overblown, bastard," he taunts, "if you're tired of me already."

"Not tired...of you," the older man counters with determination, slowly uprooting himself from sleep, "tired from you. Aren't you, too...?"

Ed shrugs, feeling bad suddenly, and shoves Mustang back down. "Just forget about it," he mutters. "Enjoy your nap, stupid."

"Many more hours...'til daylight, Fullmetal... You should...shut up and sleep, too...?"

Ed has to grin at how it comes out sounding like a question. "Nah, I'm too wired," he replies, and he is—what the hell was happening with this situation?; he had let that bastard put his hands all over him yesterday, and he had slept deep enough to have peaceful dreams; what was so different about now?

Right, right. I've worked real hard to wear this bastard down—doing pretty well at it, considering the fact that it's been like stumbling around in a mineshaft in the dark—so I shouldn't willingly put distance between us now. That's just stupid. Wasted effort doesn't sit well with me; I might not understand what sort of sickness compels me, but I'm determined to make that bastard mine.

He slides back under the covers, skittish but trying to cover it with confidence; Mustang grins fuzzily and tugs him closer.

"You probably won't appreciate it, but I've had my share of women who were for some ungodly reason as energetic as you are that," he admits sleepily, and starts massaging skillfully at the blonde's shoulders. "I just had to learn how to use my hands to put them asleep in a...different way."

Ed stiffens once, then relaxes a bit. "A cheap trick; I bet anyone can do it."

A laugh, low and close to his ear; Ed feels the muscles of his abdomen clench and he doesn't understand why. "Hardly. It requires years of honing one's skill; you, with your hands, probably wouldn't be able to do it."

"Of course not," Edward mutters, flinching as though struck, "not with these abominable hands. With metal like this, I'd probably end up crushing someone's collarbone or something..."


"Nothing. And I told you, stupid, to go to sleep already."

Another laugh; the hand is removed from his automail shoulder to stritch lightly at the back of his head. Dammit, a weak spot, Ed thinks, too enraptured by those short nails to even bother being irritated that his hands are unclenching from balled fists and his shoulders are drooping into relaxation. Fuck, was that rhythmic. Scratch-ie, scratch-ie, scratch-ie went those nails against the nape of his neck, to the base of his skull, and behind his ears; there is a happy noise coming from someone's throat, and Ed is startled to find that it is his own.

For a moment, the dark-haired man pauses, amused. "Are you...purring, Fullmetal?"

"No. Yes... Maybe?" Edward growls then, unpleasantly. "Who cares? I suppose it's odd for dogs to purr, hunh?"

"Then this says a lot about you, indeed." There seems to be a hidden meaning to the words, but Edward doesn't catch them, and quite frankly, he doesn't give a fuck. All his brain seems to be able to do is clamor loudly for more scratchies.

"Quit talking in riddles. I hate you so much. Keep scratching or I'll kill you."

"Certainly," is the murmured agreement; fingers start their ministrations again, and Ed allows his eyes to sink closed...just for a brief minute.

When he opens his eyes again, sunlight is flooding through the room and Colonel Mustang is sitting up in bed reading a book.

Ed blinks up from the man's lap; for some reason, his head hurt... Oh, right, head injury. He doesn't appreciate the fact that he's still sans clothing, that his head is pounding to a rhythm like bongo drums, or that he is gross and sticky and nasty and sleeping with his head sprawled across Colonel Mustang's thighs, but...

The apartment does have a shower, there's bound to be some aspirin lying around somewhere, the bastard colonel is—for once—keeping his mouth shut; the bed is warm and there is a pleasant ache from somewhere between his own legs—that ache and those infuriatingly long limbs are starting feel a little bit like home.

Mustang hasn't noticed that the blonde is awake, but he senses the movement and ruffles fingers through Edward's hair idly, eyes never wavering from his book; the gesture is offhand and instinctive, and Ed fights a blush at how pleased it makes him feel. It's probably the proper time to get up and get out right about now, but he insistently closes his eyes again and revels in memories of the previous night.

Too many things to think about, and not all of them are pleasant—Al, how the hell was he going to tell Al?—but he closes his mind to them and reflects on sensation. Admittedly, Ed hasn't had too much to really go on, but some sort of animalistic intuition tells him that yes, indeed, the bastard colonel was quite skilled at what he did—not the godlike status he had achieved at the office, but certainly noteworthy—and that they still hadn't had sex, which was something he couldn't even understand to begin with; with girls it was almost easy, there was an opening for a guy to fit into, but with other guys...?

Ed makes an odd squeaking noise, aware that he's reddening deeply; Mustang looks down with a "hmm?" and notices the blonde trying to escape via burial under the bedsheets; he catches him by the wrists and drags him back out. "What are you doing?" he asks confusedly, a slight furrow to his brow.

"N-Nothing! Shut up! You're such an insufferable bastard!" Ed hisses, trying to jerk away as though burned; he is being burned, in some strange way—he's too hot, and way too aware of slightly calloused thumbs stroking at the bones of his wrist(and the joints of the other)—it was stifling and unwanted; he hated being touched, because it was always so dangerous, with too many people caressing his flesh gently before plunging in the knives. And sure, the bastard colonel had been touching him everywhere, and quite frequently now, but even that was stupid; he was just waiting for the blade, that was all, waiting for it so he could dodge.

"...Well," retorts Mustang in mock exasperation, picking up his book again, "excuse me. The next time you're laying there begging me to put these skillful hands all over you, I think I'll just tell you to do it yourself."

"Sh-Shut up," Ed spits, crimsoning at the memory of how pitiful he'd acted the night before; how he very nearly had begged, because that moment would have worth begging for—all heat and head-to-toe ecstasy; a sweet and blessed release—and he chews angrily on an automail knuckle, hearing his teeth grind against the metal.

"Stop that," the older man says idly, tugging the steel out of Edward's mouth. "You'll hurt yourself."

"It's just fucking metal," Ed grumbles in return, sitting up and wrapping the sheets around himself tightly, still unable to stop his infernal blushing. "It doesn't bleed, it doesn't feel, it doesn't grow warm on it's own—"

"Of course it feels, it has to feel something," Mustang interrupts curtly, a frown creasing his face. "Otherwise you'd be going around breaking things left and right, not able to tell that you're putting too much pressure on them."

"I break shit all the time; are you kidding me? I'll get mad, start squeezing cups and pencils and shit, and they just snap in my hands."

"Oh, please. You're just pissed off—you do that with your left hand, too."

"Look, like right now?—I can't even tell if these sheets are made of silk or stone."

"Neither, actually; I think they're cotton."

"That's not the point," Ed grouses, upset at the bastard's offhand attitude. "The point is, this hand isn't good for anything 'til you want somebody beat upside the head—you'd know, see what I mean?—but not for much else."

"It's metal. You can turn it into things—a blade, a fork, a fucking wire whisk—how the hell is that useless? It's got to be the most versatile damn thing I've ever seen."

"No, no! What the fucking hell? Why are you being so damned difficult?!"

"You're the one being difficult, Fullmetal," Mustang points out with infuriating superiority. He shuts his book and tosses it on the nightstand, grabbing the blonde's right arm before he can move away. "You ought to count yourself lucky that you have this—most amputees spend their entire lives saving up for a halfway decent piece of automail, and you were able to afford not only one limb, but two, and some pretty primo work, too, from the little I know of engineering."

"I'm not ungrateful for it," Ed corrects, trying halfheartedly to yank his wrist back, to no avail. "I'm just saying that I don't have to worry about getting it busted up, 'cuz it's not like it hurts."

That was a lie, the damned steel was packed to the brim with nerve endings, and it hurt like a fucking bitch whenever someone wanted to play kick the can with his arm, but he wasn't about to let that bastard colonel know it. It was probably the reason why he kept it covered up, why he hardly let anyone except Winry and Al and Auntie Pinako see it, because too many people would start to think of too many ways of dismantling it; Barry the Chopper was a perfect example, a man who had known that the way to truly disarm him was to unload his automail arm; Cornello was just a stupid ass who thought his watch was the reason he could do alchemy without using a transmutation circle, thank someone other than God for that—he hated people eyeballing his arm, or getting their fingers too close to certain areas of it; he could still see the bolts and scraps flying when Scar had exploded it alchemically from the inside. In short, letting people put their hands all over his automail was something of a trust issue with him; he didn't just let anyone do it, hell, he still sometimes twitched when Winry did it, and she was his fucking mechanic—

Something wrong, out of place. Ed acts before he even thinks of it—someone's hands are poking around under his arm, where all the nerve endings are exposed, and he panics—slamming his hands together and transmuting his arm into a blade; he swings his arm upward blindly and hears the chunk of a knife sticking solidly into wood. He looks down and sees pitch-dark eyes widen only a fraction in surprise; Ed lets out his breath shakily and retracts his handblade from the headboard where it had stuck.

"Colonel," he says flatly, only slightly out of breath, "kindly keep your wandering hands away from my arm."

Mustang blinks once, and shrugs it off. "...Sure." He doesn't say anything else.

For a long time they stare at each other.

"You're...not mad?" Ed asks after a while, restoring his arm to normal.

"Why would I be? It's not you like, ah, actually stabbed me."

"Oh!" Feeling sheepish, the blonde claps his hands and fixes the headboard, clasping his automail protectively with his other arm. Silence reigns supreme for a few more excruciating minutes, until Ed can stand it no longer.

"Come on, say something!" he explodes desperately. "Doesn't it bother you that I don't trust you enough?!"

And those eyes widen yet again, noticably. "Oh, was that it?" Mustang replies, trying to sound casual. "I'd simply assumed I'd caught you off-guard, but... I see." He laughs once, somewhat harshly. "Well, I probably wouldn't trust me, either."

No, no, no; it was the wrong choice of words, and Ed tries to think of something to say that will repair the situation. It probably wasn't even a trust issue, because that bastard had already seen a side of him that he wouldn't willingly show to anyone, but it was a trust issue, too, because the slightest slip with automail nerves, no matter how good the intention, would still end up stabbingly painful. "Okay, okay." He exhales loudly, tiredly. "Look, don't be mad—I sometimes get nervous when Winry fixes up my automail, and she's the one who designed it. It's nothing personal, it's just that with all the serial killers who have taken a liking to busting up my arm, I'm kinda touchy about people jabbing their fingers all into it."

"...I'm not mad," Mustang insists, rubbing his temples; he doesn't look all that mad, but rather somewhat bereaved. "It was terribly invasive of me; I'm sorry."

"No, don't be sorry, either—it's not like I'm comparing you to a serial killer or anything, 'cuz I know you're not; slightly perverted and a total bastard, sure, but not a pyscho or anything—but I need an adjustment period, okay? I'm not...used to you, I guess you'd say; it's totally my fault for being so uptight about this kind of stuff, it's not your fault at all—"

His stuttered ramblings earn him a genuine smile from the older alchemist, and Ed grins back contagiously, upset at how relieved and chipper that smile makes him feel. It was uncharacteristic of the man, that was all, to look so down on himself; he just wanted the bastard to go back to normal, that was all. The blonde clears his throat awkwardly and fidgets, unable to meet that mirthful gaze. "I'll tell you what; go ahead, ask me anything. About my arm and leg, you know? I'm... I'm not too suave when it comes to people putting their hands all over my automail, but it's alright if you're just curious about it."

There is silence for a long time, until Mustang finally raises his head and regards the blonde evenly, eyes growing dark. "And if I insisted on handling it?"

Ed blinks and swallows, feeling an unnecessary rush of fear come over him. He's just bluffing, that's all; that bastard likes to bluff, and he's waiting for me to call it. But how do I call it? I don't want him anywhere near my fucking limbs, but if I tell him that, he'll...

He'd what? Leave? Ed really doubted that he would do something so drastic; the Colonel was a bastard, sure, but he was an odd sort of bastard, the kind that was getting harder and harder to hate, and easier and easier to...well, something besides hate. He won't leave, no, but Ed senses that the gap between them would be just as abyssmal if he did.

It was a trust issue, sure—Ed sits up suddenly and straightens his spine, taking a deep breath—but he is starting to realize that it wasn't an issue at all, because he did trust that bastard colonel, and trust is just another form of—

"Listen," Ed says aloud, and holds out his arm tentatively, "don't think that you've gotten away with anything, you pompous jerk. I'll let you stick your snap-happy fingers into whatever orifices tickle your fancy, but only because I'll be the one calling the shots, and you'd better—"

"—listen?" he finishes lamely, eyeing Mustang with morbidly disbelieving eyes. No, he wasn't imagining it; the color was draining out of the man's face slowly, only to be replaced with color of a more awkward, pinkish sort—no, he wasn't imagining it, and yes, he was sure that someone in the world had just created an airborne swine chimera—because that bastard colonel was blushing, and horribly at that.

"What the hell?" Ed explodes, sitting back on his heels with a huff. "Here I am, trying to tell you that I tru—that I...that I don't hate you, and here you you are... ruining it for me!" he ends irritably.

"No, no, God..." Mustang is not gaping now, but rather, trying to hide his laughter, which serves to annoy Edward even more. "...It's not you, it's just that...your wording... Hah...!" He barks out a laugh and quickly stifles it with his fist—his fist, which was a shame, because Ed's fist had been vying for first place.

"You know what, then? Forget it," the teen broods moodily, snatching his arm back and trying to kick his way out of bed; a hand lands lightly on his shoulder and the muffled chuckling disappears as though it had never been.

"Don't... Don't get so upset, all right?" the Colonel requests, suddenly sober and seeming to understand the gravity of the situation. "I just took something you said out of context. I wasn't laughing at you." He takes a deep breath and shakes hair out of his eyes. "The truth is, about that whole manhandling thing... I was just messing with you—completely uncalled for, I know—but don't worry about it. I actually wasn't expecting you to agree; I'd counted on you getting angry, so..." He smiles then, a seemingly real smile. "The fact that you were willing was enough."

Ed frowns for a long time. "You're really stupid, you know that?" he says finally, grabbing the older man's wrist in his left hand and settling back down on the bed, raising his right arm over his head. "Saying all these things like 'testing' and 'willingness'." He takes that hand—that dangerous hand—and passes it lightly over his automail port, doing his best to supress a recoil. It didn't hurt, but it could; couldn't everything, though? so he ought to let the bastard have this. "Haven't I been willing in everything; haven't I suffered and bled and served enough for you?" His mouth twists in an unpleasant sneer. "I've been a good dog, but all I've gotten out of it is the bone I'm constantly picking with you."

Mustang looks pained; he tries to pull his hand away, but Ed's fingers are like a vise. "Stop... Stop calling yourself a dog," he says lowly, almost desperately. "I'd use it as a technicality, a low blow because I'd always envisioned you as the sort of beast that would never be leashed, but—"

But Ed is pissed, and he's on a roll. "And you were a wild horse that wouldn't tame, but I never went around saying anything about your shit, did I?" He forces fingers into the opening under his metal arm, hissing at the contact, unsure of either pleasure or pain. "I'd probably gripe about even Al jabbing 'round my automail, and you think that the fact that I gave in to your desire was a passing grade for a fucking test?"

"No, no—stop, you're going to hurt yourself—"

"Don't—care," Ed grits out through clenched teeth; Mustang's fingers are inadvertantly snagging against the nerve endings in his efforts to get away, and it does hurt, but he certainly doesn't want to hear concern from that bastard. "S' different—from you..."

"I know, and I'm sorry—what the hell do I have to do to prove that to you...?"

"You could—stop—acting like it's...a fucking...chore...—Maybe... Maybe..." Ed is nearly crying now, and he blames it on the automail. It has nothing to do with the problems that always seem to arise between he and that bastard colonel, especially when things were just going right, nothing to do with that shit at all. "Maybe I'd like it if you, just once, did something for me..."

Mustang stills, regarding him warily. "...What?"

Ed stills, too. "Just once, take me seriously."

"I do take you seriously."

"No, no, you humor me; offer me indulgence on a whim. I haven't given you any part of myself on a whim, out of an urge to form some sort of mock understanding with you; I won't do it now."

The dark-haired man glowers sternly. "I warned you, Fullmetal, not to make more of this than what it is."

And Edward remembers, of course he remembers, because it had been that statement that had finally done him in; no, he wouldn't make more of this than what it was, because quite frankly, it was what he made of it, he and that bastard colonel alike—

"You're always laughing at me, on the inside," Ed grumbles aloud, not relinquishing his hold. "It's illogical to say that I trust you, but that I don't trust your intentions, but I can't help it; that's really how I feel..." He gestures with his metal arm, and feels a twinge of pain. "Like with my automail. I trust you enough to take it off, but only if I've got my own hands there, guiding you."

"Then that's not trust," Mustang counters definitively, using his free hand to rake the hair back from his face. "I understand where you're coming from—in regards to you, I mostly feel the same way—but it's not trust; it's alliance. It's easy to have confidence in the marionette that you control."

"So says you, who would know—you're still the puppeteer, aren't you, even though the directions for the stage have changed a bit, eh?"

"Yes... Yes, I am. So..." The Colonel sits back on his free hand and bares his teeth under the subterfuge of pleasantry—"...what would you ask for, in return for dancing properly and untangling your strings? Would the puppet like to become a real boy, like in the fairy tale?"

"First I was your dog, now I'm your doll?" Ed spits, eyes narrowing. "I don't want any of it. I want... I want...!"


"Oh, hell, how do I put it?!" the blonde chokes out, face contorting in a mix of misery and wrath. "I... I want the night to never end, because we both end up fucking things up in the morning!"

Stunned silence for a minute; it takes Mustang longer than usual to recover. He flounders most ungracefully, like a fish out of water, for several pregnant moments, so many things swimming in the dark depths of his eyes; he eventually shuts his mouth and blinks once, slowly, forcing his face back to normal. When he finally does speak, it is in the mildest tone Ed has ever heard from the man. "Would you, then, like to start over?"

Ed blinks. Start over? Go back to the way things used to be...? "No, no, for the last fucking time, I'm not gonna just forget this entire thing took place—"

"...Not that. You're misinterpreting my words." The older man exhales loudly, the stiffness slowly exiting his body. "Start over. We'll each say our piece—I'm an incorrigable bastard; sure, you're impetuous brat; all right—and then...well, we'll start over; stretch and open our eyes as though the morning's just begun, without any of our usual bickering or regr—or repercussions," he amends at the end, closing his eyes. "Sound fair?"

Fair...equivalent exchange. Ed wants questions answered, wants a definitive yes or no, but he's starting to understand that he won't get them—not yet, anyway. "Okay," he agrees, exhaling as well. "Let me go first." He waits for a nod before plunging on. "It's demeaning to say it, but I'd willingly submit to all of your stupid whims as long as you understood just how much of me it costs." He takes a deep breath, cursing at that telltale blush, and focuses on keeping his voice steady. "You've got all this power over me, and I should hate it—but I don't. I don't particularly like; I'm uncomfortable with it, to say the least, but I can live with it, if it means living with you. You are an incorrigable bastard, but you're the bastard I know, the bastard who's game I'm familiar with playing, the bastard who's..." He shrugs, and grins sheepishly. "Well, the bastard who's not so much of a bastard anymore," he admits, looking away.

Mustang's face doesn't change. "And you would ask of me, in return...?" he prompts blandly, quirking a solitary winged brow.

"I want you to stop fighting me over this," Edward says resolutely, fingers tightening around the older alchemist's wrist. "I want you to submit to my whims—not to humor me, but because you respect me, and take me seriously. I... Fuck, I want you to want me; I want to know that I can come to you, and you won't push me away—that you'll stop with this indecision, because it's not doing any good for you or me." He pauses, racks his brain for something else. "Oh, and, uh... I want my watch back. I-I left it with you in a sort of angry fit; I really didn't mean what I said about quitting the military... I need my watch if there's any hope of me restoring Al..."

Which reminds him that he has to go home sometime soon, because he promised Al that he'd be home last night, and last night was already little more than a memory; Ed stays still, though, because the bastard's reply was important, important enough to wait for.

"You've learned by now that my promises mean next to nothing," Mustang finally says, slowly and evenly, "so I won't delude you by offering them. Even if I said them with the intent of honoring them, I still can't say that I'll do all these things you ask; it's not in my nature to give in so easily, and it's also up to you to understand that my indecision is well-founded—I'll try, however, and I hope that will suffice. And, ah, if you'll let go of my hand, I can go get you your watch. It's in the rolltop desk over there."

Ed doesn't let go. "I'll get it before I go. I want to hear what you've gotta say first." He smiles disarmingly. "And don't worry about it. The fact that you're willing is enough."

Mustang catches the joke and grins dryly. "Your charm is through your ignorance," he confesses, leaning his head back against the pillows; "you're not even aware that you're doing it. And you probably won't believe it when I tell it to you, but you're the first person whom I've let get this close to me—you're different and unmanageable, so I tried to handle you in a different way—and I'm still not as certain as I used to be about how effectively I've collared you. No, I suppose that's a bad choice of words—you were always more dear to me than just a dog of the military, so—"

He cuts of abruptly, brain seeming to catch up with his mouth, coloring slightly; Ed gapes for a moment too, slack jaws spreading wider and wider into a sort of disbelieving grin—finally, finally he and that bastard have reached some sort of mutual understanding—he hastily closes his mouth so as not to discourage the older man; it wouldn't do to have him stop now, not when they were finally making some progress, and he tries his best to wait patiently, without fidgeting.

Mustang clears his his throat haltingly and passes a hand over his eyes. "I'm starting to think that our roles have been reversed," he mutters, nearly to himself, "because you're the one who seems to have collared me. I've always found myself breaking rules for you that I wouldn't have even considered bending for someone else; you were cunning and quick-witted and ambitious, and I've always found some sort of appeal in that. I can't find a way to effectively put it into words. You're... You're...tempting," he concedes around the end, looking pained.

Ed takes a moment to absorb it—tempting, as in good food or wine?—a strange fluttering in the pit of his stomach. Hungry, he must be hungry—it's a bit late in the morning now, probably time for lunch—because he won't believe that he's getting all nervous and awkward again, that he's reverting to the symptoms of a schoolgirl crush. Tempting, a word that could mean either criticism or praise; he is appalled at how much he would love to be worshipped, at how much he would like to snag and collar this pretentious bastard of a man.

But there was always the issue of equivalent trade. Edward swallows anxiously and waits to hear what he will have to pay. "And what would you want in return, for your indulgence?" he asks slowly, eyes serious.

There is a moment in which the older alchemist looks surprised, but it is gone in a flash. "I don't want anything in return," he replies simply, "save your devotion."

Devotion. The blonde blushes and turns his face to the side hurriedly, crushing his burning face into a pillow. "Devotion," he grumbles aloud; "what the fuck is that? You just want another face to be added to your hordes of admirers?"

Devotion; all that bastard colonel wanted in return was devotion. But what the hell did that mean? Idol-worship? Adoration, praise, submission? Devotion wasn't love, it most certainly could not be love, because they didn't love each other, they...they... Well, maybe they trusted each other, and Ed shuts his mind off to the belief that sometimes trust was just another form of—

"Devotion," he repeats, putting that trust mindset in order, and lets go of Mustang's wrist. "Right, gotcha. Go on, then. You want to poke around my automail? Be my guest; I won't stop ya. I'll even let you take it off, 'cuz I'm that nice of a guy." He grins, shaky due to nervousness. "When you've got my arm off, I can't fight back. And when you've got my leg off, I can't run away. I'll be well and truly caught; how would you like that?"

But Mustang pulls his hand back; one of his fingers is bleeding from being pinched between the metal. "I'd like it," he says quietly, flexing his fingers, "if you would make me breakfast like you promised."

Promises, devotion—hell, Ed was starting to feel like he'd entered some sort of alternate universe, some sort of paraellel dimension. "What the fuck?" he grouses, sitting upright. "I finally work up the courage to let you take off my automail, and now you're trying to tell me you just want breakfast?"

"I'm hungry, Fullmetal," the Colonel replies mildly, face contrite.

"Fine, fine,"the blonde hisses, throwing sheets aside and struggling out of bed with a huff. "I'll make you your damned breakfast, and then I'm gonna take a shower. And when I'm done that, I'm so out of here—I need my watch back, and I've got some things to do with Al."

He refuses to admit how glad he is on the inside—he would have endured it, sure, had the bastard insisted upon it, but he wouldn't have been comfortable with it—because that would be like admitting that he was willing to offer up his devotion to that insufferable man, a thought that was completely and utterly ludicrous; he'll instead pretend to be angry, angry that his offer was brushed off so lightly, that stripping down one of his biggest defenses was looked upon as little more than an amusing bluff.

"Don't forget your clothes, either," Mustang reminds him helpfully. "I went through all the effort of having them washed, you know."

Ed stops, doing his best to ignore the fact that he was standing in the middle of the room completely naked, and open for scrutiny—which he was receiving, by the way, openly and appreciatively—and he crimsons noticably. "A-And...I'll bring those clothes you lent me back over, too...Al washed 'em, I think."

"I wouldn't worry about it; tell you what, they're yours." The older man grins congenially. "They were too small for me, anyway, and they look better on you."

"Just what are you trying to imply?" Ed growls through a forced smile, but he doesn't force the issue, doesn't feel like wrecking the atmosphere with a temper tantrum; instead he stalks out of the room, trying to put some sort of attractive wiggle to his step—Mustang bursts out laughing and Ed slams the door shut loudly; if those were the rewards for his efforts, then that bastard could rot in hell.

He makes breakfast again, this time for the two of them, and sets the table as best as he can, seeing as how the Colonel's apartment appeared to be lacking in the most basic necessities, such as silverware—he has to hunt through four cabinents and the refrigerator before finally finding enough forks and knives to eat with—and he pours coffee for the both of them, too, though he isn't an avid fan of the brew.

"A shame; you put clothes on," comes a mildly amused voice from the hallway; Ed looks up and snarls at Colonel Mustang, who somehow manages to look even sexier having just rolled out of bed. "I suppose I'd have to do some begging to see you making breakfast in the nude, hmmm?"

"Eat your fucking toast," Ed retorts, slamming the dishes down on the table with more force than was necessary. "And quit saying pervy stuff like that; it gets on my nerves."

"Temper, temper," Mustang chides mockingly, but digs into his bacon with uncharacteristic speed. "You can't blame a man for dreaming, can you?"

"Sh-Shut up. I'm getting in the shower." Ed turns abruptly to stomp away, but a hand touches him lightly on the hip.

"Come on, you ought to eat now," the Colonel invites, grinning around a mouthful of eggs. "You take monstrous showers; by the time you get out, it'll be cold."

Breakfast together. Breakfast with Colonel Mustang. Ed sits down in his chair with a thump, dully appalled at how right the situation feels. It should feel weird, awkward, and out of place; instead he finds no beat skipped when he asks for the salt, and no uncomfortable silence when the Colonel teases him about being an awful cook.

Promises, devotion. He wouldn't make more of it than what it was, because quite frankly, it was what he made of it, and the fact that both of them were willing to make something of it—well, that was enough.

Ed grins and sings as he showers, being purposefully loud and off-key; when he exits the bathroom he is greeted with sarcastic applause, and he gives a mock bow, digging around in the rolltop desk drawer for his watch—it is there, and as a matter of fact, it looks like it's actually been polished—he dresses in his normal attire and crams the silver in his pocket, stepping into his boots.

"Now what?" he inquires politely of Colonel Mustang, who is engrossed in the morning paper.

Pages are ruffled, and a pair of dark eyes regard him somberly over the newsprint. "Now we play the waiting game."

Ed frowns. "The waiting game?" He doesn't like the sound of it at all.

"Yes, the waiting game. Regardless of how we feel about each other, the outside world hasn't stopped moving around us, you know. We're in quite the dangerous position, you and I."

Dangerous position...the military. A relationship that would most likely end up with their discharges from the ranks. His watch, and Al. Ed swallows, and makes a face at how disgusting it tastes. "So you mean to tell me that now that we've finally gotten all of the issues worked out between ourselves, that now we've gotta deal with the issues brought up by everyone else?"

"Yes, and no. Yes, I'm afraid that we'll meet unprecedented resistance from both ally and enemy alike on this, however..." Mustang's nose wrinkles in an uncommonly endearing frown—" you really think that you and I have smoothed out all the kinks between us, either...?"

Ed grumbles, and yanks on his red overcoat. "Fuck you," he curses with feeling, "and the horse you rode in on; you just keep ruining this for me, reminding me that no matter how much progress we've made, we're still gonna end up having all these... all these...problems!"

The Colonel rises—Ed thinks for a moment that he's going to sweep him up into his arms or something—but instead pats him, once, on the head, crossing over to the fridge to add some milk to his coffee.

Ed sighs—it wasn't as though he didn't understand, he had some issues with the whole thing, too—and stuffs his hands in his pockets, heading for the door. He has no clue when he'll be coming back—dangerous, it was dangerous to come back, what with all of those promises and devotion—but he can't say that he doesn't care, because he does care, he cares quite a bit, and the fact that he does fills him with bitter self-loathing.

I should want to kick that bastard, not kiss him.

"I'm telling Al," he says aloud, rooting himself firmly for an argument.

"By all means," Mustang concedes smoothly, without hesitation. "Your brother would keep your secret, and he has a right to know..." He smiles then, over the rim of his cup. "Besides, I like Alphonse. If I had to choose which overprotective, irate brother that I'd have to deal with, I'd like it to be him."

"I'll tell him to kill you extra slowly," Ed promises sourly, the grin on his face belying his words.

"And you're hoping that your little brother will beat me up so badly that I'll have no choice but to let you nurse me back to health, is that it?"

"N-Not even," the blonde stutters, unable to stop the mental images. "You can just drop dead!"

Mustang smirks, stretching confidentally. "And who'd be left to take care of you, hmm?"

"Hmph, you overblown bastard..." Ed tugs the door open. "I hope you choke on my leftovers and die; then I'll toast bread on you."

He shuts the door on rueful snickering, leans against it, head to the sky; he lets out a breath, grins from the heart, and sets off down the hallway.

It was nice to be back on their old footing—hate.