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Love is a Battlefield

chapter 3. escalating tensions

"I'm going to get him. I'm going to get him. I'm going to—"

"Get him, Brother. Yes, I've heard." Fletcher looked up from his alchemy textbook, and frowned. "You've been acting really weird ever since yesterday. What did Edward do to you?"

"Nothing! Really!" Russell offered his best placating smile, and amended, "Nothing that I can't get him back for, I mean."

Fletcher could only sigh at this. "You're obsessed over him, Brother. You keep talking about how you're going to 'get' Edward, about how he's going to regret toying with you..."

"I am not obsessed with Edward Elric!"

"Then why are you reading a book about auto-mail?" Fletcher pointed at the book in his brother's hands; as he had said, it was about the construction and composition of popular auto-mail. Russell blushed and put the book aside, and his brother sighed again. "I don't mind it, Brother, I really don't. It's just... I've never seen you act like this before. You keep telling me that it's just a game and that you don't have any feelings for him, but..."

"I don't!" Russell jumped to his feet. "He's annoying and egotistic, he enjoys baiting me, not to mention—"

"Brother?" The younger Tringham marked his place, and reached over to put his hand on his brother's wrist. "I think... it's a good thing, that you're interacting with someone other than me."

"That's absurd." Russell frowned. "It's just a diversion from my research. A small diversion. I just... have to plan carefully to beat him, leave nothing to chance."

Despite himself, Fletcher had to laugh. "Is that why you were reading those naughty books earlier?"

"What!?" Russell's face was a study in horror. "How did you... why did you... Fletcher..."

A giggle. "You were sneaking around so much that I knew you were up to something. So, I took a quick look at what kinds of books were in that section... Say, Brother? Can two guys really—"

"Fletcher Tringham!"

"I know, Brother, I know. I'm too young and innocent to worry about those sorts of things." Fletcher's smile became wistful. "But... I probably won't ever get to experience that, will I?"

"O-of course you will! There's no need for you to worry, or..." He couldn't finish the sentence.

"Brother... you know that I'm not going to be around forever. You really should find someone that you like and settle down. If it's not Edward, that's fine, but considering what's happening and what's in the future, maybe..."

"You're being ridiculous." Russell sat back down, and reached for the alchemy book. "There's an answer, and I'm going to find it. You and I are going to open up our own plantation, we're going to become famous, and you'll be doing the work that you love to do. That's what the future has in store for us. All right?"

"O-of course, Brother. And that sounds wonderful, it rea—" His speech was cut off by a hacking cough.

Russell's entire body froze at this. "Fletcher? Are you..."

"I'm fine, Brother. It's just... a little worse now, that's all. It always gets that way at this time of year." He tried a reassuring smile. "We've still got time."

The elder Tringham nodded. "Just once. I want to beat Edward Elric at least once. Then I can settle down without thinking about him all the time. Everything's... going to be fine, Fletcher. I promise you."

His brother tried to stifle a cough, to force a smile on his face. "Like I said, Brother... even if we create that plantation I'd like, you can still settle down with someone other than me, you know. I think you've got enough love in you for two people."

"For the last time, Fletcher, I don't like Edward El—"

"Excuse me! Are you Russell Tringham?"

Both of the blonds spun to face the door. There, a large smile on his face, was a black-haired man with glasses and a blue military uniform. Russell stood up. "I'm Russell Tringham. What do you want?"

"I'm Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes; pleasure to meet you, I'm sure. Fletcher, I'm going to have to borrow your brother for a bit. Do you mind?"

"N-no..." The younger Tringham smiled, despite himself. Alphonse had told him quite a bit about Hughes, and if Alphonse trusted him so much... "Just be sure to bring him back soon, okay? I don't want to get stuck on a hard problem if he can help me."

"Fletcher!" Russell's blue eyes swept from his brother, to the military man. "How do you know who we are, and what do you want with me?"

Maes sighed. "I work in the Investigation Department." Seeing the defensive look on Russell's face, he added, "Don't worry, I'm not here on official business." Hughes's voice sank to a low whisper, so that even Fletcher couldn't overhear him. "I need to speak with you, in private. It's about Edward."

Russell gave one last look at his brother, who nodded slightly. Bowing his head in defeat, he whispered, "Fine."

"Brilliant! We'll take my car!" Hughes wrapped an arm around Russell's, and started dragging him away. His voice was raised to a near-bellow. "By the way, have you seen a picture of my daughter? Her name's Alicia, and she's the cutest thing in the whole world! Here!" He shoved a picture into Russell's hand, preventing the boy from reaching for his Red Stone. "Cute, isn't she? Absolutely adorable, isn't she? You'd love to see her, wouldn't you?"

"But..."

"Well, if you insist!" Hughes threw open the library doors, and pointed. "There's the car! It'll take a good fifteen minutes to get to my house, but I've got plenty of pictures to tide you over until you bask in the concentrated adorability of my beloved daughter! Why, take a look at this one!"

Russell was entirely confused and befuddled by this turn of events. He blinked at the pictures, and looked up at the older man. As he did so, he noticed that the other military officers were giving him looks of... pity? Though none of them stepped forward to stop Hughes, of course.

Thus he found himself, a small stack of pictures in hand, shoved into the back of a military car with Hughes. The Lieutenant Colonel called, "Farman! Take the long route to my house, all right? And forget anything you hear!"

"I hear nothing. I know nothing. Alicia is the cutest thing in the world. Yes, sir, I know the routine by now." Despite himself, though, Farman couldn't hide a small smile as he started driving.

After a moment, Hughes sighed, and looked at Russell. "There's actually another reason why I asked you to come here. Like I said, it's about Edward."

"What about him?" Russell shrugged, and added, "He's a State Alchemist and a 'genius'. We barely know each other. I don't particularly care for him."

"I hate playing hardball, you know. But..." Hughes sighed again. "Are you in love with him?"

"What!?"

"Answer the question, please."

"What could possibly have lead you to that question?"

Hughes reclined on the leather seat, and answered, "Like I said, I'm in the Investigation Department. It's my job to look after military officers... and Edward's like a son to me. I make it a point to know what he's doing. That's all."

"It's just a game between us. Something to while away the boredom and frustration when the alchemy's a little too hard."

"Oh?" Hughes leaned forward. "That may be all it is to you. What about Edward?"

Russell frowned. "Who knows what he's thinking? If he thinks this is anything other than a game, then he's... he's a moron."

"But you said earlier that he was a 'genius.'" Hughes stroked his chin thoughtfully, and changed tactics. "Aren't you curious about how I knew about you two? It's not exactly something that's common knowledge."

"Sure, why not? This car isn't going to go any faster if I sit here."

"What a bright and chipper spirit. Ah well! The first clue was that, a few days ago, Edward walked into the headquarters with a pleased smile on his face. This, naturally, set off all sorts of alarms for me, so I conferred with Lieutenant Hawkeye. She confirmed that he had, in fact, lost a recent argument with Colonel Mustang, and that he had not made any major requisitions in the past few weeks. So it wasn't something in the military. Then I checked with Alphonse, and he mentioned the fact that they hadn't made any real progress in their alchemy research, which struck down the other likely candidate."

"And all of this matters...?"

"I'm getting to it!" Hughes laughed. "But where was I? Oh yes! So I asked myself, 'What could have made Edward Elric happy?' I knew that he had been his normal dour self the day before, so that narrowed it down to one day. Then I dug through the police reports of the day... And guess what I found?"

Russell's eyes widened. "You found... that report? From the library?"

"Bingo." Hughes dug into his pockets, and pulled out a piece of paper. "'One blond haired, blue eyed boy, approximately fifteen years of age, was found partially merged with the wooden structure of the library's alchemy reference section. Subject was found half-naked, sexually aroused, and had a red foreign object stuck in his—'"

"All right, all right! I get it!" Russell blushed furiously at this, and snapped, "So what? Edward wasn't within a mile's radius!"

"You know," Hughes smoothly countered, "Lying to an Investigator in a deliberate attempt to mislead the flow of a case is a crime. Punishable by up to five years in prison, if memory serves. As well, I've got enough evidence to prove that, not only was Edward in the library at the time, that he was the one who used the alchemy to imprison you. Want to try again?" Hughes grimaced; he hated playing hardball, especially to children.

For just a moment, Russell reached for the Red Stone in his pocket. But, seeing that his situation was hopeless, he bowed his head in defeat. "I can't afford to go to prison. What do you really want to know?"

"I just want you to answer the question. Do you love Edward Elric or not?"

"I... I really don't know."

Hughes let out an explosive sigh; leaned back in his seat, legs kicked up to rest on the passenger seat; and ran a hand through his messy black hair. "That makes things a lot more difficult, you realize."

"I know." Russell shrank against the door. "I want to keep it a game, I want there to be no commitment or anything... but that line keeps getting blurred. And why do you care?"

"Because," Hughes answered, eyeglasses glittering, "He's like a son to me. I won't see him getting hurt by someone who doesn't know what he's doing. If this is a game, I want it to end. Now."

"And... and if it's not a game?"

Another sigh, as Hughes gazed out of the window in contemplation. After a moment, he answered, "Then I want you to talk to him. A nice, long chat about the two of you, and what you're planning to do with him. And I want you to keep talking until you two reach some sort of understanding."

Russell ran a nervous hand through his blond hair. "I... I don't know if I can. What if he turns me down? What if... he really does see it only as a game?"

"Then it would be best to end it now." Hughes's tone was sharp, but after a moment, he added, "He's been assigned to a mission to audit the Seventh Warehouse's store of alchemic supplies. He won't be arriving for another five hours or so, and by then, all of the guards will have gone home. It's got classified material there, as well, so Alphonse won't be allowed access. Therefore..." He handed Russell a small slip of paper, "Show this to the guards, and they should let you in. No one should interupt you for awhile."

"What... why are you doing this?" Russell's blue eyes were spinning from the sudden deluge of information.

"Because... I think Edward needs to have some sort of closure to this event. Besides," he lightly added, "I know what it's like, being in love. Still do, as a matter of fact. If you can bring that kind of emotion to Edward, I think it would be a great thing."

"I don't mean that." Russell shook his head. "Why are you helping me? You barely even know me!"

"To the contrary, I know exactly how Edward feels about you, and I have Alphonse's more unbiased opinion." The investigator smiled. "Suffice to say that they had some very interesting accounts of you. So... that's that. One more thing, though."

"Yes?"

"This goes without saying, but just so there's no surprises later. Edward's like a son to me, and his happiness is the most important thing in the world... after Gracia and Alicia, of course. So, if you hurt him..."

Hughes simply smiled the cold, merciless smile of a trained killer. It chilled Russell to the bone.


There were rules for these sorts of things. Unwritten, perhaps, but rules nonetheless. Rules that stated, for example, that any measures were acceptable so long as personal feelings didn't result, or that the aggressor had no right to complain if his plans backfired due to superior planning or spirit.

Rules that Russell Tringham followed religiously.

So it was that he found himself in the Seventh Warehouse, long after the day shift had gone home, alone with Edward Elric. The smaller blond was genuinely surprised. "Russell? What are you doing here?"

Russell smiled. "Maes Hughes decided to hurry things up a bit. So... here we are."

"That much's obvious." Edward crossed his arms. "I do have work to do, so if you'd mind moving—"

"Afraid I can't do that." Russell glanced around; there was too much empty space in that part of the warehouse. He'd need to move further in to negate Edward's advantage in mobility. "Hughes made it clear that we were to... talk."

"Heh, sounds like him." Edward leaned against one of the boxes, and added, "What, exactly, are we supposed to 'talk' about?"

In response, Russell retreated into one of the halls, and answered, "Us. I think."

"'Us'?" Edward burst out laughing. "There's no 'us' here. What on earth is Hughes—" He stopped cold. "Wait a minute... does he think that we're..."

"He's not sure. I think he wants us to find that out ourselves. So... is there an 'us'?"

"How should I know?" Edward stomped forward, and pointed his auto-mail finger at Russell. "You're the one who started this whole mess in the first place!"

"Actually," the younger blond answered, "You were the one who felt it necessary for that stunt in the library. So, all of this can be traced directly to you." For a moment, Russell stared into those golden eyes, then looked away. "Edward... is this just a game that we're playing?"

"What are you talking about now?"

"Exactly that. Are we just playing a game with each other? Just something to pass the boredom every now and again? Or... is it... something else?"

Edward gaped, then crossed his arms and turned his face to the side. "You'd better believe it's just a game! I don't have the time or the opportunity for anything more than that, not with Al the way he is. And if you don't like that..."

Russell forced a smile on his face. "No, no; I'm glad that there's no commitment. Now I know where we stand, and I know what I can do now."

"Don't even think about it." Edward wagged his finger. "I'm through playing with you, Russell. The fact that Hughes felt that he needed to interfere means that we're getting too into it. Besides, my research's almost done here, so I'll be heading out pretty soon. I'm done."

"What!?" Russell clenched his fists. "Just running away?"

"Yep!" The older blond smiled. "I've already beaten you twice, so there's no need for me to keep going. Besides, I'm getting bored with this thing anyway, so why prolong it? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do." He greatly exaggerated the motions of opening one of the boxes and checking the contents therein, making sure that his face was hidden from Russell's sight.

Russell Tringham was stunned. He had never considered the possibility that Edward would get bored, and if that happened... then he wouldn't be able to put his plan into motion. "You're lying, Edward."

"Hm? Sure, whatever you say."

"You honestly think that tone of voice fools me at all?" Russell smiled. "I think... that you really do want me, and you just don't want to admit it."

"Sure, whatever you say."

He tried again. "That's why you were being nice to me! That's why... why you started this whole thing, and why you kept me hoping that I could beat you. You... like me."

"Sure, whatever you say." But this time, Edward's voice was sharper, as though he didn't like where Russell's logic was going.

Faced with all of this, the taller blond clenched his fists. "I'm going to beat you at least once. After that, you can say whatever you'd like. Until then, though..." When Edward didn't reply, Russell tried a different tactic. "Alphonse Elric is a rusting heap of scrap metal."

Just in time, he managed to get his arms up in a block. Still, the blow from Edward's auto-mail fist sent the elder Tringham flying, and he wound up sprawled on the ground. He looked up to see Edward advancing towards him, golden eyes blazing. "Keep Al out of this!"

Russell quickly sprang up to his feet, and fell into a defensive pose. His smaller opponent launched himself, and Russell barely managed to dodge out of the way, leaning against the wooden crates to make enough room. Then he went on the offensive.

As he had anticipated, Edward's main strengths were his alchemy and his incredible flexibility. In the crowded hallway, he couldn't dodge at all, and with Russell right next to him, he didn't have the time necessary to clap his hands. He was at a disadvantage, his only recourse being his auto-mail.

Which, true enough, was proving to be more of a problem than Russell had hoped. Despite the tight quarters, Edward was still extremely fast, and it was all the elder Tringham could do to keep from having bones broken by the metallic limb. Every swing seemed to get a bit closer, and every time that Edward overshot his mark, he left large gashes in the wooden crates.

Edward laughed, eyes blazing. "What's the matter? Not so smug now, are you? Sure you want to keep playing?" He lashed out with a spin-kick, which Russell ducked underneath and winced as a shower of splinters erupted from what had once been a crate full of military sabres.

That gave Russell an idea. Seizing the opportunity, he grabbed one of the swords, and brandished it at Edward. "I'm just getting started. I'll do anything to win this."

What truly scared the taller boy was that Edward apparently didn't care that Russell had a weapon that could cause serious harm. Nor did Edward show any signs of fear whatsoever; he merely lashed out with another punch, and easily blocked Russell's swing. "Sure you will. But a piece of junk like that won't be able to stop me!"

To emphasize the point, he chopped downward with his auto-mail, and the force of the blow easily snapped the sabre in two. However, for that one moment, his metallic limb was immobile. Like lightning, Russell's right hand caught Edward's, and his left closed around the Red Stone in his pocket.

There was a flash of red light.

Edward stumbled back, and shook his head to clear the spots from his eyes. Being a trained alchemist, he quickly glanced around to see what had been changed.

And he quickly started ranting and raving. Russell had transmuted his auto-mail arm from the elbow down into a long, loose metal spring; the composition now a strange amalgam of steel, copper, insulation, and every other material that had once been a real work of art.

The worst part, however, was not the fact that Edward's arm was now effectively useless. Nor was it that the use of the Red Stone would weaken its metallic structure, meaning that he'd have to see Winry that much sooner. No, the greatest problem was that that one transmutation completely negated Edward' advantages. Namely, when he tried to clap his hands to restore the damage, his right arm made a disheartening 'boing' and didn't offer enough resistance to start the reaction.

Russell's sneer spoke volumes. "You can't use alchemy now, can you?"

"Shut up!" Edward dashed forward, fully intending to use his metallic foot, when another flash of red light sent a stone spike directly at him. He had to backpedal in order to avoid it, and Russell simply stepped forward.

"You have to clap your hands in order to start circulating alchemic energy. I'm not a genius alchemist, but even I know how to counter that advantage. So... what are you going to do now, Edward? Are you going to give up?"

"Like that's going to happen!" He spun around, intending to run to a safer location. However, he had forgotten to take into account the full extent of his arm's transmutation. Namely, the fact that the coil was now approximately as long as his body.

Russell snatched the end of Edward's arm, then started another reaction to fuse it with one of the metallic cylinders. Edward kept running... until his arm was fully stretched. Then it snapped back, pulling him into Russell's awaiting grip. The taller boy smiled. "That's not going to work, you know."

He ducked under a left jab, then grabbed that arm and transmuted it into the metallic container as well. This left Edward in the uncomfortable position of being completely unable to move or defend himself, and as the container was empty, there was nothing he could use to scratch out an array. As well, since his arms were sank in to the elbows, he couldn't turn around enough to aim a good kick.

It took Russell a moment to recognize what had happened. "I've... beaten you?"

Edward frowned, and tugged against the metal imprisoning his arms. His right arm stretched, but the spring quickly pulled back into the container. His left arm wouldn't move at all. "Looks like it."

Slowly, the taller blond began to laugh. "I've... finally beaten you? You, Edward Elric?"

"Didn't you say that you'd do so eventually?" Edward snapped, then sighed. "I hope you're happy." When the silence stretched on, he added, "Well, come on! Get it over with so I can get back to my real job!"

But, now that Russell actually had Edward where he wanted him... he hesitated. His hands were shaking, his body trembling, and he honestly didn't know what he wanted to do. Twice, he started reaching for Edward, and twice, he drew back, unsure of himself and his intentions.

Finally, Edward commented, "If you don't hurry, then the next shift's going to find us."

With a deep breath, Russell reached out and stroked Edward's braid. It was soft, smooth... but before he could explore it further, the other boy hissed, "What are you doing?"

"I—"

"No cuddling! Wasn't that what you said?" Edward waited, and when Russell didn't have an answer, he grunted, "Play by your own rules!"

Russell drew back, properly chastised. After a moment, though, when he realized that Edward had just set the mood, he breathed a sigh of relief. "Right. Thanks."

"Can't even make up your own mind." Edward simply shook his head at this. "Don't destroy the coat, either."

Taking the cue, Russell plucked off Edward's coat, using the Stone to free it from the older boy's frame. Then he tossed both to the side, and reached for Edward's leather pants. As soon as his fingers brushed against the fabric, Edward hissed and shifted his hips, struggling against the steel trapping his arms. "Edward? Are you—"

"Just because this is your game doesn't mean that I have to like it!" He twisted his head around, trying to get in a good glare.

Russell laughed, relieved. "Sore loser."

"I haven't lost—" His words got cut off when Russell slowly started tugging on his pants. The warmth from those hands easily soaked through the tight material, causing Edward to gasp, and as Russell seemed to be in no real hurry, the older boy started squirming, trying to hasten the process. After a moment, when Russell had gotten the pants down to Edward's thighs, the State Alchemist amended, "I went easy on you, right? So you'll do the same for me, won't you?"

Another laugh. "I'll take it into consideration. But I still haven't gotten you back for the last two times, so I have a great deal to make up for." Russell wrapped his arms around Edward's waist, and added, "Surely you aren't afraid of me, are you?"

"O-of course not!" Edward had to fight to suppress a shudder; Russell's body was so warm, pressing against him and reminding him of just how vulnerable he was. "There's nothing you could do to—"

The sudden press of sharp teeth against the back of his neck caused Edward to stop his tirade. Russell smiled. "Much better." The smile widened as he saw Edward shiver at the hot breath on his neck. It was just like old times, and now that he knew what the game was, Russell was falling into his old routines. "Now, be a good little boy and relax for me, all right?"

Edward instinctively bristled at the insult, eliciting another chuckle from the taller blond as he reached into a pocket and pulled out a small bottle. Unscrewing the cap, he added a small amount to his forefinger. "I'm not kidding. You'll need to relax or this will hurt."

"Why should you care? It's just a game, isn't it?" Edward frowned, and despite himself, clenched his entire body.

"You don't have to make this so hard on yourself." Russell sighed, and thrust in with his finger.

The older boy hissed and started thrashing, forcing Russell to use his other hand to restrain Edward... with only a limited amount of success. He did, after all, have his auto-mail leg, and Russell's first priority was to not be hit by it. "Damn it, Edward, stop thrashing! You're only making it worse!"

"Easy for you to say, you—" A pained groan cut him off, and Edward's legs stopped kicking. "...bastard."

Russell decided that not having to dodge auto-mail was worth a twinge of guilt. "I tried to warn you." He pushed in more, trying to get Edward's body adjusted to an intrusion.

"Shut up!" Edward wriggled his hips, still struggling. "It's not like it feels good, you know!"

Russell had to fight a gasp. The more Edward struggled, the tighter his body was becoming, and he could just imagine how it would feel if he buried himself up to the hilt, thrusting away in that tight heat and not caring about the screams of pain... He shook his head. "Stop struggling or I'll take you here and now!"

That got Edward to stop his physical struggle, at least. His voice didn't let up for a second. "Why don't you? Isn't this what you want?"

"Of course it's..." Russell pondered this, then rapidly changed the subject. "If you keep thrashing like that, then you're going to make me sore."

"Oh, forgive me for not thinking of you first." Edward gritted his teeth. "Well? What are you waiting for?"

"I'm setting the pace here, Edward." So saying, he slicked another finger, and inserted it. Edward tensed, but he didn't thrash this time, so Russell smiled. "Feeling better?"

"What kind of question is that!?" Edward gritted his teeth. "I'll 'feel better' when this is over with and—" He moaned, as Russell prodded deeper inside of him. "You don't have to take so long, you know!"

In response, Russell rested his left hand on the small of Edward's back. "You're... enjoying this?"

"Of course not!" Edward grimaced. "I just want you to get to the good part!"

"'Good part'?"

"Ack..." Edward's body stopped tensing as he cast around for a good cover-up. "...T-the good part is... when you get off of me!"

"Edward?" Russell removed his fingers, and used his left hand to tilt the older boy's face towards him. "Have you done this before?"

"W-wouldn't you like to know?" He offered a cocky grin. "It's obvious that you haven't, at least."

Russell stared into those golden eyes, then smiled. "Is it? How strange." He unclasped his suspenders, and tossed them aside. "Well, I suppose I'll give you what you want, then..."

"Who wants this?" Edward wriggled his hips. "I know I don't!"

"Of course not." Russell went behind Edward, suppressing a chuckle as the shorter boy tried to crane his neck to see what was happening. He couldn't quite reach, though. Russell took his time unzipping and lowering his pants, enjoying the small shivers of anticipation rushing through Edward's body. He frowned. Or is it fear?

He coated his erection, hissing softly at the cold liquid, then turned to Edward and took a deep breath. "This... is probably going to hurt, Edward. At least at the start, so—"

Edward snapped, "Shut up and do it!"

"Don't say I didn't warn you..." Russell grimaced; he shouldn't be showing so much concern for Edward! The older blond had proved, numerous times, that he could care for himself, and that he always knew what he was doing. So... what was Russell hesitating?

Slowly, carefully, Russell positioned himself at Edward's entrance, and began pressing. Edward hissed a breath, trembling, and Russell reached for the small of his back to rub... then faltered. He would probably just snap at me again... So he thrust in.

It was hot. It was tight. Edward's entire body was clenched around the intruding member, and Russell nearly went limp with the sensation. It felt so good, the pleasure mixing with a healthy dose of guilt from the pained gasps that were strangled out of Edward's throat, the whirl of emotions making his head spin.

For a moment they stayed like that, Russell trying to regain his composure while Edward fought to adjust to the feeling. After a moment, the shorter boy managed, "It's... it's a good thing you're so small, or that would have really—"

Russell thrust, cutting him off. "You are not going to be sarcastic in this situation!"

"F-fine..." Russell could see a half-smile forming on Edward's face. "Just don't get too close, all right?"

Russell frowned, but nodded anyway. The third thrust was even better than the others; Russell pressed a little deeper, a little harder, and found that he really enjoyed the feeling of being inside Edward. Another thrust, and another, and another; slowly picking up speed, enjoying every second of it... as best he could.

"T-try..." Edward managed, between gasps, "...up a little more... to your right..."

Russell blinked in confusion, but did as he was asked. He angled a bit up... another thrust to the right... another... and Edward groaned as his body went limp. Instantly, Russell's arms encircled the boy's chest. "Edward? Edward! Are you all right?"

"Y-yeah..." A brief chuckle. "Just... needed to help you move things along, right? Keep doing that."

"Idiot!" Russell's arms tightened. "You could have told me—"

"Don't cuddle." Edward's voice was almost bored, now. "How many times do I have to repeat that?"

"Argh!" Russell removed his arms, and in exchange, started thrusting as hard as he could. He took a kind of bitter pleasure from the gasps and moans that he drew from Edward, enjoyed the sight of the boy's blond braid waving from the force, and absolutely revelled in the unguarded state he forced Edward into; the great Full Metal Alchemist was begging him for more, and he was more than happy to oblige.

After a moment, though... those feelings started to change. He was still enjoying the gloating aspect... but he wanted more. He wanted to see more of Edward, to see the subtle play of muscles struggling against his own. To see the junction of auto-mail and flesh, to feel hard flesh under his hands, to smile into Edward's eyes as the older boy screamed his name... but all of those were against the rules. Both his, and Edward's.

Screw the rules. Since I won, I get to make them now! And with that, Russell wrapped his arms around Edward's chest. The boy tried to squawk a protest, but Russell silenced that with a deep kiss, sucking and licking until Edward fell silent. It wasn't much, but at that point, it was enough.

He continued thrusting, and let his right hand drift down to start stroking Edward's erection. Once more, the boy tried to protest, and once more, Russell kissed it quiet. It was only when Edward gave up, when he stopped protesting, that the younger boy realized that Edward's mouth was actually quite amazing; warm, of course, but with a slightly bitter, tangy taste to it. He tried to coax Edward into movement, to move his tongue so that they could deepen the kiss, but the boy stubbornly refused.

But that was all right. Edward was grinding his hips against Russell's, moaning into the kiss with each thrust and each stroke, blushing furiously and still struggling... but it was only a half-hearted gesture, soon to be abandoned.

It wasn't perfect. There was so much more that Russell wanted to do but didn't have the courage or the self-control left to attempt... but it was close. So very, very close.

He was the one to reach 'it' first. His entire body clenched like a fist, arcs of pleasure shooting through him and setting his nerves on fire, trembling as he came into the warm, tight body that he found himself obsessed with.

It took a few more hard strokes for Edward to follow him, and Russell frowned at this fact. However, that also meant that he could situate himself to follow one of the desires he had; he leaned over to the side, tilted Edward's head towards him, and smiled directly into those golden eyes as they glazed over with pleasure, lips parted and panting. He didn't scream, of course, and he certainly didn't call Russell's name... but the younger boy didn't mind. Just looking at him in that vulnerable a state was enough.

After a moment, when Russell had removed himself and pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket, Edward groaned, "Didn't have to be so rough, you know."

"I'm sorry."

That caught Edward's attention. "What did you say?"

"I'm sorry. For hurting you, I mean."

"That's ridiculous." Edward frowned. "Doesn't matter, anyway. Just let me go so I can finish up."

He squawked as he felt Russell's fingers, covered in the soft cloth, started cleaning up the mess they had made. "What are you doing?"

"Cleaning you up. It's my mess, after all."

Edward desperately fought against the feeling; his entrance was so tender now, and Russell's touch was so gentle and warm... "I-I can take care of it! Just let me go!"

For a moment, Russell just continued his cleaning efforts, a concerned frown on his face. Then, "Edward... you've done this before, haven't you?"

Edward groaned, both at the question, and at the prodding fingers. "Yeah, I've done this before."

"With... who?"

At this, Edward frowned. "From a bigger bastard than you, I'll tell you that much."

"...why?" Russell stopped wiping, as Edward was now, mostly, presentable.

"Same reason I'm doing it with you. It's just a game, something for me to let off some of the tension. Nothing more than that, really."

"This... isn't a game, Edward."

"What?"

Russell scratched an array into the metal container with one of the sabre fragments, not wanting to bother with picking through Edward's coat for his Stone. "I don't think it's a game anymore. We've both been breaking too many of the rules."

Edward didn't say anything until the array was activated and his hands were free. He kept his gaze fixed firmly on the task of removing his metallic arm. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes you do!" Russell's voice was sharper, now. "If this was only a game, then you would have let up last time. You wouldn't have offered me the book, or reminded me of the Stone, or given me juice, or... anything like that."

The older boy simply pulled his pants back up, wincing slightly at the rough texture against his still-sensitive skin. "You're wrong. All of that's part of—"

"No, it's not!" Russell glared down at Edward, blue eyes blazing. "If you wanted to keep this as a game, then you should have followed the rules in the first place! It's... it's something more than that, now."

Edward frowned. "What are you trying to get at?"

The younger boy gulped nervously. "I... I think I'm falling in love with you."

A long pause. Edward simply regarded Russell for a moment, then his face started turning red. "Is that so?"

"Y-yes, I think it is."

"You are falling in love with me?"

"Yes."

"Did it even occur to you," Edward spat, "That I don't have time for this now? I don't have time for relationships! I have a little brother who can't feel anything! That kind of puts a damper on any long-term commitments, doesn't it?"

"I have a little brother, too! I know that yours would—"

"Don't you dare." Edward was bristling now, rage gleaming in his eyes. "Don't you dare pretend to know what this is like! There's no way that you could understand." He stormed off, reaching for his coat.

"On the contrary, I know exactly what you're going through. Fletcher, he's—"

"Shut up." Edward grabbed his coat, and gazed at the Red Stone that was then revealed. "This is the source of all my problems, isn't it? And you can't make another one, can you?"

"I could... it would take a few months. Edward... please. Don't touch it. Give it back to me." Russell was trying to keep his voice as calm and reasonable as possible.

"Every single time, you've used this stupid Stone to try to beat me. I'm sick of it, and I'm sick of you." He raised his left foot.

"Edward, don't! I need that Stone!"

"Game's over, Russell. I hope I never see you again." And with that, he smashed down, shattering the Red Stone into millions of fragments.

Russell simply collapsed as Edward walked out, his trembling hands reaching for what remained of his work. He tried to construct an array to fix it, to repair the damage... but it didn't work; the Stone was useless. And that meant...

The boy's body trembled with rage even as tears began filling his eyes. "You're right, Edward," he muttered, amazing himself with how calm he sounded, "This game is over. Now you've made it personal."