jade pen

Love is a Battlefield

chapter 5. peaceful negotiations

"May... I come in?" Russell stood, abashed, at the entrance to the Elric apartment.

Edward gave him a slight nod, then stood to the side and gestured him in. The older boy was dressed only in his black clothes; coat, shoes, and white gloves were lying near the door. He couldn't resist offering a quip as Russell stepped inside. "I'm surprised you bothered knocking this time."

Russell didn't rise to the bait, and instead shocked the older boy by offering a deep bow. "Thank you. For everything."

It took a moment for Edward to form a response. Then, he waved it off. "It was nothing. Really. You'd do the same thing in my position!"

"I... really wonder about that."

A period of uncomfortable silence descended. Finally, Edward asked, "How's Fletcher?"

"Alive. And recovering." The taller blond's frame was shaking slightly from repressed emotion. "Hungry, too; I haven't seen him eat so much in weeks."

Edward laughed. "So that's why Al went storming off after he got your phone call! Figures he'd want to make sure Fletcher was eating right."

Russell simply blinked in confusion. "I never called here, so it must have been Fletcher himself. What time did he call?"

Counting on his fingers, Edward replied, "Hm... about three hours ago, I'd guess? Maybe a little more."

A brief moment of contemplation. "Had to be Fletcher. I was out getting groceries at the time. Wonder what he said..."

Another pause. Finally, Edward nervously laughed. "Well! Um... you can go ahead and sit on the couch." He gestured towards the furniture. "Want me to get something for you?"

"No... no, I'm fine." Russell's hands fiddled with something in his right pocket, and he sat down. "Mind joining me?"

Edward quickly barked, "No! No, I mean." He fumbled for an excuse, but couldn't find one. "I'll... um... stand."

Russell's blue eyes narrowed. "Then, would you mind getting me some juice while you're up?"

Caught in quite the predicament, unable to refuse without making Russell even more suspicious yet not wanting to give himself away, Edward tried to make it to the kitchen as inconspiciously as possible. He failed, of course, and Russell accused, "You're limping, Edward."

"I am not!" Edward's blush and his posture, though, told a different story.

"Why?" Russell stood up, his eyes cold. After a moment with no response, he walked forward and grabbed Edward by the collar. He managed to keep his voice level, though. "Edward, why are you limping?"An incoherent mumble was his answer. "What was that?"

"I said, 'That bastard made me bottom! All night!'" Edward was blushing furiously at this, but managed to stare Russell straight in the eye.

"'That bastard'?" Russell's eyes narrowed in concentration, then he loosened his grip. Anyone that had spent any time with Edward knew who 'that bastard' was. "You mean Roy Mustang, don't you?" Another incoherent mumble was his confirmation. "And he made you bottom. 'All night,' you said?"

"Yeah." Edward offered another nervous smile.

"I...see." Russell's voice was flat and emotionless.

The older blond put his hands on his hips. "It's not what you think! It was the only thing that he'd accept in exchange for the Stone."

Slowly, with a great deal of care, Russell pulled a gold ring out of his pocket. The gemstone surmounting it was a Red Stone... but much clearer and more vibrant than his old one. "The incomplete Philosopher's Stone. It let me, even with my lack of alchemic knowledge, cure Fletcher and heal my own hand..." Russell couldn't help but let a small amount of reverence enter his voice. "I... wondered how you had gotten ahold of something like this. Now I know."

Edward nodded. "He still had his from Ishbal. It took a lot of convincing for me to get it from him... but it was faster than any other way I could think of."

A frown. "And all he asked for in exchange was a night with you?"

"No." Edward's voice had grown completely serious. "He didn't give it to me until I told him what I... we, needed the Stone for. He said that it was for the best, using something that had killed so many people to save a life. Just like Doctor Marcoh..." After a moment, he brightened, "The rest of it was just a part of the game we played. Though the bastard didn't have to be so rough, and he could have taken off his gloves, for another... Russell?"

Russell's face had fallen, and he turned away. "Just a game? Edward..." His body trembled in anger. "You're impossible! You're the only person I know of who can make me regret getting this!" He shook the ring for emphasis. "You had sex with a man fourteen years older than you were, not to mention that he's already your superior... and you call it a game? Don't you realize what you've lost because of that?"

Edward frowned. "You talk like you know what I've lost."

"I do." Russell pocketed the ring, bitterness tinging his voice. "Well... since our game's over, I guess it makes sense for you to start up another one. Sorry to waste your—"

He didn't get far at all. As soon as he had started walking away, Edward had grabbed him with a metal hand, and flung him onto the couch. Instinctively, Russell fumbled for the ring... but froze when Edward clapped his hands. They glared at each other, but Russell was the first one to break and place both hands on his lap. Edward smiled. "Now, what was that about?"

"It's not important, you don't need to—"

"This isn't a game, Russell!" Edward's eyes narrowed. "None of this is. Now tell me what I want to know, damn it!"

Once again, there was a contest of wills, and once again, Russell was the first to submit. "Fine. There isn't much to tell, really. In Xenotime... I was the one to approach Magwar and ask for his help in following Dad's research. He... asked for some things in exchange. He... insinuated that's what you did, so I went along with it. I should have known better."

"That's an understatement!" Edward crossed his arms. "With someone like Magwar... Disgusting. I can't believe that you'd think I'd do something like that with..."

"I didn't know you, at the time." Russell slowly collapsed on himself. "But... yes, it was disgusting... and it kept going for some time. I tried to keep Fletcher ignorant of the entire thing, of course, so... I had to hide what I was feeling. That meant that I—"

"You made it a game." Edward frowned. "So that's why you didn't want to get close. Or do anything that would make it a 'relationship.'" A mute nod in reply. "So why did you apply those rules to me?"

"Because you thought it was a game, too!" Russell instantly straightened up. "Isn't that what you do with Roy Mustang? You just leave it as a game, so that it doesn't get close? Both because that makes it easier... and because of your brother, right?"

Edward laughed. "Actually... Al was the one that got us together. He... started getting worried about his non-social older brother, and one thing lead to another and..." He made a small gesture, "We wound up together."

"I... see." Russell slowly got to his feet. "That's... it, then." He gave a small smile. "I just wanted to return this to you." He offered the ring to Edward. "I don't need it any more. Fletcher's cured, I'm fine... and I don't want to own another Red Stone. No matter how useful they are."

Edward simply shook his head. "Keep it. The bastard doesn't want it, and I don't need it."

"I don't want it!" Russell's fist clenched, and Edward almost felt worried for the smooth gold surface. If anyone could crush metal with force of will... it would have been Russell at that moment. "I don't want something to remind me of you or what you gave up. Thank you for saving Fletcher's life, but... You shouldn't have done that. Not with someone like Roy Mustang. That's a game you shouldn't have to play."

"What's the matter with me and... oh." Edward's grin slowly expanded. "So that's what this is about!"

Russell instantly tried brushing past Edward and head to the door. "I don't want to hear your theories! Go back to your precious—"

He didn't get far. As soon as Russell's back was turned, Edward grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. The taller boy, entirely caught off-balance, could offer no resistance as Edward snatched both suspenders in an auto-mail grip and dragged Russell down to eye-level. And Russell wasn't sure if he could resist when Edward kissed him.

It was very, very awkward. Russell, despite the fact that he was far from innocent... had never kissed anyone before in his life. Not like that, a skilled tongue softly lapping at his lips even as a warm arm softly wrapped around his neck and pressed him close, leaving him breathless and panting.

Edward slowly pulled away, wincing slightly at his soreness and suddenly much less sure of himself. After a moment to catch his breath, Russell could only ask, "What... was that for?"

The older boy softly smiled. "I told you. This isn't a game. None of this is. And... I know why you want to run away."

Russell froze and tensed, but didn't try to escape; he already knew that it was a futile exercise. Edward whispered, "You're jealous, aren't you?"

"S-so what if I am?" Russell tilted his head to the side, letting his long bangs come between himself and Edward. "It doesn't matter. This is all against the—"

"If you say the word 'Rules', I'm going to hit you." Edward's face became much more focused. "I'm not going to let you squirm out of it like that. Like I said—"

This time, it was Russell who interrupted. "'This isn't a game'? But where do we go from here, then?"

A frown crossed Edward's face. "Well... I haven't thought that far ahead! I'll think of something."

In response to Edward's frown, Russell slowly smiled. "That will take too long." He considered the ring in his hand, and added, "We'll start with what we know, and we'll adapt from there. I... don't want to lose my nerve." He gave a small nervous chuckle, and began walking from the bed.

"S-so..." Edward was feeling nervous as well, truth be told, though he'd rather die than admit it. "How do you want this?"

Russell's smile widened. "Like I said, I'll go with what I know. I'm sure that we'll figure something out from there." So saying, he walked up to the bed, and flopped down on it, face-up. "Besides, we've done it this way before, and it won't be so hard on you."

"Thanks." Edward's reply was half-sardonic and half-truthful; he really was feeling sore from earlier, and he wasn't looking forward to going through a similar experience. Even if, he had to add to himself, with a mental snicker, he's not nearly as big as Colonel Bastard.

Edward was only half-surprised when Russell activated the ring, though he was shocked when he saw what, exactly, was transmuted. One of the pillow covers snaked around to become a blindfold, and the metal springs wrapped around Russell's wrists and ankles, spreading them out and, Edward noticed, preventing him from reaching any scratchable surface.

"Russell..." Edward frowned, but couldn't think of the right way to express his displeasure.

"It's all right. It's not half as bad as it looks." Russell offered a small smile. "Do you want me to remove my clothes, or would you prefer to do so yourself?"

For a moment, Edward could only blink in confusion, then he laughed as he realized what Russell's position necessitated. "No, I'll do it. I'm an alchemist, after all." After another moment, he added, "I kind of prefer you like this."

"That's the point." Russell frowned, and tugged at his restraints. They barely gave at all. With a satisfied nod, the taller boy looked at Edward. "Any other questions?"

"W-what do I look like, a blushing virgin!?" Edward crossed his arms, slightly annoyed at the question. "I know what I'm doing, you know!"

"Yes... yes, I know." Russell gave one last, soft laugh, before he activated the ring again. In the glow of red light, a portion of the sheet wriggled up and tied itself around the blond's mouth, becoming a gag. As soon as it was secured (and Russell had tested it, trying to work his mouth around the cloth and smiling when it didn't move out of the way,) he tossed the ring in Edward's general direction. It wasn't accurate, due to Russell's inability to see, but it was close enough, and the older boy caught it.

It took Edward a moment to realize the implication of this. "You... can't free yourself, can you?" A short shake of Russell's head. "Completely at my mercy, huh?" Russell gave a short nod, more frustrated than anything else. "And a willing prisoner, at that..."

If Russell hadn't blindfolded himself, he would have seen a wide smile cross Edward's face. However, the younger boy could almost feel Edward's predatory nature. That's why he shivered when Edward softly whispered, "So... if I wasn't telling the truth about this being a game, and I left you like this... what would happen?"

Even if he hadn't been gagged, Russell wasn't sure if he would have had an answer. He was greatly relieved, though, when the bed shifted with Edward's added weight. "Hm... on the other hand... it would be better to leave you after letting you get so close..." Edward's voice was so sweet, almost sing-song, a complete difference from the torture he was proposing. "Mm... so many options. Starting to regret giving me so much control?"

Russell groaned softly; he hadn't even considered the possibility that Edward had just deepened the game, changing the rules ever-so-slightly so as to pull ahead. And yet, the elder Tringham thought to himself, that would fit him, wouldn't it? So stupid of me to just assume he'd want this after—

His thoughts were cut off when he felt Edward's body pressed against his own, warm skin and silky hair whispering against his throat. Apparently, Russell guessed, Edward had taken the opportunity to let his hair out of his braid. "Good thing I was telling the truth, huh?" There was a soft chuckle. "You should trust me, Russell. I'm not going to leave you hanging."

Russell started wishing that he wasn't gagged, so he could lash out with his own snide comment. Like you did the first time, Edward Elric? But... he couldn't really bring himself to that, anyway. The other boy was lapping against the hollow of his throat, and Russell soon felt his nervousness getting kissed away.

Not literally, of course. Edward tried to work around the gag, but when he saw that it was secured with alchemy (and he didn't want to break contact long enough to clap his hands and start a reaction of his own,) he moved on to Russell's shirt. He deliberately took his time with the buttons, opening one and kissing every inch of the exposed skin before moving on to the next, smiling at Russell's writhing at each touch.

After the third, he stopped, and laughed. "No undershirt?" Russell groaned; more at the lack of contact than at the question. Edward, however, was most intrigued. "So... that means that you were hoping for something like this, huh? Hoping that I'd do something like this?" Edward bent down and nibbled against the edge of a collarbone, causing Russell to struggle against his bonds.

After a moment, though, Edward gave a frustrated groan. Russell's suspenders were in the way, and unlatching them would be a hassle. So, Edward went back to working on the shirt, allowing his tongue and teeth to wander over the tanned skin, almost laughing at the gagged moans and whimpers that he could drag from the other boy. He was almost thankful that Roy had a tendency to tease... almost. But at least Edward was a fast learner, and he put that knowledge to good use. If Russell hadn't been gagged, he would have been begging for more by the time Edward had gotten to his navel. As it was, he was left struggling against his bonds, arching into the touch and not having nearly enough feeling to satisfy him.

This was why he nearly screamed in frustration when Edward moved back up to his face, lightly running a flesh hand through the younger boy's bangs. Edward pressed his lips against flushed skin, and gently blew against the heated face, causing Russell's hair to flutter in the artificial breeze.

It also made Russell try to tilt his face, desperate for some sort of contact. But Edward slid to the side, smiling softly to himself. After a moment, Russell groaned and tried to flip over, so that he could get some sort of friction and relief. But he couldn't, of course; he had been far too thorough when he transmuted his bonds.

After a moment, though, Edward frowned. Then, as Russell slowly began calming down, he whispered, "I can't keep doing this. This isn't what I want."

Russell replied with a muffled question. Edward frowned, and with a clap of his hands, released Rusell's gag. The younger boy stretched his jaw for a moment, then repeated, "Then what do you want?"

Edward pondered this for a moment, then smiled and leaned in closer. He whispered into Russell's ear, "I want more." Then he clapped again, and pressed his hands against the metal coils binding Russell. In a flash of blue light, they returned back to their regular position, leaving Russell free. The taller boy sat up and gingerly rubbed his wrists, making sure that there weren't any bruises, then he reached for his blindfold. Before he could move it, though, Edward's hands grabbed him and pushed him back against the bed. He whispered, far too sweetly, "Oh no. Keep that on."

Without skipping a beat, Edward rolled over, straddling Russell's hips, and leaned down to claim his lips in another kiss. This one was searing and possessive, Edward exploring every inch of Russell's mouth and claiming it for his own. After a moment, Russell hesitantly moved his tongue to roll with Edward's, and both boys groaned at the sensation. That hesitantcy quickly melted away, and they writhed next to each other, breaking only to draw a quick breath before going at it again.

At the next break, Edward attacked the pieces of Russell's clothes that he could get at, unlatching suspenders and throwing aside the shirt, and resting a hand on the top of his pants, fiddling with the button but not removing at. All the while, he continued to tease and torture Russell, running his tongue over smooth skin and nibbling at the now-exposed nubs of flesh, making Russell arch and moan. Now that the gag was gone, Edward revelled in the small cries of 'More' and 'Stop teasing!' that he earned, and Russell's half-opened and panting mouth was so inviting that the older boy couldn't help but claim it once more.

After a moment, though, he stopped, again frustrated. "You're not moving, Russell!" And so he wasn't; the younger boy was just as passive as when he was bound, despite obvious attempts from Edward to get him to do something. "If you want me to keep going, then you'll need to do something, you know!"

For a moment, Russell frowned, not entirely sure at what Edward was wanting. Then, slowly, it dawned on him. "Where's your mouth, Edward?" Russell followed the sound of Edward's laughter, nearly bumping into the older boy's mouth before Edward placed both hands at the back of Russell's head and gently guided him forward.

This kiss was sweet and tender, Russell feeling incredibly self-concious and unsure of himself. Still, as he gently pressed against Edward, and felt the older boy open up to him, Russell became a little more confident, and tried what Edward had done to him earlier, slipping his tongue into Edward's mouth and cautiously exploring.

He broke the kiss and gasped, though, when he felt Edward's hands unbuttoning his pants and reaching for his zipper. Russell thrust forward with his hips, whimpering at the almost friction that didn't offer nearly enough relief for his taste. Then, softly, he heard Edward's voice whispering into his ear, "Keep going, or I won't."

Russell had never attacked a human being as quickly as he did at that moment, when he rolled both of them over and pinned Edward against the bed. He blindly kissed a trail down Edward's jaw, using his tongue and teeth to keep track of where he was, and desperately tore at the older boy's clasps, frustrated at his inability to see or predict where the next difficulties were. Still, he managed to get Edward's overshirt off and thrown to the side, and he lapped at the exposed skin, trying to commit the shape of Edward's body to memory.

Then he groaned in frustration. To remove the undershirt, he'd have to break off his kissing... and that meant that he'd lose his mental picture. After a moment, noticing the difficulty, Edward simply clapped his hands and transmuted open the front, allowing the black fabric to fall down his shoulders and off the side of the bed. The whisper of cloth against skin was one of the most wonderful sounds Russell had ever heard at that moment, and he moved on with increased vigor, hungry for more now that his inhibitions had been put aside.

He felt a flesh hand gently twine itself in his hair, Edward rubbing small circles into his skin and whispering encouragements that Russell honestly didn't need. He moved down, licking collarbones and running across the older boy's ribs... and suddenly Edward arched and nearly screamed. Russell had found one of his nipples, and after the initial confusion, the younger boy quickly moved back, licking and teasing it and paying Edward back for what had happened earlier. Smiling at his triumph, he kissed his way to the other, both frustrated at his inability to see and yet happy for it at the same time; with the blindfold, he had an excuse to take his time and taste Edward, a combination of salty sweat and warm heat and a hundred other things that Russell's concious mind was too preoccupied to classify. He kissed and he nipped, and was barely surprised when Edward suddenly shifted his body over, bringing his other nub to Russell's lips and allowing him to continue his ministrations.

Nor was he surprised that, when he tried to move further down, Edward's hand kept him there, the older boy making a displeased sound and forcing Russell to focus on that sensitive part on Edward's body. Not that Russell minded at all, of course; just knowing that he could have such an effect on Edward was... gratifying.

Suddenly, Edward gently pushed him away, and Russell didn't resist as, once more, the positions were reversed, and Edward pressed a kiss against the hollow of his throat. He did protest, however, when Edward broke off all contact and got off the bed; Russell whimpered and spread his legs, trying to look as needy and fuckable as possible. Judging from Edward's strangled moan, he succeeded nicely.

Still, the older boy unzipped Russell's pants, and slowly dragged them down muscular legs, making Russell feel self-concious once more. He instantly closed his legs again, trying to maintain some sort of decency. At this, Edward could only laugh, and he started untying and removing Russell's shoes.

After a long moment of no real feeling, Russell groaned, "Edward... please? Do something?" The only response was the final shoe being taken off, and Russell's pants and socks being thrown somewhere off to the right. "Edward?"

A thrill went through Russell's body as he heard the whisper of leather sliding against skin, and he got a delicious mental picture of what had just happened. He followed the distinctive tread of flesh and metal as Edward walked to the bedside, and Russell shuddered as he heard a drawer open and something removed from it.

The bed shifted again, as Edward sat back down, and Russell asked, "Edward? What are you doing?"

The older boy evaded the question. "I... like you like that. You should see yourself some time; so vulnerable and so needy." A slight, husky laugh. "Lay back down. And spread your legs again."

Russell complied, fighting a mounting blush as he could almost feel Edward's gaze scrutinizing him. That, too, was an entirely new feeling, and Russell wasn't quite sure if he liked it or not. Then he heard Edward's voice, just a few inches above his mouth, "Beautiful."

There was another brief pause; then Russell could feel metal, no longer cold, caressing his sensitive skin, gently stroking down his chest and brushing against his hardened nubs. Russell gasped and writhed at this...

...then he nearly screamed. Edward had thrust a lubricated finger into the younger boy's entrance, and Russell choked out, "Warn me next time!"

"Mm." The metal hand moved up to Russell's mouth, and pressed lightly against his lips. "I think there's something better for your mouth to do."

Russell quickly took the hint, and cautiously accepted the metal finger, lapping against it and sucking lightly against the digit. He wasn't sure if Edward could feel it or not... but Russell guessed that it was, at the very least, an interesting show to watch, judging from Edward's hitched breath and the way his real finger began stretching and preparing the younger boy.

"Relax, Russell." That was all the warning Russell got before another finger slipped into his entrance. The boy had to fight the equally strong urges to thrust down and to scream; he mentally commanded himself to relax, repeating to himself over and over again, It'll get better. He knows what he's doing. Just relax and let him do it. He can find that spot, and then this will feel so much better that—

Edward found it. His two fingers curled inside of Russell, and the younger boy screamed and thrashed, forcing Edward to withdraw his metal finger before Russell choked. As soon as Edward stopped, though, Russell began whimpering and begging for the older boy to take him, only half-coherent but no longer caring.

Slowly, the two fingers were withdrawn, and Russell could feel Edward's lips being pressed against his own. This time the kiss was comforting and soft, and when he broke away, Edward whispered, "This is going to hurt a bit. Just relax." Russell, had he been in his proper mind, might have been annoyed at the condensation. As it was, he moaned softly and wriggled his hips, trying to get Edward to move on.

Russell blinked as his blindfold was removed; the sudden onslaught of light and color nearly overwhelming his senses. Edward's golden eyes, blazing with lust and glazed over with pleasure, were staring right into Russell's sky-blue ones, and they narrowed as they saw Russell's look of recognition. At the same moment, Edward thrust in.

The younger blond really did scream at this, the tension and heat within him and the onslaught of sensations was too much, and his blue eyes widened and his body trembled from it all. He thought that he heard some sort of gasp or perhaps an exclamation from elsewhere, but as Edward stayed buried within him and didn't move, Russell managed to regain his composure. He managed a, "W-what was that for?"

Edward groaned; the closest he could come to a laugh while surrounded by a very tight, very hot Russell Tringham. "Wanted... to see your face."

He slowly withdrew, and thrust back in, causing Russell to cry out. Now that Edward knew where to thrust, he could make Russell whimper and moan with every motion, and soon the younger boy was clinging to him, wrapping ankles around Edward's waist and arms around his shoulders, trying desperately to get him to thrust harder and faster.

Not that Edward required any encouragement. As soon as he saw that Russell wasn't being hurt at all by the motions, he started picking up speed, thrusting with wild abandon and revelling in the sheer feeling of it all. It was hot and desperate and absolutely perfect.

As for Russell... it really wouldn't have mattered if he had the blindfold on or not. Stars were swimming before his eyes, and his world was slowly going white as the sensations overwhelmed him. He pressed himself as close to Edward as possible, whimpering as he tried to get relief for his own arousal but moaning as Edward hit that spot within him again and again, making it almost impossible to do anything but feel.

They were both shaking, both sensitive from the teasing earlier and so very close. Any sort of tenderness was thrown to the side as Edward claimed Russell, making the younger boy thrash and writhe and moan his name over and over again. He was begging for relief, any kind of relief, and Edward was only too happy to give it.

He wrapped his flesh hand around Russell's erection, and started stroking him. Instantly, Russell arched into the touch and felt his entire body tense, winding up and getting close to what he wanted. His eyes squeezed shut, breath being drawn through hissed gasps, and he was shocked when Edward commanded, "Look at me!"

Russell fought hard to comply, fighting against the overpowering pleasure that twisted his insides and sent arcs of electricity through his body. He stared into Edward's golden eyes, feeling so uniquely vulnerable, but no longer caring so long as the older boy would keep stroking him and hitting right there and...

Gone. Russell tilted his head back and one last scream of pleasure was ripped out of his throat as he shuddered and came. He clung to Edward as though he was a lifeline, every thrust forcing another part of him out and leaving him panting and breathless. A few thrusts later and Edward followed him, overstimulated by the sight of the boy beneath him. Russell had gotten his wish, though; Edward moaned his name as he came.

Edward pulled out of Russell, and collapsed to the taller boy's left side, nuzzling against his neck and wrapping his real arm against Russell's chest. The other boy, in response, rested his cheek on the top of Edward's head, and sighed happily. "We're... going to have to clean up, you know."

"Mm." Edward obviously was not in any mood to move.

Hesitantly, Russell wrapped his left arm around Edward's shoulders, and pulled him close. "I... love you, you know."

"Yeah. Same here." Despite himself, Edward had to smile. "Took you long enough to figure that out."

Russell laughed and kissed Edward's golden hair. "I know. But you're the genius; you were supposed to figure it out for me."

Edward sighed, and snuggled closer to Russell. "Stop talking and bask. We can figure everything else out later."

They stayed that way for a moment, both of them too content and drained to move. Then, both of them heard something. It sounded like...

Giggling. Both blonds roused themselves enough to look at the doorway, and both of them froze. There, through the partially-opened door, was Fletcher and Alphonse, both of the younger brothers melting into gales of laughter.

Edward instantly grabbed the sheet and tried to cover both himself and Russell, blushing furiously. "Al! What are you... how did you... when did you..."

Alphonse finally managed to regain his composure. "We arrived just when you took off Russell's blindfold, Brother. We didn't know how to interrupt without making you both embarrassed, so..."

Russell could only groan. "And what does that make me now?"

Fletcher giggled again. "I've already seen you like this, Brother. I'm just happy that you found someone to settle down with."

"Settle down with!?" Edward found that, remarkably, he had enough energy to be indignant after all. "We don't have time to settle down! I've got to... we've got to..."

The giant suit of armor gingerly stepped in, and both older brothers shrank together. "Brother..." Alphonse sighed. "I know that we've got our own mission to do. But... someday, we're going to succeed, and when we do, we're going to have to find something else to do with our lives."

Edward frowned. "But we don't have to settle down with—"

"No, we don't, Brother. But..."

Fletcher walked up, and wrapped his arm around Alphonse's metal thigh, smiling softly. "We talked it over... and we feel the same way towards each other that you two do. We... want to live together."

Russell could only gape. "You mean... you and Alphonse..." He blushed; both at the position he was in, and at the implications of what his little brother had said. "W-well... I guess it would be all right. If that's what you really want. It's the least we could do."

"It is, Brother. Thank you for understanding." Fletcher gave a bright smile.

At Edward's silence, Alphonse added, "You should at least give it a chance, Brother. We all love each other, so... I think it would work out. And it would be good for you to be with the person you love."

The oldest blond groaned, and collapsed on Russell's shoulder. "All right, all right, I'll try it! I just can't believe that my innocent little brother saw... this." He frowned, and added, "We'll worry about that when we've got your body back. One thing at a time."

"Thank you, Brother. But..." Russell and Alphonse looked at each other, and stifled another peal of giggles. "Innocent?" The two of them ran out, laughing merrily.

Russell and Edward slowly stared at each other. The younger one asked, "What... did that mean?"

Edward shook his head. "I don't think I want to know."

The taller blond sighed, and snuggled closer to Edward. "What happened to my innocent little brother? Wasn't even blushing when he saw us like this... Must have been your bad influence."

Laughing at the joke, Edward simply buried himself further into Russell's warm embrace. "Yeah, yeah... but we can worry about all of that later, too."