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Better Living Through Alchemy

chapter 12.

He stepped to the left and then he stepped to the right, but neither move seemed to do him any good. He could feel his anger building and the heat rushing toward his cheeks as he pulled his lips tight and folded his arms over his chest.

Brother, if you continue to overreact, no one is going to take you seriously. You should hold your breath and count to ten when you feel yourself becoming angry.

Hold my breath and count to ten? Ed had quirked an eyebrow at his younger brother.

If you hold your breath, you can't speak, and if you count to ten before speaking, then perhaps the first words out of your mouth won't be angry ones, Al had said reasonably.

Well all right then, here it goes. Ed took a deep breath and began a mental count. Around seven, the man blocking his way suddenly bowed deeply.

"I've come to apologize," the Xingian Prince said. "I'm afraid I may have overstepped my boundaries the last time we spoke, I truly did not mean to upset you or your brother at his celebration."

Ed was a bit taken aback. The man sounded... well he sounded sincere. Sincere was something Ed couldn't lightly brush aside, he'd spent too many years on the receiving end of incredulity and knew what it was like to have sincerity thrown back in your face. He shifted and sucked on the inside of his cheek.

"Assuming I'm going to accept your apology, I'd like to throw in a few caveats," Ed said. "Just to know you're making this... sincerely."

The Prince straightened up and tilted his head. He smiled, but not his usual goofy grin, just a regular smile and nodded.

"What is your pleasure?" he asked the Professor. "I am willing to concede a few things to make amends."

"It's not every day a Prince apologizes to a commoner," Ed said.

"You are anything but common," the Prince assured him.

Ed shifted a little uncomfortably. Something at the edge of his brain nagged him; the Prince was always saying these things, like compliments. Ed wasn't sure how to take them sometimes and wasn't sure how to respond. If the Prince was looking to throw him off guard, this was certainly the way to do it, which was why he needed to get a handle on it and not let the Prince's fancily-woven words distract him. That and the kissing, that definitely had to go.

"Okay," Ed said, "about Al. I would appreciate it if you laid low and let his current obsession blow over. I know you said you'd help him and really, that... well, that's nice of you because you'd be indirectly helping me, but see, I don't need any help, I'm fine just the way I am. I wish I could make Al see it, but he's stubborn and I guess he gets that from me," Ed sucked on the side of his cheek again. "I'm not asking you to lie to him, just make yourself unavailable. You're here on a diplomatic mission, just avoid him if you can, that's all. That way, your honor won't be besmirched by lying or going back on your word."

The Prince looked thoughtful for a long moment and it was an expression Ed had not seen on him in quite this way before. It was a bit fascinating watching the fine, black eyebrows arch up a bit and the way he tilted his head back while keeping his arms folded across his chest.

"I would think any sibling of yours would have your powers of reasoning and persistence," the Prince said. "What am I to do if he tracks me down physically? Am I supposed to lie to him then? What are the conditions if I can't avoid him?"

Ed sighed and shook his head, rubbing at the bridge of his nose.

"No, I won't ask you to lie for me," Ed said. "If he hunts you down physically, I suppose there is nothing I can do."

"It's rare, such devotion," Ling said. "You should be grateful your brother cares for your welfare as he does," the Prince informed him.

"I am," Ed said. "But you don't fix what isn't broken. I can walk and run and hold things, I'm not broken and Al has other things to worry about in his life, I'm fine. Don't you have brothers?" Ed asked.

The Prince smiled enigmatically and nodded his head.

"I have brothers," he said, but ventured no further on the subject.

Ling was being nice and that just rubbed Ed in all sorts of uncomfortable directions. It was really hard to be mean to the idiot when he was being nice, smiling and making conversation like that.

"I can't believe I'm saying this," Ed ventured. "I'm feeling like dumplings for lunch, you game for some Xingian food?"

The Prince's smile widened to a grin and he bowed his head once quickly.

"Then it's my chance to do your job," the Prince said. "Allow me to escort you to a fine restaurant I discovered on one of my evenings alone."

"If you're going to be me and I'm going to be you," Ed said. "Does that mean you're paying?"

The Prince seemed to mull this over for a long moment before an easy shrug and his well worn grin reappeared.

"I suppose this once I can let you have a taste of being a noble man," the Prince said magnanimously.

"I'm all ready to oppress your wallet," the Professor smirked. "Lead the way."


As the door of the office opened, the General glanced up and smiled. He'd been rather absorbed in the paperwork on his desk and hadn't noticed the time; the Professor's head poking in the doorway was an excellent reminder it was time to go home. The General stood and turned to get his coat from the rack. The seasons were changing and there wouldn't be much call for the greatcoat soon, but he loved wearing it. He liked the sweep of it and the feel of the hem around his knees; it had served him well for many years and he shrugged it over his shoulders, looking back at Edward who was still just leaning in the door jamb.

"You're late today, everyone else has gone home," the General informed him. "I have some good news for you, too," he walked around to the front of his desk and looked about the papers. He frowned a bit; he'd just had the information, where did he put it?

"Everyone else is gone for the day?" Ed's voice questioned him. "You're here alone?"

"That's right, just let me find the paper I had a moment ago," the General said. He heard the office door close and the audible click of the lock. He straightened up and turned, eyebrow rising.

"Ed?" he asked.

Ed sat his briefcase down by the door and turned to walk toward Roy slowly. He still had on his glasses, but he reached up and plucked them off, folding them and transferring them into the inner pocket of his jacket. Ed had given up his long coat for the season change, but indulged Roy in his. He wore a smile that was downright suggestive and he went right up to Roy, leaned into him and crowded him back against the lip of the marble desk.

"This is really a security breach, you know," Ed said. "The General in his office after hours and all alone. Anyone could take advantage of him, anyone at all."

Roy felt his own slow smile crawl across his face and he put his hands down on the desk top, the butt of his hands on the edge, his fingers curling over the lip.

"I'm capable of taking care of myself," the General returned. "It would take someone with exceptional talent to pose a threat to me."

"You know," Ed said, reaching up and running his fingers under the flap of Roy's uniform jacket, against the buttons and loosening them, "we've had a houseful of people for almost a week. It's been pleasant and I enjoy the company, but I can't say I'm truly sorry they will be gone when we get home tonight," Ed spread the jacket open and reached up to start on the top button of the starched, white, dress shirt he wore beneath the jacket. "I've been missing our alone time... I think I need a reminder of just what being alone with you feels like."

Gloved fingers skated into the openings between the buttons and trailed down his bare chest, stopping at intervals to release each button along the way. The General took a deep breath, making his chest rise and fall under the trailing hands as he reached up and fingered heavy blond bangs, stroking his thumb over Ed's cheek.

Ed leaned forward then, the tip of his tongue making contact with the bare flesh of Roy's chest. Roy hissed in a breath and almost held it as Ed tilted his head, trailed the tip across to a nipple and circled it once. As he provided this distraction, his fingers fell to the white belt holding regulations pants and he began to undo it. He closed his lips over Roy's nipple as the belt came free and the General arched his chest to the suction, his hand falling back to the desk and gripping the lip tightly.

"Alone time with you is something I hoard," the General husked. "It's something I would go to great lengths to accomplish."

Ed's eyes rose to his and the tip of his tongue nudged the hardened nub of his nipple back and forth; it sent tingles down the General's body all the way into his groin. Ed's hands pulled the fastening of his pants open then and parted the front as he raised his left hand slowly, placing the fingertips against Roy's lips.

The General parted his lips, mouthed those bold fingers encased in white cloth and pressed upwards with his tongue when Ed pushed them further into his mouth. He groaned around them when Ed's tongue trailed from one nipple to the other to repeat the splendid torture.

Ed's automail hand settled on the General's hip, fingers pressing and kneading. He pulled his other fingers out of the General's mouth and pressed them to his lips again, opening his mouth fully over the General's nipple and sucking hard. The General's front teeth clamped lightly on Ed's fingertips, just hard enough to get a bit of cloth, and Ed drew his hand back slowly, the glove whispering off and falling slack, hanging from the General's mouth. Ed abandoned Roy's chest then and the General made a soft bereft sound, but Ed crooned softly to him and let his naked fingers dance down the General's equally naked torso.

"Ed..." Roy arched slightly, voice muffled around the glove still hanging from his mouth. Ed's bare palm pressed flat to his stomach and began a torturous slide lower, fingertips easing under the elastic of Roy's long briefs. "Ah god... Ed," the General whispered, letting the glove fall then, tilting his head down to watch it's descent. His own conquering, already knowing his surrender, was inevitable.

Ed began to sink to his knees. He did it slowly, licking Roy's body along the way, pausing to watch Roy's muscles tense and jump to his touch. Roy registered the dull thunk of Ed's metal knee striking the floor; he felt Ed's fingers, some of them smooth and warm, the others cool and scratchy from cloth, grip the waist of his pants. They pressed between the fabric and flesh of his waist, then he felt Ed's tongue again on his lower stomach, right above the beginning of a thatch of dense, dark curls. The fabric caressed his hips and thighs as it was slowly pulled to his knees, the long briefs followed and Roy was naked and erect to the eyes of the man he loved. He tensed, waiting as Edward pulled back as if to examine his prize.

"Do you know what I'm going to do to you?" Ed whispered so lowly that Roy bent forward a bit to hear him better. Gold eyes burned into his black one and Ed's hands gripped his hips.

"I'm going to suck you dry and fuck you blind," the vision on its knees said. "You have no choice or say in this," Ed leaned forward then and mouthed Roy's cock, but turned his head to the side, letting the hot length of flesh rub across his cheek as his fingers dug into Roy's waist. He nuzzled then, pushing Roy's cock against Roy's own stomach and pressing his forehead to it, turning his head back and forth like a large golden cat, looking for attention.

The General raised one knee slowly, his toes still on the floor, his hips arched away from the hard lip of marble that now pressed into his ass. Ed pulled back again and ran his tongue up the underside of Roy's quivering cock, over the thick vein, right up to the head. He caught the head then, sucking it clean of pre-cum, dragging his tongue hard over the slit, then he released it and Roy sobbed out. Ed lowered his head further, opening his mouth over one of Roy's balls and sucking it in, bathing it with the same hard tongue strokes he'd just given the head, moaning around it.

Roy's toes curled inside his boots, he gasped hard and deep and gritted his teeth. Ed's hands slid down the sides of his thighs, pushing his pants even lower as he released Roy and licked up the inside of one of those thighs, before turning his head to nose Roy's erection once again. Roy let out a half sob and rubbed himself against that slightly upturned feature of Edward Elric's face and Ed laughed.

"My poor General," Ed cooed. "He's been without for a week, I'm feeling really bad about it."

"Good," Roy whined.

"You've been so nice with the hand jobs and all," Ed crooned. "My poor General..." Ed captured him again, pulling the head into his mouth, leaning up on his knees, going down on Roy.

Roy tossed his head back and moaned low and long. he wanted to wrap a foot behind Ed's back, but his pants trapped his legs where they were. Ed's lips ran a heated path down his length, all the way to the base and then back again. Roy's body trembled and Ed gripped his hips tightly, pulling him forward and pushing him back. The General's breathing was becoming erratic and harsh, his sounds guttural and deep.

"Ed," he husked, "sweet god, Edward..." he groaned. "It's good, it's good, god it's been too long," sweat trickled down the back of the General's neck, the lining of his great coat brushed across the back of his bare thighs. The General reached then with one hand and threaded his fingers into thick golden hair; Edward hummed around him then and bore down with his lips, his thumbs pressing painfully into the point where Roy's thighs moved into his crotch, but the General didn't care. The General's hand tightened in Ed's hair, tugging a bit, and Ed grunted the way he always did. It was the fucking sexiest sound Roy had ever known.

"Yes, yes Ed... ahgod, Ed YES," he encouraged. "Harder love. Please, I need it, need you... sweet god..." Roy hardly felt the press of the hard marble into his back, as he struggled against Ed's grip. He closed his eyes and saw light as he pulsed and throbbed in an almost painful way.

"Mine," Roy got out, "just as much... as I'm yours..."

Ed was hard. The more Roy moaned and sobbed and spoke, the harder he got. Yes, the General belonged to him. He was hard and pulsing in his throat, and Ed knew a fanatic desire to please the man, to make the man scream. He had thought to take this slow and teasing, but it was impossible. Roy just made it impossible, he desired him above all else. What was it about this man that had attracted him, made him hunger in the pit of his stomach and made him ache in the juncture of his legs. He had offered himself to this overwhelming sensation when he was fifteen and he had never looked back, he would never look back. Everything he wanted in life at that moment was here, it was crying his name and pleading with its god and arching to his touch and Ed snarled as Roy's sobs quickened. Yes, make him scream, make him cum. Take everything he has to offer, swallow him whole and then take him. Take him and make him understand what ownership was really about.

Roy almost screamed when Ed released his hips; he bucked and Ed compensated. Ed was letting him thrust! It was unreal, the need to bury himself as deeply as he could in the boy's mouth, but this was a boy no longer. This was a man, his lover, his very life. He released Ed's hair, gripped the desk with both hands again and arched forward hard. Ed took it, the automail rubbing the top of his thigh frantically, the flesh hand dipping between his legs to cup and press his balls upward. Ed was taking him deep with each thrust Roy made; sweat trickled into Roy's eyes and he threw his head back as the moment seized him, coming and coming hard. It was all he could do to keep himself upright, gripping the desk, sobbing raggedly for air. Ed didn't release him immediately either; Ed was with him through the spasms and the wind down and the feeling in his stomach and the almost tears in his eyes. When he finally did release Roy, the older man sagged against the desk, licking his lips and trying to gather the strength to speak, but really, no words were needed. This is just how it was, this was what they were, this insanity and this satedness and this very moment.

This is where they loved.

It was not shallowness, it was not simple carnal desire, it was the will to make each other see the gates of heaven, even if Ed denied it. He watched Ed get slowly to his feet and his hands left the desk to grab Ed's shoulders and pull him forward. Ed stumbled into his chest and Roy wrapped his arms around him tightly, tilting his face down to the flushed one looking up at his.

Ed started to speak, but Roy didn't want words. He covered Ed's mouth, swallowing his sounds, putting everything in to his kiss: his love, his happiness, his satisfaction with his life. Ed's throat worked and he went limp against him for a moment, his hands resting on Roy's hips again, his body molding along Roy's.

They parted after several moments, Roy's lips moving to Ed's forehead, Ed panting slightly in the aftermath of Roy's display of emotion. It was good here, warm and happy. Ed stiffened then, pulled back and Roy loosened his hold, sighing.

"That was incredible," the General said, voice still a bit scratchy. "Simply incredible, love." He tried to claim Ed's mouth again, but Ed had a different look in his eye and leaned back out of reach. Instead, pushing and pulling with his hands on Roy's hips. It took the General a moment to realize what he was doing, but it slowly dawned on him. Roy swallowed and resisted a moment as Ed's automail fingers dug in to the point of almost pain, and only then did Roy let himself be turned to face his own desk.

Ed dragged the great coat up over Roy's back; he left the white shirt tails hanging because that was just damn sexy. Roy put his hands flat on the desk, bracing up with his arms, and Ed growled behind him, pushing into him. Roy's stomach connected with the cool and hard marble lip of the desk and he gasped. Ed planted his automail hand in the middle of his back and ground his cloth covered thighs against Roy's bare ass.

"Down General," Ed hissed.

Roy squared his jaw, resisting the push of the steel hand on his back, and finally Ed reached forward with his left hand and grabbed Roy's left arm at the elbow, yanking it back. The General pitched forward off balance and almost struck his chin on the marble top. His stomach tried to contract from the coolness and the lip of the desk bit into his pelvis.

"Ed," Roy gasped. Then, felt Ed's hands digging into the pockets of the great coat. He knew Ed was looking for the small bottle of lube he habitually kept on him. It seemed like a good idea at the time, especially when he trapped Ed in the empty conference room on the fourth floor that one time, but now he was having regrets. Ed pulled it out of his left pocket and sat it on the desk next to the prone man and Roy finally began shifting for a more comfortable position, not that one could be found on the smooth and cold stone surface.

"Why do you always want to fight me on this?" Ed murmured, pushing Roy's shirt up a bit and leaning down to kiss along the man's bare back. "You always scream my name and come like a freight train, so I don't understand all this resistance."

Roy was at a loss to explain, but something made him push back up on his elbows again. He felt Ed move suddenly, then cool steel fingers were on the back of his neck, pressing down again.

"Have I ever hurt you?" Ed said softly, sounding a bit put out. His other hand moved from Roy's waist, over a bare butt cheek and down the cleft, his thumb pressing against the ring of muscle there. The General shivered and shifted again as Ed worked his metal fingers on the man's neck in a gentle massage.

"You've never hurt me," Roy murmured. "It's always good."

"Then stop fighting me," Ed returned lowly and slowly released Roy's neck. "Let me make this good for you, I want you to feel good."

Ed was right. Roy felt the resistance drain from him and he put his hands together, lowering his forehead to them. The marble beneath him was warming a bit, taking on his body heat, and he felt Ed shift behind him, heard the rustle of fabric. In his peripheral vision, he saw Ed's hand close around the small bottle of lube and pull it out of sight. He heard the snap of the lid and felt a shiver run down his body. It was a psychosomatic reaction, an association with pleasure and heat and Ed's husky moans. He felt his cock stir at it and was amazed at the power of suggestion in his own mind.

Fingers moved over him, brushing up his cleft, pushing at the right juncture, and Roy relaxed as he took Ed's finger into him. Ed knew where to go and he stroked Roy on the inside just right; Roy moaned appreciation. The second finger joined almost immediately and Roy felt himself going up on his toes, pressing his lips to cool marble and clenching at the same marble uselessly. It took more time and coaxing to allow the third finger, but Ed was patient. He was so patient and so gentle and so everything that belied his usual nature.

The fingers slipped from him slowly and this time, when Ed pressed against him, it was the delicious heat of flesh on flesh. There was a pause; Ed's breathing filling the void between them, and then pressure. Pressure and heat and the momentary stretch and burn as Ed pressed in, only in increments, pausing at every small sound Roy made. Finally, Ed was as far as he could go. He crooned softly and kneaded on Roy's hips, leaning over to kiss along his spine again, causing Roy to shudder as Ed's cock, buried deep inside him, shifted. Ed took his time and Roy moaned quietly at the hot lips trailing along his spine; he tilted his head back and went up on his toes again, hearing Ed chuckle behind him as he straightened up, causing Roy to groan. Ed's hand's gripped his hips and he began to move slowly, back and forth, searching. When Roy sobbed and shuddered, the fingers on his hips tightened and Ed began to thrust in earnest.

It was mind blowing. Ed flung his head back and added his own throaty cries to Roy's. It was tight and searing and he was surrounded and caressed. He thought at first he couldn't get deep enough, and trembled with the need to hold himself in check and stay focused on what he was doing, but then Roy thrust back against him with an abandon that was new to this union. A new level of Ed on Roy that Ed hadn't experienced before and it made his eyes cross and near about drove him mad. Now he was thrusting, thrusting and pulling, trying desperately to gain anything, another centimeter, further quickening of muscle rolling along his cock, just anything to relieve the pressure.

Roy called his name several times and Ed surged at each utterance; the older man's voice broke on the last syllable and he dropped his head again. Ed was fucking him. Ed was the one in charge of delivering pleasure and he knew how to do it, how to accommodate, how to make Roy shudder and moan and cum. He pulled Roy's hips away from the desk, slipped his flesh hand over Roy's stomach and down between his legs, fisting that reawakened flesh and beginning a squeeze and slide. Roy's cries rose in volume, then he went up on his toes again and Ed squawked, trying to go up on his own toes, but wasn't as tall. It caused him to thrust at a different angle and the General cried out in surprise and confusion, and perhaps a little pain. Ed had to release Roy's cock and use both hands to force the General flat on his feet again. Ed leaned onto Roy's back, trying to use his weight to keep the larger man down, and his flesh hand returned to Roy's erection.

They were melded now, moving as one, both seeking the same rapture, both working to the same ends.

"Come on Roy, come on," Ed pleaded, his control beginning to crumble, he was shaking with both exertion and need; he wouldn't be able to hold out much longer. "Come on, General. Please, ah... Roy..."

The General shuddered all over at the sound of his given name and he sobbed against the marble, now made slick with sweat, and warm with the heat Ed was making him feel. He threw his head back.

"Almost," he sobbed to Ed, "almost... Ed... AH, Ed... love... almost..."

Ed wasn't one to speak endearments. To him, flowery words seemed trivial when a name held so much more power, but to hear the word 'love' from Roy's lips in substitution of his own name was a dizzying thing and Ed swallowed, trying to bring his mind back to the need for a measure of restraint; the fact that his lover needed and trusted him to keep the lovemaking good. He wanted to pound, he wanted to slam his forehead against Roy's spine, the wanted to dig his fingers into Roy's hips and pull the man fast and hard back against his own throbbing cock.

"Close," Roy sobbed to him, "close, love... ahplease... Ed..."

In desperation, he tried Roy's own trick. Surely one endearment said in the heat of sex would be alright.

"Come on, baby... come on..." Ed pleaded against Roy's spine. "Come on..."

Roy tensed all over and wailed, thrusting into Ed's hand and cumming. He tightened and bore down on Ed's flesh still deep inside of him and Ed gave up in those last seconds, his finishing thrusts before his own climax were hard and wild, and then it was over. He lay trembling on Roy's back as they both panted harshly.

Slowly, after several long moments, when the only thing either of them could do was feel, Edward pushed himself up and stepped back, slipping from the General and groaning with the movement. His automail hand was rubbing comforting circles on Roy's lower back and he wondered how he was going to get his handkerchief out of his pocket with his soggy left hand and not get his pants wet. Roy began to try and straighten up then. He went to push up on his hands, but the sweat-slicked marble offered no traction and he pitched forward, bumping his chin and gasping.

"Ah!" Ed said and grabbed at Roy's hips, his soggy hand problem being unintentionally solved on the General's shirt tails. "Roy, are you alright?" he asked, concerned.

The General didn't speak, he merely tried to push up again and Ed helped him, turning him and looking up at his flush countenance and parted lips. Ed couldn't help it; there was still some lingering vestige of the need to claim Roy, even after fucking the man over his own desk. Ed reached up, automail fingers threading into black hair and fisting as he pulled Roy's mouth to his to kiss him hard, thrusting in with his tongue in yet another variation of intercourse. The General made a soft sound, offered no resistance and closed his eyes. Ed held him there, captive by his hair for a few moments, then slowly pulled his lips away. The General's sound became a bit louder and he leaned forward a bit, as if to follow Ed's departing lips. Ed smiled, then his eyes widened as Roy's knees seemed to give out. Ed threw his arms around the man, but that didn't stop the General's descent. He ended up sitting on the floor of his office and leaning back against the front of his desk, looking up at Ed. They both still had their pants around their ankles; Ed had one hand on the desk and the other still tangled in Roy's shirt, half bent over.

"That was great," the General said hoarsely and smiled a bit dreamily up at him. Ed felt his own smile slip into place and threaten to become a smug grin, and they both jumped when the phone on Roy's desk began to ring. It was late and Ed gave Roy a quizzical look, but Roy just kept his dreamy smile in place and shrugged, so Ed snagged the receiver and brought it to his ear.

"General Mustang's office," he said and looked down at Roy who suddenly leaned against his leg and wrapped an arm around it. "Oh, hey Al!" Alphonse was the only remaining house guest and would be staying until the end of the week. Ed tucked the receiver against his shoulder, dropped his hand to the top of Roy's head and rubbed.

"Yeah, we're running late, sorry," Ed said into the phone. "I should have called, but you know what a slacker the General is, last minute paperwork and all. Did you make dinner or should we bring some? Oh really? Okay just keep it warm, we'll be home in about an hour."

The General nosed under Ed's own shirt tail and began to kiss the side of Ed's bare thigh and hip. Ed's fingers rubbed harder and he leaned a little more on the desk.

"What's that? No, I was thinking we could go out on Thursday, I have to be in town late that day anyway... out of breath? Well I... uh... look, we'll just see you in a bit," Ed said. Roy's hand trailed up the back of his leg, onto his ass and squeezed as he dragged his tongue to the back of Ed's thigh.

"Okay I have to go," Ed said quickly, "see you later!" He hung up the phone, braced himself a moment on the desk, then he squirmed away as the General made a soft snort of disappointment.

"We have to go home, Al's worried," Ed said. "Come on, let's get you up." Ed pulled up his pants, then bent down and offered his hands to Roy. Roy took them and held on and just smiled languidly, deciding it was his turn to play boneless.

"Roy, you're heavy and long, it's hard for me to get you up by myself," Ed grunted and pulled on Roy's hands, straddling the General's legs. "Come on, we have to go home, Roooyyyyy..."

"How is it you always have so much energy after sex," the General marveled. "I really feel like a nap, I wish you could drive," he sighed.

"I'll let you sleep on me on the couch after dinner," Ed bargained. "Come on Roy, get up," Ed kept pulling, but only managed to slide the larger man away from the desk a little.

The General suddenly pulled back and Ed yelped as he fell onto him and into his arms, his knees still straddling the General's legs and his chest now pressed to his. Roy wrapped his arms around him and pressed noses with him.

"Ask me reallly nicely and call me what you called me while you were doing me on the desk and I'll get up," the General murmured and gave Ed a peck on the lips.

Ed squirmed in the hold and averted his eyes, working his jaw.

"I called you Roy," he offered, but the General shook his head and kissed Ed's cheek, working his fingers in slow circles on Ed's back. Ed squirmed a bit more and sighed, rolling his eyes upwards.

"Please get up, baby," Ed mumbled.

"I have a pet name," the General cooed, then laughed as Ed pushed away and the General allowed himself to be hauled to his feet. He then stood there smirking until Ed growled at him and bent over to yank the General's pants up.


Al appeared in the archway of the living room door and caught them kissing in the entrance way. They both jumped like naughty school children and Al put his hands on his hips with a raised eyebrow.

"So, paperwork was it?" Alphonse said, folding his arms and leaning on the archway doorjamb.

Ed made a big production of taking off his jacket and putting it on the hook, but the General smirked and shrugged the greatcoat off, giving Al an arch of his own eyebrow.

"Dinner will keep until after you get a shower," Al said, shaking his head. "You two are hopeless, just had to break in the marble topped desk."

Ed, with cheeks blazing, fled down the hall and disappeared into the bedroom, R.D. at his heels. The General did his usual smug saunter, winking at Al when he passed him by.

Al just grinned and went to set the table.


For thee old stores of fame and power I steal, and holy springs audaciously unseal.

The students bent their heads and dutifully took notes.

"That is Thomas Vaughan from his text Aula Lucis, does anybody here know the text's translated name?" the Professor asked.

He smiled apologetically at Seth and pointed at Tom Pine's raised hand in the back of the class.

"The House of Light?" Tom ventured. The Professor gave him a small half bow and the boy grinned wide.

"Excellent," the Professor said. "Vaughan, while given to being a rather overtly religious sort of text, did bring forth many thought provoking observations," the Professor continued. "The coagulation of our water and the solution of our earth are the two greatest and most difficult operations of the Art, for these two are contrary keys: the water opens and the earth shuts."

Just as hands were being raised, there was a tap at the classroom door. Ed scowled and sighed, held up his finger to the class and walked to the door. He opened it and prepared to give the interloper a piece of his academic mind, but instead he smiled and stepped back, watching his younger brother walk into the classroom.

"Hi Al," came a chorus from the desks and Al smiled, raising his hand and nodding.

"Hey guys, I'm glad you all had a good time at the party, is it okay to borrow my brother for a second?" Al asked.

"Asking permission to borrow me?" Ed grinned. "I wasn't aware they owned me to the point of my needing their approval to have a word in the hall."

"You are so owned," Al informed him, then turned back to the boys. "Won't be but a minute, then he can come back and lecture you on Vaughan all he likes."

"So you heard that," Ed said, ushering Al back out the door and following him, pulling the door mostly shut, but not all the way, to keep a half ear on the classroom.

"Seems a little heavy for beginners, and with your definitely unreligious leanings, you might want to take it easy," Al said.

"I'm only using him to illustrate a point about the flow of energies, but never mind that," Ed said. "What brings you into the city and to my classroom specifically?"

"Well," Al shifted, "I have to head back East," he said then threw his hands up in surrender at the look on Ed's face. "I told you I left a few experiments brewing when I traveled here for the party, it seems one of them has gotten a little out of hand," Al tried to placate. "Don't look at me like that, just let me go and help Parkerson. I promised as soon as the situation is under control, I'll hop the next train right back to Central."

"I suppose I should get use to this," Ed sighed. "We'll never be completely free of the military, will we?"

"Ed," Al said, "it's become like a second family, there isn't any denying it. Besides, you've gone and attached yourself to someone who will have the military as their life long career. It's not such a bad thing; it's changed a lot since we were young."

"I almost wish Roy still had some political agenda," Ed said. "A house representative position would suit him and free him up at the same time," he quirked an eyebrow at Al's face. "What's that look for?"

"What about a Prime Ministership?" Al said softly. "You know a mere representative role would never suit the Pirate. Not enough plundering, you see," Al said, trying to make light.

"I don't think so," Ed snorted. "He's got more sense than to want that job. Besides, we all know I wouldn't make any sort of good political... partner," Ed shook his head. "I should just be grateful he's content to be a General and accept the fact that I will never be free of blue uniforms. It's as simple as that."

Al seemed uncomfortable all of a sudden. He suddenly hugged his brother hard and stepped back.

"Right," he said. "I better get going. I'll call you from East City. Oh, before I forget, speaking of the Pirate, I stopped by his office first on the way here," Al continued. "It seems my timing is good because he says the two of you have an impromptu soiree to attend tomorrow night."

"We do?" Ed blinked. "He hasn't told me about it."

"I think he just found out himself. Seems General Culpepper wants to make your Prince feel more welcome and is holding a dinner party at her place," Al said. "I really wish I could stick around and attend. Do me a favor, will you ask the Prince about setting up a meeting with me after I get back?"

Now it was Ed's turn to shift uncomfortably, but he nodded once and sighed.

"Sure Al," he said. "I'll see what I can do, but Ling's pretty busy and he's flighty too, so don't be too disappointed..." the thought never got to finish itself, because Eric stuck his head out the door and cleared his throat politely.

"Um, Professor," the boy said. "Duffy got his head stuck in a desk," Eric bit his lip.

Ed sighed and looked at Al, making a shooing motion with his hand.

"Go catch your train," he told his little brother, "I have to go point and laugh at one of my students."

Al grinned and nodded before turning with a wave to walk away.

"He's going to point and laugh," they heard Eric exclaim to the rest of the class as Ed turned to go back in the door.


"What is this about a dinner party with his royal moochery?" Ed asked, swinging into Roy's office and nodding at Breda and Fuery who where sitting at the big table.

"It was just sprung on me," the General said. "But Culpepper is giving it and I could hardly say no. She's done a lot for me over the years."

"I don't have to go, do I?" Ed asked and sighed at the look Roy gave him. "Can we at least take R.D. back then?" he asked hopefully and then sighed at the additional look.

"You'll be able to pet R.D.'s mother," Roy told him. "You know in the... excitement of yesterday, I forgot to give you the good news I had for you," the General said, reaching down to his stack of papers.

"The Prince is leaving immediately after the party and going back to Xing?" Ed said with exaggerated glee and actually bounced on the balls of his feet. Breda laughed from across the room and Ed fully expected to get another 'look', and he did, but this one was a bit different and Ed couldn't quite place it. The General did not look as put out as he should have.

"You are certainly in a mood today," the General said and then offered a sheet of paper in his direction. "But no, I was speaking to Rachel down in the secretarial pool..."

"What were you doing in the secretarial pool," Ed snorted, snatching the paper. Again from across the room, Breda laughed. Ed glanced down at the sheet in his hand and the General took a moment to look in Breda's direction.

"As I was saying," the General continued, "I was speaking to Rachel Dunbar. She is the niece of Octavious Dunbar, The Hydro Alchemist?"

"An alchemist for my exhibition," Ed said, his former scowled wiped clean. "Roy, you are a miracle worker. Alex said yes, so between the three of us, I think we can give a decent show. This is all his contact information? I'll have to get right on it. The exhibition isn't for another couple of months, but I think I need to meet the man and then the three of us need to plan what we're going to do." Ed wandered away from the big desk and plopped down on the couch.

"I'm glad you're pleased," the General said. "Now I won't get any lip about going to General Culpepper's party, will I?"

"This is equivalent exchange enough to put up with a couple of hours of boring small talk," Ed said, not looking up for the spec sheet. "At least I can tell Prince Bottomless Pit to hork off tomorrow because he's getting free dinner."

"Does he still show up for lunch every day?" the General asked, his tone a bit strained.

"Like clockwork," Ed said. "Heck, he even paid for lunch a couple of days ago when he swung by to apologize for being an asshole at Al's party," Ed shrugged. "He's decent company when he feels he owes you," the blond alchemist grinned.

"It sounds like you're starting to develop quite a friendship," the General mumbled.

"You know, I would have argued that point last week, but he's not so bad," Ed said. "Once you get past his incessant need to wear that stupid grin all the time, he's actually pretty intelligent."

The General made no further comment and returned to his paperwork.


Havoc grinned and crushed out his cigarette as Sarah trotted over carrying his dinner. She sat the plate down in front of him with a flourish, dipped her finger in the gravy and held it to his lips. He took the offering and held her finger a moment longer than necessary to suck it clean and then tilted his face as she leaned over for a kiss.

"Hi soldier boy," she purred when they parted. "Eat up; you'll need your strength. The band playing at the dance hall tonight are real swingers," she grinned.

"So I hear," Jean said. "You never give me a night off, not that I'm complaining," he grinned.

"I got even better news," Sarah said, putting her hand on the table and leaning against it, "Abby is going to visit her folks; she'll be gone tomorrow and won't be back until Monday."

"Sucks to be Falman," Havoc said, looking down at his plate of chopped steak with potatoes, gravy and vegetables.

"You're missing the point," Sarah said. "Abby will be gone and I'll be in the apartment. Alone," she stressed.

Havoc looked up at her again, eyes widening a bit. Alone? Sarah was going to be in the apartment alone? What if something happened? What if someone tried to break in? A female alone in an apartment wasn't the safest thing in the world, maybe he should see if one of the other girls could stay with her until Abby came back. That might be the sensible thing to do. But then the male portion of his brain screeched in incoherent rage and he blinked again. She was going to be alone... His jaw went slack for a moment as his libido banged on pots and pans for attention. Oh yes, dear lord, she was telling him this because...

He was broken from his inner turmoil when Sarah grabbed his face and turned it toward her, squeezing it to make his mouth pucker funnily.

"Damn, soldier boy," she laughed, "you have really blond moments." Then she kissed him again before skipping off to wait on other tables.


The next evening found the General sitting on the bed watching Ed get ready for the party. The young man had developed a fashion sense not quite in the making with the rest of the world; it lent Edward his very own mystique. His high collared shirt, ringed by a dark tie that wasn't tied in a tradition sense, had a bit of its own flair as it bunched elegantly and neatly in the neckline of his vest. He wore somber browns, but they only helped to enhance his unusual eye color and golden hair. The ponytail, Roy figured, must have been necessity. He vaguely remembered the limbs Edward had when he had walked back into Roy's life a little over two years ago. At the time, he remembered thinking they didn't seem to have the dexterity of automail, so perhaps Edward had fallen out of the habit of braiding his hair simply because he couldn't. It really didn't bother Roy, the braid was a boy's measure and Edward's ponytail gave him grace and a bit of panache.

"Must be nice to be military," Ed snorted, pausing at the mirror to adjust his tie again. "That uniform is a one suit fits all occasions with you."

"Did you learn to tie your tie like that wherever it was you were those six years?" the General asked. "You wear all the clothes everyone else wears, only differently, I was just wondering."

Ed stopped for a moment, brushed a hand down the front of his vest and turned to look at Roy.

"It wasn't so different," he said quietly. "It's almost the same, it's just these little touches off," he offered. "Only people who look for differences notice them."

"Is that a yes or a no?" Roy asked.

"Yes," Ed said with a nod. "It's a yes."

"Thank you," the General said. "I appreciate it."

"We're going to be late," Ed mumbled, snagging his jacket off the bed and going out into the hall.

It was at least a start, the General thought as he rose to follow his lover.


Ed had a somewhat evil grin as he and Roy stood in the receiving line in the elegant foyer of General Culpepper's home. Just ahead of them stood Ling, he was wearing red silk, shaking hands and bowing his head politely; silently at his back stood Ran Fan and another man who Ed didn't recognize. When Roy was prodded, he offered up the name 'Fuu', but that still didn't do Ed any good. He flexed his automail hand, encased in its dove-gray glove, and waited a little impatiently at his turn to give the Prince a hand shake.

Ed made Roy go first, and the Prince and the General met eyes in a way Ed found rather odd. He almost pushed Roy out of the way when his turn came, and he immediately gripped Ling's hand tightly, grinning up into his face and beginning to squeeze a bit.

"Ah, Professor Elric," the Prince said, nothing showing on his face but his usual grin. "It's so good to see you, I'm sorry we missed our usual lunch date," the Prince stated.

"I knew we would be seeing each other this evening," Ed said, smirking himself and allowing a bit of a head tilt, "so I figured I'd give my wallet a rest." Ed squeezed harder and the Prince's smile got a little tight, but they kept right on shaking.

"Your services are invaluable to us," the Prince pulled out the royal pronouns, looking a bit strained, but shook gamely. "We'll see you are properly compensated for your services, never fear," Ling squeaked out.

"I'm sure you will," Ed simpered back. "But it's my pleasure anyway. You should know, I'm not in this for the recognition, I'm all for fostering good relations between our countries."

"Spoken... like the... brilliant example of... intelligence you are," the Prince gasped out and bowed his head a bit, the shake starting to weaken.

Okay, the mooch was handing out compliments, time to be nice. Ed eased up on his grip and then let the Prince's hand go entirely.

"See you at dinner," Ed grinned in triumph and turned to see Roy looking at him with that same odd look as before.


General Culpepper was an enthusiastic host. She gave Roy a tight hug and one just couldn't help but smile at the older woman, especially after she brushed down Roy's shoulders so maternally. But Edward got the royal treatment: the General took his arm and escorted him through the house.

"You'll get the tour," she told him. "I'm so glad you came, I never get to see enough of you and didn't want to bother you at your brother's party, that's such a family thing."

"Ah, thank you," Ed said. He was never sure what to make of the woman. Roy obviously had great respect for her and Ed had often heard of her prowess and excellent strategic abilities. She had been a commander in the north for many years before her promotion landed her an office in Central headquarters, but all in all, General Martha Culpepper was a bit of a mystery.

"Roy certainly is lively with you about," General Culpepper said as she opened a door off the hallway and many enthusiastic canines crowded the entrance. "Okay, get back my darlings, I've brought you a guest!"

Six terriers all vied for Ed's attention. They put their small paws on his leg, did incredible feats of gymnastics to draw his eye and danced around General Culpepper's feet in adoration. Ed could immediately pick out Moppet, the mother of Roy's terror back home, because R.D. was almost her spitting image in both looks and temperament. The General stood back and smiled fondly as Ed gave several sets of small ears a scratch and looked about the den. It was adorned with many dog show trophies, ribbons and pictures of the General, her dogs and a man with a fedora and grin. The General noticed Ed's gaze and smiled.

"That was my husband, Jonathan," she said. "God rest him these few years now, we shared the common love of our canine companions," she said. "Now I just have my darlings as company. We don't have the heart to make the dog show circuit since he's left us."

"I'm sorry to hear it," Ed said. "It looks like it was something you both really enjoyed from all the awards."

"Oh things change," she said. "People come and go; it isn't so much a loss to me as a tribute to him. He was the best handler and trainer one could hope for. I would never be able to fill his shoes and I wouldn't want to."

"You've been very kind to General Mustang in the past," Ed said. "He speaks very highly of you, and uh, he really likes his dog," Ed said, straightening up despite the frantic pawing on his automail knee.

"He's a good man," the General said. "You don't often find such integrity and honesty in our line of work. He did many good things, even though some people will dispute that. I firmly believe to this very day he rid our country of a great evil, though I would never be able to prove or voice what that evil was. It's just my way of thanks for his service, in what limited capacity I can provide."

"He's very grateful, I know," Ed said.

"So you should," the General said. "As you are his constant companion and have been so from an early age," she smiled as Ed looked at her. "Everyone in the military knows of the great FullMetal Alchemist," she smiled. "Who also helped to rid our country of a great evil but had never been properly acknowledged for it."

"It wasn't entirely selfless," Ed murmured. Something about this woman made him feel the need to confess, even if just a little. "It was a happy accident of a self serving cause."

"That doesn't make it any less valid," she assured him. "Nor should it make those of us who know the special circumstances any less grateful. I can say with certainty that I'm glad you're back. Not necessarily for your country, but my own self servedness is glad to see Roy Mustang so animated again."

Ed had never been acknowledged for his relationship with the General outside his own circle of friends. For a moment it was almost frightening, then it was disturbingly warm and he told himself over and over again that he didn't need approval. The world could just go hang, it was... it was love. Love should be honored in whatever form it was found. He had an irrational urge to thank the woman soundly, perhaps even hug her, but he swallowed and nodded his head instead.

She patted him fondly on the shoulder and turned back to the door.

"Come on now," she said. "Such a handsome young man like you, I'm bound to hear rumors of what we were really doing back here all this time," she laughed.

Ed grinned and preceded her into the hall as she scolded and trapped the small dogs back in the den with the closing of the door.

"Thank you for the tour and I enjoyed meeting your dogs, and... thank you," Ed said again.

"You're very welcome young man," she smiled and led him back to the party.


Roy found Ed at his elbow, looking flushed and pleased for some reason and his eyes immediately darted the room to check to see where the Prince was holding court, but Ling had not moved from his spot where he was, obviously deep in discussion with one of the house representatives and a few military personnel. Roy felt himself relax a little.

The call to dinner came just on the heels of the General's relief and he prodded Ed gently with a hand on his back as they all trooped to a lavish formal dining from where an impressive table seated twenty-four comfortably. Ed was seated next to Roy and smiled a little at the formal placard that declared him 'Professor Elric'. He was relieved to find he was far down the table from the Prince and could easily avoid both his conversation and his eyes. As it was, the Prince was seated immediately to the hostess right, and she tapped her water glass for everyone's attention once they were seated.

"It is my very great honor to invite Prince Ling here with us this evening," General Culpepper said. "It is my fond wish that as we are now, all sitting around a table, in understanding and friendship, so it should be with our brothers to the East. We welcome you Prince Ling as an honored representative of your father's court and hope that good relations with the noble country of Xing continue for many, many years to come."

There was polite applause around the table and the Prince inclined his head deeply to General Culpepper.

"I am very honored," he said smoothly. "In the interest of keeping relationships on good terms, I will not forestall the dinner with a long winded speech, I'm afraid my appetite is already whet."

There was laughter, Ed shook his head and General Culpepper patted the Prince's hand, calling for the servers to begin.


After dinner, there was the usual congregation. Roy and all the similarly uniformed individuals were herded out onto a lovely brick veranda where they could smoke cigars to their heart's content. Large brandy snifters were also distributed and Ed hastily declined, lingering at the edge of the gathering before the smoke and boring conversation sent him fleeing back into the house. Inside were the wives, who gave him passing glances as he skirted their group looking for a diversion. He finally decided he'd go to the bathroom, not because he really had to go, but to see if it was nicer than most people's houses, because that seemed to be the theme of this place. After obtaining directions and climbing the stairs, he ventured down the semi-lit hallway and was almost slammed in the nose by the opening of the bathroom door. He stood face to face with General Stanton, Daniel's father and in Ed's opinion, all around bore.

"Professor," the General said as he hitched up on his pants. "I see you are still tagging along after General Mustang."

Ed flattened his expression and arched an eyebrow in return.

"General Stanton," he barely acknowledged and sought to move around the man.

"If not for the fact that I didn't have a certain amount of faith in Mustang's aspirations, I might have reservations about my son in your class," the man said and Ed went still.

"I beg pardon?" Ed said. "I wasn't aware I was lacking in approval for teaching alchemy to children in the academy," he said tightly. "Your son is an excellent student by the way, very bright."

"Well of course," the General said, "he's a Stanton after all. We have a family tradition."

Ed's eyes widened slightly and he hoped to hell that Stanton wasn't about to throw off his shirt and strike a pose.

"What aspirations is it General Mustang seems to have?" Ed asked off handedly. He really shouldn't be encouraging conversation with this man, but his curiosity got the better of him.

"I'm surprised, since everyone knows good and well you're his... friend," the General let the word drip from his lips in a way it should never be associated with, his disapproval evident. "But I do have confidence in his bid for the Prime Ministry, despite his certain... leanings. As long as you keep your nose clean and my son doesn't come home spouting some nonsense about men that is... unnatural, I'm inclined to play along with this little charade he's set you up with."

"Cha... charade?" Ed said, something in his stomach twisting unpleasantly.

"This Professor of Alchemy nonsense," Stanton continued. "Everyone knows the General strong-armed the board into creating that position... but, I see. Everyone but you, that is..."

"Excuse me," Ed half growled, "I was coming up here for a reason," his eyes darted at the bathroom.

"Oh don't hold it against him," Stanton said, stepping out of the way. "He had to do something about the liability, at least this way he makes it look legit."

Ed went into the bathroom without a backward glance and shut the door loudly.

He leaned back against the bathroom door and concentrated on breathing.

It wasn't true. It wasn't true!

It was just the talk of a man with a... an aversion to his relationship with the General. Roy would not do something like that. He wouldn't scheme like that, keep things from him like that, manipulate like that...

But he has in the past!

NO! It wasn't like that now, they were lovers, they were equals!

He would have told him if he was considering a bid for the Prime Minister's seat. He would have told Ed if the position was offered not because of Ed's knowledge and experience but because Roy wanted him to have it!

To make it legit?! What the fuck did that mean?! Roy loved him, he loved him! He wouldn't try to cover it up, lie about it, use it to his advantage! He wouldn't, he wouldn't!

He's used it before, he plotted and planned your every move, he used you to make things convenient for himself! Remember Youswell?!

It was different then! Maybe he had, but it always turned out in Ed's best interests anyway...

Or is that what he made you think?

"What about a Prime Ministership? Al had said softly. "You know a mere representative role would never suit the Pirate. Not enough plundering, you see."

Ed's eyes widened. No, Al knew? NO! It was just a coincidence, that's all!

When is anything in YOUR life ever a coincidence?

"Roy... would tell me," he said lowly to the air around him. "Roy would not use me like this," he assured his invisible audience. "He wouldn't make me a laughing stock and keep me in the dark."

A tap on the bathroom door jarred him and he pushed away from it before turning to look at the closed door wildly.

"You've been in there for quiet a while, Professor," a familiar Xingian-accented voice came to him, muffled by the wood. "You're not going through the cabinets, I hope."

Ed snatched the door open and scowled right into the Prince's face.

"I would be going through the cabinets," the Prince grinned, but the grin faltered, faded. "Edward, are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Ed snarled, but even to him it sounded weak. "What the hell are you doing up here anyway, come to spy on me in the bathroom? What the hell is your problem; I can't take two fucking steps without turning around and having you breathing down my neck!"

The Prince looked inscrutable; his face neither taking on offense or outrage. He reached up and caught Ed by the elbow and Ed tensed all over, clenching his fists and setting his jaw.

"Tell me what has upset you, who has upset you," the Prince said with a tone to his voice that confused Ed for a moment, taking the edge off his rising anger. "It disturbs me to see you like this, if you want to take more time to collect yourself, I can see to it you are not disturbed."

What the fuck is his PROBLEM?

Ed jerked his elbow away savagely and bared his teeth, but still the Prince did not flinch or look away. Ed wanted to pound his face with steel and scream obscenities until the wallpaper peeled. He wanted to fling all this fucking... whatever it was, right back into that royal face and then, maybe then, the bastard would leave him the hell alone!

Then what? Then what? Al. He wanted Al. Al wasn't here, Al was on a train to East City because Hawkeye was there and that is what Al wanted. It didn't matter anymore, this world Ed was building around himself. This nirvana Ed was trying to hold onto, Al was out finding his own. He should! He shouldn't! He should be here, his brother needed to talk to someone, he needed to say these things out loud and he needed to sort them out before they strangled him, before he slapped his hands together and just reduced everything he saw to a pile of rubble!

He wouldn't use me! He WOULDN'T!

The Prince grabbed his shoulders, moved him back into the bathroom and shut the door behind them. Ed hissed in a dangerous breath and drew his arm back. Ran Fan was not here to stop him now. He could give this snide, snerking, condescending bastard exactly what he deserved! He tensed at the shoulder and telegraphed his every move; the bastard just stood there. To hell with it, he asked for it! Ed threw a wild punch, but his automail hand met solidly with a palm. The Prince flinched, just a little, but took it, regarding Ed silently. Ed yanked his hand back, stumbled back a step and panted.

"What... what the fuck do you want from me?" Ed finally said, low and tired. "I can't figure out what it is you want from me."

"I don't want anything from you," the Prince said. "Save perhaps your friendship. I think saying to you that I would listen if you wish to talk is pointless at this time; you are not one to open up easily, but I think you should hear it. There is someone who is willing to listen," the Prince inclined his head, just a little. "It would be my honor as your friend."

Ed just stared at him, unable to form a sentence. Several things whirled in his mind. He wanted Al, he needed Al. Everything felt like it was tumbling in around him, but that was so unfair. He had to let Al go, to let Al finally live his life now that he had it back. He stared at the man in front of him without really seeing him for a moment, struggling with his breath and his agitation.

"I'll... let you know," Ed said hoarsely, feeling ashamed of himself for a moment for throwing the punch, but he'd needed it, he'd felt some diffusion of the situation flee when his fist had made contact.

The Prince didn't smile or grin, he merely nodded and Ed reached up to rub his face. Then there was another knock on the door.

"It's like the fucking train depot or something," Ed murmured.

"Ed?" Roy's voice sounded through the door. "I'm told you've been up here quite a while, are you alright?"

The Prince turned and opened the door, and for a moment, he and Roy just stared at each other. Roy's eye the skipped over the Prince's shoulder and focused on Ed, his face pulled down in a frown, and he pushed right by Ling, reaching out to put a hand on Ed's shoulder, but Ed flinched back and shook his head.

Roy's eyebrow rose slowly, he looked from Ed to the Prince and back to Ed again. He seemed to have to school his expression and he pursed his lips before he spoke again.

"What's going on here?" he asked, looking at Ed. "Was the Prince... bothering you?" His gaze then turned back to the Prince.

The Prince's smirk slid slowly back into place, but Ed cleared his throat loudly and Roy turned back to him.

"No," Ed said, "he wasn't bothering me."

Ling shrugged and looked at Roy mildly, but they both moved as Ed shoved his way between them and out into the hall.

"Ed," Roy said, following after him, "are you sure you're alright? Do you want to leave?"

"Yes," Ed said, his voice strangely flat. "I want to go home."

Roy nodded, put his hand on Ed's back and himself between Ed and the Prince.

"Let's go downstairs then and make our goodbyes," Roy said, glancing back at Ling and bowing his head. "Your highness, if you'll excuse us?"

"Most certainly," the Xingian said. "I hope the Professor feels better."

"We appreciate your concern," Roy said. Something in his tone made Ed turn and look at him. "But he'll be just fine," Roy gave Ed a little push and Ed let himself be steered toward the stairs.

Downstairs, General Culpepper expressed her regrets at their early departure, but Roy only half paid attention, his eye drawn to a figure in scarlet silk standing at the top of the stairs. He felt better once they got outside and he could fill his lungs with the still, cool air of the fading winter. Ed was silent as they got into the car and Roy had to keep his eye on the road instead of studying his lover's profile.

If that Xingian bastard touched him...

He would what? What exactly would he do? His grip tightened on the steering wheel. When the situation came to light, and the Emperor turned his ear in Roy's direction, he hadn't expected to have to deal with this. Was the price suddenly higher than he was willing to pay? No, he could play this, he could work this out. This was Ed for god's sake, he trusted Ed. If Ed said nothing happened, then nothing happened, that was just the end of it. He caught Ed looking at him out of the side of his eye.

"Want to tell me what really happened?" Roy said softly.

"I told you what really happened," Ed said tightly. "The Prince didn't do anything, we were just talking."

Roy shifted his shoulders, arguing with himself out of pressing further. Just like always, just like always, he'd have to wait for Ed to bring it up himself. What had the Prince said? What could he have possibly said to make Ed react like this? He tried not to dwell on it as they hit the thoroughfare. He swallowed... damn it! Ed needed to stop this, he needed to open up when things upset him; how was Roy supposed to help otherwise? Ed had been flushed; he had been drawn and panting. The Prince didn't touch him, Ed would say so if he did.

They finally reached the house, still silent. Roy unlocked the door, cornered R.D., put his leash on him and turned to immediately go back out. Ed continued down the hall and turned to go into the bedroom as Roy pulled the door shut.

Roy watched the little terrier inspect the bushes he had inspected hundreds of times over. Ed was his, he thought he'd impressed that on the Prince the night of Al's party. Ed would not betray him, Ed loved him. Ed knew Roy loved him, he made sure to show it, hell he even said, and not just during sex. The words hardly ever passed Ed's lips, unless Roy had him heated, off guard, in his arms. He would have to make sure Ed knew it, he would not let that Xingian son of a bitch make Ed think of anyone else. He was Ed's lover... HE was Ed's lover and had been so for years, nothing would pull them apart. He turned abruptly, gave R.D. a yank and heading for the house and the little terrier trotted desperately to keep up with the General's long strides. In the house, Roy turned him loose and headed for the bedroom, not even bothering to take off his coat. When R.D. tried to run in with him, he shoved the little dog out with his foot and shut the door.

"What are you doing?" Ed asked, stripped to his boxers and standing by the dresser to get out his pajamas. "R.D. will just start whining if you leave him in the hall."

It only took five strides to cross to Ed and he grabbed him by the shoulders and crushed his mouth over Ed's startled exclamation. When Ed put his hands against Roy's chest, the General just pulled on his shoulders harder.

You are MINE.

"Roy... what the hell..." Ed managed to gasp, tearing his mouth away, but then Roy was turning him, forcing him back. Ed's knees struck the side of the mattress and he sat hard as Roy leaned into him. Ed turned his face away, so Roy took the side of his jaw. He reached up and grabbed his shoulder again, pushing him back. Ed made a sound of protest, but Roy knew where he liked to be touched, how he liked to be stroked. Roy's fingers skated down his body and under the waistband of his boxers.

"What's gotten into you?" Ed asked, breathless as Roy pulled his boxers down to his knees. "Damn it," Ed tried to twist but the General caught his hip, pushed it down again and held him flat. What the hell was going on? Roy's mouth sought him then, no preamble, no teasing lips trailing down his stomach. Just Ed's cock suddenly in his mouth and Ed wanted to protest, he wanted to push him off, but it felt so damn good.

Roy wasn't messing around, the suction was hard and he was taking Ed deep with almost every push and pull. The hand not holding Ed's hip moved up between Ed's legs, palming and stroking his balls. Ed arched his head back, gripped the comforter beneath him and willed all thought to be suspended. Yes, just feel, don't think. Those words, that the man in the hall outside the bathroom said, he should give the benefit of the doubt. The benefit of the doubt! It didn't take long, Roy's intensity won out over Ed's earlier resistance and Ed cried out loudly as he came hard. Roy took it, working him until Ed's spasms subsided and the sensation was becoming a bit too much. Roy released him then, looking down at him with something Ed couldn't place, but it made Ed's stomach knot and he felt hot and cold all at once. Then the General moved again and Ed gave a startled cry as he was flipped onto his stomach. He scrabbled at the comforter as Roy yanked his boxers the rest of the way off, got between his legs and pressed them wide. Ed could hear the sound of fabric and he turned his head to see Roy digging in the pocket of his coat. He still had on his coat! Ed made a grab for the other side of the bed, but Roy grabbed the back of his thighs and held him in place.

"Roy, have you lost your fucking mind?" Ed finally screamed. "What the fuck is going on? What if I say no, you bastard. Planning on fucking raping me?"

Everything in the room went still and suddenly Ed was free. He rolled onto his back, pushed himself up onto his elbows and took in the stricken face of his lover, who closed his eye slowly and lifting a hand to the side of his face.

"You shitwit," Ed said, even as he felt his anger fleeing. "What is going on in that perverted brain of yours? Fuck." Ed pushed himself into a sitting position.

"I'm sorry," Roy suddenly said, hoarsely. "You know I'd never hurt you... I'm just... I'm sorry." The General turned away, started to move around the bed.

"You didn't hurt me, asshole," Ed screeched, going to his hands and knees and crawling to the end of the bed to grab Roy by the sleeve of his coat. "Just you're coming on like a mad man and I don't know what the hell is wrong, at least talk to me, damn it. Give me something!" Even as he said it, he knew himself for a hypocrite and Roy's jaw tightened.

"Don't say it," Ed cut him off as Roy opened his mouth. "Don't say it, I know," Ed gave a hard tug on Roy's sleeve and the older man let himself be pulled closer. "We're both fucking idiots," Ed went up on his knees, pushed at Roy's shoulder to turn him and the General faced him.

"We are both too used to secrets," Ed said. "Hazard of the profession, the only problem is you're in and I'm out," Ed pushed the General's coat off his shoulders, watched it rustle down his arms and drop off the end of his hands to pool on the floor. "If you want to fuck me, at least get naked," Ed said. Roy's eye caught his and he reached up slowly, smoothing his fingers over the side of Ed's face.

"I love you," Roy said in a strange way. "You are... I've never thought of you not being here, even when you weren't, you were with me."

"I'm not going anywhere," Ed said. "We're in this together. I don't know what's gotten you this upset, but we're in this together."

Tell me you love me.

Roy put his hands on Ed's bare shoulders, ran them down his arms, one warm, one cold. Ed let him do it, then shrugged his hands off, reaching up and going for the fasteners of the General's uniform jacket, but Roy caught his hands, lifted them and kissed them, one and then the other.

Tell me you love me.

Ed sat back on his heels and Roy released his hands, going for his buttons himself. It only took a few moments to get them undone, then he moved to the side of the bed and removed his boots, stood and was soon naked. Ed moved back then, managed to get the covers down and Roy crossed to turn off the overhead lights. Roy slid into bed and Ed moved to him, against his side and Roy rolled to pin him on his back. He leaned down slowly and Ed opened his mouth. Roy let his tongue move into the invitation.

I'm not kissing the Prince as well, am I?

Gods above, he shouldn't think like that, because even as he admonished himself, he turned the kiss into something else, something possessive. Ed squirmed a bit under him, not expecting the kiss to turn hard. Roy caught Ed's hands and held them over his head, and when Roy pulled back, Ed panted and frowned; Roy could just make it out in the moonlight streaming into the room. It didn't matter, it just didn't matter. Words, he and Ed could fling them endlessly, but Ed understood touch and taste and passion. Roy pressed his knee between Ed's legs and Ed didn't hesitate. He parted them and Roy moved further over him, not releasing his wrists. Then Ed spoke.

"You think... there is something between me and the Prince," he said lowly, his voice odd. Roy said nothing. He shoved up, releasing Ed's wrists, searching for and finding the lube abandoned earlier on the side of the bed where he'd tossed it from his coat pocket.

Tell me you love me.

There was no resistance at all. Roy introduced slick fingers and Ed took deep breaths. It was really just a bit of foreplay formality nowadays, they were steady lovers and Edward was no longer as tight as he had been; he was quicker to relax. Roy pressed Ed's knees up, moved forward, reached to line himself up and sank inside. Ed gave a low sound, a moan and turned his head. Roy felt the sheets drag upwards when Ed bunched his fingers into them.

No one... no one can have this, can touch you, can taste you, can feel you. You belong to me.

Roy began to thrust, slow and deep, pulling almost all the way out before moving back inside. Ed groaned with it, arched his head back and licked his lips. Ed liked this, he liked this slow and thorough. He tried to deny it, but he could never hide it from Roy. Here is where Roy got the best responses, the loudest moans and the sweat and sobs.

No one else can give you this, no one knows you like I do.

Ed arched his back and ground the top of his head into the pillow. The look on his face was beautiful agony as Roy stroked his insides.

"He didn't touch you, did he?" the General's voice suddenly said in the darkness.

Ed gave a harsh, mirthless laugh and pressed himself into Roy's next thrust.

"No, you bastard, he didn't touch me," Ed hissed. "So that is what this is all about, some fucking barbaric need to make your claim? Go ahead, fucking bite me, mark me, show the goddamn world I'm yours. What does it fucking matter, it's not like you trust me."

"No," Roy's voice broke in the darkness, "I trust you, I trust you," he gasped.

"Really, do you really?" Ed asked, not letting up. Roy's cock was so deep, it was so hard and hot and so good, it was like it was touching his soul.

"Yes," Roy said. "I love you," he gasped, his pace beginning to give way into something faster.

Ed thrust up to meet the quickening thrusts. He gritted his teeth and wrapped his legs around Roy's hips.

"Harder," he demanded between pants. "Faster, goddamn Roy, fuck me hard, show me you OWN me, isn't that what you want?"

"No," Roy's voice was strained, but he complied, his strokes becoming faster and rougher. With Ed's knees locked around his waist, he could only lean with his own hands on the bed to either side of Ed's hips. "No Ed," Roy sobbed, "it's not like that..."

"I thought we were equals," Ed practically howled, "I thought all that fucking manipulation and control was left behind," Ed cried. "We're not fucking equals; you still want the upper hand, with me... with your own goddamn lover!"

"That's a lie," Roy cried. "It's a lie!"

"Tell me, you fucker, are you going to be Prime Minister?," Ed screamed, his stomach clenching, his head pounding. "Tell me the TRUTH!"

All Roy gave him was a ragged sob, his hips thrusting frantically.

"I fucking hate you," Ed screamed as he came.