sky dark

Better Living Through Alchemy

chapter 13.


Ran Fan glanced up from her position on her knees. The
Prince was tapping the end of his ivory handled fan idly against his shoulder
now, instead of incessantly snapping it open and closed.

They'd returned to the ambassador's residence only a little
while ago and the Prince had immediately began to pace the house, pausing only
long enough to gather his fan up where he'd left it lying on the entrance table
in the foyer. He usually only maintained the accoutrements of royalty when he
had too, but in the case of the fan... it was a way for him to mull over problems
and contemplate objectives.

"The Professor seemed upset," he said to Ran Fan needlessly,
"Did you happen to overhead anything?"

"No, highness," the woman said softly. "I was observing
you as always."

"Pity," the Prince said, moving the end of the fan to
his lips and bowing his head as if to rest it there. "Perhaps Fuu...?"

"I doubt it highness, he was outside the residence on
sentry duty," Ran Fan said.

"Ears open, Ran Fan," the Prince said, turning to leave
the room. "There are things going on now that might jeopardize our interests
here," he paused to look over his shoulder at her in the doorway, "The Emperor
isn't going to all this trouble only to have things fall apart in such a manner."

Ran Fan regarded him steadily and silently, and the Prince

"I know what you're thinking," he said. "Perhaps it is
a bit of self interest as well, we both know how I am with temptation." He allowed
a slight smile and she bowed her head a bit. It was ever the joke between them.

The Prince retired for the night, hoping his demons and
thoughts of a red stone retired with him.

Al grunted in frustration as he got to the last page of
his current journal because he hadn't thought to bring another. He remembered
the five he'd received amongst his birthday gifts, sitting in a drawer of his
dresser at his home in Central. He glanced back through the book. It was adorned
mostly with his lab notes, a comment or two Pharr made that Al had found funny
and a description of the Colonel at her desk one morning. Tradition dictated
he hand over a goodly amount of his journals to the state, but this one he would
be keeping. He let his finger trace over the lines.

The sunlight filters in behind her, outlining her in
a glow. Her head is bent forward, she is never aware of how she is cast upon

Al sighed and reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose
between his thumb and forefinger. Was he really just fooling himself? She would
smile at him, she did it more these days than she did in his youth. Was he letting
himself read too much into that? She'd squeezed his fingers while they danced,
her hip has brushed his, she'd let him lead (as much as his fumbling could
be called leading)

He continued with his writing onto the back cover of the
journal (he often did, he wasn't one to tolerate blank space when ideas were
creeping out his ears)
, then shut it and dropped it onto the seat beside
him as the train rocked him soothingly in its back and forth gait. The train
was a well trusted guardian of his thoughts and hopes and dreams. Many of them
he shared with his elder brother, who was napping more often than not, on the
seat across from him. There were times when he missed Ed's presence very acutely.
Mostly it was when he had the need to unburden himself of a thought or ask futile
questions about things Ed was set upon and would not be deterred.

In a way, the red stone was a blessing as well as a curse.
It had brought him years of his brother and his brother's regard. It had also
brought him is brother's guilt and sorrow: things Al could have done without.
In some ways, he was grateful to his armored form; it let him protect his brother
and it gave him time to himself to think in the dark hours of pre-dawn. For
a little while, it was like home. If things had played out differently, he even
thought he could accept it. Being a scholar wasn't an ignoble thing, it was
an honored position. Though he doubted he could have ever made a lecture circuit
or sat on the board of a college while being animated steel.

His thoughts strayed back to his Colonel. The darkness
outside the window of the train told him she would be home now. Maybe her hair
would be down and she would be dressed casual and soft, the uniform (her
would be hanging in the closet, awaiting its next call to duty.
Hayate would be lying by her feet and she would be reading or looking over some
report she hadn't managed to get to in her work day. Maybe she had gone out
to the store or to eat in a cafe for dinner. He didn't know, but he wanted to.

He wanted to be the one to take Hayate out before bed,
he wanted to share in the cooking and the wine selection, he wanted to read
passages aloud while she sat with her chin resting in her palm and her elbow
on the arm of the couch. He wanted to compliment her on the way her hair swung
about her shoulders, and tease her for her fuzzy slippers.

I am doomed to want and want and want; it's all I've ever known. I wanted my
mother, I wanted my body, I want Ed's arm and leg and I want the Colonel. I
am defined by what I want. Is that the proof of my existence then? This is Alphonse
Elric, he wanted. Is it so bad? It's motivation to move forward, it's drive
and hunger. All this wanting, when will I be satisfied? When will I know true

Ed has found peace, peace to the point he didn't even
want to discuss the automail anymore, but that did not relieve Al of his obligation.
Ed could go hang; if Al wanted the obligation, there was little Ed could do
about it. He had not mentioned that the experiment he was rushing back to oversee
had to do with flesh and the regeneration of it, or that the precious tissue
samples he was using were harvested from a frozen and sleeping monster. There
was no doubt in Al's mind that if the thing were to be uncrated and allowed
to thaw, it would reform. If that flesh could be molded and shaped, why could
it not be taught to shape in a way Al wanted it to? This pharmacy the Prince
spoke of could provide a key to the question of rejection that haunted Al's
mind. If he could make Ed an arm and attach it, perhaps pharmacy could let him
keep it. He worried his bottom lip a bit.

The rocking of the train soon carried his journal up against
the side of his thigh and he laid his hand on top of it.

He was going to have to speak to this Prince... no matter
what Ed did to try and stop him.

"You haven't come," said the man beneath him. He tightened
his legs and bared his teeth, grinding the heels of his hands into the mattress
and bucking against the General, still inside him. "Cum, damn you," the man
snarled. The General tried to pull back, but he was locked in place by strength
and anger.

"Ed," Roy said, his voice strained in the darkness, "I
was going to tell you..."

"When?" Ed challenged. "At the fucking inauguration?"

"There are circumstances," Roy said, "Things you might
be better off not knowing at the moment," he tried to explain.

"FUCK YOU," Ed screamed. He shoved up with his hands then,
threw his flesh arm around Roy's neck and held himself in a sitting position.
Roy made a sound of protest, not only for the suddenly awkward and uncomfortable
position, but because the angle inside Ed now might hurt, and he would never hurt
Ed. Roy was forced to run his hands under Ed's ass and move his lover higher
into his lap, struggling to right this wrong. Ed didn't resist, he moved as
Roy directed; the compliance was both unexpected and alarming. Soon, Roy was
seated with Ed straddling his hips. Roy wanted to pull free, but Ed ground down
on him and Roy moaned a bit involuntarily.

"Yes," Ed said. "It's still good, isn't it? You need to
cum, Roy." Ed began to move then, lifting and lowering himself with his inner
thighs pressed to the outside of Roy's.

"This is wrong," Roy gasped, weakening even as he protested.
"You're making this something it shouldn't be... Ed, I didn't do this to hurt
you..." he tried.

"I'm making it exactly what it is," Ed said. "I'm paying
for my job, my home, my existence. Isn't that what you want? Haven't you made
me your whore?"

"No," Roy half screamed. He began to struggle then, grabbing
at Ed's shoulders and shoving him back.

Ed's face contorted with things Roy could only imagine.
When Ed fell back, Roy was able to pull free. He pushed Ed's leg to the side
and swung his own legs over the side of the bed, putting his feet on the floor,
panting. Ed lay behind him, unmoving, staring at the ceiling.

Roy reached up, ran his hands down his face and half turned
to look at Ed, but Ed didn't look back.

"Don't ever say anything like that again," Roy said. "How
could you even think..."

"Aren't whores kept? Aren't they around when you feel
the need to fuck something, but not the need to share anything with them?" Ed
gave another laugh that had nothing to do with humor.

Roy turned then, more to face him. It wasn't like this,
Ed didn't mean these things, he didn't mean the words he'd screamed when Roy
had been inside him.

"Ed, listen to me. You yourself said you were on the out,"
Roy reasoned. "I didn't see the need to burden you with anything that wasn't
happening at the time. There has been talk about the Prime Ministry,
but until lately, that is all it has been... just talk. Tell me what
you heard," Roy said.

"I heard," Ed said, sitting up slowly, "that I was a liability.
I heard that you made me legit by creating me a position in the academy,"
Ed lifted his eyes to Roy, then his own insides twisted with what he saw there.
It was true; it was just like Stanton said. "I see it's all true."

"I did what I thought would be best," Roy said quietly.

"It must have been more than just talk for a while
General," Ed said sweetly. "For you to go to all this trouble. I wonder why
you would need a Xingian Prince? What could possibly be in it for the Xingians
if you weren't Prime Minister? It seems to me there are a lot of people
who know about this, other than me. Hell, even the rulers of another
country think enough of it to try and horn in on your action. You must have
a fucking decent chance at this," Ed got his knees under him and pushed his
hair back, "I didn't even fucking factor in! You like me on the out,
don't you asshole?! I'm nice and tractable that way, because I fucking trust
you! Because I fucking love you!"

"I do love you," Roy said softly, "I do trust you. Ed,
please, it's not like you're making it out."

"The FUCK it isn't!" Ed shouted. "It's exactly like I'm
making it out! You're not even trying to contradict me! You set me up with a
respectable job, you sweet talked me into all this discretion... I love
you and I'm not supposed to tell anyone! How long has this gone on? You know,
since I was fifteen I think," Ed hugged his elbows, "You always managed to get
me to do exactly what you wanted me to do. All this time, and I thought...
I thought I wanted this."

Roy's heart shuddered to a stop for what seemed an eternity.
He reached then, one hand toward Ed, but there was a dull flash in the moonlight
across the bed and then pain. Ed had swatted his hand aside with the automail.

"I bet you wet your pants with joy when the Prince seemed
to like me," Ed sneered, "only it appears he likes me better than you want.
I guess another one of your 'Ingratiate Ed to the Political Scene' plans has
backfired. You're so busy procuring my friends for me, you didn't stop to think
about the consequences. I suppose I thought I was only desirable to you."

"Procuring your friends?" Roy asked bewildered, holding
his aching hand.

"You have an excellent way of keeping me under your thumb,"
Ed said. "Twenty-six thirteen-year-olds, that is what you have given me. I give
you credit, because I would never have thought I'd get attached. You
told me they were rubbing off on me, was that your hope all along? It that what
you thought would save you when you finally decided to spring this on me? Most
of them are the children of your friends, aren't they? The ones you cluster
around with at any gathering," Ed took several deep breaths, "Oh, but your coup
de grace is how you got Al to hide things from me, my own brother."

"Now you are grasping," Roy said. "Al has no part of this!"

"But he knew," Ed half screeched. "He wanted to tell me
and he wouldn't, you told him not to tell me!"

"I would do no such thing," Roy returned, voice rising.
"I would never come between you and your brother like that! I would never do
anything to jeopardize our relationship like that!"

"Whose relationship?" Ed demanded. "Mine and yours or
yours and Al's? Because I can tell you now, you've already done a number on
OUR relationship!"

"If you really think me capable of such damning duplicity,
then why are you still sitting here?" Roy said. "Why suffer my presence if I
am such a loathsome creature as you would like to make me be? What has made
you stay?"

"I LOVE YOU," Ed screamed. "I was working under some paranoid
delusion you loved me in return! But I was wrong, wasn't I? Or is it just you
love me when you can keep me in line? How can you do this to me? Fucking hell
Roy, how can you do this to me? You tell me you love me, you tell me
you trust me and yet you give me nothing! You set me up so those pompous assholes
you call peers can look down their noses at me and laugh! The General's pet!
Everyone knows the General's agenda except you!" Ed roared.

"Has it ever occurred to you I'm trying to protect you?"
Roy returned. "I'm trying to keep you safe from what could be said in public!
Those people mean nothing, what they think is nothing! I DO trust you! I trust
you with my very life! I don't want to see you hurt! I gave you that
position at the academy, I admit it! I did it because it was something you were
worthy of, you would excel at! YES, I fucking KNOW you Ed! I have lived
a good portion of my life working to make your life better, because fate sure
handed you a shitty deal in the beginning!"

"You are NOT turning this around on me! You want to show
me you trust me?" Ed said and surged forward on his knees. "Then give me THIS!"

Roy saw the hand coming and tried to react, but Ed was
fast, always so damn fast. The strap pulled his hair and bent his head forward
painfully as Roy howled denial, making a wild desperate grab for an automail
wrist as his eye patch ripped free and left him naked, vulnerable and ugly.

"Give that to me!" the General roared and lunged at him.
Ed half twisted, but Roy's larger frame hit him and they went over the opposite
side of the bed. Roy landed on top of him and Ed felt the breath leave his lungs,
but he planted his automail foot on the floor and used its leverage to heave
upwards, slamming Roy in the side with his left hand and causing the General
to roll off him onto the hardwood floor. He wasted no time regaining his feet,
diving back across the bed and going for the light switch. He squinted as the
overhead came on, turning in time to see Roy, who had pulled up on the side
of the bed as if to chase him, suddenly sink back down, dropping his head below
the mattress.

Ed looked at the black oval in his hand and flipped it
over. It was still tied in the back and it didn't seem like much. Some of
Roy's black hair was snagged in the knot and he switched it to his flesh hand;
it almost felt warm.

"Damn you, give it back," Roy said from his hiding place
on the other side of the bed.

"Why?" Ed said. "Is it magic? Does it make all the bad
things go away? Do you think it makes you invulnerable?" Ed began to walk around
the bed, slow and deliberate, letting his automail strike the floor harder than
necessary. He wanted him to know he was coming, wanted him to feel helpless
and angry, knowing there was nothing he could do, that the person he trusted
had betrayed him. He wanted the General to feel everything he felt, the things
that strangled him and damned him and turned his insides to ice. It had been
a long time since he'd felt that cold; he was fool enough to believe he would
never feel it again, but things never change, do they? Even when you think you
are in a safe place. People can change, it is true, but never as you think they
will. Never as completely as you hope they will.

He stopped when he reached the side of the bed. The General
sat on his knees, shoulders hunched, his left hand covering the ruined side
of his face. His mouth pulled down at the site of Ed and his black eye darted
to the side as he bowed his head. Despite himself, despite it all... Ed's stomach
turned. Not in anger, but in sorrow at the sight of his lover huddled on the
floor looking ashamed.

This is wrong... this is no better than what he has

Ed swallowed. This man had hurt him, lied
to him. He had made him little more than a tamed dog in the eyes of the General's
peers. He had humiliated him.

Now I am paying him back in kind; it doesn't feel good,
or right. It just feels wrong and sad.

He deserved this. For everything he had done, he deserved
this. The General needed to see what it feels like to be used. The General needed
a taste of manipulation and control from someone who loved him.

"I think I might leave the academy," Ed said lowly, still
holding the patch between his flesh fingers.

"No Ed, god, please, not because of me," Roy said raggedly.
"You love that job, those kids... they love you. I was at the party, I saw them...
I saw you with them. Please Ed, not because of me."

This is... foul. I can't... I can't leave... my kids...
why am I saying this?

"I know you want to hurt me," Roy said, "but please don't
make it any worse than that. Do what you have to, but don't take it out on yourself.
Ed, I swear to god, I never meant to hurt you. You're right; I should have told
you from the beginning. Please believe me when I tell you I told Al nothing;
whatever he knows, he found out himself. Don't do this, Ed. Don't pull yourself
to pieces to punish me, I beg you."

I love him. People who love each other don't do these
things. They trust each other, they tell each other things. In a way, maybe
this is something I have shown him was alright. I have to show him it's not
alright. I have to do something,

Ed slowly dropped to his knees in front of the General.
For a long time, neither of them spoke or moved, then Ed reached up and caught
the wrist of the hand Roy had pressed hard to his face. Roy made a low sound
when Ed tried to pull it away, resisting.

"Let me see," Ed said evenly. "Let me see, Roy."

"No," Roy said faintly. "I don't want you to see. It's

"You don't have to protect me all the time," Ed said.
"You can let me stand on my own, make my own judgments. I think I understand
a little why you did what you did. I don't like it, it hurts like hell, but
maybe I understand."

Ed tugged again and slowly, Roy let his hand be pulled
away. He didn't look up at Ed; he kept his eye trained on the floor between
them. Ed held his wrist and leaned forward slightly.

"Look at me," Ed said.

"I don't want to," Roy said and shifted uncomfortably
on the cold, hard floor.

"Why?" Ed prodded.

"Because it's not there," Roy said. "It's gone. I know
it's gone, you know it's gone, why do you want to see it?"

You've never really accepted this, have you? Or is
it some sort of reminder to you? Was it that terrifying? I suppose it must have

"Roy, trust me," Ed said quietly. He then waited, still
holding Roy's wrist. Eventually, the General lifted his head slowly and brought
his black eye up to meet gold ones.

It wasn't so bad. Where the eye had been, was covered
over and almost smooth and shiny. There were puckered scars about it, and his
cheek was pitted and off color from thick scar tissue. Most of his eyebrow was
gone with a jagged, white scar marring it, making it impossible for the hair
to grow back in, but Ed had seen worse, he had lived worse. He resisted the
urge to reach up and touch is own automail shoulder.

The General felt confused as Ed tugged on his wrist to
pull him forward, but he leaned as Ed wanted. The General felt more confusion
and then a stinging in his remaining eye as the man he loved, he'd wronged,
he'd hurt... kissed him where his left eye had once been.

"I don't understand," Roy said, fighting the shake in
his voice, in his soul. "Are you forgiving me?"

"I don't know," Ed said. "I'm trying to understand, because
I owe you at least that much. I am not exactly sinless in this myself; there
are too many dark places between me and you. We need to fix them and then go
from there."

"How do you propose we fix things," Roy said. "Are you
talking about making choices? I don't want to make choices, there are no easy

"When I wanted to give my life for Al's and I stood in
the underground city," Ed said. "A gate opened up before me. It was the end
all of being, the supposed fount of truth. It was the place I had gone all those
years before, seeking my mother. It was what ripped me to pieces body and soul."
Ed turned Roy's hand, the wrist he still gripped, palm up. He laid the eye patch
in it and released Roy's wrist.

Roy closed his fingers over the eye patch and held it,
a black eye fixing on Ed's face.

"When it took me, it left me in a place called London,"
Ed said. "Hohenhiem was there, but I didn't stay for long. The real story of
where I was those six years took place in a country called Germany."

Roy moved then, getting up on his knees and putting a
hand on the bed to push to his feet. He held his hand down to Ed who took it
and also climbed to his feet. He stood quietly as the General put his patch
back on; he did it with practiced ease having done it for years. The General
then looked at Ed.

"Even your flesh hand is cold, let's get you under the
blankets," he reached onto the bed and pulled them back, standing back as Ed
climbed in. He walked to his side and got in as well, sliding under the covers
and putting his pillow against the headboard. Ed didn't flinch when Roy reached
over to pull the blanket up around his shoulders.

"It was cold there, like it is here during the winter
and early spring," Ed said. "It snowed too, just like here."

"Where was it?" Roy asked. "Was it very far away?"

"It was another world," Ed said. "Like this one, but not.
Everyone was there, but they weren't. It was like living a half life, muted
and dull. There was no alchemy, but there was science."

Roy wanted badly to put his arm around Ed, to pull him
against his side and warm him with his body, to hold him while he spoke, but
he didn't think he had the right, at least not at the moment.

"I thought science alone might be able to get me home,"
Ed said. "In that world, men could fly, they had machines called airplanes and
rockets. I thought that somehow I could figure out how to get home if I only
studied hard enough and worked hard enough. I could come home to Al and you."

The instinct to pull Ed close was hard to resist. Twice
Roy lifted his hand and twice he dropped it back to the mattress. Ed was hunching
in on himself, he drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around them. Roy had
seen the posture many times in their past, but he hadn't seen it since Ed's
return. Roy didn't want Ed to hug himself, he didn't want him to be uncertain
and wary; yet Roy couldn't put his arms around him. It wasn't supposed to be
like this, he was supposed to introduce Ed to the idea of Roy holding the Prime
Minister's office gradually. What had been said to Ed at Culpepper's party?
Who had said it? Roy's fingers moved restlessly in the blankets and he forced
himself to keep his arm down; Ed would not appreciate the gesture at the moment.
Then Ed rested his chin on his knees and spoke again.

"When I first got to Germany, I met a man named... Heiderich,"
Ed said. "He was studying rockets. He had built engines, he had plans."

His brother's smile.

It was such a sharp and bittersweet thing, Ed would almost
forget to breathe; but this was not Alphonse, this bright and vibrant young
man in a world of drab grays and dirt brown. He was a scientist, a rocket scientist,
young and full of hopes and dreams. He was sick and desperate; he was Ed's friend,
the first he truly obtained in this strange and claustrophobic place. He almost
made it feel a bit welcoming, Alfons Heiderich showed him just a bit of home.

They lived together in rented rooms above a flower shop,
the landlady also a ghost from Ed's own existence elsewhere. Ed was learning
to become immune to these sightings, because no matter how desperately he wanted
them to be, they never were. It had been particularly hard when he'd
first moved into this portion of this world that was here but not there; the
police officer who made this place his regular beat was a striking ghost indeed.

It was hard. Money was tight and what they could scrape
together for research was never quite enough. They both took odd jobs as they
could and spent many nights huddled together at a table that had been hauled
out of a trash bin and repaired with whatever could be found. Alfons was always
the optimist, he propelled Ed forward when things got darkest and it was his
infectious good nature that was sometimes the only reason Ed got out of bed.
Alfons believed him when, in their acquaintance, Ed finally needed to
speak of his home.

I'll help you, Alfons told him, I'll see you

It was at these times, Ed let himself believe it was possible.
He would go home. Al would be there of course, fully restored and happy, living
with the sunlight on his face and the ability to feel and laugh and hurt and
cry. They would be together; they would live without the cloud that hung over
them in their youth. They would work together, they would be a family. Winry
and Granny would be there as well. Perhaps they'd live again in Risembool, or
maybe they'd live in Central. They could split their time between their friends
and their family; he wasn't sure what the Colonel would think of this idea,
he would need some convincing, but it wouldn't be hard, the Colonel would understand.
Al was back, and Ed needed to catch up on all his missed time. The Colonel loved
him; he would encourage Ed to be with his brother. Perhaps he and Al could live
with the Colonel during their time in Central. They would just convince him
to get a bigger apartment.

Al was his favorite dream in the daylight hours. He was
the one who made him sit with the books and the papers and the speculation and
theory. He had to go home, Al was there waiting for him. He had to go home and
start his life again and live the life they were meant to. He worked hard, because
he was not afraid of work and his little brother's smile would carry him through
the day.

A different memory occupied his nights. A husky voice
and warm lips that he would arch his neck to, but they never touched him there,
only the memory of them lingered above his skin. There was no smell of hay and
there were no warm hands sliding down his sides. His heart and groin would tighten
and he'd close his eyes and will sleep, but usually it was to no avail. A man
with black eyes and blacker hair looked at him in ways that made him burn and
ache, that made him want to laugh and cry. He longed to feel the weight over
his back or on his chest, long and strong fingers buried inside him, the calloused
palm around him, stroking and pulling. He would shoot many worried glances toward
Alfons' half of the room before sliding his flesh hand over his own stomach.

The last time he'd been with his lover, the crickets had
sung to them. Roy had made love to him for the first time as it should have
been; Roy had loved him with his body and his soul and Ed had finally said what
he'd wanted to say, what he'd needed to say. He wanted to tell Roy what was
inside of him, Roy deserved to know. He never let himself think of what might
have happened when he left him standing there in the road. No, Roy was safe
and he was watching over Al and Ed would get back to them. It would be soon,
he would go home soon. The fingers of his flesh hand gripped his cock. It wasn't
Roy's touch, but he moved them slowly, his ear tuned to the other side of the
room where Alfons slept. Roy would be whispering in his ear now, telling him
how much he loved him, how much he wanted to please him. Roy always haunted
his nights and he found, inside himself, he never really wanted to be free.
Even as the ghosts of this place made him turn away, he knew he searched for
one face in the crowd. He knew he would give just about anything to see that
bastard's smirk directed at him again, to hear the song in the tavern be sung
in a different language and speak of blue skies and hearts and clover. He tightened
his grip and turned his face into the pillow to mask his breathing. Roy was
moving over him, between his legs and filling him, burning him and stretching
him and making him alive.

He squeezed his eyes shut tight, feeling an unwelcome
wetness there. The Colonel was rumbling deep in his chest and Ed crammed the
cold fingers of his prosthetic hand into his mouth, his flesh hand moving faster
and faster. Damn the bastard for making him want this, for awakening him and
showing him that love was more than what he'd thought it could be. Damn him,
love him, want him, need him... Ed bit down savagely on his fake fingers and
came over his flesh hand.

Al was his days and Roy was his nights. That was just the
way it was going to be.

Time passed, more than Ed would have liked; it was already
three years since he'd fallen to this place. He didn't want to acclimate, he
didn't want to accept. Alfons did what he could, always trying to bolster
his friend's spirits, but time was also passing for him as well. He didn't go
out as much anymore, he tried to hide the crumpled tissues and handkerchiefs;
sometimes, instead of trying to speak, he would just smile.

Guilt would claw at Ed, tear at him. He couldn't let Alfons
see him worn down and discouraged. Half the time, he found himself buried in
medical texts, but there was nothing they hadn't already heard and no real money
for a doctor. He decided then to write Hohenhiem, but never received a reply
back; he couldn't say he was surprised. The third year came to a close and he
was as he had been the years before, here and not there, trapped and not home.

The night he came home late from one of the many odd jobs
he wandered through was the beginning of the end again. Alfons was on the floor
and Ed managed to get him into his bed. The landlady came at his summons, a
few friends, but little could be done. So, he waited, sitting there beside the
bed, feeling somehow he'd wronged this man who was his friend. Once again, he
could not save him. He set his jaw hard; he would not wonder if he had managed
to save Al at all. Alfons moved the fingers of his hand closest to Ed on the
bed weakly, and Ed moved his flesh hand to lay it over them. Alfons smiled at
him, sallow and bloodless except for the flecks on his lips.

"Sorry, Ed. Home..." he said. Ed shook his head and tightened
his hold over Alfons' fingers.

"Home," Alfons said again. He was unable to do more than
that, and the smile faded off his lips. His eyes tailed down to where Ed's hand
lay over the back of his.

"I will get home," Ed said. "Don't worry about me."

It was the next day that the fingers of Alfons' hand had
grown as cold as the fingers of Ed's prosthetics. When his family came to collect
the body, Ed almost wept with relief that there wasn't a familiar face among

He could not afford to travel to the funeral in their
far off home village and it was only a little while after, that his hopes of
getting home went to the grave with Alfons.

At least in my devastation I wasn't alone.

Roy had remained very silent while Ed had related in halting
words the death of his friend and the despair at his situation. Ed had stopped
now, forehead pressed to his raised knees, and again the need to touch him,
hold him and comfort him, raised Roy's hand. He didn't stop himself this time;
he laid his hand on Ed's blanket-covered back and moved it in a slow circle.
Ed made no move to shrug him off, so Roy shifted closer, running the hand over
Ed's side, hooking his arm around him and pulling him toward his chest.

"How pathetic am I?" Ed asked him as he let himself be
pulled. "My tormentor is also my comforter? How fucking pitiful is it that I
have no where else to turn? I should fucking hate you," the blond in Roy's
arms took a deep breath.

Roy shifted. He wanted to hold Ed very close and managed,
with some maneuvering, to get Ed over his leg and in between them. He tucked
Ed under his chin and wrapped his arms around him; Ed didn't resist, only grunted
and shifted himself, pressing against the offered chest.

"You're a bastard," Ed said without much conviction.

"I know," Roy said softly into blond hair. "I went about
this the wrong way. I know, Ed."

"You haven't even fucking apologized," Ed said. "Which
means you're going to do what you want no matter what I say, isn't that it?"

"I would like your support," Roy said then against his

"But you don't need my approval," Ed returned.

"I think it's right," Roy said. "I think I have something
to offer."

"It feels wrong to be mad at you for being you," Ed said.
"But I think I can make an exception."

"I wish you wouldn't," Roy said, rubbing Ed's shoulders
and arms. "I'm sorry about your friend in Germany."

"Quit trying to distract me," Ed said tiredly. "After
Heiderich died, I didn't think I'd ever see you again. I thought that was it
for me, the price for all my sins, a hell of my own making."

Roy tightened his hug again.

He decided to leave Munich. The jobs were scarce, the
memories were bad. He thought of heading north toward Berlin, but instead was
sidetracked to the east and the University of Frankfurt. His prosthetic limbs
served him well, but manual labor was questionable. He hoped that somehow he
might be able to talk himself into a job that required his mind over his muscle;
even a research position would be welcome, but he only managed to get as far
as Stuttgart before his meager resources dwindled into nothing. The benches
of the small park there might have been inviting if not for the police officer
who warned him off with a look. With the last bit of change in his pocket, he
decided to have one last pint before he was set off to starve in the streets.
He found himself on a bench outside a faded beergarten, with his suitcase and
resignation to keep him company.

A truck pulled up and several men clambered out of the
back, giving Ed the same passing glances he gave them. Some of them looked like
gypsies and the others merely like laborers. The exception of course got out
of the cab of the truck; he was an older gentleman, dressed to suit the role.
He gave Ed more than a passing glance as he made his way into the pub, and when
he returned outside, stein in hand, it was not his men he sat with. Instead,
he presented himself opposite Ed, who looked up from his seat on the bench.

"Guten abend, Herr," Ed said politely and left it at that,
not sure what the man wanted or why he felt the need to bother him as he tried
to drown himself in one last beer.

"I'm impressed with your German," the man said, taking
a seat beside Ed. "I can tell you aren't really from these parts," like many
good Germans, the man then had to drain half his stein before he continued.

"You're right," Ed said. "I'm not from around here." Ed
didn't know why he felt in the mood to converse with this man. Ah yes, it must
be the resignation. He must be having one last conversation before the end,
to find some sort of enlightenment. That would make his demise poetic, not that
anyone who might care would ever know it.

"You have the look of a learned man," the man said, licking
beer from his lip and then wiping it for good measure on his sleeve. "How are
you for numbers?"

"If you mean making book," Ed said, "your wires are crossed.
I may be dressed at the moment, but my pocket is as empty as my stein," Ed sighed
into it, looking glumly at the bottom of the heavy, glass mug.

"That's interesting," the man said. "You've no resources
and I've need of a bookkeeper. Somehow it seems god has pushed us together."

Ed turned to look at him and survey him frankly. Just
then, the girl who had been manning the counter inside the bar came out, tray
at her side, carrying a few more steins. She made her way among the men at the
tables, but the man sitting next to Ed raised his hand and she hurried over.
He turned and took Ed's empty stein sat it on her tray along with his own, then
took two filled ones in their place. The man turned and handed one to Ed, then
tossed several coins onto the tray and the girl hurried away.

"You're very kind, Herr...?" Ed said, already bringing
the stein to his lips.

"Gerhardt," the man said, eyeing his own mug. "I run a
construction company; we're on our way to the site. I'm thinking of opening
an office here, but I need someone to handle the more paper-oriented details.
My niece Greta will be joining me here within the next week."

"I'm Edward Elric," Ed returned. "Your offer is most gracious,
but we are complete strangers. How do you know you can trust me? I've just admitted
to you that I am penniless and you can see by my bag I've nowhere to stay. You
want to trust me with your bookkeeping? That would put me in charge of your
money. I think mein Herr is being impulsive and reckless, if he wants my opinion."

"I am never one to argue with God," Herr Gerhardt said.
"He put you here on this bench for me to see, he had his reasons. Besides, I
have studied you while we spoke; you seem like a person who is trustworthy."

Ed blinked at the man and in his mind's eye, his brother

"I'm humbled, Herr. I truly don't know what to say. I
would be grateful to have a job," Ed said. "It seems coming all this way was
not a waste."

"It's settled then. Tomorrow, after I deliver this lot
to my foreman at the site, we'll come back into town and look for a place to
set up shop," Herr Gerhardt said. "We'll find you a room for the night and I'll
just deduct it from your first week's wages. Now, I'm starved, will you join
me for dinner?"

Ed struggled hard that night to hold onto his firm belief
that there were no such things as angels.

The fourth year came to a close. It found Edward Elric
in charge of the Stuttgart office of Gerhardt and Co. Construction. He lived
in a back room of the very office, it was cozy and snug and cheap. It had a
bed, sink and stove, and he could use the bathroom in the office proper. Edward
was also in charge of keeping track of Herr Gerhardt's niece, Greta, but she
was no trouble and often good company to have about. She would bring him cookies,
make him tea and sit to tell him about news from the outside. She did filing
when directed, answered the phone and occasionally ran errands. He found out
from her that Herr Gerhardt had been caring for her ever since she lost her
one remaining parent, (Herr Gerhardt's brother), in the war that had
taken place a few years before Edward had landed here.

Sometimes, when Herr Gerhardt and Greta would invite Edward
to join them for dinner, Edward got the distinct feeling that a bookkeeper might
not be the only thing Herr Gerhardt was looking for, the way the older man's
eyes would travel from Greta to Ed. The way he always encouraged her to sit
beside Ed in the restaurant, the way he had her hang about the office... Ed
mulled this over. If he were well and truly going to live the rest of his life
here, then it might not be so bad. Greta was a lively girl, friendly and intelligent.
She didn't strike him with wrenches; in fact, she never went near any machinery
for fear of 'oil' and her dress. She didn't seem to be repulsed by his artificial
limbs and often time, she grabbed his fake arm or touched his fake hand, never
flinching at the contact.

Ed could almost imagine his life with her and with Herr
Gerhardt. It would be much like it was now, only he wouldn't sleep alone. Maybe,
just maybe, he could be happy.

With these things in mind, one night he asked Greta to
dinner alone. She seemed surprised and happily accepted. Later, when
he returned her to her Uncle's residence, he'd kissed her; nothing spectacular,
just soft and gentle on her lips, but she kissed back as well and reached up
to touch his blond bangs, smiling. She then said a soft goodnight and let herself
in the door.

It wouldn't be so bad. He could learn to be happy.
He let himself think about Al and Roy then; Al would tell him to be happy, that
he deserved it. Al would tell him that if this is what he wanted, (even if
it wasn't, but only what he could have here)
, then he should take it.

Roy might be jealous.

Ed shifted in Roy's hug again, noting with some satisfaction
that it had tightened considerably as Ed told him of Greta.

How fucking messed up is this? I get pissed off that
he's jealous of the Prince, but I want him to be jealous of Greta? It's not
like he'd ever get to opportunity to even meet her! What the fuck do I want
here? Do I want him to be pissy or not?

"You stupid bastard," Ed said. "Jealous of some fucking
girl you'll never even meet."

I don't know what I want, Ed thought.

"I'm not jealous," Roy defended. "I'm glad you didn't
give up completely, that you looked for happiness. Al is right, you deserve

"You think so?" Ed said. "Why are you going out of your
way to wreck it then? Oh wait, we're talking about what Al thinks I should have."

Roy only sighed deeply and rested his cheek on the top
of Ed's head. The bastard had no right to try and make Ed feel guilty about
feeling vindictive.

"Ed," Roy said, "you don't think so low of me that you
think I'd want you to be unhappy and lonely because I wasn't there," Roy started
to rub his hand up and down one of Ed's arms through the blanket. "Surely after
all this time, all we've done together, all we've been through together, you
wouldn't really think that."

"Stop fucking telling me what I think," Ed said. "You
just don't learn, do you? Damn Roy, you just can't give it up, can you? This
need to live my life for me. You know, Al accused me of the same thing, I'm
starting to see what he was talking about."

"I don't mean it like that," Roy said. "It's just hard
to let go sometimes. I've been watching after you for a long time, Ed."

"Molding me into what you want me to be," Ed said lowly.
"When you kissed me in your kitchen all those years ago, is that what you though
it would turn out like?"

"Ed," Roy said and nothing else, his hold tightened again.

Am I being unfair? No I don't think so. Was I just
part and parcel of the whole Roy Mustang plan? Was it planned, was it spur of
the moment that he worked into the grand scheme? I hate this, I HATE THIS! I...
I almost wish I'd never found out. So I want to live in the dark of the world
he's made for me, is that it?

Ed suddenly tilted his face up and Roy responded immediately
with gentle lips on his forehead, his brow and a low, rumbling sound.

Am I doing this because I want to?

"Onkle Odo," Greta said, (for she never called Herr
Gerhardt by his last name, being the family she was)
, "says the American
architect will be stopping by today."

"Hmmm?" Ed glanced up from his ledger and raised his eyebrow.
"American architect? I didn't know he'd engaged one. Someone I'll have to put
on the payroll, I'm sure."

"That is why he is coming by," Greta informed him. "Are
you sure Onkle didn't mention him? He's been very busy lately at the site, so
perhaps it slipped his mind," Greta leaned on Ed's desk and he glanced up again,
smiling when she did. "You're always so busy yourself, Edward," she told him.
"He probably told you and you just forgot."

"Seems odd, an American here," Edward said. "Is he a student
of architecture then and traveling abroad for education? Your Onkle is always
looking to cut corners. He is also good about taking in strays," Ed said and

"Onkle is very kind hearted," Greta said. "Sometimes it
works to his advantage," she winked back. "I'll go set the kettle on in your room.
That way, when the American comes, we can all have tea."

Ed watched her walk around his desk, heading for the back.

"You know," he called after her, "it's this fascination
with Britain that makes you feed me tea all the time, when I'd just as soon
have coffee."

"Tea is good for you," she countered as she disappeared
into the back, "coffee just makes you tense."

Maybe that is why the bastard would spend days on edge.
Ed shook his head and dropped his eyes back to his ledger. The pot had no soon
begun to sing when the front door bell chimed and Ed could hear someone step
into the small entry way.

"Greta," Ed called over his shoulder. "There's a visitor."
He smiled and watched the young woman hurry out of his room, grinning at him
as she dashed by to meet their guest. He heard them exchange pleasantries and
could immediately pick out, by the accent, that the American had arrived.

"Come in and meet Edward," he heard Greta say as she appeared
in the doorway of the main room. Ed lifted his head and laid down his pen. Because
he never wanted to leave a bad impression on any of Herr Gerhardt's guests,
he always schooled and restrained himself in their presence. Greta smiled at
him as she walked into the room and Ed stood as another figure appeared in the
doorway. When his black eyes lifted to Ed's, Ed felt the air in his lungs congeal
and he put his hands on his desk to steady himself.

"This is Herr Raymond Swanson," Greta said, giving Ed
a funny look and tilting her head.

The man wearing Roy's face reached up and plucked a fedora
off his head, gave Ed a smirk and said, "Just Ray is fine, I'm not the formal

Somewhere, someone was laughing at him, he was sure of
it. Ed's lips moved, but no sound came out. He thought he was prepared for these
ghosts; he'd watched Alfons die, he thought he'd hardened himself to these specters
who wore faces that made him ache for home.

But not for this one, there wasn't anything that could
have prepared him for this one. His heart sang, his stomach ached, he felt light-headed
and heavy at once and he wanted, he wanted to go home!

"Edward," Greta's voice pulled him from his stupor, "are
you alright?" she asked with obvious concern, crossing the room toward him.

"I'm fine," Ed managed to get out as he sat abruptly.
Greta made a small distressed sound and hurried to his side, her hand finding
his forehead. He flushed and reached up to catch her hand, gently pulling it
away. "Greta, I'm fine," he mumbled, then steeled himself and looked at Roy

This isn't who you want it to be. Don't think of him
as... Roy.

"Herr Swanson," Ed said, trying hard to wear his mask.
"Will you pull up a chair; I believe Greta is making tea?" He looked at the
young woman then and she sighed, nodded and turned to go to the back room.

The man called Ray Swanson pulled one of the wooden office
chairs to the front of Ed's desk. He sat with casual grace, dropping his hat
on Ed's desk and crossing his legs with his fingers laced in his lap.

What do you have for me today, Fullmetal?

"Greta says Herr Gerhardt is taking you on the project,"
Ed said tonelessly, dropping his eyes to his ledger. "I will need to see you
onto the payroll and get your address for the books."

"I'm living in a hotel at the moment," Raymond Swanson
said. "If this job pans out, I might find an apartment." He leaned forward then,
reached over and boldly plucked Ed's pen from his fingers to scribble a hotel
name and address on Ed's desk blotter.

"You have your passport and proper papers for working,
don't you?" Ed asked, mesmerized by the long fingers still around his pen. "I
don't want any trouble for Herr Gerhardt if someone were to ask about the American
at the job site."

"Everything is in order," Raymond Swanson assured him
in his American-accented German. "Herr Gerhardt obtained the work papers for
me himself; he's a very helpful man."

"That he is," Ed murmured. Easily taken advantage of
as well. If you are truly anything like... I will have to watch you. No, you
are not who I want you to be.

"You're not German yourself," Raymond Swanson said. "Unless
I am mistaken?"

"No, I'm British," Ed lied automatically. He'd been living
with it for so long, it almost seemed like the truth.

"So, two strangers in a strange land," Raymond Swanson
said. "Maybe I can come to you when local customs make me scratch my head in
bewilderment. I think I can relate more to a Brit than most of the local yokels."

"If you have questions," Ed said, "I will do what I can
to help. The locals are warm and helpful; you don't have anything to worry about.
They are very accepting when they see you pulling your own weight."

"I know," Raymond Swanson said. "Let's go to dinner tonight.
You can show me the good places to eat, I'm guessing, and we can talk."

"I'm sorry," Ed started, but Greta arrived with the tea
and interrupted him.

"I think that is an excellent idea, Herr Swanson," she
said, setting the tray on Ed's desk. "Edward spends far too much time cooped
up in his room or with just Onkle and I for company. The two of you have something
in common besides sausages and numbers."

"But I thought..." Ed said looking up at the young woman.

"We can go out tomorrow," Greta smiled. "Edward, you need
a friend of your own age, and Herr Swanson needs advice on living abroad."

"Very well then," Ed said, not feeling comfortable with
the idea.

Let me take you out, we can get meat sauce and noodles
if you like.

"It's settled then," Raymond Swanson accepted the cup
of tea Greta handed to him. "I can swing by here tonight when I get back from
the site. Thank you, Miss Gerhardt, for the tea and the dinner plans," he smiled
at her and Ed's heart raced and faltered a moment.

"My pleasure," Greta said. "I know you will find Edward
charming company, the same as I do," she said.

Well... isn't this ironic.

Ed cursed the stiffness of his prosthetic fingers and
rechecked his tie in the mirror for the third time. He stopped and looked at
his false hand, sighed and told himself he should be grateful to have it at
all. It had taken awhile to grudgingly admit the old man had been useful for
something. When he sat propped on pillows on a thin mattress in a dully
lit room, he had nothing but despair. The automail had ceased to function almost
the moment he'd awoken in this place yet again, and at the time, he had not
recognized his uncanny ability to always materialize near Hohenhiem as luck.

His... father had spent many hours over many nights trying
to understand why the automail had ceased to work. In the end, he had come up
with this solution, the limbs Edward now wore. They were pale, the rubberized
skin horribly off color, but Edward was used to long sleeved shirts, long pants
and gloves long before this necessity to hide his body parts once again. Ed
retreated to the office, fished his gloves out of his pocket and pulled them
on. The sun had been down for nearly an hour and he was beginning to think that
Raymond Swanson had been tied up, or perhaps merely forgotten about their dinner
plans, (he was torn between rage and relief over the speculation).

The office door opened with the sound of the small bell
chime and Edward felt himself rooted to the spot. He should call this off; he
shouldn't indulge himself this way. Nothing was going to come of this and his
nights were just going to be longer and lonelier. He should ask Greta to marry
him; he should let her Uncle buy them a house as a wedding present. He should
go on from here and forget he was ever Edward Elric, State Alchemist and that
he had any sort of life before the one he had now. He could make himself forget,
he could make himself one of these people. He could live here; he could grow
old here and die here. He could do it, give up the past and everything that
went along with it. They were probably better off anyway without him there to
make things complicated and chaotic. He should just tell Herr Swanson...

Raymond Swanson stuck his head through the doorway leading
into the office and grinned when he saw Edward standing there. Edward, for his
part, did a perfect imitation of a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding

"Hey, there you are," Raymond Swanson said in English.
"You didn't have to dress up for me. Gloves are for fancy get togethers, I was
hoping we could have beer and sausage. What are you waiting on? Let's go, I'm

"Is it alright to call you Ed?" Raymond Swanson asked
as they walked down the sidewalk toward the center of town. Stuttgart was humming
softly in the evening air. Already, the sound of music from a few local beergartens
was gathering above their heads as people Ed might or might not have known waved
to them from their tables and benches.

"Oh, of course," Ed said, halfway distracted, halfway
in love, halfway home. "Greta and Herr Gerhardt like Edward better, but I'm
not opposed to a shortening of my name."

"Good," Raymond Swanson said. "I would really appreciate
it if you called me Ray," he continued. "Everyone here is so polite and formal,
sometimes it's a little uncomfortable."

"Very well... Ray," Ed swallowed and put his eyes straight

"So, this place you're taking me? Apfelkern?" Ray said.

"Apple core in English," Ed said. "it just sounds better
in German. I thought you might like to try hard cider. I know you said beer,
but that's plentiful, this place is a rarity among pubs. It specializes." Ed
felt a small smile touch his lips.

"You don't sound very British," Ray said. "I guess living
here and speaking German all the time, you must be losing your accent," he stuck
his hands in his pockets as they walked, his hat sat back on his head at a jaunty
angle and his dark bangs almost hung in his eyes.

"I haven't been home in a long time," Ed said truthfully.
"I suppose it was bound to happen."

"You must miss it," Ray said. He turned to follow Ed into
a small pub front and was soon sitting opposite him in a booth near the back.
"You order for us," Ray said. "You know what to get and I trust you," he took
his hat off and winked at Ed as he dropped it on the seat beside him.

Ed fumbled a moment with the waitress, but managed to
get food and cider ordered. He then shrugged off his jacket and straightened
his collar.

"You eat with gloves on?" Ray asked. "Is it because of
your hand?"

Ed gave a start and Ray hastily added, "I'm sorry, Herr
Gerhardt mentioned... but if you're uncomfortable with it, I understand."

"It's alright," Ed said, tugging on the ends of his gloves
self-consciously. "But yes, that's why I do everything with gloves on."

"Everything?" Ray said with a sudden devilish smile. "Does
your girlfriend like that too?"

To his utter horror, Ed felt his cheeks heat. He would
have thrown his hands up to cover his face, but they were rooted to the spot
on the table.

"My girlfriend?" Ed squeaked.

Ray raised one black eyebrow and leaned forward just a
bit over the table.

"I thought you and that young lady in the office might
be involved, the way she fawned all over you this afternoon," Ray said and smirked.

"Oh, Greta," Ed said. "She's just... she's just kind and
she thinks that I get sick often, but I don't," Ed rambled.

That isn't... that's a lie. Why am I lying? What possible
reason do I have to lie? This ISN'T WHO I WANT IT TO BE. I can tell him the
truth, I want... Greta, I want my life... home...

"You do look a little flushed," Ray teased. He sat back
and smiled as food and a pitcher was brought to the table. The waitress sat
two steins down and filled them, then turned and hurried away. "But she's such
a nice looking young woman and she's interested in you. There are a lot of nice
looking young women around here," Ray smiled.

Well, that hasn't changed. This isn't Roy, this ISN'T

Ed made a non-committal sound and lifted his mug of cider
to his lips. Ray merely grinned, then followed suit.

Ed didn't tell Roy who Raymond Swanson resembled. It wasn't
a lie exactly, okay it was an omission, but Roy didn't need to know, especially

Roy interrupted his thoughts.

"So, I was wondering who you... picked certain habits
up from," Roy said softly. Then Roy's lips again, on his temple, down the side
of his jaw. Ed closed his eyes and finally went boneless. This was... cathartic.
Telling someone, why hadn't he done it before? Even his earlier anger at Roy's
manipulations seemed faded now.

"Not any good habits," Ed muttered. "Just habits."

Roy began to... rock him. A gentle swaying back and forth.
Ed thought he should be angry about this, all this... coddling. It wasn't like
him to endure such treatment, but he was feeling drained and it was strangely
comforting. Roy's hand moved, caught Ed's automail hand and lifted it, bringing
metal fingers to his lips. Ed watched him through slitted eyes. Roy kissed the
steel fingers curled loosely over his own.

Two weeks found him rushing dinner with Greta and Herr
Gerhardt to meet Ray at a pub or beergarten afterwards. A month later, Ray followed
him into the darkened shop one night after coming home from a pub.

Ed twisted under him. He could close his eyes and hear
the voice and he could pretend. Ray could be rough, though. He seemed
to like to hold Ed's wrists down, but then just when Ed was feeling uncomfortable,
like he might protest, Ray would gentle, calm him. One astonishing night, Ray
opened up a new vista for him.

"I'm feeling lazy," Ray murmured against Ed's throat,
"I think I'll have you do the work tonight."

"What?" Ed murmured, already heated and hard. Ray laughed
and bit him on the shoulder. "Ow, dammit," Ed said, reaching up to rub
the offended spot. "Don't bite me, I don't like it."

"What are you, twelve?" Ray said. "Damn Ed, for someone
who's obviously had a male lover before, you are so... childish about the way
you make love. I guess I'll go easy on you tonight."

"I'm not childish," Ed returned and then grunted as Ray
moved him up into the pillows and onto his back. Ray straddled his thighs, snagged
the oil off the bedside table, got his hand slick and did the most astonishing
thing. As Ed watched, Ray reached back and eased fingers... into himself. It
was shocking and unexpectedly hot. Ed knew about this of course, Roy
often had slick fingers inside of him. The last time he'd done so had been the
night in the barn, the first and only time they properly made love, but
to see someone else do it, and to themselves... Ed felt both a bit like a voyeur
and rather turned on.

"You like watching me do this," Ray said above him, face
mostly blanketed in shadow. "Does this turn you on, Ed?"

No sense in lying to the man. Ed nodded and reached up
to rub Ray's thighs. Ray smirked, then Ed felt his own hard cock grabbed and
fisted for a moment with the oil slick fingers that were just a moment ago inside
Ray's body. Ray lowered himself, still holding Ed's cock.

Ed arched his head back for a moment. It was the most
unusual sensation at first, and then it was bliss. He was encased tightly,
then there was a roll of muscle all the way down his hard length. He licked
his lips and his fingers tightened on Ray's thighs.

"You've never been on top before," Ray said to him, leaning
over him. "Not that you're really on top, but the term applies. Imagine that,
that's not something I expected."

Ed tried to form words, but that required thought and
thought was beyond him. Ray began to move himself slowly, up and down. Ed's
fingers dug into his thighs hard. In a haze, Ed thought it might be painful,
but Ray made no protest.

"Fuck me. Ed," Ray whispered in the darkness. "Show me
what you're made of," he hissed. This, Ed understood. He vaguely registered
the slamming of the headboard into the wall and the harsh pants and grunts from
the darkness above him. His hands moved from Ray's thighs to his hips, pulling
down on them as he arched up with his hips. He wanted deeper, he wanted harder,
he wanted faster, he wanted more. Ray was suddenly laughing and Ed didn't
know why, but then he didn't care why. He came and light exploded somewhere
behind his eyes; when he could see again, he was nose to nose with Ray. Ray
smirked, then leaned over and bit him on the shoulder again.

"I told you that fuckin' hurts," Ed growled.

"Give as good as you get," Ray said. "You'll get to return
the favor," he nipped again and laughed when Ed moved to shove him off. He let
himself be rolled, lay for a moment at Ed's side, then sat up, stood and stretched.

"Stay," Ed mumbled from the rumpled blankets and sheets.

"What? No Ed, Greta might come in early," Ray said and
picked up his pants. "Besides, if you're going to gripe at me about a few love

Ed's brow furrowed. He didn't like being bitten. Roy never
bit him. This isn't Roy.

"Well, I'm not used to it," Ed offered. "We can get up
early, tell Greta you came in early," he asked again.

Ray shook his head and got dressed. He went over, sat
on the edge of the bed and stroked Ed's hair.

"You know, I really like you," Ray said. "But you need
to loosen up on these hangs ups of yours. I don't want to bed a kid."

Ed struggled hard to hold his temper, struggled not to
reach up and shove the hand petting his hair away. The bastard had no right
to talk to him like this, he wasn't a fucking kid. He was 21 years old.

I don't want to be alone. This isn't Roy. I want to go home. This isn't Roy.
NO, it's not Roy! But if I can just have this...

"I'm sorry," Ed heard himself say. "I've only had one...
lover before you, he was different and I was... younger." I am not apologizing,
you bastard! I'm not!

"Don't be sorry, just be better," Ray said standing. "I'll
see you tomorrow. Oh, but I can't go out with you tomorrow night. I've got other

Ed's heart leapt into his throat. He half pushed up on
his hands and hip.

"What other plans?" Ed asked. Was that his voice? Did
he sound that fucking pathetic?

"Adelle," Ray said and grinned. "She works over in the
market, you know the one. Taller than you, darker blond."

Ed could only hear his own heart pounding in his ears
for several long moments. He bit his bottom lip savagely.

Don't fucking beg him to come afterwards!

"Well, what about after? I could wait up," Ed said.

Ray looked at him for a long moment, then shook his head
and gave a small laugh.

"Okay Ed," he said, turning toward the door. "If you want
it that bad." He gave a wave over his shoulder as he walked out of the back

What the fuck am I doing? What the fuck is wrong with

Ed fell back to the bed and ground his forehead into the

It's all I have left of home.

The first time Ray tried to tie him up, Ed fought him.
For a few moments, Ray indulged him, chuckling, but then he got a knee in the
stomach. He had glared at Ed long and hard, then threw himself off the bed and
went for his clothes.

"If you're not going to indulge me, then you must not
want me very much. Let's just end this now; it's a farce at best. I think I
like women too much. You look like a woman sometimes with all this hair; that
must have been the attraction. Why would I want you to touch me with that dead
hand anyway?" Ray growled as he dragged on his clothes.

"No, wait," Ed said, getting up, "I didn't mean it...

Ray stiffened as Ed touched his back, but refused to look
at him. Ed moved up against his back slowly, putting his arms around him.

"You kneed me in the stomach," Ray said angrily.

"I'm sorry; I just have this aversion..." Ed said.

"Everything with you is some kind of issue. I don't know
about this anymore, Ed," Ray said, but didn't try to loosen Ed's arms.

"I'm sorry," Ed said again. "Just come back to bed, I'll
try... Please, Ray..."

He's not Roy, don't fucking beg him, it's not worth
it! Listen to yourself! What is this thing you're becoming?!

Ray snorted, sighed and shrugged Ed off, beginning to
undress again. Ed returned to the bed, held his arms out when Ray came back
and grit his teeth when Ray shoved his hands above his head, tying him to the
headboard. He cried out and came before Ray was through. Panting and watching
Ray sit up, he felt Ray trail his hand down Ed's prone body.

"I should just leave you like that for Greta to find when
she comes to wake you for breakfast in the morning. Then they could all see
what a pervert you really are, wanting another man's touch. I should be disgusted,
but I feel sorry for you. You should be grateful, no one likes a cripple," Ray
said and shook his head.

"I know you're just saying that because you're still angry,"
Ed said lowly and swallowed.

"I think this will be the last time, I just don't find
you all that appealing," Ray sighed and pulled his hand away.

Ed pulled at his bound hands then turned his head away.
He felt Ray reach up and free him, then he turned on his side and curled up.

I don't fucking need him! He's not ROY! He's just
a bastard who looks like him and sounds like him. He's fucked up, he wants to
fuck me up.

He blinked hard when he felt Ray's lips on his ear, then
down the side of his neck. The gentleness was unnerving and he squeezed his
eyes shut.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean that," Ray said. "But I think
I need some time to think about this. Don't wait up for a few nights; I need
to get my head clear."

Ed nodded, not trusting himself to speak with any steadiness.
He listened to Ray get up, get dressed and heard the door bell chime as he left.

I don't need him. I'm fine and I can have a life here
without him. When he comes back, I will tell him that I had time to think about
it too and it's not what I want either. It will be fine, I will be fine.

It was the longest five days of his life to date and he
cursed himself as he let Ray undress him in the darkness of his room that night.

The fifth year of his existence, (because he no longer
considered it his life)
, found him with Greta's cold regards, Herr Gerhardt's
disappointment and his fear of doing something to anger his lover. Ray deigned
to be with him on the New Years and for that at least, he was grateful.

Because Greta found it better she pursue other things,
she was seldom in the office. Herr Gerhardt took to sending messengers more
often than not and so Ray was the only familiar face he ever welcomed in anymore.

One night, as they sat at the table in the back room,
Ray leaned on his elbow and said, "Do you believe in magic?"

"Magic?" Ed said, looking up from his dinner. "No, that's
child's nonsense."

"So, no whimsy for you," Ray said. "No dancing naked in
the moonlight when the planets are aligned. No making fairy circles, no offerings
to call on the energies of the world to grant your wishes?"

Ed pushed his boiled potato across his plate and frowned.

"What brought this on?" Ed said slowly.

"I was reading in the paper, the planets are going to
be in the house of the sun or some other such nonsense on a full moon," Ray
said. "Just fancy, I thought about a drive to the country to have a look. Maybe
a night in an inn somewhere."

Ed's heart leapt and he tried to slow it down. Ray was
always offering... scraps; a new book, a new pair of gloves, an insult or a
bite. At least his need to lash Ed to the bed had abated of late, he'd even
let Ed be 'on top'. Maybe he was changing, maybe Ed's patience was paying off,
maybe this meant something. Maybe he could dare to think he might have a life

"That sounds rather spontaneous of you," Ed said. "Do
you think Herr Gerhardt would let you off for a day?"

"Well if you'd rather not," Ray sighed, leaning back in
his chair.

"It's not that," Ed said hastily. "I could ask Greta to
mind the office. I just thought we could make a proper trip of it."

Maybe we could just keep going and not look back.

Ray smiled at him then and Ed forced the lump in his throat
to swallow. Ray stood up, walked over to the bed and began to unbutton his shirt.
Ed got up and moved the dishes to the sink, leaving them for later. He went
over to Ray, undid the buttons on his cuffs, kissed his chest and Ray worked
the tie out of Ed's ponytail.

Ray pushed him back then and Ed fell onto the bed, grinning
when Ray opened his belt and pushed up his shirt, then pulled his pants to his

"A day of it, a magic day. You know, they say all sorts
of things happen when the planets line up: gateways open," Ray said, undoing
his own pants and drawing himself out. He stroked himself slowly and looked
down at Ed.

"Gateway?" Ed muttered, eyes fixed on Ray's hand, on Ray's
cock. Already, he could feel himself stirring, hardening. Ray leaned over him
then, mouthed his cock and reached down to pull his shoes off, then pushed Ed's
pants the rest of the way off and onto the floor.

Ed arched up a bit, moaned softly and relaxed. It had
been a hectic day, full of columns of numbers and things that needed to be filed.
He'd looked forward to tonight, of having Ray over him, of a climax that might
let him sleep without dreams.

Ray caught his wrists suddenly and pinned them above his
head; Ed parted his legs and Ray moved between them.

"I can't believe you've forgotten about the gateway,"
Ray said, smiling down at him. "But you know, it takes more than just things
being in tune, it takes the right offering. It takes blood."

Ed blinked. Something about the tone of Ray's voice, the
words he thought he'd just heard... He began dragging his mind from his lust-induced

"What are you talking about?" Ed said and pulled on his
wrists a little, they might as well have been bound in steel.

Ray's cock nudged his entrance and Ed felt nervous. He
almost felt the need to shy from the contact, but Ray suddenly pushed up on
the bed on his knees, his actions forcing Ed's parted legs to open wider, to
offer himself up. The dim bulb from the kitchen area was still on and it played
across Ray's face.

"I know the way home, FullMetal Pipsqueak," Ray said,
"and I need you to get me there."



Ed slammed up with his body, but he could not free his
wrists and he twisted his head, trying to sink his teeth into the nearest arm.

"What's wrong," Ray grinned down at him, "I thought you
didn't like biting. Why all the resistance now, you've been spreading your legs
for me for almost an entire year," Envy laughed loudly, and Roy's face grinned
down at him. His eyes flashed dully in the dim light, no longer black.

"Aren't you glad to see me?" the monster crooned. "Doesn't
this feel like home?" He slammed in. Ed arched his head back and screamed, but
no one would hear him, no one would come. "You begged me for this," Envy said
as he began to thrust. "You all but crawled on your knees for me," Roy's face
moved to hang close to his. Ed thrust his head forward, snapping at his nose,
but Envy drew back and laughed again. "Oh how the mighty have fallen," he chortled,
his pace fast, hard and sadistic.

Nausea rose and Ed panted against it. The pace was brutal
and he was dry, it burned and it hurt as Roy's face swam in his view and Envy's
voice taunted him above it all.

"FUCKER," Ed screamed, "Get off of me! Get off of me!
I'LL FUCKIN' KILL YOU!" Ed howled.

Envy leered down at him, ground into him and squeezed
his flesh wrist until he couldn't feel his fingers.

"You know, it was drinking the old man's blood that let
me shape shift," he said. "But it's almost gone now. I didn't realize I could
have used it to get back, get out of this stinking cesspool that bastard Hohenhiem
let himself be trapped in, but now I have you, I have you. You're going to take
me home, Ed. Aren't you happy? Aren't you glad? I'll be home and you'll be free.
You'll be dead, but you'll be free."

Ed's vision was starting to tunnel. He just wanted it
to be over with; if only he'd stop. He tried slamming his false knee into Envy's
side, but it did little good, it just went on and on and on.

"How easily you were lead to slaughter," Envy said. "I
only had to bide my time, to wait and study and know how the energies of this
miserable plane pulsed. Then I learned you were here and it took some doing
to find you, but I guessed right, didn't I? I guessed why you were at the beck
and call of that pathetic Colonel," Envy laughed again. "I'm sure he's dead
now, I'm sure Pride dealt with him."

Ed tasted blood; he'd bitten through his own lip. Don't
listen to the monster's lies. DON'T LISTEN TO HIS LIES!

"Oh, let's not waste that," Envy leaned down, darted his
tongue over Ed's lip and whipped back faster than Ed's teeth could close.

"Fucking finish," Ed panted. "Fucking get it over with."

"I guess I can give you that much. You know, playing you
like a fiddle took a lot of hard work, it will be nice to be able to let loose
for a change," the homunculus said with a grin, then bowed his head and began
to move his hips as he liked.

Ed passed out soon after.