The Flooding Dark, The Evening Strange

chapter 4.
No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical.—Niels Bohr

Sleep framed the interstitial spaces of Edward's life. Although essential, Edward often resented it, because it stole time from his life, time he could be spending in some useful activity. It was rare for him to sleep in, rarer still for Edward to lounge in bed for hours after waking up... at least, not without some heavy alchemical texts to sustain him. But that's exactly what Edward found himself doing the next day, wanting to hold onto some bizarre feeling of solace that had crept over him the night before. It was more then satisfaction that things seemed to be going his way... Edward could not define it, but he lay in bed happily and listened to the bird song and the chime of a friendly wind as it summoned him to drowsy wakefulness.

Ten days. Ten days before he could do anything. Edward went in and out of dozing for a while, dawn passing into early morning, and then late. The kittens were all over his bed the entire time, sometimes sleeping in his hair but more often going into random battles with his toes, attacking his feet from above the covers whenever he moved. One of the kittens, a particularly tiny grey one, became emboldened by Edward's prolonged immobility and crept up next to his face, batting his nose with soft pads. Opening his eyes, Edward picked it up by the scruff of its neck and held it high above him.

"I call category foul," Edward said, shaking his automail finger in front of the kitten's scrunched up face. "The nose is off-limits." The kitten seemed to appear chastened, so Edward dropped it onto his chest and closed his eyes and turned over onto his side, pulling the covers over his head.

Unfortunately, this meant that the kitten was now trapped with him under the covers, and the kitten responded to such a novel situation by exploring all the contours of Edward's body as if it were lost deep within an underground cavern. Miniature claws bit through pajama pants into the skin of his shins and thighs. Edward grimaced and then sat up, pushing back the covers. The grey kitten looked up at him accusingly. On the far end of the bed three other kittens also glared at him, looking up from their posts guarding his toes.

"Let's get some things straight," Edward admonished. "I pay to sleep here." Without warning he pounced for the trilogy of smug faces, who scattered by tumbling off the bed and skittering halfway across the room. The grey kitten, caught in the crossfire, ended up burrowing under the covers. "Sleep."

A deep, deep impression was made... for about a nanosecond. Within moments the kittens were gleefully bounding back onto the bed and the shy little grey was peeking out its grey little nose. Edward blew at the fringe of blonde hair framing his face, exasperated, but he did lean forward to touch the tip of the grey's nose fondly. The mom was probably taking a nap under his bed, which was why they were going so crazy.

"You guys sure have some life," Edward observed as he was variously climbed and prodded. Edward unraveled a little bit of the end of the crocheted blanket, clipping off a length of green yarn from one of the many tassels edging the border. He used this to tempt the kittens into a multilateral attack. Soon they were taking turns in vicious battles. "Don't you have anything better to do?" As usual, Edward's sagacious question was completely ignored, seeing as how it did not come with either treats or scary wallops.

After some time playing with the junior predators, Edward got up and walked over to the bathroom. Leaving the door open Edward began to run the water, filling the large free-standing porcelain tub. Although the kittens had followed him in, as soon as the water started they rushed out as if in fear of a mortal enemy.

For the hell of it, Edward opened the far window, leaving the curtains open. No one would be able to see him naked, so he stripped without shame.

Edward looked down at his body. He was thin; too thin, Ilse said. Edward felt his ribcage and belly with automail fingers, the sensation from his torso mocking the lack of feeling that the arm had. Moving to stand in front of the mirror, Edward watched his face as he touched himself, expressionless. Carefully, with practiced skill, Edward brought the automail arm down and touched his penis, stroking it with the same cool motions, numb to any sensation of arousal. He wondered if it would be possible for any person to find such touch arousing if he couldn't make it sexy for himself.

Could anyone find such a body appealing? Prostheses could not hide that he was missing limbs, and even though having them meant that the eye could be tricked into thinking he had a normal shape, there was nothing normal about the way his body felt. Maybe an automail freak like Winry would find him attractive... except that he was short, a good two inches shorter then her. That always seemed to be a problem for women, for reasons he resented even though he kind of understood the rationale. More women had hit on his brother as an empty shell of armor. Edward sighed.

His face, now. His face was good. Edward stuck out his tongue and raised his eyebrows seductively. His light-colored eyes had enough green and yellow mixed in that they looked like gold, which had to be an attractive color for the ladies. He had missed the horrors of acne (Edward ignored the little voice in his brain that snarked that he'd also missed the horrors of puberty). Edward brought the automail hand up in front of his mouth and cupped it, exhaling and then scenting the breath. No morning breath. If it weren't for the being short two limbs and a few apparently necessary inches, as well as lacking any kind of build that could be charitably called a "physique," Edward guessed that some person somewhere might judge him to be a prize.

Edward shook himself. What was he thinking? Why did he care about whether or not he'd ever have sexual intercourse? That was not and could not be a priority. Alphonse came first. He always came first.

Closing his eyes, Edward bit his lower lip. Ten days. Waiting was... distracting.

It was not a good idea to soak the automail in a bath, so he usually preferred to take quick showers instead because it was a lot less work. He'd have to be careful about preventing the arm or the leg from spending prolonged time underwater; this meant only filling the tub halfway, keeping his artificial leg draped over the side, and doing most of his cleaning with his left hand. Such meticulous necessities made Edward feel clumsy. Turning off the faucets, Edward placed his right leg in the bath, lowering himself carefully as he kept his left leg raised. This was how people in casts bathed, except that eventually they got over it.

Because Edward was determined to take advantage of his enforced laziness, he did not grab for the soap right away. It felt good to have water lap at his flesh this way. It was not as good as swimming, not like those lazy summer days he'd told Scar about: whole body immersed, moving like a fish through the water as he chased after his brother in silly games that seemed to be all about splashing. Alphonse had been the better swimmer, but then his brother had been better at all sorts of things.

What did Alphonse look like? The first thing that came to mind with this thought was an image of the armor, that hateful armor that had been made to fit his father. Edward had come to love the armor, though, loved it because it had become his brother. And now this was how he remembered him, even though he wished terribly that this were not so. Still, remembering the armor was better then nothing... someday Edward feared that he would lose even that.

"Without natural affection... traitors." Edward grabbed the soap. What was the whole verse? "Fierce... heady... lovers of pleasure..." Slowly he rubbed the brown, cracked bar over his body, under his arms and around his groin. "Proud."

No question, pride was Edward's besetting sin. Not lust, not envy, not greed, not wrath... certainly not sloth. Cardinal among the deadly sins, this was claimed by the Christians to be the sin of the destroyer Lucifer, the fallen morning star. Pride... it was what made Edward think he could restore his mother, and what gave him the shamelessness to follow up that failure with the intention to restore Alphonse to the body he'd lost to the gate. Even now, pride drove him. It had tempted him into betraying his principles so long ago when he carried the shame of a military title, and it tempted him now... heady in his lust for home. For the sake of homesickness Edward would again risk everything; and if Alphonse still wore a body of armor Edward would continue to fight until he had everything, absolutely everything he wanted.

Edward wanted to see his brother's face again. The real face, the one that he could not recall. The face of the brother he used to swim with. The brother he loved.

One of the kittens creeped cautiously into the bathroom, the little grey one. It was a little tom, dapper and yet antsy, keeping to the corners of the room as if that made it invisible.

"Hey you," Edward said, and then obeying some irresistible impulse he splashed a tiny bit of water onto the kitten's fur. This made it run away, scrambling in such shocked surmise that Edward felt a little guilty (even though he laughed). Alphonse had loved kittens and if he was here right now he would have given Edward the most reproachful look. Eventually the kitten slunk back, even more cautious and guarded then before, and Edward leaned over the edge to smile at it invitingly.

"The days of splashing are now over," he promised, almost sincerely. "Come here."

There never existed a cat in the universe that came just because it was called. This one was no exception, and gave Edward a "you must be kidding" look before bounding off back into the bedroom.

"The problem with you lot is that you have no names," Edward called out after it. "That makes you reckless and unaccountable." Edward made a face and then slumped back into the tub, leaning forward so that the tips of his hair dangled in the water. What was he going to do all day? He'd have to eat, of course. Maybe he'd do a little bit of reading, although Edward decided that might be a little too taxing considering his current restless mood. Suppose he spent the whole day brooding instead?

Extracting himself from the bath with all the grace of a seventy-year-old arthritic, Edward swiped a towel from the wall and wiped all the water from his body. The bitter violinist was playing some lovely sad music, a piece that Edward had come to recognize as Schubert's "Ave Maria." Edward hummed along as he stepped out of the bathroom and got dressed. The mama cat emerged from under his bed and began licking her fur, and all of the kittens flocked to her.

"Hey, Fritzi. It's an international disgrace that your babies are without names. You don't want them to grow up to be alchemical-hating terrorists with giant guilt complexes, do you?" Edward had one outfit that was like the black clothes he used to wear all the time at home, and this was the one he chose for today.

Scar... now there was a man who needed a proper name. Timothy just didn't cut it. But what name, really, best fit a man whose primary sin in this world was not pride, but wrath? Did the man even have a real name? If his mother had died before he was born and there was no father to be found, who had named him? His brother?

Edward shook his head. From what little he'd been able to figure out, Scar's brother had been a man after his own flavour, driven by equal amounts pride and sorrow. But Scar... Scar was not unlike Alphonse. Or rather, Alphonse had the potential to be just like Scar. What would be the right kind of name for someone like that? And could someone like Edward ever find it?

Alphonse was a righteous person. The kind of person who would not hesitate to try rip the arm off of a homunculus in order to give it to him, but also the kind of person who also was willing to risk Edward's life in order to protect a different homunculus, the one the brothers had created together. Addicted to emotional justice and therefore sometimes a bit blind to the real thing. Edward wanted to think that he knew better, but deep down he knew that he had his own blindness, just for different things.

Picking up the grey kitten, Edward smiled a little as it scrambled to escape his grip. Grey was the color of steel; the color of automail but also the color of armor. It reminded him of his brother. "You, you're Al." He rubbed the kitten under its neck, scratching it until it began to run its motor and purr. "From now on, that's your name."

What was he going to do all day? Brood, for real?

Would he have to spend ten days like this?

The very thought was intolerable.

This time the room was dark when Edward broke in.

Although he tried for a cat-like landing, a few things were misjudged and there was some absolutely electrifying clattering that caused Edward to freeze as he tried to find his footing on Scar's (normally neat) desk. A little moonlight tricked in the window, but the angle of the light was so acute as to be completely useless. When Edward cast his gaze over to where he knew that Scar's mattress (and hopefully, Scar himself) was, all he could see was a veil of black that his retinas refused to clarify.

Edward stood frozen on the desk for a good few minutes, until the silence reassured him that no alarm would be raised. Sneaking down to the floor, the small alchemist slinked along the floor like a paratrooper, moving forward mostly using the motive force from his left arm and right leg to stealth his way over to the floor-level bed; there was no frame for the mattress, which lay directly on the cold stone.

This was a complicated procedure, and by the time Edward was in place his eyes had become properly adjusted, and he could see a few things. A face and then hair like a shroud resolved in the dim light. Edward sat up, and then slowly leaned closer and closer, squinting so that he could decide whether Scar was really asleep.

Up close Scar's face looked unusually pure in the faint shadow of the moonlight. Not calm, not composed, not even in sleep... but the face carried a gentleness and clarity that reminded Edward of the warmth of Mediterranean seas. Edward wondered, idly, what name Scar would have garnered if the Fuhrer had been handing out titles to the enemies of State Alchemists. The Scribbled Arm Alchemist, maybe. Involuntarily, Edward reached forward to pull down the blanket, some strange obsessive impulse making him not quite sure that the arrays that had formerly been tattooed there were really gone.

"I am wearing clothes," a hushed whisper broke into the silence. "So stop checking."

Edward flew backwards, landing on his back and his bad arm as some inelegant choking noise escaped his lips. He raised a finger and pointed it towards Scar's head. "You're awake," he accused.

Scar moved and Edward saw the indistinct shape struggle sleepily to arrange itself into a less recumbent posture. "I am now," was the caustic reply. "What were you doing?"

"Looking at your arm."

As soon as Edward said it, he froze. That had not been a politic thing to say.

There was a little bit of rustling, and then Edward saw Scar lean forward to grab him with the arm in question. The fingers around his forearm held him in an amazingly strong grip, and Edward felt himself fly forward as the other man jerked his arm back. His face hit the mattress with a thud, but in an instant he was jerked upwards, Scar holding him up like a hunter examining some recently subdued prey. Or maybe like a bird, strung up and about to be gutted. "What about it?" The whisper was hostile.

It hurt. It hurt too much. Reflexively Edward reached up with his automail to protect the only arm he had left, and tears came to his eyes as he backhanded Scar with the full strength of steel. Instantly the other man's grip slackened as he crumpled backwards.

What was that? Edward wiped away his tears and felt his breath become ragged with post-adrenaline stress. Up until this point Scar had been nothing but kind, even if it had always been couched in Scar's peculiar ways. Obviously Edward had made a mistake, said something wrong, but did that really merit the level of violence with which Scar grabbed him? The other man was now curled up on his side, hand clutching at his face, and Edward felt his lips tingle with the sick realization that he might have broken Scar's nose.

For a few minutes Edward just sat there, stunned, watching Scar writhe in agony from some wound that Edward could not really see. Somehow Scar managed not to make any noise at all, which was absolutely frightening.

Edward rubbed his arm warily. Eventually, slowly, the small boy moved forward, frightened and cautious and yet with a pressing need to find out for sure what he had done.

Carefully Edward touched Scar's arm, announcing his presence, and when there was no combative response Edward crawled closer to Scar's head, reaching with his fingertips to touch the other man's right hand. "Are you okay?" he whispered, tugging gently, trying to pry the fingers loose so he could examine the other man's face. It was not possible to move that clutching hand, however, so Edward just allowed his hand to curl helplessly over Scar's.

"I'm sorry," was the muffled, strained reply, a bitter whisper surprising in its level of self-condemnation. Scar's hand was shaking, Edward realized. No, his whole body was. The tremor resonated up into Edward's arm.

"Why did you grab me?" Edward asked softly.

"I didn't want you to touch me." Bitterness, evolving into mocking irony.

Reflecting on this a bit, Edward hesitantly lifted his hand. Before he could move away, however, Scar let go of his own face and slapped Edward's hand down to the mattress, covering it with his own very easily. Edward saw, then, a gash across the right side of Scar's cheek clipping the edge of his lip. There was a small trickle of blood. It looked bad, but not disfiguring. The man's eyes were full of a smoldering darkness. "I didn't want you to touch me," he repeated slowly. "But you don't need to run away."

Run away? Edward tested his ability to move his hand out from under Scar's, but unless he gained about five hundred more pounds, he felt it unlikely that he'd be budging any time soon. Not that he was burning to escape, however... he was the one who was the intruder, after all. The palm covering his wrist and knuckles was hot, but totally dry. Scar's skin felt like that of a man with an unbroken fever, and it made the rest of Edward's body suddenly feel cold. "I'm not going anywhere," Edward heard himself whisper, using the kind of voice he had often used when comforting Alphonse in the past. "Tell me why you did that."

"I don't know," Scar whispered back, shedding somehow years of mystery and restraint and sounding simply confused, honestly confused.

Could Scar have been frightened? But of what? And, why? Edward felt himself overcome with exhaustion and lowered himself to the floor, so that he could look at Scar's face without trying forcefully to regain use of his hand or using any more strength to hold himself up. He huddled to the stone floor, prone, wishing suddenly that Scar had a bigger mattress, one that could fit him since he was going to be lying down for a bit while he figured things out.

In stages, Scar's face lost the angled strangeness and returned to baseline calm. Eventually he just closed his eyes altogether. "At least I'm not completely naked this time," he murmured.

"You're funny when you're naked," Edward replied, but still using soft tones instead of his normal barbs. It was true. The memory of Scar, this impressively tall and muscular man, cringing in abject terror as he gripped a balled up cotton shirt in front of his genitals, was extremely amusing. Edward felt himself smile. "When was the last time anyone saw you like that?"

"I don't remember," Scar confessed, sounding unusually vulnerable. "Am I really... funny?" The way he asked the question made it clear that he dreaded the kind of honesty that made him out to be any kind of cosmic physical joke.

"Not any more then anyone," Edward replied, careful to sound as casual as possible. "It just wasn't very like you, I guess."

"I don't know what is 'like me.—" Scar said quietly. "What am I like?"

Edward frowned. What an impossible question. Although he was hardly pinned down, with Scar's hand over his own Edward found himself completely disinclined to move, although some parts of his body (such as his knee, or his cheek) were starting to whine in discomfort. "You're very serious," he said at last.

"I see." Scar sounded somewhat unhappy with that answer, mulling it over slowly, prodding the way someone with a loose tooth prods it with his own tongue.

"That's not a bad thing," Edward felt himself compelled to say. "Alphonse is like that, sometimes."

Scar opened his eyes to that. Slowly, slowly, he withdrew his hand, fingertips brushing over fine bones. "Are you cold?" he whispered.

Cold? It was so hard to say. Edward felt his breathing go all peculiar, felt his body ache in a rush of fluttering sensations squeezing his heart and strangling his innards. "The floor is hard," he whispered back.

"There's room up here." Edward swallowed as Scar fumbled to made room, slowly moving away. He lost focus on Scar's eyes, it was too dark to see them clearly. "It's not soft, but it's... better. Kind of."

Without really categorizing what he was doing, Edward got up and found himself settling into the warm spot on Scar's bed, silently adjusting himself so that his back was to the other man, allowing him to arrange the blankets so that they covered them both. Not wanting to hang over the edge, Edward felt it only natural to bring his body closer to the center of the mattress. Before he knew it he was fitting his back to Scar's chest and belly, the convexity of his spine adjusting to the concavity of the other man's form. He felt warm breath tickle at his ear, and a hard pressure aching against his sacrum as Scar curled around him. The sensation of pressure resolved into a kind of throbbing warmth and made Edward feel a bit sweaty. Ah. That would be the penis, then.

Maybe this was why Scar hadn't wanted to be touched. But why was he hard? Had he been masturbating before Edward had arrived? If so... about what? Who? Edward felt himself curious, achingly curious. His own cock felt a twinge of sympathy and became a little hard, too. It was rather nice to have such arms and legs as Scar had caged around his body, relaxing into a hold that included even his artificial limbs. It was nice to be warm, and being this close to Scar brought a whiff of scent to his nose that was suspiciously like incense, like the frankincense and myrrh of the dead kings whose secrets Edward needed to steal. It was a foreign smell, exotic in both the pejorative and laudatory senses of the word. It was different. Scar was different. And his body felt so new.

Suddenly Edward felt that his breathing was too loud. It seemed to fill the whole room, and he made attempts to suppress the noise, wanting to hide the fact that all this touching was making him feel. For the first time in ages Edward felt completely comfortable and yet he was ill-at-ease, his body listing blissfully into a strange kind of relaxation that was accompanied by specific tensions, in his jaw and in his hips and at his tongue. He liked this. He liked being held, being touched like this. But at the same time he wished he was somewhere else, that his body wasn't present to betray his pleased responses. If only he could forbid his lungs to breathe.

Lips touched the nape of Edward's neck, as warm and as dry as the palm of Scar's hand. Edward closed his eyes. Scar had to stretch to do that; that was not something that could be done unintentionally through the course of an embrace. He felt Scar's upper arm begin to move, hesitantly finding his right hand and squeezing it, probably very hard. Edward loved his automail for what it could give him, proprioception and movement being chief. But sometimes he missed the finer aspects of touch, and he missed them now, wondering if Scar was squeezing hard enough to hurt.

Edward burrowed in deeper, digging his body in against Scar's in a desperate squirm. This caused the lips on his neck to part, and he felt a tongue sear his flesh as he was kissed. The kiss was first one, and then two, and soon several and multiple. It felt good, good to be touched so much. The penis against his back slipped down between his legs, and suddenly he realized that Scar was naked from the waist down. Edward wanted to be naked too, but there was absolutely no way for this to happen, not so long as the strong arms clinging to him refused to let him move.

Oh, Scar surely must have been masturbating over something. Edward knew how that was; a person did not lie in bed with no pants or underclothes and only think pure thoughts. The violence made perfect sense now. Now all Edward was left to puzzle over was the question of who it was that Scar desired. Maybe it could have been him, but Edward doubted it. Probably it was that woman, whoever Lust had been before she died. Edward felt his body grow even hotter as he contemplated, hazily, the thought that maybe he was being used.

Kisses transformed into bites, and Edward felt a low moan escape from his mouth, one which frightened him because it felt far too loud. Scar, however, barely seemed to notice, and was now thrusting his cock in between Edward's legs with increasing confidence and probably increasing desperation. Not knowing what else to do with his left hand, Edward reached down between his legs and touched the other man, the tip of the penis wet and large between his still-cold fingers.

All movement halted instantly. A hoarse whisper, in his ear. "Are you all right?" In reply Edward curved his fingers around the shaft of Scar's penis, a shaft much larger then his own was. This caused a heavy sigh to escape Scar's throat, a thick-sounding noise that made Edward think of summer honey, the kind made from red clovers. Scar relinquished control of his "private parts" without the least bit of fuss once he figured out that Edward was not going to stop this.

Edward wanted to turn around and face Scar. He wanted to be naked and free to move. But he wasn't, and couldn't. So he used his fingers to pleasure Scar, using his fingers and thinking about what it would be like to use his mouth. It felt good to be held, and wanted, and used. Why this was, Edward did not know, but neither did he much care. It felt good. That's all he wanted or needed to know.

At the critical moment, Scar came, and Edward winced as the stickiness shot out directly into the inseam of his pants. Scar made noises; relieved, elated, but quiet, and Edward continued to hold the other man's penis even as it lost all erection. Scar's new-found flaccidity was not helping Edward keep his own arousal in check. Even without desperate tension in his biceps, even relaxed, the taller, stronger man's arms were tight around Edward's slight frame. Scar's breath was warm and moist on Edward's clammy skin, breathing through his mouth with the air hunger that comes from all kinds of exertion and certain kinds of anxiety.

Well. This was almost like sex. Edward had never done anything like it before, and although he adhered to the philosophy that the only real sex was penetrative, that didn't mean that he hadn't leapfrogged over all sorts of personal bests and shed several gradations of virginity by touching another man's cock and helping him come. It was hard to think, but Edward tried to consider the situation. What he did next would do much in defining the meaning of the encounter. Edward was hard, and his desperate initial impulse after masturbating Scar to climax was to do the same for himself.

But why do that when he had another person here, holding him so intimately and making him feel so inexplicably hot?

Gently Edward petted Scar's cock, touching the delicate skin and becoming fixated on the fantasy of taking it into his mouth. This would be the perfect time to try it, when Scar's arousal was refractory to stimulation. That would surely commit Edward to a certain meaning, however, a meaning he wasn't sure he wanted to explore. It was simply not possible for a man to lie with another man using the same kind of license that he would with a woman, not without risking the kind of rejection that ended in violence. Scar had already proven himself touchy when it came to Edward taking unexpected liberties, but even setting that aside, Edward was a little disturbed. Disturbed to want what he wanted.

When Scar's breathing stilled, Edward stopped his gentle exploration and removed his hand slowly. Maybe if he simply stayed still and did nothing, no choices would have to be made, but this was not Edward's style. Refusing to accept the full implication of what it meant to touch another man sexually, Edward did not want to reject the truth either. What was happening was real, and not something he wanted to pretend away. Slowly he undid the buttons of his trousers and then took one of Scar's hands, using his automail hand and guiding fingers which were so much bigger then his own down the front of his pants.

Scar inhaled sharply when Edward curled metal fingers around his own real ones, and the lips on his neck quivered as the other man dug carefully through the fabric of Edward's undergarments, finding the opening by which he could release Edward's cock. It would have been easier if Edward helped, but he didn't want to. He wanted the sensations that accompanied the clumsy way that his clothes and body were explored. His whole body responded, diaphragm muscles clenched and heart radiating strange pulses of desire that tickled into his spine. Edward felt his fingers flash cold and then hot. These were feelings that never came when he touched himself, never.

Even though he could feel clearly every motion of Scar's body, Edward couldn't even begin to guess what the other man was thinking. Obviously the man didn't hate it, but beyond that it was hard to predict the kind of meaning that Scar could be assigning to all this. Edward was all too familiar with the fact that most humans acted out of deep-seated ambivalence, not even knowing for themselves their thoughts from moment to moment. Maybe, probably, Scar was like this too. When Edward's cock was free Scar bent his index and middle finger around the shaft, circling together with his thumb to grab the base. Even though Edward had used his whole hand on Scar's cock and there had been still an inch or so of grip to spare, the reverse was not at all true. Edward breathed deeply, closing his eyes with the scarcest moan.

Before Scar began pulling and tugging on the shaft, the man took a moment to kiss Edward's neck thoughtfully, the open-mouthed exploration using lots of tongue. Scar's tongue was strong, pressing into Edward's skin fiercely. The kiss suggested desire, desire unsated and tenaciously insatiable. Edward's cock ached impatiently and he pushed his ass as hard as he could into Scar's body, troubling the other man and bedeviling him with his needs. He wanted to be touched, more and more. He would beg, he would demand... Edward would do anything to make Scar bring him to climax. Slowly the fingers on his cock began to move, working carefully as the other man tested Edward's tolerances.

Scar's natural pace for masturbation was somewhat slower then Edward's, more squeezing and deliberate. It wasn't quite right, not at all what his cock had come to expect after all those years of solo pleasure, but even though his cock seemed confused and was taking a little bit longer to respond, the rest of Edward's body twisted in shameless pleasure. He had not touched his lips to Scar's body yet, not once, but despite that he felt as if he knew what it would taste like, the touch of skin against his back and lips on his neck informing his imagination with dozens of new sensations.

It didn't take long for him to come. Edward was too young and too aroused to have any kind of tantric staying power. Semen wept into the side of his pants, mixing with Scar's drying come, but it also got onto the sheets. Obeying an almost irresistible impulse, Edward touched the tip of his cock to catch a smear of his bodily juices, rubbing it between his fingers so that he could feel the sticky, almost synovial texture. It was like joint fluid, viscous, but it was also like sap.

Scar released the penis and groped, awkwardly, until he found Edward's hand, accidentally getting a dollop of come in the bargain. Apparently that didn't matter... Scar held his hand anyway, effectively preventing Edward from taking any further autonomous action. They lay together like this in silence for many minutes.


The other man slowly disengaged from Edward's body, pulling back. "Face me," Scar whispered.

Rolling over, Edward turned to see the lines of Scar's body, all color bleeding away from his contours and eyes which looked so different with pupils dilated. On impulse Edward flipped back the sheets, kicking them off the edge of the bed. "I'm hot," he explained, carefully trying not to look too obviously at Scar's undressed half, wanting to catch any flicker of Scar's eyes that indicated that the other man might be checking him out in turn.

In a depressing display of self-control, Scar didn't do anything of the sort. The man seemed to prefer to search his face instead, calm and unblinking. "I need to understand something," he said softly. "Why are you here?"

"To talk to you," Edward answered, looking down and feeling himself flush as he took in all of Scar's nakedness, first on accident and then in prying curiosity.

"That's not what I meant," Scar said, shaking his head, seeming not to care where Edward was looking, although he did discretely place one hand down in front of his penis, resting it casually on the mattress in such a way that it happened to totally obstruct Edward's view. "Why are you here, in this place?"

"The monastery?"

"No, this world." Scar sounded frustrated, as if angry with himself that he didn't have the power to make his meaning more plain. "Why did you come here? I thought you were here to torment... that Ishibala..." Scar cut himself off. "Is it possible you are dead?"

This was enough to cause Edward to tear his glance away from Scar's lower body and look up, examining the man in full. "What in the fuck are you talking about?"

Sitting up, Scar ground the heel of one hand into his forehead, which was either the expression of someone nursing a terrible headache or that of someone exercising underused mental pathways in search of the right words. "What do you remember about your last moments in our world?" Scar asked at last. "What were you doing?"

"Trying to resurrect Al, of course."

"Resurrect?" Scar caught his breath. "He died?" Scar turned to narrow his eyes at Edward. "You never mentioned this." With a semi-disgusted movement Scar reached down for the sheets and pulled them up to cover his body, taking no care to provide similar cover for Edward. "When?"

"Something... happened." Edward whispered. "There was a homunculus, and he could change shapes...."

Scar raised an eyebrow, but his tone was less harsh as he prodded Edward to continue. "And?"

"I told you how Homunculi are created, right?"

Scar nodded, lips tight and frowning a little.

"He was... he was... my father's..." Edward coughed, looking away. "My father's son..." Very briefly, in a voice hollow and devoid of feeling, Edward described how the homunculus known as Envy had punched a hole in his heart. "The next thing I remember, Rose was waking me. She told me... she told me that Al had used the Philosopher's Stone... and he was gone..."

Hanging his head and trying to find the words to continue, Edward felt as the blankets that Scar had grabbed were arranged over his shoulders and around his body. For a moment the other man's arms enveloped him, but after everything was in place they were gone. "I'm sorry, Edward Elric," Scar whispered. "I did not mean..."

"To judge me?" Edward laughed hollowly. "Of course you did."

There was nothing but quiet. Edward felt brittle superiority laced with raw anger. How could this happen? The first time he touched another person in a sexual way, and this was the follow up? Accusations and forced confessions?

"I can never say what I mean," Scar finally said, and his words were very unhappy. "Saving Alphonse was the one truly good thing my dying did. I am... sad... to hear it failed." Devastated, sounded more like it.

"No, you ended up saving me instead. The Philosopher's Stone... Al used it to save me. Ironic, isn't it?" Edward pulled the blankets tight around his shoulder. He was not cold, exactly, but for some reason he was shivering.

"Not if you are here," Scar whispered. "Not if you're dead too."

"I'm not... you're not..." Edward spluttered, a certain dark suspicious unclouding his mind and giving him unwanted clarity. "Dead. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. What's wrong with you?"

A hand on his shoulder, and Edward was pulled back, pushed down into the mattress so that Scar could loom, leaning over Edward's body. Lying down, Scar's face looked so far away. "What makes you so sure you're... we're... not?"

"This is a different world, that's all. It's the place that powers alchemy."

"Hell, you mean?" There was Scar's characteristic dryness of tone, obviously code for 'you're wrong, infidel.'

"No, dimwit. Europe." Edward wondered if he dared mention the other continents of this Earth, or if that would make Scar's brain explode.

"And you know this how?"

Edward gritted his teeth in frustration. This was the weak part of his argument. Saying "because my father told me so" would be unacceptably juvenile, and mentioning anything about the truths he'd learned from the gate would merely cause Scar's judgment crazed-mind to transform that into proof for his ridiculous point of view. "Never mind."

Half expecting Scar to gloat over him in triumph, Edward was surprised when the other man began to touch his hair, brushing it back from his face. It was too hard to read Scar's expression; the light was too poor. "I have decided," he said softly. "I will help you."

Inhaling deeply, Edward could only guess what that kind of decision meant through the lens of Scar's distorted perception of reality. "I believe that Alphonse is alive," Edward whispered.

"I know," Scar said. Edward's scalp tingled with every pass of Scar's fingers. "I know."

Was it possible for Scar to spare some of his exuberant capacity for belief into showing some small level of agreement that Edward's hope was justified? Closing his eyes, Edward could feel the pity in Scar's touch.

Apparently not.