Neither Edward not Alphonse are sure how it started.
They both have their theories of course, but they have their differences: Edward refuses to dwell on it and Alphonse can't stop dwelling on it. Edward sees no need to think it through, to understand how things have become so complicated because they just are, but recently this excuse isn't good enough.
It doesn't ease the shame he feels for acting in sin. It doesn't ease the guilt for cheating on his wife. It doesn't ease the indignity for having an affair with his own brother and betraying not only Mei but Winry too.
He looks to his side and at Edward's long, lithe body that is barely covered with a white sheet so that all limbs— three flesh and one metal— are spread across the bed. His light skin is dotted with a layer of sweat from both the suffocating afternoon heat and the three hours of intense and violently passionate sex, and his hair is loose and damp as it lies curling gently on the pillow around his head and shoulders like some kind of distorted golden halo. An incredibly ironic image really, and it makes Alphonse nervous.
This is wrong.
"I have to be back by five," Edward announces, his voice so soft that it's obvious that he's spent. "I'll drop you off at yours first."
"Right," Alphonse says with a nod. Some of his sweat-slicked fringe falls across his eyes but he makes no effort to move it, just keeps his eyes on Edward's toned chest as it rises and falls with each slow breath.
"I won't be able to get away much next week," Edward then states, blinking lazily. "I promised Winry that I'd take her and the kids to Rush Valley. She wants to show them the auto-mail workshops or something."
"How long are you going for?" Alphonse asks quietly and shifts with what seems like great effort so his head is resting on his arm; it's so hot and he's so exhausted that every movement is like he's dragging himself through treacle. It's a wonder that the two of them managed to make love in such heat, but then again there are few things that have ever managed to stop them.
"The whole week, and the weekend," Edward turns his head and gaze at Alphonse with soft apologetic eyes. "So, a while. I can ring you as soon as I get back though."
Alphonse nods again and averts his eyes as Edward's are suddenly too intense. It's a look that Alphonse has only received since the first time that they took this illicit path together, when he was recovering in hospital and Edward had remained constantly at his bed side. He had been a pillar of strength throughout his recovery and still is now; there are times when Alphonse's joints become stiff and his muscles ache to the point where he can't walk so Edward does whatever he can to help. Although, this help always goes from an innocent muscle massage or relaxing bath to Alphonse lying on his back with his cock in Edward's mouth.
This, too, is something that has only happened since Alphonse was admitted to hospital after Edward had dragged him back out of the Gate.
"What if me and Mei came with you?" he finds himself suggesting.
"To Rush Valley?"
Edward blinks slowly and frowns. "I don't think that would work."
"You know why," Edward's frown becomes a sly smile. "We wouldn't be able to get any real time alone together. I'll be expected to play husband and daddy the whole time so it would just be a waste."
Now Alphonse frowns, his belly turning over in a spike of frustration as he then says, "I want to be there as your brother and uncle to your children, Ed, not just a fast fuck."
Edward's eyes widen in shock at the outburst and his smile instantly disappears. "Al— what—?"
Alphonse sits up and climbs off the bed, looking around the floor for his clothes. His head spins as the humid air hits him like a brick wall but it doesn't stop him; he's so sick of things being like this.
"Alphonse?" Edward says from the bed, pushing himself up and watching his brother pull on his boxers. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"Leaving," Alphonse snaps.
"Because I've had enough," Alphonse states as he then drags on his trousers with such a lack of grace that he nearly falls over then the waistband gets stuck around his sweaty knees. "I can't do this anymore."
"Do what?" Edward's voice in panicked now and bordering on angry which infuriates Alphonse even more. It's so typical of his brother; he'll react first so that Alphonse doesn't get a chance to, or if he does he'll just look ridiculous.
"This. Sneaking around behind everybody's back, always waiting around for you to let me know when you can get five minutes free from your perfect fucking life—shit!"
His foot collides sharply with the bottom panel of the bed but he ignores the shots of pain through his leg as he hobbles towards his t-shirt on the other side of the room. Edward is still watching him but is now pulling on his own underwear, stumbling clumsily when his foot gets caught in the front.
Alphonse smacks Edward's hand away when it lands on his arm and glares at him, wrapping his arms around himself as if to protect his body from his brother's touch. The overwhelming guilt, anger and frustration is coursing through his body like thick poison and, not for the first time, he's convinced he's going to break.
"Alphonse!" Edward steps towards him but doesn't touch him. He just stands there with his arms by his sides and burning gaze roaming Alphonse's face for answers. His chest is still glistening, defining the already visible lines of his pectorals and abdominals as droplets succumb to gravity and slide down slowly. Alphonse feels heat flare in his lower belly and on his neck so looks away to a spot behind him on the cream-coloured wall.
"I've had enough, Ed," he states firmly, but his tone is lacking strength and he hates himself for it. "I can't wait around for you anymore. I can't live to your schedule, wondering when you're going to have a window for me to fit into your life—"
"It's not like that, Al!" Edward half yells, shaking his head. "We both have commitments that we can't duck out of— shit, you're going backwards and forwards between Xing every other month so that Mei can visit her family, so I have to bend around that but I have never complained."
"No, you haven't. But I am not the one that now bases our entire relationship on sex!"
"Bullshit!" Edward growls. "That's utter bullshit and you know it!"
"Really?" Alphonse challenges, narrowing his eyes. "Tell me then, why is it that every time we get to spend some time together we end up in some crappy hotel room like this one, and the only words you say to me are to do with putting my dick in your arse?"
Edward's mouth falls open and his face flushes, but after a second he manages to collect himself and says, "I'm not the only one that asks for a dick in my arse."
Alphonse just looks at him for a moment as realises that Edward just doesn't get it, and he never will. It's bizarre really because it used to be Edward with the concerns, back when they first realised that they were truly in love; he had constructed a plan that was supposed to free them both from their sin and put them back on track as not to ruin their bond and friendship. He would start a relationship with Winry and Alphonse would do the same with Mei. It had been easy really, especially since Alphonse moved to the East and was able to create a huge distance between them both physically and emotionally, but things had started to crumble when he returned and learned that Winry had become pregnant with not her first but second child. Instead of driving he and Edward further apart they had ended up back to where they started: in bed with their bodies moving together in a scorching embrace as they indulged themselves in their forbidden love and desires. They then both descended into the affair as quickly as it had originally begun over two years ago, regularly meeting up for 'alchemy research' for days at a time, claiming they were onto something big.
The web of lies they have built has been successful so far, but Alphonse is no longer eased. Edward has fallen into their routine so easily that he seems to have forgotten their brotherhood in place of their dangerously illicit affair, and this is the last thing that Alphonse had wanted to happen. It's a paradoxical situation; Alphonse is closer to Edward than he has ever been, yet somehow he feels as if they don't know each other at all.
"I can't keep going on like this," he says again, shaking his head. "I feel like I'm nothing more than a cheap release for you, no better than a whore—"
"What the hell are you talking about? Al," Edward steps forward and the pungent smell of sweat and sex fills Alphonse's nose, making his stomach roll over. "I love you!"
"No, you love sex, brother, not me."
"I love sex with you," Edward states, his eyes bright and determined despite the definite flush on his cheeks. "I thought you felt the same."
"I do, but not like this," Alphonse gestures around the room, his gaze landing briefly on the messy bed. "You're forgetting that we're brothers, not just lovers. I should mean more to you than that."
"What do you want me to do? Wine you and dine you? Turn up at your house with flowers and chocolates, declaring my love for you in front of your wife?"
"You don't get it," Alphonse shakes his head again and squeezes past Edward, looking for his car keys. "You don't understand how you make me feel."
"How can I when one minute we're lying there together talking, and the next you're trying to leave?" Edward follows Alphonse across the room and stands in front of door, blocking his brother's path.
"I want my brother back, Ed," Alphonse says sadly. "I want a real relationship with you, not this sneaking around bullshit."
"Like before?" Edward presses, his eyebrows rising slightly but his expression is still angry. "So you want to tell Mei that you're leaving her for me?"
"I don't mean like that!" Alphonse snaps.
"Do you want me to leave Winry for you?" Edward goes on. "Leave my children and my home so that we can have a 'proper relationship'?"
"NO!" Alphonse yells, putting his face in his hands. "I'd never ask you to do that—"
"Well what is it that you want?"
Alphonse lifts his head and looks at his brother with wide, miserable eyes. His head is still swimming with the heat but it pounds as his mind tries to work through his battling emotions and needs; he doesn't have a clue what he wants.
"Not this," he finally answers, breathing heavily. "I'm tired of being scared, of worrying that someone somewhere knows and Mei and Winry will find out. It would kill them both."
"So, you want to end this?" Edward asks, moving close enough to Alphonse to grip the tops of his arms with a gentle force and once again the smell of him is intoxicating. "You don't want us to be together?"
Alphonse blinks slowly. His heart is suddenly racing as he looks deep into Edward's golden eyes and right into his soul, a soul that is just as corrupted as his own and the burning longing for him somehow grows stronger. He knows he'll never be able to stop this because the pull is just too fierce, like a runaway freight train with no brakes— hell, there isn't even a driver so there's no way to tell where this is going to go, or how it's going to end. All Alphonse knows is that as much as he loves Mei, he loves Edward more and he always will.
"I want you," he whispers, and though his words are simple they carry more depth and meaning than even the most beautiful and abstract of sonnets. "Just you, but I—"
Edward cuts him off with a firm kiss, his lips still swollen and tasting of sweat from earlier but it sends sparks of heat right to Alphonse's groin. He groans deep in his throat and is disappointed when Edward then leans back and presses their foreheads together, once again looking right into Alphonse's eyes.
"I love you, Alphonse," he whispers so softly that his words are no more than hot breath blowing across Alphonse's lips. "More than anything."
"More than your wife and children?"
"That's different, and you know it," Edward growls, pulling Alphonse tight against him. "And we're different. We can't stop this; we tried, and we failed so there's no point in fighting it."
"I know, but it doesn't mean that I don't miss you," Alphonse asks, swallowing loudly. "Everything we had before— I want it all back. I need us to take a break from this secrecy and just enjoy being with each other, and relearn how to behave when we're around other people."
Edward looks at him, his golden gaze sweeping his face and his lips turn upwards in a smile.
"We can do that," he says, slipping a hand up Alphonse's back to his head, running his fingers through his short blonde hair. "We can be more normal for a while, if you like."
Alphonse then finds himself smiling as he then says, "Promise me."
Alphonse believes him, and after a short moment he places a soft kiss on his damp lips before leading him back to the bed; like Edward said, he doesn't have to be back until five.