Takes place between Chapters 83 and 84 of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, so, camping trip of doom (i.e. the few months that Greedling, Ed, Darius and Heinkel spend on the lam, in the winter before the Promised Day). Direct sequel to One Foot In Front of the Other.

bob fish

Learning Curve

part 0 of Wrong Turn Universe

Ed was asleep. Definitely asleep, he told himself fiercely. His nose was freezing, his back hurt from the crappy sleeping mat and from — ha! — starting to grow out of his shoulder brace already, and he could hear every stray crackle of twigs and whisper of wind outside the pup tent. But he was asleep, dammit.

Somewhere near the fire, he could hear leaves crunching on the ground. Greed was pacing. Well, either it was Greed or a fox, but you normally knew about it if wild animals came near the campsite, because Greed would swear loudly at them, then Darius or Heinkel would yell at him to shut the hell up, then Greed would yell back, and it'd be a whole thing.

Ed knew Greed was out there somewhere. He always slept outside. Sometimes Ed would get up to piss in the night, and he'd see the homunculus sitting against a tree, eerily still, long arms folded around one knee pulled up to his body, his head drooping. Something about it was kind of creepy. Not that Ed liked to think Greed was impressive enough to be creepy. Hey, at least it meant that Ed didn't have to share a tent with the guy.

Well, except on those occasions that he wasn't himself.

On that thought, Ed realised that the pacing had stopped. For a few moments, he listened to the wind in the trees, the sudden silence, and he waited.

Then, just as he'd guessed, the zipper of his tent buzzed in the quiet of the night, and Ling's head was framed in the entrance. Even by moonlight, Ed could tell it was Ling, not Greed, just from the half-closed eyes and the stupid big grin plastered all over his face. So, it was one of those nights.

"You've gotta tell me how to do that sometime, the silent sneaking up thing," whispered Ed. He fumbled for the hurricane lamp. After he got it lit, he sat up in his sleeping bag and pile of blankets, pulling it all as high and tight as he could to keep the warmth in.

"You couldn't," said Ling quietly. "Your leg clanks."

"Shut up! It does not clank, this is cutting-edge engineering here! My mechanic —" Ling made a small, appreciative humming noise. Ed growled a little. "Come in if you're going to, you're letting the heat out."

Ling came all the way into the tent and zipped up the door. Without preamble, he shrugged his jacket off and unzipped the front of his sleeveless shirt. Just looking at him made Ed feel freezing cold. Kind of warm too — but still, how did Ling manage that, blithely wandering around half-naked the whole time without so much as a goosebump? Ed would say it must be a homunculus thing, if it wasn't for the fact that Ling had always walked around flashing his nipples at everyone.

Ling scooted up to sit next to Ed and stared at him intensely for a moment, then reached around to pull the tie out of Ed's hair. He combed his fingers through it silently. Yeah, one of those evenings. Definitely. So far, they'd been travelling for three weeks. In that time, Ling had shown up five times. Ed had counted. The first time, they'd somehow — Ed still had no explanation for this incident — ended up making out against a tree. Three out of the other four times, they'd fooled around. Ling claimed it helped to centre his qi, whatever the hell that meant. Greed claimed it was fucking annoying. Both good reasons to carry on.

And Ed? Well, he liked it. More and more. Kissing was good, making out was better, and sex, at least so far as Ed had discovered it, was very, very awesome. It seemed like every time this thing between them happened, they discovered something new. Like last time: Ling had popped up one afternoon camp, and offered to help Ed go and trap some rabbits. They had not caught any rabbits. Instead, Ling had just got them both half-undressed behind a rock, then sat in Ed's lap and stroked their cocks together with one hand. It had taken them a bit of shuffling around to get them both sitting at the right angle — but then it had been amazing. If a bit messy. Ed had thought Ling had just invented that one — which made sense, he had all that time on his hands, plus he was a big pervert. But apparently not, only Ling didn't know what the word for it was in Amestrian. Probably, there wasn't one. Ed was starting to get the impression Xingese had a much wider vocabulary for sex stuff. Or maybe that was just Ling?

Still, Ed found himself so irritated by the way that Ling could just undo him so easily. Right now, all Ling was doing was staring at him and running his hands through Ed's hair and down his shoulders — yet already Ed's cock was twitching, and the blood was pumping fast around his system. Dammit. Ed refused to believe it was because Ling was just that good. It wasn't fair, the bastard had a lot of practice on him, he had a freaking harem back home. The pinnacle of Ed's own previous sexual experience had been seeing down Winry's top when she was working on his arm. It must just be sex — which, Ed was finding, was powerful stuff. And apparently, the more you got, the more you wanted.

Ling wound a hand into Ed's hair at the roots, pulled a little to tilt his head back, and nipped at the skin of his neck. Then, while Ed was debating with himself about why that was somehow so hot, Ling's sneaky hands were reaching down and peeling away the blanket, reaching for the zipper on Ed's jacket, and — hey now.

"Oi." Ed caught Ling's wrist in his hand. "Ling, it's like, zero degrees out tonight. No way I'm getting naked." Ling gave him a wretched, appealing look. Ed rolled his eyes. "Look, we can still — y'know — just — with our clothes on. And under the blankets. Right?" Every single time so far he'd ended up naked or at least semi-naked in the great outdoors and, in consequence, freezed his ass off. Now that the weather had started to really turn, it was time to put his foot down on about the clothes thing.

Ling put his head on one side for a moment, then just moved his other hand down, and had Ed unzipped and half-out of his jacket in one rapid move. His grin was full of mischief. Ed shoved him off and hiked his jacket back on his shoulders. Ling shrugged his own shirt straight off, then tackled Ed while his arms were up. He shoved Ed's shirt up under his armpits, and started licking Ed's nipple roughly. His tongue was hot. The sensation shot straight down south. And just like that, Ed's objections lost most of their force. Goddamn sex, making him stupid. He ran his left arm over Ling's back, fine skin and subtle curves of lean muscle, the jut of his scapulae. Ling's chest pressed over his belly, skin to skin, and he was giving off heat like a mug full of tea. Ling had been outside until a minute ago — how was it even possible that he could feel this warm? Yet he always did. Must be a homunculus thing. Perhaps the low-level radiant alchemic energy the Stone gave off meant that they had a higher core temperature — but then, did they regulate it like ordinary mammals? How would the blood flow get back to the extrem — ow.

"Hey! No biting, I said last time —" Ling's warm tongue licked soothingly over the nipple he'd just nipped. Ed twitched. That actually felt nice, like — dammit, not again!

Ling let go of Ed's nipple to mutter into his chest, "I want to see you naked. I've had to try for days to take over, Ed, days of struggle for an hour or two's control. And now I want to see some beauty."

Ling was an expert at this shit, he really was: making Ed feel too bad to say no to him, throwing out weird, cheeseball compliments that made his cheeks fire and froze his brain before he could brush them off ... and now Ling was already working at the buckle of Ed's trousers. Ed didn't stop him. They were getting kind of on the tight side now anyway. He should — well, if he wasn't going to tell Ling to shut the hell up, he should say something back. Definitely. What, though? Ling was — well, Ed liked looking at Ling. He had really nice arms and shoulders. Apparently, Ed was into that. His hair was pretty dumb, but it felt good when Ed shoved a hand into it, thick and soft. And his face was all — cute? Nicely constructed? Fuck, what was Ed supposed to say that didn't sound stupid?

"Hey." Ed yanked out the tie of Ling's ponytail, and started finger-combing it with his left hand. "You're — really hot."

Fuck, did that ever sound stupid. Ling chuckled into the skin of his stomach, and Ed's muscles jumped. He felt a rush of defensive anger, and went to say something — and Ling hummed. Ed twitched again. Ling tugged at Ed's pants and he found himself lifting his hips obligingly. The pants went down to his ankles, and Ling rested his chin on Ed's hip. He ran a finger around the waistband of Ed's boxers.

"I love these. Ridiculous little short trousers. Amestrian clothes are a bit silly, but they look very good on you." His fingers were dancing over Ed's crotch as he spoke, stroking him through the cotton, maddeningly light. Ling might be a man on borrowed time, but apparently he didn't mind investing some of it into teasing the shit out of Ed.

"Hey, wait. Amestrian clothes are silly? What about those dumb baggy pants you used to wear?"

Ling sighed. "Oh, don't. Greed threw them into the sewer. They were my only pair! Greed's trousers are so uncomfortable, I don't know how he thinks he can fight in them."

"That's what you two talk about? Pants?"

Ling didn't answer. Ed ground down into Ling's hand, and he shifted it out of the way, annoyingly, so that Ed was forced to do a little shuffle forward to get to the hand. Ling led him around like that for a few moments, then Ed growled and grabbed his wrist with the automail, and shoved Ling's hand where he wanted it. Ling twisted his wrist in a rapid move and broke free. Ed snorted, impressed. Ling chuckled.

Ed was starting to shiver. He grabbed the blankets and pulled them over both of them. Ling pulled Ed's pants off his ankles and threw them outside the blankets. Then he popped his head out the side of the blankets to look at Ed. "Why do you only have one sock?"

"Why do you fucking think?" Ed prodded Ling in the side with an automail foot and Ling yelped. Ed cackled.

Ling went for the sock.

Now, that was just too much.

"Oi! No." Ed yanked his right leg out of the way and tucked it under him. "Come on, not the sock. You got me mostly naked, what's the problem?"

"But — just the socks? Sock. It looks" — Ling waved his arm — "strange. I don't think socks are very attractive items of clothing, really."

"So? Shut your eyes!"

"But I want to look at you!"

"But we're under the blankets!"

"Only because you insisted on diving under them!"

"Only because you had to get me naked! I told you, it's freezing!" Ed threw his hands up, then folded them across his chest under the blanket. Ling burrowed back under the blankets and wriggled around, then his head popped up next to Ed's.

Ed rolled his eyes. "Why am I even talking about this to the guy who doesn't believe in underpants? Of course you don't believe in covering up parts of you that get cold, because you're insane."

"You should get a sock for your nose, then, it's like an ice cube."

Ed laughed evilly and nosed Ling's neck. Ling squeaked, but wriggled in a way that transparently communicated that he liked it. It was frankly weird, some of the stuff he liked. There were several things he'd already broadly hinted at that Ed had no intention of ever letting him try.

Ling burrowed down into Ed's chest. It tickled. Ling's mouth was so warm it felt hot, and he'd moved now from flicking his tongue over Ed's nipple to doing weird, nice things with his lips and teeth to the skin of Ed's stomach.

Ed put a hand into Ling's hair and said, "Hey. I think we better get to it soon, we don't know how much time you —" He jumped, and choked on the next word, because Ling was now sitting between his legs, holding Ed's balls carefully in his curled fingers as if he was weighing them or something, and breathing on Ed's cock.

Ed found himself making some assumptions based on circumstantial evidence, and therefore having to bite his own lip and scrunch his eyes shut in a pre-emptive strike against embarrassing sex noises.

He was fairly certain for a second that he could feel Ling shaking with silent laughter, and then — oh hey, his assumptions had been right. Ed whined involuntarily and scrabbled his hands over Ling's shoulders, trying to process what was going on down there. Heat, that was part of it. A wet heat that felt amazing, and Ling's lips were sealed tightly around him and there was definitely some suction happening — oh yeah, that would be why they called it sucking someone off. Fuck, no wonder guys went on about it if it felt like this.

Then it all went away.

Ed opened his eyes and looked down. Ling's mouth was a couple of inches away from where it should be. He was frowning and working his jaw around, as if he was trying to work something out. Ed suddenly felt very, very self-conscious. Then Ling's eyes flicked up to Ed's for a moment, and he gave Ed a funny, slightly tense little smile. Ed screwed himself up to say, you don't have to, don't worry about it — but as he was rolling the words around in his head, Ling's mouth moved back down again, and all that Ed managed was a little creaky noise.

This time, Ed managed to keep his eyes open and get a look at what was happening. A lot of it was curtained off by Ling's long bangs, but he could see one eye, scrunched closed, Ling's cheek hollowed as he sucked, a little of his cock as Ling's mouth slid over it ... Ed shivered, and found himself quickly scrunching his eyes shut again. It was all almost too much.

Ling was moving over him slowly, and Ed's muscles were all twitching and jumping at once, and Ling's tongue was doing stuff too, now, something quick that teased underneath on the way up. It was good. It was very good. Ed wanted some more of it. His hips arched upwards, pressing himself in —

Ling made a funny little noise, like a cat coughing, and then pulled away so fast Ed didn't know what was happening until Ling was sitting upright, clearing his throat delicately and looking slightly perturbed.

Ed did the math. And remembered what had happened that time he'd tried to eat three quarters of a hot dog in one bite, because the bus driver had said you couldn't take food on.

Ed looked at Ling.

Ling looked at Ed. Then he gave another little cough. "Ed? You might — have to bear with me. I may not actually have done this before. Well, to a man."

Ed looked down, at the part of him that had been misbehaving, and felt himself flushing more. "Uh. Really sorry about that. I hadn't — well — ah, you know I haven't ... " He trailed off. This shit was embarrassing. "It was really good."

"Was it?" Ling looked distinctly happier. "Oh good." He put a careful hand on one of Ed's hipbones, and pushed it down firmly. Ed chuckled nervously and nodded. Ling's other hand circled his cock round the base. Ling looked at him, once, and raised an eyebrow — then he ducked his head.

After the first few moments, Ling seemed to get into it, and the movements got a little faster. Ed made a choked noise, and felt his reasoning processes begin to unravel. Before long, he was slumped back on his sleeping bag, with no damn clue what was going on, except that it was fucking magnificent, and he was biting down on his own automail knuckle to keep from yelling. Then quickly coiling tension, and he found himself already jerking and shuddering and spilling. Into Ling's mouth. Oh. Ling's shoulders jumped and he made a little noise. Shit.

Ed felt Ling swallow. He pulled free, and sat up slowly. Then he fished a handkerchief out of his abandoned jacket and dabbed at his lips with a thoughtful expression on his face.

"Fuck, Ling, I'm really sorry. Uh, I guess — I should have —" Should have what, he wasn't sure. He hadn't exactly been in his right mind back there.

Ling waved a hand at him. "No. It's really all right. Stop worrying." He patted Ed's knee. "Just a bit of a surprise. Well. I mean, the timing was a surprise? But I did know that was going to happen, you know." He gave Ed a silly, embarrassed little smile — then, before Ed could say anything about it, he'd moved forward and pulled him into a slow, forceful kiss. Now that was really gross, and weird, Ed really didn't want to taste himself. But then — he found his hand was cupping Ling's cheek, and fuck but the devious asshole had done it again. He didn't care any more.

Right, okay, now he should get to it. Ling didn't always have much time. It wasn't fair if he didn't get off. Oh, and Ed really didn't want Greed to come back in the middle of things. He kept worrying about that one, ever since Greed had shown up in the middle of their first kiss.

Ed scooched himself down, pushed Ling's legs apart and sat cross-legged between them. Then he lowered his head and took a look at the goods. Nothing he hadn't seen before, but he'd never been up close like this. Ling wasn't as thick as him — for sure — and the head of his cock was kind of a different shape. Ed kept meaning to put them side by side and compare them properly some time, only he had an obscure feeling that this might not be good sex etiquette.

Ed traced a vein with his finger. Ling exhaled audibly, and Ed got a little rush of power. This was one of the parts of sex stuff he was really getting to like. He blew a puff of breath right over the head of Ling's cock. It twitched. He looked up. Ling was staring at him, eyes nearly shut, propped up on his elbows. He was concentrating on Ed absolutely.

Ling put his head on one side. "You're very bendy for an Amestrian." His voice sounded slightly shaky.

Ed licked his lips and swallowed. "Tell me if I'm doing this right. 'Kay?"

He put his head down.

If Ed had been entirely honest with himself, what he'd just done had been less of a blowjob than a handjob with a bit of extra licking. Still, Ling hadn't complained. And a handkerchief, some good timing and the washcloth had made sure the tent didn't end up a mess. Ed was definitely getting better at this stuff. Best of all, Ling was still here, not even a hint of Greed trying to make a takeover. Whatever Ling's qi was — Ling was irritatingly vague on the subject, and Ed couldn't exactly hit the library right now — it must be pretty damn centred right now. Ed was kind of enjoying the afterwards part, which was definitely way nicer like this — instead of pulling their pants up and rushing back to wherever they were supposed to be, lying around in a contented, relaxed sprawl of mixed-up limbs and warm skin.

Ling shifted, and whispered into his ear, "Greed's gone quiet. I think he's ignoring me."

"Yeah? I think he's a big pervert." Ed stretched, and tucked himself closer into Ling's shoulder. "Wait — is he gone? How long do you think?"

"I don't know." And the pretty, pleading eyes were back.

"What now?" said Ed. But he couldn't muster up much irritation.

"Ed. Would it be all right if I stayed here for the night?"

Ed shuffled, and frowned. What if Greed showed up in the night? Ew, he really did not want to wake up all spoony with Greed. Even if it was the same body. No. Definitely no. "Sure. Stay." Dammit.

Ling gave him a delighted smile, and scratched the back of his head.

Ed reached for his pants, and Ling whined. "Please, come on, this is one of the nicest parts! Honestly, Ed, going to sleep with your naked skin against your lover's, it's really good."

Ed sort of pulled a face when Ling said lover. Definitely not a good word. Too serious. Too gooshy. But what was the word for what he and Ling were, these days? Friends? Friends who had sex?

"If you stay, I put clothes on. It's freaking winter. I'm drawing a line." He was too, this time.

A few moments later, Ed wasn't entirely surprised to find that his line had moved. They compromised; Ling stayed naked, and Ed just put on his shirt and boxers, draped his jacket and coat over both of them, and let Ling's unnatural body heat do the rest. One of Ling's long legs hooked over his hip, drawing him in, Ling's right arm curved around him, and then, with one arm each and a lot of wriggling, they managed to get the sleeping bag around them both. It was so tight that Ed had to check he could get his hands together to clap, in case of emergency. It was only at this point that Ed realised his position. His head was on Ling's shoulder, wrapped up tight in his arms. And to his vast irritation, Ling, once again, had a good point. Chests and bellies pressed skin-to-skin, a deliciously warm hand flat between his shoulder blades, the pile of blankets sealing the heat in. Ed exhaled, and heard a happy little answering sigh. Then he repeated a list of good, non-sappy reasons that they should be doing this. They were sharing body heat. It was to stop Ling fussing. Ed was too tired to raise a stink about it. Whatever the reasons, his aching muscles tingled with happy warmth. He was so exhausted, so comfortable that he felt like the whole sleeping mat was floating, like it was drifting in a lake or something.

For once on this stupid trip, within a minute of closing his eyes, he was fast asleep.