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Set just before the Promised Day.

bob fish

The Day After Tomorrow

part 0 of Wrong Turn Universe

"Mind the gap," whispered Heinkel. "We drop down to the railtrack here." The moon was barely a sliver, and the railyard was nearly pitch-black. The only light came from the window of the little booth of the yard's lone guard. Radio music buzzed from it faintly. The freight train from Resembool they'd just exited lay somewhere behind them; their target was somewhere ahead in the darkness. Ed let go of Heinkel's pack for a moment, stopped and put his right foot forward to test the dark ground for solidity.

Behind him, a hard object highly likely to be Greed's chin smacked Ed in the back of the skull. He jerked forward but managed to right himself. "Fuck!" Greed stage-whispered, yanking on the hood of Ed's coat. "Ow! Why the hell did you just stop?"

"I needed to change feet to feel where the platform edge is!" Ed whispered back. "Remember how the left one's metal?"

A large hand clamped around Ed's mouth. He heard a noise from Greed, and turned to make out that sure enough, Darius had sprung silently back up to the platform, and applied one hand to each of their mouths. He held them for a beat, and then let go.

"Insubord-" Greed's mutter was cut off by the return of the hand. Ed snorted — relatively discreetly — and got the hand too.

"Kids," Heinkel whispered. "Stealth operation. Don't make me gag you."

Well, there went the last fragment of Greed's authority as nominal leader. Ed contented himself with a smirk; Greed muttered something into Darius' hand.

Ed felt for the gap and climbed down; Greed followed. They renewed their shuffle forward. Flashlights were a dead giveaway, so they were reliant on Heinkel's night vision. It was probably a bonus that if the guard did run into them, he would probably crap himself at the sight of a lion in an overcoat. As for the rest of them, Darius had Heinkel's shoulder and Ed was holding onto his pack. Greed had the hood of Ed's coat, and his fingers kept brushing Ed's neck annoyingly. They must look pretty awesomely dumb right now.

"Rail," muttered Heinkel. Ed felt for it, and stepped over.

"Okay," Heinkel whispered after a few more rails, "this is the train."

"You sure?" whispered Greed. "I don't want us going three hundred miles in the wrong direction because you got it wrong."

"It says 'Central Night Mail' in shiny letters on the outside," said Heinkel. "Pretty sure I'm not wrong, boss." Ed noted the sarcasm in the last word.

Ed felt his way around the side of the train until he hit the back, and climbed up the stairs. The door was locked — of course. "Right," he said, lacing his fingers and flexing his arms. "I need you guys to be like a wall. This is gonna make a lot of light, and I don't want them to see, so you need to block it off by covering me."

"Why don't you just make one of those big walls with alchemy?" asked Greed.

"Because making the wall would make the lightning?" suggested Darius drily.

Greed tutted. "It's not my job to figure these things out," he said. "It's Fullmetal's."

Ed heard a couple of rustling thuds which he guessed to be Darius and Heinkel putting down their packs. The next moment, they’d sprung onto the balcony and were towering over Ed, shielding him with their bodies. There were moments, Ed had to admit, when them being such hulking giants could come in kind of handy.

Ed pressed his hands together, focused in, and tapped the lock. If Al was here, he could use that lock-picking formula he’d worked out. He wasn’t here, and Ed had never got the hang of the fiddly part of that method, so he just sliced down the bolt. A little shaft of blue lightning hit Darius in the chest and ran down his leg to ground itself in the metal of the train.

“Ooh,” he muttered, “that tickles.”

Ed put his hand to the door and yanked.

It didn’t budge.

That was weird. Ed tried again, planting his left leg on the door to get some leverage. There was a creak, but no movement.

“What gives?” said Greed from the ground, not quietly enough.

“Door’s stuck,” muttered Heinkel. “Gimme a second.” He elbowed Ed aside and applied himself to the door. “Damn,” he muttered.

Darius vaulted the railing, and Ed heard him stretch and yawn himself into a new shape. He’d never really thought about the noise a chimera transformation made before. Weird.

Darius applied himself to the door, and Heinkel was counting them down before Ed had time to protest about being cut out of the action. “Three, two, one –“

They hauled. The door squealed, groaned and gave way, swinging open rapidly. Ed barely ducked aside as Darius and Heinkel fell back in his direction. He righted himself with one hand on the balcony rail and hauled in a breath, feeling an odd vertiginous sensation, like the ground under him was moving. Oh. Shit. It was moving. Or rather –

“The train's leaving!” hissed Darius.

“What the hell?” yelled Greed. In the darkness, Ed could make out his shape rushing forward.

“The packs!” shouted Ed. “Throw us the –“

But Greed had already sprung and grabbed the rear railing, sparks striking off his carbon claws.

“Hey, our stuff!” Ed protested. Greed grinned aggravatingly, as if this wasn’t a completely avoidable fucking disaster, and Ed was irritated to discover he’d offered him an automatic hand up –

Darius was already springing back off the train. A moment later, the train’s taillights lit and Ed realized how just fast they were going already – then Darius was back, charging forward on his knuckles, with both packs slung awkwardly off one huge shoulder. "Heads up!" he roared. The packs dropped and he reared up and slung them hard at the train. Ed squared his stance and lifted his arms — but the packs were coming straight at them like fucking slingshots. The top of one pack caught him right on the forehead, and he staggered back against the railing with a sadly undignified squawk. He dropped the bag just in time to see Darius, somehow caught up with them again, barely grab the rail and swing himself up.

The railcard had receded into darkness behind them, and the train was off for real now, rushing through the dark spring night. Ed took a deep breath of cool air. They'd done it.

“Bravo!” Ed heard clapping, and turned to see Greed applauding hard, face split with a delighted grin. “Nice work, guys, I love it!”

Everyone scowled at him.


"That was just dumb," said Darius, flopping down on a bagful of mail. "You guys know you can lose a leg hopping a train if —"

"Yes," said Heinkel.

"We know," said Greed.

"Because you mention it every time we do this," said Ed, wiping black train grime off his hands and onto his pants. "And then you tell the story about that dude —"

"Your buddy's buddy, who lost a leg taking a crap out of a moving freight train he'd hopped," said Heinkel.

"And so never hop a train that's moving already —" said Ed.

"And whatever we do, we should always remember to crap into a paper bag and throw it off the train," added Greed.

"So?" said Darius. "It's good advice, it bears repeating."

"Fullmetal doesn't have to worry," said Greed. "He loses another leg, he can just go get a new one off of the cute mechanic chick."

Darius and Heinkel chuckled. Ed tutted. "I don't have time to lose a leg! I got —" Oh, okay. Greed was ribbing him. And Darius and Heinkel were still laughing along with him, the assholes. Why did Ed keep falling for this stuff lately? Maybe Ling was right, he was kind of tightly wound. It was just — well, the whole Promised Day, solar eclipse, apocalypse thing. A single hour where if they didn't succeed, the whole country was going to be screwed. And maybe his one decent chance of getting Al's body back. And oh yeah, this train was taking them from the East to Central, where they were supposed to rendezvous with his old man. Tomorrow: having to talk to fucking Hohenheim. The day after tomorrow: the apocalypse. No pressure, eh?

Greed grabbed Ed’s discarded coat. “All right,” he said. “We hop the train in six hours, and there’s three of you guys. So, three two hour watches — Fullmetal, you take the first. I’m gonna get some shut-eye.” He dropped on top of a pile of mailbags, stretched out and stuffed the bundled-up coat under his head.

“There’s four of us last I counted,” said Ed. Greed had already shut his eyes, so he toed the sole of his boot with reasonable force.

“I’m sleeping, minion,” said Greed, eyes still closed.

A movement behind Ed made him turn. Darius and Heinkel were disappearing through the door to the next carriage.

“Hey!”

Heinkel half-turned and pushed his glasses up his nose. “No, we’re heading through there. Since you kids are starting up again.”

“We are not starting up!”

“Shut the fuck up, Elric,” snapped Greed. “You’re supposed to be guarding your boss so he can get some sleep in!”

“You sleep like half as much as a human! This makes no sense!”

“So? This isn’t a democracy. You’re my servant, so –“

Employee! For reasons of expediency, because I got stuff I gotta –“

“All right, we’re out of here,” Heinkel cut in. Before either Greed or Ed could react, the door to the compartment slammed.

“Just great,” Ed muttered.


Greed unfolded himself, apparently giving up on sleep after all. For a couple of minutes, they sat there in awkward silence. This was just dumb. Ed needed to rest, they all did. Things were going to kick off so soon. They needed to be ready. This was no time for dumbass arguments about nothing.

“So,” said Greed with a jaunty grin, “why don’t you tell me about your girl back there in Resembool.”

“Fuck, no.”

“Notice when you mentioned your automail mechanic you neglected to tell any of us she was a babe. You tapped that yet?”

Ed scowled. “She’s my mechanic, not my girlfriend.”

“But you’d like her to be, huh? Why the hell haven’t you, she was begging for it?”

“Shut up.” This was none of Greed’s fucking business. At least he knew he’d been right to trust Ling – he hadn’t spilled any of that stuff he’d told him.

Greed’s smile got big and mocking. He put a hand to his chest in fake shock. “Tell me you’ve at least groped her titties. That’s a fine rack she’s got, it’d be crimi-”

Ed moved before he knew he had, grabbing Greed’s collar and snarling in his face. Greed started chuckling. Ed shook him, then let him go, shoving him at the wall, and stepped away. “Have some fucking respect. Winry’s grandmother gave you houseroom, kept you safe. You’ve been staying in her goddamn basement for two weeks.”

Greed barely seemed to react at all to being shoved. He just pulled his jacket straight and grinned shakily. “So it’s disrespectful to gaze upon the boobs? You were gazing upon the boobs.” He tutted. “You know, for a moment there, I actually thought you might have been smart enough to sneak up to her room deliberately. What’s the point of all those tedious months of fumbling around with the prince if you haven’t learned anything?”

“Learned what? How to act like a sleazy jackass? You think that’s how I’m gonna treat someone I like?”

“Oho now. If I’d known you were gonna leave the poor chick hanging like that, I woulda popped in there and given her something to remember me by. Unlike you, I know my way around a girl’s –“

Greed’s head snapped back. The shield had only got part the way up before Ed had got the punch in, and now it was pressed painfully into the soft skin of his jaw, and beads of blood were raising themselves along the join. Ed flexed his right hand. The automail moved smoothly: apparently he'd managed not to damage it. He should have led with the left, now Winry had fixed it all up he really needed not to trash it before the big battle … Greed was a dick.

Ed was still holding Greed's jacket with his left hand, while Greed stared at him through narrowed eyes, cycling his bruised jaw as it healed. Ed breathed hard, trying to get his temper back under control.

Greed's hand closed around his left wrist. “So,” he said, “how about it?”

Ed rolled his eyes. "I'm not gonna fight you. I've got bigger things to worry about."

"I'm not trying to call you out, Fullmetal." Greed's grip on Ed's wrist tightened, and he leaned in.

"Huh?"

The grin was back. "It's your lucky night, kid."

"What?"

“Don’t be dense.” Greed was breathing in his face now, in right up close. All Ed could see was Ling’s skin, his features. The fall of his black bangs. Greed smelled like Ling and it was setting Ed off, and this was just wrong, this stuff was Ling’s, it wasn’t –

Greed’s voice had gotten quiet. “Come on. We both want to let off some steam.” His thumb was rubbing against Ed’s wrist, and his other hand was scratching gently at the sensitive skin along his hairline. “I got a couple of centuries of skills here, kid. Bet I could teach you a few new tricks.”

Ed set his face, and hated on his lizard brain for reacting to this crap. “You’re an asshole, Greed. Like I’d ever be remotely fucking interested.”

“And how do you know it hasn’t happened already?” Greed cackled uproariously. “You think I can’t take charge when I feel like it?”

“Yep.” Ed freed his wrist and stepped back, scowling. “I think you don’t run the show anymore. Not with us, and definitely not with Ling. And you know it, and you play all these pathetic bullshit mind games to make yourself feel like the big man.”

“I am the big man, you ungrateful little brat. I’m Greed.” He jabbed a thumb at his chest. “Everything in the world –“

“Yadda yadda yadda,” Ed yelled over him. “You know what? If it did all belong to you, I bet you wouldn’t have to keep on telling us.”

Greed set his lips in a line. Then he jerked his chin and muttered fiercely, "Bullshit. What the hell would you know about it, Prince?"

"Hey, Ling," said Ed drily.

"I get no fucking respect from either of you brats." Greed curled a lip and shook his head. "You know what? I don't need this shit. Go ahead and have him for the night, then."

Ed let Greed see him grin as he receded. His features slackened and his eyelids drooped. A moment later that face animated again. Ling's grin spread slowly across his face. Ed watched him, then put out a hand and ruffled his hair.

"Did you know that's really rude in my country?" said Ling. "The head is the most sacred part of a person." He didn't seem remotely put out.

Ed reached in again and messed up his hair twice as much as before. Ling caught him around the waist and then reached under his shirt with one hand, going straight for the ticklish spot on his side. Ed convulsed helplessly, squeaking, and Ling pressed the advantage, tackling him straight onto a pile of mailbags. Ed looked up at his ridiculous face, cupped it in his hands and pulled him straight down into a long kiss.

They didn't speak for some time, just kissed and grabbed and pressed against each other.

Then they slowed down a little, and for a few moments lay tangled together on the bags. Ling finally spoke. "How are you doing?" he asked quietly.

"Okay," said Ed, feeling the weight of the question. They were nearly there. Ling knew it all already, didn't he? "Kind of. I don't feel much like talking about it. You?"

"I suppose I'm ready." Ling sighed and smiled sadly. "I don't feel much like talking about it either."

"We better manage to meet up with Al tomorrow."

"I hope I'm able to find Ran Fan."

"Hope she's doing okay. Automail rehab's a bitch."

"She's very strong. Like you. I have faith in her."

"She's tough."

They lay together quietly for another few moments. Then Ling said, "So, what will you do when you return?"

Ed frowned. "How d'you mean?"

"I mean, when you return to Resembool. After you've defeated this great evil and restored your brother. What's the first thing you want to do when you both get home?"

Ed laughed. "That's the kind of thing Al would say." He thought for a moment. It made it worse, worse and better, having been home so recently. The smell of Granny's cooking, Den's bark, that intense little frown Winry got when she was working on something. He couldn't afford to get maudlin right now. He needed to turn these thoughts around, to try and use this stuff to motivate himself, keep himself going.

Ling said, "I'll tell you what I'll do. We'll ride in through the hills, you can see the Yao clan's palace from miles away. Fuu hates long rides, but it will be nice to take in the sight like that, I think. When we get there, they'll open the gates for us. There might be a little skirmish, but it won't take long. I'm the heir after all, and I have the secret to immortality. I'm my clan's only hope. Then," he concluded happily, "I will go to the baths."

"I like your confidence."

Ling just shrugged. "Amestrian baths are terrible, you don't know what a real bath's like. I told you, hot water up to your neck. You soak for ages and every muscle in your body relaxes. And they're communal, you can bathe with a friend." Ling punctuated this with an eyebrow wiggle and a hand to Ed's inner thigh, in case Ed had somehow missed the implication. "Maybe I'll greet a few of the girls there. Lei loves the baths. Sook Joo too, but she just sits in the corner and watches you like a cat. I can't complain, though, it's the only time I ever see her naked."

"Lei's the little one who can do a handstand on her fingertips, right?" Ling nodded, and Ed snorted. "You have too many concubines to keep straight."

"And after my bath, I'll put on proper clothes. I don't know how you manage in these tight pants." Ling groped Ed's butt absently. "And I'll have Fuu and Ran Fan come sit with me in the inner courtyard — that will annoy my grandfather to no end, too — and we'll take some tea and snacks." Of course there had to be snacks. "Dumplings," said Ling dreamily. "With spicy pork or with shrimp. And steamed buns with sweet red bean paste. I dream about those sometimes, I'm not joking."

Ed snorted.

"What about you?"

Ed took a deep breath. "I guess … We'll walk up the road, you know that long road that goes up to Granny's front door? Maybe she'll be out on the porch with her pipe. She won't even act surprised, she's like that. She'll call Winry out and Winry will probably yell and then burst into tears, but that's cool, that's her thing. We made her worry a whole bunch. She'll be happy. And then, I guess later Granny will make a big dinner, like maybe chicken cream stew. And rhubarb crumble. You ever have either of those?"

"I think I've had stew. What's the other thing?"

"It's a dessert. Rhubarb is this fruit. Sometimes it's sour, but the stuff Granny Pinako grows comes up really sweet. She said yesterday it was just about ready now. You bake it with sugar and this sweet stuff on top, it tastes like crumbled up cookies or something? It's amazing. It's Al's favourite. When he was a kid, he used to sneak it from the pan and then smooth the topping over to hide that he'd taken some. Mom could always tell, though."

"Alphonse looked very like you in that picture you showed me," said Ling. His strong fingers had found the muscles of Ed's shoulders and started kneading them. "Perhaps a little less fierce."

Ed thought of Al's body, the way he'd last seen it: tiny, frail and starved, with empty trusting eyes. The whole conversation turned sour in his stomach. He couldn't presume yet, he couldn't relax. He couldn't slack off. He squeezed his eyes shut, huffed a breath out, and opened them again.

Ling was looking down at him, and Ed saw that he knew it all. And he saw something else. Ling was scared. He was scared.

The relief of it was so huge that it felt like a swift rush of happiness. Ed's stomach stopped thrashing, the tension dropped from his shoulders. Ling was scared too. Was Ed himself really afraid? Afraid of maybe failing? Of not defeating the great evil, not restoring his brother? Afraid of losing? Of losing the fight and losing the people he loved? Afraid of the Promised Day?

Yes, he was. Hell, yes: now he saw his fear reflected back at him from Ling's face, he knew it.

Strangely, it was somehow okay.

We can still fight, he wanted to say. But he didn't have to, and so he just kissed.

"What about your father?" murmured Ling as he pulled away. What? "He'll go home with you, surely?"

"I guess so," said Ed. "Hey, if you're gonna kill my buzz like that how 'bout the fact that you're gonna have to race straight to the Emperor's place before you have time for a freaking bath and —"

The sentence ended right there, because Ed was being prevented from forming words by Ling's tongue in his mouth. He smacked Ling on the ass in irritation, and Ling of course just made a happy noise and wiggled his butt. Then they just gave up on conversation and did some more kissing. It did what it always did for Ed, wiped his mind clean of the future and past, of everything outside the bubble of the moment.

A couple of minutes later, the kiss had become supplemented with some grinding. Ling was sucking on Ed's nipple through the fabric of his shirt, and Ed was trying to keep his balance on the shifting mailbags by planting one foot straight down on the floor. Ling shifted down and ran his tongue over his bottom lip. Ed pulled in a breath, thinking already of heat and suction and Ling's clever tongue pressing him to the roof of his mouth. Ling was sliding his belt open now, and working a hand inside his pants as he pushed his nose into Ed's belly —

The whole carriage tilted to the left, fast. Ling's nose slid off him, the hand was uncomfortably yanked from his pants, and Ling vanished between the mailbags with a yell.

Ed hauled him back up. Then it occurred to him what could have happened if Ling had already reached his destination when the train went around that sharp bend.

He looked at Ling, who was now sitting on a mailbag eyeing Ed's crotch hopefully. Ed pulled a face. "What is life," said Ling, "without a little risk? Although I do know a very funny rumour that my eighth brother ripped his foreskin in similar circumstances."

"Then why didn't you warn me about train blowjobs, idiot?"

"Oh no, it was during an assassination attempt. Supposedly, he leapt up too fast and it caught on his concubine's teeth." Ling lifted his legs to straddle the mailbags either side of Ed.

Ed half-consciously pushed his legs closer together. "Assassins, huh? Maybe this isn't such a great idea. I mean, how can one of us be on watch if we're both, you know, occupied?"

"Oh, you don't need to worry about that!" Ling waved a dismissive hand. "My brother's an idiot. I'm used to assassins, I've never let them curtail my love life before."

"But what if you were right into it?"

"Oh, that's happened to me!" Ling sounded chirpy and casual, as if this was an everyday mishap. "I could sense the assassin's qi as soon as he was in the bedchamber, I just got straight up and stabbed him in the heart." He took Ed's hand and drew him forward, peppering his neck with kisses. "Don't worry so much." He wedged a hand between Ed's legs, and despite himself Ed let him.

The train veered sharply to the right, this time. Ling and Ed both hit the floor; Ed's automail shoulder took the brunt of the impact, and he grunted with it.

"Perhaps," said Ling hopefully, "there's a way to wedge ourselves in somewhere?"

"I could raise up some walls and we could dump mail bags between them and kind of climb in there?" Ed sat up, cycled his shoulder, and propped his chin on one hand. "Not that that solves the problem of pulling off each other's junk every time the train jolts."

Ed's next comment was going to be that maybe this whole thing was a bust, but he didn't get there. Ling was already wriggling against him delightedly. "Thanks!" he muttered. "We could both really do with it, yes?" Ed was getting that feeling of being suckered that cats always gave him.

He clapped and raised a broad, bathtub-shaped hollow around them. Mailbags slid down the sloped walls. Ling applauded, and then plumped a few of the bags as if they were pillows. He drew Ed down so that they were pressed together. How did he think this was even going to work?

A few moments of fumbling later, Ed felt Ling's length butting against his left hip. He felt downwards and tried to work Ling up with an open palm. Ling thrust against him appreciatively and shoved a leg between Ed's. At first, he was too distracted to summon up much interest: keeping them braced against the bags, alert for any sudden movements from the train. But the feeling of Ling's cock growing under his hand shot to his groin, and soon enough he was dry-humping Ling's leg, pressing him in closer with the automail at his back.

Ling's chuckle was low. His nose was in Ed's hair. "Hang on," he muttered. He shifted lower and his erection slid against Ed's fly. He unzipped Ed's pants and pulled him out with one hand, tickling under the head. Then he brought up his hand and spat on it.

"Uh uh," said Ed. "No jerking me off — if you break it, mine doesn't just grow back, you know." Not that this left them with many options.

Ling ignored him for a moment, tunnelling Ed's dick in his hand and wetting it with a couple of firm strokes. Then he released it, and Ed groaned despite himself. Ling crawled back up Ed's body and started to thrust against him, jamming one knee between Ed's legs. Ed's cock rubbed along the fabric of Ling's trousers. He shoved himself against Ling, trying to find a movement that kept the potential rug burn to a minimum. Ling had hiked Ed's shirt up now, and his dick was pushed up against Ed's lower stomach now. Ling's arm was holding tight onto him, fingers digging into his flesh shoulder.

"This —" Ed panted, "is fucking — ridiculous." The friction of his cock against Ling's pants was becoming uncomfortable anyway. The train took a corner, and they braced themselves against the sides of the box Ed had built. After the train righted itself, Ling fumbled his trousers down far enough so that Ed could hump the skin of his hip rather than scratchy fabric. Ed spat generously, and rubbed himself and Ling. He rolled his eyes, and Ling's soft laughter vibrated right into his chest.

It was ridiculous indeed. After a few moments, however, it became apparent that the arrangement was going to work.

Their awkward grinding started to become rhythmical. Their bodies were wedged so tightly, their cocks crushed between them. Ling was starting to grunt on every thrust. The muscles of his arms were tensed and corded. Ed felt strangely surrounded by his strength, his beautiful long body, his sharp male sweat and the heat of his skin. The grinding was harder now, the rhythm faster. Ed reached down between them to cup Ling's balls and roll them for a moment. They felt tight. Then Ling was grabbing at his face, mashing their mouths together with one hand fisted in his hair, and it was amazing. Ling had never kissed this roughly, with so much strength and desperation. Ed returned it with all he had, wrapping a leg around Ling's back and thrashing against him. Then Ling hauled his head back, hard, and put his mouth on Ed's throat, licking up his sweat. Ed heard him making that little noise of his, the voiceless groan that meant he was on his way. Then all of it — Ling's sounds, the pull at the roots of his hair, Ling's hot mouth and the scrape of his teeth, his skin and muscles and scent, the tormenting throb of sensation on his cock and in his gut — it all pulled together in a moment, into a single, unbearable point. Ed's spine arched and his mouth dropped silently open, and he was gone.

They lay together, breathing raggedly and pressed tightly against each other, as the train rattled on towards Central.


"You missed a spot." Ling tapped at a white glob on Ed's shirt. Ed dabbed at it, then clapped and vibrated the particles free. "Do you think that's yours or mine?"

Ed gave him a look. "At least the mailbags were sealed. I think some of the letters might be kind of smooshed, though."

Ling shrugged. "We're sleeping on them anyway. Hey, leave the walls up, we can make a sort of nest."

"We? Shouldn't someone be on watch?"

"Well, I'll take the first one," said Ling. "I'm a homunculus, I don't need as much sleep."

Wasn't that suspiciously nice of him? Ed pulled his blankets from the top of his pack, feeling boneless and disinclined to argue anyway. As he scootched down into the nest of mail bags, he was not entirely surprised to find Ling dropping in to join him. "Thought you were taking the first watch?"

"I am," said Ling, arranging Ed against his chest and hooking a leg over his hip. "I can do it just as easily from here. You make a good blanket."

"You make a good pillow," muttered Ed, pulling the blankets tighter round his neck. Ling scritched Ed's scalp behind the ear. "Hey," Ed mumbled, feeling sleepier already, "I thought the head's supposed to be the most sacred part of a person."

Ling chuckled. A moment later, Ed felt lips brush his forehead at the hairline, just for a moment. "You know," Ed half-heard Ling say, "if I were to fall asleep, it wouldn't be a problem. I'll wake in a moment if someone we don't know enters, I know this from experience." His voice dropped a little. "Theoretically, it would be perfectly fine if I fell asleep with you right now in this nice little nest. All the way there …"

Devious bastard, thought Ed, but he didn't say anything. Instead he pushed his nose into Ling's chest, snuffled and fell asleep.


"Aww," said Darius.

"Aww?" repeated Heinkel. "I feel bad for the people getting those letters."

Together they looked down at the pile of blond and black hair peeking out from under the blankets in the early morning light sneaking into the carriage. Fullmetal's mouth was open, and there was a little trail of drool headed down towards the prince's neck, or Greed's neck, or whoever.

"Well, there we have it," said Darius. "Guess the last shred of romance has left your system."

"This trip's killed it," said Heinkel. "After this, I'm looking forward to a long career as a grumpy old man. I got a plan. Cottage up north, lake, trout fishing. Peace and quiet, just the lake and the sky and a few beers, and no teenagers within a fifty mile radius."

"Sounds good," said Darius. "Can I join you?"

"Sure. I was building up to a proposal there, you know. I was gonna get down on one knee with a rose between my teeth."

Darius snickered quietly. The pile of blankets shifted, and a scratchy voice muttered, "Five more minutes, Al."

Heinkel looked at his watch and shrugged. "Eh, let's give 'em five. They've got a long couple of days coming up." He stepped back out onto the balcony between the carriages.

"Sap," said Darius, as he shut the door behind them.