i. knife in the dark
"We wanted our bodies back..." Ed explained to the physician. "...but not like this."
The man nodded and offered a less than sympathetic hmm. Alphonse had expected nothing else. This one was fifty-ish, grey-haired, with a craggy but amiable face resembling that of Doctor Marcoh, although it lacked his stronger jawline. The kindly-looking elderly gentleman was not the first doctor the fuhrer had sent to inspect the progress of Edward's condition, and he certainly would not be the last. Alphonse could only sit on the nearby bench and watch as his brother was urged to disrobe and sit down.
It still made him immensely uncomfortable and saddened to see Edward like this, but at present, there was nothing either of them could do. They had yelled and fought until the guards had beaten them down for their efforts. Bruises, blisters, welts, even a fractured bone in Ed's arm...the brothers had endured much for their resistance, but no good had come from attempting to physically oppose imprisonment. Eventually, the boys had decided that plotting their way out of this mess would be more advised, but Al was worried that his brother's mental faculties had begun to lapse...not permanently, and not even frequently, but just often enough that the younger brother felt a tremendous measure of concern.
It's not a question of "maybe", Al thought, hands balled into fists as he knuckled his thighs. I have to get him out of here...and I will, somehow.
Once the clothes had been dropped to the floor in a messy pile and Ed had garbed himself in the customary thin hospital gown, Al swallowed hard and stifled pangs of cold grief and hot anger. He did not worry about crying...he had always lacked Edward's misplaced dam of solid pride, but he did worry about trying to kill someone and sealing both his and his brother's eventual execution by doing so.
In the dark of night, he and Edward had continued to touch one another, to be as close as they had been since Alphonse had gotten his body back, but the darkness had been a cool cover for the both of them: beneath the bright lights of the laboratory, Edward's shame was fully exposed. Where once there had been hard angles and sharp lines, there were now smooth planes and rondures. Nude and shivering in anticipation (or is it something else?) and chill, Ed was criss-crossed with harsh shadows, jagged ink black streaks that stood out sharply against the contrast of skin turned achromic by flourescence.
Alphonse inhaled sharply. He could not ignore the bruises on the inside of Ed's thighs; there was no pattern to them, but their frequency increased toward the centre of the pelvis, and there was no mistaking the most obvious manner of breeding such a wide variety of discolouration: from faded yellow to morose purple and irate red. Al had previously suspected the injuries...his fingers had dusted across occasional grooves in the smooth skin, scabs and raw blisters, but Ed had been quick to downplay the severity of the damage dealt to him. Al had guessed...Al always guessed...but he had hoped he was wrong, and he had respected his brother's pride too much to say anything about his presumed discoveries.
Now, the lights shone upon the evidence of abuse, and each bruise told one part of a story...or perhaps multiple stories. Ed looked smaller, pale and vulnerable, shaky and sweaty. His hair had been pulled up in a ponytail that looked as though it must have tickled the nape of his neck, and his large eyes were glazed with something—confusion, maybe, or restlessness, misery, possibly an increasing mania...
Alphonse swallowed, and let the tears build. Beneath them, there was resolve, quiet strength, and determination.
As soon as the examination began, Ed went on at great length about his and Alphonse's trials and tribulations, about all they had accomplished and all they had lost. He spoke of how they had been so close to their goal...until the fuhrer's people had overcome the rebellion, killed Roy Mustang, and imprisoned the boys who had turned into such bold little traitors. That was when the nightmare had begun, when the world had become stone walls, sterilized laboratories, and lights so bright as to make little red capillaries snake across both boys' eyes.
In so far as the outside world of Amestris was concerned, the youths were kept in a gentle imprisonment, but the only mercy they had been given consisted of getting to stay with one another in whatever new cell they were moved to. Had it not been for that, they would have surely been consumed by utter despair and screaming madness. At night, the prison was as black as the depths of the Gate, and only rare flickering flashlights bled light throughout the halls. Sometimes, the drone of an air conditioner was the only sound to be found in the prison and the laboratories accompanying it. Alphonse had grown used to the white noise; it filtered throughout every inch of the dark land, bringing with it the promise of sleep.
In the night, there were other sounds: faint sobbing, screams, shouts ordered at unseen captives, water dripping at an irritating tempo. Nights in this place were usually black as pitch and merciless in their coldness; the stone walls gave the air a frigid touch, and Ed and Al had, at most, only two blankets to keep themselves warm with. Sometimes they were given only one between them. The vents malfunctioned from time to time, and when they did, the air grew stale and thick with the odor of overflowing toilets and bad plumbing.
For comfort, they had only one another, but that proved sufficient to keep them sane. Regardless of what else he had lost, Alphonse was thankful he still had Edward...even if Edward was not as he had been before. That had never mattered to Al—not a whit, but it had mattered to Ed, and it was for Ed's sake that Al touched in muted wonder and concealed the sadness he felt—not sadness at the change, but sadness over his brother's long-standing habit of keeping his own suffering to himself. He wanted his brother (brother, and lover) to be frank and upfront with him, but he knew he had no right to demand it of Edward, and so he forced himself to be content with what he had: honesty in closeness and caresses.
Alphonse had been called the miracle, Edward the experiment. The scientists, cold and calculated in their reasoning, proclaimed both of the teens to be prime examples of successful human alchemy. In a regime which had only publically denounced the forbidden arts, this meant ripe fodder within a fresh playground for activities macabre enough to rival what had transpired in Laboratory Five.
We're human rats, Al found himself thinking as he watched this latest doctor inspect Ed for any sign of illness. What the man was really inspecting, Al suspected, was probably what stage of development Ed's new body was at, but Al did not have the strength to be as insulted on Ed's behalf as he knew he should have been. Even if this man was a part of the collective "enemy", he still might offer treatment and some sparse aid.
The automail was gone. Edward was whole...but, in his own words...not as he had wanted to be.
Alphonse still thought of his sibling as a he...and he knew this would always be his impression of Edward...but it was no longer accurate.
He—or "she", but Al could not quite use that word—lay upon the examination table, legs dangling off the end, golden ponytail twisting around his head like a shredded hay bale. His eyes were squeezed shut, mouth turned down in a pained or chagrined grimace. The hospital gown did a poor job of concealing his form; breasts pillowed upon his chest and nudged the papery fabric upwards. Al had caught a glimpse of what lay beneath. He had usually only seen female anatomy in science books, although once or twice he had accidentally gotten a stray look at Winry when her clothing slid out of place, but this was different.
Pink was the best way to describe it. A little red, shiny with sweat and heat, but mostly pink. Pink nipples that Al had tasted in the night, an alchemically formed hot pink slit between the legs, a slight flush to the cheeks...
Al swallowed, bit down, and fumbled, shifting awkwardly. Not good...can't think about that right now... he reminded himself, all the while chastising his wayward libido. He had long ago come to terms with his physical desire for his brother and his romantic attachment, and Edward had responded in turn, but nothing excused becoming aroused when Ed was exposed, vulnerable, and visibly upset.
Focusing on Ed's humiliation instead of his body helped Al to suppress the pangs of lust which swiped his groin and made his cock rise to attention. Ed was still speaking, divulging details even though no one but Alphonse seemed to really care about the true story behind what had happened to them. Brother's talking to keep his wits about him, Al realized. Talking...so that his voice will drown out the white noise and the misgivings he probably hears in his head...the doubts...the sadness...
Maybe things could never be the same again. Maybe this time Ed had lost his true body forever, and maybe neither of them would ever see Riesenburg or Winry or anything of home again...but they had to try. There was nothing else left for them save the hope of a better future. Even if they currently had no way of working toward that future, there was still the possibility—the sole candle in the darkness. If they focused on that, at least they would not see the gloom surrounding them.
But sometimes it's so hard, Brother...why do you keep things from me? Why don't you let me share your pain? We've always been in this together. We agreed to that.
Al closed his eyes against the lights. The motion squeezed a few tears out; each ran, lonely, down his cheeks, but there was no torrent, no sniffling and no sobbing. When reality became too overwhelming to accept, he and Edward had adopted a method for tolerating their emotions: eyes closed, they embraced the ebony, found camaraderie within it, and scaled all the grief, anger, and loss down into a single speck of feeling. Condensed but volatile, the tension built and became potential energy, something to hold to until a time came for its use.
We'll see the stars again someday, Al vowed. No matter what it takes.
In his imagination, he saw them often: nebulae hanging above the Riesenburg horizon. "God's canvas," their mother had said, smiling, and Al had wondered if she might have been teasing. That had been long ago, so long ago, but Ed was here, changed but here, loving and slightly delicate beneath his stubborn exterior (male or female, his attitude didn't change); Ed was brilliant, and they were both passionate in their love for one another and their hatred for the monsters (men or monsters, creatures or chimeras or humans—sometimes it was all the same) who controlled their lives.
Until a flaw in the government's defenses presented itself, Al could give himself some placation by reminding himself that he could at least be grateful for one thing: he had his body once more. He could touch and taste and smell, and even if the world had little of value for his senses, there was still Edward to hold, to feel (feel—really feel—every inch of his skin), to cuddle for warmth. Every night, he kissed his brother's cheeks and tasted the dry salt of sweat and hidden tears; in his mind's eye, those warm cheeks were apple-tinted, with smiling lips beneath them and soft shining eyes above. When he closed his eyes and let his mind wander, there was only Edward and their distant home; the harsh lights and the scent of chemicals faded, stains on white walls vanished and the walls themselves melted away to reveal the starlit sky. The humming of machines transformed into the chirping of birds. Polished instruments became toys and silverware, and Al lost himself to the dream, to the recaptured memories which drifted from his fingers like a cluster of moths.
He did not have the full picture yet, but he could grasp, and little by little, he could take. The holes were beginning to fill themselves.
Somewhere, distantly, he heard a shuffling movement.
Al opened his eyes and saw his brother picking up his clothing.
"You should count yourself as fortunate," they had said. "Dante could have decided to give you to Envy, instead."
"Yeah? And you're a bunch of shitty bastard lickspittles, and maybe Dante'll get tired of you and give you to Envy," Ed had retorted.
He had forced a smirk and a defiant tone, and while he was not sure if his words had carried any weight or not, the thought that they might come true had been enough to rip a sneer of satisfaction across his broken lips. In his situation, a person took whatever nasty and fleeting joy they could. Ed was brilliant—a prodigy. He knew that giving someone caustic words when you were at their mercy was a stupid thing to do. Anger had never been a friend to Ed's intelligence, and his tongue had more than once lent its strength to his greatest foes.
There were fists; he definitely remembered fists, although it was hard to remember much of anything else. Fists, a large dark spot in his vision which seemed to devour time, and then he was beneath the lights of a laboratory, and frantic, screaming—afraid not for himself, but for Al. Side by side they had resisted their mistreatment; they had failed, certainly, but not before felling some of their enemies. For Al's sake, Ed had masked his own anxiety by drawing upon his innate obstinacy; it made for a good shield against fright, and really, it was hard to look like a shaking little boy when one wore a feral smile and had blood running down open palms.
Briefly, Ed had wished that his right hand was still automail. At least then he would not have felt all of the blood.
For Al, he had told himself as sweat coursed down his body, as adrenaline rushed and alchemy crumpled bodies, as people screamed and burned and died all around him. Tumult had tossed his insides back and forth, and if he had been allotted a pause—a moment's peace—he would have been in a tug-of-war between the need to do this, the revulsion it produced, and some tiny tinge of pleasure brought about by the act of killing, conquering, winning.
He would have had a lot to think about, and a lot to debate, if he had been given the chance...or if he had permitted himself to have the chance.
Ed knew he could not handle this building internal debate, so he didn't. Coherent thought abandoned him once the carnage began.
What madness it was, the boy thought afterwards. How strange that later he realized that he had been reciting the contents of a human body to himself over and over again throughout the slaughter. Funny how different humans seemed on paper from how they seemed when split open and spilled before him.
Transmutations. Fumes. Blood running slick and hot down his cheek...surely a bone had been cracked. By the time Ed had woken up and found himself naked and surrounded, his voice had become raspy, wet and muddled with phlegm.
He had not been sure if the bastards were whispering or if his mind had simply been too swamped and drugged up to register the sounds of their voices. Dimly, he was aware of his eyes fluttering open and closing rapidly, catching sight of gleaming scalpels. (No—FUCKNO—YOUSICKFUCKINGBASTARDS!) What happened next had hurt, but not as much as one might have expected. Ed knew he was anaesthetized, but he was not anaesthetized enough (fuck, maybe that had been deliberate), and it quickly became apparent that this was no minor surgery.
Later, he would look back and say that the worst part had been seeing his own genitalia cradled in latex-gloved hands. The vision had lingered before his face for one feverish instant, freezing his breath in his chest. Then, it was over; bloody parts dropped softly into a medicinal tray. Voices murmured jovially all around, and Ed passed out with the knowledge that nothing could ever be the same again, not with Roy and his resistance effaced...
Dreams always consisted of fire, sulphur, and loss.
Ed only knew day from night because of the lights. He had lost track of time in this place, but often enough he found himself being poked and prodded in some laboratory or another. He would have fought back...had he any strength left. As it was, he took in the heavy smell of corrosive chemicals and stared absently at colourful liquids in clear tanks. He never told his brother the full story about his seared insides, or the fights his mouth tended to get him into...nor did Ed speak of the rapes.
Al was not stupid. He knew. Ed never doubted this...but it didn't mean he had to elaborate.
This can't be the only reason they changed my body... Ed found himself thinking as nails dug into him and his raw flesh was pushed open. He learned how to keep his mind away from what was happening to him; each time, he simply detached himself. The new crease between his legs betrayed him frequently, growing wet and clenching even when Ed tried to force himself into numbness. He hated it...hated the heat, the moisture, the way the damned thing was so open and inviting. Folds hugged the hole, the sensitive orifice. In place of Ed's cock, a clit rose like a pink mast, beckoning probing fingers. Every nerve was still too new.
Like baby skin which had never felt the press of unclothed digits, the recently created cunt could barely stand any stimulation; even feathery strokes caused it to react, muscles clamping down hard. Added to that, there were breasts (fuck, WHY?), swollen, fat things which rose off of Ed's chest like bread infused with yeast. The extra weight was unpleasant, if not painful. He could not stand to look down and see what had become of his chest. The nipples were as large as coins, and they hardened too easily. Many different thumbs pressed them, rolled them, pushed his clit and wiggled it until he cried out behind clenched teeth. Ed was held down, tasted, violated, and he fought. It was not unusual for him to clap and use whatever alchemy he could, or for him to find blood and chunks of skin beneath his fingernails. "Bastard," had come to be among his favourite words.
When he was pushed to the ground and pulled apart, Ed let the expletives drain from his lips like a stream of raw sewage.
One way or another, Ed knew he was going to get beaten and fucked. He figured the least he could do was make his cunt as much of a tribulation as hell itself.
At first, he had been too sore to even stand Alphonse's caresses. He had viewed the vagina as a wound, a burnt gash which poured blood in rivers. The doctors had treated him, promising that he would heal...or, well, he would if the alchemy had been a success. It must have been, for the stiff flesh soon turned softer and more pliant. The flow of blood and pus ended, replaced by clear liquid. The doctors assured Ed that this signified normalcy, but he didn't find anything too fucking normal about having a leaky cunt.
When the lips relaxed and some of the hurt subsided, Ed had insisted on enjoying his brother's nearness in the fullest way possible. Predictably, Alphonse had been hesitant, afraid of injuring his sibling, but Ed would not hear it.
"It'll hurt more in the long run if you don't touch me, Al," he had argued, and that had been all it took.
The first time had been strange, but they had adjusted quickly. After their failed attempt to revive their mother, one valuable skill the boys had gleaned was the ability to cope, bounce back, and deal with whatever life dished out. These were difficult times, but when had their lives ever been easy? Under night's black cloak, Ed could pretend that nothing had changed. Fucking is fucking, he told himself as he lay back and let his brother pound him into the sheets. There was rarely enough light to see Al's face, but he could imagine it well enough.
At least there was that—something to content him and give him hope for the future. Ed wrapped his legs around Al's waist and held him tightly as the pace quickened, as thrust after thrust rocked his hips and the cock plunged in and out of the recently forged cunt (shame and wonder; why did they do this? why, WHY? couldn't be just to fuck with me, just to FUCK me...). Hands fisted in Al's tawny hair and plunged through the softness as each movement left them both panting and soaked, one in the other's body and both in one another's hearts. No one had ever explained why they got to remain together, but Ed's gratitude for this exceeded the boundary of words. Al's tongue lapping at his tits was never unwelcome, nor were Al's fingers between his legs...massaging, stretching, preparing. The sensations were like nothing Ed had ever experienced; when he tensed, he held down and milked every nuance of pleasure and every droplet of cum out of Al.
Once the shudders passed, they lay together and spoke softly of things to come. Al had developed an endearing habit of pushing his brother's hair away from his ear and kissing it as his smooth hands dusted over the breasts and gently fondled them. At that, Ed would sigh and open his mouth for slow, indulgent kisses. In between the play of tongues, the two exchanged promises. Their future would be bright, and they both had to say and believe as much, because otherwise...what the hell could they do?
"You always feel like you have to be so strong, Brother," Al often said. "But you should let me help you shoulder your burdens. No, I take that back... You will let me help you. I won't accept anything else."
Ed agreed with the sentiment, even if he had difficulty consistently applying it. Elsewhere, he felt he had to be strong, but with Al? In Al's presence, his guard was always down, smiles brightened his tired eyes, and his body supplicated entrance. In bed, Ed could abandon his stony defense of ire and stretch out languidly, relishing whatever Al deigned to do to him. Nothing in the world felt as good as the simple euphoria of being able to trust someone wholeheartedly. Ed just hoped his brother couldn't taste alcohol on his lips, or the forced kisses of others. He figured he could...and did...but he never said anything.
Various "specialists" had proclaimed Edward infertile, and he counted that as a blessing...or as much of a blessing as one could have out of a situation such as his. The news carried with it the implication that his insides were damaged, singed, maybe even rotting like his old man's guts. Ed never asked for details. He would have attempted to strike anyone who volunteered them.
Instead, he endured every examination with silence and wincing; he was forced to strip naked and get injected by who knew what, but at least they let Al attend most of the check-ups. Ostensibly, this was meticulously plotted to keep Ed from becoming rowdy and making a scene; Al came to support his elder brother in the only way he could, but Al's very visible presence was surely a tacit threat—a reminder of what Ed had left to lose. If, as he supposed, this was intended to pacify him, then it worked admirably. He never so much as raised a word of contempt throughout any of the ordeals.
Once the latest physician had finished with him, Ed picked his clothes up off the floor, dressed himself, and prepared to leave.
"Wait just a minute, ma'am," said the man. His voice was even and authoritative.
Ed resisted the urge to snarl over the last word. Didn't even miss a beat, did you, you fuck?
Still, he could not help the surge of curiosity he felt. This doctor had kindly eyes, but that meant nothing. His lips seemed loathe to show any sign of emotion, though a smirk would not have looked out of place upon them.
"What?" Ed demanded in a low growl. He cast a glance over his shoulder. Al had arisen and was presumably waiting for a guard to come and force the both of them back in their cell.
The pause that followed scared Ed more than anything he had previously experienced.
"What's wrong?" Al asked as soon as the cell door had been closed and locked. It was as secure as a cell for two alchemists could possibly be, but even so, there were specialized guards posted outside in case either of them tried to start a new round of rebellion.
Evening had not yet come; the lights were still on, and Ed's paleness was all too evident. His eyes were wide, glazed, and he looked as though he might begin trembling at any moment.
"What's wrong?" You idiot! How could you ask that? Al's mental voice admonished him thoroughly. A better question would be, "What's right?"
Ed looked up and over toward Al, and their gaze linked. The look of pain and abject horror Alphonse saw within his brother's eyes was enough to chill his bones.
"Al...it's..." His tone had taken on the quality of a breathless whine, as though Ed's vocal chords had been exchanged for a boiling tea kettle. "...I'm..."
Sobs choked the remainder of the sentence, but Al understood.
"...No..." was all he could think to say.
A single word echoed over and over within the chasm of his mind, wobbling back and forth in screams and whispers, rending away stimuli and comprehension like a razor's edge slicing flesh.
Not quite a full minute later, the lights went out.