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mirabella

The Skrayling Tree


Al loves Winry, he does, but sometimes she can be a bit—much.

"Two months overdue! " she scolds as Ed ducks out of the way of a flailing wrench. "And don't tell me you couldn't get away, either—you passed right by Rizembul when you—"

"Winry, I was busy," Ed says desperately. Al would defend his brother, but he's in disgrace as well, both for not writing and for nearly getting killed. He's just glad, rather selfishly, that he's out of wrench range, unless she happens to throw it—Ed, whose automail arm is opened up on the small table, is at a distinct disadvantage in the dodging department.

"Busy! I—Ooh! If I were to tell you what you've done to this intermediary gear, Edward Elric—" She pulls out something that looks like a very long pair of tweezers and bends over Ed's arm again, mumbling invectives into the metal.

"I had other things on my mind," Ed says stubbornly, not looking at Al. Al looks down and shifts uncomfortably on Ed's bed.

"—all sorts of sand and grit in the lubricant, it's a wonder you can even still bend this finger—Hey. What happened to that cute little nightstand that used to be between your beds?"

Al bends down and pulls industriously at a loose thread in the knee of his pants. "It's in the closet," he says. "I guess we got tired of it."

The truth, and he and Ed seem to have entered into an unspoken agreement that this is one of those things Winry doesn't need to know, is that Al is still having nightmares about Lior, and it's easier for Ed to wake him when they're in the same bed. Sharing a small military-issue bed with Ed is not for the faint of heart, though, and it only took three or four times of waking up with a mouth full of automail for Al to hoist Ed out of the way, draw an array with sleep-clumsy fingers, and transmute their beds together.

It works well, he thinks. Except for the times that he wakes up in the middle of the night with his heart pounding, the heat of Ed's body scalding his skin, and an erection so painfully needy that he really thinks he could bring himself off just by shifting a little against the cloth of his pajama bottoms. He's gotten very good at slipping out of bed and into the bathroom without waking Ed, and he's made a science out of jerking off in less than twenty seconds, with his skin still warm where his brother touched it.

"Alphonse!"

"What?" Al yelps with a start. Winry is glaring at him.

"I asked if your arm is all healed," she says, spitting out each word as if it were wire insulation she'd stripped off with her teeth. She must have asked him more than once before he heard her, and Winry hates it when people don't pay attention.

Al lifts a hand to his shoulder. There are two scars on the outside of his arm now, one round, one star-shaped; the bullet went straight through him. "I think so. It doesn't hurt anymore."

"That's not what you said yesterday when you made me do the dishes," says Ed, the traitor.

Winry clicks her tongue disapprovingly. "Well, I hope Mustang isn't working you too hard. Things can't be that busy if he's got time to lounge around outside cafes with bleach-blondes. I saw him when I was walking over here."

One of them, Al thinks, really ought to say something. Or at least not be too busy sulking to try.

Winry, not noticing or not caring, keeps chattering away. "She was wearing such a horrible dress, too, I swear it didn't cover anything, she looked absolutely cheap. Well, I mean, we all know what Mustang's type is, but—"

Mustang's type is cheap blondes in miniskirts. Not alchemists with bullet scars or automail who happen to be much younger than he is and also male and nursing desperate, utterly wrong feelings for their own brothers, not that Ed's doing that, but god knows Al has enough brother issues for the both of them.

"Honestly, if he—hand me that wrench, Ed—spent half as much time running the Eastern Command as he does having sex with every woman in the typing pool who's under fifty and still has all her limbs—"

"How are things back home, Winry?" Al asks loudly.

"Are you almost done?" Ed grits out.

Winry looks at them in surprise, then bends to finish the maintenance on Ed's arm, talking quietly of nothing.


They go out for coffee when Winry's gone, and somehow Al isn't surprised—disgruntled, yes, displeased, annoyed, disgusted, but not surprised—to find their steps turning toward the café Winry would have passed on the way to the dormitories.

Women, Al has noticed, have this thing they do with Roy Mustang. They pull out a cigarette, slip it into a long, elegant holder, then look up at Roy through their lashes and declare that they must have misplaced their lighter. And yes, the Flame Alchemist is quite as capable of lighting cigarettes as of destroying parade grounds, and sometimes he does, to his companion's inevitable coos of delight, as if she hadn't asked him to light her cigarette with a snap of his fingers, as if she had no idea he could do that sort of thing at all. Al can't imagine Hawkeye behaving like that even with the proverbial gun held to her head, or Winry either, for that matter. He doesn't think much of the women Roy dates.

He watches from a block away and nearing as Roy pulls a lighter out of his pocket and, gentlemanly to the end, flicks it under the end of his companion's cigarette.

"Psst!"

Thinking he hears a cat, Al stops and looks around, only to see Havoc waving urgently at them from behind a tree. A State car is parked a few yards ahead. Puzzled, Al grabs hold of Ed's elbow and goes over to Havoc, who pulls them unceremoniously into a clandestine huddle.

"Here," he says, handing them enough money to cover their coffee plus a decent tip. "Go rescue the Boss."

Ed looks blankly from the money in his hand to Havoc. "Go—what?"

Havoc pulls out a cigarette and lights up, and for an insane moment Al wonders if Roy has ever lit one of Havoc's smokes, and how. "See that woman he's with?"

The blank expression turns into a scowl. "Yeah. So why are you chaperoning one of Mustang's dates?"

Havoc snorts. "Date? That, my friend, is the wife of Brigadier General Norris from Northern."

"Should he be doing that?" Al asks, peering out around the tree. Havoc yanks him back. "I don't think he should be doing that."

Havoc rolls his eyes. "You mean you don't think he should be doing her. He isn't. Not yet, anyway. That'll change if she gets her way. See, the Boss has to wine and dine her while she's in town because he owes Norris a favor and couldn't say no, but she's been all over him all evening. I swear she groped his ass on the way into the café."

Ed's face darkens with ominous speed.

"But, now, if the two of you show up with news from the office that can't wait, then he'll have to excuse himself and send her home in a cab. And he'll owe all of us one. See?" Havoc glances discreetly around the tree.

"I'm not sure about this," Al says uneasily. "The General knows what he's doing. Maybe we should—"

Havoc winces. "Oooh, she almost scored that time. Good thing the Boss is bendy."

"Let's go, Al," Ed says.

"Right behind you, brother," Al tells him.

He's ten steps away before it occurs to him to wonder why Havoc didn't go and rescue Roy himself, but by that time he's also realized that "right behind" is probably a less ideal position than "in front of, heading Ed off before he says something utterly unforgivable to a Brigadier General's wife, even if her hand is inching closer and closer to the thigh of a General on whom the Elric brothers have dibs." Not that they really have dibs on Roy. It just feels like they do. And this is a perpetually-open can of worms that Al isn't going to delve into again right this second, because he has the space of a pub, a laundromat, and a small fenced-in patio to divert Ed and come up with something urgent from the "office."

After a brief, whispered consultation, he sends Ed in to get coffee, waits for a minute, and then ducks onto the patio, fetching up beside Roy's table. "General Mustang," he says, remembering to look harried but forgetting to salute.

Roy raises a cool, questioning eyebrow. "Alphonse. Do you need something?"

"I'm sorry to bother you after work, but that transmutation we were working on has gone pretty seriously wrong and we're not sure how to fix it—"

"Young man," the Brigadier General's wife interrupts. "Surely you can find someone else to help you with this."

Al reminds himself that this is in fact a reasonable protest and doesn't give her the Elric Glare of Death. "It's classified, ma'am. And I did say I was sorry, and I wouldn't be asking for the General's help at all if it weren't starting to eat through the floorboards."

On cue, Ed comes up beside him, looking harassed, hair pulling loose from his braid and flying around his face in sun-brightened tendrils. "Aw, man," he says. "Here, Al, drink up. We're going to be all night cleaning up this mess."

Roy reaches for his gloves and pulls them briskly on. "That bad, huh?"

"Well, we have it contained for the moment," Ed tells him. "Won't last much longer, though, so we need to get back. Sorry to blow your evening," he adds with stunning insincerity.

"Oh, Roy," his not-a-date flutes mournfully. "Surely you don't need to—"

"I'm afraid I do, Elise," Roy says with what sounds for all the world like regret. "I can't leave this to anyone else. The Elrics' research is highly classified."

Elise looks them over, contempt heavy under jewel-colored eyelids, and Al feels like he's ten years old and has skinned knees and a runny nose. "But you'll be able to set things right straight away, won't you?" she says to Roy, sliding a possessive hand onto his knee. "I'm sure you know ever so much more about alchemy than these boys."

Even for Roy, Al thinks as he stands on Ed's foot, this is a new low.

"One of those boys was the youngest person to pass the State exam in its history, and the other would have broken his brother's record if not for extenuating circumstances," Roy tells her with that smile that indicates to people who know him very well that he's a bit nettled. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a rain check on the coffee. I'll send a car from the base so you don't have to take a cab home."

"Oh, very well," Elise pouts, crossing her legs theatrically and giving Al a meaningful glare. Al thinks of the smooth sheen of Ed's automail, of firelight on the hollow of Roy's throat, of Riza Hawkeye's unshakeable dignity, and looks steadily back into her eyes.

She doesn't like that, it seems. It doesn't matter, because Roy is pushing back from the table, standing up, and leaving with Ed and Al. For all that it was an easy victory, it still tastes sweet.


"So," Roy says a minute later as they're headed down the street, Ed stomping along beside Roy, Al trailing behind. "To what do I owe that timely rescue?"

"To Havoc," Ed says tersely. "He gave us money to go save you."

"I'll have to remember to buy him a carton of cigarettes," Roy says, unperturbed. "It would have been—complicated, trying to avoid taking her home."

"I really don't think you should do things like that," Al says more forcefully than he meant to.

Roy glances back over his shoulder, cocking an eyebrow. "What, sleep with married women? Believe it or not, I don't make a habit of it. It tends to cause more difficulties than it's—"

A car backfires right behind them and suddenly Al is frozen, unable to move to save his life, sands and hot wind blistering against his skin, the stench of blood in his nose and a searing pain in his left arm and all he can think is please, I don't want to die here—

But it only lasts for a second, and when he blinks his vision clear his hand is wet and stinging and there's coffee all over the sidewalk. Roy is watching him, one arm in front of Ed's chest to keep him back.

"Alphonse?" he asks in the tone of voice people usually use with skittish dogs. "Are you all right?"

"I'm," Al says, then has to swallow and try again. "I'm okay. It startled me, that's all."

"Yeah, right," Ed scoffs, pushing past Roy. He glances around, glares at the people watching until they look hurriedly away, and presses into Al's side, winding his metal fingers through Al's so Al can hold on as hard as he needs to without worrying about hurting Ed.

"Brother?" Al whispers. "This never used to happen. I never used to—to have nightmares, or get this horrible feeling in my stomach, or—"

Roy moves forward and picks up Al's burned hand, examining it. "You're human now," he says. "You have a body, and a functioning neurosystem."

"Should it matter that much?" Al asks.

Roy turns Al's hand over and draws an array in Al's palm with his fingertip, carefully and gently, the ignition cloth of his gloves tingling and rough against Al's sore skin. When it's complete he covers it with his palm, and the coffee left on Al's hand transmutes into some sort of ointment, spreading outward; the pain ebbs before the cool front like tides on the sand, spills off Al's palm and vanishes. It figures, Al thinks, that the Flame Alchemist would be good at tending burns.

"I think it does," Roy says.

"Where to, Boss?" Havoc asks around his cigarette. Ed opens his mouth, but Roy gets there first, inspiring a bit of awe in Al.

"My house," he says. "I believe I owe the Elrics dinner."

Ed frowns. "For what, and why can't we eat at a restaurant?"

"For saving me from Elise, and because it would hardly do to tell her that I'm going to be tied up at the office all evening and then show up at a restaurant with subordinates on either arm," Roy says, and smirks when Ed reddens.

"Don't make it sound like a date, you asshole," Ed mutters.

Something unreadable flickers briefly in Roy's eyes. Al would give quite a bit indeed to be able to read it, to be able to read Roy as easily as he does Ed. He'd give quite a bit to have the right to read Roy like that, and now he's unhappy and confused again but at least he knows where he is and that he's not being shot at.

"Al, you sure you're okay?" Ed asks, nudging Al with his knee. Al sets a hand on that knee out of sheer protective reflex; it's the automail one, and sometimes Ed nudges harder than he means to.

"I'm fine, brother," he says, unable to resist giving a light squeeze before he lets go. Ed frowns, studying him intently, unconvinced. Al wriggles reassuringly closer, and doesn't realize until the car stops that he's pushed Ed into Roy, the three of them curled so close together that there'd be room for Winry in the back seat with them.


"Make yourselves at home," Roy invites as he unbuttons the collar of his uniform jacket. Beside Al, Ed shifts uncomfortably, his eyes locked on the sliver of bare skin under the undone top button of Roy's shirt.

This could, Al realizes miserably, turn into a very awkward evening.

"Drinks are in the cabinet in the living room," Roy reminds them. His jacket slides down his shoulders and onto the chair, and he snaps open the buttons at his cuffs with quick, deft fingers. "I'll start dinner."

When he's gone, Ed lets out a slow breath. "Damn," he says. "What I wouldn't give to see that man naked."

"You and me both," Al tells him, and thinks something else, too: that Ed turned on is a fucking gorgeous sight.

Ed opens his mouth, then closes it slowly, a thing unusual enough in and of itself to make Al take notice. Looking down, Ed rubs his hands on his pants, looking like he's drying off sweat against the inside of his gloves. "Al," he says carefully. "Remember you said you'd love me no matter what?"

Al looks away, blinking. "Brother, I said I wouldn't—"

"No!" Ed's hand whips out and closes hard around Al's wrist. "This isn't—it doesn't have anything to do with—well, no, I guess it does, but not the way you think. Just—promise me again, okay?"

Al glances back at him, frowning. Ed looks determined and—terrified?

"C'mon, Al. Promise. And—trust me, okay?"

A wonderful and horrific suspicion takes root in Al's mind, and he can't quite get rid of it. "Brother!" he almost wails.

Ed's face falls a little, but he doesn't let go of Al's wrist, and Al doesn't move away. "Look, we don't—it was just an idea, okay?"

Don't ask me to do this, Al thinks, wondering if he's going to start hyperventilating. Don't ask me to be an inch away from your body and not be able to touch you. I can't.

But that isn't the truth—or it is, but not the whole truth. The truth is that he doesn't care if Ed's only doing this because he wants to get Roy into bed without hurting Al. If this is all Al can get, then he'll take it, because he loves Ed too much not to take anything he can get, anything at all.

Al's mouth is incredibly dry. "You know I'll love you no matter what," he whispers. "I promise. And—and I trust you. I always have."

Ed only looks surprised for a moment. Then he's giving Al a slow, lovely grin that has nothing in it of triumph and everything of affectionate conspiracy. "That's my Al," he says.

"The same one who follows you into mineshafts and things, you mean," Al says dryly, but something in him is singing. Yours.

"Hey, we're a lot less likely to break a leg or something in Mustang's bed," Ed retorts under his breath, and then they're snickering uncontrollably even though it wasn't really that funny. Laughter ebbs on a long sigh, and by the time they've stopped Ed is so very close, his head tilted just so—

Something drops with a clang in the kitchen, making them both jump. "Losing the battle with the pot lids in there, Mustang?" Ed yells.

"Oh, I think I can outflank them and retake the ground," Roy calls back.

"Would you like help?" Al calls, feeling a bit guilty. Something's starting to smell very, very good.

"Sit down, Alphonse," Roy says patiently. "Dinner's under control."

"So he says, until the kitchen catches on fire," Ed mutters.

Considering who it was that nearly lit Roy's kitchen on fire the last time they were here, Al thinks that's a bit rich, but he pulls Ed into the living room in tactful silence. Ed pours drinks, dispensing Roy's best wine with a lavish hand, and by the time Roy appears in the doorway, looking a bit warm and dishevelled from working over the stove, they're both a little tipsy.

They're tipsy, and Roy is just barely mussed and gorgeous, and Al feels a little sorry for him, because having Elrics staring at you like starving feral cats eyeing a field mouse cannot be a comfortable experience. But he's not sorry enough to stop imagining what Roy's going to look like with all those buttons undone.


Dinner is excellent. Al hasn't yet gotten to the point of taking things like taste for granted, or gotten into the habit of inhaling his food so fast that it can only sort of wave to his taste buds in passing like Ed used to do when they were teenagers and still does, probably, when Al's not there to slow him down. Al still isn't able to take senses in general for granted, even after all these years, even when he'd like to be able to—the military-issue sheets in Liore were too rough and made his skin red and irritated, and he could taste rot in meat or milk stores days before anyone else in the company could.

But then, nothing feels quite right when you're alone and miserable, so Al counts his blessings and curls up next to Ed after dinner in the vast softness of Roy's couch.

"Don't tell me you couldn't tell her to piss off, Mustang. What are you, a rent boy?" Ed's saying, but without any real ire; he can afford to be magnanimous in victory.

Roy smiles ruefully. "I'm the commanding officer of a supply-poor outpost. I can't afford to make any more enemies—not yet."

Ed snorts. "So what's she going to do? Go home and tell her husband to cut off our supply lines because you wouldn't fuck her?"

"You certainly feel strongly about this," Roy observes, taking a sip of his scotch.

Ed bristles. "She's cheap, Mustang! You would have caught something!"

"Brother, he wouldn't really have slept with her," Al says. "Would you?"

Roy gives them an even look and finishes off his scotch. "I'm touched by your concern for my health and morals, gentlemen, but—"

"You haven't got any morals," Ed purrs, tilting his head to look at Roy through long lashes and somehow managing to make a vaguely insulting comment sound like an invitation to bed. Roy lifts an eyebrow, looking like he's trying to decide whether to take Ed up on an unexpected dare, and Al swallows around a sudden pang of nerves.

"A thing the two of you have benefited from more than once," Roy points out, and gives them a slow smile. "And will probably benefit from in the future."

Dare taken. Al doesn't quite know whether to panic or crawl into that chair and unbutton Roy's shirt with his teeth. All he does know is that he has the uncomfortable beginnings of an erection casting a strong vote for Option Two.

"Yeah," Ed says in a low voice that causes Al's hormones to cast several imaginative write-in votes. "We've both benefited. Nice of you to share like that, Mustang."

"We do work best together," Al says, and feels his ears grow hot. He doesn't quite think he's cut out for conversations full of innuendo, but he's nothing if not up for new things.

"Of course," Roy says with a smirk. "It wouldn't do to break up the set. I'm not surprised Hakuro tried, but I'm afraid it was doomed from the outset."

Ed shifts a little and slides his arm over the back of the couch behind Al, not-quite-casually. "Yeah, well," he says. "Not like he'd ever have a chance to figure it out, but the Elric boys are a package deal. Want one, get both."

Roy raises an eyebrow, not laughing at them but amused anyway. "Doesn't that ever make things—awkward?"

Ed snorts. "You think being half of a set is any more awkward than having automail limbs? At least Al doesn't get caught in my hair."

"And what about for you?" Roy asks, his eyes shifting to meet Al's.

Al shrugs. "I tried doing without Ed. It was a stupid thing to do." He's starting to get a bit fidgety. Al's experiences with sex are limited to trying out new and exotic hand grips, but he didn't think it involved quite this much veiled negotiation beforehand. It's making him nervous that they aren't really talking about the same thing at all, and suddenly he has the urge to grab Ed and stick his tongue down his brother's throat just to make sure they're all on the same page.

"Then it's a good thing I want both," Roy says softly, then gives them a thin smile. "And that I was on the spot before Hakuro got out from under the sedatives enough to refuse to sign the transfer papers. He's still furious with me for stealing his alchemists, you know."

Reel in, push away, dip and turn; Al doesn't think he and Ed have the upper hand in this particular dance.

"He's not getting Al back," Ed says so fiercely that Al blinks a little.

"No," Roy says, setting his empty glass down on the coffee table with a click. "He's not. I keep what's mine—including the two of you."

"I'm getting tired of this, Mustang," Ed says suddenly, making Al start a little. "What the hell do you do with women, talk them to death? Get your ass over here, if we're so yours."

Roy blinks rapidly, clearly taken off-guard, and Al gets the feeling that he wasn't expecting this to go any farther than innuendo. Al's struck by the reflexive urge to apologize for Ed, but what started out as a slight problem is becoming more and more pressing and he sort of thinks he'd like to kiss his brother instead. A lot. He moves a little away from Ed and tilts his head invitingly toward the space between them.

"Do either of you have the foggiest idea what you're doing?" Roy asks bluntly.

Well, Al thinks, no. But that's never stopped us before.

"We're getting impatient, is what we're doing," Ed says. "Look, the offer's not going to stay open forever. If you're not interested we'll go home and—"

"Oh, I am," Roy says, and means it, dark eyes kindling for just a moment with surprising heat. "I just don't think you've thought this through."

"Fuck me, the man does nothing but talk," Ed mutters under his breath. He tangles his fingers in the hair at the back of Al's neck and tugs, pulling him closer, and Al follows until he can feel his brother's breath on his lips.

"Enough talk," Ed whispers, leaning his forehead against Al's. "Enough misery. Enough pretending not to notice and trying not to die when you're in the bathroom jerking off in the middle of the night. Remember, Al, you promised me—"

Al feels a brief pang of guilt over the jerking-off-in-the-bathroom thing. It's brief because suddenly Ed's mouth is on his, so soft and warm that Al has to open his mouth to taste, and oh god he's kissing his brother and it's so right and hot and wrong that he's about to come in his pants just from the slow slide of Ed's tongue into his mouth. He can't think about Roy watching them or he won't even make it to foreplay, let alone past it, and he wants, oh he wants, for this to last until he can come with Ed's hand on him, come in Roy's mouth, please, anything, just let me hold on—

Another hand slides into his hair, not automail, and Ed makes a small sound into the kiss. Al's eyes flutter open to see Roy sliding into place behind Ed, bending his head to mouth at the back of Ed's neck. "Convinced?" Al asks breathlessly, pulling back a little from Ed's lips.

Roy's mouth drifts over Al's fingers where they're resting against Ed's skin. "That you know what you're doing?" he asks between kisses and soft nips. "No. But you make a very convincing argument that I shouldn't care."

"Good," Ed snaps, and shifts in their arms, crawling over Roy like a cat until Roy is pressed up between them. "You shouldn't care. You should take us to bed and show us that the Mustang legend is all it's cracked up to be."

Something else flickers across Roy's face before the smooth mask falls back into place, and this time it doesn't look happy. Moving closer, Al nips at the lobe of Roy's ear, smelling warm skin and fire. "We want you, both of us," he whispers. "We could make you choose and break one of our hearts. Don't you think our way is better?"

Roy sighs and gathers both of them close, bending to kiss Al. His mouth tastes like single-malt scotch, hot and dizzying. "You have a point, Alphonse. As usual."

"Yeah, Al's smart about those things," Ed mutters, trying to unbutton Roy's shirt with one hand. Al reaches to help, and Roy's shirt falls away from ridged muscle and smooth, pale skin; Roy slides his fingertips up under Al's shirt, bending his head to kiss Ed, and Al watches, fascinated and unbelievably turned on, as their tongues glide smoothly in and out of each other's mouths. Roy's fingertips stroke Al's side, rough from the friction of ignition-cloth gloves, and Al writhes with the sheer pleasure of hands on his skin that aren't his own.

Until Ed's automail knee rams straight into Al's kneecap as Ed is seemingly trying to climb inside Roy's shirt, and the impact makes Al give an inadvertent yowl of pain that nearly makes Ed bite Roy's tongue off.

Roy laughs and laces his fingers through Ed's on Al's bruised knee, muffling Ed's stammered apologies with a quick kiss. "This isn't going to work on the couch," he says.

"We should move, then," Al says firmly, in case anyone gets any ideas about the alternatives of no sex or life-endangering, flailing automail.

Sobering, Roy looks back and forth between them—not that great a distance, since they're both half on top of him at this point. "If you're serious about this, my bedroom is upstairs, second door on the right. I'll take care of things down here and be up in a minute. If you'd rather—"

"Second door on the right," Ed repeats, grabbing Al's hand. Al kisses Roy one more time and then lets himself be dragged away from that wonderful mouth and upstairs. Roy's bed proves to be fortuitously large. Al goes to sit nervously on it, trying not to limp.

"What the hell is he doing down there?" Ed grumbles. "Don't tell me putting the dishes to soak is more important than sex."

"He's stalling, brother. He's giving us a minute to ourselves," Al says, and how Roy knew they probably needed it was one of those ineffable Mustang things.

Ed takes a shaky breath and inches over to sit beside him. "Okay," he says. "Good. Because—I need to say this, Al, and if I don't say it now I probably won't, like, ever, and I need to."

Al tries to swallow a sudden sense of foreboding. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, I, it's that—" Ed looks away, then makes himself look back and meet Al's eyes. "You'll really love me no matter what?"

"Ed!"

"Okay, okay! It's that—" Ed reaches up with his human hand and threads it through the hair at the back of Al's neck, tugging a little on the tie of his ponytail. "Even if Mustang changes his mind about this, I—I still want it. I—want you. I'm sorry, I know that makes me an awful brother and please don't get all distant and uncomfortable because I swear if you don't want me back we can go back to oof!"

"Ed, you jerk," Al whispers, lowers his head, and kisses Ed like he was water in the desert.

Ed's mouth opens eagerly under his and it's so good, and also awful and terrifying and Al's shaking in something very close to panic; but this is his Ed, his brother, who he loves so much that it does weird things to his insides, and he's always been safe in Ed's arms, always, even when he was seven feet of spikes and steel. Ed is holding him so tightly that it's a little hard to tell what's making Al lightheaded and breathless, but then Ed shifts, nudging upward just a little and slipping his thigh in between Al's as he tries to get closer, and so many things become abruptly, blindingly clear.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Al whispers against Ed's mouth, and he doesn't mean for months of desolate loneliness in Lior's deep deserts to come through in his voice like the wind over sand, but it does.

"Because I can't lose you, you idiot," Ed whispers back. "I wouldn't know what to give to bring you back this time."

"I'm here," Al tells him, and Ed smiles.

"And here I thought you'd be undressed already," Roy says from the doorway.

"We're getting there," Ed says, still looking up into Al's eyes with something quiet and heart-deep in his gaze. Al smiles and kisses him again, then slides off him to face Roy, who is setting a bottle of wine and three glasses down on the dresser.

"Gonna get us drunk and take advantage of us, Mustang?" Ed asks hopefully.

Roy smirks. "How much drunker do you need to be?" he purrs, and slides onto the bed with them. He's not much taller than Al, not really, but he uses his size differently somehow, uses his body differently, and there's no question who owns this bed. There's a distinct possibility that in another five minutes there'll be no question who owns Ed and Al.

"I—think we're good," Al says faintly.

"I think I can teach you to be," Roy shoots back—and promptly finds himself knocked onto his back with one fast leg-sweep, his shoulders pinned to the bed with one metal hand and one human one and Izumi Curtis' star pupil grinning smugly down at him.

"What makes you think we need teaching, General?" Ed says.

"But, brother, we—" Al starts to say, then yelps and changes his mind when Ed kicks him discreetly in the shin. Al is beginning to think that sex involves more bruising than he'd expected, which is all right because Al isn't opposed to bruising per se, that just wasn't what he'd thought the jokes about knee pads were about.

"You have no subtlety, Fullmetal," Roy says quietly. His hands slide up Ed's chest to snap open the clasp of his jacket and slip it off his shoulders. "These things take time to do well."

"Think your enemy has a weakness and it becomes his strength," Ed says hoarsely, and bends down to kiss Roy in a way that seems to involve actual tonsils. Al gulps and touches Ed's back tentatively, then more firmly, suddenly sure of his welcome, running a hand up Ed's shirt and along smooth muscle to automail. Ed has reached out for him instinctively and is running a hand up the outside of his thigh, and Roy has wound his fingers into the front of Al's shirt and is tugging him gently but insistently closer.

"C'mon, Al, you're lagging," Ed mutters into Roy's mouth, so Al eases down onto his side and into the tangle, mouthing his way along Ed's jaw toward his ear. They shift a bit and then he's kissing Roy, tongues hot and entangled and the taste of his brother in Roy's mouth, and Ed is licking his way from Al's ear down to Roy's collarbone and back, and Al is so hard that he thinks he might actually hurt something if someone doesn't—

Touch him. Automail fingers slide up under his shirt and trace a chilled circle around his nipple, then pinch lightly in a way that causes Al to somehow lose what used to be an important distinction between pleasure and fear of imminent bodily harm. He moans, breaking off the kiss to catch his breath with his eyes closed and his forehead leaning against Roy's.

"Do you like the way his hands feel on you?" Roy murmurs, planting kisses and soft licks along the line of Al's jaw.

"Yes," Al gasps helplessly. Ed is licking the back of his neck and it somehow seems to have short-circuited his entire brain.

"Good," Roy whispers, and slides his hand down between them, and Al barely even has time to register where it's going before Roy is touching him, right through his clothes, the heel of his hand pressing against Al's cock and fingertips brushing teasingly against his balls.

Al, to his utter mortification, yelps and jumps an inch off the bed.

Roy pulls his hand back, looking startled, his other hand pausing on the nape of Ed's neck. "Al? Did that—"

"No, no, it's fine," Al hastens to reassure him. His voice is annoyingly squeaky. "It feels strange having someone else touch me there, that's all."

"Does it?" Ed asks in the spirit of scientific inquiry. "C'mere and show me."

Well, maybe not entirely in the spirit of scientific inquiry. Al locks eyes with smouldering amber and starts to shift into a better position to reach down Ed's pants.

"Uh," Roy says, and not in a good way.

Ed and Al blink at each other, then look down at Roy. "What?" Ed asks.

"You've never—" Roy says dubiously. "Neither of you? Not even with each other?"

He looks, suddenly, like he's having rather serious second thoughts. Al swings a leg over Roy's hips and sits on him meaningfully, because Roy is not going anywhere until they're all exhausted and sticky and couldn't move if they wanted to.

Ed scowls and rests his chin on Al's shoulder, running a hand in an absent caress up and down Al's arm and making him shiver with want. "We're fast learners," he tells Roy.

"Are you," Roy says in a somewhat strangled tone.

Ed's scowl deepens. "Want us to leave and come back when we aren't virgins anymore?"

"It won't take long," Al says. "You could keep coffee on for us."

"Are you afraid you'll have to play traffic cop all night?" Ed demands. "I said we hadn't done it before, Mustang. I didn't say we don't understand the theory."

Roy started to snicker somewhere in the middle of all this and now he's laughing helplessly, though fortunately not condescendingly, because Al desperately wants to have sex and it would be hard to do that while simultaneously preventing Ed from killing Roy. "No, it's all right," Roy says finally. "I just—didn't expect—"

"We've been busy," Ed says between his teeth.

Roy stops laughing at that, though it's still lurking in his eyes and at the corners of his mouth, and reaches up to wind his fingers in the end of Ed's braid. "I think," he says, and then appears to change his mind. "I want to watch you take each other's clothes off."

Al runs a finger down the open front of Roy's shirt, pausing just above the line of his pants. "Then can we take yours off?" he asks, looking back up at Roy's eyes.

Which are darkening again, all traces of laughing-at-Elrics gone. "Consider yourselves invited to do whatever you want."

Ed slides his automail hand over Al's, signalling to him to wait. Strange how something that cold can make Al feel like melting. "Wait a minute," Ed says. "Listen, Mustang. If we do this, it means something, all right?"

Roy's hand slides up Ed's chest to his shoulder, oddly soothing. "And what does it mean?" he asks.

"It means you're ours," Ed tells him. "It means no more tomcatting your way through the goddamned secretarial pool. It means you don't wake up in the morning, pull your pants on, thank us for the good time, and tell us you'll see us at the office on Monday. If you can't handle that, Al and I leave now and go on about our business."

"We keep what's ours too," Al tells Roy.

"This isn't a no-strings-attached fuck," Ed says. "Can you deal with that?"

Roy smiles, a little ruefully. "I wouldn't have expected anything else," he says.

As answers go, it's not terribly satisfactory, but Al will take it even if Ed looks ready to argue the point. They can always settle the issue later, when Roy's sated and sleepy and in a mood to be accommodating. Al turns his head and nuzzles softly against Ed's cheek, distracting him and luring him into a slow, achingly thorough kiss. It's sweet and maddeningly arousing—having Ed's hands on him is a bizarre mixture of strange and familiar and too wonderful to be true, and Al's quiet moan makes Ed's fist clench in his shirt and Roy's hand tighten on his thigh.

Ed pulls back, panting, and tugs at Al's shirt. "Off," he orders, bringing his hands dangerously close together.

Al yelps and grabs Ed's hand, forestalling any transmutation. "Ed! I like this shirt!"

Ed blinks, then focuses on Al's shirt for, apparently, the first time that day. "Hey! That's my shirt!"

"I like your clothes," Al says stubbornly; then, with only a moment's hesitation, he slides his hands under Ed's tank top, easing it upward. When he's pulled it off over Ed's head and bared Ed's lean, muscled torso where he can finally look at it without worrying about being caught, about how perverted he is, about anything but how soon he can lick it and where, he whispers, "I like what's inside them too."

Ed's breath catches, and for a minute Al thinks that they're going to wind up tumbling to the floor and going the first round without Roy. Then Ed pulls Al's shirt off, pulls him close, and traces hot kisses along his throat, his automail hand in the small of Al's back and his flesh hand easing down toward the button of Al's pants.

"Enjoying the show, Mustang?" he murmurs, tilting his head a little to look down at Roy.

"Very much," Roy answers, slipping his hands around so that one is resting on each of their backsides. "I wouldn't have thought you'd be patient enough to take things slowly."

It isn't patience, it's nerves, but Al doesn't think he wants to point that out to Roy. With fingers that are none too steady, he unbuttons the top button of Ed's pants, brushing his knuckles over the hard ridge of Ed's cock. Ed shivers and makes a soft, involuntary sound; underneath them, Roy catches his breath and shifts, just a little, nudging upward against Al. Al takes a deep breath and unbuttons Ed's pants the rest of the way, working around Ed's hands as they unbutton his own, and now Al's not sure how to get undressed without getting off Roy.

The question is resolved for him when Ed tugs, tumbling them both down onto the bed, and there's kissing and fumbling and what seems like four pairs of pants distributed randomly across two pairs of legs. By the time they've gotten all four pairs off and possibly a few more, with the occasional discreet bit of help from a carefully-not-laughing Roy, Ed has said words that even Al didn't know and Al's come very close to putting the lie to Ed's comment about Al never getting caught in his hair.

"Hey," Ed pants, surfacing from the pile. "Who's gonna be on the bottom?"

Ed and Al look at each other. Then they turn to look at Roy, who's propped on his elbow watching them.

"No," Roy says in the tone that even Hawkeye doesn't argue with often.

Ed, who isn't Hawkeye and has no idea there's a better part of valor, snorts. "Chicken," he accuses.

Roy shrugs, amused, and reaches out to wind the end of Al's bedraggled ponytail around his fingers. "I tried it once. I didn't like it. I don't have any interest in doing it again."

"Who did you—" Ed starts to demand indignantly. Al claps a hand over his mouth before he can work himself up to viewing Roy's entire stunningly extensive prior sexual history as retroactive cheating on Elrics.

"We took each other's clothes off. It's your turn now," Al says, looking slowly over the skin exposed by Roy's open shirt.

"Fair enough," Roy says. His shirt drifts off his shoulders and flows down his back and onto the floor, baring a lean, solid chest with faint, old scars from wounds Al doesn't want to think about, and he wants to lick Roy so badly that he really thinks he might start drooling.

"Better?" Roy asks, dark gaze sliding hungrily over their bodies and the way they're intertwined; he's done sitting back and watching now, clearly, and Al's heart starts thudding in his chest as Roy reaches down to unbutton his pants.

"Hey. Ours," Ed says hoarsely, and rolls to push Roy back onto his elbows and reach for the buttons of his pants. Roy lets him, running his hand over Ed's automail arm, learning the feel of it under his fingertips. Al gives in and leans up to kiss his way down Roy's stomach, running his tongue over salt-sweet skin and feeling Roy's breath grow unsteady under his mouth.

The only other cock Al's ever seen, aside from quick and unavoidable glimpses in the restroom, is Ed's, and until tonight he'd never seen it hard. Roy's is no longer than theirs but it's thicker, flushed dark with blood and arousal; Al tilts his head and examines it thoughtfully, noting that Ed is doing the same, studying the curve of the head, the ridges of veins, the hard line of it down to the dark hair at its base.

Roy clears his throat meaningfully, sounding a little unnerved.

"Sorry," Al mutters, but he's not quite as sorry as he probably should be—Roy's an alchemist, after all, and he understands intellectual curiosity. He bends down and gives Roy's cock a let-me-make-it-up-to-you lick, and the strangled gasp Roy gives is so satisfying that he does it again, then takes the head into his mouth and sucks, flattening his tongue against it with a soft sound of pleasure. Ed joins him, nuzzling insistently at Al until there's room for them both to run their tongues over that hot, silky skin. Roy's fingers lace into their hair, trembling a little, and Ed's tongue is meeting Al's in soft, teasing, erratic flicks, and Al thinks if someone would just free up a hand to see to his neglected hard-on he might well be the happiest person in Amestris.

"You do learn fast," Roy says, sounding breathless but on balance entirely too composed for Al's liking. Al wants to see his General come apart, and he wants it to be him and Ed who make it happen, and who put Roy back together again afterward. And he's not quite confident of his ability to do that with his mouth, not yet, so he licks Roy's cock into Ed's mouth and crawls back up to kiss Roy. Roy's hand is a little tighter in his hair now, his kiss a little rougher, and Al thinks he might like that.

"Good?" he whispers, nuzzling underneath Roy's ear.

"Very," Roy answers hoarsely.

"Which of us do you want to—" Al begins, then trails off, suddenly a bit mortified.

"—fuck first?" Ed finishes pithily, then goes back to sucking Roy's cock as if it were the best thing he'd ever tasted.

For just a moment, Roy looks as if he'd been promoted to Fuhrer and gotten his wish about the miniskirts. Then he tugs Ed off his cock and upward, shifting back to sit against the headboard and looking over both of them with a general's eye for troop deployment. "Which of you wants to bottom?" he asks.

Al opens his mouth to answer, because he doesn't think Ed has quite worked himself up to that part yet; but then he doesn't, because in Al's experience—

—steel grating on steel with an earsplitting shriek, red pouring out of him in a flood that he can't feel, can't smell, can't wash off—-

—having someone inside him is not a good thing. He swallows hard, wants to answer, and doesn't.

When neither of them answers, Roy pulls them closer and licks Ed's neck in a lazy, damp line. "Let's save that for another night," he says, and Ed and Al scowl at him, affronted.

"You think we can't?" Ed protests. "You'd expect it if we were girls, right?"

"Well," Roy says in the tones of a man who has never been called upon to be quite this tactful in this particular situation and doesn't really know where to begin.

"Never mind. I'll go first," Al says, lacing his fingers through Ed's; because he does want it, he does, and Ed's smaller and more likely to get too sore to sit tomorrow.

Roy looks fond and exasperated, like he wants to cuff one or both of them so hard their ears ring and then lick their fur smooth again afterward. "There's more to sex than fucking," he says bluntly. "We don't—"

"Do you want to?" Ed interrupts him.

Stopping in mid-lecture, Roy reaches out to wind his fingers into Ed's hair, his gaze hot and wanting as it slides over both of them. "Yes," he says simply.

"So do we," Al says, and leans his head against Roy's shoulder, mouthing along his skin. "Please."

That's more than Roy can resist, apparently, because he pulls Al to him for a hot, insistent kiss that somehow ends with Al straddling his legs, back pressed to Roy's chest. "Ed, get the white tube in the nightstand drawer," Roy murmurs, stroking rough fingertips up the insides of Al's thighs. Al squirms, impatient to be touched, and watches as Ed nearly falls off the bed in his haste to get the lube.

"Hold out your hand—not the automail one," Roy says, and Ed obeys, head tilted curiously. Roy catches his hand and draws it closer, slipping Ed's first two fingers into his mouth, dark eyes sliding closed as his tongue wraps around them. Ed closes his eyes and groans, shifting restlessly, and Al pulls him closer so that they're pushing together, pushing back against Roy, their hips grinding and rolling and it feels so good that Al buries his face in Ed's neck and forgets about swords, penetration, everything but Ed's body in front of him and Roy's behind him.

They're so involved, in fact, that when Ed's lubricant-slicked fingers slip between them and down behind Al's balls, it's something of a shock to both of them.

"Shh," Roy whispers, one arm around Al's waist as the other hand guides Ed's fingers. "This is going to feel strange. It'll sting if you don't relax."

Strange is an understatement, but Al isn't complaining—it's only the strangeness that keeps him from coming when Ed's finger slips slowly into him. Ed's watching him, curious and careful, and Roy's nibbling at his ear, and if Al stops to think about how weird this all is he's going to burst into wholly inappropriate fits of laughter, so he concentrates on what's going on inside him, relaxing into Ed's slow movements. And then there's another finger from a different direction, stretching him just short of that stinging Roy was talking about and touching him in a place that makes him whine under his breath and buck his hips into the scalding flood of sensation.

"God," Ed chokes. "Fuck, Al, you're beautiful."

"You both are," Roy whispers, sliding his free hand down to wrap around Al's cock. Al gives a strangled cry and arches into the touch, his whole body one tense bundle of hard-firing nerves and ohgodohgodIwanttocome, and he wants to hold back but Roy's hand feels so fucking good; but just when he's teetering on the brink Roy pulls back a little, reaches for the lubricant, and slicks it over Ed's cock, nearly making Ed jump right through the ceiling.

It's clear what Roy wants, and Al wants it too, so much that he aches with it—but his eyes meet Ed's, and there's a long moment of silent communication, one last hurdle of uncertainty to get over.

Roy reaches out with the hand that doesn't have lube all over it and strokes Ed's hair gently out of his face, then brings his hand back to trail the backs of his fingers down Al's cheek. "Be sure," he says quietly. "There's no taking this back."

Al finds himself thinking about hot, bitter winds, about loneliness and misery—and about Gunnar, who would have understood, who might have taken this chance if it had been offered to him. And he thinks that no matter what comes of this, the truth is that he can't live without Ed and doesn't want to live without Roy, so whatever happens, they'll find a way to live with it.

"I'm sure," he says, and Ed nods.

It's awkward in this position, but for all Al knows it's awkward in any position; the fact that his first reaction is OWFUCK is probably evidence in that direction. But Ed stops, though it clearly costs him, and leans forward to nuzzle Al affectionately, and Roy is murmuring soothingly and stroking him everywhere that could possibly feel good, and before long Al's nerves are unjangled enough for him to tell Ed to keep going. Then Ed's inside him, all the way, on one long, slow thrust; Al thinks Oh god my brother's fucking me and that if nothing else makes him want more, that and the soft, helpless sound Ed makes as he leans his forehead against Al's shoulder.

"Good?" he whispers, carding his fingers through the hair that's come loose from Ed's braid.

"Oh, fuck, Al," Ed whimpers. "I, oh god, if I move I'm gonna come."

That good. Al sort of hopes it's going to be his turn soon.

"It's all right if you do," Roy says. Al is actually relaxed enough now that he's inclined to take issue with that statement. So is Ed, apparently, from the glare he gives Roy over Al's shoulder.

Roy chuckles. "Haven't you ever brought yourself off more than once in a night?"

"Yeah," Ed whispers, and the look in his eyes makes Al wonder if it was once for each of them. Then he thinks of Ed bringing himself off, and realizes that it probably happened when he was sleeping just a few feet away, and Al can't wait anymore, he can't.

"Ed," he gasps, trying to get leverage to thrust against his brother. "Please."

Then Ed's mouth is on his and it's awkward and arrhythmic and it feels like they've lit a blinding array out of their own bodies, the three of them, Roy's hands and Ed's cock and everyone's mouths. Al's caught between wanting desperately to feed that array and wanting to empty it, to burn it out in a hard, fast, brilliant flare, and it's building now almost beyond his control; but it's still too soon when Ed comes, crying out Al's name and Roy's, shuddering against him in Roy's arms.

Al whimpers in protest, squirming. Laughing and sated, Ed pulls away; and then Roy shifts behind him and suddenly Al's not empty anymore. And then it's even better, because where Ed has raw talent Roy has skill, knows just how hard to stroke and at what angle and how to touch while he's doing it. With his eyes closed, Al can't tell when Ed decides to stop watching—but he feels it when Ed's mouth wraps around his cock and sucks.

It's more than he can take. He shoves his hands into Ed's hair and slams his head back against Roy's shoulder, and he can't manage either of their names.

A few more strokes and Roy is coming too, moaning softly against the back of Al's neck. Al supposes that's one of them the neighbors won't be complaining about, but he and Ed are new at this, after all. They're fast learners, though, and Al at least is already planning ahead.

He tilts his head back and looks at Roy, who doesn't look at all dissatisfied. He looks sleepy, contented, and intolerably smug. "I'm going to be sore in the morning," he observes, and shifts off Roy to collapse onto the bed by Ed, who's already sprawled out and half asleep.

"That was fuckin' great," Ed says drowsily. "Didn't last long enough, though. Wanna go again?"

"Mm. Sleep first," Al argues. "Then go again."

"'K. Just a nap," Ed mutters, then cracks an eye to glare up at Roy. "What are you laughing at?"

Roy shakes his head, still chuckling, and reaches over to shut off the lamp. "Sleep first," he decides for them, and pushes back the covers.

There's a brief sorting-out period of pushing, crawling over each other, and tussling over pillows, which Ed wants all of. By the time they're settled, Roy is comfortably ensconced in the middle of the bed with Al's head resting on one of his shoulders and Ed's on the other, stroking them with long, meandering caresses while Al kisses Ed's fingertips with languid thoroughness, one after the other.

"Boys," Roy says after a few minutes. "We should—"

"We're not boys," Ed and Al say, speaking in unison down to the pitch of their voices, though Al rather hopes his doesn't sound quite as petulant as Ed's.

Roy's laugh is soft and rueful. "No, you aren't, are you? We should discuss this."

"There's nothing to discuss," Al says stubbornly.

"Yeah, there is," Ed says unexpectedly, levering himself up onto his elbow to fix Roy with a glare. "Remember the strings thing, Mustang? I wasn't just saying that to get us into your pants. This is it for the long haul, us and you. That means no more fuckin' Elises or we get to cut off your balls."

Roy is not looking terribly impressed with the quality of Ed's reasoning. "And the next time she comes into town, I'm supposed to tell her that I can't go to dinner with her because my two much-younger male lovers, who happen to be siblings and also my subordinates, threatened to castrate me if I go near her?"

Al is surprised to find that, on some not-quite-conscious level, he's thought this through. Neither of them alone could live with Roy, or even spend any amount of time here, without eyebrows being raised eventually; but with both of them here, serving as each other's ersatz chaperones, it's less likely to occur to anyone that anything untoward might be going on—and no one's likely to guess this, anyway. It will mean never letting on what they are to each other, and no one would take them seriously even if they did, but Al finds he doesn't care. The very strangeness of their relationship is their shield, and Al doesn't mind keeping this just for themselves.

"Tell her," he says, "that you need to get home."

Roy smiles and kisses him for that, and Ed nestles back down against them and mutters, "Yeah, listen to Al. He's smart about stuff like that."

Al can't help thinking that if he'd been either a little smarter or a little stupider, they could have had this long ago. And maybe Roy's right and there are things they need to talk about. But right now he's sleepy, and Ed and Roy and the bed are all warm and soft against his skin, and he'd rather think about what he's going to make for breakfast.

Thunder rumbles outside, but it's faint and distant, moving away.