When Al stopped wearing Ed's clothes, Roy had breathed a sigh of relief. Obsession was normal for the Elric brothers, but Al's homage to his brother just didn't seem healthy. However, after a month, Roy found himself reassessing. Perhaps the change in costume wasn't such a good sign after all.
Something was wrong with Al. He looked normal, and his mind was just as agile as ever, but there was a distance to the eyes that hadn't been there before. Roy listened to the kid describe in horrific detail the bodies of corpses raped, broken and bruised, covered with long strings of sores that resembled those left by a jelly fish. Through the entire report, Al never twitched an eye.
Roy looked at the others gathered around the long table. None of them seemed to think there was anything out of the ordinary about the young alchemist's behavior. Al's immediate superior seemed, if anything, pleased by his matter-of-factness.
"Major Elric," said General Hakuro, "Do you believe this is the work of chimera? Or an Alchemist."
Staring the man straight in the eye, Al said, "Honestly, it looks like a regular psychopath to me. I see nothing intrinsically alchemical or chimerical in the injuries."
When had Al gotten so stony? Not even as armor had he been that hard.
Al had always been the calm, reasonable brother, but even as armor he'd maintained a tender streak. The fourteen year old should have been appalled and disturbed by this experience. Instead, he had merely rattled off the details of his investigation as one might an ordinary milk run.
The kid had seen a lot... had done a lot... but to be so cold all of a sudden... Roy frowned.
"Do you have an idea why this psychopath would be doing this? What is his pattern? Who is he?" Hakuro asked.
"That would be someone else's job to figure out, sir," said Al. "Now if you don't mind, I have a time-sensitive experiment going back in my lab. If there are no more questions..."
"You may go, Major Elric," said Hakuro. "Your expertise on chimeras is invaluable, but your experiments are more important." Al nodded and stood up.
Roy stood with him, "If you don't mind, General," he said out of courtesy.
"Not at all, " said Hakuro, "This meeting is over."
Roy caught up with Al in the hall. The teen was using the phone, calling for a ride to take him back to his house. Roy waited until he hung up.
Roy cleared his voice. "Alphonse."
Al looked at him with dull bronze eyes. One eyebrow lifted up inquiringly.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." Al smiled, but there was no friendliness or warmth in it.
"You seem..." began Roy then stopped. "I'm a bit worried about your interest in chimera research. Your brother hated the idea of chimeras."
"As you have so often told me, I'm not my brother." Roy again looked at Al's dark brown clothes. They seemed a bit stained. Was that a bruise on his wrist?
"Is General Hakuro treating you well?"
"Quite. As long as I do what he tells me to, he leaves me alone. Unlike you." Al put a hand on his hip. "I'm not transferring back."
Roy's mouth went dry. "No. I didn't think you would be. It's just I'm worried about you."
"Don't be." Al idly played with his ponytail. The light hit his face in a way that played up the softness of his cheeks. A soft introspective smile graced his face. For a second Roy saw the old Al there.
"It's been a while," said Roy, feeling strangely nervous as he broached the awkward subject. "Do you need—?"
"No," said Al hastily. He'd gone cold again, all trace of smile gone. "We are through. I don't think I'll be 'needing' to sleep with you ever again."
Al had wanted be seduced, Roy was sure of it. The boy had practically begged for it.
He remembered the way the twelve year old had stared at him during his reports, those huge eyes of his full of longing. Roy could practically smell the pent up hormones. That deep need was the only thing not focused on his brother, the one handle to pull him away from that unnatural and unhealthy obsession.
Everything in those days was about Edward, to the point where Al neglected himself terribly. Roy knew he had to distract the kid somehow, bring him back from that crazy precipice, give him someone else to love, so that when, eventually, the boy gave up trying to resurrect Fullmetal, he'd have a reason to go on.
Roy had been doing the kid a favor.
Sure there had been some confusion when Roy had visited his dorm room, and when Roy had caught Al's arm and playfully pushed him against the wall, the kid had been angry. There was always reluctance and fear the first time—it was simply natural. But Roy was gentle and good, and kissed away his protests.
Roy had kept up a quiet monologue through the whole thing, explaining exactly what he was doing and why, and how Al's body would react, just so that Al would be reassured and nothing would come as a surprise.
"Did you do this with Niisan, too?" Al had asked as Roy helped him to the bed.
"Yes, and he enjoyed it a lot. Just the way you will. I promise."
The rest of his words hardly mattered. After he'd admitted he'd slept with Ed, Al had embraced the idea of sex with enthusiasm.
Roy had wondered when he'd overstepped the line with Al. There was no one incident that seemed to throw Al over the edge. Just one day about three months back Al had requested transfer from his command. He wanted to go exclusively into research, and since that was not Roy's area, the transfer was necessary.
If anything it should have made their relationship easier. Fraternization was against code. It was a relief when they were no longer violating the rules. But instead of making things easier, they had drifted apart.
Perhaps it was when Al stopped trying to emulate his brother that their relationship truly ended. Perhaps the teen figured what they had was simply a reflection of what Roy had once had with Fullmetal. Perhaps that dead look in his eyes was the boy giving up on life, shoving it all aside.
No, Roy couldn't have that. He was responsible for Al, as his sponsor, and friend. He loved the kid. He wouldn't allow him to slide in despair.
Despite what Al had said about not wanting him, Roy knew he needed to visit the teen and respark the flame. Give him the will to live. Bring back the light in his eyes.
It was his duty.
Roy looked at the house that the military had given Al to be his home and lab. It was a bit isolated out in the countryside. Roy worried about Al even more. The bodies had been found not too far from this area—would Al be able to defend himself? The kid was a tough fighter yes, but still so thin and small and vulnerable. There was no invincible armor at his side to come to his rescue.
Roy rang the bell and waited. It seemed a long time before he heard the sound of a deadbolt being pulled and Al peeked through a crack out at him. There was a moment's pause and then Al opened the door fully.
"Come in," he said and then stepped back to let the older Alchemist past.
Roy's mind had been full of persuasive arguments, everything from cold reason to physically reminding Al of how good it felt to be held down and stroked and kissed to sweaty ecstasy. But as soon as he entered the house and got a good look at Al, all of those thoughts fled.
Al had changed into a tank top and shorts. Across his arms and legs and throat were long thin bruises, some fresh, some green with age. There was a fresh pink mark on his upper cheek that hadn't been there at the meeting that morning.
Roy noticed that Al walked tenderly.
"I'm glad you came," Al said. "I've thought about what you said earlier, and maybe I was too hasty saying 'never.'"
"Did a lover give you those marks?" asked Roy, ignoring Al's conciliatory overture.
Al stopped in the hall and turned his head just a bit, but didn't fully face Roy. "Yes," he said after a moment.
Everything made sense then. Al's sudden coldness, their break up, even the change in clothing style could be at this other's insistence. Roy wondered with anger who the abusive rival was. "He is no good for you. You need to break it off."
Al continued walking, leading Roy to the kitchen. "It's not that easy, Roy. You see, it's my fault he is this way. He honestly doesn't want to hurt me. He loves me, but... " Al fetched a cup from the cupboard. "Would you like some tea? I was just having a cup when you arrived, the water is still warm."
"Sure," said Roy. Roy looked around the kitchen while Al poured the tea. It seemed tidy, quaint and homey. He turned back as Al stirred the sugar in. "You aren't responsible for his behavior," Roy said.
"I wish that were true. Ordinarily I'd agree with you, but it's just not the case here. It is completely my fault he is the way he is. I thought I was as bright as my brother—that I could do this sort of thing without him, but I couldn't. My idea was flawed. I'm trying to make up for it. I'm working as hard as I can, and there is some improvement, but it still isn't right yet."
Al handed him the tea. Roy sipped it without really tasting, his mind was too taken up with what Al was saying. "What is going on here, Al? Please be clear so I can help you."
Al's eyes were on Roy's cup. "I brought him back, Roy."
Roy stared. "Who?"
"My brother. Not all of him. Just his soul. I used the same array that had been on me. Only I didn't want him to be stuck in unfeeling armor, so I made him a body. Not a homunculus, a real body."
"Yes." The boy sighed. "I wanted him to be able to feel, the way I apparently couldn't. And I figured that I could reshape it to be better suited to him. Maybe he wouldn't stand out in a crowd like a freak the way I did all those years. Since it was made up of animal flesh I figured there was no soul for him to displace."
"Did it work?"
"Yes. Sort of." Al met Roy's eyes. "It IS him. He remembers everything. He talks the same, but the reshaping arrays haven't worked out the way I had hoped. He is helping me make them better, but sometimes there are ... bizarre side effects. He's not ready to be out in public yet."
"Human transmutation is a dangerous thing, Alphonse." Roy looked Al over. "What did you give up for his soul? I don't see anything missing."
Al shrugged. "That's the thing, the gate didn't TAKE anything from me. I offered up my arm, just the way he had, but the gate didn't take it." Al gazed on him with empty eyes.
Roy finished the tea. This didn't seem right, but Roy's mind was strangely foggy.
"Would you like some more?" Al asked.
Roy shook his head, it hadn't tasted that good and this conversation made his stomach a bit queasy.
"I owed him, Roy. After all he'd sacrificed for me, I owed it to him to bring him back. And now I owe it to him to make him better. He has needs. Powerful needs. And I just can't satisfy him by myself. I've tried."
Al stood up. "That's where I was hoping you could help me."
"Whatever I can do," offered Roy uncertainly.
"And I figure you owe it to us, considering what you did."
Roy frowned, there was that coldness in Al's voice again. "What I did? What did I do?"
Al's eyes were icy. "You really don't know, do you?"
Roy blinked. The room had gone somewhat hazy and his skin felt strangely numb. "No, I don't."
"You loved us." Al made it sound like a sin.
The room swam and went dark.
Roy woke up, cold and naked, on a hard bed with heaviness about his wrists. He looked up and found his hands cuffed and chained to two rings deeply embedded in the concrete at the head of the bed. Roy blinked. It was a dim in the windowless basement. He heard a watery sloshing sound from nearby. He turned his head and saw a large vat dripping with condensation.
"You are awake, " said Al. Roy turned and saw the boy sitting on the steps leading up the first floor. "That's good. I've talked to Niisan and he says he forgives you for the things you did to him. He promised to be gentle with you."
"Gentle?" Roy pulled the chains. They were firmly fixed.
"Gentle," repeated Al. "The way he is with me. Not like how he was to those other people. And now that you are here, maybe he won't need me to lure others in. That would be nice. It's getting harder to dispose of the bodies."
Roy's mind turned to the raped and mangled bodies Al had so coldly described in the meeting. "The psychopath... that was Ed?"
"He got carried away with them. It wasn't his fault. It was mine. I made him the way he is."
The vat sloshed again, louder.
"He has a hard time keeping his shape. But we are getting better. You can help us, " said Al. "It will be in your interest to get him back to normal. It will hurt less."
Something slid over the side of the tank. It was too dim to really see, but it looked long and slithery.
Roy turned back to Al who now hugged his knees like a little boy. "What the hell is that? What animals did you use?"
"A variety of things. Squid, jelly fish, monkey, rabbit, snake, everything I had on hand at the time—I figured I'd reshape it, so it didn't matter. And I did reshape it. It looked like Niisan when I attached his soul... but his form slips from time to time, especially when he is upset or... needy. "
An arm, surprisingly human, peeked up over the top of the vat. It gripped the edge then hauled itself up. Then another arm followed, and disconcertingly a leg, curling up over the edge to the knee. Roy swallowed dryly.
"Al, please, I'll help you and your brother if you release me."
"I can't do that Roy," said Al. "You'll just try to run away, or hurt him."
Another tentacle slid over the side and then suddenly a fat, dark blob followed it, falling to the cement floor with wet smack. The two arms and leg scrabbled ineffectively for a moment, then they seem to coordinate, pushing the mass towards the bed. Roy could see more features now, dark fur in places, and pale skin in others. There was a knob about the size of a head covered with long stringy blond hair.
"I try to keep him satisfied, but it's too much for just me, " said Al. "I tire too easily."
Roy's gorge rose. The thing pushed itself closer foot by foot. The head rose up and Roy could see Ed's face perfectly rendered. The soul array stood out red on its forehead. A long, wet lock of hair hung between its eyes, snaking along the nose, around the smiling mouth and past the chin.
"He's missed you."
Roy pulled harder at the chains. "Al," he said, angrily. "Don't let him touch me! This is wrong!"
Al just cocked his head. "But it wasn't when you wanted it? It didn't matter what me or Niisan said, did it? It was ok because you were horny. Well Niisan is horny, and I'm too tired and sore, so it's time for you to return the favor."
"That was different, " said Roy with desperation. It had been, damn it. The boys had wanted it. Roy had been sure. "You needed it, to distract you from your obsessions, to release your tension. You came every time. You enjoyed it. You liked it."
Al smiled, and looked on Roy with those strangely hollow eyes. "You'll learn to like this, too. I have."
Roy felt the hand curl around his ankle and then the blob pulled up onto the bed. He felt the moist weight undulating against his thighs and up over his torso. The rub of soft wet fur against his skin was curiously pleasant. Though he couldn't see it, he felt the burning hard length of an erection against his thigh. The head hovered over Roy's a second and then for the first time it talked.
"I love you," Ed said. Then he lowered his mouth and stifled Roy's screams.