"I'd like you to meet a colleague of mine," said Hohenheim. "Edward, this is Sir Rodney Winchester. Winchester, this is Edward Elric."
Sir Rodney Winchester held out his right hand, then awkwardly switched to his left when Ed proffered that instead. "Lefty are you?" drawled the pale man. "I knew one of those." The handshake was so brief as to be almost non-existent.
Ed felt awkward again. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."
"Edward is quite intelligent, a prodigy. I'm sure he will be able to aide you as a research assistant."
"Yes, I'm sure. Would you like some tea, young man?" Winchester lead them into an opulent looking office. Ed gazed at maple wood bookshelves, and the layers of rugs on the floor. Brass knick-knacks of a nautical theme accented the room.
"Elric," said Winchester. "I'm not familiar with that name."
Ed was briefly surprised until he remembered that Hohenheim went by his first name in this world. Ed supposed he should feel grateful that he wouldn't have to adopt a different last name on top of everything else. It wouldn't do to have anyone guess their actual relationship, after all.
"He's from America," supplied Hohenheim.
"Ah, yes, a Yank, I thought I recognized your accent."
Ed felt at a loss. He was failing a test and he didn't even know the subject.
"Were you injured?" said Winchester doubtfully after watching him limp across the room. He handed Edward the tea with a careful hand, as though he might catch something if their skin touched.
"Yes, years ago. An accident. It didn't effect my brain." Ed felt a coldness infect his heart.
"There will be occasional lab work involved," said Winchester, doubtfully.
"That shouldn't be a problem," said Ed nervously. The man wouldn't stop looking at his right arm, which dangled as always ridged and unnatural by his side.
"He can do the work," assured Hohenheim.
Winchester smiled condescendingly. "Well, we can have a probationary period, I suppose. Three months at half pay. If he is as good as you say, I might shorten that."
Ed forced a smile on his face.
"Excellent, you won't be disappointed," said Hohenheim.
Ed woke with a crushing weight against him. The room was dark but for the street light coming through the window. The mattress yielded with a noisy creak. Warm breath snuffled in his ear and the weight moved, lifted itself, repositioned. Hardness stroked his inner thigh.
This is what lovers do, thought Ed. They sacrifice for the other's pleasure. I can sleep later. Ed worried a little about being tired at work, but this had happened before, and Ed had always managed.
"Ah," said Hohenheim. "Ah?" It was almost questioning in it's tone.
The weight let up and then the hands came, roaming his chest, down his belly to his groin. Large, soft, desparate hands grabbed him and rubbed. Ed responded the way he always did. It had once made him ashamed, but he'd read up on biology, and he thought he understood now.
This is what lovers do, Ed thought to himself. They enjoy each others touches.
There was a brief, inevitable pause, and Hohenheim rolled away for a minute. One...two... three... And the weight was back, rolling him over. The hand that gripped him now was slippery and moist.
"Uh," said Hohenheim. "Up."
Ed went to his knees and relaxed. The springs sang a long unhappy note. Ed harmonized in a deeper key.
This is what lovers do, they accommodate each other.
Hohenhiem pushed, and Ed pushed back, and somehow they met in the middle. The movements were not difficult and the pleasure was real. The sweat and messy secretions and inevitable aches were acceptable, and hardly worth even noting, because it did feel hot, and shameless, and decadent.
When at last they finished they exchanged soft I-love-yous.
Because that's what lovers do. They love each other.
"What a git," said Brian. "I can't believe how well you put up with him, Ed."
Ed put the cold mug down. "It's a job." He felt shyly pleased to have been invited to the pub, but he supposed he shouldn't have been surprised. Over the last month Winchester's graduate students had noticed him. After their initial curiosity about his condition and his origins died down, they had come to respect him for who he was, rather than what he looked like. It felt good to talk with intellectual equals... other than Hohenheim. He wondered what they would think if they knew what his benevolent patron did to him night after night.
"Bloody job," muttered the graduate student. "You do all the work and he writes it up and submits it."
"Now, now," said one of Brian's friends. Ed didn't know his name. "We don't go talking down our betters."
"Betters, pshaw," Brian waved his hand. "Because his blood is blue, doesn't make him a better man. Science doesn't care a bit about breeding or which of Sir Rodney's distant ancestors went down on his knees to get a piece of land. Intellect is all that matters. The American's have this one right, don't they Edward."
Ed couldn't speak for Americans, but Amestria certainly didn't care about a person's genealogy. Only their talent, intelligence, strength and ruthlessness. Once again Ed felt a keen pang of homesickness. Even after a year he had difficulty understanding the quirky value system of the English.
"I'm in England now," said Ed. "I suppose I better respect the man. I need the money."
Ed good mood evaporated the moment he opened the door and saw Hohenheim glaring at him.
"Where were you?" he asked. "It's late."
"I had a pint with some of the grad students after work," said Ed. "I left a message with the landlady."
Hohenheims expression shifted, from anger to understanding, to something cold and indecipherable. "Ah. Friends, pleasant company I imagine. Well, I suppose it has gotten a bit stale here. Not very exiting."
Ed took off his coat slowly. He sensed a dangerous mood and wondered if perhaps a second trip to the pub might be a good idea.
"How about we play a game," said Hohenheim closing in on Ed. "You used to like to spar with your brother. We could fight."
Ed stopped unbuttoning his coat. "That's crazy. Have you been drinking?" He saw the fire in Hohenheim's eyes.
"Fight me. Try to get away."
Ed turned and grabbed the doorknob but Hohenheim was already on him, grabbing him around the waist from behind. Ed tried to pry his arms off with his one good hand, but quickly saw the futility in that.
Well if Hohenheim wanted a fight, he was going to get one. Ed let out his pent up rage in a great cathartic rush. He kicked and screamed and clawed behind him. He squirmed and butted his head against Hohenheims chest. His fingernails caught on tweed.
He realized Hohenheim was dragging him through the door into the bedroom, and that just made him struggle more furiously, but Hohenheim's grip was like iron, bruising him about the middle. For one second Ed's legs were lifted high off the floor and then he was flying through the air. He hit the mattress, and heard it's loud miserable wail of protest.
The arm, the useless stupid plastic doll arm shifted to the side, just enough to hurt in a distracting way. Ed's good arm instintictivly reached to push it back where it belonged. Hohenheim used that moment to flip him roughly over onto his back, and start clawing his coat and shirt open.
"Stop it," yelled Ed. A button broke free and went flying. Alchemy would not repair his clothes. He'd have to find that button and sew it back on. Ed's fury rose even higher. He felt his hair grow damp with sweat.
"Fight me," said Hohenheim, and grabbed the two edges of Ed's shirt and ripped them apart. Buttons flew everywhere, and the fabric tore.
Ed balled his left fist and plowed it into Hohenheims face as hard as he could. It had been a year since he'd properly fought anyone, but his muscles still remembered what to do. Hohenheims head snapped back in a most satisfying way.
"Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it, FATHER!"
Hohenheims fist came down like a sledgehammer against Ed's cheek. For a moment all Ed could do was lie and wait until his head stopped spinning and his vision cleared up.
In that time Hohenheim had removed the clothes from his lower body. Ed became aware of his prosthetic leg shifting and falling away. The nerves in his stump signaled their relief, but the rest in his body tingled painfully with adrenaline.
"Why are you doing this?" Ed asked.
Hohenheim didn't answer. He unlatched the arm, and it, too fell away. Ed panted, aware that his ninety crippled pounds were no match for the older man's unnatural strength. The unfairness hurt more than anything.
Hohenheim leaned down to kiss him, and Ed kicked him with his one good leg.
Hohenheim leaned back. "You can stop fighting me," he said, pinning Ed's one wrist with one hand and pressing his one knee against the mattress with the other. "I got you."
The new prosthetic arm was something of an apology and a bribe. Ed accepted it, looking approvingly at the segmented fingers and the skinny shafts of metal that made up the upper and lower arm. It wasn't automail, and it wouldn't function like it, but it was better than the first prosthesis, which was almost purely cosmetic. This one could close its fingers and bend at the elbow when Ed flexed his pectorals or back muscles.
They didn't talk about that night, but things had shifted irrevocably between them. Ed didn't go drinking with his buddies anymore, which pleased Hohenheim. But he also no longer talked much to Hohenheim. Instead he returned from work and buried himself in his books, making it clear that the only thing he wanted in life was to get home and back to his brother.
Ed let Hohenheim strap it on and tested it, pleased at the way the metal hand made a fist. "This is good, old man."
Hohenheim smiled bitterly. Ed was getting independent, and this new prothesis only helped him along in that regard. It made a fitting punishment for trying to hold on too tightly to what Hohenheim probably shouldn't have in the first place.
"I love you," Hohenheim said.
There was a long pause. "Yeah. You, too." Ed didn't meet his eye.
One of these days soon Ed would not be coming home. Hohenheim sensed it. Brute force wouldn't keep him, only subtly, seduction, and need. And for the last Hohenheim already had a plan.
"I'm moving us to Germany."
Ed stiffened. "I don't speak German."
"I'll teach you."
"I have a job."
"I'll get you another one."
"I don't want to go."
Hohenheim reached out to touch his hair again, but Ed flinched back. "There is a group in Germany who claim they can do alchemy. I'm going there to investigate them. If they can do as they say, perhaps we can get you home."
Ed met his eye and Hohenheim could see the internal fight. Then suddenly Ed sighed and made a fist with his prosthesis again.
"Okay," said Ed.
Hohenheim smiled and gathered Ed back up in his arms, beautiful, brilliant, and once again dependent. It felt very right.