velvet mace


The phone rang again. Ed swore under his breath and turned the burner off and stomped off to pick it up. Goddamn it, if he didn't absolutely have to have that phone for his consulting business, he would have ripped it out of the wall. This was the fifth time it had rung in the last hour. Each time the person had just listened when he answered.

Ed yanked the receiver roughly off of its cradle. "Hello!" he said forcing his voice into some semblance of politeness. After all, it could be a client.

No hello. No threats. Not even heavy breathing—not that Ed wanted some pervert calling him but at least that would make sense. Just silence and a bit of ambient background noise to let Ed know that someone out there was listening to him for however long Ed was willing to maintain the connection. Nothing, but some vague leaf noises and clicks.

"Goddamn you," Ed growled. "I swear, I'm going to hunt you down and transmute you into a frog. Don't think I can't do it."

There was just the faintest stifled laugh—more of a high hick than anything else.

"Talk you asshole. Why are you calling me? If this is some kind of prank—" Then I am playing right into it, Ed realized. He slammed the receiver down.

The phone rang again.

Ed grabbed the receiver and snarled into it, "FUCK YOU!"


Ed had the receiver half way back to the cradle before he registered the voice. Then it was like a bolt of electricity ran through him. His hairs stood on end and he felt a painful tingle in his fingers. Breathing hard he pulled the receiver back up to his ear. "Al? AL? Is that you?"

It had sounded just like Al, but no it couldn't be. Al was dead. The funeral was over, and Ed had accepted it already. He'd accepted it like another missing limb, but he accepted it. There were entire hours that passed when he didn't think about it.

Could this be a ghost? Was Al somehow phoning him from beyond? Nonsense. Ghosts didn't exist. Whoever was crank calling was definitely human, not some poltergeist.

"You aren't Al," said Ed, bitterly, more to himself than to the jerk on the other end of the line. "I hope you sleep poor tonight, whoever you are. Playing on someone's grief is sick."

"Brother," said the voice again. "I'm sorry." The pain in the words was tangible.

That was Al. It had to be. And since there were no such thing as ghosts, that meant that Al was alive. And that meant the military had lied about his death. Ed's chest tightened and his eyes grew moist. This was his most painful, impossible fantasy come true.

"Al!" Ed said, his heart beating so hard he felt a pang of worry that it might rupture. He clutched the front of his shirt with his suddenly sweaty human hand, while he tried not to break the phone with his automail. "Al, talk to me. Is it you?"

"It's me, Ed," said Al, the voice was hesitant. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called. I just wanted to hear your voice. I just wanted—I didn't want you grieving for me. I'm fine."

"Al where the fuck are you?" Ed looked around the small apartment, his eyes not seeing the chipped plaster walls or the stacks of paper on the desk. He zoned in on a large photograph of Al, taken by Hawkeye a year ago. There his brother stood looking like Ed had never seen him in the flesh. Fourteen years old, wirey, long hair tied back and pulled over his shoulder, wearing the same goddamn outfit that Ed loved to wear when he was fourteen.

Four years it had taken for Ed to figure a way back to Amestris, and when he'd finally got there, he was informed his brother had joined the military and was on assignment. They'd shared three insanely expensive, long phone calls, and then suddenly nothing for nearly four months. Breathing down the Military's throat for an answer to what had happened to Al, Ed got nothing but the runaround.

Then finally that horrible phone call: "I'm sorry, son. He's dead. He fell down the stairs and broke his neck."

Ed hadn't believed it. After all Al had been through he couldn't have just fallen down a flight of stairs. It was too damn ordinary. No, he must have died on some mission. Maybe that's why they never let Ed have the body back.

It hadn't occurred to him that they would lie about the death itself. Why the hell would the military want him to believe his own brother was dead? Why hadn't Al called him and told him otherwise? They'd been calling Al dead for six months!

"Don't be mad at me, Brother."

"Oh Al, I love you. I thought I lost you." Ed let out a laugh of relief, "God, I've missed you." Ed's hand was shaking hard. Hope, happiness, and betrayal mixed heavily in his chest.

"I've missed you too." Ed could hear the tears in Al's voice.

Anger began to prickle out from his chest, and Ed felt his face redden. Without warning it burst from his lips. "Why the fuck didn't you tell me you were alive? You know I've been fucking crying over you for months? I arranged a funeral and everything."

"I know," Al's voice came back, choked. "I'm sorry, Ed. I couldn't. I—this is the first time I've had access to a phone. I shouldn't have called now, but I just wanted you to know, I'm okay. You don't need to be sad about me."

Oh, that wasn't good enough. That was twenty million miles short of being good enough. Ed was going to kill Al for this. Then resurrect him and kill him again, until that jerk learned not to torture his older brother this way.

"Where are you Al." Ed scrambled for a piece of paper and a pen, knocking over a stack of diagrams and an empty glass in the process. "I'll be right over there. You can apologize to me long and hard when I get there. And believe me I'm going to want a full explanation for why the fuck you put me through this."

There was a long hesitation. "You can't. I can't—we can't meet, Ed."

Ed's stomach dropped. "What are you talking about? Are you undercover? Fuck the military, undercover never stop us from being together in the past."

There was the sound of a car engine suddenly shutting off in the background.

"I—I have to go Ed. I'll try to call you back. Don't try to find me. And don't—don't be mad at—anyone about my death. Promise me that. Don't be mad."

"Al, don't hang up on me!"

"I'm sorry, brother." There was a creak of a door in the background.

"Al," shouted Ed. "Tell me where you are!"

"I love you, Ed." The connection clicked off.

Noooo! Ed put down the receiver and waited for a call back. He rubbed his sweating palm against his canvas pants, while his stomach fluttered, and his ears rang. Minutes ticked by slowly, but the phone remained stubbornly silent. Gradually both fury and joy began to subside, and rational thought returned.

—don't be mad at anyone—

How the fuck could Ed promise that. He was furious at the military. They had lied to him. They had kept Al from him—his only goddamn relative. Fuck, they'd even paid for his funeral. So many fucking military members had been there, while he gave his eulogy? How many of them knew?

Mustang knew. Ed realized. That's why Mustang hadn't come to the funeral. Of course that fucker knew. Ed remembered meeting Mustang at his house and listening to him rattle out the details of how his brother fell down the dormitory stairs. Mustang, MUSTANG had lied, had kept this from him. Unforgivable.

Mustang knew. Mustang was damn well going to TELL him where his brother was.

With single-minded efficiency, Ed shut down his consulting business. He spent the morning in a series of phone calls, canceling jobs. The afternoon was spent concocting arrays for the few he couldn't beg out of. By evening he was unemployed. Who knew how long it would take to find Al and take down those who'd conspired to feign his death. Ed would keep hunting until every cenz he'd earned in the last 9 months was spent.

The next morning, he dropped a pile of envelopes off at the post office, the last vestiges of obligation. Walking away from the counter, Ed felt somehow lighter, as though he'd shed years and responsibility along with his job. It almost made him long to put on his old traveling clothes. He settled for packing a small suitcase, similar to the one he used to have, and he left the key to his apartment with his neighbor. When he slid behind the driver's seat of his car he felt more alive than he had for years.

He didn't dare tell anyone what he was doing for fear they'd tip off the military. Paranoia made Ed drive in circles a few times around the neighborhood before heading out on the narrow two-lane highway in the direction of Mustang's suburban home.

It all caught up to him as the winter fog finally lifted from the road. Ed pulled over onto the grass next to a cow pasture. He leaned forward and pressed his forehead against the cool steering wheel. He felt a migraine building up and his chest seemed tighter than it had since the funeral.

Why the fuck had Mustang lied to him? After all he and Al had done for Mustang. Sure they had had their differences, and Mustang had occasionally lied in the past, but always for good reason, and never in such hurtful way.

"Roy hasn't been himself since the night Fuhrer Bradley disappeared."

Ed remembered the awkwardness in Riza's voice as she apologized. Ed wasn't the only feeling betrayed and abandoned when Mustang didn't show up at Al's funeral. Riza and Jean seemed very perturbed. Underneath the excuses and rationalizations, they worried about what Mustang's behavior meant.

"There was some brain damage," Riza explained at the reception after the memorial service. She looked oddly vulnerable in her dress blues, and she brushed her hands compulsively against the wrinkle free skirt. Ed noticed a faint blush of embarrassment on her face as she defended her former C.O.s indefensible behavior. "Not a lot, but his personality was affected."

"How so?" Ed asked. Mustang had seemed himself the two times Ed had seen him.

"He's more prone to fits of anger and broodiness. Less rational. He lost a lot of his touch." Riza pursed her lips and took a sip of punch. Then her brown eyes met Ed's. "I'm not saying it was a big difference. It was pretty subtle and anyone who hadn't met him before would think that he was normal. But—compared to what he used to be, he just wasn't as keyed in to others. He isn't officer material anymore."

"To be honest," said Jean, lankily leaning over Riza's chair. "He stayed on in the military a lot longer than I thought he would. Once it became obvious he was never going to have any rank again—" Jean let his voice die out, and the two officers exchanged an uncomfortable look.

The conversation had moved on after that, but now Ed's mind lingered over the words. Maybe Mustang hadn't retired after all. Maybe he had lied about his brother in order to somehow earn his rank back. That asshole would do anything to rise in the ranks, and if brain damage prevented him from using his former savvy—

It was a theory.

Whatever the reason, Mustang had cooperated in this farce. He was clearly the enemy, and as such, anything he said was suspect. Maybe what Ed wanted was not to confront him at all, but rather to take his secrets from him covertly. If Mustang were still working for the military, he'd have files in his house. Papers. Evidence of where Al might be and what possible mission would require telling Al's only living family that he was dead.

It was possible for Ed to be stealthy when he wanted to be.

Ed arrived at Mustang's place around mid-afternoon. He parked across the street. A tall, thick holly hedge surrounded the small suburban house, leaving nothing but a small section of curved driveway and a bit of sky-blue siding exposed to the street. Ed cursed that he couldn't see in the windows without being terribly obvious. He could see a bit of Mustang's car. It wasn't much info, but enough.

For almost an hour nothing happened and Ed began to doubt the whole staking-out approach, but then he saw the car jerk to life and back out slowly into the street. Ed ducked down low, so he couldn't be seen, and when he heard the engine fade away down the street, he sat up again.

Now was his chance.

Ed got out of his car quickly and walked to the front door. There was a rather oversized "No Soliciting or Else" sign that made Ed quirk up an eyebrow. The array around the knob was so faint that he almost didn't see it before he put his hand on the door. Goddamn it, he thought looking at the obscure symbols. That would have given him a hell of a shock. When had Mustang gotten into that kind of array?

Ed looked and saw the gate to the side yard. He picked up a stick and flipped the latch up and pushed it open. Nothing happened. He then walked across the paved path through the narrow side garden to the back yard. There on the patio sat a wheelchair.

Ed stopped and stared at the chair for a moment. Why the hell did Roy have a wheelchair sitting in the middle of his yard? Sure the man walked with a cane, but he did walk. Deep in his gut he felt a flutter of warning, the chair meant something ominous, but Ed didn't know what.

Reluctantly he turned his back on it, and walked up the ramp to the kitchen door. There was no array on this door, but it was locked. Locked to someone other than Ed that is. With a clap of his hands and a solid press against the metal screen, Ed rendered the lock useless. A moment later he swung it outward and stepped inside.

The heat of the house was amazing, almost sweltering compared to the cold dry winter air. Come to think of it, it had been hot last time he'd called on Mustang as well. Ed looked over and noticed the thermostat on the kitchen wall. It was set at seventy-eight degrees. Ed shook his head. Mustang's gas bill must be rather high.

Ed tossed away the thought almost as soon as it came. Mustang's quirks were not the important thing. The man must have some information about his brother somewhere, but who knows where and what it would look like. Ed needed to get a move on before the guy got back.

A quick search of the one story house yielded no office, but there were three bedrooms, all of which were empty but appeared to be in use. Ed lingered longest in the third and smallest bedroom. There were disturbing signs here: A mattress set on the floor; table with an open pack of latex gloves on it; A stack of cloth diapers of the sort used for adults. Lotion and petroleum jelly. Medical tape and gauze. Tubing. An oxygen tank. And everywhere a faint, pervasive sour-sick smell.

Mustang hadn't mentioned an invalid when Ed had visited. On the pillow were a few strands of long honey-blond hair.

I'm okay. Al said. I couldn't get to the phone

Ed shook his head to clear the sudden half formed thoughts. He didn't know anything at this point, other than maybe, just maybe, Al had lain on this bed at one time. There was no reason to jump to conclusions.

Ed doubled back to a locked door near the kitchen. It's placement suggested that it might be to a deep closet or basement, but when it didn't yield immediately, he'd put off opening it until he'd checked out everything else.

Ed clapped his hands together and put them on the heavy door. He heard the comforting click of the breaking open. He wasn't sure what made him hesitate then and look up, but he was glad he did. The door was trapped after all.

Mustang had taped a strip of paper firmly to top of the door in such a way that opening the door would cause it to rip in two. In the middle of the paper was a suspicious array.

Ed pulled up a dining room chair to stand on and carefully pulled the paper off. The array was drawn so small that it was almost impossible to read all the sigils and ruins on it. He recognized the outermost rings to be a containing circle, something that held the inner alchemical reaction in stasis. In the middle was an array that turned air into a rather potent anesthetic. Had Ed torn the paper, he would have been knocked unconscious before he had any idea what was happening to him.

Ed felt a sudden surge of pleasure. Whatever Mustang was keeping behind that door must be good to put up that kind of protection. Though honestly, the old man should have made a better effort to hide or disguise that trap. Even an ordinary burglar could have disarmed it the way it was put up.

It was almost as if it were meant to keep someone IN the basement, rather than someone out of it.

Oh shit.

Ed flung the door open. His heart was hammering again, this time with a mixture of excitement and terror. Immediately his nose was assaulted by a strange briny smell. He heard a clanking sound and a muffled moan from down below.

Ed didn't actually remember going down the wooden stairs. It was possible he flew because one minute he was going through the doorway to the dim basement steps, the next he was standing on the concrete floor staring disbelief and horror at his brother.

It took a moment to take the whole scene in, because even in parts it was too much for his heart to handle. Ed saw a mattress much like the one in the small bedroom. It was covered with a plain white sheet. He saw a thick concrete supporting beam with a series of heavy metal rings embedded in it. Metal cuffs bound gloved hands together. Ed's eyes flitted over naked thighs, the curve of a hipbone, the plain of a bare stomach. He saw blond hair, spilling loose over narrow shoulders and wide, wide eyes staring at him with a mixture of shame and longing.

He saw a tail covered in white fur, flicking and twitching the way a dress up tail couldn't. White tufted ears lowered even as Al's eyebrows peaked up. A gag bit into his brother's mouth and something—something thick and dark and glistening lay buried between his brother's thighs.

For a moment Ed could do nothing but stare at all these things and not make any sense of them. But then, like bullets smashing through his chest everything started to make sense. Al was not okay. Al was being held prisoner against his will, being used, abused, experimented on, by some sadistic, pedophile of an alchemist.

By Mustang.

"He hasn't been himself since the night Fuhrer Bradley disappeared."

No. Fucking. Shit.

Ed moved, slowly at first, but then quicker as the violence inside him welled up past his threshold to contain it. In one clap and a touch and the chains fell loose from one of the rings buried in the support beam. Then the cuffs broke free of Al's wrists. Finally, as gently as he could with shaking fingers, Ed loosened and removed the gag.

He tried not to look as Al pulled the—the thing—oh god it was huge—from between his legs. He tried not to notice that it was thrumming. That his brother was clearly affected by it.

Instead he grabbed his brother's shoulders in a hard embrace and kissed his cheeks. "I'm sorry. Oh, god," he said. "Al. If I'd known—Why didn't you tell me? Are you hurt."

Of course Al was hurt. The ears, the tail, the obscene thing.

"It's okay, Ed," said Al, petting him, kissing his cheek and neck and ear. "I'm sorry you had to see me like this. I—don't be angry. I'm just so happy to see you."

"No, this is not okay, Al." Ed's stomach hardened even further. "We got to get out of here. I don't know what kind of messed up thing Mustang has going here, but I'm not going to let him continue it."

Ed's mind fastened on to practicalities, because they were safer to think about than to let his mind wander over all the horrible things Al must have endured in the last 6 months. Al would be cold outside—he didn't have anything on. Ed pulled out of his brother's grip, trying to ignore the strange hot touch when his hand inadvertently brushed against Al's erection. He pulled off his coat and pushed it at Al. "Here. I'll—I'll look for more clothes."

"I can't go with you," Al said.

Ed's scanning eyes flew over the huge yellow vat in the back of the room, and the work table and the pile of sexual stuff that he didn't want to see. Nothing really made sense, especially not what Al was saying.

"I have a car, the hood of my jacket will cover your ears. We'll go somewhere where they won't find us. I'll work on getting you back to normal."

"I can't go with you, Ed." Al's voice sounded pained.

"What are you talking about?" Ed found his voice so high that he hardly recognized it himself. "I can't leave you here. Not like this. You have to trust me, I'll figure something. I'll find a surgeon—"

"No!" said Al. He dropped the coat and closed the distance to Ed. "I can't go with you Ed. I shouldn't have called you. That was my fault. I just wanted to hear your voice."

"If you don't trust me—" said Ed desperately.

"It's not a matter of trust," said Al. Suddenly he grabbed Ed's hand and brought it to his hard bobbing cock. "It's this."

Ed shrieked as if he'd been burned and tried to pull his hand away but Al held it firm. After a brief struggle the shock began to fade and he stopped resisting. Al wanted him to hold his cock. It was wrong, but maybe Al figured Ed owed it to him. Maybe Ed did. "What are—" Ed tried to find words for what was going on, and all the profound and deeply mixed emotions he was feeling. "God, Al."

Al closed Ed's fingers around his cock and pushed them, forcing them up and down his length. Ed numbly let him, his eyes fixed on the look of intense need, and misery on Al's face.

Al needs this, Ed thought. It's the least I can do for him. Ed took over, stroking Al the way he would himself. This was so far removed from how he figured their reunion would be, but he couldn't deny Al anything he wanted. If Al wanted a hand job, he was damn well going to give Al a hand job. He'd give him a thousand hand jobs. Anything. Anything.

Al suddenly pushed him away and threw himself on the mattress. "I'm sorry, Brother. I shouldn't—I needed to know, but it doesn't work. You aren't him."

"Al," said Ed. "Please. I can't say I understand what he did to you. But please, whatever it is I'll help you if you let me. You have to come with me now."

"I can't." Al rolled on to his back. "It's embarrassing, Brother."

"You don't have to be embarrassed. I'll understand everything. It's not your fault, he forced you. As for that—it's normal for guys your age to get—" Ed looked involuntarily at his brother's erection. It hadn't softened at all. "Anyway, all guys jack off. And you had that thing in you. I've heard stories—"

Al squirmed and then curled into ball. "I'm not like all guys, Ed. In fact I'm not like any guy anymore. I need to come really bad. But I can't. He's the only one who can make me come."

"That's ridiculous, Al." Ed sat down and stroked Al's back. He half expected Al to flinch away, but he didn't. Instead he pressed into the touch and Ed was a little surprised to hear a deep rumbling purr. This is just sick, thought Ed, petting his brother. But he couldn't let Al know he thought that. Al was in bad enough shape without having to shoulder Ed's embarrassment. "If you need relief, I can do it, or someone else, or even yourself. It's okay if you jack yourself off."

"I can't, Brother," said Al miserably, hiding his deep flush in the crook of his elbow. "It's the way he made me, so that I can't come unless he fucks me. I need his scent. He wired that into me, all the way to my core when he put me in this body. He used a cat, Brother, a cat in heat."

"That fucker," said Ed under his breath. "Why the fuck did he do that?"

Al seemed to think about it a moment. "He wasn't dating anymore. I think, deep down, he was lonely. But it wasn't his fault, the Gate did something to his personality. He's not the same person he used to be."

"Yeah, he's evil," said Ed.

Al suddenly flinched away from Ed's touch. He turned on Ed with a snarl on his face and a frightening look in his eyes. "He's not evil, Brother. He's a good man. I don't want you to say anything bad about him. He did this because he loves me."

Ed opened his mouth. He felt completely without words. What Al had said was so completely, utterly, absurdly wrong, and yet he could see in Al's eyes that his brother wasn't going hear any argument to the contrary. When Ed finally found his voice is was weak. "I love you, too, Al. Please, just let me help you."

It was brainwashing. It had to be. Ed had heard of people who'd been kidnapped and tortured eventually becoming fanatical followers of their captors. Something in the way the mind coped with stress made it possible for victims to actually sympathize with their abusers and fight against rescue. He shouldn't take Al's rejection personally.

If I have to fight him to get him the help he needs, so be it. "I'm going to get you some clothes, Al, I'll be right back down. You just stay there."

"Ed, forget about me," said Al. "You need to go. Now. He'll be back soon."

"Not soon enough it looks like," came a deep drawling voice from the stairs. Ed spun around and saw Roy limping down.

"Roy!" said Al, in a voice mixed with excitement and fear.

Ed saw Roy's face darken, and turned to see Al huddle sheepishly against the post.

"Mustang," said Ed, taking charge of the situation before Roy could torment Al any further. "I'm taking Al, and I suggest you make yourself really lost before the authorities find you. I don't know how you fucking justified this to the military. Hell I don't know how you justify it to yourself. But it's not acceptable. I'm going to see you go to prison for a long, long time."

Mustang reached the bottom of the stairs and crossed his hands across his chest. He didn't look the least bit frightened or ashamed. "Al isn't going anywhere, Edward."

Ed turned to Al. "Put the coat on, he can't stop you."

"I can't," said Al. He was hiding his face in his knees.

Ed turned back to his nemesis. Roy's smile hit Ed's stomach like a punch. "He doesn't want to leave, Ed."

Ed reached down and grabbed Al's upper arm. Al resisted. Ed looked around at the room again hoping to see some way to make it easier to get his brother up the stairs. Damn it. "I'm not leaving him here with you," he snarled at Roy.

"Do you see, Al," said Roy. "This is exactly what I told you would happen if you tried to contact him. He would have been happier not knowing."

"The hell I would," yelled Ed. "Don't believe this fucker, Al. I'm your brother, I know what's best for you."

"You need to listen to me, Al," said Roy. "We belong together. Neither of us can fight it. And no one can interfere with it."

Ed gave up on trying to find some way to hoist Al. He needed to confront Roy first. Once Roy was down for the count, it would be easier to get Al to cooperate.

"Watch me interfere." Ed clapped his hands together. Roy wasn't wearing his gloves, he'd be at a distinct disadvantage. With a swift well-practiced motion, Ed waved his flesh hand over his automail arm, transmuting it into a sharp blade. He didn't want to kill Roy, but if he had to hurt the man really bad, well, he could live with that. Mustang deserved it after all the horrible things he'd done to Al.

Roy stumbled back a pace as Ed lunged. His blade missed the man by inches. Ed whirled, Mustang's balance was terrible, the fight horribly unmatched. Even brain damaged, the bastard had to realize he was outmatched. He'd have to give in.

"Stop, Brother," wailed Al. "Stop, don't hurt him, please," and Al threw himself between them. Before Ed could do anything Al grabbed Ed just above his automail elbow and stopped his arm.

"Al," said Ed, exasperated. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Roy bring his hands together in a clap. The world seemed to slow down. Realization struck like lightning. He's seen it! He's seen the gate

Then the air in Ed's mouth and nose seemed to turn sharp, and his eyes closed.

Ed woke to a buzzing in his head and a sour feeling in his stomach. "Don't hurt him," he heard Al saying. I'm not hurting anyone, was Ed's thought but then he realized that Al wasn't talking to him.

Adrenaline hit his bloodstream as he realized his predicament. He opened his eyes and tried to make sense of his situation. In front of him stood Al and Mustang, holding each other. Al's head was pressed against Mustang's chest and shoulder. Mustang's hands were stroking his Al's loose long hair slowly. "Let him go," said Al. "Please."

"Al!" Ed said, or rather he tried to say. The strange feeling in his mouth resolved itself into a gag. Ed twisted around assessing his situation. He was not surprised to find his automail arm detached. That Roy had bothered to remove the leg as well was a bit worrisome. Ed was no stranger to abduction, but none of his previous captors even considered the damage a well-aimed kick could produce.

Mustang obviously did, as evidenced by the fact that Ed's right leg had been strapped in such a way as to prevent him from straightening it out. Even through the fabric of his pants he could feel the cold bite of solid steel bands on either side of his knee holding his calf tight against his thigh.

His remaining hand was held to his chin by means of a stout metal cuff, a very short length of chain, and another band of metal that encircled his neck. Craning his head around he saw that he was now chained by a short leash to support post.

This was distressingly similar to the position Al had been in when he'd first entered the basement. At least, unlike Al, Ed still had his clothes on. This could be a LOT worse.

Ed felt his nausea deepen as he saw Mustang's mouth brush against Al's forehead in a bizarrely tender kiss, and heard the rumble of his brother's purr. How could Al purr while he was chained up right next to him. Ed tried to hold off the feeling of betrayal. Mustang did this to him. It's Mustang's fault

"He'll make good on his threats," Roy said. "He'll try to separate us. If he brings in the military—they won't be pleased with me, but they will find you fascinating—in all the wrong ways." Mustang paused to sweep the hair from Al's eyes. "You know I won't let the military abuse you again. I won't let anything bad happen to you."

Al, don't listen! He's messing with your mind!

But Al didn't hear his thoughts, and instead tilted his head back and accepted a passionate kiss from the Enemy. Ed turned his head away and dry heaved around the gag. A thin trickle of green bile flowed past his lips and onto the mattress, but Ed found himself swallowing most of it back down again.

"I've given this scenario some thought," Mustang said matter-of-factly. Against Ed's better judgment, he looked back at the two. Al was still pressed close to Roy, but now stared at him with clear worry. Anger and frustration built up in Ed's belly. He caught Al's eyes and tried to convey his wishes with his expression alone.

Al hit him, kick him, something. Together we can overcome him!

Al, help me.

Al broke eye contact after only a second and buried his face back in Mustang's chest.

"In a way," Mustang continued. "It might be a good thing that he's found out. It allows me to conduct an experiment that might make you happier, and resolve some troubles that I've been having at the same time."

"Experiment?" Al repeated, alarmed. "Don't do anything with his body!"

Oh hell no. Ed writhed in his bonds, trying to slide his hand out of the cuff, but it fit his wrist far too perfectly. The movement made Ed's head spin.

"Don't worry, I'm not thinking transmutation." Mustang chuckled. "Creating you was hard enough, and even there, I'm afraid I made some mistakes."

Only some?

"I wanted you to want me, Al. And I suppose I was a bit too insecure. I was too enthusiastic and I didn't think through the implications of binding your so closely." Mustangs voice lowered to a gently whisper that Ed could only barely hear. "I wanted you to stay with me."

"I do need you," said Al. "I love you, but, I love my brother, too, in a different way. Please don't make me choose."

"I won't. And I think if he understands the situation you might not need to. Ed, are you listening?"

No, jerk, I'm thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner.

"You can quit trying to kill me with your eyes, I'm not the enemy here." Roy's hand slid down into Al's, giving it a quick squeeze before Roy knelt, slowly and carefully down on the mattress. "We have the same goals. We both want what is best for Al. We both would sacrifice anything for him. At least I would."

The hell you would. Ed let his eyes drift over at the selection of toys lined up on the table. Looks like a pretty self-indulgent definition of sacrifice to me.

Mustang followed his gaze and nodded. "You've jumped to conclusions, just the way I suspected you might. Put aside your preconceptions and indignation for a moment. I have never raped your brother. Not once. Those toys are for his benefit, not mine."

Ed blinked very slowly, hoping his complete and utter disbelief would translate.

Roy sighed. "Not everyone can adhere to your prudish standards of decency, don't be so quick to judge Al or me. Give me a chance to explain."

Ed wished he could shut off his ears because he didn't want to hear Mustang justifications. Nonetheless they seeped in. Ed flinched as the Colonel described the shotgun blast that tore away Al's face, and he found himself listening with rapt attention at Roy's efforts to restore his brother. The medical equipment, the wheelchair, the diapers all made grotesque sense.

But that didn't make up for what Mustang had done to his brother. While making Al a chimera made perfect sense—if Ed had the time or alchemical knowledge nine years ago he would have chosen an alchemical clone over a suit of armor—giving Al animal features did not. What's more, Ed certainly wouldn't have made such a hash of Al's sexuality. That by itself more than negated any altruism Roy may have shown.

Ed noticed ruefully that Mustang made no attempt to justify that part of Al's condition. The closest he came was a vague, "I went too far."

"The question isn't so much what I did to Al," said Roy, "But what you and I can do for him now that that is done. He needs sex, Ed, in a way you and I can only vaguely understand. He needs it regularly or he suffers. And what's more it can't be with just anyone, it has to be with me. That's fixed and can't be changed, not even by me. And I'm afraid, as much as I'd like to, I can't keep up with him. I am just a man after all. I have my limitations.

"What's more, there are practical limitations. If I'm to support us at all comfortably, I need to be able to spend more than a few hours away at a time. I can make far more money if I am allowed to travel a bit from time to time and give lectures and demonstrations to larger audiences, but there is no way I could bring Al with me. Nor can I leave him here, suffering. It's a conundrum."

And whose fault is that?

"I've tried experiments with the toys," Mustang went on, "To see if by sheer dint of stimulation, I can overcome that psychological barrier, and once or twice it's worked and Al has come even without my presence. But only after extreme measures and a lot of time. It's hard to see him Al suffer so much for a paltry few hours of relief."

I bet.

"So, I suppose the question is, Ed, are you willing to sacrifice for your brother? Or will you let him suffer because you are too much of a prude to give him relief."

"Roy," said Al miserably. "I—I already tried. It doesn't work. It's a bit better than a toy, but not enough." Al sat down on the edge of the mattress next to him.

Roy nodded and patted his shoulder. "Of course it didn't, my love. Tell me, do you think you've been punished enough?"

"Yes," said Al with such fervor that Ed blushed.

"I think so, too." Roy wrapped his arms around Al and pressed him down onto the mattress.

Oh fuck, they aren't going to—not in front of me—

Yes they were. Ed's face felt painfully hot. He turned his head away, but it was hard to ignore what was happening literally right next to him. Ed's bruised sensibilities warred briefly with his curiosity; disgust and fury mixed with embarrassment, and under everything was a sexual stirring that he tried desperately to squelch.

He felt a soft thwap against his upper left thigh and turned his head just slightly to see Al's tail twitching and thrashing. Ed couldn't keep his eyes from sliding up its white furred length to where it disappeared under a pale upturned buttock. He couldn't turn away now, inevitably he took in the way Al's legs were spread, the way his gloved hands pressed his own thighs tight against his torso. The way Al's eyes stared hungrily at Roy alone.

Ed couldn't keep from noticing the way Roy had positioned his brother in such a way that he'd have a good view of everything. Indeed Roy's eyes, when Ed was able to pull his own that far northward, were not on Al at all, but on him. While Al whimpered and bucked slightly in anticipation, Roy was waiting for Ed to acknowledge what was going on.

Does he think I'm going to give my blessing to this?

"Please," said Al. "It hurts. I need—"

But Roy held still, in position, waiting until Ed let his eyes slide to the one spot he wanted to avoid at all costs. Ed was not so innocent that he'd never encountered naughty pictures. Though he never purchased porn himself, he didn't turn away when it was proffered either. The static black and white images were nothing compared to the seeing the act in the flesh. Roy had slicked himself down when Ed wasn't looking and now held himself between Al's thighs, rubbing the soft head of his penis very lightly against Al's entrance.

"Please," begged Al.

Just fucking do it already. Ed met Roy's eyes again. Stop tormenting him already and get it done.

Roy must have been able to read his body language, because he nodded, and then thrust in. It couldn't have been comfortable, but Al's cry was not of pain but of relief.

Ed watched because he had to. The moment he turned his head away, Roy stopped moving and his brother's whines took a more frantic tone. The reality of Al's need shattered all attempts to minimize it. Al didn't deserve this. It was evil. But evil or not, deserved or not, this was Al's life.

Al came loudly after a minute, even though Roy had made no attempt to touch his penis at all. Roy continued a bit longer, ignoring Al's whispered thanks.

When Roy pulled out, Ed figured he'd finished, but to his surprise the older man pushed Al aside and crawled close to Ed. Ed stared puzzled at Roy's crotch, still hard and glistening in his hand. Then Roy stroked himself twice more quickly.

Ed tried to jerk away, but it was too late. He felt hot liquid hit his cheek and ear. Felt it in his hair and on his neck and hand. He involuntarily shuddered and tried to shield himself with is hand and shoulder.

Outrage welled up in him again and he glared at Roy. The bastard simply smiled. "There, that wasn't too horrible."

Ed gave him a glare of death and gnashed his teeth hard into the rubber bit.

Al looked somewhat aghast. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'll get a towel—"

But Roy caught his upper arm and stopped him. "No, this is part of the experiment."

"Experiment?" Al looked with concern from Ed to Roy and back again. "What are you going to do with him?"

"I," said Roy, "Am not going to do anything with him at all."

Whatever Roy planned, he apparently wasn't in a hurry to execute. He spelled out a few orders to Al, using much the same tones he'd once barked out orders to his underlings. When he seemed to feel he'd laid out the rules plain enough for both brother's to understand, he gave Ed a genial pat on his head and climbed unhurriedly back up the steps.

Al undid the gag, apologizing profusely for Roy's behavior.

Ed turned away, reminding himself over and over again that it wasn't Al's fault all this happened. Mustang bore the greatest weight of guilt, and then after that it fell on Ed. If Ed had just been more aggressive at trying to find Al during those months when the Military gave him the runaround, if Ed had just believed his gut when it said that Al had not died the way the military said he had. If he'd just been a bit less full of misplaced confidence so many years back, then his brother wouldn't have come to suffer this fate.

And it was clear that Al was suffering. Roy may have alleviated his physical discomfort, but his mental anguish had just grown worse.

"It's all my fault," Al muttered to himself. "I hope you'll forgive me."

"It's not your fault," said Ed just a bit too violently. "I don't blame you for anything."

They talked. At first it was in awkward brittle half sentences, that danced a bit too close to the point for either of their comforts, but after a few minutes Al hit upon the topic of alchemy, which lead to a discussion of Eds work, then Al's missions. Soon they were able to ignore the circumstances enough that Ed momentarily forgot about the chains, the stench of semen and whatever it was in the vat. It was so good to see Al again.

Their discussions were broken only once, briefly, by Roy silently bringing down their suppers. Ed noticed the way Al watched Roy clumsily climbing back up the stairs. There was longing in his eyes, and Ed felt an irrational twinge of jealousy.

Hours passed. Al put their empty plates on the worktable and paused to look up the stairs again. Ed noticed his brother's cock had stiffened and recognized the needy look on Al's face. No. Not again. Not so soon.

"I think I'm being punished again," Al murmured sadly. "Roy made me wait so long, that it's like the need stored up or something."

"You don't need him," said Ed. "Give yourself a hand job. It's okay. I won't look and I won't tell. If this is a psychological thing, and you were able to overcome it before, you can do it again. You just need practice."

Al looked down at his erection sadly. His gloved hands briefly fisted, then he roughly grabbed himself and began jerking off fiercely. Ed didn't want to watch, but he found himself doing so anyway. Al's eyes squinched closed, his head tilted back. Ed could see the muscles in Al's belly growing tighter and more defined.

"Careful," Ed admonished, wincing at the pressure Al was using. "Don't break it."

Al's mouth opened in a silent scream, and his face twisted, but when his hands fell away from his crotch, his cock was still as hard as ever, if a bit reddened and chafed. "I need more. I need something in me. I have to be fucked."

Ed's eyes moved to the toys. He swallowed deeply. "Then go ahead and use those toys."

Al nodded and lubed one up. Ed winced again as he realized Al had picked the one from earlier. It looked ridiculously oversized. Certainly Roy's cock had been nowhere near that size. Ed turned his head briefly away as Al inserted it.

Time passed, achingly slowly, while Ed studied the shelves on the far end of the basement, and tried not to hear Al's erotic groans near by. Come on, Al, he thought. You can do it. It shouldn't be this hard. It shouldn't take this long—

"It's not right," said Al after far too long. Ed looked at him and saw he was actually crying. Ed had never been so needy that he'd actually broken down over it before. Just how high had Roy ramped up Al's libido? "I can get so close, but I can't come. I can't take it anymore. I'm going to go crazy."

"Al—" Ed whispered. Then his will broke. "Go. Go upstairs and tell that bastard to give you some relief."

Al shook his head. "He won't. It's happened before—when he got me the toys—he made me go without for days until I finally managed to come. He's tired of sex, brother. He's tired of fucking me. That's why he's doing these experiments."

"MUSTANG!" Ed screamed at the top of his lungs. "GET DOWN HERE!"

"Not so loud!" Al squeaked.

"He's not ditching you after putting you in this position!" growled Ed.

There was a thumping and bumping and soon the door at the top of the stairs few open. The look on Mustang's face was sheer fury. Ed didn't care. "Al needs you, you bastard. Do your duty by him."

Mustang stopped, midway down the stairs and met Ed's eyes. A smirk twisted his lips. "So you finally understand."

"Yeah, I buy that you've hopelessly fucked him up. Congratulations. Now don't just leave him hanging. Go take him upstairs and do your thing with him."

Mustang shook his head. "No, not this time. Al." Al perked up favoring the ex-colonel with desperate look of hope. "Bear with me. This is an experiment. Edward can't help you find relief in the next two days, I will come back and do my—duty."

"Two days," whimpered Al. "No! Please, I'm so sorry. I'll do anything for you. Anything. I'll be good. Please, don't make me wait."

Ed glowered. "Are you blind? You can't leave him like this for two days. What are you trying to do to him, have him die of blue balls?" Ed's mind reeled. I can't believe I'm insisting that bastard fuck my brother. "What is your game here?"

"What's my game? I think you already know." Mustang continued down the stairs slowly. "I could just come out and just order you to do the right thing, but then your hatred of me might make you hesitate, so I'm going to let you come to your own conclusions in your own time."

"Al can't wait for this. Just fuck him already, or do you enjoy being cruel."

"How cruel I am is entirely up to you, Ed," said Roy. Then he clapped his hands together and suddenly Ed found his mouth filled again. Ed pushed his tongue against a ball, but it wouldn't budge, and he was left with the taste of metal. "Why don't you stop arguing and think things over a bit."

Mustang stomped his way up the stairs again, leaving Al huddled down on his heels and rocking in misery.

Ed howled behind the gag and struggled harder with his single arm and leg. Nothing gave, not an inch. How did Mustang expect him to help Al like this—helpless, gagged. What could he do?

Al turned his eyes guiltily towards Ed, and then Ed knew. Oh shit.

Al stood up slowly, pleading with his eyes. It was the same mad expression he'd had before, when he'd grabbed Ed's hand and tried to make him give him a hand job. Now Ed didn't even have a hand free to help. "Please," said Al. "Please say you'll forgive me."

Ed stiffened, but his resolve was weakening.

Al moved towards him, crawling across the narrow moat of floor, climbing, hand by hand on to mattress where Ed sat, unable to more than shift a few inches one way or another.

"Will you forgive me?" Al asked. "I'll stop if you shake your head."

Ed didn't move. Of course he'd forgive Al. He'd forgive him anything. He'd sacrifice anything for him. Even something as bizarre and wrong as this.

Al's curled up close to him, sniffing his cheek. Ed watched his brother's eyes drift close with pleasure at the scent. Not Ed's scent, he realized, but the one Roy had marked him with earlier. Ed was aware of the tightness across his cheek and hand, the clumping of his hair where Mustang's seed had long since dried.

Al snuggled, wrapping his arms around Ed's torso, his tongue, long and faintly rough slid over Ed's chin. A teasing lick, followed by a series of small kisses around his face, everywhere but Ed's plugged mouth.

Ed's breath quickened and his nostrils flared. He could feel his brother's chest rumbling with every breath. He could feel Al's hands, reaching lower now, sliding down his clothed sides and over his pants to reach the latch of his belt.

Anything, Al thought Ed. Anything you need, take from me.

The pants pulled free, slid down, away from his hips, off the one shortened leg. Al briefly tried to tug them free of the metal bonds holding Ed's right leg bent, but gave up. Al didn't give Ed much time to think about the situation before leaning down and hungrily pulling Ed's half-formed erection in his mouth.

The shameful desires that Ed had been suppressing all afternoon blossomed wildly. Ed grew harder with every teasingly light flick of Al's tongue, and oh where had he learned to do such things with his mouth. Ed had no idea how exquisite a gentle sucking could be. Ed bucked his hips in search of more, more suction, more licking, more of his cock shoved down his brother's throat.

Just as Ed felt he was getting close, Al moved his head away. "Hold on, Brother." And Al climbed up over him again, straddling his lap. Al took Ed's cock in one hand and positioned it, then slowly eased himself down.

Ed felt a surge of guilt, feeling some invisible line was passed, and what he was doing was unconscionable and wrong. But the sensation eased as soon as he saw the extreme look of relief in Al's eyes.

There was no denying the ecstasy. Al rode Ed's cock with giddy enthusiasm, meeting every upward thrust with equal and opposite force. Al's ass felt tight and feverishly hot, and soon Ed found his own pleasure running out of control. He couldn't last. It was with great relief that he felt Al's cock release against his shirt, because that gave him permission to let go himself. Al didn't slow his thrusting until Ed finished coming.

"Thank you," Al whispered. "Thank you so much. Thank you."

The side garden was wild with colors these days. The tulips were now fully in bloom, and in addition were purple irises, and white crocus. And from over the tops of the holly hedges Ed could see the pink of the neighbors cherry blossoms. A single petal broke prematurely free and floated around on the wind, whipping about before coming to rest on the ground a few feet away from Al was huddled over weeding.

Ed sighed.

Al stiffened slightly, ears twitching, then turned and looked over his shoulder. "Are you getting cold, Brother? Looks like your blankets have slipped a little." He peered up at the sky. "Almost lunch time anyway. Let's go back inside." Al put his trowel and cultivator into a pail and stood up, patting his gloves against his heavy canvas trousers.

Ed didn't really feel hungry, but he didn't protest when Al grabbed the handles on the wheel chair and maneuvered him around towards the kitchen entrance. "Roy's going to be back tomorrow, I can hardly wait. I miss him so much, don't you?" Then Al looked ashamed. "Sorry. I forgot. Let's just go inside and get warm, and I'll make you some soup."

Ed relaxed as Al fussed with the door and getting Ed's wheel chair back up into the kitchen. Inside felt positively broiling compared to the nippy spring air.

"Ah," said Al, putting his jacket on the hook, and pulling his shirt over his head. The boots and pants followed. "It feels so much better not to wear clothes. Sometimes I wish I had more fur." He stretched, his naked body and his tail swished. "I'm so looking forward to summer. Maybe by then Roy will have found us a more private place, out in the woods where we won't have to worry about the neighbors prying into our affairs."

Ed grunted, part of him, the bad part, kind of hoped the neighbors would pry a bit more, but they seemed to be private people, and totally incurious about what was happening on the other side of the thick holly hedge. And if they did poke their head in, what would they see? Was this really the picture of himself and his brother he wanted the police, and inevitably the military to see? It took him long enough to sort out the situation and he cared, who knows what conclusions they'd come to. In evitably, Ed had to admit, the loser would be Al.

No the only one who could put this situation right were the three of them, and the only chance they had to do that was privacy. And if the cost for privacy was this—well.

A trickle of sweat formed on his chest and was sliding ticklishly down his belly. He grunted again.

"One moment," said Al. Then hurried over to Ed's wheel chair and pulled off the heavy blankets.

Ed sighed with relief, enjoying the warm, mildly humid air on his naked skin. He'd become used to being naked over the last month. He'd become used to a lot of things.


Ed nodded.

Al looked longingly at Ed for a moment. Ed quirked an eyebrow up suspiciously. Usually Al didn't need sex until after lunch, but at times his urges were closer together, especially when Roy had been gone for a while. But no, it wasn't really need, but something deeper and more profound.

"Thank you," said Al abruptly. "Things have been so much better since you found us. For me and for Roy that is. I wish it was as good for you."

Ed shrugged. He tugged on the handcuff holding his only hand to the arm of the wheel chair.

Al frowned. "You know I can't."

Of course not. Mustang still didn't trust Ed not to muck up their strange little arrangement.

Ed pointedly grunted.

"And not the gag either, not until you are down in the basement, where it's a bit more sound proofed." Al's eyes softened. "Don't worry, once we have a bit more money, Roy will find a way to fix me so I don't need you anymore, and so I can walk in public freely. Then you can go your way, if you want to. I really hope you don't want to. I love you, and Roy likes you, too. I hope the three of us can stay together forever."

It was just as well he couldn't declare that once Al was fixed, he was going to do everything in his power to make sure that Roy never got his paws on his brother again. But that was a fight for the future. For now he would bear with it, for Al's sake, until one of them had some inspiration, short of invoking the Gate, on how to fix Al's condition.

Suddenly, Ed felt the toy within him whir to life and jerked his head over to look at Al. Sure enough he had the radio controller for Ed's plug in his hand. Ed wriggled as his cock hardened both from the stimulation of his prostate and sheer conditioned response to the expectation of sex.

Al must be needy after all.

Slowly, deliberately, Al snapped down the brakes so that the wheelchair couldn't roll, then he climbed into Ed's lap. He paused to pop the rubber stopper off a test tube and stick a long finger into the white ooze within. Ed winced a bit as Al dabbed it, like perfume, just below Ed's ears.

"I love you so very much, Brother," Al whispered, as he lowered himself onto Ed's captive erection. "I can't thank you enough for saving me."