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When one of the soldiers put a hand on Ed's shoulder he shrugged it off and gave the man a glare. "I'm not going to run, you don't have to manhandle me."

The soldier just growled and gestured with the barrel of the gun. Ed started up the stairs to the second floor of the Devil's Nest to the room Lt. Colonel Archer had made his temporary command center.

Fuck, run is exactly what Ed wanted to do. Damn it, Al NEEDED him and time was wasting. After tracking Greed and Al for days he'd finally found the Devil's Nest. He'd managed to fight his way down to the basement where Al was being held. And then right when he had Greed where he wanted him, fucking Archer and his goons arrived to muck things up.

Every minute he wasted in this inn meant that tracking Greed down would be that much harder. He could still feel the vague vibrations of a fight in the sewers below the foundation. He hoped that was Al giving Greed hell, but he didn't trust it. Al had been pretty well chained up, and Greed's chimeras were pretty tough.

If it had been Mustang in charge, and not Archer, Ed would be down there right now, freeing Al. Mustang understood. Mustang even cared. Archer... Archer was still an unknown. How would he deal with the man?

Ed would have to figure that out quick, because there was no out of this situation without the Lt. Colonel's approval. Archer's trigger happy men would shoot him if he gave them half the chance. Hell, they'd made mincemeat of the patrons in the bar, and they had fuckall to do with Greed or the chimeras. All they'd done was want to get a drink at 1:30 in the afternoon.

Ed trudged up the last steps and out into the narrow hall. There were soldiers everywhere: smoking, drinking booze stolen from down below, lounging about in the open doorways to rooms where presumably Greed and his posse slept. Ed glanced in one doorway to see a couple of soldiers rifling through the room. Ed doubted it was for evidence.

You could get a good idea of a man by the way his underlings behaved. Mustang was a teasing SOB, but his people behaved like gold, and sure enough, under the smirk lay a good man. These soldiers were acting like law and morals didn't apply to them. Archer would be much the same, Ed figured. For all the veneer of working for the courts, he doubted that Archer really gave a damn if he followed the law or not, as long as he got what he wanted.

The last door down the hall was closed. A soldier skirted around Ed and tapped on the door. A moment later he heard a slightly lilting voice answer back, "Come in."

The soldier opened the door and pushed Ed in. Ed bit his lip and fought the urge to belt him. Getting shot point blank wouldn't help Al. He could deal for now, but if he ever saw the guy again, he would make sure to remind him of the insult.

"Well, well, Mr. Elric," came a smooth voice. "You lead me on a quite a chase to find you."

Ed turned around to look at the Lt. Colonel. He was thin, sharp and impeccably groomed, just like the last time they'd met. As though dirt didn't stick to him. He sat at a table in the middle of the room, using it as a makeshift desk. On it lay papers, weapons, money, substances which might have been drugs, and an odd sack about the size of someone's head. Ed sincerely hoped that there wasn't a head in there.

"I don't think you were here to find me," said Ed.

"True," Archer drawled. "Good fortune for me that I bagged two... no THREE of the things I wanted in one raid."

Ed wasn't interested in what the other two things were. He wanted to get to the point and get out of there. "Greed is still loose, and he still has my brother. Please let me go, sir, so I can rescue him."

If Archer were Mustang, this would have been all he'd need to do. Mustang would have nodded and sent him off, with at most an escort. Mustang understood how important Al was.

But Archer was not Mustang. Despite his smile, the Lt. Colonel's eyes were cold and unyielding. Ed could tell his demand merely served to amuse him. So much for the direct approach. "My men will bring your brother back I'm sure. Don't you worry about that."

"Sir, what do you want from me?" It was hard to keep civil.

Archer looked him over speculatively. "Honestly, there is a LOT that I want from you. You were in the Fifth lab and yet you never filed a report. I would like a detailed account of what happened there for starters. After that, you know we are at war, do you not?"

Actually Ed didn't know anything of the sort. He'd been busy. He didn't care either. "You will accompany me back to Southern Headquarters. Your skills as an alchemist are needed. You can pursue your own ventures some other time."

"My ventures..." It took almost more effort than Ed had in him to keep from punching Archer. "You don't know a thing about my ventures. Reports can wait, war can wait. My brother needs me, right NOW. After I've gotten him back, I promise I'll go with you down to Southern Headquarters. I'll give you your report in as much detail as you like. Whatever you want. Just let me rescue my brother. You don't know what Greed is... your men don't have a chance against him."

Archer laced his fingers under his chin and smiled with distant amusement. "Ah, brotherly love. Your devotion to your younger brother is quite remarkable." His eyes slid down Ed's body. "Whatever I want, hmmm. You should be careful of making such blanket statements." A soft, speculative smile formed... different from the cold one earlier. Lustful.

Ed froze with sudden understanding. It figured. It fucking figured. Fuck. Mustang would never stoop to such a trade off. But this wasn't Mustang and every second he wasted here would take Al farther away.

"Well, " said Archer. "Do you wish to put some caveats on that statement?"

Ed's mind split in half. One half recoiled. Not again. Anything but that. Why did they always want that?

The other half fell into the familiar act. He knew how to play this game. Taught the part with patient, loving care at the tender age of eleven, by the first member of the military to actually take him in. Although he loathed Tucker to bits, he had been a good teacher, and at times such skills came in handy.

Fuck, it was just a body, and there usually was some pleasure in the act. Perhaps it was some cosmic justice to round out the fact that he still had a body, while his brother was stuck in a metal shell. His brother was denied sensation of the flesh. Ed had those sensations foisted upon him whether he wanted them or not.

But it wasn't anything worth freaking out about. Genetics did most of the work anyway, providing him with the slim physique and attractive features. The only thing else needed was a couple of minutes of his time, a little sweat, a bit of acting. It wasn't even particularly hard. Maybe a touch more work if the man wanted him to get off, too, but he could provide that if needed. He had before.

"I'll do anything for my brother," said Ed and touched, but didn't release the clasp at his throat holding his jacket closed. He looked deep into Archer's narrow eyes and waited for a signal, an acknowledgement of the deal.

Archer's eyes dipped just slightly. The barest of nods. "Why don't you lock the door, boy? We'll discuss this a bit further without interruptions."

Ed's lips twitched and he turned to lock the door. He wasn't surprised to hear the scrape of a chair, or the soft fall of boots on thin carpet behind him. He didn't flinch when an arm snaked around his chest. He felt fingers at the clasp, fumbling, then finding the release. Lips brushed the back of his neck while his jacket was pushed over his shoulders. Ed made no attempt to keep the cloth from falling to the floor.

He closed his eyes and leaned back, knowing that this would signal his acquiescence. The bare curve of his throat would show the proper level of submissiveness. Sure enough, Archer spun him around and pressed him tight, hunching over to bury his face into the flesh under Ed's chin. Worrying his throat with teeth and tongue. Hungry.

If I have to sacrifice myself for Al, so be it.

Archer was murmuring in his ear. "Today is turning into a very good day for me."

Ed's eyes opened. He looked beyond Archer's ear out the window, out into blissful nothing—but only for a moment. He didn't have luxury of going off in his head. He had a job to do.

He let the other signal what he wanted, "Kiss me, here, " Archer said. And Ed did with every ounce of skill he could muster. There was a little pride in seeing the response. It was like a puzzle, figuring out what the other wanted most, reading the body language. Though Archer was decidedly the aggressor, Ed knew that he had the real power. It may be Archer's hands that undressed him, that ran possessively up and down his flanks, that seized him and stroked him, but it was Ed's body that drove him on.

Who was to say who was the user and who was the used? After all, he chose this. He was in control.

Part of him knew this was crap, that he was fucking WHORING himself out for favors, and it was all shades of wrong, but there was no point in listening to that side. That way lead to madness, and Ed would choose delusion over madness any day.

Archer pushed him onto an old loveseat and Ed's nose recoiled at the smell of mold and old beer, but he didn't try to reposition himself. He wiggled as appealingly as he could, knowing hornier he could make this bastard, the faster he would come and the sooner Ed would be on his way. He was surprised when Archer suddenly pushed away from him and backed up to the desk.

He dared to pull himself up onto his elbows and raise an eyebrow. Perhaps the man wasn't interested after all. Perhaps he wasn't quite the bastard he pretended to be. Perhaps there was a hope he wouldn't have to go through it all again.

But one glance at Archer killed that fantasy. "I found this," said the Lt. Colonal, "In one of the rooms." He pulled a jar of cold cream out of a cardboard box by the side of the desk. Booty. Fucking hell. These guys would stoop to nothing, looting things of even the most dubious value. Archer's greed served Ed well in this case. Someone's half used container of cold cream was a hell of a lot better than nothing.

"I guess I'm in luck," said Ed, forcing a smile, utterly ignoring the part of him that screamed to put an end to this before it went any further.

Archer was oblivious to his inner turmoil. "Yes, we are both lucky today."

When they finished, Ed collected up his clothes and shrugged them on. The parts of his mind grew together again. Thank God it's over, both sides agreed. Later he'd smirk about Archer's lack of size and stamina, but for now he was just relieved that he wouldn't be limping out the door.

He didn't look up from shrugging on his shoes when Archer unlocked the door. "Soldier," Archer called out. "Escort Elric here to where the other prisoner's are."

"The HELL," Ed said, leaping to his feet. "We had a deal!"

"I don't know what deal you are thinking of," smirked Archer.

"You were going to let me rescue my brother."

"Now, now, I didn't say anything of the sort. Behave yourself. You don't want me to put you in chains."

Ed fumed as they hauled him off. How dare Archer fucking FUCK him and then renege on their deal. One word to Mustang and Archer would burn, literally. It would be worth it to see that pompous ass go down.

But then Mustang would realize the kind of things Ed had been doing, and that would cause all kinds of problems. Mustang would get protective. Would prevent him from doing what needed to be done. Mustang would try to keep him safe, and in the process would stymie him and drive him up the wall.

No. I didn't matter that Archer had screwed him over, Ed wasn't going to complain, just like he never complained about Tucker or any of the others. It was just the risk he had to take to do what needed to be done. At least now he knew what to expect from the Lt. Colonel.

There was nothing to do but let himself be lead down the steps and out of the building to a small covered area. Where Izumi and Seig sat. On boxes that conveniently obscured a manhole from the eyes of the milling soldiers. Ed looked at Izumi who nodded, a faint mischievous gleam to her eye. Now if only there were a distraction to keep the gaurds eyes away...

A minute or two later Archer approached. "Believe it or not, Elric, your cooperation does hold some value to me. I will do what I can to make sure that your brother is safe."

Ed said nothing, but hope which had begun to stir now bloomed full force in him.

Archer nodded to a soldier next to him who was carrying three brown blankets, stolen from the inn. "It's chilly out here. For your comfort," he handed the three of them blankets. Ed smiled and the three of them pulled the blankets up over their heads, obscuring their features from the gaurds.

Archer then began detailing orders to the soldiers watching them. Ed sneaked a glance over his shoulder to see they were all thoroughly distracted and clapped his hands lightly together. Soon mannequins replaced them under the blankets, and moments after that, the three of them slipped into the sewers. Ed just caught Archer's eye as he turned to lower himself into the hole. There was that cold knowing smile. His end fulfilled.

Sure enough, no one followed.

I can deal with him, Ed decided. Archer had some honor. Not much, but enough. He didn't give a rat's ass if Ed were hurt or not. He'd let Ed have enough rope to hang himself with and not give it another thought.

Weirdly enough that had actual appeal.

I should transfer under him, Ed mused. Not that he really wanted Archer to be his commanding officer. Not that Mustang wasn't a hundred times the better man. But sometimes, just sometimes it better to have to deal with a complete bastard rather than one who only pretended to be. Sometimes the last thing Ed needed was a commanding officer who actually cared.

After all, Ed didn't need protecting. Not at all.