It had worked. At least, that's what Ed had thought before he had blacked out. An actual human body had started to form as the Stone rotted away at an amazing rate. Al's soul had just started to transfer from the empty suit of armor to a version of the body hidden behind the Gate when Ed had fainted.
That was Ed's first thought as he woke up, his second thought being that he was drooling on himself and the array. He wiped at his mouth as he struggled to sit upright. "Ah... Ah..." Ed coughed, trying to get the strangled note out of his voice. "Al? Alphonse?"
A gentle hand stroked his long hair. The hand brushed the bangs out of Ed's face to reveal a very human, very teenager, very naked Al. "Hi, brother," he whispered, his voice finally unmuffled by metal. "The Stone's gone."
Ed smiled at him, too tired to try more. "I know. Welcome back, Al."
Casually, easily, Al unbuttoned Ed's cloak and wrapped it around himself. "Colonel Mustang will probably be by today. You've been out for most of the day."
Something felt off. Something was missing. Ed sat up slowly, watching his younger brother carefully as he wondered exactly what it was he had created. "Al... are you okay?"
Al grinned, straightening. "A little cold. Nii-san, we need clothes. Yours won't fit me."
"Are you calling me short?"
"Never." But the tone was wrong.
"Ed! Al!" Winry waved wildly, her ponytail bobbing. Mustang followed sedately behind her, a new rank proclaimed by his star and lack of stripes.
It had seemed weird the first time Winry and Mustang had arrived together, but Winry had explained it. Pinako "asked" Mustang to escort her granddaughter to the outskirts of East City. And Ed knew "asked" meant "threatened to do bad things if you didn't do what Pinako wanted." That's how she got Ed and Al to clean up Winry's tools when they were young, after all.
"Winry." Al hugged the older girl, then turned to the black haired man. "Colonel," he said quietly, eyes on Mustang's shoulder.
Mustang's lips quirked. "Alphonse. You've gotten to be much taller than your brother."
"I heard that," Ed retorted as he came into view, finishing off the braid. He briefly looked at Mustang's shoulder. "Brigadier-General."
The man nodded slightly. "You look well, Fullmetal."
Ed snorted, stepping aside to let them in. "I'm no longer a dog of the military. So that title doesn't exactly fit, does it?"
"I suppose not, Elric."
Winry turned to Ed. "Hey, would it be okay if Al and I went to go make something to eat?"
"You mean Al's going to cook and you'll watch."
As usual, Winry's wrench flashed out to hit Ed's human shoulder. "Granny's been teaching me how to cook," she sniffed. "I can help make lunch now."
Ed lifted an eyebrow. "Don't burn anything this time."
Mustang watched the two blonds walk away, then placed a hand on Ed's right shoulder. "You've been rather docile recently, Elric," he said carefully. "Are you doing fine?"
Ed shrugged, and used the motion to push Mustang's hand off. "Just tired. Al's been feeding the stray cats, and they tend to howl in the middle of the night." The boy sat down, meaning to ignore Mustang.
The Brigadier-General followed Ed's example, frowning. "Elric, are you certain that the Philosopher's Stone worked as you thought it would?"
"What are you saying?"
"Your brother has been rather reckless, and emotionally distant," Mustang started softly, using a tone of voice that used to make Ed shiver. "You've been listless and docile."
"Are you saying I lost something?" Ed shook his head. "I still have my remaining limbs. Al has everything. It worked."
"Human alchemy is very strict with equivalent trade," Mustang reminded him, reaching out to touch him.
"We aren't fucking anymore," Ed spat out. "So don't touch me."
Black eyes rolled to one side to look into the kitchen. "Have you two finally...?"
Ed shifted, looking away. "You told me before that brothers don't do that kind of thing. And... Al doesn't seem interested."
Mustang sat back just as Al poked his head around the corner. "Lunch is done!"
Ed stood slowly, looking over to Mustang. He blinked at the quick flash of alarm and fear on the man's face.
"Nii-san, can I have a saucer of milk?"
Ed made a face as he left his milkless thank-you-very-much cereal. "I don't see why we have to feed this to the cats," he complained as he got the milk out. "It's gross."
"They like it, Nii-san," Al told him as he poured the milk, a small and peaceful smile on his face. "Can we keep one of them?"
Ed shook his head as he went back to his cereal. "We can't take care of a cat."
The smile didn't fade as Al opened the door to show a nearly adult calico cat. "But we feed them."
"Taking care of cats is more than just feeding them. And you feed the cats. I don't."
Al put the saucer down, watching the cat. "It wouldn't be too much trouble to take one in."
"And trip over her every time I turn around? No thanks."
Al started to pet the calico, the purr becoming audible. Ed started to worry that Al was sulking when the cat's neck snapped under Al's hands.
"A-al..." Ed whispered, his spoon dropping from his fingers. "Do you know what you just did?"
"I killed her," Al confirmed, the small peaceful smile still on his face. "Now can we take her in?"
The cereal didn't look that appetizing anymore.
Winry and Al were outside. His brother was listening to Winry talk about the most recent idiot customer that had come by the shop while Ed tried very hard to scrape the last bit of dried food off the pan.
"When was the last time Miss Rockbell looked over your automail, Elric?"
Ed ignored Mustang, grinning as the food finally came loose. He dunked the pan one last time in the water, then placed it on the drying rack.
"It looks like your arm isn't moving as smoothly."
"What do you want, Brigadier-General?" Ed quickly dried his right arm, trying to get the water out of the little dips in the metal.
Mustang gently tilted Ed's head up. "I'm worried, Fullmetal."
"Stop that. We aren't fucking anymore."
"I remember a time," Mustang murmured, "when you wouldn't put up with this. When you would have nearly bitten my hand off for touching you like this."
Ed snorted. "I'm just tired. Give me time to rest, and I'll bite your favorite bit off."
"Oh, but you like that part the most," the Brigadier-General purred.
Ed shook his head. "I don't think so. I just liked it because I had an erection, you had an erection, and it was the most efficent way of taking care of it."
Mustang dropped his hand. "Miss Rockbell wants to look over your automail. And Ful... El... Edward. Edward, there is something wrong between you and Alphonse. Both Miss Rockbell and myself want to see you brothers happy."
"I know. But there's nothing wrong. We're fine. That sin was reversed. Al's back, isn't he? So lay off."
It was weird to see Mustang look so worried, Ed decided.
Winter had hit, and hit hard. Ed watched the snow outside the window, huddled in Winry's thick blanket. He usually liked snow, but blizzards were annoying. He couldn't go out and play, and they made the joints near his automail hurt.
"Nii-san," Al said softly, crawling under the blanket as well. "It's too cold to sleep."
"That's what I thought," Ed whispered back. He started to cuddle into that warmth when the memory of the cat filled his ears. "Al... are you...?"
"Hmm?" Al rested his head against his brother's shoulder, smiling slightly. "Warm."
Ed pushed a few strands of hair away from Al's face. "It's nothing, Al." He looked back up to watch the blizzard. "I hate blizzards."
"I've heard that before," Al said sleepily.
"I really do. They're too cold to sleep through, and then there's too much snow afterwards. We're going to have to clean the walkway off first before playing, and there's going to be way..."
Al's hand snapped out, hitting Ed with enough force that his vision blanked out for a moment. When he could finally see straight, Ed looked up at Al's face. The smile on his face, one that said Al had found something he enjoyed greatly, chilled Ed's bones.
Mustang's eyes widened as Ed opened the door, taking in the bruises covering his face and neck. Winry, thankfully enough, had been called in by an automail emergency, so the Brigadier-General was alone. Mustang grabbed Ed's wrist, frowning as Ed let out an involuntary hiss of pain at that.
"It's nothing," Ed told those questioning eyes. And it was nothing. Al would snap at him sometimes and hit him occasionally, but it wasn't anything big. At least Al was starting to show a sexual interest in him, kissing and jerking him off. What worried Ed was that until Al touched him down there, he wouldn't be aroused. And even after orgasm, he would feel like he hadn't gotten the most out of it.
"Elric, what is Alphonse doing to you?" Mustang whispered frantically.
"He just has to hit something sometimes." Ed shrugged. "At least he isn't killing cats anymore."
The look of intense horror that crossed Mustang's face should have been funny. It was so much emotion from someone who was usually very cold. But Ed didn't find it funny at all. "Fullmetal... Elric... Edward," Mustang stressed, trying to catch Ed's attention. "You love him, I understand, but that isn't how Alphonse acts. He doesn't abuse those he loves."
"It's not abuse. Or maybe it is, but I don't care." Ed turned back to the house. "And it is Al. It has to be."
Mustang swallowed hard. "Edward, what did you lose?"
"I didn't lose anything, and neither did Al. I wish you would stop saying that."
Al brushed his lips down Ed's neck gently, his hand firmly stroking Ed's erection. The older brother thrust backwards, trying to get Al to fuck him harder. He was so close to orgasm, so damn close...
"You're so hard..."
Ed panted, nodding. "Al, please, please... I..."
"You're so disgusting, brother. So hard, for me..."
Ed gasped as Al sped up slightly, his arms and legs starting to tremble badly.
"Isn't this disgusting, brother? You're so hard... you want me here so badly. You want me to fuck you so hard. You want your own brother. You're filthy. Disgusting."
Yes, yes, it was so disgusting. But Ed didn't care. Everything was in place...
Al's hands wrapped around Ed's neck, tightening. "So sick."
Ed's body fought back, instictively trying to save its own life, but it was a weak fight. It was how things should be. If Ed died, it should be at his brother's hands. At the hands of someone who loved him.
Ed only wished that Mustang wouldn't kill Al for this as he blacked out for the last time.
Edward had become distant ever since Al's restoration but he had at least accepted—if not welcomed—their weekly visit. It raised all sorts of alarms in the man's mind the day Alphonse politely informed them—with a grin that was entirely out of place—that Edward was too sick to see anybody, and could they come back next week? Winry hadn't seemed to notice anything wrong but Roy had already decided she was firmly abiding by her denial that Alphonse was fine and everything was perfect—even though Roy could tell it was all wrong.
Roy came back later, on his own. He doubted that it was sickness that kept Edward away from them. Something tipped him off. A feeling, a smell, something—
"He just has to hit something sometimes."
The mental images were alarming.
He'd meant to knock and storm in if he wasn't answered under fifteen seconds. His curled hand froze millimeters from the door.
"You're so sick, Niisan. You always wanted it, didn't you? Don't worry, I love you anyway. I'll give you want you want, even if it's disgusting.—Roy couldn't begin to point out all that was wrong with what he guessed was happening. There was more, "What would mother say if she knew? It's good that she's dead, isn't it? You could at least answer me, Niisan. You're so rude. You used to beg for it, what happened? Oh, my mistake. You can't talk anymore, can you?"
The door was going down. Now.
Roy walked through the burning remains of the door, uncertain whether he wanted to scream or punch first. Beloved little brother or not, there was no way he would allow Alphonse to—
To say Roy's blood turned to ice would have been an understatement.
He should have recognized the smell. Perhaps he had, unconsciously. He could't deny the sight. The decomposition wasn't advanced—no blisters on the skin and no swelling of the body yet, so it had been under three days—but the head and neck were a greenish-blue color and only the long blond braid allowed Roy to say for certain this rotting piece of meat was—had been—Edward. If the sight of his dead, rotting, ex-lover hadn't been enough to rise the bile in his throat, the moving body above it certainly did.
"Alphonse—" What have you done? He couldn't speak, couldn't—Alphonse turned to look at him, and smiled.
Roy thought he screamed. He might have. All he remembered were the flames racing from his fingertips.