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Busy Signal


He slapped his pockets for the fifth time. There was a scrap of paper hanging out of his mouth and he suddenly turned to the suit of armor standing beside him and knocked on it. There was a dull metal ring, and the armor shifted, taking a step away.

"I already told you, I don't have any change," the armor said, folding it's arms. "If I did you'd hear it rattling in my feet, so stop knocking on me!"

Edward scowled, plucked the paper out of his mouth and went over to the phone booth and jumped into it just before some man in a grey business suit did. He slapped his pockets again as if somehow, being inside the phone booth would magically make change appear. Of course, it didn't happen.

"I'll just transmute some change," he hissed out to his younger brother. "You keep a look out."

"I don't know," Alphonse said with a quiver in his voice. "That's forgery and it's illegal."

"It's only .10 cens, I'll take my chances," Edward hissed again. "Now plant your big metal ass right here in front of the door so on one can see in."

Edward squatted on the scuffed wooden floor of the booth. In doing so, something in the corner under the bench caught his eye. He reached for it, leaning over and sliding his automail digits along the floor and he nudge out a tarnished 10 cen piece; it was filthy and had probably been there forever. He cracked the booth door open.

"Look Al, I don't have to commit larceny now, just thought you'd want to know so you can not sleep at night," he said. He jerked his head back in time to save his nose when Al snapped the door shut.

Grumbling he got to his feet, then his tip toes and pushed the coin into the slot, picked up the receiver and jammed his automail finger into the dial. The phone ground out the number in slow wheel turns, and as far as Edward was concerned it could just take for-damn-ever if it wanted because that's how long he could go without taking to the Bastard.

First Lieutenant Hawkeye answered the phone and when she told him to hold he realized he was standing at attention, as if somehow, she could see him through the phone line.

He braced himself, suppressed the urge to grind the phone receiver into his ear as he waited. He studied the various messages penned inside the phone booth for his hold time entertainment and just when he was considering calling 'Betsy' to see if what was written there was true, a voice snaked it's way through the phone line and it's forked tongue wrapped around his eardrum.

It started out with just one word and he shivered from the soles of his feet to the end of his braid.

"Fullmetal," it hissed.

"I'm calling in, like you told me," he half bellowed. "So don't start in on me right off the bat. Ok, first things first, I don't care what that guy in Habersham says it was broken when I got there and there isn't an alchemist on the planet that would touch it with a ten foot pole in the first place!"

"I haven't heard..." the voice started but he plowed ahead to interrupt, because if he didn't get it all out in the first few seconds he rarely got to get it all stated at all.

"Second," he continued, "if I had known just what you meant by 'endorsement', I would have never signed on in the first place! I ain't given to outright lying you know, when it doesn't help me. I mean I don't just lie to get around things, only military assholes do that. I'm military but my ass is still clean, thank you very much, so the next time you need someone to spew bullshit to a bunch of yahoos in the sticks, don't call me. Just because I'm from the sticks doesn't mean I walk the walk or talk the talk. You're a total bastard is what you are."

"Undo your belt buckle," the voice suddenly said.

"Okay fine, but I'm telling you, I didn't lose that fuckin' bet," he tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder and reached down to undo the thick leather belt around his waist.

"What color are your boxers?" the voice asked.

"White... you know that, fuck. I don't have nothing but white. That fancy-assed silk shit you wear is for the birds. LOOK, I want to talk to you about getting a bigger expense account. All this fucking greasy spoon shit I gotta eat is giving me the runs and I gotta ride on trains dick-head, not a lot of fun between stops," Ed snarled into the phone, absently fingering the top of his boxers and scratching at his stomach.

"I think we can discuss that, maybe if you take a pay cut. Do you have your gloves on?"

"Yeah, I have my gloves on.. what fucking pay cut? How about a raise, I should get a raise just for having to breath the same damn air you do. Another thing, I think Al should get some kinda retainer, I mean he's out here risking his ass just the same as any of your incompetent fucks, and he does twice the job. You're getting a free ride on my little brother's back because he's a fuckin' genius and you're the one who told him not to be a state alchemist. I never should have listened to you, you want the fucking world on a platter at a discount!"

"You know the reason I warned Alphonse off, I did it for both of you. Alphonse is under no obligation to do anything for the state, you on the other hand? You came into it of your own free will. I don't understand how you can travel in those leather pants, they must be binding."

"They aren't so bad," Ed said, but it was if the mere suggestion suddenly made things a little to close for comfort, he worked the zipper down and pushed his hand into the front, pulled up and gave his balls some breathing room. He cleared his throat a little as he did it. "Yeah, well, you talk a good fight, but that still doesn't make up for the fact you are using me to get to him and so getting something for nothing," Ed licked his lips, it was getting kind of warm in the booth.

"We're all using each other. No one has hidden that, especially not me. It's a mutual gratification system we've set up for ourselves. But we both still own large shares of the self-gratification side of our little venture. We can't always be there to watch each others backs; protect our investment. Sometimes we have to take things into our own hands, fulfill our own needs," the voice purred.

"That's... it's not like that," Ed panted softly. Unbidden one gloved finger found it's way into the opening at the front of his boxers. He touched himself, very lightly, but it was still electric. He bit his lip to muffle the gasp and then panted through it, finding his voice again.

"You are just a taker... you want to use people up just to gain another rung on that imaginary ladder you have hoisted right up to the Fuhrer's ass," he bit it off then because his other fingers were shoving impatiently to join the first. And because they couldn't all fit in the slit, he pulled his hand up and stuck it down the front of his boxers. Now they could all rub and grip equally and he wouldn't have to hear any complaints from individual digits.

"You're going to think what you like, I can't stop you. It's hard, isn't it Fullmetal? To have to serve under someone like me."

Ed groaned and got a good grip, tucked his chin against his chest, leaning his head to one side to trap the phone against his shoulder, and braced his automail hand against the booth wall to get to business.


Brother had gotten awfully quiet. It was kind of a relief and no one was pausing to look at him oddly. Not that a suit of armor with it's hands clasped in front of it, blocking the door to a phone booth was odd, mind you; just all the shouting from within it was less than complimentary. Or suitable for children for that matter, but now Brother was being quiet, maybe a little too quiet. Al swiveled his helmet. If he put enough though into it, he could make it turn all the way around. 360 degrees, even, and that had really come in handy on a few occasions. Not to mention the squeamish factor, and the way Ed always got that little twitch in the corner of his eye whenever Al did it.

He watched Ed curiously for a moment. He seemed to have his head down, deep in concentration. He was probably receiving some very important information from the Colonel. A new lead, a new mission, the next stop along the road to their realization. But then Ed tilted his head back and almost lost the phone. He seemed to be sucking on his lower lip pretty hard and his eyes were closed, and that's when Al noticed that Ed's flesh hand was...

WHOA! He wasn't! He was! Al swiveled his helmet back around so fast that it made one of those really loud metal on metal sounds, kinda like nails on a black board and half the people on the platform cringed.

Brother was... doing that! In public! On the phone! Did even just talking to the Colonel make him want that? Bad enough to have to see him twitch through any face to face meeting and having him come home late all mussed and flushed and lie about working overtime!

A man was heading over toward them, he carried a satchel and was glancing at his watch. Al wrapped his arms back, gripping the sides of the phone booth in alarm.

"OUT OF SERVICE!" he yelled. "This one; it's broken! I know, I broke it and now I'm going to stand here for my sin of breaking it and warn anyone who comes near!"

The man stopped a few feet away and stared at him.

"See? I'm just a suit of animated armor, but I know wrong from right," Al groped to fill the void, everyone was staring at him now and behind him he could hear Ed panting, louder and louder. "My guilt was so bad that I had to come back and haunt this phone booth to make amends! That's right, I'm just a spirit!" His need for volume increased right along with his brothers. Ed so owed him for this. Ed owed him so much for this that it somehow eclipsed the whole owing him a body thing.

"So, all of you, beware! This is what happens when you damage public property!" Al shrilled.

The majority of the people on the platform, (including the gentleman who had wanted to use the phone) shifted several feet to the left to be at the far end of the platform from Al.

Al sighed.

"Well, at least being a freaky disembodied soul stuck in armor has some advantages, they shouldn't be able to trace this back to me when I'm flesh again," he grumbled.


"Talk...talk to me bastard," Ed panted.

"I don't know what else there is to say; your 10 cens will be up soon."

"NO, no you can't do this to me! You have to tell me what I need to know..." he half sobbed.

"What you need to know or what you want to hear, Fullmetal?" the voice on the phone dropped very low, almost inaudible and Edward gasped and grit his teeth. He pushed off the booth wall with his free hand, grabbing the receiver, grinding it to his ear.

"If you leave me like this, I'll never fuckin' forgive you," he growled into the phone. "I need to hear it your bastard, need to hear it..." he groaned then, low and long. His own fingers curled around his won cock. His own gloves adding a delicious friction to the sensitive flesh that bare fingers couldn't provide. He pushed them down hard, releasing himself to drag them over his balls, through the ruff of hair framing his cock, then grabbed himself again. He dragged them back up, pushed the pad of his thumb over the swollen head and teased at his foreskin.

"It's building, isn't it? There's not much time. Listen to me, you have to seize what you can get, otherwise this is all for nothing. We're in this together; both of us have a goal that neither of us can afford to fail. For either of us, it might end in death; a little death now is better than the finality of it later. Faster Fullmetal, you have no time to waste. Nothing is unobtainable if you pull yourself together."

Ed slammed his head back against the glass door of the booth, he thought, for a moment, he heard Al squeak, like when he was doing that rotating helmet thing. He was there, he was so close, just that one thing more...

"Tell me," he pleaded raggedly into the phone.

"There are things that should only be said face to face," the voice held out. "It's so impersonal like this, but when you get back, I will see to it personally that you are well debriefed. There are some things I need to impress deep into you."

"Please," Ed begged, he was lost, he was gone.

"Love for your fellow man is a noble thing, don't you think so, Fullmetal?"

He ruined yet another pair of gloves and slid to the floor of the phone booth, receiver falling away. He could hear the buzz and then the voice of the recorded operator as if speaking from inside Al's armor.

Deposit another 10 cens.

A frantic tapping on the glass doors made him realize just where he was and he scrabbled to his feet. So much for afterglow. That bastard better be ready to kiss his ass literally when they got home.


"Aw, come on, talk to me. It's not my fault! I'm hormone addled!" the Ed bit down on his lip, knowing that Al might be more understanding if he, too, has a chance to be hormone addled.

"I am never coming back to Post Smith station again, EVER," Al emphasized. "I don't care if it's the last train station on earth, I will never darken it with my shadow again. I have never been so mortified. And then, when you patted that station master on the arm? You got it all over his sleeve!"

"I forgot," Ed pleaded. "And besides, you put on such a show they'd called a paddy wagon from the local loony bin, how is that my fault?!"

"It's just a miracle we're on this train. No, I guess they would want us gone. You didn't have to flash the watch and scream your name, however. If it wasn't such an insult to mother's memory I'd change my name!" Al hissed.

"I think we can cover the phone booth in my next expense report," Ed said, slouching low on the seat. "It's as much that bastard's fault as mine, he better fucking approve it."

"I take absolutely no responsibility for that," Al said, arms folded, head still turned to the side. "I wasn't sure you were finished and when they grabbed me you shouldn't have transmuted your way out!"

"They were grabbing my little brother!" Ed yelled, then lowered his voice and slouched further in his seat. All these people on the train with them had been on that platform.

"I just hope it was worth it," Al finally growled.

Ed gave a half smile.

"Yeah, I got to find out the bastard loves his fellow man at least," he sighed.